Saturday, February 4, 2012

Transit Tax Switch to Roads Passed by U.S. House Panel - Bloomberg

Roads have always been beneficiaries of government funding. With transit, it always seems to be a fight. Click title for link to article.

Today, I succumbed...

...and fed the beast that is the new Walmart on 10th Avenue North.  This is one that is conveniently just over the line in the neighboring municipality of Palm Springs - contributing to their tax base and their utility funds - as well as those of FPL.  It was a busy day there; I just went to pick-up some cleaning supplies.  But, while I was there, I checked to see whether or not there were any bike racks.  The sea of asphalt that is their parking lot clearly caters to the automobile as the principal means of transportation.  However, I could find NO bike parking facilities.  In fact, right before I took this picture, I saw two bikes that were locked together on a fire hydrant!  I think the fire department would have something to say about that.  I doubled back around to see if the bikes were still there and when I got back to where they were, they had left.  It's not as if people were not getting there by bike - besides those two, I saw at least five more here and there around the parking lot and the main entrance.  Alas.  I may call my buddies in Palm Springs on Monday and see what's up about why they didn't require bike racks.

Friday, February 3, 2012

From the City Manager's Report of 2/3:

"A public meeting was conducted on January 25, 2012, at the Shuffleboard Court Building to discuss the scope of improvements to be made to the exterior of the site with an allocation of $62,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds from Palm Beach County Housing and Community Development. The meeting was attended primarily by residents in close proximity to the project site, including representatives of the Tropical Ridge Neighborhood Association. No clear consensus was reached with respect to the scope of work for the project.  However, there was strong support to retain either all or no fewer than half of the 28 courts and take measures to properly restore the courts to standard condition.All agreed that shuffleboard was a desired activity to be made available on a daily basis for residents of all ages. There was unanimous support for the provision of increasedsite security, particularly with respect to the installation of exterior lighting and security cameras.  There was some disagreement as to how the perimeter of the site should be secured.  Some supported decorative fencing while others preferred a thick hedge.

The Assistant City Manager has directed staff to conduct a follow-up meeting to discuss the project in greater detail with the community.  Prior to the meeting, City staff will be developing cost estimates for possible improvements to be made to the site as noted above.  These include more detailed estimates for the costs involved with restoration of the courts based on their current condition, and costs for providing efficient exterior lighting, security cameras and perimeter security, either fencing or hedge, based on what current zoning allows.  In order to provide sufficient time for staff's due diligence, this meeting will be conducted at the Shuffleboard Court Building on February 27, 2012, at 6:00 pm."

Snook Islands Natural Area Public Use Grand Opening Wednesday, February 29, at 9:00 a.m.

Thanks goes to another one of our local correspondents for the following pictures taken today.  This looks like it is a great addition to our waterfront!

Jean-Paul Sartre

"Man is not the sum of what he has but the totality of what he does not yet have, of what he might have."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lake Worth attorney forms group to plan city's 100th birthday party

I attended the first meeting. Click title for link to article. Calvary Methodist is the location for the next meeting, Monday February 6th at 6 p.m.

Pinecrest Cemetery Community Clean-up 2/11

Neighbors help each other to beautify Lake Worth home

Nice article in the PBP recognizing the good efforts of Lake Worth neighbors, Robert Waples and others in helping people in need. Click title for link. Thank you to all the volunteers improving our community!

Lake Worth CRA Neighborhood Cleanup February 25th

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Employee showers at Fort Worth City Hall make sense; a Congressional Record app should please op...

Fort Worth, Texas makes a tangible effort in support of employee wellness and alternative modes of transportation. Click title for link.

Calling all Volunteers | Snook Islands

Calling all Volunteers to help create a Native Coastal Hammock with over 400 donated native shrubs and trees.
Register on the facebook event page or call David Nieme at 561-533-9460.
Tell your friends, family, neighbors, and workmates to come and help with this very important project.

Snook Islands Volunteers Event -

Volunteers needed March 3, 2012 to create a Native Coastal Hardwood Hammock in the Upland Buffer to the Snook Islands Natural Area on the Lake Worth Lagoon.

