By Dan Moffett
Manalapan commissioners hope to voice their objections to the South Palm Beach groin project during a scheduled meeting with county officials on Oct. 24.
The commissioners expect the project’s managers to attend the town’s regularly scheduled 9:30 a.m. meeting and participate in a question-and-answer session about the $5 million plan to install a network of seven concrete groins north of the town to stabilize South Palm’s beaches.
There is near unanimous opposition to the idea in Manalapan.
Mayor Keith Waters has pledged to fight it “tooth and nail,” the commissioners have unanimously agreed with the mayor, and finding a resident who thinks groins are a good idea is as unlikely as finding support for a refinery on A1A.
Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa has lawyered up and is threatening to go to court to block the project, and Waters and the commissioners are next in line.
Their unifying fear is that the groins will interrupt the natural southward flow of sand and divert it from nourishing Manalapan’s beaches.
County project managers are expected to try to persuade the commission that the groins in South Palm Beach would be nothing like those installed in Deerfield Beach in the 1960s. Deerfield’s southern neighbor, Hillsboro Beach, has blamed those 56 concrete structures for destroying its coastline and stealing untold tons of sand over the past five decades. Hillsboro is suing Deerfield, seeking to recover millions in damages.
The county’s beach stabilization project, roughly 10 years in the making, is a joint venture, with South Palm Beach paying about 20 percent of the construction cost, the county 30 percent through tourism taxes, and the state and federal governments covering another 50 percent.
County managers are applying for the necessary permits to get the project going by the November 2018 target date.
In other business, members of the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association have voted to approve a new three-year contract with the town that includes a provision for a 3 percent pay increase retroactive to October 2016 and a retirement contribution plan. Going forward, officers are to receive annual pay hikes of 3 percent, 3.5 percent and 4 percent.
Police Chief Carmen Mattox said the agreement — which ends a year of impasse in negotiations that wound up in arbitration — “will improve morale.”
Town Manager Linda Stumpf said the contract “is very fair and it’s generous.”
Waters said the agreement has already improved relations between the commission and department.
“I can tell you I’ve been stopped by every policeman, from the chief all the way down to the people on the street, saying thanks to the commission,” the mayor said during a budget workshop. “They are very much aware that we’re trying to work with them.”