$378 million to keep a city above water. $45 million for renovations along A1A. $25 million to keep sand on the beach. These are a few of the dramatic numbers we’ve seen discussed in our coastal area recently.
The cost of updating our aging infrastructure is not going to be cheap. Retaining paradise is about to get expensive.
Thankfully, taxpayers in Palm Beach County voted in 2017 for an extra 1-cent sales tax. A portion of that revenue will be returned to municipalities over a 10-year period. The money is earmarked for infrastructure: roads, sewers, water lines, fire stations and more.
This will help — a little.
Much of the coastal area was developed more than a half century ago, so we shouldn’t be surprised if roads need repairing or water systems need revamping.
And we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that some of the barrier island land is sinking, or that rising seas contribute to crumbling roadways, bulkheads and seawalls.
And more than ever before, each hurricane season we wait for the “big one” to find out if we have enough of a buffer on the beach to keep buildings from being compromised. We also wait to see if storm surge will overwhelm our water and wastewater systems.
Although the latest proposed price tags for sustainability are eye-popping, remember that our coastline communities account for 16 percent of the property value of Palm Beach County. We have the wealth to protect us from future disaster — if we are willing to spend now for tomorrow.
Fixing infrastructure will not be sexy. It’s likely to be messy as repairs are made. Still, our elected officials need to be unafraid to explore ambitious solutions to our growing infrastructure problems.
In this fiscally conservative area it’s going to be tough to convince everyone of the value of spending for solutions we may not see in our lifetime, but it will be necessary.
Residents in Highland Beach, Ocean Ridge and South Palm Beach have an opportunity on March 12 to elect candidates with the best skills and ability to navigate this increasingly complex and expensive road to the future. Please vote.
— Mary Kate Leming,