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9868606459?profile=RESIZE_710xVictor Gonzalez volunteered his Santa suit and recorded holiday music to entertain families who came the day after Thanksgiving to see the Christmas village and 100-foot tree in downtown Delray Beach. Here he poses for photos being taken by his wife, Francesca, on the front stoop of the workshop for Santa’s helpers. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

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9868598466?profile=RESIZE_400xA new law requires cyclists to ride in a single file on sections of A1A with no designated bike lane. A surveillance camera captures a pack of riders taking up most of a travel lane while riding north near the Eau Palm Beach in Manalapan. Photo provided by Manalapan Police Department

‘Two abreast’ signs finally off A1A, but education of riders lags, police say

By Joe Capozzi 

After months of complaints from coastal police chiefs in south Palm Beach County, the Florida Department of Transportation has finally removed outdated bicycle-riding signs along State Road A1A. 
But the agency still has not responded to requests to post signs reflecting new rules that took effect July 1.
The removal of the old signs in November eliminated a potential legal hurdle that prevented many coastal police departments from enforcing a new law that requires bicyclists to ride in a single file along sections of A1A with no designated bike lanes. 
Those signs, reflecting an old rule allowing bicyclists to ride two abreast along road shoulders without designated bike lanes, finally went down the second week in November.
“It wasn’t just our municipality. Everybody up and down A1A and in Broward County was affected,’’ Highland Beach Police Chief Craig Hartmann said.
But the chiefs are still waiting for the DOT to post new signs and to offer a program educating the public on the new law, which allows police to crack down on pack cyclists who impede traffic. 
“It makes enforcement almost impossible when you have a sign that says (riding two abreast) is permissible when in reality it’s not,’’ said Ocean Ridge Police Chief Richard Jones. He said he and other chiefs had made multiple requests throughout the summer to the DOT to remove the signs.  
DOT officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

Bike lanes vs. shoulders
Cyclists are allowed to ride no more than two abreast only in designated bike lanes. But there are no such lanes, just narrow shoulders, along A1A in South Palm Beach, Ocean Ridge, Manalapan, Gulf Stream, Highland Beach and parts of Delray Beach and Boca Raton.
As the months ticked by after the new rules took effect, police chiefs voiced frustration over the DOT’s slow response to remove the old signs and offer clarification on the new law. It also allows motorists to cross yellow lines when they pass cyclists in an effort to maintain the 3 feet of separation required.
“At what point in time do we have the ability to start enforcing the laws that the Legislature has said are in effect? We can’t do it while the illegal signage is posted,’’ Jones said in an interview.
“Everybody is dealing with it, so I don’t know why the Department of Transportation can’t get their act together.’’
An hour after that interview, Jones sent another email to DOT officials — and offered to remove the signs himself.
“We previously reached out to DOT and we thought we had been lucky enough to get this resolved when a DOT contractor showed up to remove the signs,” Jones wrote. “However, the contractor was afraid to work in the rain and stated that they would return the next day. This was over a month ago and the signage remains in place. These signs prevent us from enforcing the new laws and they send the wrong message to bicyclists.’’
In his email, Jones explained that police chiefs in Manalapan, Highland Beach and other towns have told him they’re having the same problems.
“Is there anything that you can do to get this taken care of or should I just go remove them myself and store the signs for you all to collect?’’
Four days later, on Nov. 16, Jones received a reply from a DOT subcontractor who said eight signs from Manalapan to Boca Raton were removed on Nov. 9. The subcontractor said his crews went back out on Nov. 15 but couldn’t find any more of the outdated signs. 
Jones said he is certain that as of Nov. 12 at least two of the old signs were still posted in Ocean Ridge. But after receiving the subcontractor’s email, Jones said he went back out and found that they’d been removed. 
Hartmann and Manalapan Police Chief Carmen Mattox said old signs were removed from their towns, too. 
Jones said he and other chiefs are glad the old signs finally went down, but they wondered why it took so long and happened only after months of complaints from local police.

Education material needed
The sign issues are just part of a larger problem with the DOT, some coastal chiefs said, because the agency also hasn’t responded to their requests to post new signs or offer a public education program.
“We’d been waiting for the signs to be removed,’’ Hartmann said. “But now that they’re down, there’s really not a clear understanding across the board on the new law. We’ve asked them to put out some educational information and we haven’t seen anything yet.”
One avid cyclist told The Coastal Star he saw an electronic sign stating the new law on A1A in northern Broward this summer. Jones said he hasn’t considered those signs because they’re too expensive for his small town. Several meetings to discuss a potential outreach program had been scheduled, with help from state Sen. Lauren Book, a co-sponsor of the new bike law. But each meeting was postponed because someone from the DOT was never available to attend, Jones said. 
The only public outreach Jones has seen about the new law was a presentation this summer by the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency. 
“How are people supposed to know what the rules are if the governing body, the Florida Department of Transportation, doesn’t do some type of outreach program to put the information on TV or signage on roadways where people are used to riding two abreast? They’ve done nothing,’’ he said.
In Highland Beach, the majority of bicyclists comply with the law and try to ride single file as far onto the right shoulder as possible, Hartmann said. When police see pack riders, which usually happens on weekends, they stop them and try to educate them, he said.
“It’s very challenging. It’s time-consuming and it’s tough to do safely with traffic coming in both directions,’’ he Hartmann said. “We’re hoping the state has more involvement with some of the education and attention to this.’’ 
Mattox said he was “waiting to see what the state’s going to do” before he commented on the new bike law.

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City may incur more fines if terms aren’t met

 Letter to the Editor: City manager promises ‘brighter’ future for Delray water customers

By Jane Smith

Delray Beach must meet three years of deadlines along with paying a record $1 million civil fine and $21,193.90 for costs and expenses to settle issues raised by the county branch of the Florida Department of Health regarding violations in the city’s reclaimed water program.
If it doesn’t meet the conditions, the city will have to pay an additional fine of $5,000 per day for each corrective action.
The city, which signed the consent order on Nov. 9, has to meet the conditions to ensure it stays in compliance with state drinking water regulations. These include:
• Within 30 days of signing the order, Delray Beach must publish a public notice about its failure to implement a cross connection/backflow program that was supposed to start in 2008 to prevent mixing of reclaimed and drinking water.
• Within 180 days, Delray Beach must complete the installation of the backflow prevention devices that are marked “pending” on lists submitted to the Health Department.
• Also within 180 days, the city must complete an inventory of all properties connected to its drinking water system. The inventory must cover the type of property served, type of backflow prevention device installed, the manufacturer of the device, date of installation and date of replacement in accordance with the maker’s specifications.
• Within three years, Delray Beach must ensure that all connections to its drinking water system follow the state rules controlling cross connections and backflow protection. The city must list the addresses where backflow protection is not needed by state law or local rules, but it does not have to physically inspect those sites.
• The city must provide quarterly progress reports of connections during the three-year period until the corrective action is completed.
“I’m confident we have the people and systems in place to meet the Health Department’s requirements,” Mayor Shelly Petrolia said. “If we don’t, we will have to pay penalties of $5,000 a day.”
Petrolia also said the problems appear to date to 2008 when the program was started. “I am extremely disappointed that the city’s current taxpayers will pay for the deficiencies,” she said.
“I’d rather see the money go to the water system upgrades than pay civil fines, but I think the regulators wanted to get the city’s attention,” barrier island resident Ned Wehler said.

