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Dunedin light, bike and tire projects wait on $150,000 federal energy savings stimulus grant

DUNEDIN — A slice of the federal government's $3 billion in energy-efficiency stimulus funds will soon be deposited in Dunedin, where city officials have planned to spend nearly $150,000 on projects affecting lights, tires and bikes.

Here's how the grant will be spent, said public works director Douglas Hutchens:

• $80,500 will go toward retrofitting decorative lamps on Alt. U.S. 19, parking lot lamps at the Hale Senior and Martin Luther King Jr. recreation centers, and lights at city public works garages and utility plants. LED lights will replace higher-watt bulbs, decreasing electrical costs.

• $28,000 will go toward four solar-powered flashing beacons at school zones on San Mateo, San Salvador and San Christopher drives.

• $21,000 will go toward an 80-gallon nitrogen generator at the fleet fueling station, which could save gas and extend tire life on the city's nearly 290 trucks, trailers and other vehicles.

• $20,000 will pay for a consultant study on how and where to build a network of paved bike paths connecting the Pinellas Trail, public schools, local parks and activity centers.

The city has talked with suppliers, gathered price quotes and planned installations. Now, Hutchens said, the wait begins. The U.S. Department of Energy has yet to deliver the money.

Hutchens expects the work won't take more than a year, though obstacles might arise from something as unexpected as a color difference between current lights and LEDs.

"We're not really sure how receptive the public will be to new technologies," Hutchens said. "When the public drives down the street and the lights are kind of blue instead of yellow, is that going to be something they can get used to?"

Segments of the city's plan detailing job creation from the stimulus grant are similarly uncertain. In submissions to the federal government, officials reported the award would create or save nine jobs. The nitrogen generator, which serves much like an air pump, would retain two jobs, the forms stated.

Ryan Ruskay, president of RMPK Funding, a Jupiter public funding consulting firm that began working on the city's grant proposal in May, said the job numbers were estimates.

"With these projects, it's very hard to determine the number of jobs" that will be created, Ruskay said. "When introducing a new lighting system, you're not really creating new jobs, you're supporting the vendors, who are then creating the jobs."

RMPK Funding, which has worked with the city for about five years, will be paid $9,000 for managing the grant application and submitting an "energy strategy" to the federal government.

Dunedin is one of the smallest cities in the state to receive a grant, barely eking by the requirement of populations larger than 35,000. In Florida, 45 cities and counties were awarded the grant, including Clearwater, Largo and Bradenton. Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties will also receive money.

Drew Harwell can be reached at dharwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

Fast facts

Dunedin's plan to spend stimulus funds

$80,500 will go toward retrofitting decorative lamps.

$28,000 will go toward four solar-powered flashing beacons.

$21,000 will go toward an 80-gallon nitrogen generator.

$20,000 for a consultant to study a network of paved bike paths.

Dunedin light, bike and tire projects wait on $150,000 federal energy savings stimulus grant 10/28/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 7:45pm]
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