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BOYNTON BEACH, FL --- (April 6, 2021)  On Tuesday, April 6 beginning at 5 pm, Floridians 18+ may visit boynton-beach.org to make an appointment to receive a free Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. One thousand appointments will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Boynton Beach Fire Rescue will be administering the vaccines at the Ezell Hester, Jr. Community Center (1901 N. Seacreat Blvd.), a state-approved vaccination site.

 

The City of Boynton Beach received the supply of vaccines from the Florida Department of Health, in conjunction with Palm Beach County.  It is anticipated that the City will continue receiving 1,000 vaccines weekly throughout the summer, and the City’s appointment portal will re-open each week when vaccines are available (with a rotating schedule that includes closing every four weeks to administer second does to those who have already received their first dose).

 

Those without online access may utilize the computers at the Boynton Beach City Library (100 E. Ocean Ave.) during regularly scheduled hours;  staff will be available to assist.

 

“Over the last two weeks, we have vaccinated 1,280 individuals at the Hester Community Center,” according to City Manager Lori LaVerriere. “To ensure equal vaccine distribution throughout our community, we enlisted local faith-based organizations to help us identify those that needed assistance making appointments.” In addition, 165 vaccines were administered at the Boynton Beach Senior Center.

 

In the event of appointment cancellations, the City has created a Vaccine Stand-By list. Those who sign up will be contacted only in the event that there are leftover doses, and should have the ability to arrive at the Hester Community Center within 30 minutes of being contacted. More details, along with a sign-up link and a list of frequently asked questions, can be found on the City’s vaccine FAQ page.

 

For more information, contact the City Manager’s office at 561-742-6010.

 

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By Mary Hladky

Former Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie, who was charged with public corruption in 2018, pleaded guilty to lesser charges on April 1.

The plea deal calls for her to serve no jail time, but she will be on probation for 12 months. During that time, she can not seek elected office, according to court records.

8744890099?profile=RESIZE_180x180Haynie, 66, was present in court before Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Gillen when she pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of misuse of public office and failure to disclose voting conflicts.

Prosecutors dropped four felony counts of official misconduct and perjury, and one other misdemeanor..

Had Haynie gone to trial and been convicted, she faced more than 20 years in prison.

“I want to convey my sincere apology to all the citizens of Boca Raton for my actions and any negative light that my case cast upon our city,” Haynie said in a statement today to Boca Raton residents.

 “Throughout my personal and professional career, I have prided myself on taking responsibility for my conduct and performance,” she said. “The citizens of Boca Raton should accept nothing less than the highest level of ethics from their elected officials. I failed to live up to that standard and today, accepted responsibility by entering my guilty plea.”

She will not seek public office again, even after the conclusion of her probation, Haynie said.

Bruce Zimet, Haynie’s criminal defense attorney, has repeatedly said in the past that she would not accept a plea deal.

The decision to do so “was made because there was a reasonable offer from the State Attorney’s Office,” he said.

Noting that the counts alleging corruption were dismissed, Zimet said, “She never would plead to a felony or misdemeanor involving any allegation of corruption. This was framed as a quid pro quo case and that never happened. Any plea deal that involved that would be a total nonstarter.

“There was no corruption from her,” he said. “Her vote was never sold.”

In charging documents, prosecutors contended that Haynie used her position on the City Council to vote on six matters that financially benefitted James Batmasian, the city’s largest downtown commercial landowner, and failed to disclose income she received from him.

The investigation by the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office found that Haynie failed to report $335,000 in income on financial disclosure forms, including $84,000 from Batmasian or his company Investments Limited, from 2014 through 2017.

Before her arrest, the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics, which also investigated her for voting on matters that financially benefitted Batmasian, reached a settlement with her in which she was reprimanded and fined for failing to disclose a conflict of interest. A second allegation that Haynie misused her public office was dismissed.

The Florida Commission on Ethics found probable cause that Haynie violated state ethics laws in eight instances, but that case has been on hold while the criminal case proceeded. Kerrie Stillman, a spokeswoman for the state ethics commission, said the outcome of the criminal case has no bearing on the ethics case.

In cases where probable cause has been found, the commission must either hold a full evidentiary hearing, or the commission advocate and Haynie’s ethics attorney could reach a settlement agreement, she said.

The state commission found that Haynie failed to disclose income, acted to financially benefit herself and her husband, and improperly voted on matters that benefitted Batmasian and his wife, Marta, without disclosing a conflict of interest.

Batmasian was not charged by state prosecutors.

During the waning days of his presidency, Donald Trump issued a full pardon to Batmasian in an unrelated matter.

Batmasian, a Republican donor, served eight months in prison in 2008 for failing to pay the IRS $253,513 in payroll taxes for employees of his real estate company. He reimbursed the government the full amount owed.

Haynie was a fixture in Boca Raton politics for 18 years, and her arrest shocked residents and City Council members who learned about it when she turned herself in to the county jail while the rest of the City Council was meeting on April 24, 2018.

“We are all stunned, flabbergasted…” now-Mayor Scott Singer said at the time.

Former Gov. Rick Scott suspended her from office, but she never resigned. Singer was elected mayor on Aug. 28, 2018 for the remainder of Haynie’s term and has since been re-elected.

“She plans to move forward and put all this behind her,” Zimet said when asked about Haynie’s plans. “She is vibrant person who has a lot to offer her community. She plans to enjoy her life in the years to come.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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8744255674?profile=RESIZE_710xThe lushly landscaped 15.65-acre Ziff estate and the sanctuary known as Bird Island are located just north of the Boynton Inlet. The mature landscaping is the result of decades of work in native plant restoration and conservation efforts. A golf practice area is on the east side of A1A. Google Map image

 

By Dan Moffett

Billionaire internet entrepreneur James Clark is on the verge of becoming the favorite son of Manalapan, where his stature has risen in recent days.
“We will welcome him with open arms,” said Mayor Keith Waters. “We’re looking forward to getting to know the family. They will get a warm greeting from Manalapan, that’s for sure.”
Why such an outpouring of affection?
8744251499?profile=RESIZE_180x180Clark, a founder of Netscape and a half-dozen other influential tech companies, is widely believed around Manalapan to be the mystery buyer who paid $94 million last month for the storied Ziff estate.
Waters and other town residents say they are delighted that Clark is taking over what many townspeople believe is Manalapan’s signature property.
A lush, 15.65-acre estate that stretches from the Atlantic to the Intracoastal Waterway at Manalapan’s southern entrance, the Ziff land is an exceedingly rare remnant of Florida’s distant past.
“I don’t know anything like it on the East Coast,” Waters said. “It is certainly unique.”
Until recent weeks, Manalapan had resigned itself to losing the property to development. A year ago, Ziff family heirs petitioned the Town Commission to divide the estate into four lots to expedite sales. Commissioners grudgingly said yes.
The family had tried for six years to sell the estate as a whole, first listing it for $195 million, then steadily dropping the price to $115 million last year with Sotheby’s International Realty. There were no takers.
Then abruptly on March 8, an entity called The 2000 S. Ocean Trust appeared on Palm Beach County courthouse records, showing a deed transfer on the land for $94.17 million, along with a separate recording of a $200,000 sale for nearby, uninhabited Bird Island. Because commissions and other costs often are omitted from courthouse filings, it is likely the total sale price was over $100 million.
Someone like Clark is exactly what people in Manalapan were looking for — a single buyer who takes on the whole Ziff property, someone who appears intent on living there, and above all, someone who isn’t a developer.
“The buyer doesn’t want his name disclosed right now,” said a person close to the Ziff family. “That’s what they’ve told us. But we understand the estate won’t be divided.”
Selling the land as a whole negates the agreement the commission made with the Ziffs last year to subdivide it, and anyone who makes that happen is going to be very popular in Manalapan.
“We were caught totally by surprise,” Town Manager Linda Stumpf said. “No one saw it coming. But commissioners are extremely pleased to have a sale like this — whoever the buyer is.”
Multiple sources in Manalapan identified Clark as the buyer but declined to comment until the deal goes public. Neighbors and officials say they’ll wait.
West Palm Beach attorney Ronald Kochman is listed as the trustee for the sale. Kochman declined to discuss Waters’ comments about the buyer or other details of the sale: “We do not comment to the press,” he said in an email to The Coastal Star.
Waters said the town had heard from “a couple developers” in recent months who were interested in building separate projects. He says he believes Clark intends to maintain the property as a family residence.

