YARMOUTH — A majority of councilors are eager to convert the town’s 600 street lights to LED, as originally approved in a March 2018 vote.

At the time the council set aside $25,000 to “evaluate and design a street light conversion program,” during which utility poles leased from Central Maine Power will be replaced with town-owned LED lights, according to a resolution that passed unanimously.

However, the approval included a caveat that called on the contractor to also provide an “assessment and report of compliance … relative to the National Electric Safety Code for installation of street lighting fixtures.”

Saving money and reducing its carbon emissions are some reasons Yarmouth is looking into converting to LED street lights like this one. Courtesy

At a workshop on Nov. 7, Town Manager Nat Tupper said the additional requirement imposed a year and a half ago had handicapped the contractor and work to change the street lights never got underway.

Former Town Councilor David Craig, who voted for the LED conversion, said the additional requirement “has gotten in the way,” calling the language “unwieldy and unnecessary,” especially since many towns “regionally and nationally have converted without incident.”

He then called on the council to follow through with the conversion, arguing that “Yarmouth is being left behind and each month of delay is wasting $5,000 in taxpayer dollars.”

“For the sake of the planet and Yarmouth taxpayers you (need to) move forward,” Craig added.

Only four councilors were present at the Nov. 7 workshop, but all four, including Council Chairman Randall Bates, said they’re in full support of the measure and amending the resolution to remove the compliance requirement.

“We’ve hit some bumps, but I believe this is something the council wants to do and (we should) keep the conversation going,” Bates said.

That’s why he pushed to place the measure on this week’s council agenda. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, at the American Legion Log Cabin, 196 Main St., which is after The Forecaster’s print deadline.

At the Nov. 7 workshop, Councilor Andrew Kittredge said he wanted to “push forward and have an educated debate and open discussion” about converting to LED street lights, and he was backed by councilors Meghan Casey and April Humphrey.

The town has budgeted just over $108,000 for street lights in the current fiscal year budget. It’s unclear just how much it would actually save on energy costs by switching to LED street lights until an analysis into the conversion is completed.

Kittery is among the latest communities in Maine to convert to LED street lights.

On its website, the town said there are a variety of benefits, including reducing electricity consumption by 75%, allowing people to see colors more clearly and less glare – particularly the ability to avoid light pollution. LED lights also have “an extremely long life,” which reduces overall maintenance costs.

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