When: March 3, 2012  - 8 a m to noon and/or noon to 4 p m
                                          - Volunteer for half day or full day.
What: Help plant and mulch over 400 donated shrubs and trees on the Upland Buffer of the Coastal Hardwood Hammock to Snook Islands Natural Area.
Where:  The Upland Portion of Snook Islands Natural Area is located between the Lake Worth Bridge and the southern tip of the Lake Worth Golf Course and the Lake Worth Lagoon.
Volunteers: Wear sturdy shoes, garden gloves, sunscreen, and a hat.
Bring: Shovels, wheel barrows, rakes, and brooms are welcome, mark your tools.
Tell: Your friends, family, and neighbors. Plant experts and plant novices are all needed.
Native Plants and Trees: Jane Thompson, Indian Trails Native Nursery, has generously donated over 400 native plants and trees suitable for this environmental restoration.
Facebook photos:
Contact: David Niemi, Planting Coordinator -  -  561.533.9460

Lake Worth OKs leases for restaurants, other shops at renovated casino

Click title for link to PBP article. Mr. Howard is still challenged by what happened with the building - how many times must we remind him the building that was there was TORN DOWN! From the article:

"Restaurants and shops are scheduled to begin building out their spaces after the outer shell of the casino building is completed in April. The casino is scheduled to open to the public in October."

Is that with or without utilities?

Lake Worth rejects plan to hire private company to handle utility's billing, customer service

The PBP's take on last night's decision not to go with an outside contractor. Click title for link.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

At tonight's Special City Commission Meeting (1/31)

Click here for live feed.

Mattey is giving a presentation on the utility customer service management service contract.  She said that they will takeover our employees.  Two factors affect our rates - the cost of fuel and the cost of operations.  This addresses the cost of operations and their efficiency.  They think it is the best solution long term for the City.  McVoy (all Commission present) - he doesn't like outsourcing, but he thinks that this is the best decision for the whole.  Mulvehill starts by saying since she has been on the dais, this has been a problem.  "The problem is bigger than putting a new manager in."  She asks how does this relate to lower rates.  Mattey says that they have discovered many under-billed accounts.  Just getting rid of those would have an impact on rates.  The examples she mentioned were around $150K and $75K.  She says that this has been a a problem for decades.  When they find a problem, they find others.  Technology is a problem.  Carr says that they have attempted to do all of it, but have been unsuccessful.  Three managers have come and gone.  The HTE software is "enterprise-wide" and is capable of working well.  Amoroso asks if there are others we could look to for solutions.  Software vendors, Carr says, are not familiar with our operation and the software needs a set of rules that have been non-existent.  Mattey says that billing is a big issue.  Amoroso asks why is there just one person doing billing.  She says that it is the entire process and the system allows too many errors - not a personnel issue.

Mattey says that right now the division is held together by duct tape.  There are 19 positions - the consultant will hire our employees.  It is not in the contract.  They will have to abide by the consultant's standards.  The contractor has committed to the city that this is the case.  Maxwell asks if we don't know how it is supposed to work, how will a consultant?  Mattey says that we don't have the ability - it needs a total overhaul.  24,000 accounts a month - there are four meter readers now.  She doesn't know how many they read a day.  Before she took over, the answer was "we need more people, we need more people..."  Maxwell says that it is the "face of the city" and says that if we cannot manage this then why are we in the electric business. He thinks we need to stay where we are and the person at the top is ultimately responsible.  Mattey said then maybe we shouldn't be in the city business.

McVoy is comfortable with the proposal.  He thinks a good faith attempt has been made in the past.  The Mayor says that this is one of the worst discussions to get into.  She says that it does start at the top, between different departments and a leadership vacuum.  The elephant in the room is that the public is fed up with the utilities and their higher rates they pay.  The Mayor says that if this commitment to employ our city employees in the contract, she might be more comfortable with this.  She points out that Mattey is leaving now too and is concerned about that too.  She knows that she has tried.  Amoroso says that he asked what kind of training they got, the staff said they didn't, management says that they did.  Mattey says the biggest problem in the Naviline program allows too many errors.  The problem is bigger than that.  It is an out of the box system.  It was not designed for our system.  He asked why it has taken so long.  Amoroso met with Stanton at the office the first week he was in office and the windows were dirty and it smelled like urine.  Mulvehill says that customer service has been a priority all along.She points to staff and rate reductions.  She points out "found money" later in the agenda with the inventory surplus.  We have done this and it is more reliable and consistent service now.  The Mayor pointed out that this is reaching the 30 minute limit.  She is in favor of the contract.  McVoy is mindful of the 30 minutes.  He would like to have more of a firm commitment about taking on our employees.  And he makes the motion, Mulvehill seconds.  Public comment.

