Kennebunk mulls hiring streetlights policy consultant for LED project

KENNEBUNK, Maine – Should the town hire a consultant to review its streetlights policy and take a census on existing lights before it goes any further with its goal of converting the community to LEDs?

Chair Blake Baldwin will have a motion for that question ready for his colleagues on the Kennebunk Select Board when they meet next on Tuesday, May 25.

“I’m not prepared to make that motion tonight,” Baldwin said Tuesday, following a one-hour discussion on the subject.

Instead, Baldwin said he first would like to meet with Select Board Vice Chair Wayne Berry, Town Manager Michael Pardue, Town Engineer Chris Osterrieder and others to discuss how best to draft the motion and present it to the board.

A portion of roadway near 321 and 339 Alfred Road in Kennebunk, Maine, pictured here in 2019, was chosen to test LED street lights because it offers a straight stretch of road with a wide breakdown lane.
A portion of roadway near 321 and 339 Alfred Road in Kennebunk, Maine, pictured here in 2019, was chosen to test LED street lights because it offers a straight stretch of road with a wide breakdown lane.

Over the past several weeks, Baldwin, Berry and other town officials have been meeting – per the select board’s authorization earlier this year – with members of the local Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee and the Kennebunk Light and Power District. The meetings have focused on coming up with a sound approach for advancing the town’s LED streetlight initiative.

On Tuesday, Baldwin updated the board on those discussions. He said during the latest meeting it occurred to everyone on the town side that they might be “missing an opportunity to do this is a better way.” He said it made “very little sense” for the town to replace more than 800 streetlights – thereby spending $400,000 in voter-approved funds – when there are some questions that have not yet been answered.

“Are the existing lights in the right places?” Baldwin asked. “And are there too many or too few of them?”

Last year, voters approved funds that included $400,000 for the purchase, acquisition, and installation of LED streetlights. Through its work, the Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee determined LED lights would save the town money with their energy efficiency and would help the environment by reducing the community’s carbon footprint.

Baldwin said it occurred to the group that the town’s streetlight policy, crafted in the early 1990s, should be re-evaluated to determine whether it is “suitable for our current needs.” Baldwin said, in his opinion, the current policy “is not to industry standard.”

Selectperson Edward Karytko asked how hiring a consultant and reviewing the policy would affect the town’s plan to send out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for identifying the best fixture for replacing more than 800 streetlights in town with LEDs. Baldwin replied that the RFP would be postponed “for a period of time” because the town does not currently know how many lights it actually would need.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.Create Account

Karytko suggested the number of needed lights likely would not change enough to affect the RFP, adding that “any competent vendor out there would understand,” especially if informed that the town was re-evaluating its streetlight situation.

Karytko said the town’s pursuit of LED lights has continued long enough. He said the RFP should be issued, so the town could find out if a better lighting option exists and, if so, what it would cost.

“I am deathly against postponing this anymore,” he said.

Karytko said the delay is costing people money.

“Every day that we don’t switch over to the LED lights, we’re costing the taxpayers money,” he said. “As a taxpayer, I’m looking at this and saying enough is enough.”

Baldwin noted that KLPD, not the town, ultimately will decide which lights are used, as they own the poles. The town, however, dictates where poles are installed.

KLPD has made known its preference for the E-Light.

Berry said a consultant also could examine the RFP for identifying the right light, in addition to reviewing policy and taking a census.

“I think it’s premature to send out an RFP if it’s not going to meet what our needs are,” he said.

During public comment, two members of the Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee – Chair Sharon Staz and Vice Chair Maggie Bartenhagen – said they were open to the town hiring a consultant.

“I think this would be an excellent way to move forward, only because … no one on staff, no one on the select board, really no one on the energy efficiency committee, has the credentials or the experience and the ability to analyze what is currently in place in town,” Bartenhagen said.