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Dover business supplies lights, labor for Scammell Bridge

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Dover business supplies lights, labor for Scammell Bridge

By Casey Conley [email protected]

DURHAM — Decorative lights lining the Scammell Bridge could soon be illuminated again — thanks largely to a Dover business that covered much of the cost.

Affinity LED Lighting, located in the One Washington mill, paid for the high-efficiency lights and installation costs. At least initially, the company also will pay for electricity to light the bridge.

“It’s a way to give back, but it’s also a way to give back in our own speciality,” John Branagan, who handles business development for Affinity LED, said this week.

Branagan is confident the bridge will be relit this fall. If that happens, it will end five years of darkness on the state-owned bridge, which carries Route 4 traffic over the Bellamy River. Most of the span lies within Dover, although its western terminus falls just inside Durham town limits.

The state DOT shut off 51 lights on and around the bridge in 2012 in a statewide effort to reduce its streetlights and comply with new departmental criteria for operating them. At least 661 lights have shut off since then, and more than 1,000 more are slated for removal.

Officials in Durham and Dover have lobbied to turn the lights back on, citing safety issues for pedestrians. Renee Plummer, a Portsmouth businesswoman, also has pushed for the lights to come back on. Earlier this year, she printed bumper stickers making the case for relighting the bridge.

The state lets communities affected by streetlight removal pay to operate the lights if they choose, although that idea faced opposition in Durham and Dover, whose taxpayers would have to foot the bill for electricity. Previously, the state paid about $7,000 a year to light the span.

Enter Affinity LED Lighting, which stepped forward in recent weeks. The company has already bought and installed 50 lights on the bridge and another, brighter light in a parking lot on the Durham side.

The LED lights currently on the bridge will use about 85 percent less electricity than the previous lights, which will translate into similar savings in electricity. Annual electricity costs will likely be less than $2,000 a year with the new bulbs, which also last longer than older lighting technology.

The company hasn’t yet tallied its costs associated with the project, but Branagan said that’s not its focus right now.

“We don’t really look at those numbers. Certainly there is a cost but there is also a value. Fortunately, we have gotten a lot of business on the Seacoast and it made sense for us to give back,” he said.

For now, Affinity, the state DOT and Dover and Durham are working to finalize an agreement for relighting the span. Multiple tests on the bridge have been successful, including one Thursday night, confirming the existing lighting infrastructure is sound.

Durham Town Administrator Todd Selig, who has worked behind the scenes to broker the agreement, praised Affinity for stepping forward to donate the lights and cover the power costs.

Selig confirmed there will be no cost to Durham residents.

“We put our minds together and thought outside the box and came up with a really nice public-private partnership,” he said. “You don’t see that very often.”

A spokesman for N.H. DOT referred questions about the project to the towns.

The Scammell Bridge is named for Alexander Scammell, who commanded the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment during the Revolutionary War and later led a unit called Scammell’s Light Infantry. Scammell, who earned the ranks of colonel and adjutant general, was wounded in September 1781 near Yorktown, Va., and died a week later.

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