Fourth of new, costly light poles falls on city’s watch

Published 12:04 am Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — Cars travel past a downed light pole in the median of John R. Junkin Drive near Homochitto Street.

NATCHEZ — Uninsured drivers with difficulty staying in the lanes are beginning to cost the City of Natchez money it doesn’t have.

A fourth aesthetically pleasing light pole in approximately a year was toppled over the weekend, and it could cost taxpayers $6,000.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation has installed the light poles along John R. Junkin and Seargent S. Prentiss drives, but replacing them is up to the city.

The latest pole to fall was in the median on John R. Junkin Drive, near Homochitto Street.

Natchez City Engineer David Gardner said he is concerned the city will not have the funds to maintain the poles.

“I’m not going take away from the fact that I like the lights and they are beautiful, but the reality is that they’re going to be expensive to maintain,” he said.

Gardner said if the poles are damaged in a traffic accident, the first step he takes is finding out if the driver has insurance.

“You can’t be sure every time that the person is going to have insurance,” Gardner said. “It’s a risk you take.”

He said of the four poles that have been damaged, one has been replaced by insurance and another at the city’s expense because the driver had no insurance. He said he is awaiting insurance money for the third pole and has not had time to review the latest incident.

Gardner said not budgeting for the maintenance and replacement of the light poles is not an option.

“It will have to be budgeted for, it is something we agreed to do,” he said.

Gardner also said the city will have to hire someone to replace the poles because the city’s bucket truck cannot pick up the poles.

Gardner said by the time project is completed, there will be several hundred light poles installed along John R. Junkin Drive, Seargent S. Prentiss Drive and a portion of U.S. 61 North.