Erosion plan raises concerns $87,000 effort stirs debate over budget PASADENA

January 22, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

An $87,000 spending plan for the Riviera Beach Erosion Control District has sparked debate in the community over the budgeting process.

The Riviera Community Improvement Association ratified the plan Tuesday to install bulkheads and other erosion controls along Echo Drive, and Arundel and Carroll roads during the fiscal year that begins July 1. The steps leading to the Stoney Creek waterfront from Church Road also will be replaced.

However, several members of the board of directors said this week that the budget process may need to be overhauled to make it more equitable.

They have suggested the president invite more input from residents, require more competitive bids on work contracts, add a small number of exempt houses to the district's tax rolls and formulate rules to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest by association officers.

"The time has come for more participation and more disclosure," said Carl Hackmann, the corresponding secretary. "That erosion budget represents a significant chunk of change."

Nearly 1,400 homeowners in Riviera Beach, Surfside and Rock Creek Estates pay additional property taxes each year to maintain the shoreline between the Fort Smallwood Road bridge and Main Avenue.

The county collects the money, but has little control over how it is budgeted, said Carolyn Kirby, a county budget analyst. The associations that govern the districts are not bound by county rules on competitive bidding or conflicts of interest.

County law only requires that residents be notified of the new budget by Dec. 31, that it be approved by the board of directors and be submitted for County Council approval by Jan. 31.

Riviera Beach has no rules of its own governing the erosion district, either, Mr. Hackmann said. "That's why it's always been done so autocratically, I guess," he said.

The call for change has rankled president Gene Hatfield, who drafted this year's erosion budget with the help of the marine contractor who will do the work. Mr. Hatfield said that he has not always met the county's deadlines and that he has hired the same contractor to do work on his personal property.

But Mr. Hatfield dismissed the concerns raised this week as a "personal vendetta" against him.

"You can't always obey the letter of the law," he said of the deadlines.

This year, the budget was delayed while the group waited for estimates to repair the damage caused by northeasterly storms in December, said Dan Piorkowski, the association's vice president.

He praised Mr. Hatfield's efforts in a "thankless job" over the last two years, but said he is among those who would like to see changes.

"I'm not condoning the way everything was done in the past because I think more people should be involved," said treasurer Tom Novak. "But I don't think we have two or three maniacal people saying this is the way things are going to be and ramming it down everyone's throat either."

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