Central Maine Power Co. has dropped a dispute with the city of Portland over responsibility for needed repairs to inoperable streetlights.

A darkened streetlight last month on Palmer Avenue in Portland. Multiple LED streetlights are out in the neighborhood, and Central Maine Power Co. and the city have been at odds over who should maintain the lines feeding power to them. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The utility had sought to make Portland responsible for the maintenance and repair of electrical conduit feeding power to city-owned streetlights, but it recently withdrew its petition before the state Public Utilities Commission.

With the dispute now dropped, CMP told the commission it would work quickly with the city to repair inoperable Portland streetlights, some of which have been dark for months. The utility said it still wants the PUC to revisit the issue of responsibility for future repairs of municipally owned streetlights, according to the withdrawal notice.

A contract dispute between Portland and CMP over which entity should pay to repair underground power conduit had stalled the repair of two dozen city streetlights for as long as six months. On Aug. 7, the city and CMP agreed to work together to fix malfunctioning lines that affected at least six city streetlights.

CMP, which delivers electricity in southern Maine, had said Portland was responsible for fixing problems in the conduit, but the city said it had been the utility’s responsibility and should remain so. The PUC had been accepting comments on a proposed regulatory change that would have clearly made municipalities responsible.

The outcome of the dispute could have affected more than 50 Maine cities and towns that have acquired or wish to acquire streetlights from CMP to upgrade them with energy-efficient bulbs. The decision also would have had a profound impact on municipal budgets if the maintenance costs shifted from CMP to local public works departments.

In its notice of withdrawal filed Wednesday with the PUC, the utility said it recommends that the commission convene a meeting “for the purpose of providing guidance and recommendations regarding future issues related to municipal ownership of streetlights.”

“In the meantime, CMP has agreed with the city of Portland to continue to perform maintenance of underground feeds in the same manner as has occurred in recent years and to expeditiously work with the city regarding any existing underground feeds that are in need of immediate repair,” it said.

City spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said city officials are thankful that the dispute has been resolved, because Portland lacks the expertise to repair the underground lines and nonworking streetlights are a public safety issue.

“We certainly have been concerned about the public safety and have been hearing from a lot of residents who have had issues with feeling either unsafe or not being able to see well enough while walking in their neighborhoods, so that was definitely our first concern,” Grondin said.

CMP spokeswoman Catharine Hartnett said via email that there are open issues regarding obligations related to underground feeds to streetlights that current regulations do not specifically address.

“CMP recommends that the commission convene a meeting of the working group that was initially established by the commission in 2015 for the purpose of providing guidance and recommendations regarding future issues related to municipal ownership of streetlights so that there can be a uniform approach statewide,” Hartnett said.

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