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By Rich Pollack
It took a little under two hours for the Boca Raton City Council and the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Parks District to resolve several lingering issues during a joint meeting last month which was four years in the making.
What was clear at the outset was that both City Council members and district commissioners were frustrated by the inability of the two groups to resolve outstanding issues.
“Everyone expressed frustration over the lack of communication,” said Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie.
By the end of the meeting, however, several items — including the development of grass and artificial turf fields at two parks, funding for repairs and improvements at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center and funding for future beach renourishment projects — had been addressed.
At the meeting, city officials pointed out that it had been four years since the two organizations — both comprised of elected officials — had met and that many major projects had stalled. For their part, leaders of the beach and parks district expressed concerns about the relationship between the two groups, saying they did not feel they were considered partners by the city.
Under existing agreements, the district — a special taxing district — helps fund beaches and parks within Boca Raton, while the city is charged with maintaining those recreational facilities. To enhance communications, and in doing so resolve stalled issues more rapidly, both groups have agreed to meet again, possibly in the fall, and on a regular basis.
“I think we cleared the air, which was very important,” Haynie said.
Arthur Koski, legal counsel and interim executive director for the district, said the resolution of several lingering issues was a positive outcome.
“The board was very pleased that we had reached consensus and can move forward on several projects,” he said. One of those projects is the replacement of the boardwalk loop at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, which has been closed since February.
Bids for the design of the boardwalk loop replacement are being prepared jointly by the city and the beach and parks district; construction, which should begin later this year, is expected to take between four and five months.
The boardwalk is in the process of being inspected and city officials hope to have the $1.75 million project completed before turtle season begins next March. The beaches and parks district will provide the funding for the repairs, as well as for repairs to pipes to improve the flow of seawater into tanks for sea turtles and other marine life at Gumbo Limbo.
During the joint meeting, beach and parks district commissioners also agreed to split the cost of beach renourishment projects evenly. In the past, the city paid two-thirds of the cost and the beach district paid one-third. “We decided it was more equitable to share the cost equally,” Koski said.
The most discussion at the joint meeting focused on rectangular fields at two major parks and debate on whether to use artificial turf or grass on those fields.
Following much discussion — and several years after the issue first surfaced — both the City Council members and district commissioners agreed to build four grass fields at deHoernle Park and convert three fields at Patch Reef Park to artificial turf.
In addition, the meeting cleared the way for development of restrooms at the city’s dog park, construction of a maintenance facility at deHoernle Park and a road to connect the dog park with deHoernle Park.