Lights out in Fresno?

FRESNO, California

Fresno's Public Works Director says the de-energizing of street lights will not darken any neighborhoods and public safety would remain intact. Many city councilmember's who heard his proposal at city hall did not agree.

Standing tall in front of the city council -- Fresno Public Works Director Patrick Wiemiller laid out his proposal to save the city money. He has the daunting task of trimming ten million dollars off his department's budget.

Wiemiller says by strategically turning off ten thousand of the city's forty thousand street lights -- the city could save two hundred thousand dollars next fiscal year and also save four hundred thousand dollars every year after that. There would be a one-time cost of sixty thousand dollars for turning them off.

But which exact lights chosen has been the topic of heated debates between Wiemiller and the city council.

Wiemiller said, "I don't think it's in the public's best interest overall to identify the particular locations where that is occurring."

Wiemiller told the council he worked with Police Chief Jerry Dyer to identify the best places to de-energize the lights. But he believes keeping that information private is essential in avoiding copper wire theft and potential hot spots for crime.

"if you ask the secret service about who our public employees protecting a public employee what exactly are the security measures being taken to protect the president of the united states. They aren't going to discuss that," said Wiemiller.

Henry T. Perea said, "You know I think it's really unfair for city bureaucrats to really sit behind a desk and pick and choose which neighborhoods have lights and which ones don't"

Fresno City Councilman Henry T. Perea doesn't think turning off street lights is a bright idea. He feels they are a core service and says it's unfair to not to give residents fair warning.

"I think it would have a big impact on all the safety of our neighborhoods and I think they have every right to know where the lights are shut off. I don't think that individual or private briefings with each councilmember does the trick."

Perea motioned to use the city's general fund to help keep the lights on. It could be approved by the council next week. But with the city's deficit -- it remains to be seen where the money will come from and what will be cut instead.

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