Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lake Worth Beach Redevelopment

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Today we find out that the beach redevelopment has been delayed because the contractors involved in the project want $3 million dollars more than the $5 million bond money from Palm Beach County. This is BULL. Don't you just love finding out what's going on in our city by reading the the Palm Beach Post? Why has this never been mentioned at a commission meeting? Perhaps it has and I just didn't stay that late.

This is a perfect time, now that these bums are jerking us around and coming in at 60% over budget before they even dig out one piece of dirt, to retain all of the upper level parking that EVERYONE WANTS.

I would like to kick these guys to the curb and get REG to do the beach redevelopment. Perfect time to end another bad deal for Lake Worth.

Also what this is--a perfect time to rethink the lousy configuration of the upper level at our beach that was pushed by Rene Varela and Cara Jennings because they like all things "green" and they both fell in love with Michael Singer instead of what the people really want--convenient parking to be retained. The new upper level design has cars driving into parking lots as the main ingress and egress. We won't be able to see the ocean at all. Can you even imagine all the accidents waiting to happen? Lousy design to ruin our beach.

The City says that perhaps they can re-figure the lower level parking area and keep the plans for the upper dune intact. NO. Bad idea.

1) Get rid of these contractors, Kimley-Horn, Michael (Life is Beautiful) Singer and John Szerdi of Living Designs.
2. Hire REG to continue on with the beach redevelopment.
3. Don't worry about Jungle Jims for Suzie. This is a damn beach.
4. Re-do the walkways, plant some trees, resurface the parking area across from Bennys'.
5. Resurface the lower parking areas.
6. Keep our decal parking as we have always had it.
7. Forget about wind-mills and the rest of the bull.

Contractors give me one swift pain but more than that, it is decisions made by commissioners who listen to the voices in their minds rather than to the people and what makes sense. Kick them all to the curb.

Quotes of the Day - On Cutting Defense Budget

"If Senator Reid's plan passes--if we stand idly by while this administration spends down its domestic spending spree with the blood and sweat of our troops--our military will break. The Army and Marines are stretched dangerously thin, separated from their families, and using hardware that has been chewed up by a decade of fighting."

~Buck McKeon (R, Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, warned that Reid's bill would cut defense by more than $400 billion beyond Boehner's plan over 10 years.

“I heard some things that really sent a chill down my spine…. Commanders told me that we’re starting to have to budget toilet paper into the barracks. In other words, the military is already facing a budget crunch; further cuts will exacerbate the situation and make it impossible to carry out the armed forces’ vital missions."

~Allen West (R, FL)

It would be extraordinarily difficult and very high risk to cut defense by $800 billion as envisioned by Harry Reid. While the Reid bill appears dead for the time being, cuts of those levels could still be revived–unless Republicans hold firm.

~Gen. Martin Dempsey, the nominee to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

"Budgets are moral documents; they do reflect the character of a nation. I sure hope we're not judged by the tea party's budget proposals."

~Joshua Stockley professor of political science at ULM.

Quote of the Day - Marco Rubio

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Actually there are two quotes of the day for Marco Rubio--

“We don't need more taxes, we need more taxpayers.”

~ Marco Rubio

Senator Rubio was speaking about the 47% of U.S citizens who pay no taxes.

Paying taxes is a duty to the country but there are individuals and corporations who through trusts, fancy accounting, a plethora of tax credits and off-shoring, pay less than they should or pay nothing. It is time to close all the loopholes in our 10,000 page Tax Codes.

Remember the Queen of Mean, Leona Helmsley, who said, ""We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes." She ended up going to prison for tax evasion. The difference here is that she illegally evaded and many, not all, of the 47% are evading legally through tax loop-holes. Time to stop the nonsense.

The second Quote of the Day by Senator Rubio:

"But I would say to you that compromise without a solution is a waste of time. If my house was on fire, I can't compromise about which part of the house I'm going to save. You save the whole house or it will all burn down."

Rubio speaking on the debt ceiling.

Community Project - 425 Virginia Drive

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Lining the street with their cars and along the lake, there were 54 volunteers on the hottest day of the year, cleaning, painting and planting. The owner, through the encouragement of Robert Waples (Neighbors Helping Neighbors), applied to Rebuilding Together of the Palm Beaches and SWA's Paint Your Heart Out and her house was accepted for this make-over. Members of her neighborhood, ROLOH, as well as other members of neighborhood associations across our City and beyond, worked in the sweltering heat on Saturday.

Robert Waples has already received a donation for a complete home office/den set (its beyond nice, he says) and he is still looking for donated furniture for the living/dinning room as nothing is salvageable. He says, "Fortunately her bedroom furniture is not in the same condition and we do not have to try and find new bedroom furniture (still trying to get a mattress for Collier)." So if any of you have anything to donate to this worthy cause as well as a mattress for the Collier Avenue project, please contact Robert (561-909-8708).

This street has special meaning for me. Virginia Drive was the very first street on which I ever lived in Lake Worth. My Mom, a single parent who was secretary to one of the big wig commanders at the Air Force Base, bought a little house there in the 50's, the summer before my 7th grade. I think it cost all of $10,000 or $15,000--can't remember which. We watched it being built and would stand in the frame saying, "This is my bedroom." We didn't even have a tree. There was no grass or landscaping included. There was no air conditioning and we had a septic tank. We put in a well within a very short time to water the grass that we planted in the front. She did not have enough money to sod the back. There weren't a lot of chemicals back then, I guess, because my brother and I had to do yard work all of the time--weeding that back yard was constant and the weeds seemed to always be ahead of us. Our back yard was used to bury two parakeets. We did plant some fruit trees there, as I recall. Everyone loved oranges and mangoes.

Yesterday, this fabulous group of people turned out to turn a house around and to help a neighbor. Those living near the property are excited and many were pitching in with masks, hauling out everything in the house. The inside walls will be treated and the interior disinfected and cleaned thoroughly before being painted. I asked Joanna Aiken with SWA the color of the house and she said, "Mist Green. It is one of the 10 colors to choose from," she said. It is really a great color.

During past political campaigns, I always was greeted by a huge dog who barked his lungs out, pouncing on the front jaloused windows. During the clean-up she was tethered in the back yard under a tree and was as friendly as can be, wagging her tail and taking it all in. I guess she knew that friends were there and her home was being repaired by an awesome group of caring people.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

South Florida Seniors Speak Out

It sure was irresponsible of President Obama to use the withholding of Social Security checks as leverage for raising the debt ceiling.

Allen West on Laura Ingraham Show

Allen West responds to Tea-Party

Message from Allen West - "Crazy"

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Some of my opponents have taken to using that word to describe me. I guess in their world it's "crazy" to want to defend the Constitution and call it like I see it. In short, they think principles of fiscal responsibility and restraint are "crazy!"

Well, here's something that's really crazy: the President and the Democrats' lack of a plan to stop the country from defaulting on its debts.

