Palm Beach County and the South Florida Water Management District remain at odds over a 571-acre tract of land in the Agricultural Reserve, and the district’s governing board has not accepted the county’s invitation to have a meeting to hash things out.
At issue is whether the county will agree to the district’s request to sell the jointly-owned land in the reserve, a 22,000-acre farming zone located west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach.
The county, using money from a bond issuance approved by voters, purchased the 571 acres in 2000 with the intent to keep it in preservation or agriculture.
The district later bought a 61 percent stake in it with plans to use the site for a reservoir. But the district has shelved those plans and wants to sell the land.
Some residents, however, are concerned that selling the land to a private party could one day lead to its residential or commercial development. Those residents are not mollified by plans to expand conservation easements aimed at preventing development.
Several commissioners share those concerns and rejected a staff recommendation that they join the district in a sale.
Instead, commissioners directed staff to arrange a meeting with the governing board of the district, which has indicated it will sue the county to force a sale if one isn’t mutually agreed upon.
County Administrator Verdenia Baker reported back to commissioners that the district’s governing board “essentially felt that a meeting would be premature.”
Baker said the district directed its staff to work with their counterparts at the county on three issues: ability to obtain state funding the county would use to buy out the district; identifying a third party/environmental groups to hold the conservation easements and evaluate potential projects on which the district would use proceeds from the sale of the 571 acres.
“Unless we receive objections from the BCC, County Staff intends to work with District Staff to explore these three(3) issues and report back to the Board for further direction at either the February or March meeting,” Baker wrote to commissioners.
Commissioners Mary Lou Berger, Mack Bernard and Dave Kerner voted yes;Mayor Paulette Burdick and commissioners Hal Valeche and Steve Abrams said no. Vice Mayor Melissa McKinlay had left during the lunch break for another obligation.
County Attorney Denise Nieman said the vote could be brought back again but that for now it’s rejected. Abrams had asked before the vote if it could be modified but was told the panel Tuesday could vote only up or down.
The new package would cost the county an extra $783,702 for its first full year and $856,579 for the 2018-2019 budget year.
Palm Beach County Commissioners voted 7-0 at Tuesday’s meeting to pay a Miami firm $1 million to coordinate the sinking off the “Gray Ghost of the Florida Coast” in about 90 feet about 1½ miles off the Juno Beach Pier.
Women are significantly under-represented in Palm Beach County’s workforce while minorities are slightly over-represented, according to an affirmative action report commissioners received Tuesday.
Commissioner Mack Bernard, the only minority on the commission, expressed concerns about the low number of black employees in protective services, which includes firefighters, flight medics, fire safety inspectors and driver engineers.
Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, one of three women on the seven-person commission, recalled struggling with low pay as an entry-level employee in the county. She said other women could be having the same difficulty, leading some to leave the county workforce.
The event will provide information about low-interest rate loans for home improvement projects. Financing is available at below market-rates and homeowners with poor and limited credit history are eligible to apply. Local contractors also are invited to learn more about how these financing programs can help their businesses:
UPDATE: Except for a few dozen lines, all phone service was restored as of around 3 p.m.
About 6,000 telephone lines, to many Palm Beach County offices, went down early Monday morning, most for a half hour or so but some until 1 p.m. and the Tax Collector, and Animal Care and Control remained out as of around 2:30 p.m., according to Michael Butler, the county’s director of network services.
Butler said he hoped to have everything back up by the end of the day. He said the county still didn’t know the cause but was working with representatives of its vendor that are based in Texas and Germany.
He said the general switchboards for county offices and the courts were out to inbound calls until about 1 p.m. and the courts and Public Defender was out briefly.
Not affected: the county’s Emergency Operations Center, Sheriff’s Office, Fire-Rescue, and State Attorney.
Palm Beach County is optimistic it will get some of $7 million in available federal reimbursement for what it spent on extra security for recent visits by President-elect Donald Trump to his Mar-a-lago compound in Palm Beach.
Neither Bonlarron nor the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office had estimates yet on what was spent during the two weeks Trump was at Mar-a-Lago from Dec. 16 to Jan 1. PBSO said it might have a ballpark figure later this week.
Palm Beach County government and the 39 municipalities and other agencies had to collectively total at least $4.7 million in costs to qualify, county Public Safety Director Stephanie Sejnohasaid Thursday. She said the $3.4 million estimate is exclusively for the county and she did not have figures for the other entities.
An agenda memo for Tuesday’s meeting contains the collective bargaining agreement which was signed Nov. 16 and later approved by the rank and file, and was obtained and detailed last month by The Palm Beach Post. County administrators and commissioners met privately before their Dec. 20 regular meeting to discuss the agreement.
The agenda memo for Tuesday’s meeting says the new package will cost the county an extra $783,702 for its first full year and $856,579 for the 2018-2019 budget year, and cost “will increase annually subject to Board approved salary increases and FRS funding requirements.” FRS is the Florida Retirement System.