The town of Longboat Key is planning to stick with the commission-approved street lights.
The Longboat Key Town Commission agreed last week to examine adding decorative bases to three new light posts along Broadway Street in Longbeach Village.
First, the town’s Public Works staff must determine the cost for the decorative bases. Then, staff is set to determine whether the town or the neighborhood would be responsible for that cost.
The town’s $49.1 million utilities project has prompted a restart of the street light conversation as poles and overhead power lines start to come down. New light poles fed by underground power have already gone up on the south end of the island near Gulf of Mexico Drive and Sloop Lane.
Town Commissioners approved the style and height of the street light poles in 2019.
“We all went and visited different places in Sarasota and looked at examples,” Vice Mayor Mike Haycock said. “We really vetted the heck out of this, I thought.”
During a commission workshop, Longboat Key Public Works Director Isaac Brownman addressed many of the complaints that commissioners have received from Village residents.
“We have emails from well-meaning folks who are talking about wanting their streets lined with poles with decorative bases,” Brownman said. “None of our streets as part of this project are going to be lined with lights. It’s simply a light-for-light replacement.”
On May 20, 2019, the commission agreed to a street light height of 35 feet for the poles on Gulf of Mexico Drive with black color, a cobra-head highway-type fixture style. On Sept. 23, 2019, the commission approved a 25-foot height for the neighborhood poles.
The height limits include any potential antennas added to the top as part of a wireless communication upgrade. The Town Commission has acknowledged the importance of improving cellular service throughout the island, and especially on the north end.
At-Large Commissioner BJ Bishop was not a member of the commission when the street lights got approved. However, she mentioned how if commissioners allowed for major changes to the street lights in the Village, it could potentially be unfair to the island’s other neighborhoods.
“I don’t think that three poles on Broadway are going to make a significant difference to what is a lovely and unique street,” she said.
Village resident Pete Rowan was among the members of the public who spoke to commissioners on Tuesday.
“We’re in two different worlds here; what the town is doing and they’re moving forward,” Rowan said. “I know it’s rush, rush and let’s get going [compared to] what the residents desire.”
Rowan said he would like to lower the poles to 15 feet in the neighborhoods, but would settle on an 18-foot fluted pole. He also questioned whether there would be any maintenance costs for a street light pole.
“There’s no maintenance part on a pole,” Rowan said. “If it gets knocked down by a car…then you have to order a new pole, I agree, but there’s no maintenance with just the pole.”
Brownman mentioned how many of the pole replacements are actually shorter than what currently exists. Town-approved pole orders for the Village are expected in the coming days, according to project manager Mark Porter of CDM Smith.
“Most of the poles in the Village right now far exceed 25 feed,” Brownman said. “So I’ve also read emails that talk about putting in taller poles. We’re not putting in taller poles. We’re putting in shorter poles.
“They’re not 15 feet. They’re not 18 feet, but they’re certainly not taller than anything that’s out there right now.”
The town has retained KCI on a three-phase contract not to exceed $16,300, according to Brownman to help the town in its discussions with AT&T and Verizon.
“They’re both interested in enhancing those coverages, particularly AT&T on the north end based on the conversation we had some time ago,” Brownman said. “But both of them told us that, 25 foot is already a challenge, please don’t go lower.’”
Making changes to the town-approved street light poles could alter what Longboat Key has already budgeted for the undergrounding project.
“The neighborhood street light budget is the tightest budget in the whole project, and because the way it was set up, the buckets of money are very specific,” Brownman said. “You cannot easily transfer one into another.”
The light pole discussion is set to come before commissioners again during the next workshop meeting on March 22.
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.