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Condo News Online Local News Page

 

Condos of 

South Ocean Blvd., 

Palm Beach

By Madelyn Greenberg

Last Updated 07/20/2017


Condos of So. Ocean Blvd.  

view from Intracoastal at Lake Worth Bridge

Photos by Jimmy Shirley


Public Outcry Defies Palm Beach Town Council!

(7-19-17)

It appears that the attempt to hold a Public Hearing in the Town of Palm Beach on Wednesday, July 12, 2017, beginning at 5:01pm in the early evening, with only legally required advertisements, was not enough to keep away the throngs of angry protesting taxpayers in the dead of summer!

What occurred was quite telling in the overflowing MASSIVE PUBLIC OUTCRY of approximately 200 upset and frustrated Palm Beach property owners from the north-end, mid-town and the south-end of the Town, who attended an inconveniently scheduled Public Hearing in the Town Council Chambers.

In fact, the Town Hall Chambers were so packed with Palm Beach property owners that, due to overcapacity, the Police were holding a crowd of Palm Beachers standing in the vestibule and would not allow them entrance.

Every seat in the Council Chambers was filled and property owners were standing by the walls! The Council members appeared disengaged and totally disinterested as the multitude of public comments took place.

This "Kangaroo Court" was created because the Town Council is attempting to quietly railroad through 30 years of non-tax deductible Special Assessments.

Unless these Special Assessments are legally challenged, they will be levied on the property owners and will finance the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project.

Anyone living in Palm Beach knows that the Town has worked really hard to make it appear that a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project is a "fait accompli." The Town Manager went so far as to verbalize, at a Council meeting, that, "As we stand today with our back-up plan, we can not be stopped." The reality is that this statement is a "SCARE TACTIC", NOT FACT! Without the means to finance this multi-million dollar project with Special Assessments, the Project could "put a shovel in the ground" but would NOT have sufficient financing to bring this Underground Utilities Project to reality.

The fact that the Town has retained consultants and contractors does not guarantee anything, especially without having the annual Special Assessments to fund it as would be necessary.

At the Public Hearing, that lasted almost 3 hours, approximately 50 Town property owners lined up during the public comment period and made their objections known. It is important to report here, that the Town Council President ordered the Police to remove a female property owner who during this public comment period, voiced an objection he did not want to hear! The Town Council President threatened that, if the audience applause continues, whoever was clapping would be removed from the Town Council Chambers. This only reaffirmed the opposition by the audience.

One of the most important public comments was made by attorney, William Berger. He spoke on behalf of Palm Beach property owner, Carol Kosberg. Mr. Berger identified himself as an attorney from Weiss, Handler & Cornwell, P.A. and immediately explained how their objections were based on the detailed reports of three qualified experts with impeccable credentials.

We were told that the objections were supported by expert opinions within "Kosberg's Appendix to Objection to Special Assessment."

Mr. Berger explained that the expert reports show that, "undergrounding confers no 'special benefit' on my client's property or the other Assessed Properties."

Kosberg's attorney also said that the "Special Assessment will be an illegal tax and undergrounding will endanger lives and property and make recovery from a storm even more difficult, hazardous and expensive."

Mr. Berger asserts that "... for the Town of Palm Beach, ... burying live electrical conduits in this barrier island community can prove disastrous during a storm and in the efforts to recover from its aftermath."

In the Objection documents submitted, which are now part of the Public Record, it states quite clearly that, "The Special Assessment is invalid as to Kosberg's Property and all other property within the Town subject to the Special Assessments.... for all of the reasons stated in the materials contained in the Appendix to this Objection..... Kosberg also adopts and incorporates by reference all objections to the Special Assessments filed or otherwise submitted by any other property owner."

In my opinion, the Kosberg Objections and Appendix represent a preamble to a lawsuit. They are more than mere objections. In addition, the two attorneys representing Carol Kosberg were present at the Public Hearing as well as their court reporter who was working during the entire Public Hearing proceeding.

It is evident that Kosberg and her attorneys will shortly be filing a NEW LAWSUIT against the Town of Palm Beach. There may also be additional lawsuits filed against the Town. That is what happens when the actions of Town Officials do NOT represent the best interests of all their constituents.

THE TOWN NEVER ALLOWED THE PROPERTY OWNERS TO VOTE ON WHETHER THEY WANTED TO UNDERGROUND UTILITIES TOWN-WIDE OR NOT. The 2016 Referendum vote was to finance the Project ONLY! That is "Taxation without Representation."

The Palm Beach Town Council implemented the Special Assessment process as their approach to finance the Project. Because lawsuits have prevented the Town from issuing General Obligation (G.O.) Bonds, the Town is attempting to implement a short-term financing method, a line of credit, to be paid back with Special Assessments. The Town is also planning to issue Revenue Bonds paid back by Special Assessments to pay off the line of credit and to finance the remainder of the $90 million in case they can't get to the G.O. Bonds. If the Town can eventually issue G.O. Bonds, the Town plans to retire the more expensive Revenue Bonds and to finance the Project with G.O. Bonds paid back by the Special Assessments. Therefore, in order to implement and to finance the Project, 30 years of annual Special Assessment payments will be required to be paid by Palm Beach taxpayers FOR AN UNNECESSARY PROJECT!

FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELT AND BE PATIENT.

Regardless of how the Town makes it appear, this matter is NOT OVER. In the words of Yogi Berra, "It ain't over until it's over."

The only thing that is "inevitable" is, "MORE LAWSUITS ARE COMING!"

News Flash!

Updated Public Records show Town has been granted ONLY TWO Condo/Co-op Easements, La Palma & Beach Point. These Records contradict claims by Town that MANY South-End Condo/Co-ops have granted Easements to date. Is this misinformation or DELIBERATE DECEPTION by the Town?

 


"Improvement" or "Disaster":

Undergrounding Utilities 

In Palm Beach?

This Utility Box is what will be installed in the south-end. Will 100 of these high voltage boxes be an "Improvement" or a "Disaster"?

(7-5-17)

There are so many issues with Town-wide Undergrounding of Utilities Project that to categorize this ill-fated and dangerous project as "An Improvement" is an insult to the intelligence of the Palm Beach Property Owners. In reality, when all the facts are considered, the Town of Palm Beach is planning to implement a Project that could cause the downfall of the Town of Palm Beach!

However, the urgency of all these issues reached the pinnacle of decision-making when all Town of Palm Beach Property Owners were mailed "Notices of Hearing to Impose and Provide for Collection of Non-Ad Valorem Assessments" for 30 year non-tax deductible "annual assessment for the design, acquisition, construction and installation of the Underground Utility Improvement..." In these notices mailed to Palm Beach Property Owners on 6/21/17, the Town changed the name of the Project to be an "Improvement." The Town Public Hearing is to be held on July 12, 2017 at 5:01 pm in the Town Council Chambers for the purpose of public comment.

Also, unclear to many layman in this notice, is the fact that if any Property Owner decides to appeal the Town's decision to levy this assessment and continue to push forward with this Project regardless of any facts proving its disastrous consequences to the community "...you will need a record of the proceeding and may need to ensure that a verbatim record is made including the testimony and evidence upon which the appeal is to be made." Those residents that carefully reviewed this had various angry responses to the Town; one such resident said that "Palm Beach is running a Kangaroo Court."

A Palm Beach Property Owner, who sent in an objection letter for the Town of Palm Beach's Town-wide Underground Utility Project, wrote to the Town: "I object very strongly to this assessment as I consider the project hazardous and a danger to the community, rather than an improvement."

Palm Beach resident, Jere Zenko, wrote to the Town due to her concern over one page of the confusing language in the Notice to the Property Owners. Mrs. Zenko gave me her permission to reveal her question and the response she received from the Town's Manager. Here are excerpts from the email correspondence that show the deliberate misleading and overt manipulation that the Town is engaged in with its Property Owners.

Mrs. Zenko asked, "As to the verbiage to the Line which states 'Initial prepayment' amount.... I did not like the verbiage... INITIAL implies there could be 'a request/demand for more than one payment.~ I asked who insisted that the word 'Initial' be inserted? Answer: 'the lawyers'....It leaves open the possibility that with cost overruns, contract change orders, "add on(s) etc. that the LINE ITEM will? /could be? Increased and that there will more than a 'one time cost'. It is a very large 'COULD'."

As Mrs. Zenko succinctly concluded, "Put another way it leaves those who choose the 'prepayment option' of being stuck for any change orders, cost overruns, etc... Notice also that those who do not want to pre-pay have 'total' at the start of the line item...." It appears that any prepayment to the Town of Palm Beach is like signing a blank check!

In response to the duplicitous language used throughout the notice document, meant to confuse the property owner to the point of complacency, the Town Manager replied that, "The reason it says 'Initial' prepayment amount is because there is the potential for multiple prepayment amounts as the financing process unfolds over time.... the financing sequences can unfold with potentially more expensive prepayment amounts."!

Apparently, the "Initial" prepayment that the Town is attempting to use to entice property owners to pay ahead of time is the "supposed full amount and a discount." There are so many twists and turns to the "Initial", "Adjusted", "Revised Adjusted", "New Adjusted" pre-payments that it is mindboggling!!

It is important to review a few of the facts and negative consequences to this Unnecessary Town-wide Underground Utilities debacle.

There is the little known fact that the Town will exercise its right that anyone who does not pay their special assessment, regardless of their permanent residency, will "... result in a loss of title" which means you will lose your home to the Town of Palm Beach!

The implementation of a 30 year annual non-tax deductible Special Assessment which will be added to your tax bill.

Paying a Town Special Assessment for Undergrounding of Utilities in Palm Beach that will be OBSOLETE before the planned 10 year Project is completed.

Much has been written about the DANGER that will be created by the installation of Underground Utilities on the flood prone barrier island of Palm Beach.

The new FEMA Flood Maps identify 75% of the Town of Palm Beach as a "Special Flood Hazard Area."

The Town of Palm Beach is in a "Special Flood Hazard Area" which will accelerate the CORROSION of both its underground conduits and the equipment contained in the on-ground Utility Boxes. The Underground Conduits are vulnerable to SALTWATER INTRUSION because the conduits have connection splices. This Underground Utilities system will be paid for by special assessments for 30 years which will be beyond the life expectancy of Underground Conduits.

The installation of approximately 100 six feet tall, high voltage, combustible, industrial style Utility Boxes that will be installed on the front lawns of our residential buildings in the south-end, which are within the 4 mile area of South Ocean Boulevard/State Road A1A.

We need to understand the facts and make a visualization of whether converting to an Underground Utilities Project is an "Improvement" or is a disaster that will create an environment which will threaten our safety and quality of life!

 


New FEMA Flood Maps Confront Palm Beach Undergrounding!

New FEMA Flood Maps will mean ELEVATED platform bases for electric utility boxes in the Town of Palm Beach!

(6-21-17)

The Town of Palm Beach faces major issues as they continue on the risky, dangerous path to Town-wide Undergrounding of their Utilities.

The new FEMA FLOOD MAPS and Town Flood Plain Administrator confirmed, at the May 2017 Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Town meeting, that "...75% of the Town is in the 'Special Flood Hazard Area'!"

It is time for Palm Beach residents to wake-up and realize the stunning significance of what it means to be in a "Special Flood Hazard Area"!

This new information is overwhelming! It diminishes and defuses any public relations campaign by the Town to make it appear that this Town-wide Undergrounding Project will proceed as planned!

Town Officials' stubborn refusal to recognize the major issues that will arise from being in a 75% flood hazard zone area will result in Palm Beach's electric, cable and telephone utility systems being "Underwater" rather than "Underground" during the 30 years that this outdated, obsolete project will be paid off by Town residents.

FPL's website states, "Following recent hurricanes, we've found that areas that took the longest to repair were generally those served by underground facilities still flooded days after the storm passed. Damage and corrosion of underground electrical systems often shows up days or even months later, causing additional outages and inconvenience to customers."

FEMA in their "Principles and Practices for the Design and Construction of Flood Resistant Building Utility Systems", states that utility system replacement or upgrades must "meet floodplain management regulations and building code requirements."

FEMA states in their P-936 7/13 publication, "FULLY SEALING ALL... ELECTRICAL UTILITIES IS NOT POSSIBLE."

FEMA also states, "Unless placed in dry-flood proofed areas or ELEVATED, pad mounted transformers and switch gear... will remain vulnerable to damage from a design flood or weaker flood event..."

The new FEMA FLOOD MAPS PROVE THAT THIS CONVERSION UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT DOES NOT PROTECT THE WIRING OR UTILITY BOXES ON THIS PALM BEACH LOW-ELEVATION FLOOD-PRONE BARRIER ISLAND SURROUNDED BY SALTWATER AND SALT AIR!

The Town Council, Officials and Staff continue to insist that they are NOT required to raise the electric utility boxes the sufficient height above the base flood plain plan and instead, will risk the entire system by placing the boxes on 6" platforms.

These high voltage utility boxes will be flooded and the conduits with the buried wiring, which need "taps" or seams, to offshoot to the buildings and homes which by nature are only water resistant not waterproof. Saltwater and salt air will seep into these utility boxes and conduits and will quickly corrode and create explosion hazards! This combustion produces the possibility for electrocution!

At the 1/7/16 Ordinance, Rules and Standard (ORS) Town meeting, chaired by then Council Member, Penny Townsend and the Town's Flood Plain Administrator and the Town Building Director, William Bucklew made some significant revelations that the Town should be held accountable for.

At this ORS meeting in 2016 regarding the FEMA Flood Zone, prior to the vote on the Referendum, Council member Townsend and Town Administrator Bucklew agreed that "If part of a building is in a flood zone, the building is considered to be in the flood hazard areas." Ms. Townsend then said to Mr. Bucklew, "THIS WILL HAVE IMPACTS ON THE UNDERGROUNDING, BECAUSE THE STANDARDS WILL CHANGE!"

Town Flood Administrator Bucklew responded, "IT WILL CHANGE and the other thing is... again this is an FPL issue, BUT I AM SURE THEY WANT THEIR TRANSFORMER ABOVE THE BASE FLOOD ELEVATION! SO IN THE EVENT WE DO GET SOME FLOODING, THEIR TRANSFORMERS ARE NOT..."

Councilwoman Townsend said, "LOW STREETS WHERE THEIR ELEVATION, I CAN THINK OF SOME OF THE STREETS WHERE I'VE LIVED, WHERE THE ELEVATION OF THE STREET IS 4FT. AND THE TRANSFORMERS ARE GOING TO HAVE TO BE AT A MINIMUM OF 8FT."

Ms. Townsend continued with, "THE BASE OF THAT TRANSFORMER, SO ITS GOING TO HAVE TO BE SITTING ON A 4FT. PEDESTAL!"

Mr. Bucklew replied , "I AGREE AND THAT IS SOMETHING I RAISED AT A COUPLE OF MEETINGS WITH THE UNDERGROUNDING AND WITH MR. PAGE AND MR. BRADFORD. THE ELEVATION OF UTILITIES,... THAT IS A REQUIREMENT OF FEMA."

Subsequently, at the May 2017 Town P&Z meeting a Town resident asked Mr. Bucklew if the utility boxes, which according to Town Officials will all rest on a mere 6" platform on streets and Town areas that are below the base flood plain, are vulnerable and unsafe and will the boxes elevation be raised? Bucklew's response was that utility boxes are excluded from the FEMA requirements that were being discussed and would not be raised in those flood hazard areas anymore than the 6" standard platform.

THE FACTS ARE: FEMA REQUIREMENTS FOR BUILDINGS, AIR-CONDITIONERS, GENERATORS, ETC. ARE MANDATED TO BE ELEVATED ABOVE THE ABOVE THE BASE FLOOD PLAIN. The new FEMA Flood Maps require an increase in this elevation! Water knows NO "exceptions", such as utility boxes and buried utility conduits.

In addition, the question is "If the utility boxes are below the regulation requirements, does this negatively impact the Town's FEMA insurance compliance requirements and will this also have a negative impact on individual property owner's Insurance when companies realize that his equipment was installed without any method of mitigation?"

There also is the dangerous situation being created by Palm Beach in the south end of Town, where Town Officials plan to install almost 100 high voltage, hazardous approximately 6 ft. tall mostly switch boxes, some transformers and capacitors and other on-ground apparatus, concentrated in little more than a 4 mile area on South Ocean Boulevard.

This concentrated number of high voltage boxes that are highly vulnerable to corrosion and combustion makes this entire area of Town comparable to ticking time bombs!

NO CONDO or CO-OP SHOULD AGREE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TO GRANT AN EASEMENT TO THE TOWN.

SINGLE FAMILY HOMEOWNERS SHOULD THINK TWICE BEFORE GRANTING ANY EASEMENTS.

According to the Easement Agreement document given to a condo/co-op which shows it is for commercial/business for a mere $1. the undersigned is granting FPL, ATT, Comcast, The Town of Palm Beach, "together with the affiliates, licensees, agents, successors and assigns of the above named entities A NON-EXCLUSIVE EASEMENT FOREVER for construction,.......with the right to reconstruct, improve, ADD TO, ENLARGE, CHANGE THE VOLTAGE as well as THE SIZE OF,....within the easement...."

Equally important the Easement Agreement states that, "...the above named entities, and their affiliates, licensees, agents, successors and assigns, to attach or place wires to or within any facilities hereunder and lay cable and conduit within the easement area and to operate the same for communications purposes, THE RIGHT OF INGRESS AND EGRESS TO THE EASEMENT AREA AT ALL TIMES, THE RIGHT TO CLEAR THE LAND AND KEEP IT CLEARED OF ALL TREES, UNDERGROWTH AND OTHER OBSTRUCTIONS WITHIN THE EASEMENT AREA. .....and further grants to the fullest extent the undersigned has the power to grant , if at all, the rights hereinabove granted the Easement Area, over, along, under and across the roads, streets or highways adjoining or through said Easement Area."

FACT: 75% of the Town of Palm Beach is in a "Special Flood Hazard Area"!

No property owner should willingly give an easement to the Town under these conditions.

NO TOWN SHOULD GO FORWARD WITH A TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUNDING UTILITIES PROJECT UNDER THESE CONDITIONS!

 

Town Denial Puts Palm Beach Residents At Risk!

This photo is FACT, NOT FICTION!

Statement of FACT by FPL on their website:

"Underground systems face outages from trees collapsing on above-ground transformers or switch boxes, and/or from tree root systems uprooting buried cable when trees topple."

(6-7-17)

The Palm Beach Town Council needs to separate "fact from fiction" before its willful denial of the negative quality of life impacts from Town-wide Undergrounding of Utilities becomes an HISTORIC BLUNDER!

As recently as on May 30th, in NYC, 5 explosions from underground equipment took place on 1st Ave. between 70th to 73rd Streets. Fire was shooting out of manhole covers. A building was evacuated as a precaution.

On March 16, 2017, U.S. News and World Report published that "Authorities say manhole covers were sent flying by explosions resulting from an underground electrical fire in Sioux City, Iowa." The article continued with, "Assistant Fire Chief Dan Cougill says the fire stemmed from a system failure and that a pressure buildup caused the explosions." Power was knocked out in the area.

Izak Teller, a licensed electrical professional engineer with 30 years of experience in municipal engineering and undergrounding, says "Converting to underground utilities on a flood-prone barrier island has great safety risks. Underground wires are subject to corrosion from saltwater intrusion and the gases that form, which put the entire electrical power system at risk." As a result, the equipment degrades quickly and creates explosions, as well as shortening the 30 year life span of these underground utilities.

The South end of the Town of Palm Beach is a densely populated area of multi-story condo/co-ops within about 4 miles. In this area the Project calls for 96 to 98 approximately 6ft. square combustible, high-voltage, (Switch, Capacitor and Transformer) industrial style utility boxes.

It is important to know that the majority of the 96-98 boxes will be Switch boxes, not Transformers. Switch boxes are not permitted to be concealed with landscaping. Only transformer boxes are allowed to have landscaping on three sides. It is impossible to conceal any 6ft. square box. Significant to note that, according to utility requirements, the Switch boxes need up to 20ft by 20ft of space and must be kept clear from landscaping.

The Town is misleading the public with their continual claim that if condos/co-ops grant an easement, then these 6ft. hideous metal eyesores situated on a 20ft. by 20ft. space, will blend in. In fact, according to Mr. Teller, these Switch and Capacitor boxes "can not be blocked or landscaped in the front or back" and need space on the sides.

This experienced municipal electrical engineer, Mr. Teller, further explained that these huge boxes: "Must be totally open for a truck with men to drive up to it and space for a crane to lift and move the equipment." These enormous utility boxes near multi-story buildings can not be sufficiently hidden from view, especially since there are almost 100 within a 4 mile stretch. Regardless of whether there are boxes on the front lawn of one property vs. another, entire segments of Town are at risk and this will devalue everyone’s property values.

Regardless of all the safety issues that are unearthed, the Town continues to ignore the alarming evidence in the nation-wide news of underground utilities causing explosions and electrocution possibilities which create health, safety and welfare issues much greater than anything that has ever existed before. Not only is this perilous but property values will plummet as a result of these dangerous industrial size eyesore utility boxes that will disfigure once beautiful properties.

This is because all of this high voltage hazardous equipment will be on ground level, close to residences and to anyone who walks, cycles or drives by. These boxes will be connected to the buried wiring and conduits that are not that far below the surface and are vulnerable on this flood prone barrier island to salt water.

Mr. Teller explains that with these huge high-voltage utility boxes that need enough electricity to supply these multi-story densely populated residential buildings, "there is only a cover of a thin sheet of metal between this dangerous voltage and the outside environment." He says that it is not at all the same as any equipment within a residential building, which he says is not as high-voltage, because it is only for one building and it is encased in thick cement enclosure. This is not done for outside boxes of electrical equipment.

He also explains that "...the hot humid salty air and saltwater speed up the corrosion process, especially when you are on a barrier island surrounded by saltwater, which heats up the equipment and causes explosions." In the Switch utility boxes, "...the corrosion can cause a system fault overload. Switch gear has killed people when they have come close to it." "You can walk up to or be within the area of any of these three types of utility boxes when this explosion takes place, or just be a victim of the flying shrapnel."

As stated in FPL’s Q&A, "Following recent hurricanes, we’ve found that areas that took the longest to repair were generally those served by underground facilities still flooded days after the storm passed. Damage and corrosion of underground electrical systems often shows up days or even months later, causing additional outages and inconvenience to customers."

FPL also states, "Underground systems face outages from trees collapsing on above-ground transformers or switch boxes, and/or from tree root systems uprooting buried cable when trees topple.

"While a neighborhood may be locally served by underground cable, all electric service eventually comes back above-ground and connects to overhead service, either in the surrounding neighborhoods, or further down the street. So, exposure to above-ground electric service from weather, animals and trees is never fully eliminated."

The fact is that where there is standing water, FPL will not come out to do repairs until the water recedes. This has been confirmed over and over again.

Still unknown, within the Town’s planned future phases in Midtown, is what will these various utility boxes look like? 

The midtown area of the Town has an assortment of condo/co-ops, commercial buildings and single family homes.

Also, the number of 6 ft. tall Switch boxes, Capacitors and Transformers that will disfigure Midtown has not been revealed at this time. 

It just takes a little common sense to realize that this project will resemble the undergrounding project of Gulf Stream which their Mayor described in previous interviews as appearing like the "Benghazi Suburbs." It is significant that the Project in Gulf Stream was less than 2 miles. The Project in Palm Beach is over 40 miles and will more than double the estimated length of construction, cost overruns and more, when compared to Gulf Stream.

Are Palm Beach residents prepared for over a decade of traffic delays with construction fatigue, climbing non tax-deductible annual special assessment costs, cost overruns, mishaps and mistakes, which by the time the project and assessments are completed, the underground wiring will have reached its maximum life expectancy of 30 years and have long been obsolete?

Once the residents find out the truth of what will befall them, the damage will be done and it will be too late to object. The Town Council will be long gone and all that will be left will be a blunder of historic proportions!


Palm Beach Ignores

 State-of-the-Art Technology

BEFORE WITH HARDENED POLES & SMART TECHNOLOGY: This is a property with hurricane proof safe and reliable hardened poles and smart technology. The poles blend in as compared to .... 

AFTER WITH UNDERGROUNDED UTILITIES: This is the same property as it would look with those six foot high voltage, combustible, unsightly, ground level boxes, replacing the safety and reliability of hardened poles.

ARE THESE BOXES THAT THE TOWN PLANS TO INSTALL IN PALM BEACH, AN IMPROVEMENT, OR, A DISASTER FOR OUR RESIDENTS AND OUR PROPERTY VALUES?

(5-24-17)

While the Town of Palm Beach seems determined to finance and construct a Town-wide conversion to undergrounding project that is derived from 19th century technology, FPL is proceeding "full speed ahead" to install the new State-of-the-Art Hardened Pole Technology throughout the State of Florida.

On May 5, 2017, the Palm Beach Post featured an article regarding FPL. It stated, "The close to $3 billion Florida Power & Light Co. has spent since 2006 hardening its system against storms and making it more technologically advanced is paying off, FPL's President and CEO Eric Silagy said Thursday at the company's annual storm drill."

The PB Post article further described FPL's recent performance in storms stating, "During Hurricane Matthew in October, automated feeder switches prevented 118,000 outages, and not a single storm strengthened pole failed."

This demonstrates the latest proof of success for FPL's investment in Hardened Pole Technology! It is recognized now that Hardened Poles, Coated Wires and Smart Switch Technology has surpassed the buried wires that take longer to repair and are vulnerable to flooding, deterioration, combustion and safety hazards on any low lying flood-prone barrier island!

****Dominic Difilippo, a Palm Beach resident, who serves as an officer on his condo's Board of Directors, has an impressive background as a Licensed Graduate Electrical Engineer/power option. He has spent 43 years in the utility industry, both on the user (Utility) side, and the manufacturer side. Mr. Difilippo's experience covers a range of abilities and knowledge about the electrical utility industry. These abilities extend from his work in design, manufacture and installation of both overhead and underground electrical apparatus.

Dominic Difilippo drew the following conclusion after reading about FPL's success in having installed the Hardened Pole Technology in its 35 county system. Mr. Difilippo commented:

• "Re FPL's success with storm hardened poles and automated feeder switches during hurricanes Hermine and Matthew."

• "Makes one wonder why the Town would spend almost $100 Million that provides no improvement in reliability, imposes a 10-year construction/traffic nightmare, and degrades our property values with unsightly metal boxes containing high voltage electrical devices."

The facts are that hardened poles will withstand 145 mph winds, flooding and have the smart technology that can easily be updated as technology speedily moves forward.

State-of-the-Art Technology with its hardened overhead poles lasts 50 years, can be easily upgraded and is faster to repair. Underground utilities have a 30 year life span under the best conditions. Experts say, "Water and Electricity don't mix!"

Why, then, is the Town of Palm Beach planning to bury electric wires in a community that is on a flood prone barrier island?

As many residents have pointed out, the hardened poles that FPL would install in the Town of Palm Beach, (which are currently lining S. Ocean Blvd, from south of Lake Worth municipal beach to the Town's southern boundary), are not the monstrosities that the Town and their local paper have communicated to the Palm Beach taxpayers. In fact they are more aesthetically pleasing than their predecessors and blend in well with the landscaping. The equipment is high up and not anything like the ground level huge, dangerous, high voltage utility boxes that are planned to be installed throughout the Town.

Clearly, the Town of Palm Beach is caught in a dangerous, ill-fated underground conversion time warp.

Research shows us that saltwater and salt-air are two elements that are very damaging to underground conduits and on-ground utility boxes. They cause combustion, which is unsafe, unreliable, hazardous and explosive!

For example, one area of Town from Sloan's Curve south to the Town's boundary, is a little more than 4 miles. The Town of Palm Beach plans to install 96-98 approximately 6 ft. high, industrial type, high voltage utility boxes containing hazardous materials, within that residential area of the Town. The Town of Palm Beach is surrounded by saltwater on three sides. Something is dramatically wrong with that picture!

The obvious question here is: Why is the Town caught in this time warp and refusing to get up to speed with the latest State-of-the-Art Hardened Poles, coated wire and smart technology of modern times?

In my last article, "Palm Beach Keeps Explosion News From Residents," 6 underground utility explosions are reported which are just a small microcosm of the large picture that the Town has withheld from all their communications, Town Council Meetings, Underground Task Force Meetings and the local newspaper of the Town's choice.

An employee from The National Grid Utility Company in the northeast said, "Explosions from undergrounding occur somewhere everyday!"

We now know that there are significant negative impacts, such as lack of safety and reliability, which will result from converting to underground utilities if Palm Beach continues on its relentless and blind movement forward with this type of project on a Town-wide basis.

A significant quote taken from a recent Palm Beach Town Council meeting that took place on May 9, 2017 was made by Town Council President Pro-Tem, Dani Moore. She emphatically said, "Safety trumps absolutely everything!" and followed it with, "...that we do everything in our power to protect our residents."

This statement by Town Council President Pro-Tem Moore was made in regard to neighborhood beach access. The question that immediately follows is, "Why has the Town Council never acknowledged the lack of safety that exists with the frequency of explosions that this underground utilities project will impose upon the residents of the Town?"

The most important fact that the Deputy Fire Chief conceded at the 5/9/17 Town Council Meeting and which can not be denied, in regard to the reason that the Town of Palm Beach is having power-outages and incidents in certain areas of the Town:

"Existing Overhead poles need replacement and need to be hardened to make them more reliable."

TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUNDED UTILITIES IN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH WILL NOT BE ABLE TO COMPARE OR BEGIN TO APPROACH THE FAST PACE TECHNOLOGY ADVANCES WHICH ARE BEING PROVIDED BY THE SAFETY AND RELIABILITY OF HARDENED POLES, COATED WIRES AND AUTOMATED SMART SWITCHES!

It is now or never, Palm Beach! Change course before it is too late and Palm Beach becomes the second "TITANIC"!!

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Undergrounding in a Flood Zone — Really?

Palm Beach County has doubled required upset heights for new construction in flood zones due to ocean rise. In spite of this, Palm Beach Town wants to burrow below these heights to bury our utilities in the mud.

What kind of thinking drives people to choose this path.

Also the condos of South Ocean Blvd. who are obviously smarter & for a large part against this project, especially south of Sloan’s Curve, are being misrepresented by a citizens association that claims to represent condo owners of South Ocean Blvd. & yet in reality, represents the Town’s undergrounding project.

— Bob Ellsworth

Palm Beach


Palm Beach Keeps Explosion News from Residents

(5-10-17)

The real question is, "Is the perceived aesthetic beauty for a few residents, worth risking life and safety of the majority of property owners?"

Contained in this article are facts and several explosion incidents that the Town of Palm Beach keeps under wraps.

FACT: Undergrounded utility wiring, transformers and all the high voltage equipment it requires are causing unsafe, life threatening explosions!

The Town of Palm Beach has repeatedly stated that a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project will improve the safety, aesthetics (beauty) and reliability of electric power throughout the Town. Let's examine the safety and reliability claims more closely with current events that have not been revealed to Town residents.

SAFETY & RELIABILITY

UNDERGROUNDED UTILITY DANGERS & NEGATIVE IMPACTS:

**** Izak Teller is a Licensed Professional Electrical Engineer with over 30 years of experience with underground utilities in various areas of municipal engineering.

Mr. Teller, a Palm Beach resident and Officer on his condo Board of Directors, says:

• "The salt water on a flood prone barrier island like Palm Beach, with its high water table, will result in accelerated deterioration of the underground conduits, greatly reducing the normal 30 year life expectancy.

• "This includes increased thermal loading of the undergrounded cables during heat waves.

• "Underground wiring with the required taps at each connection to a home/or building, plus, the associated above-ground equipment, will be susceptible to saltwater intrusion, storm surges and flooding issues.

• "This will result in system failures and power outages.

• "Digging up the landscaping, roads etc. to locate the failed components will lead to traffic disruptions and delays.

• "In addition, explosions in the transformers, switch and capacitor boxes, underground conduits/taps and wiring caused by the salt air/saltwater and gases building up/ heat/thermal overload, will deteriorate the boxes/wiring/conduits and result in electrical malfunctions, sparks/ explosions and possibly even electrocution."

