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.

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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.”

NEW: Golf-related entertainment venue coming to airport area

Drive Shack Palm Beach has leased 12 acres at the southwest corner of Belvedere Road and Australian Avenue for a golf-related entertainment venue featuring outdoor terraces and golf-hitting suites.

(Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

The 60,000-square foot complex will also include event, lounge and restaurant space, according to Palm Beach County documents.

Drive Shack will pay the county initial annual rent of $728,000, which will be adjusted every three years. The company is expected to make a total investment of $20 million.

The facility is expected to open in fall 2019.

Resident says PBC has failed to control mosquitoes

Palm Beach County has not done enough to control a burgeoning mosquito population in rain-soaked northern neighborhoods, says a resident who claims the pests are more numerous now than they have ever been in her 38 years in the Caloosa subdivision northeast of Bee Line Highway.

Jean Bacon said the large lots of her neighborhood are dotted with standing water from recent rains that have spawned a bumper crop of bugs that are posing an increasing health threat to her and her neighbors.

» RELATED: Why do mosquitoes bite you, but not your friend?

(Getty Images)

“These are, like, totally uncontrolled,” Bacon said. “There’s just no intention from the county in spraying. Nothing’s been done.”

Environmental Resource Management Director Rob Robbins said the county has attempted to attack the mosquito population but has been stymied by the weather.

» PHOTOS: Palm Beach County Mosquito Control Workers Hunt Down the Pests

“We were able to get a partial aerial spray in on Tuesday, June 13, covering approximately the northern third of the county before thunderstorms closed in,” he wrote in an email to The Palm Beach Post. “Since then, we haven’t gotten the weather window we need to fly and spray. Believe me, we have been wishing for it.”

Robbins said the mosquito numbers are, indeed, on the rise.

“We monitor the mosquito population, and we see the numbers climbing,” he said. “Weather looks more favorable this weekend beginning tonight. So, hopefully can get airborne and knock their numbers down.”

While Bacon has been critical of the county’s effort to combat mosquitoes, another resident, Anne Kuhl of West Palm Beach, has raised concerns about the type of chemical the county uses when it does spray.

“While I understand that a high mosquito population can pose health concerns, the unintended consequences of aerial sprayed chemicals and pesticides such as Naled may pose a greater risk to the population living in the area,” Kuhl wrote to county commissioners. “In the interest of public safety and transparency, I urge you to put an immediate hold on all aerial spraying for mosquito control until safety concerns of Naled or any other chemical used for aerial spraying in Palm Beach County are fully disclosed to the public and addressed.”

Robbins, directed by County Administrator Verdenia Baker to respond to Kuhl’s concerns, wrote that the chemical Dibrom, for which Naled is an active agent, has been approved by both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Still, Robbins said, “by spraying well below the determined safety rate and still maintaining effective disease vector control, we are delivering the best balance of public safety available.”

Would you live in a shipping container?

Rick Clegg’s shipping container eco retreat with frontage on the Loxahatchee River in Jupiter Friday, November 20, 2015. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

With some people happily living in tiny homes the size of a couple rooms in a traditional house, that’s not as nutty a question as you might think.

Certainly, Craig Vanderlaan, executive director of Crisis Housing Solutions, doesn’t think it’s a crazy notion.

During an affordable housing summit in West Palm Beach Wednesday, he told a ballroom full of county officials, lenders and developers that re-purposed shipping containers can be part of the answer to a problem they said has reached a crisis point.

Vanderlaan said shipping containers have been re-purposed into housing units in the Netherlands, Los Angeles, Michigan and in Washington, D.C.

“You can put 16 to 25 units on a half-acre,” Vanderlaan said as audience members looked at each with expressions that ranged from bemusement to intrigue. “Listen, it’s being done. We are basically shovel ready. We’ve already got the shipping containers being donated.”

Shipping container-like living isn’t just something out of a William Gibson short story. In fact, the concept has already been brought to Palm Beach County.

Rick Clegg has a shipping container “eco retreat” with frontage on the Loxahatchee River in Jupiter.

“People come here to experience what it is like to live in a container, but they come back for the location,” Clegg told The Palm Beach Post in 2015. “This is the first building permit for them in south Florida. They are all welded together. This is where I’m coming in a hurricane.”

Clegg’s retreat brings to mind comments Vanderlaan made on Wednesday.

“Look at ’em like Lego blocks,” he said. “You can fun with this. Millennials love this stuff.”

Traditional residential builders poked fun at the concept.

