FLINT TWP. — About a year has passed since Kevin Stiff first began complaining to the township board about street light outages.
Speaking during public comment at several township board meetings, Stiff, who is both a township business owner and a resident, said he feels like “a broken record” because he is not seeing much progress. At the most recent board meeting, he said he is getting ready to ask the board for a refund on assessments charged for lights near his business.
Stiff often drives around at night to count outages. Last April, he reported an estimated 400 lights not working. Multiplying that number of outages times what Consumers bills per light adds up to thousands of dollars that the township is “throw- ing away” each month, he said.
In January 2016, the board signed a one-year renewable contract with Consumers, agreeing to a billing of $34,028 for maintenance service of its 2217 lights on public streets and highways and well as private property under mutual agreement. The township has a mixture of incandescent, mercury vapor and high pressure sodium lights but also voted last April to pay Consumers an additional one-time fee of $16,842 to cover the cost of converting 192 mercury vapor streetlights into light-emitting diode (LED) cobra-head streetlights. The change is expected to save money in the long run. Stiff has urged the board to refuse to pay Consumers’ bill or take legal action to get them to comply with the contract to maintain township lights.
The board might do just that. But first Tracey Tucker, township building director, said she is in the process of sending out code enforcement crews at night to check on outages. She took a similar step last February in response to Stiff’s complaints, and compiled a list of outages by using a map of streetlight locations supplied by Consumers.
The updated outage map now being compiled will be compared to the old list to determine which lights have been fixed and which are still out. That list also can be used as documentation for any legals steps the township might take, Tucker said.
Tucker explained last year that it is impossible to tell which lights are out during the day when Consumers crews do the work. Repair requests require that the township provide the exact location of the nonworking lights.
Township Supervisor Karyn MIller noted that residents also can report nonworking streetlights directly to Consumers by filling out a form on its website at https:// www.consumersenergy.com/Apps/ StreetLight/ StreetLightRepair.aspx MIller said that the map of outages compiled by Tucker’s staff last year was passed on to Consumers.
“It is taking a long time, I don’t know why,” Miller said in response to one of Stiff’s complaints. “We don’t disagree with you Kevin,” she said, adding that the next step will be to ask for a refund and/or file a complaint with the MIchigan Public Service Commission, which oversees utility companies.
After a few more residents besides Stiff complained at the January 12 board meeting, Trustee Frank Kasle asked for a progress report at the next meeting..
Acknowledging that the building departments is reporting outages to Consumers on a regular basis, “the problem is getting out of hand,” Kasle said. He also advocated seeking legal remedy.
“We can do something more about it than we have done so far,” he said.
Tucker provided an update on the map outages at the January 23 board meeting and possibly will have results from the outage survey at the board’s February 6 meeting.