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Friday, November 1, 2013

Green signs mean darkness for streetlights in Windham - By Michelle Libby


Last week 107 streetlights in Windham were tagged with green signs announcing that the lights did not meet the criteria of the policy written by the energy advisory committee and approved by the Windham Town Council last June. 


Windham has been upgrading lights in all of its buildings to become more energy efficient and will continue to do so, including the types of vehicles it will buy in the future, according to town manager Tony Plante. So far none of the changes have had a direct impact on anyone living in Windham, but this time many in the community are concerned. 

Ken Cook on Kelly Lane took up a petition and got 100 percent participation from the people on his street which stands to lose all of their lights. “They’re going to put the neighborhoods into darkness. In these times of increased vandalism and crime I can’t believe they want to turn the lights out,” Cook said.
When assessing all of the streetlights in the community systematically, it was found that eight additional lights were needed and would be added to make intersections, dangerous curves or hills or other hazardous areas safer for drivers and pedestrians. 

 “A couple of years ago the town got a grant from Efficiency Maine to study its energy usage and come up with strategies for reducing its energy usage, its energy footprint, its exposure to future energy price fluctuations, and its energy costs. The town council adopted an energy plan in 2011, and later formally created an energy advisory committee. The committee has conducted energy audits of municipal buildings, and we have made many improvements to reduce the town's energy use. More work still needs to be done, and the streetlight review process is part of that broader effort,” said Plante.

 “It is not the policy of the Town of Windham to use public funded street lights as ‘security lighting’ for private property, or to illuminate business entrances or entrances to private streets,” according to the written policy. This policy is adopted to balance the important public safety purpose that street lighting serves with the cost of renting 335 streetlights in Windham.

“Public safety is number one in priorities. It’s one of the reasons for having streetlights – to see and be seen,” Plante said. He explained that lights have been added over the last 25 years where they might not have been needed. 

There will be a public meeting on the streetlight review process on November 4 at 6:30 p.m. in the town council chambers before the lights are turned off for good. There are options for keeping the lights on, according to the town. Individuals may request that lights remain on town accounts, or have the lights transferred to private accounts managed by Central Maine Power (CMP). This is the opportunity for the community to make a legitimate plea for keeping a light. 

The town’s streetlights are owned and managed by CMP, according to Plante. Windham rents the lights from CMP By turning off these lights, Windham will see a savings of approximately $12,000, he said.
CMP does not rent LED lights, which use less energy, according to Plante. However, all of Windham’s traffic signals have been converted to LED lights. 

“We are using energy that doesn’t need to be used,” Plante said. The town is concerned about its energy footprint. How much energy does it use? Why is Windham paying for lights that don’t meet its written policy? These are the questions the council and town officials are wrestling with.  

“This is not a done deal,” Plante said. “As energy prices go up, motor fuel, heating oil, it creates budget stress. We want to have less exposure to those kinds of financial fluctuations,” Plante said. 

The town is encouraging everyone with concerns attend the Monday night meeting at 6:30 p.m.
The policy and a map showing which lights meet the policy, and which lights do not can be found at http://www.windhamweb.com/Windham_News/Streetlight_Review_Process.html . A large format hard copy of the map is available for review in the Planning office.

For more information on this process, please contact Ben Smith in the planning department at 894-5900, ext. 6123.








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