Hospital Seeking Partner, Mayoral Race and Other Updates from Boca and Delray

Hospital looking for partner

Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s search for what CEO Jerry Fedele calls a “partner” has moved to the next stage.

In August, the hospital chose Cain Brothers as its consultant. The firm met with the hospital’s search committee to develop a profile for what Boca Regional considers to be a suitable health care match.

When we spoke at that time, Fedele reiterated what he had told me in June—that this is a search to find a partner, not to decide whether Boca Regional needs one. “We believe that in the long run a partner will help this hospital,” Fedele said.

He also believes that there are lots of candidates. Just sending out the press release in June of the hospital’s intention, Fedele said, brought eight to 10 calls. Fedele said during our conversation—and Vice President of Marking Tom Chakurda reinforced the point on Monday—that “this is not a sale. We are not selling.”

But how would things work with Boca Regional—known for all those mama-lion community supporters—and another entity? “We are not totally giving up operating control,” Fedele said, “but there would be some communal governance. It would be wrong to say that nothing will change.”

Still, Fedele added that while he is retiring in mid-2018—likely with creation of the partnership as the last major project of his decade-long tenure—he would have a successor. “There still will be a CEO. This hospital is not going to be run from somewhere else.”

The search, however, means that the job description will change in what Fedele called “material ways.” The board hired him in 2008, when Boca Regional was losing money, as a turnaround specialist. The board actually asked Fedele his thoughts about selling or even closing the hospital. Though he didn’t recommend either, Fedele said he “didn’t realize how much opportunity there was.”

Indeed, out of the failed expansion that created the big losses, and then from out of the Great Recession, came the Eugene M. and Christine Lynn Cancer Institute, the Marcus Neuroscience Institute, the Christine E. Lynn Women’s Health & Wellness Institute and the Gloria Drummond Physical Rehabilitation Institute. They joined the Christine E. Lynn Heart & Vascular Institute, which opened in 2006.

Now Boca Regional plans a $500 million makeover, though a lawsuit by neighbors has delayed the first project—a parking garage. With the makeover and the new facilities, the partner will complete what Fedele said is necessary to get Boca Regional, which is celebrating its first half-century, “through the next 50 years.”

That partner, Fedele said, will have to “bring value” and complement Boca Regional. That could mean establishing the hospital in a new area or bringing a new service or capital. Ideally, of course, the partner would bring all three. You can presume that the partner will be another not-for-profit—perhaps an academic institution—because Fedele correctly notes that the mission of for-profit hospitals is far different from the priorities of Boca Regional and similar hospitals.

By March, Fedele said, “We should have a pretty good idea if this is going to come to fruition.” The presumption is that it will. Consolidation is happening throughout the health care industry and has reached South Florida. For those who worry that a partner will change Boca Regional, Fedele said, he and the board understand. “The character of this hospital is special.”

New candidate for mayor

I wrote last week that Boca Raton City Councilman Robert Weinroth was raising money—$60,000 and counting—as if he had an opponent. Now he does.

Monica Mayotte has filed to challenge Weinroth in Seat D. Mayotte served on the Green Living Advisory Board and was one of several residents who urged the council to add the position of sustainability director. The council did so in this year’s budget.

Mayotte’s candidacy had been rumored. She is using the same consultant as Andrea O’Rourke did this year and will have much of the same support, including from BocaWatch, which touted her announcement. Mayotte’s news release echoed O’Rourke’s campaign themes. She wants to “be another voice for the residents” and to “stop the overdevelopment and ensure all future development is aligned with Boca Raton’s core values, aesthetics and pays tribute to our historical past.”

The election is March 13. Jeremy Rodgers remains unopposed for Seat C.

Debris removal update

One potential problem just disappeared for Boca Raton as the city seeks reimbursement for Hurricane Irma-related costs.

AshBritt, the city’s hauling contractor, rescinded its demand for an increase from $8.50 to $14.50 in the price per cubic yard of debris removed. AshBritt had called the surcharge necessary to keep truck drivers from going to areas where the price was higher.

City council members approved the increase so cleanup could continue. That was a good move. Some cities in Broward counties delayed, waiting for the dispute to resolve itself. Their streets remain cluttered while the work in Boca Raton is nearly done.

Boca Raton administrators didn’t know at which rate the Federal Emergency Management Agency would reimburse the city, since the contracted rate was $8.50. Mayor Susan Haynie, Councilman Weinroth and other local officials raised the issue of a fixed rate with the state’s congressional delegation last week.

