The Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District Board of Supervisors approved a motion Monday to issue quit claim deeds for Collecting Canal Road and D Road from Okeechobee Blvd. to Southern Blvd. to the Town of Loxahatchee Groves after a discussion of whether to turn over all the remaining district roads.
Supervisors also discussed what preparations should be made in regard to roads in the respective town and district budgets.
“I think this is a very critical issue, and I just wanted to offer my perspective to the board and the folks who are here,” said Supervisor Don Widing, who will leave the board next month. “The things that I’m thinking about going forward are — which I was expecting to discuss if and when it’s decided that we’re going to have another workshop with the [Loxahatchee Groves] Town Council, and hopefully we’re going to be able to do that sooner rather than later — on what the assessments are and what the ad valorem taxes are going to be. The rates have to be set. That’s required by law.”
He added that he would like the town and the district to work out a transition plan so that everyone understands what will occur and when, and how much it will cost.
“What roads are the town prepared to take over and maintain?” he asked. “When would this begin and what will happen between now and the establishment of our respective budgets? Timing is important, because the rainy season is right upon us. The hurricane season is coming, and I think it’s our responsibility to make sure that these roads are maintained until there is a formal plan for an effective transition so that the services that we’re responsible to provide aren’t jeopardized.”
Supervisor Anita Kane said she is concerned about having equipment to maintain the roads if the district keeps control of them. Kane pointed out that LGWCD Administrator Steve Yohe had estimated that an approximate $20 per acre assessment increase would be necessary for equipment and increased staff if the district keeps the roads.
“We have a considerable amount of failing equipment, and if you look at what Mr. Yohe prepared for what it would cost us to be able to continue to maintain the roads, I think the prudent thing for us to do would be to turn the roads over as quickly as possible,” Kane said. “Otherwise we’re going to get into huge capital outlays of money on equipment that we may or may not need. The equipment we have is not capable of doing the job. That’s pretty obvious. The decision has to be made: Do we turn over those roughly 15 miles of roads now and let the town take them?”
Kane acknowledged that it would cost more for the town’s private contractor, Bergeron Land Development, to maintain the roads, but did not want the district to purchase equipment that it might not need in the long run.
Widing said he did not see $150,000 for a new grader as a lot of money, compared with paying Bergeron $400,000 to maintain the roads, and felt the transition should be over time. He added that equipment could be leased, or it could be sold if it is no longer needed.
“I don’t have any disagreement,” he said. “I’m just looking at how this is going to get done.”
Kane said she wanted to resolve the issue, which has been dragging on for years.
Supervisor Laura Danowski said she would favor an assessment increase instead of turning the roads over to the town abruptly.
“To just say to the town, ‘Fifteen miles, here you go. Figure it out,’ is a wretched insult to the residents,” Danowski said. “I do not support that, and the five of us can sit up here and say, ‘Hey, yeah, turn the roads over.’ That’s up to the town. Are they ready to accept it? But I agree 100 percent that the town should be in control of the roads.”
Supervisor Simon Fernandez noted that when he was elected last year, all his supporters were looking to eliminate the bickering between the district and the town, which almost always centers on roads.
“I personally believe that we’re not going to resolve anything by blaming,” he said. “This town has grown tremendously. It’s not going to stay this way. You can see it with everything in this town. My position is we should turn all of the roads now, no conditions, because if we keep putting conditions, this is never going to get done. The town should accept its responsibility as a town.”
Fernandez made a motion, seconded by Kane, to turn over the roads immediately, which failed 3-2 with Danowski, Widing and LGWCD Chairman Frank Schiola opposed.
After more discussion, board members agreed to offer to turn over Collecting Canal Road and the southern portion of D Road to the town, which have both been seen as being in the most need of improvements.
Councilman Ron Jarriel said the town might be able to get the Florida Department of Transportation to pave D Road due to a need for alternate routes for Southern Blvd. if an accident or other mishap should occur.
After more discussion, Danowski made a motion to turn over the two roads immediately, which carried 5-0.
Kane also asked Yohe to arrange another joint meeting between the council and the board as soon as possible.