By Sal LaFata
Meridian Times staff writer
The phrase “Go green” has new meaning in Meridian Township.
Communities across the country, including Meridian, are becoming eco friendly and helping the environment.
As a result, Meridian Township is installing LED streetlights in downtown Okemos.
In Meridian, community members have taken special interest in revitalizing the area and making it the center of commerce, as it once was.
“Two years ago, we went through a master plan study…as a result of that, we’ve been on this quest to improve public spaces, really creating a sense of place,” said Paul Brake, assistant township manager.
Residents and workers in downtown Okemos seem to be looking forward to the new streetlights, saying that they are just the beginning of what hopes to be a full remodel of downtown.
“The downtown area hasn’t always been looked upon as the most favorable place to do business, but with the improvements that are being made, I’m really hopeful that we will have a full downtown area,” said Patricia Hagen, owner of Bodies in Motion Personal Training.
City officials wanted streetlights that were economically friendly and aesthetically pleasing.
“As motorists and pedestrians will notice, this is a historic looking light fixture…that was a thoughtful decision the board made a long time ago,” said Brake.
Township residents have expressed a desire to obtain new streetlights for years. In 2008, participants at a community vision forum said they desired more energy efficient amenities.
That desire became reality with the addition of LED lights.
LED lights are more directional, more uniform and cause less shadows than other types of light bulbs. They shine directly down on the surface and reduce the glare that drivers see. In addition, LED lights lower light pollution and shouldn’t bother neighbors.
“So far, we have been ecstatic with the uniformity of the lighting…with the older metal lighting you get a lot of shadows,” said Steve Lathrop, director of operations for Okemos Public Schools.
LED lights save energy and maintenance costs, along with removing hazardous waste issues associated with mercury filled lights.
Made of non-toxic materials and can be recycled. Don’t attract insects. LEDs are more than four times more efficient that incandescent light bulbs.
“LEDs now today have over the last six years gone from about 25 lumens per watt to over 100 lumens per watt. It’s been an incredible advance in terms of just the technology progressing,” said John Gach, sales manager at Cooper Lighting.
To get these lights, Meridian Township applied for and received a demonstration grant of $50,000, which helped the process move along at a much faster and cheaper rate.
In addition to being LED lights, the streetlights will include irrigation lines inside of them, for hanging flower baskets during spring and summer. As time goes on, different types of banners will also be incorporated to promote the region.
Many residents of Meridian believe that these new lights will bring the community together and increase tourism, all while lowering the costs of energy.
“What I’m hoping for, is that by improving the appearance of the downtown area, that the vacant buildings that we have right now, other prospective businesses will find this to be more desirable to conduct their business to,” said Hagen.