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Falmouth targets 174 street lights for elimination

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Falmouth targets 174 street lights for elimination

FALMOUTH — Neighborhoods may soon be a little darker, with 174 street lights proposed to be turned off and removed by July 1.

The reduction is part of the recently approved fiscal 2011 budget.

"These were part of the cuts to keep the mil rate the same this year," Budget and Purchasing Director Randy Davis said.

Falmouth has a total of 614 street lights. Davis, the police chief and the town manager worked together to come up with a list of the 174 street lights on the elimination list.

He said cutting 135 lights, which is his goal for this year, would save the town $20,000. The town currently spends $92,000 per year to keep all of the lights on.

Like most Maine towns, Falmouth contracts with Central Maine Power Co. to rent the lights. Each light has a 15-year contract and costs the town $7 to $10 per pole plus the cost of electricity.

"It's an expensive thing," Davis said.

To decide which lights would go, the town manager and police chief drove along every street in Falmouth at night, when the lights were on, and determined whether a light was vital or expendable.

Davis said any light the police chief said had to stay on, would stay on.

"The chief had total veto power," he said.

Lights along sidewalks, intersections and at sharp curves were left on, too.

The lights that are on the list were marked May 10 with green signs that say "The street light on this pole is proposed to be eliminated." They direct readers to the town's website for more information. A map of the lights is also available on the Web.

There are also several new subdivisions that have not yet been targeted. Davis said this was because the 15-year contracts were not yet up and the town would have to pay a fee to have the lights eliminated. However, he said, next year he would be considering those lights and weighing the cost of the fees against the savings.

"When we're done, we could get rid of 300," he said. "We can't do that yet, but that doesn't mean we won't. We'll be coming for those, too."

Last year, South Portland targeted 112 street lights for elimination. In March 2010, CMP increased the town's rental fees for the remaining lights. While CMP said the timing was a coincidence and the fees were increased for other towns as well, the increase left South Portland owing $5,000 more than it had before it turned out the lights.

The Town Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on removal of the lights on May 24. Anyone interested in more information or looking to begin the appeal process can contact Randy Davis at 781-5253 ext. 5337.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net