Lox Council Defers Action On Water Back-Pump Upgrade

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council deferred action last week on improvements to the water pump at Southern Blvd. until it hears other quotes that were submitted to the then-independent Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District.

The aging pump is the district and town’s sole source of back-pumping water from the C-51 Canal when water gets low in the town’s canals. The timing of the electric pump operation is critical due to peak power demand, when the electricity demand can be cost prohibitive.

Fixing the old pump is an issue the town inherited from the LGWCD after former Supervisor Karen Piesley asked to have the pump upgraded so staff did not have to start the pump manually when water got too low in the canals.

At the council’s Dec. 18 meeting, Vice Mayor Todd McLendon made a motion to defer action after making a motion initially for discussion to approve the $8,723 upgrade.

“As much as I want to see this get done, I’d like to defer it to another meeting,” McLendon said. “This quote is the first time we’ve seen this, and the last time it was presented to us it didn’t have the quotes where it would automatically turn the pump off. There was another quote that was given to the district at the same time that I believe was about $1,000 cheaper, and I think we need to look at that. I know staff’s argument is going to be that the… consultant recommended these people, but if you look, it says that in May 2018 is when it made the recommendation, and the date of this updated estimate is October, so the engineer himself hasn’t seen this updated quote.”

Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia agreed to amend her second to the motion to defer action to the Jan. 15 meeting.

McLendon explained that he wanted to see all three quotes that were submitted to the LGWCD, adding that he is troubled that agenda items are sometimes submitted late, and council members do not have time to review the complete packet before a decision is made.

“I don’t know if this is the right time to bring it up, but very often we get information at the last minute,” he said. “Sometimes it’s from staff, sometimes it’s from developers, who e-mail two hours before a meeting with a packet of information.”

McLendon suggested that the council pass a resolution that states a cutoff time for receipt of information, so council members have enough time to review it, pointing out that developers’ packets are often immense.

“If it’s 72 hours before our meeting, that’s it, no more information being put in,” he said. “That applies to developers, that applies to everybody. This last-minute stuff is no good.”

Maniglia said that agenda packets are supposed to be submitted on the Wednesday before the Tuesday meeting and felt that the packages should be complete at that time, including backup information.

The motion to defer the item carried 5-0, and Town Attorney Michael Cirullo said he would add McLendon’s request that support material be submitted at the time of agenda submission.

Mayor Dave Browning said that the council often gets requests from residents the night of the meeting that it cannot take action on immediately.

“All we can do is receive and file it,” Browning said. “We can’t do anything with it that night.”

In May 2018, Smith Engineering Consultants recommended that the proposal from Sullivan Electric & Pump be accepted by the LGWCD.

The town’s director of public works recently confirmed with Sullivan that its previously submitted proposal is still valid, and Sullivan provided a quote dated Oct. 10, 2018.

The proposal includes the installation of a 480-volt, three-phase, electronic soft-start motor and remote start on the 150-horsepower motor, with a timer so that the motor does not run during peak demands of electricity. It also regulates the speed of the motor operation so that its operation does not exceed the demand for water.

Staff must currently start the motor manually in a complicated operation, often requiring someone to come in when they would not normally be at work, costing overtime.

The council has also discussed replacing the old pump with a dual-pump system that would reduce electric consumption during periods when demand is lower, however, the new system would have cost significantly more than replacing the old pump.