A HANDBAG snatch and other muggings in Mountrath have been blamed on poor street lighting.
Cllr James Kelly made the claim as he appealed for more public lighting at Fr O’Connor Crescent and around the town’s fire station.
At the latest meeting of Borris-in-Ossory/Mountmellick Municipal District, cllr Kelly said street lights in both locations need to be upgraded and increased to improve visibility and safety at night.
The non-party councillor said there were a couple of muggings in Fr O’Connor Crescent because of inadequate street lighting and he knew of one woman whose handbag was stolen.
He also asked for brighter public lights at Mountrath fire station, commenting that the current three or four street lights are not adequate for fire-fighters responding to an emergency.
Acting senior engineer Farhan Nasiem replied that both locations would be inspected by the county council’s public lighting section, but any upgrading would depend on funding being available. He said: “The public lighting operational budget is limited to pay for energy bills and keep existing lights working. There is no funding available to upgrade existing lights and install new lights within that budget.”
The engineer gave the same reply to cllr Brendan Phelan, who asked for street lighting to be extended out to the burial road on Donaghmore Road in Rathdowney. Cllr Phelan pointed out that there are new housing estates on the road and the council had already extended the footpath out to the graveyard.
He added: “It is very dark there for children coming home from school in winter and we have to put up a couple of street lights there.”
Similar concern about other areas led cathaoirleach John King to call for a council survey on “the serious problem” of street lighting in towns and villages throughout the municipal district. He said the outskirts of many towns and villages are left in the dark as populations expand and new houses are built.
Cllr King urged: “We need a council survey to see what can be updated and fixed and to see where new public lights are needed due to our towns increasing in size. I would say lights are needed on the approach roads to all our towns and villages.”
Cllr King added that two lights are broken outside the Church of Ireland hall in Rathdowney and the lights have not been cleaned in two or three years. The area around the former meat factory is also very dark.
Cllr Brendan Phelan said that while he didn’t want to criticise the company that was awarded the contract for replacing light bulbs, he was aware that some bulbs were not replaced for many months. He asked whether a small electrical contractor could be appointed just to replace broken bulbs, as the main contractor was clearly too busy for such a small-but-important job.
Mountmellick councillor Paddy Bracken disagreed, as in his experience the main contractor was very efficient and bulbs were replaced within two or three days.
Mr Nasiem pointed out that a national review is underway to replace all existing high-energy lights to high-efficiency LED lights. Once the review is completed and funding is allocated, all existing lights will be upgraded to LED, which cost just 50c each a week to run, compared with €2 a week for the old lights. Contracts to install the lights will be awarded on a regional basis.