Port Gibson street lights are turned off to save cash

Published 12:03 pm Wednesday, November 3, 2010

PORT GIBSON — Port Gibson has turned off most of its street lights to save money, and service from another city utility is in danger of being disrupted.

“We don’t have a choice,” said Port Gibson Mayor Fred Reeves, who took office in 2008. “We don’t have a choice. The problem is, we just don’t have the revenue to meet all of our expenses. Our Entergy bill runs roughly $8,000 a month on the street lights.”

He said the city and Entergy have been working to settle a utility bill that’s six months in arrears.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The city’s solution called for about 300 of 415 street lights to be turned off, which Reeves said will be a “tremendous savings” for Port Gibson.

Last month, Port Gibson paid Entergy $10,000 toward the city’s balance of $66,000 to $70,000, said Reeves.

Entergy’s customer service manager, Don Arnold, declined to discuss Port Gibson’s account, saying only that the company and the city were working toward a solution to reduce the city’s electricity costs and usage. Lights at major intersections and near schools will be kept on.

“They compared the size of our city to Raymond, where they have about 100 or 110 lights,” Reeves said. “For a city like Port Gibson, we really shouldn’t have that many lights. We found out there were four street lights on one street, where only one house was occupied.”

Port Gibson police Chief Calvin Jackson said the shutoff, which began Monday, left the city in a “blackout.” The darkness could invite crime, he said, but beefed-up police patrols and community involvement should help.

“This is where the community comes in,” Jackson said. “If the community comes together with the police department, we can help each other deter crime.”

The Port Gibson police department has eight officers, with two per shift patrolling the city of about 2,000 people.

Meanwhile, Port Gibson’s land-line telephone service agreement with AT&T is in danger of disruption.

Reeves said the city has a 30-day extension from Oct. 19 to pay AT&T $1,838.44, otherwise service at city offices will be shut off. Claiborne, the county in which Port Gibson is located, had phone problems in 2008.

Telephone services at the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office and other county government offices were shut off for more than five days in November. The disconnect was blamed on a faulty phone system. Earlier that year, in the spring, services were temporarily disconnected while equipment was repaired. In addition, phone service was disrupted several times in 2006 and 2007.

Port Gibson operates on a $2 million annual budget. Reeves said he wasn’t sure how much of that is budgeted for utility expenses.

“I anticipate it would take another four to eight years for us to really get financially stable,” he said.

In June, the city took out a $250,000 tax anticipation loan from a $700,000 annual allotment from Grand Gulf Nuclear Station, which is just miles from the city inside Claiborne County, to meet payroll of about 40 employees and pay bills. This week, which falls under the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, paperwork for another $250,000 loan is expected to be complete, after which the city plans to make payments to its utility balances, Reeves said.

The city has also nixed cell phone payments for its six aldermen, Reeves said.