When Carl Williams was growing up in Akron, he knew he had to be home by the time the streetlights turned on.
Williams, now an adult living in southwest Akron, recently began noticing that many of the streetlights were burned out. At one point, he counted 40 not working within a few blocks of his home.
So he developed a plan for addressing the problem and pitched it at an Akron City Council meeting last month. City Council and other Akron leaders, impressed with Williams’ idea, recently passed a resolution supporting his program, dubbed The Brighter, The Better.
“All you guys listened and made my project come to light,” Williams, 53, told council members June 9. “Hopefully, we’ll make our neighborhoods brighter and better.”
Council President Garry Moneypenny praised Williams for bringing the idea to the city, saying, “This is the way things are supposed to work.”
Williams’ program essentially will help educate the public about a process that FirstEnergy Corp. has long had in place for addressing malfunctioning streetlights. Akron residents can report such issues to the city’s 311 information line or contact the utility directly.
They also can tie a pink ribbon around the pole to alert FirstEnergy employees of the location of a defective light.
Williams plans to meet with John Valle, the director of neighborhood assistance, and FirstEnergy officials in the next few weeks on a plan to attend community meetings across the city to let residents know about this process. FirstEnergy will provide pink ribbons.
“We want things to be brighter — to light up our neighborhoods,” Valle said.
Williams’ original idea was to encourage residents twice a year when they set their clocks forward and back to notify FirstEnergy of burned-out lights. Company officials, however, were concerned about being deluged with requests at one time. They prefer, instead, for residents to report light problems when they see them, no matter the time of year.
“If somebody notices an issue, we would rather they contact us right away,” said Mark Durbin, a FirstEnergy spokesman.
Durbin said streetlights that aren’t operating properly typically need a new bulb or photo cell, which turns on the light when the sky gets dark.
In 2013, there were about 2,700 streetlight outages reported in Akron. Within three days, 98 percent had been repaired. The others required more complicated repairs, such as a streetlight head failure or underground line work, according to FirstEnergy.
Durbin said a streetlight that is on during the day has a defective photo cell. He said FirstEnergy would like residents to report this problem in addition to streetlights that aren’t on when it’s dark.
When FirstEnergy crews are working the second or third shifts and notice a streetlight problem, they will call it in. But the company needs residents to flag lighting issues, Durbin said.
“We depend on residents who are on those streets more than employees to help with outages,” he said.
Williams, a machinist for Timken Co., is pleased that the city and FirstEnergy are embracing his program. He is a cyclist and often rides from Akron to Cleveland on the towpath and streets. He said he notices lights that aren’t properly working.
“It’s an issue,” he said. “It’s not that FirstEnergy is doing a bad job. It’s the wear and tear on the lighting.”
Williams is hoping his program gets underway by next month.
“I’d like to see as many wards done as possible prior to school starting,” he said.