Why aren’t some Bellingham streetlights on from dusk to dawn? The city’s working on it

Bellingham is nearly finished replacing the failed control system for 3,900 city-owned streetlights, according to a Tuesday, Oct. 14, press release from the city. Until then, some lights may be on during the day or off at night.

The city began retrofitting its streetlights with a new control system in late 2015, part of an effort to reduce Bellingham’s energy consumption and meet goals set by the Climate Action Plan.

The control system would have allowed the city to streamline maintenance and control brightness remotely, both of which reduce energy consumption and save money.

However, when the new control system was installed in 2015, it never worked properly causing some residents to complain about lights that were on in the daytime. Residents also voiced concerns about the color and glare of the city’s roughly 350 decorative light fixtures.

Having the new computing system replaced with traditional photocells was done at the contractors’ expense and did not cost the city any additional funds.

Replacing the city’s decorative lights with downward-facing LEDs cost the city $287,432. The option wasn’t available with the original light installation, but was requested by residents and should reduce the perceived glare some residents were concerned about.

The retrofitting project met the climate plan goal with a 40% reduction in power consumption from streetlights, according to the city.

“The decorative fixture retro kits just arrived for the approximately 350 decorative fixtures scattered throughout Sunnyland, Cornwall Park, Lettered Streets and Fairhaven” said Amy Cloud, city spokeswoman, in an email to The Bellingham Herald.

By November, all city-owned lights should have traditional photocells that automatically operate the lights from dusk to dawn, according to the press release.

The cost of decorative lights was corrected Oct. 16, 2019.

Warren Sterling in a graduate of Reed College of Media at West Virginia University. He interned at Politifact.com before joining The Bellingham Herald as a summer 2019 intern.