Camden to own streetlights, convert to LED bulbs

CAMDEN — The town of Camden is planning to purchase its streetlights, retrofit them with energy-saving LED technology, and reduce lighting costs for many years.

Select Board members unanimously approved a $138,601 bid by Real Term Energy for LED conversion Feb. 12. Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell said Real Term Energy would likely hire a local contractor to do the work.

The proposal to buy all of Camden's 295 streetlights from Central Maine Power and to convert the bulbs to LED technology was initiated in 2018 by the town's Energy and Sustainability Committee, led by committee member Pete Kalajian.

Typically towns lease streetlights from the company that delivers their electricity. Camden's annual cost for leasing streetlights from CMP is just over $34,000, with annual energy delivery and supply charges for streetlights currently around $14,000, according to a proposal prepared in September 2018 for the Energy Committee by Real Term Energy.

After the light poles are purchased, and LED bulbs installed, annual maintenance and electricity costs are projected to be around $9,000. The town would pay an estimated $30,000 to purchase light poles from CMP and $133,600 for LED conversion. That cost will be paid off in less than four years, according to Caler-Bell, through the annual energy savings to the town.

Caler-Bell augmented potential savings to the town by reaching out to neighboring towns also interested in converting to LED lighting, buying their light poles and taking over streetlight maintenance. She reported that the towns of Rockland, Thomaston, Rockport and Union are also interested. By joining together, the towns are reducing their costs, and will be able to improve maintenance over CMP's record, according to Caler-Bell. She said CMP has done a bad of job maintaining lights at intersections and streetlights.

Caler-Bell explained that the town received two bids, and that Real Term Energy's was less than a bid from Camden-based Hedstrom Electric. She said Real Term would most likely employ a local contractor, such as Hedstrom, to do the work. Real Term is located in Annapolis, Md, and has a satellite office in Pownal. It lists experience working in 28 towns in Maine with streetlight acquisition and LED conversion. The company converted Biddeford's 2,325 streetlights to LED, and has worked with towns with similar numbers of streetlights to Camden, including Bar Harbor, Paris and Dover-Foxcroft.

Farmers' Market

The Camden Farmers' Market has been offered temporary locations including Harbor Park, the Public Landing on Camden harbor, and the Snow Bowl for the 2019 season, while Tannery Park undergoes a planned brownfields environmental cleanup.

Caler-Bell told the Select Board that the members of the Farmers' Market have not yet met to review the locations offered. She expects to have more information from the market's board next week.

The town is offering a total of five options for a temporary location this year, including two Knox Mill parking lots the town is leasing to purchase. One of the lots is behind the Knox Mill between Knowlton and Washington streets and was the former home of the market for a number of years. Another is a smaller parking lot on Knowlton Street next to the Teen Center, where a skate park was located in the past.

She said the market's board is looking at the locations they are less familiar with, and the town is supplying measurements. Once a decision is made, the town will provide signage and promotion, she said.

Tom Resek asked if the Camden Farmers' Market has been given a guarantee that it can return to Tannery Park. Caler-Bell said, “If they want to return to Tannery Park, they can.”

The town obtained a $200,000 Brownfields Grant the federal Environmental Protection Agency in April 2018.

The cleanup grant will be used to prevent contact with residual chemicals in the soil left from tannery businesses formerly located on the property. Ransom Environmental Engineering was awarded the bid in November 2018 to oversee the cleanup. Ransom was on the agenda to present an update on the status of the cleanup grant, but cancelled because of the impending snowstorm.

In written materials, the grant describes the cleanup and remediation work as possibly involving removal of old concrete slabs on the property, and using soil and landscaping to cap off part of the property.

Ransom was also hired as a consultant to the former Tannery Work Group in 2016. In cooperation with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Ransom consultants informed the work group of the presence benzo(a)pyrene and arsenic found in the majority of 18 soil samples collected at the Tannery Park site. Surface soil concentrations of benzo(a)pyrene were higher at the site, compared with surrounding areas, yet similar to what is found around paved areas and parking lots anywhere in Camden, according to Ransom.