MICHIGAN CITY – The flat lights replacing globes on streetlamps throughout the Elston Grove neighborhood will remain after the Common Council put the matter to a vote for a second time this year on Tuesday.
The council voted in March to begin replacing the lights as a means of reducing light pollution, but several Elston Grove residents asked the council to re-evaluate the issue.
Derrick Dircks and Mark Sherman, former chairmen of the Elston Grove Neighborhood Association, said Tuesday that hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars went in to deciding to install the globes as a means of enhancing the neighborhood aesthetic to get it listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Removing the globes would be a disaster for the look of the historic district," Dircks said.
Roger Willoughby, a resident of Elston Grove, said he understands the importance of eliminating light pollution, but doesn’t understand why the city would spend money undoing something installed relatively recently.
"The burn with the community is we spent tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars on these fixtures, and I don't think we've had them five years,” he said. “That's an epic fail, and that's the bottom line. We should be angry."
Willoughby suggested the city experiment with the flat lights elsewhere, and return to Elston Grove later.
Faye Moore, a resident of the Eastport neighborhood, garnered applause from the audience when she said, "I think you guys have put the lights in at Elston Grove, and we need lights in Eastport. So, please, come to Eastport with the rest of those lights and leave Elston Grove alone."
Dalia Zygas, president of the Michigan City Sustainability Commission, spoke in favor of the new lighting, saying the globes create unnecessary light pollution that wastes energy, disrupt bird migration, kill insect populations, and harm people and the environment.
“We hereby urge the Common Council to instruct all entities and individuals involved in the energy audit that all upgrades to Michigan City municipal-owned LED outdoor light be directed sufficiently below the horizon to eliminate glare and skyglow,” she read from a resolution passed by the new commission.
Zygas also asked that upgrades to LED lights be 3000 Kelvin or lower, and noted the issue affects everyone in the city, not just residents of Elston Grove.
Larry Silvestri, former member of the Michigan City Redevelopment Commission, seconded Zygas in requesting the council take up the lighting issue at a future meeting.
But although an ordinance that addresses lighting citywide was not on the agenda for Tuesday, the council did vote 6-3 in favor of continuing to install the new flat lights in the Elston Grove Historical District.
Council members Tim Bietry, Sharon Carnes, Sean Fitzpatrick, Candice Silvas, Gene Simmons and Johnny Stimley voted in favor of the change; members Bryant Dabney, Ron Hamilton and Don Przybylinski voted to leave the globes in place.
In other business:
• Hamilton introduced an ordinance that – on paper – called for the appropriation of $12,000 from the Riverboat Fund to pay for costs incurred by the Michigan City Fire Merit Commission to advertise for new hires, and send new firefighters to the Fire Academy in South Bend. However, Hamilton said another firefighter had submitted his resignation a day earlier, meaning the appropriation would need to be increased to $17,000. The council unanimously approved the increase be reflected in the language of the ordinance, which will be up for public hearing at its July 2 meeting and voted on at its July 16 meeting.
Bob Pollock of the Fire Merit Commission spoke on the appropriation, and a problem he said faces the Michigan City Fire Department – losing local firefighters to other departments and the private sector.
"We are having some significant problems holding on to firefighters … after we spend a significant amount of money to put them into this position. I would call it an HR problem, human resources,” he said.
Pollock said new hires at MCFD undergo Fire Academy training for three months, as well as academic testing, physical agility testing and drug testing. The ones who pass are often recruited by other departments and private companies, such as steel mills.
“So, long-term, we're going to have to start looking at a solution on how we handle these kinds of HR problems,” he said, suggesting a required term of service to the MCFD after one completes the Fire Academy using city money.
• Tax abatement for property owned by 250 Property LLC and leased by Sandin Manufacturing was terminated by unanimous vote. Bietry explained the company was in compliance with the terms of the abatement, but became eligible for an Enterprise Zone investment deduction, which the business and the council agreed would be more beneficial to Sandin.
• Mike Johns was appointed to the Board of Zoning Appeals to replace Dennis Knaup, who passed away and whose term expires Dec. 31, 2022.
• The council approved partial acceptance certificates for its Energy Savings Project as they relate to lighting at the Washington Park Zoo and Michigan City Senior Center, and the HVAC at the Senior Center and park maintenance facility.