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.

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(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.”

Tiny houses considered in addressing big problem in PBC

Darrin and Jodi Swank’s 520-square foot house in Loxahatchee. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

The scarcity of affordable housing in Palm Beach County is a big problem. One county commissioner thinks tiny houses could be, well, at least a tiny part of the solution.

Earlier this week, as county commissioners were getting an update on redevelopment efforts in the Westgate/Belvedere Homes community, Commissioner Melissa McKinlay offered a suggestion: Why not allow tiny houses to be built there?

Tiny houses – the subject of HGTV’s Tiny House Builders show – are an increasingly popular choice for some who want to reduce their impact on the environment, save money and push back against over-consumption.

“Perhaps we could look at some pilot language,” McKinlay said.

There was no vote on the idea, but no one spoke in opposition to it, either. The Westgate Belvedere Homes Community Redevelopment Agency is looking into it, as is county staff.

Commissioners had just finished getting an overview of the county’s workforce housing program and lamented, again, the dearth of affordable housing.

Tiny houses could be an option for single people or young families, McKinlay said, adding that Leon County has already begun approving plans for tiny houses there.

“Maybe we could look at them for an example,” she said.

Darrin and Jodi Swank are raising their three children in a 520-square foot house in Loxahatchee.

“It’s five people in one little house,” Jodi Swank told The Palm Beach Post in July. “We try to live simple. And we’ve loved it.”

County gets favorable ruling in push to extend SR7

Palm Beach County won a big battle in the fight to extend State Road 7 Friday when Administrative Law Judge Bram Carter found that the county had followed all applicable permitting criteria and is entitled to an environmental resource permit.

The county has pushed to extend State Road 7 north to Northlake Boulevard, but the city of West Palm Beach has pushed back, arguing that the extension threatens the Grassy Waters Preserve, a 24-square mile marsh that is the source of its drinking water.

Carter’s recommended order is a major victory for the county.

“The project would not adversely impact public health, safety, and welfare associated with the city’s public water supply in the water catchment area because the project would have no effect on the city’s water supply operations,” the judge wrote. “In addition, there are reasonable protective measures to prevent a spill from entering the city’s public water supply.”

All parties now have 15 days to petition the South Florida Water Management District with errors they believe Carter committed in the order.

If SFWMD agrees that an error has been made, the erroneous portion of Carter’s order will not be followed.

But in an email to county officials, Assistant County Attorney Kim Phan pointed out that un-ringing the bell Carter just struck is no small task.

“An agency’s ability to reject any portion of a recommended order is very limited to conclusions of law and interpretation of administrative rules,” Phan wrote. “Also, the agency may not reject or modify the findings of fact unless it was not based on competent substantial evidence on the proceedings (or) did not comply with essential requirements of law.”

WPB concerns slow work on Seminole Pratt Whitney expansion

Minto’s Westlake Community Center on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road across from Seminole Ridge High School in Westlake. (Allen Eyestone /The Palm Beach Post)

Construction in Palm Beach County’s newest city, Westlake, will add more cars in the coming years to already over-burdened Seminole Pratt Whitney Road.

That’s why the Seminole Improvement District, which oversees road and sewer services in Westlake, wants to widen the road.

But the city of West Palm Beach, mindful of not running afoul of state law giving it control of a part of the M-Canal and a nearby water catchment area, has not issued a license so the bridge over the canal can be widened.

The county has already signed off on the widening project, and Minto Communities, the developer building Westlake, has already agreed to help pay for it.

The dispute with West Palm Beach, however, has slowed work on the project, increasing fears of the type of traffic snarls preservationists warned against when they opposed large-scale development in the area.

A city official says she’s confident the dispute can be worked out. Th Seminole Improvement District has triggered a state-mandated mediation process, which must be pursued before the parties can file suit against one another.

PBC being asked for 27 acres of park land for sports fields

PBC Commissioner Hal Valeche

Palm Beach Shores Mayor Myra Koutzen has written to County Commissioner Hal Valeche to express her support for a plan to build sports fields on 27 acres of the North County District Park.

Koutzen notes that Palm Beach Gardens wants to use some of its money from the one-cent sales tax increase to build sports fields on park land, which is located in Valeche’s district.

“As a small community with very limited public space, our residents have particular need of the types of recreational space proposed for that area of the North County District Park,” Koutzen wrote in am email to Valeche. “We are particularly appreciative that Palm Beach Gardens opens their facilities to residents of neighboring communities such as ours. This proposal would support their ability to continue to provide this access in the future.”

Gator takes a siesta in Pine Glades Natural Area

Good thing he wasn’t in Big Cypress National Preserve.