It's simple. Speaker John Boehner has put together a plan which will reduce spending and at the same time allow us to keep running the country.

No reasonable alternative sits before us. And to this day, President Barrack Obama hasn't put even an outline of a plan on paper.

It has been more than 816 days since the Senate Democrats have even voted on a budget for our nation -- which is required by the U.S. Constitution.

Now that's crazy!

We need to get behind Speaker Boehner's plan. We simply can't put politics above doing what is right for the country. And in the meantime, we will continue to hold President Obama and the Senate Democrats accountable for all they have done to get us here.

John G's Manalapan

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Went for a drive down A1A earlier last week, hoping to have lunch at John G's in the Plaza del Mar. It was still under construction and Wendy and her brothers let us in. They are all involved with the build-out which they admit is much more than they anticipated. When she said that, I knew then that we would probably never see them back at the Lake Worth beach. It was a sad reality. They will have one section devoted to their late father, John, who started the restaurant at the Lake Worth beach nearly 40 years ago. So many things are being built-out in his memory.

The space is enormous. There is one side that will be the take-out area as they had at the beach but much larger. People will also be able to wait for their orders on a patio that will have umbrellaed tables. They installed porcelain floors and the benches are being made exactly as their Dad had made them decades ago. The same hanging lamps will be used. Wendy described the restaurant decor as a flair of the old and some of the new. Everyone will see some of the things they have seen over the past 4 decades in Lake Worth. They are making it as homey and as inviting as possible.

John G's Manalapan will open for business (they hope) by mid August 2011.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Tonight's Sunset on Lake Osborne

Resident Wes Blackman files complaint on Casino

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Photos of the Casino demolition

Susan Stanton says, "During the last week, the City submitted extensive documentation to the Palm Beach Inspector's Office concerning a complaint received from a Lake Worth resident about the Casino Building construction's compliance with Florida's Building Code. The City has been working very closely with Doug Wise, City of West Palm Beach Building Official, who serves as the City of Lake Worth Building Official, MORGANTI Group, Construction Managers and REG Architects to ensure that the Casino project complies with all building codes and is a building that the City will be proud of once completed.

While I am very much aware of the continuing debate whether the City should have completely demolished the building and begin new construction vs. attempting to reuse as much of the building structure as possible, all parties involved with this project remain excited about the progress made to date and will provide any additional information the Inspector General's Office requires to properly respond to this issue.

Read the City Complete response (202 pages) to the Inspector General Office's."

Sometimes it pays to keep your mouth shut

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It looks like Lois Frankel's butting in to the feud between Rep. Allen West and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is now causing her to return a $5,000 donation! Ah, too bad, Lois.

Read the rest of the story at The Broward New Times.

Today's Lake Worth Beach

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With the heat index expected to feel like 110^ today, the beach was not that crowded at lunch time. I was at Benny's and wanted to get a feel of what a few commissioners feel when they see the facade at our pier building.

It was said last night that it was not particularly "family friendly" noting the 6 foot bar on the front patio deck where someone can sit and order a Coke or a beer. Paaleeeeeze! The beach is a place to enjoy by all people, not just people with families who have some hang-up on an outside bar sit-down area. Little kids are not going to even know what a bar is and who cares really?

Chicago at the Lake Worth Playhouse

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Tonight at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm & 8pm, Sunday at 2pm

Tickets are $26 & $32
The Reviews Are In

" and dance steal the show." - Willie Howard, Palm Beach Post

" The show is superb, the cast, excellent. There's not a single bad note, muffed line, missed dance step or stifled bit of schtick in this slinky, sexy show that raises garter belts, black stockings and bustiers to a new level." - Dale King, The Boca Raton Tribune

"From the sultry "All That Jazz" to the sing-for-her-supper of "Cannot Do It Alone," petite curvaceous Velma Kelly (Gina Nespoli) owns the stagewith the boldness of her voice. " - Andrea Dulanto, South Florida Gay News

"...the Lake Worth Playhouse production of Chicago features all of the classic elements that made it a hit on Broadway including stylish dance numbers, sleek costumes and beloved songs..." - Stage Notes

"...experience this timeless story that is sure to shock, awe and leave its stamp on all that see it." - The Town-Crier

"...Chicago" is an ambitious choice. But ...the playhouse will be up to the task." - John Thomason, Boca Magazine

"Neither Broadway nor South Florida has ever seen such a dazzlingshow!" - Your

"...Chicago will erase all memories of that flick and win its way to your memory and heart only as a Lake Worth Playhouse musical can do." - Philip Chase, Condo News

"Mama mesmerized me every time she came on stage. Nikki Bradley's rich vocals were like a warm, gooey chocolate sauce on my musical palate. My only complaint? I wish I'd had a bigger serving." - Palm Beach Post, The Scene

"it was fabulous, not a play you want to miss...The cast could not have been better if they had been the original stars." - Lorraine Blum, Around Town

Tax and Spend and PB County Fire has a Reprieve

Fireman holding a banner and a sign--
Does he even live here?

Citizen believing what he reads

Anticipating a big crowd at City Hall, it didn't happen. But the same activists were there waving signs in support of retaining the Palm Beach County Fire MSTU. Although the rudeness was subdued, many were deliberately impolite in the chamber; it was much of the same crowd that was rude last week and rude during the PBSO fiasco.

City Manager, Susan Stanton addressed the mailer sent out by the Firefighter PAC and made all the corrections. I have to wonder about the cost of the mailer and if it was sent to every resident in Lake Worth but no matter who received it, the crowd was insignificant. It was much of the same who always protest about anything having to do with public safety and unions. The most significant discrepancy on the mailer (Stanton pointed out many) was the total Budget with the County Fire Budget. Stanton said that the County cost is $8.807 million and Lake Worth is estimating $5.5 million to start its own department.

I continue to have mixed emotions on this issue and would like to see a 5 to 10 year forecast on costs comparisons/projections. We now have been given a two month extension to make up our minds on what we are going to do. It is apparent that cost has much to do with this decision. I am very concerned when a Fire Chief and firemen get so actively involved in the issue, who do not even live here, and go so far as to support a mailer with inaccurate information. What is their pony in the race? Fire/Rescue is important. We had our own department for nearly 100 years. We did it then with efficiency and professionalism. We can certainly do it again and allow the city to contain costs and pension plans.

Solid Waste was discussed and it seems that the City projects a shortfall this year so they are upping that non-advalorem tax by $42 to all residences to $287.76 and going up 10% on all commercial accounts. This tax, justified in the minds of the Commission with Staff giving us some nebulous reasons, was voted in unanymously. The Staff mentioned that the rate would be comparable to similar cities. We had the second highest rate before this rate increase on the rate comparison chart they used. And what about the dumping fees that we are saving because of recycling? This is a tax; don't kid yourself.

