All lit up – Olde Marco Residents pack City Council meeting to protest street lights

— Generally, the governmental bodies at the local level do their work without being noticed by the great majority of the citizens on whose behalf they toil – until something happens to get the citizens up in arms.

There was a literally glaring example of that principle on Marco Island this past week, when red-clad Old Marco residents filled the parking lot and most of the audience seats at the City Council meeting on Monday, to let their elected representatives know how they felt about the street lights being erected along Bald Eagle Drive.

How they felt was unhappy – angry, bewildered, and not in a mood to take lying down what they saw as a threat to their quality of life.

Unaccustomed to the sequence of a City Council meeting, the group of residents was not thrilled to have to wait for their say while other business was transacted, and then for the Council members to have their say.

Council Chairman Jerry Gibson did move up the issue to the first position on the agenda, but it was still two hours into the meeting when the lights were discussed. City Manager Jim Riviere agreed the lights were not the most attractive, calling them “tall, green, and plain – a parking lot look.” He said the city had ceased installing the lights themselves, but was continuing with putting in the underground wiring and the concrete supports in the ground. The primary consideration, he said was safety.

The city’s contractor had already erected 28 of the objectionable light poles, said Riviere, with another 36 slated for installation. One possible use for some of the lights would be at the new high school taking shape on San Marco, where the city is required to have street lights installed by August, but that location would not need all of the tall poles. Riviere said it might be possible to return some or all of the lights to the vendor, although not for a full credit.

Council member Bill Trotter expressed concern that installing high-priced alternative lights would set a precedent for other areas of the island whose residents wanted street illumination.

When the time came for citizen input, the citizens were direct.

“Stop putting up these awful green lights,” said Mary Ann Maniace, who spearheaded the protest movement with her friend Bernadette Powers, who stood beside her at the podium. Remarkably well-organized in a short time, the effort already had a signature color, red, with most of the crowd wearing it, and a symbol, the red Solo drinking cup, symbolizing “we don’t stand solo,” in Powers’ words. They got 400 signatures on a petition, and they got the ear of the City Council.

The Maniace/Powers duo said they preferred no lights to those installed, although Gibson said that was not an option for safety reasons.

“I’m hearing two things. I’m hearing they want darkness, or they want expensive lighting,” said Councilman Frank Recker.

“Sitting in this room tonight, I found out I’m a second class citizen,” said Rupert Road resident Harrison Gay, complaining the city could put expensive street lights elsewhere, but not in Old Marco.

“I suggest we not try to save every human being who is going to walk in front of a car,” said Ted Bush of Perrine Court, arguing against lighting.

The City Council gave the irate citizens what satisfaction they could, with installation halted, and the city staff directed to put together information on how the situation could be handled to the residents’ satisfaction.

“We’re satisfied for the interim, to stop the installation of those ghastly green beasts,” said Maniace after leaving the Council chambers. “They heard us, and they listened.”

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Comments » 9

mrz333 writes:

I've looked at the lighting in question. From Collier to Barfield the lights match those on Collier. I assume that was done to join the business sections. I have no objection to the new lighting. Traveling on that road there is little to no construction of historical value. The lighting in the so called 'historical' neighborhood is the same as everywhere else on the island and includes utility poles.

Personally I don't see a problem at all and the installed lights are far better than we have on the rest of the Island. I believe they allowed the city to use half the number of fixture with no loss of area lit. They were, I think, half the price of the other poles and 2 posts were used instead of 8 in the same length of road (or 4 if the light were used on on on side). This does not take into the costs of running the lights through the years.

It seems to me that this whole fuss is a waste of time that should be applied to other areas of need on the island and is self-serving for those involved with considerationtion of others on the Island. I, however, would not object to those 400 people or so paying for their own upgraded lighting with special assessments on their properties.

BeenThereHereNow writes:

in response to mrz333:

I've looked at the lighting in question. From Collier to Barfield the lights match those on Collier. I assume that was done to join the business sections. I have no objection to the new lighting. Traveling on that road there is little to no construction of historical value. The lighting in the so called 'historical' neighborhood is the same as everywhere else on the island and includes utility poles.

Personally I don't see a problem at all and the installed lights are far better than we have on the rest of the Island. I believe they allowed the city to use half the number of fixture with no loss of area lit. They were, I think, half the price of the other poles and 2 posts were used instead of 8 in the same length of road (or 4 if the light were used on on on side). This does not take into the costs of running the lights through the years.

It seems to me that this whole fuss is a waste of time that should be applied to other areas of need on the island and is self-serving for those involved with considerationtion of others on the Island. I, however, would not object to those 400 people or so paying for their own upgraded lighting with special assessments on their properties.

I'm in absolute agreement with you, including, nor would I object to the residence having an assessment applied to their properties for an upgrade.

Don't think they would appreciate paying for 24 karat lighting for my street on the south end.

Good post.

duhuhuhha writes:

I agree, on the assesments. They need lighting. the city made a decision based on cost and astetics. the lights aren't bad. if these people wish to join up, form a group, and say they want better lighting, let THEM pay the difference.

marco826 writes:

"not for a full credit." of course they can get full credit...very poor city management. you are the buyer. the seller wants to continue doing business with the city....WAKE UP!

josbergers writes:

Those of you who would like the lights in your street better check with your neighbors first.
Also the tax assessment is the same for Old Marco as everywhere else on the Island.
Why should old Marco not receive the same service as the condos on the Beach?

Phil Josberger Old Marco

mrz333 writes:

I'll take the new lights. You can put one in front of my home instesd of these ugly concrete ones with all the wires and transformers hanging all over them. Then they can take these concrete ones and install them where the new ones are supposed to go. I think that would be in keeping with the 'historic' character of the neighborhood.
One thing I would agree with, the city should put a lighting plan in place that would serve the entire community. This would free up the wonderful energy of these residents which they could then apply to something a 'real' value in our community!

mhs513 writes:

Whose bright idea was it to use different light poles than the poles used on Collier and Barfield? Were the residents asked their opinion on the matter? I think the poles erected are hideous and don't fit in, at all, with the neighborhood. Typical Marco city bull.

happy6 writes:

the lights look fine...old marco ain't new orleans,,,and it certaintly ain't a shopping district..who cares.

Slackdaddy writes:

Seems like more fighting between "groups" and not much listening and attempts to heal divisions of opinion. I hear condos vs homeowners. I hear angry voices. I think the lighting in my neighborhood on east river side looks industrial. Not as tasteful as collier blvd. sounds like planning is lopsided. I heard the council didn't know there were dozens of nicer lights being stored. Apparently our council were unaware of them. Also they were apparently not aware gas lines stubbed in at Jolly bridge. Communication breakdown with city managers?

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