By Dan Moffett  

    Council members have approved extending an agreement with Palm Beach County that helps the town and its residents to apply for federal HUD assistance. But it wasn’t easy.
    The council first said no to approving the extension on a 3-1 vote, with only Alderman Karen Wiggins supporting the resolution.
    Other members complained that they were unaware that the contract with the county existed and wanted more time to get more information. The agreement, which has been in force for years, lets the town join with the county and take advantage of grants and assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
    The federal government offers housing assistance to elderly and low-income residents, as well as help for communities that might need to repair infrastructure or deal with damage after storms. Virtually every municipality in the state participates in the HUD programs either directly or through interlocal partnerships.
    Clement Clarke, a planner with the county’s Department of Economic Sustainability, told the council he needed to have an answer from Briny Breezes by August for the town to participate in the program. Without an extension, the town would have to wait up to three years for the next chance to partner with the county again.
    The deadline put the council under pressure because it has no regular meeting scheduled for July because of vacations. (Mayor Mike Hill and President Sue Thaler were absent “with notice” from the June 26 meeting.)
    Wiggins insisted that the council reconsider the issue and take another vote. She argued that extending the agreement with the county costs the town nothing and will ensure that the opportunity to apply for federal assistance is available if needed.
    Town Attorney John Skrandel agreed: “I don’t believe there’s anything that would be a down side to this.”
    Acting President Barbara Molina and Aldermen Jim McCormick and Bobby Jurovaty were persuaded, changed their votes and joined Wiggins, making it unanimous approval for extending the agreement.
    In other business:
    • The council is moving ahead with plans to make the deputy town clerk position a part-time town employee, instead of an independent contractor. Aldermen gave unanimous approval to advertising the opening.
    Lesa Shoeman, who has been the deputy clerk since September 2012, was absent from the June meeting. Shoeman had wanted to continue working for the town as a contractor, but council members said they expect her to apply for the newly defined town employee position.
    Wiggins said she recommends having the clerk on hand to keep the town hall open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, as part of the new job description.
    • The council reaffirmed some important dates:
    Budget workshops for the next fiscal year will be held at 1 p.m. on July 8, 10 and 11 in the Town Hall.
    The next regular town council meeting is scheduled for Aug. 28, followed by meetings on Sept. 25 and Oct. 23.

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