Ocean Ridge: Commission approves mass alert system for emergencies

By Dan Moffett

Ocean Ridge commissioners are hoping to have a mass public notification system up and running before the hurricane season begins in June.
The commission unanimously approved on April 1 a proposal by the Massachusetts-based company CivicPlus to install the alert system in the town for $2,065, with an annual renewal charge of $965.
With the CivicPlus technology, officials will be able to rapidly send alerts to the town’s residents by text, voicemail and email. The service is free for residents, but they must register with the town to participate.
Police Chief Hal Hutchins got an assist in screening prospective vendors from Ocean Ridge resident Janet Schijns. A former Verizon executive, Schijns recommended CivicPlus over competitors CodeRED and Nixle because of the company’s range of features, secure database and attractive fee structure.
“In speaking with my connections, they were at the top of every list and have replaced CodeRED in numerous cities,” she said of CivicPlus.
• Acting Town Manager Tracey Stevens and Mayor Steve Coz will lead a goal-setting workshop for the commission on April 18, beginning at 2 p.m. Commissioners will discuss a number of critical long-term issues, including sewer system options, vacation rentals, street flooding and sea rise.
At March 4 meeting:
• The process of getting Ocean Ridge a separate ZIP code from the U.S. Postal Service appears to be even more complicated and arduous than commissioners first thought.
Besides potentially many months of bureaucratic negotiation with Washington, the town could face some tough negotiation with Boynton Beach. Ocean Ridge currently shares a ZIP code with Boynton, and the city likely would have to work with commissioners to change that.
Robert Sloat, who was appointed to fill the commission seat vacated by James Bonfiglio in November, said without Boynton’s cooperation to continue services, Ocean Ridge might need to get its own mail office, delivery truck and postal officer to serve the separate ZIP area.
Insurance is another potential complication.
Insurance companies often use ZIP codes to set rates, Sloat said during the meeting, and if separated from Boynton, Ocean Ridge residents might see the cost of property and auto insurance increase.
Coz asked Sloat, whose partial term on the commission expired with the March 12 election, to be the town’s one-man “exploratory committee” and investigate the unintended consequences of the ZIP code idea.
“I’ll talk to the postal authorities,” Sloat said.
The plan has gained support in recent months as a way for the town to deter online searches for vacation rentals in Ocean Ridge.
• After three and a half years in Ocean Ridge, Jamie Titcomb left the town manager’s job to take a similar position in Loxahatchee Groves.
“I have really enjoyed working here,” he told the commission March 4.
“I’m very sad to leave this town but I’m very confident we’ve left a very good team of professionals in place that will work in camaraderie with the programs we’ve worked so hard on.”
Titcomb and the commissioners had a bumpy ride early in his tenure because of budget preparation problems — so much so that they changed his contract term to a month-to-month agreement.
But after replacing the town’s outdated budget software and getting the numbers in line, Titcomb earned glowing reviews from the commission.

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