LGWCD Chief Recaps Tough Past Year And Challenges Ahead

The Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District will face tough decisions on possible assessment increases, regardless of whether it continues to maintain its own roads or turns over remaining ones to the Town of Loxahatchee Groves as planned, LGWCD Administrator Steve Yohe said in his report at the district’s annual meeting Monday.

The district researched the cost of new and pre-owned graders and water trucks in case the district board, which had two new members elected that evening, should decide to continue grading.

“We don’t know whether… we’re going to be in the grading business,” Yohe said, explaining that he had prepared a five-year budget plan that included costs for both alternatives. “There’s some upsides and downsides to both. If the district doesn’t grade, then we lose the $70,000 supplement that is the gas tax allocation the town has been providing to the district, which would have to be supplemented in some way, presumably through an assessment increase.”

If the district does grade, it would need to buy a new grader and water truck, which would also require an assessment increase, Yohe said.

“Interestingly, those two alternatives are within a few dollars of each other,” he said. “The takeaway from it is that the district could actually, with the purchase, if that’s what the board decides to do, grade town roads as well and earn some money from the town for that purpose.”

Recapping the recent activities of the district, Yohe said the LGWCD has restored several canals since 2013 and the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaac, which brought extensive flooding in Loxahatchee Groves.

“We have restored approximately 20 miles of canals to date, and this past year, from June 2016 to June 2017, you probably have seen us out there restoring South F Canal and North F Canal to its designed cross section,” he said.

About 10 miles remain for restoration closer to the district outlet at the C-51 Canal, according to Yohe’s report.

Because of one of the district’s employees leaving, and not knowing whether the district will continue grading roads in the future, Yohe has not yet replaced that employee, who was trained in aquatic weed control. Instead, it has returned to a contract provider.

“Aquagenics was our contractor prior to bringing that service in-house,” he said. “They agreed to enter a contract at the same cost that they had prior to us bringing it back in-house.”

The district has issued quit claim deeds to the town for South B Road between Collecting Canal Road and Southern Blvd., and North and South F Road.

It also installed catch basins at North A Road and North D Road where drainage was not working properly, and constructed culvert bridges at the North D Canal west of Tripp Road and the South B Canal at 1055 South B Road.

The district also developed drainage guidelines during the past year and implemented specific times for employees to take their morning and afternoon breaks and lunch. The district also reviewed its healthcare reimbursement and excess sick time payout policies, and drafted a paid time-off policy that the supervisors are scheduled to discuss in July.

Yohe added that the district was denied on second appeal about $76,000 in reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for 2013 expenses incurred to repair roads and canals after Tropical Storm Isaac.

Other projects this year included repairing the D Road Canal water structure gear box, which broke at the end of 2015. “We’ve been manually operating it when we needed to, but we finally had that repaired,” Yohe said.

The district also entered into an agreement with Omni Pinnacle for emergency services. “We had hoped to use Bergeron, the town’s contractor, but the town did not permit us to utilize that same company,” he said.

In addition, the district implemented a mowing schedule, which is posted on the its web site at www.lgwcd.org.

“This could be a tool for all the landowners to know where we are in regard to our mowing,” Yohe said. “We are actually doing it in a series rather than jumping around.”

Yohe said the schedule is laid out for 16 weeks, but staff is currently down two employees, so the cycle takes a little longer.

The district also conducted a one-year case study of grading and watering costs.

“We know what our costs are if the town chooses to use us,” he said. “If we are in that grading business, we can demonstrate what our grading and watering costs are.”

The LGWCD and the town amended their recreational trail interlocal agreement to exclude the west side of the Palm Beach State College property at the behest of the college.

The district was also visited twice by members of the Boy Scouts of America, who painted the exterior of the district office, and cleaned and painted the equipment shelter.

“We’re very grateful to them for having done that,” Yohe said.

The LGWCD also participated in joint workshops with the town and continues to participate in quarterly meetings of the Western Communities Council, which have been largely focused on the completion of the State Road 7 extension to Northlake Blvd.

“It’s really a critical link for emergency evacuation for this area,” he said.