“I don’t want to live in a container house,” said Tony Palumbo, real estate acquisition director for Pulte, which, according to its web site, builds houses in 50 markets across the country. “I don’t care how cute it looks. And I don’t think my kids do, either.”

As the audience chuckled, Palumbo added: “But I would like to follow it through the permitting process.”

County Administrator Verdenia Baker said the county wouldn’t automatically reject a development project that included shipping container homes.

“I’m interested,” she said. “If they’re dressed properly, then, yes. Why not?”

Baker said her staff would want to make sure the shipping container homes are “durable and stable for us and not a fad.”

PBC residents get chance to weigh in on state constitution

Should Florida’s constitution be amended? How should it be amended?

Palm Beach County residents will have a chance to weigh in on that statewide discussion on April 7, when the Constitution Commission swings through the county to get input.

The commission, which hears testimony, performs research and identifies important issues, will hold a public hearing at Florida Atlantic University’s Stadium Recruiting Room at 777 Glades Road in Boca Raton from 9 a.m. to noon. The meeting is free and open to the public.

The commission meets once every 20 years and travels around the state to get input from residents.

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.

Home caregivers: March 1 is deadline to get licensed in Palm Beach County

(Gary Coronado/The Palm Beach Post)
(Gary Coronado/The Palm Beach Post)

Those providing in-home care to seniors and other vulnerable adults have had a year to get licensed. That grace period ends March 1, and those without licenses face a $500 fine and up to two months in jail, according to Palm Beach County’s Consumer Affairs Division.

The Palm Beach County Commission voted in October 2015 to require caregivers who hadn’t already done so to submit fingerprints and undergo a national criminal background check. Commissioners said their goal was to make it harder for seniors and physically or mentally disabled adults to be abused by those purporting to care for them.

Those who have committed a serious criminal offense such as fraud, elder abuse or exploitation, homicide, burglary or theft will be ineligible for the license, which must be renewed every five years.

Home-care agencies that already require employees to undergo fingerprinting and a background check must provide the county with an affidavit attesting to that fact. In those instances, the employee would still be required to be photographed and obtain a physical license, which is expected to cost $20.

Others working independently must undergo the background check, fingerprinting and photographing at a cost of about $75.

 

Appeals court rules cities don’t have to pay for IG

The 4th District Court of Appeal has ruled that area cities don’t have to contribute to an inspector general program established by Palm Beach County after voters approved a referendum calling for such a program.

That referendum was approved in November 2010 by a majority of voters in the county and by a majority in each of the county’s municipalities.

But after the county created the Office of Inspector General in 2011 – and required cities to help pay for it – 15 cities sued, arguing the county could not force them to pay for the program.

The county won the first legal battle when a trial court ruled that funding the program was not a discretionary budgetary decision and that the county could compel municipal payment for it.

The cities appealed, and today the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled in their favor, setting the stage for the case to go to the Florida Supreme Court.

Asked if the county will take the case to the state Supreme Court, County Attorney Denise Nieman said: “We’re exploring our options.”

Inspector General John Carey said he’s “deeply disappointed” by the ruling.

“My disappointment is that we must continue to provide the OIG oversight to the County and all municipalities at approximately half staff,” he said.

West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio said the ruling reaffirms that cities have the right to determine how municipal funding is spent.

“It can not be imposed on us by the county,” she said.

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

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County thanks voters for approving increase in sales tax

Palm Beach County is offering thanks to county residents who earlier this month voted to approve a 10-year increase in the sales tax from 6 cents on the dollar to 7 cents on the dollar.

That thank you is carried on the county’s redesigned website, where residents get a breakdown of how the roughly $2.7 billion in additional sales tax money will be distributed.

The county will get 30 percent of the money, which it plans to spend rebuilding parks, roads, bridges and county buildings. Cities will get 20 percent, and the School District of Palm Beach County will get the remaining 50 percent.

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Trump pays property taxes in PBC in time for discount

trumptaxes16

Getting elected president of the United States doesn’t get you out of paying your taxes.

President-elect Donald Trump ponied up for real estate he owns in Palm Beach County – including his lavish Mar-a-Lago mansion on Palm Beach – to the collective tune of $190,667.73.

Mar-a-Lago was responsible for $146,927.03 of that bill.

The Palm Beach County Tax Collector’s Office @TAXPBC tweeted out that Trump paid his bills on Monday, in time to get a 4 percent discount for those who pay by the end of November.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. (Getty Images)
President-elect Donald Trump. (Getty Images)