Ancram pulls plug on LEDs

Residents hear detailed report on lights, then opt to wait for dimmer bulbs

ANCRAM—Let there be light.

But don’t let it be too bright or shine into houses at night.

Those were among the comments heard by the Town Board January 21, when it conducted a public hearing on LEDs (light emitting diodes) before its regular board meeting January 21.

Back in November, the board got an email message from Central Hudson offering to replace all of the town’s 31 high pressure sodium or mercury vapor street lights with sparkling new LEDs. Central Hudson said that the LEDs have a longer life expectancy and yield “significant savings on maintenance and operating costs, while providing environmental benefits to municipalities and residents.”

The town could opt to have its street lights replaced with LEDs as the old lights go out over the next 10 years at a cost of $142/light or could opt to switch over all the lights now at a one-time cost of $3,500. A complete changeover to LEDs would result in an annual cost savings of $2,300 to the town.

But town residents who spoke at the November meeting had heard that LEDs were not all they are cracked up to be and Supervisor Art Bassin decided to appoint a committee to check into the situation before a decision was made.

Committee members Gerry Fultz, Derek Porter, Ann Rader and Kim Tripp came to the January public hearing armed with a 19-page, color, highly-technical report, complete with photographs, diagrams, tables, charts and an analysis detailing what Central Hudson is offering and whether it is desirable.

The report studied an existing LED light in the Village of Millerton, which Ancram residents could drive to and see for themselves. Central Hudson also offered to install a couple of the LEDs in Ancram if the town wants them.

Mr. Fultz, who is a consultant in vision correction and optics, noted that currently six of the town’s 31 street lights are out.

Mr. Porter, a lighting designer and academic, discussed the “illuminating engineering study” projected on a big screen in Town Hall. Using a laser pointer, he reviewed brightness at the source and on the ground; styles of luminaires such as “cobra head” with drop lenses and/or “full cutoff distribution” and referred to drawings illustrating “different illuminance geometrics” depending on whether the lights are used for intersections, parking lots or a straight stretch of road.

He talked about the town being able to choose the “photometric profile” of its lights, concerns about “light trespass” and “coloration of temperature.” He concluded by noting that “LEDs are solid state technology, “they are like your computer” and a new generation emerges every six months.

Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) member Ms. Tripp addressed two areas of environmental concerns noting LEDs offer a benefit in energy savings and would also reduce the town’s carbon footprint. But the LEDs that Central Hudson is offering (4,000 Kelvin) are “horrible” in terms of Correlated Color Temperature (CCT), which she described as “harsh” and “blue.” She said the LEDs represent a daylight source in the middle of the night, which disrupts the biology of plants, birds, animals and sleeping humans. She said that a 3,000 Kelvin light would be more agreeable. Whether the LEDs will spill light vertically disrupting the night sky is controlled by the type of fixture it is contained in, she noted.

Resident John Perrella said he used to have a good view of the night sky including being able to see the “spiral of the Milky Way” but that over the years it has diminished by 15%.

Another resident complained that after she and her husband relocated their bedroom upstairs, Central Hudson had installed a new street light on a new pole, which caused the light to be raised up and shine into the room and she has been unable to get them to install a shield on it.

CAC member Jamie Puriton suggested that perhaps the location of light poles could be evaluated and some of them “decommissioned” if the neighbors don’t want them.

Councilman David Boice said he had spoken to everyone who lives in the Lighting District and they all agreed that if a streetlight is out, they want it back on.

In the end, Mr. Fultz said the LED Committee recommends that the town not go ahead with changing the street lights to LEDs until the 3,000K variety become available and Central Hudson presents an installation proposal for them. Until then, street lights that are out should be replaced with high pressure sodium lights.

The board unanimously agreed.

Central Hudson spokesman John Maserjian told The Columbia Paper Tuesday that the utility is currently speaking with its lighting manufacturers to determine the availability of 3,000K LEDs and plans to replace the streetlights that are not working as requested with high pressure sodium lights.

The board meets next Thursday, February 18 at 7 p.m.

To contact Diane Valden email

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