By Dan Moffett
Mayor Bonnie Fischer swore in new Town Manager Majella “Mo” Thornton at the beginning of January’s council meeting and declared a fresh start for South Palm Beach as it enters the new year.
“We have now made significant changes to the administration of South Palm Beach,” Fischer said. “We have brought in seasoned local professionals that have proven their integrity over a period of years in Palm Beach County. I think that’s important.”
Thornton replaces Bob Vitas, who was forced out of the manager’s position in October after a unanimous vote of no-confidence by the Town Council, ending a yearlong dispute over a new contract and pay raise.
Also gone is Brad Biggs, who served as the town attorney for more than a decade. Biggs decided to resign last summer after his contract expired and the council refused to negotiate a new one. Replacing Biggs is veteran municipal attorney Glen Torcivia, founder of the West Palm Beach law firm Torcivia, Donlon, Goddeau & Ansay.
Thornton comes to South Palm Beach after 21 years as city manager in Atlantis.
“I’m happy with the changes we’ve made,” Fischer said, “and I look forward to bringing the town together and having a successful year.”
Fischer said the first order of business for the overhauled administration is to get the foundering beach stabilization project moving again. The joint plan with Palm Beach County to install seven groins from the town’s northern border to the southern end of Lantana Municipal Beach has languished after complaints from Manalapan and questions from state officials who are considering whether to grant permits for the project.
“There’s been a lot of issues lately and it’s been stalled,” Fischer said. “Apparently there seem to be concerns with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection that has some issues with the county and their permits. I’d like to get the professionals in here and see what’s going on that’s negative and give us more insights into the project.”
Fischer said she and Thornton plan to meet with county environmental managers soon to find out what the town can do to jump-start the groin installation, which officials still hope to begin in November.
“This project is taking too long and there’s too much effort to it,” the mayor said. “I certainly don’t want to see it fall by the wayside. We need answers.”
In other business, George Turenne, president of American Lighting Maintenance in Riviera Beach, told the council during the Jan. 23 town meeting that his company was nearly finished replacing the street and sidewalk lighting on A1A.
The new LED lights cost about $28,000 to install, roughly half the expense of traditional halogen lighting. The new lights use about a third of the electricity of halogen lamps and have a life expectancy of about 11 years, four times that of the halogens.
“The new lights are turtle-friendly too,” Turenne said.