Whose Light is it Anyway?
By Peter Erickson
Glacier City Gazette Intern
An interesting issue came up at the Jan Girdwood Board of Supervisors (GBOS) meeting.
According to local resident and business owner Cathy Frost, a streetlight up Crow Creek Road has, through some oversight, gone unfunded for the past 25 years.
The long time local was contacted by Chugach Electric (CE) a few months ago, informing her that recent audits had found gross oversight to span two and a half decades.
CE was not looking for back payment or anything like that. They were simply calling to inform her of a recent decision.
Apparently CE had not been able to convince either the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) or the Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT) to pay for the light in question and were preparing to take it down. The call was a formality since she happened to be the closest resident.
“And that had me worried”, said Frost. “It’s right there before that sharp turn, and it’s icy, really icy and dark. That just seems like it would become a safety concern.”
Not wishing to see an uptick in traffic accidents, Frost took it upon herself to do a little detective work to find out why no one was willing to take on the orphaned streetlight.
After working her way up the DOT chain of command, she was able to talk with the Superintendent of Maintenance. According to Frost, he informed her that since the DOT does not have that light in its records and has not traditionally paid for it, they weren’t going to start.
So whose light is it?
“It’s not a Muni right of way,” said Municipal Liaison to Girdwood Kyle Kelly.
That designation means it’s not a road that MOA maintains. Crow Creek Road is under the purview of the State of Alaska and DOT.
So why, exactly, won’t DOT pay for it? There is a chance that the light wasn’t ordered by them, and it’s possible that it belonged to property owners from the 1970s.
It all comes down to budget according to Shannon McCarthy, spokesperson at the DOT.
“Because these street lights are paid for with state funds we must be judicious… These [lights] are a long term cumulative cost and so we have to prioritize high risk areas such as school zones and busy intersections,” said McCarthy.
“There are actually a number of orphaned lights like this around the Anchorage area,” said McCarthy, “and while it is unusual for them to go under the radar for this long, we do encourage the local community to pick them up since we [DOT] can’t realistically cover them all.”
The burden falls now to Frost who must decide if she can afford to foot the bill for an abandoned light on an otherwise darkened street.