The hope is the striking canopy of trees draping over State Road A1A will continue to grow there too.

8744256876?profile=RESIZE_584xThe view of the Ziff estate that most people see is of the tree canopy over State Road A1A. The estate straddles the highway. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

“We are very, very happy to have this kept as a single property,” Waters said. “It is unique to the character of our community. As far back as I remember coming to Florida, I remember driving through that canopy.”
Clark, 77, is no stranger to big-ticket deals. He sold a 5-acre ocean-to-lake estate in Palm Beach for about $90 million in 2018 after originally listing it with Sotheby’s for $137 million two years before. A relatively quiet off-the-market transaction, it was — like the Ziff deal — minimally recorded in public records.
Waters said he has “crossed paths with Clark” several times in the past and believes the new relationship between him and the town “will work out very well.” Manalapan, the mayor said, “is a little quieter option than Palm Beach.”
Besides founding Netscape and helping to develop its web browser, Clark had a hand in the development of myCFO, WebMD and Silicon Graphics Inc. Forbes magazine lists his net worth as $3.4 billion. He is married to Kristy Hinze Clark and has four children.
The Ziff estate has 1,200 feet of ocean beach and another 1,300 feet along the Intracoastal. It has a main house, a guest house, manager’s house and two ocean cottages — totaling some 33 bedrooms, 34 bathrooms, 13 powder rooms — with a couple of golf holes. It was originally known as Gemini — Latin for “twins” — because its layout spans both sides of A1A.
Publishing magnate William B. Ziff Jr. and family bought the estate in the 1980s and have preserved a botanic garden with 1,500 species of tropical trees and plants. For a time decades ago, it was considered the most expensive residence in the country.
“No one is going to feel sorry for our family,” Dirk Ziff, heir to the estate and eldest of the three sons, told the Manalapan commission a year ago, lamenting the difficulty of finding a single buyer and requesting permission to divide the property. “We’ve tried really hard to sell it. “We’re uncomfortable coming forward. We want clarity. We want resolution,” said the 56-year-old scion. “There’s an economic reality here that I’m not ashamed of.”

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Along the Coast: Hot! Hot! Hot!

8740888501?profile=RESIZE_584xSteven Presson (right), a Realtor with the Corcoran Group, shows a property on Hypoluxo Island to Brian Mock in March as Douglas Elliman agent Tonja Garamella listens from the top of the stairs. The Mocks, from Newport Beach, California, plan to move to the area and were viewing the home with friends who recently moved to Hypoluxo Island from California. The house was listed at $4.95 million. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

Buying ‘frenzy’ strains supply of coastal homes

By Charles Elmore

A year after the coronavirus pandemic began to trigger lockdowns and states of emergency, what once seemed to forebode an uncertain pause in home sales has instead transformed coastal Palm Beach County into one of the hottest markets in the nation.
Corcoran Group agent Steven Presson said he cannot remember anything like it.
“It’s a frenzy at the highest level,” Presson said. “Buyers right now are scratching and clawing for inventory.”
A vast Ziff family estate on the market for six years in Manalapan sold for a reported $94 million in March, heralded as a record for the town.
Home sales doubled in Ocean Ridge in February compared to the same month a year earlier, even as the inventory of available properties dropped almost 40%, according to data cited by real estate firm Douglas Elliman.
“Homes are getting sold literally the minute somebody finds out about them,” said Val Coz, the company’s Delray Beach-based senior director of luxury sales.
8740423471?profile=RESIZE_180x180Luxury home sales in Palm Beach County surged 115% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the same period of 2019, the largest increase in any major U.S. market tracked by Seattle-based real estate brokerage Redfin Corp. It marked the biggest jump since Redfin began crunching such data in 2013, company officials said.
Sellers were also getting more money for their homes, with luxury home sale prices in the market rising 14% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to a year earlier, the report found.
The area’s “high-end housing market has experienced explosive growth” as affluent New Yorkers and others have flocked to the sunny region “in search of more space and lower taxes while working remotely during the pandemic,” according to Redfin’s report.
In this case, “luxury” means homes with market values in the top 5% of the county. They had a median sale price of $1.8 million. The fervor extends to other segments of the market as well, though with a little less intensity on each rung down the price ladder. Purchases of the least expensive homes have dropped off slightly.
Sales of “expensive” homes in the county ­­— the 30% of homes with the next-highest market values after luxury homes — increased 38% and had a median sale price of $500,000, Redfin reported. Mid-valued home sales jumped 26% and had a median cost of $285,000. Sales of “most affordable” homes, those with market values in the bottom 5% in the county, decreased 10%, with a median cost of $56,000.
More than half of Redfin.com home searches in Palm Beach County came from outside the county during the fourth quarter, with Cook County, Illinois, and Kings County, New York, the leading places of origin.
Wall Street firms expanding their presence or considering doing so in South Florida have included Goldman Sachs, Virtu Financial and Elliott Management, Redfin noted.
Palm Beach County’s red-hot numbers continue in 2021, with January producing luxury-home sales 88% above the same month of 2020 and February 70% more, according to Redfin.

8740403678?profile=RESIZE_710xSteven Presson shows a property in March on Hypoluxo Island to Paul May, who recently moved to Lantana from California. Presson said there is such a limited inventory of homes that this home had been shown 32 times since it was listed for $4.95 million a month before. That is the typical number of showings for a two-year period. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

One of the few factors slowing down the pace is that the inventory of available homes near the coast is running thin.
For three recent sales in Manalapan, Hypoluxo Island and Ocean Ridge, Presson said, he never quite made it through the traditional process of putting the homes on the market and waiting for offers. Buyers were already at hand.
“Little niche beach communities like Ocean Ridge, Gulf Stream and Hypoluxo Island are in more demand than ever as many of today’s buyers are attracted to small beach communities with low density and smaller number of residents,” he said.
A buyer from Connecticut, shut out in previous deals, made an offer above the asking price in order to secure one property, Presson said.
South Florida always had weather going for it, along with no state income tax, he said. But the pandemic brought new dynamics. It pressed the fast-forward button for many wealthy buyers who had been thinking of it as some balmy destination in the future. 
In addition, as working from home became increasingly common in the COVID-19 era, some executives began to see fewer reasons not to move themselves or their companies if they could.
“Instead of waiting until later, now they know there’s an urgency to get it done,” Presson said. “It’s a crazy time.”8740450296?profile=RESIZE_180x180
Demand is clearly outpacing supply, said Michael Mullin III, an agent for William Raveis who specializes in luxury properties in Delray Beach, Gulf Stream, Ocean Ridge and Manalapan.
Rentals have been hard to find and prospective buyers who hoped to visit in person have often found homes snapped up before they can arrive, he said. Recent sales have included a $9.3 million property in Gulf Stream, he said.
The motivations of individual buyers can vary, but many sales seem driven by “major-city flight,” Mullin said.
All of it is pushing price tags higher. In February, the median sales price for single-family homes in South Palm Beach County increased 25% to $475,000 compared to the same month in 2020, according to Martin Group Real Estate, citing data from BeachesMLS. New listings decreased by more than 20% as inventory grew more scarce.
Look at Ocean Ridge. Coz said 10 February sales there represented a 100% increase from the same month of 2020, while March’s pending sales pointed to more in the pipeline.
“I just sold one home in Ocean Ridge to a buyer from New York who hasn’t even seen it,” Coz said.

