Baker Co. commissioner reaches out to McKinlay on opioids

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay

Baker County Commissioner Cathy Rhoden reached out to Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay for tips on how to start an opioids task force, an email exchange between the two commissioners shows.

“Our county, Baker County, is heavy into meth addiction and now we are seeing heroin move in,” Rhoden wrote to McKinlay.

But Rhoden has a more personal motivation to get involved in the fight.

“With a daughter who is a heroin addict and a grandson who is in prison from meth addiction I would like to do whatever it takes to educate and help our community about this issue,” Rhoden wrote.

RELATED: Should OD rescues be limited? Questions rise as Narcan’s cost soars

The daughter of a former aide to McKinlay died of an opioid overdose in November, a day before The Palm Beach Post published a series of articles on the devastation the crisis has brought to the county.

McKinlay has become a vocal advocate for more state and local action to combat the crisis, which has not only devastated families but wreaked havoc on local budgets.

The commissioner pushed for Gov. Rick Scott to declare a public health emergency, a move he ultimately took. And McKinlay has asked the county attorney to research the possibility of bringing suit against pharmaceutical companies, whose potent products are at the heart of the crisis.

GENERATION HEROIN: Read The Post’s award-winning coverage

Delray Beach has decided to file suit against Big Pharma, a decision McKinlay shared Wednesday with other elected officials as they participated in a joint meeting between the Palm Beach County Commission and the Palm Beach County League of Cities.

Responding to Rhoden about forming a task force, McKinlay reached out to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Capt. Houston Park.

“He led the charge,” McKinlay wrote. “I’ll ask him to call you.”

McKinlay invited Rhoden to Palm Beach County to attend an opioid task force meeting and offered sympathy for her family’s struggles.

“Thanks for sharing your story,” McKinlay wrote. “I am so sorry your family has been dealing with this.”

PBC looking to boost spending to combat heroin/opioid crisis

Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche at county budget workshop, March 25, 2015 (Staff photo/Eliot Kleinberg)
Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche (Staff photo/Eliot Kleinberg)

Palm Beach County commissioners, opening discussions about their 2018 budget, are considering setting aside $2 million to combat the ongoing heroin/opioid crisis.

The Palm Beach Post has provided extensive coverage of that crisis, which has devastated families and strained the resources of first responders and hospitals.

Commissioners are considering dipping into its reserves to boost current year spending to $1 million to combat the problem.

“I think this is a drop in the bucket given the scale of the problem,” Commissioner Hal Valeche said of the proposed expenditures.

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay agreed.

“Anyone who fails to see this as the public health crisis that it is is walking around with their eyes closed,” she said.

Check with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com later today for more on the county’s initial budget discussions.

Pinto, McKinlay have sharp exchange on car burglaries

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay
Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay and Royal Palm Beach Mayor Fred Pinto recently exchanged sharply worded emails over a public safety issue in the village, a break from the usually harmonious dealings between local public officials.

The flare-up was especially remarkable because it occurred between officials who share constituents. Typically, such officials are eager to be seen as working together for those constituents.

Pinto was elected to the village council in 2003 and was elected mayor in March. McKinlay was elected in 2014 to serve a district that includes Royal Palm Beach and other municipalities west of Florida’s Turnpike.

Their dispute centered on McKinlay’s response to a complaint from a Royal Palm Beach resident and council member about a rise in car burglaries in the village.

McKinlay reached out to the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and sought to hold a community meeting on the issue.

Pinto, displeased, admonished the commissioner for not first reaching out to him or the village administrator, Ray Liggins.

“Any issues or concerns regarding crime activity in the Village should have been brought to the Village Manager’s and my attention,” Pinto wrote to McKinlay. “Members on the Village Council will be advised that any ‘official business on behalf of the Village’ with The County Commissioners Office, or other agencies must go through the Village Manager and the Office of the Mayor.”

McKinlay fired back.

“My apologies but when residents in my district contact me and one of your councilmembers, I feel obligated to respond,” she wrote to Pinto. “I fail to see the problem here. We simply were trying to address some concerned citizens’ worries and all I did was ask my contacts at PBSO if there was a possibility we could do a community meeting with the worried residents.”

McKinlay later added: “Of the seven cities I represent, no other city censures their elected members from contacting me directly. I am here to help whenever someone within District 6 contacts me. My apologies if anyone felt their toes had been stepped on, but such a strong censorship is not necessary.”

