The Acreage and Loxahatchee Groves are preparing for the upcoming hurricane season under the guidance of two seasoned veterans.
Indian Trail Improvement District Manager Rob Robinson worked for the South Florida Water Management District before his current job, and Loxahatchee Groves Town Manager Jamie Titcomb was CEO of the Palm Beach County League of Cities for 20 years, working as liaison to Palm Beach County’s Emergency Operations Center, and he was the manager of the Town of Ocean Ridge through Hurricane Irma before coming to Loxahatchee Groves.
Robinson said that he has a drill set up on May 29 to get his crews ready for emergency management in the event of a hurricane.
“We’re going to have a mock exercise for readiness of personnel,” he told the Town-Crier on Wednesday. “We will also be holding some training classes to go over proper procedures around our power lines, as well as chain saw safety.”
Robinson said the district monitors the weather service and local television for severe weather information.
“TV has excellent coverage,” Robinson said. “Tuesday afternoon, crews were put on notice when we had the tornado alert. Crews were told to hunker down in position and be ready to respond in the event of a touchdown so we could clean up any of the infrastructure.”
Although a tornado did strike on private property in Loxahatchee on Friday, May 3, tearing off a portion of a barn roof, there was no actual touchdown reported on Tuesday.
“We had a few branches down and some palm fronds, but no serious damage,” he said.
Robinson said he has grading crews working overtime to keep the roads in good shape.
“We will have them on rotation throughout the summer,” Robinson said. “We understand concerns of residents when it comes to unpaved roads and getting the potholes filled in a timely manner, so we have directed operations to come up with a rotation for overtime, so we have coverage during the wet season.”
Robinson noted that ITID is putting more rock down on the dirt roads than in the past, which will improve drainage when a storm hits.
“We’re trying to be more proactive by putting more rock down,” Robinson said. “We’ve increased our budget $300,000 for road base material. I’ve been directed by the board to double down on our efforts to restore proper crowns and drainage on our unpaved roadways.”
Loxahatchee Groves is also focusing on its roads.
Titcomb said the town engineer’s staff has been laying down large amounts of rock to stabilize and raise the roads, and on Wednesday, the League of Cities participated in a conference call exercise with the county EOC.
“I’m a member of that group, but from a personal experience standpoint, I have worked in the EOC on every hurricane since 1999,” Titcomb said. “When I was running the league, I was host of all those conference calls that were done for all those municipalities all those years. The protocols and the resources and the players are all familiar to me.”
Titcomb said the EOC holds monthly meetings with delegates from the different municipalities on the latest services it offers.
“We are also under sheriff and Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue contracts in terms of service provisions, so we are well connected with them and their protocols,” Titcomb said, adding that the town’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) holds regular meetings on emergency preparedness.
Titcomb said that Loxahatchee Groves is reviewing its emergency management debris removal contracts to be sure it has a provider when the situation arises.
“In my previous city, fortunately and coincidentally, about a month before Hurricane Irma, we put seven of them in place, and we used the Solid Waste Authority pre-bidder emergency debris contracts,” Titcomb explained. “The contracts were somewhat boiler plate, but the idea was to have a number of contractors and players on the hook so we could go with whoever had the access and availability and resources at the time. We had good success. We used primarily Bergeron in that particular case, which I know has been a contractor to this town.”
Titcomb said he is also working with the town engineer to address protocols and find out from his perspective what he still needs to be prepared for a severe storm. He said he planned to give a presentation Wednesday to the council asking to give public works more resources.
“From a finance standpoint, we believe that there’s resources for them to deploy and accelerate on critical upgrades of maintenance, structural issues that might need to be addressed that could be negatively impacted by storm season,” Titcomb said, adding that the town has a remote monitoring system that alerts staff of water levels in the canals.
Town Engineer Larry Peters is the community’s emergency manager under rules and regulations that guide the SFWMD.
“We have permissive use of what we can put in that system or what we can take out of that system,” Titcomb said. “I’m pretty confident in Mr. Peters. He has got some great practical ground experience in these matters.”
Titcomb said that the town will hold some type of community event informing people about what they can and should do in the event of a hurricane, although a date has not yet been set.