San Carlos considers dimming the lights

February 16, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
In San Carlos the city is considering turning about half of the streetlights off to save money, but pulling the plug is not a popular plan.

To keep one of the streetlights running, it costs the City of San Carlos $88 a year; multiple that by 856 -- about half of the city's streetlights -- and that adds up to $75,000.

For the peninsula town, that would be a significant savings, which is why the public works director, Robert Weil, is proposing to turn every other light off.

"I think it's indicative of being in dire straits," said Weil.

Like every department head, Weil was told to make cuts, so on Tuesday night he floated his idea before the Transportation and Circulation Commission.

"It's certainly something I suggest with hesitation because it has public safety impacts and quality of life impacts," said Weil.

Still, for cities across the state, these are unprecedented times. San Carlos is facing a $3.5 million budget shortfall. Still, residents and business owners have a lot of concerns.

"Sometimes I go out at 5 o'clock and then I run into someone and I'm talking and next thing I know it's dark like this. I want to have some light," said San Carlos resident Maryann Smith.

"More lights especially at nighttime is better for the town when people come to visit the city," said merchant Jill Naghdchi.

This isn't the first time a city has proposed turning a portion of its streetlights off. Santa Rosa did it last year and saved $400,000, but at least one city councilmember is convinced the lights in San Carlos can be kept on.

"Where we need to be talking about cuts is employee benefits and salaries, etc. That's where we need to rein in the costs. Not hitting people with service cuts and things like street lights," said Councilmember Matt Grocott.

City leaders have about a month before these budget proposals are formally presented to them. The city council is scheduled to discuss its budget issues on March 22.


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