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LED lights relight Scammell Bridge
By Brian Early
DURHAM — The streetlights shine again on the Alexander Scammell Bridge over the Bellamy River.
Five years after the New Hampshire Department of Transportation shut off the lights that illuminated the bridge that connects Dover and Durham, the lights were turned back on just before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in front of a group of local and state dignitaries who gathered by the Durham side of the bridge.
Those included Gov. Chris Sununu, DOT Commissioner Victoria Sheehan, Sen. David Watters and Portsmouth businesswoman Renee Plummer who led a campaign to turn the lights back on. Plummer handed out bumper stickers she had made earlier this year in efforts to generate interest in the relighting campaign.
Since the lights were shut off in 2012, Durham and Dover’s municipal officials had unsuccessfully lobbied the DOT, which owns the bridge and lights, to turn them back on and pay for the electricity. A deal wasn’t reached until Dover-based Affinity LED Lighting agreed to — at its own cost — retrofit the 150-watt high-pressure sodium lamps out of the old fixtures with 27-watt LED lights and pay for, at least initially, the electricity to light the bridge.
The LED lights, using 82 percent less electricity, will cost less than $2,000 a year, Durham Town Administrator Todd Selig estimated. DOT spokesman Bill Boynton told Foster’s earlier this year it cost the state about $7,000 per year to light the bridge with the old lights.
Boynton said the decision to shut off the lights in 2012 followed a 50 percent cut in the agency’s utility budget as well as new internal criteria for streetlight use. In 2012, the DOT operated 2,661 lights around the state, but 661 have since been eliminated, saving about $280,000 a year. More lights are slated for removal to cut its electrical bills further, he said.
Steve Lieber of Affinity LED Lighting said the firm is working with many municipalities in the state, including Dover, to replace streetlights with energy efficient LED lights. Military veterans employed by the company assemble the LED lights in Dover, he said.
The 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, Virginia, in the war’s last major battle and died a week later. He’s known as Durham’s adopted son.
Plummer said that part of her goal in getting the lights to be turned on was to honor the general. Her bumper sticker said, “Turn on the lights! Make General Alexander Scammell Proud.”
After a short presentation of speakers, John Branagan of Affinity LED Lighting, sent a text to workers on either side of the bridge to flip the switch. About 10 seconds later, the lights turned on to cheers.