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Commission likes partnership but wants to cut costs

By Rich Pollack

After listening to Delray Beach’s fire chief spell out a lengthy list of benefits Highland Beach receives under its fire-rescue contract and warning that canceling the agreement could be detrimental to residents, most town leaders agreed keeping Delray is the preference — if only it were affordable.
With the current price tag hovering above $5 million a year and projected to reach north of $6.5 million by 2027, however, town leaders say the agreement is unsustainable and are strongly considering the possibility of starting a town-operated fire- rescue department.
“It appears we’re looking at three strategies,” Mayor Doug Hillman said. “First in my opinion would be to stay right where we are, but it’s a finance issue.”
During a presentation in March, Delray Beach Fire Chief Keith Tomey reminded town commissioners that their residents are receiving what he called the “gold standard” of care from his department under a 10-year contract extension that expires in 2026. The fire-rescue partnership between the municipalities dates to 1993.
“For Delray Beach firefighters there is no line separating Delray Beach and Highland Beach and I urge you, I actually beg you, do not create one,” he said. “Doing so would be to the detriment of your residents and at their expense. You’re asking them to accept a lower standard of care and service.
“I know it’s cliché but as fire chief for the residents of Highland Beach, that worries me greatly to the point where it keeps me up at night.”
Hillman and other commissioners agree that the service the town receives is top- notch but they are still seriously investigating other options.
One would be for the town to create its own public safety department, with the possibility of a chief overseeing both the police department and a fire-rescue department operating out of the station next to Town Hall.
A third option, listed in a consultant’s report, would be to use a hybrid solution with the town contracting out emergency medical service, but that appears to be a long shot due to stringent restrictions and regulations established by Palm Beach County officials.
“The bombshell is what I heard about a county ordinance that only government agencies can respond to 911 calls,” Commissioner John Shoemaker said.
Town Manager Marshall Labadie clarified that there don’t seem to be actual legal restrictions preventing the town from outsourcing rescue services but there are other obstacles.
“It appears the practicality of implementing it may not be feasible,” he said.
Under the contract between the two municipalities, Delray Beach provides service to Highland Beach by staffing the station there with the town covering the cost of 22.5 firefighters and paramedics. The agreement also provides Highland Beach with all the resources of the Delray Beach department, from backup apparatus to maintenance and fire inspection services, since Delray considers Highland Beach to be part of its overall service area.
As it moves forward, the town appears to be focused on dissecting the current contract and looking for areas that could be adjusted should both sides agree to renegotiate.
“Of course we’d still like to work something out with our partners,” Hillman said.
Delray Beach might also see benefits in retaining an agreement with the smaller coastal community.
If Highland Beach started its own station, Delray Beach would lose the $5 million to $6 million in annual revenue and the ability to use the apparatus and staff working out of the town’s station for calls within its city limits.
The study from Matrix Consulting showed that the station, Station 116, responded to calls within Highland Beach an average of 678 times per year and responded to calls outside of the town 677 times per year.
Apparatus from Delray Beach responded into the town about 139 times per year.
Asked by Shoemaker if Delray Beach would provide mutual aid to Highland Beach if the town had its own fire department, Tomey said that is uncertain.
“We would have no obligation to provide mutual aid to the town,” he said, adding that other neighboring fire departments might feel the same way. “You would have to be able to reciprocate what we provide you.”
The Matrix report showed that after startup costs of about $4 million over three years, Highland Beach would be able to operate its own station for about $2 million less than what it would pay Delray — in part by having four fewer people assigned to the station than are there now.
Tomey, however, listed a series of equipment and operational costs not included in the consultant’s estimates, ranging from costs of training and testing to costs of cardiac monitors and extrication equipment.
Moving forward, Highland Beach commissioners will look at issues such as whether Delray Beach has billed the town correctly in the past, whether the city had not met parts of the contract, and whether it had returned the proper amount of medical transport fees to the town.
In addition, Shoemaker will work with Matrix to identify what items should be included should a new contract be negotiated.
“We very much look forward to sitting down with your folks and working something out,” Hillman said.
While Tomey did not address revisiting the contract, he did say that he would meet individually with the five Delray Beach city commissioners to discuss the Highland Beach agreement.

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8740183665?profile=RESIZE_710xJames McCray, part of the homeless task force in Delray Beach, cuts the hair of Thomas Germaine near the shower truck that is parked behind St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Rich Pollack

They are people many choose to look past and not see. And those who do see homeless people scattered throughout Delray Beach tend to look away.
Yet over the last four years a growing number of caring people have been looking out for others who call Delray Beach home — even if they have no permanent place to live.
Most visible among those who work closely with the city’s homeless people are members of the Delray Beach Police Department’s community outreach team. It includes two police officers and Ariana Ciancio, a licensed mental health counselor who serves as the city’s service population advocate.
Behind them — and less visible — is an informal circle of representatives from social service and other organizations who have made it possible for the city to offer service unmatched by any other community in Palm Beach County and perhaps South Florida.

“Delray Beach as a municipality is doing more and having more success than any other city in the county,” says Ezra Krieg, a longtime advocate for homeless people in Palm Beach and Broward counties and chair of the Delray Beach Homeless Initiative Task Force.
Delray Beach’s homeless community recently came into focus as the City Commission debated a revised aggressive panhandling ordinance that critics say targeted people without permanent addresses. Although some expressed differing opinions on the impact of the ordinance, which passed by a 4-1 vote, they agree generally on how well the homeless population fares in Delray Beach.

8740185298?profile=RESIZE_710xA homeless client heads inside the truck to take a shower behind St. Matthew’s. The showers are offered on Tuesdays and Fridays.



Haircuts, showers

Homeless people can take advantage of a twice-a-week shower truck, get their clothes washed, their hair cut and receive medication and other medical services. Meals are available five days a week and groceries are available for people who have ways to prepare them.
“There’s an entire system that supports a homeless individual or homeless families with compassion and dignity,” says Maura Plante, the founder of Living Hungry, which provides meals to homeless students and needy families in Palm Beach County and helps provide food for people in eight other Florida counties.
That effort is led by the task force, a well-organized collaboration of agencies and individuals that meets monthly — virtually during the pandemic.
A key member of the task force and one responsible for many of the services that set Delray Beach apart is the Interfaith Committee for Social Services, which provides the shower truck as well as clean clothing. The organization also helps the task force connect homeless community members with medical and mental health resources.
Another key provider of services is the Caring Kitchen, run by CROS Ministries, which offers meals five days a week at two alternating mobile locations.
“Delray Beach is the envy of other cities,” Plante said. “There is no other city in Palm Beach County that has a set of active collaborators like this working together. It’s actually inspiring.”
Offering services is one thing. Getting people to use them is quite another.

8740188061?profile=RESIZE_710xDelray Beach’s community outreach team includes (l-r) Officer Matt Warne, service population advocate Ariana Ciancio and Officer Damien Ferraiolo.

Police outreach team

That’s where the Police Department’s community outreach team of Ciancio and Officers Damien Ferraiolo and Matt Warne come in.
Along with intern Hulda Augustin, a social work student at Florida Atlantic University, the team helps homeless people get through a system that can be filled with red tape, especially when no permanent address is available.
Getting a Florida identification card or renewing a driver’s license, for example, can be nearly impossible for someone without a permanent address or without access to a computer or phone.
“We help navigate resources and remove barriers,” Ciancio says.
The team from the Police Department also helps provide transportation to emergency housing in West Palm Beach when and if it is available.
That’s a big if, but thanks to the city’s strong relationship with Palm Beach County’s homeless outreach team, Delray Beach has had success finding emergency and permanent housing for people living on the streets.
In one week in February, the city’s team placed six people in emergency housing, a major accomplishment considering that just 220 beds are available in shelters run by the county. The 2021 total through mid-March was 25 people placed in emergency housing.

Annual count is 80-100

Reducing the number of people living in Delray Beach without permanent housing is a key goal, and there is hard evidence that what the team is doing is working.
Each year the city, usually along with Palm Beach County, does a Point In Time homeless count that provides information that can be used to determine service needs.
In 2018, volunteers and city staff members identified 110 homeless people in the city. In 2020 that number had dropped to 91. The 2019 number, 72 homeless people, is generally discarded by Ciancio because bad weather on the day of the count kept the number artificially low.
This year’s count, which took place in late February, showed 81 unsheltered people in Delray Beach, a vast majority of them men. Among the 81 were six veterans.


