Street light charges approved by Dayton commissioners

UD, hospital, others continue to object plan that will generate $3M a year.

Dayton property owners will now be required to pay an annual fee for street lighting that is based on the assessed value of their land, homes and buildings.

Dayton City Commissioners on Wednesday night voted 4-0 to approve creating the street lighting assessment, despite last-ditch pleas from university, hospital and real estate association representatives, requesting the city postpone or cancel the program.

Commissioners said the assessment — which will pay for the operation, maintenance and upgrades to the street light system — is needed to help improve safety and energy efficiency in a fiscally responsible manner.

“We hear you, we understand this is tough,” said Commissioner Joey Williams. “At the end of the day, we think it is very important that the city provide quality services, and we do have to find ways to pay for these quality services.”

The assessment will last for six years and will generate about $3 million annually, on average costing homeowners an extra $64 per year if they live in the Central Business District and $25 per year if they live elsewhere, according to city data.

Commercial property owners on average can expect to pay an extra $61 or $156 per year, depending on the location of their parcels.

About 70,000 properties will be part of the assessment, because they benefit from the 20,000 poles in the city’s street light system, city officials said. The city owns about 5,300 of the lights, and the rest are owned and operated by Miami Valley Lighting, a subsidiary of Dayton Power & Light.

The city will upgrade its poles to LED technology, and it has encouraged Miami Valley Lighting to do the same, though the company is not obligated to follow the recommendation.

The city also plans to standardize the spacing between poles to a typical distance of 100 feet or less in the Central Business District and 200 feet or less everywhere else. The spacing is based on the amount of light provided. The city plans to install poles in neighborhoods where currently there are none.

However, some parts of the city, including the Oregon Historic District and Hook Estate, already pay for street lighting and will be exempted from the program.

After notices of the assessments were published and mailed, the city received 190 formal objections from property owners, including the University of Dayton, Premier Health and local residents, business owners, churches and other nonprofit groups.

On Wednesday, officials with Premier Health and UD asked the commission to table or vote down the assessment legislation. Combined, the two groups would owe more than $2 million over the six-year assessment period. They unsuccessfully appealed their assessments.

Premier said the county auditor’s appraisal of its Dayton hospital properties may be three to six times their actual market value, meaning the assessment is three to six times higher than it should be.

Ted Bucaro, UD’s government relations director, said the method of assessing fees is inequitable, the lights do not benefit UD’s campus and he questioned the legitimacy of the program.

“The special assessment program appears to simply be an operating levy for street lights,” he said.

Mayor Nan Whaley said the city has discussed an assessment since 2010, and it came before city commission twice, though it never moved forward.

She said city commission supports the program because it is necessary.

Commissioners said lighting impacts safety and quality of life, and the city must have a dedicated source of funding for improving the lighting system.

“These are always tough decisions for us,” Whaley said. “No one enjoys this kind of work.”

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