Roads and drainage — rebuilding and repairing Loxahatchee Groves’ infrastructure — will remain at the forefront of the town’s plans for 2020.
Getting the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council’s meeting agenda down to a manageable size is also a key goal for Town Manager Jamie Titcomb.
“On Tuesday of next week, just prior to the Jan. 7 council meeting, we have the gentleman who was the visioning [session] counselor, Mr. [Kevin] Knudson, in town and meeting with each of the council members briefly before the workshop that night,” Titcomb told the Town-Crier on Monday. “I believe he is going to be catching up with each of the council members and probably making some sort of conversation at the workshop portion of the meeting with a recap of the visioning event and the next steps. It will be to the benefit of the council and the public to see where the priority items are from the outcome of that.”
Also on the Jan. 7 agenda will be authorizations and updates on B Road drainage improvements to finalize for legislative funding requests, Titcomb said, explaining that this year’s legislative session is early.
“The legislative session will be kicking off the second week in January and run through the first week in March. We have several road appropriations and infrastructure projects queued up through the lobbyist and priorities of the council to go to the legislature for potential funding,” he said, explaining that the town recently gained State Rep. Matt Willhite’s support for road projects that include $770,000 for improvements to South D Road that include guardrails on the canal side and improved drainage.
“I think four house bills passed their first committee stops in pre-committee meetings,” Titcomb said.
The bills making their way through the legislature are for a North Road equestrian/multi-use trail, canal system rehabilitations, South D Road improvements and North B Road improvements.
“I do anticipate a few of the council members attending Palm Beach County Days the second week of January,” Titcomb said. “It is held the first week of the legislative session to advocate for these bills and these appropriations. Me and the lobbyist will be up there to help them through that process.”
Also on the January agenda is the second reading of the Groves Town Center amendments, which include the realignment of a proposed town commons area, removal of an internal access point to the north on B Road and the addition of water catchment areas. Additional drainage improvements planned for B Road will also be considered by the council.
Titcomb said progress was made from a recent meeting on resolving B Road easements issues.
“We took a list of the people who claim they have specific issues, which was less than six, but there are a handful of addresses where there are issues to resolve in terms of the easements, right-of-way boundaries, drainage easements or some sort of synchronization between the public road and the private driveway,” he explained. “We have agreed to meet one-on-one with each of those property owners. One size doesn’t fit all. Some of the issues that come up are very site-specific.”
Titcomb said that despite some issues on B Road, the quality of the road has been improved significantly with tons of road rock laid out and graded in recent months.
“The whole road, from Okeechobee to North Road, has all been graded and improved in terms of a dirt throughway,” he said. “There are property owners along the route who would like to debate where the easement line is and where the edge of the road should be officially established, so there’s a bit of a debate about how wide a footprint we have going up B Road the entire distance. It fluctuates at a couple of properties. That is being examined and worked out case-by-case with each property to find the best compromise solutions.”
Internally, Titcomb said town staff is focused on getting town systems aligned with best practices for small towns.
“We’re having a lot of internal discussion and conversation with the existing staff here and contractors to really fine tune and propel forward with best practices for small-town government,” he said. “What that translates to is we’re trying to put in the appropriate building blocks for working on town priorities and moving them forward in the most efficient and cost-effective way, leveraging our resources and our people.”
Titcomb wants to get the council meetings down to one efficient meeting per month, where meetings under the previous management company frequently were continued to the next evening.
“We’re trying to collectively change an inculturation here that was just a different model under a private contractor,” he said. “It takes people, both employees and citizens, and observers of the process, time to migrate to a better working model.”
He said his first goal when he came to the town last March was to reestablish trust, stability and professionalism in town hall, despite limited resources and factionalism, and get everyone working in the same direction.