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MU, city target better lighting

May. 14, 2013 @ 11:50 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Huntington Mayor Steve Williams says his administration is working on a plan to provide more lighting around Marshall University's campus.

"This is something that we've been working on with the President's Office, American Electric Power and the state for about a month now," Williams said Tuesday. "We don't have an exact timetable or locations identified just yet, but our goal is to have it addressed by the time classes start in the fall."

Williams' comments were in response to a request from Marshall University's Student Government Association and Office of Greek Affairs that street lights be placed along a two-block stretch of 5th Avenue near campus.

During Monday's Huntington City Council meeting, Fraternity and Sorority Life Advisor Lee Tabor told council members there have been a wide range of incidents between 14th Street and Hal Greer Boulevard that could have been prevented with adequate lighting.

Students have become fearful of walking in the area, commonly known as Frat Row, at night because of threats of violence and harassment, Tabor said. His concerns were summarized in a letter to council members that was also signed by Student Body President E.J. Hassan and SGA Greek Liaison Victoria Perri.

"It is our general consensus that lighting would help to generate a heightened awareness in the area and subsequently lead to a decrease in crime in the area," the letter stated.

Williams did not address the students' concerns during the meeting but said Tuesday he is disappointed that student groups never mentioned their concerns to city officials until now.

"They're not aware of everything that is in the works," he said. "I've been on campus no less than five separate times since I was elected to talk with students, faculty and the administration, yet no one in student government has ever brought this to me as a concern."

Marshall Chief of Staff Matt Turner also said he has not heard from any groups on campus about lighting.

However, the university approached city officials a month ago about teaming up to improve lighting along 3rd and 5th avenues, he said. The state Department of Transportation, American Electric Power and Marshall's Office of Sustainability also have become involved.

"It's not in response to any specific incident," Turner said. "President Kopp has been looking at ways to make it look brighter, safer and more attractive in the areas around campus."

The idea, Turner said, is to replace existing lights with a more robust lighting system on 3rd and 5th avenues and place lights where there currently are none. There are no lights on either side of the two-block stretch of Frat Row. The state owns the lights along 3rd Avenue but the city is responsible for maintaining them. American Electric Power owns and maintains lights along 5th Avenue in the vicinity of Marshall's campus, according to city officials.

Tabor said he did not know city officials and the university had made improving the lighting system a priority before he appeared at Monday's City Council meeting.

"It's fantastic that they are ahead of our needs for once," he said. "It helps build confidence in the sense that students identify a concern and discover that the city and university are already working on it."



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