Drive down Moffat Boulevard from Spreckels Avenue heading toward Woodward Avenue and you will past 10 street lights on your right starting just before you cross under the 120 Bypass overcrossing.
In order to see them, however, you need to drive the stretch of roadway in the daylight. That’s because the 10 street lights have not worked for more than six years. They were among the early victims of what was rampant copper theft in Manteca.
Given street lights are not on meters, the city pays a flat fee to PG&E for power for each municipal street light that comes to about $30 a year.
That means taxpayers have spent around $1,800 for electricity for 10 street lights that have not worked for at least six years.
The developers of the Manteca Business Center as well as Crossroad Church were required to install the light as a condition of approval for their facilities located on the opposite side of Moffat at an expense in excess of $50,000.
The reason for the requirement is rather basic. The city wants to promote traffic and pedestrian safety on streets as well as reduce the potential for crime.
The city’s failure to keep all street lights on is representative of what ails Manteca city government as far as Mayor Ben Cantu believes.
“It is something I’ve been complaining about for the past eight to nine years,” Cantu said.
Cantu said it underscores the city is not generating enough money to maintain improvements they have in place whether it involves streets, sidewalks, street lights or a host of other things. He is also not wild about the city relying on residents to report street lights that are out whether it is via the government outreach site or a downloadable app that when a picture is snapped of the light pole and the phone is set to provide GPS information the city will know its exact location.
“The city should be providing the service (of checking for street lights that aren’t working),” Cantu said. “They shouldn’t be relying on residents to tell them when street lights are out.”
Cantu noted the only city workers on the clock on a routine basis when it is dark are police and firefighters. While he said they may note some street lights that are out, they don’t scour the whole city — especially neighborhoods — looking for them.
Cantu thinks there should be an effort made on a regular basis such as once a month or so given the city constantly emphasizes how important lighting at night is to help reduce crime and enhance traffic and pedestrian safety. It would fall into the category of proactive and passive measures such as the ones the city advocates to calm traffic.
Cantu did not elaborate on how the city could make such regular street light inspections work. Options, however, could include firefighters assigned to the city’s four stations once a month using the rescue squad to drive their coverage areas while the engineer remain at the station in the event they need to respond to a fire with an engine when street lights are being inspected. The rescue unit would move between stations over the four days or inspections take place.
The other option could be seeing if volunteers with the Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police (SHARP) could do the inspections.
The city contracts with the firm that actually will do street light repairs or change out fixtures when the city notifies them of the locations.
“When (my wife) Mary and I are driving the streets we notice street lights out all the time even at major intersections,” Cantu said.
Cantu said other council members have expressed frustration over the years with the city not being able to address what might best be described as “little things” compared to issues such as building an interchange or making a deal work to land a $180 million resort hotel.
“I’m working to change that,” Cantu said.
Moffat street lights that
aren’t working are near
where pedestrian was killed
The first two street lights as you head down Moffat toward Woodward Avenue are directly across from where a woman walking in the street was struck and killed in February.
Manteca Police noted in their report of the accident that it was very dark, a fact that isn’t disputable because the two street lights haven’t operated for years.
While there is a sidewalk on the north side near where the woman was struck and killed by a car, she may have been crossing the street. The right-of-way alongside the 120 Bypass that is elevated by a dirt mound on both sides of Moffat serves as the areas where some of the largest concentrations of Manteca’s 200 homeless sleep and/or have encampments.
All 10 of the street lights in question had copper wiring ripped from their bases years ago.
Copper thieves ripping off boxes that service street lights cost Manteca taxpayers $95,000 in 2013
That’s what the city was spending to have Siemens — the firm it contracts for street light maintenance — to replace the stolen copper wires.
By the end of 2014 Manteca had some 500 street lights vandalized.
The city responded by having the street maintenance crews retrofit the vandalized pull boxes with an anti-theft procedure. It involved 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 wiring with the right equipment.
More than 500 pull boxes were retrofitted by city crews. The process is effective as not one of those boxes had been vandalized again.
At the end of 2014 the city took its fight against copper thieves to the next level.
The City Council adopted a staff recommendation requiring cement covered pull boxes be installed in new developments when the street lights are put in place. It costs developers $50 per box.
At the same time, fuses were relocated form the pull boxes into the light poles to provide for easier access.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail email@example.com