Manager Hopes August Vote Could Help Fund Lox Groves Road Work

Loxahatchee Groves roads have suffered with the recent rains, with two roads closed due to flooding until the town drained the water.

“We have temporarily recovered both North B and North E roads,” Town Manager Bill Underwood told the Town-Crier on Tuesday. “We had them closed, but we opened them today. They were both opened mid-morning. The cut-through at 140th [Avenue] in front of Sunsport Gardens is closed. It’s got a washout.”

Underwood said that while largely passable, the roads remain in pretty poor shape. “They’re passable now, but they are dirt roads, and it does rain,” he said. “We have a lot of heavy traffic that uses them.”

He said the roads will be OK, but only until the next significant rainfall. “Hopefully not tomorrow,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll get another week.”

Underwood said that the town’s road maintenance contractor is at work trying to keep the roads passable.

“The problem, I’m sure everyone knows, is that for a long time, there has not been any road material added to these roads that are having the most significant problems,” he said. “Unfortunately, the town paid the water control district and depended on the water control district to maintain those roads in an adequate condition. When we got them, they were inferior, and they have not improved. However, I don’t have the money that we gave them to spend on it, so we’re kind of in a rough spot here. I’ve asked the people’s patience until we can get appropriate funding in place to actually take care of the roads.”

Underwood pointed out that the town’s previous road contractor, Bergeron Land Development, made an assessment of the last of the roads to be dedicated from the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District to the town and determined that they needed about $600,000 worth of fill to bring them up to grade.

“We didn’t have the $600,000 then, and we don’t have the $600,000 now,” he said. “What I am trying to do is try to keep it as passable and as smooth as practical without the ability to put the material on them.”

Underwood stressed that changing people’s driving habits would help allay the deterioration of the roads, pointing out that he recently saw the driver of a pickup truck plow full speed through a ponded area of North B Road.

“Rather than go through the water slowly, he decided that he would hit it as fast as he could, and it splashed a lot of water out, but drivers also splash road material out when they do that,” he said. “That makes no sense to me. They weren’t going to get stuck in the water. It’s not really mud, it’s water. Why they insist on hitting it as hard as they can, still baffles my mind. All it does is provide additional damage to the road.”

Underwood said the town has managed to get a referendum on the August ballot for bond funding, which will allow a cost-sharing plan with residents who want to improve their roads.

“In order to get the cost sharing for the residents, we have to do a referendum vote,” he said. “It’s very important. The town is not really allowed to go into debt. The only way to get the residents to share is to be able to issue debt for more than 35 months,” he said. “The mayor was able to cajole, convince and otherwise work with Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. She had originally said we could not put a referendum on the August ballot, but apparently he was able to persuade her that we really need this in order to do the matching funds, and she has agreed as long as we have the referendum language to her by June 15.”

Underwood said the required ordinance and resolution will be on the June 5 Loxahatchee Groves Town Council agenda.

“We’re going to have a special meeting for the second reading and the resolution,” he said. “The citizens, if they approve it, will give us the opportunity to start doing some significant improvements. If they don’t, the council will have a much more difficult decision where to spend the little bit of money we have.”

Underwood feels that town residents will see the wisdom of being able to borrow money to match other funds in order to make improvements. “That would take the funds that we borrow, and we basically double them, which would double the number of miles that we could do something with.”

He noted that some people do not want paved roads, but they want them drained.

“We are moving forward,” Underwood said. “We have already issued the first 10 purchase orders to put in drainage basins on some of the worst cases with flooding issues. It’s my verbal understanding that most of those residents along those pathways have tentatively agreed to give us an easement so that we can build swales and put a catch basin so that the rain will drain into the swales and into the catch basins, and then the residents will be able to tap into that catch basin and drain their property as well.”

He said that the plans have gone to the manufacturer, and once those are back, they will be submitted to the engineer, who will order them constructed.