In small town Wisconsin sometimes local “business leaders” put improvements into their downtown and get it wrong, very wrong from an esthetic perspective, or lack there of. About 15 years ago Lake Geneva formed a committee for downtown beautification and selected new street lights to improve the downtown, the criteria was bigger is better – how American. Hence the Mech. Monster Street lights were installed downtown, and some on the Lake Geneva City Council now want them to invade further down Broad Street.
What is wrong with the current ornamental street lights, let us list the reasons:
- Over sized for the downtown buildings. The buildings in downtown Lake Geneva are two/three stories tall, the Mech Monsters are the same size as street lights on LaSalle Street in Chicago, were buildings are 40 stories tall. Way out of scale.
- The lights are above the trees, so either the trees must be trimmed to nothing or the lights don’t light the sidewalks and street. Trees can’t be allowed to grow and shade the sidewalks in the summer, something that might be a pedestrian friendly thing to have with current global warming treads.
- White light is absorbed exponentially with distance, so the further away the light is from what is to be lite the less useful illumination. You want to light the sidewalks and street not the sky and second floors of buildings.
- Most of the light goes up into the sky and is not only wasted but a major source of light pollution. The City of Lake Geneva is the major light polluter on the lake; Fontana, Linn, Williams Bay all are very sensitive with selecting street lights that don’t pollute. Yerks Observatory is a true world class facility that should be preserved.
At the Public Works Committee Aldermen Hill and Kupsik voted to spend approximately $500K for new ornamental Mech Monster LED Street lights, Alderman Wall voted no.
When this issue got to Council Alderman Hogan wanted a less expensive alternative LED lights at $250K which Kupsik objected to he said ” the less expensive lights are ugly and have no character.” Hogan observed that this part of town is more for residents because Main St. is for tourists so lighting should reflect that. Alderman Mott added the we should consider the class of Lake Geneva, and as time goes on there will be more use of the North area of the City.
Alderman Wall, who voted against the city tax payers picking up the tab for the ornamental Mech Monster lights, pointed out how the lighting on Main Street was paid for by the merchants there, where “the merchants on Broad Street won’t have that opportunity .” He stated that if we are going to replace lighting on Wells Street why won’t we do the same thing. Mr. Wall is referring to the downtown BID distinct that was created with a special tax on those properties and according to BID president Flemming of Flemmings on Main, that tax was used to buy the Main St. Mech Monster lighting.
Lake Geneva had an old style light that was proportionate with the buildings throughout the city, but unfortunately most of those lights were removed during a modernization years ago. They still are present on Main Street north of Cook St. Notice how the lights are below tree level. These lights would be less expensive and much more in character with the surrounding buildings.
The new lighting will be paid for by all the property tax payers in Lake Geneva through TIF .