Saturday, July 30, 2011

Casino building renovator finds more damage than anticipated

Light breaks upon the horizon. Click title for link.  Be sure to check out the comments at the end of the article - it appears that the public is not being fooled.

Another revelation from the article is that the work on the rest of the beach property has come in $3 million over the $5 million dollar estimate (and the size of the County's grant).

From Thursday's meeting...

I had this dream last night...

This is a true story.  I dreamed that I started at a new job.  It seemed like it was some sort of accounting or law firm.  The first day, they introduced me around the office so that everyone would know my name and what I would be doing at this firm.  I sat down in the office of my boss, and was given a document to look over. As I was reading it and paging through the report, the words were changing as I read them.  I mentioned this to my boss and he said not to worry:  That kind of thing happens all of the time here.  While meeting with him, other people would come in and out of the office and they would each call me by a different name.  These are the people that had just met me.  I pointed out my real name, but that didn't seem to matter to them - they went on calling me any other name that came to their mind.

I ended up going to my office to review this ever-changing document when lunch time came around.  There was an elevator in the building. I entered it and pressed the button for the first floor.  The elevator moved so fast that everyone's feet lifted two feet off the floor.  Shocked, I asked if something was wrong with the elevator.  People there assured me that all was o.k. and that I would get used to it.  I also noticed that not all the floors were listed on the panel inside the elevator.  I found out later that the floors that you could go to via the elevator would change based upon the day of the week.  For example, you couldn't go to the second floor on Thursdays.  Some days the elevator would only go to the roof and then you would have to walk down the stairs to get to the floor you wanted.  There didn't seem to be a fixed schedule, but everyone seemed to just "know"  this, but me.

That all being said, I am reviewing the city's response to the Inspector General's inquiry.  I'll let you know what I think about it later.

Friday, July 29, 2011

July 25, 2011

Message sent to Inspector General on 6/23

See attached Citizen Reporting form.  Here is some additional information.  

REG Architects was selected by the City of Lake Worth as architect for the project.  William Waters was originally a sub-contractor for the project through REG through December 2010.  In January 2011, William Waters became an employee of the City of Lake Worth in the capacity of Planning and Preservation Director.  He is now Community Development Director.

Sometime subsequent to the award of the contract to REG, Doug Wise, Building Official of the City of West Palm Beach was made the Building Official for the City of Lake Worth through an interlocal agreement - which has since recently been extended.

See attached e-mail regarding the favorable interpretation of the City of Lake Worth zoning code that this project does not represent "new construction" and therefore does not need to conform to a section of the Lake Worth zoning code related to pilings and other foundation fortifications necessary for a coastal area - the building is seaward of the Coastal Construction Control Line.  A Department of Environmental Protection permit was issued allowing construction as proposed in April of this year - however, the project must still meet local requirements (cited section of Zoning Code) and meet requirements of the Florida Building Code.

Demolition of the existing building is underway which will leave around 10% of the original structure standing when complete.  Mr. Wise's interpretation essentially says that the demolition is "fixing" the previously identified code deficiencies in the building and therefore it does not pass the threshold for "new" construction.  See this link for demolition pictures taken this week.

Public money is being spent on a building that has been designed and approved with a foundation system that leaves the building in jeopardy should a major storm event occur.  That public money would be wasted - washed to sea - should a severe storm event happen.

I am not a building official.  I do not know of any other recourse other than pointing out this interpretation and the arrangement that led to this cast of characters being placed in these positions to make what seem to be pre-determined decisions benefiting those involved, but not necessarily the public at large.

Please contact me if you have any questions or require further information.


Tax rate tentatively approved Thursday would bring Lake Worth to $10, maximum state law allows

The County gave the city more time to consider cancelling the fire rescue contract. Click title for link to PBP article.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Willie Howard e-mailed me...

Breaking News: The city responded to the Inspector General's inquiry that I initiated regarding the casino building. I have not seen the response yet.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We need this lady at a Commission Meeting to speak under public comment:

Click here for live link to City Commission Workshop on budget (7/27)

It sounds like the Commission wants wide latitude when choosing tenants for the NEW casino building when finished.  Franchises frowned upon...McVoy:  We have to remember that this is a public park.  We need to have more diversity in tenants. Mayor Waterman says she can't afford Kilwin's ice cream.  She thinks that the northern tenant (restaurant) should be the same for both floors, but serve different items.  Commissioner Golden doesn't like the bar at the west end of the pier. They are also talking about Benny's lease.  Waterman says the outside of Benny's is not "family friendly" and doesn't like the bar there either.  It sounds like they want to open up the lease and put many more restrictions on it, including who is going to run the pier.  Golden says that the city should control customer service the public receives at the pier - like the city is an expert in customer service??   Sounds like Benny's doesn't give contributions to the right candidates.

