Proposed Orange budget has money to turn streetlights back on

ORANGE — Finance Committee members put $25,000 into next year’s budget so the town can relight streetlights.

“People really want the streetlights turned back on…,” said Finance Committee Chairwoman Linda Smith, “Whenever someone comes up to me to talk about town finances, it’s usually about streetlights.”

While Smith said she doesn’t have streetlights on her street and doesn’t “miss…or think about them, it’s very upsetting for people who have had them turned off.”

And while that expense may seem high in consideration of the tight budget proposed for next year, Orange currently pays over half that amount right now for streetlights even though they are turned off.

All lights except for the ornamental lights in the center of town were turned off to save money when officials were struggling to pay mounting bills and expenses early last year. But those savings never materialized.

“We based our decision (to turn the lights off) on the information we were given about how much it was going to cost to turn and keep them off,” said Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Kathy Reinig.

Reinig said board members received conflicting information from the utility company, National Grid.

Ongoing expenses for the darkened lights far exceed the original quotes.

The town continues to pay about $1,100 each month to National Grid for rent and maintenance of streetlight poles and fixtures.

Before officials made the decision to turn them off, the town paid about $44,000 each year, or roughly $3,500 per month, for streetlights.

Town Administrator Diana Schindler said that the $25,000 in the budget will allow the town to relight a select group of streetlights.

She said turning on lights closest to town will be the first priority. In addition, Schindler said that police, fire and highway managers will be consulted to determine if there are some lights that need to be prioritized even though they are farther away from the center of town.

Schindler’s plan for selecting which to turn back on will be developed in the near future.

Voters will first need to approve the additional money for streetlights when they vote on next year’s proposed budget at the annual town meeting on June 17.

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