LGWCD Finalizes Budget With Assessment Increase

The Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District gave final approval to its 2014 budget at a special meeting Wednesday, Sept. 11. The new budget increases assessments by $15 per acre to help pay for clearing canals and improving drainage.

The increase would raise the district’s assessment to between $107 and $113 per acre, depending on the property. The cost is higher for those along unpaved roads because of grading and dust watering.

The LGWCD’s 2014 budget totals $1.611 million, slightly more than the current year’s $1.607 million.

The budget includes $90,000 for a 40-foot-reach backhoe for canal excavation, as well as an extended-reach mower so staff can cut weeds in canals down to the waterline.

District Administrator Stephen Yohe said that he and his staff had made detailed inquiries on specific equipment.

Supervisor Frank Schiola said purchasing the correct equipment is a wise move for the district.

“To do this outside the district is just way too expensive,” Schiola said, explaining that the long-reach backhoe recommended by staff has rubber tires rather than tracks, which enables it to move from one work site to another without having to be transported.

“It’s going to be ours, and it’s going to keep these canals cleaned out,” he said. “It’s not going to be something that we’ll use a few months. It will be used pretty much year-round. Our other mower is broken down, and it’s going to cost way too much money to fix.”

Supervisor John Ryan noted that the existing mower is more than 12 years old. “We’ve already experienced two new transmission replacements, and it has reached the end of its useful life,” he said. “Also, the arm on that mower is not adequate to mow certain portions of the canal banks.”

Ryan added that with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new flood maps coming out, it’s more important than ever to demonstrate that the district has taken corrective action to improve the flow in its canals to their original design.

The district has taken issue with the new FEMA maps. If left unchanged, Loxahatchee Groves residents could be forced to buy flood insurance.

Ryan also complimented Yohe and district staff on their research before recommending a five-year lease/purchase contract with Nortrax for a John Deere backhoe/excavator, as well as a John Deere tractor/mower under similar terms.

“They actually interviewed other districts that have the equipment that we’re proposing to buy here, and they evaluated other districts and Martin County’s experience with this equipment,” Ryan said. “I think that [they used] very significant due diligence and negotiations to obtain the right equipment for the immediate needs of the district.”

Ryan also pointed out that maintenance of the equipment was built into the five-year lease/purchase agreements, which are $65,465.10 per year with a $1 buyout at the end for the backhoe/excavator, and $24,821.89 per year with a $1 buyout at the end for the tractor/mower. Yohe said Nortrax offered $11,000 for the district’s broken tractor/mower. “We’re still seeking to find out whether that’s a fair offer,” he said.

Supervisor Frank Schiola made a motion to approve the equipment purchases, which carried 3-0. Chairman Dave DeMarois and Supervisor Don Widing were absent.

Ryan made a motion to approve the budget and authorize Vice Chairman Robert Snowball to sign the non-ad valorem assessment roll, which also carried 3-0.