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October 29, 2019, Penobscot Bay Pilot – Louis Bettcher – The Rockport Select Board voted Oct. 28 to convert all town streetlights to light-emitting diode (LEDs). Of the 262 streetlights in Rockport, the board made a preliminary decision that 75 of these would be decorative, pendant style light fixtures, and the remaining 187 would be Cobra Head LED fixtures.
The board considered a proposal submitted by RealTerm Energy, the company chosen to in the Spring to conduct an audit of the town’s street lamps, the majority of which are owned by Central Maine Power.
The proposal offered to convert the existing decorative 149 streetlights in town to similar, decorative LED lamps at a cost of $308,000, and install 96 cobra head lights for $102,000 for an estimated project cost of $436,000.
During a board discussion of this option, Selectman Mark Kelley asked what the cost of converting all of the streetlights to the more utilitarian cobra head design.
Town Manager Bill Post responded that the total project cost would be approximately $218,000, half of the overall cost for the combination of decorative and cobra head fixtures.
Post said Camden and Rockland have converted portions of their streetlights to energy-efficient LED lamps; in Rockland they run down Main Street, and in Camden they radiate from Route 1 down commercial streets.
In reviewing a map of the all of the town’s streetlights, the board noted that many of the 149 decorative fixtures were placed in neighborhoods outside of Rockport Village, such as Clam Cove, Simonton Corner and Rockville.
Post said that each decorative lamp would cost $1,204, and that cobra head lamps cost $144 per fixture.
Either type of fixture would be covered by a 10-year warranty. The lights would be paid for through a lease-purchase agreement.
The board discussed the estimate provided by RealTerm, and which said the town’s annual electric bill from Central Maine Power would be reduced from $5,500 to approximately $1,100 by installing the LED fixtures throughout town.
Post said that in order to determine how many years it would take for the new lights to pay for themselves through the projected savings in energy costs, the board would have to decide how many of each type of fixture they wanted.
Kelley moved that the board replace all 262 of the town’s streetlamps with cobra head fixtures, and said that he had heard from one resident whose decorative streetlight had not been working for over a year due to difficulty with sourcing parts for it.
“I’m looking at where some of these [decorative lights] are and thinking ‘people are going by these at 50 mph’ and they’re not anywhere near a home,” said Select Board member Jeff Hamilton. “But then the challenge becomes, if we say we want some in the village but we don’t want them in Clam Cove, we want to take them out of Rockville, [the board] will get feedback six ways to Tuesday.”
“One question is, do those neighborhoods care [about the decorative fixtures], and if they do then we should know about that,” said Chair Debra Hall.
“I think they care about, and I’ll go back to that one person [I mentioned], they just care if it’s working. They don’t care if it’s a flashlight or a 4,000-watt light,” said Kelley.
“I care,” said Hall.
“It’s not necessarily what I care about, it’s what the town cares about,” said Kelley.
“I’m a human being, I’m a female. I like aesthetics, you know, aesthetics mean something to me, and I think….,” said Hall.
“Being female doesn’t mean you care about aesthetics,” said Kelley.
“I don’t care, are you going to let me finish?” asked Hall. “My point is that there are a lot of folks out there, I think, like me, who do care. So I don’t want to leave it where it sounds like nobody cares, they just care if [a light] is working.”
“I think it’s worthwhile to preserve [decorative fixtures] in the downtown, commercial area,” said Select Board member Doug Cole. “A lot of people come to that area at night and there is a lot of foot traffic.”
Cole proposed placing decorative lamps in areas of Rockport Village, such as Central Street and portions of Russell Avenue, and Main Street, and near the new library and the Post Office.
Hamilton moved that the board approach RealTerm to conduct an investment-grade audit and prepare a cost estimate for a project which would call for 75 decorative fixtures rather than 149, and provide estimates of the cost for additional or fewer decorative lamps in 25-unit increments.
The board approved the motion 3-1: Kelley opposed the motion and Selectwoman Denise Kennedy-Munger was absent at the meeting.
The board also voted in favor of installing bulbs which had a “color temperature” of 2,700 kelvins rather than 3,000 kelvins.
The 2,700 kelvin bulbs are currently used in Camden and Rockland and cast a “yellower” glow than 3,000 kelvin bulbs.
Both the decorative sconces and cobra head lamps discussed are classified “dark sky friendly,” a term which refers to minimizing glare as well as artificial light being emitted into the night sky.
Another component of the town-wide change to LED lights involved the potential purchase of “smart controls” for the lights at an additional cost of $30,000, or $120 per light fixture.
Post said the controls allowed the lights to be dimmed, turned off or on remotely as well as notified the town of lights which were out. The board decided to consider the smart control option at a further date when additional information is available.
The next meeting of Rockport Select Board is Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House.
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