Business owners are not happy about dark street
SHAMOKIN - While the world was captivated by the New Orleans Superdome lights being out for 34 minutes during Super Bowl XLVII, business owners along part of Independence Street, are not that thrilled about darkness plaguing their area various times over the past several months.
"It's not a very good situation," said Jacqueline R. Valania, owner of the Sweet Tooth Cafe. "We cater to an older crowd, and they are afraid to come out when it's this dark. It's not good for business."
The business district's street lights, running on Independence Street from Market to Liberty streets, have been out for at least five days, starting after the rain storm on Thursday.
Since Superstorm Sandy in October, there have been several instances where those lights have been out.
It makes for problems for local businesses owners.
"There are times when I leave for the day and it's pitch black outside," said Lauren Zimmerman, owner of Lauren's Hair Boutique, near the edge of the blackout area. "I worry about going out there, cause you don't know if someone's lurking."
Two doors down, the street lights are shining brightly at the public library and Original Italian Pizza, but her interior lights are the only illumination on the sidewalk outside her hair salon.
"I worry for my customers too when they leave," she said. "They have to go out in that."
Teri MacBride, regional community relations director of PPL Electric Utilities, said crews have worked on the problem and thought they had it solved until the street lights went out again a few weeks later.
"What we thought was going to be a permanent fix didn't work," MacBride said Monday afternoon. "We have found there is a defect in the circuit."
According to R. Craig Rhoades, Shamokin City councilman and director of public safety, the street lights work on two separate circuits along Independence Street - one running from Liberty Street to Shamokin Street and the other from Liberty Street to Market Street.
The outage, thankfully, does not affect traffic signals.
Valania's cafe near Ninth Street had no customers Monday evening, its bright lights shining in contrast to one of the darkest sections of town.
"There are many other businesses that are paying fewer taxes than we do and they are lit up on the streets," she said. "The winter is depressing enough, but when this is added to it, who would want to come out?"
The owners of Pat's New York Pizza, directly across the street from Sweet Tooth Cafe, took matters into their own hands, making a bright red "Pizza" sign out of rope lights and hanging it above their business.
"(The dark street lights) really haven't bothered us too much since we made our own lights," said Ryan Wagner, pizza shop manager. "Seriously, though, it is a bad situation and for the money we pay in taxes, I hope the city stays on PPL's back to get this resolved."
MacBride said PPL is committed to getting the lights back on and said a plan is in the works.
"We will be meeting with city officials later this month to discuss the matter and show them what we came up with to fix it," she said.
MacBride would not go into detail on the plan, waiting until she has a chance to present it to the city first.
"In the meantime, I hope the city and the business owners have continued patience and report any problems to us," MacBride said. "We are aware of the situation and hope that our plan will take care of the problem permanently."