Changing lives

8740226081?profile=RESIZE_180x180Since the Police Department hired Ciancio in 2017 to serve in a role unique in South Florida, she has interacted with about 800 homeless individuals.
Just over 130 of those people, she says, are now “off the street.”
Although some prefer to be homeless, others have reconnected with family members and have left Delray, thanks to Ciancio and the team.
She also tells about someone she knows as Frank, whose underlying substance abuse issues led to his being homeless for years.
Ciancio met with him 34 times between May 2019 and April 2020 before he agreed to undergo an assessment to see if he qualified for emergency housing.
Eventually, Frank was able to get a driver’s license, a job and an apartment — something he says would not have been possible without Ciancio’s help.
In a recent text to Ciancio, Frank let her know how much he appreciated the support he received and how much he appreciated the work she does with others.
“You have breathed life back in to many people, where there was no hope and I would like to say thank you,” he wrote. “May you continue on your quest to help others, with success by your side.”  
Ciancio was grateful for the note but not surprised.
“I get a lot of those,” she said.
For Ciancio, Ferraiolo and Warne, the key to success is building trust through compassion while at the same time making sure rules are followed.
The members of the team know most of the homeless regulars in the city by name and it’s not unusual for Ferraiolo to make rounds to make sure they’re doing OK.
He also is there to help ensure Ciancio’s safety and to use his authority as a sworn police officer when needed.

‘I never give up on them’
Persistence is perhaps the long suit for the team members, a trait that makes Delray Beach an attractive spot for homeless people.
“Everyone in most of these people’s lives have given up on them,” Ciancio said. “I never give up on them.”
Like she was with Frank, Ciancio is tenacious when it comes to providing services, even with people who want to continue their lifestyles.
“I never go away,” she said. “I’m always here and I always let people know I’m here to help.”

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Boca Raton: A man and a movement

8740098871?profile=RESIZE_710xCity Council member Andy Thomson jogs with his children Allie, 9, Henry, 5, and Maddie, 7, along Boca Raton Boulevard. The kids and other community members often come along to help spot and pick up trash. Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

 

Council member’s push to run, pick up litter on every mile of street gathers public support

By Mary Hladky

When City Council member Andy Thomson launched 2020 with a New Year’s resolution to jog more frequently, he noticed litter everywhere along the streets.
Water bottles, plastic straws, candy wrappers, and later on, face masks and disposable gloves.
“It really bugged me,” he said. “Once you see the trash, you can’t not see it.”
That spurred Thomson to bring a bag with him so he could pick it up as he ran.
But as so often happens with New Year’s resolutions, his jogging sessions dwindled over time. He needed to impose some discipline.
That led to another resolution: In 2021, he would jog every street in the city — all 475 miles — and pick up trash along the way.
“This gave me the discipline to make it happen,” said Thomson, who now typically jogs 3 to 4 miles four days a week.
He charts his progress on his “Run the City” website, www.andythomson.com/run-the-city/, where people can volunteer to join the effort, and on Facebook.
As of March 23, he had run 100.5 miles and picked up 260 pounds of trash, including 308 pieces of personal protective equipment.
The discarded masks and gloves bother him the most. Thomson says he finds about three along every mile he runs.
He’d like to think they are dropped accidentally, but has doubts. He wears gloves so he can retrieve them safely.
“This is one of the things we need to be better at,” he said of properly disposing of masks and gloves.
So far, Thomson has run many of the city’s main arteries, including Glades Road, Camino Real, Palmetto Park Road and Dixie and Federal highways.

8740102675?profile=RESIZE_710xAndy Thomson, with children Henry and Maddie, says his effort to pick up trash has expanded into spotting other problems such as potholes and listening to the concerns of residents he encounters. Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star


Later this year, when he hopes the coronavirus pandemic is under better control and more people are vaccinated, he will venture onto neighborhood streets.
When he does, he wants to hold “mobile office hours,” talking to residents he meets about the issues they face.
In the meantime, his project has undergone mission creep. He has spotted pot holes, broken sidewalks and crosswalks ill-suited to pedestrians or cyclists.
He takes photos of the problem spots and sends them to whatever agency — city, county, state or federal — is responsible for fixing them.
“We are starting to see some of the issues I have identified get fixed,” he said.
His efforts are not always solitary. He often is helped by some of his five children.
During an early March run, daughter Maddie, 7, and son Henry, 5, worked as trash spotters, sometimes running alongside their dad, and sometimes pushed along in a large stroller.
Both had eagle eyes. Maddie pointed out small, clear bottle caps in the grass along North Ocean Boulevard that a reporter had not noticed.
As word about “Run the City” has spread, volunteers are stepping forward.
Thomson was joined on Feb. 27 by about 50 Christ Fellowship parishioners in cleaning up the Palm Beach Farms and Camino Lakes neighborhoods.
Christ Fellowship’s Boca Raton Community Pastor Rob Elliott heard about Thomson’s efforts, which dovetailed with the church’s emphasis on community service, and offered to help.
Volunteers from the church arrived at a meeting point equipped with buckets and trash bags and fanned out in small groups. They covered 16 miles of streets and collected 80 pounds of trash, Thomson said.
“It would have taken longer to do if it had been a smaller group,” Elliott said. “Collectively, we came together to have an increased impact.”
Since then, the children who joined in have talked about what they did, he said.
“It definitely had an impact on people, especially the kids who were involved,” Elliott said. “It raised awareness of the need for it.”
In another sign that his efforts are noticed, Thomson said a teacher told her students about what he is doing, and now some of the kids are doing similar work on their own.
“That is how communities get better,” Thomson said. “Not by lecturing. Not by complaining, but by doing.”
He also decided to send a message that people should not litter masks and gloves.

8740100469?profile=RESIZE_710xDiscarded face masks and gloves bother Thomson most, and the council instituted a $250 fine to try to curb that litter.

Thomson introduced an ordinance on Feb. 23 that increases the city’s normal littering fine from $50 to $250 for improper disposal of PPE.
The city set a precedent for a larger fine when it previously increased to $100 the fine for littering in storm drains, canals and lakes.
“Littering masks is simply not acceptable and Boca is better than that,” Thomson said when the ordinance came up for a vote March 23.
Other council members embraced the idea, approving the ordinance unanimously.
“I think it is a great idea,” said council member Monica Mayotte. “I consider it out of control.”
“I see the masks everywhere too,” said Deputy Mayor Andrea O’Rourke. “It is upsetting.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis on March 10 wiped out fines imposed on people or businesses for violating COVID-19-related ordinances, but his order will not affect Boca Raton’s new ordinance. That’s because it does not stem from the city’s use of emergency powers and the city already had established fines for littering, said City Attorney Diana Grub Frieser.
Thomson and other council members recognize the ordinance will be difficult to enforce since a fine can be imposed only if the infraction is witnessed by police or code enforcement officers.
Even so, the ordinance is an opportunity to prod residents to take the proper disposal of masks and gloves seriously.
“I want to use this as an opportunity to educate,” said Mayor Scott Singer.

8740103861?profile=RESIZE_710xThomson picked up 7.54 pounds of trash on a recent Saturday as Henry, Maddie and Allie kept their eyes to the ground. On another day a church group joined in and they collected 80 pounds.

