FOX 8 Defenders: NOLA tracks lowest number of street light outages post Katrina

New Orleans, La.-- On New Orleans' busy Canal Street, All-Star Electric lineman Ray Lathan replaces a burned out bulb on one of the dozens of decorative light posts.  He also makes a note that the one he's working on needs a protective globe.

Lathan is one of 14 street light crews deployed citywide and working 13-hours a day and in some cases, six and seven days a week.

"About a year ago we had about 7,000 outages, and if you remember, (Hurricane) Isaac hit, and we had 3,000 more outages because of the storm, so we ramped up the number of crews," said New Orleans Dir. of Public Works Col. Mark Jernigan.  He says the city has covered a lot of ground.

Right now, Jernigan says they're tracking about 3,000 street light outages.  "That's the lowest number of outages that we've seen since Katrina," he said.

Jernigan urges residents to report outages to the city's 311 line because inspectors take those calls and go out each day and verify them.  If there is in fact a street light outage like the one Lathan repairs on Canal Street, they'll mark it with a piece of yellow tape.  Then, once the crews get out here and repair it, they sign off on it, by marking the tape with that day's date.

The FOX 8 Defenders spotted those yellow markers in Central City too.  Another electric lineman replaced a conventional fixture on Second street with a new, more energy-efficient LED light.

"We're also saving maintenance costs because the design life for those lights is five to seven years as opposed to the high pressure sodium mercury vapor the conventional lights that we have.. their life is about two to three years," said Jernigan.

Every street light on the Broad Street and Jeff Davis Parkway overpasses at I-10 has been converted to LEDs.  Another example is the corner of Magazine at First Street.  Some residents in the Irish Channel feel they've seen a positive difference.  "My neighbor, her light went out a couple of months ago, and they were really quick with responding so I've been happy," said Brigitte Hebert.

Across town, in Hollygrove, residents say they're not seeing progress fast enough.  "If the church light's not on across the street, it's real dark in the neighborhood," said Demetrice Joseph.  "We've been having problems for more than a year right now.. more than a year.. no lights or either dim lights," said Frances Brown.

While there are pockets of problem areas, the city tells the FOX 8 Defenders crews have repaired over 14,300 light outages this year to date, but Jernigan also points out not every repair is changing a bulb.  Some are more complicated problems that can require infrastructure work.