By Dave Russell
The future of Mill Street looks a little brighter, as four new streetlights rise from the sidewalk in the coming weeks.
“Mill Street is very dark, and these lights will make it brighter and safer at night,” said John Wermuth, owner of End of Main antique shop and president of the Main Street Sylva Association. “Mill Street is growing. Now that Jackson General is coming to Mill Street, the town wanted to make it a little safer.”
Wermuth hopes the success of West Main Street will spread to Mill Street, he said.
“We’re going to do everything we can to make Mill Street look like Main Street,” he said. “Most people see the fanciness of Main Street, with the flags and planters. Mill Street doesn’t have them so people forget about our second half. We’re trying to get it there.”
Stephanie Martin and Natalie Newman, co-owners of Regina Nicole Boutique and Beauty Bar on Mill Street, said the lights might help them to stay open later in the winter months.
“We stayed open until 8 p.m. last summer when it stayed daylight longer,” Martin said. “As the days got shorter and it was darker, people just aren’t wandering around back here because there is not the lighting that Main Street has.”
Newman hopes the new lights are just the beginning.
“We want to see Mill Street get a lot more things,” she said. “I want to see the traffic you see on Main Street back here. I think lights are important for safety reasons as well, because there is a lot of public parking and stuff going on.”
The new lights would look familiar to people walking the sidewalks.
“Duke (Energy) is going to match the streetlights on Main Street, or at least as closely as we can,” Sylva Director of Public Works Jake Scott said. “They will be so similar that it would take a very thorough inspection to tell them apart. We like that sort of gaslight look.”
Duke has many options of poles, the skirts at their base and globes to mix and match to achieve the look Sylva wants, he said.
The bulbs will be the biggest difference.
“The world is moving to LEDs, and the lights on Main Street are compressed sodium, which is becoming obsolete,” Scott said. “We really like those because they give a really warm, kind of golden light at night that shines up on the buildings.”
The town wants to replicate that effect as much as LEDs will allow, he said.
“They have to be LEDs, because that’s the wave of the future,” he said. “They will be more efficient, so there is a tradeoff.”
Duke would install the light poles, while Public Works would dig up the sidewalks and run power to the locations towards the eastern end of Mill Street, Scott said.
The lights would be spread from Sylva Glass and Mirror to the corner of Spring and Mill near Melissa’s Back Street Takeout.
“I’m still waiting on Duke to round up their inventory of parts and as soon as they tell me they have everything they need, then my guys will start,” he said. “We’re going to have to break some sidewalk up but we want to make the disruption as brief as possible.”
Scott does not expect vehicle traffic along Mill Street to be impeded for any length of time, if at all. The sidewalk on the left hand side of Mill Street could be blocked for short periods while the Public Works Department runs the conduit, he said.
That would be the only cost to the town.
“The town buries conduit so that Duke can easily run wire and set light bases,” he said. “Once the conduit is in place, Duke runs wire, sets the poles, etc. The town of Sylva then contracts an inclusive price per pole with Duke.”