GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 30, 2013

Streetlight darkness irks Manchester residents

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — MANCHESTER — While National Grid crews have been working along Rosedale Avenue to fix the streetlight problem in past weeks, frustrated residents say they are still in the dark after nearly two years, and the town is hoping a more permanent, long term answer can be found.

”What we really want to do is buy the lights from National Grid,” interim Town Administrator Wayne Melville said Monday.

The permits for work to be done on Rosedale Avenue were signed off by the Board of Selectmen in January, but the lights themselves have been inactive for about two years.

Although the town has been paying the full bill to National Grid, Melville said the town would not likely seek abatements to later payments due to the inactive lights, opting instead to buy up all the street lights in town. He said a similar move has proved very beneficial in Harwich, where Melville was the town administrator for about 18 years before coming to Manchester in 2007.

However, Melville said National Grid has not responded to requests to buy the lights, the town would first need to determine the unappreciated value to buy the 500 street lights, which could vary.

Melville said he stopped payment to National Grid due to the power struggle while he was in Harwich, but Manchester would not go down that route unless called for by the Board of Selectmen.

Selectmen Mary Hardwick said Monday, as far as she knows, there has been no legitimate discussion to stopping payment to National Grid. She said one option was to bring National Grid representatives in front of Selectmen to address the problem.

“We can bring everybody in, we’ve done it before,” she said.

In January, selectmen asked police officers too keep a running list of what street lights are malfunctioning throughout town. As of February, about 30 lights of the town’s 500 are out according to a document released by the police department obtained by the Times.

Other problem areas include Blue Heron Way, Burnham Lane and Summer Street.

Officials said at the January meeting that work crews could best access the site during the week of spring break, because the street is so close to the Manchester Essex Middle/High School.

But Joe Sabella of Rosedale Avenue said he knows of three street lights that have been out for more than two years. While crews were working on the problem during spring break, as agreed, the lights themselves still do not work.

Sabella said town officials have done a good job in getting the attention of National Grid, but the company has still yet to fix the problem.

”The selectmen have done everything they have could have done,” he said.

During a concert at Crowell Chapel on Friday, the area remained dark — Sabella described it as a black hole, adding that safety was a major concern.

”It’s a slap in the face,” he said.

National Grid recognizes the process on Rosedale Avenue has taken some time, according to Deborah Drew, a spokesperson for the company. The company found it could not repair the lights and had to do underground work to replace some infrastructure.

Working in weather conducive to to utility repair is a challenge, but repair work on Rosedale Avenue was finished Friday, she said, and National Grid expects Sabella and other residents will see the light by the end of this week.

National Grid officials could not readily answer questions Monday about Manchester making offers to buy up and maintain the streetlights.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.