Debate Over Utility Hike Could Leave Part Of One San Joaquin Community In The Dark

STOCKTON (CBS13) – In the next few weeks, portions of San Joaquin County’s Garden Acres community will go dark after several homeowners voted against a proposal to increase the amount of money they pay to keep the lights on.

Garden Acres is just one of the county-operated maintenance districts in the region struggling financially.

The county was asking for $23 more a year to pay for street light services, but since residents voted against it, officials are now forced to turn them off.

Homeowner Gabriel Monroy has lived in the Garden Acres community since 1984 and is concerned over the county turning off the few streetlights they have in the neighborhood.

“It’s terrible and scary when they enter here, my goodness,” he said.

His children spend most of their time playing outdoors and sometimes walk down to the community park, but with no street lights, he says, after dark, the children will have to play indoors.

“For the kids, it’s different. They need the lights for the park, and for playing in the streets,” said Monroy.

County officials proposed raising the $17/year fee for streetlight services, to $40/year — and same thing with the community’s storm drain maintenance fee: from $17/year to $84/year.

But homeowners voted against it.

“The cost of providing services still are comparatively low compared to other agencies. However, the rates that we have right now cannot be sustained to provide the services,” said Kris Balaji, San Joaquin County public works director.

Homeowners were notified of the proposed hike by mail and there was even a public meeting to discuss the change, but county officials say not a lot of people showed up. Now, they are looking at other ways to help homeowners save money.

“The county has embarked on an energy efficiency audit to see where we can change…that could eventually reduce the cost of providing services, which would reflect in the rates…and we’re looking at those kinds of stuff,” he said.

County officials say only a few of the streetlights will be turned off. The rates not increased in the area since 1989.

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