Streetlights may go dark in Athens
ATLANTA, Ga. -- When the sun goes down nearly 8,000 lights along Atlanta's highways are supposed to come on. But throughout the city, that's not the case.
"We do recognize we have a backlog of deferred maintenance," said Public Works Commissioner Richard Mendoza.
Georgia Power used to maintain the lights, but four years ago the city took over the job, hoping to streamline services. Instead, it added to the workload of a department in the process of significantly reducing its staff.
Mendoza says his department tries to fix surface street lights within ten days. But other than simple fixes, there's no indication anyone has repaired the lights along the highway since March. That's at least four months drivers have been left in the dark.
"We have made the decision those crews would be better used to focus on our local roads for public safety and security," said Mendoza.
Cars have headlights to help illuminate the way. But dark streets breed crime and make pedestrians feel unsafe. Still, Mendoza knows the highway lights are important. That's why the city is restoring its contract with Georgia Power as soon as the utility finishes an audit of the highway lighting system.
The city knows it has at 0least 120 lights that don't work on I-75, 40 lights on I-20, and another 60 lights on I-85. The audit is expected to find even more.
"This can be anything from wire, to lamps, to relays, to damaged boxes, damaged poles," said Mendoza.
As for metal thieves, the copper and aluminum wiring inside isn't worth much, but the lights aren't difficult to get into. The city has found more theft-resistant ways to seal the light fixtures on its surface streets. There's no word yet if any of those methods will work out on the highway.
The city hopes to have all of the lights named in Georgia Power's report fixed by the end of the month. They anticipate it will cost $800,000 to do. The maintenance contract will cost another $250,000.
To report an outage call the Department of Public Works at 404-330-6333 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.