Select Board debates decorative LED streetlights

By Gabriel Blodgett | Oct 29, 2019
Photo by: Gabriel Blodgett The Select Board is considering whether to maintain decorative streetlight fixtures, like this one in downtown Rockport, as they transition to LED lights.

Rockport — At the Oct. 28 meeting, the Select Board held a lively discussion over whether decorative fixtures should be maintained in the town’s transition to LED streetlights.

Previously, the board had authorized former Town Manager Rick Bates to pursue a contract with RealTerm Energy, the company which will be converting the town’s 262 streetlights to LED bulbs.

Discussion at the Oct. 28 meeting centered on how many of the town’s 149 current decorative streetlights should be replaced with decorative LED fixtures, which are considerably more expensive.

Currently the decorative lights are primarily in the downtown area and other neighborhoods including Simonton Corner, Clam Cove, and Rockville.

The cost of replacing all 262 fixtures with the standard Cobra Head Lights would come to approximately $218,508 according to Town Manager William Post. The cost would rise to an estimated $436,135 if the decorative fixtures remained.

Post said the cost of a cobra head fixture is $144 while a decorative one is $1,204.

There would be no additional money in yearly budgets to pay for the increased cost, but the payback period would increase from approximately four to eight years.

The town allocated $55,062 for streetlights in the current budget and the plan is to carry that amount forward until the LED lease is paid off.

Board member Mark Kelley made a motion that all 262 be replaced with the Cobra Head Lights.

Kelley said that among residents he had talked to, “the biggest thing they care about is if it’s working,” adding that with a number of budgetary responsibilities facing the town including a proposed infrastructure bond on the November ballot, going with the cheaper option “frees up money to offset something down the line.”

Board Chair Debra Hall said “I think residents would not like it if we went to these rather ugly, utilitarian-looking lights from what we have in the downtown area.”

She added that “we’re trying to keep our downtown area attractive and old… and I would certainly hope we would maintain them in the downtown area.”

Post said that both Rockland and Camden, who are also in the process of converting their streetlights to LED with RealTerm, have previously replaced their lights in the downtown area with decorative LED fixtures.

Rockland’s decorative lights are limited to Main Street, while in Camden they radiate out in some residential areas.

Post added that other towns that have worked with RealTerm including Wells, Kennebunk, and Dover-Foxcroft have chosen to keep decorative lights in their village areas.

Kelley’s motion was defeated 3-1 with Kelley voting yes. Vice Chair Denise Munger was not in attendance.

The question then became deciding which of the 149 decorative fixtures should be kept.

Board member Jeffrey Hamilton said that regardless of what the Board chose, “we're going to get pushback six ways to Tuesday,” and suggested choosing a central location in the village and radiating out a set distance.

Board member Doug Cole said he felt it would be worthwhile preserving the decorative lights in a “well-defined downtown, commercial area,” and suggested starting at the Goose River bridge and having decorative lights run up Central Street and Union Street to the Post Office, with “a couple on Russell Avenue to the old CMCA.”

Post stated that he just needed a number to give RealTerm for them to conduct an investment grade audit for the town.

Hamilton then made a motion proposing 75 decorative lights while directing Post to ask RealTerm to provide exact pricing amounts for increments of 25.

Kelley asked if Post had asked RealTerm for their professional opinion regarding whether towns should maintain their decorative lights.

Post said he had already asked, to which they responded, “that’s a political issue the board has to make.”

Hamilton’s motion passed 3-1 with Kelley opposed.

The motion to choose dimmer and yellower 2700 kw bulbs as opposed to the 3000 kw option for all of the fixtures, regardless of style, passed without disagreement.


Comments (2)
Posted by: Lee H. Marshall | Oct 29, 2019 14:16

Sorry, that last post is by me, Lee D. Marshall.

Posted by: Lee H. Marshall | Oct 29, 2019 14:16

It appears to me that Mr. Kelley is the only one of our selectmen who wants to keep our ever-increasing taxes in line. Why is that, I wonder?

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