GIBSON CITY — Mayor Dan Dickey has an admittedly "ambitious" idea to make Gibson City's downtown a "destination" like no other in East Central Illinois.
Dickey is proposing spending $300,000, perhaps more, to turn his city into "The City of Lights."
The mayor's proposal would involve removing the old-fashioned street lights lining Sangamon Avenue and replacing them with energy-efficient LED street lights on cast-aluminum poles. Also installed on both sides of the street would be in-ground colored LED lights, which would be directed upward at trees and could be programmed to change colors, strobe, or even be synchronized to music.
Dickey hopes the new lighting — along with other downtown enhancements he has in mind — can help put Gibson City on a "level playing field" with other downtowns in the area that already have installed new street lamps.
And because Gibson City would be the first in the area to have colored LED lights, Dickey said, he hopes his city would become a destination for visitors — "not just another place."
"We're always looking at how we can maintain our downtown and trying to attract people downtown," Dickey said. "We're all trying to keep our downtowns busy and vibrant ... and I think if you're going to do something, you do it right and maybe step it up a notch — do something that other communities haven't done."
Dickey broached his idea to the city council's police/health, light and nuisance committee on Jan. 7 and has contacted the Gibson Area Chamber of Commerce to determine interest. He said he plans to meet next week with the chamber's executive board, then the chamber's Lighted Christmas Parade Committee and finally the full chamber.
Already, Dickey said, "a lot of people have been supportive of the project. Now I'm trying to figure out if the community is interested, to build a consensus."
The estimated $300,000 project would be funded by the city, which already has the money on hand to proceed, Dickey said. However, Dickey said energy-efficiency grants should be available to cover some of the cost, and he plans to pursue those.
The LED lights would reduce the city's lighting costs by 66 percent, Dickey estimated. They would be equipped with a dimmer control.
The LED lights have average lifespans of 15 to 16 years, while their cast-aluminum poles and acorn-style light fixture are designed to last about 50 years, Dickey said.
The in-ground colored lights, meanwhile, would be installed on both sides of Sangamon Avenue, from Seventh Avenue to the railroad tracks; they would be mounted flush with the ground and point upward to shine the light at trees.
The "uplighting" would emit RGB (red, green and blue), meaning the lights can change to "virtually any color in the rainbow," Dickey said.
"We could do different colors for different seasons," Dickey said. "Like red, white and blue for the Fourth of July; red and white for (the GCMS High School) homecoming; or red and green for Christmas."
The in-ground lights could be programmed to change colors gradually, strobe, or even be synchronized to music — similar to the holiday light display at Victor Johnson's home in Paxton. With that in mind, Dickey sees potential for a downtown light show every weekend, with different shows for each season.
As part of the "City of Lights" idea, Dickey also wants to buy a new outdoor speaker system, which could be used for the annual Lighted Christmas Parade or a light show.
There would also be electrical outlets installed at every tree downtown, which could be useful to vendors at events, Dickey said. Additional electrical conduit would also be installed to prepare for future technology needs.