In anticipation of no longer maintaining roads after voting to turn the remaining ones over to the Town of Loxahatchee Groves last month, the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District agreed Monday, Oct. 9 to hire an agent to help auction its road-related equipment, including two graders and water trucks.
LGWCD Administrator Steve Yohe presented a list of equipment he recommended being declared surplus and put up for auction, which also included two large pumps for filling the water trucks and a copier that has been replaced.
Yohe pointed out that most of the equipment, except one grader, was currently not in service, needing expensive repairs.
Although the LGWCD has now turned control of all its roads over to the town, several residents spoke about the deplorable condition of town roads at Monday’s meeting, and urged the supervisors to keep the equipment in the event it could somehow work with the town on road maintenance.
After listening to residents’ complaints, Supervisor Simon Fernandez made a motion to postpone hiring the agent for 30 days.
Supervisor Laura Danowski said she didn’t want to kick the can down the road another 30 days.
“I am shocked by the condition of the roads,” Danowski said. “I’m not finger-pointing, but it’s the result of not working together. We need to do better. If the district does become dependent, the equipment is an asset. Selling it is an enormous waste of money.”
She added that most of the equipment is useless in the condition it is now, but the district should keep some of the equipment in reserve.
Supervisor Connie Bell agreed.
“I never thought we needed to rush into selling, but I would be OK with either,” Bell said, agreeing that most of the equipment is in disrepair. “We have a grader with no reverse. Everything on the list has some kind of condition. If you look at the list, it looks like all the equipment is in disrepair and not capable of performing maintenance.”
Bell also pointed out that the town has a contract with other companies for roadwork.
Danowski said she did not want the district to get back into the road business.
LGWCD Chair Anita Kane said the decision to sell the equipment was after the district reached an impasse with the town and did not have the money to get its equipment back in service.
“I’m not opposed to an [interlocal agreement] with the town if the town wants it,” Kane said. “I would also be opposed to putting unsafe equipment out there.”
Fernandez said one of the reasons he suggested a 30-day postponement was that the graders’ engines appear to be fine.
Yohe said there are numerous other problems with the equipment recommended for auction that would require costly repairs, and Fernandez agreed.
“We have junk,” he said. “At the end of day, we need that money back into the coffers.”
During public comment, Loxahatchee Groves Vice Mayor Ron Jarriel urged the board to keep the operable grader and one of the water trucks, but Fernandez said the water truck engine has an internal engine leak.
Resident Virginia Standish favored selling all the equipment.
“Some of the comments are ironic considering where they are coming from,” she said. “Put the equipment up for sale. The council helped get us into this mess. Why keep equipment that is unserviceable?”
Resident Joyce Batcheler thanked the board and staff for clarifying the condition of the equipment and agreed that it should go.
Councilman Todd McLendon recommended selling the equipment, explaining that the council is now responsible for the roads and it was not the district’s fault the roads are in disrepair.
Fernandez thanked McLendon for his comment, adding that it is unfair to the administrator and district staff to say they are doing a bad job. “We have to remember we had two very bad storms,” he said. “It took two weeks of bad weather to see how bad the roads are.”
Supervisor Karen Piesley agreed that selling the equipment was the best route to take.
“We got out of the business. We don’t have the equipment or money,” Piesley said. “If the town maintains the roads, it should have the equipment and workers.”
Bell said she felt comfortable selling the equipment, because bidders would be found beforehand. “We would know a minimum before we go to auction,” Bell said. “We would have to vote if we want them.”
Danowski said she had changed her mind after hearing public input and favored selling the equipment.
Fernandez withdrew his motion for a 30-day postponement, and Piesley made a motion to declare the equipment surplus, which carried 5-0.
In other business, the board began the process of becoming a dependent district to the Town of Loxahatchee Groves, directing its staff to work on a local bill to send through the state legislature.
LGWCD Attorney Mary Viator said she had prepared a local bill, which includes provisions for the transition period, and that the council would assume the position as the board of supervisors.
Viator added that the boundaries of the district, which exceed the boundaries of the town, would need to be addressed.
Bell asked about the property outside the town boundary, and Yohe said it includes Palms West Hospital and medical ancillary buildings, and all the property drains directly into the C-51 Canal. Other properties include a nearby commercial center and a 6.29-acre parcel behind it, and another parcel that is in the Village of Royal Palm Beach that does not have a drainage outfall.
Fernandez made a motion to move forward with the process, which carried 5-0.