As he walked along East University Avenue away from central campus, LSA senior Andrew Preston said he agreed with a Michigan Student Assembly initiative to improve lighting near campus.
“It’s a good idea,” Preston said. “Someone got mugged here the other day.”
He was referring to a Feb. 19 robbery that took place near the intersection of Arch Street and Packard Street. A man claiming to have a knife mugged a 22-year-old man outside of an apartment building on Packard Street.
The intersection of East University Avenue, Arch Street and Tappan Street – known as “The Triangle” because of the intersection’s shape – is the focus of an MSA plan to install new streetlights. The area is currently dimly lit at night.
MSA decided to tackle off-campus lighting after receiving student complaints. In January of 2006, assembly members began an annual “safety walk” through campus with Department of Public Safety officials.
MSA President Mohammad Dar said that MSA’s focus on the city of Ann Arbor’s recently passed lease-signing ordinance put the lighting project on hold.
“That required attention at the time,” Dar said of the lease-signing ordinance. “The big thing we’re pushing for right now is the street lighting.”
Three areas – the Triangle, the Cambridge Housing area and North State Street near Kerrytown – were initially considered for lighting improvements. After hearing from the Ann Arbor City Council that improvements on all three areas would cost upwards of $20,000, the assembly decided to focus on the area that benefits students most for right now.
Because of shortfalls in recent years, the city is experimenting with cost-saving LED street lighting. If LED lighting reduces the city’s energy and maintenance costs, the city may cancel the moratorium on streetlights.
Mike Bergern, Ann Arbor assistant field operations manager, said the city would assess the Triangle to determine how much, if any, light is needed.
Bergern said the assessment also serves as an appraisal to determine the potential cost of the project.
The city requires that all lighting projects provide a 10-year cost estimate. Ann Arbor also demands that the entire estimated cost be paid up front.
Based on preliminary reports using estimates for traditional streetlights, each new light would cost about $1,700 over 10 years, including energy and maintenance, MSA Rep. Nick Assanis said. MSA wants to install six lights in the Triangle area, a total of more than $10,000. If LED lights were used, the costs would be even higher.
Dar said MSA wouldn’t use student funds to pay for the lighting because the project wouldn’t necessarily benefit every student. Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said DPS wouldn’t fund the project because it only has jurisdiction on the University campus.
Because campus jurisdiction only includes campus buildings and dormitories, the Triangle is not technically on campus.
Property owners in the area would likely shoulder some of the cost for the new lighting, Assanis said. Each property owner would be assessed a one-time fee of about $100 to cover installation and 10 years of maintenance and energy for the six lights.
There are about 170 homes in the area. A public hearing would be held for all affected property owners before the fee was administered, Assanis said.
MSA would need to present its case to City Council to institute the plan. Dar said MSA would have a proposal ready for City Council by the end of the term.
Assanis said he hoped to see progress by next fall, but couldn’t promise a specific date.