By Tim O’Meilia
Add street signs to the list of items Gulf Stream town officials are planning to spruce up the appearance of in their seaside community.
The town already has a $5.4 million project scheduled, but not yet under way, to put power, telephone and television cable lines underground and has been discussing a $255,000 long-range idea — give or take a few ten thousands — to fancify 85 street lights around town.
Now the Gulf Stream Civic Association is urging town commissioners to replace a hodgepodge design of street, stop, crosswalk, school and other signs with a single, consistent architectural theme.
After examining signs on Jupiter Island, the village of Golf and Ocean Ridge, a civic association committee decided to ask the town to upgrade.
“We weren’t happy with the way we looked,” civic association board member Bill Boardman told commissioners at their Feb. 8 meeting. “In comparison with others, ours was somewhat of an embarrassment.”
Commissioners examined a preliminary proposal from Baron Signs of Riviera Beach that calls for black, cast-aluminum fluted posts with decorative bases and a ball-shaped ornament at the top. The sign posts would be black with white lettering. Stop signs and others would have a black border and backing.
Such a project would cost as much as $81,000. This sum is not included in this year’s budget, but the civic association believes taxpayers would be willing to increase their property taxes to pay for the new signs.
“There is strong sentiment to even increase the millage rate to fund these type of projects,” said Town Manager William Thrasher.
An immediate project might require dipping into the town reserves, an idea several commissioners wanted to avoid. Both Commissioners Garrett Dering and Robert Ganger want to investigate a short-term loan.
“Let’s make the town look the way we want it to look without depleting our reserves,” Dering said.
The commission agreed unanimously to seek proposals from other firms and examine methods to pay for the signs.
Meanwhile, with the cost estimate from Florida Power & Light finally in hand, the town will seek bids on the first phase of putting overhead power, telephone and cable lines underground.
The town has been awaiting the cost estimate from FPL since February 2012 and last month filed a complaint with the state Public Service Commission, urging more attention to the project. FPL has not yet responded to the complaint, although the tardy cost estimate arrived two days before the Feb. 8 meeting.
As a result, the town-wide project is a year behind schedule and would not be completed until late 2014 if work began in May. The town likely will hire its own contractors rather than have FPL do the work. The difference in price is about $800,000 for the first phase, town consulting engineer Danny Brannon estimated. Overall the project will cost $5.4 million.
The town was scheduled to seek proposals from contractors by the end of February. Excavation and landscaping proposals already are being sought.
Commissioners also directed Thrasher to seek a variety of designs and their cost for replacing 85 street lights. Brannon estimated the changeover would cost about $255,000, depending on the type of fixture. FPL will install new posts and lighting for no cost, but the lights would be FPL’s standard post and lamp.
In discussions over the past several meetings, commissioner indicated they wanted a more artistic design.
“Let’s decide what we want to do aesthetically,” Dering said. “Pick a light, then decide how to pay for it.”
In other business, commissioners learned that state highway officials turned down the town’s initial effort to continue a historic 10-foot “clear zone” along State Road A1A so more Australian pines can be planted, notably along the new Harbor View Estates development. State officials have insisted on an 18-foot zone, which would prevent the installation of the pines.
Town officials will submit more documentation to back their request, Thrasher said.