Spotlight Put On Streetlight Fees In Memphis

(Memphis) You could call it one of the most illuminating issues that will impact Memphis Light, Gas and Water customers.

It all has to do with how much you should pay for the operation and maintenance of the city’s 82,000 streetlights that are in residential and commercial areas and along the interstate system.

Customers such as Jason Walker and Stephanie Birdo say they wouldn’t mind paying a fee that’s fair for everyone.

“I think the flat rate is the way go. I think it’s fair for everybody,” Walker said.

“A flat rate would sound pretty good, especially for people in homes,” Birdo said.

The street light fee has the Memphis City Council and Memphis Light, Gas and Water Board at odds.

The dispute is over whether or not apartments should get a different rate than single-family residential units.

Right now, apartment tenants pay $1.08 a month and single family units pay $4.32 a month.

This week, the city council recommended a flat single residential rate for everyone at $3.17 a month.

Jerry Collins is the president and CEO of MLGW. He says the MLGW Board rejected the single rate plan because it would be unfair to some customers.

“They felt it would be inappropriate because that would essentially transfer wealth from lower-income families to higher income families and they didn’t feel that was fair,” Collins said.

Until this year, the City of Memphis used property tax dollars to run streetlights, but in June, the city council approved a resolution that transferred ownership of the streetlights to MLGW itself.

City Council Chairman Jim Strickland says the street light fee hasn’t worked so far and needs to be scrapped.

“I honestly don’t know what to do now because it’s a complete mess and we don’t need this light fee at all and we should pay for things out of our operating budget,” Strickland said.

The MLGW Board passed a resolution yesterday. It will go before the city council in two weeks.

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