Of course, the City is a 10! No surprise here when the Commission voted to raise our taxes to the max. Commissioner Scott Maxwell voted "nay" but this was a symbolic vote and meaningless as the tax will very likely be adjusted when it comes back to the Commission on September 6. Any politician voting to increase taxes is comparable to slitting your throat especially when you are running for office. The City better well know by September 6 what it's going to do with fire/rescue even though it has until October 1 to give the County its decision--stay with the County and charge us a fortune or start up our own and charge us a fortune. Either way, they have covered their costs by voting in the maximum millage set by law. Sticking it to us on the non-advalorem for fire/rescue is a big possibility. I want them to give us a cost per square foot for fire/rescue, not take the easy way out.

always good advice but nearly impossible to do

Shooting on South F Street Lake Worth

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500 block of South F
Victims taken to area hospitals.
I feel safer

Thursday, July 28, 2011

City Commission Tonight

What Bernie has to say

Cut, Cap and Balance - August 2 - HR 2560

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Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner talk about the solution to the Cut, Cap & Balance Act brought about by Obama's deadline of August 2 on the debt ceiling. Nancy Pelosi should be embarrassed by the simple fact that she represents the Democratic Party position but admits not even reading the Act.

This Act would reduce spending by about 111 billion in 2012. It would cap spending for 10 years until 2021 and it will have a balanced budget amendment. We will never have a debt ceiling problem again. Rep. Allen West approves of the Boehner amendment, a common sense vote for the American people.

Lake Worth is a 10

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or fees or whatever you want to call them

A little trivia--"What about the origins of the word mils? It won’t surprise those Americans who dislike taxes to discover that the word has, besides its Latin origin, a rich French heritage. There go those Socialists again.

In Latin, millsimum means “thousandth part.” It became millesme in Medieval French, which became millème, the still-in-use French for thousandth (as opposed to mille in French, which means thousand.)"

Is any other city in the State of Florida taxed at a rate of 10 mils?

Get Ready!

But the whole idea of 10 mils is not trivial and tonight is the night when the City of Lake Worth sets the tentative millage. Susan Stanton will probably go down in the annals of Lake Worth history of being the very first city manager to propose the max allowed by law. The City Commission can lower the tax rate before its final approval and that's what they will tell unhappy residents tonight.

Even my argument of going back to our own Lake Worth Fire department no longer cuts water--wrong timing--wrong economy, unless, of course, we all want to feel the pain of several million dollars to start all over again. It was more important to send a firetruck to Haiti than it was to save our very own department that we had for nearly 100 years with NO complaints. Vice Mayor Suzanne Mulvehill was the only commissioner at the time to vote "no" to go with the County. She made the correct decision. It is too bad that we all have suffered at the hands of former administrations who led us all down the garden path. Yesterday's mailer by the Firefighter FACTPAC made the argument. You still have to question, "Why do they care so much?"

It's never good to have to raise taxes but this year is probably the worst of times. Some of us really are holding on by a thread. I appreciate Mayor Waterman who brought up the plight of Seniors last night. Bringing back the trolley was mentioned and this would be the first step in really helping those elderly who have no means of affordable transportation even to the grocery store. It is a very real situation for many of the 14% of our Senior population but another 66% here in our city are working, middle class families who have suffered way too long. To tax them all the same for fire rescue, (the County Fire Rescue is now giving us two more months before we have to give them notice) is absolutely irrational.

Solid Waste will go up by $45 to $287.76 per residence. Is the cost of this service going up over 1/2 million dollars or is this just another way to screw the resident? Is this just another way to cover the $500,000 in rate decreases in the Utility? The City will keep Storm Water at the same rate as last year or $75.60. Millage will be set at 6.5419 which is above the roll-back rate by 1.3538 mils. Adding in the Fire/Rescue MSTU of 3.4581 mils, it brings up the total millage rate to 10 mils.

The Phrase Finder describes death and taxes as a rather "fatalistic and sardonic proverb." It draws on the actual inevitability of death to highlight the difficulty in avoiding the burden of taxes. We all know that we must pay taxes. We just want to believe that they are all justified and that they are all fair.

The Mighty Dollar

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Politicians sure do make a mess of things, don't they?

The mighty U.S. dollar’s fall from economic grace didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a long and painful process driven by bad judgment, irresponsible fiscal policies, and arrogance.

Like many fiat currencies (money not backed by a physical commodity-- 1975 saw the U.S. dollar freely float on currency markets) before it, the greenback’s paper and the ink printed on it is only worth what individuals are willing to assign to it. Otherwise it becomes as worthless as green wallpaper with numbers on it, just as happened in Rome.

Read more at Money & Markets.

The reason why we are printing so much money
Click on photo.

Graph sent by Suzanne Squires

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lake Worth Man threatens to Kill

Man threatens to kill ex-wife--says he killed his other wife in Guatemala

U.S. Debt Ceiling

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*July 2011 - $14.406 trillion
•February 2010 - $14.294 trillion
•December 2009 - $12.394 trillion
•February 2009 - $12.104 trillion
•October 2008 - $11.315 trillion
•July 2008 - $10.615 trillion
•September 2007 - $9.815 trillion
•March 2006 - $8.965 trillion
•November 2004 - $8.184
•May 2003 - $7.384 trillion
•June 2002 - $6.4 trillion
•August 1997 - $5.95 trillion
•March 1996 - $5.5 trillion
•August 1993 - $4.9 trillion
•April 1993 - $4.37 trillion
•November 1990 - $4.145 trillion
•October 1990 - $3.23 trillion
•November 1989 - $3.1227 trillion
•August 1989 - $2.87 trillion
•September 1987 - $2.8 trillion
•August 1987 - $2.352 trillion
•July 1987 - $2.32 trillion
•October 1986 - $2.3 trillion

Who is to blame for our debt fiasco?

What is to blame for our debt crisis?

Where is the blame found for our debt fiasco?

Jefferson County, Alabama nears Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy looms in Jefferson County, Alabama and our City wants to give low interest loans for housing to the poor.

Armed robbers in Lake Worth

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Man robbed at gun point in Lake Worth

Lake Worth in a Messy Affair

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I left after it was said that the local sewer fund was going to generate over $1 mil in new revenues as well as the Refuse Fund. I left because they said that our golf-pro/manager, Chris Waller had resigned when in fact he was laid off. Now they will move the recreation manager into that responsibility. Chris was there for two years and was trying desperately to turn the course around. All money in the capital improvement that was allocated for new greens was stopped. The Course was in an Enterprise Fund and he had so many charges against the golfcourse that there was no way it could climb out of the hole. They loved to always say that our golfcourse was not making money. It was not Chris Waller's fault.

Golf attracts affluence and we do nothing to market our own asset. Last night Staff took the golfcourse out of the Enterprise Fund and moved it to a Revenue Fund--good move. This is what Waller wanted all along. You can't have a reputable golf-course without a golf pro and without improving greens. They hired him under impossible conditions and debt, now made right, and now he gets the ax--not a good move.