Negotiations got testy
The Health Department’s chief legal counsel was concerned over news reports about the consent order, a legal agreement that binds both parties.
“We should provide a statement because I believe based on what I’ve read so far that everyone thinks this consent order covers only the reclaimed water,” chief legal counsel Cathy Linton wrote in a Nov. 10 internal Health Department email that included Rafael Reyes, the department’s environmental health director.
“Rafael, I think we need something that states that the City of Delray will have 180 days to advise the Department of Health where all the other non-reclaimed water sites are that need backflow protection, and three years to ensure that the backflow protection is installed in all those sites.”
The settlement comes more than 19 months after the Health Department demanded the city shut down its reclaimed water system to avoid a citywide boil water order in February 2020. Reclaimed water is highly treated wastewater suitable only for lawn irrigation and not for human or pet consumption.
On Jan. 2, 2020, a South Ocean Boulevard resident called the Health Department to say she was not properly informed of a cross connection in her area. Cross connections occur when the drinking water pipes are mistakenly connected to those carrying reclaimed water.
The civil fine, the highest ever imposed by the Health Department, is down from the $1.8 million that the city was asked to pay in June. The higher amount included a 25% surcharge for the city’s history of noncompliance.
City Manager Terrence Moore touted the $800,000 reduction in letters to the editors of local newspapers. The city also paid the Lewis, Longman & Walker law firm nearly $110,000 as of Oct. 28 to negotiate with the Health Department.
Negotiations broke down in the late summer over the proposed $1.8 million fine.
“As you may recall, our offer (on July 30) proposed a final settlement of $327,192.90,” attorney Frederick Aschauer wrote to Linton on Aug. 30. “We also proposed that the city be afforded the opportunity to conduct an in-kind penalty project.”
He called the transfer of money from one public body to another a way “simply to exact a pound of flesh.”
Aschauer also wrote that the city “has already expended significant sums recently in order to improve its utility’s service and increase its efforts to ensure the protection of the public health, safety, and welfare.”
Delray Beach has spent more than $1 million bringing the program into compliance.
“By not complying with the rules since 2008 for reclaimed water the city had a cost savings,” Linton wrote in an Oct. 1 email to Aschauer. “For the backflows that are missing from businesses the city has failed to comply with the rules since the 1990s.”
Her email added that the Health Department has spent months with the state Department of Environmental Protection going over its proposed consent order. The county Health Department leaders wanted to make sure they followed DEP guidelines for enforcement fairness and consistency.
“We will not be back at the negotiating table for less than what we said was the Health Department’s lowest number — $1 million in penalties and all of our costs,” Linton wrote.
The Health Department also cited the city for failing to report residents who said they became sick from drinking contaminated water at the cross connection reported in December 2018.
The city has an ordinance that requires property owners to connect to the reclaimed water system when the pipes are installed near the property. But some South Ocean residents were able to switch back to lawn irrigation with drinking water and the city paid for the plumbers’ costs.
“That’s ridiculous,” said barrier island resident Bill Petry. “We all should be treated equally.”

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Some materials that contractors pick up on Hypoluxo Island likely don’t belong in the recycling bins. Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Larry Barszewski

For the first time in two years, Palm Beach County cities and towns are receiving a dividend from the recycling efforts of their residents.
A total of $141,612 is being portioned out by the Solid Waste Authority to the county’s 39 municipalities. The money may be little more than pocket change — Manalapan’s share comes out to only $137.09, for instance — but it means the county’s recycling efforts are once again paying for themselves. The revenue sharing takes place only after all the SWA program costs have been covered.
Ocean Ridge Mayor Kristine de Haseth says her town encourages recycling — it will even supply the blue and yellow bins to make it easier for residents rather than having them contact the SWA — in an effort to reduce the county’s waste stream.
Ocean Ridge’s share of the disbursement is $551.17.
“It has nothing to do with the revenue side,” de Haseth says. “It’s nice to get, but it doesn’t cover much, even for a small town like ours.”
Recycling programs around the world took a hit in 2018 when China, which was a major purchaser of the collected materials, became far pickier in what materials it would accept, particularly when it came to paper goods. Many places nationally ended up dumping recyclables in landfills because they could not find buyers, while those that could sell saw the value of their materials plummet because of the market glut.
At the same time, the SWA’s recycling costs increased because of the county’s living wage rules, which gave a roughly 50% hourly wage increase to recycling plant workers. The SWA plugged away, finding takers for its products, although the money it earned no longer covered expenses — at least not until this summer.

9868502052?profile=RESIZE_710xRecycling markets rebound
The good news is that many markets are rebounding, the SWA reports:
• Premium mixed paper, which fell from about $100 a ton in 2017 prior to China’s actions, to about $38 a ton in 2020, boomed to more than $140 a ton this year.
• Cardboard, which dropped from about $165 a ton to about $55 a ton, averaged more than $120 a ton this year.
• Even basic mixed paper, which went from around $88 a ton to $20 a ton, has climbed back to averaging about $38 a ton recently.
The value of some plastics — particularly the containers with “2” in their recycling triangles — weren’t affected as much, but they have also seen large increases this year. The SWA’s HDPE natural No. 2 plastic materials, including milk jugs, have averaged between $600 and $1,000 per ton in recent years, but averaged more than $1,600 a ton for 2021.
Unfortunately, there’s little way of knowing for sure whether the trend will continue or is a momentary blip.
“Market prices are market prices,” based on the vagaries of supply and demand, says Willie Puz, the SWA’s director of public affairs and recycling. “The recycling market is commodity driven, and the markets fluctuate up and down for a number of different reasons. So, what stands true for a commodity price one month, may be different the next month, may be different the next year.”

Saving landfill space
The main goal of recycling is not to turn a profit, but to save landfill space, he says.
“Recycling is done for a number of different reasons. From the Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County’s perspective, it’s also to decrease our reliance on a landfill. Any way that we can divert a specific waste stream, in this case it’s recyclables, it’s to our advantage, our county’s advantage,” Puz says. “There’s going to come a time when we will have to site a new landfill, and there’s not a lot of space for that landfill to go. … And you know there’s a lot of ‘not in my backyard’ for a landfill.”
When it comes to recycling, the county and its municipalities have room to grow, state Department of Environmental Protection data shows. Palm Beach County ranks fourth among counties and is close to the goal set by the state years ago of having three-quarters of its waste stream going to recycling, but that includes credits the county gets for burning trash to produce electricity at its waste-to-energy incineration plant. The traditional recycling portion is closer to 45%.

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With the increase in online shopping, much more cardboard is being set by curbs like these collections on Hypoluxo Island. TOP: The boxes are cut and folded, ensuring they will be recycled. BOTTOM: The stack of whole boxes is more likely to end up in the trash and be burned in one of the county’s waste-to-energy incinerators. 

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Recycle more, recycle right
According to the state data, there’s a lot more that residents and visitors could be doing.
The materials coming into the county’s recycling center account for only one out of every 12 aluminum cans disposed of here, only one out of 11 plastic bottles and less than a third of the office paper and cardboard that is being thrown away, the state says.
While the Solid Waste Authority wants to see residents recycle more, it also wants them to recycle right. That means being careful about what they put in their recycling bins, to make sure it’s a product the county actually recycles and that it isn’t contaminated. The county’s recycling guidelines don’t always match what people think is recyclable.
“You have a very high snowbird season, where we get hundreds of thousands of other residents, where they recycle differently somewhere else, and a lot of times they think they recycle better wherever they came from,” Puz says. “And you have the tourist visitors that we have. It takes us all to do the right thing to make recycling successful.”
Here are some things about recycling in Palm Beach County you may not know:
• Big pieces of cardboard and boxes that you leave at the curb to be recycled may end up being thrown into a garbage truck because some communities don’t have recycling trucks that can handle the larger pieces.
If the recycling truck on your street has side-loaders, where the materials have to fit into a hopper, the only way for recycling to work is to cut the cardboard down into smaller pieces that fit into your recycling bin first.
• Bottle caps are recyclable, but only if they’re attached to the bottles. The shredders at the recycling plant will be able to sort the cap plastic from the bottle plastic. Loose bottle caps are a big no-no. They’ll get stuck in the machinery and cause equipment breakdowns.
• Bring your plastic bags to grocery store recycling bins; don’t put them in the bins you put out on the curb. The plastic bags will get caught in the recycling machinery.
• Don’t put items in your recycling bins because you’d like to think they can be recycled: Styrofoam, packing peanuts, paper products having food stains on them, aluminum foil or aluminum pans, plastic eating utensils and plastic straws should all go into the garbage.
• Ropes, coat hangers, stringy material or anything else that could get tangled up in the recycling plant machinery should be left out of your bins.
“Recycling is not dead and residents should still recycle,” Puz says. “It’s most important for them to recycle right, per their local program.”

