Turn of the century street lighting put on hold

Published on Thu, Aug 12, 2010 by By Tara Nelson

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Plans for decorative lighting near the entrance of Peace Arch State Park have been put on hold after cost estimates show they could be nearly three times as the city originally budgeted.

During a recent Blaine City Council meeting, public works director Steve Banham told council members decorative lighting fixtures scheduled for installation along Second Street between the new D Street roundabout and the entrance to Peace Arch State Park could cost upwards of nearly $70,000 – more than originally estimated as part of the city’s capital improvement plan budget.

There are currently five light fixtures along Second Street, all on wooden poles with “cobra” style features. The original plan was to replace those fixtures with “Acorn” style fixtures similar to the ones on Peace Portal Drive, which are shorter and radiate light outward.

On further review, however, Banham said residents expressed an interest in taller fixtures such as those used in the roundabouts and on Marine Drive that would focus light downward and minimize light pollution.

Based on the high cost, however, Banham and his staff recommended not proceeding with the streetlight replacement at this time.

“The thinking was now that we have nice lighting on Marine Drive and in the roundabouts we thought we should have nice lighting up Second Street as well,” he said. “But we’re now at a point where we’re not quite sure if it makes sense to do that.”

Banham said those fixtures would cost roughly $6,500 per light, not including installation, which would put the project cost above what the city had budgeted for those improvements.

The city budgeted $20,000 as part of its capital improvement plan for street lighting upgrades.

The cost of installing five new fixtures would put the dollar amount beyond the budgeted amount and also beyond the $30,000 amount city personnel are allowed to perform. Putting the work out for bids, however, would add to the cost.

The lighting improvements are called for as part of the city’s comprehensive plan, which was formed with citizen input that prioritized a “turn-of-the-century” theme for Blaine.

Although council members overwhelmingly supported installing as many light fixtures as possible, they said the would not make an official decision until their next meeting on Monday, August 23.

Councilmembers, however, said they would rather install as many fixtures as possible than use cheaper ones.

Councilmember John Liebert said he was disappointed because residents had an expectation the new light fixtures would be similar to those on Marine Drive.

”I want people to know we’re trying to seek out alternative sources of funding and that it will be a patchwork effort until something better is available.”

In the meantime, Banham said he would draft a revised resolution that would allow city crews to begin installing about three of the five light fixtures.

The rest, he said, would have to wait for additional funding or grants.

“Maybe at some point in the future we can secure some additional funding to replace the remaining fixtures,” he said. “For now, though, we’re limited, and we want to do what we can do.”

The city had originally requested the U.S. General Services Administration replace the light fixtures in conjunction with their work on the new Peace Arch port of entry facility, but because the memorandum of understanding was already completed, GSA was unwilling to pay for the work.

“It was something that was raised later after the agreement was put in place,” Banham said.

“When we talked to GSA and asked if we could do this, too, they said no. They were not looking to throw more money in that direction.”