Shedding light on downtown: Millerbernd offers best value

The Little Falls City Council has been asking citizens for their opinions regarding the installation of new street lights in the downtown historic district.

While most of us take street lights for granted, the decision is important for a couple of reasons.

First, street lights add a lot to the overall ambience of a neighborhood. In this instance, the lights are what we would call a retro design, conjuring up an historic past as opposed to a sleek, modern future. Since they will go in a historic district, however, a retro design which meshes with the ages of most of the neighborhood’s buildings, is certainly appropriate.

Second, the cost to replace 143 street lights is north of a half million dollars. That’s more than $60 per citizen. It’s important in these relatively hard times that taxpayers get maximum value for their buck. The three bids make that difficult to determine. The low bid came from Sternberg at $506,490. The other bids were Holophane at $513,640 and Millerbernd/Luma Sales at $667,222.

It would seem that Millerbernd is out of line and easy to dismiss until one gets into the details. City officials have complained that the existing street light poles have not lived up to expectations, deteriorating prematurely.

So it is that Sternberg offers a seven year warranty on the finish and luminaire while the other two offer only five years. However, for the pole, arm and base, Millerbernd offers a 25-year warranty while Sternberg offers seven years and Holophane only five. Even assuming that the units will outlast the warranty by five years, Millerbernd will last two and a half to three times as long. That’s because Millerbernd uses stainless steel and the others use aluminum.

Given a lifespan five years beyond the warranty, the cost per year per citizen is $2.66 for Millerbernd, $5.06 for Sternberg and $6.15 for Holophane.

Approximately 5 percent of the cost will be funded through Minnesota Power rebates. On top of that, 79 percent will be funded by state aid (another form of taxpayer funding). While some may prefer one design over another, we think the most value to the taxpayer comes from Millerbernd. It will cost more upfront, but the pole, arm and base will last much longer.