Downtown alleys will soon be brightened up with LED lights

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COLUMBIA - A few alleys in downtown Columbia will soon be brightened with LED lights in hopes of making areas in downtown safer for visitors and workers who use them. 

At the city council meeting Monday, the city accepted a $2,500 donation and 25 LED lights from the Downtown Columbia Improvement District (CID). Columbia Water and Light will install 11 of the lights outside of the Eighth and Cherry Street parking garage facing the alley, which faces Broadway Brewery. 

"The Downtown CID has been working to improve the overall safety and security of the downtown area and an element that can use improvement are our alleys," CID Executive Director Katie Essing said. "They're very dark. We did a walk through with the police department several months ago and identified some areas that could be brighter. Lighting is something that is very important to making people feel safe and secure, so it's been a project that we've been working on to add light to our alleys." 

The city will also use $4,000 of the funds from the 2016 fiscal year already appropriated for street lighting to "replace existing lighting in Alley A and the alley north of Broadway," according to the city's website. Eleven of the 25 LED lights will be used for that portion of the project. 

A resident of Alley A, Ramon Gayles, parks his car at the Eighth and Cherry Street parking garage. He said he'll feel less uncomfortable when walking back from his car in the middle of the night.

"I wouldn't say I feel unsafe, but definitely sometimes there's homeless people yelling at me when it's pitch black over there," Gayles said. "I don't feel unsafe, but it's definitely disconcerting to say the least." 

He's also hoping it fixes another problem.

"We do have kind of a problem with -- I don't know if it's drunk people or homeless people -- but there's a lot of people, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, that just pee in the alley everywhere, and so definitely I think with the lights on it'll deter people from urinating in our alley," Gayles said. 

But Gayles does have a concern being a resident of the area. 

"I'm just hoping it doesn't get too bright so that way it doesn't get inside our windows at night because we literally are in Alley A, so hopefully it's not too bright," he said. "But it should be good that it lights up a little bit for us."

The other four LED lights will be held for maintenance purposes.