By Dan Moffett
Ocean Ridge has taken the first small steps in what figures to be a very long journey to replace the town’s septic tanks with a municipal sewer system.
During their regular meeting on July 1, town commissioners unanimously approved hiring Raftelis Financial Consultants from the Orlando area to assess the costs and financing options for the conversion.
Raftelis, the only bidder for the assignment, has municipal clients across the country but recent work in Monroe County is particularly relevant. Company Vice President Tony Hairston told the commission his firm had helped in the conversion of tens of thousands of septic tanks in the Florida Keys, including those in Islamorada, Key Largo and Marathon.
Hairston estimated roughly $45,000 in initial costs to help Ocean Ridge develop a business plan for the multimillion-dollar, multiyear project. Raftelis consultants will charge the town $192 per hour.
Also, the commission has completed appointments to the newly created citizens advisory committee on septic to sewer conversion. The members are Roy Schijns, Ron Kirn, John Lipscomb, Arthur Ziev and Neil Hennigan. The committee and the consultants will hold their first meeting on July 15 beginning at 10 a.m. in Town Hall. Representatives of Boynton Beach Utilities are also expected to attend and make a presentation.
Mayor Steve Coz and commissioners say they believe it’s inevitable that state officials eventually will make septic conversion mandatory.
In other business:
• Acting Town Manager Tracey Stevens told the commission that the Florida Department of Transportation has rejected the town’s request for a crosswalk on State Road A1A near the Crown Colony Club and Fayette Drive. Stevens said state officials believe results of a recent traffic study showed that the crosswalk wasn’t warranted.
• Commissioners unanimously approved spending $91,253 to repair a drainage outflow pipe on Spanish River Drive.
Town engineers believe the 12-inch pipe has collapsed and is contributing to continuing street flooding problems in the Inlet Cay neighborhood. Stevens told the commission that homeowners’ overgrown vegetation in the easements is impeding the progress of repairs on the island. She said the town has repeatedly requested cooperation from the residents.
“We will continue to explore our options,” Stevens said, “though they are limited without the necessary easements.”
• It doesn’t look like Ocean Ridge will be getting its own ZIP code anytime soon.
Coz had floated the idea earlier this year, and the commission asked former Commissioner Robert Sloat to investigate how the town might pursue it.
“It’s a long, arduous process to get our own ZIP code,” Sloat told the commission during its June 3 meeting.
He said the federal government would require the town to survey residents to find out if they want it, and help from the South Florida congressional delegation might be needed for the effort to move forward. The town also likely would be responsible for coming up with its own post office, delivery truck and postmaster.
Sloat said, based on his research, the impact on insurance rates would be negligible, however.
The greatest barrier to getting a distinct postal code probably would be size. The U.S. Postal Service typically gives ZIP codes to cities and towns with populations between 10,000 and 25,000. The population of Ocean Ridge is about 1,900.
“It sounds like it’s running into a stone wall,” Coz said.