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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Scrapping light poles: Is it such a bright idea?

As published in the Record Journal Wednesday October 24, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2235

WALLINGFORD — The town is replacing 37 of its 160 ornamental streetlights and selling the used poles for scrap metal, but some town councilors believe the old poles could be reused.

The Electric Division has spent the last few weeks replacing what Public Utilities Director George Adair says are the oldest decorative aluminum light poles in town.

The lights were erected during streetscape projects over the last three decades, said Mayor William W. Dickinson, Jr. The earliest was in the late 1980s, the most recent in the early 2000s.

Adair said the poles being replaced are in poor shape, having taken a beating from snowplows and the elements over the years. They are also difficult to fix, he said. Their 50-pound aluminum bases need to be lifted every time workers need to get to the wiring inside.

“They were just a pain in the neck for maintenance,” Adair said.

The new streetlights have a panel at the bottom that can be removed so workers can more easily get to the wiring. The old lampposts are being disassembled and will go to scrap metal dealer Albert Brothers in Waterbury, with which the department has a standing contract, Adair said.

Town Councilor Craig Fishbein, whose law office is on South Main Street where poles have been replaced, said they look nice but he thinks the still-operational streetlights should be reused by the town.

“I guess it’s typical of government to take a working product and reduce it to scrap metal as opposed to recycling,” said Fishbein, a Republican.

Fishbein and fellow Town Councilor Nicholas Economopoulos, a Democrat, said they think the old poles should be placed around town, perhaps at the town-owned Wooding-Caplan site, which is set to be paved as a temporary parking lot.

“Since that’s supposed to be a temporary fix, why couldn’t we use those lights temporarily?“ Fishbein said.

Adair said the division wants the old poles out of circulation.

“We don’t consider them suitable. We do not want to perpetuate the use of them. ... We consider them truly to be scrap,” Adair said. “It’s not something we have interest in at all.”

The change, he said, will allow his workers to deal with streetlight problems more quickly.

Town Councilor John Le-Tourneau, a Republican, disagreed with his colleagues, saying restoring the poles might be more costly than replacing them. “It’s not just a matter of we’ll put them in storage and take them,” LeTourneau said. “When you reach into rehabbing something that’s been problematic anyhow, what’s your cost savings? At the end of the day it might just be cheaper to replace them with something that’s going to function better.”

Dickinson said the new streetlights do not have any specific energy-efficient technologies, such as LED lighting, which Fishbein said he’d like to see.

For ornamental lights, though, “there is not a LED product that the department has confidence in now,” Dickinson said. The new poles cost just more than $3,000 each, Adair said. Though the Electric Division is an enterprise fund, much of the funding for the new poles came from a yearly town allocation, Adair said, as approved by the town council in the fiscal year 2011-12 budget.

About the project, Dickinson said, “this grows out of the whole effort to ensure that the lights were on. It’s progress, we’re trying to make them better.”

Christopher Zajac courtesy of the Record-Journal

A new streetlight stands along South Main Street in Wallingford, one of 37 replacements scheduled.

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