Jack Seddon - represents these employees.  Listening to the comments and reading the memorandum, this is the indictment on an administration.  Not about employees.  They can discipline employees.  Employees don't do their job?  When were they last evaluated?  He says none have been done.  What about job descriptions?  There are none.  Eric Fisher represents a quarter million in utility bills a year.  He is happy with how things are and is concerned about outsourcing.  Thinks they need more people.  Management is an issue too.  Not time to outsource.  Mark Parrilla - he has had to come before customer service with issues for himself but also brought many residents with problems with the utility bill.  He thinks the employees have been very helpful.  He thinks it would be an egregious mistake to outsource.  Lynn Anderson - She doesn't think that Ms. Mattey leaving is a problem.  She says that we don't have customer service and it has been going on for years.  The department cannot be turned around - listen to your top staff person.  They have had training, she says.  She would like to see it changed.  Mary Lindsey - the HTE system, the Naviline, and everything else was brought before the Commission as solutions to this problem.  Customers are angry about high bills and that is part of the problem with customer service too.  This third manager just left today.  If it is not in the contract, it doesn't exist.  Laurence McNamara - he pays at the utility office and is treated well.  He supports the motion and likes the amendment - change the music on hold.  Manny Rodriguez - apathy from management is the problem.  The city lacks organizational effectiveness.  You do not know what you are going to get in two years.  Let's have management that has conviction.  Mark Easton - as one of the owners of one of the oldest businesses, he has always had pleasant experiences over there with the employees.  Trying to get through to find out why the power is out has been a problem.  Everything else has been kind and courteous.  Who are the leaders after two years?  Need to start at the top, train from the top down and it does flow down.  Peggy Fisher - It was an emergency problem last summer and brought forth as  a personnel issue.  What are the results from other consultants?  Should we take it to the next level and outsource the city?  She has recently gotten a good response from customer service.  Terry Brokovich - outsourcing is not the answer, the problem is the management.  First person he met was with utilities - it is the city's first line of defense.  His experience was positive.  Managers need to get behind the desk, if they need training, get the training.  Don't let these people go.  Marshall Pass - notices the political split apparent on the dais, billing is important since it pays for everything else.  He goes down there and pays himself - they are helpful, nice and overworked.  There are not trained.  But someone is there that can help others.  Leadership at the top needs to know what is going on the front lines.  We are about to lose the head.

Mulvehill - asks the consultant about success in other communities.  They were engaged by the City of Hollywood about 15 years ago - 40,000 accounts.  Similar situation related to customer service.  They are well-versed in HTE software.  Within three years, they were down to just a few calls a month.  They hired everyone in that case.  They rely on institutional knowledge.  They renewed it for 16 years total.  Miami as well.  Lake Worth's uncollected accounts are around $5 million or more. They can deal with the objective issues.  McVoy asks the representative if some of the things that you apply one place, you can apply in another?  Duh.  Maxwell says that it has moved from personnel to technology that affects customer service.  He doesn't think we can guarantee better customer service doing this.  He thinks that employees have the best intentions.  Expectations have to be communicated by management.  The city hasn't done that.  He thinks it is time to step back and look at how we train people and emphasize sensitivity training.  And involve the union more in this solution.  He asked for a lot of back-up information last summer and hasn't seen it yet. The Mayor is sorry that this discussion is taking place and says that our opinions have changed (directed at the consultant) - Would the offer still be in place a year from now?  They were gearing up based upon input from staff - they are ready to go and already extended themselves.  They can make a lot of improvements in the objective areas - not going to lose employees, etc.  Motion fails 3-2, Maxwell, Triolo and Amorose dissenting.  Maxwell says that we need everyone at the table to address the issue, including the union.  The employees must be given the best efforts by the administration.  Amoroso addresses staff and asks them what they need.  The Mayor says this cannot go on and on and on - there needs to be measurable results.  Invest in our people and do that.  McVoy says that we have been given evidence that there is a problem and we have gotten an answer.  Workshopping this is not the answer - we are in an hour in and have done a lot - the Mayor.

