Orange looks at turning streetlights back on

ORANGE — The longer days ahead of us may not be the only reason Orange streets grow a little lighter, as officials search for cost-efficient ways to turn streetlights back on.

All streetlights, except for the ornamental lights in the center of town, were turned off as part of the austerity measures officials took to shave the deficit and reduce mounting bills during the town’s budget crises last year.

“If I knew now what I knew then, I would not have been in support of turning them off,” said Selectman Kathy Reinig as the move “did not create the savings we expected and it was not a good thing for the town to have them off.”

Reinig explained National Grid, “did not provide information in a meaningful way” about the company’s policies and charges around turning the lights off. Reinig said that different officials got different responses to their questions around whether residents could “adopt” or pay privately to turn on specific lights.

And town officials were not informed about costs for turning the lights back on or even what the town would be charged to keep them off. Town Administrator Diana Schindler said that Orange incurred rental fees for some lights that were turned off.

She is in process of connecting with National Grid to discuss these charges. Schindler said the company “has been a little slower to respond” to her inquiries than utility companies she has worked with in other communities.

Over the next few months, Schindler said town officials will explore whether the town can afford to turn the lights back on in the next fiscal year.

Reinig cautioned that while she wants the lights back on, “until I see what the entire budget looks like, I don’t want to make promises we can’t deliver.” She added, “I doubt we will continue with all of them off.”

Officials will also look at Schindler’s research into more cost-effective ways to operate the lights, including using solar powered and LED lights, and buying the streetlights from the utility company. Some of the cost-cutting ideas she’s come up with include:

∎ Solar lights: Installing lights powered by a solar panel built into the fixtures is one way the town can minimize costs of running streetlights in the future. While such lights will need to be installed in sunny locations, this technology may be a good long term investment for the town. According to Schindler, there are many traffic lights and flag pole lights that could also be solar powered.

∎ LED: Installing LED bulbs in street lights would lower operating costs as these bulbs demand less electricity and last longer. LED lighting is also highly directional, making it efficient technology in streetlights where light is cast downward.

∎ Buying lights: Schindler is also exploring potential savings of maintenance costs if Orange buys its own streetlights from National Grid. Other towns around the state and nation that have pursued this option report saving tens of thousands of dollars by maintaining and changing their own fixtures and bulbs.

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