City Elections are Over: Full Speed Ahead
By Michael Bornstein, City Manager
Worth Noting is reaching more and more people each month. If you are receiving this for the first time, WELCOME to your direct connection into the City of Lake Worth! If you have been on the e-mail list, we hope you are seeing this source of information continue to evolve with useful and trustworthy news about the many exciting things happening in the great City of Lake Worth. Lake Worth is the coolest, funkiest, most artsy, friendliest, diverse city in Palm Beach County……….. and it is getting better each day.
Elections are a necessary part of our governmental process and they can be a source of much disagreement and debate. However, after the votes are cast and the candidates sworn in it is good to reflect on the fact that we are blessed to have a stable and orderly political system. It is the envy of many people around the world and it is vastly better than most of the examples throughout human history. City elections are over, the results are in, and now we move to the next chapter.
The Mayor and Commissioners have wasted no time in laying out several ambitious items for the City staff to get to work on. Along with the ones we are currently implementing, the new list of projects will take a lot of effort and will require everyone to work together to ensure the best outcomes. Therefore, in the coming months, Lake Worth will be a place alive with activity and debate. We will be a community striving to explore exciting and wonderful opportunities and resolve longstanding and difficult problems. I encourage you to get involved and help create the best version of Lake Worth possible.
Challenging Items That Must Be Addressed
Potholes are a hot topic. We hit them, we dodge them, we fill them, we complain about them. As a fellow homeowner, I joke with friends that I now drive a Jeep just so I can get home. With the election cycle ending, the Mayor and Commissioners are clear in their desire that staff re-initiate the process to find a long term solution.
The problem with our roads was studied and quantified in 2013, when the City hired an engineering firm to conduct a detailed analysis of all City owned roads. Using high tech equipment along with actual samples taken by drilling down into the roads, a list from best to worst was created. The report became the basis for the bond issue (Lake Worth 2020) that went to the voters in 2014. It failed by 24 votes. While there are many reasons why the bond did not pass, the fact is the potholes and cracks are still a major problem. To make matters worse, the roads continue to degrade with each passing season and patching is only a temporary and unsatisfactory band aid.
Moving forward, we will engage in a community-wide discussion on what a road improvement program should look like. It is our hope that this effort will result in a clear and concise list of projects, how to pay for them, and a timeline on their implementation. This will be another opportunity for Lake Worth to build on our sense of community and come together for the good of all.
Historic District Code Discussion
If you currently live in one of Lake Worth’s six Historic Districts, you may have heard about the permit process for items such as fences, doors, windows and roofs. Frankly, not all you hear is good and in many cases there is confusion and even resentment about this process.
This is not really a new issue: Lake Worth’s Historic Districts were created by Ordinance in 1997. The concept of protecting the architectural features on homes which helps add value and improves the quality of life within historic neighborhoods is a good one. However, living with more rules, regulations and processes in order to ensure the character and historical integrity of the neighborhood can be a little challenging.
The City staff and the resident volunteers who sit on the Historic Resources Preservation Board care about our City and are confronted with issues on a daily basis. There are specific rules that are in place for the Historic Districts and in many cases, staff is not able to waive or turn a blind eye to the requirements. However, where some degree of discretion does exist, helping residents with creative and viable solutions should occur.
At the direction of the Mayor and Commission, staff will be conducting several workshops. Additionally, staff will hold meetings with the Historic Neighborhoods so residents can identify problems and concerns and then work on solutions and any recommend changes. It is important to understand the responsibilities of everyone involved and requirements of living within one of the Districts. It is also important that the process is consistent yet flexible and this should be the starting place for a discussion on how to improve things.
Like all Lake Worth issues, there will be debate and disagreement. This is healthy and constructive and staff is eager to begin this process and hopefully our Historic Neighborhoods - which we all appreciate and value - will continue to flourish as residents and owners fix up, renovate and invest.
Code Compliance is one of those difficult programs that according to most people is either doing too much or not enough. Few residents are happy to have a Code Compliance Officer visit their property and point out violations. I often get complaints from property owners who cannot understand why the Officer is ‘picking on’ them and not the awful property next door or down the block?! Part of the problem is caused by restrictions and limitations set forth in Florida Statute 162. which governs the City process.
Code Compliance in Lake Worth has actually improved dramatically and we are seeing significantly better compliance statistics over the past couple of years. There is still much to be done and the Mayor and Commission have directed staff to conduct several workshops to report on the Code Compliance process and operations. This information will help the policy makers provide further direction on ways to improve the City of Lake Worth. Code Compliance done well adds value, improves quality of life and helps provide for safe neighborhoods and clean and pleasant commercial districts.
Some of the Exciting Improvements Happening in Lake Worth
LED Street Lighting
If you haven’t heard by now, ALL the City’s street lighting is being replaced with energy efficient LED. The benefits of the new lighting include reduced glare and less light pollution. The reduction in the electric used to power the lights off-sets the costs of the fixtures. PBSO is working with neighborhood associations to identify dark areas that need to have new poles and lights installed. This will help with the safety and security of our streets and neighborhoods.
The City’s Electric Utility is making a bold move into solar power. Solar Panels will be installed at the old closed City landfill on the south end of the City. They will generate 2 megawatts of clean solar energy with the ability to increase the capacity to as much as 10 megawatts in the future. Besides being a source of pride for Lake Worth, this project is also a major commitment to diversifying our energy requirements to clean & renewable energy sources.
New Water and Electric Meters
New meters for both water and electric are being installed for all utility customers. The new meters are more accurate and include the ability for you to monitor your consumption through a mobile app. The system will help identify problems that may occur and allow for faster response time. For instance, if there is a water leak at your home – the new technology can quickly identify the over consumption. It will also help pinpoint electric outage problems for quicker response and repowering.
Water Line Replacement Program
Identified in a 2005 study, there are still many citizens being served by old 2” steel water lines that were installed 50 years ago. The steel has rusted and while there is no health risks associated with iron oxide, it does clog the lines, which affects your water pressure. It can also tinge the water color with a slight red or brown. The replacement program is underway and will be ongoing for the next few years.
Park of Commerce (POC)/Boutwell Road Project
The Park of Commerce area is just west of I-95 between 10th Avenue North and Lake Worth Road. It was identified almost 20 years ago as a place for job creation and a way to grow the commercial tax base. The United States Economic Development Administration (EDA) selected the City of Lake Worth as a recipient of a $1.4 million grant for improvements in the Park. The EDA grant will be used for critical infrastructure along Boutwell Road, which is the main corridor within the almost 400 acre POC. The outcome of these improvements: 320 new jobs and almost $20 million in private investment. It is important to note:
- Your property tax money is not being used for this economic development effort.
- Economic Development Administration grants are only available for projects that will result in job creation and private investment from businesses. They are not available to fix our roads.
- Neighborhood streets are not in competition with the Park of Commerce project. However, a successful Park of Commerce will help generate taxes that can be used for our neighborhood streets.
- Bringing investment into the Park of Commerce will add much needed jobs.
I want to remind you that our Commission meetings are on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month at 6:00 PM. There is a live stream available through our web site at https://www.lakeworth.org/city-hall/commission/ if you want to watch from home. With a rich history behind us, opportunity all around us, and a bright future ahead, Lake Worth is truly our wonderful piece of paradise.
Yours in Public Service,
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