College Campus, Town Hall Among Lox Projects In 2015

2015 will see a number of projects come to fruition for the Town of Loxahatchee Groves and the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District, including the beginning of construction for the new Palm Beach State College campus and the planned purchase of the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce building for use as a town hall.

“We have the beginning of Palm Beach State College in January and in operation in the spring of 2016,” Town Manager Bill Underwood told the Town-Crier.

The opening will come after a long process that saw opposition and a petition to stop the college by some residents who believed the campus would infringe on their rural way of life. The college broke ground in November.

The town is also looking at negotiating the purchase of the chamber building after renting cramped quarters in Palms West Plaza and meeting in the LGWCD administration building.

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council authorized its staff in November to proceed with the purchase of the chamber building, which is located at F Road and Southern Blvd. “We believe we’ll be able to finish that in 2015, along with the very good possibility that the Palm Beach County Commission will grant us the land upon which the building sits,” Underwood said, explaining that the chamber currently leases the property from the county.

The town plans to pay cash for the building. If the closing goes smoothly, he expects town operations to be housed in the building within a few months.

“Assuming that that works, we expect to implement a live streaming video of council meetings and other meetings,” Underwood said.

Since the town currently rents the LGWCD building for meetings, it must monitor them with a video recorder set up on a tripod.

The town also looks to starting building horse trails next year after a long series of delays.

“We expect to finish up the interlocal agreement with the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District for the surveying of the easements of the trails for horses in the town along all the lettered roads, both north and south,” Underwood said. “We’re looking forward to that.”

Other town projects will be less obvious to the public.

“We’re looking forward to finishing up the negotiations of the town’s financial software as a service provider,” he said. “The town will, in the future, not have to rely on data being transferred from one of their [data] managers to another and another. They will have all their data under their control.”

The council recently imposed a building moratorium on Okeechobee Blvd. that will give the town the opportunity to develop a master plan amendment for the corridor.

“I think that is a positive aspect for the future, and I think those things are big,” Underwood said.

The town is also working on an interlocal agreement with the county for a traffic signal at D Road and Okeechobee Blvd., which is being financed by Minto through the county, although there has been some delay due to lawsuits filed against the county over the Minto West approval.

“The county has agreed to fund the traffic light, but that funding would go to the county, and in turn the town, implementing the traffic signal,” Underwood said. “What we’re looking for is an interlocal agreement where the county says it will reimburse the town if the town chooses to go ahead with the development of that signal.”

The town is also working on the final details of putting open-graded emulsified mix on B Road north of Tangerine Blvd. to Okeechobee Blvd., with funding from the college and developers at the corner of B Road and Southern Blvd., who will pave B Road from Southern to Tangerine with asphalt, curbs and gutters.

LGWCD Chairman Dave DeMarois said the district and the town have been working well together on various projects, including a funding agreement to maintain town roads.

The district has been able to dig out all the canals to specifications with the use of a long-reach backhoe it purchased this year, has cleared off the canal banks to the waterline with a recently purchased long-reach mower and will go into a phase of regular maintenance in 2015.

“We are working with the town on maintaining the side roads and improving the water flow in the canals,” DeMarois said. “We have a good relationship.”

The district also plans to work with the town on the development of horse trails along district canal rights of way through surveys to assure they are on the correct alignment. “A lot of people think it’s just opening them up,” he said. “There’s a lot more to it than that.”

DeMarois said he anticipates a continued good relationship and cooperation with the town to accomplish good things for the residents.

“We’re looking forward to another good year,” he said. “We have a good group of employees.”