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Someone stole my bike. It wasn’t new and I have another one, but it was the same aqua blue as the ocean on a summer day. You could feel the wind in your hair just looking at it.
The bike was also the color of this newspaper’s masthead logo and was a gift from my husband in our first profitable year of business. Losing it is not a huge financial loss, but for sentimental reasons, I’m sad that it’s gone.
9868437088?profile=RESIZE_584xWhen we called the Ocean Ridge police to report it missing from the screened porch of the property we own in Briny Breezes, the kind officer told us it was just one of several stolen from the area in the past month.
I learned later that neighbors in Ocean Ridge also found their bikes missing.
Obviously, some group of people believed they needed bicycles more than we did. In all, three bicycles were reported stolen in Briny Breezes and four in Ocean Ridge during November. None was recovered and the police have no suspects. Chances are good there were more stolen than reported.
Richwagen’s Delray Bike & Sport explained when we called to get the make and model, that bicycle thefts have been on the uptick since pandemic-induced supply chain issues have made bikes hard to come by and have caused an increase in street value.
So, sadly, I suspect my beautiful blue bike has already been dismantled for parts in a warehouse in Broward County or is packed into a shipping container on a boat in the Miami River.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s been polished up (the handlebars were pretty rusty) and donated to an organization that provides bikes to needy kids. That would cheer me up. But I’m doubtful.
So, in the spirit of Christmas, my plan is to pay it forward by writing a check for the cost of a new bicycle to one of the many local toy drives taking place in December.
Many kids need bikes to get to school, to the grocery store, to their friends’ houses, to the park.
If a kid can use a bike to help out his household, get away for a little solitude, or simply have a bit of fun, I’ll feel like I have turned a bad event into something good.
My hope is that, maybe someday, as the kid who receives the bike gets older, she’ll pedal to the beach, feel the wind in her hair and marvel at the aqua blue of the ocean on a summer day.
Happy holidays!

— Mary Kate Leming,
Editor

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Steve King, director of development at Boca Helping Hands since September, started out with the organization by distributing bags of groceries to people in need. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Jan Engoren

After retiring from his first career at Bank of America and Comerica in Boca Raton and working in Lynn University’s Office of Development, Boca Raton resident and Miami native Steve King says he has found his true calling.
Appointed as director of development at the nonprofit Boca Helping Hands in September, King is combining his expertise in fundraising, community service and engagement and doing good at the same time.
“For the first time, I’m doing something that I believe in and feel wonderful about every day,” says King, 55.
“There’s nothing I don’t enjoy,” he says. “I’m very privileged seeing the people we’re helping and hope to keep going until I’m 80.”
In volunteering for the organization since 2012, King and his family served food and distributed pantry bags as a way to become more active in the community.
“Engaging with clients was so rewarding that I look forward to making a greater impact in my current capacity by creating stronger community partnerships and enhancing programs,” King says.
Boca Helping Hands provides food, medical and financial assistance as well as education, job training and guidance to foster client self-sufficiency.
The organization assists more than 27,000 people annually and distributes more than 80,000 pantry bags at five Palm Beach County locations, serving 90,000 hot meals annually, six days per week.
In addition, the group offers access to affordable medical, dental and behavioral care through its partnerships with Genesis Community Health and FAU’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing community-based clinics.
When the coronavirus pandemic struck in March 2020, King served up to 300 lunches each day and assembled and distributed as many pantry bags.
“My job is to engage with the public, meet donors, do outreach and attend events,” King says. “We want to meet donors where they are and not wait for them to come to us.”
This past Thanksgiving, BHH fed approximately 3,000 families in the county.
“You can see our donors’ joy when they drop off food for Thanksgiving labeled ‘from my family to your family,’” he says.
King credits the organization’s top three sponsors — Boca Raton’s ADT, Phoenix Tower International and Boca Raton’s Robert and Anita Kriensky.
“We couldn’t have done it without them,” he says.
As a child, King admired his parents — both public school teachers. His mother was a special ed teacher and his dad taught homebound kids.
“Both my parents would give you the shirt off their back,” he says.
King’s mother died last year at the age of 86, in a nursing home. Because of the pandemic, King was unable to visit and feels a lasting sadness.
“I’d love to be able to hug her and thank her and share one more Thanksgiving,” he says.
They made him the person he is today, he says.
“I want to leave my mark and make a difference,” King says. “I love Boca Raton and want to create meaningful change.”
He enjoys living in Boca Raton and says: “This city offers everything. It’s paradise.”
He moved to Boca in 1986.
“The people are wonderful,” says King. “We have a top-notch hospital, museum and two universities, beautiful beaches and parks. From education to the outdoors, from arts to sports to a variety of restaurants, there are so many amenities. I go to the beach every weekend and either read or paddleboard.”
King met his wife, Ann-Louise, at Lynn University on the first day of school in 1987. She’d arrived from Sweden to play tennis for Lynn University, then known as the College of Boca Raton.
“I carried her bags from the car,” he recalls. “I remember she didn’t thank me. I learned later she was hot, exhausted — and overwhelmed by travel. Obviously, I’ve done something right — we’ve been married 30 years and have two adult children.”
Despite what F. Scott Fitzgerald said — “There are no second acts in American life” — King seems to be excelling in his.
“My job is extremely fulfilling,” he says. “It’s very gratifying to make an impact. Boca Helping Hands is a very enjoyable place. Even on a bad day here we’re helping someone and making sure they’re having a good day.”

NOMINATE SOMEONE TO BE A COASTAL STAR
Send a note to news@thecoastalstar.com or call 561-337-1553.

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9868501487?profile=RESIZE_180x180Former Boca Raton Deputy Mayor Robert Weinroth is now helming the Palm Beach County Commission after being unanimously elected by his colleagues to the ceremonial post of mayor.
“This is a paradise we live in and it’s our job to make it the best paradise in the world,” Weinroth said as he assumed his new role on Nov. 16.
He won election to the City Council in 2014, serving for four years before he was elected county commissioner for District 4, which covers the county’s southeastern part.
Among the challenges facing the county are the need for better mental health services, the lack of affordable housing, opioid use, food insecurity and inflation, Weinroth said.
Weinroth is a longtime resident of Boca Raton, where he and his wife, Pamela, recently purchased a condo at Alina Residences downtown.

— Mary Hladky

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On Nov. 9, the Delray Beach City Commission voted unanimously to approve a consent order with the Florida Department of Health Palm Beach County. Over the past 20 months, a lot has been accomplished to bring the city’s reclaimed water cross-connection control program into compliance.
Ultimately, we arrived at an $800,000 reduced remittance from what was originally proposed by the Department of Health. 
Supporting our legal team and Utilities Department staff throughout the negotiations to arrive at a final consent order with the Department of Health has been one of my top priorities since I began working for the city just a few months ago. Likewise, the team’s diligent work over the past several months has given the city closure on this very important matter and I sincerely thank them for their efforts. 
I realize that our current team here can’t change the past, and the work they have done over the past 20 months to bring our reclaimed water program into compliance is not a function of placing blame on a single individual. It’s about ensuring the service we provide is meeting the necessary standards and serving our residents, business owners and stakeholders as it should. That is true accountability.
Despite my short tenure with the city, I want to offer a heartfelt apology to our residents, business owners and stakeholders. Without question, you deserve a utilities system that meets compliance standards as well as the needs of our community. This is something I am deeply committed to, as is the city’s current Director of Utilities Hassan Hadjimiry, who was hired in June of 2020. Our shared vision centers on the core belief that sound infrastructure is the foundation upon which strong cities are built. 
The city’s reclaimed water system is an integral part of our utilities infrastructure. It plays an important role in water resource, wastewater and ecosystem management. Reclaimed water is highly treated wastewater that can be used for irrigation to recharge the groundwater supply and ease the demand on our drinking water sources. Our property owners who have access to and use reclaimed water for irrigation purposes are doing their part to conserve our most precious resource — and for that I am extremely grateful.
Continuing to strengthen our infrastructure is imperative to ensuring Delray Beach’s future is a sustainable one. Moving forward, the implementation of several sustainable capital improvement programs, including a new water treatment plant, will help ensure the city’s infrastructure will meet and exceed our community’s future needs. I am confident that our future will be brighter — with dependable infrastructure and utilities services that all can rely on. 

