County offices to close at 3 p.m. today

Palm Beach County officials, monitoring Hurricane Matthew, have decided to close county offices at 3 p.m. today.

The School District of Palm Beach County is closing all schools and facilities on Thursday and Friday. Many of the district’s schools will serve as emergency shelters.

All county parks are closing at noon today through Friday. All county senior centers are closing today through Friday.

Intracoastal spans will be closing at 8 p.m.

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Palm Beach County and cities spar over Inspector General at appeals court

OIG

Appeals judges hear arguments Tuesday in Inspector General lawsuit
Appeals judges hear arguments Tuesday in Inspector General lawsuit

Palm Beach County municipal governments are all for the Office of Inspector General, but didn’t expect their coffers would have to pay for it, their attorneys said Tuesday in oral arguments before the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

County lawyers responded that when voters approved the office, they empowered county government to send cities the bill.

The court is considering appeals by cities in a 2011 lawsuit who have argued it’s illegal for Palm Beach County to create the office of Inspector General and force them to pay for it. A judge tossed the cities’ suit in March 2015, but the cities appealed.

In 2010, following a rash of scandals that left the area with the nickname “Corruption County,” voters in each of the county’s cities overwhelmingly approved creation of the office, which provides oversight to local governments covering 13,000 employees and $7.5 billion in combined budgets.

The amount the cities have been assessed since the Inspector General started in 2010, including what they were billed for the budget year that started Oct. 1, is up to $4.9 million, according to figures provided by the county’s budget office to The Palm Beach Post.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

County urges residents to make hurricane plans

Powerful Hurricane Matthew is bringing mayhem to Haiti and is expected to rake the Florida coast, some parts of which are now under a hurricane watch.

No evacuation orders have been issued in Florida, but Palm Beach County emergency officials are urging residents to prepare for impacts.

The county’s new web site has links to hurricane preparedness information, including information on shelters, pet care and transportation.

Wind blows coconut trees during the passage of Hurricane Matthew in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew roared into the southwestern coast of Haiti on Tuesday, threatening a largely rural corner of the impoverished country with devastating storm conditions as it headed north toward Cuba and the eastern coast of Florida. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Wind blows coconut trees during the passage of Hurricane Matthew in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

 

Appeals Court hearing Inspector General suit

Palm Beach County Inspector Genera; John Carey
Palm Beach County Inspector General John Carey

At this hour, the Fourth District Court of Appeal is hearing oral arguments in a 2011 lawsuit by 14 cities who have argued it’s illegal for Palm Beach County to create the Office of Inspector General and force them to pay for it.

Click here to watch oral arguments live

With the cities not paying, the county has made up the difference, paying its share of about $1 million a year, plus what the cities should have been paying.

The amount the cities have been assessed since the Inspector General started in 2010, including what they were billed for the budget year that started Oct. 1, is up to $4.9 million, according to figures provided by the county’s budget office to The Palm Beach Post.

Of that, the cities have paid $303,461. Fourteen have paid nothing.

Even though a judge tossed the cities’ suit in March 2015, the cities appealed, and on Oct. 22, 2015,  the Florida League of Cities filed a “friend of the court” brief with the appeals court.

The county has said that, should the cities exhaust the appeal of their lawsuit, it intends to pursue arrears.

In 2010, following a rash of scandals that left the area with the unfortunate nickname “Corruption County,” voters in each of the county’s cities overwhelmingly approved creation of the office, which provides oversight to local governments covering 13,000 employees and $7.5 billion in combined budgets.

 

Scott meets with PBC officials, urges vigilance on Hurricane Matthew

After a briefing at the Palm Beach County Emergency Operations Center Monday, Gov. Rick Scott warned Floridians to remain vigilant as Hurricane Matthew bears down on Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba.

“If Matthew impacts Florida, the destruction will be catastrophic, and you will need to be prepared,” Scott said.

Matthew’s projected path initially had the storm staying well west of Florida’s coast, but recent updates now take the storm closer, heightening concerns about effects from a storm packing 140 mile per hour winds.

“These storms can change at the last minute,” Scott said. “They can change directions. They can get stronger.”

Scott met with a range of county officials, including county commissioners, County Administrator Verdenia Baker, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and Superintendent Robert Avossa. The governor, who has declared a state of emergency for every county and put the Florida National Guard on alert, praised Palm Beach County’s elected officials and emergency personnel, saying they work well together.

Much of Scott’s focus, however, was on urging Floridians to get prepared for the possibility that the storm could change direction and bring its drenching rains and devastating winds to the Sunshine State.

He said residents should be prepared to take care of their own needs for three days, as storm damage could make it impossible for emergency personnel to reach some areas.

Scott also underscored the importance of heeding warnings from emergency officials. With the storm still hundreds of miles west of Florida, no school closings have been announced, nor have any evacuation orders been issued. But that could change if the storm’s path changes.

Residents should evacuate if ordered to do so, Scott said.

“You must leave before it’s too late,” Scott said. “We can rebuild a home. We can rebuild a business, but we can not rebuild your life. Do not ignore the direction of local officials. This is serious, and your safety depends on you being prepared.”

In addition to warning Floridians about Hurricane Matthew, the governor reminded residents about an ongoing threat – standing water, which serves as breeding pools for mosquitoes that could carry the Zika virus.

With Matthew expected to bring heavy rains to the state, Scott asked residents to act now to get rid of standing water.

“Get rid of standing water,” Scott said. “Wear bug repellent. Wear protective clothing. We’ve got to continue to fight Zika.”

Gov. Rick Scott
Gov. Rick Scott

 

 

PBC unveils redesigned web site

Palm Beach County’s redesigned web site was unveiled Sunday evening, offering visitors information on hurricane preparedness, the proposed sales tax increase and a climate change summit.

Beneath links to that information are links to county news items. Visitors can scroll down and get the weather and links to county meeting schedules and meeting agendas.

The redesign took about a year, with Public Affairs staff members handling the aesthetic design and Information System Services staffers handling more technical aspects of the work.

The county’s site had not had a major overhaul since 2006. New features of the upgraded site include language translation into both Spanish and Creole, a text resizing tool and a mobile-friendly version.

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Groundbreaking for Mounts Botanical Gardens’ ‘Windows on the Floating World’ reset for Friday

mounts01mountsmapUPDATE: The county announced today that the Oct. 5 groundbreaking, postponed by Hurricane Matthew, has been reset for 11 a.m. Friday.

Groundbreaking is set for Wednesday afternoon at Mounts Botanical Garden  for its “Windows on the Floating World,” a tropical wetland to complement Palm Beach County’s largest and oldest public garden complex.

Work on the 6,000-square-foot “Windows” is expected to take three to four months, with the garden opening in early 2017.  A small stretch of a walkway will be closed to the public during construction.

Friends of the Mounts Botanical Garden raised $470,000 for construction. The Palm Beach County Commission voted on May 3 to throw in $40,000.

The attraction, on the east side of the existing lake, will feature numerous plants from both wetlands and tropical uplands, incorporating them into an existing shade and color garden and an existing bridge overlook.