As recently as May 1, 2017, Reuters reported that in Toronto, Canada, "Blasts from transformer fire rocks Toronto financial district". The article explains that:

• "Explosions from a transformer fire rocked Toronto's financial district for hours..."

• "A fire in a transformer in an underground electrical vault caused thundering explosions that continued intermittently for hours, Toronto Fire Captain Adrian Ratushniak told Reuters."

• "Previous, similar fires have been caused by water, deteriorating electrical connections or aging transformers, he said."

• "The clouds of smoke that filled the block and adjacent intersections were likely caused by burning plastic or PVC insulation," Ratusniak said, "and the explosions the result of electrical wiring touching something it's not supposed to."

The Associated Press stated further that:

"...high-voltage transformers were to blame." In the Toronto explosions.

On April 28, 2017 South Miami, Fla as reported by Channel WSVN:

• "Officials are investigating an underground explosion in South Miami that left a section of the city without electricity for hours ..."

• "According to South Miami Police, there were reports of an underground explosion and smoke coming from a manhole."

• "Officials said the outage appears to be electrical in nature."

On CBS Miami, it describes:

• "Florida Power & Light and Hazmat crews were called to investigate."

• "Hundreds of FPL customers lost power near the area following the explosion..."

March 31, 2017, CBS, New York, "Manhole Explosions Shatters Windows Of Buildings In East Village"

• "The FDNY said high levels of carbon monoxide prompted evacuations of some nearby buildings, CBS2 reported."

• "The explosions are likely linked to the rainy weather, according to a Con Edison spokesman."

"Anytime you have some sort of salt into our electrical system, it's just not good," said Con Edison spokesman Sidney Alvarez."

• "The salt can make contact with lines and spark, officials explained."

On December 31, 2016, Chicago Tribune article, " No Injuries after underground electrical explosion in Gold Coast"

• "No one was injured, but two underground electrical explosions shook passersby on the Gold Coast on Saturday."

October 8, 2015, Palm Beach Daily News, Palm Beach, Fla article, "Explosion Rocks Sun and Surf Condo"

• "Electrical Blast in Garage Flings Pavers, Leaves Crater."

It was reported by residents of the condo that in the early morning hours, an electrical explosion rocked their condominium buildings. Bricks and pavers flew up from a manhole cover hitting the 7th floor penthouse and roof. A power outage from this electrical underground explosion caused 1,400 residents and business to have a power outage and fear for their lives and safety.

It is questionable why the Town of Palm Beach has never provided the information regarding the cause of the explosion that occurred in a residential building and are refusing to look into any other underground vault explosions.

August 19, 2015, NBC News, NY, on the Today Show, reported, "Why Manhole Explosions Happen In the Summer"

"Cables get extremely hot because of extra volume of electricity running through them because of air condition."

As FPL John Lehr reported in an Underground Utilities Task Force meeting in October 2015, "Underground Utilities takes long to repair since it takes longer to locate the problem."

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but you decide. Is the perceived beauty for a few, worth the life and safety of thousands that live in the Town of Palm Beach and the devaluation of property values?

(All emphases by Ms. Greenberg)


Palm Beach Violates Town Charter

                                                                                       Photo by Maddy Greenberg

(Above) Just imagine, 98 of these boxes of hazardous materials in the south end of the Town of Palm Beach on Easements or Public Rights of Way!

(4-26-17)

98 boxes of hazardous materials placed on Palm Beach's south end properties violates the Town Charter! The Town charter requires the Mayor and Town Officials to provide, first and foremost, for the safety and protection of all residents of the Town.

At the 4/13/17 Town Council Meeting, the Town Council and Mayor turned a deaf ear and had a total lack of concern when more than a dozen property owners, including Condo/Co-op Presidents, raised safety, reliability and aesthetic concerns when they objected to the "unbridled access", through Easements, that the Town is demanding of Condos and Co-op properties. This will occur through the Town-wide Undergrounding Utility Project if the Town installs dangerous, high voltage, huge, utility boxes along the manicured pristine front lawns of private properties and on the rights of way in the south end along South Ocean Boulevard. The Mayor and Town Council demonstrated a total lack of concern for these issues in the serious impending crisis that they are creating when they voted to continue to move the project forward.

In addition, it is now clear that the ultimate level of hypocrisy has been generated by the Town of Palm Beach's Mayor, Town Council and Town Manager. According to the Palm Beach Daily News (PBDN) 4/21/17, "wireless proposal feared as disaster" article, Town Officials claim that "...giving telecommunication companies unbridled access to public property and public right of way" for antennas and possibly poles would be "AN AESTHETIC DISASTER" in the Town of Palm Beach.

The Palm Beach Mayor insists that with wireless communication antennas "we in essence could have every public right of way marred by a utility we have no control over" which never addresses the 98 dangerous, huge, unsightly utility boxes. Clearly, Town Officials want to ignore that the same lack of control over safety, reliability and aesthetic issues that will occur with their plans to install (98) unsafe, high voltage, huge boxes on front lawns on the boulevard, which is much more serious than any wireless communication antennas on poles.

By installing wireless communication antennas on poles, "Town Officials say it would be an aesthetic calamity for Palm Beach, which relies on strict regulations to preserve its beauty." Yet, Town Officials totally ignore, with outrageous irony, that the Town will be destroying not only the property values in the south end by insisting that huge, high voltage equipment boxes will line the beautiful residential landscapes of South Ocean Boulevard but also, the safety and reliability of utility service.

Let's focus on those concerns raised by Condo/Co-op Presidents and Condo representatives: safety, reliability and aesthetics.

Mr. Izak Teller, Palm Beach resident, Vice-President of 2600 Condo on S. Ocean Blvd, in the south-end of Town, is a licensed professional electrical engineer in NYC and CT with over 30 years of experience of municipal engineering.

He says that "converting to underground utilities on a flood prone barrier island has great safety risks".

Izak Teller says that "the installation of approximately 100 large, mostly around 6 ft. tall, high voltage boxes along the front lawns of S. Ocean Blvd. is both hazardous and unsightly. Underground wires are subject to corrosion from salt water intrusion and gases that form, thereby putting the entire electrical power system at risk."

He explained that "placing electrical equipment on the public right of way exposes the Town and the State, which controls State Road A-1-A, South Ocean Blvd. and possibly including the original property owner, to possible legal liability in the event of injury to motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, landscapers, as a result of these obstructions placed in close proximity to the roadway. The same is true if private property owners grant easements as the Town is requesting of them for these same boxes. They will not only be dangerous and unsightly but create liability risks for the original owner."

Mr. Teller explained that "these huge boxes contain combustibles and are subject to the build up of gases." He cites that "this has already occurred at the Sun and Surf Condo in Midtown in October 2015, when gases built up and created an explosion that shot pavers from the ground level up to the 7th floor penthouse." Izak Teller spoke of the fact that "there have been recent electrical explosions from underground electric utilities in NYC at various locations, including one just outside of the ABC building."

He says that the "large industrial style electrical equipment utility boxes besides being dangerous and ugly, will negatively impact property values in the south-end of Palm Beach".

Izak Teller summed it up by explaining that "FPL is currently providing 99.9% reliability to its customers and there is no significant improvement expected to justify an undergrounding project of this magnitude. Town-wide Undergrounding is totally unnecessary when the utility's method of hardened poles, coated wires and smart technology that the State has mandated at no cost, provides 99.9% reliability at less risk to the public."

Palm Beach Official's total disregard for the south end of Town is the height of hypocrisy when they cry foul about placing antennas or poles on rights of way for aesthetic reasons, but give the okay to placing hazardous, huge unsightly electrical boxes along the manicured front lawns of residential condos and co-ops on South Ocean Boulevard at the south end of Town.

As stated by Palm Beach's Town Manager in PBDN 4/21/17 article, "Its just going to be aesthetically horrible. I just couldn't understand how the (sponsoring) legislators could envision getting away with it in their own towns... how they think their cities aren't going to go totally ballistic is beyond me."

Town Officials, we don't understand, how you can't envision what you are trying to get away with, in YOUR OWN Town!

Decide for yourself why installing unsafe, industrial style, high voltage electrical equipment on rights of way, Easements and front lawns in front of pristine residential buildings worth millions of dollars is okay, while high tech antennas is "a disaster for the Town."

Yet, it is terribly wrong, as stated by Mayor Coniglio at the 4/13/17 Town Council meeting, to have, "Those unsightly antennas on the many decorative lights that this Town has spent millions on".

Palm Beach Mayor and Town Council, you are failing to comply with your responsibilities that are outlined in the Town Charter with regard to protecting the safety of all Town residents. The Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities Project is a gross violation of the Town Charter.

Palm Beach Mayor and Town Council, wake up before it is too late!

* Emphases by Maddy Greenberg


Palm Beach Exposes Residents to Unnecessary Turmoil & Risks!

FPL Capacitor Bank

Nobody VOTED for this!! This photo was taken from the Town of Palm Beach's draft Master Plan of the FPL equipment to be placed on Palm Beach lawns. Palm Beach is planning to install 98 high voltage huge boxes from Sloan's Curve to the southern boundary of the Town on the front lawn of manicured properties. CONCLUSION: PALM BEACH IS DESTROYING PROPERTY VALUES!

(4-12-17)

MADELYN GREENBERG’S ALERT:

Rather than surrendering your property rights, which will permit the Town of Palm Beach to destroy our property values by defacing our manicured front lawns, REFUSE!, RESIST! and DENY granting the Town EASEMENTS which would give the Town and any entity of their choice OWNERSHIP, USE, UNBRIDLED ACCESS and CONTROL OF YOUR PROPERTIES FOREVER!!

Be aware: If the Town attempts to take your property through Eminent Domain for this NON-ESSENTIAL Town Project, IT IS REQUIRED IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA that the Town must pay all legal fees, costs and appraisals related to taking your property from you. The law is on the side of the Property Owners. The Town can push and coerce you to grant them an Easement as much as they want, but the Property Owner has the legal right to say "NO’! It will cost you nothing to refuse the Easement and save your property values from the disfigurement by high voltage boxes to be imposed by the Town in front of your property.

Instead of writing my article this week, I have printed below a very important and revealing communication that was written by Harris S. Fried and sent to me. It concerns the Town of Palm Beach’s proposed Underground Utilities Project. Mr. Fried tells it like it is!

I believe its contents are crucial to understanding critical aspects of where this proposed Town-wide Project currently stands. A few of these critical aspects will be discussed at the Town Council on Thursday, April 13, 2017 starting at 9:30am.

Harris Fried is a Town of Palm Beach resident in the Town’s midtown- north-end area. He is an attorney with a background with financial institutions involved in global infrastructure projects. Also, he is the former Chairman of the Town’s Code Enforcement Board. Mr. Fried has attended Underground Utilities Task Force Meetings for at least a year and a half.

 

The following was written by Harris S. Fried:

(All emphases are Ms. Greenberg’s)

 

On April 13th the Town Council will be asked to consider proceeding with interim financing for the first phase of the undergrounding project. Interim financing is being sought because impending legal actions etc. are preventing the Town from moving forward with the $90 million bond issue originally contemplated.

At a Citizen’s Association forum last week information was revealed that may be instructive. The three main selling points for undergrounding have always been Aesthetics, Reliability and Safety.

On the issue of Aesthetics a clear disconnect exists between what Messrs. Bradford (Town Manager) and Schanen (Town Consulting Engineer, Kimley-Horn) said and what is really going to happen on the ground.

For the most part rather unobtrusive poles will be replaced by 98 electrical equipment boxes scattered the length of South Ocean Blvd. from Sloan’s Curve to the southern end of the Town. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the ground level mega boxes containing highly sensitive electrical equipment would be far more unsightly than the existing poles ever could be.

Regarding Reliability: Mr. Bradford was forced to admit that any improvement in reliability is miniscule in reality. Are we being misled here or is this simply a matter of miscommunication? You decide.

Safety: Here the Town Manager provided NO empirical data to demonstrate that by undergrounding safety would be improved. In reality having so many highly charged electrical boxes at ground level could result in greater safety concerns than less.

Mr. Bradford’s references to a Traffic Management Program really exposed how complicated managing this project will become. Contemplate this: How will traffic be managed when phase 1 begins at the same time that replacement of the southern bridge begins? And if this wasn’t enough further complicating the process will be the regular use by President Trump of Mar-a-Lago as the southern White House. The word "chaos" comes to mind.

 What was particularly disconcerting was the suggestion by Lew Crampton, the president of the Citizen’s Association, that if the residents in the south end wanted sand on their beaches it would behoove them to cooperate on undergrounding. Duplicitous? It would certainly seem so.

Lastly, this was all against the backdrop of neither the Town’s management nor their advisors being able to give a clear indication of what the cost of the project will be.

To validate the Master Plan that Kimley-Horn has produced it has been determined that a "peer review" will be conducted to review the feasibility, phasing, sequencing and engineer’s Opinion of Costs for the project. A second opinion by a nationally recognized firm on the critical issues mentioned is a good idea.

We have been told that a Selection Committee composed of Councilwoman Maggie Zeidman, Susan Gary (Underground Task Force member), Jay Boodeshwar (Deputy Town Manager), Jane Struder (Town Finance Director) and Patricia Strayer (Town Engineer), will choose the firm to perform the peer review. So as to avoid the perception of undue influence, Town Manager Tom Bradford will be a (non-voting) committee member since he supervises several of the committee members.  How objective can these town employees be when their boss is overseeing their every decision? It is imperative that these committee members are free of bias and any undue influence from their supervisors. I’m not sure that what is being done meets the level of impartiality that is required here.

To ensure transparency, the public should have an opportunity to be engaged. Meetings should be announced ahead of time, the public should be invited to attend and the meetings should be recorded so as to preserve a record of the committee’s deliberations. All materials presented should be available for public review. Transparency here is critically important or the peer review will end up being a waste of time and money.

The Civic Association has offered to contribute up to $50,000 to this (peer) review. While this appears generous at first blush, I doubt that they will be a silent observer. As we know, Jeff Smith, the Chairman of the Undergrounding Task Force, is a major contributor to the Civic Association. These interlocking interests should be a red flag to anyone hoping for a rational outcome here.

So back to why the Town Council meeting on April 13th is so important. If the Town Council approves the recommendation of the Town Manager and the task force (no surprise here!) to move forward with some form of interim financing it will enable the project to move forward despite the fact that very serious uncertainties exist and before the aforementioned "peer review" is completed. Suppose the firm conducting the peer review determines that the project is flawed for one reason or another? How can it be stopped once phase 1 has begun? This will be an unholy mess to unravel.

So, with all due respect, my suggestion to the Town Council is to DEFER a decision on interim financing until the peer review has been finalized.

If the Town Council allows this project to move forward with the level of uncertainly that exists here they will own this project and all of the ramifications that flow there from.

Thursday’s Town Council meeting will give the Council an opportunity to introduce the level of oversight that this project demands. To do otherwise will expose the town, and its residents, to an inordinate amount of risk that none of us ever signed up for!


Palm Beach's "Voodoo Economics"!

The Town intends to use these similar type and size of industrial size huge high voltage, high risk, equipment to deface and mar the Town of Palm Beach. Are these monstrosities on landscaped front lawns going to enhance Palm Beach?

Photo submitted by D. Braha

(3-29-17)

Let's summarize what we know for a fact. Clearly, Town-wide Underground Utilities in the Town of Palm Beach is not only an exercise in "Voodoo Economics", but also a fatally flawed Project that is totally unnecessary on a flood prone barrier island. Ultimately, Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities will leave on-ground, industrial style, huge boxes of high voltage equipment to destroy the Town's beautiful scenic vistas forever! Property owners will have lost their property rights and all control over what takes place on the Easements of their parcels of property. So why is the Town of Palm Beach really insisting that they want Underground Utilities?

"VOODOO ECONOMICS"

At the 3/14/17 Town Council Meeting, Town residents enumerated some of the flaws in the Town's plan for the Project. Harris Fried, an attorney said he has dealt with financial institutions involved with infrastructure projects. Ira Smith, a Town resident with legal background, also spoke in this regard.

• Fried: "There are risks that are not being addressed"; "The way costs are being addressed is somewhere between creative accounting and VOODOO ECONOMICS!"

Voodoo Economics is defined as "policy perceived as being unrealistic and ill-advised, especially a policy of maintaining or increasing levels of public spending..." This is a sad and profound description of the Town of Palm Beach's financial practices in this deeply flawed, out of control Town-wide Underground Utilities Project.

• Fried: "You do not reduce the costs of a project...by shifting critical elements like the contingency, reducing the contingency, shifting the whole Easement process, $15 million that we've talked about before and moved that over to the operating budget. That's NOT value engineering. Value Engineering is coming up with creative solutions to the same product that the people are expecting to have the amount of money, more or less, that has been agreed upon without compromising the integrity of the project. Don't see how shifting money from the undergrounding budget, to the Town budget, really accomplishes what should be done."

• Fried ended with cautioning the Town Council that "We are rushing into something. Press the pause button, stop and think about the risk the Town is exposing themselves to."

• Smith: Referring to the Town's Recreation Center Project for which the Town's share is a maximum of $5 million dollar investment; " The Mayor's comment was ....we would not break ground until we had ALL the money in the bank." ; Council member "Lindsay's comment was, we don't really know what the costs are until you get the real on the deal." "So, I ask you, for a $5 million Project, if that's your sensibilities, where is the sensibility on a $185 to $200 million Project? There is a disconnect there."

• Council Members Maggie Zeidman & Julie Araskog: "Our referendum was for us to borrow up to $90 million."; "But our budget was not over $90 million...that the budget the voters were voting on was up to $90 million."

• Council President Richard Kleid's statement: "What they were voting on is to fund it, but they were not voting on what the Project will eventually cost. That's a Town Council Policy question."... "Understand that is all that was voted on, was they would appropriate $90 million."

• Smith: Referring to the referendum language voted on by Town registered voters, "$90 million was the cost" and to his "recollection the verbiage said it was to be used to pay for the utilities, etc. Now when I hear that it is not limited to $90 million, I think it only makes the plaintiffs' lawsuits stronger, not weaker."

PALM BEACH MAYOR'S DISCONNECT WITH REALITY

In the Palm Beach Daily News’ 3/25/17 article regarding "Home Rule", Mayor Coniglio speaks of concerns regarding "Wireless regulation". It appears that the Mayor's concerns about State legislation that would prevent local governments from regulating utility companies' ability to place equipment, "such as wireless antennas within public rights of way", are contradictory! Mayor Coniglio is quoted as saying, "We, in essence, could have every public right of way marred by a utility we have no control over."

Yet, with the Mayor's blessing and the Town Council's promotion, it IS OKAY for the Town to let Utilities put high voltage equipment on Easements from private property owners to disfigure neighborhoods!

However, it is NOT OKAY according to Mayor Coniglio, for the State to tell the Town that Utilities can put equipment such as wireless antennas on public rights of way because it would MAR the rights of way!!! Clearly, the Mayor has a disconnect with her priorities and a total lack of concern when it comes to huge high voltage 5.5' to 6' boxes lining South Ocean Boulevard right of ways and also on private properties.

ARE THE TOWN COUNCIL'S ACTIONS DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP?

Most significantly, it appears that Palm Beach's Town Council has forgotten that their Town is part of the U.S.A. and is governed by a democracy, not by a dictatorship of the Town Council.

1-This is proven by what occurred at the 10/14/14 Town Council Meeting where the Council engaged in a unilateral vote to do Town-wide Undergrounding of Utilities, without a Town-wide vote by ALL the Town's residents and property owners.

2- In addition to that flawed decision by the Town Council, Council President Kleid's statement at the 3/14/17 Town Council Meeting that the voters' approval doesn't matter.

Apparently, the Town Council dictates through their self-imposed Town Council Policies in whatever way they decree. That is part of what demonstrates a "dictatorship" rule.

PALM BEACH'S DISCONNECT WITH REALITY

The Town's priorities are so skewed that they have lost sight of protecting their barrier island Town. Instead, they are putting all of their efforts into a high risk, unrealistic, unnecessary, deeply flawed, out of control Town-wide Underground Utilities Project.


Palm Beach Plays Shell Game With Easements!

Photos by Maddy Greenberg

Would you like to have one or more of these on your front lawn?

Is this an aesthetic benefit to your property?

(3-15-17)

Another obstacle that the Town of Palm Beach must get past in this ever growing quagmire of a Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities Project, is the fact that they need hundreds of Easements from property owners for varied sizes of high voltage on-ground electrical equipment on their private properties.

FPL, ATT & Comcast have no way to complete a viable Project design unless the required number of Easements is acquired by the Town. Ultimately, it could strangle the Project from moving forward!

Easement acquisition for a NON-ESSENTIAL Project of this nature on private properties is a major hurdle for the Town. It is especially so while the Town is struggling with lawsuits that attack the fundamentals to justify the Project and that also withhold financing by GO bonds. In addition, the Project is facing major financial issues such as final costs and cost overruns.

To acquire these Easements the Town has worked out a "plan" or scheme, which constitutes a "SHELL GAME" with the public. The Town Staff or even a Deputy Town Manager visits potential Easement properties to convince, or to improvise a form of intimidation, in order to make the public think that the taking of their property through an Easement in accordance with the Town-wide Undergrounding of Utilities is a "fait accompli". This is, in fact, at this point in time, the furthest from the truth!

We should not be deceived by the number of Easements granted when some may be located on municipal property, not on private property. For example, the total number of Easements required in the south-end will contain municipal properties, such as in Phipps Park, on Ibis Isle and in the City of Lake Worth.

It appears that, at least in the south-end of Town, these site visits by Town Staff and Engineers have been polite. However, the verbal promises and the incomplete details and information given to the Condo/Co-op Officials, is nothing more than unsubstantiated promotional spin with no hard facts to support the verbiage!

Interesting that in the south-end of Town on Condo/Co-op private properties, the Town expects the Boards of Directors to give up parcels of Condo/Co-op properties without providing any proof or details about what they are getting in return. In reality, what they are surrendering will be used for ground level boxes of high voltage equipment which the grantor has no control over once the Easement has been given.

Private property owners are giving away manicured lawns in exchange for unsafe boxes of high voltage equipment that destroy the aesthetics of the entire area! Is this not a "SHELL GAME"?

IT IS CLEAR THAT PALM BEACH OFFICIALS MUST THINK THAT THE PUBLIC IS GULLIBLE AND EASILY MANIPULATED!

The Project has been broken down into Phases. The Town wants to begin in the south-end, where it is "easiest" and where there is a straight run with multifamily high rises. Simultaneously, it will also start at the extreme tip of the north-end where there are more complicated winding streets. According to the March Task Force Meeting, the Town's Request for Property Easements for Phase I of Town-wide Underground Utilities Project is: -North: 48 Easements, 39 have been contacted, 7 completed. -South: 29 Easements (21 properties), 18 contacted, 0 completed.

According to the Town's consultant, 30 switch boxes will be placed in the south end of Town. In essence this translates to giant high voltage ground level boxes of equipment that will line a previously scenic route as you drive down South Ocean Boulevard. This configuration will turn the now attractive south-end into a commercial and industrial looking area with huge ugly boxes that cannot be hidden from the property owners, walkers and drivers along the boulevard.

Certain designated Condo/Co-op properties are slated for one to five huge boxes of electrical high voltage equipment, as tall and as wide as 6 feet, to be placed on their manicured front lawns.

Although the Deputy Town Manager said that the equipment will be hidden from sight and screened by landscaping, unbeknownst to the Condo/Co-op official listening to these machinations, the truth is the opposite of what the "Easement" really states. The Easement parcel of previously private property will now be legally bound according the content stated in the Easement document.

Remember, the "non-exclusive Easement forever" document grants a parcel of your private property for the price of a mere $1.00 paid by the Town to the property owners.

It also grants the legal permission for every possible affiliate, licensee, agent, successor and anyone assigned by FPL, ATT, Comcast and the Town the right to "clear the land and keep it cleared of all trees, undergrowth and other obstructions within the Easement Area."

This doesn't fit the verbal promise the Town staff is making in order to get cooperation to acquire the Easement.

Izak Teller, a Palm Beach Property Owner, who is a professional, licensed electrical engineer, is also a licensed contractor in the City of New York. He has extensive experience in undergrounding utilities.

Mr. Teller reviewed the documentation that was given to two Condo Presidents along S. Ocean Blvd. by Palm Beach Deputy Town Manager, Jay Boodheshwar and a Town retained engineer.

In Mr. Teller's expert opinion, "Transformers will typically be 4 to 5 feet cubes or rectangles. Add to that, the switches may be 6 foot cubes- and capacitors - over 5 foot 4 inches, all without the height of the platforms."

Mr. Teller also points out, "... until the design is completed there is no way of determining the size or type of equipment that will eventually be installed at any given location."

Izak Teller added, "From an engineering point of view, there is no way to determine that what they propose will not wind up much worse."

In addition, according to Izak Teller, from his experience and the wording in the legal Easement Document, "The town is asking the Condos/ Co-ops (and all property owners) to grant essentially unrestricted easements - they may very well come back and say they need bigger easements." Once you have signed away your rights, all bets are off.

The Town's technique for massaging the truth, in order to get property owners to sign away their rights, is highly unconscionable!

Whatever happened to the legendary and world renowned Palm Beach?

Why should a questionable Town-wide Project cause residents to be concerned that Town Officials and Staff will take advantage of them and conceal the truth?

IS IT ACCEPTABLE PRACTICE FOR A MUNICIPALITY TO GET ITS WAY BY PLAYING A "SHELL GAME" WITH THE PUBLIC?

 


Palm Beach Sinks Further Into the Flood Plain While Trying To Underground

Photos submitted by Maddy Greenberg

Photos below: Typical Dimensions of 

Underground Capacitor and Switch Cabinets

(Above) Underground Type Capacitor Bank, Residential/Commercial Areas:

Length: 65"; Width: 65"; Height: 65"; 

Foundation Dimensions: 92" x 92"

(Above) Standard Underground Switch Cabinet, Residential/Commercial Areas:

Length: 67"; Width: 75"; Height: 50"

Foundation - 82" x 90"

Photos above: The Palm Beach of tomorrow? Town photos of the massive electrical equipment & their measurements to go on front lawns of private properties, recently given to a Condo/Co-op Board President. This is why Palm Beach wants easements granted. Can you imagine these huge eyesores on your front lawns? Is this not major devaluation of private property?

Bradley Park, Palm Beach Flooded. Undergrounding Utilities in a flood plain that would be buried underground and underwater in non-waterproof conduits, plus ground level electrical equipment submerged in areas with salt water intrusion. Does this qualify to have aesthetic and safety benefits?

Photo contributed

(3-1-17)

As the Town of Palm Beach attempts to move forward with a Town-wide Project to bury utilities underground, they are sinking further into financial, legal and now FEMA Flood Zone Dangers for this NON-ESSENTIAL PROJECT!

The Palm Beach Daily News (PBDN) article of 2/19/17 informed us that new FEMA rules will put more houses in the flood zone. The critical risks and dangers to undergrounding utilities Town-wide have been unearthed, when reading between the lines. We learn that an historic house in Palm Beach will encounter a "lift and shift" process, so as to "bring it up to current town and federal flood standards that require new homes be built a least 7 feet 6 inches above sea level."

This PBDN article relates that "Historic homes may see changes". It cross-pollinates with another important issue when you read further and learn how it directly impacts the Town’s Town-wide Underground Utilities Project. As I cite the following significant facts from within the article, consider the dangers of the Town’s continual push to bury utility wires and place transformers, switch boxes and other electrical equipment on ground level in denial of FEMA warnings.

According to the article, "Lifting and shifting houses could become more common in town in the coming years as regulators take steps to protect buildings that could be under water." a Town Official said.

"FEMA soon will release regulations, which determine flood risk and insurance rates, that are expected to put more homes in flood zones", said a Town Official with the Planning, Zoning & Building Dept. (P&Z)

The article further states that "A lot of the older homes are below the base floor elevation." The question that follows immediately is, "What happens to adjacent properties when a neighboring house is, ‘Lifted’ to meet FEMA requirements?"

The article acknowledges that Palm Beach needs protection against "...the harsh Florida elements such as hurricanes, storms and rising sea levels…"

According to the P&Z Town Official, John Page, "At our widest point, we’re less than a mile from the ocean to the Intracoastal…I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of homes are in the flood plain."

Most significantly, the article said that the word around Town is, "… The Town may have to plan on maybe 8.5 to 9 feet" elevations above sea-level to conform with the rising FEMA requirements. How does undergrounding utilities, Town-wide, fit in to this scenario?

On the barrier island of Palm Beach, the Town, which already has historic flood issues that include salt water infiltration, it would follow that "… a 3 foot rise in sea level would result in most land north of Worth Avenue and south of Pendleton Ave., between South County Road and Cocoanut Row would be under water."

The anticipated FEMA Report for Palm Beach County will reveal increased Flood Plain levels for the Town of Palm Beach and to serve as a "RED FLAG" to the Town and timely warning to HALT a NON-ESSENTIAL Town-wide Undergrounding Project.

The Town of Palm Beach cannot afford to ignore their responsibility to protect their constituents and acknowledge Scientific Facts!

Why on earth would any municipality facing the enormity of risks due to much of the Town being at such low elevation with rising sea levels, the oncoming and current tidal flooding, rain run-off difficulties and high water table levels, still continue to plow forward despite all the warning signs?

With Project costs spiraling out of control, more than a decade long of estimated construction and inevitable traffic hardships, why does the Town continue to pay experts, use Town staff time and attempt to take private properties for easements?

In the south end, Town Officials have already begun to make calls and visits to Condo/Co-op properties to ask the Officials of those properties to give up their private properties beyond the already existing easements, in order to place major equipment for their underground project. Why have Town Officials not also contacted the Condo/Co-op unit owners with regard to surrendering this private property?

One Condo President said that the Deputy Town Manager and a Town retained engineer came to tell him to give up the Condo property to place THREE huge high voltage utility boxes on their lawn. One box is almost 5’ 4" in height, width and length, without even a concrete foundation. The others are over 4’ high, over 6’ wide and 5’6" in length, without a foundation.

Think about how that is going to appear on private properties as one drives down South Ocean Boulevard. Where is the aesthetic benefit? Those monstrosities will effectively devalue the area and especially those unfortunate Condo/Co-op buildings that have these hideous huge metal eyesores!

Unfortunately, that does not spare any other single family homes throughout the Town, which will have these types of "on ground apparatus" on their properties. With the oncoming, increasing flood zone areas, there will be many of these various equipment boxes raised up as much as 9 feet, in accordance with FEMA requirements.

The document to be signed states, that it is a "non-exclusive easement forever" in exchange for $1.00! This is in exchange for the privilege of devaluing your property and also to have huge unsightly high voltage ground level equipment placed within view on your front lawn!

Along with granting this easement, it states that FPL, Bellsouth Telecommunications, Comcast and the Town, together with the affiliates, licensees, agents, successors and assigns of the above named entities can "add to, enlarge, change the voltage as well as the size" of any thing within the easement. It also says that within the easement, they have the right to "clear the land, remove all trees, undergrowth and obstructions within the Easement area…" This means no shrubs or trees can surround this atrocious eyesore!

The above is in direct contradiction to the promises made by the Town to the property owners prior to the Referendum vote!

To paraphrase Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is repeating the same mistakes over and over again and expecting different results!

The Town of Palm Beach has been attempting to underground utilities since at least 2003, without ever looking into all the risks and issues surrounding the disadvantages and perils of embarking on such a Project.

NOW FEMA HAS ADDED MORE HAZARDS!

Does that not meet the definition of "insanity"? Or, is this just another example of bizarrely poor and irresponsible governance?

 


Palm Beach Plummets Down The Rabbit Hole!

Photo submitted by Maddy Greenberg

Would you like this box in front of your home, condo or co-op?

(2-15-17)

Come to your senses, Palm Beach Town Council! Scrap this Town-wide Nightmare! Go back to petitions with 80% property owner approval and do a Neighborhood by Neighborhood Project for those that want to underground their utilities!!

