AUGUSTA — City councilors will consider authorizing a $1.1 million lease-purchase agreement to acquire the nearly 2,000 streetlights throughout the city from Central Maine Power.

Once that agreement is in place, Augusta will begin the process of converting them to more efficient LEDs, with the potential to save between $168,000 to $300,000 a year.

City Manager William Bridgeo said savings generated by the project would more than cover the cost of the proposed 10-year, $1.1 million deal with low-bidder TD Bank to fund the purchase of the streetlights from CMP and convert them to a more efficient technology.

Ralph St. Pierre, Augusta’s finance director and assistant city manager, estimates the proposal would save the city about $168,000 a year for 10 years while the funds used to purchase the lights are paid back. Once the lights and fixtures are paid for — after the initial 10-year period — St. Pierre estimates the city would save $306,000 a year for as long as the lights last.

The LED fixtures have a projected lifespan of about 28 years.

Several other Maine communities are in the process of making similar changes and taking over control of their streetlights. That was made possible by state legislation and Public Utilities Commission rules changes passed in 2016 that requires CMP to sell streetlights to municipalities where they are located for the net book value of the fixtures. Before the law change, the utility company was under no obligation to sell its streetlights to municipalities.

Municipalities considering — or making — a similar change include Gardiner, Mexico and Vassalboro. St. Pierre said the city of Portland last summer became the first municipality in the state to buy its streetlights and convert them to LEDs.

Bridgeo said CMP officials have been cooperative in planning for the conversion, even though the change means the utility provider will lose a stream of revenue. CMP will continue to sell electricity to power the streetlights to the city, though the more-efficient LED lights are expected to use significantly less power.

“We appreciate that this is happening, with CMP, in other communities simultaneously,” Bridgeo said.

Augusta has been paying CMP $223,000 a year to lease the nearly 2,000 streetlights, plus $39,000 in delivery fees. Purchasing the old fixtures, some of which are 50 years old, cost the city about $206,000.

The city expects to use 675,000 fewer kilowatt hours of electricity a year, yielding savings of $44,000 a year.

Matt Nazar, the city’s development director, said most of the new lighting fixtures already have been delivered and will start being installed by Randolph-based electrical contractor Coutts Brothers in two or three weeks. He anticipates they’ll all be converted by the end of April.

Most of the new streetlights will be equipped with Wi-Fi devices that will allow them to communicate with each other and report to a network system that will be based at Augusta City Center. That means when a light stops working, officials will know about it immediately.

“The lights will be able to talk to each other and communicate with a central network,” Nazar said. “They’ll be able to tell us when a fixture is out.”

He said streetlights in outlying areas of the city won’t be equipped with the Wi-Fi technology, because they are too far apart to communicate with each other.

Bridgeo said the city will own the light receptacle, fixture and brackets holding all that together, but CMP will continue to own the poles on which they are placed.

He said a survey of the existing streetlights determined that city and CMP records of how many working streetlights there are were largely accurate. Last 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.

The city received four bids to supply the new fixtures and picked the low bidder, Affinity LED Lighting, of Dover, New Hampshire.

The lights are expected to put out a whiter light than the more orange-tinted lights now in use. They also are expected to limit the amount of light escaping up into the sky, which Steve Lieber, founder and owner of Affinity, said could allow residents to see stars they couldn’t see before.

Councilors are scheduled to vote on the proposed lease-purchase at their 7 p.m. meeting Thursday in the council chamber at Augusta City Center.

Councilors also are scheduled to:

  • Consider approving a contract to allow the city’s designated real estate agent to list three tax acquired properties, on Orchard Street, Cross Hill Road and North Belfast Avenue, for sale;
  • Consider authorizing police to take possession of a shotgun and a 2015 Volvo S60 T6 car seized in criminal investigations;
  • Consider granting an easement allowing Summit Natural Gas of Maine to cross city property from Pierce Drive to the Fieldstone Place subdivision;
  • Consider establishing zoning rules for solar energy systems; and
  • Consider expanding the area within which the neighborhood compatibility of proposed building projects must be considered before approval for certain types of projects, including major developments and subdivisions, licensed quarry operations and shooting ranges.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]
Twitter: @kedwardskj

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