published Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Chattanooga retreats on green street lighting


by Cliff Hightower
Don Lepard’s Global Green Lighting Inc. designed and installed these old-fashioned light fixtures with very modern lights on the Walnut Street Bridge.
Don Lepard’s Global Green Lighting Inc. designed and installed these old-fashioned light fixtures with very modern lights on the Walnut Street Bridge.
Photo by John Rawlston.
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City Council meeting - 02/28/12

The Chattanooga City Council heard complaints Tuesday about a bid for street lighting that fell short of its original proposal.

Don Lepard, owner of Global Green Lighting, told council members he wanted his firm to be the first pick for installing new light-emitting diode lights within the city after his company won the original bid.

"What I'm asking for is a commitment," Lepard said.

Global Green Lighting, the company that put the LED lights up in Coolidge Park, won a bid to install 26,500 lights citywide. But city officials later said they could not afford to replace all city street lights and scaled back to 5,500.

The cost of installing all 26,500 lights would be $18 million, Lepard said. But he projected the city would save about 75 percent annually on energy with the new lights.

Lepard said he wanted to do business in Chattanooga, but he was afraid without a full contract he may not expand his plant in Soddy-Daisy and would instead expand in Baltimore.

He projected creating 250 jobs from the full proposal.

The cost of the 5,500 lights would be about $6 million. Councilwoman Sally Robinson said all 26,500 lights were needed. Especially because there are cost-savings and job creation involved.

"We've got an opportunity here, and we'd be crazy to see it go to Baltimore," she said.

Dan Johnson, chief of staff for Mayor Ron Littlefield, said the lighting would go downtown and along the major roads of the city.

Board appointment questioned

Chris Brooks, organizer for Chattanooga Organized for Action, faced a barrage of questions when Councilman Andraé McGary nominated him to a three-year appointment on the city's Community Development Block Grant board.

Robinson led the questioning, saying she saw that Brooks, who attends council meetings regularly, did not stand for the pledge of allegiance.

"I hate to ask this, but are you a U.S. citizen?" she asked.

Brooks said he wanted to serve on the board to help benefit the city and to learn more about the place he lives in.

"I can provide a copy of my Social Security card if you want," he responded.

McGary then piped in.

"If we're going to prosecute him for his political beliefs, this is not the place for it," he said.

Councilman Jack Benson then asked Brooks if he would refrain from conducting any kind of political efforts on the recall of Littlefield if he was appointed. Council members jumped in and said asking Brooks that question was inappropriate.

Brooks has been involved in recall efforts for almost two years.

Councilwoman Deborah Scott then read off a list of credentials for Brooks, saying he was an outstanding student while at Chattanooga State Community College and the University of Tennessee.

"This scrutiny is off base," she said.

The council voted 7-2 for Brooks to be on the board. Benson and Manny Rico voted no.

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