The Town of Palm Beach is descending further down the rabbit hole in their grand scheme to bury utility wires in a Town-wide Project. The Town is playing games with the facts as they attempt to cover up and to stop their descent into the largest debacle the Town has ever known.

Project Costs have well exceeded the voter approved Referendum for financing the $90 million Project. Despite the Town’s best attempts to hide all the facts, they recently revealed that the $90 million Referendum limit has been surpassed and has risen as high as approximately $123.6 million.

The facts and some of the harsh realities of this Town-wide Project unfolded at the February 7, 2017 Underground Utilities Task Force (UUTF) meeting! The Town claims they have lowered the Project’s Costs by shifting them to homeowners and the Town’s budget, which is funded by the taxpayers. These costs have not been eliminated.

The Referendum for Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities Project stated the Underground Utility Project would be financed with GO Bonds "not exceeding $90 million" payable from full faith and credit ad valorem taxes and non-ad valorem Special Assessments. The lawsuits filed against the Town have put the Town in the position where they cannot issue the GO Bonds as long as the lawsuits are unresolved.

Despite predictions by the Town of having the lawsuits resolved by May or June, reality is that they can easily go on for years. Why is the Town wasting taxpayer dollars, depleting the Town’s budget, using taxpayer funded staff time, paying consultants, instead of holding off and waiting until the lawsuits are decided?

We know this Project has been on the Town’s radar since 2003. The lack of proper planning and due diligence for this Project and Lack of Transparency throughout has and continues to be widespread and obvious.

This was very evident at the UUTF 2-7-17 meeting when the "Current Conceptual Opinion Of Probable Cost of the Undergrounding Program" was unveiled by Kevin Schanen of Kimley-Horn, to be $98.6 million which exceeds the "not exceeding $90 million" financing voter approved 3-15-16 Referendum. After being questioned by the UUTF Chairman, Mr. Schanen revealed that the budget before value engineering was, "Over $120 million."

Tom Parker, UUTF member, asked "What is the total dollar amount of Adjustments?" Kevin Schanen responded, "$25 million." With simple addition, $98.6 million + $25 million = $123.6 million. This amount is well over the $90 million original budget and financing amount approved in the 3-15-16 Referendum!

Perhaps the core of the problem was revealed when Town Manager Bradford responding to a UUTF member’s question, said that he got his original number of $90 million from a consulting engineer who provided a "one pager" budget, without back-up. When he stated, "It was a $90 million one pager…no back-up…" What a revelation that was! This is the source of the $90 million amount in the Referendum.

Let’s touch on a few of the real truths that were revealed.

When UUTF member, Susan Gary acknowledged, "We’re stuck with the $90 million", it can be concluded that the Town is fully aware that they must not exceed the $90 million or they will encounter legal consequences!

The Easement Process is an essential component of this Project. Of the total easements needed for the entire Town-wide Project, 76 are required for Phase 1 North (48) and Phase 1 South (28). To date, only 3 easements have been fully executed and notarized.

We learned that in the south end, where there are already easement areas in front of properties, the Town will be required to take additional easements on Condo/Co-op private properties through either easement acquisition or eminent domain.

As you drive A1A, your view would be of giant transformers and occasionally, massive switch boxes. This would certainly mar your aesthetic view of the Boulevard. Why would any Board of Directors of a condo/co-op be willing to devalue their property with a transformer or switch box?

We also learned that the Citizens’ Association which claims to advocate for the south end of Town, not only supports undergrounding, which was rejected by the majority of south end voters, but it has also given contact information to the Town! In addition, the Citizens’ Association is working with the Town to convince the condos/co-ops to grant permanent easements for equipment to be placed on their private properties. It is possible that legal action may be taken by some of the condos/co-ops.

Items Transferred To Town Budget/Taxpayers. A huge cost, $12.8 million, of asphalt, milling & resurfacing costs has been moved to the Town’s budget. Leaving it unknown when they pave the affected streets. To save another $4.7 million on conduits, all communication cables (ATT, Comcast), as bizarre as it may seem, the wires that go from the conduit that is at the street will be buried without a conduit on private properties.

The Lake Worth Bypass portion in the south end has been removed from the budget, because it can not be bonded. It was mentioned at the meeting that this will be put into the Town’s budget. This means it will come out of the taxpayer’s pocket anyway.

Legal Costs in the current Budget were provided by the Town and are not all inclusive. No "big" legal costs such as eminent domain or construction litigation costs are included in the current budget.

The Project Contingency which originally was 20% is now just under 10% with a soft cost contingency of 5%.

The Estimated Cost of Inflation is 3% per year starting in 2018 for Phase 2. Susan Gary pointed out that "Typical is 3-5% according to Engineering News Record." Is 3% realistic?

Rear Easement Restoration. Tom Bradford said that "…there shouldn’t be foliage in the easement…". 90% of the properties in the Project have an FPL easement in the rear of the property. At the end of the Project, the poles and utility lines will be removed from the FPL easements. Mr. Bradford said, "Utility company employees may cause damage". If any foliage is ruined in the process, Bradford went on to say, "We think the Utility is responsible…. Why would the Town pay to fix foliage on private property?" The Town will also include a $100 allowance per property for general clean-up paid to Town contractors in the Project Budget to clean-up and restore the easements. Mrs. Gary responded, "Now people will get angry".

Interim Financing. The Town’s financial advisor, Jay Glover, said that "draw on a line of credit and it will be higher than the $2.54 million estimate." He suggested putting a "cushion into the assessment…" He also said the "Market is Volatile". He discussed that, "…interest rates could go up and you have to increase the assessments." Most significant was what Mr. Glover said to the Task Force regarding their obvious determination to take out a line of credit, begin to put shovels in the ground and regardless of all the issues swirling around them, begin this project with a $10 million line of credit. Mr. Glover warned officials, "If the lawsuits are not favorably settled, do we want to draw on a line of credit?" He asked them, how they will pay the loan back? UUTF member Donald Gulbrandsen said, "Talk about pitfalls."

In the meantime, with the Project Cost and Easement Process still in flux and still exploring ways to bring the Project into budget, the Final Master Plan with Project Cost is still scheduled to be presented at the April UUTF meeting. The approval of the Assessment Methodology is scheduled for the March 14, 2017 Town Council Meeting which triggers the Public Hearings and approval process for Special Assessment in April and May, with final approval on May 9, 2017.

As previously predicted by the Town Council, there will be legal challenges to the assessment methodology, which will likely prevent assessments from being used as payment for a line of credit. The Town’s mailings of each property owners’ assessments will be like receiving a quote for a product you never purchased.

At the end of the meeting, Anthony Dowell, UUTF member, made an ugly and veiled threat towards the south end. Mr. Dowell said to Tom Bradford, "Do the plaintiffs that filed lawsuits with interest rates trending up know what they are costing us?... The delay? .... Tom, I hope someone tells them….goes hand in hand with sand." The UUTF members all laughed.

AS THE TOWN OF PALM PLUMMETS INTO THE RABBIT HOLE, THE REAL VICTIMS HERE, UNFORTUNATELY, ARE THE TOWN’S RESIDENTS AND PROPERTY OWNERS!!

 

Transparency Does Not Exist In Palm Beach!

Photo contributed

Photo taken Nov.16th at Bradley Park during high tide further demonstrates that even though the Town of Palm Beach and pro-underground supporters are IGNORING THE RISKS & DISADVANTAGES to converting to underground utilities on a FLOOD-PRONE BARRIER ISLAND, IGNORING THE DISADVANTAGES DOESN’T MAKE THEM ANY LESS POTENT WHEN YOU DO A PROJECT DESPITE ALL THE WARNING SIGNS OTHERWISE. JUST MAKES FOR A SELF-FULFILLING TOWN-WIDE DEBACLE!

(2-1-17)

Lack of transparency by the Town of Palm Beach has reached major proportions when it comes to revealing accurate specifics and facts about the Town-wide conversion Underground Utilities Project. What the residents of Palm Beach are totally unaware of is that keeping them in the dark about the Town’s long term goal to begin this Town-wide conversion to bury utilities, has been surreptitiously occurring for about 15 years.

A blueprint of the conversion Underground Utilities Project was set in motion as early as 2003. However, throughout the nearly 15 years since that time, the Town never sought the approval of the residents to undertake this Town-wide Project.

The vote to proceed with the Project was taken ONLY by the Town Council at the October 14, 2014 Town Council Meeting. At that meeting, the Town Council voted unanimously to proceed with the Underground Utilities Project WITHOUT ANY PRIOR VOTE BY ALL THE RESIDENTS OF PALM BEACH.

The Town Council allowed registered voters only to vote on financing a Project that had already been unanimously approved by the Town Council. There was a Town of Palm Beach Referendum on March 15, 2016 entitled: "Town of Palm Beach, Underground Utilities Project General Obligation Bonds." The Referendum specifically stated, "…shall Town finance burying utility lines…by issuing General Obligation Bonds not exceeding $90,000,000…?"

The Referendum was a vote by registered voters ONLY and ONLY on the financing approach to be used for the not to exceed $90,000,000 or $152,000,000 (principal and interest) Non-Essential, Town-wide Underground Utilities Project. NO PRIOR VOTE BY ALL THE RESIDENTS ON WHETHER OR NOT TO PROCEED WITH THE PROJECT WAS EVER CONDUCTED.

Yet, according to the Draft Comprehensive Plan, "The conversion of the overhead utilities to underground locations will be one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects ever undertaken by the Town of Palm Beach."

The Project has already gone over budget before it has even begun! At the Underground Utilities Task Force (UUTF) meeting on January 5, 2017, a Town retained engineering consultant reluctantly admitted that they have already exceeded the $90 million maximum to Task Force members. Tom Bradford, Town Manager, was forced to confirm that the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project has exceeded the Referendum amount, which was specified to not exceed $90,000,000.

Yet, in this Town there is a transparency problem when it comes to giving all the accurate and specific facts to its constituents. The Town Manager eludes and refuses to answer a direct question by one of the Task Force members as to EXACTLY HOW MUCH THE TOWN HAS EXCEEDED the Referendum maximum amount for the Project.

Since that meeting, there has been a January 12th Town Council Meeting, a Special Task Force Meeting on January 23rd, an update given at the Civic Association also on January 23rd by the Town Manager and still no number or percentage of the amount of cost overruns has been given to the public. How is that good and honest transparent governing?

The Town has now indicated that they plan to use Internet providers to lower the cost of the Project. To do this, the Town has contrived to make a deal with the internet providers. However, this is the only information that the Town is offering to the public. Meanwhile, the Town has touted new wonderful Fibre Optics as a side benefit to undergrounding their utilities. Let us look more closely at that.

While the Town of Palm Beach claims that High Speed Broadband and Fibre Optics are a plus to underground utilities conversion for Town residents, the real facts are once again being kept from the public.

A Forbes Magazine, March 4, 2013 article, "Why High Speed Broadband Fibre Is Becoming Irrelevant", offers the facts as to why the Town of Palm Beach is so out of touch with "state of the art" technology that they are offering to install out of date technology in a Project that will take at least 10 years to construct and 30 years to pay off. According to this article in Forbes Magazine, "But the truth is that fibre based broadband is increasingly becoming an old technology and it’s simply not worth insisting that it be laid across the country. The reason is that wireless broadband is getting much, much better and extremely rapidly too." "We risk entirely wasting the money." "So why would we spend billions (even tens of billions) on a soon to be outdated technology like fibre optic broadband?"

Forbes Magazine says, "… that this is the beginning of the death of wired broadband."

Therefore, why on earth would the Town of Palm Beach plan to have outdated technology installed Town-wide?

Why would the Town install a technology that will be obsolete before it is even completely installed Town-wide and way before the annual non-tax deductible special assessment payments are completed?

How can any thoughtful, reasonable person with common sense consider the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project that the Town of Palm Beach is pursuing undeterred, while gambling with taxpayer dollars, to be a cost effective, sound financial decision?


Palm Beach Faces Financial Chaos!

Photo taken by Palm Beacher, Charles Pepper, 11/16 showing flooding along the walking path of Lake Trial, Palm Beach. Why is Palm Beach CONCEALING THE RISKS in their attempt to underground utilities on this historically flood prone barrier island?

(1-18-17)

The Town of Palm Beach is now facing financial chaos. The Town is determined to do a project that exceeds the $90 millions cost that was voted upon in the March 15, 2016 Referendum.

At the December 2016 meeting of the Underground Utilities Task Force (UUTF), which is advisory to the Town Council, it was decided that, at the January 2017 UUTF meeting Tom Bradford, Town Manager, would present the Master Plan and the Engineer’s Opinion of Cost for the Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities Project. Neither was presented!

The most important revelation was when Task Force members were told by Mr. Bradford that the Town of Palm Beach, prior to even initiating this Project, has an Engineer’s Opinion of Cost that exceeds $90 million.

As a reminder, the Referendum included the specific language about the costs and financing of the Project: "By issuing general obligation bonds not exceeding $90,000,000…"

The Task Force members were also told by Mr. Bradford, "We can not access the G.O. (bond market) until the lawsuits are settled."

Mr. Bradford said, at the 1/10/17 Town Council meeting, "A number of things happened in December taking us off track, including but not limited to:

- "The Engineer’s Opinion of Cost is in excess of $90 million."

- "… the lawsuits will not be concluded until late May at best… so we can not access G.O. bond financing until the lawsuits are settled."

At this Town Council meeting, Town Council President Michael Pucillo said,

"We have two issues here: One, the cost number, the other is the legal impediment to doing a G.O. bond offering. If you can get the costs in line and you are comfortable that we are at $90 million and no more, or possibly less than $90 million, that takes care of one impediment. The other impediment is G.O. financing.

The Town Manager said, "Construction costs are rising."

Mayor Gail Coniglio asked, "If Tom Bradford is able to square the $90 million number, would we consider a short term financing option to precede a G.O. bond?"

Pucillo raised concern about alternative financing options: "We would be getting away from $90 million in financing.…. Don’t be too anxious to get a shovel in the ground…. We need to be as true to the citizens as we can…. I am uncomfortable with alternative financing options…. Let’s get it right, even if it takes a little longer. The Town has construction fatigue."

Council President Pucillo went on to say, "We did a Referendum because we wanted to do a G.O. Legally we could retreat… but it makes me uncomfortable…it is not what we told the people we wanted to do."

Council Member Bobby Lindsay Buck said, "It doesn’t sound like the lawsuits are going to be resolved, but the biggest elephant in the room may be whether we get the budget resolved! So let’s figure that out…". Bobby Lindsay Buck asked Tom Bradford, "When will you actually have a good number?"

Tom Bradford said, "In 90 days or April 1st is realistic."

The Town Council agreed to have Tom Bradford work on reducing the Project budget (costs) not to exceed $90 million and report back to the Council by April 1st.

What is interesting is that the words spoken by the Council President, such as, "If we win the lawsuit"…… "If you’ve won all the cases" "…You haven’t gone through the trial first, then you really don’t have a strong sense." "You may never be able to do the G.O. and that is the concern I have." "I think these lawsuits when I looked at them were frivolous, but they are still out there." "The reality is, they are there, so."

Then there is Council Member, Richard Kleid, who instead of taking the blame upon himself and his fellow Town Council members for putting property owners in this predicament, instead, verbally attacked the two individuals who brought suit. Kleid also stated that he feels, there will be more lawsuits on this Town-wide Undergrounding Project, and that, "They will go after the assessments and we are going to be plagued by that." Yet, Mr. Kleid is in favor of interim financing and said, "Don’t think now is the time to stop… I’m in favor of proceeding…"

Mayor Coniglio stated, "There is tremendous discontent that we did not have a tight enough handle on this."

Mr. Pucillo said, "In the presence of these lawsuits and the unlikeliness to get them resolved by May…" The Town attorney agreed that the lawsuits won’t be resolved until after May. Mayor Coniglio asked, "I am wondering can we be in lawsuits for 2 to 3 years?" Council President Pucillo said, "We could be and reality is that you could…"

With all of that looming, is it responsible governance to continue to act as if nothing is wrong and spend taxpayer dollars on this threatened non-essential conversion to underground utilities on an historically flood prone, high water table, barrier island?


Why Is Palm Beach Orchestrating A Cover-Up?

Photo taken by Charles Pepper Nov. 16, 2016 at Seaspray Ave. in Palm Beach. What more proof is there than this photo that illustrates that the Town of Palm Beach is on a flood prone, low-lying, high water table. barrier island. where saltwater intrusion occurs on sunny days in high tide? Check out the bench, trash pale, walking path & street, all underwater! How can Town Officials ethically justify a Town-wide Underground Utility Project in a Town that is clearly so vulnerable to coastal flooding like this?

(1-4-17)

Why would a Town set out on a planned path, as far back as 2003, to convert to Underground Utilities throughout the Town and never inform the residents and property owners of the major and numerous disadvantages of embarking on such a Town-wide project?

Why are Town of Palm Beach Officials and their surrogates twisting the truth and concealing the major disadvantages to converting to underground utilities on a low lying flood prone barrier island?

This Town-wide Palm Beach Undergrounding Utilities Project has life and safety concerns that the Town continues to ignore, deny and cover-up!

Let’s review the accurate facts that I researched and revealed in my 2016 news articles. These facts establish that the Town of Palm Beach is determined to move forward with a non-essential, "aesthetic" project that is totally flawed.

The following are the significant facts which are "buried" in the Town’s major cover-up.

FACT 1: Eminent Domain and Easements

If a property owner refuses to allow a transformer or a large switch box and "ground level equipment" on their front yard property for an easement, the Town will invoke a "quick-take condemnation and seizure process" or as stated in the Town’s current Draft Comprehensive Plan, "Eminent Domain" against the property owner. In other words, the Town can obtain possession of the private property without a trial.

The Town’s condemnation of private property will take place unless multiple property owners decide to legally challenge this action, as has been done in other States. Or, after the process, property owners can take legal action against the Town challenging the amount to be paid for the seized property.

These actions can cost the Town time and millions of dollars from the legal fees and judgments incurred against them. The legal fees are going to the law firm with which the Town’s attorney is associated. Thus far, the Town is not getting cooperation from the "noticed" property owners.

FACT 2: Special Assessment Increases

As confirmed in the Town’s current Draft Comprehensive Plan, "Project cost may exceed approved referendum amount." The Town, (as agreed upon by the Town Council), has the right to increase the annual Special Assessment for each property owner at any time during the 30 years of annual non-tax deductible payments.

FACT 3: Foreclosures

If a property owner does not pay any of the Town’s special assessments for the Utilities Undergrounding over the next 30 years of annual payments, the Town will invoke "FORECLOSURE" ON THE PROPERTY, regardless of homesteading status.

FACT 4: Longer Outages

In a September, 2014, PB Post article, listed among the "Potential Disadvantages" for "underground electric systems" are: "environmental damage including soil erosion, habitat disruption; longer duration outages and MORE customers impacted by outages; susceptible to flooding; storm surges and damage during post-storm cleanup; life expectancy is 30 years vs. 50 years for overhead systems."

FACT 5: Conversion Problems

On the FPL website, listed as "DISADVANTAGES" to undergrounding of utilities and conversions in older communities, are: "Longer duration of outages"; "More susceptible to flooding, which delays restoration efforts";

Plus, something NO ONE in the Town of Palm Beach has any idea about: "REPAIRS OF UNDERGROUND LINES MAY REQUIRE PRE-ARRANGED OUTAGES AND EXCAVATION OF PRIVATE PROPERTY"!!

FACT 6: Intracoastal Submarine Cable vs. Underground Conduit

An Intracoastal Submarine Cable is very different from an Underground Conduit. The cable under the Intracoastal is a "Submarine" cable which is continuous, without connections, splices ("taps") or transformers. In contrast, the Underground Conduits have "taps" or splices at every four houses to connect to transformers and the transformers are above ground. Each of the transformers has additional "taps" to feed each of the four houses it serves. These "taps" have to be made "accessible" and therefore are more difficult to seal and make water tight. It is virtually impossible to seal all the "taps" for the connections required. EACH CONNECTION IS A POTENTIAL AREA FOR WATER INFILTRATION. THE SUBMARINE CABLES UNDER THE INTRACOASTAL ARE BY DEFINITION WATERPROOF AS COMPARED TO THE UNDERGROUND CONDUITS PLACED UNDERGROUND IN SOIL.

On July 7, 2016, The Daytona Beach News-Journal says, "In case you’re wondering: Why don’t they simply bury the lines?" The Journal quotes Ralph Grant, FPL area manager, who is in charge of Flagler and Volusia counties. FPL’s Grant said, "Buried lines are more susceptible to flooding in coastal and low areas and can be difficult to maintain and repair."

FACT 7: Repair Problems

In the publication, Florida Today, after Hurricane Matthew, FPL President and CEO, Eric Silagy, confirmed that, UNDERGROUNDING "is not a silver bullet". Silagy also said that areas that undergrounded utilities have problems "if repairs need to be made. Underground utilities are more difficult to access than traditional overhead power lines."

FACT 8: Flood Delays

FPL spokesman, Bill Orlove, gave an example of how problematic undergrounded utilities can be. This is a sharp contrast to overhead poles, especially the new upgraded hurricane proof hardened ones. Mr. Orlove referred to the inland community of Wellington, where their utilities are undergrounded. He explained that when Tropical Storm Isaac struck Florida back on August 28, 2012, Wellington was flooded. As a result of the undergrounded utilities, FPL could not restore power in Wellington until the flood waters receded, when they could try to find where the repairs were needed and then proceed to get at them.

Hilton Head Island was touted by Town Official, Thomas Parker as having undergrounded their utilities and fared well following Hurricane Matthew. In contrast to Parker’s inaccurate claims, it was revealed through research that "On Hilton Head Island, thousands remain in the dark." This was reported in a local newspaper, The Island Packet, 10/11/16.

FACT 9: Saltwater Intrusion

A newly published, 11/1/16 scientific study, to "identify sea-level rise impacts on coastal protection….and energy infrastructures.", states, "Expansive areas of low elevation in many….coastal areas are at elevated risk of storm surges and flooding …, as a result of sea-level rise. These phenomena could have catastrophic impacts on coastal communities and result in the destruction of coastal infrastructure…"

"The rise of sea-level is likely to cause saltwater intrusion into coastal groundwater systems affecting ….. underground utilities that could be vulnerable to damage when in contact with the saltwater."

FACT 10: Lightning

In "Emergency Information" from "One Call, New Jersey" it states "If a buried electrical line is struck in wet soil/conditions, the ground may become energized for a large area around the strike."

FACT 11: Corrosion

According to FPL, "While underground facilities are not as susceptible to wind and debris-blown damage, they are MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO WATER INTRUSION and local FLOOD DAMAGE, which can make repairs more time consuming and costly." "UNDERGROUND INTERRUPTIONS…typically last longer due to more complex repair requirements. Following …hurricanes, we’ve found that areas that took the longest to repair were generally those served by underground facilities still flooded days after the storm passes. DAMAGE AND CORROSION OF UNDERGROUND ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS OFTEN SHOWS UP DAYS OR EVEN MONTHS LATER, CAUSING ADDITIONAL OUTAGES AND INCONVENIENCE TO CUSTOMERS."

FACT 12: "State of the Art" Technology

It defies logic for the Town to plan to subjugate its residents to a conversion of overhead utilities to underground utilities on a flood prone barrier island when "State of the Art" technology for overhead utilities is available!

October 10, 2016, The Wall Street Journal says, "From 2008 through 2017, the U.S. government and utilities are expected to spend more than $32 Billion on smart-grid and storm-hardening technology, according to a federal report. That includes systems designed to resist wind, flying debris and FLOODING- and allow power providers to identify damage and restore electric service more quickly."

FPL in their "2015 Electric System Improvements in Palm Beach County" said that that they "are committed to building a stronger and smarter grid to deliver electricity customers can count on in good weather and bad." FPL said that "Smart grid switches automatically re-energize- improving the self-healing capabilities of the grid. e.g. when a tree branch or palm frond touches an overhead line, it can create a momentary outage or ‘flicker’ for customers." "If this occurs, the switch will open and de-energize the line to isolate the issue, ensuring fewer customers experience the outage."

WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON IN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH?


Palm Beach’s Misinformation Campaign

FPL Energy News

Areas in blue & yellow show flood areas in Palm Beach. Source: FAU Center for Environmental Studies, Keren Bolter, PhD; Underground utilities are susceptible to flooding! If Palm Beach undergrounds Town-wide, get ready for long power outages!

Photo taken by Charles Pepper, 11/16/16 shows flooded walking path and partially submerged bench, on a sunny day in Palm Beach. How can Officials justify Town-wide Underground Utilities in a low lying barrier island Town that is this flood prone?

(12-31-19)

 

Why does a municipality like the Town of Palm Beach find it necessary to use misinformation in their multi-media pro-undergrounding utilities campaign? Town Officials that condone through their silence, or participate in this public relations misinformation campaign, become complicit in this unsafe, unreliable boondoggle that is an insult to the intelligence of their Palm Beach constituents!

The Town Officials and their large scale public relations campaign, sponsored with taxpayer dollars, are in full throttle in order to spin what they claim to be "facts" so as to convince property owners that Palm Beach needs to underground their utilities.

To use the slim passage of a referendum, that only dealt with a method of financing as a means of justification so as to continue to spend monies and attempt to initiate this ill fated disastrous project, is a cop-out for Town Officials. It does not remove them from their responsibility to constituents and property owners’ quality of life as well as safety and reliability of utility power, Town-wide.

Town e-blasts, brochures, automated phone calls, Town Undergrounding Task Force Meetings, local newspaper articles and editorials written in the local newspaper by biased public officials, are fully focused on the same end goal. All make different pro-undergrounding claims.

Every month, FPL sends its bills to Palm Beach customers. Enclosed with each bill is the "Energy News" published by FPL. This month’s copy is shown in photo (top right). FPL advises to keep all utilities clear of vegetation in order to avoid debris falling on transformers and power lines. According to property owners in the north end, the Town does not do any trimming. If called upon by a municipality, FPL will do the trimming when vegetation has been allowed to get too close to the power lines.

As viewed while driving on N. Lake Way in Palm Beach, a main artery in the north-end of Town, trees and massive shrubbery are encircling the utility poles and wires and the trees are encroaching on the utility poles. Two things are evident in what you will observe: 1- Vegetation, trees, huge shrubbery and vines are growing wildly into the easements and areas of the utility poles and wires that line the street. 2- The utility poles and wires have not been upgraded, due to Town Officials wanting to convert to underground utilities since as far back as 2003. North-end residents have repeatedly told me that the problems are happening because tree limbs and other vegetation are so close and are hitting and falling into the power lines!

EVIDENTLY, THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH’S CLAIMED POWER OUTAGE ISSUES ARE THE RESULT OF THE TOWN’S OWN NEGLIGENCE!

I have contacted the municipalities running from Juno Beach down to Highland Beach. Out of 9 municipalities north and south of Palm Beach, there was NOT ONE that claims to be having these power issues, whether they are completely overhead utility power lines or a mixture of overhead and some underground.

In Juno Beach, I spoke with Andrea Dobbins, Town Project Coordinator and Risk Manager. Ms. Dobbins said that "really nobody lost power" during and after Matthew. She told me that the Juno Beach’s utility power is mixed with mostly "Hardened poles running through the Town and also along the streets in areas that have flood issues." When I asked, she said, "There is one area that floods even with a heavy rain and we have hardened poles installed there." One area in the municipality, known as "the Ridge" is undergrounded. Ms. Dobbins explained that "the Ridge" is at a much higher elevation. The Town’s Risk Manager made it abundantly clear that they find the hardened poles work extremely well. Apparently, Juno Beach, especially in flood prone areas, decided to install hardened pole smart technology as the most reliable source of power.

In addition, the municipality of Juno Beach, like the other municipalities that I spoke with, takes on the responsibility themselves of "aggressively and pro-actively, not reactively, trimming vegetation throughout the Town!", so that they "take care of it even before it becomes an issue." Ms. Dobbins said, "that since the municipality does aggressive proactive trimming themselves, they rarely need FPL to come in."

Every one of the municipality personnel that I spoke with, north and south along the coastline, said they didn’t have power outage issues.

In fact, in Highland Beach, Public Works Ed Soper, was proud to proclaim to me that they have NO POWER OUTAGE PROBLEMS WHATSOEVER, BECAUSE HIGHLAND BEACH HAVE INSTALLED HARDENED POLE SMART TECHNOLOGY TOWN-WIDE! In addition, Mr. Soper stated that Highland Beach keeps all trees, branches and vegetation well trimmed so not to obstruct in any way.

The real fact is that the problems that exist in the Town Palm Beach are not the fault of overhead utility power, but caused by neglect of overgrown and dangerously close proximity of giant hedges, trees and their branches. In addition, the lack of allowing upgrades to the utility poles, like hardened poles and smart technology, are contributors to the power issues the Town is experiencing in those areas.

Another repeated misinformation campaign claim came from PB Task Force Member, Tom Parker. He stated at the Task Force Meeting and then later in a letter to the editor of the Town’s local paper, that Hilton Head Island was undergrounded and fared better than areas with overhead utilities during Hurricane Matthew. He implied that they had no power outages during Hurricane Matthew. This is not an accurate statement. The real fact is that during and following Hurricane Matthew, "On Hilton Head Island, thousands remain in the dark." as reported in the local newspaper, The Island Packet, on October 11th.

Obviously, undergrounding utilities didn’t stop the island from suffering power outages, nor would it in The Town of Palm Beach!!!


Is Palm Beach Gambling With Taxpayer Money?

Photo contributed

Photo taken at Bradley Park, Palm Beach, by the Intracoastal on 11/16/16, begs the question: Why would Palm Beach convert to undergrounded utilities which is documented to be susceptible to flooding and salt water intrusion, when they are presently, even during a sunny day and full moon, ALREADY UNDERWATER? Salty water, at that! Despite Town claims otherwise, certainly, NOT a responsible move by Palm Beach Town Officials.

(12-7-16)

Why is the Town of Palm Beach continuing to ignore the accurate facts and instead, proceed to twist the truth in order to "sell" undergrounding, while it expends taxpayer dollars for a new public relations campaign to promote an unsafe and unreliable Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities Project? This is clearly a situation in which the Town is using taxpayer dollars on a gamble.

The fact is that the Town of Palm Beach obviously knows the truth and instead of doing their due diligence, they are spending taxpayer monies on project design, public relations and engineering consultants. If the lawsuits against the Town prevail, those taxpayer monies which amount thus far to well over $2M, are wasted.

As incomprehensible as it may seem, the Town of Palm Beach seems to be spending taxpayer dollars well after the March 15th Referendum on Undergrounding Utilities is over, just to impose a new campaign of inaccurate information. Clearly, this is being done in order to make their residents believe what they want them to believe.

It is possible that the Condo News with its widespread circulation has contributed to the Town’s panic as is demonstrated by its stream of e-mail blasts, postcards, pro-undergrounding forums, arranged news articles in the local paper promoting the project, a pre-recorded phone message from the Town and more. Recently, the Town sent a four page brochure entitled, "Undergrounding Today For A Better Tomorrow". All of the public relations spin is in full throttle, for what purpose, one would ask?

Let’s review some of the misleading and out of context statements that the Town has made to its residents and analyze their accuracy. In order to claim success, the Town of Palm Beach has been comparing their Undergrounding Utilities project with tiny municipalities that have fewer property owners and are not in flood prone areas as compared with the Town of Palm Beach that consists of 9,500 property owners on a low lying flood prone barrier island. Jupiter Inlet Colony, which has some 240 homes, claims that their newly installed undergrounding is proof of better reliability, without even a severe rain event, flooding or similar conditions. How does this compare with the Town of Palm Beach that is located on a low-lying flood prone barrier island with 9,500 property units? The comparison is ridiculous and is intended to mislead the public. Their Mayor’s report of no outages during Hurricane Matthew, which missed his tiny Town, is neither valid nor a reliable source of proof of anything but a defensive attitude by someone who is rationalizing the Undergrounding expenditure by his Town.

