LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Every year hundreds of broken streetlights are reported in Little Rock, but there may be even more going undetected.
Several lights on Rebsamen Park Road are out steps from the river trail. It’s an area Marcus Johnson likes to take his dog on their nightly walk, but he said the number of streetlights that are out has him concerned about safety.
“It’s just real pitch black,” Johnson said. “I’m always looking behind my back.”
Johnson is now asking the city to shed light on what he considers a dangerous problem.
“Crime is here in Little Rock,” Johnson added. “When they had that serial stabber, it was a big concern because you would want to have lights out here for more safety reasons.”
Fixing the lights that are out comes down to ownership, though. There are nearly 25,000 streetlights across the city. The majority of those lights are contracted out to Entergy. Last year the city paid the utility $2,3644,098 to run the lights.
“If it’s an Entergy light, it’s sent to Entergy and it’s out of our system,” Little Rock Public Works Director Jon Honeywell explained.
Honeywell says the city relies on people using the 311 system to report outages since the job is too big for his crews.
“If you see lights out please report them,” he asked. “The ability to drive up and down every residential street or every street in the city of Little Rock is very difficult and time-consuming.”
So far this year, more than 1,200 broken lights have been recorded with 311. As soon as a report gets filed, the ticket shows up “closed,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean the light is fixed.
“We’re saying that that request for service to that light is no longer in the city’s hands,” Honeywell explained. “It’s been forwarded to Entergy.”
After questioning the city about this, Honeywell said he’s working to get the website fixed to show that a streetlight outage report was sent to Entergy and not handled by the city.
Working 4 You took the list of outages reported to 311 and headed to see if any were still broken.
Most of the lights were fixed, a couple were out, but most outages were seen driving between different locations.
One of the worst areas found was the intersection of Wright Avenue and Battery Street, where a total of six lights were broken. None of the lights were reported to 311, with the city’s list showing the most recent outage at that intersection was reported in February 2020.
Entergy sees the problem as one of people not reporting outages.
“It may be again everybody assumes somebody else reports it and we don’t have that information yet,” Entergy Arkansas spokesperson Brandi Hinkle said.
Hinkle contends the utility typically fixes problem spots in two weeks.
“We wish it was shorter,” she said. “We’re continually working to improve our processes and be more efficient so we would like that to be a lesser timeframe.”
Hinkle added that the utility says it also uses six to eight crews a night to check streets and “look and repair those lights when they’re aware of them.”
While the utility knows crews can’t catch every spot, Entergy hopes its own online system for reporting will help fill in the gaps.
“You’d be surprised how many times a wrong address is entered, and it’s usually not intentional, it’s usually just a typo or they thought they had the correct address,” Hinkle said.
Mistakes in reporting are something the city says its 311 app can help prevent since it uses GPS maps to let people share the exact location of a broken light.
The challenge is getting people to log in and make a report, something Johnson admits he’s never done. He also doesn’t see it as his job to make a report, arguing that with the price paid to maintain the streetlights he expects more.
“It’d be a game-changer if they would fix these lights around here,” he said. “They should always be on top of it if they’re getting that much.”