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Date of Issue: December 23, 2009

Decorative lights brighten mood



Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce and public works director Tom Woodard on Bridge Street, where new decorative lighting is being installed.
Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce radiated cheer.

Bradenton Beach public works director Tom Woodard generated enthusiasm.

Long-awaited decorative lights are going up in the city’s downtown district, primarily along Historic Bridge Street, from Gulf Drive to the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

White poles were planted on Bridge Street last week, reaching about 20 feet in height, and standing parallel to the palm trees along the roadway.

This week, said Woodard, a Hines Electric crew will place the heads on the 21 poles. “By Christmas they’ll be done,” he said. “It’s happening.”

Local merchants have come to refer to the lights as hybrids. The fixtures are decorative in old-school fashion — similar to existing lights on the city pier with u-shaped curves at the top and circular lampshades — but the new lights will be solar powered, requiring sun-collecting panels and battery packs.

The city commission approved the purchase and installation of the lights at a cost of about $127,000 in September.

Old decorative lights in the commercial district were turned out in 2007 after someone leaned against a lighting pole and got shocked. An inspector determined that the lights were not grounded and needed to be removed.

The lengthy process to replace the fixtures began, which included a review of conventional lighting options.

“The old lights were out of commission for three years,” said Woodard.

Woodard said to wire new lights to connect to the electrical company grid would have required underground work.

“We felt the wiring was going to be a problem,” he said. “So I’m very pleased that the commission voted to go solar. I’m happy with the green aspect and I know it’s good for the city. This is going to be a showpiece.”

The city has worked with Florida-based Beacon Products on the project, which plans to bring representatives from other cities to see Bridge Street after the lights go on.

“Already six mayors are coming here to look at what we’ve done,” Woodard said.

Beacon built the lights to withstand hurricane-force winds. Additionally, the solar panels are estimated to last 50 years and the battery packs 25 years — more than double the life of the element in a Toyota Prius.

“The heads will be attached so that the direction can be changed,” Woodard said. “For the start, they’ll shine on the sidewalks.”

“And,” said Pierce, “they’ll be turtle-friendly.”

The mayor said as he talked to merchants and shoppers last week, he found “most everyone is very excited.”

“I think it’s going to increase tourism here,” Pierce said. “This city is really cool.”