Partnering for Success
by Diana DiMeo
It has been a long, hot summer but that has not stopped the Riviera Beach City Council from working long and hard on issues to make our city a better place in which to live, work and play. There has been a lot of progress on items that are paving the way for more visible signs of how much we have moved forward and what lies ahead.
Here's a short synopsis of what has been coming to the forefront during the last few months:
North end of Ocean Mall.
●● The Ocean Mall began to take shape earlier this summer. With its Key West/Caribbean tinted walls and metal roofs, we can actually see what is to come. Despite some delays in the construction, plans are still in place for a ribbon cutting in December 2009. Johnny Longboat's, a long-time favorite of many of us, has signed a contract to bring his restaurant back to the mall.
In addition, look east to see how the dry sand area west of the dune is being re-shaped and groomed. This area supports a smooth transition from the mall environment, on through the dry sand recreational area, past the dune and on to the oceanfront beach.
South end of Ocean Mall.
Dry sand area, looking East.
●● A1A beautification will begin at the end of this year. This project is scheduled for completion in early 2011. The city was recently able to get $3.5 million in stimulus funds for the lighting on A1A. At last, the Singer Island portion of Riviera Beach will approach its full landscape potential.
The repaved road, improved drainage, new
lighting, and lush landscaping will all enhance this area as the island paradise that it truly can
●● Breakwaters: In September, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service advised that their review of the breakwater project was complete, initiating a formal consultation process. This group has until 30 January 2010 to complete its work. The National Marine Fisheries Service General Council is still reviewing their Biological Opinion, which should be available sometime in November 2009. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) has put a second time waiver in place to maintain an active application until the Biological Opinion is available.
The Florida Department of Environmental Control is drafting an amendment to the funding agreement to put aside additional construction funds for the breakwaters and extend the terms to account for the permitting delays encountered. Development of the technical specifications for construction is underway. On a positive note, the agencies have stopped asking questions, so it is felt that the next steps are just waiting on the permits. Work is still scheduled to begin this winter, barring legal challenges.
Tropical Storm Fay this year brought the breakwater project an additional bonus of $1.2 million from FEMA. These funds will be used to repair the dune, where needed, prior to the construction of the breakwaters. Any remaining money after the breakwaters are built will be used to build and maintain the dune behind the structures.
In addition, the County recently received an update from the Department of Environmental Protection project manager in Tallahassee stating that the State has added another $2.5 million to the city's existing funding for this project. While this does not change any of the city's or the County's overall funding obligation, it is great news in these times of very tight government budgets. Senator Atwater has been very involved in this process and has been lobbying on behalf of Riviera Beach's section of Singer Island.
●● Little Blue Heron Bridge Replacement: The public was invited to an Open House in August to learn about this project, which will start sometime this fall. This bridge is being replaced because the FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation) found that it was structurally deficient. While scuba diving, swimming and boating will be restricted near this bridge during construction, access to local businesses and residences will be maintained. The bridge's replacement along with the A1A beautification will provide a wonderful entrance to Singer Island.
As an aside, divers and snorkelers have lauded this area as one of the most diverse marine habitats found anywhere along the coastal regions of the United States.
●● Water Tank next to the firehouse Surprise!! The tank is scheduled to be painted starting sometime in December 2009.
●● Marina District: Residents were invited to tour Riviera Beach's waterfront area on 28 September 2009 to learn of enhancements underway and under consideration. A number of residents accepted the city's invitation to tour this area to see and hear about the changes being made and considered.
Bicentenial Park looking East.
●● Bicentennial Park has been renovated and given a whole new look. The non-native plants have been removed. Berms line the area, recreational areas have been defined and some infrastructure put in place making it a very enticing setting for residents and visitors alike. More improvements, including an amphitheater, are planned as grant monies are acquired.
●● Marina Dry Stack: the city council took a big step forward at their 4 November 2009 meeting when they voted to demolish the dry boat storage building. This vote was taken after listening to the consultant's report. Walter Timpson, Jr., an industry expert who had been engaged to study the pros/cons of the dry storage, stated among other things that the facility was outdated. The building was deemed functionally obsolete and a danger to life and property. Once the building is demolished, this land area will be available for businesses that will support waterfront development and generate more money for the city. The demolition will not affect the dry storage area that boaters now use.
