McKinlay chastises Pahokee commissioners over marina delays

PAHOKEE — Palm Beach County District 6 Commissioner Melissa McKinlay has written to the mayor and commissioners of the City of Pahokee criticizing their recent vote to halt progress toward the deal to reopen the marina, campground and restaurant with the operator they had approved three years ago and numerous other times since.

Melissa McKinlay

On county letterhead, she wrote on July 9:
“I am writing to express my disappointment in the City Commission’s 4-1 vote on June 23 to not go forward with a revised sublease agreement with Everglades Reserve Holdings (ERH).

“When the State of Florida approved the sublease on Dec. 3, 2019, it appeared the Pahokee Marina complex was finally on its way to fully reopening.

“I, along with Palm Beach County staff, have invested significant time and resources to secure state funding for this project, including a successful partnership advocating with the City (of Pahokee) in Tallahassee. This collaborative effort resulted in Pahokee receiving over $2 million from the state to help with repairs and renovations.

“However, there has been ongoing concern and questions over the delay of these projects. In July 2019, my office received an update from the city manager stating the Phase II Marina renovations were on schedule and due to be completed in August, with the grand reopening of the restaurant in late September/early October along with the reopening of the public park. Now, it is a going on a year later with no anticipation of the grand reopening. ERH claims the city has yet to complete many repairs and the property is not up to code nor ADA compliant, leaving it uninsurable.

“The city expected ERH to take control of the complex on an ‘as is’ basis, yet there are understandable concerns about the progress of essential projects to ensure the marina, campground and restaurant are brought to an operable position. Furthermore, ERH claims it has attempted unsuccessfully over a period of months to work with the city manager on insurance matters and requested more time to assess the property to no avail. The inability of the city to reach a reasonable compromise with ERH to enable the sublease to move forward is troubling.

“I am frustrated by the city’s ongoing delays to reopen the marina complex, an important amenity for the residents of Pahokee, the Glades and all of Palm Beach County. I am frustrated that after years of time and effort from the city, ERH and Palm Beach County that the project would yet again be in limbo. Now the city will discuss at its next meeting to go back out to an RFP (request for proposals). How much longer will this set back the marina reopening?

“I urge you to take the necessary steps to complete the sublease with ERH so that the Pahokee Marina can be fully opened to the public as soon as possible.” The commission’s next meeting as of when McKinlay wrote her letter was scheduled for Tuesday, July 14, but it was abruptly canceled by City Manager Chandler Williamson.

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