The Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District Board of Supervisors decided Monday to try to arrange a joint meeting with the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council to resolve the long history of dispute and confusion over town and district roads.
Supervisor Anita Kane suggested a meeting with the town about district roads after meeting with LGWCD Administrator Steve Yohe on the transfer of remaining district roads to the town, and sought a consensus of the board to meet with the council in order to coordinate the effort.
Supervisors said they would like to have a plan for road improvements that would encompass both town and district roads in order to avoid confusion by residents over which agency to turn to when they need maintenance.
The issue has been complicated by both entities having to work within 60-foot rights-of-way that include a canal, maintained by the district, and a road, in many cases maintained by the town.
The district has been turning roads over to the town, but that has been slowed down by controversy over the condition of the roads, and by the bureaucracy of having the transfer of ownership and maintenance back and forth between the two entities.
Then, there is a remaining bond to be paid off by property owners for when they had their roads paved with open-graded emulsified mix, or OGEM, and the question of how the town’s gas tax money will be shared with the district, if at all.
During a discussion of road and canal maintenance standards, engineer James Noth of Erdman Anthony said it is difficult to include a road and a canal in a 60-foot right-of-way. “It requires concessions to what we would like to have on both the road and the canal,” Noth said. “The canal banks are steeper than we would like them to be. Along with that, the bottom widths of the canals are narrower than what we would like to have. The remaining room for the road is narrower than desired. That’s why we end up having to do a lot of maintenance maps, because just the natural passage of cars ends up pushing the road around a little bit.”
Noth pointed out that the original 60-foot rights-of-way were platted more than 100 years ago when it was appropriate for the time.
“There were much different needs at that time versus now,” he said, explaining that historically the practice of the district has been to water for dust control, do frequent grading to remove ruts from the road and to add rock to keep the road level up.
He researched the cost of laying down a base rock and paving B Road, which was $90,000 per mile for 6 inches of base rock and $110,000 per mile for 8 inches.
“The problem with putting base rock in is without a protective surface on it, which is pavement, the base rock is going to degrade over time, so you will have the same or worse flooding than what you have now, and eventually it will not be usable as a base,” Noth said.
The cost for paving B Road came to about $750,000 per mile just for the construction portion of the cost.
“When you add in design fees, construction inspection and other soft costs, you’re looking at about a million dollars a mile,” Noth said. “Right now, the frequent grading is probably the best way to keep the roads maintained for roads that are not yet ready to be paved.”
He added that the amount of traffic is compromising the functionality of an unpaved road.
During public comment, Councilman Ron Jarriel said that the town and the district should work together to improve the easements.
Supervisor Don Widing said he was tired of years of back-and-forth between the town and the district, showing few results.
“It’s frustrating when a decade later we still haven’t figured this out,” Widing said. “That’s not fair to the community. We’re not the district, we’re not the town, we’re a community.”
Widing said he wanted to see a plan.
“We can talk until midnight about whether we’re going to give the town the roads or not,” he said. “I want to see the cost to convince me that the town can do it better and cheaper than us, and then we’ll move on.”
Supervisor Laura Danowski was also in favor of developing a plan.
“Part of our obligation up here and part of the obligation of the town is proper money management,” Danowski said.
LGWCD Chairman Frank Schiola agreed, explaining that the town needs to develop a plan so the district understands what they want to do.
After more discussion, the board decided to invite the entire council to joint meetings before regular district and town meetings with roads and drainage being the only item on the agenda.
Schiola asked for consensus to dedicate the October board meeting to a roundtable discussion, if the town agrees, or to hold the roundtable meeting early if there is urgent district business.
In other business, the board approved road drainage guidelines directing the LGWCD engineer and administrator to identify solutions and cooperate with landowners as necessary.
Noth said the guidelines look at a way to prioritize drainage issues that staff can use to catalog them and make the best use of financial resources. The guidelines prioritize life and safety issues and emergency repairs, with aesthetic repairs taking a lower priority.
He said one of the big issues is that poorly drained roads cause the roadway to degrade, as well as causing stormwater to flow onto adjacent property. He suggested a solution where the district constructs a culvert underneath the roadway and the property owner in turn dedicates a strip of land to catch the runoff.
Yohe said all issues would be reviewed on a case-by case basis and expenditures would be reviewed and approved by the board. Widing made a motion to approve the resolution, which carried 5-0.
The board also approved a resolution from the town accepting a quit claim deed for North and South F Road. Widing made a motion to approve the resolution, which carried 5-0.