They have decided to provide a "black box" (through the Morganti contract for $6 million)  but the standard is a "vanilla box" to the tenants  The city may happen to contribute costs toward the additional build-out for smaller tenants.  Sounds like an incubator to of free rent, pay for tenant build out and get paid back over time.  The City Manager says it's too early to talk about now.

Mulvehill wants to look for a grant to improve the outside of Benny's - what kind of grant would that be?  The City Manager is talking about a lease "dispute" with Benny's - lawsuit #160?  She talks about a "friendly re-negotiation" - I couldn't type that with a straight face.  It has to due with the extension of their lease after the repairs - nothing was signed according to the City Attorney.  They want to put the screws to Benny's, sounds to me - apparently they don't play the game.  City Manager says it's been the city's position that they don't have a lease.  Please God!

The Mayor said that was the 15 minute part of the meeting - it started at at 6 p.m. and now it is 15 minutes to 8 o'clock.  Now they are getting to the General Fund - tune in at 5 a.m. for the conclusion of this portion of the meeting.

I stepped away for a bit.  They are talking about the library now.  "A great year despite the layoffs"

Lake Worth might get extra two months to decide on fire service contract

This was the suggestion made by Scott Maxwell at last Thursday's meeting. Besides Mayor Waterman, no other Commissioner picked up on the idea. It seems that the County is at least receptive to discuss the extension of the deadline. Even so, it still makes it dicey to review and approve a budget based upon the imposition of an assessment for fire service that no one has seen yet. That is why the Commission will have to set the millage rate at the highest allowable by law in order to maintain flexibility. So many of the "new positions" - including the internal auditor - are predicated on this assessment happening so that we can raise the tax rate to fund them.

I guess we will find out tomorrow night if the County Commission said it was "O.K."

The latest Willdan Study of fire and rescue services says that, yes, the city can re-establish its fire department, but it will cost more than the contract we currently have with the County - which means that we would be paying more for less service. We would also face the prospect of even higher taxes since the MSTU would be cancelled, allowing what in the future could amount to taxation above the 10 mil limit. All for the sake of control? Click title for link to PBP article.

From Adrienne Percival:

"Let's carve in stone coming this Thursday to voice strong support for keeping this high quality and lower cost Palm Beach County Fire & Rescue services. I learned this weekend they are considered one of the five best fire/rescue departments in the country for their outstanding training & specialization, backup equipment and progressive staff scheduling. Why are we being asked in a budget crisis to pay more for less? Bring signs and gather at City Hall at 4:45."


Tropical Ridge Neighborhood Association - Saturday's Event & Monday's Meeting

Neighbors Helping Neighbors – TRNA Q3 Goal
What: Help a neighbor in need of assistance. Outside and inside workers needed. Learn more at
When: Saturday July 30th 9am-12pm
NOTE: We spoke about a Neighbors Helping Neighbors (NHN) project occurring in Tropical Ridge at our last meeting. It looks as if the TRNA project that NHN is planning has run into a few road blocks and is still in the planning phase.  The next project this group is focusing on is in the ROLOH neighborhood at 425 Virginia Avenue. Even though this project is not in our neighborhood's boundaries I believe that the TRNA should move forward with assisting this charitable organization in making a difference in our community. This would also satisfy one of our Q3 goals!
Lake Worth CRA – Neighborhood Stabilization Program
What: Mike McManaman, NSP2 Administrator
Your Responsibility: Send your NSP questions  
When: Monday August 1st, 7pm
Where: Compass Community Center
NOTE: Back by popular demand is the NSP2 discussion! Mike McManaman, the administrator for the NSP2 program, will be speaking at our next TRNA meeting on August 1st. I know that all of you have questions about this. Please send them to me ASAP so they can be thoroughly answered by Mike at our next meeting. Thanks! 

Lake Worth city manager requests tax increase to fund new auditors, a marketing manager and economic development director

Willie summarizes the major budget proposals. Click title for link.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

This is a quick answer to a question on the RO plant...

