New streetlights were installed this spring on existing utility poles on Highbrook and Bloomfield roads near the Hampton Inn, but the Town Council has not yet officially approved them. ISLANDER PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

Streetlight change raises questions

BAR HARBOR — A town councilor has proposed delaying approval of six already-installed streetlights here until electric company Emera Maine can offer new, more energy-efficient LED lights.

The requested lights for Highbrook Road are the standard high pressure sodium (HPS) fixtures present elsewhere in town. They were installed earlier this month on existing utility poles. The Hampton Inn requested the new lights and paid the associated costs, working directly with Emera.

“Our main goal … was increased safety and security of our guests and staff,” hotel manager Scott Shelton wrote in an email to town officials. “We always encourage guests to walk into Bar Harbor, but then often receive feedback that the road is not safe because it is too dark. We get similar feedback from people driving into town who encounter pedestrians in the roadway.”

A Town Council policy requires council approval of new lights even if a private entity is paying for them. Because privately funded streetlights had never before come up, council Chair Paul Paradis said, confusion about the process was understandable.

But when the question came to the council March 21, Councilor Gary Friedmann saw the request as a chance to “put pressure” on Emera to begin offering LED streetlights.

“The current lights are wasteful; they’re really not doing what anyone wants them to do, which is to provide a safe environment,” he said. “The neighborhood is way overlit right now, and if we just approve it, there’s no incentive for Emera and the hotel to get the right lights here.”

The utility does not have an approved rate structure for LED lighting, he said. “It’s up to Emera to go to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and ask for the rate structure they want.”

Shelton said the hotel supports the move to more efficient streetlights, but he didn’t think it made sense to pin a large policy change on one property.

“Do you think that should be something the whole town should be doing?” he said.

The Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce’s sustainable tourism committee also has written to the PUC asking Emera to create a rate structure for LEDs, chamber director Martha Searchfield said.

The Town Council policy on streetlights, last revised in 2009, specifies that new streetlights will be HPS fixtures.

“We may want to revisit our policy first, to have some ground to stand on,” Councilor Peter St. Germain said.

The council voted to table the issue until their April 4 meeting. Friedmann asked Town Manager Cornell Knight to work with police to develop a recommendation for appropriate lighting in the area and to begin work on updating the council’s streetlight policy.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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