Editor's Note: Check back with Middletown Patch for an interview with Middletown Energy Coordinator John Hall, which includes the city's plans to retrofit metal halide street lights.
Taxpayers stand to save $200,000 annually if voters approve a $1.15 million purchase of more than 5,000 street lights and 1,000 poles from the electric company in November, according to the mayor, who announced his proposal Tuesday.
Mayor Dan Drew said he will be asking the common council to authorize buying Middletown's 5,114 street lights from Connecticut Light & Power. "Under the law, the utility has to sell them if we want to buy them," he said.
If passed by the council, the appropriation would be sent to referendum as part of the Election Day ballot. Any acquisition above $750,000 automatically goes before the taxpayers, per city charter.
The purchase would be a tremendous cost savings for Middletown taxpayers, according to Drew.
"Our electric rate will automatically go down by half," he said. The rental fee CL&P charges includes the cost of maintaining and powering street lights.
"While we're paying off the bond, it will save $200,000 per year and when the bond is paid, we'll save $300,000 a year, which is close to a tenth of a mil … which will add up quite a bit for Middletown taxpayers."
Drew did not say what the city now pays annually for street light service but explained the $200,000 represents savings in electricity and rental fees.
This isn't the first time Middletown has proposed buying the lights from CL&P. In 2005, according to common council minutes, the city looked into the idea and did some analysis, but ultimately decided against it. Since then,
Drew said the city has looked into a lot of other cities that have made the change, including Manchester, West Hartford, Torrington and Stamford. All highly recommended the purchase, he said.
Right now, if a street light is malfunctioning, individuals or city personnel contact CL&P to report an outage and a linesman is sent out to remedy the problem. Drew's initiative would allow public works to hire a contractor to do the same work.
"If the voters approve this, we'll respond, but we won't have to add staff," he explained.
In February, Drew announced that changing the electric meter at Middletown's Palmer Field sports stadium saved the city $15,000 in costs in four prior months.
At the May 15 council meeting, as part of the 2013-14 budget approval process, recommendations included an "aggressive approach to acquiring all CL&P streetlights," following an energy workshop that broke out potential savings.