Published On: Mon, Feb 24th, 2020

Boca to spend nearly $750M on underground utilities, mayor says in ‘State of City’ speech

By Dale King

Boca Raton is a city that has a lot going for it, on the ground, in the air, and on the water, Mayor Scott Singer said Feb. 18 in his inaugural “State of the City” address.

But he’s also concerned about what’s happening under the ground. And for that, he said, the city plans to spend nearly $750 million over the next 15 years to examine and evaluate utilities.

This is in addition to the $50 million already in this year’s budget for sub-surface pipe problems. He noted that recent sewer and water line breaks “just to our south are stark reminders that we need to invest in our infrastructure.”

Speaking before about 200 people in the Black Box Theatre of the Boca Cultural Arts Center in Mizner Park, Singer discussed the city’s “successes,” aided by videos featuring Fire Chief Tom Wood, Interim Police Chief Michele Miuccio, Lauren Burack, head of the ISIP (Innovative Sustainable Infrastructure Program) and Florida Atlantic University President Dr. John Kelly.

The mayor said Boca will use ISIP to probe Boca underground. In the video, Burack said the program is a new initiative by the Boca Raton Utility Services Department that uses technology and data to evaluate, prioritize and improve critical underground areas throughout the city.

“By using a mapping inventory system, areas will be identified and prioritized based on the age, location, and deterioration [level] of water and sewer pipes and neighborhood roads.”

Coincidentally, perhaps, Singer used the same adjective to describe Boca Raton as President Donald Trump used to describe the USA in his State of the Union address – “strong.”

“Imagine your ideal city,” the mayor asked. “Beautiful beaches, friendly neighborhoods, tree-lined streets, great shopping, and dining and top-notch education. It sounds like you’ve just described Boca Raton.”

He told how city leaders meet annually “in strategic planning sessions and set goals.”

Various city departments provide on-the-scene strength needed to carry out these plans.

Wood said on video that the message of the Boca Fire-Rescue Department is “that customer service is top priority. People are to be treated with respect and compassion.” Singer noted that Boca is spending $2 million for new equipment to “enhance rapid response. We are also rebuilding Station 6 on Clint Moore Road.”

The mayor said Boca is creating a corps of volunteers who know CPR. They will be given PulsePoint apps and be notified to help out in case of emergencies. “They may be able to get there before the EMTs.”

Miuccio said Boca Raton has 327 “men and women in law enforcement, dedicated to the safety and security of the city.” To help find ways to “improve the lives of people in Boca Raton, we stay current with technical training and equipment and stay true to our mission.”

Mayor Singer cited the “strong financial” position Boca has carved through economic development. It has saved and/or created thousands of jobs and partnered with FAU’s Research Park and Tech Runway to improve the job and employment situation.

He said the city has “a low tax rate” and no increases in the local millage rate in seven years. Boca retains a Triple A bond rating, he added – the best there is.

“We’ve cut permitting time by 50 percent,” he said. “We’ve updated our sign code while preserving our Boca look.”

Singer was particularly proud of the Brightline/Virgin USA train station and garage planned behind Boca’s Downtown Library. He said the city has a reserve fund that “allows us to be nimble” and grab projects like the train station without financial harm.

The mayor also detailed the city’s free holiday and other events in city parks and Mizner Park Amphitheater. Art is Public Places and new way-finding signs are revitalizing the city, he noted.

“Later this summer, we are going to restart the CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) after a gap. He noted that Boca Raton has an active volunteerism program. “We have 700 volunteers and they have provided 60,000 hours of service.”

He also said Boca has set down an energetic sustainability program. The city has a truck that can provide drinking water at various events, eliminating the need for water in plastic bottles. Volunteers have been cleaning beaches more frequently and Councilman Andy Thomson picks up litter while jogging, Singer said with a smile.

“These people are the heart of our city,” he said. “These are the residents who bring ideas and initiatives. Our people are the reason Boca is strong.”

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