Swearengin proposes turning off thousands of Fresno street lights

FRESNO, Calif. Street lights are an essential part to navigating your way through the city at night, but with Fresno facing a $30.6-million budget shortfall, city officials believe de-energizing some of the lights will help save money.

"We're going to look at those areas where the street lights are less critical to be located. And remove the activating devices that cause them to be energized," said Patrick Wiemiller with the Fresno Public Works Dept.

But not everyone thinks this is a bright idea.

Fresno City Councilman Henry Perea says he's against the proposal. "I do not feel comfortable at all moving forward with this plan. Until we see...until we see the details."

Perea considers the approximately 40,000 street lights in the city a core service. By turning off 10,000 lights, he feels areas in his district along Blackstone Avenue and Belmont Avenue will become even more dangerous.

"These are the two areas notorious in our city for prostitution, for drugs. And the impact that spills over into neighborhoods are often very severe," said Perea.

Fresno Public Works Director Patrick Wiemiller says the plan will not jeopardize public safety. He adds it should save the city roughly $200,000 a year on its electric bill. "We're willing to hear that and if it's within good cause and good basis of understanding of course we'll heed that. We'll just incorporate that as we move forward."

The one-time costs to turning off the lights could reach a $100,000 and take up to a year to complete. Under the current proposal, no street lights with city or police cameras will be de-activated.

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