Loxahatchee Groves Town Council members voted to finalize the transfer of district roads from the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District on Tuesday, with discussion centering on Collecting Canal Road.
The council approved two resolutions, one only addressing Collecting Canal Road.
Mayor Dave Browning said that he was concerned about accepting roads that have not been paved under the assessment process that the district used, thereby leaving it up to the town.
“Right now, there’s also no way of receiving any of the taxes that the landowners pay, those who don’t pay the ad valorem and everything else, to maintain and do this road, so that will still remain with the water control district,” Browning said. “As far as I know, we do not have a mechanism to gain that. We will gain the road tax money, but that will be it.”
Councilman Tom Goltzené disagreed, explaining that the town is able to collect ad valorem taxes and that if the road is paved, the district would no longer have the ability to collect assessments for roads it no longer maintains.
“In that the road is not paved currently, and that no arrangement has been made to do that, then certainly similar arrangements could be made if we decide that the people should pay something for their roads,” Goltzené said. “I don’t think we should get tied up in the details when there are certainly ways to do that.”
He said that Collecting Canal Road should be paved because it is in bad shape. “The whole town’s road system is a mess,” Goltzené said. “We need to get control of the system. There are giant holes everywhere.”
Vice Mayor Ron Jarriel agreed that the town needs to take control of the roads, including unpaved ones.
“The district grades the roads, but they do not bring the road rock material up,” Jarriel said. “We’re getting lower and lower; it’s becoming a canal instead of a road. The district does not have the funds without raising assessments to put road rock material on these roads. The last time we put it on the roads, six inches, was when the county funded it for every road in Loxahatchee Groves. It is going to cost some money to bring these roads up to where they belong, so that when we do get to paving them, we don’t have to spend a fortune to bring in the road rock material.”
Jarriel added that the district assesses 60 percent for roads and 40 percent for drainage, so when the roads are turned over from the district, its assessments should drop.
“We need to take control of every road in Loxahatchee Groves and let the district do its job of drainage and canal maintenance,” he said.
Councilman Ryan Liang said he was hesitant to take over all the roads at once, citing the theory that the district should reduce its assessments, but the town itself will have to consider raising its taxes.
“Also, I’m not sure taking over all the roads all at once is the best idea, only because we as a council aren’t experienced at road maintenance,” Liang added.
Councilman Jim Rockett said that the last time they considered the transfer, he thought that the council members were getting ahead of themselves.
“I don’t know if it’s interesting that we take them over and compare how well they’re maintained, and not forget how much money is spent to maintain them,” Rockett said. “I think we should work them in as we are ready to give them OGEM and take them over, and do that over time.”
Browning pointed out that D Road, which was paved with open-graded emulsified mix (OGEM) by the district, is traveled by heavy trucks that are causing the edges to crumble. He asserted that the town will have to finance repairs, but Goltzené said that the road had been designed too thin and narrow.
“That’s why it’s falling apart,” he said. “You can’t have a road designed for vehicles that are six feet wide and then drive when you have a travel lane of five or six feet per vehicle, and then think people aren’t going to get off on the side.”
Browning said he was still reluctant to take over the roads, but was going to go for it because the people seemed to want it. “If it costs in the long run, then bad on me,” he said.
Jarriel made a motion to approve the Collecting Canal resolution. Browning called the question, and the motion carried 4-1 with Rockett opposed.
The council also approved the subsequent resolution to transfer all roads from the district. Jarriel made the motion, which carried 3-2 with Rockett and Liang opposed.
In other business, the council approved a drainage improvement and culvert replacement policy to provide a method for the town to balance public service needs with its fiscal capabilities.
Town Manager Bill Underwood said that the town’s legal staff had drafted a resolution in response to discussion at a previous meeting to adopt a policy.
“This is our attempt to get policy in place because we do have the B Road culvert issues,” he said.
He also referred to a situation on C Road where someone had stuck a piece of pipe into the intersection to drain where OGEM pavement had broken off.
“Unfortunately, it really doesn’t drain the road adequately,” Underwood said. “What we’re having is a failure at the corner there. My concern is that we’ve got to get it fixed, and part of the policy issue is we need to come up with and find a mechanism so we can stop this kind of erosion.”
Jarriel made a motion to approve the policy, which carried 5-0.