City to inspect poles when replacing street lights

A light pole that came crashing down in Village Park Monday has been replaced. City crews put up a new light pole Tuesday on Opeha St., replacing the one that got toppled over during strong winds.

Residents in the area said the pole had been rusty and corroded for about 10 years.

The city does not have an inspection program for light poles, despite the fact that there are 51,000 street lights on the island. The city says it doesn’t have the money or staff to maintain one.

“For us to stop funding other programs, like providing better lighting to fund pole inspections, is something that’s not going to be productive,” said Ross Sasamura, director of the Dept. of Facility Maintenance.

It doesn’t happen often, but light poles have fallen twice in less than a year. In addition to the light pole that fell in Waipahu Monday, a pole attached to a traffic signal on Atkinson Dr. toppled last June. No one was injured.

“The critical thing for us now is to look at other ways of having the poles inspected and one of the ways to do that is to inspect the poles as new LED light fixtures are retrofitted,” Sasamura said.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell recently announced efforts to retrofit all poles with LED lights to cut costs. The city now says while the lights are being replaced, the structure of each pole will also be inspected at the same time.

A different department, Transportation Services, takes care of the lights that are attached to traffic signals, like the one that fell on Atkinson. Director Mike Formby is asking for $180,000 in the budget to get his own inspection program off the ground.

“What we’re trying to do right now is a systematic inspection program, where we go through the county and inspect all the traffic lights in this region and we move through the county,” he said.

The city won’t start inspecting and retrofitting lights with LEDs until the next fiscal year begins in July. Until then, officials ask residents to report any pole that needs to be fixed.

“Next time I guess we’re going to have to keep our eyes open and report it,” said Waipahu resident Calvin Yee. “They did a good job and I’m glad. Thanks to you guys for running the story and getting the city’s attention.”

If you want to report a street light or pole that needs to be repaired, call 768-5300 or 768-3343.

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