Friday, August 24, 2007

Remember our Utility Upgrade?

This morning most of the northern part of the City was without power. My house was without it for about an hour. Traffic lights were out on Federal and Dixie north of downtown.

Why isn't the Commission talking about this? Perhaps at the budget workshop meeting this coming Thursday we will hear something regarding the upgrade of our distribution system. Based on where they left off after the last budget workshop, the Commission should be focusing on the Utility portion of the budget - remember that it represents 2/3 of our total City budget.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

So Long Darrin...

I'm not sure how many of you are aware that Darrin Engel's last day is tomorrow. This past Tuesday, before the City Commission meeting, I had the pleasure of attending Darrin's going away party at Bizarrre's Upstairs Bistro. Members of the Planning Department attended, along with John Szerdi, John Paxman and his friend Kathy and Darrin's partner Karla. Frank Palen dropped in for a while and Sharon Jackson was there at first, but had to run to the Commission meeting.

Anyone who saw Darrin in action during a Historic Preservation Board meeting knows that he has a lot of architectural knowledge and historic sensitivity. We were fortunate to have that expertise on the City staff in the administration of the City's historic preservation districts. It can be a thankless job as there are always sensitive issues that many times could go either way - with either the public or the property owner being at odds with a staff recommendation. Beyond the historic properties, Darrin contributed his architectural expertise in advising applicants during the site plan and community appearance review process how to make their building's better.

One project that I remember where Darrin really helped the Board out was one on the extreme southern part of South Federal Highway. We had that property before us at least three times before Darrin came on as a staff member. One of his first exposures to the board was in advising us on changes to the architectural design. Until then, we - the applicant and the Board - were not getting the desired result. We finally settled on a pleasing design with Darrin's help.

Another pair of demolition requests come to mind where Darrin was especially helpful. These were to former Joe DiMauro properties - one at 431 N. K. Street and one at 431 N. L. Street. These properties were taken by the City after a series of Nuisance Abatement Board hearings and code enforcement actions. City staff in the building department recommended demolition of both properties. Darrin did some extensive research (much of which will be used in a soon-to-be-coming post) and determined that the property at 431 N. L. Street was a G. Sherman Childs building. Mr. Childs was the architect for our current City Hall building, worked with Misner in Palm Beach and contributed to Lake Worth's early architectural stock in significant ways.

The structure at 431 N. K. was too far gone and not historically worthy enough to keep and the Board ended up granting the demolition for that structure (which came down this week, by the way). But that was not the case for 431 N. L. Street. I'll leave the details to the post regarding that property, but the Board upheld Darrin's recommendation to tear down two smaller structures on the second property and leave the former 4 unit walk-up building standing. It now stands waiting renovation and restoration - and I know someone who is very interested in doing just that.

But, back to Darrin - this really is a loss for the City of Lake Worth. I did not necessarily agree with all of Darrin's recommendations and there are some things that I would have handled differently. However, the City is now without an urban designer, historic preservation planner. We have seven (7) historic districts within the City which do not take care of themselves. For the time being, the work being done by Darrin will have to be picked by other members of the Planning staff - who willingly admit they lack the expertise to do an effective job, especially given their existing responsibilities.

I understand that the position is not going to be advertised now and will be delayed until at least after October 1. Then, we will need to "luck out" and try to find someone with the expertise that Darrin brought to the position - which will be a difficult task. Given the demands of the position and the starting salary, we are usually left with settling for someone without the depth of knowledge we need for such a position.

We need to keep in mind that this is now a "vacant" position and a Commission hungry for dollars could do the unthinkable and eliminate this position. Then, what would happen with our historic districts? Would that lead to the dismantling of our historic preservation program, returning to the days when demolitions and changes to structures within our historic districts went unregulated?

I hope not.

By the way, Darrin and Karla will be returning to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. If you happen to see Darrin before he leaves, please wish him and Karla the best of luck in their new life adventure!

Here are some more pictures from our dinner:

Pier Repair - Update from City

PIER CONSTRUCTION STAGING BEGINS 08/23/07 – This morning, Murphy Construction began mobilizing at Lake Worth’s beach as part of the preparatory process for the repair to the William O. Lockhart Municipal Pier. Lake Worth’s pier suffered significant damage during Hurricane Frances in 2004. To mitigate future damage upon the pier’s reconstruction, Lake Worth officials sought FEMA approval to raise the pier five (5) feet. This process delayed the start of the project to ensure reimbursement from the Federal and State government by an additional ten (10) months. Murphy Construction, the contracted vendor for the project was scheduled to begin the reconstruction of the pier on May 14, 2007. Less than one week earlier, the pier suffered further damage caused by Subtropical Storm Andrea, as evidenced in the attached photographs. The project is expected to take eighteen (18) months through completion. The City has been advised the contractor expects to work on week-ends to expedite the project. Staging encompasses blocking off a section of the beach parking lot for equipment and material storage, such as the pilings which were constructed off-site. A portion of the roadway and the most southern portion of the upper parking lot will be closed to facilitate the project (see attached rendering). Businesses at the beach, including Benny’s on the Beach will remain open during this time. This work is not expected to affect the Greater Lake Worth Chamber of Commerce Triathlon, which will be held on September 9th.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Truth Matters Show 8 to 9 p.m. 8/19

The following is designed to accompany the Truth Matters talk show on Lake Worth Please click on the images for greater detail.