Palm Beach County and its lifeguards union at impasse

092516-pbc-lifeguards-3Just weeks after the Palm Beach County Commission failed last month, in a 3-3 tie, to approve a collective bargaining agreement with improved pay and benefits for lifeguards, a new round of bargaining is at an impasse.

The sticking point is the same one on which the lifeguards and the county have deadlocked for years: “special risk.”

The sweeping agreement, reached in November and ratified by lifeguards, would have provided several employee benefits changes that lifeguards have sought for years. The county would have agreed to approve all applications by lifeguards to the state for “special risk” status, which would nearly double the amount of their Florida Retirement System pensions and would allow them to retire earlier. Lifeguards have for years tried to get the county to grant them the status.

Union president Rick Poulette declared the impasse in a Feb. 2 letter to the county, saying the county had said it was “special risk” that is the sticking point.

“As you are aware, this is the main issue that brought us to the bargaining table in the first place and now brings us to the impasse stage that we are currently in,” Poulette wrote.

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Palm Beach County offers hands-only CPR training

Hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation might save the life of someone you love. Get a free 30 042414-pbg-charity-1minutes of CPR training at one of 21 Palm Beach County locations from 9 a.m to noon Saturday, Feb. 11.

Hands-only CPR training teaches medical help you can give heart-attack victims before paramedics arrive.

Sessions will be at 19 Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue stations and two training centers (see below). They’re taught by students from the Palm Beach County School District’s medical magnet program and Palm Beach State College’s paramedic program.

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Palm Beach County fails to OK new package of pay, benefits for lifeguards

092516-pbc-lifeguards-3Palm Beach County commissioners, by a 3-3 vote, failed Tuesday to approve a sweeping agreement that provides for many changes the county’s ocean rescue lifeguards have sought for years.

Commissioners Mary Lou Berger, Mack Bernard and Dave Kerner voted yes;Mayor Paulette Burdick and commissioners Hal Valeche and Steve Abrams said no. Vice Mayor Melissa McKinlay had left during the lunch break for another obligation.

County Attorney Denise Nieman said the vote could be brought back again but that for now it’s rejected. Abrams had asked before the vote if it could be modified but was told the panel Tuesday could vote only up or down.

The new package would cost the county an extra $783,702 for its first full year and $856,579 for the 2018-2019 budget year.

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Palm Beach County to claim $3.4 million in federal aid for Hurricane Matthew costs

Matthew Oct. 6
Matthew Oct. 6

Palm Beach County is set Tuesday to formalize its agreement for federal aid for at least $3.4 million in costs associated with Hurricane Matthew’s glancing blow in October.

Palm Beach is one of 15 counties along the east side of the peninsula that qualified for Federal Emergency Management Agency aid under a FEMA declaration issued in late October.

Palm Beach County commissioners will vote on the agreement at their meeting on Tuesday.

Palm Beach County government and the 39 municipalities and other agencies had to collectively total at least $4.7 million in costs to qualify, county Public Safety Director Stephanie Sejnoha said Thursday. She said the $3.4 million estimate is exclusively for the county and she did not have figures for the other entities.

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Update: Palm Beach County OKs Uber rules on 1st reading; 2nd vote April 19

Uber1Palm Beach County Commissioners, after spending 2-1/2 hours Tuesday yet again debating rules for Uber-style firms, voted them up 7-0 on  the first of two votes; the second would be April 19.

Major points: both Uber-style outfits and taxis would be responsible to either conduct their own background checks or hire the county to do the more comprehensive and costly fingerprint-based “Level II” checks for them.

That, and what insurance would be required of drivers in both endeavors, have been sticking points in the debate for going on two years.

Uber and Lyft say the proposed rules would guarantee they operate safely; taxi firms say aren’t sufficient and give the app-based rides an unfair advantage.

“If we were having a real safety issue we would be hearing it. We would be seeing it,” said Tomas Bolton, head of the local “Citizens for Improved Transit.”

But limo service owner Sheryl Berkowitz said, “I cannot believe what’s going on, being a woman, mother, and a property owner. Why don’t you just let everyone drive?”

She added, “ the only thing you’re protecting is uber’s wishes; its transportation model.”

Lee Barron, who operates a Fort Pierce-based transportation service to airports and ports, told the commission, “You should just deregulate the whole mess, get out of it  You probably wish you never heard the words “vehicle for hire.”

Palm Beach County had set a temporary operating agreement in September 2014. A year later, it opted not to set new rules, instead calling on the Florida legislature to enact uniform regulations for the entire state. On March 1, commissioners extended the agreement to April 30, to see what Tallahassee did. In mid-March the state body adjourned without a law in place.

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Palm Beach County to move deputy public safety director to top spot


Palm Beach County’s Deputy Public Safety Director, Stephanie M. Sejnoha, has been tabbed to take the top spot, replacing Vince Bonvento, who retired Monday after 44 years in county service.

County Administrator Verdenia Baker wrote commissioners Monday afternoon to ask that at Tuesday’s meeting, they ratify Sejnoha’s promotion.


Sejnoha, a graduate of Florida State University, started in the county’s financial sector in January 2001 and later was director of finance for the Public Safety Department in 2010 before being named its deputy in June 2015.

In the last year, she’s been a key player in talks to work out how to regulate Uber and similar app-based ride services, and determine how they compete with traditional for-hire vehicle services. She also worked on a recently-enacted set of rules for home caregivers.