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8740079699?profile=RESIZE_710xStacey Roselli runs the Reading Village for children with dyslexia. She lives in Delray Beach with her husband, Giovanni, and their daughter, Juliet, 3. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Brian Biggane

Stacey Roselli didn’t have to look far for potential clients when she opened the Reading Village for children with dyslexia and other language-based problems in Delray Beach in 2014. Seven years and hundreds of success stories later, her center and its program have become an unqualified success.
Roselli, 43, earned a psychology degree at New York University and spent 12 years at the Windward School in Westchester, primarily using the highly regarded Orton-Gillingham approach to learning, which explicitly teaches students the connections between letters and sounds, using sight, hearing, touch and movement.
“I’m so fortunate that when I was young someone told me about it, and that’s all I knew on how to teach reading,” she said. “When I went to NYU the administrators said, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t do it like that.’ I was like, ‘So why did I spend all that money?’”
Roselli’s instincts and experience led her back to the Orton-Gillingham approach, and she hasn’t looked back.
The Reading Village, which serves students from kindergarten to high school, is “so close to bursting, which is a great problem to have. But it’s also sad, because a lot of children need the help.”
Roselli and her husband, Giovanni, a fitness educator and presenter, were still in the process of relocating to South Florida in 2014 when a woman who had heard about her Windward experience asked if she could teach her dyslexic child to read.
“From there, the lawyer of that family said, ‘Can you work with our children? We have four who are dyslexic.’
“And then another mom knew someone. So it’s been so awesome that I’ve been able to help so many kids, and never had to advertise.”
Dyslexia is a neurobiological learning disability characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.
Roselli has co-opted a couple of her longtime associates, Andrea Kaminsky and Ruthanne Mahoney, both career-long educators, to work with the children, as well as four more women who are helping her create reading games, to form a seven-person staff.
“So, it’s 11:30 at night and we’re Zooming each other making sure we’re ready for the next day. So the Village is no longer just Stacey; it’s all of my teammates, and I’m really, really happy,” she said.
Roselli sees the Reading Village as more of a “center” than a school, with much of the teaching done out of members’ homes. Even so, she said, her program has generated so much interest that she has started working virtually with teachers from local schools to help them work with students facing similar challenges.
“It’s so they don’t have to come to me,” she said. “The whole idea is for them to stay in their classroom and get the education they need, without having to spend time after school.”
While the Reading Village is very 21st-century in its approach, it is not unique. The Bilgrav School in West Palm Beach also specializes in students with dyslexia, and there is another such school in south Miami.
The information in the field is constantly expanding, so Roselli has her own village as a member of the International Dyslexia Association and a core group of educators she knows from her time in New York and Connecticut.
“It’s really about sharing knowledge,” she said. “There are people who say they have the background to do this — maybe they take a two-day workshop and say they’re trained, but they’re not. You need experience and you need a mentor. That’s one person trying to help conquer dyslexia, and that’s very hard. So I suppose we are a little unique.”
Roselli is also somewhat unusual in that she has spent her entire 20-year teaching career in that one discipline.
“It gives you an understanding, and you can kind of predict the errors children are going to make.”
The testimonials on thereadingvillage.com overflow with praise for both Roselli and her program.
Susan R. writes that she and her son Josh came across Stacey after he had finished the first grade: “We had nowhere else to turn and we didn’t know what to do. He started working with Stacey through the summer and it was a life-changing experience for all of us.”
While her work keeps her busy, Roselli does have a robust family life with Giovanni, whom she met at the gym, and their daughter, Juliet Rose, 3.
“My family is a big part of who I am,” she said. “I love to cook, and love to go to the beach. If I’m not working, I’m exercising, cooking and with my family.”

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By Rich Pollack

Delray Beach has agreed to pay a $2,000 fine issued by the state health department after investigators found the city failed to clean water storage tanks every five years, an issue that may have led to sediment filtering into drinking water in March 2020.
In a March 26 letter sent to the Florida Department of Health, interim City Manager Jennifer Alvarez said the city would pay the fine for the failure to clean the tanks, as well as keep accurate maintenance records and make improvements to ensure compliance with state regulations.
“As you are aware, the city remains committed to maintain transparency and accountability, and takes all regulatory compliance requirements very seriously,” Alvarez wrote in a letter to Jorge Patino, the health department’s local environmental administrator for water programs.
In his letter to Delray Beach Utilities Director Hassan Hadjimiry, Patino cited the storage tank cleaning issues and said the city failed to keep adequate required records of maintenance issues such as water main flushing.
He also said the city didn’t do a good job of regularly opening and closing water line valves.
In responding, Alvarez said that storage tanks — and the clear well, which also holds treated water — have been cleaned and that a new division has been created to ensure maintenance is done properly and on time.
“Under the newly created Environmental Resources Compliance Division, the city has implemented a regulatory compliance tracking calendar to actively monitor the submittal due dates of all future compliance reports,” she wrote.
A series of system failures last year led to sediment that had gathered at the bottom of the city’s north storage tank — possibly for decades — being released into the drinking water sent to many of the city’s utility customers.
Although not a serious health issue, the sediment caused a discoloration that led to complaints from residents.
An investigation by the health department led to the fines — $1,000 for failure to clean tanks, $750 for poor record keeping and $250 for “expenses the department incurred investigating the matter.”
A check from the city was issued and submitted with Alvarez’s letter.

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By Rich Pollack

The apartment on the third floor of the Penthouse Highlands condominium where the body of 85-year-old Elizabeth “Betty” Cabral was found with her throat cut three years ago this month remains empty.
8740058073?profile=RESIZE_180x180Some furniture is inside and there are signs that investigators have given the condo a thorough going over, looking for evidence everywhere including in drainpipes under sinks.
The electricity remains on, paid for now by the condominium association, as does the air conditioning in order to keep mold and mildew from forming.
Though detectives from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office are continuing to piece together evidence in the case, Cabral’s death — only the second known homicide in Highland Beach’s 71-year history — remains the town’s only unsolved murder.
“The Sheriff’s Office has kept us updated and the case remains under investigation,” said Highland Beach Police Chief Craig Hartmann, whose department turned the case over to sheriff’s detectives after handling the initial call. The detectives have not commented publicly about the investigation.
Two related cases are wending through the courts, slowed by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and in at least one of the cases by turnover of prosecutors and by the difficulty of contacting witnesses in other parts of the country.
In probate court, attorneys for Cabral’s niece Teresa Regan hope a judge will soon determine who will be awarded legal ownership of the estate, which includes the third-floor apartment and other assets.
In another part of the courthouse, the criminal court case against David Del Rio, the financial adviser for Cabral and her husband, William, who died in 2017, is slowly proceeding.
Del Rio is charged with 72 counts of grand theft and exploitation of the elderly, with prosecutors contending that he siphoned nearly $3 million from the Cabrals over six years.
Arrested in September 2018, Del Rio was released on bail of more than $450,000 in January 2019 with the condition that he remain under house arrest and avoid contact with members of the Cabral family.
Like many of the pending criminal cases in Palm Beach County, Del Rio’s case has been slowed by the pandemic.
But a number of other factors have kept the case from moving forward more rapidly.
So far, no trial date has been set but Del Rio’s attorney Michael Salnick believes the case could go before a jury sometime this fall.
“There have been a lot of things going on that have caused the delay but I think we’re in the homestretch,” he said. “We just have a lot to do and we’re doing it. No one is unnecessarily delaying the case.”
Salnick says it’s not unusual for a case this serious to take years of preparation before it is ready for trial but agrees with Mike Edmondson, a spokesman for Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, that COVID has been a factor.
Edmondson said courts are just beginning to address what amounts to a more than a year’s worth of backlog of cases. 
The Del Rio case has also seen a changeover in prosecutors, again not that unusual according to Edmondson, and involves witnesses outside of the state.
“There have just been a lot of depositions to take,” Salnick said.
While prosecutors have contended that Del Rio took advantage of his business relationship with the Cabrals and used their trust to pilfer money from bank accounts, Salnick has argued that all the transactions were above board.
During a bond hearing in 2018, Salnick argued that the Cabrals gave the money to Del Rio willingly and presented witnesses who said Betty Cabral thought of him as a son.
It was while investigating Cabral’s death that detectives uncovered financial information that led to the theft charges against Del Rio.
Cabral’s body was found on April 30, 2018, by a Highland Beach police officer doing a safety check after her car was found abandoned in Pompano Beach.
As transplants from Cambridge, Massachusetts, Betty Cabral and her husband retired to Highland Beach in the mid-1990s and were well liked by their neighbors in the condominium community across from the ocean.
Major crimes are rare in Highland Beach, a town that has a full Police Department with officers routinely on patrol. Highland Beach has repeatedly been rated among the top 10 safest cities in Florida by organizations that conduct ratings.
Highland Beach’s only other confirmed homicide occurred in 1994 when Richard P. Ramaglia, 49, was fatally stabbed in his home in the 4000 block of South Ocean Boulevard.
Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies later arrested Mary Juhnke, 23. Juhnke told detectives an argument over whether she should have an abortion led to the stabbing.
Juhnke later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 17 years in prison in December 1994.

