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Jim Thorpe waiting for completion of lights project

Published July 22. 2010 05:00PM

The transition of ownership of the streetlights in the Jim Thorpe Borough is taking longer than expected. The Jim Thorpe Borough, which is set to assume ownership of the street lights from the PPL Electric., has been left waiting by the company brokering the deal. Because of the delay, the borough has begun withholding payments from the brokering company, Municipal Energy Management, based in Wilkes-Barre.

The brokering company, Municipal Energy Management (MEM), first approached the Jim Thorpe Borough in early 2009 with a plan designed to save the Borough money on its electric bill. At that time, the Borough paid PPL a three-part bill, totaling $74,000 a year, which consisted of fees for use of the streetlights, their maintenance and the generation of electricity.

Under the plan, proposed by MEM, the Borough would be able to buy the streetlights from PPL and MEM would take over their maintenance at a fixed rate of $14,600 a year. In addition, a cap would be placed on the borough's energy bill so that any amount over the limit of the cap would be assumed by MEM. Several other municipalities in the area, such as Tamaqua and Nesquehoning, have undertaken similar cost-saving measures.

In order to do the project, MEM helped the borough secure two loans, one for purchase of the street lights and the other for improvements, totaling $684,000.00. The payment time of the loans is 20 years. The Borough and MEM signed a guaranteed performance contract which binds MEM to fulfilling its obligations. The plan is expected to save the borough about $10,000 a year for the 20 years of the loan, after which time the borough will own the lights outright and the savings will increase.

After the contract was signed last spring, MEM performed maintenance on the street lights and made adjustments to the electrical system. They were also supposed to finalize the transfer of ownership from PPL to the Jim Thorpe Borough by the end of the summer of 2009. As of this time, that has not occurred.

Borough Councilman W.Todd Mason, who is council's liaison with MEM, says that MEM has been working towards completion of the transfer. "Most likely the bureaucratic process accounts for the hold up," he said.

However, Mason also notes that MEM has not been good about communicating with the borough and that weeks have gone by without a status report or response to phone calls. In addition, "MEM has not given us an exact date on the transfer, we have heard several times that it would be wrapped up in 30 to 60 days and that hasn't happened."

In an attempt to provoke action from MEM, the borough council has decided to stop sending the company payments. "As of this point we have withheld $110,000.00 from MEM," said Mason. He went on to state that such time issues are common to local government, and that he hopes the council's action has the desired effect.

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