By Joe Capozzi
South Palm Beach officials are getting a head start exploring options for drinking water after the town’s franchise agreement with West Palm Beach expires in 2030.
One alternative, outlined in a recent water supply evaluation, is to get water from Lake Worth Beach, the town’s neighbor across the Intracoastal Waterway.
That plan would entail the construction of a water main beneath the waterway from a spot near Bryant Park in Lake Worth Beach to the Lake Worth Beach casino, according to a study prepared for Lake Worth Beach by the engineering firm Mock Roos.
From the casino, one of two options would get water south to South Palm Beach: a new connection along A1A through 12-inch or 16-inch pipes, or leasing pipes owned by West Palm Beach that currently take water into the town.
The project’s cost could range from $3.95 million to $6.05 million, depending on which of four alternatives the town chooses.
The 15-page engineering report, finished in May, was mentioned briefly by Town Manager Robert Kellogg at the July 26 Town Council meeting but was not discussed by council members.
“It’s interesting reading,’’ Kellogg told the council. “Our franchise doesn’t expire until 2030. So we have plenty of time to digest that and consider options if that’s what the council wishes to do.’’
West Palm Beach has provided water to South Palm Beach since 2000.
But water quality has been a touchy topic in town since at least May 2021, when the city of West Palm Beach was criticized for a lack of prompt notice to its water customers after plant officials discovered an unacceptably high level of the blue-algae contaminant cylindrospermopsin.
Mayor Bonnie Fischer said the study is “a preliminary start” to the town’s proactive approach to considering drinking water options beyond 2030.
“Water quality is a very important issue and has always been my concern,’’ she said. “I am very amenable to finding more potable water sources when feasible.’’
In May, some council members individually toured the West Palm Beach water treatment plant and came away impressed that the city was doing a good job. Still, town officials said, it’s always smart to at least consider other options.
“It’s way down the road, but I guess it’s a good idea to look into it because we don’t want what happened last year happening again,’’ Vice Mayor Bill LeRoy said after the July 26 meeting.
“I think we need to look at it. It might be good for Lake Worth Beach. It might be good for us. I don’t think West Palm Beach is going to cry if they lose us.”
West Palm Beach bills the town’s condominiums directly. Town Hall’s water bill is currently $800 a month.
In other action, the council:
• Set a tentative tax rate of $3.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, the same as the current rate. If the rate is finalized in September, residents will see higher tax bills because taxable property values in town rose nearly 13% to $516,863,500, the highest in town history. A detailed budget will be discussed at a workshop Aug. 9.
• Agreed to discuss on Aug. 9 the scheduling of future public meetings about plans for a new Town Hall.
• Agreed to pay the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office $1.081 million for law enforcement services next year, a 3% increase.
• Held a moment of silence for former Vice Mayor Pat Schulmayr, who died June 19.
• Heard a concerned resident ask if the town can do anything to control an infestation of iguanas around some condos. Because of liability issues, the town attorney said it probably would be up to individual condos to hire trappers.