Newcastillians are left in the dark

[Newcastle Advertiser stock image] The Newcastle Municipality is doing its best to alleviate the problem of non-functional street lights.

AVIARY HILL – The spotlight is once again on non-operational street lights in Newcastle.

A resident on Victoria Street said he was tired of non-functioning street lights and claimed they contributed to crime. Although he reported the problem to the Newcastle Municipality several times, nothing has been done to solve it.

“I hope they fix the lights soon because it has become a nuisance.”

Strategic Executive Director for Electrical and Mechanical Services, Lindile Zincume explained there were two main reasons why street lights were compromised.

The main cause was that a light bulb came to the end of its life, and the second reason was a fault in the cables.

“While a faulty bulb affects only the light, a cable fault affects the lights where bulbs may still be in working order.”

He blamed recent heavy rains for water ingress in electrical equipment, which has also contributed to the large number of faulty street lights.

Poor visibility as a result of rain also caused several collisions, which damaged electric boxes that supply electricity to street lights.

“There has been a significant reduction in the budget allocated to the use of external contractors. The municipality has also experienced a reduction in the staff complement who had previously assisted in the rendition of services.”

He assured the municipality was working around the clock to attend to the faulty streetlights, despite limited resources.

“The municipality already has all the material suppliers needed to provide the replacement parts, and we will also fill the positions that have become vacant in order to improve the efficiency of the service.”

Mr Zincume gave the assurance that the street lights would be repaired when feasible and replaced where necessary in all areas, especially Ngagane, Kilbarchan and Long Homes, where rotten poles were prevalent.

“There is a limitation in terms of the number of poles that can be replaced in the current financial year. New poles will be purchased starting July 2017. The material currently available is being used to progressively replace poles.”

The initial budget allocated to replacing and repairing street lights was R6,5 million, specifically for pole replacements, he said.

However, this was reduced during the adjustment budget, and in the current financial year the capital allocation was primarily focused on high mast lighting.

He admitted that street lights were a deterrent to crime.

“The municipality is aware of the challenges through its own clerk of works who does lighting inspections, reports from the community through the control room as well as from ward councillors. There is currently a backlog the municipality is aware of, including repairs to high mast lights in oSizweni, Madadeni and Blaauwbosch.”

He said atreet lights in all suburbs in Newcastle had been negatively affected by heavy downpour, but the municipality was replacing and repairing them where feasible.

Mr Zincume admitted staff shortages, flooding and budget constraints prevented the department to meet the six-day turnaround target for maintenance of the lights.

“The municipality is working hard to adjust to the new financial realities and to work more effectively and efficiently,” he concluded.

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Zianne Leibrandt

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