Monthly Archives: April 2016

Mayor Sharon Wolcott, Councilman Jim Biundo

Posted: Friday, April 22, 2016 3:30 pm

As described in an article in the April 6 issue of Surprise Today, the vast majority of streetlights in Surprise are part of street light improvement districts.

There are a couple of holes in this setup. And during the formative years of its SLIDs, Surprise quickly realized the concept would be hard to translate to large sections of its Original Town Site.

Surprise engineering manager Kristin Tytler said SLIDs require support from residents and commercial property owners to energize streetlights.

“Attempts to form SLIDs in some areas of the (OTS) were unsuccessful. In select residential areas of the OTS, the city made the decision to energize lights,” Tytler said. “The city currently pays the energy and maintenance costs for more than 200 streetlights in the OTS.”

A survey began to determine which poles were owned by APS and which ones were owned by other entities. The survey started around 2008 and was completed around 2009, Tytler said.

While city staff, then-councilman Roy Villanueva and his successor and widow, Rachel, have worked to catalog and upgrade the light poles in the neighborhood, significant dark spots remain.

During the April 5 City Council work session, former councilman and former longtime OTS resident Bob Vukanovich lambasted Surprise’s stewardship of the neighborhood. While he brought up other issues, the lights were at the top of the list.

“I’m not going to get into all the bad parts of the Original Town Site, but it’ll make your hair stand up. I was over there today and I can’t believe what I’m seeing,” Vukanovich said during that meeting. “We had grant money for those street lights a long time ago and it’s still not finished. You turned the lights out on those people. We put new, beautiful lights over there. Somebody put resistors up there and now you need a flashlight. It looks terrible.”

Perhaps the most notable dark area is on Elm Street from the El Mirage Animal Hospital east. Five or more lights are not working on the north side of the street — and haven’t for quite some time.

Like areas near the post office and north of Willow Canyon High School, the businesses on the north side of Elm have not shown interest in forming a SLID.

Unlike those sections of town, there are residences directly across the street. And they’re in the dark at night.

“These lights are not energized because they are not a part of a SLID and are directly adjacent to commercial properties. For the lights to be turned on, the commercial property owners must form a SLID (this would be a majority SLID petition),” Tytler said.

Tytler said light replacement needs in the OTS are not quantified to date. APS owns and maintains the lights, therefore city funding has not been anticipated.

Central Street, in the section of the OTS south of Grand Avenue, also has five poles with lights that don’t work. While there are no businesses on the street, Tytler said the city once attempted and failed to form a SLID in this area.

On a smaller scale, a couple lights are out on Cottonwood Street east of Cumbie Lane. And a few need replacements in the area built largely in the 1950s and 60s.

Then there are two dark areas that lack light poles. Both are on the eastern side of the OTS — Ironwood and Rimrock streets heading west from Jerry Street.

“The need for additional lights would need to be evaluated by the city. If lights were deemed necessary, the city would need to make a determination of how the lights would be installed and paid for,” Tytler said.

Vukanovich said it looks like his fears of the primarily Hispanic, low income OTS getting passed over in favor of newer areas of Surprise are coming true.

He said he sees families from newer subdivisions playing Little League games at OTS parks and using the Hollyhock Pool, so improved conditions would benefit the whole city.

“It’s beneficial for everybody to have a good place over there,” Vukanovich said. “I’ve been here 45 years and it’s never looked this bad.”