By Michele Dargan, Special for the Civic Association -- In her State of Palm Beach address, Mayor Gail Coniglio said the eyes of the world are continually focused on Palm Beach because of President Donald Trump’s frequent weekend visits.
“How we treat each other and the actions we take as a community are not only important to us, but are a reflection to the world as a leading example of how this small island defines hospitality, generosity, and responsible community activism,” she said.
Traffic management during the presidential visits has been accomplished due to an ongoing collaborative effort of the U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Coast Guard, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department, City of West Palm Beach, and the Town of Palm Beach Police Department, “with a much needed dose of patience,” she said.
“While we’re all impacted by traffic delays and diversions during his visits, some more than others, we must be tasteful, respectful and, champion the opportunity to showcase Palm Beach,” the mayor said.
Mayor Coniglio delivered her speech Monday morning during the Palm Beach Civic Association’s Annual Meeting at the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum with more than 300 people in attendance.
“We’re very fortunate to have Gail as our leader,” said Bob Wright, Chairman and CEO of the Civic Association in his introduction. “She is a strong advocate for Palm Beach in the community and beyond the community’s borders. She works to build productive relationships with elected officials, staff and, other representatives in the county, state and the federal government.”
The mayor thanked Mr. Wright, President Ned Barnes, and the entire Palm Beach Civic Association for their “ongoing commitment to engage and educate our residents on the challenging issues we face and your mission serves to promote dialogue, increase involvement, and form community consensus to improve governance and decision making. Your unprecedented level of passion and pride is an example for the next generation and ensures our future.”
The mayor congratulated Sean Luca Frankland, Gray Foster and the Friends of Palm Beach, winners of the Civic Association’s Raymond J. Kunkel Award, and The Garden Club of Palm Beach, winner of the Town Beautification Award. She saluted Chairman Emeritus Stanley Rumbough and offered a tribute to Anne Keresey, a Civic Association member who passed away last fall.
“Your elegance, classic style, southern gentility, and deep love for Palm Beach was immeasurable and will be sorely missed,” she said about Mrs. Keresey.
Traffic and Undergrounding
“I’m acutely aware of the travel obstacles that impact our lives on a daily basis, but also the negative effect on the business community, emergency services, and tempers,” she said. “We all suffer construction fatigue. Town-wide utility undergrounding will invite new opportunities to sample morsels of self-control, tolerance, and endurance in our goal for reliable, safe, and esthetic things. Progress has been made to reel in cost overruns and a peer review of the master plan will serve to ascertain if the projects phasing, scheduling, construction methods, traffic management, and the engineers’ estimated costs are accurate and represent best practices. An interim financing plan has been recommended by the Underground Utilities Task Force in an effort to reduce assessments for all property owners. It is everyone’s goal to deliver this tall order in a timely and efficient manner with the least disruption possible.”
To help residents better plan their travel routes, the town’s Public Works staff has developed a “web-based living map,” available online and on phones with real-time updates, the mayor said.
“This application will inform us of all of the large public and private construction project locations as well as the issued right of way permits, which all play a role in pinching our roadways,” she said. “While private home construction does impact our travel, it also serves as a welcome revenue source, improving the town’s real estate values and providing a net gain on our budget.”
Update on Bridges
“All four lanes of the Flagler Bridge will be open by midsummer and when it opens we will celebrate a spectacular and new scenic gateway to the town along with a spit shine polish of our crown jewel, the beautification of Bradley Park,” the mayor said. “I hesitate to mention that the Southern Boulevard Bridge reconstruction will begin in the next few weeks. Having met with the secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation, there is optimism that it will run smoothly and be completed on time with the comment, ‘there have been lessons learned.’”
Town Finances and Town Staff
“The added revenues from various” sources continue to enhance the health of town finances,” she said. This favorable financial position has given the town the opportunity to recalibrate and better balance the attrition of town staff versus the town’s overall budget with a refined pension program. Town Council has recognized the importance to reduce any unfunded liability created by pension refinements and has made this a commitment for the upcoming budget season. One opportunity to offset a potential liability may be to use up to $2 ½ million of the $5 million currently held in our unassigned general fund reserves. It’s imperative to recruit and retain the best of the best for our employee work force to continue to exceed the town’s exceptional standards.”
“The police department and fire department have started a Palm Beach Public Safety Leadership Development Series,” Mayor Coniglio said. “That includes civic titans from business, non-profit groups and government sectors to cultivate and train the future leaders within these respective departments. With a steady decline in overall crime in the town over the last three decades and for the second consecutive year, the Palm Beach Police Department had recorded its lowest crime levels.”
“Even though Hurricane Matthew’s late jog to the east spared Palm Beach and our coastal neighbors from the worst the storm had to offer, make no mistake, that Category 4 hurricane marched northward just a few dozen miles off our shoreline,” she said. “Due to the town’s successful coastal management plan and beach nourishment efforts, sand served as a shield between the high surf and our homes. Storm protection is a long-term maintenance program and requires continual attention. This coming winter, our partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will continue as they perform regular inlet maintenance of the Palm Beach Harbor Channel. All of the dredged sand will be placed on the dry beaches at the North End of the town at no cost to the town’s residents.”
West Palm Beach Development
“Community leaders, staff, and I continue to monitor, investigate and inventory the explosive development in our sister city, West Palm Beach,” Mayor Coniglio said. “A regional approach to identifying and solving traffic conflicts before there is a catastrophic gridlock has been undertaken in partnership by the jurisdictional stakeholders: Florida Department of Transportation, Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach, and Town of Palm Beach officials.”
PRESS RELATED TO THE EVENT & PARTICIPANTS
Palm Beach Traffic, ‘Construction Fatigue’ Top Mayor’s Address
Mayor Gail Coniglio focused on traffic in her State of the Town address Monday at the Palm Beach Civic Association’s annual meeting and end-of-season celebration at the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum.
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Photos by Capehart