Augusta officials are planning to take control of their streetlights.

They plan to buy the nearly 2,000 streetlights from Central Maine Power and convert them to more efficient LED lights. The move could save the city $168,000 to $300,000 a year.

Augusta, like many Maine municipalities, currently leases the lights along its city streets from CMP.

Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager, said the proposal would save both money and electricity. He projects it would save about $168,000 a year for 10 years and then, after the new lights and fixtures have been paid for, would save $306,000 a year for as long as the lights last. The LED lights have a projected lifespan of about 28 years.

The city’s energy consumption also would drop with the lights, according to St. Pierre; LED lights will save about two-thirds of the energy now used by the existing lights, which he said are mainly older, high-pressure sodium lights.

“It’s a great project from a sustainability standpoint. It’s a great project from a financing standpoint,” St. Pierre said.

The city would undertake a lease-purchase deal to buy the streetlights from CMP, over 10 years at a cost of $138,000 a year.

Augusta pays CMP $223,000 annually to lease the lights, and $39,000 in service delivery fees.

The city would be projected to use 675,000 fewer kilowatt hours of electricity, which would save another $44,000.

“It’s very encouraging news as far as the potential budget impact, and the environmental impact that this could have,” City Manager William Bridgeo told city councilors, who were briefed about the proposal Thursday.

Councilors eventually would need to sign off on the lease-purchase agreement for the deal to move forward. Some of them are already on board with the idea.

“I think it’s awesome,” said At-large Councilor Corey Wilson. “Every time I drive by those giant, ridiculous looking expensive old lights, I think how stupid that is. We talk about energy-efficient everything in people’s homes, and then we’ve got these lights across this whole state, just sucking the power right dry.”

St. Pierre said the city of Portland this summer became the first municipality in the state to buy its streetlights and convert them to LED lights.

He said the move is possible because of state legislation and Public Utilities Commission rules changes passed around 2016, thanks in large part to the advocacy of Nathan Poore, town manager in Falmouth, and Greg L’Heureux, finance director for South Portland.

Before the change, St. Pierre said, CMP was under no obligation to sell its streetlights to municipalities. The state law change required CMP to sell streetlights to municipalities where they are located for the net book value of the fixtures. Augusta’s fixtures, many of which were put in around 50 years ago, have depreciated in value. St. Pierre said the city’s cost to buy them will be about $206,000.

He said there is enough money in the streetlights account now to pay for them, and the projected annual savings will begin next year.

Bridgeo said the $168,000 the city expects to save for the first 10 years is the equivalent of about a half of 1 percent decrease in the property tax rate. The savings theoretically could result in a tax decrease — but could also be eaten up by increasing costs for other budgeted items.

Bridgeo reassured councilors Thursday the plan will not increase property taxes.

CMP officials could not be reached for comment Friday. The company’s previous public relations department phone number has been disconnected. Calls to it’s corporate parent company, Avangrid, were not returned.

Bridgeo said there is no connection between the city’s plan to ditch its leases for streetlights with CMP and previous flaps between the city and CMP, over excise taxes and the awarding of city contracts to Maine Natural Gas, a subsidiary of then-CMP parent company Iberdrola USA.

Augusta councilors asked if the city, before buying the lights, would have an inventory done to ensure they all actually exist.

This year the town of Fairfield, after a town-initiated inventory of its streetlights, discovered the town had been paying several thousand dollars for streetlights that no longer existed or worked.

In recent years Augusta, as part of energy efficiency upgrades, has converted multiple city buildings to LED technology.

The city received four bids from companies to supply the new lighting fixtures to be installed throughout the city. It selected the low bidder, Affinity LED Lighting, of Dover, New Hampshire.

Steve Lieber, founder and owner of the company, said all members of its crew of assembly technicians are U.S. military veterans.

The firm, according to St. Pierre, would contract with Coutts Brothers, an electrical contractor in Randolph, to install the new lights.

Lieber said the new lights are designed to limit greatly the amount of light escaping up into the sky. He said the so-called dark sky compliant technology they use, residents of communities where they have been installed have said, so reduced the amount of man-made light escaping into the sky they could see stars they couldn’t see before.

“The most visible experience with dark-sky compliant streetlights that you’re going to see is the stars are going to come back,” Lieber said. “There’s a significant amount (of light now pointing up from older streetlights) generated by 2,000 streetlights that you have in the city. A significant amount of that will go away.”

Bob LaBreck, facilities manager for the city, toured Affinity’s plant with other officials and said he was “blown away with how they’re putting their product together.”

“Everything but one item they use is made in America. This is an impressive product,” he said. “We’re going to have an impressive city when we’re done.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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