WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A years-long effort to replace the town's streetlights with more efficient LED fixtures may be resolved as soon as June's annual town meeting.
The Select Board on Monday approved an intermunicipal agreement to transfer authority over the street lights from the Williamstown Fire District to Town Hall.
Once the Prudential Committee, as expected, gives the agreement its blessing, the way will be clear for the town to purchase the existing lights from National Grid, which has offered to sell the used lights for $1.
At that point, the town will have responsibility for maintenance of the lights, Town Manager Jason Hoch explained to the Select Board. But it can obtain a yearly maintenance contract for $15,000 per year, far less than the $58,000 per year maintenance fee charged to the Fire District by National Grid.
The town hopes this spring to conduct a pilot program to test light fixtures from several manufacturers at sites around town to see which is preferred by residents. And at town meeting, voters will be asked to approve a $244,000 transfer from the town's stabilization fund to replace the 553 high-pressure sodium streetlights currently in use.
Between the lower cost maintenance contract and the reduced electricity required by light-emitting diode fixtures, the town anticipates annual savings of about $60,000, Hoch and members of the town's Carbon Dioxide Lowering (COOL) Committee told the Select Board.
Hoch said the payback period for an investment in the new lights is 3 1/2 years. At that point, the $60,000 in annual savings could be used to replenish the stabilization account and, ultimately, offset other areas of the town budget.
"We want to thank [Fire District Treasurer] Cory Thurston because he's been helpful providing all the numbers to ensure this is a good fiscal decision," the COOL Committee's Nancy Nylen said. "Stephanie [Boyd] and I had conversations with other communities. We wanted to make sure this is as good as it sounds. We were reassured by other communities that the maintenance contract works smoothly."
Nylen and the grassroots environmental group have been advocating for LED street lights for years, largely because of their energy efficiency and lower contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
Two years ago, the Prudential Committee, which oversees the Fire District, had an agreement with National Grid to swap out the current HPS streetlights with LED fixtures. But many in the community raised concerns about the color temperature of the LEDs that National Grid planned to install, and the Prudential Committee opted to pull out of the plan and forgo the cost savings it would have generated.
The town and COOL Committee have since been working with the Fire District to find an alternative, going so far as to commission San Francisco-based Tanko Lighting for a lighting audit that informed the plan presented on Monday night.
In September 2019, the project's advocates also hosted a listening session to gauge community support for the new lighting.
"We felt very good after it that people were supportive," Nylen said. "They said, ‘Yes, we need more efficient lights.' And they wanted to make sure that their concerns about safety were kept front and center, and that's definitely something we're all concerned about. We want to make sure that where we need good, high quality lighting, like along the Route 2 corridor, it's nice, bright light, but in the quiet rural streets, maybe we can have a lower light.
"People expressed their concerns and overwhelmingly wanted to have this warmer light. ... And also, the idea of spillover light. People wanted to make sure light was concentrated where we need it. They don't want it shining in their bedroom window or lighting the beautiful, dark skies that we so appreciate in Williamstown."
The Select Board approved the intermunicipal agreement by a 5-0 vote.
The board also unanimously OK'd a malt and wine package store license for Williamstown native Peter McGillivray, who is moving back to town to open a wine and cheese store at the corner of Main Street (Route 2) and Water Street (Route 43), the former location of Hops and Vines.
McGillivray sought and received the only town license available under the cap set by the commonwealth's Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. That license came available when the proprietors of the Store at Five Corners recently opted not to renew for 2021.
In answer to a question from Jeffrey Thomas, Hoch confirmed that the South Williamstown store's nonrenewal was not an oversight on its part and that the town had reached out to the business.
McGillivray said he spent the last years managing and hosting international events and is looking forward to the chance to return to his hometown.
"The Water Street property is one I'm connected to," he said during the virtual public hearing. "I remember going there when it was a luncheonette. I'm familiar with that neighborhood.
"As I was exploring options, a fine wine and cheese shop was something that was appealing to me. Formaggio Kitchen in my neighborhood in Boston is something I hope to duplicate in Williamstown."
In other business on Monday, the Select Board heard an update from Council on Aging Director Brian O'Grady about COVID-19 vaccinations for town residents.
O'Grady said his agency and COAs around Berkshire County have been helping residents 75 and older who are eligible for vaccination but who have trouble with the online registration process to make appointments.
O'Grady praised the efficiency of the vaccination clinic set up at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in North Adams.
"What's been happening is clinics fill up quickly," he said. "At one point last week, we had 80 people waiting for openings. By the middle of last week, they opened a bunch of new spots and we started calling people on the waiting list. … By Thursday evening, we'd eradicated the waiting list and found spots for everybody.
"It's worked out really well as far as the registration process. The clinics themselves are very well organized."
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to email@example.com.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
High-pressure sodium bulbs are commonly used in indoor cannabis growing. Once it purchases replacement LED bulbs, might the town be able to sell the used HPS bulbs to a business in the cannabis industry?
Mount Greylock Schools Present Improvement Plans to School Committee
By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Lanesborough Elementary School is hoping to form community partnerships to help teach its pupils about sustainability.
The kids already are leading the way.
"About five weeks ago, we had a fourth-grade group start the Lanesborough Environmental Squad club," Principal Nolan Pratt said last week. "They're all about being environmentally friendly and seeing what we can do within the school.
"That kind of inspired this goal within the School Council. We want to reach out to community partners … and do field trips to see places working on sustainability. I believe they're putting a solar field at Skyline [Country Club] for example. Maybe we can go see how that works."
Pittsfield's Emmanuel Nda broke a meet record and helped the Generals break into the top 10 at Saturday's Central/Western Massachusetts Division 1 Championships at Westfield State University. click for more
By a vote of 5-0, the Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday approved a special permit for Pittfield's Evolution Site Services to build a 153-foot cell tower on land leased from Phelps Farm.
click for more
Town Hall needs to do a better job recruiting a diverse workforce and to update policies on harassment, discrimination and disciplinary actions, according to a human resources audit commissioned by the Select Board last year. click for more
The board of the town's Affordable Housing Trust made some history on Wednesday evening — and not just because it became the first town board or committee to meet in person since March 2020. click for more
Gill, who also coached girls basketball and golf during his career at Mount Greylock, became the 25th and final recipient of the North County coaching honor when he received the trophy from Ed Noel, who created the Frankie in honor of his friend and mentor, legendary Drury and St. Joseph's High... click for more