by Jonathan Weaver
Ford City Borough’s annual Memorial Day Eve observance might become much-easier for personnel to control lighting in a few years.
During last month’s Council work session, two representatives from FirstEnergy met with Borough Council and leaders of the Ford City Lions to discuss upgrading the current system.
FirstEnergy Customer Support Specialist Doug Good started the discussion.
“Last July, we had a discussion about the street lights in Ford City. The street lights in Ford City are very unique – they are operated from three separate locations in town,” Good said. “The nearest we can estimate is that this was set up in 1954 and was set-up on the basis of servicing the Lions for control of the street lights in town during the Memorial Day service, which lasts now from about 10PM-10:20PM.”
West Penn Power has maintained the original system since it was bought from Ford City Electric approximately 60 years, Area Manager Rob Lombardo said.
“I have 144 municipalities that I deal with, and this is the only one – they are unique,” Lombardo said.
An up-to-standard interconnection so that poles are under control of one switch rather than three would eliminate excess wiring and annual headaches while maintaining the annual observance.
“Right now, if the lights would fail – we have, I think, anywhere from nine to 15 lights on a relay, and if something happens with that relay or to the photocell, there’s a failsafe where those lights stay on 24/7 until we come down and find the fault. It is a maintenance nightmare,” Good said.
Lombardo said updating the system could cost an additional $300 per year in about 3-4 years when the update is completed, but that FirstEnergy is willing to contribute about $1,500 annually toward community events – such as SummerFest, the Memorial Day Eve observance, etc. – and that future additional cost.
When the system is upgraded, new bulbs and fixtures would also be included.
“This is going to be a win-win for everybody – we wanted (Ford City Borough) to be whole and we wanted the system to be safer for our guys to work on and bring it up to where the rest of the world is at without it being a cost to you,” Lombardo said.
Council Vice-President Jerry Miklos was concerned if that annual contribution might eventually run out, and while Lombardo said it may fluctuate during various years, he said it will seemingly always be there because of FirstEnergy’s community relationship.
Summerfest Chairman Ben Dinus was concerned with Ford City Park security lighting and finding service for this summer’s Summerfest activities in the park. But, he said it will work out.
“We’re going to make it work – we’ll find a way,” Dinus said. “There are too many people behind us to be worried about this stuff.”
The FirstEnergy representatives and local residents agreed that some businesses leave their lights on during the annual service for security reasons and some residents or motorists still don’t understand the reasoning for the event.
But, Ford City Lions representatives at the work session supported FirstEnergy’s recommended plan and hope to make the community aware of the service and get more participation.