New Delray Lifeguard Towers Not Excessive Expense, County Watchdog Agency Report States

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By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor

Spending nearly $1.2 million for eight new life guard towers is “fair, reasonable and within the competitive market rage,” according to a 14-page report released by the Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General last month.

The city also procured the new towers properly, according to the report.

The cost and how the city awarded the contract were two of the main complaints filed to the inspector general by now Mayor Shelly Petrolia.

The complaint, submitted on Jan. 5, became a hot topic in the mayoral election. Petrolia cast the sole dissenting vote against the contract for the new towers. The city awarded the contract to Pompano Beach-based Hartzell Construction Inc. The company was the only bidder.

“This is a mini-condo,” she said at the Dec. 11 meeting. “This is a condominium price that we are paying for a small structure on the beach. It doesn’t have a bathroom, it doesn’t have a kitchen, it doesn’t have any appliances.”

As a commissioner, she alleged the commission’s decision to spend nearly $1.2 million on the new towers was too excessive. The complaint listed five other issues with the city’s procurement process, which were also deemed unsubstantiated by the inspector general’s office.

“During our review, we found the City complied with its procurement policies and procedures for the award of the lifeguard tower construction project,” the report states.

The cost includes demolishing the eight existing towers that are more than a decade old and are in dire need of replacement, according to city staff.

“The Ocean Rescue staff provides this service from eight lifeguard towers that are in poor condition and lack features that increase the lifeguards’ job efficiency and provide a comfortable work environment,” Assistant City Manager Caryn Gardner-Young said in a memo to commissioners. “ The current towers are not transportable, they have enclosed floors which provide poor ventilation, they do not have shutters to protect the windows from vandalism and trespassing at night, and they have poles to support the roof which create blind spots where the lifeguards may not be able to see all beach-goers.”

The new towers will be enclosed to allow the lifeguards unobstructed views from clear glass to the ocean. They will have proper ventilation and shade and will be able withstand various weather conditions. The new towers will have rust-resistant stainless steel bolts and solar panels to help power fans and radios.

Construction on the new towers is underway this spring.