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Middletown to Ask Voters for $1.15M CL&P Street Light Buy

Middletown taxpayers stand to save $200,000 annually if voters approve the purchase of more than 5,000 street lights from Connecticut Light & Power in November.

Middletown CL&P Street Lights
Middletown CL&P Street Lights

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.

Mr. Fixit August 13, 2013 at 08:13 PM
Why purchase OLD TECHNOLOGY? LED Streetlights are the way to go; the City can save 75% or more on the electric bill. Furthermore, maintenance costs should drop to near Zero due to the long life of LEDs. Drive around Wesleyan to see LED Street lights in action. Check out their parking lots too. Some of the local shopping center lots have already upgraded their lights to the LED type. Ponder why CL&P is selling the street lights?? If they were making money for CL&P, they'd certainly not put them up for sale. Contracting maintenance to a commercial firm for the present type of street lights will greatly affect the estimated rate of return. A good resource can be found at: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/ssl/consortium.html Further study is warranted before this is put on the ballot. To do otherwise is folly.
Jim August 14, 2013 at 07:36 AM
This story left me with many questions and few answers. Thanks to "Mr. Fixit" for answering some of those questions. While reading the story I assumed incorrectly that the purpose of the proposal was to switch to the newer LED lights. Is that really NOT the case? That said, I AM pondering! Perhaps a follow up that actually explains the details of the financial arrangements, an explanation about what the difference between the new lights and the existing lights is, and why we wouldn't be upgrading to LCD lights. At this point it is impossible to determine much about this proposal from the information given in the article. I await the information necessary for voters to understand and evaluate this proposal.
Jim August 14, 2013 at 08:14 AM
A quick Google search on LED street lights was very helpful and updated the info I got from a CL&P engineer five years ago. The following article about LED light conversion in Seattle cautions that LED are available across the color spectrum and that simply replacing traditional sv lights with LED of the same lumen rating will give far too much light. Not only are these lights operating at 40 % of current electrical consumption, they can be tailored for brightness and color. Some study is obviously required as these bulbs are not a "one size fits all" solution, as Seattle found out. The article I read can be found at http://crosscut.com/2013/03/18/energy-utilities/113476/streetlights-seattle-led/?page=1 By adjusting downward for the increased brightness, even greater savings might be possible, not to mention happier neighbors! The appropriate color spectrum for a parking lot would be quite a different bulb choice from what you would want in front of your house. Fortunately, unlike conventional sv lights, selecting color and brightness carefully is possible and can tailor the light to the neighborhood. Glad to hear that Wesleyan has already begun the conversion so residents can begin to evaluate and learn from their color and brightness choices. Hopefully we will have another article soon that will answer the questions brought up by "Mr.Fixit." Specifically, if not LED, why not? Since mayors across the country have worked together to move toward LED lighting I am not ready to assume Mayor Drew's proposal is not for LED lighting until we hear it from him.
Cassandra Day (Editor) August 14, 2013 at 08:23 AM
Thanks, everyone for your intelligent feedback. I'm following up with Mayor Drew and will provide any more details he offers.
Jim August 14, 2013 at 08:36 AM
PS: The comments to the Seattle article I referenced above are very educational, possibly more than the article.
john milardo August 14, 2013 at 08:38 AM
What City personnel or contractors will be performing the ongoing replacement and repair work? What is the initial cost and the yearly cost for upgrading the lighting?
My Opinion August 14, 2013 at 08:47 AM
Leave it to CL&P to offer an older technology lighting. One that they can show a savings for now, and then up sell again in 5 years to the LED. I think this town needs someone a bit more intelligent in technology!
Cassandra Day (Editor) August 14, 2013 at 10:39 AM
Check back with Middletown Patch for an interview with Middletown Energy Coordinator John Hall, which includes the city's plans to retrofit metal halogen street lights.

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