Still shaking off the ill-effects of the worst recession in recent memory, nine city and village managers speaking Tuesday at the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce’s “State of the Cities” luncheon painted a mostly rosy picture of their towns for the upcoming fiscal year starting Oct. 1, saying the worst of the economic downturn appears to be over.
“There’s slow and steady recovery,” Wellington Deputy Village Manager John Bonde told an audience of nearly 200 elected officials and business owners at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in downtown West Palm Beach. “But we’re walking our steps very carefully.”
Bonde, filling in for Village Manager Paul Schofeld who was unable to attend, pointed to the $15 million Wellington will have to spend for capital improvement projects in 2014, up from from $13 million the previous fiscal year.
Lake Worth City Manager Michael Bornstein said that after years of “benign neglect” of its infrastructure, the city expects to spend between $75 and $115 million through 2020 on various projects, including upgrading the city’s roads and street lights.
“We haven’t invested in the city in the last 30 years like we should have,” Bornstein said, adding that the move should help boost property values.
City managers for Royal Palm Beach, Greenacres, Palm Springs, Lantana and Loxahatchee Groves also made brief presentations. West Palm Beach’s planning manager and the director of administrative services for the Indian Trail Improvement District shared their cities’ initiatives for 2014 as well.
Eric Silagy, Florida Power & Light Co.’s president, was the featured keynote speaker.
The 90-minute luncheon also gave city managers a chance to tout some of their recent achievements. Royal Palm Beach Village Manager Ray Liggins pointed to the recently completed $23 million Commons Park and the $50 million distribution center discount grocer Aldi is building on State Road 7 and Okeechobee Boulevard as major village success stories.
Lantana City Manager Deborah Manzo noted the new fishing pier on the west side of the new $32 million Ocean Avenue Bridge that is scheduled to be completed in December. She also highlighted the city’s new dog and skateboard parks.
Rick Greene, West Palm Beach’s planning manager, said the city has 36 major projects it’s working on and expects to spend $591 million in new construction over the next five years.
Mark Kutney, Loxahatchee Groves town manager, cited the proposed campus Palm Beach State College would like to build on 75 acres on the northwest corner of B Road and Southern Boulevard. The project, however, is currently on hold as the college figures out a way to pay for it after Gov. Rick Scott in May vetoed $368 million from the state budget, which included $6.5 million PBSC was counting on to start construction.