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Northumberland to dim 30 streetlights

June 23, 2010
NORTHUMBERLAND- The town selectmen endorsed the energy committee's proposed project to remove 30 streetlights from the town's streets. The selectmen's pledge to find funds to make the project happen is dependent on the outcome of a public meeting where residents can express their support or opposition for the project.

"This project did not start with any money," said Energy Committee Representative David Peel at last Monday's selectmen's meeting. "Basically, we're talking $4,000 to remove these 30 lights."

The town pays for 160 of the 240 streetlights within Northumberland town limits, explained Mr. Peel, at a cost of about 10 to 12 dollars per month per light. Therefore, 30 lights end up costing the town roughly $4,000 per year, the same amount it would cost to remove them. $2,000 of that could come out of the town's budget, as there is still $2,000 set aside to pay for those 30 streetlights for the remainder of the year, but that leaves the project 2,000 dollars short – an amount Mr. Peel and the energy committee are asking the selectmen to find.

This project stems out of the energy committee's goal to make the town's energy usage more efficient, while at the same time cutting costs. The committee came up with a list of 30 streetlights to submit to Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) so that they could provide a quote for how much it would cost to remove them. When looking for streetlights to remove, the committee used a specific criteria: the streetlights must be located on state-owned streets in 50 mph or higher zones, with no sidewalks. Additionally, the committee tried to find targeted streetlights that were bunched together, as PSNH informed the committee that this strategy would lower the overall cost.

One of the groupings of lights is on Route 3 between Paris Road and the Guildhall bridge crossing.

"We did exempt one light at that turnoff to the Guildhall bridge," informed Mr. Peel. "Basically, we asked Marcel [Platt, Chief of Police], 'Are there areas that you're concerned about?' And, this is one that he identified, so we took that off the list." This light is one of two streetlights that was removed from the list, based on Police Chief Platt's recommendation.

Further up Route 3, the streetlights from the railroad crossing at the cemetery to the railroad crossing by Riverside Drive are also included on the list, as are many of the lights between the latter and Munce's Konvenience store in town.

"From the railroad crossing at Riverside Drive til Munce's, we have double sets of lights. Lights in most places are set every two poles apart. The next pole up, which normally would be without a light, is one at Riverside Drive. So, if you go from that railroad crossing to Munce's every pole has a light. We're proposing all of those on Route 3 be removed," Mr. Peel said.

The other lights included on the list also fall on Route 3, north of town on the way towards Stratford. The committee plans to leave the light up on the crosswalk by the funeral home, as well as at the intersection of Route 3 and Brown Street, but all other lights between the funeral home and the Northumberland/Stratford town line on Route 3 will be removed. This only applies to two lights: one in front of Mike Cross' house, and one in front of Dave Potter's house, said Mr. Peel.

Even prior to the selectmen's meeting, the energy committee had plans to hold an informational meeting for the public at which time anyone who would be affected by the project could voice their concerns or support.

"We would sit with people who are affected and go over all these issues," assured Mr. Peel.

However, in the mean time, the energy committee is looking for some form of endorsement for the project that they could take to PSNH, so that the process could continue. Selectman Mario Audit recused himself from the vote as he works full time for PSNH and felt it would be a conflict of interest. Selectmen Jim Tierney and Rob Gauthier initially voted to find funds for the project before Selectman Audit spoke up on behalf of the members of the public who were not at the meeting.

"In fairness to everyone else, we're not just representing you folks here in the room, we're representing a majority of the people," said Selectman Audit. PSNH has given the town 90 days to come to a decision based on the quote they gave the energy committee.

Mr. Peel reminded the selectmen and public that everyday they stall this decision is another day the town is paying for the streetlights. He also told those members of the public who had concerns about specific lights included on the list that the lights can be interchanged, as long as the final tally of 30 is maintained.

"Time's still on your side," Selectman Audit restated. "In fairness of what I said before, it's just to get the information out there for the rest of the inhabitants to the town, to make it so they're available to voice their concerns either for or against the project you're currently heading up."

The informational meeting is tentatively scheduled for July 8 at 6 p.m. in the Groveton High School gym.

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