, 2014

County considers pulling the
plug on Lively street lights

by Audrey Thomasson

LIVELY—Lancaster County supervisors are considering pulling the plug on some street lights after Dominion Power reported the Lively Association’s power bills are in arrears at least $7,300. If left unpaid, county taxpayers would have to foot the bill.

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County administrator Frank Pleva recently brought the problem to the attention of supervisors after he was notified of the outstanding bill. “There are some 39 lights; over half are in arrears,” he said.

Through Pleva’s efforts, the company agreed this week to forgive 12 months of late fees, leaving an outstanding balance of $6,666.49.

Pleva said the situation stems from a 30-year-old arrangement among Dominion Power, community associations and the county in which a municipal rate is arranged for street lights. The county became involved because the company wanted to deal with local governments rather than with individuals. However, it means the county is ultimately responsible for the bill if a community fails to meet its obligation.

Pleva speculated Dominion’s collection problems are not limited to Lively, but could be systemic throughout the Commonwealth.

“Bowling Green had almost 30 lights removed because of costs,” he said.

As the make-up of a community changes over the years, new residents don’t agree to the payment or the homeowner may have passed away and their children see no reason to pay for lighting since they live somewhere else, Pleva explained.

Supervisor Butch Jenkins noted the street lights have been in place since 1954, and it is always difficult to collect payment because one street light covers three or more houses. The residents who don’t have the light on their property don’t think they should pay for it. Or in one case where four houses in a row are unoccupied, there is confusion as to who should pay and who benefits from the light, he said.

According to Lively Association president Jeffrey Haywood, residents are billed $60 a year and businesses are billed $75 a year to keep the lights on.

“People pay because it’s a security thing,” Haywood said. “What revenue we’ve got, we’ve been paying to Dominion Power. It’s not a lot to pay for security.”

While some villages organize community fundraisers to pay for the lights, Haywood said that approach has not been successful in Lively.

Supervisors discussed disconnecting the lights for one week as a way for residents to determine if they want to go without street lights. However, should Dominion Power remove the fixtures, citizens would then have to pay to have them re-installed, said Pleva.

“We’re not at that point yet,” he said. “We’re going to hold another meeting with residents before any lights are turned off.”

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