Saturday, June 27, 2009

Catching up from a busy week...

I've got some summarizing to do over the weekend about important happenings during the week and will be writing about the special City Commission meeting on Monday. They will be interviewing candidates for the Planning and Zoning Board, the Library Board and others.

You might have noticed that I just added a "Hot Button" section in the right hand column of the blog that will lead you to some of the more "popular" items featured here. A long standing popular draw here is anything Cara Jennings. I've had that link for quite a while. But today, in order to battle the continued misinformation coming from a certain camp, I have made it easy to find all the information regarding the Sunset property annexation, land use plan and zoning change and related hyperbole surrounding this issue.

Since a local blogger seems to think that she personally speaks for all of the 450 people in her neighborhood, (never mind that she lives across the street in a high density condo complex), it's only fitting that the facts be packaged in an easy way so that you can understand the REAL story and not just the one that you will here at your front door during campaign season. Hitting that link will take you to all the posts here that address the issue.

As always, your comments and questions are welcome. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tropic Fest Road Closures

Media Release

To facilitate the staging and dispersal of the Annual Tropic Fest to be held Saturday, July 4th , 2009, parking will be temporary prohibited on the following streets:

2nd Ave South between Federal Hwy. and South Golfview (South side of road only)
1st Ave South between Federal Hwy. and South Golfview (South side of road only)

Parking at the above listed locations will be temporarily prohibited from 2:00 PM Saturday, July 4th, 2009 until the conclusion of the event, which should be approximately 11:00 PM.

To assure a safe and successful Tropic Fest, your cooperation in this matter is urged. The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office may tow vehicles left parked on the street in violation of this temporary order.

The Bryant Park Boat Ramps will be closed from noon on Friday, July 3, until noon on Sunday, July 5.

In Addition:

Lake Ave. from Federal Hwy. to South Ocean Blvd. and the Lake Worth Bridge will be temporarily closed from approximately 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM.

Media Release Prepared By: Lieutenant Moss
Date Released to Media:
Teri Barbera
Division Manager/Public Information Officer
Media Relations
Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office

Lake Worth High named among state's worst schools; state to intervene

Click title for link to PB Post article. The prospect emerges of shutting down the school - that's what started Project Lake Worth in the early to mid 90s when the school district threatened to close the school instead of improve it. A group of concerned citizens got together to make sure the school stayed open and would benefit from reinvestment. This time its closure could be for other reasons.

R.I.P. Michael

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hialeah Racetrack to Reopen?

Hialeah Racetrack to Reopen?

A Florida landmark...

Examples of not addressing structural deficiencies...

Harvest from Public Information Request - Re Casino Shoring Plans, Bids

Above is the bid tabulation from four (4) bidders on the shoring project - once mandated by the city's FORMER chief building official. The low bid exceeded the estimated cost of the work by more than double. These have been discarded and the city will not be issuing a contract related to the shoring of the building. Also note the two (2) year work period.

I have a copy of the actual shoring plans in .pdf. If you are interested, please e-mail me.

Above is the cover to the 134 page addendum to the bid solicitation issued by the City. Apparently there were many unanswered questions after the mandatory "Pre-Bid" meeting that happened on May 28, 2009. Included with this addendum are all of the seven (7) structural reports on the building since 1995. I can forward a copy to you if you are interested, as well.

This is perhaps the most telling item of the 134 pages: A two page report introduced as "Revised Site Report." Click on image for greater detail - these two pages speak for themselves. Notice the use of BOLD type and the use of the words "compromised," "jeopardized" and "immediate."

This gives you a clue what would happen when a contractor attempts to rehabilitate the building. What it comes down to is what will we have when we're finished renovating this building at a much greater cost, due to the greater amount of unknowns, than we would have for spending less money building a new building that met all the current construction standards and would be more aesthetically appealing? If money were no object, which it most definitely is, I would say renovate - and probably in the same design that is there now. I just don't think that is a realistic option - especially in the eye of the public looking down at a ballot request for a General Obligation bond to fund the improvements.

Yesterday's City Commission Work Session - the one at 1 p.m.

I got there a little before 1 p.m. yesterday (with a bag of lychees to snack on during the meeting - inset) and, if you haven't been in the City Hall conference room later, the next time you go you'll notice some changes. The "football field" size table that took up most of the middle of the room is gone. Now there is a smaller conference table at the east end of the room - set up parallel to Dixie Hwy. There are rows of chairs for seating. As people kept entering the room, it was apparent there was going to be a large crowd and there was a push to move the meeting to the Commission Chambers - which was unoccupied throughout the afternoon.

