Should the historic John F. Kennedy bunker and former U.S. Coast Guard station on Peanut Island become a county park?
The property and facilities owned by the Port of Palm Beach are leased to the Palm Beach Maritime Museum and have been since 1992.
Tuesday, the Palm Beach County Commission directed its staff to research taking over the facilities as a county park, and in fact, to look into turning all of Peanut Island into a county park. The bulk of the 80-acre island is already a county park.
Commissioner Priscilla Taylor suggested the move, and the rest of the board agreed.
Greg Picken, the port’s attorney, said, “The port’s position is that the property is currently under lease to the Palm Beach Maritime Museum, Inc., and that it would be premature to have any negotiations with the county regarding sale or lease.”
Taylor also stated that Anthony Miller is “no longer associated” with “the foundation that runs the museum.”
Miller, who was not at the meeting, said Tuesday that he has never been associated with the foundation. His company Maritime Business operates and maintains the bunker and other facilities on six acres for the Palm Beach Maritime Museum.
The port leases the Cold War-era bunker built for Kennedy in 1961 as a bomb shelter and the 1936 former station to the museum. Both are open to the public from 11 a.m to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. The 25-year lease expires in October 2017.
Over the past few years, there have been disputes and lawsuits between Palm Beach Maritime Museum founder John Grant and its board over who is the rightful board. The foundation is headquartered at 4512 N. Flagler Drive, West Palm Beach. Grant could not be reached Tuesday.
The Palm Beach Maritime Museum, 1518 West Lantana Road, Lantana, operates the Palm Beach Maritime Academy at that address.
In February 2015, port officials became alarmed after engineering firm CH2M Hill issued a 19-page report stating it had found possible electrical, structural and fire safety problems at the property.
This past February, Palm Beach County cited the port, as the property’s owner, for numerous code violations including failure to obtain a change of use permit, fire code violations and failure to obtain multiple building permits.
Palm Beach County code enforcement officials have not responded to numerous requests for an update on the alleged code violations.
Miller said he has made repairs at the site, and no one from the county has told him there is any reason the bunker and station cannot be open to the public as they are now.
“We are still bringing in big groups. Hundreds of people are going through,” Miller said.