Here's another example of how the public works infrastructure of Minneapolis is going to the dogs.
In at least two known cases, canines have sustained electric shocks while urinating at the base of aging parkway light poles, where the wiring has deteriorated. The unlucky dogs let loose a stream of urine, completing an electrical circuit.
"I was walking my dog and she was sniffing near a light pole and she leaped in the air and yelped," reported Heidi Hamilton. She happens to be the city's deputy public works director. Her incident happened several years ago on Minnehaha Parkway.
After another such incident, the city began yearly checks for current leaking from deteriorating wiring at the base of the poles. It has detected one additional pole leaking current in three years of checks, according to Steve Mosing, a city traffic operations engineer.
The city has been trying to find money to speed its replacement of almost 1,800 parkway lights -- even the ones that don't leak. But a tight budget that's hampered the city's public works maintenance means that only about 250 of them have been replaced, despite city efforts to win state and regional funding for the job.
The city inherited the parkway lighting from the Park Board in a swap of duties several years ago. The lights were installed about 40 years ago, and unlike downtown streetlights, their wiring wasn't protected in conduit, Mosing said.
The problem cropped up first in the Nokomis-area ward of City Council Member Sandra Colvin Roy, who happens to head the council committee that oversees public works. She said some lights had melted snow around the base. "There's real energy lost," she said. "They are well past their expected lifetime."
It's not the first time straying voltage has posed a problem in Minneapolis parks. Runners in the annual Mud Ball footrace in a boggy section of Wirth Park reported getting electrical tingles about 30 years ago.
Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438