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By Steve Plunkett

Gulf Stream’s long-awaited project to rid the town of telephone wires and poles is stumbling toward the finish line.
“I’m happy to say that AT&T has completed their — what they describe in their industry as — wrecking their old infrastructure,” Town Manager Greg Dunham told town commissioners on March 12.
Dunham said one house on Polo Drive still needed new conduit installed, which he expected would happen before the end of the month.
“That means everyone else has been connected,” he said.
Voters approved the plan in a referendum on Feb. 7, 2011, and were originally told the work would be done by fall 2012. Single-family homes were billed $15,200 while condo owners paid $8,500.
The latest delay popped up last May when AT&T walked off the job in a contract dispute. The phone company wanted $1.2 million to complete the work; the town said it owed only $400,000.
Gulf Stream filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in June. After going through mediation, both sides agreed in January to a payment of $695,000.
Cable TV provider Comcast told Dunham it will wreck its remaining infrastructure in the first two weeks of April. Customers who have not scheduled appointments to connect to the new system will lose programming then.
Dunham has been updating Florida Power & Light to make sure its teams are ready to swoop in.
“We’re hopeful,” Mayor Scott Morgan said, “that sometime in May — or June at the latest — that the poles should be removed and all lines removed.”

Subdivision approved
Also at the meeting, commissioners gave their first of two approvals for land-use and zoning changes for the Bluewater Cove addition to Place Au Soleil. The subdivision’s 14 new single-family homes will generate $140,000 in town property taxes; the Gulf Stream Golf Club, which currently owns the acreage, pays only $471 a year.
Cary Glickstein, president of Ironstone Development Inc., told commissioners he was unable to incorporate the 2900 Avenue Au Soleil parcel, which separates the new subdivision from the rest of Place Au Soleil, into his plans.
“Both transactional uncertainties and engineering complexities were unfortunately too much to overcome,” he said.
Assistant Town Attorney Trey Nazzaro said Glickstein and the town had been discussing his proposals for “well over a year, maybe closer to two years.”
The original pitch was for multifamily townhomes, Nazzaro said. Glickstein’s team said the town’s code would have permitted 22 units on the new street instead of the now-planned 14.


In other business, commissioners:
• Denied a request from James Cacioppo for permission to install a four-post boat lift 16.5 feet closer to his southern lot line. The resident had argued the required placement nearer the center of the property spoiled his view of the canal.
William Weiss, his neighbor to the south, wrote to commissioners “to express in the strongest terms possible” his objection to Cacioppo’s request.
Cacioppo previously ruffled feathers along Polo Drive by taking more than three years to build his house.
• Unanimously approved a resolution condemning bills in Tallahassee that would preempt a local government’s ability to enforce building design elements such as exterior color and architectural styling of windows on homes.
“You can see for a town like Gulf Stream, this would really gut our code,” Dunham said. “This would really strike at the heart of why Gulf Stream is so beautiful.” Ú

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By Jane Smith

Delray Beach in March sent a letter and color brochure to coastal residents explaining how the city’s reclaimed water program works — more than a year after the program imploded and nearly prompted a citywide boil-water order that could have lasted for months.
The city mailed letters to single-family homeowners and condominium associations explaining what reclaimed water is and how it can be used safely. The letter states that reclaimed water is “for irrigation purposes ONLY.”
A trifold brochure, “Reclaimed Water (reuse) System and Cross-connection Program,” was attached to letters sent to reclaimed water customers citywide.
“Water use studies reveal that up to 70% of the water flowing to meters monthly is used to maintain landscape and grass,” according to the brochure. “Using reclaimed water conserves valuable potable water resources.”
The brochure also explains that reclaimed water “is highly treated and disinfected wastewater.”
The letters also gave residents the option of signing up for reclaimed water updates.
Meanwhile, state regulators still are reviewing the origins of mistakes in the reclaimed water program. The city may have to pay almost $3 million in fines for violations of the law.
A draft Jan. 7 memo from the state Department of Environmental Protection to Delray Beach interim City Manager Jennifer Alvarez called the violations “willful or intentional in nature.”
City staffers had known for more than 12 years what was needed to implement a safe reclaimed water project, according to July 2008 letters between the city’s Utilities Department and Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County.
Most of the possible fines stem from the lack of adequate backflow prevention at 581 homes and condo associations. The health department issued a memo that proposed to fine Delray Beach $5,000 for each site, or a total of $2.9 million.
The city has hired an environmental law firm to represent it should it contest the fine amount, as well as a public relations firm to counter some of the most outrageous social media and political postings about the program. All questions from the media must go through the firm.
Backflow devices prevent reclaimed water from contaminating the drinking water supply, but a lack of oversight and improper hook-ups allowed the recycled water to penetrate the drinking water in some homes and condos.
“The most recent version of the memo was sent to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on March 15 and comments were received from FDEP on March 17,” Alexander Shaw, spokesman for the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, wrote on March 24 in response to questions from The Coastal Star.
The health department is reviewing and revising the penalty memo, addressing the FDEP comments, according to Shaw.
“The department does not know when the penalties memo will be finalized. It is a process … without a fixed time limit,” Shaw wrote.
The department has been investigating the city’s reclaimed water program for more than a year. On Jan. 2, 2020, a South Ocean Boulevard homeowner called the department to say she was not adequately informed about a cross connection found during December 2018 in her neighborhood.
Delray Beach was forced to turn off its reclaimed water system in February 2020 to avoid a citywide boil-water order triggered by the resident’s complaint. The system was turned back on in phases, with 90% of the barrier island service restored by the end of June.
In the past year, the city has spent slightly more than $1 million to bring its reclaimed water program back into compliance.
Delray Beach can contest the findings of the civil fines after it receives them.

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How close is Delray Beach to meeting the state law to reuse more of its wastewater flows by 2025?
“I’m confident that we can meet the 2025 deadline to reuse 3.9 million gallons a day,” Hassan Hadjimiry, the city’s Utilities Department director, said March 24 in response to a question posed at the virtual meeting of the Beach Property Owners’ Association.
The city currently reuses nearly 3 million gallons a day through its reclaimed water system, Hadjimiry said. Reclaimed water is partially treated wastewater that is usable for irrigation only.
Two reclaimed water projects are planned for the mainland east of the interstate, Hadjimiry said. The first will bring reclaimed water to City Hall on Northwest First Avenue and the surrounding areas.
Next year, plans call for reclaimed water to be installed at the Plumosa School of the Arts, a public school on South Seacrest Boulevard.
The 2025 goal of using 60% of wastewater became state law in July 2008. Delray Beach and Boynton Beach jointly operate the South Central Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Prior to April 2009, the plant routinely dumped treated wastewater into the ocean through a 36-inch outfall pipe in Delray Beach.
The plant now is restricted to using the outfall pipe during heavy rains, for testing its pumps and from unknown “plant upsets.”


