Groves Officials To Hold Workshops To Hear Resident Concerns

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council has scheduled workshops for residents to ask questions where council members respond to their concerns, rather than speak at public meetings where council members do not typically respond immediately.

At a meeting earlier this month, Councilman Todd McLendon suggested holding participatory workshops where residents could talk about issues and receive immediate comments from council members, as opposed to public comment portions of regular meetings when residents speak but council members are not at liberty to respond.

“A lot of people get aggravated, they come up and make a comment,” McLendon said. “I’d love to be able to respond to them because it’s killing me.”

McLendon said he would like to set up a publicly noticed council workshop dedicated to the council responding to residents’ opinions.

“All of us can answer the questions, none of us can answer them, but at least there’s some interaction between us and the residents that they can come up here and ask us questions, whatever they are, and we get that dialogue,” he said.

McLendon suggested having them twice a year, starting after the upcoming election, and Mayor Dave Browning suggested four times a year.

“Even if we did it as a workshop, do a 5:30 [p.m.], and we can come in and anybody can and ask anything,” Browning said, adding that he thought the town attorney need not attend. “We’re not looking for legal. If we can get good ideas in the dialogue, then we can put things on future agendas.”

He pointed out that some municipalities have functions such as a breakfast with the mayor.

“We don’t have a strong mayor system, I’m just a council member; but at the same time, it’s some way for people to come and be able to express their needs,” Browning suggested. “I think it’s a great thing. We’ve all been thinking along the same lines here.”

McLendon said he would also like to hear what his fellow council members think about issues, since discussing them outside public meetings is against the rules.

“I want to hear what the four of you think about the same subject because very often we get to these meetings where bang, bang, bang — we just go through them,” he said. “I’d love to have that dialogue and hear the same answers that these people want to hear.”

McLendon asked whether the other council members would like to schedule periodic workshops before regular meetings, and Browning suggested May 1 at 6 p.m., an hour before the regular meeting, since the council already has a workshop scheduled for the April 3 meeting to hear a proposal for a Wawa and an Aldi store.

Vice Mayor Ron Jarriel made a motion to hold a workshop on May 1 at 6 p.m., which carried 5-0.

In other business, McLendon pointed out that the town could get 100 truckloads of milling from a county project on Okeechobee Blvd. “They’re getting ready to redo Okeechobee Blvd., and we can probably get a bunch from there,” he said. “We can get it for free, but we have no money to truck it here and spread it out. However, we have the infrastructure sales surtax that I’d like to have staff look at and see if we can use it for that purpose.”

McLendon suggested that legal staff see whether using the millings qualifies under infrastructure uses. “We’re in a pinch, and if we can get all this milling for free, now is a good time to get it,” he said.

Town Manager Bill Underwood said the town might be able to borrow the money from restricted funds and repay it.

Browning liked the idea.

“I don’t want to miss the opportunity to get this stuff because it will do great on a lot of our roads,” he said.

McLendon said he would like to see it go to E Road or B Road or D Road, some of the major cut-through streets in the community.

He made a motion to take the millings and spread it as long it is legal and qualifies as an infrastructure improvement that is allowable under the surtax, and include the potential of borrowing from restricted funds. The motion carried 5-0.

Jarriel pointed out that the county would be at an advantage if it could dump the millings nearby. “It’s better for them to get rid of it as quick as they can,” he said.

Browning added that the town has an offer from the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District to use district land to stockpile it.