The Halifax Regional Municipality is set to buy two-thirds of the street lights it currently rents from Nova Scotia Power, a move the city says will save taxpayers at least $1 million a year.
Halifax only owns the street lights in the downtown area. Elsewhere in the city, the Halifax Regional Municipality pays Nova Scotia Power $2.4 million every year to lease and maintain the lights.
Local councillors say despite the annual charge, some street lights remain dark for weeks.
"In the agreement that they have with the power corp, they pay for the inventory of the lights whether they are working or not," said Coun. Lorelei Nicoll.
"If they are burned out, they are paying for that light."
Currently, Nova Scotia Power has service orders to replace 564 street lights — including approximately 100 in the Halifax Regional Municipality — that are burned out across the province. It owns approximately 83,000 street lights total.
The Halifax Regional Municipality and NB Power check street lights at least once every five years.
Nova Scotia Power does not inspect street lights on a regular basis and relies on calls from citizens to report burnouts. The standard for repair is seven days.
Councillors frequently get calls when repairs take longer.
"They go online, they register the light that needs to be fixed and then they contact me when the time frame has elapsed and say, 'Well I reported it two weeks ago and they're saying it should be done by now,'" says Nicoll.
Nova Scotia Power said storms this winter have caused delays replacing lights, particularly in Cape Breton.
"Sometimes other priorities do take over such as storm for example," says Neera Ritcey, spokesperson of Nova Scotia Power. "Some of those timelines were impacted."
Up to 18 municipalities, including New Minas and Digby, are also negotiating to buy street lights from Nova Scotia Power before switching the lights to energy saving LEDs.
Whether municipalities choose to rent or own street lights, the switch to LEDs should lead to savings and better safety. The LEDs consume half as much energy and can be equipped with a wireless sensor that reports in when a light is out.