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Street light copper theft: $95K a year

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POSTED January 19, 2014 10:34 p.m.

Copper thieves ripping off boxes that service street lights are costing Manteca taxpayers $95,000 a year.

That’s what the city has been spending to have Siemens — the firm it contracts for street light maintenance — to replace the stolen copper wires.

So far Manteca has had some 500 street lights vandalized.

The city has responded by having the street maintenance crews retrofit the vandalized pull boxes with an anti-theft procedure. It involves installing a layer of plastic over the wiring and then filling the pull box with concrete. The concrete layer is thick enough to deter theft but thin enough that city crews can still access the working with the right equipment.

There have been more than 500 pull boxes retrofitted by city crews. The process is effective as not one of those boxes had been vandalized again.

Now the city is taking its fight against copper thieves to the next level.

Staff is recommending that the City Council adopt rules requiring cement covered pull boxes be installed in new developments when the street lights are put in place. It will cost developers $50 per box.

At the same time, fuses will be relocated form the pull boxes into the light poles to provide for easier access.

Developers now have to replace copper wiring when it is vandalized before a subdivision is turned over to the city. The pull box modification will save both developers and the city money.

The council will be asked to approve the new changes when they meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Manteca Senior Center, 295 Cherry Lane.

At the same time staff is proposing the council adopt light emitting diode (LED) lights as the new standard for street lights.

The city has just completed retrofitting over 4,000 street lights from high pressure sodium to induction features to reduce energy costs and to extend the life of lighting fixtures.

Since the work started, LED technology has advanced to the point the cost is comparable with induction lighting. It also produces a more natural light than the bluish tint given off by high pressure sodium.

The change would mean all new street lights would be LED. At the same time, when existing lights burn out they will be replaced with LED fixtures.

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