Neighborhood in the Dark Over Street Light Agreement

BLYTHEWOOD – At the Town Council meeting on Monday, Ashley Oaks homeowner Jeff Henry presented Council with a petition signed by 107 (or 88-1/2 percent of) Ashley Oaks residents calling on Blythewood Town Hall to reinstate its seven-year practice of paying for the street lighting in Ashley Oaks.

Henry said that about 15 years ago Ashley Oaks residents were approached by Town Hall to annex into the Town with the promise, among other things, that the Town would provide street lighting and mowing along roads in the subdivision when it came time for the developer to turn those responsibilities over to the residents of Ashley Oaks. Henry said it was a promised condition of annexation and presented a letter, signed by Lorrain Abell (Town Administrator under the Roland Ballow administration prior to 2004) encouraging Ashley Oaks residents to annex into the Town, extolling the benefits of Town residency and promising the provision of lighting and mowing to Ashley Oaks.

Henry recounted that, until 2006, the lighting and mowing for the subdivision were provided by developer Mike Shelly. After that time these services became the responsibility of the homeowners. M. B. ‘Pete’ Amoth, who was then mayor of the Town and a resident of Ashley Oaks, agreed to honor what the residents said was the Town’s agreement to take over the lighting and mowing.

But this past summer, Henry said residents began to be billed for those services.

“We didn’t get a letter or anything, just started getting a bill,” Henry said. Now the residents want the Town to keep the original agreement they say it made with them during the late 1990s.

Mayor J. Michael Ross told Henry that he, personally, had pulled the plug on the Town providing that service. “And I stand by my decision,” Ross said. “I don’t think it’s fair for the Town to pay for one subdivision’s street lighting and not the others. And the Town can’t afford to pay for them all.”

Ross said he had never heard of a subdivision’s lighting being paid for by a Town government.

“When I learned that the Town was paying for Ashley Oak’s street lighting, I couldn’t find any agreement or paperwork in that regard,” Ross said. Ross blamed any agreement on the government’s annexation representative at the time.

Henry told The Voice after the meeting, however, that he didn’t believe there was an annexation representative then, that the promise was made by the Town’s administration directly.

Henry countered that paying for street lighting in subdivisions was a common practice in other towns and called on the Town Government to pay for lighting in all the Town’s subdivisions, not just Ashley Oaks.

“The town I grew up in provided street lighting,” Henry said, suggesting that the Town use money provided through the Aid to Political Subdivisions.

Councilman Ed Garrison asked Henry how much each home has to pay for the street lights and Henry said Fairfield Electric Co-Op had agreed to charge them only what the Town had been paying — $4 per house. But he said the money amount wasn’t the issue.

“The Town made the agreement to do this if we would annex into the Town, and the Town should keep its word.”

Ross told Henry he would re-look at the issue, but felt he would probably stick with his decision that the Town should not pay for Ashley Oak’s street lighting.

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