RPB Ready To Start Crestwood Blvd. Improvements

After years of planning, the Royal Palm Beach Village Council was scheduled Thursday to approve the start of streetscape improvements on the northern portion of Crestwood Blvd. through the Saratoga community.

Two items were on the consent agenda for approval: authorization for the village to enter into a professional services agreement with Michael Baker Jr. Inc. for Phase 1 of the streetscaping and authorization for the village to enter into an agreement with the Saratoga at Royal Palm Property Owners’ Association (SPOA) to move the existing irrigation system as part of the walkway improvement project.

The enhanced streetscape runs along Crestwood Blvd. from Saratoga Blvd. to Royal Palm Beach Blvd.

Village Engineer Chris Marsh said that the project will include curbs, gutters and widening of the existing 4-foot walkways to 8 feet, which will encroach on the irrigation system owned and maintained by Saratoga, although it is located legally in village right-of-way.

The cost for the work has not been determined, but money for the work will be set up as a receivable due from SPOA and not a village expense, according to the staff report. The money would initially come from the village’s capital improvement fund reserves, to be repaid by SPOA.

In a 3-2 decision April 4, the council authorized Village Manager Ray Liggins to pursue an arrangement with SPOA to rebuild the irrigation system, although there was an in-depth discussion as to whether it would put the village at risk by financing a private POA project, even though the village would eventually be paid back.

Marsh said the village portion of the project is driven by grants totaling $500,000 that carry a deadline. Conditions of the grant require the project to be under construction by no later than May 6. Failure to meet the grant schedule could jeopardize funding.

SPOA was notified of potential irrigation conflicts in 2009, and then notified of the pending construction last May and again this March.

Village Attorney Brad Biggs said SPOA had raised some of the money through assessments in 2012 and was in the process of raising the balance in assessments through 2014.

Councilman Richard Valuntas opposed using village money to move the irrigation system even though SPOA had agreed to repay the cost, because he felt it would put the village in a position of risk, and Vice Mayor Jeff Hmara agreed.

Councilman Dave Swift said he had talked to Saratoga homeowners, and they wanted the project completed in time to qualify for the grant, but they were concerned that in order to meet the deadlines they would have to increase assessments.

Joseph Boyle, representing Saratoga, said he was taking steps to make sure the work can be financed. “We just need time to collect the money, but we can collect it,” he said. “I don’t think there’s risk to the village.”

Boyle said SPOA was willing to include measures in the agreement that would guarantee that the village is repaid and has already spent $8,000 for architectural and electrical designs for the system.

Valuntas asked why SPOA had not been able to get the money together by the deadline, given more than three years’ notice.

Boyle said he did not join the board of governors until 2010, and even at that time, SPOA did not have a full picture of its obligations. When they got into 2012, they realized initial estimates had been off.

The organization expects to raise an additional $30,000 in 2013. “We are in the process of collecting that money as we speak,” Boyle said. “I expect this thing would be no more than $30,000 more.”

He anticipated they could raise the necessary money at the same rate they are currently collecting from homeowners.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a burden on our community or a problem collecting it,” Boyle said.

Liggins said although the final cost to relocate the irrigation had not been finalized, he did not see a special assessment exceeding $100 per homeowner, if a special assessment were required at all.

Removal of the irrigation system until SPOA raises the money would result in the loss of landscaping and sodding in and around the public right-of-way, according to the staff report, which also states that there is a public benefit to keep the landscaping and sodding healthy during the village project, and prevent the SPOA obligations from altering the village’s grant funding time schedule.

Swift made the motion at the April 4 meeting for the manager to draft an agreement with Saratoga to move the irrigation system, taking into account all the council members’ comments to reduce risk to the village. The motion carried 3-2, with Valuntas and Hmara opposed.

The streetscape improvements are tied to a $250,000 grant from the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization.