Palm 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.
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.
The third and last hearing of the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation before the 2017 session starts will be 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. next Monday, Dec. 19, at the Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center on the Palm Beach State College Belle Glade campus, 1977 S.W. College Drive, Belle Glade.
Describing it as yet another consequence of what she’s called deficient money from the state, Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller Sharon Bock said Friday she’s closing her “Midwestern Communities” service center in Royal Palm Beach on Fridays.
The new hours start Aug. 5 at the center, at 200 Civic Center Way, Suite 500.
Bock has said her budget took a $2.6 million cut this budget year, leading to layoffs and branch closings. She already closed operations on Fridays last year at her offices in the North County and South County courthouses.
The ride companies have said the rules are enough to guarantee they will operate safely. But taxi firms say rules don’t go far enough to protect the public and give the ride services an unfair advantage.
Palm Beach County set a temporary operating agreement for app-based ride services in September 2014. A year later, the county opted not to set its own permanent rules and continued its temporary agreement, hoping that the Florida Legislature would enact uniform regulations for the entire state. In mid-March, the state body adjourned without a law in place. With the county’s temporary agreement set to expire April 30, the issue came back to commissioners.
The contentious issue of how to regulate Uber and other app-based ride programs, and what it means for the traditional taxi and limo industry, could be back before the Palm Beach County Commission as early at next month.
The issue could come back to the commission’s April 5 meeting, Brock Rosayn, president of Metro Taxi of Palm Beach County and a member of the county’s Vehicle for Hire Advisory Committee, said Sunday.
UPDATE: March 1, 9:40am: At the start of today’s Palm Beach County Commission meeting, County Administrator Verdenia Baker said the proposal has been changed to end the temporary operating agreement not at the end of September but to instead extend it just another two months to the end of April.
Palm Beach County Commissioners are set at their next meeting, March 1, to extend for another six months the operating agreement with Uber app-based ride program and similar outfits that already is approaching a year and a half.
Palm Beach and other South Florida counties, and the entire state, have been wrestling with rules for Uber and other operations. Taxi and limo firms have said a person’s in just as much danger getting into a stranger’s private car as a taxi and that the app-based firms’ drivers should have the same background check and insurance rules. Uber argues it’s a different animal.