Lox Council OKs Emergency Culvert Repair Amid Policy Concerns

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council approved a resolution for the emergency repair of a culvert at F Road and Kerry Lane on Tuesday, but Councilman Todd McLendon called for a clear policy on culvert repair and what the responsibilities of the town and Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District are in these circumstances.

McLendon said the town and the district need to define specifically what their responsibilities are, since the town is taking over road maintenance.

“My issue with this item is it’s a culvert, and it’s under a town road that connects two town roads, and the town is spending money on it,” he said. “We never had a consensus as to whether that culvert is the responsibility of the town or not. I think we need to make that determination tonight, and we need to adopt a policy that says it is or it isn’t.”

McLendon said he believes that the culvert is the town’s responsibility, but that it needs to be clear that the same applies to all the culverts underneath town roads.

Vice Mayor Ron Jarriel said the question should be put on the agenda for a future meeting.

“My problem with the situation was that the council received notice on a Friday that we had an emergency situation of a culvert washed out,” Jarriel said. “I went and looked at it. I didn’t consider it an emergency situation, but I may not see the same thing that other people see.”

Jarriel added that if the situation had been detected earlier, it could have been corrected with a front-end loader and some fill, but the contractor did a good job correcting the problem.

“My problem is that it cost approximately $2,500,” he said. “It was said to be an emergency on a Friday, and it wasn’t done until Tuesday.”

Jarriel noted that the recent rain has washed away about a third of the sod that was put on the bank into the canal.

Councilman David DeMarois agreed that the question should be put on a future agenda for discussion.

Councilman Ryan Liang said that the work had already been done, so the council should approve the resolution, but agreed that the council should develop a formal policy.

“I don’t think there is enough time right now to fully discuss it, because it’s going to fully impact quite a few roads. Also, I know there are quite a few culverts that do need to get replaced,” Liang said, adding that determining that they are the town’s responsibility will add significant expenses for the town that have not been budgeted.

McLendon asked whether a policy could be developed that the council could consider at its next meeting.

“We’re in the rainy season, and this issue could come up again before our next meeting, and it may be a worse situation,” he said. “Instead of just kicking this can down the road, is there something we can move forward so we have it at the next meeting?”

Town Attorney Michael Cirullo said the town manager is authorized to act in an emergency situation.

“The issue with this is… you’re supposed to get three quotes. He tried to get five, and only one person called him back,” Cirullo said. “So, technically, he had only one quote when he had to do the repair, but he has the authority to do the emergency repair.”

McLendon said his issue was whether the repair was the town’s or the district’s responsibility.

Town Manager Bill Underwood said he felt he had to act quickly due to the rainstorm prediction, which would have washed out the culvert more.

“The issue of whether it was an emergency all depends on whether you believe there was rain coming,” Underwood said. “There was rain coming a few days later, and we got it done before the rain hit.”

Mayor Dave Browning said he thought it was important to get something on the agenda for the next meeting.

“If I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of safety,” Browning said. “I’m glad he did it because I would hate to have said, ‘Well, he decided not to, and somebody went into the canal.’”

By consensus, the council decided to schedule a policy discussion for its next meeting. McLendon made a motion to approve the resolution for the emergency repair, which carried unanimously.