Check with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com later today for more on this story.

Palm Beach County and its lifeguards union at impasse

092516-pbc-lifeguards-3Just weeks after the Palm Beach County Commission failed last month, in a 3-3 tie, to approve a collective bargaining agreement with improved pay and benefits for lifeguards, a new round of bargaining is at an impasse.

The sticking point is the same one on which the lifeguards and the county have deadlocked for years: “special risk.”

The sweeping agreement, reached in November and ratified by lifeguards, would have provided several employee benefits changes that lifeguards have sought for years. The county would have agreed to approve all applications by lifeguards to the state for “special risk” status, which would nearly double the amount of their Florida Retirement System pensions and would allow them to retire earlier. Lifeguards have for years tried to get the county to grant them the status.

Union president Rick Poulette declared the impasse in a Feb. 2 letter to the county, saying the county had said it was “special risk” that is the sticking point.

“As you are aware, this is the main issue that brought us to the bargaining table in the first place and now brings us to the impasse stage that we are currently in,” Poulette wrote.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

Palm Beach County Attorney: lifeguard benefits fight must go back to bargaining

092516-pbc-lifeguards-3

A Palm Beach County Commission package of improved pay and benefits for lifeguards, which failed Tuesday in a 3-3 tie, won’t come back to the commission, at least not right away, County Attorney Denise Nieman has told commissioners.

Because the commission was voting on a collective bargaining agreement, it can’t just bring the issue back at its next meeting, Nieman said Friday in an email. Instead, she said, state law requires that the issue go back to County Administrator Verdenia Baker for a new round of bargaining.

“To be clear, this item is not to be resurrected by a Commissioner at the next or any future meeting,” Nieman wrote. “Instead, it’s back to the negotiating table it goes.”

The sweeping agreement, reached in November, and ratified by lifeguards, would provide several employee benefits changes that lifeguards have sought for years. The biggest was that the county would have agreed to approve all applications by lifeguards to the state for “special risk” status, which would nearly double the amount of their Florida Retirement System pensions and would allow them to retire earlier.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

 

Palm Beach County offers hands-only CPR training

Hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation might save the life of someone you love. Get a free 30 042414-pbg-charity-1minutes of CPR training at one of 21 Palm Beach County locations from 9 a.m to noon Saturday, Feb. 11.

Hands-only CPR training teaches medical help you can give heart-attack victims before paramedics arrive.

Sessions will be at 19 Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue stations and two training centers (see below). They’re taught by students from the Palm Beach County School District’s medical magnet program and Palm Beach State College’s paramedic program.

For more, visit pbcems.org.

Locations:

cpr01

Palm Beach County fails to OK new package of pay, benefits for lifeguards

092516-pbc-lifeguards-3Palm Beach County commissioners, by a 3-3 vote, failed Tuesday to approve a sweeping agreement that provides for many changes the county’s ocean rescue lifeguards have sought for years.

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.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com

Palm Beach County Commission votes Tuesday on sweeping package updating lifeguards’ pay and benefits

092516-pbc-lifeguards-3Palm Beach County commissioners on Tuesday will vote on a sweeping agreement that provides for many changes the county’s ocean rescue lifeguards have sought for years.

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.

Palm Beach County holds closed talks Tuesday on lifeguards’ ‘risk’ status

092516-pbc-lifeguards-3Palm Beach County ocean lifeguards’ years-long fight for “special risk” status is set to go behind closed doors Tuesday.

County administrators plan to meet with commissioners before Tuesday’s regular meeting to discuss the concept. Because it’s a form of collective bargaining, the meeting will be behind closed doors. County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay would say Wednesday only that it will cover “the staff direction we gave at previous meetings.”

The lifeguards have tried to get the county to grant them a state-permitted classification, which would nearly double the amount of their Florida Retirement System pensions and would allow them to retire earlier. The county has balked.

But in late September, commissioners directed staff to research supporting state legislation that would automatically apply “special risk” to ocean rescue guards.

Commissioners also have asked county staff to look into changing the job description for ocean rescue guards, perhaps to have them automatically declared EMTs — emergency medical technicians — which also would help the county avoid having to give back-benefits to previous lifeguards.

And the county has suggested across-the-board raises.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

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)