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The lights stay on

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It is a slap in the face- resident

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STREET lights that burn in the daytime for months on end, despite repeated calls to the Sol Plaatje Municipality, have raised the ire of city residents.

Several residents have contacted the DFA complaining about the municipality’s apparent disregard for street lights that burn day and night.

“For many months the street lights in New Park have been burning day and night,” one resident pointed out. “I question the logic of this, particularly in light of the fact that Eskom has called on residents to save electricity where possible.

“The municipality is planning to implement a hefty increase in the price of electricity so surely leaving street lights burning is a slap in the face,” one member of the public stated. “If street lights were not kept burning in the middle of the day, there would not have been a need to have such a hefty increase.”

Another resident pointed out that the cost of burning street lights amounted to fruitless and wasteful expenditure, for which city councillors or officials could be held responsible.

“The cost of living is already astronomically high but this is compounded by the fact that there is a complete disregard by the municipality for the plight of Kimberley citizens.”

Residents pointed out that the problem was not limited to one suburb or area. “There are street lights all over Kimberley that have been burning for weeks on end, but nothing ever happens.

Contempt

“The municipal officials are displaying their contempt for residents by willy nilly burning the lights, for which it has to pay Eskom with our money, which could be used for other projects, like fixing the roads or stormwater drains. Because it is not their money – but the ratepayers’ money that is being spent – the officials simply do not care.”

Fingers have also been pointed at the municipality for not switching off the lights in the offices at the Civic Centre in Bultfontein Road. “Maybe the light switches are broken because it appears they cannot be turned off,” one resident quipped.

Eskom launched its “Use Electricity Smartly” campaign this week, the aim being to reduce electricity usage to minimise the risk of load shedding.

“The current constrained electricity network calls for smart electricity usage,” Eskom acting group executive: generation, Andrew Etzinger, said yesterday. “Eskom is currently faced with challenges at its power stations, which has led to the need for load shedding over the past few months. If consumers can assist us by using electricity smartly, it would help to reduce the need for load shedding, which is a measure used to balance the supply and demand of electricity.”

The Sol Plaatje City Council is also contemplating the introduction of a new tariff structure for electricity, which will see residents paying more for electricity during the winter months.

The municipality said in response yesterday that it was facing a number of challenges currently.

“Load shedding causes several of our injection systems (the systems used to switch street lights on and off automatically) to malfunction,” municipal spokesperson Thoko Riet explained yesterday.

“We currently have nine of these units installed in our 10 HV/MV sub-stations. Five of these nine systems were recently upgraded, which means that four of the systems are of the older generation. Load shedding causes surges which damages the electronics of these systems.”

Riet added that the challenge was further increased when the earthing of these systems was compromised due to cable theft.

“Obtaining spares for these legacy type systems are a real concern due to non-availability. During extended load shedding intervals (where additional problems are experienced), our systems tend to lose certain settings. We are currently investigating this with the original equipment manufacturer.”

Riet pointed out further that in certain areas the municipality had installed timers to control the street lights. “This is not our preferred modus operandi, but we have to resort to this due to a shortage of ripple receiver units (these are the units installed in the mini sub-stations), the availability of technicians and knowledge and skill set in fault-finding. The problem with the timer is that it loses memory, hence certain street lights will be on during the day and off during the night. We are busy with a serious drive to replace all these timers with the preferred ripple receiver units.”

She stated that the municipality also provided temporary supply to households in the event of cable faults to their houses or premises. “This temporary supply is supplied from the street light and, as a result, the street light will be on 24/7. The challenge we have is returning to fix these cable faults due to a shortage of manpower.”

Riet added that the municipality was “definitely trying to ensure that our street lights are functioning, and functioning when they are supposed to function”.

“The cost involved in having street lights on for extended periods of time is definitely not what we want.”