RP opts for new light poles in F, H sections
City likely to use gas tax fund to pay for project
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By Mira Brody  April 11, 2014 12:00 am

A request to update the old decorative light poles in parts of F and H sections was of much debate at Rohnert Park’s City Council meeting last Tuesday.

The current wooden poles, which have been deemed as “nearing the end of their useful life” and a hazard, would be replaced by the standard LED Cobra Head poles found on most updated streets.

“We are in need of a consolidated project in order to expedite this process because the ones now are deteriorating,” said Deputy City Engineer Patrick Barnes. “There has been a significant increase in the failure of these poles lately.”

Barnes argued the LED poles not only save cost on maintenance but also cut electricity costs by 30-50 percent because of their economic output. The decorative lamps are wooden and hallow, thus less sturdy and remain a hazard as they are at risk of falling.

Funding was of main concern. Gas tax money could be used, but it was voiced that the money in the gas tax fund could be better spent fixing city roads rather than mass-replacing the poles; a project that would cost an estimated $130,000.

“There are a couple things that concern me in this project, and that is the gas tax dollars,” stated Gina Belforte, who commented as a resident of F section because of her proximity to the proposed project. “Gas tax dollars are used for road replacement, and right now there are severe potholes that need to be fixed. The question really comes to: do we want to use these funds on road repair that we are in dire need of, or do we want to replace the lights?”

She argued that yes, the poles needed to be replaced, but waiting any longer to fix the city’s roads would result in a poor use of city money. The lights, she said, could be replaced as needed.

“One of the most complaints I’ve had is about these poles falling down. I don’t want to replace wooden poles that are falling down with more wooden poles that are going to be falling down,” said Councilwoman Pam Stafford, who agreed with using the new LED Cobra Head lights. “I also don’t want to spend any general fund money. If we have gas tax that we can use, and we have failing poles, then that’s what we need to do.”

The question was raised of whether or not to use Casino Mitigation Funds for the proposed project, but because of the non-guaranteed nature of such funds, the funding option was considered, but not readily embraced.

The project as it was drafted fell short with a 2-2 tie. Councilmember Jake Mackenzie suggested a new motion, which councilmembers eventually voted 4-0 on.

“The motion would be to a) begin design on the pole replacement project that would replace them with cobra head fixtures, b) to replace them on an as-needed basis through 2016, and c) explore and report back different funding sources,” Mackenzie recommended.

Although Barnes did not have the cost of replacing a single pole at the time, it was estimated that the large industrial poles recently replaced on Wilfred Avenue cost about $4,000 to install.

“I think that it’s a great idea if we can go in and take out 150 poles and replace them all at once,” stated Mayor Joseph Callinan after voting. “That’s great in an ideal economic situation. But we’re not in that ideal economic situation. We have roads that we need to work on. I think that would be our best economic move right now.”

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