A divided Loxahatchee Groves Town Council approved several change orders for improving drainage on North D Road east of Big Dog Ranch Rescue and other road improvements last week after council members debated the overall improvement of roads in the community.
The total amount of the staff recommendation was just over $22,000 to improve drainage in the area of Big Dog Ranch and Altman Farms, and for post protectors and sod replacement on B Road.
At the Tuesday, July 7 meeting, Councilman Robert Shorr pointed out that the change orders were for dollar amounts that had already been approved.
“Nothing has changed in the dollar amounts,” Shorr said. “If you look at the dollar amounts, we approved three dollar amounts: $9,166.67, $3,550 and $9,400. We approved those as change orders, and that was incorrect because they weren’t all change orders. Some of them were new amounts, so that’s where the confusion was. There’s absolutely no change in the amounts we previously approved. I spent a lot of time with staff trying to understand why is this even coming before the council. We already approved all of these amounts.”
Town Manager Jamie Titcomb verified that financial staff had asked for the changes to assure that the dollar amounts were in the correct columns on the ledger.
Councilwoman Marge Herzog asked if Big Dog Ranch, located at the southeast corner of D Road and Okeechobee Blvd., is paying for its improvements or if it came out of $100,000 that the nonprofit animal rescue had donated for D Road paving.
Assistant Town Manager Francine Ramaglia said of the total $103,000 estimate for D Road improvements, $41,000 was for drainage.
Herzog said that when residents ask for drainage improvements, they must pay for it themselves. “Why isn’t Big Dog paying for it like every other resident?” she asked.
Public Works Director Larry Peters said $100,000 was appropriated for paving of D Road. “The drainage is a portion of the paving,” he said. “We can both drain and pave for the $103,000.”
He noted that the base is already in at that location.
“When the drainage goes in for $41,000, we’ll get a soil analysis to assure that everything is correct, then we’ll pack and pave the road,” Peters said, explaining that the paving will be only for the portion of D Road that fronts Big Dog Ranch, about 1,100 feet.
Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia asked how Big Dog Ranch had become a priority.
“They have not come to town raising heck over their hundred grand sitting in the bank,” Maniglia said. “We’re not paving anything right now for the residents of this town. We have residents in dire straits right now. They’ve been begging to get their potholes filled in.”
Councilwoman Laura Danowski noted that the preparation had been done at D Road, and it made sense to her to finish the project.
“For the OGEM roads, not that I’m not sympathetic to the cause, but to fill in a pothole when big trucks are still going to drive around speed humps and have to make big wide turns and continue to create potholes, I almost see that as throwing good money and resources after bad measure,” Danowski said. “If this 1,100 feet of D Road can get paved and drained through Big Dog’s money, then why wouldn’t you do it?”
Maniglia made a motion to deny approval of the project, which failed 3-2 with Shorr, Danowski and Mayor Lisa El-Ramey opposed.
Shorr then made a motion to approve all the change orders, which carried 3-2 with Maniglia and Herzog opposed.