Many local dignitaries came out to the event, from Broward Mayor Lamar Fisher to Fort Lauderdale Chamber Executive Director Denise Jordan.
By Rachel Galvin
Working together and playing together, this is the foundation of building a community. On October 18, the City of Deerfield Beach showcased their community spirit during their State of the City held on the JM Family campus. This was their 6th annual event and was, according to this reporter’s opinion, one of the best events the city has ever had. The place was packed, as people wandered the area enjoying a wide range of light bites and spirits before sitting down in the outdoor amphitheater space to watch the presentation.
Lenny Chesal was supposed to be the emcee, but was unable to, so the city’s Rebecca Medina and JM Family’s Lisa Davis took over the reins and introduced Mayor Bill Ganz.
Ganz spoke at length, thanking JM Family and recognizing commissioners and local dignitaries, including Broward County Mayor Lamar Fisher; Broward County Commissioner Mark Bogen; Florida Representative Chip LaMarca, whose wife Eileen was there in his stead;as well as members of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, city staff, the Broward Alliance and the Economic Development Council (EDC). He gave special thanks to Rick Jorden, a longtime employee of JM Family who will be retiring. He gave a shout out to fellow commissioners and former mayor Peggy Noland.
He mentioned that the event was also about commemorating the Deerfield Beach Historical Society and celebrated their 50th anniversary. He mentioned the contributions of the society through their cultural center and also their Butler House, which is turning 100. The historical society also was honored with the JM Family Changemakers award. He acknowledged the passing of city historian Amie Kay Tanner, who will be missed by many.
He talked about some of the ways in which commissioners and himself are working with other groups to make the city better. First, he talked about Commissioner Todd Drosky becoming president of the Broward League of Cities, which is only the second time someone elected from from Deerfield has had this position. District 1 commissioner Michael Hudak also works with the Florida League of Cities. Commissioner Bernie Parness was formerly on the Broward County Planning Council. The mayor added that he, himself, is part of the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization.The chamber joined the Greater Ft. Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce as Deerfield Beach Council. It pays off, including helping them to get grants, said Ganz, who added that Deerfield is well respected in the greater community and is seen as a leading city on the rise.
Mayor Ganz went on to talk about how almost 60% of residents voted on the sale of the parcel of land on the corner of SW 10th Street and I-95. The city commission, he said, selected the highest and best possible use for the property. It is a concept proposed by MBA Partners at an appraised price of $6 ½ million.
He went into detail about beach renourishment that took place and, through collaborating with Hillsboro and Boca Raton, they saved millions of dollars, by taking advantage of a regular scheduled dredging and utilizing a pipeline. He said the city has been recognized as the Best Beach Renourishment in the nation. Ganz said they also started a Beach Management Program. He talked about the importance of the beach and said it was important to spend the money needed to maintain it. And he mentioned the importance of not waiting to make improvements just to save money.
Ganz pointed out that the Deerfield Ocean Rescue Team won the southeast regional championships’ top trophy, under the leadership of Captain Mike Brown.
In the past year and into the future, they have put in capital investments of more than $10 million in renovations, including repairing the pier, taking care of implementing turtle friendly pedestrian lights, new lifeguard towers, parking lot lights, transportation and event space.
Danielle Rosse will start work on the Palm Restaurant, investing over 2 million dollars with traditional sit down service, grab and go counter, tapas style experience on observation deck.
He also talked about Investments in the park & recreation programs, including replacing several playgrounds, resurfacing athletic courts, putting in a new gym floor at Leo Robb gym, adding outdoor fitness equipment like at Pastor Willie Ford Outdoor Park with art by Basquiat. The Tigner Center and Oveta McKeithen Recreational Complex broke ground this year. The Braithwaite Center for Active Aging and Besos Academy Preschool are expected to open this first quarter. This year, he added that the city put on over 60 special events.
CRA is in permitting for the second phase of Sullivan Park project. This time next year, he said, will be the ground breaking at the new Seagrass to Sawgrass Center, which will be created in a partnership with Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation.
They have made some advancements in water technology, including implementation of advanced metering infrastructure that provides a more detailed smart meter reading technology that is more accurate. It gives the customer more insight and detects leaks. They also will be updating the Water Treatment Plant. They are implementing an advanced state-of-the-art ion exchange treatment process. They are investing more than $18 million in a special ion exchange treatment process to test for and treat for Pfas, which are man made chemicals that pollute the water worldwide.
He said the city is financially stable. Our bond credit remains at a AA rating. City Reserves are healthy. There is about $30 million in reserve. They can be activated for post disaster recovery and more. The commission approved a $349 million approved budget for fiscal year 2024 funds activities while lowering property tax rates.
“I believe we are the healthiest we have ever been… financially strong and stable…” said Ganz.
Property values exceeded Broward County’s for possibly the first time ever with an 11% increase, compared to 10% for Broward County. This is despite having the 11th lowest assessed value of 31 cities in Broward County… 20 more cities had higher value than we did. We have invested in city with numerous projects. But, we had a 5.7 mill $ increase in revenue, which is great news, but $9.3 mill increase in cost to deliver services. The cost of material and services outpaced our revenue increases.
“We are not alone in this trend. Every city and county is facing this challenge,” said Ganz.
He added that school grades should be better, which is something he felt the Broward County School Board could also help with.
He also pointed out some things he wished were done better on the state level as well and bemoaned the fact that Tallahassee has “taken away home rule.”
He also spoke about increases in insurance, something that the audience audibly agreed with.
After the historical society was honored, their president, TJ Eagen, spoke about renovations coming soon to The Butler House. They received a grant and will use it to do a $400,000 renovation to the home over the next two years. They are hoping to open the historic home Wednesday through Sunday for tours, rather than only on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., like it is now. In addition, he mentioned the Pioneer House nextdoor will be a black history museum for the city. He also mentioned all the ongoing programs at the cultural center across the street, from art classes to live music on the driveway, to international films and more.
The evening concluded with dessert items and more mingling, and those in-the-know went to the after party.