Mingo Junction Village Council appears to have made a good decision on balancing saving money and protecting public safety.
Council agreed in a 5-1 vote last week to turn off half of the 600 or so streetlights in town. The move will save about $25,000. It may not sound like a lot of money, but the village is pinching pennies and trying to avoid a fiscal emergency.
The village saw a major decline in revenue with the closing of the RG Steel plant. Village workers have been laid off and the police and fire department personnel took a cut in wages.
The issue of what to do with the streetlights has been discussed for several months. The village appropriated $55,000 this year for the lights. Turning half off will save money, but the village will still have to pay AEP $10,000 even though the lights are off.
Some in the village believed all the lights should have been shut off. But that creates a public safety issue. Break-ins of houses and cars are becoming more of a problem in the village.
Making the village dark at night without the streetlights certainly wouldn't have helped the crime problem, especially with the police department only having one officer per shift.
Councilmembers have said there are many unnecessary lights that could immediately be turned off. Council still has to make the final decision on which lights will be shut down. Intersections are a priority, according to council. Some lights on the midsection of streets will be turned off. Residents will still have the option of paying AEP $11 a month for a light to be installed on utility poles near homes.
Village Clerk John Angelica said the village will have a balanced budget this year, but that all comes down to collecting all the anticipated revenue. The village depended on an income tax but the jobs at the steel mill are gone.
Council also was considering charging residents $4 a month to pay for the streetlights, but collecting that money could be problematic.
If a resident doesn't pay a utility bill, they face having the utility turned off for lack of payment. What would happen if residents didn't pay the streetlight assessment?
Council is moving in the right direction in trying to provide services with dwindling revenue. More work will still have to be done in the future and council needs to be ready to take action.