Failed lighting along parkway stirs grumbling

City Council to let voters decide whether to approve Xcel contract

An issue over a number of failed streetlights on the Riverside Parkway and other darkened streetlights across the city nearly derailed a public hearing Monday night at a Grand Junction City Council meeting.

In the minutes before the meeting began, City Council members heard from city staff that more than 40 streetlights along the parkway and a total eight percent of the city’s streetlights that are owned and operated by Xcel were darkened at night, when they should be lighted.

The news was not received well at first.

“We’ve got a lot of lights out and we’re paying a lot of money for service that’s not provided,” said council member Tom Kenyon.

After being satisfied during the meeting by an Xcel Energy spokesman that the issue could be handled through upcoming, separate negotiations, council members relented and opted to let voters decide whether to approve a new contract with Xcel.

In a 6-0 vote, with member Sam Susuras absent, the council approved language to place on the April ballot asking voters to approve a 20-year franchise agreement.

“I feel really confident that we can resolve these issues,” council member Bruce Hill said.

Xcel spokesman Fred Eggleston said the city and Xcel are in the process of negotiations over payment of services for streetlights and traffic lights, an issue that is separate to the franchise agreement. A finalization on the lighting service contract is at least a couple months out, Eggleston said.

Grand Junction usually pays $1.2 million a year in street lighting.

Eggleston said metal halide lighting that the city purchased for the parkway has never worked well, and for the first year the lights were replaced under warranty. For the past six months, the lights have been dying as fast as workers can replace them and Xcel is testing whether high-pressure sodium lighting would work better. Eggleston said Xcel workers must divvy their time replacing lights on the parkway and inside the city, otherwise workers would spend all their time fixing lights on the parkway.

“We’re trying to take care of the critical lights,” Eggleston said.

Eggleston said the metal halide lights used on the parkway were chosen by the city and were not recommended by Xcel.

Grand Junction Public Works and Planning Director Tim Moore said the lights on the parkway were on a list of choices deemed acceptable by Xcel.

During a survey, city workers estimated that eight percent of the city’s streetlights were dark at night. Moore said, generally, two percent of darkened lights at night in most cities is an acceptable number.

As the city and Xcel work to come to terms over payments of streetlights and traffic lights, one person has long been irked by the dimly lit parkway.

Clifton resident Larry Hern travels the Riverside Parkway twice a day and recently counted 46 lights out on the route during his commute.

Hern has taken his complaints to Xcel and received several different messages — that Xcel workers had been replacing them and that the energy company was waiting for permits from the city to dig up the lines.

“For over two years, taxpayers have been paying for defective lights,” Hern said at the meeting. “How long are we going to have to wait until the lights are fixed?”


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