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Who Turned Out the Lights?

And whose job is it to turn them back on?

When Charles Kaprielian jogs along Brickyard Road in the mornings, he hits a dark spot near the corner. “Really, there’s only two lights working in that stretch,” he said.

Kaprielian identifies that part of Brickyard as between 7812 and 8502, where the road makes a sharp turn. “The area’s pretty much pitch black as you turn the corner,” he said.

Kaprielian said he noticed that one of the lights has been out since he moved into the area in June of 2001. There are no houses on either side of the road, which contributes to a lack of light.

He began calling Pepco on Nov. 15, telling them the pole numbers and that the lights were out.

“The problem is that the system is geared to house numbers and there are no houses there,” Kaprielian said.

“On Dec. 2, I was informed they were fixed,” Kaprielian said. But the lights were still out on Dec. 10.

Street light repairs are proceeding more slowly than usual as a result of this year’s harsh weather, said Pepco spokesperson Robert Dobkin.

“Crews that would normally be doing this kind of thing are out doing repairs” to power lines, Dobkin said.

He said that outages like this are put into Pepco’s computer system and are fixed in order of priority. Dobkin believes that the lights will be repaired before Dec. 19.

He could not estimate how long a repair would normally take under ideal circumstances. “There are no typical circumstances.”

Kaprielian thinks that utilities should be more proactive in repairing streetlights. “If nobody reports it, do these things stay out forever?”

The sheer number of streetlights prohibits a centralized, electronic monitoring system, said Esther Bowring, spokesperson for the Montgomery County Department of Transportation and Public Works.

The County is responsible for some of the lights, typically, the poles upon which Pepco has its high-voltage wires, are the responsibility of Pepco. “They don’t want the county touching their poles,” Bowring said.

When county work crews notice that a light is out, they will report it, Bowring said. Citizen notifications also play a part. “You kind of rely on both,” she said.