Item 2 b. Unanimous
Item 2 c. Unanimous
Item 2 d. Unanimous
Item 2 e.  Amoroso asked about lack of bidding - engineering services are covered under the CCNA process - Unanimous, Mulvehill absent.
Item 2 f.  Unanimous
Item 2 g.  Lynn Anderson wonders if we have any others?  Is one enough?   Answer:  One is enough.  Amoroso says the one that we have will have to be replaced and staff says that it is antiquated.  Unanimous.
Item 2 h.  Mattey says that this contract/agreement is what allows the city to access mutual aid during emergencies and hurricanes.  It is a reciprocal arrangement - sometimes we send crews to other places.  FMEA dues.  Lynn Anderson says she talks against this every year.  She thinks it is related to FMPA - this is the lobbying arm according to her.  how much money do we save by being a member?  She thinks this is ffrivolous.  Mary Lindsey - last time we had a storm, we did not have a mutual aid contract - that is a fact.  She does not think that this has benefited the city in anyway.  They are there to serve the needs of the consortium - it is a small step, but this is time to send a signal that the game is over.  Mark Parrilla - ditto to Anderson and Lindsey.  Exiting FMPA and staying here is at cross purposes.  The Mayor asks Mattey if the FMEA is the lobbying arm of FMPA - they are both municipal joint acting agencies in Florida.  Every municipal utility knows that it is important to get help when you need help.  The regulatory information that we obtain is very valuable.  We don't need staff to monitor legislation and the Public Service Commission.  Training is offered too.  39 staff members are signed up to take the training.  Maxwell - tell us the bad things that will happen if we don't go through with this.  Mattey says it would delay response to a storm and a mechanism would not be in place.  FEMA accepts all these agreements - we would have to line up contractors independently and pay them.  McVoy says that these systems are set up in advance.  If this is not approved, then Mattey says that we need to go out to bid with contractors so that they are in place if there is a storm.  Maxwell sees the only value being the mutual aid portion of this.  Mulvehill says that we go through this discussion every year.  She asks what we will do when we exit FMPA.  Mattey says that we are still in the all requirements project, we don't pay dues to FMPA.  $5.2 million is in the hurricane fund.  She supports it.  Mayor says that spending anything right now pains here, but would not want to be on the dais when a storm came and we didn't have a plan.  When the city went out of state to Tennessee, the city was reimbursed $75,000 for its efforts.  She says that the amount of the dues is worth the insurance.  The Mayor would like to know other alternatives.  She says they would need to hire a regulatory analyst on staff that would cost more than $33,000.  McVoy echoes this and refers to this as a cost savings.  He compares it to AAA memberships.  Motion passed unanimously.

Item 2 i and j.  Inventory surplus and bar code system.  Mulvehill thinks this item should be first.  We hired an expert and they identified surplus and approving the sale of material that will bring the city money.  The city over-bought as a result of inefficiency.  Mary Lindsey - we paid $168,000 to a consultant to tell us this - out of $1.4 million that they have identified and they are going to get it at 33 cents to the dollar.  They will be turning it around and selling it at a profit - the same company that said that it was surplus.  There are a lot of transformers - dual range - we will need them if we go ahead with where we are going.  It is not surplus inventory.  Marshall Pass - has anyone talked with staff up there?  He has and they want to remain nameless - they are definitely afraid of their jobs.  Why would you sell it at a mark-down??  He says to delay it for now.  Manny Rodriguez - wants to know why we have experts employed by our utility that should know the types of equipment that they will be using and then hire a consultant that will tell us what we don't need and then take it off our hands.  Carr says that we need to correct the misinformation.  The process requires that the city offer this out in an auction or competitive bidding requirements.  The city is not selling it to them - it would be a conflict, Mattey, and they cannot buy it themselves.  Carr says that the city will get multiple prices before it is sold.  There is no collusion.  The Mayor asks about transformers.  Staff says excess transformers are obsolete or not up to current standards.  This inventory has not moved for many years.  Amoroso says that he went to the warehouse, asked for staff to be there and was not there to meet - he did not get the response - a missed connection.  He was expecting a warehouse in shambles, shelving falling down - he was impressed "you could eat off the floor."  There were other things amiss.  Mattey says that this is the one warehouse for the utility and is the same fund as the power plant - money comes out of the same fund.  Amoroso - can we use this equipment during an emergency?  Mattey - we have minimums and maximums for storm and non-storm seasons.  This is part of good inventory control - making it more efficient.  Maxwell is looking at the actual list.  Can he deduce that the items are here we do not use anymore - Mattey says that we don't need to store them anymore.  He points out that this is not perishable inventory. He asks if we are going to buy these in the future at a higher price - staff says no.  Motion passes 4-1, Amoroso dissenting (Item 2 i).  Item 2 j - how inventory will come inside, secure the warehouse, have work orders, etc.  Mary Lindsey - $107,000 for shelves?  What are we going to need shelves if the inventory is going out the door.  Peggy Fisher - She heard Amoroso say that the shelving is fine.  Thinks this is excessive.  Barbara Jean Webber - Pointed to Amoroso and asked more about the condition of the shelving.  Can we get less expensive shelving?  Amoroso said the shelving was nice.  He thinks if they needed shelving, it would be outside, not inside.  Mattey says that spools have been stored incorrectly for years.  He says that if this is costing the city money, this should already have been addressed.  Where is the consultant?  Mattey says that they are running out of money and it is more important for them to help with the actual process.  McVoy says we need to get on and improve this "we are sprouting engineers in here."  Carr is talking about a "just in time" inventory system.  It is an 11,000 sf warehouse and it is industrial grade shelving.  4-1 passed, Amoroso dissenting.

