Groves Council Hears Report On Possible New Grant Sources

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council heard an update from lobbyist Mary McNicholas with Geoffrey B. Sluggett & Associates on Tuesday, Nov. 17 about new funding sources for the town that might become available.

McNicholas pointed out that in the first quarter of this year, the company was successful, with the help of Councilman Robert Shorr, then serving as mayor, in removing Okeechobee Blvd. from the Palm Beach County Transportation Planning Agency’s five-year plan for widening the road.

Loxahatchee Groves has long opposed the widening of Okeechobee Blvd. because it would cut the town in half. “It [had been] proposed by Palm Beach County,” she said. “That would have been their expansion project for Okeechobee Blvd.”

She said Shorr was a speaker at the TPA meeting where it was removed from the five-year plan.

The Okeechobee Blvd. expansion project would have extended from Crestwood Blvd. westward past Seminole Pratt Whitney Blvd. toward Arden before curving south to Southern Blvd.

“That’s one thing we were successful in doing, and you all were part of it,” McNicholas said. “The TPA basically said the communities aren’t ready for it.”

She stressed that the project is not completely off the burner.

“It doesn’t mean that they’re not going to be coming back every six months to try to put it back on the plan, because that long-range plan is updated every six months,” she said.

McNicholas said she is also working on grant funding through the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council for corridor planning.

“That’s not all the things that you will ask us to do because we’re always looking for funding for roads, drainage, water and canal refurbishment, and multi-use trails, but where we know there is money to go after, we’re going after it for our town,” she said, explaining that the work is done by the TCRPC but funded through the TPA.

The work can include economic feasibility and sustainability studies for both the Southern Blvd. and Okeechobee Blvd. corridors. The TCRPC would utilize information it has already gathered about the western communities. She pointed out that the organization is involved in projects with entities surrounding the town, such as Wellington and the Indian Trail Improvement District.

“They’re doing several different things on a regional basis,” McNicholas said. “What they would like to at least try to do is extrapolate some of the data that will be the same and just help us so that we can keep the costs down.”

The cost would be shared on a 50-50 basis by the TPA. “They would go up to $100,000, whereas we would pay up to $50,000, depending on how much you want to do with this,” she said, explaining that she would have more information at the council’s next meeting. “We expect to have a scope of work and a delineation of tasks in the next couple of weeks.”

She added that she has applied for two Rebuild Florida grants of about $2.6 million that would include southern D Road improvements at $1.5 million and the town’s portion of the proposed TPA grants.

The council took no action but thanked Sluggett & Associates for putting in hours that appeared to be more than they were paid for. McNicholas and her husband Geoff Sluggett are residents of Loxahatchee Groves.