By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – The City will hold its bimonthly Regular Commission Meeting at 4PM tomorrow (Tuesday, August 11th) virtually, and is available via live-streaming to the public. The Commission will also hold a Workshop Meeting earlier in the day at 10AM to review next fiscal year’s budget and Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).
The regular commission meeting is set to run for two hours, from 4PM to 6PM, and the agenda has been published online on the city’s web site. The agenda includes direction on joining the video stream as well as submitting comments.
Any member of the public wishing to comment publicly on any matter may submit their comments by dialing (561) 243-7555 and leaving a voicemail message. The message must include full name and address, and be under three minutes long, and then will be played and made a part of the public record.
At the top of the agenda is a presentation on the reclaimed water program in Delray Beach by the Utilities Department. This is a tense issue as it is tied to the suspended city manager, George Gretsas’ claims of ‘significant unethical and illegal conduct within the government’.
Included in a July 31st twelve-page letter are four issues, the most significant is the reclaimed water investigation. In May Gretsas provided a report to the City Commission stating “gross mismanagement and violations of law that put public safety at risk and likely made people ill.”
Since then the City has published a video on social media featuring Utilities Director Hassan Hadjimiry (who Gretsas hired just months ago), explaining the process by which the city provides clean and safe water to Delray Beach. However there was also a report by local CBS 12 News which raises alarm for the public.
The Gretsas letter makes some other shocking claims which may draw public comment, and the Commission may speak to it, or punt until a Special Meeting to adopt the written charges against Gretsas is held on August 24th (as contractually required).
Last week Shelly Petrolia, Mayor for the City of Delray Beach, said, “When I read the letter by Mr. Gretsas, I was personally taken aback by his many misleading and misinformed statements.”
Adding, “It is the city manager’s primary responsibility to ensure that city operations are performed in accordance with policy, and within state and federal regulations. The operational buck stops with the city manager.”
The new Interim City Manager Jennifer Alvarez was voted in on June 24th by the Commission (4-1) for an unspecified term, despite her not holding the job before. On top of addressing the water issues in the City, she is also working to address a budget shortfall, which is the topic of the 10AM Workshop.
“In developing this budget, we started with a gap of more than $9 million,” she wrote in the staff memo to Mayor Petrolia and City Commissioners. Through a number of measures, she proposes an operating budget which includes the use of $4.32 million in reserves to balance.
The memo states ‘This is in addition to $4.4 million of fund balance recommended to proceed with important capital projects. The appropriation from fund balance decreases our General Fund reserves to 22 percent of our 2021 Proposed Budget expenditures.’