MUSKEGON, MI – The lights are about to go back on in Muskegon’s Heritage Village after three years and $44,000 in fundraising.

The 24 replica historic street lights circle the block bordered by Webster and Clay avenues and Fifth and Sixth streets. An agreement approved by the Muskegon City Commission Tuesday will pave the way for the lights to be illuminated most likely within a month or so.

The lights were installed in the late 1970s to define the Heritage Village area, “which was not as solid back then as it is today,” said Terry MacAllister, a village resident and member of the Heritage Village Neighborhood Committee.

After dedicated fundraising efforts and the approval of the city agreement, work will begin to prepare the street lights for relighting. It’s hoped they will be turned back on by Thanksgiving, MacAllister said.

The Muskegon Heritage Association raised money to install 20 lights in 1978 and the city paid the electric bill for them, said Anne Dake, secretary of the association. Around 1990, the association added seven more lights and paid the electric bill on those, Dake said.

However, the association’s mission changed to focus more on its museum on Western Avenue and so it notified the city about three years ago that it could no longer afford to pay for the seven lights, Dake said. Power to all 27 lights was then turned off to the surprise of the neighborhood and the association, she said.

Power to the seven lights could not be separated from the other 20 and so the city turned them all off after the heritage association reneged on the agreement, said Muskegon Public Works Director Mohammed Al-Shatel. The lights are considered decorative and not a necessary city service, he said.

“Once the lights went out, it wasn’t an easy task to get them turned back on,” MacAllister said.

The Heritage Village Neighborhood Committee was established by the Nelson Neighborhood Improvement Association to work on getting the lights back on. An annual Car and Garden Show, featuring gardens of the village’s historic homes as well as vintage cars, was established to raise money for the street light effort.

Eventually, enough money was raised for a $17,000 street light study to tackle such issues as whether lights needed to be moved since they were placed on private property during a time when there were no public terraces along Webster, MacAllister said. Instead, easements were sought for the lights, he said.

Another $22,500, again raised by the neighborhood association’s ad hoc committee, will be spent on new wiring, meter boxes and other upgrades needed to turn the lights back on, MacAllister said.

That will leave $4,500 in the Heritage Village street light account to pay for the electric bill until the fixtures can be switched to LED, he said. Once that happens, the city will take ownership of the lights, maintain them and pay the full electric bill through June 2019, according to the recently-approved agreement.

The agreement also calls for three of the lights located in the alley between Fifth and Sixth streets to be removed.

It will cost another $25,000 to convert the street light fixtures to energy-saving LED, and MacAllister said it is hoped that grant funds will be available to cover that cost. The LED fixtures will match ones currently along Western Avenue.

For now, it’s hoped the current fixtures will be turned back on in time to make the holiday season brighter.

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