The Town Manager of Jupiter Island, another source cited by the Town of Palm Beach, says that they had no flooding and only two inches of rain. That report has no bearing on the fact that Matthew, in these areas, was NOT a flood event. Therefore, whatever occurred in areas of Jupiter Island that were undergrounded, has no bearing on the danger it is to Palm Beach Island. More proof as to the Town of Palm Beach’s arrogance and misdirection in the following:

On the FPL website, listed as "DISADVANTAGES" to undergrounding of utilities and conversions in older communities, are: "Longer duration of outages"; "More susceptible to flooding, which delays restoration efforts"; Plus, something no one in the Town of Palm Beach has any idea about: "REPAIRS OF UNDERGROUND LINES MAY REQUIRE PRE-ARRANGED OUTAGES AND EXCAVATION OF PRIVATE PROPERTY"!!

From all of my research on Underground Utilities explained in past articles, we know there are many more risks and disadvantages, including explosions from gases building up in the conduits, among other major problems that will occur at some point in time.

We have an even clearer warning that should not be ignored. On July 7, 2016, in the Daytona Beach News-Journal they describe FPL’s "… hardening project includes replacing wood poles with concrete poles and adding poles to shorten the distances between poles so the system can withstand winds of up to 130 miles per hour close to the beach."

The Daytona Beach News-Journal says, "In case you’re wondering: Why don’t they simply bury the lines?" The Journal quotes Ralph Grant, FPL area manager, who is in charge of Flagler and Volusia counties. FPL’s Grant said, "Buried lines are more susceptible to flooding in coastal and low areas and can be difficult to maintain and repair."

Why would any municipality that is historically flood prone and low lying not keep up with the current times and technology in order to ensure that their residents and property owners have the safest and most reliable utility power, telephone, T.V. and internet services?

The Town of Palm Beach began its journey toward this Undergrounding effort in 2005 and ramped it up in 2006, following Hurricanes Frances, Jean and Wilma. Eventually, the Town Council decided that they could not control the costs of such a project and it disappeared from the agenda of subsequent Town Council Meetings. This is more evidence of the lack of transparency in the Town of Palm Beach.

Not even the general public was aware of what took place at that time, anymore than they were on October 14, 2014 when the Town Council, with no prior education of the public on the advantages and disadvantages, voted, unilaterally, to underground utilities town-wide.

This is a perfect example of how the Officials of the Town of Palm Beach have failed their property owners.


Whatever Happened To The Town of Palm Beach’s Responsibility To Protect Its Property Owners?

A full moon and high tide on a sunny day in the Town of Palm Beach. Just imagine a Town-wide undergrounding of utilities on this low-lying coastal barrier island. Perfectly described in a photo taken on 11/16/16 by Photographer & Palm Beacher, Charles Pepper: "By the way, the water I walked in on the Bike Trail was just to my knees and very salty. My dog, Tapioca was swimming … I have NEVER seen water this high but in the last few years, the tides on the Bike Trail have been getting higher every year…"

(11-23-16)

It is time that the Town of Palm Beach Town Council confront its unanimous decision, by a vote of 5-0 at the October 14, 2014 Town Council Meeting to approve a $90M plus interest, Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities Project, WITHOUT ANY PRIOR INPUT FROM ALL PALM BEACH RESIDENTS.

THERE WERE NO ATTEMPTS, PRIOR TO THEIR DECISION, TO EDUCATE THE PROPERTY OWNERS WITH ACCURATE FACTS THAT INCLUDE ALL THE DISADVANTAGES. Nor were the property owners part of the decision as to whether they wanted to Underground Utilities in a Town-wide project in the first place.

Furthermore, Palm Beach registered Voters ONLY, and not all Property Owners were asked to vote ONLY on the financing mechanism for this project, in the March 2016 Referendum, which was narrowly approved by ONLY 62 votes, out of 4,286 voters.

Instead, the Town of Palm Beach, the world renowned destination, is knowingly and intentionally deceiving its trusting, uninformed residents with misinformation about what it claims to be "improving safety and reliability" by converting, Town-wide, to undergrounding all utilities on their low-lying flood prone barrier island, so as to achieve its irresponsible and misguided objectives!

A new scientific study just published on November 1, 2016 is providing conclusive evidence that the Town of Palm Beach, located on a low-lying flood-prone barrier island, SHOULD NOT embark on a 10 year Town-wide construction project to bury electric, cable and telephone utilities.

The objective of the study, "RESILIENCE OF INFRASTRUCTURE SYSTEMS TO SEA-LEVEL RISE IN COASTAL AREAS; IMPACTS, ADAPTATION MEASURES AND IMPLEMENTATION CHALLENGES" by B. Azevedo de Almeida and A. Mostafavi, is to "identify sea-level rise impacts on coastal protection….and energy infrastructures."

The study further states, "Sea-level rise is one of the most concerning and costly effects of climate change." "Expansive areas of low elevation in many….coastal areas are at elevated risk of storm surges and flooding …, as a result of sea-level rise. These phenomena could have catastrophic impacts on coastal communities and result in the destruction of coastal infrastructure…"

The Town of Palm Beach needs to recognize that it is surrounded on three sides by water: Lake Worth Inlet to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Lake Worth to the west. The Town’s historic flooding events have been long documented, as well as recalled by many Town residents.

This detailed and well researched study on sea-level rise can not be ignored. For the Town Council to continue to disregard the facts of sea-level rise and flooding, as well as all the major negative impacts and consequences of their decision to convert to underground utilities Town-wide, is both egregious and reckless!

It appears appropriate to address the blind determination of the Town and its supporters of the project to ask, "For what purpose? Is this all for aesthetics? What is really going on here?"

According to this scientific study, sea level rise impacts coastal areas and "Low-lying coastal areas are particularly susceptible to storm surge and flooding from torrential precipitation and the community effects can be catastrophic." "As sea level rises and water tables approach the land surface, the frequency and severity of flooding … will increase. Hence, it no longer takes a strong storm to cause coastal flooding."

"A large number of communities are already exposed to coastal flooding." The Town of Palm Beach is one of those municipalities.

"The rise of sea-level is likely to cause saltwater intrusion into coastal groundwater systems affecting ….. underground utilities that could be vulnerable to damage when in contact with the saltwater."

"Rising sea levels will increase the degradation of energy infrastructure materials with corrosion by saltwater intrusion due to inundation…." "…energy equipment is NOT designed to withstand saltwater exposure."

"In particular…the exposure of underground utilities and assets may affect pipelines and equipment." "As sea levels rise and coastlines erode…infrastructure systems start displacing significantly to the point that they become hazards to users."

The Study clearly cites how "protection of energy facilities is achieved by ‘hardening’ the structures, either by building new enhanced infrastructures or upgrading the existing infrastructures. Hardening energy infrastructure across the supply chain is part of the energy industry’s responsibilities to ensure that the existing infrastructures will be able to deliver energy to its customers under extreme weather events. Some industries choose to make physical changes to its infrastructure to make it less likely to be damaged by extreme winds, flooding, or other weather events."

In fact, we know from previous articles, that FPL is succeeding and will place "hardened pole smart technology" throughout the Town of Palm Beach, at no cost to property owners. However, the Town of Palm Beach is refusing to allow these upgrades to be installed. That is in fact a major contributor as to why there are parts of the Town that claim they are having brief power outage issues. The Town has refused the upgrades, which is a major reason for any problems that may exist.

The Study also cites "Entergy Corporations", who "made a study that identified a number of potential hardening measures, such as replacing wooden transmission and distribution poles with steel or concrete …" "In response to more recent storms, such as Hurricane Isaac, Entergy representatives note that the implementation of these adaptive measures has paid off. They have experienced less infrastructure damage and have restored power to their customers more quickly than in previous storms."

This is more proof why the hardened pole technology was developed and is now being implemented in coastal communities and cities to safeguard them from storms and sea level rise!

Now, it appears since the Town Council refuses to stop this ill-fated Town-wide project, that the two lawsuits filed by different plaintiffs, are the only option to force the Town’s leadership to undo this hazardous direction that they are currently directed towards on their flood-prone low-lying barrier island. Instead, the Town should implement hardened pole smart technology Town-wide. Let the areas that still want neighborhood Underground Utilities projects to do so, at their own peril.


Palm Beach Property Owners Speak Out!

(1-9-16)

There was a groundswell of opposition to a conversion to underground utilities in a Town-wide project that occurred at the south fire station in the Town of Palm Beach on Wednesday, November 2nd.

Town officials were swamped with frustrated and angry property owners who have become educated and enlightened, (I was told from articles in the Condo News), about the consequences of the Town-wide undergrounding project. These residents have learned the true facts about all the disadvantages and consequences of converting to underground utilities on a flood prone barrier island.

In a September, 2014, PB Post article, listed among the "Potential Disadvantages" for "underground electric systems" are: environmental damage including soil erosion, habitat disruption; longer duration outages and more customers impacted by outage; susceptible to flooding; storm surges and damage during post-storm cleanup; life expectancy is 30 years vs 50 years for overhead systems."

Steve Weigert, a Palm Beach property owner and resident, attended this forum and said that, "… of the 40 attendees, 2/3rds were property owners with objections to funding an extensive, costly and probably ill-advised $152.4M project to bury Palm Beach’s utilities." Mr. Weigert said, "The Town uses what they cite as ‘FPL’s own data’ to establish their claim that undergrounding performs better than overhead facilities," but he points out that, "…. what is left out of that assertion, is that the data referenced by the Town’s surrogates, offers no statistically significant data for underground conversions in flood-prone areas." He said that the supposed data the Town is referencing is "system-wide" which includes new developments that are not in flood areas, plus overhead poles that have not all been upgraded yet to hardened pole smart technology.

Mr. Weigert said he has done extensive research on the subject and that "the majority of FPL’s underground utilities are within inland new housing developments. FPL admits that there isn’t much experience in conversion of older communities on flood prone areas, especially coastal barrier islands. FPL openly warns of the potential problems with undergrounding in flood-prone areas." He concluded, "The data the Town is supplying to the residents is misleading, and often inaccurate."

Susan Watts, a Palm Beach property owner who resides in midtown, also attended. Mrs. Watts said, "…when property owners expressed their concerns to the Town Manager, they were told that property owners NEVER HAD ANY SAY in the decision made by the Town to convert to underground utilities. They were told that the Town Council made that decision when they voted 5 to 0 to convert to underground utilities. Therefore, Town property owners never had a say in it in the first place." Mrs. Watts emphasized, "… the Town had a ‘bad process’ in this entire endeavor to convert to underground."

Mrs. Watts described the majority of attendees were overwhelmingly against a town-wide undergrounding conversion project and the Town Manager’s revelation appeared to upset the crowd. She described a great deal of "push back" from the property owners at the forum. The residents appeared emboldened by their opposition and expressed a variety of issues that they felt the Town had imposed on them without giving them a say. Mrs. Watts said that regardless of what the Town Officials and their surrogates said to justify the Town’s actions, the audience had objections and were not dissuaded nor convinced by the Town’s justifications.

Susan Watts said, "… property owners expressed their objections that a conversion project to underground utilities was neither safe nor reliable on their flood prone barrier island." They opposed the process taken, the financing methodology with its flaws and the utilization of a special assessment that they felt has no merit. There were objections that property owners were never informed by the Town of the disadvantages of undergrounding on a flood prone barrier island. They had concerns about likely cost overruns. The surge of opposition that was voiced was against the Town’s repeated refusal to allow straw ballots for property owners who are not PB voters, but are impacted and will pay the annual special assessments. Property owners said that, due to the lack of communication by the Town, registered Independents were unaware that they could vote on the Town’s referendum during a Primary Election.

Mrs. Watts said the Town had a "bad process" in this entire endeavor to convert to underground utilities. Mrs. Watts said that beside the unreliable and unsafe power that we will have Town-wide with underground utility conversion, "… the efficacy of using fiber optics, means the Town is using an old technology which will assuredly become obsolete with the cutting edge technology of wireless systems."

Linda Essig, a realtor and property owner in the Town, was present at the forum.

Mrs. Essig said that as a result of all the disadvantages to undergrounding on a flood prone barrier island, plus the 30 year annual special assessment, which are not tax deductible, "As a realtor, full disclosure, which is a legal responsibility, will in many cases definitely make it MORE DIFFICULT FOR PROPERTIES TO MAINTAIN THEIR VALUES!"

Let us not forget that, including 10 years of construction or more, each Palm Beach property owner/taxpayer will be paying a not tax deductible, special assessment annually for 30 years! However, the life expectancy of the outdated underground system is only 30 years, as verified by the Quanta Technology Report for Florida Electric Utilities!

Beyond all other reasons, converting to underground utilities is clearly, neither cost effective nor a safe and reliable endeavor on the flood prone barrier island in the Town of Palm Beach.


Hardened Pole Smart Technology Surpasses Undergrounding, Part 1

Photo taken on 10/16/16 at Lake Trail, near Sanford Ave. This is only high tide in Palm Beach! Imagine undergrounded utilities here after a storm surge. "Water and electricity don’t mix."

 

Photo by Jimmy Shirley

(10-26-16)

According to FPL, major U.S. newspapers, the Insurance Journal and news channels, Hardened Utility Pole Smart technology with Automated Switches is a highly successful technology that surpasses all other methods of electric utility technology. Hardened Pole Smart Technology, mandated by the State of Florida, made restoration of power much more efficient following Hurricane Matthew.

What you will read in my upcoming articles in the Condo News, will further demonstrate that Hardened Pole Smart Technology is the most reliable and the safest method for reducing the number of power outages and providing faster repairs. It has already been proven to be far superior to conversion to undergrounding utilities, ESPECIALLY IN FLOOD PRONE AREAS.

FPL has invested more than $2 Billion to build a stronger, smarter storm resilient grid. It has resulted in fewer outages and faster restoration times!

It is more than likely that property owners’ insurance companies will take note of the Town of Palm Beach’s refusal to incorporate Hardened Pole Smart Technology Town-wide, which is not subject to flood impacts on a flood prone barrier island.

In the October 10, 2016, Wall Street Journal, they explain that, "Hurricane Matthew is stress-testing a costly new effort by utilities and the U.S. government to make the nation’s electric grid more storm-resistant. Early indications: the investment is paying off."

The Wall Street Journal goes on to say, "From 2008 through 2017, the U.S. government and utilities are expected to spend more than $32 Billion on smart-grid and storm-hardening technology, according to a federal report. That includes systems designed to resist wind, flying debris and FLOODING- and allow power providers to identify damage and restore electric service more quickly."

The federal government stimulus monies enabled the utility companies to spend multi-billions of dollars which the companies are investing in this "state of the art" "cutting-edge equipment". We know that utility customers, through FPL billing, are already paying for this investment in the technology for hardening of utility poles with smart equipment throughout FPL’s customer areas, including the Town of Palm Beach. Palm Beach’s FPL customers are paying for this even though the Town is planning to underground utilities at an additional expense to property owners. Regardless of whether the Town continues to reject the hardening pole superior technology for their property owners or not, FPL customers will continue to pay for these upgrades through their bills. In addition, the fact is that our federal government is also pouring our tax dollars into this hardening pole smart technology, which shows their confidence in it, regardless of whether the Town of Palm Beach takes advantage of hardening technology or not.

On October 10, 2016 News 4 JAX, out of Jacksonville, Florida, reported that after Matthew, "Based upon FPL’s assessment from this storm, the company’s investments are making a difference for customers…" "These investments were demonstrated during Matthew."

In fact, News 4, based in severely flooded and wind impacted Jacksonville, said that FPL reported, "NO POLES WITH HARDENED FEEDERS SUSTAINED DAMAGE AS A RESULT OF MATTHEW."

Post Hurricane Matthew, ABC News reported that "Hurricane Matthew caused a storm surge and massive flooding in Jacksonville, Florida along with 100 mph winds."

Let’s not forget, that it was predicted that the coastal areas, including the Town of Palm Beach and north of it, were thought to expect storm surges of up to 6-8 ft. and incredible wave heights along the coastline. What happened to Jacksonville, Florida and other areas like it, including the Carolina’s, could have easily occurred right here on our shorelines, but for a miracle of an eastern "wobble."

This is more proof that conversion to underground utilities is not a sound investment for the coastal Town of Palm Beach. However, the Town of Palm Beach is still attempting to embark on this risky ill-advised endeavor.

One of the most major perils of undergrounding, in flood prone coastal areas like Palm Beach Island, is that undergrounding utilities will be subject to flooding which will cause long term power outages, as well as other disadvantages and issues.

Even after Matthew has proven that Hardened Pole Smart Technology is superior and would best protect the barrier island community, the Town continues to have their local Town newspaper write pro-undergrounding utilities articles. Also, the civic groups that are influenced by the Town are spreading misinformation at their pro-undergrounding forums. In addition, the Town is sending out monthly pro-undergrounding email newsletter blasts to all residents which are designed by a public relations firm retained by the Town paid for with taxpayer dollars. Likewise, Town staff is promoting pro-undergrounding conversion for the entire Town. The Town has hired consultants and engineers to be paid with taxpayer dollars who are already on the job planning and ready to design the undergrounding utilities project.

All of these actions are occurring in Palm Beach, despite the growing opposition from the community, including two lawsuits against the Town, while the rest of the nation has utility companies that are supplemented by federal monies, investing billions of dollars hardening utility poles, coating wires and using smart technology.

News 4 JAX reported that FPL has stated these smart devises show which customers are out of power, eliminating the need for customers to call in their outage and restore power more quickly. Automated switches on poles and wires automatically de-energize when a problem occurs, isolating the issue and then after clearing the problem automatically re-energizes the line. These smart grid switches improve self- healing capabilities of the grid. FPL with hardened pole smart technology installs automated switches on main power lines (feeders) and on smaller power lines (laterals) serving neighborhoods and subdivisions.

It is mind boggling that any flood prone coastal municipality would now be attempting to embark upon a conversion to underground their utilities and refuse the superior, safest and most reliable method of electric power which is hardened overhead utility poles, coated wires and smart switches which will withstand up to 145 mph winds, flying debris and flooding. Besides, it is currently being offered to Town property owners AT NO ADDITIONAL COST.

Yet, that is exactly what is currently taking place in the Town of Palm Beach. The Town is ignoring the facts and the perils of underground conversion, which are many. Their historic flooding issues are major and appear to have conveniently been ignored. This is in addition to all the rest of the boondoggle which includes cost overruns, years of construction and major disruption to the Town, to name a few.

Instead, the Town of Palm Beach, through the misguided determination of their Town Council and some of the Town’s Public Officials, are rejecting the glaring facts of safety and reliability and are blindly marching on with their conversion project at all costs.

All of the overhead Hardened Utility Pole Smart Technology is available to flood prone coastal municipalities like the Town of Palm Beach. Without this new technology being installed throughout the Town the risks are much too high on this flood plain barrier island. Sooner or later the inevitable reality of storm surges, major CAT hurricanes, tropical storms and rising tides from both the Ocean and the Intracoastal are likely occurrences for Palm Beach.

 


We Dodged The Bullet This Time - But What Did We Learn From Matthew?

(10-14-16)

After 11 years of no real major hurricanes here in south east Florida, Matthew came along and shocked us into reality.

We have most certainly "dodged the bullet" this time around, but reasonable and practical minded people should have learned some powerful lessons from listening to the news, which described "catastrophic" conditions including storm surges, intense flooding and the prospect that through these impacts "people will die" as well as other warnings stated by Governor Scott, predicting what was expected here in Palm Beach County to possibly be a direct hit by Hurricane Matthew.

The fact is that the majority of Floridians have been complacent throughout all the years we were spared a hurricane here in south east Florida. We were totally unprepared for a CAT 3, 4 or even a possible 5 hurricane, hitting our shores.

Most of us were shocked to hear the National Hurricane Service prediction for Palm Beach County and north that forecasted flooding, high winds and storm surges of 3-8 ft. This was a warning that we were to expect tsunami-like wave heights pounding the eroded beaches of barrier islands, like Palm Beach, washing over seawalls, flooding roads and properties, forcing power outages and leaving destruction in its path.

We may have "dodged the bullet" this time, but it is inevitable that sooner or later we will be in the direct path of a powerful hurricane with all of its fury. We need to be better prepared than we have been and it is most important in a State that is known to be a "Hurricane Alley", that we should have the most reliable and safest method of utility power, so that we are not victims of long term power outages and their consequences. The "State of the Art" method of utility power is the highly successful hardening of utility poles, coated wires with smart switches that are resistant to as much as 145 mph hurricane winds and not vulnerable to flood events!

Even though we were fortunate that the storm surge never took place and the hurricane turned slightly east and went further north of our shorelines, there were 70 mph strong winds, which did cause some outages in different sections of Palm Beach County.

What is so exceptional in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Palm Beach County is the quick response times and repairs by our local utility, FPL. They did a remarkable job!

WHAT MADE FOR FAR FEWER OUTAGES IN PALM BEACH COUNTY WAS THE FACT THAT WHERE HARDENED POLES, COATED WIRES, SMART SWITCHES THAT WITHSTAND HURRICANE FORCE WINDS WERE INSTALLED, THOSE POLES WERE SUCCESSFUL IN PROTECTING US.

FPL spokesman Bill Orlove said that "the hardened poles have held up very well."

In fact in the Town of Palm Beach, according to FPL’s outage maps, the only area which has been confirmed, where there were absolutely NO OUTAGES, whatsoever, was in the extreme south end of the Town of Palm Beach and south of the Lake Worth Beach, where they have the hardened hurricane proof utility poles. The same is true of the Town of South Palm Beach, which also has hardened poles.

It is a FACT, that although the condos on South Ocean Blvd. in the south end of the Town of Palm Beach do have generators, THE GENERATORS DO NOT POWER the apartments or the entire condominium complexes. These generators are only for the elevator(s), hallway and lobby lights. The Town of Palm Beach erroneously communicated to all of its residents via email that the generators prevented the Town from knowing if there were outages in the south end. That statement by the Town, repeated in their local paper, is totally inaccurate and factually misleading.

There have been residents in the Town of Palm Beach that have contacted me, insisting that they predict, for certain, that the Town will use this avoided catastrophe with the short term, (24 max to 72 hour) power outage in parts of the north end and a few areas in midtown, described by the Town in their #2 hurricane update as "widespread", as a public relations opportunity. One north end resident described what they thought was the reason for our upcoming public relations spin is "to legitimize their incessant intent to underground the Town’s utilities." Then coincidentally, right after the previous statement and predictions of others was said to me, we ironically read in the Town’s local paper, on Saturday, 10/8/16, that PB Town Council President said that the short term outages are "a reminder of why they and others supported the idea of burying the town’s utility lines." If all the predictions are correct, this is the first of a blitz of public relations statements and communications to be directed at property owners, to reaffirm and reinforce the Town’s agenda.

Having been informed by others that have spoken to residents who live in areas like PB Gardens, Tequesta, West Palm Beach, and North Palm Beach communities that these residents all stated that their new "hardened cement poles" made a big difference compared to what they experienced in the past. They also said that where the lines went down due to trees, etc., the reason for the outage was clearly visible and repaired quickly.

Apparently, even where there were outages with overhead poles, whether in the north end or midtown of the Town of Palm Beach, as well as in other communities, FPL did an excellent job because they restored power in a few hours.

When asked in the interview on Sunday, whether undergounding utilities would have prevented power outages in a hurricane, better than the hardened poles, FPL representative Orlove said that undergrounding utilities is "not a silver bullet because water and electricity don’t mix!"

In Florida Today, after Hurricane Matthew, FPL President and CEO, Eric Silagy, confirmed the statement by the FPL spokesman, that undergrounding "is not a silver bullet. Silagy also said that areas that undergrounded utilities have problems "if repairs need to be made. Underground utilities are more difficult to access than traditional overhead power lines."

In Sunday’s Condo News interview with FPL spokesman Bill Orlove, he gave an example of how problematic undergrounded utilities can be. This is a sharp contrast to overhead poles, especially the new upgraded hurricane proof hardened ones. Mr. Orlove referred to the inland community of Wellington, where their utilities are undergrounded. He explained that when Tropical Storm Isaac struck Florida back on August 28, 2012, Wellington was flooded. As a result of the undergrounded utilities, FPL could not restore power in Wellington until the flood waters receded, when they could try to find where the repairs were needed and then proceed to get at them. It took much longer to restore the power there than if there were the overhead poles. It is abundantly clear that there would not have been a problem in Wellington if the flood prone community of Wellington had converted to hardened utility poles instead of underground utility wires.

FPL CEO Silagy by his comment about underground utilities is, in fact, confirming the example that Wellington demonstrates, with his statement in Florida Today, by saying that it takes much longer and is more difficult with undergrounding, "if flooding results in outages in areas where there are underground lines."

The lessons learned from Hurricane Matthew are that in areas that are flood prone, such as the Town of Palm Beach, which is on a flood plain barrier island, the most reliable and safest method of electric utilities is through overhead hardened poles, coated wires and smart switches!

That is clearly the lesson learned from Matthew.

FPL and other Utility Companies in the U.S. have invested billions of dollars to install the tested and proven hardened pole technology to offset the flooding, storm surges and all that is inevitable to occur in our future storms, whether it be a hurricane, tropical storm or just strong rain events.

HARDENED POLES IS UNIVERSALLY RECOGNIZED AS THE SAFEST UTILITY INSTALLATION TECHNOLOGY TO WITHSTAND FUTURE STORM EVENTS, NOT UNDERGROUND INSTALLATION!


Why Is Palm Beach Ignoring "State of the Art" Electric Utility Reinforcement?

(9-28-16)

It is ironic that the Town of Palm Beach, which is on a barrier island, plans to bury the electric, cable and telephone wires in a Town-wide project! As our readers know from the research and the interviews in the Condo News, conversion to underground utilities, in an older community, is at best a problematic boondoggle with an assortment of issues that will follow!

Two legal challenges, namely the Carol Kosberg and Arthur Goldmacher lawsuits are already hanging over it. In addition, the "State of the Art" technology with its recent successes, forecasts that this conversion project will likely be obsolete before the 10 years or more of this project’s construction period! It is unfortunate that Town Officials have wanted to underground utilities in the Town for so many years that they have ignored "State of the Art" technology, which going forward, after the conversion to undergrounding will be unavailable to them!

FPL acknowledges in their own website that conversion of utilities underground makes it difficult, if not impossible, when conduits are buried to get at the problems or to upgrade the underground equipment. Technology is moving so quickly, why would you bury utilities?

The irony of the determination by Town Officials is that this is happening at the same time that "State of the Art" Utility Reinforcement, with its cutting-edge technology of hardened hurricane proof poles, coated wires and smart switches that can easily be upgraded, are available to property owners at no cost! Instead, the Town of Palm Beach is intent on undergrounding their utilities at a substantial additional private cost to each of the Town’s property owners on a non-tax deductible assessment basis.

In fact all FPL customers, including those in Palm Beach, are already paying for the hardening effort throughout the State on our FPL bills and will continue to do so, regardless of whether Palm Beachers pay an additional special assessment annually for 30 years for the undergrounding utilities project.

As a number of Palm Beachers and others have pointed out to this journalist, the Palm Beach Town-wide project saves FPL a fortune in hardening infrastructure expenses, which have been mandated by the State of Florida for FPL to provide to the Town of Palm Beach.

It has also been pointed out that FPL’s Palm Beach customers would pay all the construction costs for the undergrounding project to the Town. This will therefore relieve FPL not only from the responsibility of hardening the infrastructure, but also from the expenditures that would have been incurred from such construction. Palm Beach’s intended Town-wide Conversion Project is quite a windfall for FPL!

Undergrounding utilities is an older technology! In fact, it was installed in New York City in 1888! However, municipalities have learned that conversion to it is a huge construction and financial undertaking for any municipality. More importantly, it is of major proportions in a municipality, such as Palm Beach, with 45 miles of wiring on a flood plain barrier island, with ground level transformers and switch boxes on the many winding side streets!

It is simply unbelievable that the Town of Palm Beach, with all the issues and major problems in store for their community as a result of pursuing this ill-fated endeavor, are blatantly ignoring that other utilities in other States are spending billions of dollars to harden their infrastructure so as to ensure the most reliable electricity for property owners.

In a February 3, 2016, article in the Insurance Journal, "Sandy Electric Utility Reinforcement Effort Pays Off in Blizzard", readers are informed that "Electric utilities that spent billions of dollars hardening infrastructure after Superstorm Sandy hit New York and New Jersey in 2012 say those upgrades helped keep the lights on during the Jan. 22-24 blizzard."

"Substations that were flooded in Sandy have been raised higher, stronger poles and wiring were installed ….. . The utility also installed smart switch technology like Con Edison, said John O’Connell, (PSPEG Long Island), the company’s vice president of transmission and distribution."

FPL in their "2015 Electric System Improvements in Palm Beach County" said that that they "are committed to building a stronger and smarter grid to deliver electricity customers can count on in good weather and bad." FPL said that "Smart grid switches automatically re-energize- improving the self-healing capabilities of the grid. e.g. when a tree branch or palm frond touches an overhead line, it can create a momentary outage or ‘flicker’ for customers." "If this occurs, the switch will open and de-energize the line to isolate the issue, ensuring fewer customers experience the outage."

"Since the last major hurricane in 2005, FPL has invested more than $2 billion across the areas we serve to make the electric grid stronger and smarter."

Even FPL spokesman, Bill Orlove, as others in FPL have said, "Undergrounding power lines are not a ‘silver bullet’ to prevent outages from occurring, especially during severe weather."

The Town of Palm Beach is in a flood plain and it is a known fact, as FPL has stated, that with undergrounding, "…restoration efforts after storms may be lengthened if underground power lines are located in an area where there is flooding. Water and electricity don’t mix."

The real question is, why did Town Officials’ not follow the state mandate issued to the utility, FPL, which is 99.9% reliable? The cost would have been shared by ALL FPL customers, unlike the undergrounding project, which will special assess each property owner with inconsistent non tax deductible annual payments that extend for 30 years.

Yet, Town Officials appear to be headed into the storm unperturbed! Town Officials deny that there are any real issues or major problems in store for this extremely disruptive conversion project. The Town has re-hired a public relations firm in their effort to convince the growing opposition in Palm Beach that the project will be worth having at least 10 years of "in and out of season" upheaval, traffic delays, increased costs and other hardships.

The question repeated by so many property owners, is, "Why?" and "What is really going on here?"

I will continue to research this issue, interview and keep our readers informed.

 


Palm Beach Needs to Confront the Realities of Their Undergrounding Project

Photo by Maddy Greenberg

Photo taken in April of 2016 following a rain storm on S. Ocean Blvd. between Sloan’s Curve and Widner’s Curve. Undergrounding Utilities on a flood prone barrier island is asking for trouble.

(9-14-16)

The Town of Palm Beach’s Officials and Staff appear to be in denial as their undergrounding utilities project continues to face a multitude of obstacles that are just the tip of the iceberg.

At a recent, 9/6/16 Town Undergrounding Utilities Task Force (UUTF) Meeting, board members appeared to have difficulty accepting the fact that the Town has a plan that is "optimistic and not realistic." The harsh reality of this project’s impending disruption, danger and subsequent debacle for future years is unspoken and ignored!

What they heard was that FPL was not ready with identification of equipment locations nor field verification of major utility elements. In addition, FPL had not determined easement needs and locations. Members of the UUTF seemed surprised and in disbelief that FPL had not complied with their schedule deadlines. Instead, they were told by FPL that, in regard to the deadlines imposed by the Town and their consultant, as far as FPL was concerned, "We never agreed to it in the 1st place."

The Task Force Members were also confronted with the fact that, at the last minute, without prior consent of the Town, FPL retained an "embedded contractor" or private contractor to do some of the work that FPL should already have been working on. Furthermore, the Town was informed by FPL that they will have no contact or influence upon FPL’s contractor!