They are going to reduce what we pay on the conservation charge...big deal.

Staff wants us all to pay for fire/rescue at the same fee/tax. I like the word tax because in my mind that is what it is. It is a regressive tax that they are trying to put on the people and it is not small potatoes, $4,250,519 of which they want us all to pay the same. You already know what I think about this.

We had an Internal Auditor, Scot Menke, and his contract was not renewed in 2009. Mr. Menke was the one who, upon investigation, found all sorts of irregularities in our city landfill back in 2007. His discoveries not only included unauthorized landfill expenditures and a lack of controls over cash disbursements and budgets but he highly recommended that the City pursue civil and criminal remedies for CCNA violations. He was an independent contractor who reported to the City Commission. We didn't have to pay benefits. I believe that his fee was $50,000. Now the City wants this position as a paid employee as well as an assistant auditor. Employees always report to Staff. This position for two has been alloted $246,000 and we pay for medical and whatever. The City Commission, will somehow lose control of the Internal Auditor, and it will cost the taxpayers a lot more money.

New staff will be hired. We just laid off a bunch of people but the City is hiring new people such as a Leisure Services Director, Recreation Program Supervisor, and a Community Marketing Coordinator. High salaries, benefits.

We have managed to get into so many law suits that we have to increase that budget by $382 thousand just to hire outside counsel.

And now, the biggest whopper of all, the City says it will raise our taxes to the max--10 mils unless of course the City gets its way and pushes fire/rescue onto the non-advalorem portion of our bill and every building pays the same. Also, street lights could also be a special assessment.

That's what we have here--increase in taxes and absolutely no shame about asking for increases from a poor city populous fighting to stay afloat, keep their jobs and their homes. Those on fixed incomes have suffered too as any liquid savings have not made a dime and there have been no COLA increases in years.

Last night everyone had to sit there and listen to how the City wants to screw the people. The Commission made no opinion...that will come later.

As the United States bond rating has just been downgraded to AA by one company and the threat is there by two others, it makes this even more of a messy and nasty affair for the people of Lake Worth.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lake Worth's Reverse Osmosis

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The real Walt Smyser
(PBPost got it wrong)

In October 2009, a ground-breaking took place
at what would become the home of our future Reverse Osmosis Plant.

From left to Right: Seb Morales(Lab Assistant), Gary Harper(Maintenance Mechanic), Rebecca Mattey(Utility Director), Jeff Clemens(Mayor who voted against the Reverse Osmosis system), Jo-Ann Golden(Vice Mayor), Cara Jennings(Commissioner), Suzanne Mulvehill(Commissioner), Phil Donovan(WTP Operator), Thomas Biggs(Mock•Roos)

On May 17, 2010, the FAB and a few other citizens took a tour of the Reverse Osmosis Plant that was under construction. The system is now finished and will continue to provide the highest quality water to Lake Worth and some Palm Beach County area residents. This new RO has been designed to meet Lake Worth's growing water supply needs well into the future and is one of the best decisions made by any Commission.

Today's Palm Beach Post says the Plant was completed earlier in the month and is on a 30 day test by the contractor, Reynolds, Inc. Look for the grand opening sometime in October.

Lake Worth woman charged

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Lake worth woman exposes herself.

The Pork and the Rind of it All

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It used to be we had to spend money to make money. Invest in our future; create jobs. But it seems we are investing in everyone else's future with no expectations of any return.

We all feel like we are getting screwed when it comes to taxes. We have our government wanting to reduce Social Security, money that doesn't even go into the general fund as well as Medicare and refer to them as "entitlements." We all are asked to sacrifice for the mis-management of government. Their answer to this mis-management? Tax the people more and cut all benefits. Government gets the pork and we get the rind.

Cedar Falls, Rhode Island is broke and they are asking those on city pensions to take a BIG cut, those who have already worked and retired and have counted on this money.

“We put our money in,” said Walter Trembley, a 74-year-old retired police officer who drove to the meeting from his home in Lake Worth, Fla. “And the city, through their callousness and everything else, just blew it.”

This whole mess has been caused by run-away Union retirement benefits that have put Cedar Falls as well as hundreds of other cities across the country close to bankruptcy.

Here in Lake Worth, our city government is getting creative once again. In one of the poorest cities in Palm Beach County, with the median income per household at $35,123 and 20% of its populace living in poverty, expect higher taxes in order to allow the city to operate along with $5,361,480 in capital improvement projects budgeted in the new year. Union retirement benefits are growing like a run-away train and no one can stop it. The Unions say it's "your problem."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lake Worth Pervert

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Man tries to kill woman with machete
Can the Sheriff find out if he is even legal?

John Davidson's Show at Atlantis

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As I write, I am listening to John Davidson's CD entitled "Love Songs." John describes this album as some of his favorites. "A time, a place, a special person, a reason to break into song because words cannot express my feelings." All the songs he chose for this album show his caring and appreciation for a love that made his life special at that moment in time. It is about feelings, loves that were lost, loves that were all important, that all meant a lot, and make him the person he is today. My absolute favorite is on the album, "After the Lovin" made famous by Engelbert Humberdinck. Thanks, John, for taking all of us on a one way trip to the Sun.

John Davidson will be back on September 16 and 17
Atlantis Country Club

Our table minus one who didn't want his photo taken

Lake Worth Throwing us a Bone on Electric Rates

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Does everyone know what they pay for electricity per kilowatt hour?

I pay $13.93 per KWh on average not including various taxes. When you factor in the taxes, it is much higher. My consumption is always over 500 kilowatts and for 85% of the time it is under 1,000 kilowatts. I live in a small condo. I do know of plenty of people who do not turn on their air conditioning unless the temperature gets over 90^ because they simply can not afford to do so. I would suspect that the average residence uses over 1,000 KWh unless you do not use air conditioning.

The City's plans, and I am assuming they do NOT include conservation surcharge, public service tax, gross receipts tax and all/any other charges are as follows:

FY 2012 Residential Electric Rates
The proposed FY 2012 Residential Electric Rates have been restructured and tiered based on total energy consumption. For customers using less than 500 kWh hours per month, the rate of electrify will be reduced from 12.76 per kW hours to 11.30 per kWh hour.

Residents using electricity exceeding 500 kW hours, but less than
1,000 kW hours will only pay $13.30 per kW hour.

Customers exceeding 1,000 kW hours will pay 15.30 cents per kW hours reflective of the cost of service for this high consumption.

All resident customers, irrespective of consumption, will pay a minimum monthly cost of service charge of $34.50. As seen in Chart 3, residential customers using less than 500 kW hours per month because of good energy conservation will see a reduction in their electric rate of 5% while those residential customers using in access of 2,500 kW hours per month will see an increase in the power bill of 1% per month. The FY 2012 Residential rates are consistent with the City Commission‘s desire to reduce the cost of power as well as promote conservation.