The Chambers also has the capability for Internet streaming of the goings-on. Why in 2009 we can't seem to make meetings in the Conference room have the same capability is beyond me. But, that just says that it's not a priority to keep the public informed of what is going on in their local government - the Conference room provides a special place to hide if you don't want wide and immediate distribution of what is transpiring during a public meeting. The move to the other room was vetoed by those on the Commission. The Mayor's face expressed amazement that so many people would want to come and listen to this meeting - one that was about our Reverse Osmosis plant, the Casino building, the budget and City Attorney recruitment. He also made it clear that no decisions would be made at the meeting, it was just called so that the Commission could talk to each other about the items on the agenda and that there would be no public comment.

Moral of the story: Schedule meetings like these in the evenings when people have a better opportunity to attend, use the Commission Chambers if the group exceeds a certain size (at one point there were 28 people in the audience plus the 8 or 9 around the conference table) and wire the Conference room for Internet streaming.

Now, along these lines, I really wish more people had the opportunity to hear and see Dr. Steven Daranceau, P.E. give his PowerPoint presentation on Reverse Osmosis, it's history and evolution, national and state trends, budding technologies and concentrate disposal options. This is the sort of thing that would be ideal to video and have archived for retrieval by anyone at a later date. You see, part of leadership is the ability to educate so that others can learn. We need to have this capability in Lake Worth and soon.

Some of the more interesting points in the presentation were these. WORK IN PROGRESS

Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress. Mohandas Gandhi

Perhaps this is why we don't see much progress here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

From my BlackBerry:

This is what I posted on Greg Rice's FaceBook page regarding this afternoon's City Commission meeting: (more later)

The "work session" this afternoon was informative. Lots of education from learned people on reverse osmosis - too bad more people couldn't be there due to the time of day. It was in the conference room so no Internet which is a problem. Lots of blah blah talk on the casino. Mayor toe-in-the-water tried to split the baby, Cara is concerned about cost of rehab and investing in building east of the CCL, Jo Ann said she was just saying she wanted to tear it down and not replace it - both Cara and Jo Ann said what they think personally is different than thinking as a commissioner, Suzanne is bought and paid for by the tenants. Retha summed it up best - saying we've talked and talked and I still don't know what we're doing.

What the near future looks like...

Had about three power outages at my house this morning. The longest was a little over an hour and from what I have heard, other parts of the city were out much longer. Along those lines, a friend sent me a couple of links on "pre-paid" electric meters - this is something Commissioner Golden thinks is the next best thing. This may be part of a Community Development Block Grant funded pilot project in Lake Worth - here are some links to check out about this rather new technology. Click here and here. They are being touted as helping with energy conservation - but there are drawbacks - including functions that would limit the amount of energy use per day if you exceed a certain limit, etc. Another tentacle of Big Brother, perhaps.

Also, I am taking time out of my day to go to the City Commission "work session" meeting today. This is another in the recent trend of meetings that are being held during the middle of day, this one at 1 p.m. in the City Hall conference room with the City Commission - topics to include the Reverse Osmosis plant, the Casino building, the budget and City Attorney recruitment. I'm not sure I can stay for the entire meeting, but we will see.

In the meantime, I leave you with this:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Part II - City Commission Meeting - Tuesday 6/23 - 1 p.m. - Casino Building

This is a continuation of a post from yesterday regarding the City Manager's back-up memorandum regarding the future of the Casino building. Click here for link to the full memo.

Here is policy objective number 3 per memo:

The city has had at least five studies done over the past 15 years that all point to the structural deficiencies present in the building. Reinforced concrete in a coastal saltwater setting is problematic over a period of time - especially when steel rebar has been exposed for long periods of time, the spalling of concrete and the rusting of the rebar continues throughout unseen parts of the building. I do not know of an engineer that would certify the condition of a building of this type in this location - warts and all, which is the kind of analysis I think that the City Manager is looking for. It's an attempt to make sure there are no uncertainties and that all conditions are "known." My opinion, and this is coming from someone who was in the trenches supervising work on an oceanfront, historic reinforced concrete building, is that the only way to rid the project of all unknowns is dismantle the entire building - which of course defeats the purpose if you are out to rehabilitate it.

I agree with the need to find an objective firm to perform the study which I think we can all admit that Straticon was not that firm - or any firm that Straticon brought in for that matter.

This comes to my main point here. A contractor building a new structure at the beach would have more than an even chance to come in on or under budget on a fixed price contract. This is not so for a contractor doing a rehabilitation job on this existing structure - there are going to be unforeseen conditions regardless of the amount of study one does before the job begins. A new building would also allow more flexibility in the design to meeting loading, dumpster, utility connections that meet current standards and are most efficient for the end users of the building.

