Lantana: Bridge party will happen, but when?

By Mary Thurwachter

    There’s a Lantana bridge opening party on the horizon, but you can’t circle the date on your calendar just yet. The reason? No one knows exactly when the new Ocean Avenue Bridge will open.
    Lantana officials would like to set a date, but the bridge is county-owned, so Palm Beach County officials will determine when the $32 million span opens. That will depend on when construction wraps up, expected to be sometime between Nov. 15 and Dec. 1.
    Crews are working nights and weekends to assure work is finished before the Dec. 6 target date.
    At its Sept. 23 meeting, the Lantana Town Council learned it might have as little as a week’s notice of the bridge opening date.
Nevertheless, party plans are proceeding. Town staff said they had been in touch with Zambelli about fireworks to be launched from a barge in the Intracoastal Waterway. Also in the works are live bands, food, a ribbon cutting ceremony and a “First ___ Over the Bridge” parade.
    So, for now, stay tuned.
    The old bridge, open for 62 years, closed in March 2012. Construction on the new span, 11 feet higher than its predecessor, is expected to reduce by about 40 percent the number of times the drawbridge opens for boats.
    Council members considered a request from the Lantana Chamber of Commerce to combine the bridge party with its annual Winterfest celebration at the town recreation center on Dec. 6. But the notion was nixed because of the opening date uncertainty.
    “I can’t see how we can combine them,” Mayor Dave Stewart said. “Once the county opens the bridge, they’re not going to close it again for a party later. When the bridge is open, it’s open.”
    In other action, the town agreed to sell a triplex at 111 Prospect Road. The property, given to the town from Palm Beach County, has an appraised value of $30,000, although town officials expect the land alone is worth more.
    Earlier this year, the councilmembers talked about providing the building to the Lantana Historical Society if the organization came up with a business plan and money to do some of the many needed repairs to the house. But in a Sept. 3 letter to the council from the Historical Society, President Rosemary Mouring said the organization was no longer interested in the building.
    “We feel that it is not beneficial for the Society to take on the project and do all the work that this property needs, especially in light of the restrictions placed upon it by the town,” Mouring wrote.
    Town Attorney R. Max Lohman said the town did not need to put the proposal to sell the house on the ballot, since it was a gift from the county.
    The property will be sold
“as is.”

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