BELLEAIR BEACH — Solar streetlights look like the choice for the city’s Bellevue Estates Island neighborhood, where residents are already paying for the undergrounding of utilities.

Solar had been considered and then rejected because of the high initial costs. But new pricing estimates presented at a workshop last month were lower than before. The solar option now looks affordable, and the city has agreed to share some of the costs.

Though initial costs are high, the biggest advantage of solar street lights is they use no electricity. And since they operate off the power grid, the streets would not be dark following a power outage.

The city has looked at solar on several occasions, and been back and forth on the issue. In December 2017, council members appeared highly impressed with a proposal by Clear World, a solar LED technology company.

However, at a council meeting in November, City Manager Lynn Rives said solar streetlighting for the Bellevue Estates Island neighborhood would cost between $225,000 and $250,000, while standard lighting would cost around $60,000. Rives then termed solar “a very expensive option,” while mentioning a solar test light the city installed “has done a very good job.”

But at the Feb. 4 council meeting and in comments after the meeting, Rives said new lower cost figures for solar streetlights had been presented at the council’s workshop last month. The cost came to about $170,000 for the 31 lights that would be required in the Bellevue Estates neighborhood. Steve Marsh, a resident of that neighborhood, was a good negotiator and got a better price than the city had, Rives said.

Belleair Beach will be a true trendsetter if solar streetlights are introduced. Rives said no cities in Pinellas County, and few in the state, have gone solar. He mentioned Pompano Beach, north of Fort Lauderdale, had done a pilot project, but rejected a total switch to solar streetlights, mainly because of cost.

“Here, we’ve got an opportunity,” Rives said, “because the (Bellevue Estates) neighborhood wants to do it,” as part of their undergrounding project.

“The residents in that area want those lights,” he said.

Rives said at the meeting that the city has offered to contribute the cost of standard streetlights, which is about a third of the cost of a solar lighting system, to the residents of the Bellevue Estates area, or any other neighborhood in the city that wants to switch to solar. The residents would pay the remainder of the costs through assessments. The council agreed to that approach at their January workshop.

Solar streetlights in Bellevue Estates Island could become a reality once the solar lighting vendor, Clear World, presents a final proposal for the city’s approval.

Capital project update

The status of city projects now underway was given by Rives and Finance Director Melanie Kruszona.

The stormwater and flooding control projects are finished on First and Second streets. That phase of the project is costing about $50,000 less than budgeted, Rives said. The second phase is Third through Fifth streets, which is in the design stage now.

Seawall repair is progressing on Belle Isle, and the stormwater control project there is complete, coming in at about $10,000 under budget, Rives said.

Rives also said check valves to help control flooding are being installed in flood prone locations throughout the city. These are First through 13th streets, 18th Street, and Bayshore and 22nd Street.

These devices prevent water from the bay flowing back into the stormwater sewer system at high tide. One was just installed on 12th Street. City employees are doing that work, rather than contractors, where possible, saving the city a lot of money, Rives said.

Also, recent improvements at Bayside Park include a new basketball court and valley curbs, and a new water fountain.