The cost to repair or replace the lights and outlets in Downtown is too high for the Lodi City Council.
Lodi Electric Utility Director Elizabeth Kirkley told the council at its Tuesday morning shirtsleeve session that the cost to hire a licensed electrical contractor to repair the lights would be $225,700.
The council asked City of Lodi staff to return in the future with less expensive options for bringing lights back to Downtown.
Kirkley said the city does not have its own licensed contractor on staff, and electric utility staffers are not trained to replace the underground wiring and conduit in question.
The $225,700 would cover the removal of 150 flat and round lights, called up lights, at the base of the trees along School Street. The cost would also cover replacing, relocating or completely removing 184 outlets at the base of the trees.
Kirkley said tree roots have disrupted the underground conduit, and mud and water have been able to seep into the up lights, rendering them inoperable. The outlets have been damaged by weather, vandals and motorists, also leaving them inoperable over the last year.
Relocated outlets would be placed closer to the curb to keep motorists from hitting them as they try to parallel park, Kirkley said.
The up lights could either be replaced with energy-efficient lights at the base of the trees or removed completely, she said.
Maintenance on the lights would cost $16,600 annually.
Kirkley also suggested keeping decorative lights on the Downtown trees throughout the year. Stringing and restringing the lights would cost $10,600 annually.
Kirkley said the city could use $35,700 from its Public Benefits Funds program to pay for removing the existing lights and installing new energy-efficient bulbs. Under California law, all electric service providers in the state must maintain a public benefits program to support renewable energy and efficiency programs.
However, the city would then have to find other funding sources to cover the remaining repair and replacement work, as well as the operation and maintenance costs.
Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce liked the idea of having decorative lights on the trees year-round, and suggested the city begin funding the maintenance cost for them, as it used to do for holiday decorations.
Until 2012, the city donated $35,000 to the Downtown Lodi Business Partnership each year for holiday decorations and festivities. When the DLBP disbanded earlier this year, decoration costs were left to local merchants and property owners.
There were few Christmas lights in Downtown last December, after city officials told local merchants the outlets were not working.
“I think (year-round decorative lights) would add a certain ambiance to Downtown, and many locals would enjoy it as much as tourists,” Mounce said. “We used to put $35,000 into the DLBP each year. Why can’t we do that again?”
Vice Mayor Larry Hansen said the cost for a licensed contractor was too expensive, and asked staff to look at less expensive alternatives, such as simply removing all the lights and outlets along Walnut, Oak, Pine and Elm streets.
“I would just focus on School Street,” he said. “(The holiday lights are) something people look forward to seeing lit up. (Having permanent decorative lights) does create some ambiance all year, but it does add to the cost.”
Lodi District Chamber of Commerce CEO Pat Patrick told the council that the Downtown merchants, property owners and city need to work together to get the lights working again so that Downtown can be lit up for the holidays.
“Even though our residents certainly enjoy (the decorative lights) at the holidays, people come from Sacramento, the Bay Area, Turlock and Modesto to enjoy them as well,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a celebration for them. (Visitors) expect something different, something fun and unique, and (the lights) certainly add to that.”
Schwabauer said city staff would look at other options, estimate the costs and return with findings at a regular city council meeting some time in the future.
Contact reporter Wes Bowers at firstname.lastname@example.org.