Can’t fix streetlights damaged by Irma till federal funds come in

(WSVN) - Hurricane Irma knocked out street lights. Why are we bringing that up two years later? Because many of those street lights have still not been repaired by the state of Florida. Why not? The answer shocked some South Florida residents, and it’s why they called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

This is a painting Rolando did in 1957.

Rolando Dominguez, resident: “That one over there I made in Cuba, in Havana, Cuba.”

This is his family history done with flags instead of the family tree.

Rolando Dominguez: “Spanish flag, the Cuban and then the United States.”

Clearly Rolando has talent.

Rolando Dominguez: “I’m not a great artist. I’m just an artist.”

Rolando is lighthearted about his skills, and ironically, lights in front of his condo are his problem.

Rolando Dominguez: “Well, two lights across the street. It gets really dark there.”

Hurricane Irma knocked one streetlight down and ripped the bowl off the other one. That was nearly two years ago.

Elena Geoghegan, resident: “If they cannot put the light there, what are they doing?”

For two years, the residents in this 55-and-older building have contacted everyone they can think of to try to get the work done.

Rolando Dominguez: “Well, 311, FPL, Frederica Wilson and [Debbie Wasserman] Schultz and Donna Shalala.”

The elderly residents tell them they need the lights to make them safer.

Rolando Dominguez: “We had a murder right underneath the one light across from my balcony.”

Elena Geoghegan: “I explained to them, ‘This is not safe neighborhood. We are all senior citizens. We cannot defend ourselves.'”

Turns out the two street lights belong to the Florida Department of Transportation.

Their response to Elena?

Elena Geoghegan: “That because the damage was done by the hurricane, they had to wait for the federal funds, meaning FEMA.”

The state blames the feds.

Rolando Dominguez: “Another song and dance.”

And it’s the same old song here. Two streetlights are still broken.

Elena Geoghegan: “We pay our taxes, and we are just asking for the lights.”

Well, Howard, does any government agency have to fix the lights?

Howard Finkelstein: “Legally, the agency responsible for a streetlight has 60 days to repair it — unless it’s damaged by a hurricane; then they have a year. It’s now been nearly two years. Unfortunately, the state does not punish the agencies for not fixing the lights by the deadline. However, in this case, if someone gets attacked, injured or killed as a result of no streetlight, the Department of Transportation could be financially responsible for the injuries or death.”

Turns out there are 300 streetlights in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties that were damaged by Hurricane Irma and have to be repaired.

A Florida Department of Transportation spokesperson told me it’s not a simple process because FDOT has to follow federal guidelines that include:

  • a design process
  • a complete set of engineering plans
  • advertising for contractors
  • reimbursement by the federal government

I then asked, since the Department of Transportation has an $11 billion budget funded by Florida taxpayers, why doesn’t the state pay for the lights and then get the money back later from the feds?

FDOT’s response? “Reimbursement only takes place if we follow the federal guidelines.”

Rolando Dominguez: “It’s ridiculous.”

There is some good news for the residents. Miami-Dade County stepped in and fixed one streetlight.

But the Florida Department of Transportation is still waiting on the feds to give them the money to fix the other streetlight.

Rolando Dominguez: “I think it’s a bunch of baloney.”

Can you tell the residents are not big fans of the state and federal bureaucracy? Now, if you have a streetlight that is not working, check with your city or county, or even FPL. If it’s not their responsibility, they can tell you who to contact.

Battling the bureaucracy and getting blown away? Ready for someone to storm in? Contact us. Hopefully we can shine a light and brighten your day.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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