The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council on Tuesday, April 5 downsized its agreement with the Solid Waste Authority regarding its grant for Okeechobee Blvd. intersection enhancements.
The purpose of the town’s application to the SWA’s Blighted and Distressed Property Clean-Up and Beautification grant program was to address the misuse of roadside areas along Okeechobee Blvd. with site improvements, including five monument signs and five 10-foot-by-10-foot shelters for pedestrians, trash and recycling receptacles, and landscaping at 10 key intersections.
Planning Consultant Jim Fleischmann said the original agreement was for $442,500, with the SWA contributing $331,875 and the town contributing the balance.
“The projects in the original application included five monument signs and five rest areas,” Fleischmann said. “We found that the cost for the rest areas far exceeded the amounts of the initial grant, and as a result, we found that we need to discuss the facilities that were in the grant in terms of possibly reducing them so that we could operate within the grant amount.”
He noted that the council had discussed reducing the size of the rest areas at the agenda review meeting the previous evening.
“The result of the discussion last night was to create two separate rest area components,” Fleischmann said. “The first would be facilities located on the east side of the lettered roads located in the Okeechobee [Blvd.] right of way, and the second was facilities on the west side of the lettered roads within the canal heads.”
He said the first set would remain within the SWA grant, and the west side facilities would be held for future projects and not funded under the agreement.
The east side facilities would consist of bike racks, an enclosed 95-gallon trash receptacle and landscaping.
“East side facilities would be located within the Okeechobee Blvd. rights of way,” Fleischmann said. “The west side facilities would consist of hitching posts, a mounting block and a hand-pumped water well. They will be located within the lettered road canal heads approximate to the Okeechobee Blvd. crossings, so we have created two separate projects, one to be funded by the grant.”
He said the revised grant application would include the east side facilities, along with the five monument signs.
“We feel that this revision meets the objectives of the grant and will fall within the grant amount,” Fleischmann said.
Assistant Manager Francine Ramaglia said the modifications would mitigate the conditions of blight that are created by current circumstances.
“This is not to create any type of structure for anyone to congregate at, simply to address the issue that we currently have, which is unnecessary and not characteristic of our town, with trash and a disarray of bikes,” Ramaglia said.
During public comment, resident Virginia Standish said the grant agreement does not appear to benefit the residents or taxpayers of the town.
“It seems that it would be encouraging more garbage drop-off and questionable use of benches,” Standish said. “More importantly… since 2006, not one crossover on Okeechobee Blvd. What is the point of benches if no one can cross the road safely? I think this money would be better spent designing a crossover.”
Vice Mayor Laura Danowski made a motion to direct staff to go ahead with the permitting for five locations, with a reduced size of 4-foot-by-6-foot for trash coverings at the ends of lettered roads, and for two of the five monument signs, which carried 3-1 with Councilwoman Marge Herzog absent and Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia dissenting.
In other business, the council re-elected Robert Shorr to serve another year as mayor. Councilwoman Marianne Miles made the motion, which carried 3-2 with Maniglia and Herzog dissenting.
The other votes for appointed positions were less contentious.
Maniglia made a motion to re-nominate Danowski as vice mayor, which carried 5-0. Maniglia also made a motion to re-nominate Danowski as chair of the water control district, which carried 5-0. Finally, Maniglia made a motion to nominate Herzog as treasurer of the water control district, which also carried 5-0.