The city is moving forward with improvements at the marina, which include rebuilding the bulkhead, redesigning and constructing new wet slips, improving the public bathrooms and correcting the drainage problem near the Tiki restaurant. Councilwoman Dawn Pardo has been aggressively seeking funding for additional projects at the marina, including rebuilding Newcomb Hall.
●● Broadway Beautification -- the Florida Department of Transportation awarded $14 million to the city for this project. This project covers the installation of median strips, Date and Royal Palms, as well as decorative lighting. The best part is that as a result of this effort, the drainage problems along Broadway will be corrected. This project, which runs from 11th Street to Silver Beach Road, is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2012.
Opening Light Harbor Park
●● Light Harbor Park -- provides three new boat ramps, 72 boat/trailer parking spaces and 20 standard parking spaces for boaters in our area. It is located on the east side of Broadway, just south of 20th Street, about a ½ mile south of Blue Heron Boulevard. The beautiful landscaping leading into this area is a bright spot on Broadway and a small indication of things that are to come along this corridor.
At the opening ceremony for this park, Riviera Beach's City Council received acknowledgment for its support and partnership with the County and other agencies.
●● Partnership with Lagoon Keepers -- A waterfront area needs to be beautiful as well as safe. For many years, the waters in the vicinity of the Riviera Beach Marina and the Blue Heron Bridge have been notorious as the repository of a large number of abandoned and sunken boats. In 2008, the city partnered with the Lagoon Keepers to address this problem. (Note: Lagoon Keepers, a non-profit organization, patrols the Intracoastal Waterway in search of debris or debris sources that could adversely affect the water's health. They remove this debris and/or work to eliminate the sources of debris that have been identified.)
This one-year project, which was completed in April 2009, resulted in the removal of 8 vessels, which were taken to the landfill. The cleanup effort was done using a grant from the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND). An additional 14 vessels from the area between Phil Foster Park and Peanut Island were removed and taken to the landfill using funds donated by individual and business sponsors. The result is that Riviera Beach now has safer/more attractive waters in the vicinity of its waterfront, a huge improvement for both local and non-local boaters. This massive cleanup effort, in progress, is enhancing the image of Riviera Beach in the eyes of the boating public. The Florida Inland Navigation District is currently working with Lagoon Keepers to access additional funds for the continued clean up.
It is interesting to note that when Council Chair Pardo spoke at a Town of Palm Beach council meeting regarding a Riviera Beach project she was asked about the derelict boats in the channel. Ms. Pardo advised the group of the city's financial commitment to removing these boats. The Palm Beach Council was so impressed, that they wrote a check to the Lagoon Keepers to show their support for the project.
In the end, partnerships are a large part of what makes things happen! It is so refreshing to have our council representative so attuned to forging partnerships with neighboring municipalities.
●● There are a lot more items on the drawing board for the marina area so we will be seeing more announcements about them in the future.
The City Council has given Ruth Jones, Riviera Beach's new city manager, encouragement to review all departments and employees in an effort to tighten up the administrative side of the city. There seems to be a good synergy in the working relationship between the city manager and the council. It is also very clear that the city, after a history of neglecting grant opportunities, has aggressively gone after, and received, a number of grants for projects.
As one reviews this short list of what is going on in Riviera Beach, it is apparent that development, such as those items mentioned here, takes a long time from committing to the project to actually seeing it rise out of the ground. That time period can be as long as three years from conception, to site plan approvals, to permitting, to construction. Riviera Beach is on the move, and the direction is FORWARD!! After many years of unstable government, there is a core of elected individuals who are truly dedicated to improving Riviera Beach. The end result is generating benefits for its residents as well as making Riviera Beach appealing to businesses in an effort to have them relocate to this area.
To be continued .
Please note: The expressed opinions may or may not be the same as those shared by Seabreeze Publications Inc.