INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (November 14, 2014) – Marion County has not installed a new street light since 1981, when a moratorium was put in place under former Mayor William Hudnut.
The reason, says Stephanie Wilson with the Department of Public Works, was and remains funding. Marion County currently has 29,000 street lights, and their electric bills cost the city $5.1 million a year. Wilson says funding for street lights comes from the transportation budget.
That means adding more lights would result in less money for roads, sidewalks and bridges. When there is an area in need of more lighting, Wilson says existing lights are reallocated.
“In conditions where there is either a dangerous area for pedestrians or for drivers, we work with public safety, with IMPD and IFD, and we listen to their recommendations. If it’s needed, we can repurpose existing street lights and place them in areas where they are more needed,” says Wilson.
If a new area is developed, street lights have to be paid for through private funds.
“In the cases of new developments, the developer will put in street lights on their own. They’ll be privately installed, and they’ll pay the bill to IPL. So the city itself doesn’t purchase and install new street lights,” says Wilson.
Mark Lotter, Communications Director for Mayor Ballard’s office, says the city needs more street lights to cut down on crime rates and attract new residents as well.
“We understand that street lights and lighting of public streets and sidewalks is very important to making neighborhoods safer,” says Lotter. “It also makes them more inviting and better places to live.”
Lotter says the ideal solutuion is to identify a long term funding solution so that new street lights can be added.
“It’s part of our Live Indy plan that was unveiled during the mayor’s State of the City Address earlier this year. That was one of our medium to long term goals, identifying the long term funding solutions so that we could lift the moratorium and add street lights in the areas that need it,” says Lotter.
Finding a steady funding source could take some time, says Lotter.
“It’s definitely something that is going to take a little while to work out. We’re exploring a number of ideas right now, but they are all in the preliminary stages. We don’t have anything finalized yet, but that’s definitely one of the goals that Mayor Ballard has, to find a recurring funding source so it’s not just one time money so we can continue to do this in the years ahead and help make Indianapolis neighborhoods a better place to live.”
Wilson says the Department of Public Works is also working to find potential funding solutuions that would allow them to lift the moratorium in the future, but in the meantime, continues to work closely with public safety officials to identify areas that need streetlights and then move existing ones on a case-by-case basis.
“Our top priority is always public safety,” says Wilson. “So if there are areas where we need to repurpose those street lights, we do it, and we work very closely with IMPD and with IFD to make sure that we are meeting all needs around the county.”
She says residents should also be reminded that if a street light is out in their area, they can call Indianapolis Power and Light to come inspect and fix it. People can also talk to IPL about installing security lights in their neighborhoods.