Thursday February 28, 2013

JAMAICA -- Everywhere you go, people are looking to make more energy efficient decisions, including towns where replacing streetlights could not only save energy but money, too.

"The light bulbs are very old, I take it," said Selectboard Chairwoman Alexa Clark. "Pat (Meulemans) has done a lot of research on her own as a citizen of Jamaica, trying to save money for the town."

On Feb. 25, Meulemans, who works as Jamaica Town Clerk, spoke as a concerned resident. She said Jamaica could save $2,000 or more a year, if the Selectboard decided to replace bulbs in the existing streetlights with LED bulbs.

"It won't cost the town a thing," said Meulemans.

Efficiency Vermont and Green Mountain Power have been in contact with Meulemans. Ideas to improve energy efficiency that have been floating around include reducing streetlights in general, which would save money, as well as the replacing of bulbs.

Meulemans indicated that she thought streetlights along Castle Hill Road, the road to Town Garage, South Hill Road and near the bridge going northbound towards Route 30 could potentially be removed.

She had talked to residents whose homes had been more lit up by the streetlights than the actual streets or sidewalks that the lights were supposed to focus on. Those residents had agreed that the lights could be removed or reduced.

Selectboard member Andrew Coyne thought that the street lights near Town Garage should stay put.

"There should be light on those fuel tanks," he said.

A member of the public asked how much closing out each streetlight would be.

"Right now, it's a per day fee," Meulemans said. "One (street light) by the school is broken, but we still pay for it each day. Most of them are a per day charge. The older ones cost more... something like 30 cents a day. Newer ones are less because they are using less energy."

When asked about the cost of streetlights, Meulemans told the board that it costs roughly $1,200 a month for the existing street lights.

For about a year, Meulemans has been getting estimates and putting together a plan to work with Green Mountain Power as well as Efficiency Vermont. With incentives from those two companies, the town could wind up paying nothing to replace the bulbs.

On Jan. 24, Meulemans had received a letter from Green Mountain Power that said if the town wants to go forward with replacing the bulbs, a letter of agreement would need to be signed.

"We should all take a ride around town to come up with ideas on which ones to take out," Clark said to the rest of the board.

Meulemans then gave the Selectboard a map to review. She marked the streetlights that she thought could be removed.

Clark said by next meeting, the board probably could start making decisions.

"Some properties' yards are being lit up when sidewalks or other parts of town could be better lit," said Meulemans. "And money could be saved."

Selectboard member Paul Fraser thanked Meulemans for taking initiative on this project.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.