There was discussion by the Town’s consultant that they needed to identify "joint trench and conduits." As you may recall in my previous article, those joint trench and conduits can be combustible! They discussed the need for ground penetrating radar because as was said, "You don’t know what you are going to find when you start digging." According to the Town’s engineering consultant, "The radar, if it swept the whole area would be hundreds of thousands of dollars." The consultant acknowledged that "Even the radar has a level of uncertainty, like high water tables, soil type conditions, depth…."

There was some mention, briefly, that there are also gas and water pipes in all areas of Town, which makes this project, "…extensively disruptive…" and would "…cripple this island!" This information was swept past and everyone went back into the false reality mode! They barely acknowledge the warnings and insurmountable obstacles that make this conversion project in an older community, on a flood prone barrier island, totally unrealistic!

In May 2016, Danny Brannon, Undergrounding engineering specialist consultant, spoke before this very same Town board. He gave them a detailed account of the standard problematic issues that they will encounter with FPL, Comcast and AT&T in the Palm Beach Town-wide conversion to an underground utilities project. It needs to be mentioned here that Mr. Brannon has extensive experience in such projects as in Gulf Stream.

Mr. Brannon also detailed the unavoidable construction delays, which he explained will undoubtedly extend the length of the project by years. The small Town of Gulf Stream thought that their 2-3 miles of undergrounding conversion would take 3 years, but now that has been extended to at least 6 years! Palm Beach’s almost 45 miles of undergrounding is proposed to take 10 years max according to the Town, which seems unrealistically optimistic.

Brannon also explained to the UTTF members the cost overruns that they should expect. Most importantly, he detailed the lack of experience by contractors and the fact that regardless of what Town Officials might believe, they will have no control over the utility companies!

For a brief moment in time, one UUTF member appeared to recall some of Brannon’s warnings, by saying that she thought that they were beginning to experience some of the FPL issues that Brannon had warned about. The comment seemed to disappear into the mist, just as Mayor Morgan’s description of Gulf Stream’s construction sites, "as resembling the Benghazi suburbs." A false reality took over again!

There is no reason to believe that Palm Beach will be any different from Gulf Stream with their conversion issues. The harsh reality for the Town of Palm Beach is, the same pattern of delays has already begun. There will be, unfinished construction sites, traffic congestion, escalating costs of the project over the years, assessment issues that remain, problems from property owners who do not want transformers or switch boxes on their properties, missteps and mishaps!

The difference is that Palm Beach having been forewarned, has already decided that if a property owner refuses to give an easement for a transformer, or circuit box on their property, the Town will legally take their property with a "quick claim deed", without any recourse possible by the owner. Also, in the event that any property owner does not pay their special assessment, the Town has discussed the fact that they will foreclose!

Last week, on the local TV Fox News, there was a report of how the Atlantic Ocean coastal waters are rising and the water in the Intracoastal is rising as well. They discussed how there is only one place for the water to go, over the banks and to flood areas. Common sense tells us that Palm Beach, which is in the Flood Plain and has serious issues on that front, is going to have more flooding, just from rainwater, let alone tropical waves, storms and hurricanes. Underground utilities with ground level transformers and circuit boxes are vulnerable to outages and flooding. Just as the below ground electrical conduits are not water tight or waterproof, only water resistant! Does a water resistant rain coat keep you dry in heavy rain or storms? In "Emergency Information" from "One Call, New Jersey" it states "If a buried electrical line is struck in wet soil/conditions, the ground may become energized for a large area around the strike." When there is flooding and the electricity goes out, we know that FPL has told us they will not come out to restore electricity until the flood waters completely recede. Also, underground wire problems take longer to locate.

One question by many property owners is, "What is really driving the Town of Palm Beach in their determination to underground utilities?"

Town Officials and their Staff need to rationalize why they are spending over $2.1 Million taxpayer dollars out of the operating budget to move forward with a $154 Million bond undergrounding project that faces many obstacles. Regardless of how the Town is attempting to ignore the lawsuits and move on, the lawsuits are the elephants in the room!

The simple solution to protecting Palm Beach’s utility infrastructure with a proven 99.9% storm protection benefit has been provided in a mandate by the State, requiring FPL to install hurricane proof hardened utility poles and coated wires with smart switches at NO COST TO THE PROPERTY OWNERS OF THE TOWN!

Obviously, there is no benefit to any undergrounding utility projects in the Town of Palm Beach!

The Condo News will continue to keep you informed about this very important issue.


Palm Beach Residents Believe Lawsuits Will Prevent Town-wide Undergrounding Project

(8-31-16)

Opposition to the Town of Palm Beach’s Town-wide conversion to underground utilities has continued to grow. The two lawsuits against the Town’s Undergrounding Utilities referendum by plaintiff, Arthur Goldmacher, (Lawsuit #1) and plaintiff, Carol Kosberg, (Lawsuit # 2) are spearheading this opposition to prevent a Town-wide undergrounding project.

The increasing support throughout the Town for the success of the lawsuits comes from informed Palm Beach residents regarding the magnitude of problems and issues that will ensue if The Town of Palm Beach were to convert to underground utilities in the approximate 45 miles of wiring within its boundaries.

These issues of opposition extend well beyond the legal grounds and complaints, to other concerns. The fact that, regardless of the promises of Town Officials, Staff and Consultants, it is well known that the 10 years of estimated ongoing construction will likely take many more years to complete. In addition, during the construction phases, predictable outages and unforeseen problems will occur which will cause more delays!

As the Town of Gulf Stream is experiencing in their conversion of 2-3 miles of undergrounding utilities project, Palm Beachers are increasingly more opposed to the years of construction delays and cost over-runs.

Finally, there is the financial quagmire for the property owners that increases opposition to this Town-wide project and strengthens support for the two lawsuits.

Just last week, a perfect example of how dangerous this undergrounding of utilities can become, occurred in Providence, Rhode Island. It happened in a commercial shopping mall area that had undergrounded their utilities several years ago.

According to the Providence Journal newspaper article, 8/27/16, entitled "Mall Businesses Disrupted By Outages," Providence Place mall had a rough couple of days with three power outages, "... a 115,000 volt underground cable supplying electricity to three substations started to smolder and burn, National Grid spokesman, David Graves, said Friday afternoon.

"Pressure from gases building up in confined areas, he said, blew the cover off of a manhole on South Main Street, stopping power to the substations…." At the mall, firefighters came to rescue people who were trapped, in darkness.

Another failure followed the next day, Friday, when about 8,300 customers lost power. Later another call was received by the fire department, where a fire in a kitchen of a restaurant attached to the mall began and again there was a power outage.

Apparently, this is not a unique situation when it comes to undergrounding conduits and the gases that build up in them. Last year, in Palm Beach, at the Sun and Surf Condominium garage, there was an explosion that damaged cars. This was also due to gases building up in underground electrical wiring conduits.

Also, on a beach in Narragansett, R.I., last year, a person was hurled from a beach chair because combustion caused by gases built up in the underground cable under the sand and it exploded.

In Long Boat Key, Florida, last year, there was an instance where a large, above ground, electrical transformer circuit box for an undergrounded area, exploded and caught on fire.

As an FPL spokesperson has said, "Water and electricity don’t mix." The Town of Palm Beach is within a flood zone area on a barrier island. This means that the underground conduits and other equipment are even more vulnerable to these problems that will cause long term power outages and potential explosions in flooding, tropical storms and hurricanes.

These facts establish that, beyond the legal reasons to prevent this Town-wide project, there are also life and safety concerns that have been ignored by a Town that seems determined to move forward with a non essential, "aesthetic" project that is totally flawed.

Nobody wants to spend the next 10 years or more of their lives encountering construction zones, traffic delays and power outages with possible escalating assessment costs. No real benefits will result from this project other than questionable aesthetics when it is completed.

The Condo News and I will continue to keep you informed and up to date with the facts about this important issue.

 


Two Lawsuits Against Palm Beach Town-wide Project Move to Trial

(8-17-16)

The attempt by the Town of Palm Beach to dismiss the first of two lawsuits against their Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities conversion project has failed. Both lawsuits continue to move forward to trial. Arthur Goldmacher filed the first lawsuit against the Town in Circuit Court in April of this year. Carol Kosberg, filed the second lawsuit in mid- May.

In previous Condo News articles I have covered in detail this ongoing controversy. 

On August 2nd, Judge Catherine Brunson ruled against Palm Beach’s motion to dismiss the Goldmacher case. Shortly thereafter, Judge Brunson was replaced by Judge Cymonie S. Rowe. On August 9th, Carol Kosberg’s attorneys filed a "Motion to Consolidate" with the Circuit Court of Palm Beach County.

I interviewed Carol Kosberg’s attorneys from the firm of Weiss, Handler & Cornewell. I interviewed the following members of the firm; Henry B. Handler, William J. Berger and David K. Friedman.

Henry Handler, Trial Attorney, answered my question as to whether the Town of Palm Beach had ever filed a motion to dismiss the Kosberg case. Mr. Handler confirmed with me that the Town had never filed a motion to dismiss the Kosberg lawsuit. I can only conclude that the statements made in a local newspaper and by the Town Manager, Tom Bradford and by members of the Undergrounding Utilities Task Force, are totally inaccurate. It is evident that these statements are being made in an effort to diminish the merit and significance of the lawsuit and are erroneous.

William Berger, Trial Attorney, told me that a Motion to Consolidate the Kosberg and Goldmacher cases had been made. He clarified to me that each plaintiff’s case would remain independent in their representation by their own attorneys. They are two individual cases which will take place at the same trial. He confirmed that this Motion has been placed before Judge Rowe, the new judge appointed to both cases.

It is significant that Kosberg and Goldmacher will each be represented by their own attorney in each of their cases. The reason is that although both address some similar counts against the Town, the Kosberg lawsuit which is being represented by Handler and Berger takes their lawsuit much further because it contains additional arguments. In addition to this fact, each of the plaintiff’s attorneys will express their complaints in a different manner, resulting in a different outcome from the Court for their respective lawsuits.

The Town of Palm Beach had passed a resolution in December 2015 to special assess all property owners for 30 years, starting November, 2016. This special assessment was scheduled to appear on the 2016 property tax bills. However, it will not occur!! As reported in the Palm Beach Post, Town of Palm Beach Manager, Tom Bradford, verbally acknowledged that the delay in the special assessment this year is "… in case things don’t turn out the way we want in court." Therefore, one can conclude that the special assessments are not going forward this year because of the pending lawsuits!

It is interesting that the Town continues to ignore the pending lawsuits. The Town is withdrawing money from their operating budget in the amount of $2.1 million to fund the first half of the Undergrounding Utilities project master plan using taxpayer dollars. Is this a responsible governance action undertaken by the Palm Beach Town Council while two lawsuits are pending and may prevail? Are they not gambling with taxpayer money at the risk of a legal outcome which will nullify the entire project?

I will continue to keep you updated as these two lawsuits proceed to trial.


Underground Utilities Update

(7-20-16)

As promised, this is a follow-up to keep you abreast regarding the Town of Palm Beach Undergrounding Utilities Project.

Every time I meet Condo News readers, I am asked if anything is happening with the lawsuits. There were two lawsuits filed by different Palm Beach property owners against the Town of Palm Beach RE: Undergrounding Utilities. Everyone I have met has been cheering for the plaintiffs. All were opposed to town-wide undergrounding. This is probably because my articles articulated the various inevitable major issues, many of which remain unresolved.

The two lawsuits are separate and distinct from each other. The first lawsuit was filed by Arthur Goldmacher and the second lawsuit was filed by Carol Kosberg. While both lawsuits contain some similarities, they stand alone on their own merit. It is important to note that the second lawsuit has additional counts that are significant in differentiating the two cases.

Mrs. Kosberg’s attorneys had requested that the judge appointed to them be changed. The attorneys asked that they would be given to the same judge that was appointed to hear the Goldmacher case. From my research, I have learned that having the same judge has advantages for both the plaintiff and for the defendants when it comes to things like, non-duplication of witnesses and court costs. It appears quite telling that the Town of Palm Beach strenuously objected to Mrs. Kosberg’s attorneys’ request. In fact, at last Thursday’s hearing, the Town showed up with not just the Town attorney, but also two additional attorneys to make their objections to the change. The result of this challenge by the Town was that Kosberg’s attorneys prevailed in their request. Both cases now have the same judge for their individual cases.

In my opinion the Town’s objections indicate that having the same judge is something the Town does not want. Therefore, the success of the plaintiff in getting the same judge is a win for the plaintiff.

Until next time, be well, be careful and stay safe.


Second Lawsuit Threatens to Stop 

Palm Beach Underground Project

Taken on S. Ocean Blvd. in a minor rainstorm. Imagine if underground utilities need repairs on Flood Prone Barrier Island of Palm Beach in a hurricane. Big problems!!

 

Photo by Maddy Greenberg

(6-8-16)

Palm Beach property owners who will pay to have their utility wires undergrounded are now learning through the Condo News that the "Success Stories" used by the Town of Palm Beach prior to the March 15th undergrounding referendum vote, in reality, were a "cover up" of the murky problems they will confront!

The revelations of the debacle that has been happening in the neighboring municipality of Gulf Stream as a result of their Town-wide undergrounding project for 800 property owners was acknowledged at the Palm Beach Public Meeting on May 3rd by the Gulf Stream/ Palm Beach undergrounding engineer consultant! In addition, this consultant, Danny Brannon gave a detailed summary of the troubled path that will be encountered by Palm Beach property owners as their conversion project goes forward.

As the long list of unresolved problems continues to be revealed, the question is why the Town of Palm Beach is still determined to go forward with this undergrounding folly to convert the Town-wide utilities of more than 9,500 property owners on a flood prone barrier island!

Prior to the referendum vote on March 15th, Town Officials had access to all of the information I reveal in my articles. For one thing, Gulf Stream and Palm Beach have the same Town Attorney. How could Palm Beach, which had contact through Town Managers, their Town Attorney and the same consultants that spoke at their public meetings, not have known that Gulf Stream’s 2-3 mile conversion to undergrounding in comparison to Palm Beach’s 45 miles, was riddled with problems that would parallel Palm Beach but on a much larger scale? Plus, add that to the fact that Palm Beach used Gulf Stream as a "Success Story" in their advertisements in order to get a favorable vote on the bond referendum. Now that this has all come to light after the election, one has to wonder why the Town Leaders would still be determined to move forward with their Town-wide project.

As stated in my last article, a second lawsuit was filed against the Town of Palm Beach. The various counts cover reasons that seek to invalidate the vote and halt the Town-wide conversion to underground their utilities.

The lawsuits have been filed by separate plaintiffs. Both plaintiffs are doing a service for the 49.3% of the voters, Town-wide, who constitute those that voted "against" the referendum as well as a countless number of taxpaying non-registered voter property owners. The plaintiff for the first lawsuit, Arthur Goldmacher and the plaintiff for the second lawsuit, Carol Kosberg, showed great courage to take these actions. They are performing a heroic deed for almost half the Town’s voters who opposed this referendum and for those who voted favorably not knowing the financial and physical upheaval in store for them if this project proceeds on a Town-wide basis. Their actions are deserving of support and praise for their efforts to make right what they know is wrong!

In this article, I plan to raise some of the issues included in the second lawsuit filed in the Circuit Court of the 15th Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach County, Carol Kosberg, Plaintiff vs. the Town of Palm Beach, Defendant.

The lawsuit states the sources and order of payment that the Town shall finance burying overhead utility lines for electric, telephone and cable services "payable from Town’s full faith, credit, ad valorem taxing power and non-ad valorem special assessments" which was the ballot language. This means that the Town must use ad valorem tax revenues First in order to fund the conversion project. Full Faith and Credit ad valorem taxes require the Town to raise taxes as often and as high as needed to pay for project costs. It means that the Town would not run out of money! Therefore, the special assessment would never be needed as a source of payment. Town Officials clearly never had any intent of using ad valorem taxes! Ad Valorem is based on property values and is tax deductible. As stated in the lawsuit, "If the underground utilities were paid in the manner called for in the ballot language, then the owners of higher-valued properties would pay more of their share of the cost through ad valorem taxation, and the owners of lower-valued properties would pay less."

The lawsuit continues, "Given the narrow margin of victory, the misleading language in the ballot was of critical importance, and likely tilted the results in favor of the referendum proponents. As a result of the misleading language of the ballot that did not fairly advise the voters to intelligently cast a ballot, the outcome of the referendum election is illegal and void." "Despite the order of payment set forth in the ballot and the passage of the ballot, the Town has taken steps that indicate that it intends to pay the bonds solely through non-ad valorem special assessments although the bonds will be also payable from the Town’s ad valorem taxing power in the unlikely event that revenue collected from special assessments is insufficient to repay the bonds." "There is an actual, present, bona fide controversy between Plaintiff and the Town as to whether the Town may implement the bond referendum approved by the Town’s voters in a manner inconsistent with the ballot submitted to, and approved by, the voters of the Town." The lawsuit claims that "the Town is obligated to implement the ballot as written and approved by the voters of the Town…." This means that General Obligation (G.O.) bonds can only be paid by ad valorem tax revenues.

According to the lawsuit, the bonds to be issued under a resolution passed on December 8, 2015 by the Town Council violated the Town’s own Code. The lawsuit cites that on March 8, 2016, a week before the election, the Town Council approved an ordinance to amend the Town Code to allow special assessment revenues to also be used to pay G.O. Bonds. It appears that the lawsuit also challenges that the Town could not change or amend their Town Code at the last minute, because the new 2016 ordinance "is not retroactive."

The Town Officials clearly do not want ad valorem for this project!

The lawsuit contends that the "proposed special assessments authorized by Resolution…, and the bond referendum are unconstitutional, illegal and void."

The suit claims that "a special assessment is a compulsory assessment that confers a specific benefit upon the land burdened by the assessment…" The lawsuit brings out that "For a special benefit to exist, the amount by which the property is benefited must be greater than the cost of the improvement assessed against the property." The Town is using the Wildan methodology for the special assessments and the complaint contends it fails to analyze the construction costs. The suit, states that "the Wildan Report is also fatally flawed in that it assumes-without supporting evidence or analysis- that undergrounding of utilities will benefit each parcel and contains no analysis to show how Plaintiff’s property or any other property will actually receive a ‘special benefit’ from the proposed undergrounding (i.e., that any increase in value of the properties being assessed resulting from the proposed construction will be greater than the assessments to be levied against such properties)." In addition, "the Town’s purported distribution of safety/reliability/aesthetics by the Town at 30/30/40 does not appear to have any basis in reality." In a footnote, the lawsuit adds, "There are also significant negatives to undergrounding ignored by the Town such as lack of reliability and safety when a hurricane and flooding occurs…." The lawsuit claims that "The undergrounding of overhead utilities as provided for in the bond referendum will not result in a benefit to Plaintiff’s property greater than the cost of the improvement assessed against the property."

It is the desire of this newspaper and columnist to inform and educate our readership so that this important subject and the lawsuits that have been filed are vetted and understood by the public. Important subjects and issues like this should not be kept undercover, but exposed to the light of day!

 


Palm Beach’s Underground Utility Conversion Financial Pitfall

(5-25-16)

Important update: As of May 13th a second lawsuit was filed by a longtime Town of Palm Beach property owner and voter, Carol Kosberg, against the Town of Palm Beach, Undergrounding Utilities Bond Referendum. This lawsuit cites four counts against the Town. In our next Condo News issue, the details within the lawsuit will be revealed. It is this newspaper and columnist’s intent to keep you, our readers, informed and up to date on this important and ever expansive issue.

Just when we think we know all the murky problems that will befall those property owners who are about to encounter Palm Beach’s conversion to undergrounding utilities, yet another touted "success story" of a completed undergrounding conversion that the Town uses, has a major downside that needs to be aired.

It is very possible that what we know about the debacle in store for Town-wide property owners is just the tip of the iceberg. It is unfortunate that the information below was not revealed to voters and property owners prior to the vote on the undergrounding utilities bond referendum. There are likely major pitfalls for Town property owners that add to the financial burden for Town residents that were never taken into account and should be publicized. The following experience by a property owner, who has gone through underground conversion in the Town of Palm Beach, is astounding and will serve as a reminder for those who are anticipating this project on a town-wide basis.

In 2011, four properties in the Via Fontana area of Palm Beach had completed a neighborhood underground wiring conversion project. Joseph V. Vittoria and his wife own one of the properties in that project area. Their experience with the Town of Palm Beach is both shocking and disturbing. What Mr. Vittoria describes that happened to them, is a warning to all of Palm Beach’s property owners as to what financial pitfalls are likely to befall many other property owners as a result of this Town-wide conversion project.

The Vittoria’s were given special assessment costs in 2010, prior to the project’s installation. After the project’s completion, in 2012 the Vittoria’s were sent a letter from the Town, signed by then Assistant Town Manager, Tom Bradford, which turned out to be 6 times higher than the original cost quoted in 2010. The Vittorias are now obligated to pay a special assessment that is excessively greater than they had originally agreed to and non tax deductible.

The Vittoria’s received a second letter in 2012 a few months after the first letter that same year. Both letters were signed by Bradford. The letter increased the assessment amount even further and it offered them the option to pay the entire amount up front. The Vittorias did not take that option.

In addition to this alarming situation that has occurred, there are two interesting facts that differentiate the Via Fontana undergrounding project from the planned Town-wide conversion project in Palm Beach.

Joseph Vittoria didn’t receive his letter informing him that the payments would begin until after the project was completed. The Town now plans to collect the special assessment payments prior to the project and all during the 10 years or more of construction. The other difference is that in the second letter of 2012 from the Town, they offered the Vittoria’s to pay upfront or prepay the total which came after the project’s completion. The Town of Palm Beach currently plans and has discussed at a public meeting on Tuesday, May 4th, that they will ask property owners to prepay the total prior to the inception and completion of the Town-wide undergrounding project.

The residents of Palm Beach are being expected to sign a blank check without any merchandise, no idea what they are really getting, how much it will cost by the end of the supposed 10 year project. If Gulf Stream is any indication, it could be more like 20 years. Both prior and since the vote, Council and their Undergrounding Task Force have stated that if they run out of monies, they will assess property owners again. A stunning revelation!

According to Joseph Vittoria "I believe this project is an indicator of what can happen for a future undergrounding initiative under the auspices of the Town of Palm Beach." He explains that several years ago he brought his case to the Town Council. He "was told that it was unfortunate that we have been misled, but the Town could do nothing." Since this was a Town neighborhood project, who misled him? Is history going to repeat itself with the town-wide special assessments?

Mr. Vittoria spoke up at an "undergrounding educational meeting" at Bethesda-By-The-Sea on 11/16/15. He "was told that it is always possible that the costs can change given unforeseen problems which come up when the actual work is done." Would that answer have satisfied you, if you found out that your special assessment amount had increased to 6 times more?

Vittoria’s response is apropos to the upcoming project and what will take place for thousands of Palm Beach property owners. At that same meeting, Joseph told the Town Manager "If an error that large can arise with one property, how many might arise when the entire island is done?" Joseph Vittoria said that he received no answer to that question!

Joseph Vittoria told me he "should point out that the estimates provided for the referendum are very similar to the original estimate I received". "If a person reads the experiences of Gulf Stream, one the Town of Palm Beach pointed to as a ‘success story’ in its ‘information campaign’ it would be easy to see that five years into the project, the timeline has doubled and costs have tripled! Before we head down the same path, let’s revisit this ill-conceived and certain to be under budgeted project and do what’s right for all Palm Beachers."

The Vittorias think their experience will be a parallel to what will happen to many other Palm Beachers if the Town moves forward with its Town-wide conversion to underground utilities.

It is unfortunate that all Palm Beach voters were not privy to the Vittoria’s undergrounding utilities conversion experiences prior to the referendum vote. You can be sure that if Palm Beachers had known this, many of those that had voted favorably, would have either reconsidered or thought twice about the way they would cast their ballots.

 


Palm Beach’s Folly Will Be A Conversion To Undergrounding Utilities

(5-11-16)

The road to Undergrounding Utilities continues in a protracted way for the Town of Gulf Stream and a murky path lays ahead for the Town of Palm Beach.

At the 4/13/16 Town of Gulf Stream special meeting on the project, Mayor Morgan & town officials were exasperated with all the obstacles and costs they’ve encountered converting to underground utilities. They discussed the fact that it’s going to get even more frustrating for the Town’s residents. What they thought was a $5.5M project 6 years ago could take 2 more years to complete and is going to cost significantly more. (This, by the way, is the project the Town of Palm Beach Officials lauded as a "success story.")

Confirmation of the debacle and the troubled path to undergrounding utilities conversion that Palm Beach has chosen was evident when Undergrounding engineering specialist consultant Danny Brannon, spoke before the Palm Beach Undergrounding Utility Task Force (UUTF) meeting on May 3rd. He gave a detailed account of the standard problematic issues they will encounter in their Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities conversion project.

Mr. Brannon stressed, "Inflation ends up being an impact that you don’t expect." He explained that the construction bids will be high and there will be cost overruns. UUTF Member and financier Wilbur Ross asked "whether FPL will absorb the cost over runs or not?" Brannon responded, "No. If their costs exceed 10% of the amount, they can bill you that number."

Brannon said "The construction industry has been dormant for several years. Resources have been limited. A lot of people are new, not experienced, not in their budget, not planned for. Therefore, when you are trying to come up with who will work on this, it has been very difficult for them."

Brannon admitted, "The length of the projects typically runs longer than you anticipate." With timing schedule delays, climbing construction costs and the eventual removal of the poles and wires after the undergrounding has been set up, there are undeniable problems that occur.

"Some of the issues in Gulf Stream had to do with the length of time it has taken them to get off the poles down there." For Phase 1, ATT "should be down this week. It was 2014 when we finished building the underground system." He said Comcast finally came down about 3 weeks ago.

"You can push them, call them & talk to them, but you have a limited amount of control over those utilities."

These small municipalities like Gulf Stream, where Phase 1 could be no more than 1.5 miles of buried wire, took 2 years to bring the poles down. Only after that, can the landscaping finally be restored and the construction sites removed. How long will it take the Town of Palm Beach with over 45 miles of undergrounding to be done, to complete the project, remove all construction sites and then restore the areas to their original condition? Just do the math for yourself. It certainly doesn’t add up to 6-10 years, when 2-3 miles of Gulf Stream is taking at least 7 years.

UUTF Member Susan Gary, a prior consultant with governmental projects, pointed out that Palm Beach’s project as compared to Gulf Stream "is 15 times larger and is massively bigger."

Brannon stated, "ATT & Comcast are pretty much independent" "We have found that Comcast & ATT schedules usually run significantly longer." In "Jupiter & the Colony, about the length of time it took for ATT & Comcast to get off the poles.., was like 2 years." "That is about the size of one Phase of your project." (Palm Beach unlike the small projects of these other municipalities is over 45 miles of underground conversion and multi Phases.)

Mr. Brannon said even if FPL’s part of the undergrounding system is installed, as long as the poles are there, "FPL would continue to keep those lines energized." Live wires and poles remain for years waiting to be removed.

"FPL will not remove their material until the communication companies vacate the poles. FPL is the last to come in & take their wires down."

"Communication companies have a ‘Joint Use Agreement’ that allows them to be on the poles as long as the poles are there. The communication companies will not come out typically & begin their work until the FPL installation is complete." Only then do the communication systems underground and install their underground piping system, including equipment, but apparently this is done at their leisure.

He said, "ATT & Comcast work on these projects when other things don’t pull them away. This is a non revenue generating activity. They have new construction….they generate revenue on….if they have outages, emergency situations, restore service….then, they come back & do your project."

Brannon explained about "FPL on the front end in producing Binding Cost Estimate (B.C.E.) engineering. In Gulf Stream, Phase 1, Binding Cost Estimate (specs & drawings) took 12 months (1 yr.) to deliver. We filed a complaint with the Public Service Commission and FPL said the delivery of the design and cost estimate for Phase 2 would be within 6 months. Phase 2 was 18 months, (1 yr. and 6 months)."

Board Member Ross asked if "the Binding Cost Estimate is worth waiting for?" Brannon responded that it is "a required process."

Engineer Brannon explained that there is no control over FPL and the length of time it takes them to make the drawings and do their part prior to the B.C.E.’s completion.

"FPL will deliver what they are obligated to deliver."

He said "FPL will say we are not changing out the rusty transformers on our budget".

In view of all the information provided, every Palm Beacher must conclude: 1- Beyond the overrun fiasco, construction quicksand and lack of contractor experience, there is no real control over extended length of project timing and duration. 2- Palm Beach property owners don’t know if the town, due to all the mishaps and missteps, will run out of monies and create an additional special assessment for property owners on top of the existing one. 3- Property owners need to be aware that assessment amounts can increase by any chosen denominator.

If that’s not enough, there’s more. There was matter of fact discussion regarding property owners that default on their special assessment payments with resulting foreclosures and the taking of their properties.

From everything we’ve learned, isn’t it crystal clear by now that if Town-wide conversion to underground utilities in Palm Beach continues to go forward as planned, this will become the Town of Palm Beach’s folly and the victims will be the property owners?

Just maybe, the Town Council and Officials, who want this project so badly, will remove their blinders and heed the warning signs that apparently even the prestigious Town of Palm Beach can not avoid.

The soundest path to take is to HALT this massive town-wide debacle before the legacy of the Town becomes its Town-wide Underground conversion fiasco.

 


Palm Beach’s Path to Undergrounding Conversion Is Murky

(4-27-16)

Regardless of whether Palm Beach officials deny the obvious prophetic path that they are taking that is frighteningly similar to the Town of Gulf Stream’s debacle, it has created even more opposition, angst and discord among Palm Beach property owners.

It is a fact that a lawsuit was filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, in early April, against the Town of Palm Beach on the undergrounding referendum. The plaintiff, according to court records, alleges that the ballot language was deliberately misleading. The plaintiff is Arthur Goldmacher, a long time Palm Beach resident who lives at 3250 S. Ocean Blvd. The lawsuit also contends that residents believe that the town’s special assessment plan would cause properties valued at less than $1M to bear a heavier share of the debt than if the debt was repaid with ad valorem property taxes. If this lawsuit should succeed, the vote on the bond referendum and therefore the project will become "illegal and void"!

At April’s Palm Beach Town Council Meeting, resident, Charles Hickman, an attorney, declared that at least half the Town is against this project and there are three to four grounds for justifiable lawsuits. It is therefore probable, that future litigation on this issue will occur.

I interviewed Susan Markin, former Palm Beach Town Council Member, and current member and past Chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

One of Susan Markin’s concerns is "the Mayor and Town Council Members literally sold this to the voters, when they should have been neutral" and "Palm Beach should expect a rocky and litigious road ahead".

"The Town Council and Mayor should have given all the facts, good and bad, and prepared the residents for what the project entailed, before they voted. They should have allowed for a straw ballot to include all property owners since everyone, whether voter or not, will be paying for 30 years plus on this project."

"Once again, a devious approach to a referendum item will cause angst in the Town of Palm Beach for years to come, not because it is a North/South issue, because it is not, but because this project will physically and economically destroy the trust in our Town’s leadership"

Susan Markin says "The logistics of implementation have never been discussed with residents before the vote and still till this day." She stated that under the conditions that this vote was passed "The residents have every right to be concerned and those who voted for the under grounding did so totally blind as to what to realistically expect. Power outrages, broken water and gas lines due to digging, loss of vegetation in one’s yards, street closings- all will occur. Palm Beach residents will feel that they were misled and pushed into this project. Residents will have to endure the years of construction and disruption….catastrophic!"

Ms. Markin is a major voice in the community and someone whom residents come to with their issues and concerns. She contends that "With almost 50% of the residents against the undergrounding project, when things go awry as they will, Palm Beach property owners will not be as flexible, tolerant, or patient as other smaller towns that unlike Palm Beach had approved their undergrounding utility project with a larger percentage of their residents."

Markin said she’s not surprised at Gulf Stream’s conversion problems to underground their utilities. She said that, "Long delays due to lack of coordination with the various utility companies are always a problem. Cost overruns are most usual for town governments, Palm Beach included." As Ms. Markin describes, these projects are "never accurately estimated with project costs or future costs. The contractors and consultants take advantage of that fact and once the project is committed to, the reality is that there is no turning back. Therefore, the billing is inflated and the taxpayers are the victims. In addition, the towns get desperate to finish the project and they’ll pay anything just to get the job done."

