TRAVERSE CITY — West Front Street will get new street lights but Traverse City Light & Power board members said someone else will have to pay for extras such as Christmas lights and security camera infrastructure.
Board members voted 5-2 on Tuesday to cover the cost of replacing the existing cobra-head street lights for the road, plus shorter, decorative poles to light the way for pedestrians at an estimated cost of $527,000. The funding makes up a key component of the $2.24 million makeover of West Front Street between Hall and Division streets scheduled for this spring.
But they declined to give city commissioners everything they requested, shutting down the installation of electrical outlets for holiday tree lights and special events, plus infrastructure for Wi-Fi and security cameras, cutting costs by $127,000.
"I have a lot of problems with the Wi-Fi and security cameras," said city Commissioner Barbara Budros, a member of the utility board. "Holiday lights — that's economic development, tourism. It's not Light & Power."
Utility officials indicated earlier in January they would fund just the overhead lights at a cost of about $265,000, leaving some city officials to worry other funders might also pull out and leave the city with a bare-bones repaving project.
"I'm pleased that they agreed to fund it at pretty close to the full amount," said City Manager Jered Ottenwess. "We are really trying to leverage the grant funding we received from the state and this will allow us to maximize this project."
The city received a $1 million grant from the state and will rely on seven other sources of funding for the project including a special assessment on property owners. The project includes brick pavers, bike lanes, benches, wider sidewalks, and bump-outs at street corners to slow traffic and make the area more appealing to pedestrians.
The pedestrian-scaled lights similar in size but different in style to those found downtown were considered a key component of the street's design. But utility members were reluctant to pay for them and questioned if it was appropriate for ratepayers to subsidize the economic development project.
"I have no problem with lighting the street area, I have a problem with lighting it twice," said board member Pat McGuire.
McGuire was joined by Jan Geht, who accused the city commission of treating the city-owned utility like an ATM machine.