Albany-- County leaders discovered more than a million dollars meant to improve safety in Albany neighborhoods by improving street lighting hasn't been spent, even though it was collected more than a decade ago.
The street lighting project was included in a sales tax referendum Dougherty County voters approved in 1989. As of the end of July, only 58 percent of the city street lighting project was complete. A list from the city's engineering department shows several pages of streetlight purchase orders to WG&L, some dating back several years.
As McKinley Sapp mows the lawn his wife, Louella sits casually on the front porch passing the time by. They've lived in South Albany for more than 40 years.
"Well, I feel pretty safe out here in this area. We don't have any problems out here," says Sapp. The neighborhood is just the way they like it, quiet and safe. It's made even more safe with streetlights.
"Because you can see around your house, anything goes on you can look out the window to see if you see anything," says Sapp.
But it's not the same way in every neighborhood. "I wouldn't want to walk up under this at night," says City Commissioner Tommie Postell.
City leaders feel lack of lighting leads to more crime in the area. A big tree along Jackson Street concerns City Commissioner Tommie Postell. It hides much of a streetlight.
"Anybody can be behind that branch over there, down in a lower area in a squat," says Postell. Postell has complained about lack of streetlighting for some time now. He was surprised that there's more than a million dollars in SPLOST money that hasn't been used to fix the problem.
"Well really I was flabbergasted. It just didn't sound logical," says Postell. He says the money could be used not only for new streetlights but to replace several blown bulbs, fix malfunctions and cut limbs back from around the fixtures.
"Lighting could have been improved 15 years ago," says Postell.
"I was completely taken aback and chagrinned that we have over a milion dollars to put in streetlights and it hasn't been done," says Mayor Willie Adams.
It's a surprise for Mayor Adams also but he says his surprise will bring more streetlights soon. "I assure you as chairman of the Water Gas and Light commission that that's one of my first concerns when we meet this month," says Adams.
More lighting could mean less crime committed in the dark. "It's convenient for you to commit a crime if you feel nobody can see you," says Postell.
For Louella Sapp, if it weren't for the streetlights, things would be different. "I would not be sitting out here," says Sapp.
It makes passing the time by on the porch much more relaxing. "There's no telling what's out there," says Sapp. Soon, more neighborhoods could feel the same security.
Commissioner Postell says the city and Water, Gas and Light will need to join forces to start eliminating the streetlight problems and get more of the projects on the list completed.
We could not get in touch with representatives from Water, Gas and Light Tuesday afternoon to find out how soon the projects might get started and be completed.