All over St. Louis, live wires within children’s reach
The I-Team’s analysis shows that the city is slower to repair exposed wires and other light pole damage in neighborhoods where the majority of residents are black
ST. LOUIS – A well-lit street is said to be a calming sight at night. The I-Team recently found that these lights can also alert of dangers that exist near parks, bus stops, and schools at eye level for young children.
In front of Karen Kaiser’s daycare center, exposed wires run from the base of a street lamp in the city.
“It’s very nerve-wracking because I have young children who go for walks regularly and who are very curious,” she said. “It’s not safe for an adult, much less a child. When they see something like this, they want to touch it. “
Families in St. Louis learned this the hard way. As recently as 2016, a child was taken to emergency care after touching an exposed wire in Windsor Park.
Worse still, in 1990 a child was electrocuted to the exposed wires of a city light pole.
Eric Wolff, an electrician, joined the I-Team to test the wires exposed on light poles across the city.
“A child [could] Come here and play with it and touch it just right and be dead, ”Wolff said of a light pole that he had tested and on which the wires lived.
Most of the lights that Wolff tested had years of open complaints with the Citizen Service Bureau. The first stop, a light on North Grand, has been the subject of an open CSB complaint for three years.
The neighbors reported exposed wires where Clara was lit two years ago. They were still alive.
“It beeps. It tells me, hey, there is tension, ”said Wolff.
Margo Swinney told I-Team PJ Randhawa that she was constantly worried about her grandchildren and other children on her street.
“It’s live wiring, the way the hole is open, someone could hurt themselves, possibly a child, because there are a lot of kids getting off the bus right there,” Swinney said.
The photographer of the I-Team has proven that the danger also exists for adults. One wrong step and it was pierced by sharp metal coming from a light pole.
“That is dangerous. There is no sign here. It is not turned off. There is no protection,” said Wolff.
Just a block from Forest Park, on a busy Central West End street, the I-Team found street lights with missing signs and exposed cables.
“You can stroke that wire with your leg and, under the right circumstances, kill it,” said Wolff. “It has to happen if it isn’t covered up and repaired.”
The I-Team reported some light poles with exposed cables through the CSB, as the residents would do. The city dispatched crews the very next day and marked the inquiries as settled. When the I-Team returned to these light towers, they found a barrel covering live wires in one place and a few wraps of duct tape in other places.
5 On Your Side asked the city’s street manager, Jamie Wilson, if that was enough.
“If that’s all we did, no,” said Wilson. “They put a barricade over it to make it safe until you can get back.”
When Wilson saw that all inquiries were marked as done, Wilson said, “The baseplate with the tape shouldn’t be permanent … the final solution would be to bind it.”
He also made a commitment.
“I will definitely check them out.”
Swinney said she feels certain communities are waiting longer than others for permanent repairs.
“If it had been in the Central West End,” she said, “it would have been corrected the same day. You know, too much is really not being fixed here in our community. “
If you look at the census data and the five-year CSB reports, there are trends to support your guess.
Nine neighborhoods where the majority of residents are white had the fastest time to close complaints about light pole damage.
The COD data shows that it took an average of nine days to resolve these complaints.
In 22 neighborhoods where the majority of residents are black, the average response time was 40 days, more than four times as long.
Wilson says the location isn’t even a consideration for his crews.
“Everyone here comes to work to change the lights. They really don’t care where it is. We have people all over town. So, yeah, we don’t mind where it is, ”said Wilson.
The biggest barriers to the city, Wilson said, are manpower and money. Every fourth position in the street department is vacant. An average of one light pole is knocked down per day, and the replacement costs $ 1,000. Meanwhile, thieves target light poles to steal cables and covers for scrap.
Wilson said the drum-covered live cables department needs to review funding from the “original donor”. If funding is not available, the city’s solution is to install an underground “pullbox” that will securely hold the wires.
Until then, Kaiser cannot let them down.
“I should be able to send my children to the front yard and my grandson should be able to ride a scooter. And I shouldn’t have to worry that this is a security risk for him, ”she said.