Terrence R. Moore, ICMA-CM,
Delray Beach city manager 

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Thank you, Ocean Ridge residents, for returning me to the Town Commission for another three-year term.
During my years on the commission my platform has been pretty simple. I believe in private property rights, a strong Police Department, a commission that listens to the residents rather than to each other, and limited town governance that is based on common sense and not overly intrusive into residents’ lifestyles and choices.
Ocean Ridge faces two pressing issues: drainage and aging infrastructure. That’s where the focus should be. Longer term the conversion from septic to sewer (which most likely will be mandated by the state) needs to be addressed.
We live in a wonderful gem of a town. I will do everything I can to ensure that Ocean Ridge retains its unique small-town character.
Thank you.

Steve Coz
Ocean Ridge commissioner

Editor's Note: No other candidate qualified for Coz’s seat. As a result, there will be no municipal election in March.

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By Rich Pollack

For almost four decades, officers and managers of condos east of Federal Highway in Boca Raton and Highland Beach met regularly to share information and to listen to key speakers on topics that affect them all.
Now, with the collapse of Surfside’s 12-story Champlain Towers South in June still on the minds of many and with recertification regulations coming down the road in some communities, the Beach Condo Association of Boca Raton and Highland Beach is expanding to welcome representatives from condos in Delray Beach.
“Our organization is about community and this is about neighbors helping neighbors,” said Emily Gentile, the association’s president. “It’s about courtesy and kindness to our neighbors in Palm Beach County.”
The association meets for an hour and a half the third Tuesday of every month from October through April. It focuses on sharing information on topics that are common and of interest to most associations.
During past meetings, members have discussed a wide range of issues from crosswalks on State Road A1A to beach erosion and storm protection. They have shared ideas about security, maintenance and repairs and even staffing.
In addition, the association offers board certification classes and other continuing education classes that are useful to condominium leaders and managers.
“Meeting board members from other buildings is always helpful,” said Janet Friedman, a vice president on the board of Villa Costa, a 36-unit building in Highland Beach. “We always have a common problem or question and I can either get information or possibly give information to a fellow board member with something we at Villa Costa have faced in the past.”
Friedman says she goes to meetings to keep up with changes to relevant legislation on the state and local levels and to work with others on important issues.
“It is always good to collaborate with others that have the same interests,” she said.
Joanne Chester, president of the board of the 55-unit Mayfair of Boca Raton, agrees about the value of swapping ideas.
“Just hearing stories of what other buildings are doing is priceless information,” she said.
Now, Gentile says, there is a great focus on structural integrity and recertification of buildings, topics with lots to learn that can often be confusing.
“Recertification is an issue that requires a lot of education,” Gentile said. “We want our neighbors to know what we know.”
With that in mind, the Beach Condo Association last month held a Recertification Experts Panel meeting on Zoom featuring building officials, code enforcement officers, two structural engineers, an electrical engineer and structural contractors. Members had an opportunity to learn more about ordinances passed by Boca Raton and Highland Beach relating to recertification and to get an idea of how certification requirements will be rolled out.
Condo board members and managers also now have a better understanding of the structural and electrical issues facing buildings — especially those on the barrier island — and what inspectors will look for.
“We have a lot more to come,” Gentile said. “We’re pulling out all the stops to educate our members and give them all the information they need.”
Future meetings, she said, will include related topics including how the Champlain Towers collapse will impact insurance. The association also plans to hold a meeting focused on financial issues with banks and other institutions, discussing what options are available should condo associations need to finance major structural or electrical repairs.
Annual dues for the Beach Condo Association of Boca Raton and Highland Beach are $150 per building per year. Meetings are open to condo association officers and committee chairs as well as managers. Meetings are hosted at different condominiums along the coast.

More information is available at https://beachcondoassociation.com

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On Nov. 8, Lantana’s public beach was scoured by a heavy storm. This shows the beach south of the Imperial House. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

By Mary Thurwachter

Lantana’s public beach is sand-starved, and a plan spearheaded by the town of Palm Beach aims to assuage that hunger.
Lantana officials and residents heard of the proposal during a special meeting on Nov. 3 hosted by Brian Raducci, Lantana’s new town manager. He said the town has an opportunity to partner with Palm Beach, South Palm Beach and Palm Beach County to enter an interlocal agreement for a dune restoration project.
Rob Weber, the coastal program manager for the town of Palm Beach, said the program would add sand to Lantana’s beach, similar to what had taken place in South Palm Beach earlier this year.
“There are opportunities that if we are impacted by a storm the sand can be replaced with FEMA funds,” he said. “So we are trying to work together, trying to be as smart as we can and judicious with our funds and to be able to have a program to have a beach that is healthy for everyone to enjoy.”
Palm Beach has been doing beach renourishment projects since the 1940s. The sand flow, which goes from north to south, was interrupted in the 1920s when the Lake Worth inlet was trenched.
“Ever since that point, there was noticeable erosion that occurred south of the inlet and then we started doing beach nourishment in the 1940s,” Weber said. “It wasn’t until the 1970s, when environmental regulations really took hold, that we started getting projects permitted. Our first permitted project was in midtown (Palm Beach) in 1995.”
The first project in the southern area near South Palm Beach was the Phipps Ocean Park project that was constructed in 2006.
“Each time we’ve done a beach renourishment project in the south end, we’ve also had a dune restoration, and a dune restoration is not just building a dune, but adding sand above the knee-high water line, not just placing sand into the water,” Weber said. “When you place sand in the water, you need a federal permit from the Corps of Engineers; when you’re placing sand above the knee-high water line, you only need a permit from the state of Florida.”
In 2013, a beach management agreement, the only one of its kind in Florida, was signed for Palm Beach island, regardless of municipal boundaries.
“We started implementing our program,” Weber said, “and after we had it signed in 2013, and most recently this year, we did a partial beach nourishment project in Phipps Ocean Park to restore some of the impacts we had from previous hurricanes.” At the same time, they did dune restoration south of the Lake Worth Pier between the Bellaria and La Bonne Vie condominiums and placed sand in South Palm Beach.
“The ultimate goal here is to keep adding as much sand as we can to the system to be as healthy as possible,” Weber said. “The beaches overall will perform better with more sand. … If the beaches are healthier here in South Palm Beach and Lantana, then our program will be that much better and we’ll be stronger altogether.”
Mike Jenkins, the engineering consultant for Palm Beach, said if dune projects are done in concert together over a larger area, they tend to perform better.
The proposed project would involve transportation of sand from an existing stockpile at Phipps Ocean Park and placement on the beaches of South Palm Beach and Lantana.
Jenkins said that within last year’s major nourishment project, some extra sand was reserved on the beach to distribute in dune projects this season. The work can only be done outside of turtle nesting season.
The project, expected to take two weeks, would require access to the beach to truck in and place the sand.
“South Palm Beach can’t resolve the issue just by themselves,” Jenkins said. “The town of Palm Beach really can’t solve it just by themselves. We’re going for a regional response.”
Construction would happen in January or February and would require beach closures.
“One of the critical aspects of this is if Lantana joins in this program to maintain a beach through repetitive dune projects, those projects would then become eligible for FEMA funds if there’s a declared disaster after a hurricane,” Jenkins said.
The beach at Lantana is a public beach, unlike the private beaches in South Palm Beach, and more likely to receive government money.
Some residents at the meeting didn’t like the idea that access to Lantana’s beach would be over the existing sea wall, but Jenkins said he did not anticipate damage to the sea wall. Covering it with sand and mass, he said, would preserve the wall during the process. “The contractor would be contractually obligated to repair anything if he were to damage it.”
Weber said the cost to Lantana would be zero.
“The idea is that the town of South Palm Beach would be covering that cost,” Weber said. “The town of Palm Beach is obviously doing the work, but South Palm Beach are the ones that would take on that cost in exchange for the access.”
South Palm Beach Town Manager Robert Kellogg said: “The current proposal calls on us to pay for the sand at Lantana Beach for providing access for our project.”
Kellogg said the king tides and northwest winds in November washed the sand from the first phase of the project away from the beach.
“We are assessing the volume of sand we will need in January-February. The second phase will include both us and Lantana,” he said. “As I don’t have an idea of the volume of sand needed, I can’t give you a cost.”
South Palm Beach Mayor Bonnie Fischer implored Lantana officials to consider the proposal.
“I don’t see any downsides other than a little inconvenience,” she said. “It’s just a win-win for us.”
However, some residents pointed out that closing the public beach during peak season is not ideal.
Raducci said he expects the proposal to come before the Town Council soon.

