BELLEAIR BEACH – Solar streetlights will likely not be a part of the utility undergrounding project now getting under way in the city’s Bellevue Estates neighborhood, the upcoming undergrounding of cross wires on Gulf Boulevard or elsewhere in the city.
The solar option was rejected, for now, in a discussion of citywide street lighting standards at the Nov. 5 City Council meeting.
Once touted by council members and city officials, solar lights now appear to be doomed by the reality of costs.
City Manager Lynn Rives said solar street lighting, just for the Bellevue Estates neighborhood, would cost between $225,000 and $250,000. About $60,000 has been set aside in the budget for the undergrounding project.
Solar, Rives said, is “a very expensive proposition.”
The rejection of solar street lighting is a stunning reversal from a year ago, when council members appeared highly impressed with a proposal by Clear World, a solar LED technology company. The company claimed a solar system would operate at 70 to 100 percent less than the cost of traditional street lighting.
Council Member Marvin Behm said then solar “would just about pay for itself” and was “a win-win situation.”
Council Member John Pietrowski had said “it’s a smart technology,” and council member Wanda Schwerer said solar lighting had a lower cost and “was very forward looking.”
Rives had then pointed out a solar option would not cost any electricity and would be an opportunity for the city to “step out of the box.”
While turning down solar street lighting for now, Rives said that it could still be a future consideration.
“Maybe in the long term, if a grant becomes available, we’ll take another look at solar lighting,” Rives said.
He mentioned that “the (solar) test light we’ve got has done a really good job.”
The city will be changing from wooden light poles to concrete. That cost can be absorbed in the street-lighting budget, Rives said.
The citywide street-lighting standards issue will be discussed once again at the Nov. 19 council workshop.
Council meeting time changes
Future City Council meetings will be held at 6 p.m. instead of 5:30. The council voted 5-2 to make the change. Mayor Leslie Notaro and Council Member Pietrowski were opposed.
A recent Constant Contact online survey of residents showed nearly 80 percent of those responding favored a meeting time later than 5:30 p.m. Also, a survey of the 21 cities in the county showed only two held commission or council meetings before 6 o’clock.
Three years ago, the council decided to move up the meetings from 6 to 5:30 p.m.
Code violator fine reduction offer rejected
The council rejected an offer of $1,000 to settle $13,000 in fines that were issued because of an illegal cover over a spa pool. The resident was first cited last October and did not remove the cover until May of this year, City Manager Rives told council.
Councilman Glenn Gunn said he was hesitant to reduce the fine and “take the teeth” out of council’s recent effort to crack down on code violations.
Councilman Todd Harper said the resident had more than enough time to correct the situation and did not.
“We do not accept the settlement offer,” said Schwerer.
Signaling a tough stance on code enforcement cases, the council unanimously turned down the resident’s settlement offer. But they did agree with a recommendation by Councilwoman Jody Shirley that Rives be allowed to negotiate a higher fine settlement of “not less than 50 percent” of the $13,000 fine.