The Coastal Star

South Palm Beach: Elevation issues may limit Town Hall renovation

By Dan Moffett

South Palm Beach council members considered some ambitious plans to renovate or replace Town Hall during the last year — but it may be that their options are more limited than first thought.
Town Manager Mo Thornton says an architect hired to review the condition of the aging building is concerned that it may not have sufficient elevation to comply with today’s flood plain standards. If the structure is sitting too low, in other words, renovation might not be feasible. The only option would be to demolish and replace it.
“We’re waiting to get the results of an elevation survey,” Thornton said. “Then we’ll know for sure whether the building is renovate-able or not.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has revised elevation building standards to improve resistance to storm surge and flooding. If the Town Hall doesn’t meet the standard, renovation could require raising the entire structure to comply with building codes and insurance requirements.
“That would be too costly to do,” Thornton said.
The council hired North Palm Beach architect John Bellamy in June to review previous proposals for the building. Thornton gave Bellamy high marks after working with him in her last job as manager of Atlantis. She said she expects to have a report from Bellamy before September.
“I’m confident he can tell us what’s possible and what it will take to get it done,” she said. The Town Hall was constructed 42 years ago originally as a public safety building and has undergone multiple repairs and additions. Last year the council unanimously rejected as too costly and extravagant a $6 million proposal from another architect to replace the hall with a five-story building.
In other business:
• Town Clerk Maylee DeJesus resigned in July to take a position as deputy city clerk in West Palm Beach.
DeJesus came to South Palm Beach in January 2016 from Palm Springs, where she served eight years as assistant deputy clerk. In 2017, DeJesus was named president of the Palm Beach County Municipal Clerks Association.
Thornton said the town has begun advertising for a new clerk and is looking for candidates with financial backgrounds. The job pays about $55,000 per year. The town also is continuing its search for a new police chief and has received several dozen responses from qualified applicants, Thornton said.
• After months of debate, the council unanimously agreed on how much to fine violators of a new ordinance that prohibits dogs on the beach. Police will give first offenders a written warning, and then all subsequent offenses will draw fines of $100 each.
Mayor Bonnie Fischer had objected to a previous proposal that would have fined repeat offenders as much as $250 for each violation. “I think that is just too high,” she said.
• The council’s next regular meeting has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 21. The meeting was postponed to accommodate vacations and ensure a quorum.

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