LEIGHTON — A town councilman has submitted a list of about 17 street lights that could be shut off as a way to reduce the city’s operating costs.
The rural east Colbert County town is facing severe budget problems and has been exploring different ways to reduce monthly expenses.
The topic of turning off some street lights came up at the council’s December meeting and again during a meeting Jan. 10, Mayor John Landers said.
He said Councilman Lowell McKay presented the council with a list of lights that could be shut off without severely impacting residents.
“We’re planning on getting with Sheffield power and looking at that,” Landers said.
He said most of the street lights are on old Alabama 20 as it passes through town. Landers said the road is no longer the main highway into town as it once was, so removing those lights would not be an issue.
“We probably have more lights there than we need,” Landers said. “There are 17 we could cut off and not notice it that much. We aren’t looking at anything in the residential areas.”
Matt Bernauer, senior electrical engineer for Sheffield Utilities, said it’s difficult to calculate an average cost of a street light because of the wide range of sizes and types that are used.
“Our records show that most of the city lights along old Highway 20 are 400-watt cobra head fixtures,” Bernauer said. “Though rates change monthly due to the TVA fuel cost adjustment, cutting off 17 of these lights could save Leighton a little over $200 per month.“
The council already has taken other steps to reduce expenses.
In December, the council members voted to place City Clerk Destin Berryman and two maintenance workers on part-time status. Before that, the council eliminated one full-time and a part-time position in the Police Department.
The council also changed it’s payroll from weekly to twice monthly
Landers said it will take another month or so to determine how reducing the three employees’ hours will affect monthly expenses.
The cuts and other changes went into effect Jan. 1.
Leighton was in good shape financially after it received about $800,000 in 2009 by selling its share of the Lawrence-Colbert Gas District.
The council used some of the money to pay off all of the town’s outstanding debts.
Problems began when city officials began spending the remaining money from the deal until it was gone.
An audit of the town’s revenues and expenditures showed Leighton took in $684,212 in revenue during the 2011-12 fiscal year, and spent $942,925, leaving a deficit of $258,000. The town also lost about $50,000 during the past three years because of overdraft fees.
“They were keeping things paid until they ran out of money,” Landers said. “We’re still operating. We’re still open for business.”
Russ Corey can be reached at 256-740-5738 or russ.corey@TimesDaily.com.