By Tim O’Meilia
Boynton Beach may be interested in buying Manalapan’s water system even as the town prepares to replace more than three miles of aging distribution lines that will cost more than $3 million.
Town commissioners unanimously approved a request by Boynton Beach at the Sept. 24 meeting to evaluate the town’s system, which includes well fields and a reverse osmosis treatment plant on U.S. Highway 1 in Hypoluxo.
The commission appointed a water task force in the spring to examine how to deal with the small system that serves 880 customers in Manalapan and in the Town of Hypoluxo.
“It’s very expensive to run for such a small customer base,” said Town Manager Linda Stumpf.
The utilities budget is $2.5 million annually, but the town will have to sell bonds or borrow $3 million to $4 million to replace old cast-iron and concrete asbestos lines along State Road A1A, on Point Manalapan and across the Intracoastal Waterway connecting the two. A $210,000 design has already been approved.
Manalapan water customers pay some of the highest rates in the area. The monthly base rate begins at more than $33 and the cost per 1,000 gallons of water will rise to $2.34 in 2014. Boynton customers have a base rate of about $11 and pay about $1.55 per 1,000 gallons.
“We’ve done all we can do to streamline operations,” Stumpf said.
The task force investigated whether to sell the system to a private investor, to another public entity or recommend the town continue operating the system itself. State law discourages private ownership.
Although town officials approached several other public agencies, only Boynton Beach, which already has an emergency interconnection with the Manalapan system, showed any interest.
Stumpf told commissioners Boynton Beach is concerned about salt water intrusion in its own well system. Manalapan drilled two new wells two years ago and its reverse osmosis system is designed to treat brackish water.
Manalapan may still have to pay for the rebuilt distribution system even if Boynton Beach makes an offer, but spreading the cost over a much larger customer base would still save Manalapan residents money.
In other business, commissioners:
• Again bickered over an individual commissioner’s right to contact outside parties on the town’s behalf. Mayor David Cheifetz told Commissioner Howard Roder that he improperly talked with Plaza del Mar management over disabled access and with the town’s insurance firm over claims. “You contacted outside parties without the permission of the board,” Cheifetz said. Roder replied that he did not need permission to ask questions. He denied speaking to the insurance representative, although both Stumpf and Town Attorney Trela White said that insurance claims specialist Bill Ritzmann told them Roder had called and left a voice mail. Roder insisted he had not tried to contact Ritzmann. “He’s a liar,” Roder repeated numerous times, often in a loud voice. “I’m tired of being called out for every goddamn thing that I bring up,” he said.
Former Commissioner Bill Quigley said the commission antics have made the town the laughingstock of the area. “There’s a better way to solve this without having every meeting be confrontational,” he said.
• Approved a $3.6 million budget that will hold the tax rate at the current $2.90 per $1,000 of taxable property value without having to dip into reserves. Roder dissented.
By Tim O’Meilia