Overall, this means--
1. All resident customers, whether they turn on their electricity or not, will pay a minimum monthly cost or service charge of $34.50. Note: They are conserving by not using any electricity but the City will "sock it to them" just for the privilege of providing it.
2. Those who want to live in unbearable conditions with no a/c, will get a "good" ($11.30 KWh) rate. The City calls this "conservation."
3. The City refers to "high" consumption as anyone using over 1,000 KWh.

The City projects nearly $72 mil in revenues from the Electric Fund. The City has proposed reducing revenues of $500,000 with no real noticeable difference reflected on our bill.

This is not the time to lower our rates, which might amount to $15 a year for me including the reduction in the conservation charge and other taxes, in order to ease the pain of the proposed special assessments. All unnecessary spending must stop across the board.

This week we will find out how our sacrifice, with the proposal of new taxes, will turn this city around. I hope they "sell" me.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tonight's Sky

Woman dies driving over Lake Osborne Bridge

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Another Lake Worth car crash results in death.

Cars continue to drive over the speed limit on 6th Avenue South in Lake Worth west of I-95. The Sheriff does patrol sometimes during the week and sets up radar but on weekends, it can be a drag strip.

Conquering the Slum and Blight in Lake Worth

Commissioner Scott Maxwell led a tour of run-down homes in Lake Worth with the city's code staff, sheriff's deputies and a representative from Congressman Alcee Hastings' office. I am not even sure that Hastings represents the City of Lake Worth as his District 23 is so gerrymandered. My representative is Allen West.

Lake Worth has had a serious blight and slum problem and the mortgage meltdown contributed heavily to it. Also a contributing factor, in my opinion, is the one day a week irrigation policy and the new landscape policy that does everything to discourage homeowners from having a good looking lawn. Consequently, the properties look run-down and then quickly become run-down. It is a snow-balling effect. We have over 1,100 properties in Lake Worth in pre-foreclosure.

The banks caused the problem with complex financial schemes and they are still playing games by delaying the foreclosure process. They don't want to pay for any of the costs involved by foreclosing early. Here in my community, we have been dealing with two properties for two years, one in which the bank never did take title.
So far, all we have incurred are legal fees and thousands of dollars in monthly assessments that are due our association.

Trying to trace the parties responsible for the properties is a constant and costly challenge and lawyers just wait for the process to take effect which can be years. These financial schemes, that were hatched by predatory lenders eager to make home loans, have made it nearly impossible to trace ownership. Even if you have the resources to find out ownership, more often than not, the owner will not pay. To compound the problem, the new owners of some of these properties that were bought at auction, have no intention of moving into the property (they want to flip it when the market is right) and will not pay what is owed from the past or the present. They will not maintain the property, and the cycle of abandonment continues.

Abandoned houses cause all sorts of health problems by attracting vermin and other pests. Even when the property is boarded, squatters break in and occupy them attracting drug dealers and the homeless.

Squalor and slum are the biggest enemies of Lake Worth. The City has hired William Waters to conquer the problem. He is taking a whole new approach to the properties that have caused blight, attracted undesirables to the area and property values to free-fall.
Read about it here.

Although this home is located in suburban Lake Worth, it depicts another possibility--fire. It is just another pervasive problem of abandonment from the current collapse of the nation’s housing industry and one that has devastated Lake Worth.

Quote of the Day - Kitty Lambert on marrying her domestic partner at Niagara Falls

“I may be the first person standing here in history but I’m just an ordinary grandma.”

~Kitty Lambert

Ms. Lambert is anything but ordinary. She and her partner. Cheryle Rudd, were the first to wed under New York's same sex marriage laws that came into effect at midnight last night in Niagara Falls.

The more things change, the more they remain the same - Lake Worth Utility

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The title of this blog is a quote of Alphonse Karr, a French critic, journalist and novelist who lived in the 19th century. It is the theme of today's guest blogger, who wants to remain anonymous. He cares about our Utility and the way in which it is being "managed." Resigned former mayor, Rene Varela, said that one of his goals was a forensic audit at the Utility. After he was elected, it never again came up. This is where we get a huge portion of our revenue to operate our City. Therefore, the Utility must be audited and decisions challenged.

On page 81 it says that the 138kv tie-lines will be located in different corridors providing a "true" back-up if one is disabled. This is an inaccurate statement. The plan design now is to tie sub-stations in a looped system. "Using a different corridor means absolutely nothing if you are going back to the same source."

Guest Blogger's comments:

Re: Pg. 81, 82 and 62 CM 2012 Budget

1) Do you remember back six months or so ago when Becky Mattey told you emphatically that the new 138 kV tie would not be back to Hypoluxo? She said at the time that there was no case for installing a second tie line back to the very same location. Well, she either lied or was forced by FPL to come to her senses. Remember, we had told both she and Clay at the time that Hypoluxo was the only tie location possible and that spending $4 million to tie back to Hypoluxo was a total waste of utility dollars, especially when this same money could be better spent installing new generation. (It also appears that your time spent repeatedly asking the City for the Garrison Report was also a waste)

2) The utility is also pulling the wool over the commission's eyes by saying that the conversion, even though they have taken the Smart Grid and Under-grounding out of the mix, will only cost $11 million. They are wrong! They will spend the entire $21 million on the conversion or be forced to cease all conversion activity when they reach the $11 million mark.

It is becoming more and more apparent that the more things change in LW the more they stay the same. Spending $4 million for an alternate feed to the very same source makes absolutely no business sense, especially when the city is is dire financial shape. And reducing the cost of the conversion (on paper only) by half is simply a way to pull the wool over the commissions eyes for a few years in hopes that everyone will forget it down the road? This makes me question whether or not LW has the correct management team in the utility department as this is not the way to conduct business.

If the city truly wants to get back on sound footing financially, one way to do that would be to eliminate the conversion, the 138 kV tie line and all of the apprentice linemen. While it would not put the city back in the black, it would help tremendously.

If pressed by a professional, the utility cannot make a business case for any of these items at this time. The load within LW has gone down substantially over the past few years, there is no need to spend dollars on a tie line that uses the exact same source, and apprentice linemen will simply move on to FPL once their apprenticeship is concluded because of the wage/benefit comparison. (It must be understood that a majority of LW linemen (Ed Womsley is the exception) are rejects from other utilities and could not work for a more professional organization).

A much wiser and more cost effective approach would be to construct new substations at Bryant Park and Elizabeth Streets, and add new generation.

If I were a commissioner I would challenge the Utility Director on her budget.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

How many properties do we have in Lake Worth?

