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Let there be LED — One of state’s smallest towns implementing a bright idea

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The outside of Walnut Grove United Methodist Church is fully illuminated after the LED street light conversion. Courtesy of Mississippi Power

Walnut Grove in Leake County may be one of the state’s smallest towns, but it’s on the cutting edge of street lighting with the recent addition of LEDs (light emitting diodes) along its streets. The town of 1,900 residents is at the northern tip of Mississippi Power’s service territory and can now stake a claim as the first town in the company’s 23-county service territory to convert all of its street lights to LEDs.

The project began in early August when 37 lights were upgraded. City officials wanted six additional LED streetlights installed along Main Street to increase visibility. The final 43 streetlights were upgraded at the end of August, and there is an open order to install an additional nine new LED lights, bringing the total to 95 LED streetlights in town.

“We were looking for a better lighting solution for the safety and security of our citizens,” Mayor Brian Gomillion said. “Beyond the safety factor, we receive the added bonus of more efficient lighting. We are excited to be leading the way in Mississippi as the first municipality in the state to go all LED street lighting.”

The mayor of two years says the town’s old lights were the yellow residential-type lights and there were a lot of dark spots that needed some type of lights. “I’m big on energy efficiency so when Mississippi Power asked if we’d consider LEDs, we agreed,” he said. “These new lights are energy efficient, plus they put out bright, crisp light.”

Mississippi Power Lighting Services Manager Patrick Leathers said: “We’ve converted street lights to LEDs in a few of the towns in our service territory over the last two years, but this is the first time we have a town going completely LED. There are a lot of reasons why cities and towns are interested in LED lighting for their streets and we’re happy to provide this service to our customers.”

Mayor Gomillion, who has also switched his home to LEDs, has heard many positive comments about the new lights.

“The residents can’t believe it; it makes things look different,” he said. “I just don’t believe in waste. If we can produce a better product with less, then we should do it. People just feel better with these lights when they’re out at night. We’re real proud of our LED lighting.”

The town opened a walking trail in October to encourage residents to be healthier, and the LEDs are great in that location. Things are looking up in other ways too with new holiday lights in Walnut Grove and a large lighted tree in a three-sided park in the middle of town.

Walnut Grove sits on the Leake County-Scott County line and is home to a private prison that was built in 2000. Gomillion says the facility is an asset to the town.

Mayor Gomillion first spoke to local power company utility men Jack Windham and Johnny Barfield about converting to LED lights. Lighting Engineer and Services Analyst Johnny Cook put together a plan and answered questions from city leaders. District Manager Tommy Jackson said the open communication and responsiveness to the customers’ needs were the keys to this project. “We have heard nothing but praise from Mayor Gomillion, city leaders and residents about the customer service provided on the conversion,” Jackson said. “We do an outstanding job of keeping the lights on for our customers, but when they have a special request, our commitment to customer service is what sets this company apart.”

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About Lynn Lofton

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