By Dan Moffett

    South Palm Beach officials will consider what they want and what they need in a new Town Hall during planning sessions with architects this month.
    The town’s only public building is a hodgepodge of additions and renovations that has evolved over the last several decades. Town Council members now must decide how to repair or replace the aging structure to serve the next generation.
    “It’s something we just can’t put off any longer,” said Mayor Bonnie Fischer. “We have to get this done.”
    The work is set to begin Nov. 8 when Steven Knight, an architect with Alexis Knight Architects in West Palm Beach, comes to town to meet with staff and council members to discuss what a new town hall building should look like.
    By the middle of November, Knight says he expects “to have a pretty good handle on what direction we’re going.”
    Alexis Knight recently completed work on a community center and tennis facility for the Village of Wellington. The firm also has designed projects for Broward College in Fort Lauderdale,  the city of Tamarac Fire Department, the South Florida Water Management District, Indian River State College and the West Palm Beach Housing Authority.
    “We have a deep résumé for projects like this,” Knight told the council during the Oct. 25 town meeting.
    “This is a jewel of a small town,” Councilman Robert Gottlieb told Knight, “and we expect a jewel of a project.”
    Vice Mayor Joseph Flagello said Knight had “an obvious passion for the job” and was the right man to help lead the town forward.
    The architect’s study will cost the town $34,000 — roughly half what the council was prepared to pay, said Town Manager Bob Vitas. Knight’s report and recommendations are expected early next year.
    In other business: In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew’s near miss last month, town officials are looking for new ways to persuade residents to heed mandatory evacuation orders.
    “About 500 people didn’t evacuate,” said Vitas. “That was disappointing.”
    Police Chief Carl Webb said he worried about residents who threw hurricane parties during the Category 4 storm or “wandered around parking lots” as if nothing was going on.
    “This was potentially a life-and-death situation,” Webb said. “We could have been carrying bodies out of here. It was a very trying time for all of us, and it definitely increased my stress level.”
    No public property was damaged during the storm, Vitas said, though beach stairs at several condo buildings were washed away.

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