Central Palm Beach County had a hit and a miss in next year’s state budget when Gov. Rick Scott (shown above) decided to keep more than $4 million for berm improvements at the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area, but vetoed $4 million-plus that had been earmarked to begin construction of the Palm Beach State College campus in Loxahatchee Groves.
PBSC purchased its 75-acre site on the northwest corner of B Road and Southern Blvd. for $4.5 million in October 2012.
Loxahatchee Groves Mayor Dave Browning said he was not particularly concerned about the veto.
“My thoughts were always that this college campus was for future needs,” Browning said. “They had the money to buy the campus, but at that time they did not have money to build.”
Browning said he thinks it is just a matter of time before the campus construction gets financing, but that it was not regarded as a high priority this year in the overall scope of things, in light of needed extra education financing and a tight economy.
“I just think we’re looking further down the road,” Browning said. “When the need is there, I believe they’ll allocate the money and build the campus. It really doesn’t change anything on my part as far as the building of the campus or the money.”
Nevertheless, the $74.1 state budget is about $4.1 billion greater than the current budget.
PBSC’s College Relations Director Dr. Grace Truman said the college also was not distraught over the veto.
“The need for a campus to serve west-central Palm Beach County has been long established,” Truman wrote in an e-mail to the Town-Crier Tuesday. “We appreciate the legislature’s recognition and support of our efforts to provide public higher education access to these communities. The governor’s veto is disappointing, but we will continue to explore funding options so that this campus can be built.”
Meanwhile, partial financing to reinforce the levee separating the Corbett area from The Acreage remains in the budget. Gov. Scott had pledged money for the levee after the flooding from Tropical Storm Isaac that officials believed threatened the integrity of the dike.
“My understanding is that the proposal was for $8.3 million, and a little over half was approved for the Corbett berm,” Indian Trail Improvement District Director of Maintenance & Operations Mike Guinaugh said. “We’re hoping that next year, the balance gets funded.”
The South Florida Water Management District, in cooperation with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, which manages the preserve, has created conceptual designs for construction of a new levee and presented its plans in several public meetings. “It is in the design process,” Guinaugh said. “We have been participating in a cooperative interagency manner with the water management district on their design options and impacts to ITID, and they are refining their scope of work based on the budget being half of what it originally was, to the most critical and crucial areas.”
Guinaugh said officials have discussed keeping what was to be a temporary weir dam that was built into the portion of the levee separating Corbett from the Mecca Farms property during the height of the Isaac flooding, which allowed water to spill from the Corbett across the unpaved Seminole Pratt Whitney Road right-of-way into Mecca and be routed northward to the Loxahatchee Slough.
“It has come up, and at least at first flush the plan is to keep it in place,” Guinaugh said, explaining that SFWMD construction crews plowed a portion of the road to allow the flood water to flow into the Mecca property. “If you drive up there, the dip is still there and the road functions just fine,” he said. “It’s structurally sound and the dip is still in, so water can still flow today. If it got high enough, it could go that way today.”