Cementing a solution for copper wire theft

FRESNO, Calif.

Jennifer Williams' Northeast Fresno home is all lit up for the holidays. But, just feet away, nearly all the street lights are out, leaving her and her neighbors completely in the dark.

Williams said, "They're annoyed with it. They would like to get the lights back on, so that it's not so dark."

There are 41,000 streetlights in the city of Fresno. More than 3,000 aren't working. For example, on Sommerville near Chestnut, there are so many street lights out, that you can hardly seen anyone walk down the street until they're just inches away.

Lee Brand said, "This is public safety, this is a core service, this is at the top of the list."

On Thursday, District 6 councilman Lee Brand will ask city leaders to come up with at least a half-a million dollars, to stop copper wire thieves from darkening city streets.

His idea, add more staff to fix the lights that are broken, and make them theft proof by covering the underground wires with concrete, at an average cost of 25 dollars apiece.

Brand said, "And they've tested this, they've had sledge hammers can't open this. It literally takes a jackhammer to open a concrete-enforced vault."

Brand says the one-time fix will save taxpayers 600-thousand dollars a year.

Public works director Patrick Wiemillier says while the plan could work, he's more concerned about where the money will come from.

Wiemiller said, "For us, unfortunately that money is already appropriated for other purposes, so it ultimately boils down to a policy decision of what's more important? For instance, repairing streets or repairing lights?"

If it were up to residents like Jennifer Williams, she'd vote for the lights to be turned back on.

Williams said, "Especially you know, it gets dark early now, it's five o'clock and it's dark."

The city manager will have sixty days to review the proposal. In the meantime, if you see copper wire theft, report it to the city or the police.

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