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Published: Sunday, 12/19/2010

Mayor's office admits street lighting woes

The Bell administration acknowledged Friday that there are street lights throughout Toledo that do not work, but it disputed an intern's report that the number is as high as 25 percent.

"The Bell administration has taken seriously throughout 2010, and even before Mayor Bell took office, the issue of street lights," said Deputy Mayor of Operations Steve Herwat.

Earlier this month, Councilman D. Michael Collins secured a copy of a report by a city intern this year that said 27.3 percent of street lights do not work, 25 percent don't emit enough light, and 65 percent of lights in five city parks were out.

Since then, Mr. Collins has questioned why the city should assess property owners the full cost when so many are not working.

Toledo City Council is considering 2010 and 2011 assessments on property owners for the cost of street lighting, but it doesn't factor in faulty fixtures.

Tom Crothers, director of public utilities for the city, told council's law and criminal justice committee Friday that the city cannot get a reduction for lamp outages under Public Utilities Commission of Ohio regulations.

Mr. Crothers said new regulations give the utility that ability while the former set of regulations did not address the matter.

"They have changed much to the detriment of political subdivisions to hold Toledo Edison's feet to the fire," he said.

The report that brought the issue to light was completed in August by Stephen Leggett, now in law school at the University of Toledo.

He also appeared before the council committee Friday to defend the findings.

Mr. Collins, who initially wanted to lower the assessments, Friday said the bills from Toledo Edison should be scrutinized by council monthly.

"If we reduce the assessments for 2010, based upon the PUCO regulations, [Toledo Edison] will reduce the number of street lights by 25 percent," Mr. Collins said.

"... I am going to exempt all street light payments from not having to go before council and that forces Toledo Edison to submit their bills to council."

The ordinance before council for assessment of downtown street lighting puts the cost at $248,105 for 2010 and $248,142 for 2011.

The proposed assessment for the rest of Toledo is $3.54 million for 2010 and $3.68 million for 2011.

The 2010 number is an increase of $139,675 for the citywide assessment and a jump of about $37,000 for downtown.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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