Depending upon whose report it is, we have anywhere from 12,165 up to 12,980 or maybe a few thousand more.
  • According to the Willdan Report we have: 6,872 owner occupied housing dwellings and 6,108 renter occupied housing dwellings for a total of 12,980. The number of commercial dwellings are not listed.
  • According to the Demographic section page 10 in the new Budget Report we have:12,165 households
  • According to the Budget Report itself we have:16,473 units with 3,515 that are vacant for a total of 12,958 with 6,535 being renters. I guess vacant properties that are owned by someone are just not paying. We have 1,190 commercial accounts for Solid Waste. That would add up to 14,148 units involved in paying the proposed special assessment.
One thing for sure, if the City is going to charge a special assessment for all the mis-management, they had better get the number of units correct or this will be challenged. The other point is, what about all the properties that are exempt in paying taxes like the Greater Lake Worth Chamber of Commerce? Will they now be included in all special assessments?

Lake Worth Crime Stats

Week ending July 22, 2011 for 33460
I feel safer.

Theft 9
Proactive Policing 15
Pedestrian Stop 15
Vehicle Recovery 2
Sexual Offense 1
Other Sexual Offense 1
Robbery 3
Quality of Life 27
Drugs 10
Disorder 5
Liquor 12
Property Crime 5
Property Crime 5
Other 35
Family Offense 1
Alarm 9
Other 24
Missing Person 1
Assault 6
Assault 6
Traffic 18

Lake Worth Crash leaves two injured

Two injured when driver crashes into a Lake Worth Bus Stop

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Special Assessment for Fire Rescue

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Update, see below:
From the latest City Manager's Report

City Manager Message---

Funding for Fire Rescue Services

As previously discussed, the City submitted a funding proposal for the fire rescue services to the County which would remove the City from the Fire Rescue MSTU and allow the City to establish a special assessment for the services and use ad valorem taxes for rescue services. By removing the City from the Fire rescue MSTU, City tax payers would no longer pay the MSTU millage rate of 3.4581 mills and the City could fund Rescue Services by levying a millage rate of 1.1496 mills. As shown on Table 16, the City would be able to fund $2,769,800 of the fire rescue services contract and $1,094,000 of the required contribution to the firefighters pension plan with a special assessment estimated at $300 to $330 on the 12,132 parcels in the City.

With the City nearly depleting ALL reserves since 2009, what IS GOING ON?

Scenario #1:
Typical house in the TRNA neighborhood:

1,676 square feet paying taxes on adjusted appraised value after double homestead or $25,000.

Present: 3.4581 mils = $86.45 for MSTU

2012: 1.1496 mils = $28.74 plus $330.00 = $358.74

Scenario #2:
Typical house off of HighRidge

2,051 square feet paying taxes on adjusted appraised value after double homestead or

Present: 3.4581 mils = $136.37

2012: 1.1496 mils = $45.33 plus $330.00 = $375.33

Scenario #3
Typical house on N. Golfview Rd

3,114 square feet paying taxes on adjusted appraised value after double homestead or

Present: 3.4581 mils = $640.36

2012: 1.1496 mils = $212.88 plus $330.00 = $542.88

Scenario #4
House on the Intra-Coastal in College Park

7,185 square feet paying taxes on adjusted appraised value after double homestead or

Present: 3.4581 mils = $2,554.51

2012: 1.1496 mils = $825.98 plus $330.00 = $1,155.98

You can see as the value of the house goes up, the owner pays less with this new Fire/Rescue charge. The less affluent will be subsidizing the wealthy. The only fair way is a charge per square footage.

And that's not all--A Special Assessment for those with street lights is being proposed with an estimated special assessment tax of "less than $50.00." Also, the City will be charging 0.3145 mils more for the cost of an Internal Auditor at $246,456 and the PB County Inspector General of $78,225.

Proposed Budget 2012

Lake Worth Man tried to shoot Ex-Girlfriend

Lake Worth man arrested on attempted murder

U.S. tanks in Egypt would threaten Israel

Rep. Allen West has called on the House Armed Services Committee not to sell military equipment to the Egyptian government.

Quote of the Day - Ron Klein

“Mr. West and I ran against each other twice. The races that we ran were definitely rough and tumble but I saw it then and I see it now - a person who can dish it out, but can’t take it.”

~Ron Klein

The Democrats are still attacking West. They did it before the election, did it before he got sworn in and are continuing until the next election. Sore losers and attack dogs, all of them.

Ron Klein has one hell of a nerve saying what he just said when it was he that swift-boated Allen West at every campaign mailing and television ad, tearing West apart at every opportunity. The voters rejected it all. There comes a time when you no longer want to be a doormat to ugly political tactics.

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz got what she deserved. She attacked West in front of the entire Congressional Assembly--no class, no lady. Now she condemns and is gathering every troop she can find, to support her kicking below the belt twisted public attack. You have tackled with the wrong patriot, Ms. Schultz.

Blast from the Past - from a current Tom Ramiccio sign waver

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As Tom has now commented on this blog that he just might run again this November, he still might have some of his supporters like the citizen below who flipped flopped from when he posted this on LakeWorthMedia back in September 30, 2007.

Guess who said the following when talking about the Chamber and Ramiccio!

"Tom Ramiccio like Rodney Romano and Mark Foley never met a Camera or a photo opt that they don't love.

It is obvious that Mr Ramiccio was given the ten (10) questions well in advance and was well prepared to put the Chamber in the very best light.

There were no follow up questions by the Interviewer either by design or he did not have enough information to challenge Ramiccio's answers.

Having said all that, I have a few comments and would like replies from Mr Ramiccio:

He is A political-He did not give recent candidates an equal opportunity for debate at the Chamber sponsored debate. Three sign boards rented by the Chamber and two members were turned over to the Chamber to promote, "Stop The Power Grab."

Mr. Ramiccio should have been able to convince other Tourist Board Members that people come to Fl for the Beach and LW is a major tourist attraction.

He says that he influenced disgraced Newell to give LW $5 million of County bond to LW. We need evidence of proof. Romano said that it was him.

He says the beach partnership is good for the local businessmen, he needs to expand on this and how it is a good deal for the city.

Ramissio (sic) at the request of Burns had the SWAT team try to remove signature gatherers from their table on Friday on the Avenue. Mr Ramiccio is in reality a bully when it comes to Friday night on the Avenue.

The Chamber is Transparent in financial matters. This really needs to be challenged under the microscope as there is a big cloud here. Where did the money for the building come from? Was it not county money to be earmarked for our roads? Who funds the Ramiccio leased auto and trips abroad. Who pays for Burns salary and how much.

I will comment more later but this will do for now."

Fire/Rescue Meeting

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The hour long presentation by the Willdan Group was interesting and informative but I was there for the rest of the story and the meat of of it, not to eat dirt -- how much will it cost me for the imposed assessment by the City of Lake Worth? How many times do I have to hear that, "oh gee, because we have lost $1 billion in property values that all of us have to pay for fire/rescue," a premise in which I do believe but vehemently object to the poor subsidizing the rich. Scott Maxwell was the only commissioner who even brought up that aspect. The only problem last night, after three hours, was that we never got that meat and the city manager wanted the Commission to vote on what is a really big deal, without it.

