Boca Country Club Needs More Time & Barbieri Drops The “D”

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Boca Country Club, photo courtesy of the City of Boca Raton

Don’t expect Boca Country Club to be fully up and running when the city takes it over on Oct. 1.

The Boca Raton Resort & Club donated the facility last year. It includes an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts and a pool, along with a clubhouse, locker room and restaurant. Use has been restricted to Boca Country Club homeowners and resort guests. In October, though, all those amenities become public.

The golf course will become the city’s municipal layout, but that changeover won’t happen immediately. A spokeswoman said the city is “trying to minimize as much as possible” the lag time for golfers between the closing of Boca Municipal and the opening of the new course. In addition to shifting staff and equipment, the city likely will need time to change the course in response to complaints from golfers that the new layout is too hard and needs upgrades.

Though Boca Raton must make decisions about all the amenities, Assistant City Manager Chrissy Gibson said, “Golf has been our focus. We are listening to the concerns of golfers and will address them.”

Logistics explain most of the delay. Though the city has been able to get to the course, according to the spokeswoman, for maintenance, landscaping and tree-trimming, “the majority of work and assessment” can’t happen until the city controls the property. For the next four months, resort guests and homeowners expect their usual access to the private course.

One important development will come next Monday when the manager for Boca Country Club takes over. That person, whom the city declined to name before next week, will be a Boca Raton employee and in charge of all amenities.

The manager will assist in the assessment of Boca Country Club and how much money all the improvements will cost. A spokeswoman said that cost is “likely to be in the millions.” Part of the money will come from next year’s budget. Part will come from “projects that did not happen” in this year’s budget. The rest will come from reserves.

After the golf course, decisions will have to align with Boca Raton’s other recreation offerings. The city already has a pool and a tennis center. Pickleball enthusiasts would like to see courts for their sport replace some or all of the tennis courts at Boca Country Club. But the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District may consider a pickleball facility on land that once was the Ocean Breeze golf course at Boca Teeca. The city might hire a consultant on the Boca Country Club tennis courts.

The new manager also will help determine how much it will cost to play golf at the new course. Though Boca Country Club homeowners live outside the city, they will be considered city residents when it comes to prices and fees.

Boca Raton faces something of a time crunch. GL Homes is scheduled to close on the $65 million purchase of Boca Municipal on Oct. 31. Gibson said the city “is talking with GL Homes regularly.”

Boca Country Club was a wonderful gift, but it will take time to turn a private club into a city facility. I’ll keep up with developments as the takeover date approaches.

Barbieri takes heat for stance on statement

Political whiplash has hit Palm Beach County School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri.

Two weeks ago, packs of venom-spewing speakers slammed Barbieri for not repealing the district’s mask mandate for the few remaining days of the year. Barbieri is a registered Democrat. Most of the ardent anti-maskers are Republican. Barbieri stood accused of being too Democratic.

Then Barbieri joined the 4-3 majority that removed the phrase “committed to dismantling structures rooted in white advantage” from the district’s statement on educational inequity. As a result, the executive committee of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party censured Barbieri and the three others. Barbieri stood accused of being too Republican.

I’m told that Barbieri’s colleague, Debra Robinson, prompted the censure. Robinson is one of two African-American board members. The other is Marcia Andrews, a lifelong educator who voted with Barbieri.

In a statement, Barbieri—who has been on the board since 2010 and represents Boca Raton and West Boca—said he would leave the party. He texted me his statement, as he sent his comment after the equity statement vote:

“I do not answer to the Democratic Party simply because there is a ‘D’ after my name. School board races are non-partisan for the simple reason that politics should play no part in deciding what is good and not good for children.

“Since the Democratic Executive Committee members by their vote apparently believe I answer to them simply because of the ‘D’ after my name, I will make it less stressful for them when I don’t dance to their drumbeat. I am replacing the ‘D’ with an ‘I’ and will continue to do what I’ve always done—make my decisions independent of partisan politics, acting in what I believe is the best interests of children in our school system.”

Will Boca sign off on “understanding” in Pharma lawsuit?

On the consent agenda for tonight’s Boca Raton City Council meeting is an item that might deserve discussion rather than approval as part of a group.

The city attorney’s office recommends that the council approve a memorandum of understanding with the Florida Attorney General’s Office regarding the state’s lawsuit against makers and distributors of prescription painkillers. City Attorney Diana Frieser said the request would not bind the city to the terms of a settlement. Attorney General Ashley Moody, Frieser said, believes that if most cities and counties approve the memorandum it would “improve the state’s bargaining position.”

Delray Beach filed its own lawsuit, which has been consolidated with hundreds of others by local governments where the opioid crisis hit hardest. Boca Raton did not sue individually, though the city entered the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy case. Critics have accused the company, which developed OxyContin, of using bankruptcy to escape more severe penalties.

According to Frieser’s memo, Boca Raton could receive between $50,000 and $95,000 annually over 18 years under the “proposed framework” of a “possible settlement.” Though Boca Raton in 2007 lost a lawsuit against its attempt to restrict the location of sober houses, the city suffered far less than Delray Beach. Indeed, the lawsuit may have prompted aspiring sober house operators to skip Boca Raton and set up in Delray Beach.

Though the amount of compensation is small, council members might want to ask questions about the state’s handling of the litigation. Some states have pushed back, believing that those who profited from the plague wouldn’t pay enough.

Deputy Attorney General John Guard said there has been “significant compromise by both sides.” Several large states—Florida not among them —opposed the proposed deal with Purdue Pharma as too lenient.

Delray to select manager

At today’s meeting, the Delray Beach City Commission is scheduled to choose the next permanent manager.

That meeting starts at 4 p.m. and is the first item. At 10 a.m., the commission will conduct one-on-one public interviews of the four candidates. The order will be alphabetical: Michael Bornstein, Terrence Moore, Joseph Napoli and Leonard Sossamon. Members of the public can comment afterward.

Gersons donate $1 million to BRRH

Boca Raton Regional Hospital has received another seven-figure donation toward its capital campaign.

This $1 million gift comes from Boca Raton residents John and Jean Gerson. According to a news release, they are first-time donors. John Gerson is president of KII Telecommunications. He previously was chief financial officer at the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and at Paladin Realty Partners.

With this donation, Boca Region has raised $207 million toward its goal of $250 million.

Stay tuned

On Friday, I reported that Delray Beach faces a $1.8 million fine from the Florida Department of Health for water safety violations over 13 years. I stated that a follow-up would come today.

That follow-up must wait until Thursday. There’s been a delay in getting answers from the Department of Health about what happens now. I’ve also submitted questions to the city.

Coco advances in French Open

On Monday, Delray Beach’s Coco Gauff reached the quarterfinals of the French Open. It’s the first time she has advanced that far in a major championship. On Wednesday, Gauff will play Barbora Krejikoca of the Czech Republic.