Task Force Takes Steps To Repair City's Highway Lighting System

Thursday, February 4th 2016, 4:28 pm

Copper thieves have stolen 29 miles of wire - that used to connect lights along Tulsa's highways.

It's an expensive problem

The city pays $2,000 a day for electricity for highway lights.

Tulsa's highways are dark at night, even though most of them are lined with lights.

And it turns out, the city isn't saving anything when the lights are out.

The city pays the same, regardless.

That was just one revelation from the first meeting of a city council street light task force.

1/14/2016 Related Story: Task Force Working To Keep Lights On Along Tulsa Highways

“I am confident we will get the lights back on, and I know the citizens are in the dark and they're weary and I'm weary, but we can get this done,” councilor Jack Henderson said.

The city says most of the lights are out because of copper theft. Thieves have made off with 29 miles of wire.

They break in panels at the bottom of poles, cut the live wires - risking a shock - then pull out the dead wires.

As the city can afford it, the copper is being replaced with aluminum, and the access panels with theft-proof boxes.

"We really haven't had any theft in a while,” Terry Ball said. “In places where we've gone back with aluminum, they've come in and made a couple of cuts, but they've haven't come back and hit those locations again."

The city estimates repairs will cost $2 million, including the cost of adding meters to the circuits.

As it stands now, the city pays a flat rate for each light each month, whether it works or not.

"We've had people at meetings ask if we've turned them out, but we're paying for them one way or another,” Ball said.

The city has a half-million dollars to spend now. It will hire outside help to speed up repairs, but that's still only one-fourth of the money to get them all on.

This task force is hoping to somehow come up with the rest of the money.