Stanton has been meeting with the Fire Chief as she was told to meet with him directly, not any PB County Commissioner. What does Scott Maxwell do? He reveals, in his cunning way, that he has been meeting with Palm Beach County Commissioners (names unknown) in secret and says that he is "sensing a shift" in their thinking on the Supplement payment. He did not get into details as it was, well, secret. Any sort of unofficial talks should not be condoned by the Commission as they can undermine the City's position. The Commission should have had stronger objections to this rouge act as the City has been in serious discussions that affect all of us and just one word, one comment, could sabotage all of the hard work put into these negotiations no matter how good the intention.

Back in March, Fire Chief, Steve Jerauld, spoke and he was the one who gave Stanton the idea to put the supplement payment on the non-advalorem part of our tax bill. Right now we have not paid PB County the Supplement for 2011 Budget and according to the Contract, we will owe $1.3 million for every subsequent year going forward. The City Manager took the Chief's advice to heart and now wants to put the whole damn thing on a special assessment. She did say near the end of the meeting, as things were slipping away, to take the pension cost of $1.8 million a year and put that on the special assessment.

We did learn that starting up our own fire/rescue again will cost us about $1 mil more than we are now paying Palm Beach County for the same service. Start-up costs always are costly so I don't have a problem with that element. I would like to see, however, the cost projections for the next five years and a comparison with PB County. Vice Mayor Mulvehill asked for this information. We also need to know how we are going to pay for it all.

After three hours, with Chanel 12 there the entire time, a vote was taken to Table the Fire and EMS decision until July 28th meeting where the millage will be set. The vote was 3/2 vote with Maxwell and Waterman dissenting. I saw nothing wrong in the motion to Table as the only other choices were to accept or reject. We were told by the city manager, however, that we still will not have the numbers that have been requested in order to make an informed decision. Why not? We still won't know what the assessment will be and the city manager said that much of it will be explained in her tentative Budget set for release some time today. Then why not explain it last night?

Those in the Chamber who were sitting there all of this time did not get a chance to speak to the issue. The Vice Mayor, after her second on the motion to table, asked the city attorney if there could be discussion and comments from the residents. She gave some sort of explanation and said "no." The vote was then taken. The Fire Chief was the only person in the chamber who was allowed to comment after the vote. Why him and not anyone else? He gave a superb sales job on why we should stay with the County. The Dais did not want to be rude to him after sitting for three hours but those who pay the bills--let them eat dirt.

Robert's Rules are extremely challenging to learn. The vote had not been taken and the Chair could have called for public discussion. Also, the Commission could have made a motion to waive the rules to allow public commentary. Waterman did her best and relied on the city attorney for advice. The City Attorney did not give all of the facts.

Waterman had to ask for "quiet" in the Chamber three times during the meeting. The incessant chatter and complaints from a few continued for the entire three hours and after they learned they could not speak, several people behind me got loud and left angry.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Boynton Beach's Fire/Rescue Assessment

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What Is It?
It is a special assessment levied since 2001 on the annual tax notice that equitably allocates less than 50% of the cost of the City’s eligible fire rescue services among all residential and non-residential property in the City that the Fire Rescue Department protects. All such properties are found to be specially benefited by the provision of the fire rescue services.

How Much Is The Assessment?
That depends on property use.
For residential property, the proposed annual rate is $88.00 per dwelling unit or $7.33 per month.

For non-residential property, the proposed annual rate is calculated on a square foot basis according to the following use categories:
Use Categories Rate Per Square Foot
Commercial $ 0.20
Industrial/Warehouse $ 0.05
Institutional/Nursing Home $ 0.22

What Is The Total Fire Assessment Revenue The City Receives?
For the coming fiscal year 2011-12, the City estimates it will receive a net amount of about $4.7 million based on the above rates.

Why Isn’t The Fire Assessment Just Included In The Property Tax Rate?
There are two reasons.
First, it would require an increase of about 1.5 mills on the ad valorem tax rate. A homeowner with even a $100,000 taxable value on their home would experience a $150 added property tax versus the $88 noted above.

Second, there are large numbers of homes that pay no property taxes, yet they are still protected by fire rescue services. With the fire assessment, those residential properties share equally in paying for those services. Sound familiar?

What If Some Taxpayers Can’t Afford The Assessment?
If the fire assessment is a hardship on certain residential property owners in the City, affected property owners may request a total or partial waiver of the special assessment for hardship reasons.

Ramiccio will not run in November

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One of his smartest decisions to date.

Residents of Lake Osborne Heights

Designed by Nancy Kumpulainen
New Logo

Membership is open to all resident homeowners and renters within the area bounded by the center of Twelfth Avenue South (on the south side), Lake Osborne Drive (on the west side), Interstate 95 (on the east side), and the most eastern point of Lake Osborne (on the north side) but not including residents of Murry Hills, Lakeside Point Gardens, and Parkview Estates, or the Sixth Avenue trailer park.

Bad customer service drives customer to a frenzy

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And talking about bad customer service, this one is ridiculous.

Fire/Rescue Special Assessment in Boynton Beach

Although Commissioner Ross did not mention what the special assessment covered, she just replied to what they charge in Boynton:

Here you go, wishes. Marlene

Our current rate structure is as follows. We have two rate categories:

1) Residential Property Use Category:
Residential... $68 per year per dwelling unit:

2) Non-Residential Property Use Categories:
Commercial $ 0.16 per sq. ft.
Industrial/Warehouse $ 0.04 per sq. ft.
Institutional $ 0.17 per sq. ft.
Nursing Home $ 0.17 per sq. ft.

Recently we tentatively set a higher rate for residential for next fiscal year: $88 per dwelling unit + higher rates as well for the non residential categories as proposed:

Commercial $ 0.20 per sq. ft.
Industrial/Warehouse $ 0.05 per sq. ft.
Institutional $ 0.22 per sq. ft.
Nursing Home $ 0.49 per sq ft.

Fire/Rescue Meeting tonight in Lake Worth

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To be totally truthful, I am embarrassed to even be posting this and confess that I do not understand the intent of the City in its proposal to tax everyone the same. I have read it and have asked questions but still am confused.

It is Susan Stanton's desire to have our own Lake Worth Fire Department if the County does not eliminate the Supplement payment due to them. She has suggested levying a fixed assessment charge per-building on homes and businesses to pay for most of the cost of providing fire rescue service minus the cost of EMS that cannot be tacked on to our tax bill. She says, "Boynton Beach and West Palm Beach levy fire assessments." I have a call into Commissioner Ross in Boynton Beach regarding how they charge for their special fire assessment and what it covers. It is definitely not for the entire cost of implementing and running their fire department. She will try and get back to me today. If so, I will post.

