Jupiter officials debate need for lobbyist to promote projects

4:29 p.m Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018 Local
Jupiter Town Hall was built in 1981. An addition was built in 1990. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

A lobbying firm may soon be hired by the town

Facing big spending items like $35 million for a new town hall/police station, a paid lobbyist could help represent the town in Tallahassee and Washington D.C. and bring home state and federal dollars, said Councilman Ilan Kaufer.

“We need to investigate all revenue sources,” Kaufer said.

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Councilman Jim Kuretski, recalling the town’s past experience with lobbyists, isn’t convinced.

The town paid about $60,000 annually in 2010 and 2011 to hire Alcalde & Fay Ltd. The Arlington, Va.-based company sought funding for traffic, water utilities enhancement, quiet zone legislation and public safety.

“We got nothing,” Kuretski said.

Several Palm Beach County communities have lobbyists. The annual expense is from about $260,000 in West Palm Beach to $45,000 in Delray Beach.

The person hired would not be a full-time employee.

Upcoming major projects include new sand on Jupiter beaches, increased security at the police department and improvements to Indiantown Road.

Lobbyists can open doors that local politicians can’t, said Richard Ratcliffe, executive director of the Palm Beach County League of Cities.

But town officials must set goals, require progress reports and “be specific on what they want,” Radcliffe said.

The largest future expense is for a new or remodeled town hall/police station. Hurricane Matthew, which required the evacuation of the Jupiter police station, was a wake up call that improvements are needed, according to town officials.

Four proposals that range from $10 million-$35 million are being considered. No vote has been scheduled.

For beaches, federal and county funds that formerly paid for the multi-million dollar projects are vanishing.

That leaves beachfront towns paying more of a portion of the cost for new sand. Jupiter agreed to pay about $72,000 three years ago for sand dune restoration.

On Indiantown Road, two major developments are planned:

* Beacon Park is planned on 58 acres just north of Indiantown Road and east of I-95 along Island Way. About 500,000 square feet of office space is planned.

* Once called the Hawkeye property, developer Ron Pertnoy has tentatively proposed 1 million square feet of corporate/high tech office space on 82 acres just south of Indiantown Road and east of I-95.

Bottom line: To get financial help, the town needs help. “If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” said Jupiter Councilman Ron Delaney.