Riverview Christmas lights to shine on after 3,600 metres of copper wire stolen

·3 min read
Riverview's Christmas lights display runs for one kilometre along the waterfront and contains about 52,000 lights. (Brent Smith/Osprey Cove Productions for the Town of Riverview - image credit)
Riverview's Christmas lights display runs for one kilometre along the waterfront and contains about 52,000 lights. (Brent Smith/Osprey Cove Productions for the Town of Riverview - image credit)

More than 52,000 Christmas lights will shine again in Riverview, after the theft of a huge amount of underground copper wire this summer.

The council in the New Brunswick town has voted to continue with the Light Up Riverview display after the theft — involving 3,600 metres of underground copper wire and 46 electrical boxes — prompted town staff to review its future.

The repair work is expected to cost more than $58,000.

"It is a staggering figure to absorb," David Shea, Riverview's director of parks, recreation and community relations, told councillors Monday evening.

Riverview Mayor Andrew LeBlanc said the theft was disappointing.

"We've put a lot of money into growing this program," LeBlanc said in an interview Tuesday. "It's been great for our residents. It's brought people into our town. It brings a lot of joy to Riverview residents."

The display with lights in trees, a gazebo and mini-covered bridge stretches about a kilometre along the Petitcodiac River west of the Gunningsville Bridge.

A staff report to town council says the community has spent about $165,000 purchasing and installing additional lights since the project began in 2016. Maintenance over the years has totalled about $50,000, in part due to vandalism but mainly from weather damage.

The more recent theft prompted town staff to go to council Monday asking whether to completely abandon the display, or install new wiring.

Staff recommending continuing with it.

Expansion paused

The motion unanimously approved Monday calls for the town to redirect about $65,000 that had been earmarked for expanding the display to repairing it, and to stop increasing its size until there's a lower risk of theft.

The massive on June 16 was more significant than vandalism on Jan. 6, when dozens of cords and wires were cut and strings of lights pulled down. That cost about $6,000 to repair.

The mayor said in January that theft didn't appear to be about stealing the copper since most wires were just cut and left in place.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

Several councillors expressed disappointment the display won't expand.

"I'm happy we'll continue to have the lights — the whole community enjoys them," Coun. Sarah Murphy said. "It is disappointing it won't be expanding to east Riverview, but hopefully this will protect the longevity of the investment."

Coun. Jeremy Thorne said whoever was doing it should be ashamed.

Shea said the town is aware of a large number of copper wire thefts in the region, including from a school and the Gunningsville Bridge.

"It's not all on its own, or we weren't a specific target of vandalism, so to speak," Shea said.

Staff say the town plans to replace the underground copper wire with aluminum wiring, which councillors were told is about 75 per cent lower scrap value. Shea said aluminum was recommended by the construction industry and N.B. Power.

The lights are expected to be on from Nov. 24 to Jan. 8, 2023.

Both incidents were reported to Codiac Regional RCMP.