Break before the discussion on leases.  I am signing off now.  More later.

Tonight's Special City Commission Meeting (1/31)

The items on this agenda are leftovers from the January 17th regular that are utility related - plus further discussion/negotiation of Casino tenant leases.  For those of us interested in the torture chamber also known as utilities customer service, you really need to check out the first item on the agenda.  The city has a proposal from Data Management Associates, Inc. to essentially take-over all aspects of utility customer service - making current employees their employees beginning February 3rd - for a period of two years.  Depending on where you read it in the staff back-up material, the city has an option for one or two, one year extensions of the contract - with the provision to revert staff back to city employees at the end of their term of service.  Included in the back-up are summaries of recent findings by outside groups regarding the deplorable and sorry state of this department and the facility it occupies.  It seems that no part of the organization is immune to dysfunction.  It is no wonder people have little trust in what their utility bill ends up being each month.  On average there are about 100 accounts that have some sort of inquiry regarding accuracy and many of those go unresolved.  Collections are problematic and there is no standard policy directive for how to interact with the public or address routine problems.  The cost of this new approach is about a break-even proposition, but one just hope that this works.  How could anything get this screwed up?  It is not comforting when you realize that as a proportion of the total city budget, utilities represent almost 80% of the total revenue.

Later on:  An alert reader points out that what is in the back-up transmittal memo does not appear in the contract - especially the part about current employees coming under the control of the contractor.  This reader further points out that the employees are subject to their union contract.  This reader also points out that this is evidence that the city cannot manage one of its major functions and perhaps it is an admission that the electric utility would be better run by someone else - like FPL.

Genesis Neighborhood Association - Presentation at February 7th meeting:

One of the presentations on the agenda of the first regular City Commission meeting of February (7th) is by the Genesis Neighborhood Association.  Click here for preview of the accompanying PowerPoint presentation.

Monday, January 30, 2012

South Florida city to keep electronic tabs on who recycles — and who doesn’t - Florida -

The Miami Herald is talking about Lake Worth. Click title for link.

BOOK CLUB Reminder - MONDAY @ 2pm - All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity by Marshall Berman

On Monday, February 6th the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach Book Reading Club and Discussion Group will meet to discuss excerpts from the book All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity by Marshall Berman.

To download for educational purposes only a 61 page, 4MB Adobe PDF copy of the assigned excerpts from the book All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity by Marshall Berman please use this link.

The meeting will be held at 2pm in the Robert M. Grace Library at the Preservation Foundation’s offices located at 311 Peruvian Avenue in Palm Beach.

Marshall Berman’s All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest books on modernity. A kaleidoscopic journey into the experiences of modernization, the dizzying social changes that swept millions up in the 20th century, it dexterously interweaves an exploration of modernism in art, literature, and architecture. The excerpts from this book will deal specifically with the urban planning of New York City in the post-war era.

Participants are asked to come prepared with an understanding of the assigned reading and openness to discussion. The Foundation’s Executive Director Alexander C. Ives will lead the group discussion.

The Book Reading Club and Discussion Group is open to both members and non-members of the Foundation and is FREE to all, though seating is limited to approximately 20 people.  To make reservations please call 561.832.0731.

Alexander C. Ives

Executive Director

Downtown Jewel Neighborhood Association

The Downtown Jewel
Neighborhood Association
Proudly Presents
The First Annual Flolfing*
Tournament Fundraiser
... ...
A Home and Garden Tour with a DJNA Twist

The New Course at Glen Flougles, Lake Worth, consists of 9 artistic holes, created by local characters, spread throughout our beautiful historic neighborhood.
Fun and surprises guaranteed!

On February 4, 2012
207 South M Street
11am – 2pm for tee off. All rounds complete by 4pm.
Come as a group or join others.

$20.00 per person buys hours of entertainment with good neighbors.
Prizes. Tasty Treats and Libations. Ask about our VIP option!!!

Bring a friend, Bring a putter, Bring a hat and Bring your fun.
All of these will be provided in the event you do not have them : )

For more information please contact Shona at 561 951 2498 or Morag at 561 309 9455

See you on the links!

PowerPoint Presentation from Thursday's (1/26) City Commission, P&Z and HPRB meeting on LDRs...

Click here for PowerPoint.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Visited friends in Punta Gorda this weekend.  Sorry for the drought in posts - much backlog to work through...