Opinion: Casting light on broken street lamps

Opinion: Casting light on broken street lamps
(Stock photo)

To the editor:

Beginning in 2007, residents of the 100 and 200 blocks of Duke St., 200 and 300 blocks of S. Lee St., and 100 block of Wolfe St. were subjected to more than two years of noisy, dirty and often damaging disruption of our property and daily lives.

Our streets and sidewalks were torn up. Deep trenches were dug inches from our front doors. Picks and shovels pounded and scraped against house foundations. Our cars suffered flat tires from construction debris in the streets. The roots of many of our lovely, old trees were severed. When it rained, water poured into basements from the holes dug just outside.

We were not compensated for any damages incurred; our reward was charming, little colonial-style street lamps replacing the unattractive lights and unsightly wires our city leaders deemed unsuitable for a historic district. It was a nice idea despite the agony of realizing it.

Now, three years after the project’s completion, our streets look decidedly different. We have no poles or wires and far fewer trees.

But we do have attractive street lamps, though more than half no longer work. On the 200 block of Duke St. all five have been dark for months and the only light, other than from an occasional porch, comes from a privately owned gas lamp. It is very dark at night, and with our uneven sidewalks, it also is very dangerous.

Since June, I’ve made at least five calls to City Hall and Dominion Virginia Power regarding the broken lights. I’ve always been told to call the other entity; the one I’m speaking with is not responsible. During my most recent call I learned there is a jurisdictional question about the lamps: Some fell under the city’s control and others to Dominion.

What will it take to bring some light back to our Old Town streets? Perhaps a lawsuit brought by a tourist who trips in the dark? Or must we conclude that the ordeal we endured several years ago was all for nothing, and we will forever remain in darkness?

– Jane Coughran