The group seeking to build a performing arts center in Mizner Park has met its first fundraising goal.
In an Oct. 25 email to the Boca Raton City Council, Deputy City Manager George Brown confirmed that The Center for Arts & Innovation (TCAI) had met that initial target. Under the agreement for TCIA to lease a 1.8-acre public parcel next to the Mizner Park Amphitheater, TCAI had to raise 25 percent of the hard construction costs by Oct. 21. That is the one-year anniversary of the council approving the pre-construction and development agreement.
According to Brown’s email and a letter from TCAI CEO Andrea Virgin, the group had received $26,388,054 in donations and pledges through Sept. 30. The requirement was $25,412,500. Also as required, unfunded pledges do not exceed 50 percent of the total.
The city arrived at those numbers by starting last year with a hard minimum construction cost of $95 million, excluding expenses for design and permitting. Under the agreement, that number rises by seven percent each year, to account for inflation, thus also raising the fundraising requirement.
The updated construction cost is $101,650,000. Virgin notes TCIA’s own calculation that construction costs are rising between four percent and six percent. It would take a new vote by the council—acting as the community redevelopment agency—to change that inflation calculator if TCAI requested it.
Boca Raton conditioned the lease on fundraising success to avoid the prospect of the city having to take over an unfinished project that is to include the amphitheater. TCAI also must raise money for an endowment toward operating expenses.
By next year, TCAI must have raised 50 percent of the inflation-adjusted hard construction costs. Brown said TCAI will make a presentation “on the project and their progress” at Monday’s CRA meeting. I’ll have more after the meeting.
Delray to review state audit over fire contract
Though state auditors say Highland Beach owes Delray Beach $2.2 million for fire-rescue services, Delray Beach isn’t ready to confirm that amount.
In last Friday’s newsletter to the city commission, City Manager Terrence Moore said Delray Beach will hire a forensic auditor to review the state’s findings. They came after the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee approved a request to examine the contract between Delray Beach and Highland Beach.
That request came from State Rep. Peggy Gossett-Seidman, who represents Highland Beach, and State Rep. Mike Caruso, who represented Delray Beach before switching districts when new maps made his old one less Republican-friendly. Judging by their comments at the committee’s March 13 hearing, they presumed that the audit would conclude that Highland Beach had overpaid the city. The audit concluded the opposite.
During that hearing, Gossett-Seidman and Caruso repeatedly asked Highland Beach Town Manager Marshall Labadie whether Delray Beach had provided documents the town had requested. Labadie said the city had not.
Delray Beach officials, however, met with Highland Beach representatives last Jan. 24 about the contract. After the meeting, administrators instructed city staff to send all relevant documents. I’m told that the city then heard nothing from Highland Beach until the committee sent notice of the last-minute hearing in Tallahassee.
The audit likely will come up during today’s commission meeting. I’ll have more as the story develops.
No mutual aid agreement for new Highland Beach fire department
Highland Beach ended that contract because of disputes over money. When the town starts its own department on May 1, Highland Beach will have no mutual aid agreement with the county or adjoining cities.
Since Delray Beach has provided fire-rescue services, the town hasn’t needed one. Under mutual aid agreements, nearby jurisdictions respond when a city or county is dealing with more incidents than it can handle. Delray Beach has agreements with Boca Raton, Boynton Beach and Palm Beach County.
Labadie told me Monday that Highland Beach would like to work out such an agreement “maybe down the road” even with Delray Beach, despite the acrimony. “It makes sense.” Even without one, he believes that other agencies would respond if Highland Beach faced an incident beyond its resources.
Delray Beach Fire Chief Keith Tomey, however, said he wouldn’t enter into an agreement with Highland Beach. Essentially, Tomey told me, the town won’t have the staff to respond adequately. “I need to be able to count on reciprocity,” he said. Tomey also believes that Delray Beach could wind up answering lots of “pot on the stove” calls in the town.
Tomey also disagreed with Labadie on the need for an agreement. Without one, he said, Highland Beach is putting its residents “at extreme risk.”
Delray to approve new fire contract
On the agenda for today’s meeting is approval of a new, three-year contract with Delray Beach’s firefighters.
In a memo to the commission, Human Resources Director Duane D’Andrea said the contract would allow Delray Beach to offer “a competitive wage within the county.” The contract would be retroactive to Oct. 1, when the previous deal expired.
For the current year and next year, fire-rescue employees would get a three percent cost of living adjustment to their pensions. There would be no adjustment in 2025. Ocean rescue employees would get adjustments of eight percent this year and three percent the next two years.
Another key part of the contract is a change in work schedules. Starting in 2025, employees would go from 24 hours on and 48 hours off to 24 hours on and 72 hours off.
Hiring must still be an issue. The finance department is asking for a budget update to cover $355,000 in fire-rescue overtime because of “vacancies.”
Delray water plant on the agenda
Another item on today’s agenda would authorize staff to negotiate a contract to build Delray Beach’s new water plant. A staff committee ranked Maryland-based CDM Smith first among the nearly 170 bidders.
Nominations for Delray advisory boards
Also on that crowded agenda are nominations for advisory boards under Delray Beach’s streamlined development approval process. I want to see whether Mayor Shelly Petrolia tries to keep her ally, Chris Davey, on the planning and zoning board.
Davey admitted under oath that in January he indirectly threatened Rob Long in an attempt to make Rob Long drop out of the Seat 2 commission race that Long won. Petrolia supported Long’s opponent. Long said City Attorney Lynn Gelin told him that he does not have to recuse himself from a vote on Davey.
Commissioners must approve their colleagues’ nominations for the planning and zoning board and site plan review and appearance board.
More Brightline expansion?
Brightline announced last week that the company will accept proposals for a station in Martin or St. Lucie counties.
Early opposition to Brightline arose in the Treasure Coast because residents saw their area getting all of the potential traffic disruptions with Miami-Orlando service and none of the benefits. Adding too many stations, however, could defeat the purpose of high-speed rail.
In addition to the first stations in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Brightline has added Boca Raton and Aventura, in northern Miami-Dade County. A spokeswoman said the company has no immediate plans to expand past the Treasure Coast. Brightline will take proposals through Dec. 22 from any public or private entity that controls property along the Florida East Coast Railway corridor and meets the qualifications.