Wednesday, May 15, 2024

DDA To Share OSS Plans & Moore Prepares for Evaluation

At today’s meeting, the Delray Beach City Commission will hear the Downtown Development Authority’s plan to run Old School Square this year and—the DDA hopes—beyond.

Executive Director Laura Simon and the DDA board expect more events and programming at those parts of the cultural complex that are open: the Cornell Museum, the Fieldhouse, the amphitheater, the lawn and the park. The Crest Theater and accompanying classrooms remain closed.

The DDA’s contract for Old School Square runs through Sept. 30, 2024, which is the end of the next budget year. For this budget year, according to the presentation for today’s meeting, there have been 127 events at the amphitheater and gym. “This number is expected to rise,” the plan says, “as we continue to increase the marketing of the facility.

“The plan for this fiscal year is to continue promoting events, exhibitions, anything taking place on campus along with any other media concerns to earn hundreds of millions of earned media impressions.”

Notably, the plan calls for a “new brand, new brand story and new look.” Commissioners previously had opposed the DDA’s proposal to rename Old School Square. The plan calls the six acres “Delray’s soul” and downtown’s “beating heart.”

The plan makes no mention of working with Old School Square Center for the Arts, which founded the complex more than three decades ago, on fundraising and volunteer recruitment. Yet four commissioners—Mayor Shelly Petrolia was the exception—made clear to DDA officials in May that they want to see that cooperation.

Petrolia and former commissioners Juli Casale and Shirley Johnson ended Old School Square Center for the Arts’ lease two years ago. With the blessing of those three, the city also had stopped renovation work on the Crest Theater that a private donor had financed. City taxpayers are having to complete that work and provide $1 million for the DDA to run the complex next year. The agency hopes to raise $100,000 from sponsorships to defray expenses and projects another $100,000 from rental fees.

The DDA promises four “premier shows” at the amphitheater. It outlines a busy schedule next summer to reflect the city’s diversity, with events such as a tribute to Bahamian Independence Day.

“The Amphitheatre,” the plan says, “will be the place to be vibrant, eccentric, and a place where memories are made in Delay Beach. The programming of the Amphitheatre is underway and gaining momentum in the entertainment industry as well as the city and county, which is why it is critical to invest in the arts and stay the course and continue to enhance the diversity of the programs.”

One can consider the next year the DDA’s real audition toward running Old School Square long-term. But commissioners likely will have questions about cost.

The plan says Crest Theater will need an additional infrastructure “investment.” If the commission extends the contract, it’s uncertain how much the DDA would need to run Crest Theater. Under its lease, Old School Square Center for the Arts financed all interior work and operations. The community redevelopment agency gave an annual reimbursement for programming.

I’ll have more after the meeting.

Moore touts accomplishments ahead of evaluation

Terrence Moore, photo courtesy of the City of Delray Beach

With his annual evaluation imminent, City Manager Terrence Moore listed his “leadership and accomplishments” over the last year in his weekly commission newsletter.

Moore cites voter approval of two construction bond programs—for public safety and parks —and preliminary work on a water plant that monthly bills will finance. He points out that the city updated its stormwater rate structure and slightly lowered the property tax rate.

In addition, Moore notes that the city achieved a Blue Flag designation for the quality of its beach and will apply to get its fourth designation as an All-America City. Delray Beach has a new garbage collection contract, applicants now can seek building permits online and there’s more community policing and workforce housing. The commission approved a new contract with the firefighters’ union.

Moore started on Aug. 1, 2021. He thus has served longer than the previous two managers, Mark Lauzier and George Gretsas. Before Lauzier, Don Cooper lasted three years before resigning for health reasons. He died 10 months later.

Last year, Johnson gave Moore the worst evaluation of any commissioner, finding him Unsatisfactory in almost all 16 categories. In contrast, Adam Frankel ranked him “Outstanding” in nine categories. Ryan Boylston was generally favorable. Petrolia gave him middling reviews. New commissioners Angela Burns and Rob Long will evaluate Moore for the first time.

Workshop for Delray Affair

week ahead
Delray Affair

Before today’s regular meeting, commissioners will hold a workshop meeting to discuss Delray Affair.

The 62nd version of the chamber of commerce’s major fundraiser takes place next April 12-14 on Atlantic Avenue. In recent years, commissioners have heard complaints that the event is too large. This year, Delray Affair had 355 vendors.

In addition, the police and fire chiefs have said that concentrating events on Fifth and Sixth avenues risks public safety by making it hard to reach the barrier island. Collectively, the commission also has resolved that the city’s three bridges will not close during special events.

Frankel, though, said Executive Director Stephanie Immelman and chamber board members are willing to make changes that address the city’s concerns. Of the meeting, Frankel said Monday, “I expect a very cordial discussion.” I’ll have more afterward.

delray
Former Delray Beach City Manager George Gretsas

Gretsas settlement goes to council for approval

Speaking of Gretsas, on the consent agenda for today’s meeting is approval of a settlement in the former manager’s lawsuit against the city.

Commissioners claimed that they fired Gretsas for cause and thus owed him no severance. Gretsas alleged that he was fired without cause after he raised questions about water quality. He had asked for 20 weeks severance. Though residents might benefit from knowing the terms, the settlement will be confidential if the commission approves it.

Prosecutors offer deal in Boca Bash case

Prosecutors last week offered Cole Preston Goldberg a deal in his case that arose from last year’s Boca Bash.

cole goldberg
Cole Goldberg; photo from Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office

Goldberg faces two counts related to his alleged choking of his girlfriend at the event on Lake Boca Raton. The major charge is domestic battery by strangulation.

According to a representative of the state attorney’s office, the offer is 36 months’ probation with six months in the county jail as a condition of probation. Goldberg also would have to complete a batterers’ intervention program, undergo substance abuse and mental evaluations and get treatment and write “a sincere letter of apology” to the victim, Caroline Schwitzky.

In addition, the 24-year-old Goldberg would have to show that he is attending school or holding a job. He would have to submit to random drug and alcohol testing.

Goldberg refused the deal. It remains on the table until Aug. 18. If Goldberg doesn’t accept it, prosecutors told the judge, they will file the more serious charge of attempted second-degree murder.

Schwitzky has filed a civil lawsuit seeking damages from Goldberg. Trial is scheduled for early next year.

Boca P & Z Board OKs pickleball courts

pickleball

The Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board last week unanimously recommended that the city council approve the plan to build 18 pickleball courts at Patch Reef Park.

Though the courts would sit on what now are three acres of environmentally sensitive land, board members dismissed the prospect of potential damage by saying that the property is not in its original state. The plan by the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Parks District would preserve about one-fourth of the site.

Speakers stressed the popularity and social benefits of pickleball. The plan could go before the council this month.

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Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

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