By Antigone Barton
The hour was late and the Boynton Beach commissioners bleary-eyed enough to decide postponing a discussion on budget matters was a good idea.
Still, the decision to give a symbolic nod to historical preservation by OK’ing $18,000 to patch the roof of the city’s 1927 high school was swift and certain.
The move — meant to spare the old Boynton Beach High School’s gymnasium floor from further water damage, even as commissioners were assured the floor would have to be replaced anyway — spelled a change in the city’s approach to the building’s potential.
“I don’t think we’ve had a 5-0 vote on that high school, at least since I’ve been here,” said Mayor Jose Rodriguez, who before assuming leadership last month served on the commission for three years.
The decision was in keeping with Rodriguez’s campaign pledge and earlier commission votes to maintain and protect the building. The Boynton Beach High School, which dates back to the city’s earliest days, was damaged in 2005 by Hurricane Wilma.
Still, Rodriguez says, repairs to the interior of the building are at least a year away.
In the meantime, city engineering and public works director Jeff Livergood called the installation of the temporary rubber roof commissioners approved “a finger in the dike.”
With the close to midnight vote at its April 20 meeting the city was, as Commissioner William Orlove put it, “sending a signal to the public that we are going to renovate this building.”
It was a change in signals from the struggles that made meetings under previous Mayor Jerry Taylor contentious, after efforts to maintain the building stalled.
“By neglecting to fix the roof, the former regime was sort of hoping for demolition by neglect,” said Barbara Ready, president of Save the BOSS (Boynton Old School Space) and member of the city’s historic preservation ad hoc committee.
Ready also is not so sure the floor of the gymnasium is beyond redemption. “It is Dade County pine,” she pointed out. “Dade County pine is a very valuable resource. You only find it in old buildings.”