Markin said that, "the problem for Palm Beach is their project is huge in comparison to other towns. The cost overruns will be astronomical, coordination efforts will be overwhelming for the Towns’ staff, their contractors, and worst of all, the Town’s residents will be living with outages, delays, construction and unavoidable additional tax assessments when money runs out. This will inevitably create a mess for longer than anyone might imagine, with years of construction and special assessment tax increases."

Ms. Markin told me that if homeowners had paid for the undergrounding privately, they would have paid considerably less than doing it with this town-wide assessment program the town has developed. Markin explained that she personally is paying at least 5 times more, in contrast to the price she had been quoted by a private contractor to do her project on a neighbor by neighbor basis a couple of years ago. Her explanation for this occurrence is that with this Town-wide project property owners will not only be paying for their own individual costs but also, in addition, they are paying the debt service for the entire town. She explained to me that individuals, under the current way the Town is proceding, are paying a 100% mark up.

Susan Markin is emphatic that "single family homeowners and condo/co-op owners alike are still skeptical and concerned that all the facts related to costs, implementation, end results and time frames, (like advertised 6-10 years to complete construction and 30 years of assessment payments), were not accurately portrayed by the Town."

It is significant that former Town Council Member Susan Markin summed it up in this way: "It is a mistake for the Town Council to want something no matter the cost to the taxpayers, the disruption in the Town’s neighborhoods and the degrading of Palm Beach’s quality of life. The most important thing for any Town Council Member to remember is to not forget that they are supposed to serve all the residents, not the other way around."

 


Palm Beach Voters Discover Gulf Stream's Undergrounding Debacle 

(4-13-16)

The Town of Palm Beach Referendum bond vote on Undergrounding Utilities just squeaked by. Approximately one-half of the voters, 49.3%, opposed this project. Latest Update: According to Palm Beach County Civil Court records it has been confirmed that a lawsuit has been filed against the Town of Palm Beach regarding the bond referendum.

Just after the March 15th referendum vote, information was published that directly challenges Palm Beach’s "Undergrounding Success Stories" advertising campaign. Palm Beach had repeatedly used the small municipality of Gulf Stream as a successful "Poster Child" to encourage undergrounding the utilities in the Town of Palm Beach. The facts regarding Gulf Stream’s undergrounding utilities project, which is far from finished, has turned out to be quite the opposite of what the Town of Palm Beach led voters to believe.

An article in The Coastal Star newspaper, entitled: "Gulf Stream More Delays, Higher costs for Town’s Underground Utilities Project" (3/30/16), showed that there is a parallel between the two Towns’ paths. In 2014 a similar article was written. It’s now apparent that this horror story about a community converting to undergrounding and their unbelievable problems were kept from the voters by the Town of Palm Beach prior to the election. At the 4/5/16 Town Undergrounding Task Force Meeting, the topic was brushed past as if it is insignificant, which is startling!

Gulf Stream Mayor, Steve Morgan, was very forthright during my interview about the issues that they have encountered. The Mayor raised the potential similarities that are likely on a much larger scale when Palm Beach undertakes its own conversion.

The Mayor of Gulf Stream describes the assortment of problematic conditions in his municipality as "a sign of what will happen in Palm Beach, too." His candor and concern is prophetic and as the Coastal Star recently reported, "an ominous sign to surrounding communities", such as a massive 45 mile Palm Beach Undergrounding Project with far more complications and problems on their horizon!

Undergrounding utilities in Gulf Stream has been riddled with major problems which they have encountered, including continual delays. Their proposed three year project dragged on and, according to Gulf Stream officials the project’s completion will be more like six years, double the original estimated time. They must continue to deal with staggering cost increases. The work that was to have cost $2.8M will now approach $4M. This will put the total cost of undergrounding Gulf Stream’s utilities at about $6.5M.

Besides their cost overruns, there are also problems with the assessments. Confusion has resulted for those who have prepaid together with bookkeeping complications. It is necessary to remember that Palm Beach, which has over 8,500 properties to be assessed in its undergrounding project, far exceeds the assessments of only several hundred properties in Gulf Stream.

According to Mayor Morgan, Gulf Stream has 2-3 miles of undergrounding compared to the Town of Palm Beach, which has over 45 miles of wires to bury! Palm Beach has advertised that its project will take six to ten years to complete. If Gulf Stream’s 2-3 miles of undergrounding is requiring almost six years, how can residents of Palm Beach expect 45 miles of undergrounding to be done in the same or slightly more time? Seems like an unrealistic expectation!

In addition, Gulf Stream still has not completed phase one of its two phase project. There are construction issues and problems with FPL, AT&T and Comcast, "who do not work together", according to town officials. This causes delays in taking the poles down.

Another factor which Gulf Stream’s Mayor explained is that, although (as Palm Beach also plans to do) they hired engineers and contractors to design and then implement the project, they had a major issue dealing with FPL. Gulf Stream learned that FPL must review and agree to every aspect of the plan and implementation. Also, the Mayor said that "FPL does the actual drawings." This process was extremely time consuming because FPL’s response time is lengthy.

The Gulf Stream Mayor stands by his description of the construction site as resembling "a Benghazi suburb"! These sites remain in an unfinished state for long periods of time until FPL, AT&T and Comcast work together, the poles are taken down and everything is put back as it should be. The logical question is, "Why would Palm Beach be any different?"

Therefore, the similar pattern of delays, unfinished construction sites, traffic congestion, escalating costs of the project over the years, assessment issues that remain, problems from property owners who do not want transformers or switch boxes on their properties, missteps and mishaps, will create an even more fragmented Town of Palm Beach than resulted from the split vote the referendum left behind.

Another interesting comparison between the two municipalities is that Gulf Stream had a "straw ballot." This means that all property owners participated, not just registered voters. This is in contrast to the Palm Beach situation in which only Florida voters were allowed to participate in the bond referendum to underground utilities.

Mayor Morgan pointed out that, unlike Gulf Stream, "Palm Beach doesn’t have a mandate for this from their people." He said, in his community, they base their decisions on projects using "consensus" from the entire community. The Mayor mentioned that, without those same assurances, he felt it possible that Palm Beach was more likely to encounter continual opposition or challenges from their residents as they move forward with their undergrounding project.

In contrast, in the Town of Palm Beach, the Mayor and Town Council, prior to the referendum, were asked several times at Council Meetings to follow what other communities did and allow a town-wide "straw ballot." Palm Beach officials refused! Gulf Stream’s officials have acknowledged that at this point they have no choice but to move forward, because the town is too far into the project to turn back. Hopefully, Palm Beach officials will change their path and move away from this town-wide conversion project to prevent a parallel of this type of future that seems inevitable for Palm Beach if they stay their course.

 


Palm Beach’s Bond Referendum Squeaks By Leaving the Town Fragmented

(March 30, 2016)

The Town of Palm Beach’s undergrounding referendum bond vote squeaked by with a razor thin victory that left the Town totally fragmented! The 65% of the South-End that voted "against bonds" were joined by 42% in Midtown and the North-End, constituting 49.3% of all voters.

Palm Beach after this election now consists of voters and numerous disenfranchised property owners that have intense feelings of angst and are still actively opposed to the project.

Compounding the unrest is the fact that 2,000 provisional ballots in Palm Beach County were "tossed."

I have interviewed several Palm Beach voters who were all part of the 49.3% of the town-wide opposition vote. They are a sample of the reasons and issues that are still outstanding in the Town of Palm Beach after the March 15th election. As you read, you will clearly see that there is a similarity and common ground among the voters in this Town on their views.

As to why they believe that this referendum was so controversial and why they opposed it: Susan Watts said, "The plan was ill conceived." She thought that "it came across to (her) and to many voters as a beautification project, not ultimately worth the time, the cost nor the risk of massive dredging into our high water table."

Belle Winston said that she "didn’t believe asking all residents of the town to assume responsibility for a $90M debt over a 30 year period for an issue which has been and can continue to be dealt with on a neighborhood basis, was the right thing to do."

Patrick Cullen stated he "was initially appalled by the absence of details (by the Town) and the incomplete picture of why this huge expenditure was necessary." Patrick also has a problem with "The method of paying for the project and the inherently unequal formula for the assessments".

Barbara Callahan, said she "thinks it became controversial because of sincere differences of opinion on the need for undergrounding and whether or not it would be beneficial for Palm Beach residents."

Robert Davidow, chairman of Palm Beachers for Common Sense, the grassroots PAC in opposition to the referendum, felt "People came to understand that unlike any other project in the Town’s history, every resident will be fiscally and physically impacted by the results everyday for the remainder of their lives". The construction/disruption is said to be a decade long and the special assessment tax will go on for 30 years. Robert further explained "Other projects like, beach nourishment, repairing the main water lines, sewer lines, etc., at the end of the day, some of those things are absolutely necessary for our safety and well being. Most of them don’t directly impact that many people materially as does this town-wide undergrounding of our utility wires. People became emotionally and intellectually involved and wanted the outcome to go their way."

Susan Watts feels that "The close vote indicates there is not a clear mandate to proceed as the project is currently proposed. Plus, in my opinion (as a midtown resident), it was not a North/South issue. Additionally, it concerns me that many property owners did not have an opportunity to vote on the bond issue even though they pay taxes and will pay additional taxes because of the passage" of the undergrounding referendum. "For me, it was less about the allocation of cost than the cost itself…. And the disruption, a massive construction project such as this could cause. Many unintended and unexpected consequences could arise. By the time the 30 year bond is repaid, or perhaps before, undergrounding and in fact all delivery of power via wires and cables could likely be obsolete!"

Belle Winston, as to whether the marginal win changed her feelings, "My concerns about the finances and disruptions which affect our life in Palm Beach remain the same." She is still troubled by the 10 years of construction/disruption to complete the project and said, "Palm Beach is my home and I will have to deal with delays, additional costs, noise, etc., year round."

Patrick Cullen, said, "It means that if this should go forward, we will be paying this bill until, we move or die." "So, I will be passing this debt on to the next generation along with the national debt, I find this unacceptable."

Robert Davidow says that one of several major issues for those opposed to this town-wide undergrounding project is "The Fairness or wealth transfer issue. This is the first time that a town-wide project is being paid for with special assessments that necessitate the owners of the lowest assessed properties to transfer substantial amounts of wealth, about $50M over 30 years, to the owners of properties with the highest wealth values."

Regardless of where these Palm Beach residents live in town, there is a commonality and kinship amongst them. Clearly, they have similar views and issues that prove that the voting results fragmented the town, not based on region but on whether residents supported the referendum vs. opposed the referendum.

In part 2 we will hear more from Palm Beach voters who had opposed the referendum. We will learn what their views are on the issues that we face and what they now think since its passage, what insights they have and what they recommend to the Town moving forward.

Until next time, stay safe and be well and stay tuned.

 


Should a Flood Prone Barrier Island Community Vote to Underground Utilities? Know the Facts!

A 3-Part Series

(2-3-16) Part 1 of 3:

The Town of Palm Beach is proposing through a referendum on a bond issue on March 15, 2016, that they underground their utility wires in a massive Town-wide, $152.4 Million ($90M plus $62.4M in interest) 10 year long Undergrounding Utility Project. It will be "…payable from Town’s full faith, credit, ad valorem taxing power and non ad valorem special assessments…". This Assessment (tax) will require payments each year for over 30 years. This is actually an increase in the taxes you pay every year. It will be added to property tax bills for Town property owners each year. However, unlike our property taxes, this Special Assessment WILL NOT BE TAX DEDUCTIBLE!

Before the vote on this immensely important referendum takes place the residents in Palm Beach, as well as our Condo News readership, are entitled to know ALL the facts and implications of converting from overhead wiring to undergrounding. These impacts are important to all Town residents and property owners, whether they vote or not. It is unfortunate that the Town Officials rejected the recommendation by concerned residents to allow a "straw ballot" for non voter property owners who are equally impacted by the decision that Town voters will make on March 15th. The facts, implications and revelations that you will learn from this series will make everyone more aware of the important details that need to be understood before they are voted upon.

It is interesting to note that the Town has paid a political consultant $125,000, in taxpayer funds, to promote the passage of this referendum. The consultant at a public meeting stated, "We have … days to sell this thing."

If this Undergrounding Referendum gets 51% favorable votes, this will be the first Town wide Special Assessment within the Town of Palm Beach. Many property owners find that fact alarming because it will set a precedent that can lead to other Town-wide non tax deductible assessments for other projects going forward.

This proposed Town-wide Special Assessment is a rejection of pure Ad Valorem taxation which has been the standard of the American taxation system which began in 1812. Our property tax bills are normally based on assessed property values. In Florida the Homesteading benefit is an optional choice for every Florida property owner. With this Special Assessment however, the Homesteaders are deprived of their statutory benefits!!

The Town’s Special Assessment methodology is based on a perception of "benefits" that the Town claims will be calculated based on the Aesthetics, Reliability and Safety benefits that each property owner is believed to realize from the Town converting to undergrounding the utility lines.

Let’s begin with some important facts about RELIABILITY. I’ll pose questions that readers should answer after you have read the following facts about Reliability issues. These facts have been derived directly from FPL.

1- FPL states that "hardening" our overhead poles and lines withstands 145 mph winds. "Our strengthened power lines and poles have already performed better both during storms and when skies are blue. Our experience with tropical storms in the past few years shows that strengthened main power lines are roughly half as likely to experience an outage during severe weather. Under normal weather conditions, hardening a power line reduces frequency of daily outages by up to 40%."

2- Palm Beach Island is a low lying barrier island and is in the "Flood Plain", thereby making it Flood Prone. It doesn’t take a hurricane to flood many areas on the island. Sometimes a nor’easter or just a heavy rain storm will flood the streets within the Town of Palm Beach. Also, the Intracoastal is rising every year. It often floods the banks and the properties.

3- According to FPL, "While underground facilities are not as susceptible to wind and debris-blown damage, they are MORE susceptible to water intrusion and local FLOOD DAMAGE, which can make repairs more time consuming and costly." "UNDERGROUND INTERRUPTIONS…typically last longer due to more complex repair requirements. Following …hurricanes, we’ve found that areas that took the longest to repair were generally those served by underground facilities still flooded days after the storm passes. Damage and corrosion of underground electrical systems often shows up days or even months later, causing additional outages and inconvenience to customers."

With what you have just read, is it worth paying a Non Tax Deductible Special Assessment every year for over 30 years and endure 10 years of massive construction for a non-essential undergrounding project that will cost a minimum of $152.4 Million?

Does this sound like a good investment?

On Tuesday, March 15, 2016, Town voters will be asked to vote for or against this Undergrounding Referendum. Knowing what you now know, why wouldn’t you "VOTE AGAINST" the Bond Referendum?

 

(2-17-16) Part 2 of 3:

Photo by Maddy Greenberg

Overhead "hardened" poles and wires south of Lake Ave in Palm Beach. Cement poles and coated wires that will withstand 145mph winds, quick repairs, free of charge to Town residents, no additional tax on property tax bills, made to blend in with trees and not obstructive to the view. Why spend $152.4M to get rid of them and pay up to a 10-15% tax increase for new underground utility reliability flood type problems?

Photo from the Florida Public Service Commission Undergrounding Report (FLPSC)

 

This transformer is underwater and the utility wires are underground. Is this something that we want to have happen to us on a "flood plain barrier island?

 

As was discussed in Part 1 of this 3 part series, the Town of Palm Beach is asking the voters to approve a referendum on March 15, 2016, to issue bonds that would pay to underground the Town’s utility wires in a massive 10 year Town-wide Undergrounding Utility Project.

According to one of the Town’s pamphlets, labeled "Information Guide", "Longboat Key" is identified as a success story. The following report is from the newspaper in Longboat Key, Your Observer, entitled "Power Outage Sparks Concern", dated 7-22-15, http://www.yourobserver.com/article/power-outage-sparks-concern, "Altogether, 3,500 Longboat Key homes lost power that night … some lost power for a few hours, while others were in the dark for up to 10 hours." "The main culprit for those 10-hour outages was an underground powerline … that fizzled out and needed to be replaced …" "The outage was a firsthand lesson for Long Boaters on one of the disadvantages of underground utilities."

The article goes on to say, "... when a line goes out underground, it takes longer to determine where the problem is coming from, to dig up the problem and repair it."

In addition, "...two above ground switch cabinets, which sit in metal boxes above ground and transfer power … malfunctioned. One of them smoked, prompting Longboat Key firefighters/ police to respond…"

FPL spokesman Bill Orlove stated, "It takes time to dig up a new wire and replace it". "It’s not the only con that comes with burying the island’s power lines…"

There is a similarity about Longboat Key and the proposed undergrounding utility project that the Town of Palm Beach is promoting. They are both barrier islands. Therefore, the major outage problems and impacts that undergrounded Longboat Key had suffered can easily be what the Town of Palm Beach would incur if the voters allow this referendum to pass.

Most significant is the statement regarding barrier island Longboat Key’s undergrounding problems, that "A severe weather event, such as a hurricane, could leave the island without power for a longer amount of time." "The island is susceptible to flooding after a severe storm, and crews can’t restore power until water recedes, so it delays the time it takes to restore power", Orlove said, "Water and electricity don’t mix."

A resident of Longboat Key said something quite applicable for Palm Beachers, "For people who live here year-round in the summer months, power outages that last this long are a real concern"…"The cons of underground service are real." Which the resident summed up with, "This may be wrong for this island."

The Town of Palm Beach is on a "Flood Plain" barrier island. Although the Town listed Longboat Key as a success, it appears that if we follow in their footsteps, the outcome would be equally sad and similar.

In contrast to Undergrounding, Orlove also stated that, Overhead "hardening efforts increase service reliability to critical community facilities, identified through our collaboration with local officials… These critical community facilities include hospitals, police and fire stations and emergency communication systems."

Therefore, the claim by the Town of Palm Beach that undergrounding utilities creates better reliability, is clearly taken out of context and not accurate as it relates to our flood plain and flood prone barrier island.

Town officials and staff have attempted to make statements of their own in order to counter the reliability "Cons" or "Disadvantages" from FPL, that tell us that "damage and corrosion of underground electrical systems often show up days or even months after, causing additional outages…". Town of Palm Beach staff have defended their claims of reliability by telling the electorate and putting it in writing that the cable under the Intracoastal doesn’t get wet inside and corrode, therefore neither would the undergrounded utility wires. That statement by Town staff reflects a lack of electrical and engineering expertise on this issue.

According to Izak Teller, Palm Beach resident, President of 2600 Condominium on South Ocean Blvd. and experienced electrical and construction engineer by trade, who worked on Manhattan island with overhead and underground utilities for many years; there is a very real difference between the cable that runs across the floor of the Intracoastal and underground utility wires. Mr. Teller explains that, "The wire under the Intracoastal is continuous, without connections or transformers. The wires laid underground for our utilities have ‘taps’ at every four houses to connect to transformers and the transformers are above ground. The transformers have additional ‘taps’ to feed the four houses it serves. These taps have to be made ‘accessible’… and they are more difficult to seal. IT IS VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO SEAL ALL THE ‘TAPS’ OR CONNECTIONS REQUIRED. EACH CONNECTION IS A POTENTIAL AREA FOR WATER INFILTRATION. The lines under the Intracoastal are by definition more resistant than those placed underground for the utilities on our barrier island."

This major problem with corrosion and damage to the wires due to our flood prone barrier island and the power outage incident and consequences on barrier island Longboat Key, should make all Palm Beach voters’ common sense kick into gear. Common Sense tells us that regardless of the cost, significant or not, all voters should VOTE "AGAINST BONDS" and the Underground Utility Project Referendum on March 15, 2016. It just doesn’t make sense to do anything else.

 

(3-2-16) Part 3 of 3:

Photo by Maddy Greenberg

How would you like this new undergrounding equipment placed in front of your property? Why trade safe poles that are replaced for free for an underground system and HIGHER TAXES for the next 30 years?

The Town of Palm Beach is proposing a massive town-wide expenditure to be financed by all the property owners for the purpose of undergrounding utility wires. This town-wide project will go before the voters as a bond referendum on March 15th in order to finance a $152.4 Million ($90M plus another $62.4M in interest).

If this referendum succeeds, there will be a 10 year long construction and disruption within the Town, where the roads and parts of properties will be torn up. I heard testimony at a town meeting which indicated that there will be interruption of service, installation delays over problems that come from unexpected causes and power outages during the construction phase. Endless construction will become a way of life for a decade in the Town in order to underground utilities so that those who don’t like looking at overhead poles and wires will be satisfied.

In doing this series, I reviewed the Florida Public Service Commission Reports on Undergrounding as well as many other studies and reports; including FPL’s website. I interviewed Florida Public Service Commission, FEMA and FPL representatives. I learned a great deal about the advantages and disadvantages of both overhead wiring and undergrounding our utilities. Based on my research and the experts I consulted there appears to conclusive evidence that there are too many unknowns and disadvantages to favor a project that is so flawed both in its presentation by the Town, the difficulty with a conversion in an established community and, most of all, the construction and implementation of undergrouding utility wires in a flood plain, flood prone barrier island!

As a voter myself, I can not in good conscience support this referendum because of the many impacts it will create for the Town of Palm Beach. Among them tax increases on our property tax bills of up to 20% and more. Without the ability to take a tax deduction on the increase that would be levied upon us for a non essential luxury item, it will be a hardship for many and an unnecessary increase for those who pay enough taxes already.

In addition, there will be many other major inconveniences that this project will cause. There will be fights over which properties will allow the placement of transformer boxes, their size and also the larger switch boxes. Since there is no design or plan no one really knows what size the equipment will be in front of either single family homes or multi family condominiums.

With our flood prone issues and the realities that we know about the corrosion that takes place with the salt air and salt water intrusion, plus the flood issues that we have suffered from historically, which will only get worse with the rising seas. It makes for a flawed undergrounding utilities project, which is, in essence, like buying a pig in a poke with a blank check!

These facts make Town-wide undergrounding of utility lines for so many miles and thousands of property units a very different project than other undergrounding projects that have been constructed in other locations.

The question I have repeatedly been asked is why? Why are we being pushed so hard to do this? We know that the hardened poles and wires that already exist in the Town are not the monstrosities that we are seeing in the ads that the Town is showing! We also know that FPL will, in fact, replace wooden poles with hardened poles free and as part of the fees you already pay them! There are much more important issues and matters that need our attention. According to FPL Spokesperson Bill Orlove, "Hardening efforts increase service reliability to critical community facilities, which are identified though collaboration with local officials…"

FPL’s Bill Orlove said, "Undergrounding power lines is NOT a ‘silver bullet’." That same thing had been echoed by FPL Regional Manager, Ethel Isaacs Williams and John Lehr, who came to speak before the Town’s task force in October. They all acknowledged that undergrounding utilities means power would be "susceptible to flooding. The power outages in some areas may be on good days less frequent, but the outages from undergrounding are much longer to restore."

FPL’s Orlove said, "…in terms of overhead wiring, our strengthened power lines and poles have already performed better both during storms and when skies are blue. Our experience with tropical storms in the past few years show that strengthened main power lines are roughly half as likely to experience an outage during severe weather. Under normal conditions, hardening a power line reduces frequency of daily outages by up to 40%."

Logic and common sense tells a reasonable individual that we have little choice but to VOTE AGAINST BONDS in this undergrounding referendum. It is just not good, sound business to blindly buy an item and hope for the best! We need to get to the polls and VOTE AGAINST THE BONDS ON MARCH 15th!

 


Hurricanes, Their Strength and The History of These Storms Should Jolt Us Into Non-complacency

~ a 10-part series ~

(7-8-15) Part 1

The other night we had a booming thunder storm that went on for several hours. It sounded quite close to my apartment. The winds picked up and the rain came down quite heavily. At around midnight, for a few short minutes we lost power. All of this made me think about the fact that we are in hurricane season and although it is ten years this October since Hurricane Wilma, we should always be vigilant about the possibilities of being hit head on by a hurricane.

A couple of years ago, Tropical Storm Sandy was 250 miles offshore here in Palm Beach County, yet that one Tropical Storm which was so far away did its share of damage.

Let’s not forget the dangers of hurricanes and remind ourselves that we should be prepared during this season, whether by purchasing supplies or promoting shoreline protection, such as beach nourishment projects designed to protect ourselves from at least a Category 2 hurricane.

Let me give you a better idea as to what these "categories" mean to us laymen. There is a Wind Scale for hurricanes that goes from one to five. Category 1: have sustained winds of 74 up to 95 mph. Sometimes a Cat 1 storm is even more dangerous than a 4 or 5 storm, because if the storm stays in the area and moves very slowly, which is not likely with a Cat 4 or 5, it creates more damage. A Category 2 hurricane: has sustained winds of 96 up to 110 mph. This is considered a dangerous storm because of the winds causing more damage. Category 3: have sustained winds of 111 up to 129 mph. This level of a hurricane can cause devastating damage and loss of life. Category 4 which has winds that sustain at 130 to 156 mph is considered catastrophic in its magnitude. God forbid we are ever hit by a CAT 5 hurricane, with winds of 157 mph and higher, it will be a major catastrophe that despite shutters, hurricane glass and beach nourishment, the upland properties and those of us living in its path, will be devastated. The wind scale I describe is from the National Hurricane Center.

Aside from the strong winds, there is the damage that is caused by flooding in many of our low lying flood areas, plus the horrendous impacts of the wave action which will cause destruction to any shoreline that is unprotected, and cause a loss of property and create an unsafe situation resulting in millions of dollars of damage. As I recall since I was in my condo with my sweet parents during Hurricane Wilma besides everything else during the hurricane it sprouted tornadoes as well. Any of these storms can cause multi billions of dollars in damage to the infrastructure we have along the coastline and it will also do damage inland as we saw in other hurricane of the past.

That is most definitely a scary possibility and so we have to advocate for better shoreline protection projects so that a mere Tropical Storm does not cause unnecessary harm and we have the right to expect shoreline protection from a the very least up to a CAT 3 hurricane. For inland properties and infrastructure, better building codes, shutters and impact glass is something we need to make sure is taken care of.

Next issue I will talk a bit more about some of our historical hurricanes and what we should have learned since then.

***

 

(7-22-15) Part 2 

The last major hurricane to hit Palm Beach County, had no name, but this storm which hit the County back in 1949 hit the Town of Palm Beach in the south end, just north of what is now the Four Seasons. The storm made landfall on August 28th. In those days storms were not given names. Ironically, that began the following year. The storm was upgraded last year to a Category 4 hurricane by the Atlantic Hurricane Database.

Back then, there wasn’t that much of a population here in Palm Beach County, like we have today. If that storm hit us now, just on Palm Beach Island alone, it would cause many billions of dollars in damage with all the infrastructure along and adjacent to the coastline, which includes condos, homes, stores, the many buildings so close to the shoreline.

That doesn’t include the life and safety issues that would greatly endanger our populace. Isn’t that scary? I think it is actually terrifying. Especially, since we are greatly unprepared for such a storm. Just the flood areas alone, let alone that our buildings (our condos and homes) are not built or prepared to with stand such high wind velocities, nor the hotels and motels we will take shelter in.

Let’s pray, that doesn’t happen during any of our lifetimes. The loss of life would be more tragic than the loss of property, in my opinion. Especially because of the complacency that has become so common among all of us. I must admit, that includes me. Ten years is a long time and we forget or just choose to. I can’t even imagine what could happen to those that do not evacuate in such a storm, or choose poorly built structures to take shelter in. I remember how impossible it was to get reservations in hotels or motels at that time and how so many residents were trapped out on the roads in traffic jams on I-95 or the turnpike.

The 1949 hurricane had sustained winds of 132 mph when it hit the land. That made it a CAT 4 storm. It is said that according to an anemometer reading from Palm Beach recorded gusts were up to 155mph. Can you just imagine that and what the damage that would do throughout Palm Beach County? North of Palm Beach up in Jupiter and Stuart, the anemometer stopped after reaching 153 mph. The storm battered Palm Beach island for two hours and wreaked havoc, even in those days.

Let’s compare that to our most recent hurricanes, Frances, which hit on September 5, 2004, and a few weeks later on September, 25th, Hurricane Jeanne followed. This year is the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Wilma, which hit in October of 2005.

According to the National Weather Service, Frances’ winds were 64 mph in Palm Beach County, with highest gusts of 91 mph. The peak gust was measured at the Jupiter Inlet. Frances made landfall in Martin County at Seawall’s Point. The eye of the storm did move into northeastern Palm Beach County though.

Hurricane Jeanne’s strongest official sustained wind was recorded at 60 mph at the Lake Worth Pier, with an unofficial peak gust that was as high as 125 mph.

Hurricane Wilma, our most recent hurricane to hit us in Florida, has been 10 years ago.

For those of us, like me, just think how much our lives have changed since Frances, Jeanne and Wilma. Unbelievable! I know where I was in each of those storms. Who I was with and what I was doing. If you were here in Florida, what were you doing and how has your life changed since then?

Think about it and we will continue this in our next issue. Until then, be well, stay safe and make a prayer that we will have another year free of those hurricanes and hopefully free of a Tropical Storm, even one that hits 250 miles offshore.

***

 

(8-5-15) Part 3

In our last issue I mentioned the unnamed 1949 Hurricane that hit Palm Beach just north of the Four Seasons resort. That storm was thus far the most powerful hurricane to hit Palm Beach. The previous powerful hurricane to hit the island was in 1928. Some argue that it was the worse storm to hit the island, because of the damage it did. Luckily though for Palm Beach there were no deaths, unlike the thousands that it killed in the Glades after the dike south of Lake Okeechobee burst. Among the damage that the 1928 storm left in Palm Beach, it completely washed out entire sections of A1A. It took 20 years before Palm Beach was hit by second major storms, in 1947 and 1949, which apparently also washed away other parts of A1A or South Ocean Boulevard.

Jim Williams of Delray Beach, hosts a website called HurricaneCity.com. Apparently Mr. Williams who put together various data on cities along the East Coast and the Gulf coastline, claims that the Town of Palm Beach gets hit or is affected by tropical storms or hurricanes about every 2.07 years and hit directly with hurricane winds once every 5.56 years.

Yet it has been 10 years since Hurricane Wilma hit, so there must be other things that affect hurricanes and where they come ashore. They say that the water temperature being cooler and a weak El Nino have an affect on things. As we all know, even a tropical storm, 250 miles offshore can have a terrible impact on our shoreline. Isn’t that what Tropical Storm Sandy taught us just a few years ago? She damaged our coastline and reeked havoc as Super Storm Sandy when she went up the coastline.

When Hurricane Wilma impacted and struck Palm Beach, 54 years after the August 26, 1949 hurricane, Wilma was a (borderline) CAT2, there are some who say it was a CAT 1 storm. Either way, regardless of which category Wilma was, just look at all the damage she did.

God forbid we should get a 1949 type CAT 4 hurricane, then the hurricanes of Frances, Jeanne and Wilma will look like a picnic and we will find ourselves totally unprepared. Yes, we have better building codes and even our insurance has been upgraded with mandatory shutters in most condos and many people now have impact hurricane glass windows and doors, but remember, our buildings were built years before Frances, Jeanne and Wilma. Therefore our homes and condos may have the proper glass and shutters, but that doesn’t mean we are protected from storm surge and just because your home may be standing, doesn’t make it habitable. Think of the damage that flooding can do.

I am not attempting to scare anybody, just think about the fact that the storms are coming from the ocean and the storm surges and the impacts to our properties and homes comes from that direction, therefore the condition of our shoreline is of utmost importance to our survival.

At times like these, the lake level rises and floods, but our major issue and concern comes from the ocean side and without the proper shoreline protection we are all in peril.

Let me tell you a story when I was in my condo years ago, with my two sweet loving parents during Hurricanes Jeanne and later during Wilma. My mom had fallen in a motel where we were staying when we were evacuated during Frances. As a result, my dad refused to leave during the next two hurricanes. You may recall that I was a caregiver for my two elderly parents and I certainly would never leave them alone to fend for themselves, so we stayed in our condo.

