QUEENSBURY — Sometimes a phone call doesn’t go the way the official expects.
National Grid called up Supervisor John Strough to tell him that the agency was moving its transmission line. A light pole needed to be moved to meet requirements that poles be a certain distance from the transmission lines.
Strough was puzzled.
“That’s not my light pole, that’s your light pole. Do whatever you want with it,” he recalled saying.
National Grid was right — it was a Queensbury pole. But Strough was right, too — National Grid had been charging the town every year for that light.
That led to an investigation by Cost Control Associates Inc., a consulting company based in Queensbury.
The company found that Queensbury was paying for many lights that it actually bought years ago.
The lights are on Route 9, near Quaker Road and Aviation Road.
“They’ve been charging us as if they were their lights,” Strough said. “Cost Control Associates is trying to sort out which ones we own.”
National Grid disagrees.
“The poles were installed in the ‘70s by the town of Queensbury,” said National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella. “But National Grid owns the cable, lamp and luminary. That’s not unusual. We usually own those and then, when the lamp goes out, we replace it.”
He acknowledged that Cost Control Associates is arguing that the lamps are the town’s.
“Every few years this happens. Sometimes the auditors find things we weren’t aware of,” Stella said.
If the town can prove its ownership, National Grid will issue a refund, of which Cost Control will get a share, Strough said.
While that process is ongoing, Strough is also seeking information on how much it would cost to buy the rest of the lights in town.
“If we purchase the lights, we only have to pay for pole use,” he said.
He wants to buy the lights and convert all of them to LED.
“We would save mucho money,” he said. “Other communities that have purchased the lights have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
But there’s a big upfront cost, both for buying the lights from National Grid and for buying the LED bulbs. So far, Strough isn’t even sure how many lights the town has to buy. It could be 2,000, he said.
The purchase process will likely happen separate from the refund that National Grid owes the town, he said. That refund might take a year or more. But Strough is content to wait until the town is certain of the ownership of every light.
“These kind of things take time,” he said.
Stella said that many towns and cities are asking about buying the lights.
“We’re perfectly willing to sell them,” he said.