— Jane Smith

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By Jane Smith

The owner of Riverwalk Plaza in Boynton Beach plans to start building its 10-story apartment complex in late April.
“We have the main contractor on board and hope to get the subcontractors in the next few weeks,” Baruch Cohen, chief operating officer of Isram Realty, said March 22. “We also need to finalize the financing.”
Construction is expected to take two years.
Last June, Cohen had predicted a Sept. 1 construction start. “It’s not delayed,” he said then. “We will have permits in the next few weeks.” That Sept. 1 start date came after an April 2020 date when the apartment construction originally was anticipated to begin.
The primary building permit is ready to be picked up, according to Michael Rumpf, the city’s development director. It contains all the sub-permits, such as electrical, plumbing and structural, needed to start the vertical construction, Rumpf wrote March 23 in an email.
The city will hold a preconstruction meeting with Isram in early April to discuss workers’ parking and the movement of large trucks, along with the inspection process.
Boynton Beach does not require developers to file a construction worker parking plan, Rumpf wrote.
If a parking plan or strategy is needed, “then it must be found acceptable before impacts are realized,” Rumpf wrote. “A construction project is monitored closely by city staff, and the city is quick to respond to and resolve problems or complaints experienced during the process.”
Riverwalk Plaza sits at the southeast corner of Federal Highway and Woolbright Road.
In January 2017, a previous Boynton Beach City Commission approved the 326-unit project despite residents’ objections to the height and mass at the base of the Intracoastal Waterway bridge.
Isram Realty, based in Hallandale Beach, paid $9.5 million for the aging center in March 2011.
The nearly 10-acre plaza contained a Winn-Dixie grocery store that closed in January 2015.
That closing allowed Isram to redevelop the location into an apartment complex. The company claimed the change was a better land use for the waterfront site.
Isram has built two Federal Highway buildings on the site, which now house a Chipotle’s fast-casual restaurant and a Starbucks Coffeehouse location.
Isram renovated another building that contains a Walgreens drugstore, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft store, Sushi Simon restaurant and Bond Street Ale and Coffee.
At the same time, Isram had to update the underground utilities, fix the drainage for the complex and raise the parking lot.
Initially, Isram had wanted to use part of the western parcel of the two it owns to the plaza’s south side for a construction staging area. But that no longer is possible, Cohen said last June.
Because the parcels contain mangroves, their use must be approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Isram sought the permit in December 2017. The permit application was made public in January 2018.
On June 9 of last year, Isram supplied additional information to the Army Corps. The project was still being reviewed in late March, according to the Army Corps spokeswoman in Jacksonville.
Isram plans to donate the eastern parcel, about 5.8 acres along the Intracoastal, to Boynton Beach.
Isram will have to build around Josie’s Ristorante, whose owners have a long-term lease that expires in 2026 and could not reach a buyout deal with the plaza’s owner.
“We will work around them,” Cohen said. “There will be some interruption but not much.”

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8739918082?profile=RESIZE_710xOcean Ridge Police Officer LeQuandra Beckford was one of the first responders on the scene after a 20-foot-long Air Force practice drone washed ashore. Moments after this photo was taken, the beach was evacuated until the drone was determined not to have live ammunition. By afternoon, it had been removed from the beach, waiting for the Air Force to pick it up.
According to The Air Force Times, the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group flew the target drone from Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City over the military’s testing ranges in the Gulf of Mexico. That means it was likely carried by the Gulf Stream about 500 miles from where fighter jets shot it down, around the southern tip of Florida, and up to its final resting spot. Its journey may have lasted two or three months.
First Lt. Savanah Bray, Air Force 53rd Wing spokeswoman, said: ‘Sometimes, like in this instance, weather, waves or other circumstances prevent our boats from being able to recover the drones, and they can wash up on shore. The situation isn’t dangerous nor entirely uncommon.‘
Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

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8739905860?profile=RESIZE_584xBy Dan Moffett

The Ocean Ridge charter says the Town Commission must select a mayor and vice mayor during its first regularly scheduled meeting after the municipal election.
That assignment is more interesting than usual this time, with the April 5 meeting, because three of the commissioners have served as mayor before and offer different perspectives on how to guide the town’s future.
Kristine de Haseth, the incumbent mayor, won re-election to the commission on March 9 with a 16-vote advantage over political newcomer Carolyn Cassidy, who finished third in the four-way race for two seats. Another political newcomer, John Kramer, finished fourth.
Geoff Pugh, who was the town’s mayor for six years until resigning from the commission in 2018, led all candidates in the race with 440 votes, or 34% of those cast.
Steve Coz, the incumbent vice mayor, was not a candidate in this election. He served as mayor for two years until de Haseth took over in 2020.
The other commissioners, Susan Hurlburt and Martin Wiescholek, also didn’t run in March and last year voted for de Haseth over Coz for mayor. They also have sided with her on most commission votes.
Both Pugh and Coz have criticized the direction of the commission under de Haseth, saying it passed too many ordinances and complicated the lives of property owners and contractors. Pugh said the town is meddling too much in the landscaping choices of individual homeowners and losing sight of more important issues such as increasing property values. Coz has said new ordinances such as the one that restricts artificial turf lawns infringe on homeowners’ rights.
De Haseth disagrees, saying Ocean Ridge property values have kept rising and new ordinances were necessary to preserve the town’s character.
“I have proven my leadership over less than three years by effective and empathetic leading during unprecedented times,” de Haseth says. “I have proven my fiscal responsibility by holding the tax rate steady and building reserves for the town and instituting a five-year capital improvement plan.”

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By Mary Hladky

Southeastern Palm Beach County cities and towns are likely to receive a total of almost $50 million from the nearly $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill approved by Congress on March 10.
The massive American Rescue Plan earmarks $130.2 billion for local governments nationwide. Half the money goes to counties and half to cities.
Boca Raton stands to receive $11.22 million, Delray Beach $13.24 million and Boynton Beach $14.91 million, according to estimates released by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Briny Breezes can expect $240,000, Gulf Stream $410,000, Highland Beach $1.65 million, Lantana $5.29 million, Manalapan $200,000, Ocean Ridge $820,000 and South Palm Beach $620,000.
Palm Beach County’s share is $290.3 million.
But the money isn’t pouring in yet.
Municipal leaders as of March 26 were awaiting guidance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury on how the money can be used and how they will submit eligible expenses.
The Treasury Department is required to send out 50% of municipal allocations within 60 days of the bill’s enactment. The second half will come about one year after the first disbursement.
Municipal leaders are thrilled that they will be compensated for expenses they incurred during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m pleased that Congress recognized the great need of cities for assistance in responding to the pandemic,” said Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer. “This act recognizes that cities like Boca Raton are on the front line of response and they should be reimbursed for our contributions to our public safety and recovery efforts.”
The pandemic put a strain on city budgets and many dipped into reserves to cover unexpected costs.
One of the biggest was overtime paid to police, fire-rescue and other essential personnel filling in for co-workers who contracted COVID-19 or had to quarantine when they were exposed to someone with the illness.
Cities lost revenue from typical sources such as user fees when people opted to shelter in their homes to stay healthy. They had to pay substantially more for personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves for employees and enhanced sanitation procedures.
Unexpected expenses included setting up inoculation sites in January when some cities received small allocations of vaccine from the county office of the Florida Department of Health.
Boynton Beach and Boca Raton spent city funds to give grants to small businesses struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic.
Before the bill was passed, cities were entitled to some relief from the 2020 federal CARES Act. Boca Raton, for one, received nearly $900,000.
Once municipalities receive guidance from the Treasury Department, they will make decisions on how to spend the federal money.
Boynton Beach has started the process. City Manager Lori LaVerriere told city commissioners on March 16 that she has formed an internal work group and will bring spending recommendations to the commission on April 6.
The Briny Breezes Town Council told Town Manager William Thrasher on March 25 to investigate how much the town might be eligible to receive and if it could be used to replace some problematic water mains.
Municipal leaders already have a general idea what they can use the money for because it is outlined in statutory language. The bill is intended to be flexible and gives governments until the end of 2024 to spend the money.
It allows cities and towns to use the funds to cover costs incurred responding to the public health emergency and to replace tax dollars lost during the pandemic.
It also supports economic recovery by allowing cities and towns to provide financial assistance to households, small businesses and nonprofits, and to impacted industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality.
They also can make investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure, according to the house oversight committee.
The Treasury Department will send the money directly to cities with populations of at least 50,000. For smaller cities and towns, the money will go to the state to distribute.

Jane Smith, Mary Thurwachter and Dan Moffett contributed to this story.