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By Mary Thurwachter

Six candidates are vying for two positions on the Lantana Town Council in the March 8 election. The candidate with the most votes for each seat wins.

Group 1
Incumbent Lynn Moorhouse is seeking re-election. The 78-year-old retired dentist holds the Group 1 seat.
An outspoken advocate for developing the downtown business district, Moorhouse has been in office since 2004. His opponents are Joseph Farrell, a flooring distributor and a member of Lantana’s planning and zoning commission, and John Raymer, the manager at Ace Rental Place in Lantana.
Farrell, 58, withdrew his candidacy for mayor last year due to family obligations. He also made an unsuccessful run against Malcolm Balfour in 2013.
“Lantana has been stagnating since 2007,” Farrell said. “Facilities and maintenance have fallen to new lows.
“Now is the time to replace incumbents that sat by and let Lantana slide into mediocrity.” Raymer, 51, is retired from the U.S. Army after 21 years.
“What prompted me to run is I noticed a communication breakdown in the town,” Raymer said. That breakdown, he said, is the town’s biggest issue. He noticed it last year when Sea Pines, where he lives, had flooding problems and after the first town meeting to address the issue, he heard nothing more about it, he said.
“A lot of people don’t go on the internet and don’t find their information that way,” he said.
“We don’t need politicians,” he said. “We need people that are willing to work for people and that’s my job. I want to work for the people to make sure they understand what’s going on in the community and the decisions that are going to be made.”
His biggest strength, Raymer said, is his ability to look at all sides of issues “with an open mind and not to be persuaded by any one party’s ideology.”

Group 2
Malcolm Balfour, who holds the Group 2 seat, is not running again. He is 83 and has served on the council since 2013.
Three people are pursuing the Group 2 position: Media Beverly, Kem Mason and former council member Edward P. Shropshire.
Beverly, 69, is a retired business manager with a Florida real estate broker’s license. Her skills include accounting, insurance, property management, litigation and research, she said.
Beverly is running to continue her efforts “toward preserving Lantana’s small-town, fishing village character while improving the quality of life for all residents. We can accomplish that goal with proper, thoughtful planning and well-regulated development, while ensuring the fiscal health of Lantana by encouraging the addition of revenue-producing, family-friendly businesses for everyone to enjoy.”
She said being a good listener who cares about the needs of others is among her strengths.
“Identifying what residents want, research to educate myself and others, and tenacity are key to making informed, sound decisions which affect current and future generations of Lantanians,” she said. 
Regarding the town’s biggest issue, Beverly said: “Town Council voted to reintroduce an ordinance lifting the ban, and allowing medical marijuana dispensaries inside our town, which I oppose, because sales are tax-exempt and provide no revenue to our town. Council members should, instead, focus on creating a realistic, sustainable Master Plan and work toward restoring Lantana to the desirable, hospitable community it once was.”
Mason, 63, is a retired captain with Palm Beach Fire Rescue who serves on the town’s planning commission and the education council and Citizens On Patrol.
He has worked in public service all his adult life as a lifeguard and firefighter.
“When I retired, I was still a public servant as a volunteer for Lantana and I want to continue that process. This is the next evolution after volunteering.
“It’s in my nature to work with the community and to help it be a better place for everybody,” Mason said.
His strengths, he said, are innovative thinking, a proactive as opposed to reactive attitude, and his knowledge of government behind the scenes from his years of work.
“One of my strongest suits is that I listen to people and am open-minded,” Mason said. 
Residential and business redevelopment is the town’s biggest issue today, he said.
“There are a lot of empty storefronts. Lantana needs to be thinking toward the future of what are we going to do for sea level rise, where are we going to get our water from?”
Shropshire, 69, served on the council for one three-year term (2017-2020) but was defeated in his bid for re-election last year.
He is retired from Cemex building materials company, where he worked for 34 years.
“I am running so as to help chart Lantana’s course for the future,” he says.
One of his strengths, he said, is his “ability to present and communicate well-researched and locally focused ideas.”
Lantana’s biggest issue today is to preserve its small-town culture as the town continues to grow, Shropshire said.

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Lynsey Kane, shown with Isla Cay, 1, and Bobby Jr., 4, two of her three children, is planning a Dec. 10 trip to bring supplies to Afghan refugees in Miami. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Joe Capozzi

Months before the people of Ocean Ridge’s Inlet Cay came to her aid, the 19-year-old Afghan woman and her family were trying to board an evacuation plane at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. A suicide bomb exploded, killing more than 180 people and injuring another 150. 
The woman and her family were not injured. But in the chaos, she and two brothers, ages 7 and 9, were separated from their parents. They were rushed with hundreds of other refugees onto the plane, which made a hasty departure that day in late August. 
The evacuation flight made it safely to the United States. Eventually, the girl and her brothers arrived at a Miami hotel being used to house Afghan refugees. 
One day in November, they met a kind stranger from Ocean Ridge.
Lynsey Kane, a stay-at-home mother of three, said she went to Miami that day as a volunteer with Church World Service, one of several agencies assisting Afghan refugees in the United States. 
Kane, whose father, Larry Petrie, served in the Air Force in Afghanistan during the post-9/11 Operation Enduring Freedom, said she was motivated to help after seeing news reports about the desperate scenes at the Kabul airport during the U.S. troop withdrawal.
Like others around the world, she said she was sickened by images of people clamoring on the runway, some clinging to the sides of airplanes taking off before falling to their deaths. 
“When I saw all of that online, I was beside myself,’’ said Kane, 30. “I felt compelled to get involved. I didn’t know exactly what to do, but I wanted to do something.’’ 
Through a family friend, she got connected with Church World Service and launched what she calls “a very grassroots” mission in Inlet Cay, the Ocean Ridge community where she and her husband have lived for the past 2½ years.
She packed her black Lincoln Navigator with donations of clothes, kitchen supplies and toys that she rustled from neighbors and drove it all to Miami.   
Kane, who has a sociology degree from the University of Florida and has worked with special needs children, said she met dozens of Afghans that day and was moved to tears listening to their stories. 
“I was expecting to drop off supplies and then when I went there, I was like, ‘This is going to be my mission,’’’ said Kane, whose husband, Bobby, is a shareholder at the law firm Greenberg Traurig.
Of all the Afghans she met, Kane said she made a special connection with the 19-year-old woman, whose father and uncle worked as translators supporting the U.S. military in Afghanistan. (Kane is withholding the woman’s identity for safety reasons.)  
“She’s the biggest reason I’m tied to this,’’ said Kane, who said the woman and her brothers haven’t seen their parents since the day of the bomb attack. 
“She speaks English. One of the most compelling things she said to me was that she wants to be a lawyer but the Taliban was preventing women from going to school. She said to me, ‘Nobody is going to stop me. Nobody is going to hold me back.’’’
Since that first trip, Kane has returned four more times, ferrying supplies and getting to know many of the refugees. She and her neighbors are collecting supplies for a large donation they plan to drive down in a rental truck on Dec. 10.
They’ve sent out an email blast to friends and neighbors in Ocean Ridge and have set up an Amazon wish list. (www.amazon.com/registries/custom/ENTNILVGRJWP/guest-view)
The Inlet Cay volunteers are no longer accepting clothes, she said. Now the biggest needs are home goods, kitchen items, furniture, and baby supplies such as formula. They also are seeking leads for affordable housing and volunteers to help teach English.

