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Westport selectmen mull switching off street lights to save money

Are the lights too bright in town?

Well, maybe not too bright, but selectmen are considering whether turning off a few street lights might make Westport a cheaper, if not brighter, place to live.

Some of the town’s street lights are owned by National Grid and some by NStar.

What is certain is that there are more than 200 street lights in town. A report by Westport Police Sgt. John Bell indicates that as many as 75 street lights could be turned off to save money.

Traditionally, when towns turn out street lights to save money, they look for areas where there are more lights than needed. In 2011, Somerset sought to trim $30,000 from its budget by ordering its Highway Department to replace 100-watt lights in many areas with 70-watt bulbs, and in some areas turned off lights in places where many were close together or where they weren’t needed as critically.

In Westport, selectmen and interim Town Administrator Jack Healey aren’t yet talking about lower wattage light bulbs but they have begun to talk about turning off some street lights.

“At least we’ve started the process,” said Board of Selectmen Chairman Richard Spirlet, adding that it’s his understanding that it costs about $100 to run a street light for a year.

“We’re going to have to see what NStar and National Grid will charge to turn off each light,” Healey said.

“Can we look at solar or another way of maintaining these lights?” asked Selectman Antone Vieira Jr.

Selectman R. Michael Sullivan said he’d like to see a list of the privately owned lights in town, which can be used in conjunction with the list of street lights to determine which areas are getting light from privately owned sources, such as lights in the lots of used car dealerships.

And, Sullivan said, if the people in a given neighborhood think they need every light they have, there might be a second choice.

“Maybe neighbors could chip in,” Sullivan said.

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