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Fort Kent, Emera upgrading street lights to more efficient, less costly LED bulbs

FORT KENT, Maine — New LED lights will soon be lining the streets of Fort Kent with a potential savings of $9,000 or more each year to the town, according to Steve Pelletier, community director of planning and economic development.

Emera Maine crews will begin replacing the bulbs atop 244 tall wooden street light poles in Fort Kent in the coming weeks. Pelletier said he expects the project to be complete or nearly complete by spring.

Emera owns the light poles and will switch out the high pressure sodium light bulbs currently in use with the LED lights at no cost to the town.

“The current lights are not efficient and require a lot of electricity,” Pelletier said. “The illumination is not that great, and is almost a yellow hue.”

The town now uses 50- and 100-watt bulbs and budgets about $31,000 annually to power them. Those lights will be replaced mostly with 36-watt LED bulbs, though 64-watt LED will be used in high traffic and high pedestrian areas such as at the crosswalk on Pleasant Street, according to Pelletier.

Town officials have been in discussions with a third party vendor about the possibility of buying new LED lights from that company. But that project would have required Fort Kent to buy the street light poles from Emera and to contract with the utility company to have the bulbs replaced. However, last fall, the Maine Public Utilities Commission approved allowing Emera to change the lights they own to LED.

At a town council meeting on Dec. 10, Fort Kent councilors voted unanimously to have Emera replace the lights, which Emera will still own and maintain. The town only pays Emera the cost of electricity to power the lights.

“This will be at no cost to the town,” Pelletier said of the changeover to LED. “This is advantageous because we have dealt with Emera for years and will result in a savings for us which is going to be great.”

Pelletier said the move to LED lights will lower the cost to power the lights by at least 30 percent, resulting in a savings to taxpayers as soon as the new lights are installed. “In 5, 10 or 20 years from now, this will be a substantial savings for the taxpayers,” he said.

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