Post-Ian Lessons and Delray Consider DDA’s Role in OSS

Readers of this blog may recall the regular references to the importance of cities emphasizing what residents cannot see.

It means the underground systems that supply water, get rid of water, and prevent waste water – formerly called sewage – from going where it doesn’t belong. Nothing tests these systems like a tropical cyclone.

Fortunately for South Florida, Hurricane Ian tracked northeast across the state after making landfall near Fort Myers and the worst of the storm missed that area. Boca Raton received four inches of rain. A city spokeswoman said the only flooding issues were from a standard thunderstorm.

City Manager Terrence Moore said Delray Beach only experienced “localized” flooding in “the usual places,” which tends to include the Marina District and other low-lying neighborhoods where tidal flooding is common. Moore said on Wednesday he was still “assessing” and would update city commissioners in his weekly newsletter which will appear on Friday.

Close encounters, however, can remind local officials of the need to consider whether their towns could withstand deluges like the ones Ian dumped elsewhere. Parts of Orlando got between 12 inches and 15 inches. Sanford, northeast of Orlando, got 16 inches. New Smyrna Beach, near Daytona Beach, got 21 inches.

Before Ian, the level of Lake Okeechobee was very low for this time of year. The executive director of the Lake Worth Drainage District, which covers southeast Palm Beach County, was concerned about the supply. Ian’s rains caused the lake level to rise two feet.

The wake up storm I remember is Irene in 1999. It crossed the spine of the state as a boundary hurricane with tons of moisture on its east side. Boynton Beach’s stormwater system, which the city had deemed adequate, failed. It took several rounds of stormwater assessments to upgrade the system.

Moore also remembers Irene because he was city manager for the town of Sebastian in Brevard County. Moore acknowledged “topographical challenges” in Delray Beach, which had previously heard from a consultant that nearly $400 million would be needed to protect the city from the effects of rising seas.

Delray Beach, Moore said, needs to regularly invest in construction projects to prevent flooding. Cities must have enough generators to keep the lift stations, which transport wastewater through the system, running in the event of a power outage.

Boca Raton has done well in recent hurricane brushings. Water and sewer service has never been lacking. However, with climate change likely making storms wetter, cities may need to adjust worst-case scenarios based on what their systems can handle.

Commissioners and DDA to discuss OSS deal

Cornell Art Museum on Old School Square; photo courtesy of Delray Beach DDA

I wrote on Tuesday about the Downtown Development Authority’s early plans to operate Old School Square in Delray Beach. Moore met with representatives of the DDA on Monday.

Moore said Wednesday that the city commission and the community redevelopment agency — which includes the mayor and the four city commissioners — will meet with the DDA to work out an agreement covering the agency’s role. There’s no date, but Moore wants the meeting “as soon as possible.”

The heart of this agreement will be the amount the city will have to spend to reopen the Cornell Museum and the Crest Theater. Moore noted that city staff are working on popular Old School Square outdoor events such as the lighting of the Christmas tree. Moore would not estimate the new cost after the commission fired Old School Square for the Arts.

Delray Budget Debate

to delay

Each year when discussing Delray Beach’s budget, city commissioners argue over how much to keep in reserves, known as the “fund balance”. The city wants to give more substance to these arguments.

Some commissioners argue that hurricane-prone cities should have more reserves. Others respond that the money could go into the budget and allow the city to lower the tax rate.

In general, Delray Beach has set aside a quarter of its operating budget — the one that funds police, fire and parks — on reservations. There are separate reserve funds for the water/sewer and garbage budgets that depend on property taxes.

In a Sept. 29 email, CFO Hugh Dunkley said he wanted to develop a proposal “to indicate what level of fund balance/working capital we believe would be sufficient for major city funds.” . Expect a lot of arguments over this proposal.

Boca’s House seat race is PBC’s most expensive

The race for the Florida House seat that includes Boca Raton is already the most expensive in the county and could become the most expensive in the state.

Councilman Andy Thomson

Democrat Andy Thomson, who sits on the Boca Raton City Council, takes on Republican Peggy Gossett-Seidman, who sits on the Highland Beach Town Commission. Thomson has raised approximately $250,000 directly, which includes a $30,000 personal loan. Gossett-Seidman raised approximately $300,000, including a $200,000 loan.

Additionally, the GOP airs television ads for Gossett-Seidman. Besides Boca Raton and Highland Beach, the district includes parts of West Boca, which tend to be more Democratic. President Biden carried the district by 4.5 points.

For more than two decades, a Republican has represented Boca Raton in the House. The redistricting, however, forced incumbent Mike Caruso into a run further north. Although Republicans already have a 78-42 advantage in the House, they are struggling to hold on to that particular seat.

Boca’s Self-Funded Municipal Commission Candidates

fran nachlas
Fran Nachlas

Speaking of elections, Boca Raton’s next march is shaping up to be a self-funded campaign.

Although Francine Nachlas is so far unopposed for the A seat, she loaned herself $50,000, bringing her overall contribution to $77,000. Nachlas is running to succeed Thomson, who must resign from the board to win or lose in the House race.

Mark Wigder and Christen Ritchey have applied for the B seat to succeed Andrea O’Rourke, whose term is limited. Wigder loaned his campaign $60,000. His overall total is $63,000. Ritchey raised $17,000.

All of these totals are through August. I will update when the city releases the September reports.

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