This is the status of the RO plant according to page 84 of the proposed FY 2012 Budget.  I will be commenting more on this, but having our own RO plant is actually going against a trend toward more consolidated, regional, public infrastructure - especially for communities of our size in a metropolitan area.  We did have to back out of a deal with Palm Beach County - which we had to pay them to exit for work they did in good faith. This did not help our image with the County Commission.  It is still referenced as an example of how Lake Worth cannot be trusted.  Depending on who you talk to, it was either a good or bad deal for the City dollar-wise.  I have my doubts.  The driving force behind it was to control our resources and keep our own waterworks employees - who are all unionized.  They felt threatened by the County deal and were the biggest proponents for the RO plant.

No one, to my knowledge, has addressed the amount of electric power that these plants need to run - which I have heard is extremely high.  We are also using deep-well injection for the effluent from the plant - which has unpredictable environmental consequences.  During the first attempt at permitting for the RO - the city planned to use an existing outfall pipe to the ocean.  Despite assurances from consultants that a permit would be possible, it turned out to be a major issue and DEP wouldn't issue the permit.  This prompted the need to go with the County option- and leave a lot of money on the table that had already been spent on the plant.

It turns out that more is known about the effects of the effluent (highly saline, with some organic material) on the ocean's ecology than what happens when that stuff is deep-well injected.  But concern about the reefs won the day in the eye of public opinion.  This is a thumbnail sketch and others can add details if they wish.

All of this water supply issue was due to saltwater infiltration of our old wells that are some of the farthest east in Palm Beach County.  That is why we will always be under the most stringent restrictions on water imposed by the Water Management District- whether or not the RO plant will have an impact on those restrictions is yet to be seen.  With the County water deal, it was a potentially unlimited supply, but we would have no control over future costs.  I sometimes wonder if part of the decision to go with the RO plant was to limit the supply of water in the future as a way to say "no" to development.

Under "FY 2011 Accomplishments" in the City Manager's Budget Message

"Accomplishments" have a special meaning to the City Manager, apparently.  The gas line mentioned here and the FMPA issue are open items still in dispute - and according to the City Attorney, currently requiring money to defend the city's position.

Check out the last sentence: "Slowly, and without a lot of fanfare, the City has increased system reliability and improved performance."  Anyone else have a problem with this statement as it relates to the electric utility?  How many small animals have caused recent citywide outages?

Why are these "accomplishments" listed under the heading "Energy Conservation Program?"

Still "Rehabilitation" in the FY 2012 City Manager's Budget Message:

I've heard that there are delays with the review of the beach redevelopment plans at the city level.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lake Worth man arrested after chasing, trying to hit woman with machete

We need more motels on South Federal - according to those who rule the dais. Click title for link.

Guess what: The Casino Building has no Walls!

Casino Building "Repairs" Complete!

These were taken this morning (7/25) - there is nothing left of the northern half of the building.  This is more than was originally part of the already aggressive "selective" demolition plan.  What about the foundation? Why are we keeping any of the southern part of the building?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Abandoned and foreclosed homes a haven for crime in Lake Worth

More on this later when I am done reviewing the budget - finally there is more staff proposed for what would otherwise be called the Planning Department. Here, we are choosing to call it the Sustainability Department. This name a little ponderous, for reasons that I will explain later. For example, how "sustainable" is a reverse osmosis plant? If you look at the entire 4 million person metropolitan South Florida region - how "sustainable" has that proven to be and at what cost - dollar-wise and environmentally speaking? Like I said, more later. I do like the fact that we are adding staff where it has been sorely needed, but I am having a difficult time figuring out where we are taking the resources from to fund these positions. Click title for link to article.

Condo conundrums: Sales in South End pick up, but glut of outdated units remains

This is part of a series of articles that the Shiny Sheet is doing on the south of Sloan's Curve area on Palm Beach. This area is immediately east of Lake Worth and surrounds our fabled beach property. Many of the residents of this part of Palm Beach use Lake Worth as their commercial area. I've always thought that we have ignored the economic potential of marketing Lake Worth to that area. I find it interesting that the article doesn't mention anything about Lake Worth, other than the fact that the area is served by one road - which aids in the feeling of security. There is no recognition of the re-do of the casino building as a factor that might help with the attractiveness of the area. This is another example of the "wall" - real or perceived - that surrounds Lake Worth. In fact, our city manager mentions that in her budget message and is adding a new position in the Leisure Services department to help with marketing the city. Click title for link to article.

And it looks like this area of Palm Beach has its share of problems with its building stock - and this is something that we should be aware of too.  I have always wondered where all the protest was (there wasn't any) during the time the Beachcomber Motel was demolished and the new condominium built in its place.  The new condo looms over our beach property and those that have such fear and loathing of tall buildings were silent.  Here is a postcard picture of the area before the condominiums and before the area along the east side of the Intracoastal was filled in.