MARCO ISLAND — Olde Marco residents were stunned by Marco Island City Council’s pass on resolving their displeasure with streetlights in their area. A motion on Monday to replace Bald Eagle Drive’s newly installed taller poles with the type on Collier Boulevard failed by a vote of 5-2.
Councilors based their decision on concerns that the requested amount of $55,000 was too small and the need for a consistent lighting plan throughout the island too great. The cost would have been much higher if city staff had not discovered 62 Collier Boulevard style lights stockpiled in various places in the city.
That discovery was news to Tim Pinter, public works director, the city manager and council. The standard number city staff expected to have for replacements was 25 to 30. Coming up with more was a surprise, Pinter said.
The project to replace unwanted lights on Bald Eagle Drive in Olde Marco would require 36 of the 62 stockpiled lights. Residents of the area complained to council when the city began installing taller, more industrial lights, called Marco Lake lights by the city. Residents said the character of the streetlights did not match the historic nature of their neighborhood.
Installing poles was halted and no more were raised as council considered the matter. City Manager Jim Riviere said he authorized continued work to lay electrical wire the full length of Bald Eagle Drive, between Barfield Drive and the entrance to the Snook Inn, and on Palm Street to Edington Place. He also asked for the contractor to install bases for the Marco Lake style lights the full length of the project.
At its first meeting in January, council asked the Beautification Advisory Committee to make a recommendation regarding the esthetics of lighting in the Olde Marco Area. On Monday, Chairwoman Barbara Murphy brought council the committee’s report.
“Throughout the community we have different areas with different characteristics,” she said.
Keeping that in mind, the committee recommended continuing Collier Boulevard style streetlights down the full length of the Olde Marco project with the same spacing as streetlights on South Collier Boulevard.
She also said the beautification committee would work wholeheartedly on a citywide lighting policy if requested by council.
Public speakers asked for immediate action. Bernadette Powers, a spokesperson for the group, said the beautification committee made a reasonable decision. She questioned why council would not finish the job with the excess from stockpiled Collier Boulevard lights.
Council asked Olde Marco residents if they would consider becoming a Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU) to pay for the requested lighting. Resident Mary Ann Maniace said council was asking residents to pay for the city’s mistake.
Some Olde Marco residents at the meeting felt that no lighting was better than the Marco Lake streetlights.
“I guess there’s a safety issue, and I’m going to accept we need lights although I don’t agree,” said resident William Flassche. “The current lights are ugly, a putrid green and too high. I support what the Beautification Advisory Committee is saying with some caveats. The other alternative is putting up a slightly less expensive lower light. You need to take down those (Marco Lake) lights. Leaving those big lights now is a travesty.”
Councilor Joe Batte replied that the public comments he was hearing re-enforced the need for a comprehensive study. He asked that the process to create one be placed in the hands of the beautification committee with staff input.
Council Chairman Jerry Gibson reminded residents that the project started after a safety concern.
“You’re residents and you know your way around,” he said. “We need lighting for the tourists who are trying to find their way around. There is a safety issue, and that’s what precipitated this whole incident, safety to light the road. I’ve been a long proponent of a plan.”
After denying the motion to replace the poles, council referred the plan to the beautification committee and asked for a report in three to four months.