If we are going to spend public money on this public property, the most responsible method would be the construction of a new building. It would also allow for Commissioner Jennings' impassioned plea (via her PowerPoint presentation from 2007) about how government should lead the way with a "managed retreat" from proximity to the shoreline. This building is seaward of the coastal construction line. Putting millions (and it would be much more than the $6 million talked about in the Fishkind study) of City of Lake Worth money into the building is essentially saying that the City is not taking the lead when it comes to responding to the impacts of global warming.

Likewise, being seaward of the coastal construction control line also increases the standards for rehabilitating a structure. From what I have heard from coastal engineers, as soon as the slab is touched, the need to shore the existing building (pilings) would come into play. That is money spent that would never be seen on the "topside" - taking money away from the functional and aesthetic upgrades necessary for the building. Any comprehensive analysis of the condition of the building should include an analysis of this likely contingency. Also part of this comprehensive analysis should be and ability of the building to meet the 140 mph wind load standard and the cost associated with this. The work planned here is well over 50% of the assessed value of the structure, therefore all new code requirements would come into play - including meeting ADA accessibility standards throughout the building. Any analysis would have to include these factors.

Such a study would not be needed with a new building - it would automatically be part of the design development process. And where are the green building standards being addressed? Wouldn't this be the perfect spot for some urban wind power generation equipment? Watch the grant dollars fall from the sky if it's part of the project.

I've grouped policy objectives numbers 4, 5 and 6 together as they relate to the tenants of the structure:

The above chart and picture explain why this is a tenant-driven, not a city-driven approach to the rehabilitation of the Casino building. The picture of the sign was taken during last October and is the menu board inside of John G's. The tally of Commissioner Mulvehill's contributions speak for themselves and I left out the run-off election contributions, which reflect the same predominance of Casino building tenant donations.

Regarding the business needs of tenants - wouldn't a new building allow all the existing tenants to stay a longer time in the existing building, build out their space and finish it in the new building and then move in - leaving the existing structure vacant and ready for demolition? Isn't it more of an inconvenience for the existing tenants - if they want to be in a new structure - to try to stay open during what would be a massive construction project? Wouldn't this complicate the work necessary to deliver the job on time?

What is being suggested here, that the city will be responsible for the tenant build-out? Is what is being suggested here the large patio featured in the Straticon proposal to the west of the John G's space - effectively doubling their seating area?

Market based rent - $30 to $35 dollars a square foot is not market rent for oceanfront retail and dining. $50 is more realistic and someone would need to do an independent market analysis to confirm this. The difference between the market rent for such space and what these tenants have been paying for years represents a subsidy from the residents of Lake Worth. Where is the tenants' financial contribution to this project? Why aren't other tenants being considered?

I think we know why.

Lake Worth CRA is offering Commercial Enhancement Funding

The Lake Worth CRA is offering Commercial Enhancement /Tenant Iprovement Final Cycle Now Open - Limited Funding Available. Applications will be accepted from June 30, 2009-July 30, 2009. Contact the CRA for more information at 561-493-2550

Native Offerings III at Pine Jog opens at 6pm on Friday 6/26

Sunday, June 21, 2009

City Commission Meeting - Tuesday 6/23 - 1 p.m. - Casino Building - Part I

There is so much to talk about here I scarcely know where to begin. In a previous post you read that I had asked for copies of the RFP, amendments and responses regarding the shoring project at the Casino Building. This coming after paying $20,000 for engineered shoring plans. At the time, the reason to do this was in response to numerous structural studies on the building documented problems which may affect safety of the general public. So much so that one of the half dozen chief building officials the city has had over the past few years issued a pronouncement that if work didn't commence or if the city didn't make progress and put these steps into motion, the tenants would have to vacate the building on March 31, 2009.

The shoring was to be done with the tenants in place and estimate to be in the $100,000 range or a little less. With the RFP process initiated, the tenants were allowed to stay in the building. The bids were due back last Tuesday. At the City Commission meeting, City Manager Stanton indicated that she dismissed all the bids from some 10 contractors as they all came in significantly over the estimated price. I copied Ms. Stanton on the request and she wrote back that she would like to meet with me - we haven't had the opportunity yet - and that she would hand me the information then. That was Friday and I expect more communication with her this week, perhaps leading to a meeting.

In that set of e-mail communications, she told me, and this is reflected in the back-up memo (click here for link to full report), that she didn't see the purpose in shoring up a building that the city was going to renovate. Wise thinking if that is the course the city is taking, but when did this decision get made? Up until now, the building's future was in limbo as to whether it would be renovated, torn down and replaced or just torn down and not replaced. And, by the way, this is where any kind of wise thinking ends if the city pursues renovation.

