Lights may go down on town

MERRIMACK – More than 100 streets in town could be in the dark as town leaders look to cut down electricity costs.

The Town Council will this week consider a proposal to remove 240 streetlights from 126 roads, a plan that could save the town $23,000 in electric bills.

In a memo to councilors dated July 17, Town Manager Keith Hickey wrote that he had researched the possibility of eliminating streetlights in subdivisions throughout Merrimack to reduce costs.

“There are obviously a number of benefits to keeping street lights throughout the neighborhoods in Merrimack,” Hickey wrote. “Most of which are related to safety. And, removing street lights may be controversial to those residents where street lights would be removed.”

On the other hand, it would be a money saver in tight times.

Hickey found that in total, Merrimack has 641 streetlights.

Of those, 101 are on major roads, such as Daniel Webster Highway and Industrial Drive; 136 are on minor roads, such as Baboosic Lake Road and Naticook Road; 105 are on “collector” streets, such as Joppa Road and Turkey Hill Road; and 283 are on subdivision or industrial roads.

The cost to operate streetlights has risen during the past four years, Hickey wrote: up from $69,000 in 2006 to $87,000 this past fiscal year, which ended June 30.

The average monthly cost to operate a light is $8.19, said Kyle Fox, operations manager in the town’s public works department, in a memo to Hickey that was made public. If 240 lights were removed, it would save the town $23,587.

The cost of removing those lights would be $66,000, Fox said, so the town wouldn’t see a payback for three years.

“I believe that there is definitely some money to be saved in street lights but feel strongly that each light should be reviewed for public safety purposes,” Fox wrote.
He added that light removal might subject plow crews to “a certain amount of risk” during winter months, but that they would adjust.

Town leaders have considered all kinds of ways to save money in the past few months, including a controversial “pay-as-you-throw” trash and recycling program, which has ultimately moved forward in the form of single-stream recycling, and revamping recreational field-use fees.

In late June, Hickey told councilors that the state government’s own belt tightening is trickling down, meaning Merrimack could be $400,000 in the hole as it starts this new fiscal year.

An anticipated $237,601 in state revenue sharing will not be coming through this year, and the state has also reduced its contribution for retired police, fire personnel and teachers from 35 percent to 30 percent. Merrimack taxpayers must now pick up the $61,000 tab for this year and next.

Additional shortfalls in local revenue add to the budget gap.

The council will take up the streetlight proposal at its meeting Thursday at in the Town Hall courtroom at 7 p.m.


Some streetlights are proposed for removal on the following roads:

Aldrich Circle, Arbor Street, Bates Road, Beaver Brook Road, Beech Street, Bel Air Avenue, Belmont Drive, Berry Lane, Bigwood Drive, Birch Street, Birchwood Drive, Bishop Street, Bradford Drive, Bretton Drive, Brieann Drive, Brookfield Drive, Brookside Drive.

Cambridge Drive, Caron Street, Cathy Street, Cedar Lane, Chamberlain Road, Chapel Lane, Church Street, Columbia Circle, Constance Street, Country Club Lane, County Road, Courtland Drive, Craftsman Lane, Currier Road, Danbury Drive, Davis Road, Dawn Avenue, Deerwood Drive, Depot Street, Derry Street, Douglas Street, Edgewood Avenue, Elm Street, Evergreen Drive.

Fairway Drive, Fearon Road, Fernwood Drive, Forest Drive, Forsythia Lane, Fox Meadow Lane, Front Street, Glenwood Lane, Griffin Street, Hadley Road, Halletts Way, Harris Avenue, Hartwood Drive, Hemlock Street, Henry Clay Drive, Herrick Street, Hillcrest Drive, Hillside Terrace, Hilton Drive, Hoyt Street, Island Drive.

Jennifer Drive, Jo-Ellen Drive, Klara Drive, Knollwood Drive, Lamson Drive, Lantern Lane, Laurel Street, Lawrence Road, Leblanc Lane, Loop Road, Maidstone Drive, Maple Street, May Drive, McElwain Street, McGaw Bridge Road, Northwood Drive, Nutmeg Lane.

Oakridge Avenue, Olde Road, Packard Drive, Park Avenue, Parkhurst Road, Peaslee Road, Pilgrim Avenue, Pine Street, Pinewood Drive, Powderhouse Road, Railroad Avenue, Rainbow Avenue.

Raymond Drive, Reeds Ferry Way, Ridgewood Drive, Riley Lane, Rose Lane, South Baboosic Lake Road, Sands Terrace, Scotchpine Lane, Shady Lane, Small Lane, Souhegan Drive, Spruce Street, Star Drive, Stevens Avenue, Stuart Drive, Sundale Drive, Sunnydale Avenue, Sunset Drive, Sycamore Lane.

Thornton Road West, Timber Lane, Valleyview Drive, Vista Way, West Chamberlain Road, Walden Drive, Waterville Drive, Webb Drive, Westborn Drive, Whitewood Lane, Wildcat Falls Road, Winchester Drive, Wintergreen Drive, Woodbury Street, Woodland Drive, Woodward Road.