City of Española and Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative are still trying to figure out who exactly owns which street lights in the city.
Española City Manager Xavier Martinez said the two organizations met Feb. 12. The goal was to address issues with billing and establish who owns which light poles.
“All this needs to be nailed down and figured out because there’s some issue with the billing,” Martinez said. “We don’t know what exactly the city is being billed for, we want to get a solid breakdown on that.”
The Co-op provides maintenance on streetlights in Española and then bills the city for the lights it owns.
Co-op General Manager Ernesto Gonzales said they were just getting started on sorting out who owns which light poles.
“We’re getting going on that,” Gonzales said. “It will probably take more meetings.”
Gonzales said the Co-op’s strategy involves identifying which poles are owned by the Co-op and which ones are owned by the city and then counting the lights in that area.
Martinez said the city had identified 180 light poles owned by the city but was waiting to get information back from the Co-op. The Co-op and the city started this audit a year ago but work delays due to COVID-19 and other issues at the Co-op put this off until now.
There was also some question about the Department of Transportation-owned streetlights Martinez said.
James Murray, the public information officer for the Department said in an email the Department simply installs the lights on state roads and bridges and only does maintenance of traffic control lights and hands off responsibility of maintenance to the local municipality.
However, Martinez said that wasn’t always the case.
“All three bridges within city limits are NMDOTs responsibility, but we’re to do maintenance,” Martinez said. “It doesn’t clearly define what kind of maintenance. For example the lights on the Paseo De Oñate Bridge, we had some vandalism where none of those lights were working.”
The first time they noticed the vandalism the city called the Department and its staff replaced the wires that were ripped out. The second time the lights were vandalized the Department passed the responsibility back to the city.
“It’s kind of vague as far as the maintenance, we’ve decided we went through our legal, with the vagueness of the documentation, the lighting might just fall under the city,” Martinez said. “Nothing is set in black and white, and that’s where we’re trying to move forward and get everything set in black and white. There’s no clear definition about where they’re going about this, we’re trying to get this confusion clarified.”
The maintenance the lights require varies but the majority was copper wire theft, Martinez said.
In the meantime the city hired a contractor, Bixby Electric, to replace the lights on San Pedro Road southbound with LED lights.
“We’re working with the contractor right now,” Martinez said. “We’re getting quotes to proceed on other outages throughout the city. Southbound on San Pedro, that’s been illuminated really nice. Next is north bound.”