Officials propose removal of 15 street lights

LYNDEBOROUGH – Under a current proposal, the town’s 20 street lights would be reduced to nine: 15 would be removed, five upgraded and four new ones added. Another five are under consideration – adding three for security at the highway garage and two in the Citizens’ Hall parking lot. Two of the lights belong to the school district.

Of the lights that are proposed for removal, eight are on Route 31 between Glass Factory and Brandy Brook Road, four are on Putnam Hill Road and two on Glass Factory.

On Monday, the committee hosted a public information session that drew 10 people to a 45-minute discussion.

Committee Chairman Steve Brown outlined what the committee has done and still hopes to do.

Formed about two months ago, the committee has met every other week. They surveyed all of the lights, met with representatives from Eversource and various vendors and tried to determine why the lights were placed where they are.

“Some are in the middle of nowhere,” Brown said. “We tried to consider which areas could use lights, where people walk” and where there is traffic or safety concerns.

Why were these lights chosen? “In general, we’re not fans of street lights,” Brown said. They determined that more light is needed near the fire station because firefighters park across Route 31 at the library. Perhaps a light should mark the junction of Route 31 and Center Road. More light is needed in front of the Town Hall in the Center, and on the hill from Route 31 to Citizens’ Hall because many people park near the common and walk to meetings.

Lights that would be kept and upgraded include one in front of the school, two by the fire station, one by the common (which would be re-directed toward the flagpole), and one at the junction of Pettingill Hill Road.

Why were the lights placed where they are?

“They made sense at the time,” Heritage Commission Member Stephanie Roper said, and gave a short history of street lights.

Street lighting dates to the 1920s when electricity replaced gas lights. Most of those now in place date to around World War II. Putnam Hill Road (formerly School Street) was lighted for the South School, which closed in 1949. There was light on Route 31 for “The Little Store,” which closed some 30 years ago. There was a baseball field on Glass Factory Road prior to World War II. “The original purposes are long gone,” she said.

Brown said the committee considered the color and intensity of the light, keeping lights downcast to prevent “light pollution” and also “trespassing,” shining into people’s windows. The look of the fixtures was also a concern, keeping them “rustic or rural, preserving the town’s rural character,” as stated in the town’s Master Plan.

Cost was another consideration. The lights are purchased from a vendor and Eversource is paid to install them. Eversource offers a $100 rebate if the lights meet their specifications. The fixtures and brackets can cost from around $150 “to several hundred if you want custom made,” Brown said. New LED lights would be much brighter and cost much less to operate than the current incandescent.

The committee’s recommendation is for “soft white light,” a yellowish hue, and traditional brackets. All lights would be on existing utility poles.

The only (mildly) dissenting voice was Joan Hyde, who lives on Glass Factory. “I like them,” she said, and noted “a lot of early morning traffic.”

Vice-chairman Andy Roeper said there could be a safety issue with the railroad bridge that crosses Glass Factory “but we can’t touch the trestle.”

Since the final plan has to be approved by town meeting, it was asked if “each individual light could be discussed.”

Brown said that was up to the meeting. “If somebody is passionate about having (or not) a particular light.”

Resident Doug Powers thanked the committee, and said he was “enthusiastic about the work you put in, considering the dark sky concept and light pollution.”

The committee plans to have a report ready in October for the Budget Committee, but there is still time for residents to bring comments and concerns. The committee will meet on Sept. 10, 7 p.m., at Citizens’ Hall. All meetings are open to the public and comments are welcome.

Other committee members are Greg Kreider, John Pomer, Selectman Rick McQuade, School Board Member Charlie Post, and Planning Board Member Bob Rogers.