By Cheryl Blackerby 

    Boca Raton Beach and Park District commissioners are willing to pay a greater share of the city’s beach renourishment bills. But before they start writing bigger checks, they’d like to start playing a bigger role in shaping the projects. 

    “We’re not the city’s daddy,” said Commissioner Steve Engel, who says the commission often feels like the parent of college kids who constantly come asking for money without saying what it’s for. 

    “The basis of the problem we have is they don’t see this as a partnership, but rather see us as a tax-raising facility, a fund-raising facility for them,” Engel said. “For us to really go forward, that’s going to have to change somehow. They’re going to have to understand that we’re not trying to work at cross-purposes. We’re not trying to defeat what their objectives are. We want to be part of them.” 

    At issue is a $6.1 million renourishment project for the city’s north beach from Yamato Rock to the northern boundary of Red Reef Park. 

    The federal government is expected to pay about $3.4 million of the bill through the Army Corps of Engineers, with the state, Palm Beach County, city and beach district covering the rest. 

    Together, Boca Raton and the district will have to come up with about $943,000. In the past, the city has paid two-thirds of renourishment bills and the district one-third. 

    But the city wants to change that precedent and make the partnership 50-50, meaning the district would pay about $471,500 for the north beach project. 

    “We have told the city we would consider an inter-local agreement in which we’re a 50 percent partner with the city,” said Arthur Koski, the district’s acting director, “with certain provisos that we would be involved in the projects from the beginning so we learned about issues early on, rather than learning about them at the commencement of the project.” 

    Koski says the city hasn’t responded to his requests to give the commission more input on projects in the new inter-local agreement. “The city disregarded our request for greater participation,” he said, but added he’s hopeful that the partnership can be redefined as the summer budget process grinds on. 

    Koski says the north beach project won’t begin before November, and the start date will depend on the Army Corps’ scheduling of two other renourishment projects in northern Palm Beach County. He said the plan is to have north beach completed before turtle nesting season begins next spring. 

    Boca Raton has another major renourishment project to address after that. Koski said early estimates are about $9 million to rebuild the district’s southern beaches, with the city and district’s partnership expected to cover about $3.5 million of that total. 

    Koski said that, depending on logistics, scheduling and finances, it might be possible to “piggyback” the work on the southern beaches immediately after the north beach is completed. 

    But it won’t be possible to figure out the whole renourishment picture until after bids come back from contractors with hard numbers. 

    Commissioner Earl Starkoff says he is optimistic that the city and district can redefine their partnership and improve their working relationship by then. 

    “We’re not talking about warring parties here,” Starkoff said. “We’re talking about willing parties who want to do this — us and the city.”

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