CHELSEA — Selectmen want to flip the switch to ownership before converting streetlights to LED fixtures.

While no action was taken Thursday night at their meeting, Chelsea selectmen voiced a preference for an offer from the Dover, New Hampshire-based Affinity LED Lighting to convert the town’s 45 streetlights to LEDs. They offered that opinion after first discussing an offer from Central Maine Power to do the same.

Affinity’s deal, which was offered in January, requires a $13,945 payment for their services and includes securing materials and installation. After that fee is paid, however, the light fixtures would be owned by the town, though the town would be on the hook for maintenance costs. If Chelsea decided to take CMP up on its offer, it would make an annual payment to the company in a lease agreement.

CMP’s current lease and delivery cost is $5,508; no matter which party owns the lights, CMP would continue to deliver the electricity.

Town Manager Scott Tilton said Chelsea would be able to recoup the cost of the initial payment within two-and-a-half years. In for town officials to sign a contract with Affinity, the town’s voters would have to approve a warrant article at Town Meeting. Tilton said Affinity’s payment probably would come from discretionary funds and be replenished through subsequent savings on the lights.

Town officials considered an offer from CMP to switch over the lights at no cost to the town. The estimated annual savings of changing the town’s streetlights to LEDs would be $1,326.28 — or a 19.6 percent decrease in expense. The cost of the town’s current lease for the lights and energy supply totals $6,758.43; with LED fixtures, it would drop to $5,432.05.

LEDs use less electricity, which reduces that cost. Chelsea officials estimated annual energy supply costs would decrease from $1,250.43 for traditional streetlights to $430.57 for ones with LEDs.

Under CMP’s deal, switching the lights would be done at no cost because the average age of the existing lights is more than 15 years and the town would enter into a new 15-year contract. CMP also would remain responsible for maintaining the lights and paying taxes to the town. Tilton said during the meeting that CMP’s maintenance would be helpful, but he has heard from other towns that repair times are too long.

“Some towns complain that they don’t get to the lights as quick as they should,” he said.

Affinity is one of two major players facilitating switches locally, with the other being RealTerm Energy, which has offices in Annapolis, Maryland, and Montreal. The Kennebec Journal reported in December 2018 that officials from officials from Chelsea, Farmingdale, Vassalboro, Belgrade, Randolph, Pittston and Gardiner met in October 2018 in the Randolph Town Office to hear a presentation from RealTerm officials.

CMP spokeswoman Catharine Hartnett said her company has offered LED options for the “past couple of years,” but delivers offers to interested towns only when they inquire about it. When asked if the entrance of Affinity and RealTerm into the state’s market has put a dent in CMP’s revenue stream, she said the industry was “growing” but did not have any figures to quantify the effect it has had on the power company.

“We’re very busy ourselves,” Hartnett said. “We have quite a queue of towns in front of us and a finite number of contractors and employees to go in and do the work.”

Tilton said the lights could be connected to Bluetooth and dimmed remotely to save electricity. Hartnett said the lights could be used for public WiFi or even controlling traffic signals, but none of CMP’s clients has considered those options seriously, focusing mainly on efficiency.

Chelsea’s municipal elections are scheduled for June 11, and Town Meeting will take place June 13.

 

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME


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