Taura Denis stood outside her Samoset home as three of her children played on a neighboring lot she and her husband own. It was just after 6 p.m. Monday — a few hours before sunset — and a part of 19th Street Court East was already darkened by trees towering overhead.
There is no street lighting on the narrow road where Denis and her family reside, a reality she and her husband, Dimitrie Denis, are petitioning to change. The couple is leading efforts to gather signatures from Samoset residents who also support of installing more street lighting in their community.
I have children under 4 years old that perhaps may go to Samoset Elementary and the fact that we don’t have sidewalks or streetlights is a problem. It’s a safety issue for me... for my kids.
Taura Denis, Samoset resident
“I decided I need to do something for my community that I serve, that I live in,” Denis said. “I’m a mother of six, so my main concern is the safety of my children. I have children under 4 years old that perhaps may go to Samoset Elementary, and the fact that we don’t have sidewalks or street lights is a problem. It’s a safety issue for me. ... for my kids.”
As of Monday, about 40 signatures had been collected.
“We feel like we’ve been left behind as far as other projects that’s going on in the county,” Denis said. “What we would like is street lights for one, sidewalks and other infrastructure concerns that the whole community, as a whole, see as a problem.”
Yolanda Hunter, 43, and her husband, Clarence Hunter, 45, said they want street lights in the area. The couple lives farther down the road from the Denises and said not all streets in Samoset have lighting.
“It’s really dark at night. There’s no lighting besides what we have right here,” Yolanda said, pointing toward a light by the front porch. “Maybe if the lights were on, (speeding cars) would slow down a little bit.”
Clarence said many people love walking through the neighborhood at night.
“You can’t really see them until they get like right there,” he said, extending his arm toward their fence. “It would make a big difference if we had lights, so you can see.”
I believe that we all as a community should get together and invest in our community which would essentially allow the police officers to conduct their jobs with ease, with no burden at all, and it also allows us to report crime when it’s going on in our community.
Dimitrie Denis, Samoset resident
Safety and speeding are also concerns for the Hunters, especially with Samoset Elementary School so close.
Manatee County Commissioner Charles Smith, who in 2015 said he wanted every neighborhood in unincorporated Manatee County to have street lighting, said a sales referendum —if approved by voters Nov. 8 — would provide funding for street lights and other infrastructure.
“It’ll be up to the voters of Manatee County to approve the referendum,” said Smith. “We’ve passed the stages now where, if you pass the referendum, you don’t need the petition.”
Smith said street lighting is a public safety issue — not a poverty issue.
“We have law enforcement that’s in the dark, that can’t see their hands. They can’t even write their reports and it has been shown that lights deter crime,” Smith said. “The residents of Samoset deserve to be heard, they deserve to have a better quality of life, they deserve to have their streets cleaned, their ditches. Have we done enough? Absolutely not. There’s a lot more to do. It’s up to the residents to support that referendum.”
Dimitrie Denis said the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office does a wonderful job and deputies are always in the community, but that lack of street lighting impedes their ability to ensure public safety.
“We have kids here and we also have a school here, so I believe that we all as a community should get together and invest in our community,” he said, “which would essentially allow the police officers to conduct their jobs with ease, with no burden at all, and it also allows us to report crime when it’s going on in our community.”
The residents of Samoset deserves to be heard, they deserve to have a better quality of life, they deserve to have their streets cleaned, their ditches. Have we done enough? Absolutely not. There’s a lot more to do.
Manatee County Commissioner Charles Smith
On July 11, Taura Denis stood outside the Oasis Community Center before more than a dozen residents. The group was unable to get into the center for their neighborhood association meeting, so Denis held it on the front lawn. She spoke about the petition for streetlights.
Beside Denis stood Ogden Clark III, an ambassador program coordinator with Manatee County.
“What she (Denis) said about the streetlights, that’s important. What we’re trying to do is figure out where the pockets of support are,” Clark said. “We have to have 67 percent to be able to get those lights.”
According to Clark, residents already completed the initial part of the process, which includes writing a letter to the Manatee County Public Works Department.
Back at home Monday evening, Taura stressed the vision she and many others have for Samoset.
“I just want the whole community — 200 acres of Samoset — lit up,” she said. “Just like any other neighborhood.”