By Joe Capozzi 

Ocean Ridge officials are planning to spend the town’s chunk of American Rescue Plan Act money on replacing the problematic aging water pipes on the north end of town. 
Of the roughly 76,500 linear feet of water mains in Ocean Ridge, at least 63,000 linear feet are more than 25 years old, town engineer Lisa Tropepe said in a Sept. 24 memo. 
“With the town’s incorporation in 1931, many of these mains are beyond their useful life,’’ she wrote in a recommendation for a water main distribution capital plan.
Replacing all of the older pipe will cost several million dollars, she said. The first step is addressing the most vulnerable section, about 2,400 linear feet of 6-inch cast iron pipe in the north end of town on the east side of State Road A1A between Inlet Cay and Sabal Island drives. 
“Over the last few years we’ve been getting a few more water main breaks than normal,’’ Tropepe told the Town Commission on Oct. 4. “It’s probably going to happen more and more.’’
Ideally, an 8-inch pipe would replace the old one. It could cost between $700,000 to $850,000, she said. 
“My professional opinion,’’ she said, “this pipe is way beyond its useful life.’’ 
The town buys its potable water from Boynton Beach and owns the water pipes, which extend through town on both sides of A1A. 
Because the water is used for drinking and fire protection, the town’s grant administrator determined that the $900,000 in federal pandemic relief money earmarked for Ocean Ridge can be used for the repairs and replacement of the water mains.
“We’d like to ultimately be able to have an 8-inch water main that could take care of directly the condominiums along the east side of the road, but indirectly it helps everyone,’’ Tropepe told commissioners. 
“That way the whole system would be looped with a proper-sized pipe to provide not only potable water but also for fire safety.’’
If not for the pandemic, the town may have had to raise taxes or issue a bond to pay for the repairs. 
“This ARPA money that is going to cover this is manna from heaven,’’ Mayor Kristine de Haseth said in an interview. 
“It really is, for these smaller coastal towns to be able to have this money and spend it on something that probably would have taken either a millage rate increase or bonds issuance to take care of.’’   

In other business:
• The town might consider code changes that would allow for the removal of Planning and Zoning Commission members who miss consecutive meetings. The change was proposed because only four out of five members attended four meetings this summer. 
“This poses a problem, as we have an odd number of members in order for business to move forward,’’ Town Manager Tracey Stevens said.  
• The Town Commission and advisory Planning and Zoning Commission held a joint meeting Oct. 12. A consensus was reached to allow flat roofs, while three other topics, including ways to get rid of construction eyesores, were debated. 
Because the meeting ran nearly three hours, two agenda items — architectural criteria for front elevations and Planning and Zoning board duties in development plan reviews — were postponed until a later joint meeting. 
• After a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the town’s annual “Light the Lights” holiday celebration will return from 4-6 p.m. on Dec. 3.
When it was canceled last year, it was replaced with a Cruisin’ Santa golf cart parade that rolled past the driveways of town homes. The parade was so popular that it too will return this year at 3 p.m. on Dec. 11.
Details will be announced soon on the town’s website.

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