Not considering any extra costs for starting up our own fire department, we will use the figures provided by the Willdan Feasibility Study:

There are 12,980 residences within the city of Lake Worth according to Willdan. No where in the report do I find the number of buildings for businesses housed in separate buildings but let's average that at 1,000. Rounding up we would therefore have
14,000 units.

Cost in year one: $5,659,084 divided by 14,000 = $404.27 per property owner
Cost in year two: $5,721,581 = $408.69
Cost in year three: $5,949,257 = $424.95

Today's PB Post says that we all will be paying between $230 and $280. Perhaps we have twice the number of buildings.

Tack on an additional $2 mil a year, the cost would be another $150 a year higher.

Other City Budget Impact Year One, Year Two, Year Three
Plans Reviewer, 1 FTE $ 85,000, $ 86,700, $ 88,434
Finance Technician $ 72,839, $ 74,296, $ 75,782
HR Technician, 0.5 FTE $ 45,000, $ 45,900 ,$ 46,818
Legacy Pension Contribution $ 1,800,000, $ 1,800,000, $ 1,800,000
TOTAL $ 2,002,839, $ 2,006,896, $ 2,011,034
GRAND TOTAL $ 7,633,174, $ 7,728,577, $ 7,960,291

When asking the city manager about throwing costs of fire/rescue onto the non-advalorem portion of our tax bill, this is her answer:

Lynn ….. the proposal is to include both the cost of fire suppression and fire pension plan……minus the cost of EMS which can not be assessed to property. So, total assessment is based on about $6.5 million dollars. The proposed property tax this year will also include the EMS cost (about $1.4 million) plus $300,000 for an internal auditor (and staff support accountant …plus the Inspector General cost of $78,000).
Susan A. Stanton

For Fiscal Year 2011-2012, and future years, the City Administration has proposed the establishment of a Special Assessment for Fire Services irrespective of whether the County is providing this service or whether the City reconstructs a Fire Department. The actual assessment would depend on the total costs included in the assessment such as fire fighter pension costs.

Directly from the report: "Because the City has so many properties which pay little or no property taxes (due to the homestead exemption and current low value of the homes and commercial property) this assessment will allow the City to more fairly and equitably recover the cost for providing this critical public safety service."

Lake Worth Towers will cost the city $1 mil more for an aerial platform apparatus because the building does not have sprinklers.

So, if I am understanding everything correctly, the entire cost of fire/rescue minus the cost of emergency medical services will be transferred to the non-advalorem portion of our tax bill with every property paying the same tax. Today's PB Post agrees with Stanton on what's "fair." Obviously I am not understanding this at all and hope by the time I leave the meeting tonight it will be clear. Surely this can not be right. When fire/rescue has always been based on the value of our property, how then can this be fair?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Commissioner Maxwell gets "hit" with a Pie

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Commissioner Scott Maxwell and Barbara Jean Weber

Several weeks ago, Barbara Jean Weber asked Commissioner Scott Maxwell what pie he liked best as she was going to bake his favorite for the 3rd on the 4th Event (July3) pie baking contest. He answered, "Rhubarb or Coconut Cream." Barbara didn't come through that day for Scott but last night, saying she was a "man of her word," she presented him with a coconut cream pie.

  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flaked coconut, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (9 inch) pie shell, baked
  • 1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed

Fire/Rescue and the Lake Worth Budget

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Tom Keating of Lake Worth had his letter to the editor published in Wednesday's Palm Beach Post wherein he states that salaries of our fire/rescue personnel need to be cut before raising taxes. Because of the high cost of salaries, the only options will be to raise taxes or reduce the number of workers per Palm Beach County. "Sadly, neither option would be necessary if county commissioners or even the fire-rescue union had the courage to do the right thing and cut these egregious salaries across the board," said Mr. Keating.

Dennis Dorsey has mentioned to me on several occasions that we pay so much more than that reported $90,000 a year in average salary. Here in Lake Worth, we still have fire/rescue workers whose retirement benefits equal 172% of payroll. So, that $90,000 a year really amounts to Lake Worth taxpayers paying $245,000 a year, not to mention other benefits. They will get their retirement benefit until death and then their spouse will get a percentage until his/her death. Such a deal.

As property values in Lake Worth are down again this year by 3.6%, the budget is still "strained," according to Susan Stanton. The City Manager wants to tax all of us the same amount of money for fire/rescue that she says "could" lower the millage rate. Don't count on the "could."

The Culture of Incompetence - Lake Worth Utility Customer Service

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That's what our Utility Service Department is and has been for years and the City finally has had enough.

We all feel lucky when we actually call Lake Worth Utilities customer service and get someone to speak with us on the first try. Usually we are put on hold forever and when someone finally gets on the line, they do not know how to answer our questions. They are often discourteous and have even been condescending. Most of us know that the only way to get the least bit of satisfaction is to drive there and wait in the lobby to get a live person so that we can insist on an answer that makes sense.

The service department has tried a multitude of managers, some very highly qualified and who, for whatever reasons, have not been able to turn the department around. Workers there are protected by the Union. At the moment, the Union has filed a grievance against the City because the employees were asked not to make or receive personal cell phone calls during business time. It came to that lightning bolt moment--outsource it all.

By so doing, private enterprise will be running the show and what can do it better than a well run American company that will strive for efficiency and will not coddle the lazy and won't have difficulty getting rid of the deadwood. Becky Mattey has done her best over the past two years but when it comes right down to it, the boss is the Union. The Unions will be out, the very ones who have allowed this to happen and that has a system in place that makes it almost impossible to correct. No more of people doing the bare minimum with all the wrong answers.

On May 3, 2011, the City Commission approved a 90-day contract with Government Services Group (GSG) for a not to exceed amount of $70,000 to provide management services and business practice evaluation on an emergency basis for the Customer Service Office. Per the agreement, should the City require additional services not included in this Agreement and/or reflected in the minimum tasks in Exhibit "A" of the agreement, fees and payment for such services will be set forth in a separate Additional Services Addendum, as authorized by the City prior to any such additional services or work being performed by the Consultant. Also, per the agreement, the City may extend services as needed on a month to month basis.

Last night, the Utility Director, Becky Mattey, and our city manager, Susan Stanton, tried to do just that. Unfortunately it was placed on the agenda at the last moment. In order to put something on the agenda without proper notice, it must be an emergency. Scott Maxwell challenged whether this was an emergency.

The department has 400 accounts that have yet to be billed and employees keep getting farther and farther behind the eight ball. Checks have been found in a locked fault, one going back to two years in the amount of $150,000. No one knows how to do anything even though they have had instructions in customer service, billing etc. Employees do the bare minimum in their jobs. Insolence and ineptitude abound. They have been given chance after chance to improve to no avail. The department is falling farther and farther behind to the point of no return. Thus the emergency. Thus the lightning bolt decision to outsource the department.

The Commission wanted to see a full report from GSG and have it come back to them prior to the August 2 meeting before they made their decision to outsource our Utility customer service.