Whitesburg KY

Fleming-Neon officials say paying for private street lights must end

$15,000 per year cost for lights is bringing old practice to end

A number of Fleming-Neon residents have apparently been furnished with private street lights courtesy of the city for quite a while now, but that will soon stop. At the January meeting of the Fleming-Neon City Council, Council Member Cheryl Furby told the council there are approximately 160 power poles with lights on them in the city limits and that a significant number of them serve no public purpose, but only provide light for a single dwelling or for no one at all.

Furby said she began researching the streetlight situation during a budget workshop last summer when she found that the city pays $15,000 per year for streetlights. She contacted American Electric Power and asked if it knows how many of the lights serve the public and how many serve private individuals and was told that AEP did not know for which poles the city is charged and for which it isn’t charged. Furby asked for more information and received a sevenpage document with city maps for all the streetlights in the town.

Furby said she and Police Chief Mike Dingus have located about 85 percent of the poles, but that some don’t have visible numbers. Most power poles have an identifying number on a metal tag. She said she has determined that a number of poles are located on private property and serve no public purpose and that some of them light empty spaces and serve no one. She added that some of the lights don’t work.

Furby said she has hesitated to go onto private property to find the number on some power poles, but that on one city street, four lights are on one homeowner’s property. She said she has a power pole with a street light on her property for which she pays $9.67 a month, and former council member Lucky Cantrell said he had to replace two poles last summer and paid more than $300 for both poles, plus the monthly fee for lights. The council discussed several options for terminating service on those poles that do not serve a public purpose. It is not legal to spend tax money for anything that does not serve a public purpose.

Furby said her survey is between 85 and 90 percent complete and Councilman James D. Collins said the city needs to identify the lights for which it is paying and find which ones serve the public and which ones don’t. Councilman Trey Quillen suggested contacting those property owners who have one of the city poles on their property and giving them the option to switch the payment over before terminating service. Quillen said the city should have a plan in place before contacting property owners about the situation.

Mayor Susie Polis said the council should compile a complete list of the streetlights and Furby said she should be able to have a finished list ready for the next meeting. However, she said she is unsure about some of the addresses, and the AEP map lists lights at some places without any address. Furby said she could not find six of the lights on the map anywhere and that AEP has taken two lights off the list of lights for which the city is billed. Collins said it is also possible that both the city and property owners are billed for the lights, allowing the power company to receive double revenue for them. Furby said she will bring the list she compiles to the next meeting and the council can decide what action to take.

Police Chief Dingus told the council that activity was down considerably for December and attributed it to the weather and cold temperatures. Dingus said the department worked two accidents in December and added that complaints and arrests were also substantially lower for the month. He said he had spoken with newly elected Jenkins Mayor G.C. Kincer, who invited the Fleming-Neon Police Department to participate in a grant proposal with the Jenkins Department to upgrade to digital radios and said he had agreed. Mayor Polis said she had received a complaint about people living in the last house on Gulf Street, who have refused to allow cars to turn and caused problems for people in vehicles coming to the end of the street.

The council welcomed newly elected member Linda Cantrell and Mayor Polis asked each member to sign documents affirming their compliance with Open Records Laws. Polis said the city’s contact information is: mailing address, P.O. Box 66, Neon, Ky., and e-mail, flemingneon@hotmail.com

The council also discussed a request from Letcher County Emergency Management Coordinator Paul Miles to designate alternate decision makers in the event that Mayor Polis is not available during an emergency situation. The city does not have a mayor pro tem, and Cheryl Furby looked in Kentucky Revised Statutes and found no language that requires one. The council approved four individuals in the following order make decisions if Mayor Polis is not available during an emergency: 1) Police Chief Mike Dingus; 2) Councilman James D. Collins; 3) Councilman Trey Quillen; and 4) Councilman Tom Haynes.

The council voted to table the Utilities Report because Water Department Superintendent Carlos Phillips was unable to attend the meeting. Councilman Quillen asked about the situation with the city’s wells and Polis said they are recovering. Polis also thanked city workers for scraping the back streets during the recent snows and added that the city’s salt spreader had broken down and said replacement parts have been ordered and will be installed as soon as they are received.

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