County staff trying to schedule lighting demonstrations for Siesta Village crosswalks

Siesta Village representatives say the crosswalk between the Daiquiri Deck and Gilligan's iIsland Bar and Grill is especially dark at night. Photo by Norman Schimmel

With county staff still working to set up demonstrations of lighting options for Siesta Village crosswalks, the Sarasota County commissioners agreed May 23 to defer a decision on paying for equipment until they have more information.

Commissioner Nora Patterson, who lives on Siesta Key, reminded her fellow board members that they should have received a staff memo with an estimate of $42,000 for the county to place bollards at each end of seven Village crosswalks, to illuminate pedestrians.

Ryan Montague, in the county’s Mobility/Traffic Office, told The Sarasota News Leader May 24 that he and his staff had contacted four lighting vendors to request demonstrations either on the site or in an environment lit in a fashion similar to the current situation in Siesta Village. However, Montague said, he had received only one vendor response so far.

“We’d like to have at least 3 demos scheduled for an adequate comparison,” he wrote in an email to the News Leader.

The purpose of the demonstrations, Montague pointed out, would be for county staff members to evaluate the general specifications of the equipment, so they could prepare a request for a proposal or a request for quotes, to purchase lighting equipment for the crosswalks.

Montague wrote that he would be following up with other vendors next week in an effort to go ahead and schedule the demonstrations. Three of the vendors have local offices, he added, so he was hopeful that would help with the scheduling.

He predicted the best-case scenario would be for staff to have had at least three demonstrations by the end of June.

The proposal for better crosswalk lighting arose during the Siesta Key Village Association’s January meeting. Siesta Key Association Vice President Peter van Roekens, who represents that organization and the Terrace East homeowners association at the SKVA meetings, talked about how dark many of the Village crosswalks are at night. That situation posed the potential for serious accidents, he said.

During the county commissioners’ May 23 discussion, Patterson also noted that while she was attending the May 21 Presidents Council meeting on Siesta Key — involving representatives from the SKVA, the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, the SKA and the Siesta Key Condominium Council — architect Mark Smith, the SKCC president, questioned the $2,000 estimated cost for installing each bollard, as noted in the staff memo.

Smith said “that is a pretty outrageous expense,” Patterson added. He had suggested the county seek quotes to cover time and materials for the installation, which might be much less expensive, she said.

The estimated cost for each LED-style bollard staff had researched, the memo said, was $1,000.

Patterson said she believed the commissioners would receive another staff memo on the estimated cost after staff set up the demonstrations.

“I don’t necessarily agree with Commissioner Patterson [on the need for the crosswalks],” Chairwoman Christine Robinson said, “but I’m continuing to have issues down in the South County area with tree trimming, because we’re saying we don’t have the budget to be able to trim” the trees more often than every two years, although the trees “look like bushes hanging down.”

Robinson added, “I’m having that internal struggle with spending $42,000 on bollards when I can’t get trees trimmed in South County.”

“I would support you on the tree trimming,” Patterson said.

Nonetheless, Patterson said, the county did spend several million dollars on the 2008-09 beautification project in Siesta Village, and organizations on the island are “identifying [the lighting problem] as a safety issue. I was hoping to be able to fix their problem.”

In response to a question from Commissioner Joe Barbetta, Patterson pointed out that the bollards being considered for the crosswalks would have sensors to turn on the LED lights when night fell. “[The lights are] for cars not to hit pedestrians,” she added.

Barbetta suggested a better alternative would be the installation of motion sensors such as those used between Morton’s Gourmet Market and Libby’s Café + Bar on Osprey Avenue in Southside Village.

“I agree with you,” Patterson said, “but I recall that [system] being about $125,000. That was really expensive.”

Referring to the Siesta Village representatives, Patterson added, “They’ll be happy with [the bollards].”

She suggested Barbetta come to Siesta Village after dark one day, to see the situation firsthand, adding, “I’m going to have to do that, too.”

“I guess I want to be sure we’ve explored other possibilities for lighting,” Barbetta replied. “Maybe the lighting should be overhead lighting versus a little stick in the ground with a light on the end of it.”

Patterson told him the demonstrations would be done “before you spend any money.”

Where the lights should go

After conferring with representatives of the SKA, the SKVA and the Siesta Chamber, county staff concluded that lighting was needed at the following crosswalk locations in Siesta Village:

• 5250 Ocean Blvd., between the Daiquiri Deck and Gilligan’s Island Bar and Grill

• 5218 Ocean Blvd., between JoTo’s Japanese Steakhouse and Hanna Plaza

• 5202 Ocean Blvd., between Key Corners Plaza and the Village Gazebo

• 5148 Ocean Blvd., between The Hub Baja Grill and the Beach Club

• 5124 Ocean Blvd., between Siesta Plaza and Coldwell Banker

• 5124 Ocean Blvd., between Siesta Plaza and Siesta Center

• 5100 Ocean Blvd., between the Michael Saunders & Co. office and Siesta Center