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April 12th, 2012 · No Comments

CLAMP-ON LIGHT PROJECT HAMPERED BY DELAYS AND CONFUSION

Twenty-one Clamp-on lights, like this one, have been installed on side streets along Bloor Street in the Bloor-Annex area by Toronto Hydro. Jelena Subotic/Gleaner News

By Mike Shulman

Miscommunication between the Bloor-Annex Business Improvement Area (BIA) and Toronto Hydro has resulted in delays and possibly increased costs for the second phase of the BIA’s clamp-on pedestrian lighting project.

The plan was to install 15 clamp-on street lights to Toronto Hydro poles, along side streets in the Bloor-Annex area, just off of Bloor Street.

It appears as though the project has hit a snag in its development.

“We wanted them up months ago. They were supposed to be installed in early 2012. I would’ve expected them on the streets by now if you had asked me last year,” said Wade MacCallum, chair of the Bloor-Annex BIA.

These delays appear to be occurring, in part, due to restructuring at Toronto Hydro. In 2005, the city sold its street lights and poles to Toronto Hydro to raise $60 million.

According to John Kiru, the Executive Director of the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA), when the city was in possession of the poles “we had agreements and arrangements with [the city] for some preferred pricing in terms of mounting hardware on them and using them for seasonal lights, banners, plants, and even clamp-ons. Once they were transferred over to Toronto Hydro a whole different set of rules applied. That was sort of the ultimate unintended consequence. I don’t think anybody had any idea of how much more legislation would come into effect and how many more restrictions would come in for the poles once they were turned over to Toronto Hydro,” said Kiru.

Phase one of the project led to the installation of 21 clamp-on lights on Bloor. The Bloor-Annex BIA is awaiting approval for phase two.

Toronto Hydro has since reconfigured the process in which approval is granted for pole attachments. There is now a formal pole attachment agreement that was not a part of phase one of the clamp-on lighting project. The Bloor-Annex BIA is one of 36 (out of 70) BIAs which have not signed that agreement. The agreement “makes it easier for the specific attachments to get approved, and lays out who’s responsible for what” said Joyce McLean, director of strategic issues at Toronto Hydro.

MacCallum is concerned that BIAs could incur increased costs due to new restrictions and rumoured new requirements for phase two of the clamp-on design.

“First off, there are the fixed costs for the engineering report—we need new engineering reports.  [There are] secondary costs, because now we require … or supposedly require a conduit outside the telephone pole—that’s not as simple as it sounds. It is a very unique type of conduit in the way that it is installed, drilled, etc., and that’s going to add to the installation costs,” said MacCallum.

In phase one, the Bloor-Annex BIA was allowed to drill into the poles to feed the lights. In phase two, it appears that “[Toronto] Hydro might have some concerns how that affects the integrity of the pole,” said Mike Major, manager of BIA office at the city.

Additional design costs have been pegged at around $1,700. This would cover new electrical engineering plans.

McLean could not divulge any details about design changes at this time.

Any increases in costs would be shared 50/50 as part of the city’s BIA Capital Cost-Sharing Program. The program is funded on a 50/50 capital matching basis for streetscape beautification projects for all the BIAs.

In the meantime, the project remains at a standstill as the Bloor-Annex BIA is currently looking over Toronto Hydro’s pole attachment agreement.

“We want to ensure that we’re supportive of the small business community across the city, as they give a real flavour to the City of Toronto and we’re working collaboratively with them and the city. Obviously, there has been some confusion with this particular BIA in terms of process,” said McLean.

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