Inlet Cay neighbors assist
“As my mother always told me, ‘it would be a sin and a shame not to help someone in need,’’’ said Tim McKinney, an Inlet Cay resident who’s helping Kane. 
One of three small islands connected to the main part of Ocean Ridge by short bridges in the Intracoastal Waterway, Inlet Cay is a comfortable neighborhood of 65 homes, many of them million-dollar properties with boat docks on the water. 
Although Inlet Cay couldn’t be more different from Afghanistan, it’s also tight-knit and full of generous people who often band together to raise money and collect donations for charitable causes, McKinney said.
“It’s affluent in (prices of) homes, but it’s not affluent in the sense that the people here are humble and aware and good and conscientious and kind,’’ McKinney said. 
“I call it Gilligan’s Island. You know your neighbors like you don’t know them in any other community because there’s only one way in and one way out.’’ 
When Kane started collecting donations for the Afghans, McKinney was one of the first neighbors she contacted. 
“Lynsey breaks down when she talks about it. It’s heartbreaking to hear the descriptions she has shared from the Afghans about the separation and deprivation,’’ he said.
“She’s an amazing mom and still makes time to put her heart and soul out there, knocking on the doors and reaching out to neighbors to support these people who risked their lives to support our troops.’’
Kane said the outreach to her grassroots mission has gone beyond Ocean Ridge, thanks to social media postings.
A Jupiter woman with no connection to Kane saw a Facebook post about her mission, purchased boxes of formula, bottles, diapers and wipes and drove them to Ocean Ridge, she said.
“The response from the community has been heartwarming,” Kane said.

For information on how to donate items and get involved, contact Kane at 561-814-0180 or kanelynsey@gmail.com.

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Related: Letter to the Editor: Pressing issues for Ocean Ridge

By Joe Capozzi

Just a few years after giving the Planning and Zoning Commission more power over development and architectural reviews, town commissioners last month debated whether the advisory board’s authority is slowing progress of new home construction in Ocean Ridge. 
Commissioner Steve Coz raised the concerns at a joint meeting of the advisory board and Town Commission on Nov. 18. In the resulting hourlong discussion, participants debated the definitions of the words “shall” and “should” in a town ordinance, passed in 2017 and amended in 2019, granting the review authority.
In the end, a consensus was reached that the Planning and Zoning board’s power is limited because the Town Commission still has final say on projects and builders still have the ability to appeal to the commission if they disagree with the advisory board’s decisions. 
But members of both commissions questioned if the debate was even necessary. 
“I’m a little confused about why we are here,’’ Mayor Kristine de Haseth said at the start of the discussion, noting how Coz was mayor in November 2017 when the commission passed the initial ordinance creating a development plan review committee made up of Planning and Zoning commissioners.
“I don’t disagree that every once in a while it’s good to take a look at our policy and procedures and see if they are working,’’ de Haseth said, “but at one point we obviously thought the (new ordinance) was a good idea.’’
Coz felt the discussion, at a time when new construction is booming across town, was necessary because he was concerned the committee in some cases was overstepping its authority.
“Personal opinion of the house design or the homeowner’s taste were not to be considered,’’ he said in a memo previewing the meeting agenda. “Over the course of the last few years it appears that the committee is entering into the troubled waters of personal taste.’’
Advisory board members said they’re only making sure new projects are compatible with the neighborhood. And Mark Marsh, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, pointed out that the Town Commission still has final say when homeowners appeal the advisory board’s decisions. 
But Town Commissioner Geoff Pugh said the appeal process comes with a $1,500 fee and presents another hurdle for homeowners.
“Everybody has their push point where they say, ‘You know what? Enough’s enough,’’’ Pugh said. 
Town Manager Tracey Stevens said town staff can look into the possibility of offering a partial refund on the fee if the Town Commission approves the appeal.


An unopposed victory
Coz will serve a third consecutive term on the Ocean Ridge Town Commission because no one filed to challenge him in the March election.
“The fact that I ran unopposed I hope shows that the residents like what I’ve stood for over the last several years,’’ said Coz, a proponent of private property rights.
The election qualifying deadline was 3 p.m. Nov. 12.

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Along the Coast: Wet November

9868305283?profile=RESIZE_710x9868311895?profile=RESIZE_584xMore than 5 inches of rain and annual king tides combined to make November a soggy month.

ABOVE: Workers from a condo construction site across the street from Briny Breezes remove sod from Briny Breezes Boulevard on Nov. 5. Earlier in the week workers put three pallets of sod on land that slopes down to the road, but heavy rains washed it onto the pavement, where it clogged drains. The road had to be closed. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star


RIGHT: King tide flooding made a mess of A1A near Eau Palm Beach in Manalapan on Nov. 8. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

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By Joe Capozzi

Briny Breezes Town Council members Kathy Gross and Christina Adams will serve new terms because they drew no opponents for the March election during the qualification period that ended Nov. 23.
But the future of Mayor Gene Adams is uncertain because of a technical error that disqualified him from running for a new term. 
The error? Adams made a check mark in a “No Party Affiliation” box on his campaign treasurer’s form — the same box he checked on the forms he submitted in his two previous successful campaigns as mayor.
The disqualification came as a surprise to Adams because he sat down with Town Clerk Sandi DuBose on Nov. 11, the first day of qualifying, to submit all of his paperwork.   
“It comes down to I didn’t complete all the paperwork because of that simple check box,’’ Adams told The Coastal Star
Why was it an error to check the box now when it wasn’t an error in the previous campaigns? 
Adams said part of the answer might be a recent move by the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections to take over Briny Breezes’ election process, as the county office has done with other municipalities. 
It was an SOE office employee who notified Adams that his paperwork had been disqualified because of the checked box. 
Adams also said DuBose told him she “did not know that box should not be checked when she and I went through the paperwork, so it’s a learning (process) for all of us.’’
Adams’ wife, Christina, also checked the “No Party Affiliation” box in error on her treasurer’s paperwork. She was notified before the filing deadline and was able to resubmit the paperwork without a check mark by the box.
The problem for Adams was that, in addition to resubmitting the treasurer’s form without a checked box, he also had to submit a new petition with 20 signatures of people supporting his mayorship. The petitions are required only for mayoral candidates, not council seats. 
Adams said he was out of town on business when he was notified of the error. While he would have been able to simply resubmit a form without a check mark on the fateful box, he said he was told the town charter requires him to file a petition with 20 new signatures, not the signatures from the petition he filed on Nov. 11.
Adams, a senior director for Target Stores, said he is helping his company gear up for the holiday sales rush. There was no way he could have gotten back to town to gather new signatures before the Nov. 23 filing deadline. 
The good news for Adams? No one else filed to run for mayor. As it stands now, his term will end in March. 
Then it will be up to the Town Council to appoint a new mayor — the same process that initially gave Adams the job in February 2019 after then-Mayor Roger Bennett died. 
“If the Town Council chooses me to return as mayor based on the technicality of that checked box, I’ll be there,’’ Adams said. “I feel like I’ve built credibility within Briny and hopefully the council will consider that. But at this time it’s ultimately going to be up to what process they take and who they appoint in March.’’
That process is expected to be discussed at the Town Council’s next meeting, Dec. 9. 
DuBose appears to have exacerbated the issue when she emailed town aldermen and officials Nov. 23 with the qualifying results in a short memo that had the sentence “Mayor — vacant.’’
That prompted several emails to Adams from people on the thread asking if he’d resigned.
Adams wrote back, “I am not stepping down, the current position of mayor is not vacant. I did not qualify for the upcoming election for the office of mayor. I am still in position.”
And Adams’ reply prompted a town attorney to ask those on the email “to refrain” from discussing the issue until the Dec. 9 meeting so they avoid possible Sunshine Law violations.

