The meeting was opened at 4:07 PM By Commissioner Opel. Roll call was taken and Commissioners Opel, Enright, and Ciklin were present along with the Port of Palm Beach executive directors. The pledge of allegiance was recited. Then the minutes of the January and February meetings were brought to question, and they were approved as read by a 3-0 vote. The consent agenda was then amended and approved for discussion. Although I am not sure that this is the proper placement of this statement it was noted that the Bahamas Celebration is completely booked through September of this year. Hoo Rah!
The Port Executive Director Manuel Almira Then gave his Executive Director’s report. Included in that report was a narrative of the notable Port activities a few of which were the Night of Elegance, wherein nearly 300 of the District seniors were treated to a gourmet meal, live entertainment, and a speaker. Next the report switched to the “fact finding mission” in the Republic of Cuba.
Commissioner Richards and Executive Director Almira arrived in Cuba on the 10th of March. Upon arrival they were met by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Minister Eddy Par’on Maestra, and Director General of ASPORT (Cuba’s Seaport Group) who discussed the economy of Cuba and their plans for future advancements.
While continueing their fact finding mission, Director Almira and Commissioner Richards visited Cuba’s Sierra Maestra passenger terminal located in Havana. This facility is currently only operating at a 10% capacity. The main marine passenger tourist business in Cuba comes from European origin, and our Port Officials were informed that Cubans look forward to the day that the American embargo is lifted and they can seek weekly tourist excursions from American sea ports, as well as cargo shipments. Cuba is also increasing the depth of Port Mariel to 52ft. and plans a railroad supported warehouse behind it’s expansion as it is expected to be trading with larger container shipping vessel as the Panama Canal improvements near their completion.
It was also reported that many Cubans will be seeking self employment as the government is laying off 40% of it’s workforce, and now, for the first time in many years, the Cuban citizens will be allowed to buy and sell their own homes with only 4% tax on either the buy or sell side of the transaction. Cuba is also expanded training for their citizens in farming.
This foreign trade mission was extremely successful, and the Cuban Government officials are looking forward to the day when they can do trade with the port of Palm Beach as the Port of Palm Beach is the only official government delegation from Florida to date that has visited Cuba according to Estrella Madrigal Valdes (Director of the Chamber of Commerce for the Republic of Cuba).
The container and passenger reports were then given, and it was shown in the record that both of these numbers were up from this same time last year, and it is expected that the container traffic figures will continue to increase over the next several years as both the USDOT, and World Shipping Council see an increase through 2020.
It was also reported by the Port’s Executive Director Manuel Almira that Governor Rick Scott had visited the Port of Palm Beach on March 21st, and that a mew front entry sign to the port was posted on March 22nd of this year.
The meeting then moved to the Chief Port Engineer Thomas Lundeen who proceeded with the Port engineer’s report as Chairman George Mastics arrived on the scene at 4:24PM. The meeting was turned over to Commission Chairman George Mastics, and the meeting continued.
Mr. Lundeen reported That the dredging operation was nearing completion with only one small mishap concerning the rock screening device. After the cleaning of some rock debris the dredging will be completed.
Further, Port Engineer Lundeen reported that there was a noise and visibility issue on the SR 710 project. Riviera Beach Coouncilwoman Judy Davis gave some short comments on these issues, and the meeting continued with a report on the slip #3 project. It was reported that an additional $97,240.00 grant had been located on a 50/50 match with the Port and FDOT. There were some permitting issues, however those issues have been resolved.
The meeting then moved to the discussion of one of the Port’s biggest thorns in the side, the issue of the concrete work performed by Rosso Paving. This work has caused a stressed relation with one of the Port’s tenants, and has taken both a financial toll, and hours of discussion by the Port officials. The topic was further discussed, and the commission and the Port decided to let the Port, ASCOM, and Rosso have another chance at resolving the issues, and bring the results back to the meeting this month.
There was then a brief discussion concerning the wellbeing of 236 sea coral from the slip #3 project, and the meeting moved to the discussion of the Black Diamond gaming vessel. It was reported that at the time of the last Port meeting the Black Diamond owed the Port $157,000.00, and the commission ordered that a letter be drafted and sent to the Black Diamond informing them that the Port would be terminating their lease.
There was then discussion of a couple of construction projects to further the lease possibilities of the Port, and to satisfy some of the Port’s tenants. These projects were approved as they fell under a 75/25% grant, and were beneficial to the Port. There was also discussion of security training which would be 100% paid for by a grant from the Federal Government. The commission recommended that a contract be drawn up and executed with Port Star, for this project, and that the training be made available to the commissioners as well. This project was approved in an amount not to exceed $65,000.00
At this point the meeting moved to the “Parking Lot Feasibility Study”. There had been an error in the proceedings in the award of the parking lot feasibility study which led to a runoff of the two tied bidding firms. In this runoff vote the contract for the feasibility study was awarded to the bidding firm named PSA. Song and Associates came in with the number two vote at the end of the day.
The meeting was concluded with the discussion of some leasing matters between the Port and Tropical Shipping, New Business, comments from the public, comments from the commission, and the setting of the meeting for this month. The meeting was then adjourned.