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 or by calling 561-712-6400.

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

Taylor hosting meeting to oppose Glades land bill

Palm Beach County Commissioner District 7, Priscilla A. Taylor in West Palm Beach, Florida on March 22, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Former Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor is putting together a breakfast meeting Saturday to call attention to legislation she argues will harm residents of the Glades, an impoverished area along the banks of Lake Okeechobee.

The object of Taylor’s ire is a bill filed in the Florida Senate (SB 10) that calls for the purchase of land south of the lake for a reservoir project that would end the necessity of the lake discharges blamed for the algae bloom that fouled water along the Treasure Coast last year.

The legislation, authored by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, calls for the land to be purchased from willing sellers. But Taylor, a former state legislator whose district included the Glades, worries landowners in the area would be compelled to sell.

One area of particular concern, Taylor said, includes a mill that employs more than 1,000 people.

The closing of that mill “would be devastating to that area,” Taylor said, adding that she is frustrated that there have been no public discussions of the legislation’s potential impact.

Taylor is organizing a “call to action” breakfast from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday at Payne Chapel A.M.E. Church at 801 9th St. in West Palm Beach.

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

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 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. 

Resolution for dike fix on today’s Palm Beach County Commission agenda


A resolution urging the federal government to find money to finish shoring up the Lake Okeechobee dike is one of the items on the agenda for today’s meeting of the Palm Beach County Commission.

Other items on the agenda:

Settlement: Set to agree to a $600,000 settlement award in its 2015 federal lawsuit alleging an insurer improperly withheld workers compensation to Larry Aversano, a county Fire-Rescue employee injured in 1986 and 1988.

Change order: Set to accept a change order on work on the roadway near 20-Mile-Bend in western Palm Beach County, which will result in savings of $1.24 million, to be split among the feds, the state and the county.

Water truck: Expected to approve $300,00, to match a federal grant, for a $600,000 high-pressure water truck for Palm Beach International Airport, to clean up debris, spills and other materials from runways and ramps. The county previously had hired contractors but staff said having its own truck was more cost-effective.

Magar: Will honor State Rep. MaryLynn Magar, R-Hobe Sound, who’s ending her 1-year term as chair of the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation; her likely successor is Vice Chair Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, depending on if he wins his State Senate bid.

Palm Beach County Commission Meeting:

When: 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Where: Sixth-floor chambers, Weisman Palm Beach County Governmental Center, 301 N. Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach

To read more, go later to


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

(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.

This “change order” will save Palm Beach County part of $1.4 million

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

It’s two words that strike fear in the heart of any homeowner getting a kitchen remodeled: “change order.” It usually means bigger numbers on the final payment to the contractor.

But Palm Beach County commissioners Tuesday will hear about a change order that’s going mean a savings of $1.24 million, according to a draft agenda item for Tuesday’s meeting.

The county’s still calculating how much of that will go to county taxpayers, who will split the $1.24 million with the Florida Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, Stephen O’Neil said Wednesday. O’Neil is chief construction coordinator for the county’s department of engineering and public works.

The money in question is part of a phase of a project to redo a part of County Road 880, also called Old State Road 80, in an area south of “20 Mile Bend,” the jog in State Road 80 that marks pretty much the halfway point between the coast and Lake Okeechobee. He said this phase involve rehabilitating a bank of an adjacent canal.

“They found the contractor was able to do it with less material and less work,” bringing the cost for this phase down from about $4.1 million to about $2.8 million, O’Neil said. He said the savings is  unusual but not unheard of.

Expert weighs in on what happens when algae dies — and it isn’t pretty

As bad as the massive algae bloom on the Treasure Coast is now, sometime in the coming days or weeks or months, it’s going to die. And when it does, the impact on flora and fauna will make the current disaster look like a tipped bait bucket by comparison.

That’s the prediction from a local professor who says even now the bloom already is blocking life-giving sunlight in the Indian River Lagoon and sending toxins up the food chain at a rate of as much as 10-fold per dinner.

Widespread algae chokes the St. Lucie River (Photo by Dorothy Dicks)
Widespread algae chokes the St. Lucie River (Photo by Dorothy Dicks)

» RELATED: Complete coverage of the algae bloom

The blanket of algae right now actually is generating oxygen, Bill Louda, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University’s chemistry department, said Thursday morning from Boca Raton.

But, he said, it also is blocking sunlight from reaching the entire water column. That kills algae and sea grass at the bottom. They rot. That makes them inedible to small marine animals, fish, turtles and manatees.

Read the full story on how the algae bloom’s death will impact marine life.