It’s been almost two months since Hurricane Irma hit Palm Beach County, but 15 percent of Lake Worth’s 4,000 streetlights, a lot of which were knocked out by the storm, are still out.
And the head of Lake Worth Utilities said it would take his crew months more to finish the repairs.
That’s why he’s asking for outside help.
“We got to about 83 (repairs), which is really too slow, so we’re asking for an outside contractor to give us some thoughts on how we would be able to tackle it quicker,” Ed Liberty, head of Lake Worth Utilities, told City Commissioners on Tuesday night. “We want to get this moved on much faster than with our own staff.”
Liberty told commissioners he’s waiting to hear from the contractor on what they can do and what it might cost. “I’d like to see this done in a month as opposed to many months,” Liberty said.
As part of an ambitious $23 million project, Lake Worth recently replaced the old city street lights — more than 4,100 — with LED bulbs officials said will save the city $250,000 annually in energy costs.
City Commissioner Andy Amoroso said he can’t ever remember so many lights being out after a storm.
“I’ve been through a lot of hurricanes and it seems like there’s a lot more lights out with these new lights,” he said.
Liberty said the problem may not be the lights but could be a wiring issue.
“We’re looking at the nature of repair that’s required and was it associated with the quality of the installation of was it something else that caused it,” he said.
He also said the lights are lower on the pole and are much more susceptible to vegetation impact.
At the meeting, Mayor Pam Triolo asked Liberty if he looked at letting city employees work overtime to fix the problem.
“It’s very expensive to work them overtime compared to the contractor rate,” he said. “We just don’t have enough people and once you work these people overtime, it effects them being able to get to normal work on Monday morning.”
Liberty said he asked his staff to give him a weekly report on how many lights are out, and how many have been repaired. “I want to make sure we have enough people dedicated to maintaining the lights and we’re not in a downward spiral and we can’t keep up,” he said.
Liberty said the city doesn’t have a dedicated crew just for lighting.
“We basically work on lights when we don’t have something else of a higher priority to work on,” he said. “We need to reassess the priorities.”