Frank Schiola To Chair LGWCD Board

The Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District Board of Supervisors chose Supervisor Frank Schiola as its new chair Monday after Supervisor Don Widing and Supervisor Laura Danowski declined nomination.

Danowski was picked as vice chair, while newly elected Supervisor Anita Kane was tapped as secretary-treasurer. Widing will remain deputy secretary-treasurer.

“We have a lot of good energy here,” Widing said. “I’m looking forward to working with the new people.”

The board also approved a Truth in Millage (TRIM) rate for its $1.5 million 2016-17 budget, without the $10.90-per-acre increase to cover an anticipated $85,000 reimbursement from the Town of Loxahatchee Groves for road maintenance that has been included in the proposed town budget but not yet approved by the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council.

Property owners on unpaved roads now pay $150 per acre, and $107 to $113 per acre in areas with OGEM paving.

LGWCD Administrator Steve Yohe said the board needs to present its TRIM notice to Palm Beach County by July 22, and the council does not meet again until July 19.

“The board is confronted with a couple of issues,” Yohe said. “One, is the board going to receive the $85,000 that they have received previously from the town for a portion of the county gas tax money? This would be the seventh amendment to the interlocal agreement with the town if they did agree to that.”

Yohe said the board could approve a TRIM rate with the additional $10.90-per-acre increase, and then lower it to the original rate after the town approves the $85,000. He added that an alternative would be to approve the budget without the $10.90 increase and reallocate money from the district’s unassigned funds account.

Yohe said the district provides the lowest-cost maintenance of unpaved roads, although the town has contracted with Bergeron Land Development to maintain its roads.

LGWCD Attorney Mary Viator stressed that the board must adopt a TRIM rate that evening, with the understanding that it could always reduce the rate.

Kane said she has issues with the way assessments are done.

“I just don’t think they are equitable with the town people,” she said, explaining that people are paying different rates, and some businesses that pay assessments do not receive maintenance at all. “I think the assessments are something we need to take a serious look at, particularly if we are going to tack on another $10.90.”

Supervisor Simon Fernandez said he thought the rates should not be raised at all. “The whole budget needs to be revised and verified,” he said.

Widing said that the district and the town had lost their understanding of what the gas tax had originally been intended to do.

“Now it’s like the gas tax has become a bargaining chip for roads and who takes them over,” he said. “I try to separate myself from that. I’m not in this position to protect the district or the town. We are a community, and that’s what has troubled me from the beginning.”

Widing made a motion to adopt the budget without the $10.90 increase, which carried 5-0.

In other business, the board accepted a quit claim deed to transfer ownership of South B Road south of Collecting Canal Road to the Town of Loxahatchee Groves.

Yohe said the resolution still needs to be signed by the town’s vice mayor and attorney.

“This has been going back and forth for quite some time,” Widing said. “I don’t know if the rest of the board needs additional information, but otherwise, I’m ready.”

Kane made a motion to approve the resolution, which carried 5-0.

The council also directed staff to continue seeking a new emergency line of credit up to $300,000 to be used in the event of a storm or other disaster that requires rapid reconstruction of district property.

Although these types of disasters are normally reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Yohe explained that the district had previously obtained a line of credit to immediately repair district facilities until those reimbursements become available.

He said that SunTrust Bank, which had provided a $400,000 line of credit, changed its lending policy and it is no longer available. Yohe and his staff are seeking other banks to provide that line of credit. SunTrust charged $1,000 per year for the agreement.

Widing made a motion to continue bank negotiations and seek more letters of interest, which carried 5-0. Once a line of credit is worked out, a resolution would return for final board approval.