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Delray Beach commissioners kill fire service fee — again

By David Sedore, Palm Beach

DELRAY BEACH — Delray’s on-again, off-again proposal to establish a fire service fee is back in the off mode. For now.

By a 3-2 vote, Delray Beach city commissioners Tuesday evening decided against contracting to bill the fee through the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office, a preliminary step that would have allowed commissioners to establish the fee later this summer as they prepare the 2012-13 municipal budget. Even had commissioners agreed to the contract, the fee would not have been a done deal.

And despite Tuesday’ vote, the fee still could be resurrected again later this summer if commissioners believe budgetary realities dictate its necessity. But commissioners Tom Carney, Angeleta Gray and Al Jacquet, the three ‘no’ votes, agreed the city wasn’t quite there yet.

“We need to have a more thorough discussion,” Carney said. “ It’s too contentious and there’s too much misunderstanding of what we’re trying to do.”

Jacquet said the move would have been a first step on a slippery slope. It would have shown commissioners willing to take the easy way out and raise taxes without making tough budget cuts first.

Commissioner Adam Frankel, however, continued his support for the fee, joining Mayor Woodie McDuffie in voting in favor of the contract with the Property Appraiser’s Office.

McDuffie noted the large number of properties in the city that pay no taxes because of various exemptions the Legislature has enacted over the years. This would be a way for city to collect some revenue from those properties while avoiding cutting city services. He also noted that Delray Beach has had its budget reduced every year he has been in office. He began his sixth year on the commission in March.

Also Tuesday, commissioners:

— Approved first reading of a zoning change that will allow a Dollar General store to be built on the southwest corner of SW 10th Street and 10th Avenue despite a recommendation to the contrary from city planners. The parcel is now zoned light industrial; the owners want it changed to commercial.

Planners objected to the change because of the diminishing amount of light-industrial zoned property in the city, while neighborhood residents objected to the project because of the traffic congestion in the area.

But Commissioner Angeleta Gray, who lives nearby, said the store is needed in the area and will serve needs of local residents. McDuffie similarly cited a lack of shopping options.

— Approved a change order replacing 15 benches in bus shelters built with a federal grant. The benches need to 20 inches wide under Palm Tran standards but the ones that were installed are only 12 inches. The city will be reimbursed the nearly $14,600 the change will cost and will be able to use the old benches elsewhere in the city.

— Received an update on the recently completed state legislative session from Rep. Lori Berman. Among the highlights: the city will gain additional representation in the Legislature, as redrawn House districts bring a third seat through the city instead of the present two. The change, however, also takes Berman’s seat out of Delray Beach.

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APRIL 18, 2012 click to go home
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