Some Everglades City residents take dim view of replacing old-style streetlights

An older street light in Everglades City finds a new home next to a sidewalk. Newer, much taller lights are imminent for a section of main road near the town's City Hall. The lights have been the center of controversy over the past few weeks. Marya Repko/Special to the Daily News

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An older street light in Everglades City finds a new home next to a sidewalk. Newer, much taller lights are imminent for a section of main road near the town's City Hall. The lights have been the center of controversy over the past few weeks. Marya Repko/Special to the Daily News

Everglades City's old main streetlights have been ripped out to make way for new ones that have raised the ire of some townsfolk because of their height and potential bulb brightness. Marya Repko/special to the Daily News

Everglades City's old main streetlights have been ripped out to make way for new ones that have raised the ire of some townsfolk because of their height and potential bulb brightness. Marya Repko/special to the Daily News

— A simmering controversy about old and new street lights in Everglades City appears to be heading for resolution.

Almost.

While heritage-conscious residents are happy their old lights will be relocated to illuminate sidewalks in parts of the city, some remain disgruntled with the prospect of 16 new, 40-foot, dual-span lights getting placed on Collier Boulevard and South Broadway from Carmellia Street East to the traffic circle by City Hall.

Everglades City Mayor Sammy Hamilton, who has faced criticism on the project from at least one City Council member and also some residents, is coming out swinging.

“Now they’re all backing down because they know they’re wrong,” Hamilton said.

He said the project, five years in the planning, never involved scrapping the old lights, 10 of which are being repaired and reinstalled along a pedestrian pathway near the entrance to the town.

“The old ones were never going to be discarded,” Hamilton said.

As for the half-mile stretch of new lights, which some residents have claimed are way too tall at 40 feet and likely will be much too bright, Hamilton said the height is partly because they otherwise would be obscured in places by trees.

City Council member Elaine Middlestaedt originally contended the new lights were out of character with the city; would likely attract mosquitoes; would interrupt night sky views, and also would be visible from at least six miles west of Carnestown across the swampland.

But fears about their potential brightness of the new lights were dispelled by Mike Greene, transportation planning manager for Collier County government.

They meet what is called a ‘dark skies’ requirement, which states that a light source has to be contained within a housing and not emitted from a fixture above 180 degrees, Greene said.

It means that adjacent property owners won’t stare directly into the light sources.

Greene said he talked recently with dissenting resident Patricia Huff, and that she walked away with a better understanding of the project.

“We knew the desire was to maintain the community feel,” Greene said. “There were concerns about decorative or ‘highway’ fixtures (on the new lights), and I reassured her they would all be decorative and white.”

Greene said the 40-foot poles (the originals were half the height) were chosen so they could be spaced farther apart.

In addition, he said, there are many taller trees along the median, so the poles won’t be stark in contrast with the background.

“I think residents will end up liking them,” Greene said of the lights.

The beginnings of this predate a lot of the council members.

“I’ve had a ton of e-mails with some wild accusations of what people thought they might be like, but it’s been a five-year project working with the mayor, who in turn worked with the Department of Transportation,” Greene said.

The $240,826 project cost, being paid with federal dollars, includes the relocation of the older, refurbished lights.

Greene said all underground work is complete and the new poles are scheduled to arrive toward the middle to end of this month.

Everglades City Mayor Sammy Hamilton

Everglades City Mayor Sammy Hamilton

Totally unserviceable old poles, he said, will be given to the city for spare parts to help Hamilton with another goal — place refurbished old lights in assorted other parts of town for safety purposes.

Huff, active with the city’s historical preservation society, agreed her talk with Greene had been enlightening, particularly concerning the reasons for the height of the new poles.

But she still had reservations.

“I’m going to hold my opinion until they go up,” Huff said.

Local historian and author Marya Repko said she was glad to see the old lights weren’t being ditched, and that she also is holding back her opinion about the new ones before judging them.

“We’re just not going to know until we see what they look like when they’re turned on,” Repko said.

One extra touch she will push for, though, is to add small brackets to the poles so that flags can be flown from them on occasions such as July 4. The old lights featured these brackets.

In the meantime, Hamilton plans to fashion a mold of one of the old lights at his own expense so that copies can be placed in selected areas around town, particularly near the school and along the town’s river bank.

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