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.


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)


Palm Beach County: let’s do more for lifeguards

092516-pbc-lifeguards-3Palm Beach County Commissioners told county lifeguards Tuesday they still can’t stand with them on a “special risk” category for better benefits. But the county said it would help them to try to get the rules changed in Tallahassee. And maybe give them a raise.

For decades, lifeguards have tried to get the state-permitted classification, which would nearly double the amount of their Florida Retirement System pensions and would allow them to retire earlier.

They made their case at a Sept. 13 County Commission meeting, started a petition campaign and argued again at Tuesday’s meeting.

If the county concurred with the lifeguards, it would have to make EMT certification mandatory for all of them, including the 35 of the 94 lifeguards who aren’t certified, Assistant County Administrator Nancy Bolton told commissioners Tuesday. She said that would cost about $511,000 a year.

“We do not believe we have a legal basis” to back the lifeguards’ attempts, Bolton said.

She said the proper solution would instead by state legislation, and, if commissioners so directed, her staff would push for it.

The commission directed staff to research that, and changing lifeguards’ job description to avoid complications, and giving lifeguards raises.

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Former CIA director, congressman Porter Goss speaks Tuesday

poprter-cia-flag-photoPorter Goss, the former U.S. Congressman and former CIA director, will discuss national security Tuesday at the season opener of the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches speaker series.

The noon meeting is at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, 650 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach.




County to spend $1.7M for Royal Palm Beach fire rescue stations

Palm Beach County will spend $1.7 million to purchase two fire rescue stations owned by the Village of Royal Palm Beach.

County commissioners approved an agreement to purchase the stations when they met on Tuesday.

The county, which provides fire rescue service to the village, rents the buildings for $225,000 per year and determined that it would be less expensive to purchase the stations rather than continue renting them.

Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue Chief Jeffrey Collins at county budget workshop, March 25, 2015 (Staff photo/Eliot Kleinberg)
Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue Chief Jeffrey Collins at county budget workshop, March 25, 2015 (Staff photo/Eliot Kleinberg)


Body cameras in the PBC budget?

Palm Beach County’s proposed $4.3 billion budget includes money for lots of things. But it doesn’t include a penny for law enforcement body cameras.

For Commissioner Shelley Vana, that’s a problem.

Vana agreed with a call made by fellow Commissioner Priscilla Taylor that body cameras should be purchased for use by Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies.

The cameras, supported by some concerned about law enforcement misconduct, were to be bought with money from an increase in the county’s sales tax. However, as the sales tax debate moved forward, the cameras were removed from the sales tax projects list.

During the first of two public hearings on the proposed 2017 county budget Tuesday night, Vana said she thinks money for the cameras ought to be included in the budget.

“I just think that, if we do a budget without body cameras, it sends a message we’re not serious,” Vana said.

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has said he’d have his deputies wear the body cameras – as long as he didn’t have to account for them in his budget.

Commissioners will hold a final public hearing on the proposed budget on September 19. It’s not clear if commissioners will decided to amend the budge to include the cameras, which, according to County Administrator Verdenia Baker, would cost an estimated $10 million.

Several commissioners have said that, while they are open to the idea of body cameras, they are concerned about ongoing costs associated with their use.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Shelley Vana (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County Commissioner Shelley Vana (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Commissioners ask county staff to look into sober homes

Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor has directed county staff members to conduct an overview of sober homes in the county, which have generated opposition from those who feel the private, unregulated facilities lead to increased violence and drug abuse in some communities.

“We as commissioners really need to know what’s going on,” Taylor said during a meeting Tuesday.

It is not clear what staff will review, and there is no timetable for the completion of that review.

Taylor’s colleagues were in general agreement with the notion of a review. Commissioner Shelley Vana added that she wants to know what can be done to make sure sober home operators who solicit for out-of-town clients provide those clients with a way to return to their communities if treatment is unsuccessful and ends early.

Palm Beach County Commissioner District 7, Priscilla A. Taylor in West Palm Beach, Florida on March 22, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County Commissioner  Priscilla A. Taylor (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Body cameras for PBSO deputies could cost $10M

Body cameras for Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office deputies could cost as much as $10 million, County Administrator Verdenia Baker said.

County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, campaigning for re-election, has made a renewed call for body cameras.

Taylor said she’d like to see money from a proposed increase in the sales tax used to pay for the  body cameras. Her colleagues on the commission would have to agree to use sales tax money for body cameras.

An initial sales tax projects list included $27.4 million for in-car cameras, body cameras and radios. Baker said the plan was to purchase the equipment together to save money.

As the sales tax debate moved forward, however, money for body cameras was removed from the projects list. When the commission meets on Tuesday, Taylor plans to urge her colleagues to put funding for body cameras back on the sales tax projects list.



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.


County establishes fines for new home caregivers ordinance

Home caregivers who fail to undergo a fingerprint-based background check every five years could be fined $500, according to a resolution passed by the Palm Beach County Commission establishing a fine and fee schedule.

Caregivers would face a $500 fine for successive violations of the new licensing law, which commissioners approved in October.

The fingerprint-based checks are the same ones that have hung up negotiations between Uber and the county. Uber has objected to the county’s plan to require that its drivers undergo the checks, arguing that would reduce the number of people willing to serve as drivers.

Cab drivers have been required to undergo the fingerprint-based checks and complain that Uber is getting special treatment.

Uber is doing business in the county on a temporary operating agreement that was extended on Tuesday, not long after commissioners voted to established the system of fines for home caregivers.

(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)