Dimming the lights and protecting local food producers

Rockport considers switch to LED streetlights, agrees to send food sovereignty ordinance to voters

Posted:  Tuesday, March 12, 2019 - 1:00pm

ROCKPORT — Members of the Rockport Select Board agreed March 11 to gather additional information regarding a plan to swap out the existing exterior lights throughout town for energy efficient, LED fixtures. At the meeting the board also approved the draft of a food sovereignty ordinance, which would allow home food producers to sell their good directly to neighbors without licensing.

Streetlight upgrade

Of the 247 existing street and exterior building lights in Rockport, the majority are owned by Central Maine Power, the company which also provides them with electricity. If the town chooses to replace these with energy efficient light sources, the new LED lights would be owned by the municipality. The board heard a presentation by Mark Carter, of RealTerm Energy, at its Monday night meeting; RealTerm was one of two firms that offered proposals for the town-wide project.

Carter estimated that the current light fixtures, most of which consist of high-pressure sodium bulbs in a cobra head style lamp, use a total of 109,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year.

If the wyere replaced with “smart-ready” LED fixtures, the annual energy use would be reduced to 38,000 kilowatt hours – a decrease in energy consumption of approximately 69 percent, he said. Carter offered a rough estimate of $126,000 for the total cost of the project, which he projected would pay for itself after 3.3 years due to savings in energy costs. 

Carter said that the annual energy cost for the lighting would decrease from $55,000 to $11,000; the annual cost per fixture would decrease from $244 to $46. In order to proceed with the project, the town would have to “buy back” the existing streetlights from CMP at an estimated cost of $24,000. The fixtures would then be recycled.

Town Manager Rick Bates said that the idea of moving to LED had been under consideration for years.

“The legislation has changed dramatically over the past for years to allow municipalities to do this kind of work, and frankly the companies that are doing it are getting better at it,” said Bates.

Carter said there were several financing options for the project which include a tax-exempt lease, which typically have an interest rate of 4.1 percent.

The LED fixtures in the proposal by RealTerm have an average lifespan of 100,000 hours or 23 years, and carry a 10-year warranty. The LED lights can also be dimmed or brightened via remote control. The company would need to conduct an audit over a day and a half to collect all the data necessary from the existing fixtures to prepare for the project.

The board agreed to hear updates on the proposal in the future, and discussed directing residents to areas in neighboring Rockland where such LED lights were being used. Another option workshopped by the board involved creating an online survey where residents could view and vote on various shapes and styles of the energy efficient fixtures.

Food sovereignty ordinance

In January, Rockport resident Marci Casas presented the Select Board with a copy of an ordinance which had been adopted by such towns as Rockland, titled “Local food and community self-governance ordinance of 2019,” urging the town to consider placing the ordinance on the June 2019 ballot.

“The premise of the ordinance is that you could sell soup to your neighbor without having to license your kitchen, or in the case of our family farm, it’s about being able to sell more than just the produce – so if I wanted to sell dill pickles to my neighbors, I wouldn’t have to license my kitchen,” said Casas.

The board sent the ordinance to get reviewed by the town’s legal counsel, Phil Saucier, and acting Town Planner Bill Najpauer, who both offered comments on the documents. At the March 11 meeting a revised initiative was discussed by town officials. 

“The ordinance adopts policies underlying the Maine Food Sovereignty Act... and allows direct ‘producer-to-consumer transaction’ [or] a face-to-face transaction involving food or food products....[Saucier] does not recommend going beyond what is allowed by law and has recommended language which does meet terms of the statute,” wrote Bates in his Manager’s Comments.

“The State Legislature limited the statute to the ‘site of production,’ and while that doesn’t help those who want to be able to sell their pickles at farmer’s markets... the remedy might be in the Legislature – we might see this again some day if the legislature amends it,” said Select Board member Debra Hall.

Casas said that she expected a future amendment would be made to the “site of production” limitation, and requested that an update clause be added to the end of the proposed ordinance so that in the event such change was made on a state level, it would immediately carry over to Rockport. Bates said that if in fact the legislature made an amendment to the ordinance, the new version would have to go before voters at the next election for approval. The board voted unanimously to place the ordinance on the June 11 warrant. 

The ordinance reads as follows:

Local Food Sovereignty Ordinance
Sec. 1. Short Title
This ordinance shall be known and may be cited as the “Local Food Sovereignty Ordinance.”

Sec. 2. Purpose
The Town of Rockport encourages food self-sufficiency for its residents. This Ordinance adopts the policies underlying the Maine Food Sovereignty Act as outlined in 1 M.R.S. § 283.

Sec. 3. Words and Phrases Defined
For the purposes of this article, certain words and phrases are defined as follows:

1. Direct producer-to-consumer transaction; "Direct producer-to-consumer transaction" means a face-to-face transaction involving food or food products at the site of production of those food or food products.

2. Food or food products. "Food or food products" means food or food products intended for human consumption, including, but not limited to, milk or milk products, meat or meat products, poultry or poultry products, fish or fish products, seafood or seafood products, fresh produce, cider or juice, acidified foods or canned fruits or vegetables.

3. State food law. "State food law" means any provision of Title 7 or Title 22 of the Maine Revised Statutes that regulates direct producer-to-consumer transactions.

Sec. 4. License and Inspection Exemptions
1. Direct producer-to-consumer transactions of food or food products shall be exempt from State food laws in the Town of Rockport.

a. These exemptions do not apply to any meat or poultry products that are licensed and inspected by the State of Maine in compliance with applicable federal acts.

2. An individual who grows, produces, processes or prepares food or food products for purposes other than direct producer-to-consumer transactions shall grow, produce, process or prepare the food or food products in compliance with all applicable state and federal food safety laws, rules and regulations.

Sec. 5. Authority
1. This ordinance is adopted and enacted pursuant to 7 M.R.S. §§ 281-286, the Maine Food Sovereignty Act.

2. To the extent that any provision of this ordinance is deemed invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction, such provision shall be removed from the ordinance and the balance of the ordinance shall remain valid.

Reach Louis Bettcher at news@penbaypilot.com