Falls street light upgrade program dies after council members fail to show up to meeting
HomeHome > News > Falls street light upgrade program dies after council members fail to show up to meeting

Falls street light upgrade program dies after council members fail to show up to meeting

May 16, 2023

An apparent act of protest over the use of special meetings by the Falls City Council has killed a plan to upgrade the city's street lighting infrastructure, an estimated $10 million dollar project.

The council was unable to take action Wednesday evening on an agreement with National Grid that would have allowed the city to take over and convert its street lighting to a more energy efficient system after three members of the body failed to show up for a scheduled meeting.

The conversion to LED street lighting and the addition of other smart technology to light poles throughout the Falls was expected to result in a yearly savings of between $800,000 and $1 million for the city. Officials say the deadline for entering into the agreement with National Grid is May 24.

The council's next regularly scheduled meeting is set for that date, but Mayor Robert Restaino said that would be too late to execute the agreement and transmit it to National Grid. There is not enough time before May 24 to legally schedule another council meeting.

"The street lighting program has ended. The documents had to be sent before May 24," Restaino said.

Council Chair David Zajac had previously indicated that he would be out of town at a bowling tournament and asked to be excused, while Council Member Traci Bax chaired the meeting. Bax and Council Member Kenny Tompkins were in the council chambers at the 5 p.m. start time for the meeting, but neither Council Member Vincent Cauley nor Council Member Donta Myles were present.

Efforts by Bax and others to contact Cauley and Myles to determine if they planned to attend the meeting were unsuccessful.

"Efforts were made to reach out, by multiple people, to contact Council Member Myles and Council Member Cauley, by phone calls and text messages," Bax said. "I’m deeply disappointed we didn't have a quorum and we had some time-sensitive issues. The items that were on the agenda were for the good of the community."

In order for the City Council to conduct business, it must have a quorum representing a majority of its five members. Both Bax and Tompkins, the longest serving current council member, said the phone calls and text messages to Cauley and Myles were not returned.

In seven years on the council, I’ve never been more embarrassed," Tompkins said.

Efforts by the Gazette to reach Cauley and Myles were also unsuccessful. Neither council member responded to repeated phone calls and text messages.

Restaino said he reached out to all the council members to find a suitable day and time to schedule a meeting to take action on the street lighting upgrade. The city has been working with National Grid on a takeover of the lighting grid since at least 2017.

"Three of the members said they’d be coming. I said, ‘If you aren't able to make it, we’ll pick another day for everybody's convenience’," Restaino said. "Council Member Myles said he would be there. Council Member Cauley communicated nothing to our office."

The mayor said the next opportunity for a street lightning program upgrade would be at least two years away. And the city may not have the necessary funding at that time to cover the $4 million upfront cost of the program.

Restaino had proposed the use of American Rescue Plan funds to cover the cost of the street lighting upgrade.

"We can't apply again for (the upgrade) to two years and by then the ARP money has to be spent," the mayor said. "So where will we find the funds to pay for it?"

The city's frustrated chief executive made it clear he would place the blame for the loss of the street lighting program on the council members who did not make the meeting.

"As a public servant, you have to be available. These members decided that this wasn't important enough for them," Restaino said. "They have abandoned their oath of office. It's a shame. It's a disgrace."

Myles has, in the past, not attended special council meetings as a protest over the lack of an opportunity for the public to speak at those meetings. Sources tell the Gazette that Cauley, prior to the special meeting, had told associates that he would not attend as a means of protest.

Sorry, there are no recent results for popular commented articles.