By Dan Moffett
It took plenty of hard work and some last-minute scrambling, but South Palm Beach saw its beach project completed on budget and on time during the first week in May, avoiding interference with the height of turtle nesting season.
“We put 20,000 cubic yards of sand within the confines of South Palm Beach,” Mayor Bonnie Fischer said during the Town Council’s meeting on May 11. (Consider that a typical dump truck can carry between 10 and 15 cubic yards of sand.)
Fischer added a note of concern, however: “We all know it is the luck of the draw on whether this is going to last.”
The hope in South Palm is that nature will be kind and not send a tropical storm to tear up the dune line that has just been rebuilt. Meanwhile, the town is committed to doing its part to give nature a hand.
The council unanimously approved a $15,000 contract with Earth Balance to plant sea oats along the beach to protect it against erosion. Based in North Port, the company has done coastal restoration and environmental management projects for dozens of municipalities and governments around the state.
“We need to get the sea oats on it to stabilize it,” said Town Manager Robert Kellogg. “I realize this is a significant amount of money. But we’ve invested over $700,000 in this project, and $15,000 is a small price to pay to preserve and keep what we have.”
Fischer again offered thanks to the town of Palm Beach, which dredged the sand and sold it to South Palm Beach, and to former Mayor Gail Coniglio and Robert Weber, Palm Beach’s coastal coordinator.
“Without them, none of this would have happened,” Fischer said.
Vice Mayor Robert Gottlieb commended Fischer for her years of effort to bring the project to the town.
“Mayor, I want to congratulate you on working, after 10 years, to get this beach project done,” he said. “It’s the first time we’ve done anything — anything — to our beaches.”
The Town Hall chambers erupted in applause.
In other business:
• The council, on a 3-2 vote, approved a civility policy for behavior during the town’s public meetings.
Gottlieb and Councilmen Mark Weissman and Bill LeRoy supported the measure, saying it was necessary to maintain decorum and keep people from being accosted. Fischer and Councilman Ray McMillan voted against the resolution, worrying the language might be too restrictive and make the town vulnerable to legal challenges.
“I think a pledge of civility is enough,” Fischer said.
Officials said the policy is similar to what neighboring municipalities use.
• The town’s staff is beginning work on the budget for fiscal year 2021-2022, and Kellogg told the council one of the proposed expenditures for consideration is incentive payment for condo buildings to install onsite charging stations for residents with electric vehicles.
Kellogg said Florida Power & Light, with the approval of the Lantana Town Council, is going to pay for and install two supercharging stations at Lantana Beach Park. So, electric vehicle owners may soon have more options.