Housing Seminar set for Jan. 23 in Belle Glade

022215-met-pbg-house-repair-04Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay will host a seminar for homeowners and local contractors from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23 at the Palm Beach County Public Library Belle Glade Branch, at 725 NW 4th St. in Belle Glade.

The event will provide information about low-interest rate loans for home improvement projects. Financing is available at below market-rates and homeowners with poor and limited credit history are eligible to apply. Local contractors also are invited to learn more about how these financing programs can help their businesses:

Programs:

  • *U.S. Department of Energy low-interest rate loans to for energy efficiency improvements.
  • The non-profit Solar and Energy Loan Fund, which provides low-interest rate options for improvements. Call (772) 468-1818.
  • Contractor recruitment for SELF. Approved local contractors can use SELF financing options.
  • Job training programs available from the building trades.

Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation meets next week in Belle Glade

palm-beach-county-logoThe 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.

At the hearing, the group — comprised of Palm Beach County’s state senators and state representatives — will vote on the local bills submitted for consideration and will take comments from the public. The proposed local bills can be found on the delegation website: www.PalmBeachDelegation.com.

For more, call the delegation office at 561-355-2406.

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Palm Beach County Inspector General audit critical of Loxahatchee Groves

OIGLoxahatchee Groves’ contract with its town manager “did not align with the town charter and creates risks for the town,” the Palm Beach County Inspector General said Friday in an audit report that said it found more than $200,000 in questioned costs, and identified “deficiencies and compliance issues.”

The town, which turns 10 next month, contracts out all government services to a private firm.

The Inspector General’s audit,which covered budget years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, identified problems with contractor monitoring, overseeing the contract of Town Manager William Underwood, purchasing and credit card use, payment processing, and asset management.

Town Manager Bill Underwood did tell Inspector General John Carey, in a letter dated Tuesday, and included with the audit, that Carey’s office doesn’t understand well the concept of contracted municipal services. He said Carey’s report “cherry picks” selected documents.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

What’s a broken window worth? In Pahokee, $22,000.

pahokee
City of Pahokee

Palm Beach County’s economic recovery is slowing in reaching Pahokee. So the town along Lake Okeechobee, where unemployment’s been as high as 27 percent and property values rose at a lower rate than any other municipality, doesn’t have money lying around. And for want of that $22,000, it can’t, at least for now, bulldoze a crime magnet.

A 2-story building at 171 Booker Place is owned by a Lake Worth church that had hoped to renovate it as a homeless residence. But that plan fizzled, and the complex “has become a blighted nuisance to the surrounding community, and a haven for illegal activity (drugs being sold, prostitution, drug-use, and other illicit activities),” City Manager Chandler Williamson said Tuesday in an email to County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, whose district includes the Glades.

The Broken Window Theory is in plain sight,” Williamson wrote, referring to a doctrine that says a broken window suggests no one cares and helps lead to blight and crime.

Williamson
Williamson

Williamson said the owners have offered to sign the place over. But there’s $22,000 in back taxes. Williamson asked for a break. No, the county said. Its hands are tied.

“We cannot waive taxes,” Sherry Brown, director of the county’s Office of Financial Management and Budget, said in an email. “If the city takes ownership, they are responsible.”

Williamson couldn’t be reached to learn the city’s next move. 

Palm Beach County set to urge feds: fix Lake Okeechobee dike now

DikeFail
(US Army Corps of Engineers graphic)

Palm Beach County Commissioners are expected Tuesday to tell the federal government: Free up money to finish fixes to the Lake Okeechobee dike before something bad happens.

The commission is set at its regular meeting to vote on a resolution urging the U.S. Congress to find the money for the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation project, the first major rehab in some 75 years, and calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “to expedite its repairs to the dike to ensure the public health, safety, and welfare of the cities surrounding Lake Okeechobee and the Corps’ ability to manage the lake’s water level in a way that will significantly reduce the impact to the coastal estuaries,” an agenda item says.

The first part of that refers to concerns about breaches in the dike during the hurricane season; it’s just now starting its busiest stretch. The second part is related: heavy rains have left the giant lake swollen and high, and to reduce pressure on the dike, the Corps has been sending millions of gallons of fresh water down to the St. Lucie Inlet in Stuart and the Caloosahatchee estuary in Fort Myers, where the imbalance altered the fresh-salt mix, endangering plant and animal life and leading to a massive, odorous and ugly algae bloom that’s devastated the Treasure Coast economy.

With one vote, Massey re-elected president of Seminole Improvement District

Scott Massey was re-elected president of the Seminole Improvement District on Monday.

Five residents of the area served by the district recently voted to incorporate the area into Palm Beach County’s newest city, Westlake. But the district continues to provide water and road maintenance services.

