I’ve been reading about the dependency issue of the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District on the pages of the Town-Crier for several weeks. Those of us who have lived in the Groves for more than 30 years know the history of the district and their animosity to the incorporation of the town. Due to the complete change of the district’s board of supervisors and the leadership provided by the majority, the residents finally have an opportunity to make the district dependent to the town.
The voices who decry the town’s “takeover” of the district would have you believe that their district is doing all it can to help its landowners and residents. The taxpayers in the town pay $145/acre for district services. Do the math, the town’s size is 12.44 square miles times 640 acres/square mile = 7,961 acres times $145/acre = $1,154,432/year. The current district services are canals and drainage; roads are no longer in the district’s scope. The canals are clearly in the district’s scope, so why are the canal banks falling into the canals? We all paid lots of money for the district’s Thing-A-Ma-Digger. Has anyone seen the thing being used? Would you believe that nearly half of the district’s tax revenue is spent on administration and not actually getting the canal banks fixed and draining standing water?
Since becoming the county’s 38th municipality, the town has been receiving revenue from the state’s gas tax fund to help build and maintain roads within the town. Since 2006, the majority of these gas tax revenues have been shared with the district. This old-guard would have you believe that every dime of your gas tax funds given to the district was spent for maintaining the roads. If so, show us the evidence that where the $2 million in gas tax funds was spent. This request has not been answered. Over the years, there have been instances when the district would send the town invoices for road-rock materials to be used on one of the town’s roads. As part of the town’s due diligence, these road-rock deliveries would be checked. When no evidence that fresh road-rock was placed on the invoiced road in question, the town reacted. This was met by a storm of criticism and accusation from the district’s old-guard against the town’s management team. Why? What is there to hide?
The district’s old-guard is still at work. One of the old-guard is now a member of the town council and sent a direct mail piece to all of the Groves’ landowners and residents. This document was rife with falsehoods, misleading innuendo and had the appearance of an actual town-provided document, which it was not. When the newly elected district board was sworn-in, one of their first priorities was to order a forensic audit. The district manager advertised for interested parties to provide cost estimates. The cost estimates for this audit were out-of-the-ballpark and not in the district’s budget, and the requested forensic audit was never done. The audit on the OGEM roads, which will prepare for the equitable payback to landowners, showed many errors and misappropriations that must be corrected before these monies can be paid back. The old-guard also broke the law, i.e. using publicly owned district equipment and Loxahatchee Groves’ canal bank earth to back-fill a former district supervisor’s pond.
Many of the Groves’ residents believe that a full accounting of the district’s books is needed. When the district falls under the town’s jurisdiction, the district will be under the county’s Office of Inspector General. The OIG should and will be asked to do forensic audits on the district’s books and find incorrect expenditures that were signed off by former district supervisors.
Get your proxies in or plan to show up on June 25, meeting at the district office and vote your acreage. The polls open at 7:30 a.m. The landowners meeting starts at 7 p.m., and those who have not voted will be able to cast their acreage ballots until everyone at the meeting has voted. Get out and vote, because the district must become a dependent district to the Town of Loxahatchee Groves.
Dennis Lipp, Loxahatchee Groves