By Cheryl Blackerby
At the Feb. 4 Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District meeting, Michele Kurucz Peel, president of the Friends of Gumbo Limbo, asked the board to do something about the city of Boca Raton’s decision to reduce the weekly hours (from as much as 39 to about 25) of two part-time employees at the center.
The two employees — Anthony Ceparano, the aquarist in charge of the center’s new tanks, and Melanie Stadler, marine turtle specialist II — are especially skilled employees who are needed at the center, she said.
Peel said the center risks losing these valuable employees who were now looking for work elsewhere. The reduction in hours was also taking a toll on full-time employees, she said, who have to pick up the slack.
District commissioner, Earl Starkoff and the district’s attorney Arthur Koski in particular, were sympathetic to Peel and strongly suggested they would be able to solve her problems at the next meeting. The problem with the two employees turned into a larger question of who has authority over Gumbo Limbo Nature Center — the district, which pays the center’s bills, or the city? Arthur Koski researched the interlocal agreement between Gumbo Limbo and the city to see which side has ultimate authority.
“We are the 100 percent funder of that facility,” Starkoff said.
“I’m hopeful we will be the 100 percent decision-maker,” Koski then said.
By the Feb. 25 district meeting, Koski had researched his answer and announced it to the commission: The district does have authority over the center. The commission unanimously decided to make the Ceparano and Stadler full-time with health benefits, which they didn’t have before the city’s reduction of their hours.
Friends of Gumbo Limbo secretary Connie Thoms-Mazur and Friends vice president Robyn Morigerato spoke before the commission about the need for these two employees.
The board also approved the city’s plan to spend $30,000 to hire an engineering consultant to come up with a proposal to redesign and upgrade the pump lines at the center.
By Cheryl Blackerby