At 5:59 on Friday, I received the agenda for the Tuesday 1 p.m. meeting and the related back-up material was on the city's website. Let me say now, and I will probably say again, that this meeting has no business being held at 1 p.m. in the afternoon. It's being held in the City Hall conference room which does not have the ability YET to stream meetings over the Internet. Also on the agenda, besides the casino building's future, are discussions on the RO plant, on the budget and on the City Attorney recruitment process. Are there any more important issues other than these right now? I am highly suspicious of this being called a "Work Session" and not a "Workshop" - can action be taken here or is this just another way to refer to conversations between the Mayor, Commissioners and staff? If direction is given and acted upon, I would say that is taking action. Again, another reason not to have this meeting at 1 p.m.

I should also point out that the CRA workshop meeting would have been held Tuesday night and if it took place would conflict with an evening City Commission meeting. However, this coming CRA workshop was cancelled so there is no conflict either schedule-wise, room-wise or attention-wise.

Now let's turn to the contents of the memo. This City Manager has been here two months. The saga of the Casino building and beach goes back at least 30 years or more, depending on who is counting. It's worth noting that none of the multitudes of proposals to redevelop the beach ever talked about using the existing building in the redevelopment scenario. She does get the importance of the building's location and that it "is a very significant community asset worth preserving and protecting."

However, she ironically points out below that the poor condition of the Casino building "is a very visible reminder of what happens in a City when it fails to develop an effective dialogue with community residents." Ms. Stanton, how is holding a meeting at 1 p.m. developing an effective dialogue with community residents?

The first of the ten policy objectives is a thorny one, but let's wade into it. Yes, the Casino building has historical significance. But in what way should it be protected and preserved? Should it be returned to the much smaller original version that bears no relationship to the current structure, other than some architectural elements on the west side of the building? This "restoration" option would likely be the most expensive and the tenants and the city would lose leaseable space. Remember, most of the second floor was ripped off during a late 1940s hurricane. (Note that the banner of this blog, for almost its entire existence, is taken from this postcard)

Or do we rehabilitate the building in its current style? No one wants this option, but from a historic preservation perspective, it has the most merit. The building's design is reflective of the International Style and has a right to be preserved in and of itself.

The direction we are heading in, according to this memo and if past behavior is any indicator, is some sort of amalgamation of the two which has no basis in history and would be frowned upon in historic preservation circles. It would essentially put a 1920s -ish "icing" on a cake that is way out of proportion with the original. Freeing our selves from the confines of the existing structure opens up many more desirable design options and a new building could more closely replicate the 1920s style, but do so in a modern, functional fashion.

Moving on to the second objective:
I'm not sure who Ms. Stanton has talked to during her two months at the helm, but there is a substantial portion of the community that feels disenfranchised from the actions of the city due to the "no compromise" approach by the current majority on the dais. We have no debate here - what we have during City Commission is an "echo chamber" where everyone in attendance falls all over themselves agreeing with Commissioners Jennings, Golden and Mulvehill. Any view to the contrary is met with disdain and the mumbling begins how anyone that doesn't agree with the majority is corrupt, developer pawns, out of touch, etc.

I would say that most people in the community want a quality redevelopment project at the beach that most efficiently uses public or other funds to accomplish its goals. Digging into a building without any drawings of record, that has been buffeted by salt air for most of a century, that has been destroyed and rebuilt many times, that has questionable functionality for the current times, that has almost no aesthetic appeal in its current state - I would argue that doesn't represent a responsible use of public money on public property.

To be continued tomorrow in Part II

A little suggestion from Bloody Mary - South Pacific

Hidden Provision of SB 360 and the Gulfstream Hotel

Tomorrow, the City Commission will be meeting at 5:30 p.m. to hear yet another appeal by Charles Celi of the Historic Preservation Resource Board decision to extend the Certificate of Appropriateness approval for the historic hotel property. I am not going to go into the details of the dates, what the approval was for or any of the multiple and nonsensical arguments that Mr. Celi continues to make before the City Commission. I actually pity them for having to repeatedly hear the percieved items that were somehow overlooked by the HRPB in the decision making process.

However, we may be spared in that there is a provision in SB 360, recently signed into law by Governor Crist, that allows for a blanket two-year extension of all development orders issued by local governments. Click here for applicable passage from SB 360 and notes from the committee that put the bill together.

By the way, as I have stated before, I think that SB 360 is bad legislation that wrongfully identifies non-urban areas as urban and severely weakens traffic concurrency requirements. But, the law is the law and this is a case where state law would prevail. My point is that Mr. Celi's appeal is moot now due to this blanket statewide time extension. He should not be wasting the time of the Commission and city staff with this matter - again, some more.