Palm Beach County declares state of emergency


With super powerful Hurricane Irma churning its way toward Florida, Palm Beach County has declared a state of emergency, effective at midnight, County Mayor Paulette Burdick said Tuesday evening.

No evacuations have been ordered in the county, one of a number of South Florida locations where Irma could make landfall this weekend.

County Administrator Verdenia Baker said residents who plan to evacuate should do so “sooner rather than later” to “avoid getting stranded on the highway.”

The county’s 6,000 employees are all considered essential employees and there is no plan to have them stop working before the end of the work week, Baker said, adding that she has no authority to direct other employers to let their workers leave early so that they can begin evacuating in advance of a potential landfall.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Irma was a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 185 miles per hour – a far more powerful storm than Harvey, which lingered over Greater Houston and brought devastating flooding to that area. Irma is one of the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricanes on record.

Still, Baker said not everyone in the county will need to evacuate.

“Evacuations are based on storm surge, not on wind speed,” she said.

Residents who do not live along the coast and those who don’t live near Lake Okeechobee “do not necessarily need to evacuate.”

The county does anticipate operating shelters, including a special needs shelter for which residents must pre-register.

Special needs residents can pre-register at http://www.pbcgov.com or by calling 561-712-6400.

Baker urged residents to continue monitoring Irma and obtain enough supplies to last for five to seven days.

Solid Waste Authority: post-Matthew pickups should catch up by weekend

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

Garbage and yard trash pickup, backlogged by preparations Solid-Waste-Authorityfor Hurricane Matthew, should be caught up by this weekend, staff told Tuesday’s meeting of the Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County‘s governing board.

The authority reported last week that volume was about 40 percent higher the Monday and Tuesday after Matthew’s Oct. 6 near-miss than it was for Sept 26-27, before the storm became a threat.

The authority said Matthew knocked down a lot of vegetation but that people also took the opportunity during preparation and cleanup to do mini-spring cleanings. The problem grew geometrically when pickups were canceled for Oct. 6-7.

Matthew generated about one day’s worth of additional garbage and three to four days of additional yard trash, Chief Operating Officer Mark Eyeington old county commissioners sitting Tuesday as the authority’s board.

“We’re slowly getting back to normal,” John Archambo, the authority’s director of customer relations, told the board. He said garbage pickups are caught up and yard pickups should catch up by Saturday.

The authority board also voted Tuesday to renew for one year its $250,000-a-year agreement with the Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General.

And it agreed to a 3.5 percent merit raise for Mark Hammond, executive director for the past nine years. He currently earns $199,971.

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.”