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By Rich Pollack

John Shoemaker was pretty sure residents of Highland Beach would vote to support the town’s efforts to start a fire department when they went to the polls last month.
“I had a feeling from talking to residents and people in the condos,” said Shoemaker, a town commissioner. “I also had a feeling that we had all the bases covered” in explaining why a Highland Beach fire department was necessary.
Shoemaker was so confident residents would give the town the green light to spend up to $10 million to create the department that he predicted nine out of 10 voters would favor the proposal.
He came pretty close.
When all the votes were counted, the measure passed by just a shade off 89%, with a little more than 11% of close to 1,500 voters rejecting the idea and supporting the continuation of receiving fire rescue service from neighboring Delray Beach.
If he was taken aback by anything, Shoemaker says it was that the number of votes supporting the initiative wasn’t higher.
“I was surprised that we had over 150 people voting no,” he said. “There was no negative to this.”
Shoemaker said he suspects those who voted no are happy with the service they receive from Delray Beach and don’t see a need for change.
In fact, residents and even town leaders have had nothing but praise for the service they have received from Delray Beach over the years.
The issue, commissioners said, came down to money and control of costs.
For almost 30 years, Highland Beach has been receiving fire service from Delray Beach, which staffs the town’s fire station. In April, however, commissioners voted unanimously to end the agreement with Delray Beach and create a town-run fire department over a three-year period.
Mayor Doug Hillman and other commissioners have repeatedly said they believe the town can provide better service to residents at a lower cost than it is paying Delray Beach. 
They have pointed out that the new fire department will have two fire trucks and two rescue vehicles operating out of the station next to Town Hall as opposed to the one fire truck and one rescue vehicle currently at the station and staffed by Delray Beach.  
Town Manager Marshall Labadie said the passage of the referendum makes it possible for the staff to move forward with efforts to get the new department running.
“This gives us the appropriate funding mechanism to put a world-class fire department into operation,” he said.
When that does happen, Delray Beach will likely lose between $5 million and $6 million of annual revenue it receives from Highland Beach.
In addition, Delray Beach Fire Rescue will no longer be able to rely on firefighters working out of the Highland Beach station to respond to calls within the Delray Beach city limits unless an agreement can be worked out.
That has at least one Delray Beach commissioner concerned about the impact it will have on the city’s residents.
“The financial implications could be substantial and will ultimately fall on Delray Beach taxpayers,” Commissioner Juli Casale said.
In his Oct. 29 weekly update to commissioners, Delray Beach City Manager Terrence Moore said that the city would work to address “reallocation of resources” and other adjustments over the next two years.
“We are thankful for the ample amount of time available to work graciously and cordially with the town of Highland Beach to ensure a smooth transition,” he said.
Casale said she suspected all along that Highland Beach residents would vote in favor of creating a town-operated fire department.
“I wasn’t surprised by the vote in light of the information provided to residents,” she said.
In the weeks ahead of the referendum, Highland Beach launched an education campaign that included fliers, videos, website posts and even food truck events.
Hillman wasn’t surprised by the overwhelming support the initiative received but didn’t expect such a large turnout — 39% — given that no other issues were on the ballot. He said the town will continue communicating with residents as the fire department project develops.
Plans are in the works to send out a monthly update via direct mail and on the town website.
“This is a major step forward for our town and we need to supply residents with information,” the mayor said.

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By Joe Capozzi

With a unanimous vote Nov. 29, the South Palm Beach Town Council extinguished the idea of including a fire station in plans for a new or renovated Town Hall. 
The vote was met with cheers from more than 20 residents who attended the meeting to voice their opposition to a fire station — an idea many of those same residents spoke against Nov. 4 at a charrette hosted by the architectural firm designing options for a new Town Hall.
At that session, councilman Mark Weissman indicated support for including a fire station at Town Hall to replace Palm Beach County Fire Rescue’s cramped station less than a mile down State Road A1A at Manalapan Town Hall.
But, three weeks later, Weissman voted against the idea.
“Quite honestly my goal was to put pressure on Manalapan. They need to do it,’’ he said in an interview after the Nov. 29 meeting, referring to renovation of the station. 
Something else happened in the weeks after the charrette that many residents believe influenced Weissman to change his stance: Weissman and councilman Bill LeRoy drew challengers during the qualifying period for the March 2022 election. 
The challengers, Monte Berendes and Cindy Furino, were among the residents who attended the Nov. 29 meeting.
“You want to get re-elected, don’t vote for it,’’ one resident yelled just before the council vote. 
Residents against the idea say a fire station in South Palm Beach would be too noisy and incompatible with the area. 
“Let’s put an end to this talk about a fire station. We don’t need it. We don’t want it,’’ Berendes said Nov. 4. “Amen,’’ replied many of the 30 residents at the meeting that day. 
On Nov. 29, Mayor Bonnie Fischer quickly doused the controversial idea before residents could say anything. 
“Out of respect to the public outcry,’’ she said, “I make a motion that accommodating fire rescue shall not be any part of a remodel or rebuild of our Town Hall.’’
When the motion passed unanimously a few seconds later, the crowd erupted in cheers. 
“A lot of people were confronting them with emails” in the weeks after the Nov. 4 meeting, said Kevin Hall, a resident and condo manager. “I believe they got the message.’’
Less-than-ideal conditions at the Manalapan station are prompting the county to explore options for a new location once fire rescue’s lease there expires in two years.  
On Nov. 4, Weissman had warned residents at the charrette that if South Palm Beach rejects a fire station, fire rescue’s “next move will be further south, further from us, further from when you need fire rescue.” 
“We have some control over that by saying, ‘How would you like to come here?’ This is a health and safety issue for all of us,’’ he said that day.
Many residents didn’t buy that argument and said Manalapan, with its wealthy tax base, should renovate its fire station. 
A fire rescue station in South Palm Beach would have required at least 10,000 square feet, about the same space occupied by the current Town Hall, which is on a narrow strip of land between two condominium buildings. 
That would have forced a Town Hall to be built vertically into a multistory building, similar to a previous architect’s plan for a $6 million five-story structure that was vehemently opposed by residents a few years ago as a grandiose “Taj Mahal.’’
Sirens and truck engines would also disrupt residents in condos next to Town Hall, said Berendes, who lives next door in The Brittany.
Ironically, the existing Town Hall’s first use was as a fire station in the 1970s, the first of “three generations” of improvements to the building, said Merrill Romanik, principal architect at Synalovski Romanik Saye, the firm hired for $63,000 to draw up options. 
“An addition in the ’90s brought the Town Hall functions. Then another addition expanded the meeting room spaces and the meeting room space we are sitting in today,’’ she said.  
The current Town Hall includes a substation for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, which replaced the town’s police department in 2019. PBSO will be included in a new Town Hall plan. 
Many residents who spoke at the charrettes favored a renovation of the existing facility or a limited expansion, including a one-story Town Hall elevated on stilts for protection against sea level rise. 
But others felt it was time for something new. 
“This building has been Scotch taped together,’’ said Richard Hegarty. “Times are changing. This isn’t the ’60s. It’s not the ’70s or the ’90s. We have to change with it ‘’  
The Town Council will have final say over what the new Town Hall will look like, a decision that will be made after SRS hosts more public input meetings in December and January. As of Nov. 29, there were no firm dates for those meetings.


