A proposal to turn out streetlights in the town of Dayton received scant support from citizens who attended a public hearing Monday night.
Town board members are considering a plan to save $12,600 in the 2011 budget by shutting off 47 streetlights.
Most of the lights are located in the village of Rural and around the Chain O’ Lakes area. Others are located in the Little Hope area, in the park on Rural Road and in Parfreyville.
Town Chairman Jim Peglow told those attending Monday’s hearing that no decision had been made regarding the lights. He said the town board was looking at ways to save money and the lights was one option being considered.
Peglow said the board was examining how much it would save if it turned off all or some of the streetlights or replaced some of the lamps with lower wattage fixtures.
Rawley Smith presented a petition with 69 signatures of residents who wanted to keep the lights on in Dayton.
Smith said the cost for lighting the streets of Dayton represented only 1.5 percent of the total budget.
“The elimination of the streetlights would be very dangerous,” Smith said, noting public safety concerns. “I would hope that the town would look elsewhere for savings.”
“I commend you for leaving no stone untouched for saving money,” said county Supervisor Bob Ellis. “But it looks to me like none of these lights were placed there for convenience.”
Ellis said the lights contributed to the safety of those traveling on the roads and leaving the lights on would be appropriate.
Several residents who live in Little Hope pointed to the criminal activity that takes place near the park at the curve on County Road K.
Don Schmidt, the owner of the Red Mill Gift Shop, said the area was already experiencing a crime every two to three weeks and shutting off the lights would encourage more crime.
Sgt. Todd Rasmussen, with the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Department, said local law enforcement preferred that the lights be kept on.
“Obviously, lights help us to do our job,” Rasmussen said.
“Turning off the lights will affect the quality of life,” according to attorney Tom Maroney. “The anecdotes you heard about crime are bourne out by the studies.”
Maroney said studies show that crimes are lower where there are streetlights.
Like several others who spoke, Maroney noted that many pedestrians walked along the narrow roads and one-lane bridges in the village of Rural.
“Where you have hazardous conditions, the town has an obligation to put up and maintain lights,” Maroney said.
He asked the board to postpone action on the lights for at least a year so that residents could look at other options, such as new technology to lower costs or grants.
“I grumble when I pay the tax bill, but I don’t have any problems paying for roads and lights,” Maroney said.
“I bought the County Post and look at all the burglaries and thefts that are reported,” Rose Dorow said. “Darkness breeds trouble.”
One town resident said there are no streetlights on the county road where he lives. He asked why he should be required to pay for the lights on someone else’s street.
After the public hearing, the board held its regular monthly meeting.
Peglow said he had contacted the town’s attorney to determine if the town could be held liable for traffic accidents on streets where the lights had been shut off. He said the attorney was still researching the issue.
Town Supervisor Lee Schroeder asked how the town board would decide whether or not to install new streetlights in the future.
“How do you say yes to the lights we have now and say no to the requests for new lights?” Schroeder said.
The board voted to table a decision on the lights until its next meeting in October.
Town seeks donations
Jane Haasch donated $100 toward the cost to install an energy-monitoring system at the Dayton Town Hall Monday.
The town recently installed solar panels, and the monitoring system would indicate the savings and costs of the system. The system costs about $1,000 and the board decided that it would have to be funded from private sources.
Peglow said he would match Haasch’s donation. He encourages others to contribute to the fund.