Residents in unincorporated North County are in the dark after their street lights were turned off for failure to pay a bill (Credit: KMOV).
NORTH COUNTY (KMOV.com) -- Residents in unincorporated North County are in the dark after their street lights were turned off for failure to pay a bill.
The problem is, these residents have been paying their taxes towards the lights and can't seem to get an answer on where their money is going.
"Its too dark, there could be someone hovering anywhere, its pitch black," said Carolyn Bounds, resident.
Bounds lives on Winfield Drive, which is a part of unincorporated St. Louis County, sandwiched between Vinita Park and Bel-Ridge. In late September, the street lights went out and when an Ameren worker came out to answer a call, neighbors got a surprising answer.
"They said they can't turn them on because there was an unpaid bill," said Bounds. "If its unincorporated, my thoughts were, my taxes are going to St. Louis County, if they're not, where the heck are they going?"
In parts of unincorporated St. Louis County, the residential street lights are managed by five street light districts. Bounds lives in the Wheaton-Cook-Lyndhurst District, it covers an area of about 300 homes. The districts are supposed to be managed by a board of trustees.
Cordell Whitlock, the spokesperson for St. Louis County says residents pay property tax to the county. The county then cuts a check to the board of trustees to pay the bill.
In Bounds' district though, they were falling short.
"There wasn't enough money to pay the bill," said Peggy Sue McCloskey, former board member of the lighting district.
McCloskey said she used to be on the board of the lighting district before she moved away. She just moved back to unincorporated St. Louis County to find things had gotten worse.
"It got to the point where the money coming in wasn't sustaining the whole year. We were only receiving around $1,300 every three months, when the bill was about $3,000 for that time period," said McCloskey.
The issues were that the neighborhood was hit hard during the recession, there are many empty homes, and a lot of foreclosures. Residents like Bounds say they had never even heard of the district, let alone the fact that it was struggling.
McCloskey said they are working with Ameren to lower the lighting bill. Ameren will install new LED lights that will help cut costs and the lighting district will apply for a block grant to help as well. The lights should be turned back on by the end of the second week of October.
St. Louis County says they are examining the issue at hand to see if there is more oversight that can be offered to these districts to ensure something like this doesn't happen again.
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