By Chas Reilly, Times of Northwest Indiana

MERRILLVILLE | The town's Public Works Department will begin disconnecting many streetlights in Merrillville after the Town Council on Tuesday unanimously decided to shut off every other light on the town's main thoroughfares.

Town Councilman Richard Hardaway said there are more than 1,600 street lights in Merrillville, and the town is paying more than $15,500 per month to power the lights.

He hopes Merrillville can lower that cost to $10,000 per month after disconnecting the lights.

Town Council President Joseph Shudick said Merrillville officials aren't sure how much the municipality will save after darkening every other streetlight and it will take some time before officials know what the savings will be.

He said some areas of town may have too many lights and shutting them off will benefit the town.

"This is just wasted money that could be better spent on public safety and planning," Shudick said.

Public Works Director Bruce Spires said the Public Works Department will begin disconnecting lights this week, but he is unsure of the number of lights that will be turned off.

"It's going to be a lot of lights to disconnect," Spires said.

He said the town looks to shut off lights on Broadway, 57th Avenue. 73rd Avenue, 93rd Avenue, Whitcomb Street and Madison/Harrison Street. The town will not disconnect lights in Merrillville subdivisions, at major intersections or areas where a lack of lighting could cause hazards for motorists, town leaders said.

Hardaway said he would like Spires to provide him with a list of all the lights that will be disconnected before he and Town Attorney Steve Bower meet with NIPSCO officials next week to discuss how Merrillville will pay the utility about $400,000 it owes in late bills.

In addition to shutting off streetlights, Shudick said the town should research decreasing the wattage on some lights as another way to save money.

"We're going to steer this ship correctly," Shudick said.

Shudick said Merrillville has made several tough decisions about its finances recently and many communities have mimicked what the Town Council has done to save money.

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