November 16, 2011PLYMOUTH—There may be a cheaper, more efficient way to light up the night.
That is the conclusion that representatives of the Plymouth Municipal Lighting Subcommittee presented to the selectmen in a preliminary report delivered at the regular board meeting Monday night.
The Lighting Subcommittee was established by the Plymouth Energy Commission in January 2011, and has recently completed a comprehensive inventory of all street lights in the Town of Plymouth.
The inventory, a product of countless hours of field work and research by committee members Steve Whitman, David Lorman and Larry Mauchly, is the first step in putting together a proposal for reducing costs and conserving energy by eliminating any unnecessary or redundant street lights in town, and switching over from high wattage fixtures to L.E.D. lighting where possible.
For the lighting committee, Whitman reported that the team found as many as 81 fixtures, mostly in more remote, rural areas of town, that may be potentially eliminated, and as many as 18 high wattage lights that could be changed over to LED in the downtown area, for a possible combined annual savings of approximately $16,243, factoring in conversion costs.
The New Hampshire Electric Coop has plans to begin switching over to L.E.D. fixtures as a default for new or replacement fixtures in the future. But, according to Lorman, switching over to L.E.D. for the high pressure sodium lights already installed in downtown Plymouth as soon as possible will provide "immediate and considerable savings" to the town, as well as conserve energy.
The Lighting Subcommittee has already met with both Police and Fire Chiefs in Plymouth in an effort to prioritize the scheme to protect lights that are needed for pedestrian and traffic safety, particularly at crosswalks and intersections, especially in the high density parts of town. At the urging of Select Board member Ray Gosney, they agreed to convene a full meeting of the Plymouth Public Safety Committee to begin to get more feedback from citizens and officials. Gosney also asked the subcommittee to consider putting together a pilot program in several neighborhoods in town to get a sense of how the proposed street light changes might impact residents.
Gosney emphasized that it was important to engage residents upfront in the process before implementing any recommendations or proposals for street light changes.
The Lighting subcommittee plans to report back to the Select Board again at a meeting in the near future.
The Board of Selectmen also heard complaints from Plymouth Main Street business owners and other residents who are concerned about the recent subletting of two vendor parking spaces directly in front of Town Hall to a food truck selling burritos on a temporary basis. The food truck has been permitted to sell food at that location for the next 10 weeks.
Patty Buhrman spoke for many of the concerned business owners in attendance who have become worried about what is perceived as unfair competition that this outside vendor poses for local restaurant owners.
She pointed out that local restaurants provide rooms and meals tax revenues, as well as property tax revenues to the town, whereas for a yearly fee of $500, a mobile vendor from another community with no overhead can come in and sell food at "discount prices."
"How can I can compete with that?" said Buhrman. "At the moment, there are no rules or ordinances that govern who can come into town as food service street vendors. There will be empty storefronts if we allow this to continue."
Others raised questions about whether outside vendors obtain commercial kitchen licenses or abide by the same food safety regulations as established businesses in town. They also said they were worried about a "snowball" effect into product areas beyond food service, such as florists or seafood.
For the Select Board, Gosney said that the members were interested in listening to the business owners' perspectives, and wanted to make certain that they understood all the issues completely. He assured them that the board would undertake a thorough review of the current policy and deliberate further on the possible options to address the business owners concerns.
In other business, the Select Board unanimously accepted a bid of $3,500 to sell the old Plymouth Fire Department aerial ladder truck. The 20-year-old truck was retired last year after failing to pass its regular inspection requirements.
Fire Chief Casino Clogston said that he had been working to sell the truck since it had gone out of service last year, and had found little interest. He suggested it could cost as much as $200,000 to put the truck back in working order, and recommended the Town accept the bid that was submitted.
"The longer it sits, the less we are going to get for it," said Clogston.
The board also approved the draft of a letter written by member Mike Conklin to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, Bureau of Planning and Community Assistance. The board hopes to re- engage the D.O.T. in discussions about redesign or other traffic control measures at the busy intersection of Highland Street and the Tenney Mountain Highway in Plymouth. This critical intersection has long been identified as significant in view of any efforts to prepare for further commercial development on Tenney Mountain Highway. Board members discussed the possibilities for redesign, suggesting that it may be worthwhile to re-examine the possibility of introducing a roundabout at the intersection in view of successful projects that have been completed on Main Street in Plymouth and elsewhere, for example in Meredith, in recent years.
Select Board member Charlie Buhrman reported on the most recent discussions amongst the Towns of Holderness, Ashland, Plymouth and Plymouth State University about joint negotiations with Time Warner Cable on contract renewals. Town Administrator Paul Freitas noted that it was important that the Town receives as much citizen feedback as possible via the survey that is posted on the town website. Responses to the consumer surveys are due back to Town Hall in Plymouth on Nov. 21, and there will be a public hearing on the Time Warner issues, including a report on the survey respondents, at the regular Select Board meeting on Nov. 28. Interested citizens are urged to attend.