By Dan Moffett
The Town Council is moving closer to hiring a communications contractor to improve South Palm Beach’s internet connections and emergency messaging with residents.
During their May 12 meeting, council members approved drafting a contract with The Merchant Strategy Inc., a West Palm Beach public relations firm headed by former state legislator Sharon Merchant.
Another West Palm Beach firm, My PR Guru, also remains a candidate for the contract. The two companies scored highest in council members’ evaluations of services from several applicants.
“We have to decide what we need,” said Mayor Bonnie Fischer. “We’re not that close right now, and I think we’ll need a workshop to make the decision.”
Fischer said she wants the town’s website to do a better job reaching out to residents and enlisting their involvement in government and recreational activities. Vice Mayor Robert Gottlieb believes a town Facebook page might be part of the solution.
“We’re a unique small town,” Fischer said. “We have to figure out how to reach people. A lot of our residents don’t even have cellphones.”
Improving communications took on a new urgency last Thanksgiving weekend when a water main broke outside the Mayfair condos, parts of the town lost service and utilities officials put out a boil-water advisory. Fischer said she had no way to quickly alert residents and had to post flyers in the lobbies of condo buildings.
The council is looking for a way to send out mass emails or text messages to as much of the town’s population as possible.
In other news:
• Town Manager Robert Kellogg and Fischer distributed several thousand surgical face masks throughout the town last month.
Council members endorsed buying the masks to promote public safety in dealing with the coronavirus.
“When no one else thought about getting masks for the citizens of South Palm Beach,” said resident Christine Mang, “Mayor Fischer was the one who stepped up.”
• As of mid-May, the town had one confirmed death from COVID-19. John Thomas “Tom” Craciun died April 1 in West Palm Beach, a couple of weeks after contracting the disease.
Mr. Craciun, who was 77, owned a home in The Tuscany for about 12 years and was a familiar presence around the condo swimming pool. Originally from Warren, Ohio, he was an all-state swimming champion in high school who competed at Ohio State and Youngstown State universities. He set a world record in the 40-yard freestyle just before that distance was discontinued.
Mr. Craciun worked 30 years as a supervisor in a General Motors plant before relocating to Florida. He loved buying and selling vintage high-performance cars. He is survived by his ex-wife, Nanci, longtime ex-girlfriend Wendy, son Jon Paul, grandsons Maxwell and Levi, daughter Nancy Jean and granddaughters Hunter and Addison.
• Former South Palm Beach resident Lucille Flagello died on April 4, in Mahwah, N.J., after a short illness. She was 79.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Mrs. Flagello was active in South Palm community events and a frequent participant in council meetings. Her son Joseph Flagello Jr., a chiropractor, served as the town’s vice mayor until dying suddenly of heart failure at the age of 51 in 2017. Both were members of the Palmsea condo association.
“She was a wonderful person with a wonderful personality,” Fischer said. “Look at the son she produced.”
The council appointed Mrs. Flagello to serve out the remainder of her son’s term after his death.