The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors voted last week to enter into negotiations with Jay Foy of Stormwater J Engineering to serve as both district engineer and hydrologist.
After oral presentations at the Wednesday, July 10 meeting, the board selected Foy over Captec Engineering and Craig A. Smith & Associates. Foy received three No. 1 votes for both positions, which had been advertised separately.
Attorney Frank Palin explained that one firm could be selected to serve both as district engineer and hydrologist. Palin said that during the negotiation phase, the board can decide how the services will be provided.
ITID’s contract with its current engineering firm, Engenuity Group, expires Sept. 30. The district engineer is one of three ITID positions that report directly to the board, the other two are the attorney and the administrator.
Foy noted that he is familiar with special districts, having been ITID’s engineer from 1991 to 2005, and hydrologist in conjunction with Craig A. Smith from 2005-08.
“I’m very familiar with government,” Foy said, explaining that he has also served as an elected official with the Town of Haverhill for more than 20 years. “Not only is that important because I’ve had 20 years’ exposure to your district attorneys, so I understand the legal aspects of a special district, but I’ve also had 20 years of access to municipal attorneys and special districts who can properly inform me how government is conducted.”
Foy sits on two Federal Emergency Management Agency committees, including the flood insurance mapping committee. “That’s very important. It’s right in front of you now,” he said. “It’s going to be something you’re going to have to pay attention to, and it will be important for all the residents out here.”
Foy earned his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering. “What’s that got to do with hydrology? Well, I can guarantee you I’ve had more fluid mechanics than any civil engineer ever has,” he said. “I was in the honor society when I got my bachelor’s. I went to the master’s program and got my master’s in environmental engineering… My thesis was in stormwater. I was encouraged by my professor to go for my Ph.D. That gets a little too academic for me, so I went into the real world.”
Foy took the test to become a registered engineer in 1975, got a perfect score and started practicing in 1976.
Foy has other civil engineering experience, but he has a particular interest in stormwater.
“Experience — I know almost all the hydraulic applications of almost everything that has ever been presented in the stormwater area that you can possibly imagine,” he said. “I’ve written many stormwater programs.”
Some of those programs were for both the South Florida Water Management District and ITID, including a rudimentary groundwater program for the Palm Beach County Health Department to determine where septic tanks should be set in the M-1 Basin. “They now use a more soil-based scientific method, but I came up with that program,” he said. “I wrote a program because none were available.”
Foy added that he was involved in most of the development of the M-1 Basin, including the main floodgate and inverted siphons draining canals underneath some of the main roadways, as well as the impoundment outfalls.
For the future of ITID, Foy said everyone needs to know what the system is. “By ‘system,’ I don’t mean just where each pipe and gate is,” he said. “You have to know how to operate it, you have to know what to do, when to do it, what the permits allow and what the permits don’t allow. It’s complicated. You can’t learn this system in a year.”
Foy also wants to change the paradigm under which the district operates. “There’s a paradigm out there that says if you build in the swamp, you get what you deserve. That’s wrong,” he said. “A quarter-inch per day is failure to serve the public. We need to get more than that.”
The paradigm also calls for drainage to the northwest, which he said must change. “That isn’t working,” he said. “We’ve been trying since 1995 to make that work, and it doesn’t work.”
Foy said the district has a floodgate that allows stormwater to flow southeast, and it needs to get permitting to do that. “I don’t mean permitted, and I don’t mean planned,” he said. “I mean constructed, and then you change the paradigm.”
Foy added that he remains up to date with regional water management plans. “I was the only person present who objected to the L-8 Reservoir being taken away from the north county area, specifically Indian Trail, in January 2012,” he said. “I was not your district engineer then, but I showed up, and I objected. It was a settlement to a legal problem with the Everglades, but it hurt the whole north county area by losing that reservoir.”
Foy said the district needs to follow up with federal agencies on an improvement plan proposed for the M-1 impoundment, which would more than double the effective water storage there. “That is a good plan,” he said. “We need to improve and maintain what we have.”
Foy said he is passionate about Indian Trail, water management and engineering. “You are the hub of the north county area,” he said. “I want to represent you. I have a great desire. I loved it when I did it, and I want to do it again. You would be our first priority, and you are our first priority.”
Supervisor Gary Dunkley asked Foy whether he would consider serving both as district engineer and hydrologist, and Foy said he would.
Vice President Carol Jacobs asked Foy whether the current drainage system is designed to work the way it is now, and Foy said it does function up to a storm of about 6 inches.
“Somewhere around 6 inches of rainfall is where you start to get overloaded,” he said. “Your defined level of service, you don’t meet that because of the quarter-inch-per-day discharge.”
Voting results were No. 1 rankings for Stormwater J by President Jennifer Hager, Jacobs and Dunkley for hydrology and stormwater management, and the same for district engineer, with write-in votes by the same supervisors for Foy, who had not applied for district engineer originally.
Supervisor Ralph Bair made a motion to accept the results, which carried 4-1 with Supervisor Michelle Damone opposed.
Dunkley made a motion to proceed with negotiations for Foy to be both district engineer and hydrologist, and for Captec to serve as consulting engineer to Foy. That motion carried unanimously.