Lighting Historic Uniontown CARROLL COUNTY

December 01, 1992

Uniontown is a historic treasure of Carroll County, its 19th century homes on Main Street well kept with fresh paint and loving restoration. A leisurely stroll from the Methodist cemetery to the town limits along the narrow sidewalk is a peaceful retreat to yesteryear.

But this town is no living museum. The lace-curtained antique front parlors merge into more modern habitations in the back. Residents care about their present while nurturing their civic heritage.

The town's needs of today and yesterday have come into conflict in a controversy over Uniontown's 50-year-old street lights. Potomac Edison Co. told Uniontown three years ago that it was going to remove the incandescent bulb lights because they are too costly and inefficient to maintain. High-pressure sodium vapor lights, like those found in mall parking lots, would replace them.

Homeowners at a town meeting this fall agreed that they want some kind of street lights, but not the ultra-bright sodium variety (which would also double their yearly "dues" to $30 to pay the street light electric bill.)

The town's option of buying its own old-fashioned lights and poles and paying for their installation would cost at least $20,000, just for starters. That obviously turns off a lot of residents, too.

Few residents can honestly say they cherish the existing fixtures, which are artless relics of the 1930s in a 19th century town. Those lights will be extinguished in any case; Potomac Ed just extended the deadline to next July.

As an unincorporated community, Uniontown is ineligible for government funds for the replacement project.

Most residents oppose funding the installation with their own money (although historic New Market next door in Frederick County did just that.) The power company is not going to finance it.

The optimal solution would be 19th century-style lamp posts owned by the town association, whose resident members would pay the bills. This is an instance where an outside grant, from a historical society, foundation or a government agency, could make a real difference and help committed citizens preserve historic surroundings.

Otherwise, Main Street residents might have to resort to turning on their porch lights each night as a shining example of community volunteerism.

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