By Steve Plunkett
Negotiations are still underway on how much the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District will pay to renourish the city’s central beaches, a project scheduled to begin this month.
Boca Raton is counting on getting $3.7 million from the district for the three-month project, which covers the area from the southern edge of Red Reef Park to the Boca Raton Inlet. District commissioners budgeted $2.6 million but informally agreed in a joint meeting last June to pay the higher amount.
The district has generally funded one-third of beach renourishment costs, although in 1982 it paid 100 percent of the city’s first restoration project. The district agreed at June’s meeting that it would pay for half the local costs of the central beach project.
“We have stepped outside of that (one-third) envelope in the past,” Arthur Koski, the district’s interim executive director, said as commissioners discussed the issue Feb. 1.
Commissioners signed an agreement the city prepared in July to contribute 50 percent this year. Boca Raton, in turn, spent five months revising the agreement and now wants the district to pay 50 percent of all beach restoration projects for the next 25 years.
District commissioners said they don’t want to make such a long-term commitment.
“Doing it on a case-by-case basis makes a lot more sense,” Commission Chairman Robert Rollins said.
The board tentatively agreed that it should help pay to renourish Boca Raton’s southern beaches, which go from the inlet to the Deerfield Beach city limits. Until now, the district has funded only projects in the central and northern beaches.
The northern area runs from the north boundary of Red Reef Park to the Highland Beach town limits. Red Reef Park itself is never renourished because its reefs are too close to the beach.
Koski said residents in the southern part of the barrier island pay beach and park taxes just like other residents of the district. And while the lack of parking might make it hard for some people to use the public access paths to the southern beaches, it’s an easy walk for taxpayers who live just west of A1A.
“We may have an obligation to protect all of the beaches,” Koski said.
Commissioner Earl Starkoff agreed. “We have to look at the entire district,” he said.
But Koski did not know when the south beaches are scheduled to be renourished and said commissioners should not promise to pay for such a project until he finds out.
In the meantime, he has asked the Boca Raton City Council to schedule time at its Feb. 22 workshop for an appearance by Rollins. The district’s chairman wants to discuss the relationship between the council and the district, which he and fellow commissioners consider “strained.”
The central beach project is scheduled to start this month and be completed by the end of April.
The renourishment will cost $11.3 million, with the state and county paying about $4 million. That left $3.7 million each for the district and the city if they were to split the local share.
By Steve Plunkett