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City of Atlanta doesn’t have inventory of streetlights, audit finds

The report concluded the city has added lights in a “haphazard way,” and failed to manage and repair fixtures in a manner that was cost-effective
Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 5:53 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Atlanta is having a hard time managing its streetlights, according to a new audit.

The City Auditor’s Office sampled more than 700 streetlights, across the city, between July 2018 and March 2021. The audit found, that of the 16,000 city-owned lights, 12% were inoperable. Georgia Power owns an additional 40,000 streetlights; four percent were not working.

“It’s a lot of crime in the city,” said Daisy Taylor, a resident in Midtown. “Certain geographic areas have better lighting than other areas.”

“Streetlights are a big thing,” added Billy Jernigan. “People need to see, especially those that don’t have a car, people that have to get around on bike on foot.”

The findings of the 44-page audit were presented during a transportation committee meeting on Wednesday. It concluded the city has added lights in a “haphazard way,” and failed to manage and repair fixtures in a manner that was cost-effective

“Neither the city nor Georgia Power could provide all current, executed streetlighting agreements, and some agreements lacked the physical location of the lights installed,” the report read.

“We’re not very good at this to be blunt,” said Councilman Amir Farokhi following the presentation.

Most troubling for the councilman, who represents District 2, was streetlight repair times. It takes Atlanta Department of Transportation crews up to 30 days to complete minor repairs, according to the audit. It’s 2-7 days in cities like Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

“When we talk about improving public safety, streetlights are a part of that,” Farokhi said. “If we’re going to live up to our commitments, we need to figure this out.”

The report comes as the city works to install 10,000 new streetlights to improve safety and visibility.

ATL DOT Commissioner Josh Rowan told CBS46 his department already implemented many of the recommendations prior to the completion of the audit. The department has installed and/or replaced 2,000 lights on numerous corridors including Fairburn Road, Joseph E Boone, and Peyton Road.

Rowan said one way to bring order to the “chaotic system” is to lease the city’s full streetlight inventory from Georgia Power, rather than the city owning and maintaining them. That won’t happen until the city finalizes legislation to sell 10,000 city-owned lights to the utility company for $2 million. The work will include all repairs and upgrades to LED.

“ATLDOT is fulfilling its mission and doing exactly what it was designed to do—bring order to a formerly chaotic system,” Rowan said in an email to CBS46.

Georgia Power released the following statement:

“Georgia Power works with government, business and residential customers to provide efficient outdoor lighting solutions across the state. We are a committed partner with the City of Atlanta and worked with the city to help contribute information and data. The company will continue to work closely with them to improve and enhance lighting across Atlanta.”

To read the full audit, click here.