Trash pickup is one of those basic city services. In Delray Beach, there’s uncertainty about something most residents take for granted.
Waste Management, the city’s hauler, wants out of its contract that ends Sept. 30 but which can be extended for another year. Last August—just as City Manager Terrence Moore started—the company sent notice that it would end service this year. The city claims that the notification was improper. The dispute sent the two sides to mediation.
Out of that mediation came the proposal that was before the city commission last week. Waste Management—which bought out the original hauler—would continue service at least until April 30 and possibly through May—at higher rates. Homeowners who now pay $11.18 per month would pay $13.53. Meanwhile, the city would seek bids and hire a new hauler.
Petrolia began the discussion by saying, “I did some diligence.” The mayor said she contacted three haulers, all of which said they would need at least a year to submit a bid and, if chosen, have equipment and employees ready on time.
“I don’t know how we work that,” Petrolia said.
City Attorney Lynn Gelin had other issues. “Due respect to the manager,” Gelin said of Moore, the documents behind the proposal were “not accurate.” Business customers, she correctly pointed out, would pay even more. She asked for a week’s delay “to delve into the numbers.”
There now are new numbers. If Waste Management maintained service longer than the date agreed to in mediation, the monthly rate would rise from $13.53 to $19.45. So the city would get more time to find a new hauler—and perhaps get more bidders and thus a better long-term rate—but customers would pay more for that added time.
Gelin defended the deal with Waste Management. “It brought middle ground,” she said, and “avoided litigation” that could bring more uncertainty. Petrolia seemed less certain. “This is not a situation we should be in.”
Petrolia said of Waste Management, “They can’t just walk away” if a new contractor is not in place. “We’re not going to end up with garbage in our streets.” No city, however, wants to find itself having to warn against such a scenario.
The issue is back before the commission at today’s meeting. After this second discussion, Petrolia said, “Maybe I won’t have indigestion.”
Boca House seat race heats up
Highland Beach Town Commissioner Peggy Gossett-Seidman now has personally invested $200,000 in her race for a Florida House seat.
Gossett-Seidman is running in the Aug. 23 Republican primary for District 91. Her GOP opponent is Christina DuCasse, a first-time candidate whose husband is a Boca Raton firefighter. The winner will face Boca Raton City Councilman Andy Thomson, the only Democrat in the race.
After lending her campaign $110,000, Gossett-Seidman added another $90,000. She also has received $25,000 from the Republicans’ state house fundraising arm and $3,600 from the Republican Party of Florida. There’s little doubt which candidate the GOP establishment prefers.
District 91 is newly drawn to include Boca Raton, Highland Beach and portions of West Boca. Gossett-Seidman’s contributions include $1,000 from James Batmasian, Boca Raton’s largest private downtown landholder. Thomson has raised roughly $190,000, including a $30,000 personal loan.
Lauzier settlement on Delray agenda
Also on today’s Delray Beach commission agenda is a proposed settlement with former City Manager Mark Lauzier.
The commission fired Lauzier in March 2019 for allegedly violating Delray Beach’s charter on matters of hiring and salary. Lauzier sued, claiming wrongful termination, alleging retaliation for flagging Petrolia’s attempt to have the city pay for her son to accompany her on a trip to Tallahassee.
The city’s legal department recommends that the commission approve the settlement. There is no mention of the terms, which are in a “confidential memo.” George Gretsas, whom the commission fired as manager in 2020, also has sued the city claiming wrongful termination.
Pour and Famous’ bid for later hours denied
A restaurant on West Atlantic Avenue won’t be able to stay open until 2 a.m.
Last week, the Delray Beach City Commission unanimously denied the request by Pour and Famous for service after midnight. Pour and Famous wanted the designation only for indoor dining, but commissioners believed that allowing it would set a bad precedent.
Petrolia noted that Pour and Famous began its life as a bar, then became a restaurant and got permission for outdoor dining. Pointing out the progression, Petrolia said an exception for Pour and Famous would lead to “changing the rules for everybody.”
Commissioner Ryan Boylston said he “hadn’t heard from anyone” who favored the move, though the city did hear from neighbors worried about late-night noise. Boylston said he was willing to meet with Downtown Development Authority officials to discuss the wider issue of bar/restaurant hours.
Delray considers advisory board appointments
Also on today’s commission agenda are a slew of appointments to advisory boards that carry much weight in Delray Beach and have become part of the city’s politics in a way that hasn’t happened in Boca Raton.
Commissioners must choose four of seven members of the planning and zoning board, four of seven members of the historic preservation board and five of seven members of the site plan review and appearance board. Though the panels generally issue only recommendations about development projects, in some cases they make the final decision, not the commission.
For this round, almost every commissioner will get a choice on all three. Whatever differences otherwise exist between them, commissioners usually approve their colleagues’ appointments.
A website called the Delray Gazette criticized the vote in May by planning and zoning board members Rob Long and Christina Morrison in favor of the Delray Central project on South Congress Avenue. Both have been rumored as challengers to Commissioner Julie Casale, who has positioned herself as an opponent of development.
Most board members who aren’t term-limited seek reappointment. An exception this year is Max Weinberg, who serves on the planning and zoning board.
The likely explanation is that Weinberg wouldn’t be able to attend meetings in 2023. In February, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band begin a six-month tour. Weinberg is the band’s longtime drummer.
Tensions rise between Boylston and Petrolia
Like a single cigarette butt flicked into the wrong place, the simplest remark can cause Delray Beach politics to flare up on the commission dais.
It happened most recently last week. Commissioners were discussing what preliminary property tax rate to set. Boylston objected to Petrolia saying that commissioners had “raided” the reserve fund to lower the tax rate.
“Don’t school me, Mr. Boylston,” Petrolia responded. After an exchange, Boylston asked Petrolia to “just be a mayor.” After which, Petrolia said, “You should temper yourself.”
The mayor added, “You haven’t been respectful all night. I’ll call it what I want.” That comment might have amused the mayor’s critics who remember all the times she has picked public fights on the dais.
Boylston noted, correctly, that Petrolia previously had supported the budget tactic she now was opposing. Petrolia long has complained that Delray Beach holds too much of the public’s money in reserves rather than using it to cut the tax rate.
The verbal fires died down fairly soon. The politics won’t.