By Dan Moffett

Several dozen condo residents from southern Ocean Ridge jammed Town Hall on Feb. 4 to make their case to the Town Commission for an A1A crosswalk.
They pretty much had the commissioners at hello.
Town Manager Jamie Titcomb told the group that the commission has intended to appeal to the state Department of Transportation for a crosswalk since debating the matter during last summer’s budget workshops.
Titcomb said commissioners decided to wait until peak tourist season to seek a required traffic study, however, so that state officials would see the strongest evidence of the need for a safe way to cross what has become an increasingly busy road.
With minimal discussion, the commission voted 5-0 to spend about $5,000 on the engineering study needed to make the crosswalk request to FDOT, which owns A1A and must approve all changes to it.
“Something for you to consider is that, under DOT standards, we can’t just build a crosswalk to nowhere,” Titcomb said.
Commissioners will have to decide on a location that allows public access on both sides of the road. A possible spot could be along the Crown Colony Club development, roughly across from Fayette Drive.
Several Crown Colony residents spoke in support of the plan.
“What we’re waiting for is an accident to happen,” said Sal Masarof, who said crossing the road has gotten more dangerous over the years — especially for disabled residents — with increasing traffic levels.
Results of the traffic study should be available in weeks, but it likely will take months before the town hears definitively from the state.
In other business:
• During a special meeting on Jan. 30, commissioners approved appointing Town Clerk Tracey Stevens as acting town manager, beginning March 18, when Titcomb is resigning to manage Loxahatchee Groves.
The vote was 4-0 to give Stevens the job for a 180-day period. Mayor Steve Coz was absent and did not vote because he was called as a witness in the trial of former Vice Mayor Richard Lucibella.
“I appreciate your confidence,” Stevens said, “and I’m excited about the opportunity.”
Police Chief Hal Hutchins also had sought the interim manager’s job, and commissioners considered splitting duties between him and Stevens. But ultimately they chose the clerk, who joined the Ocean Ridge staff three years ago after holding similar positions in Melbourne Beach and several municipalities in Maine.
The commission has unanimously approved the hiring of Kathie Gatewood as assistant clerk/administrative assistant to bolster the town staff. Gatewood has a background in retail management and a bachelor’s degree from Hodges University in Naples.
Coz said he supported selecting Stevens, saying she has done a “fabulous job” as clerk and her familiarity with the town was an important asset. He said after Stevens’ six-month period as acting manager, “We’ll take an evaluation of the situation.”
Loxahatchee Groves, an upstart municipality in western Palm Beach County, has a relationship with Titcomb that goes back 13 years to when he helped guide the community through the incorporation process.
• The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has awarded a $72,000 grant to an alliance of Palm Beach County coastal communities that is studying the potential effects of sea level rise.
Representatives of the communities have been meeting for months to discuss ways to prepare for looming environmental changes. Vice Mayor Don MaGruder has represented Ocean Ridge in the group, which also includes Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Highland Beach, Lake Worth and Lantana.
The state grant will help the participants assess vulnerabilities in infrastructure, study the barrier islands, collect data and promote public awareness about sea rise.

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