Saturday, December 03, 2005

Moving Streetlights

If you're a loyal and dedicated reader of this blog, you know that I recently built a new garage in front of my house. Now that I have a new garage, I also have a wider driveway. Unfortunately, I can't widen the street approach to the driveway, because there's a streetlight in the way. That's only a temporary setback, since streetlights can easily be moved. As a matter of fact, before I even began this project, I asked the city if it was possible to get a streetlight moved. They told me it was, but they stressed that I'd be responsible for any costs.

As it turns out, the process for getting a streetlight moved is fairly straightforward. I had to get the approval of my neighbors, the city had to fill out a one-page form and send it to the utility company, and the utility company had to come out and do the work.

Considering how simple this process is, you might be surprised to learn that more than four months have passed since I first contacted the city, but the streetlight still hasn't moved. In case you're wondering how this could be, I've briefly outlined the sequence of events below.

I asked the city how to get a streetlight moved.

The city told me I needed to contact the utility company.

I asked the utility company how to get a streetlight moved.

The utility company told me to contact the city.

I told the utility company that the city said to contact them.

The utility company told me that the city needs to fill out a Streetlight Authorization form.

I asked the utility company to fax the form to the city.

The utility company complied.

A week or so later, I called the city to see if they'd filled in the form and faxed it back to the utility company. The woman assigned to my case wasn't there so I left her a message.

That night when I returned home from work, I saw that she'd left me a message informing me that they never received the fax, and asking me to get a new blank Streetlight Authorization form from the utility company.


(By the way, it would have been just as easy for her to call the utility company directly, since I'd given her the number. If you're wondering why she asked me to call the utility company instead of just calling the utility company herself, you're in good company. I wonder about that myself.)

The next day, I asked the utility company to fax the form to the city again. I also asked them to mail me a copy so I could deliver it to them in person, in case the city didn't receive the second fax.

I called the city to verify that they received the fax, and the woman assigned to my case confirmed that they did. She also told me that I needed to get a signed statement from my nearby neighbors attesting that they have no objections to the moving of the streetlight.

About a week later, I delivered the signed statements to the city in person, but the woman assigned to my case was on vacation.

A week or so after she returned, I asked her what the status was.

She told me she still didn't have the signed statements from my neighbors.

I told her that I dropped them off a couple of weeks earlier.

She searched around for a while and finally confirmed that they've been sitting in her in-basket for the past week.

A few days later, she called to tell me that she filled out the Streetlight Authorization form and faxed it to the utility company.

A couple of weeks later, I called the utility company to find out the status.

The utility company told me that they haven't received the completed Streetlight Authorization form yet.

I asked the city to fax it again, and to call me as soon as they've faxed it, so I could call the utility company and confirm that they received it.

A few hours later, the city called me to let me know that they faxed the form to the utility company.

I called the utility company, and the planning assistant verified that she received the fax.

A couple of weeks later, I called the utility company to find out the status.

The planner told me that he didn't have the completed Streetlight Authorization form.

I told him that the city faxed it twice already, and I asked him to check with the assistant planner.

He checked with her, and called me back a few hours later to verify that the form was in his possession.

I asked him when they could begin the work.

He told me that a work order needed to be created first.

I asked him how long it would take to create a work order.

He told me it would take approximately two weeks.

Approximately two weeks later, I called the planner to see if the work order had been created.

The woman who answered the phone told me that the planner had been transferred to a different department, and offered to connect me with the new planner.

I took her up on her offer, and left a message with the new planner, explaining that I needed a streetlight moved and asking if he knew whether or not the work order had been created yet.

He called me back the following day and asked me how he could help me.

I repeated what I told him in my earlier message.

He told me that he had no record of my file, and asked me to fax him the completed Streetlight Authorization form again.


(At this point, more than four months after I initiated the process, I wasn't happy to find that we were essentially back to Square One.)

I called the city and told them that they needed to fax the completed Streetlight Authorization form to the utility company again.

The woman assigned to my case told me that she couldn't find my file, which meant that they no longer had the completed Streetlight Authorization form and were therefore unable to fax it to the utility company.

I scanned the blank form that the utility company had sent me earlier and emailed it to the woman assigned to my case. In my message, I asked her to fill out the form and fax it to the utility company.

She emailed me back about an hour later, asking me to fill out the form and send it back to her, so she could fax it to the utility company.

Since I had no idea how to fill out the form, I called the planner at the utility company, who told me which fields needed to be filled in.

After I filled out the form, I faxed it to the woman assigned to my case. Then I called to tell her that it needed to be signed by an authorized city official before it could be faxed to the utility company.

She told me that the authorized city official was on jury duty and wouldn't be back for another week or so.

I asked her to fax me a copy of the completed form after she faxed it to the utility company.

Miraculously, she found an authorized city official who wasn't on jury duty, and got that person to sign the form. She faxed a copy to the utility company and faxed another copy to me.


So that's where things currently stand. I've probably omitted a few phone calls, since this account is from memory and I don't remember all the details. But that's probably for the best, since it'll help keep this post to a reasonable length.

At this point, it's difficult to tell who is more inefficient: the city or the utility company. So far, I'm leaning toward the utility company. But, unlike his predecessor, the new planner actually seems to know what he's doing, so that could tilt things in favor of the utility company. Still, it's a close race, and we won't know for sure until after the streetlight gets moved. And when that will be is anybody's guess.

I realize that this post might not be as fascinating as many of my other posts. Normally I don't post anything here unless I think it will be of value to the world at large. This post is an exception -- I wrote it mostly to relieve my frustration. And it seems to have done the trick, since at this point, my frustration is for the most part relieved. However, the streetlight hasn't been moved yet, and I still have no idea when it will be, so there's plenty of opportunity for more frustration in the future.