By Joe Capozzi
Less than a year after hiring an architectural firm to draw up plans for a new Town Hall, the Town Council has terminated South Palm Beach’s $63,000 contract with the firm.
Without comment Sept. 19, the council voted unanimously to end the agreement it approved Oct. 12, 2021, with Synalovski Romanik Saye.
After the meeting, Mayor Bonnie Fischer said the firm’s services were no longer needed since the council is considering a cost-efficient construction system using structural insulated panels, known by the acronym SIPs.
Building a new Town Hall with the SIPs process could cost about $2 million, a significant savings from the $6.5 million estimate offered by the architects, Fischer said.
The town is preparing to seek formal requests for contractors familiar with the SIPs process.
“If this process is what we think it is and the price is affordable, we might as well move forward,” the mayor said in an interview.
“I would like to see whatever we do be a focal point of the town, not just a Town Hall per se but a community center with a coffee shop that would attract people that walk every day along the walkway.”
A community center, she said, “is a need and a want of the people of South Palm Beach in my opinion.”
Since 2016, the town has spent about $114,000 on studies and drawings for a new Town Hall.
Councilman wants to ban use of firms with ESG rules
Town Councilman Ray McMillan wants South Palm Beach to join a Republican-led movement across the country that steers public money away from companies with so-called ESG policies that prioritize environmental, social and governance issues rather than pure profits.
“I think it would be good to protect our town, whether we are a small town or not,’’ McMillan said Sept. 12 when he asked the council to consider a resolution banning ESG at its next meeting Oct. 18.
After McMillan first mentioned the resolution in August, Town Manager Robert Kellogg said he conducted a survey to determine which, if any, of the county’s 39 municipalities have ESG bans.
“I got a response from 18 or 20 and none have taken any issue on this,’’ he said.
“We could be the first,’’ McMillan replied.
It’s unclear which, if any, companies doing business with South Palm Beach have ESG policies.
McMillan’s request came a month after the Town Council voted 4-1 to apply for a state grant to pay for assessing South Palm Beach’s vulnerabilities to flooding and sea level rise. McMillan voted no.
Earlier this summer, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans to steer Florida’s state pension funds away from investment managers with what he called “woke” ESG policies focusing on issues such as climate change and diversity.
If DeSantis’ plan succeeds, it could prevent the state from doing business with such investment giants as BlackRock Inc., Vanguard Group Inc., and State Street Corp., which control $20 trillion, according to news reports.
New town attorney
Town attorney Aleksandr Boksner has left the Torcivia, Donlon, Goddeau & Rubin firm to take a job as deputy county attorney for Sarasota County. Glen Torcivia, with assistance from attorney Kara Land, will return as the town’s attorney.
Town manager evaluation
At a special meeting on Sept. 23, council members gave Kellogg an average score of 3.26 on a one-to-five scale.
Council members discussed their annual performance review of Kellogg, calling him “acceptable,” but expressing unhappiness with limited staffing at Town Hall and public perception of the permitting process.
They are expected to discuss the manager’s contract renewal at the council’s next meeting on Oct. 18.
At the Sept 12 council meeting, Fischer announced plans for a memorial celebration Oct. 30 for the late Pat Schulmayr, the former South Palm Beach vice mayor who died in June.
The celebration has a saucy name, which Fischer said is meant as a term of endearment.
“I have to tell you what it’s going to be called and I don’t want anybody to take offense of this,’’ she said from the dais. “But it’s something I thought of that has true meaning to any who knew Pat. Is everybody sitting down? ‘The Irish Bitch Bash.’’’
As a few chuckles echoed inside the council chambers, Fischer explained that Schulmayr “always referred to herself as ‘the Irish bitch.’ … If it’s not too offensive, I think it touches the essence of this woman.’’
When the formal invitations go out, Fischer said the party’s title will either be in quotes or perhaps with the word spelled “B-tch.’’
“She would love this name,’’ Vice Mayor Bill LeRoy said. “She would be thrilled.’’
Saluting Queen Elizabeth II
The council opened its Sept. 12 meeting with a moment of silence for Queen Elizabeth II and for the 21st anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The queen, who died Sept. 8, “epitomized public service,’’ Fischer said. At the end of the council meeting, LeRoy devoted his remarks to the queen, saying he felt as though “she was our queen as well.’’
“Our presidents come and go but she was there for 70 years,’’ he said. “She’s always been in our lives. I thought about that the other day how much affection I’ve had for this woman who I never met.’’
Mary Kate Leming contributed to this story.