FOX 8 Defenders: Streetlight repairs and budget questions

New Orleans, LA - Ann Marie Coviello says streetlights on her 7th Ward block of North Rocheblave have been out for months.

"It's very dark on this street, it's very dark on our neighboring street, it's very dark on our main street of Esplanade," says Coviello.

They're some of the more than 6,000 streetlight outages across the city, and Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant says that's actually down from 16,000 outages in New Orleans two years ago.

He told council members Wednesday that many of the outages are more costly and require much more than changing a bulb.

"My goal... to bring to you at the next budget committee... additional funding to fund the backlog.  We're going to increase the maintenance contract to increase staffing, alter work hours to seven days a week, 12 hours a day. Based on this plan, my goal is to have every streetlight on in 2012," said Grant.

When Councilwoman Stacy Head questioned the public works budget to accomplish those goals, there was a discrepancy.

"We as a council have been presented with a departmental budget of a little more than $18 million, and a subset of that included 3.225 million in streetlight repairs.  But you, as the head of that department, have now testified that you're only being given $1.5 million to go to streetlight repairs.  We have a real gap there and a real problem," said Head.

"I just want the facts here," said Councilwoman Susan Guidry. "Where did $1.7 million go?"

"A portion of that maintenance is for other things, other maintenance.  It always has been. I'm sorry if somebody was mistakenly sitting here and thinking that all 3.225 million was for streetlight maintenance repair," said Grant.

"You all need to tell us what amount of money is needed because our constituents are demanding that we provide lighting in this city as a safety measure," said Councilman Jon Johnson.

The streetlight concerns weren't limited to neighborhoods.

"I know on the interstate, I-10, I-610, over 50 percent of the lights are out," says New Orleans resident Edward Feinman.

We found a stretch of I-10 near City Park Avenue in the dark. The only working streetlights we saw there were actually some distance away, in Jefferson Parish.

The deputy mayor said he'll find other funding sources.  But long term, he said, the city will need to overhaul its old and outdated system.

Ann Marie Coviello just wants some light, especially with Jazz Fest goers who will soon be parking and walking through her neighborhood to get to The Fair Grounds next weekend.