Bennington officials mull streetlight removal

  • A map of Bennington depicts streetlights in town. Courtesy photo—

  • Bennington is mulling the removal of 12 streetlights in town.  MAPS4NEWS

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, August 29, 2017 9:54AM

While the Bennington Energy Committee was hashing out a plan to upgrade its streetlights to light emitting diodes, or LEDs, in a bid to save energy and cut costs, it took the plan a step further with a proposal to remove 47 percent of the poles in town. 

“We’re interested in doing this because we could halve the amount of electricity used by the lights,” David McKenzie, who is on the committee, said about upgrading the streetlights. “We started looking into the lights and we decided that there were some lights that weren’t really needed. We decided we could take some of those out and save even more money.”

Initially, he said the committee came up with a recommendation to upgrade about 25 existing streetlights to LED, remove 23, and add three.The proposal could save the town $4,500 annually, minus a one-time cost of removing the discontinued halide fixtures by Eversource Energy.

McKenzie said the energy company charges a flat rate for its poles, meaning the town pays the same amount in the winter as it does in the summer. He said eliminating one street light would save the town about $142 per year.

During a public hearing regarding the matter in late July, residents came out to express their opinions about the proposal. McKenzie said a lot of people attended that meeting and expressed concerns. 

“A question that was brought up at that meeting is what is the cost of safety?” said Deputy Town Administrator Kristie LaPlante. “Is it worth it to remove the lights when the other thing on the other end is safety?”

She said since the public hearing, the select board has gone back and narrowed the scope of streetlight removal.

“They (select board) looked at what makes reasonable sense?” she said.

LaPlante said the board has whittled the number of streetlights it’s looking to remove to 12. She said there are two or three streetlights in downtown Bennington will likely be removed because they are “redundant.”

LaPlante said the committee originally planned to remove many of the poles along Route 202, but after further discussion, the original decision was reversed.

“The chief said while people are sleeping and watching TV, there are actually quite a few pedestrians out walking (on Route 202),” LaPlante said referencing the July public hearing.

Bennington Police Chief Bret Sullivan said he attended the meeting back in July. He didn’t mention the street lights on Route 202 in particular, but he said, he advocated to keep lights in place that illuminate intersections, crosswalks, and sidewalks.

“That’s important for the safety of people walking at the night, and the comfort of being illuminated,” Sullivan said

McKenzie said the fire chief weighed in during the public hearing and said it’s important to keep lights near fire hydrants illuminated. Some residents who have poles near their house also spoke in opposition certain removals.

McKenzie said even if no poles are removed, and the lights are upgraded to LEDs as planned, the town is already looking at cost savings. A notice posted on the town’s Facebook page says upgrading the poles is estimated to save about $60 per light every year, a collective saving of about $3,000. He said they will have repaid the cost of switching over to LEDs in two years. 

LaPlante said the select board will likely pick the discussion back up about potential streetlight removal during its regular Wednesday meeting.

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.