Another key issue carries the wonkish label of “de-obligation.” FEMA reimburses cities and counties between 75 percent and 90 percent of their expenses from natural disasters. Sometimes, though, FEMA pays the money and then wants it back—claiming after further review that the feds were not obligated to pay. Thus the label.

One such dispute is with Boca Raton. FEMA wants the city to repay roughly $4.5 million from costs associated with Wilma. Assistant City Manager Mike Woika explained that after hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004 the city submitted all costs under different expense lines. Example: One line for collecting debris, while another was for cutting branches that the storms had left hanging.

After Wilma, Woika said, FEMA asked cities to submit a “blended” rate that included all expenses. Boca Raton did that. In 2008, though, a FEMA audit claimed that Boca Raton had received too much. The agency has sought to get the money back, though Woika said little has happened on the dispute in the last several years.

So after Irma, Boca Raton is itemizing everything, down to stump removal. City leaders want Congress to set a statute of limitations on when FEMA can demand payment of those contested costs.

Delray city manager note

I wrote last week about the hiring of Mark Lauzier as Delray Beach’s new city manager and the need to get a proposed contract before the city commission tonight. Lauzier remains a finalist for the same job in Jupiter.

On Monday, Mayor Cary Glickstein said Lauzier and the commission “are anxious to get started.” Glickstein has been working with City Attorney Max Lohman and the city’s headhunter and “hopes” that a contract can be on the agenda. The commission doesn’t meet again until Nov. 7, which Glickstein notes is after the proposed start date on the contract they have been discussing.

New Publix on West Atlantic

Delray Beach had hoped that the Uptown Atlantic project would deliver a grocery store to West Atlantic Avenue. Uptown Atlantic died, but before the city commission tonight are seven waivers for a Publix that would go on part of what was to be Uptown Atlantic.

Most Publix stores are what Planning and Development Director Tim Stillings called “a big box,” standing alone or as the anchor of a shopping plaza. This Publix would go on the 600-700 block of West Atlantic, where the community redevelopment agency would like to maintain the pedestrian-friendly feel of East Atlantic. The CRA owns this block and the other two farther west.

The waivers are the result of negotiations between Publix and the city. Though the store has been a priority, Stillings said city officials didn’t want minority residents on or near West Atlantic “to feel like we were accepting less than the best.”

At first, the site plan called for fake windows on Atlantic. The new plan pushes the store back from the street and allows retail and civil space on the avenue, not “just a blank wall,” Stillings said. There would be “real windows.” Parking would be west of and behind the store, with the main entrance from Southwest Seventh Avenue. The waivers seem to craft a reasonable compromise toward a civic goal.

Swinton Commons update

Another item on the Delray Beach commission agenda, this one about Swinton Commons, requires a bit of explanation.

In June, the historic preservation board recommended that the commission approve some of the developer’s requests to demolish and move buildings along or near Swinton Avenue. More important, the board recommended denial of the project’s site plan.

Hudson Holdings appealed the demolition and relocation denials, but the city ruled that the developer had missed its chance to appeal the site plan denial. Since then, Hudson Holdings has withdrawn its appeals and submitted a new site plan. Among other things, office and residential space has replaced two hotels.

The city commission, however, appealed the demolition and relocation approvals and could reject them tonight. Swinton Commons’ new site plan, however, is based on those approvals remaining in place.

Hudson Holdings got a fair amount of criticism when the commission discussed the site plan appeal. It will be interesting to see how the commission rules.

Ag Reserve gets temporary reprieve

A new potential threat to Palm Beach County’s Agricultural Reserve Area is on hold.

Last Friday, the county’s planning commission was to have heard a proposal for a nursing home and child daycare center on 13 acres along Clint Moore Road just west of the Florida Turnpike. County staff had recommended denial. Though prior approvals allowed the daycare center, the nursing facility was nearly 10 times larger than what reserve rules allow.

Residents of Horseshoe Acres, to the north, and others had criticized the proposal. After a column I wrote for the Sun Sentinel and a news story in The Palm Beach Post, the developer asked to postpone the project until December. The county has not ruled on the request.

Advisory Panel meeting

The Boca Raton Community Advisory Panel holds its latest town hall-type meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the downtown library. The city formed the panel out of four other advisory boards to seek comment from residents who don’t want to speak at city council meetings. The panel also meets on the second Thursday of every month.