Actually during Wilma, the Town of Palm Beach did not call for an evacuation until too close to the hurricane coming ashore and it was in the middle of the night.

Back in 2000, I was one of the pioneers along South Ocean Boulevard who had Hurricane glass and sliding doors installed in my unit. I do not have hurricane shutters and therefore I observed the two hurricanes while I stayed in my condo with my parents.

What I experienced in my observations was quite frightening. I watched the waves rise and the hurricane force wind driven rain and water came over the dunes and flooded our pool deck and came into the first floor in certain areas, which is on the pool deck level. My apartment faces both the ocean and the Intracoastal. From the lake side on the other side of A1A, I watched as the water rose and came east, flooding the land on the west side and coming onto A1A or South Ocean Boulevard. Luckily, it wasn’t that bad in those storms from that side. Although, during the height of the storms, I remember thinking that the ocean and the lake might meet and I could see my hurricane windows were slightly bowed by the hurricane force winds and the driven rain.

To be prepared in the future, because even in quiet hurricane season and periods of time, there is still the possibility of a major storm or even a "Super Storm". We have to think about the buffer that is imperative to protect us. That buffer and best protection from Mother Nature, is our shoreline. What that means is it is even more essential to renourish our beaches that over these years have become critically eroded. The renourishment projects must be done in a manner that are most effective for the long term and help shield us against hurricanes. Without that, we are going to be sitting ducks and that just isn’t acceptable, because it can be prevented.

There is more to come on this subject in our next issue. Until then, be well and stay safe.

***

 

(8-19-15) Part 4

This aerial photo taken from a 1940s postcard shows the Lake Worth Casino in the center with A1A running the entire distance north and south of the casino right along the beach. The road in this area was later moved away from the water. 

Photo courtesy: 

Florida Photographic Collection.

As to the Hurricanes of the 1940s in Palm Beach, there were several that came one year after another. The first came in 1945 on September 15th and it had 130 mph winds. In 1947 a CAT 4 hurricane came on September 17th with 155 mph winds and then in 1948 on September 22nd another 85 mph hurricane came along. The 1949 hurricane came in August on the 26th and the eye passed directly over Palm Beach with 150 mph winds. During those hurricanes, Lewis Kapner was a young boy who lived with his family on Seaview Ave. across the street from where the Palm Beach Day School is in the Town of Palm Beach. His parents owned a grocery store in town.

Dawn & Lewis Kapner

 

File photo by Maddy Greenberg

Lew Kapner, along with his lovely wife Dawn, are now my neighbors at my condominium in the south end of the Town of Palm Beach on South Ocean Boulevard. But, in the 1940s, Lew lived with his parents in midtown Palm Beach. He is a native Palm Beacher, who grew up in the Town of Palm Beach and then later his family moved to the north end of town. So, he knows exactly what it was like to live through a series of hurricanes, pre-doppler radar, hurricane planes, mass evacuations and air conditioning in the heat of the summer in Palm Beach, Florida. Can’t imagine how difficult that was.

As Lew remembers, back in the ‘40s he was not evacuated and stayed on the barrier island for all the hurricanes. As a kid, Lew said he did not realize the seriousness and life and safety issues that come along with a hurricane. Especially, living on a barrier island and instead he thought that flooded streets and downed trees were rather fun to play in after the storm subsided. Lewis said he remembered the high winds and heavy rain, but luckily his family home did not get flooded or torn apart, which I am sure was not true for everyone living in the Town of Palm Beach throughout those series of storms. Considering the severity of those storms, Lew and his family were rather lucky to have pulled through unscathed. A good possibility which saved many lives and homes at that time was the fact that the beaches in those areas of town were not eroded and the beaches and dunes saved them from catastrophic damages.

As a homegrown Palm Beacher and Floridian, Lew stayed in the area and as an adult lived with his wife in his family home in the north end of Palm Beach where the couple raised their children. Lew is a retired Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Palm Beach County and Mr. Kapner is currently an attorney with a practice in marriage and family law, where his daughter, who is also a homegrown Palm Beacher, practices law by her dad’s side.

Unfortunately, even with modern technology and the pre-knowledge of a coming storm in today’s world, in many ways we could be worse off if those types of hurricanes battered us today.

Why you wonder? Those answers will come as this series continues.

More on this series in our next issue, so stay tuned. Find out why in many ways if we don’t get the proper beach nourishment on all of those badly (critically) eroded beaches we are worse off today here on South Ocean Boulevard if we had those same types of hurricanes.

Most importantly we will cover why beach nourishment is so important to protect our lives and properties not only on the shoreline but inland too.

Until then, be well and stay safe.

***

(9-2-15) Part 5

As all Condo News readers are aware, through my series on "Hurricanes: Their Strength & the History of These Storms & What It Should Mean to Us", I had mentioned that since we have not had a hit by a hurricane since Wilma ten years ago, we have become overly complacent. I wrote that although it was predicted by the experts that this would be a quiet hurricane season for us, that doesn’t mean that one big storm either "brushing the coastline", "hitting us head on" or even coming in the State from the west, can’t cause hardship and or worse.

My articles also talked about the prospect of flooding. Now as of Friday, August 28th when I am writing this article, we are not sure whether "Erika" will be a powerful Tropical Storm or speed up and go back to a CAT 1 hurricane. According to the weather experts and TV that have reported that Erika keeps changing from hour to hour. As of yet no one knows exactly how or if Erika is going to affect all of our homes and our lives.

In this part 5 of my series we are going to take a short break from the history of our hurricanes and what is necessary to take place on our coastline areas that have been critically eroded; instead we are going to talk about "Erika", which has put much of Southeast Florida into a panic for several days now.

I don’t recall until this particular storm, ever hearing about the "cone of uncertainty". Which is layman’s terms means to me that with all their fancy technological equipment, they still don’t know where or if this storm will strike South east Florida. Not too comforting. It appears to our good fortune at the moment of my writing this article that the storm might weaken. Let us pray.

Another thing that this storm has proven to be so is that in the past 10 years, two things have taken place: 1- Many new people have moved here to Florida and they are totally unaware and have no real idea how to prepare for a hurricane. 2- Although there are many like me that lived through the more recent hurricanes and tropical storms, it has been a long time and we have become complacent. Both types of folks are dangerous, because none of us really know when that one storm that hits us head on and hangs out for any length of time and causes some sort of devastation could take place.

We need to stay vigilant and prepare and take the necessary measures to prevent the onslaught of catastrophic erosion on beaches that have been allowed to deteriorate, so that it doesn’t cause the loss of infrastructure, homes, buildings and lives.

We must also be prepared so that, flooding and wind damage doesn’t cause cataclysmic conditions because the population having been too complacent and ignoring the signs and the need to prepare themselves and their properties.

A hurricane can come along when we least expect it and when we are unprepared. One such imperative measure to avoid catastrophe is to develop and construct beach nourishment projects designed to take the brunt of hurricanes, instead of what exists now in some areas of the coastline where there is nothing to buffer the onslaught of the wave energy caused by the hurricane which typically comes from the ocean side.

Another thing to get ready for is preparing for the loss of power due to high winds and the deluge of heavy duty rains.

All of these possibilities exist and preventative measures need to take place before tragedy becomes the outcome, some of it which could have been avoided.

I hope that when you read this article on Wednesday, Erika will be a distant bump in the radar. Most importantly it is this writer’s hope that people realize preventative measures to ensure life and safety which are a must when you live in Southeast Florida.

This series will continue, because there is a lot more to learn about when it comes to hurricanes, their strength, the history of these storms and what it should mean to us.

Be safe, stay well and pray that we avoid any hurricanes this season.

***

(9-16-15) Part 6:

When you live in Florida it is understandable, intelligent and necessary to have concerns about the impacts of hurricanes on safety, on homes and on surrounding areas. It is what we do to resolve these valid concerns that really matters to be able to maintain and protect our way of life and our future.

As this series has progressed and we have learned about some of the significant hurricanes and storms and how they can affect us, you will, hopefully, come to the same conclusion as I have. In order for that to take place you need to follow this series to its completion.

If you would like to catch up on any previous articles in my series, go to http://www.condonewsonline.com/ Condos of S. Ocean Blvd., PB.

In my series, you have read about some of the most significant hurricanes to hit Palm Beach County and specifically Palm Beach Island, starting with the unnamed storm in the 1920s and the series of storms that hit in the mid to late 1940s.

You have seen a photo of the south end of Palm Beach Island back in the ‘20s and early ‘40s, when State Road A1A was located on the ocean and had to be moved west to where it is today because of the constant sand erosion from the hurricanes that kept damaging it. You saw in that same photo, how large those beaches were, prior to the critical erosion which has been allowed to exacerbate due to neglect which has diminished those beaches over the years to narrow eroded slivers that endanger the upland properties as well as the inland properties behind them.

In Part 5 of this series, I stopped my usual history and educational direction to talk about "Erika" and how our complacency regarding storms here is foolish. We may have dodged the bullet this time and hopefully we will escape unscathed for yet another hurricane season. However, that does not mean that there will not come a time when our luck will run out and we will be hit by hurricanes one year after another. We are talking about safety, survival, environmental maintenance and proactive measures to protect all of our investments in our coastal sunshine State.

There are those who might say, "The beach has nothing to do with me. Who cares about the beaches of Palm Beach or any beaches in Palm Beach County?" I have heard people say, "Beaches don’t protect us; we don’t live on the beach so that is the problem for those living directly on the beach-front, not ours." They are WRONG!! Everyone should care, because those beaches and their condition have a definite impact on all of us here in southeast Florida and also those beaches in Palm Beach County where our readers live. Keep reading my series and learn why you, too, should become an advocate of beach nourishment and the appropriate measures to protect one of our most important resources and investments as well as our safety.

It is a known fact that heavily populated areas with coastal development much like what we have here on the barrier island of Palm Beach, without significant sand volume to create a sloped beach with dunes, are at great risk of damage from hurricanes and storms. When a barrier island has been completely developed, as we have for example in the Town of Palm Beach, the entire island, whether you think you live off the beach or not, from east to west, from the north to south- are all affected by a hurricane that comes ashore when there are still beaches on the island that are critically eroded and have not gone through contiguous adequate beach nourishment projects in order to protect and hold back the wave action that comes ashore.

As to the inland properties, when the island no longer serves to protect those on the mainland west of them, they will be flooded and have severe impacts as well.

According to sources like The Journal of the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA), which has been in existence since 1926:

"People are driven by a strong desire to protect life and property. Trillions of dollars in property, structures, (like condos, co-ops, hotels, private homes and businesses), and infrastructure overlook our nation’s shorelines."

"Eroding beaches left alone, will continue to put people, as well as our cultural, historic, economic and environmental resources at risk for damages from hurricanes and coastal storms."

"The physical characteristics of the coastline, tides and other factors can affect what happens when a storm makes landfall on an eroding beach. While the width of the beach affects wave attack, the elevation of the beach affects storm surge, which is a higher than normal rise in sea level caused by high winds topped by waves. Storm surge can inundate and destroy coastal areas (and barrier islands). The higher the storm surge, the closer the water and waves are to more people and property."

"On an eroding beach at a low elevation, even a modest storm surge can cause significant damage."

To be continued.

 

I would also like to thank Daniel Bates, Deputy Director of Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners Department of Environmental Resource Management, Environmental Enhancement & Restoration. Deputy Director Bates’s assistance with providing me resources and information has and continues to be invaluable to this series.

***

(9-30-15) Part 7:

During this series we have learned a great deal about our coastline, the risks that we face because of the critical erosion of our beachfront and the necessity of restoring it for our protection.

In order to reverse the critical erosion of our beaches, adequate amounts of appropriate quality sand must be placed on our beaches. These beach nourishment projects must be accomplished to protect the life and safety of the residents who live on barrier islands and the mainland as well as the natural and irreplaceable resources and financial investments contained within.

We need to be proactive instead of reactive in protecting our shoreline. Those of us who have lived in this locale of Florida for over 10 years still have vivid memories of Hurricane Wilma! We may have been fortunate in some of our situations because the category and severity of Wilma could have been so much worse. However, we still experienced great damage to our homes and investments.

Saving our barrier island shoreline should be a TOP Priority for the State, Municipality and Town’s "Wants and Needs List". Tax Money that is spent on inadequate and "quick fix" beach nourishment projects is wasteful and totally ineffective!

In Part 6 of my series, I explained that if you live anywhere on a barrier island, you are endangered by poor maintenance of the beaches of the coastline here in southeast Florida.

In addition, those who live inland are negatively impacted if the barrier islands, which nature created to protect the mainland, do not have enough beach quality compatible sand placed through properly designed beach nourishment projects onto the beaches as the ultimate protection required for the various levels of hurricanes and coastal storms.

As my series winds down I will present additional information to support why beach nourishment is a necessity for all local shorelines.

The Journal of the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association, (ASBPA) adequately states that, "Healthy beaches not only are important to our quality of life, but also protect people and property along the coasts from hurricanes and coastal storms."

More explicitly ASBPA says that, "A beach’s size, shape and sand volume help determine how well the beach can protect the developed area during a storm. All the various elements of a beach, such as …..dunes….even the width and slope of the beach itself, offer a level of natural protection against hurricanes and coastal storms by absorbing and dissipating the energy of breaking waves, either seaward or on the beach itself."

Obstructions to the sand moving downdrift — like man-made inlets, large piers, groins with downdrift beaches that have never been renourished — cause sand and sediment to be taken far off shore where waves can not return it to the beach! The result is the shoreline recedes or moves inward becoming more and more eroded until it is left in a critical condition.

Experts have concluded that these facts along with a combination of sea level rise produce larger waves that break closer to land. An example of the severity of this condition is in the south end of the Town of Palm Beach. Some of the beaches in this area have NEVER received beach nourishment. In addition, there are areas that received inadequate nourishment. Erosion and shoreline recession occurs as a result of inadequate beach nourishment. This situation causes tremendous negative consequences for property, investments, and life and safety conditions. Unless our local Municipalities, the County or the State, along with our Federal Government, take action before we are hit with hurricanes, our shoreline and homes are vulnerable.

As has been stated so perfectly in ASBPA Journal, "Measures designed to protect our nation’s coasts and prevent and reduce damages ultimately cost less than federal disaster assistance and insurance payouts if overwhelming economic losses occur after a natural catastrophe."

My question is, "WHY ARE THESE BEACH NOURISHMENT PROJECTS NOT DONE PROPERLY SO AS TO AVOID A CATASTROPHE?" Instead of wasting tax dollars on inadequate piecemeal projects, responsibility must be taken to adequately protect with a contiguously nourished coastline. Climate Change demands it! Beach nourishment is a NECESSITY not a choice!

To be continued. Be well and stay safe.

***

(10-14-15) Part 8:

In Part 7 of this series, I mentioned that I plan to present to you, our readers, additional information to support my assertion that contiguous, adequate beach nourishment projects are a necessity for our local shoreline and for the safety and survival of the residents and tourists as well as for the preservation of the environment.

We are living in a time of Climate Change. Beach nourishment on a barrier island that has a critically eroded shoreline is a NECESSITY, not a choice!

Municipalities need to acknowledge that it is more cost effective, in the long term, to conduct beach projects that use sand sources which are compatible with the native beach sand! This sand will adhere to the shoreline, accumulate faster and be less subject to erosion. This also will enable a municipality to spend less on the back end while maintaining the restoration of the beaches and also the dunes that accompany them.

This process would replace the spending of our tax dollars by municipalities on inadequate piecemeal, "quick fix" projects, which have been instituted to placate the public. These are not only wasteful, but proved ineffective!

Just last week, Hurricane Joaquin passed by our area, but pretty far offshore as it moved northward. Locally, along the ocean and Intracoastal, there were areas on both the east shore and west bank of the island, where the tides were high creating areas of minor flooding and standing water. Some areas even experienced beach erosion! The message here is that we need to realize that we are totally vulnerable to a category storm or hurricane and the negative impacts that follow. We need to consider the major flooding and damage that has occurred in South Carolina from this storm. We were lucky this time. Can we be so sure the next time?

In Part 7 of this series, I described how barrier islands protect the mainland. The Journal of the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) says, "Rising water can inundate low barrier islands, cut a new inlet and wash sediment inland." This type of inlet is commonly referred to a "breach". On the island of Palm Beach, residents should be aware that a "breach" could occur at the narrowest parts of the island, such as Sloan’s Curve or even south of the Lake Worth Pier.

The Journal (ASBPA) also states that "Waves can attack the base of a dune or create vertical cuts that erode the dune completely, exposing people and property to potential damage. Waves can scour sediment from around structures and pilings and strip bricks off of homes."

Whether we are talking about the possibility of a "breach" or water intrusion, the fact is as confirmed by the Journal of ASBPA, that "Erosion can undermine slabs, which can fail and damage homes. Even property farther inland is at risk as shorelines (beaches) continue to recede and dunes collapse, since the storm surge’s fast moving water can rapidly inundate and destroy structures behind the beach."

The proof that this is not just theoretical rhetoric was cited graphically in the ASBPA Journal, that, in 2004, Hurricane Ivan caused the shoreline on both the Alabama and Florida Panhandle coasts to recede 40 feet and produced up to 165 feet of erosion in some areas! The Journal then describes how dunes that were 30 feet high were eroded to just 2 feet! "Ivan’s storm surge washed over the low-lying barrier islands near Gulf Shores, Alabama, transporting sediment and cutting a new inlet! SEVERAL MILES EAST, WHERE BARRIER ISLANDS RODE HIGHER, DUNES ERODED, UNDERCUTTING AND TOPPLING FIVE-STORY CONDOMINIUM BUILDINGS."!!

The direct parallel is, according to all the flood maps, the barrier island of Palm Beach that includes the entire Town of Palm Beach, is a "low-lying barrier island"! This means that the Town of Palm Beach, which manages its own shoreline, must confront the reality that this scenario which took place in the Panhandle can unfortunately occur right here! This can occur because of the many existing critically eroded areas of Palm Beach shoreline that have either never received beach nourishment or been provided insufficient nourishment of the beaches.

Let’s prevent such a catastrophe before it is too late!

Until next time, be well and stay safe. More to come next time, so, stay tuned!

***

(10-25-15) Part 9:

Just as the hurricane season is coming to a close, the largest hurricane to hit the western hemisphere, Hurricane Patricia, made land fall in Mexico. When it came ashore it had 165 mph winds and was a CAT 5 storm. Fortunately, the mountain ranges Patricia encountered caused it to break apart, becoming a tropical storm as it headed towards Texas! With our flat terrain here, what would it have been like if it hit southeast Florida? Ironically, this was the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Wilma! Many of us recall that Wilma was a mere CAT 1, although some say it was a borderline CAT 2 storm! As we all might remember, Wilma did great damage here in Florida!

According to the Journal of the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA), "Beach Nourishment adds sand to the coastal system, protects people and properties from the effects of hurricanes and coastal storms by widening a beach and advancing the shoreline seaward". The Journal says that "outside sources" are used to "restore an eroding beach". That could mean many things, including in some areas of shoreline, the use of upland sand sources as Palm Beach County plans to use in the Towns of South Palm Beach and Lantana. Let’s awaken the Town of Palm Beach to use this source in some areas of their shoreline.

Also, the ASBPA Journal says that through nourishment, "a beach is constructed where only a small beach or no beach existed. Ultimately, beach nourishment widens a beach and advances the shoreline seaward." "The wider, nourished beach which slopes gently downward below the water and the taller sand dunes protect the shore by acting as naturally protective buffers. The gradual slope of the nourished beach causes waves to break in shallow water as they begin to feel bottom. As water rushes up the beach, wave energy dissipates." "To ensure that a nourished beach continues to provide protection and mitigate the effects of hurricanes and coastal storms, the project must be supplemented with additional quantities of sand, called periodic renourishment."

Of course, without ever making the attempt to adequately and contiguously nourish these critically eroded beaches, our officials are leaving not only the coastline, which is a huge natural resource in Florida, but the population and tax payers extremely vulnerable to harm.

Daniel Bates, Deputy Director of the Palm Beach County Dept. of Environmental Resources Mgmt., Environmental Enhancement & Restoration, told me that: "The more sand, the more protection for buildings beyond." According to Bates, "Dunes are a storehouse of sand providing the extra protection to the beach." But, he says, "Dunes alone are not enough!" He says, "The most efficient and effective is a dune and a berm. "(Deputy Director Bates defined that "a berm is the flat portion of the beach.")

I would hope that the Town of Palm Beach, who does its own shore protection outside of the auspices of Palm Beach County, would realize that, a dune alone project in any stretch of critically eroded shoreline, especially those that have never received any beach nourishment, is totally ineffective and unacceptable for the shoreline, the properties and resident’s investments against hurricanes and coastal storms.

According to the ASBPA Journal, "without beach nourishment, the starting point for damage would be farther onshore: a nourished beach, with sufficient sand volume and healthy dunes, absorbs the storm’s energy, even during slow-moving storms and helps prevent damage to structures and infrastructure."

"Beach nourishment projects can have multiple benefits. Besides mitigating coastal erosion and protecting life and property, through hurricane and storm damage reduction, beach nourishment projects can provide environmental, recreational and aesthetic benefits. For example, nourishing and widening an eroding beach can 1- Protect threatened or endangered plants in the dune area; 2- Protect habitat behind the dunes or next to the beaches; 3- Create or restore habitat lost through erosion, for sea turtles, shorebirds and other beach organisms; and 3- Create new nesting areas for endangered sea turtles and spawning grounds for other species. Beach nourishment projects also can create and sustain wider beaches for recreational activities … and protect infrastructure enjoyed by tourists. Healthy beaches not only are crucial to the nation’s travel and tourism industry, but also can help revitalize local economies by increasing property values, condominium rentals, retail sales and demand for services" in the hotels, jobs, etc.

In closing, according to the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association Journal, "NOURISHING AN ERODED BEACH IN A HIGHLY DEVELOPED AREA, ALLOWS NATURE TO TAKE ITS PROTECTIVE COURSE. HOWEVER, IF WE DON’T TAKE CARE OF OUR NATION’S BEACHES, THEY WILL LOSE THEIR NATURALLY PROTECTIVE FUNCTION, PUTTING PEOPLE PROPERTY AND THE ENVIRONMENT AT GREAT RISK"!

We are painfully aware through this series, that our shoreline is indeed "highly developed" on these low lying barrier islands and also on the mainland. Adequate and effective contiguous beach nourishment is essential and paramount in order to protect life, safety and our economy.

Due to the fact that this series has been detailed and covered several critical points, it will close summarizing and reviewing things to tie this imperative subject up for you, our Condo News readers. Until then, be well and stay safe.

 

(11-11-15) Part 10 CONCLUSION.

This journalist was stunned and outraged when I read that this week the Town Council of Palm Beach will consider their Town staff’s "bare bones" shore protection option to save monies at the expense of those that have never received beach nourishment for their critically eroded beaches!

In areas such as the south end of the Town of Palm Beach, where the beaches have been designated by the State of Florida as "Critically Eroded", it is essential to provide adequate beach nourishment using quality sand sources that match the native beach sand! This is a situation which exists in areas along the south end shoreline that is a life and safety issue as well as an environmental one, which requires a beach nourishment project that will be engineered and constructed properly and periodically renourished. It is neither prudent nor long term cost effective to consider a "bare bones" shore protection option in an area that has been designated "critically eroded" and has never been nourished!

It is hoped that the Town officials will have the wisdom and the courage to recognize that there are no short cuts in shore protection. The solution lies in finding better, more sound coastal engineering options that are proven to prevent erosion and, most importantly, protect the upland properties. This option of adequate beach nourishment will be more cost effective in the long run.

In addition, at the narrowest areas at the south end of the Town of Palm Beach, as explained in Part 8 of this series, rising water can inundate and cut new inlets or a "breach" because of areas of shoreline that have never been nourished or have had piecemeal or quick-fix ineffective projects.

Proof that beach nourishment is the only sound and responsible answer to protection is cited in the Journal of American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA): "During Hurricane Fran in 1996, no structures were destroyed and no oceanfront development endured significant damage at Wrightsville Beach, N.C." the site of a nourishment project. However, the ASBPA Journal also describes that in contrast, "On Topsail Island, an unprotected area, the shoreline eroded and the dunes and hundreds of structures were destroyed."

According to the Journal, "beach nourishment projects work by allowing the destructive forces of waves to strike the beach instead of the structures and infrastructure behind the beach."

This series has described the different levels of hurricanes and has provided the documentation that supports the necessity for properly designed adequate beach nourishment to protect Palm Beach Island a low lying barrier island with thousands of residents, their properties and infrastructure.

If you have missed any parts of this MUST READ SERIES, with its documentation of the need to support beach nourishment to prevent storm damage, I urge you to go online at: Condos of S. Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach, FL

***

 


Photos below by Madelyn Greenberg unless otherwise stated

The Purple Bus Rides Around PBC and Honors Our Local War Heroes

Purple Bus -- both sides

Donald Mates’ family, l-r: Twin granddaughter Annmarie Morris, granddaughter Mary Wooddruff, daughter Barbara Morris, Donald Mates, daughter Carol Caneela, granddaughter (mom) Audra Smith, adorable great granddaughter, Sunny Smith, 

twin granddaughter Lucy Morris, 

son-in-law Kevin Morris.

(l-r) Erick Ahronheim, 

Purple Heart Commander 

Donald Mates, 

PB County Commissioner 

Mary Lou Berger 

and Patrick Varone

(6-10-15)

Three local war veterans, who are each recipients of a "Purple Heart", live along South Ocean Boulevard. Donald Mates, Eric Ahronheim and George Fisher are among the 24 veterans who have their photos lining a purple Palm Tran Bus, that makes rounds in Palm Beach County, to honor our Purple Heart recipients.

The "Purple Bus" is dedicated to local Palm Beach County veterans who were awarded the Purple Heart. The head shots that line the outside of the bus as giant billboards, each represent different branches of the military spanning from WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Desert Storm, Afghanistan to Iraq. The bus does not list names of each veteran, but rather their branch of service and what war/conflict they fought in.

The "Purple Bus" is advertising that there are many services out there, with phone numbers which are listed and other info about the County’s services in this regard.

This is an important goal, because Palm Beach County still has veterans who seem unaware of the various service afforded to them.

It just so happens that three of these valiant heroes are neighbors of mine on the Boulevard. Donald Mates lives at my condominium association at 3360 S. Ocean Blvd.

Donald is a World War II veteran who was in the battle of Iowa Jima, was severely wounded and is not only lucky to be alive, but at 89 years young. I can attest to the fact that he works out in our condo gym six days a week for three hours a clip and puts me to shame in his endurance and determination. That makes sense, because Don is a Marine, who survived ungodly wounds and years of surgery and went on to lead an active and successful life in business and politics.

Don Mates is the Commander of the Division of Human & Veteran Services and the local Military Order of the Purple Heart. Mates is enthusiastic about the "Purple Bus" and the reason it is on the road. The bus is part of a public service announcement, but this one is "on wheels". Palm Beach County is home to almost 100,000 veterans that span from WWII, all the way to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Out of those many vets, 222 of them were awarded the Purple Heart.

George Fisher who lives at the Claridges on South Ocean Boulevard, is often featured in the Condo News articles about veterans and was awarded the Purple Heart. George said that the "Purple Bus is just a fabulous piece of work." He is pleased to have his face on the side of the bus and told me with pride that the inscription on the bus says, "This is Purple Heart Country." George was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII and, the branch of service he was part of was the US Army, under George Patton. George Fisher told me how he lost many of his comrades in the war and they will continue to "march with him, but their footsteps make no sounds." George says that those soldiers that he fought with that never made it home, but "will always be with him".

George is 90 years old and told me with pride that he has been married for 68 years. Like Mates, Fisher volunteers his time and leads groups of veterans. All of these men share camaraderie with each other, which only veterans can understand.

The third S. Ocean Blvd. condoite that lives nearby at the Barclay, is Eric Ahronheim. Eric served in the US Army infantry and was awarded the Purple Heart after he was wounded at Luzon in the SW Pacific in the Philippines during WWII. Eric as the others I’ve described was 18 years old when he went into battle. He is now 90 years old. At one point Eric Ahronheim was like Donald Mates is now, the Commander of the local Purple Heart chapter.

Eric said that the Purple Bus "is great to advertise the Purple Heart chapter and let veterans know they can get help. It brings it to people’s attention and that is always a good thing". Ahroneim is referring to the fact that the bus also shows that there are services available and phone numbers to call.

Donald Mates, George Fisher and Erick Ahronheim are all lucky that they survived the war and lucky to still be kicking. It is my hope that they are doing just as well seven to ten years from now. We have to make sure as a nation not to forget all of our war heroes and the "Purple Bus" is a way of saluting our veterans and showing respect for the Purple Heart survivors.


Some Suggestions/Reminders for the Snowbirds Headed Out of Town- Part 1

(5-27-15)

As those of us who reside in Florida know, at this time of the year the snowbirds fly north. For those full-timers like me, that means no long lines at the restaurants, and less traffic on the roads. There are most definitely advantages, to having an easier time making doctor’s appointments and avoiding the crowds. The down side is that many businesses have a tough time keeping their heads above water.

As the snowbirds leave there are off-season layoffs. Most negative of all, is the fact that we have to endure the stress of another hurricane season. We have been extremely lucky for years, but lets hope that our luck holds out for another year.

As for our neighboring snowbirds, there is a need to make a plan for leaving your condominium for the many months of our hot summer. It is not as simple as closing the door, turning out the lights and having no worries until you come back in October, November. There are homes left vacant for up to six long hot months during hurricane season. You have got to have as detailed a plan as those of us evacuating or hunkering down during a foreboding hurricane.

I have some suggestions that come from years of being a flake, (snowflake that is), prior to my moving down here full time around eighteen years ago. Plus, having been on the board of my condominium, serving two years as president with the worst timing of anyone, during those two years of infamy, Hurricanes Frances, Jeanne & Wilma. I can honestly say that those homes that were left vacant needed pre-planning and attention during not only hurricanes, but just as much during the many months that homes are left vacant.

What I present to you our readers, are just suggestions not mandates. The following information comes from personal experience from over twenty eight years that I have been coming back and forth, first as a snowflake, before becoming a full timer. I have found that when leaving my apartment for months at a time, that whether you have a humidistat on the wall that can be set so that the a/c goes on if the humidity level reaches a certain point or not, the very best thing to do, (though not as economical) is to keep your air on all of the time. Run you’re a/c at least 78 degrees and keep the fan on auto. When I used our humidistat, the apartment was hot as can be, and mildew grew on some of our carpeting. Damp Rid helps, but the best thing for your furniture, mirrors and such is to keep the a/c running.

Shut the water off with a cut-off valve. Unplug your hot water heater, or shut it off, and do the same with its fuse in your fuse box. Make sure to change you’re a/c filter and use a high performance pleated one that can last for up to three months. Buy a few extras and leave them close by your return. Purchase some of those absorber noodles that we discussed during my hurricane series, and put them in your interior sliding glass door tracks to suck up the water that might come in from wind driven rain.

In part 2, I will continue with some suggestions and reminders for snowbirds that are on their way out of town.

Stay safe and be well.

 


Top Rated Town of Palm Beach Fire Rescue Among the Country’s Finest Rated

(5-13-15)

As some of you may know already, the Town of Palm Beach’s essential services are independent of Palm Beach County. Their Fire Rescue and paramedics are employees of the Town of Palm Beach. Over the years I have written many articles about the programs that they have had, just like the Police Department, and the exemplary services they provide for the residents of the Town.

Recently during an evaluation by Insurance Services Office, a company that provides underwriting and rating information for the insurance industry, the Town of Palm Beach Fire Rescue received the elite Class 1 status. The Town’s Fire Rescue were among the 102 fire protection areas out of 48,000 surveyed in the country that received the highest rating available.

Congratulations to the Town of Palm Beach and the Fire Rescue.

As a result of this public protection classification, it helps establish appropriate fire insurance premiums for commercial, industrial and residential properties. It also provides an objective countrywide standard which assists fire departments budget and plan for equipment, training and their facilities. The fact the Town of Palm Beach scored 91.32 points out of 105.5 points during an insurance audit, is something to be extremely proud of.

