Monday, October 17, 2011
Predominantly black city struggles to keep lights on
Like many swaths of Detroit, Keith Wicks' historic Indian Village neighborhood has remained largely dark at night after vandals destroyed transformers in nearly every streetlight pole that powers them. On a recent rainy day, Wicks, 64, a retired GM engineer who has lived in Detroit for decades, watched as city Public Lighting workers put new transformers at the top of the aging wooden poles. Just days later, those streetlights were out — again. The growing lack of public lighting has become a troubling problem for cash-starved Detroit, where entire stretches of neighborhoods and thoroughfares — such as portions of the Southfield Freeway — are feeling the effects. The war to keep the lights on in Detroit is a serious one. Thieves, antiquated equipment and a lack of funding have made it impossible for city officials to catch up to the problem. City officials estimate that 15% - 20% of the 88,000 lights in the Motor City are not working, and they acknowledge the figure could be as high as 50% in some neighborhoods. Providing lighting to the city costs $10.7 million annually. And often when they are fixed, they break down weeks and months later — or thieves steal the high-grade cable for its copper materials.