Dozens of North Lake Tahoe street lights to be turned off |

Dozens of North Lake Tahoe street lights to be turned off

Margaret Moran
Street lights on Dolly Varden Avenue can be seen lit Monday evening. The North Tahoe Public Utility District, which has paid to keep street lights mainly in Kings Beach and Tahoe Vista illuminated for decades, has decided to no longer cover the electric bill.
Margaret Moran / Sierra Sun |

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Visit and click on the Oct. 13 board packet to learn more about the 96 street lights and their location.

KINGS BEACH, Calif. — After decades of covering the cost to illuminate several communities at night, the North Tahoe Public Utility District recently decided it’s time for lights out.

Earlier this month in a 5-0 vote, the PUD board of directors ruled that the district should no longer pay to light 96 street lights located between Dollar Hill and Crystal Bay.

“We certainly don’t want anyone to be injured as a result of it being dark, but it’s just not our duty,” said Duane Whitelaw, NTPUD interim general manager/CEO. “ … We’re not in the street light business.”

The PUD, which provides sewer and water service to North Shore residents and operates recreational facilities, has been paying approximately $18,000 annually to keep these 96 lights lit, he said.

It’s a practice the district believes started roughly 50 years ago, with NTPUD residents individually approaching the district with the request of putting a light on their street, Whitelaw said.

Prior to the board’s Oct. 13 decision, the district reach out to Placer County and Caltrans — agencies that are more typically involved in street lighting — about possibly taking over the responsibility of powering those street lights.

Transfer of power

Of the 96 street lights, Placer County will take on approximately 53 — 17 of which will be replaced by lighting that was installed as part of the Kings Beach Commercial Core Project, said Peter Kraatz, assistant director for the county’s Department of Public Works.

“We did some due diligence from the Public Works side of the county to say, ‘What lights makes sense from a pedestrian, motor safety (stance) along county roads?’” he explained at an Oct. 1 Transportation Management Association board meeting.

Based on that criteria, the county identified 36 lights beyond the 17 replacement lights, all located in Kings Beach at Grid intersections, near Kings Beach Elementary School and along newly installed sidewalks.

“We know we have more pedestrian activity on the streets with our sidewalks,” Kraatz said at the TMA meeting. “It makes sense to keep those lights illuminated if we can.”

The county estimates it will cost about $10,000 annually to keep those 53 lights lit, with funding coming from a portion allocated to the department of public works and facilities from Placer County’s general fund budget, Kraatz said.

“Ten thousand dollars is something we, as a county, feel comfortable absorbing for safety purposes,” he said.

In addition, Placer County will share the expense of lighting three other street lights with Caltrans — two along Highway 267 at the intersections of Dolly Varden Avenue and Speckled Avenue, and one along Highway 28 at Brassie Avenue.

Under that scenario, Caltrans will pay 67 percent of the electric bill for those lights, with Placer County covering the remainder.

Kraatz said that would likely add a couple hundred dollars to the county’s $10,000 expense.

Meanwhile, Caltrans will likely cover the entire fee for a light along Highway 28 on the outside curve near East Agatam Avenue, said Steven Nelson, Caltrans District 3 public information officer.

Lights out

As for the remaining 39 lights, they will not be paid to be kept on by any of the three agencies.

“(They) do not meet either Placer County or Caltrans’ standards as necessary for public safety and/or highway transportation,” according to the NTPUD. “None of the 96 lights illuminate district water, sewer or recreation facilities.”

Jeff Matthews, manager, engineering and planning for Liberty Utilities, confirmed that company received notification from NTPUD regarding its intent to stop paying for the lights.

In its 30-day notice issued Oct. 13, the PUD stated it would pay for service of those lights up to Nov. 20, Matthews said.

By that date, Placer County and Caltrans need to start the process with Liberty Utilities on which lights they will take on, he said.

“After that date, service to those (other) street lights will be terminated because, as a regulated utility, Liberty cannot provide service to inactive accounts and/or meters,” Matthews said.

For the lights to be turned off, a lineman will need to visit each street light, he said. It’s unknown when that would occur, but its “not a priority” and would be done as time allotted.

As a result, the street lights intended to be shut off won’t go out immediately.

According to the NTPUD, those interested in this matter should contact Liberty Utilities, Placer County or Caltrans with any concerns or to make other arrangements for lighting.

“We’re holding firm that we are not in the street lighting business,” Whitelaw said.

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