BELEN—Some streets in the Hub City will soon be lit up with smart LED lighting. 

Cheyenne Ernst, the regional governmental affairs manager with Dalkia Energy Solutions, reminded the council last month the city signed a contract with the company in the spring of 2023. The company will be upgrading 478 city-owned street lighting infrastructure to a more energy-efficient and cost-effective street lighting system. 

Dalkia provides the same services to the cities of Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Rio Rancho.  

Belen City Hall

The upgrade includes remote-monitoring smart node system, and will include the high-mast lighting along Interstate 25, along with all city-owned street lights on major roads, side streets and residential neighborhoods.  

When the contract, which is in effect for 15 years, was first signed last year, the company started the first phase, which was community engagement.  

“This is a project that touches all parts of our community,” Ernst said, “and it’s really personal for folks, especially when you go into residential neighborhoods. We wanted to make sure everyone in the community had an opportunity to be educated, to participate and give us their feedback.” 

Ernst said the company created a website, BelenLED.com, in the summer of 2023 that had educational information about the project and a feedback form. In August and September, the company had a couple of demonstration sites in the city where they installed a couple of LED lights.  

“We took the output of all those activities and built the community guided design engagement report, which gives a summary of all those activities and what folks had to say about it,” she said. “Here, in Belen, only a handful of people got involved and gave feedback.” 

Ernst said she gave that information to Belen City Manager Roseann Peralta and her staff.  

Matt O’Brien, director of project management with Dalkia, said the company first competed an audit of all the city-owned street lights.  

“We went out and touched every pole in the city, identified its GPS location, the condition and composition of the pole and the power source for the pole,” O’Brien said. “We then performed a lighting analysis …” 

While working on the design phase, O’Brien said they performed a handful of repairs to ensure the infrastructure stays steady.” 

Ernst told the council they are at the end of phase one, and moving forward into the word phase where Dalkia will start converting all the street lights on city-owned poles to LED.  

“We’ll be performing historically-deferred maintenance on the polls to upgrade the fixture; we’re going to make sure the wiring inside the poll and all the other accessories are good to go,” Ernst said. “At the end of the works phase, the city has complete functioning city-owned street lighting infrastructure.” 

The LED conversion of the existing city-owned street lights is expected to commence in the fall, and is expected to take about one month to complete. 

When that work is complete, the 15-year contract for maintenance will commence, and the city will pay a flat fee every month.  

Not every street light in the city of Belen is owned and maintained by the city. Ernst reminded the council there are a handful of roadways in the city that are “owned” by the N.M. Department of Transportation, but the city is responsible for the lighting.  

“The design for these particular roadways is a little bit different because of the standard NMDOT requires,” she said.  

Ernst said the standard lighting in residential areas will include lights that don’t have too much glare or issues for residents.  

“Within Belen and in the residential neighborhoods, there are a lot of lights that are owned and operated by PNM,” Ernst said. “The rule of thumb is if you see a wooden pole with a light on it, it’s owned by PNM, and they are not included in the scope of this project.  

She said the decorative lighting on Main Street in front of Belen City Hall, and on Becker Avenue, will be replaced with new fixtures. Dalkia is working with the manufacturer to match the fixture and pole.  

Peralta said Wednesday the high mast fixtures on I-25 at the north Belen exit are being replaced this week. 

O’Brien said the company will be procuring the rest of the material for the rest of project. The lights on collector roads, such as Mesa Road, will begin in May, and lights on arterial roads will begin in June.  

Councilor Frank Ortega questioned Ernst about the installation of street lights on the railroad overpass on Main Street. He said when NMDOT repaired the overpass, they failed to install lights.  

Ernst said now that they are passed the first phase, they’ll be able to sit down and look at the request and give the city a recommendation and how to possibly fund that particular project. 

When Councilor Rudy Espinoza asked if they could add electricity outlets on the polls for Christmas lights, Ernst said they do similar work for the city of Albuquerque by putting a transformer on the pole or that ties directly into the pole.  

“We’ll even put the lights up for you,” Ernst said.  

Mayor Robert Noblin asked about the remote monitoring, and how efficient it is.  

Ernst said the technology will provide a list or map view of where the outage is, and has the ability to set alerts if a light is off or if a pole is knocked down.  

“It will give you the ability to detect it right away,” she said. “A dispatcher will review it every morning, and then get out work orders.” 

Ortega also asked how the company will prevent thieves from stealing copper from the poles. 

“This is a challenge we’re still working on,” Ernst said. “We have different, novel solutions, such as metal fabrications and lock boxes. We’re looking at preventing access.” 

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.