BY PAUL LEE
Two contractors for Corby Energy Services of Bellville, Mich., remove the DTE street light from in front of my home at 150 Massachusetts, Highland Park, on Aug. 19, 2011. It took all of seven minutes to complete.
The citywide removal of street lights was done under the euphemistic name “Highland Park Lighting Improvement Project,” which was careful to downplay the fact that the lights on the STREETS, as opposed to SOME of those at the intersections, would NOT be replaced.
When the bulbs were removed last week, the contractors were followed by a private investigator, wearing a police badge, apparently because DTE was concerned about the reaction of residents — most of whom know little or nothing about this program.
DTE and the mayor have justified the removal on the basis of a debt-forgiveness and cost-saving arrangement. When I asked city native and former city Emergency Financial Manager Arthur Blackwell, whose mother lives a few doors from me, about the arrangement, he replied, “It’s a great deal,” particularly in light of the city’s population loss.
However, most residents are only learning about this program as the lights are being removed, and many are concerned about the possible ramifications on safety, particularly of our children and older residents. Below is a report on this by WWJ-TV (CBS), Detroit:
Street Light Upgrades Leaving Residents In The Dark
August 16, 2011 6:17 AM
HIGHLAND PARK (WWJ) — Highland Park residents say the lack of street lights in their city leaves them fearing for their safety.
Reporting live from Rhode Island Street, WWJ’s City Beat Reporter Vickie Thomas found it pretty dark there in the early-morning hours. The street lights and many others throughout the block had already been turned off and they would not be coming back on.
“The residential streets have no lights, but the intersections have lights now,” resident Diane Parren told Vickie. “They just recently did that so it’s still a major concern because the fear is still there.”
Crews are in the process of installing new, more efficient lights at intersections, so one light will replace about six of the old street lights. Intersections and main roads, such as Woodward Avenue, will stay lit.
“My concern is for my mom,” said Parren. “She’s older and with the street lights being out, it’s sort of confining her to the house. She doesn’t come out after dark, and she’s concerned — as I am — about the neighborhood and things that could happen in the night…”
Mark Hackshaw, president of the Highland Park Business Association, isn’t happy about it either and is also concerned.
“The membership is very concerned and the residents of the community are very concerned, for all of the obvious reasons,” said Hackshaw.
Elene Robinson, a write-in candidate for mayor said the city should use solar lighting.
“I don’t understand how a city so small hasn’t applied for government money to be focusing on bringing solar to the municipal building and to our street lights,” said Robinson.
Mayor Hubert Yopp says the city owed DTE Energy $4 million and the new plan puts the city back in the black with the utility. The city’s monthly bill will go from about $62,000 down to about $10,000. (VOD: DEFINITELY PUTS THE CITY IN THE DARK! INCREDIBLE!)
NEW: See also the report by Curt Guyette in “The Metro Times”: