The new low-voltage decorative lamps installed under the trees on Jackson Boulevard give new meaning to the term "emergency lighting."
With large crowds expected next week for the Triple-A All-Star Baseball Game at Fifth Third Field, the Finkbeiner administration used an emergency provision in the city code last week to bypass the normal process for spending city money to get the new lights in the ground in a hurry.
The city's contractor, Sundown Illuminations LLC of Perrysburg, started Friday installing the new lighting on the four blocks of Jackson Boulevard between Erie and Summit streets. The contract is for $38,340.
Ken Neidert, the city's commissioner of facility and fleet, said the emergency was the need to improve the city's appearance for visitors expected in town next week for several days of activities culminating in the big game July 12.
The installation will be done by Monday, he said.
He said the existing "twinkling" Christmas tree lights, which are on continuously, were deteriorating and costly to maintain, and hindered routine tree-trimming.
The city obtained three informal bids, of which Sundown's was the lowest. Night Landscapes of Sylvania bid $39,890; Transtar Electric Inc. of Toledo bid $97,240. A fourth contractor who was contacted declined to bid.
City law allows the mayor to waive formal competitive bidding and to act without prior council approval in the case of an "emergency which could not reasonably be foreseen" and in which a delay would result in "interruption or detriment to the public service."
The spending ordinance was presented to Toledo City Council at its informal agenda review meeting last Tuesday, where council members were briefed but could not vote.
"If we'd seen strong opposition, we'd have walked away and said let's not do this," said Don Moline, the city's assistant chief operating officer.
Rob Ludeman, council president, said no council members objected at the agenda review meeting.
He said the upward-pointing low-voltage lights are a popular landscape technique.
"The reason for the emergency was to try to get it in place for the All-Star Week. It's going to be a pretty big week downtown," he said. "If we're doing things to make Toledo more attractive and keep young people, then I think it's worthwhile."
But Councilman Mike Craig said if the cost of maintaining the twinkling lights was too high, then he suggested simply removing them.
He said Jackson looks fine without the lights.
"I find it objectionable to spend $38,000 to light those four islands," he said.
More than 300 lights are being installed, with three beneath each tree.
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