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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Michella Dey photo

Street lamp replacements begin after city gives green light

By Chad Knudson

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

The Glendive City Council voted to make the Gate City a bit brighter during its meeting Tuesday night. After the city’s approval of a new contract, Montana-Dakota Utilities will soon begin changing most of the city’s street lights to LED fixtures.

“You’ll see greater lumens at ground level and darker sky above,” MDU Glendive District Manager Paul Hopfauf said. “It will be much whiter and lighter versus the seven different shades of yellow out there now.”

Hopfauf said MDU is replacing all of the street lights the company owns within its Montana service area. 

According to information from the company, MDU has provided street lighting services to communities since the company’s inception in 1924. Montana will be the first state in the company’s service territory to be converted and nearly 5,600 lights will be affected when the project is complete. 

“We’ve made assurances to the Montana Public Service Commission that this will be done in 2018,” Hopfauf said.

He noted there are several reasons to change lighting technologies at this time.

First, it is a significant energy savings, reducing electricity use by about 67 percent.

Second it reduces maintenance; MDU expects the fixtures to have at least a 20-year life.

Finally, Hopfauf said it is becoming harder and harder to find replacement bulbs for the mercury vapor and sodium vapor lights now in use.

While energy consumption will go down dramatically, rental rates charged to the city will increase as well. 

Under the contract with MDU, the city pays a rental fee for the light fixtures and an electrical rate for power consumption. The new fixtures are more expensive, so the rental rates go up. 

In the end, the city will net savings of about $5,000 per year Hopfauf said.

According to Glendive Public Works Director Jack Rice, while MDU owns 633 street light poles within the city limits. The city owns another 88. 

“The city maintains all the lights downtown that are on metal poles,” he said in an interview last week, adding  this includes all the lights along Merrill Avenue from the Barry Street underpass to near  Perham Field as well as metal poles along a stretch of North Anderson, Allard and North Sargent.

Under the agreement with MDU, those city owned lights will not be changed at this time, however members of the city’s Finance, Utility, Property and Recreation committee expressed hope last week that the city can budget to have their lights converted in the near future.

Director of Operations Kevin Dorwart said the cost of upgrades for the city-owned lights is between $300-$400 per fixture and about $35 per pole for installation. 

Rice said the crew working for MDU would not be able to complete work on city poles at this time, even if the city had the money to do it, but the option remains open in the future. 

Hopfauf expects work to begin in March and be completed within a couple of weeks.  

Also during the City Council meeting:

• Local resident John Stonehocker spoke up during public comment to express his unhappiness with policing tactics in Glendive.

“It is felt across a wide swath of the community that the police have exceeded their bounds,” he said after citing examples and reading from the Declaration of Independence. 

Referencing social media, Stonehocker said a lot of people agree but don’t want to come before city officials because they believe they’ll be targeted by the police.

“I guess I’m the only one brave enough or crazy enough to come,” he said. “America was established so we’re a free people.”

In response Mayor Jerry Jimison asked whether Stonehocker believes people should obey traffic and speeding laws.

“I do but I think people should police themselves rather than being harassed by the police,” he said. 

The Mayor thanked Stonehocker for coming in to share his concern and urged him to return at any time.

• Fire Chief George Lane asked the public to be diligent about the fire hydrants in their area. 

“Please ensure it is not buried in snow and is accessible to fire crews,” he said. 

Reach Chad Knudson at

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