2012 was a year of change that also saw many issues in the western communities go unresolved. The March municipal elections resulted in a dramatic restructuring of the Wellington Village Council, with Bob Margolis unseating incumbent Mayor Darell Bowen, and John Greene replacing term-limited Dr. Carmine Priore. In Royal Palm Beach, Jeff Hmara became the new face on that village’s council. The November elections brought two new faces to the Palm Beach County Commission — Hal Valeche and Mary Lou Berger — replacing longtime incumbents Karen Marcus and Burt Aaronson. And in The Acreage, a shift on the board saw Jennifer Hager become Indian Trail Improvement District president, replacing longtime ITID President Michelle Damone, who remains on the board but without an officer position. Yet new faces do not always lead to solutions. So with 2013 beginning Tuesday, the Town-Crier presents our annual list of things we would like to see happen over the next year:
• Fix Drainage Problems In The Acreage — We’ve been demanding solutions to drainage woes in The Acreage for decades, and we’re glad to see that action is finally being taken. It’s too bad that it took a natural disaster to get things moving. Tropical Storm Isaac brought more than a foot of rain to the area, causing extensive flooding that remained long after other communities returned to normal life. The main problem is that The Acreage is allowed only a quarter-inch per day of external water drainage, despite the fact that regional authorities have known for decades this is insufficient. The Indian Trail Improvement District doesn’t have the power to increase the amount of outflow; rather, ITID is reliant on other agencies any time it needs more drainage. The drainage problem needs to be solved so the district is not reliant on the charity of other agencies for flood relief, which is clearly not enough. Now that we’ve seen the results of inaction, we hope this decades-long problem will find its solution in 2013.
• Settle Wellington’s Civil War — Plans for Wellington’s controversial Equestrian Village project have been up against the wall since the new council began operating this spring. Right now there are dueling lawsuits and a civil war that has divided the equestrian community and the Wellington community, and there is no sign that either side is backing down from entrenchment. Unfortunately, when it comes to the plaintiffs on both sides, it’s personal. What we’ve got is a community caught in a time warp that is unable to move forward with solutions. What Wellington really needs is an end to this civil war and peaceful coexistence, some sort of moving forward that is acceptable to all sides — something that doesn’t make the dressage people feel threatened, that allows fair use of the Equestrian Village property without the excesses the voters rejected, and protection for the neighbors. All of this is doable, but no one seems willing and able to do it. But in 2013, we’d rather not see a repeat of 2012.
• Properly Fund the Inspector General — One of the first things Wellington’s new council did was remove the village from the lawsuit against the Palm Beach County Office of the Inspector General, filed by a group of municipalities that argued they were being overcharged. While we applaud Wellington’s decision, the lawsuit continues to be a burden. Inspector General Sheryl Steckler has been working with her hands tied behind her back for the past year because of it. There’s money being held in escrow by County Clerk Sharon Bock, the municipalities still object to the funding, the county is not properly picking up the funding slack, and all the while there’s a public official who is not being allowed to do the job the voters empowered her to do.
• Get The New PBSC Campus Started — The dream of bringing a Palm Beach State College campus to the western communities took several steps closer to reality in 2012 when officials from Loxahatchee Groves and Palm Beach State College sealed the deal on plans for the campus. However, a petition to reverse the approval of the campus was initiated, worrying town officials that it could have a negative impact on their relations with the college. If the petition were to succeed, the college would be left with a $4.5 million parcel of land it can’t build on. We’ve waited far too long for a college campus in the western communities, and it’s unfortunate that those behind the petition couldn’t have addressed their concerns at one of the public hearings held before the agreement was reached. We hope the community can quickly get over this “bump in the road” and progress will resume.