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Frustrated Winnipeg electrician installs flashing school zone lights himself

Click to play video: 'Superintendent and CEO of Winnipeg Mennonite Elementary and Middle Schools is in favour of  flashing school zone lights' Superintendent and CEO of Winnipeg Mennonite Elementary and Middle Schools is in favour of flashing school zone lights
WATCH: Lawrence Hamm, the superintendent and CEO of Winnipeg Mennonite Elementary and Middle Schools tells Global News he's in favour of the new light installed near the Westwood neighbourhood school – Feb 6, 2020

A Winnipeg electrician has taken matters into his own hands and installed a temporary flashing light outside a Westwood school, after he says the city dragged its feet for years.

Chuck Lewis, the general manager of Expert Electric, installed flashing solar-powered lights in Westwood on Bedson Street near Winnipeg Mennonite Elementary School Wednesday night.

“These are solar-powered school beacons that we are gifting to the city,” Lewis said.

“We’ve been trying to gift them for the past four years and we’ve hung them up temporarily, hopefully spurring the city to take action and actually install them.”

READ MORE: Winnipeg dawdles on offer of free amber school zone lights: ‘It makes no sense at all’

He said the lights are meant to warn drivers they’re approaching a 30 km/h school zone.

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Lewis said he’s been trying to get the city of Winnipeg to green-light his ‘gift’ for years.

Lewis said he offered to install the programmable lights at his own cost to better protect children around the city.

“It’s costing the city nothing. We’re supplying those beacons for free at a cost of $7,000 per school,” he said.

“We’re maintaining them for free, and with all the cuts the city is doing, it makes no sense at all they don’t step over the plate.”

Lawrence Hamm, the superintendent and CEO of Winnipeg Mennonite Elementary and Middle Schools, said Lewis approached him three years ago with the idea.

The light was installed Wednesday night. Global News

“At the time I thought it was a great idea, too, and I was happy to see it here this morning,” Hamm said.

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“Children are unpredictable. We do everything we can do to make sure we are protecting them… But kids might dart out from time to time and if we can anything to remind people they are approaching children, the better.”

Hamm said he’s only heard positive feedback from parents Thursday.

“This is a feeder street so we’ve had a few close calls here over the years,” he said. “So anything we can do to make it safer for our kids I’m in favour of.”

Last fall, the city agreed to purchase and install the lights on a pilot basis.

READ MORE: Winnipeg councillor throwing support behind free lights-in-school-zones idea

But since then, Lewis said he’d been waiting for the process to move forward.

“There’s no excuse for the city not to take these,” he said. “These are a complete gift from us.”

Todd Dube from Wise Up Winnipeg believes the reason the city isn’t accepting the offer because of the money made from speeding tickets.

Click to play video: 'Frustrated Winnipeg electrician installs flashing school zone lights himself' Frustrated Winnipeg electrician installs flashing school zone lights himself
Frustrated Winnipeg electrician installs flashing school zone lights himself – Feb 6, 2020

“They’re ticket killers. The tickets will drop here dramatically and immediately,” he said.

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Kevin Klein, the city councillor for Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood, supported Lewis’ move and said he believes he was forced to go rogue with his installation because of too much red tape at City Hall.

“It’s a result of weak leadership,” Klein told Global News. “His frustration was boiling over.. and he felt he needed to do something dramatic [to get his point across].”

Klein said the city completed a testing period with one of the lights in October, and that even during that month’s blizzard, they worked “perfectly.”

Solar power problem

The City of Winnipeg refused an interview with Global News and instead provided an email statement.

“We’ve been testing one of these units at a City facility to review their reliability, as we do not generally rely on solar-powered units for such equipment,” the City of Winnipeg’s Ken Allen said in an emailed statement.

Allen said the city hopes to finalize an agreement with Lewis’ company in the spring.

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The city also said there are no immediate plans to remove the temporary light at this time.

“However, we may need to relocate or modify it to conform to industry standards,” Allen said.

Allen said that could include correcting the height and type of pole it’s currently attached to.

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