It’s the first year in a long while that there is extra money flowing through Tallahassee. Rather than deep cuts, there will be extra funding. As the Florida Legislature hashes out its more than $74 billion state budget in Tallahassee, Palm Beach County residents are waiting to see if several long-awaited hometown projects will get funded or get postponed yet again.
Among more than $4 billion in spending still on the table is $5 million for a Palm Beach State College campus in Loxahatchee Groves, $8.3 million for flood control at the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area and $75,000 for a Torry Island marina on Lake Okeechobee.
With a $1 billion surplus in the budget, the legislature would do well to spend its money wisely, and we believe all three projects would be beneficial not only for our area, but for all of Florida.
Perhaps the most pressing item — and one that looks likely to get its funding — is the Torry Island marina, which could help stimulate the economy in the Glades. For decades, legislators from our area have puzzled over how to help the troubled lakeside communities. Though promises have been made over and over, it wasn’t until recently those representatives have buckled down and developed a plan that could revive the communities and make Palm Beach County’s slice of Lake Okeechobee a vacation destination. This would help bring jobs and infrastructure to the area, and also attract tourists looking enjoy all the lake has to offer. With a fairly modest price tag, we believe the project should make its way to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.
Less sure are funds for the PBSC campus. The Town-Crier has long been a supporter of a campus serving the western communities, and given the controversy in Loxahatchee Groves this past election cycle, it’s more imperative than ever that the campus come with strong state backing. The benefits to the college are many, and it will make our area more attractive to businesses looking to relocate. Already, our communities have proven to be attractive for large companies like Aldi, and a college would be another check in the box. Considering the state’s recent push to attract large corporations through its Office of Tourism, Trade & Economic Development, legislators would be remiss not to fund this project.
Last, but certainly not least, the issue of water management must be solved. When Hurricane Isaac crossed our area last year, The Acreage was among the hardest hit communities. But the flooding was nothing compared to what could have happened if the Corbett berm failed. Water rights and storage issues are a complicated and delicate situation with a lot of moving parts, and building the levee to modern standards is something Acreage residents can’t count on without help from the state. So long as the new levee is built carefully, with consideration for surrounding wetland and wildlife, we believe it’s a crucial project that will serve our area well during the next storm.
If you agree, contact your representatives and urge them to push for these hometown projects. You can find more information at www.myfloridahouse.gov and www.flsenate.gov. Of course, should they make the budget, the fight is not over. Then they have to avoid Gov. Scott’s veto pen.