Repo man seizes city streetlights
A Michigan city couldn't pay $4 million in past-due bills, so the power company took out most of the streetlight poles to settle the debt.
Updated Oct. 12, 2:07 p.m. ET
Things are so bad for the city of Highland Park, Mich., that the power company has removed 1,400 streetlight poles.
The action is "part of a settlement that lets the city avoid paying $4 million in unpaid bills going back several years," CBS Detroit reports.
The overall plan will cut the city's $62,000 monthly bill to $15,000, The Detroit News says.
This small city -- where the motto is "Return to Excellence" -- knows hard times. "50% enrollment drop has Highland Park schools in crisis," the city said on its Twitter feed.
But municipal money shortages are increasingly common these days -- with each struggling city facing its own set of financial challenges. Some examples:
- The city of Central Falls, R.I., filed for bankruptcy in August. "Central Falls got into trouble, above all, by promising its police and firefighters generous retirement benefits without setting aside enough money to pay for them," The New York Times says. Post continues after video.
- The county that's home to Birmingham has averted bankruptcy -- so far. "Jefferson County, Alabama, commissioners approved a provisional agreement with holders of $3.14 billion of sewer debt to avert what would have been the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history," Bloomberg reported last month.
- The town of Gurley, Ala., is preparing for possible bankruptcy as it faces a nearly $5 million judgment after losing a court case, reports The Huntsville Times.
A Business Insider story from late last year explained some of the common causes of municipal stress, which has led to widespread cutbacks in city services:
First, the expiration of Build America Bonds will make it harder for cities to raise funds. Second, city revenues are crashing and keep getting worse. Property taxes haven't reflected the total damage from the housing crash. High joblessness is cutting into city revenues, while increasing costs for services.
What's to become of Highland Park, a town of about 14,000 that's surrounded by Detroit, which has more than its share of economic woes?
It's not a total blackout at night. DTE Energy is installing 200 poles at intersections with higher-efficiency lights, which will leave the city with 500 streetlights total. Otherwise, streets will be dark unless residents keep their outside lights on. That might be difficult in a town with a median household income of about $18,000 a year.
Mayor Hubert Yopp says most burglaries in town occur during the day, but residents and business owners are leery. Three schools were burglarized at night right after the lights went out, a school official told The Detroit News.
More on MSN Money:
obama has no control over city budgets...thats a local failure
but thanks for trying
some peoples kids
All fingers point to the president. We fail to take note that our local government has a lot to do with how the money is spent . Our people in congress are so blind that they cant come to terms with each other. Obama has nothing to do with the city not paying their bill. The Mayor and his little boys had a lot to do with it . Congress is sitting back fighting everyday over what needs to go and what needs to stay. Our President is saying :Get er Done" and they just laugh at him.Its not his fault.... Wake up America..our greedy pockets put us here in this mess.The labor unions are going under because they bargen themselves right out of a job, When is "enought" going to be enough?
Unless you're advocating bringing back slavery, nobody's going to do the work for free. Especially because they will have to be installed with union labor which will triple the price it should normally cost.
Its a bad idea to remove poles for failure to collect money. The poles should be installed with solar panels on top with light under it. city officials are stupid they have spent more in taking down the poles. this is the reason why our officials in all levels of public services don't see solutions. this was a easy fix. stupid, stupid and stupid. this poles could have free energy from the sun to power the light. small investment can go long ways. this shows how government operates. by taking down the poles, they increased crime and security. its not obama;s policy at work here, its uneducated official elected to office with no solutions. block minded people.
its waste of public money to take down the poles. other idea was to rent the poles for advertisement. i am sure wall mart would have like to finance solar poles around the city with their advertisement on it. elect good educated officials. they wrongly are penalizing citizens by removing the poles.
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