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By Jane Smith

Town Square in Boynton Beach has new municipal buildings, a renovated historic high school and a new fire station. But the lack of parking garages makes the area appear unfinished.
Boynton Beach has been waiting for nearly two years to have garage parking for 465 vehicles, promised by JKM BTS, its Town Square private partner. While the city waits for the garages — estimated to cost $34 million — construction costs are rising by an estimated 5% annually, according to analytics on EdZarenski.com. The website provides in-depth analysis on the economics of construction.
In late November after more negotiations seemed fruitless, Boynton Beach sued JKM BTS, asking a judge to decide whether the city had met its obligations under a March 2018 developer’s agreement and can sever that relationship.
JKM built the Cortina apartment buildings and a dog park west of the interstate in Boynton Beach.
Boynton Beach sold 7.68 acres to JKM affiliates in three parcels for $10 each in 2018. It also gave JKM nearly $2 million in cash for development costs and redid the streets in the entire Town Square area — including new water and sewer lines, storm drainage and buried power lines.
To its credit, the firm did supply 301 surface parking spaces on the land it received from the city, as required in the March 2018 developer’s agreement. Those spaces are used during the day by the city, Community Redevelopment Agency, the Schoolhouse Children’s Museum and library workers. Customers doing business at City Hall and visitors to the museum and library also use the parking spaces during the day. “Negotiations between the city, potential workforce housing developers and separately with JKM have taken place,” read a written update by John Markey, a JKM principal, presented at the March 16 City Commission meeting.
“Pending litigation has negatively affected the prospects of obtaining any project construction financing.”
Commissioner Justin Katz contradicted Markey by saying no workforce housing negotiations are taking place. He was backed up by the city manager.
“The financing fell apart years before COVID and the litigation was filed,” Katz said at the meeting.
In mid-March 2020, Boynton Beach and cities worldwide shut down to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Markey finally appeared virtually at the second City Commission meeting in July, saying he and his wife had stayed home for a few months to avoid catching COVID-19. He missed four months of virtual meetings, even though Katz had asked for monthly updates.
The south garage received a building permit on Sept. 5, 2019, and was supposed to be finished by June 5, 2021, Colin Groff, then assistant city manager, said during the July 21 Town Square update. The north garage was estimated to be finished by Dec. 5, 2021.
But no work on the garages has begun.
“The timelines are completely gone,” Markey said at the July 21 meeting.
He asked for taxpayer dollars from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency to help underwrite the private portion of Town Square.
Katz said “absolutely not” to that, pointing to the low cost of the properties, the $2 million in cash and the redone streets. Developers normally would do road improvements on their own.

History of the deal
Boynton Beach signed a developer’s agreement with Markey in March 2018. The agreement detailed what the city was supposed to do and the obligations of Markey’s affiliates that had been set up individually for each project.
The financing mechanism changed from having the city set up a community development taxing district to serve the area’s long-term needs to an outside nonprofit that specialized in public/private partnerships and could issue the Town Square bonds quickly.
The $78 million in bonds were issued by Community Facility Partners of Minnetonka, Minnesota, in July 2018. But the nonprofit could not finance private projects, Markey found out in the fall of 2018. That left him scrambling for financing for the two projects.
As of June 30, JKM had spent nearly $5.8 million on development costs of the three parcels, Markey said at the Sept. 1 commission meeting.
The three parcels that Markey’s firm purchased for $30 in September and December 2018 were appraised at $19.7 million in May 2018. That was several months before the old City Hall and library were demolished to make way for Town Square.
The city agreed in December 2018 to remove its right to repurchase the land after JKM said it needed that clause lifted in order to gain construction financing.
Both City Attorney James Cherof and Markey declined to explain their reasoning, citing the lawsuit.
But official county real estate records do not show a construction loan taken out by JKM on the Town Square parcels.
On Dec. 28, 2018, a $3.5 million letter-of-credit was lent by City National Bank of Florida, secured by the three Town Square parcels. That loan was satisfied on Feb. 7, 2020.
Another $5.5 million “bridge” loan was given by BI 58 LLC on Dec. 23, 2019. The Miami-based partnership specializes in short-term financing for commercial real estate projects. JKM paid off that loan on Dec. 17, 2020.
In the fall of 2019, Markey said, city staff was working toward becoming a co-guarantor of the garage loans that would be financed by Iberia Bank. Then the city decided that was too risky, he said, without owning the land.
In February 2020, the city talked about borrowing $34 million to build the garages by agreeing to “pre-buy” them.
Then, Markey said, the finance world shut down because of the pandemic. Ú

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By Dan Moffett

Manalapan had no contested races in the March municipal election, but begins April with a new mayor pro tem and new commissioner.
John Deese was unanimously appointed to the Town Commission during its March 23 meeting, replacing Jack Doyle, who decided not to seek another term after serving since 2017.
8739892664?profile=RESIZE_180x180Deese, 63, who has owned a home on Spoonbill Road in Manalapan for five years, has been a member of the town’s pension board since 2019. He is president and board director of Guardians Credit Union in West Palm Beach.
“Based on the very good work he’s been doing on the pension board, it’s a natural progression for him to be considered for this commission seat,” Mayor Keith Waters said in supporting Deese’s appointment to the at-large position.
Taking over the mayor pro tem role is Stewart Satter, a 17-year resident of Manalapan who joined the commission in 2019.
Waters says he hopes this commission can begin mapping out the conversion the town must make from septic tanks to municipal sewers, an undertaking the mayor says will take years to complete. That planning was stalled last year by the coronavirus pandemic.
All commissioners serve two-year terms.

In other business:
After three years of negotiating, Town Manager Linda Stumpf said Hypoluxo has accepted an appraisal price of $900,000 to compensate Manalapan for its network of utility pipes and bring an end to the two towns’ long-running water contract.
The last detail of the separation was determining the value of Manalapan’s infrastructure that delivers water to the western neighbor.
Hypoluxo originally submitted an appraisal of $490,000 for the pipes, and Manalapan countered with $1.2 million. A third appraisal came in at $1.3 million, forcing the three appraisers to confer with each other and arrive at the $900,000 figure.
“It’s a good number for everyone,” Waters said. “It allows us to move on to the next chapter.”
The commission hopes that chapter is securing new customers for Manalapan’s water plant. Hypoluxo has signed a long-term deal with Boynton Beach utilities to provide service to its 550 households.

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By Dan Moffett

Briny Breezes voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum in the March 9 municipal election that gives the town its first formal charter.
The vote was 96 to 8, a 92.3% endorsement of the new rules for governance.
The approval is the culmination of a long, often difficult process that went on through most of 2020. A citizens charter committee worked for six months developing the changes, and then it took several meetings of the Town Council to get the referendum on the ballot.
Because no candidates or other issues were contested, Briny had to pay the cost of a special election. A $2,000 grant from the political action committee People for Common Sense reduced those costs, and county election officials agreed to work with the town on minimizing expense, holding the cost to $1,448, according to Town Clerk Sandi DuBose — a relief for council members who worried the price tag could have been several times higher.
Besides outlining relatively minor procedural and administrative rules, the charter defines the job of town manager and makes the Briny clerk an appointed position, not elected.
Alderwoman Sue Thaler, who was unopposed in the March election, was the council’s choice to fill the role of president again.
“I’m happy to volunteer, but would love to see somebody else want the position,” Thaler said.
She joined the council’s 4-0 vote, with Chick Behringer absent, to appoint her to the job she has held for seven years.
In other business:
• The council scheduled a special meeting for 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 13, to consider second readings of two ordinances — one sets new guidelines for using a magistrate to resolve code disputes, and the other concerns the town’s long-term water supply plan.
• Council members told Town Manager William Thrasher to research collaborating with the corporation to resolve the town’s water main issues, and to explore “piggy-backing” with an existing contract the town of Gulf Stream is using to hire a contractor. Thrasher said that last year, during a six-month period, there were three water main breaks on Mallard Drive, and he warned of a possible wider problem throughout the town: “We don’t know if the other water mains might start going out, too.”
• Town Attorney Keith Davis told the council he has revised a draft of an ordinance to update sign code language. Davis said the proposed language “is as close as I can get it” to mirroring sign rules enforced by the corporation. A first reading of the proposed ordinance could come at the council’s next regular meeting, on April 22. Ú

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