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Castleberry Fairs
January 11, 2012
PLYMOUTH—Monday night, the Plymouth Select Board discussed the need to raise public awareness and involvement in the work of the Municipal Street Light Committee before making any decisions or taking action to reduce the number of streetlights in Plymouth in an effort to achieve greater efficiency and cost savings for the Town

After an exhaustive inventory of Plymouth streetlights by the three-member subcommittee of the Plymouth Energy Commission over the past year, the Municipal Street Light Committee in November presented a report identifying 79 individual lights, out of a total of 249 streetlights in town, that might be eliminated in order to reduce redundancies and unnecessary costs to the Town without jeopardizing public safety. Almost all of these streetlights are located in outlying areas of town, on streets with very little pedestrian or vehicular traffic. Lights deemed relevant to illuminate intersections, sidewalks or other motor vehicle hazards were not included in the proposal for reductions.

The Committee also identified another 18 high wattage high pressure sodium fixtures on Main Street that might be switched over to L.E.D. fixtures for an immediate energy savings of approximately 39 percent per bulb annually. While there is an initial cost of conversion, there is a 2.4-year payback period before those cost are offset and the Town will realize the full energy savings, according to Committee member Dave Lorman.

The remainder of the Town's low wattage streetlights will be converted to L.E.D. as they need replacement as a regular part of the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative's plan to make L.E.D. the default fixture for the future. The Municipal Light Committee therefore does not recommend that these be converted at this time because it would not be cost effective for the Town.

Since November, the members of the Municipal Light Committee have met with the Town Public Safety Committee and received feedback from both Police and Fire Chiefs on the proposal. Monday night, they appeared before the select board asking for direction about the best way to involve Plymouth residents in the process of getting feedback on the proposal.

Several strategies for publicizing the proposal were discussed, including posting the list of potential streetlights for elimination on the Town Web site, along with a form for public comments, flagging the streetlights that are slated for elimination for the period of public input, and undertaking a "pilot" or trial program on a subset of one or two streets to see how the elimination of a small number of lights impacts the residents in the neighborhood. Parker, Thurlo and Carmel Streets were suggested as possible streets for a trial run. Residents could be notified by mail about the experiment and assured that any comments or questions would be welcomed during the process.

Municipal Light Committee member Steve Whitman reiterated that residents concerned about the elimination of any particular streetlight will have the opportunity to request that the particular fixture not be included in the reduction plan.

In other business, the select board also took up consideration of the vendor parking spaces in front of Town Hall. For a number of years, Plymouth Ski and Sports has been issued a vendor license to use these spaces on a yearly basis at a cost of $500 for their seasonal canoe and kayak rental racks. Before signing the agreement for 2012, the board has said that it wants to thoroughly consider some of the issues raised when controversy erupted the fall of 2011, after the spaces were "sublet" to a food truck vendor perceived as posing potential unfair competition to local restaurants in the downtown. Plymouth Ski and Sports uses the spaces for rental racks primarily during boating season.

A number of considerations were addressed. Select board member Charlie Buhrman said that he felt that subletting could and should be explicitly prohibited in any future agreement. Other members said they felt that subletting arrangements should be required to come back before the board, and that additional fees might be assessed for the alternate use.

Several Plymouth business owners and residents had expressed concern that the existing fee of $500 for the year was "unreasonably low." It was noted that the fee for the parking spots has not been increased since it was established approximately 15 years ago.

At the recommendation of Town Administrator Paul Freitas, the board decided that before making a final decision, it would make sense to estimate how much revenue the parking spaces would bring to the town if they were not leased out to a business. The issue was tabled for the next meeting, when a decision on appropriate fees and terms of the arrangement could be more fully evaluated.

The Select Board also welcomed firefighter Marko Tapio Mayo to the Plymouth Fire and Rescue Department. Mayo, a former airline pilot, has served the Bridgewater Fire and Rescue Department for the last five years, and is currently in training to receive paramedic certification. He said that he is looking forward to working in Plymouth for many years.

The next regular meeting of the Plymouth Select Board is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 23 at the Town Hall. A series of budget work sessions are scheduled to take place staring Tuesday, Jan. 17, leading up to the 2012 Public Budget Hearing, which is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 2 at 6 p.m. Town offices will be closed on Monday, Jan. 16 in observance of Civil Rights Day.

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