No pythons were in sight (nor was intrepid Palm Beach Post reporter Joe Capozzi) Wednesday when this small alligator swam up to greet a reporter who had ventured out to the Pine Glades Natural Area in Jupiter for a story.

Said reporter remained safely on a deck overlooking the gator’s watery haunt. After swimming to a spot near the base of the deck, the gator, about four feet long, remained still near the surface of the water for the duration of the reporter’s stay.

Guess he just wanted to say hello.

An eighth commissioner?

orbit

A new Palm Beach County commissioner was sworn in Thursday to rep-….ah, actually, that’s Orbit, the Houston Astros’ large, green mascot, who stopped by to offer silent thanks for support in building the new minor league ballpark that’s scheduled to open on Tuesday.

Commissioners were happy to see Orbit and grinned broadly as they donned Astros caps and showed off commemorative uniforms, each adorned with their last name and the number 17 to indicate the year of the new ballpark’s opening.

Administrator: Palm Beach County on the rise; extra penny will help

Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Baker in 2016 talk (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker started her “State of the County” update Wednesday to a business group by talking about pennies.

“Thank you for your support to reinvest in our community,” Baker said at a breakfast meeting for the Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce. She referred to the 1-cent sales tax surcharge voters approved in November. The county, the school board and municipalities will split the money, which mostly will repair and improve roads and buildings.

Now some eight years removed from the real estate crash and recession, Palm Beach County continues on the rise, Baker said.

The county has added 11,500 jobs, its unemployment rate is 5.1 percent, and it is “experiencing a healthier economy with tourism, agriculture, biotech and transportation continuing to be vibrant aspects of what makes the county a great place to live, work and play,” she said.

And, she said, “We are also enjoying record-setting tourism and a robust real estate market. Property values and home sales are up, while foreclosures and interest rates are low.”

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

Cold War sub would sink off Jupiter, become Florida’s first sub artificial reef

(USS Clamagore Preservation & Memorial Assn)
(USS Clamagore Preservation & Memorial Assn)

For decades, a 320-foot Cold War-era submarine has been a floating tourist attraction in downtown Charleston S.C. Now a group hopes to sink it off Jupiter, perhaps as early as this summer, as part of Palm Beach County’s renowned 150-plus piece artificial reef program and as an “underwater museum.” Organizers said it would be the first sub ever turned into a reef in Florida.

Palm Beach County plans to sink the USS Clamagore, the “Gray Ghost of the Florida Coast,” in about 100 feet, according to a memo for Tuesday’s county commission meeting.

County Commissioners would vote to approve paying a Miami firm $1 million. The money will come from a vessel registration fee trust fund.

The diesel-powered Clamagore, built in 1945, just after the end of World War II, ran up and down the Atlantic coast from Key West to Charleston and trained sailors to track Soviet nuclear subs. It was retired in 1975 and since 1981 has been docked since at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Charleston.

According to the memo for Tuesday’s commission meeting, while the sub has been a popular draw, it has “structural fatigue” so extensive it’s not practical to repair it enough for tourists to safely tour it. Several groups had suggested new homes for the sub but couldn’t come up with the money.

The museum decided the sub deserved a better fate than a scrapyard and signed a deal last spring with Artificial Reefs International-Clamagore, a subsidiary of Miami-based CRB Geological and Environmental Services, to find a home for it somewhere in the ocean, ARI principal Joe Weatherby said Tuesday.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

Jupiter Farms man released from South Korea jail

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Julius Malinowski (Family photo)

Julius Malinowski is coming home.

The 79-year-old retired Federal Reserve vice president, who winters in Jupiter Farms, has been released from jail in South Korea and arrives Tuesday night in Miami. He’ll spend a few days at the Jupiter Farms home of his son Kent before returning to Virginia, Kent said in an email.

Julius Malinowski has been in a South Korea jail since Nov. 10, charged with fraud, his son said. The family says he is the real victim, set up by people posing as executives of North Carolina-based BB&T Bank to unknowingly rip off a South Korean businessman.

Kent Malinowski said Dec. 21 that his father’s attorneys have told him his father agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a 1-year sentence that was suspended.

Kent said at the time he had an emotional phone call of less than 10 minutes with his father, who was awaiting clearance to leave. He said his father “choked up, and said to me, ‘Thank you… thank you…for all you did to get me out.  You saved my life.’  That’s when I couldn’t hold back my own tears. Both of us… on the phone… sobbing like little kids. This phone call was the single greatest gift of my life…it’s taken me 57 years to experience the unrestrained joy of a Christmas miracle.”