Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Early thoughts, notes, and news from the City Commission Budget Workshop session last night.

“Deferred maintenance is expensive.”
—Quote by Commissioner Herman C. Robinson at last night’s meeting on the Beach/Casino complex discussion.

According to Marie Elianor, the City’s Finance Director, in two weeks a “Budget-in-Brief Presentation” of Stantec’s budget numbers will be created to put all the City fund numbers in perspective. The City Commission at times expressed frustration during the presentation last night with so many numbers and projections going out to 2027. Watching portions of the meeting it was hard to follow at times.

There were two bombshells last night:

“Don’t want to alarm the public. . .”

Read about those below concerning the City Pier and what’s going to happen to your sewage rates. Again.

Also, a former commissioner showed up last night.
Guess who?
Find out at the end of this blog post.

There was very bad news about the County East Central Regional (ECR) sewage treatment plant in West Palm Beach. Expect this bill to go up significantly. The plant was expected to last 50 years but some vital functions have basically failed after 40 years. Reclaimed water from the ECR is used by FP&L as cooling water for their West County Energy Plant. They are threatening to sue because the water is of such low quality at times. ECR is also under a “DEP Consent Order”; the plant has to be completely fixed within two years.

To fund these substantial “pass-through costs”, as explained by Water Utilities Dir. Brian Shields, the City of Lake Worth will have to contribute much more money. Shields sits on the ECR Board and he represents the City of Lake Worth and a large area of Palm Beach County as well, including cities west of us (Palm Springs, for example), and a large unincorporated area (e.g., Palm Beach State College) and the Lake Worth Corridor. All of these entities will share the cost increases with the City of Lake Worth.

There was more bad news about the Beach last night.

Asst. City Manager Juan Ruiz said there is an issue with “spalling concrete” (also called scaling) at the City Pier. An engineering report will be delivered in about 2 weeks. Ruiz said, “don’t want to alarm the public” and then explained the Pier may need major concrete replacement.

Don’t get depressed! There was a lot of good news last night too. For example:

On electric rates Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell asked what our City electric rates were compared to FP&L (1,000 kilowatt hour, residential):

Now: Lake Worth  =  $111.25; FP&L  =  $109.25.
Five years ago (numbers approximated): Lake Worth  =  $123; FP&L  =  $91.

Now back to the Beach/Casino complex. Expect to hear a lot more about this in the coming weeks and months: the Beach Fund will be depleted next year.

Commissioner Omari Hardy called it “repugnant” the prospect of taking money from the General Fund to prop up the Beach Fund. Commissioner Robinson wants to consider raising parking rates but the rest of the Commission seems unwilling to go along with that. Maxwell said we’ll have to defer paying the loan back next year ($500,000+) from the Beach Fund to the Water Fund. He called it a “pencil-whipping exercise”.

Hardy said, “parking [income] is the only thing we have going on at the Beach”, but advised raising parking rates will not fix the problem and may make the situation worse. Many people just may decide to stop coming to the Beach any more.

So. Who was the former commissioner who showed up last night?

It was none other than Chris McVoy, PhD.

Remember, it was McVoy who claimed during his recent re-election loss to then-Mr. Omari Hardy he had nothing at all to do with all the problems at the Beach (the editor at the Post, by the way, called McVoy a “gadfly”).

McVoy WAS on the Commission in 2010 when so many of these terrible decisions were made.

“It wasn’t me. I was doing a soil survey in Mongolia and my phone was turned off.”
And. . . Gee wiz, JoAnn, did we really forget to fix the pool?”