Palm Beach County to claim $3.4 million in federal aid for Hurricane Matthew costs

Matthew Oct. 6
Matthew Oct. 6

Palm Beach County is set Tuesday to formalize its agreement for federal aid for at least $3.4 million in costs associated with Hurricane Matthew’s glancing blow in October.

Palm Beach is one of 15 counties along the east side of the peninsula that qualified for Federal Emergency Management Agency aid under a FEMA declaration issued in late October.

Palm Beach County commissioners will vote on the agreement at their meeting on Tuesday.

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 Sejnoha said Thursday. She said the $3.4 million estimate is exclusively for the county and she did not have figures for the other entities.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

Tropical Shipping sending supplies, toys to Haiti

Tropical Shipping is sending about $3,000 worth of supplies, including diapers, clothing and toys, to Haiti, which suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Matthew earlier this month.

Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters, who is leading an aid delegation to the country later this month, hailed the assistance and is urging others to help.

The storm killed an estimated 1,000 people, cut off communities and damaged the country’s already sub-standard housing stock.

Area residents can take relief supplies to a donation site at Blue Heron Boulevard and Avenue O in Riviera Beach.

Monarch Shipping is delivering the supplies to Haiti free of charge.

Tropical Shipping’s employees donated the $3,000 in relief supplies. It was important, they said, to include toys.

“In all of this, we still want to make the children smile,” said Jennifer Hill, Tropical Shipping’s director of governmental and community affairs.

Wind blows coconut trees during the pas(AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

 

County scaling back emergency operations after near miss

Palm Beach County, breathing a collective sigh of relief, is scaling back emergency operations after its brush with Hurricane Matthew caused minimal damage.

“It’s been busy,” County Mayor Mary Lou Berger said during a press conference Friday at the county’s Emergency Operations Center. “It’s been interesting. It’s been annoying. It’s been exciting. But we have gotten through this.”

All evacuees can return, and the county is under no warnings or other advisories, County Administrator Verdenia Baker said.

An assessment found no damage to county structures or assets. About 38,750 people in the county lost power. FPL said it expects to restore power to all customers by Saturday.

Power outages or internal malfunctions have knocked out 20 to 30 traffic signals. The county urges residents to treat intersections with non-working traffic signals as a four-way stop.

Intracoastal bridges remain closed to boat traffic but are open to motorists.

Some 7,560 people sought refuge from Hurricane Matthew at the county’s 13 shelters, with 184 people staying at the special needs shelter at the South Florida Fairgrounds.

The pet-friendly shelter at West Boynton Recreation Center reached full capacity, with 245 people and 200 animals.

County staffers fielded 5,289 calls from residents who had questions about everything from warnings to road closures.

The Emergency Operation Center, where some county staff have stayed overnight monitoring the storm, will scale back its operations at 5 p.m. but will remain at an elevated level of readiness until Saturday afternoon or longer if needed.

County officials were ready for questions about whether they acted too aggressively given the muted impacts of the storm.

Baker said she would not change the county’s actions and warnings. Emergency Management Director Bill Johnson agreed.

“If folks have doubts whether we made the right decision, they just need to look up the coast a little and see what damage the storm is doing,” Johnson said.

Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

 

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.

palm-beach-county-logo

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)

 

Trimming your tree in advance of storm? Don’t do it.

101712 palms 01Planning to trim your trees in advance of this weekend’s possible storm? It’s too late.

The Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County is urging people not to trim trees or do major yard or construction projects until the threat passes. The reason: the authority might not be able to get to all those piles of yard trash, and if the storm comes, they’ll be piles of potential missiles.

For more, call the authority at 561-697-2700 or visit its special hurricane page.

 

Taylor to host hurricane preparedness town hall meeting

Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor will host a hurricane preparedness town hall meeting today at 6:30 p.m. at the Weisman Governmental Center.

Major Gen. Michael Calhoun, the adjutant general of the Florida National Guard, is expected to attend the meeting, which will be held on the 6th floor.

The meeting is free and open to the public.

Taylor
Taylor

Frankel to push for FEMA to forgive counties’ storm debts

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel
Frankel

MDN1-FRANCES_MULCH_DEBRIS09A bill that gets Palm Beach County out of most of a $3.28 million federal tab for hurricane cleanup has passed the U.S. House and is on its way to the Senate, U.S. Rep Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, said late Monday.

The amount owed by the county government, and other local entities within the county, totals $14.1 million of the total $35 million owed by entities in Florida, Frankel said.

Potentially off the hook besides the county: the cities of Boca Raton: ($4.7 million), Lake Worth ($3.8 million) and Palm Beach Gardens ($351,000); and Jupiter Christian School ($90,000.)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Florida Division of Emergency Management had given more than $120 million to the county to help recover from 2004’s hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, 2005’s Hurricane Wilma, and 2008’s Tropical Storm Fay. The Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, of which FEMA is a part, later did an audit, leading to the calls for repayments.

In January, Palm Beach County Commissioners agreed to give back $341,858 of the $3.28 million and appeal the rest.

The current legislation, introduced in the House by Frankel, who was West Palm Beach mayor from 2003 to 2011, gives the feds a 3-year window to recoup claims, except in cases of fraud.

“This provision will give FEMA the necessary time to review grant awards while providing certainty for communities so they can plan their budgets accordingly,” Frankel said in a release. It quotes Palm Beach County Mayor Mary Lou Berger as saying. “It is unconscionable for FEMA to propose de-obligating previously awarded disaster funds for projects that have been certified complete by the State.”