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Published: Wednesday, 7/12/2006

Council retroactively approves new lights

Beautifying downtown Toledo for tonight's all-star baseball game was a secondary benefit - not the main reason - for the Finkbeiner administration's replacement of strings of Christmas tree lights on Jackson Street with in-ground low-voltage lamps, an administration official said yesterday.

Ken Neidert, commissioner of fleet and facility, told Toledo City Council that replacing the more than 10-year-old lights could save the city up to $16,500 a year.

The emergency decorative lighting project was the subject of a contentious debate at council last night. In the end, the $38,340 emergency expenditure for new lighting was approved, retroactively, by an 8-4 vote. Councilmen Michael Ashford, Frank Szollosi, Ellen Grachek, and Mike Craig voted no.

Mr. Neidert said the light replacement was in the planning stages when Mr. Finkbeiner suggested getting it done in time for Toledo's turn in the national sports spotlight with the

Triple-A All-Star Game at Fifth Third Field and the Jamie Farr LPGA golf tournament at Highland Meadows Golf Club.

Mr. Neidert said the old light strings were not fully lit, and they obstructed the mulching and trimming of trees.

Mr. Finkbeiner used power in the city charter allowing him to make an emergency expenditure without council approval to install the lights on Jackson between Erie and Summit streets.

Ms. Grachek said she supports both beautifying the city and saving money, but questioned whether either was an emergency. "To save money for the city, I say don't spend money at all on lights. It's a discussion of priorities," she said.

The vote came in the wake of a stern memo over the weekend by council President Rob Ludeman chastening councilmen for attacking the lighting ordinance in a news conference last week rather than in council's agenda review meeting June 27, where councilmen were briefed by the administration.

Mr. Ludeman said he wants councilmen to raise their concerns in meetings where the administration is present to get answers and avoid confrontations that create "negativism."

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