In other business last month:
• Fischer said the new sand that was washed away from the town’s beachfront during king tides will eventually return to the shoreline.
“You’re all wondering where’s the sand and all the money we spent?’’ she said, referring to a recently completed $747,471 beach replenishment project.
“I can assure you the sand is still in the system. And that’s the most important thing,’’ she said. “Slowly you’ll see some sand coming back. It’s not going to be dramatic but the point is it’s there. I would expect some initial recovery within the next few weeks.’’
• The Town Council approved a program to pay the tax bills of qualified senior citizens in town, as part of the Palm Beach County Low-Income Senior Citizen Municipal Tax Exemption program. • The council voted to spend about $67,000 on 45 solar LED lights for town sidewalks.

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South Palm Beach Mayor Bonnie Fischer will serve another term after no one filed to challenge her in the March 8 election. 
But council members Bill LeRoy and Mark Weissman will face challengers after two candidates filed papers by the Nov. 23 deadline: Monte Berendes and Cindy Furino. 
The top two vote-getters on March 8 will win council seats. They will be sworn into office with Fischer on March 15 to serve four-year terms, reflecting an amendment approved by voters in 2020 to increase the terms of mayor and council members from two to four years.
“I am very happy and humbled to serve another term as mayor. I have a lot more work to accomplish,’’ Fischer said.

— Joe Capozzi

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Meet Your Neighbor: Pat Schulmayr

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Pat Schulmayr, a South Palm Beach resident for 36 years, relaxes in her condo. She was vice mayor for a few years about 20 years ago but is no longer politically active. ‘After being on the council it’s very difficult to sit in the audience,’ she says. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

 

In her 85 years here on Earth, South Palm Beach resident Pat Schulmayr has never had a hard time keeping busy.
In her younger years it was work, from becoming the secretary of the director of sales at NBC in New York City to secretary of the principal at the high school she attended in Amityville, New York.
Since she moved to South Palm Beach in 1985, it’s been more community activism, including serving as town councilwoman beginning in 2000, then spending four years as vice mayor until 2006.
“I’ve still got my Irish mouth going,” said Schulmayr, harkening back to her days growing up as Patricia Catherine McCarthy. “After being on the council it’s very difficult to sit in the audience.”
One of the topics that sparked Schulmayr’s ire was a proposal to build an expensive new firehouse in South Palm Beach. “The one we have now is two minutes away in Manalapan,” she said.
She’s also not happy that South Palm Beach eliminated its police force in favor of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
“The new council chose them because they didn’t want liability. Now they hide in the bushes, and I don’t know any of them. When we had our own police, they were wonderful because you knew everybody.
“When my late husband (Josef) was sick, they would come and take his blood pressure. And when I had kidney stones and was about to pass out, I opened the door and called 911 and the chief himself came and said, ‘Patricia, you never call 911 so I came.’ That’s the kind of police we had and now it’s gone.”
Married at 19 and later divorced to escape an abusive relationship, Schulmayr met her second husband at a church.
“I don’t know why I married Josef. He wasn’t a good dancer, and he didn’t tell jokes. But when I was up for the election, he took off work and was helping me. That’s the kind of person I never had with the first husband. I tell the young girls who pick on their husbands, don’t, because he’s accepting you for who you are.”
Schulmayr has four children: Susan, 65, who resides in New Jersey; Robert, 64, who followed Josef into the tile business and resides in Florida; Ross, 62, who splits time between a condo next door to hers and Queensbury, New York, and Patrick, 55, who lives in Amityville.

— Brian Biggane

Q: Where did you grow up and go to school? How do you think that has influenced you?
A: I grew up in Massapequa, Long Island, but went by bus to the school in Amityville. I was very active in sports, was in Leaders Club. An opportunity came up in the form of a test to get a spot in the business school in New York City and I finished at the top in finger dexterity. So, I was in school and went to an interview at NBC dressed all in black on St. Patrick’s Day. The man interviewing me said, “Why is an Irish girl like you wearing all black?” I said, “Because my name is Irish enough,” and I got the job.
Then I was chosen to be secretary to the head of sales. I worked when I was 81/2 months pregnant, because I was making $90 a week, back in the ’50s, and my husband was making $40 working for the state of New York.
I loved working in the city, it was very educational. I got to know the actor Pat Harrington Jr. and went to parties where Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca would come. They were just wonderful people.

Q: What professions have you worked in? What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
A: I enjoyed working. My mother was the postmistress in Massapequa so I would work in the post office at Christmastime. I also took the census. When my last child was in kindergarten, I went back to work at the high school, recording the children who came in tardy. The kids became my best friends; if the principal couldn’t handle them, he’d say, “Send them down to Pat.”
I had a falling out with one of the other employees, so I went to the grammar school, but when that person left, the vice principal asked me to come back and be his secretary and do the budget.
When I came here [to Florida] in 1982, I went to interviews all over and they told me I was overqualified. I was always working so I was bored out of my mind, but then I got elected to the Town Council in 2000. I had that for six years. My husband died in 2004. We had participated in everything together, and after he died it was so hard to do it again, so I didn’t.

Q: What advice do you have for a young person seeking a career today?
A: It’s very important that, if you start out in a career, don’t expect to move up right away, but pay attention and care about the company. Don’t do things for personal accomplishment, do it for the company. That’s how I did it for the condo when I was on the council.
The manager we have now gave me a police badge last Christmas and said, “How come you see all these things and these people don’t?”

Q: How did you choose to make your home in South Palm Beach?
A: We were living up in West Palm Beach in a house and we were told it would cost $75,000 to buy it, and when I went to the banks, they told us it was only worth $35,000 because of the neighborhood. So, I looked in the “Shiny Sheet.” I didn’t so much care for the building [we moved into], but I saw the garden in the back. Nobody has a garden like this. We had a nice garden up in Amityville and I did all the gardening, so we bought it because of that.

Q: What is your favorite part about living in South Palm Beach?
A: The beach across the street. I always used to walk every day on the beach, even in a winter coat if it was cold. I haven’t lately because of sciatica. I’m told it has a lot to do with being 85.

Q: What book are you reading now?
A: I’m not right now. What I do every day, when I read the newspaper, I read the crossword puzzle. I started doing that when I lived in West Palm Beach and couldn’t get a job because I didn’t know anybody down here. But I like the crosswords because it really gets me when I can’t get a word.

Q: What music do you listen to when you want to relax? When you want to be inspired?
A: The only music I listen to is when I’m driving around doing errands. Then I listen to 100.3-FM. The guy who sold me my car, a 2018 Ford Fusion, told me the station was all music from the past, Frank Sinatra and all that. So, I keep it on that station.

Q: Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who have inspired your life decisions?
A: After I got divorced and was in my early 30s, I was working for a principal at the school, and he told me to go see a psychiatrist to deal with the trauma. I went, told her what I was upset about, and she told me she wouldn’t charge me for the visit because I knew how to deal with it.

Q: If your life story were to be made into a movie, who would play you?
A: An old friend, we went to grammar school and high school together, she lives in California, and they have a winery. Gail Haladay, now she’s Gail Laird. She was an actress in our school plays. She would do a good job.

Q: Is there something people don’t know about you but should?
A: I was very active in school and was named Miss Personality in the yearbook, but I still didn’t have the self-confidence people thought I had until I got that job with NBC. Even though I had the big mouth, it wasn’t until I had that job that I got the self-confidence people thought I had.

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