Minto's Westlake Community Center sits empty on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road across from Seminole Ridge High School in Westlake, Florida on June 24, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Minto’s Westlake Community Center sits empty on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road across from Seminole Ridge High School in Westlake, Florida on June 24, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Massey was re-elected with the only vote that counted — that of John Carter, vice president of Minto Communities, the largest landowner in the district.

District rules allow Carter to cast proxy votes based on majority landownership, and he cast those votes for Massey.

Palm Beach County Water Utilities: we got a clean bill of health for 2015

081914 met Stiles 01
Stiles (Post/Bill Ingram)

092707 MET Glades Water 3.jPalm Beach County Water Utilities’ drinking water did not have any state or federal violations in the 2015 calendar year, Director Jim Stiles told county commissioners Thursday in an e-mail.

Stiles, in issuing his annual summary, said he was “proud to report” that water both in the general utility and in the area formerly covered by the Glades Utility Authority “met or exceeded all federal and state requirements.”

Last year, the primary service area got a clean rating for 2014, but the Glades authority got one violation, for unacceptable levels of coliform bacteria.

The county utility, which serves about 500,000 households countywide, including the Glades, said it can produce up to 110 million gallons a day of drinking water.

It says drinking water nearly always will contain small amounts of some contaminants, including viruses and bacteria from sewage, plants and animals; salts and metals from runoff; pesticides and herbicides; organic chemicals; and radioactive contaminants.

Read 2015 Water Quality report:

 

“1000 Friends of Florida” appeals rejection of attempt to block Minto West/Westlake

080914-Minto-West-1The group fighting to overturn approval of the sprawling development now called Westlake said Wednesday it’s appealing last month’s ruling to dismiss its case.

“”We believe this ruling is inconsistent with numerous comprehensive plan policies regarding development and road design in and around rural communities,” 1000 Friends of Florida attorney Robert Hartsell said in a statement.

After the county approved the project, formerly known as Minto West, environmentalists, preservationists and residents of The Acreage sued, arguing that the project violated state laws against sprawl and that the county had ignored its own comprehensive plan.

Last year, an administrative law judge ruled that the county did not violate state laws against sprawl in approving pro-Minto changes to the county’s comprehensive plan. After the state Department of Economic Opportunity affirmed that ruling, the only legal challenge remaining was whether the county ignored its comprehensive plan in approving the project.

Acting Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Edward Garrison ruled April 26 that the county did not do so.

The ruling was the latest setback for environmentalists and preservationists, who argue Westlake and other large development projects will lead to sprawl and damage the environment.

Meanwhile, Minto, using a state law passed in 2012, is backing efforts to have the project area incorporated as the county’s 39th city.

 

Glades to host criminal justice academy

PHi_j0193This summer, for the first time, the Glades will host a “citizens’ criminal justice academy.”

The academy will meet from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on consecutive Thursdays, June 9, 16, 23, and 30, at the Belle Glade Library/Civic Center, at 725 N.W. 4th St., in Belle Glade.

Sponsors are the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, and Palm Beach County Office of Community Revitalization.

The academy is designed to teach lay people about specific aspects of the criminal justice system and how decisions are made. Participants will see demonstrations, meet with decision makers involved with criminal justice, and tour the jail.

Participants must be at least 16 and can earn up to 12 community service hours.

Applications are required; visit http://www.pbcgov.org/criminaljustice or call 561-355-4943.

Palm Beach County judge hears call to toss Minto lawsuit

A judge Monday heard arguments in a call to throw out a lawsuit trying to block the massive development once called Minto West and now known as Westlake.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Edward A. Garrison made no ruling Monday, saying he’d study the case a080914-Minto-West-1nd get back to the lawyers.

In December 2014, the environmental group 1,000 Friends of
Florida, and a grassroots coalition of Loxahatchee and Acreage residents, filed separate motions, seeking to overturn the Palm Beach County Commission’s October 2014 green-lighting of the sprawling mixed-use development.

It would feature 4,500 homes and 2.1 million square feet of offices and retail on 3,800 acres that once raised citrus trees in the heart of The Acreage. The plaintiffs said it would snarl traffic, invite urban sprawl and alter the area’s rural way of life.

Robert Hartsell (l) and Ralf Brookes, attorneys for plaintiffs (Staff photo/Eliot Kleinberg)
Robert Hartsell (l) and Ralf Brookes, attorneys for plaintiffs (Staff photo/Eliot Kleinberg)

In its motion for summary judgment, the county had argued law doesn’t allow 1000 Friends or the residents to get the relief they seek. Plaintiffs had filed a response disputing that.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.