BELLEVILLE — Nearly a year after approval from the Belleville City Council, two streetlights intended to keep residents safe have still not been installed but a new proposal may get the lights shining soon.
Originally approved last spring, the installation of the lights in the 600 blocks of South Douglas and Pennsylvania avenues has been on hold since the fall due to a complaint from a nearby business.
Plants-N-More co-owner Larry Biegler said he contacted City Engineer Tim Gregowicz last autumn when he noticed Ameren workers preparing to install a new streetlight at 607 S. Douglas Ave. Biegler feared light shining on his greenhouses all night would harm his plants.
Mayor Mark Eckert told the City Council on Monday that the project was put on hold out of courtesy to the business. Gregowicz said the installation of a streetlight at 607 Pennsylvania Ave. was put on hold also because it was part of the same Ameren work order.
Seventh Ward Alderwoman Lillian Schneider said Gregowicz should have informed the Streets and Grades Committee and the City Council immediately that the project was on hold. Instead, she learned of the delay when a fellow Streets and Grades Committee member made a passing comment during a late February meeting.
"It reflects poorly on me," Schneider said, "It makes it look like I'm not doing my job." The project is in the 7th Ward.
Schneider acknowledged that she did not check the status of the project after it was approved. "I'm an alderman, this is not a full-time job," Schneider said. "The department heads should notify us."
To avoid a similar issue, Schneider submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the city to determine that status of all projects approved by the Streets and Grades Committee and the City Council in the past two years.
Eckert said mistakes had been made, but that they were unintentional. "This one slipped through the cracks, it was an honest mistake."
Eckert said he only became aware of the delay about six weeks earlier. When he learned that the city had been waiting since the fall for Ameren to identify an alternate location for the Douglas Avenue street light, Eckert said he demanded quick action.
"Ameren has to commit if I have to call them myself," Eckert said.
Ameren spokeswoman Stacey Shangraw said it is company policy to not comment on the details of an account.
Gregowicz, Biegler and several local residents met with Ameren on Wednesday and determined an alternate location that Gregowicz called "a good solution for the residents and the business owner."
Biegler said houses near the proposed new location on Douglas Avenue will block direct light from the streetlight from reaching the plants in his greenhouses. Gregowicz said the proposed location is at essentially the same address as that approved by the City Council.
The new location will save the city money because Ameren will be able to use an existing pole, Gregowicz said. The original approval included $2,000 for the installation of a new pole.
A local resident distributed fliers to homes in the area asking resident to contact Gregowicz by 5 p.m. Thursday with any complaints about the proposed new location. No complaints were received. Gregowicz planned to notify City Council members Friday of the proposal via email.
After Gregowicz gives Ameren the go-ahead, he expects the project to be completed in three to four weeks.
Contact reporter Roger Starkey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2535.