By Joe Capozzi
Now that the Town Council has hired another architect to draw up options for a new Town Hall, South Palm Beach officials want to get input from residents in a series of public meetings.
“There are going to be public hearings for everyone to come and have input into the future of the building we’re sitting in right now,’’ council member Mark Weissman said at the end of a council meeting Oct. 12.
The first public outreach meeting was scheduled Nov. 4 in three sessions to accommodate the public: 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. More public outreach meetings will be held in December and January but the dates have yet to be announced.
Earlier in the meeting, and without comment, the council voted unanimously on a $63,000 contract with the architectural firm Synalovski Romanik Saye for a feasibility study.
Later in the meeting, Weissman noted that the contract vote “kind of flew by” without discussion. He said he wanted to make sure residents were aware that they’ll be asked for input.
“The public’s input is very important,’’ he said. “If you can get the word out in your own communities and condominiums so they know that when those hearings take place, they will be for the public to get their word out what they would like to see for the future in this town.’’
The contract calls for three phases: a space-needs study that will include, among other things, consideration of housing fire-rescue services at Town Hall; a study of options that will include renovating the existing facility or building a new one; and a final report of short-listed options.
Council member Bill LeRoy said he’d like to see if Town Hall’s western-most border along the Intracoastal Waterway, now mainly covered by trees and vegetation, can be renovated to include public uses such as a dock and kayak launch.
It’s the fourth time in six years, and first since March 2020, the town is taking a hard look at renovating the existing 45-year-old building or building a new one. Since 2016, the town has spent about $55,000 on studying the idea. With the new Synalovski Romanik Saye contract, that amount is set to rise to $118,000.
In other business:
• The Town Council agreed to consider joining the Palm Beach County Low-Income Senior Citizen Municipal Tax Exemption program.
If South Palm Beach participates, the town would set aside money to pay the town portion of the tax bills of qualifying residents. To qualify, a resident must be 65 or older, own a homesteaded property and have an income of less than $31,100 in 2021.
Ten municipalities in the county have joined the program since the property appraiser started offering it in 2014. Jupiter, for example, set aside $25,000 in 2017 and increased it to $50,000 in July for 396 qualifying seniors.
South Palm Beach’s possible participation will be considered at a meeting later this year.
“If we have people who meet this criteria, we should certainly help them. This is not a cheap place to live,’’ LeRoy said.
• Mike Crisafulle, the town’s building official, encouraged condos to get started on timely inspections, even though it could be a while before a countywide or state rule on reinspections is enacted in the wake of the fatal condo collapse in Surfside.
“Don’t wait until this code goes into effect,’’ he said. “I would start working … now to get with engineers to get your report going, because most of these buildings are way over 40 years old.’’
• Without discussion, the mayor and council members voted unanimously to raise their pay. The monthly salaries for mayor and four council members will double — to $1,000 for the mayor and $600 for council members — the next time they win election. • Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Col. Tony Araujo observed the two-year anniversary of the agency’s partnership with the town by thanking the council for the partnership. In 2019, the town merged its police department with PBSO.
“Two years flew by,’’ Araujo said. “I’d like to think we’re beyond partners. We’re your service provider. We’re your police department. I think it has worked out very well.’’
• An ex-wife of Muhammad Ali might be coming to Town Hall someday soon. Councilman Ray McMillan said he met Khalilah Camacho-Ali, who was married to the boxing legend from 1967-76, at an event in Boca Raton on Oct. 11. He said he invited her to speak at Town Hall.
“She’s on board with it 100%. She said she would call me. That’s something for us to look forward to,’’ he said.