A Montclair streetlight is seen here during the daytime. The website PlanetCivic is doing a mapping project to identify all of the broken streetlights in town.
PHOTO BY ERIN ROLL/STAFF

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

There’s a problem in Montclair that the group PlanetCivic wants to shed a light on — literally.

The civic-issues website launched a mapping project this year to locate all the burnt-out or broken streetlights in town.

PlanetCivic.com was launched earlier this year as a venue for Montclair residents to bring certain issues around town to the attention of the mayor and council. And one of the most frequently discussed issues, says PlanetCivic founder and Montclair resident Javier Guardo, is the number of broken streetlights.

“I’ve been hearing from residents that they’ve been calling PSE&G and the council … nothing seemed to work,” Guardo said on Monday, May 22.

The map shows at least 88 burned-out lights, and Guardo expected more to come in over the next several days. By Friday, there were at least 90 reported streetlights on the map.

As of Tuesday, PSE&G spokesperson Lindsey Puliti said, PSE&G had fixed 55 of the 88 streetlights it had been notified about, and 18 were being referred to the company’s overhead and underground department for follow-up. “Typically, these take two to four weeks to be completed because we may need to repair the wiring. We plan to check the remaining 15 lights by the end of the day,” she said.

Puliti said that when PSE&G receives a report of a broken streetlight, the goal is to inspect it within three business days. Some repairs, like a broken light bulb, can take place right away, while others, such as wiring issues, may require the ordering of special parts.

On average, an industrial-grade light bulb lasts about seven years, Puliti said, but the company is looking into LED lighting, which may last as long as 15 years.

Besides burned-out streetlights, the map also enables users to report street corners and intersections that are not properly lit at night. But Guardo said that to fix those intersections would be a more expensive project, requiring PSE&G to run new cable and set up new poles. To replace the burned-out bulbs is a much less expensive project, since it is PSE&G’s responsibility.

“The police department had worked with the town and PSE&G to improve lighting conditions in areas of the town,” Police Lt. David O’Dowd said on May 23, noting that in 2013, the partnership had led to the lighting being updated on Mission Street and Elmwood Avenue. “Our officers report on inoperable street lights and other issues observed during their patrols. This information is then passed on to the responsible authority.”

“All we can do is highlight these locations that residents feel are unsafe,” O’Dowd said.

Guardo said PlanetCivic is not a platform to criticize anyone. Rather, he said, it is a venue to call attention to problems in town so that residents and officials can work together to get them fixed.

Guardo said that when a streetlight burns out, a lot of people don’t know who to call, or what happens after they report the light to the appropriate authorities. He will be presenting the data from the streetlight project to the mayor, council and township engineer at a later date.

“I mean, so far, they are very, very excited,” Guardo said. “They feel that this is going to resolve this issue once and for all.”