Who Pays for Street Lights?

(WSVN) - It’s a street light in an alley, a light the city pays for since it lights up a couple of backyards, but the power company told a South Florida homeowner they have to pay to have the light kept on. It’s tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

If you look at the multicolored house and the tropical backyard, you might assume this home is on a Caribbean island.

Loren Rich, homeowner: “I’ve got sort of an island theme, I guess you could say, going on. It just feels good.”

The bright colors and landscaping make Loren smile. A light behind her yard turns that into a frown.

Loren Rich: “I just thought it was a bulb, and when I called [Florida Power and Light], they said no, that that’s a private light.”

It’s a street light in the alley behind her Hollywood house. No problem for years till that light went dark, and she called FPL to report it.

Loren Rich: “FPL is trying to tell me that the citizens pay privately for these alley lights, or at least that’s what they were telling about my light, so I really don’t know.”

Loren says the light has lit her alley for 16 years, and she never paid for it. Her neighbor that lives a couple of houses away has a street light in the same alley.

Loren Rich: “She told me, ‘I have never gotten billed for that,’ and she’s been here 47 years.”

Since the City of Hollywood pays for the street light in front of her house, she concluded they were responsible for paying for the alley light behind her house, and she called them.

Loren Rich: “‘You have to pay for this if you want the light to be on in the alley.'”

To avoid being left in the dark, Loren agreed to pay $11 each month to have the light on, even though she thinks the city should be using her tax money to pay for the light.

Loren Rich: “When it’s off, I’m very dark back here, and the alley is dark. I didn’t feel safe with the alley light not being on.”

Well, Howard, do homeowners have to pay for street lights and alley lights?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “It varies. If it’s a city, county or state road, and they request the light, they pay the bill. That’s the most common example. But if you live on one of those roads or alleys, and the government won’t pay for a light, you can request one from FPL. You, then, are responsible for the light bill.”

It turns out a neighbor whose home also is along the alley has been paying for the light for years. Then he stopped paying the bill.

FPL wrote Loren that it’s part of FPL’s Outdoor Lighting Program, where lights are “installed at a customer’s request in areas such as alleyways, backyards and parking lots, and are billed to the requesting customer.”

Loren decided, if the city won’t pay for the alley light, she’s not going to pay for the alley light, either.

Loren Rich: “No, I’ve decided I am going to cancel this, and I’m going to get some solar lights in my backyard to light up my backyard.”

Every street light you see is being paid for by a person or a government agency. Why would a city agree to pay for a light on a street but not an alley? Well, streets are for cars and pedestrians. Alleys were created for garbage pickup in the daytime, and government agencies don’t see the need to pay for that alley light at night.

A problem darkening your life? Ready to shine a light on it? Flip the switch and turn on the Help Me Howard segment to see if we can brighten your day.

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