Carefree council paves way for downtown improvements

By Curtis Riggs | July 9, 2008

Addresses lighting, access issues
CAREFREE – Town Council provided funding, which paves the way for fall downtown improvements and the conversion of the Easy Street area into a gas lamp district in the hope of attracting tourists to local shops, at its Tuesday meeting.

While the council intends to address downtown access issues with the addition of three deceleration (right-turn) lanes, most of the discussion at the meeting was about 15 planned electric gas lamps along Easy Street and the fear of losing the night sky because of the increased illumination.

Council approved the purchase of 15 light poles, fixtures and accessories at the cost of $70,800 and a contract for $12,980 for engineering the project.

The dicey nature of Town Center lighting was borne out during the discussion. Several merchants and frequent visitors to downtown encouraged the installation of more lights to keep the businesses viable and improve pedestrian safety. They were counteracted by citizens who expressed fear about the loss of the night sky. Seeing how much light comes off two sample gas lamps recently turned on fueled the concern.

Councilman Bob Gemmill, the architect of Carefree’s gas lamp plans and a downtown property owner, recused himself from votes on the lighting.

Councilman Bob Coady voted against both lighting measures. His concerns the new lights will make downtown too bright increased after he saw the new sample lights on Sunday evening.

“I saw light spillage from 40 feet away on both fixtures,” he said.
He believes many Carefree citizens do not support the new lighting plan and are “not on board with it.”

Carefree citizen John Traynor also spoke against increasing downtown lighting after seeing the sample gas lamps over the weekend. He called the brightness of the sample gas lamps “hideous.

“I don’t agree on the brightness of the light,” he said. “If everyone agrees on the poles then we need to take a good look at the fixtures themselves.”

Support for the new lighting plan did not come only from Town officials and downtown merchants.

Frequent downtown visitor Richard Jidiven told the council it is facing major liability issues if it does not increase lighting downtown.

“I’ve picked up three people off the sidewalk,” he said about dangers posed to pedestrians. “You could have a lawsuit that will cost much more than $70,000.”

Ace Hardware owner Dave Karsten, in support of the gas lamps, said, “To conduct business it is necessary for people to find you.”

Town officials would like to get the new lighting installed this fall.

Council unanimously approved a $6,720 contract for the engineering of deceleration lanes at Wampum Way, Lucky Lane and Cave Creek Road just east of the Shell Station.