The advantage to property owners in the Town of Palm Beach is that this rating will give them access to some of the lowest insurance rates from fire-loss insurance because of the Town’s excellent fire protection services.

The new rating will take effect on August 1, 2015.

I personally have a soft spot for the Fire Rescue, because my wonderful Dad was a New York City Fireman in his younger days. As you may recall if you have been reading my column over the years, I used to avail myself of the services that the fire rescue provides to Town residents. I called the non-emergency number so many times over the years as a caregiver for my sweet parents, I lost count. They always came swiftly and, besides their life saving skills, these men and women always showed immense compassion when continually helping to either lift my mom or dad and when it became necessary and I called 911, they did an exceptional job in their paramedic capacity.

This may have been a minor detail to the fire fighters that answered my calls, but in those non emergency responses, what I still find so heart warming is the fact that the fire rescue paramedics always remembered that my dad was "one of us." They always stayed just a little bit long and spent time talking to him about the old times for firemen like my dad. They listened to his stories and showed him the utmost respect and treated him like a firefighter brother and colleague. That was special to me and I will always remember their kindness.

My personal story demonstrates not only the professionalism of our fire rescue employees, but also their commitment to provide the highest level of service to our community and our residents. What my personal story demonstrates is the fact that it is not just a job for our Town’s essential services employees, like our fire rescue. They really care about the residents of our Town. That says a great deal to me about these men and women.

I have always said, and over the years spoken before the Town Council, that the Town of Palm Beach’s essential services set the bar for all others and provide Town residents with a "Platinum Standard" of services. I am proud to see that with their newest top rating of the Town’s Fire Rescue, that I have been proven right.

Just to remind you all, if you are a property owner or resident of the Town of Palm Beach, don’t forget to let your insurance company know about this newest top rating and see if you can take advantage of a lower insurance rate for fire-loss because of the Town’s exception fire protection rating.

Until next time, stay safe and be well.

 

New Identity Theft E-mail Scam Making The Rounds

(4-29-15)

It appears that everyday a new scam or attempt at identity theft comes our way. Some come from phone calls that claim to be after you for something you did not do properly with claimed criminal consequences. Others come through e-mails. With e-mails there are all different types of scams and also attempts to get you to click on a link and release a computer virus that will do immense damage.

It seems that in today’s technologically advanced world, varying identity theft crimes and scams are constantly perpetrated on the hapless public. We have to be ever vigilant. Sometimes it makes us overly suspicious. When it comes to e-mails, we become so negative about these things, that we can delete an e-mail that might be harmless. I believe though, although this overly suspicious concern can make you delete some things unnecessarily, it is better though to be safe than sorry, especially in this day and age.

When ever I get an e-mail, especially ones without subjects and they have a link included in the body of the e-mail itself, which encourages the recipient to click on the link. The words within the link don’t appear to make sense that the sender would send this to the recipient. I am afraid to click on the link because I might gum up my computer with a major destructive virus. So, I just delete the e-mail altogether. One has to wonder how these scammers get the contacts from the sender’s e-mail lists. That is obviously where the identity theft and technological advanced skill set by these hackers comes in.

The other week I received something rather unusual from my neighbor, Arlene Kutis on my e-mail. The subject title was a bit alarming and when I opened the e-mail there was no link to click on, but instead a letter was pasted into the body of the e-mail signed by Arlene. I knew immediately it was a scam in order to get those on her contact list to send money to supposedly help Arlene out of a predicament while she was traveling in a foreign country. The e-mail’s subject was: "Awful Trip!!!" But you see I knew that Arlene was currently in her condo in Palm Beach, safe and sound. So, obviously this letter was entirely false. The following is a copy of the scam content.

"I am sorry for reaching you rather too late due to the situation of things right now. I had a trip visiting to Philippines, everything was going on fine until last night when I was attacked by some unknown gunmen. All my money, phones and credit cards was stolen away including some valuable items, It was a terrible experience but the good thing is they didn’t hurt me or made away with my passports.

I’ve reported the incident to the local authorities and the consulate but their response was too casual, I was ask to come back in 2 weeks time for investigations to be made proper. But the truth is I can’t wait till then as I have just got my return flight booked and is leaving in few hours from now but presently having problems sorting out the bills here and also getting a cab down to the airport, Right now I’m financially strapped due to the unexpected robbery attack, Wondering if you can help with a quick loan to sort the bills and get back home. All I need is ($2,450.00 USD) or anything you can afford, I promise to refund you in full as soon as I return hopefully tomorrow or next. write back now to let me know what you can do. Thank you, Arlene.

Luckily, I had recently seen and spoken with Arlene and knew she was not traveling abroad. I wondered how the scammers got her e-mail address as well as mine. When I was speaking with another neighbor, he told me that he too received this same e-mail, as did our condo office. I had no idea who received this bogus e-mail from a couple of weeks ago. I had left a message on Arlene’s machine warning her and forwarded the e-mail to her. First of all, even the content seemed unlike Arlene, because she is an author and a skilled writer, therefore it did not appear like anything she would write. As you may recall, I interviewed Arlene Kurtis some months back and wrote an article and review of her novel, "Lila’s Hamsa." Although Arlene’s novel was a riveting story about love and deception, I knew that this e-mail was in no way written by the same person as who penned the novel. It was a poorly written scam letter and something that someone with Arlene’s fine character would never get involved in, even if she were, God forbid, in that type of predicament.

In recent conversation with Arlene this past weekend, she told me that she never received so many calls from people that she had not heard from in years, even distant relatives who contacted her when they received this e-mail and called to check if Arlene was okay. Arlene’s son got the same scam from his mom and of course knew right away his mother would never sign her name to him like that, aside from anything else. Arlene told me that for weeks she has been receiving calls from neighbors, friends, relatives and acquaintances, which apparently were in her e-mail contact list. Still wonder, how do the scanners hack into that information, when we have passwords and protection on our computers?

Mrs. Kurtis told me that ironically the other week she received a phone call from some one in broken English who claimed to be with the Internal Revenue Service and told her that they had been trying to reach her for months and if she doesn’t respond then the Sheriff’s Department is going to arrest her. It appears that in a short time, Arlene Kurtis was part of a second scam. This double scam experience shows how often anyone of us can be scammed in a short period of time. Some time ago I had written an article about this exact same type of scam which happened to me as well as a friend or two of mine. I venture to guess that this IRS telephone call scam must be paying off for the crooks, if they are doing the identical scam that I experienced over a year ago.

The point being, we must stay ever watchful, even suspicious and, be wary that we can be scammed at any time and in many different ways. It can make one a bit neurotic about giving personal information out on the Internet.

Until next time, be well, stay safe and be careful not to get scammed.

 


Riveting Story of Survival And Jewish Refugees In Shanghai, China

(4-15-15)

A couple of years ago I went on a trip to China. Among the interesting sites, one of the special places that I arranged to visit, was a former Jewish community that became a ghetto. 18,000 refugees who found a safe haven and a home in Shanghai, China during WWII. The refugees escaped the Nazi’s and they came from Eastern and Western Europe, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Germany.

Although the area is still there, all of the Jewish families that lived there for years, have all left and moved on. I went for a tour and there was a chapel where the refugees worshiped freely. There is a museum run by the Chinese and my tour guide told me in broken English all sorts of information about those times. The older Chinese tour guide who led me through the area and museum showed reverence for the former community and artifacts, clothing and the religion he does not follow. I found this tour where Holocaust refugees found safety, an exceptional part of my trip.

The stories of these refugees and their survival during a terrible time in the history of the world and the realization that the Far East in China, treated those that could not easily find a safe haven, with respect, is a story that I believe regardless of your religion should be extremely riveting to hear about.

This coming Saturday morning, April 18th, Helen Bix, who at 4 years of age living in Celle, Germany, escaped with her family to Shanghai, where she lived for the next ten years of her life. Helen will speak about her experiences at Temple Emanu-El, Palm Beach, on North County Rd. at about 10:30am.

This speaker is presented as part of a Holocaust Remembrance Day event during Sabbath services which begin at 9:15am.

Mrs. Bix will tell her riveting story of all the difficult times and how the refugees built themselves a community where hundreds of thousands of Jews subdivided living quarters and bought bombed out buildings and fixed them up, These refugees even built a day school for their children under the auspices of the British schooling system.

Although the refugees made themselves a community life, outside of their self-made community, there was danger from crime and there was the risk of catching a disease because epidemics were rampant. Yet, these refugees found safety when they were able to escape the Nazis, because they found that Shanghai was an open city.

Temple Emanu-El welcomes those interested in hearing Bix’s story of her experiences. Helen Bix is now 80 years old. Helen and her family said that the Jewish ghetto life did not come until the Japanese took over and all the stateless Jews had to move into a ghetto area run by a less than pleasant Japanese administrator.

As Helen says, the war years left an impact on those that were lucky enough to survive those years. Helen will tell you that as a result of her experiences she values every day that she is alive. Mrs. Bix tries to do as much as she can for everyone. That is quite astounding, considering what Helen has been through in her life.

For more information if you are interested in attending and listening to Helen’s story, call 832-0804 or e-mail Helen at helenbix@aol.com. You will find her story riveting and this is something little known and needs to be heard directly from the survivors before the opportunity to speak with them first hand disappears.

 


Door to Door Solicitors Need Permits, ID Cards before Approaching Residents

(4-1-15)

In the Town of Palm Beach, door to door salespersons’ need solicitation permits and a Town issued solicitation identification ID cards with their photo on it in order to be legal. Apparently, in Palm Beach there recently have been some problems with unauthorized people trying to sell things without being investigated properly and being approved and sanctioned by the Town.

If you encounter a solicitor and he can not provide a proper permit and show you his Town of Palm Beach ID card, direct him to contact the Code Enforcement Unit at Palm Beach Police Headquarters at 345 S. County Rd, where the individual can apply for a permit.

In my opinion, being approached on the street is far different than someone knocking on your door. If a stranger knocks on your door and you didn’t expect them, I would be careful before opening the door. If you do open the door, it is best not to invite a stranger into your home in this day and age. In addition, if you have any doubts be polite and tell them that you are going to check and get back to them, so please wait outside. At that point just close the door and check with the police by calling the Police non-emergency number at: 561-838-5454 if you live in the Town of Palm Beach. All other municipalities have their own non emergency police numbers where you can call and ask as to whether these solicitors are legal. If you are alarmed by someone that approaches you because you feel endangered in some way, just call 9-1-1 for an immediate response.

Interestingly enough, just like with solicitation phone calls, there is actually a "no solicitation list" for door to door salespeople that you can register and then be placed on to hinder those types of attempts to contact you. Your name will be on a list of those that can not be solicited. If your address is on the list and someone comes to the door anyway, they will be in violation of a town ordinance. Then you should call the police or the Code Enforcement section of the department and report it with all the information you were able to get. I do know in the Town of Palm Beach, they respond rather quickly to your call in order to catch any illegal solicitors.

The only exemption from being required to obtain a permit due to federal laws is provided to religious organizations. If you are approached by members of religious organizations at your residence, it is entirely up to you as whether you make a donation or not. You should not feel that you are obligated to give any money to anyone for any reason; it is totally a personal decision. In my opinion, it is important to see literature and it would be safest to get an address and check out the religious organization before sending a check by snail mail to them to assure that they are legit. You can’t be too careful in this world today.

Have a Happy Passover and Easter holiday. Until next time say safe and be well.

 


Startling Revelations about the Costs of Sand

(February 4, 2015)

SOS Coastal Engineer Karyn Erickson brought up startling information at last Friday’s Town of Palm Beach Shore Board Meeting.

Ms. Erickson, who is President of Erickson Consulting Engineers, Inc. explained at a public meeting that the Town of Palm Beach is currently paying a premium price of $45 a cubic yard for fine grey/black dredged sand. It is important to note that twice as much dredged sand is required because of its finer texture.

According to the latest information, the cost of coarse mined sand, which is clean and consistent in texture and size, is less expensive than the incompatible fine dredged sand. Palm Beach County is paying $28 a cubic yard for Stuart minded sand. Mined Ortona sand, which is the most compatible to the Reach 8 beach’s native sand, cost between $35-$40 a cubic yard.

The Coalition To Save Our Shoreline, Inc.(SOS) Beach Nourishment Plan which was submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for the federal Environmental Impact Study (EIS) which is in draft form during the public comment period, requires mined Ortona sand.

Newly appointed Town Manager, Thomas G. Bradford is recommending to the Town Council and their ad hoc committee, the Shore Board, that the USACE consider the following items while finalizing the Reach 8 EIS.

Mr. Bradford wants the Army Corps to complete the modeling of the project with Ortona sand and structures proposed by the SOS. He also wants to have the Town’s Preferred Projects performance evaluated using upland grain sand sizes from both the Stuart and Ortona sand mines. A comparison will then be made of the cost and performance of those alternatives with the cost and performance of the same project using the originally proposed fine dredged sand.

In response to claims that this would delay the Reach 8 project, Coastal Engineer Erickson said, "We’re not delaying it to 2017. The process is set right now for 2017. There’s not a chance in the world you’ll get a permit in four to six months from those agencies. This project will, under any circumstances not be built in 2016."


The Coalition to Save Our Shoreline (SOS) Puts Their Issues on the Record with the Town of Palm Beach

Photos by Andy Frame Photography

Atriums at 3400 in Reach 8. 

Dunes and property collapsing 

from severe erosion.

La Renaissance in Reach 8. 

Parts of pool deck collapsing 

and severely eroded dunes.

The Reef Condo in Reach 7.

2100 Condo at Sloan's Curve. Seaweed shows water line 

at the base of the eroded dunes.

The Town of Palm Beach, in a recent decision, determined that it was necessary to add "Coastal Matters" to their regular agenda items at monthly Town Council Meetings. The March 11, 2014 Meeting was the first Town Council Meeting to initiate this. Council President Pro-Tem, William Diamond, presided over this Town Council Meeting.

At the "Coastal Matters" portion of the Agenda, President Pro-Tem Diamond gave permission to a town, civilian based organization, the Coalition to Save Our Shoreline (SOS) to make a slide show presentation with photos of the critically eroded shoreline in the southern part of the Town. The southern shoreline parts of the Town of Palm Beach are designated as Reaches 7 and 8. SOS Chairman, Richard G. Hunegs, introduced the thirteen photos taken by independent professional photographer, Andy Frame, by citing that "thousands of Palm Beach residents live in condominium buildings that once were protected by wide beaches which fortified the dunes and shielded the upland properties from irreparable damage". Mr. Hunegs said that these photos demonstrate the serious vulnerability of the shoreline as we approach another hurricane season!

President Pro-Tem Diamond and the Council Members proceeded to question the Town Manager, Peter Elwell, regarding his explanation for this situation and how the Town could best cooperate with the SOS which had financed a beach nourishment plan. This SOS Plan, which is in an area of shoreline called Reach 8, is currently being considered along with the Town’s alternative as part of a federal Environmental Impact Study.

The photos revealed the serious erosion at Sloan’s Curve to the Town’s boundary, which ends at La Bonne Vie. Reach 7 begins at Sloan’s Curve and ends just north of the Lake Worth beach. Reach 8 begins just south of the Lake Worth pier at Bellaria Condo and ends at the Town’s boundary at La Bonne Vie.

The SOS resident based group formally requested the Town Council, for the first time, to make the SOS Plan the Town’s "Preferred Alternative" in the Environmental Impact Study. The SOS Plan would provide 25 year protection for upland properties as opposed to the 15 year protection (the equivalent of one Tropical Storm), afforded by the Town Plan.
The SOS also requested that the Town initiate and implement the SOS Reach 7 Beach Restoration Project Alternative with Coastal Structures developed by Coastal Engineer Erickson or the alternative plan developed by Taylor Engineering, the Town’s Consultant.

The SOS statement to the Council Members also strongly objected to the omission of funding in the Town’s $85M coastal plan for beach nourishment in Reach 8 as well as for an Environmental Impact Study and plan for beach nourishment with coastal structures in northern Reach 7 at Sloan’s Curve.

As Richard Hunegs said, after the Meeting, Town Council President Pro-Tem William Diamond "made it clear that our positions are in sync, that is, we all have the same goal to develop the best possible plan and allocate the necessary resources to obtain the finest results".

This was a long-awaited, productive and positive Town Council Meeting for those residents whose properties are at risk and endangered by severely eroded beaches. Let us stay tuned for results!


Flag Flown Over US Capitol Building Commemorating USMC Anniversary Now Flies in Palm Beach

Story and photos by Madelyn Greenberg

This U. S. Flag flew over the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC, honoring the 238th anniversary of the founding of the U. S. Marine Corps in 1775.

(L-r) Donald Mates & Richard Hunegs.

Mr. Hunegs is president of the 3360 Condominium Association.

3360 Condominium is proud that the American Flag that flies along South Ocean Boulevard is no ordinary flag.

The US Flag that flew over the Capital Building in Washington D.C. honoring the two hundred and thirty eighth anniversary commemorating the founding of the United States Marine Corps, (1775), is now flying at 3360 S. Ocean Boulevard.

The flag was presented to Donald A. Mates on November 10, 2013 and was donated by Mr. Mates.

Donald Mates was born on February 10, 1926 in Cleveland, OH. He committed to the Marine Corps in high school and was inducted into service upon graduation in June 1943.

During combat on Iwo Jima, Mates served as a personal body guard for the commanding general, 3rd Marine Division, General Graves Erskine. While one night-time patrol on February 28, 1945 and March 1, 1945, Don Mates was wounded by hand grenades and a machine gun. During the next 30 years he underwent a series of operations for removal of shrapnel and riddance of leg braces.

Donald Mates has been awarded the Purple Heart, Marine Combat Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation, American Defense Medal, Pacific Theatre of War, Victory Medal and Marine Corps League Recognition Award.

Don is the Founder and Chairman of the Jimmy Trimble Scholarship Fund dedicated to his friend and fellow Marine who was killed by a Japanese soldier suicide bomber.

He teaches at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center, is a former volunteer for the Town of Palm Beach Police Department in the Crime Scene division. Don Mates is also the Treasurer for the Military Order of the Purple Heart and a finance officer for his church.

In 2009, Donald Mates was awarded the Pentagon Combat Service Award for valor during World War II.

Don Mates is a resident of 3360.


US Representative Lois Frankel Talks About Beaches and Other Matters

By Madelyn Greenberg

US Representative Lois Frankel (center) with Claire Levine (right), 2500 S. Ocean Blvd. & Maddy Greenberg (left), 3360 S. Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach. Photo taken by the Congresswoman’s District Director, Felicia Goldstein.

At a community forum meeting at Bethesda-by-the-Sea, Congresswoman Lois Frankel spoke. She opened with telling the audience how important beaches are and that she felt very strongly that "beaches help to protect the shoreline." Frankel said that beaches are "magnets for tourism." She also said that "Nobody should say oh, it’s just about the beaches." Frankel is clearly a proponent for beach nourishment projects and as she has said before, "beaches are the economic engine for the State of Florida and the different municipalities that are upland of them."

The Congresswoman explained to the audience that she serves on a very important, bipartisan committee in Washington, the Transportation Committee. She is also on a subcommittee that oversees the US Army Corps of Engineers. Frankel explained that her committee "has the ability to get things done." US Rep. Frankel said that she and her subcommittee are "trying to streamline the permitting process for beach nourishment projects."

What was not said by Frankel at this meeting is that she walked the beaches at the south end of the Town of Palm Beach last spring with a Coalition To Save Our Shoreline, Inc. (SOS) board member. When Frankel viewed the severe erosion of the beaches and dunes, she said that she was pleased that she "got to see first hand what she was fighting for." She also gave her word to the SOS board member that she would keep her eye on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) study where the SOS Beach Nourishment Plan and Design, developed by Coastal Engineer, Karyn Erickson, is a plan being studied right alongside of the Town of Palm Beach’s alternative. The EIS is a federal study under the direction of the Corps of Engineers for Reach 8, south of the Lake Worth pier in the Town of Palm Beach and South Palm Beach and Lantana under Palm Beach County’s auspice. Frankel promised to assist with the permitting process for the beach nourishment project that would result from the EIS. Palm Beach County, Dept. of Environmental Resources Mgmt., Deputy Director Dan Bates was also present on the beach with Congresswoman Frankel and the SOS Board Member. At that time, Frankel showed a keen interest in the SOS Beach Nourishment Plan.

At the community forum last week, Frankel also spoke about the fact that she served on the Foreign Affairs Committee and that although she has traveled with her colleagues from the opposite end of the spectrum in the "tea party", she said that they were all "very collegial" although their political views were so different. Frankel described that she discovered during her travels to Tokyo, Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Brussels and other locals, that people around the world actually had a favorable view of America and see us as a "Superpower."

Frankel spoke candidly about the fact that she felt that tea party members of Congress using the debt ceiling vote to defund the Affordable Care Act, did not help America’s world wide reputation. Frankel said that "the shutdown did not do us any good in terms of our interests." The US Rep said that she felt that when you go to other countries and try to tell them how to run their governments, you lose "credibility when you can’t even keep your own government open."

Responding to the audience about the glitches in Obamacare and the fact that over 300,000 Floridians had their policies cancelled by Blue Cross/Blue Shield because the Affordable Care Act coverage requirements would not be met. Ms. Frankel said that those residents "need to buy policies that include the benefits required by the act." This would include free wellness check-ups.

The Congresswoman said she felt that there is a "moral obligation to provide health care to the millions of Americans now without access." She explained that the act will prohibit insurers from denying coverage because of preexisting conditions, among other benefits. Frankel said that she felt that "If the program isn’t working well after it is fully deployed, legislators should get together and fix it." The US Representative said she felt that first people need to give the program a chance and then see what can be done to rectify any problem issues.

Frankel spoke to her constituents in a relaxed and confident manner, yet very friendly and accessible. She seemed unperturbed by the fact that she was a Democrat speaking before an audience of constituents that in the part of the Town of Palm Beach she spoke in, were mostly Republicans. She made a point of speaking of how well she works with Republicans and believes that much can be accomplished with bipartisanship. Frankel even spoke about a bill that she and a fellow Congressional Republican got passed by working together.

This journalist found Frankel’s candid and honest talk as well as her serious intent to make strides to assist us in obtaining adequate beach nourishment projects, a refreshing and welcome change from those that preceded her.


Reflections on the Anniversary of Tropical/Super Storm Sandy

By Madelyn Greenberg

Last year around this time, Sandy blew some 250 miles offshore of the east coast of Florida and left decimated dunes and added to the already severe beach erosion in her wake. She worked her way up the eastern seaboard and became Super Storm Sandy that caused so much devastation and havoc on the northeastern coast.

For most of the municipalities that suffered Sandy’s wrath, there was a hard lesson that was learned about "vulnerability" and the importance of righting situations on the shoreline in order to better protect the beaches and the upland properties beyond.

When most people hear that they are getting "sand" they think that all the answers to their problems of "vulnerability" are solved. I am here to tell you that that just isn’t so. Sand is a part, an important part as it may be, to the solution of protection from the advent of storm events that can put life as we know it in jeopardy. It is not sand alone, but how much and how it is placed on the shoreline that really gives the protection that we all seek.

Translation: To scatter, dump or bulldoze an inadequate amount of sand onto already severely eroded shoreline or on a scarped and collapsed dune system, accomplishes little more than visual satisfaction for the unknowing layman. Because, the protection needed by the adequate number of cubic yards of sand per foot, is not being provided. There are formulas for a properly designed beach and dune system which must be adhered to if we want to get our money’s worth out of our tax dollars. There are municipalities, especially in the northeast, like New Jersey and New York, where we can read in articles such as the NY Times, New Yorker, Wall Street Journal and local New Jersey papers and magazines, reports about their revelations of what must be done to protect their shorelines and upland properties.

Whether every municipality on the shoreline in Florida believes that adequate sand supply designed for protection is a priority, has yet to be seen. What can be clearly seen, are the scarped dunes that have been neglected and one has to wonder whether adequate amounts of sand will be placed strategically on the beaches and dunes throughout the hardest hit areas, in order to best shield the upland properties from harm.

We were indeed very lucky this hurricane season. We were fortunately spared any storms of "mother nature’s wrath." That does not mean we are not "vulnerable." Will a municipality like the Town of Palm Beach, place adequate amounts of sand on the severely damaged dune systems during their "Interim" Beach Nourishment project that will be constructed on the south end this winter season? One can only surmise that a responsible party would indeed and assuredly accomplish that. Because, if we don’t, we are wasting everyone’s time and tax dollars.


The SOS Presents Graphics of the EIS "Alternatives"

By Madelyn Greenberg

CLICK ON IMAGES FOR LARGER VIEW

At the August meeting of the Town Council of South Palm Beach, two of the agenda items consisted of the important need for beaches which safeguard the health of the towns in which they are located and also their role in preserving the coastline of the State.

The Mayor of the Town of Palm Beach and a board member of the Coalition To Save Our Shoreline (SOS) were the guest speakers.

The Town of Palm Beach Mayor spoke about the Florida Department of Environment Protection (FDEP) Beach Management Agreement (BMA) and told South Palm Beach Council members that the BMA will "revolutionize" the process of permitting "from north to south" and "from one project to another". Mayor Coniglio also brought out a change in the Town of Palm Beach’s plan. The Mayor said that the projects that will come out of the current federal Environmental Impact Study (EIS) in Reaches 8, 9 and 10 will now both use "upland sand" sources, such as Ortona sand for Reach 8 and the shoreline project, that will constructed by Palm Beach County. This is a departure for the Town of Palm Beach who up until recently refused "upland sand" for their modified "Alternative" in Reach 8.

During the SOS presentation that followed, mention was made that the organization was pleased that the Town of Palm Beach had finally agreed to use an "upland sand" source for their part of the Reach 8 project. South Palm Beach Council Members were informed that the SOS and their coastal engineer, Karyn Erickson, had consistently recommended, for more than two years, that Palm Beach needed to use "upland sand" because environmental benefits as well as because it lasts longer. The Town of Palm Beach had continued to reject it until just prior to the Army Corps’ p;ublic meeting in August. The SOS Beach Nourishment Plan for Reach 8, which is now an "Alternative" to be studied in the EIS by the US Army Corps of Engineers was designed as a large scale beach nourishment plan based on the use of "upland sand".

The SOS is now confident that their "Alternative" will serve everyone best because it would begin south of the Lake Worth pier and stabilize a "contiguous beach the entire length of the project and protect those living in Reach 8 while serving as a feeder beach for their southern neighbors on the coastline". The Council was told that this was the essence of what the BMA and the Inlet to Inlet Pilot Project was created to accomplish.

The SOS supplied graphic visuals which showed the three "Alternatives" to be studied in the EIS process. It was evident in the graph visual that the SOS "Alternative" plan stretched the entire length of the beach and would merge into the County "Alternative" that abuts Reach 8.

The subsequent graphic showed the Town of Palm Beach’s "Alternative" and the County "Alternative". Palm Beach’s "Alternative" begins with a slim line of dunes only. It contains beach fill at different levels that partially front some upland property condos while fully fronting others, totaling 4 to 5 condos. This leaves the major stretch of shoreline in Reach 8 with dunes only.

It was pointed out by the SOS that, in this scenario, the County beach nourishment project adjoining Palm Beach’s current "Alternative" would begin in the middle of nowhere and would destabilize this entire coastline area. The graphic shows that the County "Alternative" had illustrations of beach fill with groins running the entire length of the Town of South Palm Beach and Lantana to the former Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

The SOS large scale beach nourishment "Alternative" plan had carefully placed two groins in the southernmost section of Reach 8 to hold the sand in place, while allowing for littoral movement of sand southward to South Palm Beach.

For more details on all three "Alternatives", Google the "USACE EIS Southern Palm Beach Island". You will find under the Army Corps website both PDF links for the Town and County "Alternative" slide presentation from the public meeting and the Coalition To Save Our Shoreline Proposed "Alternative" for Reach 8.

 


The US Army Corps of Engineers Recognizes the SOS!

By Madelyn Greenberg

(8-21-13)

The US Army Corps of Engineers conducted a public meeting on August 12, 2013 at the Town Hall in the Town of Palm Beach. The meeting was advertised as a "scoping meeting" which would provide opportunity for public comments regarding the long awaited Environmental Impact Study (EIS). This study is essential to the process of finding the best solution for the critically eroded beaches in the Town of Palm Beach, south of the Lake Worth pier and extending to the shorelines of South Palm Beach, Lantana and the former Ritz Carlton Hotel in Manalapan.

The beaches that will be included in this EIS cover a wide area of shoreline that is managed, in part, by the Town of Palm Beach and the remainder by Palm Beach County. In this situation, the Army Corps of Engineers requires the Town of Palm Beach and Palm Beach County to each submit its own "Alternative" plan for beach nourishment, to be studied under the EIS.

However, the Army Corps of Engineers announced at the August 12th meeting that the EIS will also be studying a third "Alternative" plan. This third "Alternative" plan will be "The Coalition To Save Our Shoreline, Inc. (SOS) Plan & Design for Reach 8" in the Town of Palm Beach. It was submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers by the SOS. The Army Corps of Engineers announced, also, that the SOS Plan, designed by coastal engineer, Karyn Erickson, P.E., D.CE, will be studied by the EIS and will receive the same consideration and attention, as if it were submitted by a municipality.

The Coalition To Save Our Shoreline, Inc. (SOS) has indeed achieved a high level of recognition and distinction for its efforts to seek storm protection through beach nourishment for the thousands of residents whose properties are at severe risk. The SOS is a resident based, privately funded organization that financed a large scale beach nourishment plan and design by a coastal engineer that they had retained. The members of the organization supported this beach nourishment plan even though they pay taxes that funded the Town’s "Alternative."

The EIS will now study two "Alternatives" for Reach 8 and one "Alternative" for Reaches 9 & 10 offered for study in the EIS and submitted by Palm Beach County.

According to the SOS statement read at the EIS public meeting, the SOS "respectfully submits" that their plan for Reach 8 "meets the standards and criteria that are necessary to prevail." Also, the SOS statement maintains that their plan is "feasible, responsible, affordable, balanced and effective for the long term benefits for all. No other submitted proposals or plans can be said to accomplish this nor do they constitute the interests of everyone."

The SOS brought out that "endangered sea turtles that come to nest on our beaches and, because of the scarps and cliffs and the continually diminishing beach, they lay their eggs and the tide comes up and washes the eggs away or they lay under the water and are destroyed. These sea turtles will continue to be lost to us if man does not restore the wide beaches that sea turtles seek to lay their eggs, nest, hatch their young and return to the sea."

The SOS said, "they are confident that the Army Corps will find the Beach Nourishment Plan which was designed by Ms. Erickson, to be thoroughly researched, environmentally suitable and, most importantly, permitable." They also told the Corps and the public that their plan, "will stand on its own merit" and "fulfill the need to correct severe erosion, satisfy environmental concerns and be a prototype for other successful beach nourishment and erosion control projects in the future."

Town of Palm Beach resident, Larry Goldberg, spoke during public comments and stated that the Town of Palm Beach’s modified "Alternative" would give beach fill for only several upland properties and dunes for the majority of the length of Reach 8, was totally inadequate and would not protect the properties of the Town sufficiently, if at all. An SOS spokesperson stated that their organization agrees with Mr. Goldberg’s appraisal of the Town’s alternative that was submitted for study by the EIS. It was also mentioned that the SOS, since its inception, has maintained that the inadequate plans that the Town has developed, constructed and now are proposing, are a waste of their tax dollars and will not protect the environment nor provide for the safety and protection of those that are at risk.

Another Palm Beach resident, Pat Cooper suggested that the Army Corps also look at the Lake Worth pier and its obstruction to sand flow.

Kudos to the SOS for their continual advocacy and proactive tenacity to protect the thousands of property owners at risk. This EIS and the three "Alternatives" that will be studied, is positive and forward movement that hopefully "should result in a joint project that will serve the needs of the public for now and also for the future."

 


The Long Awaited Study To Find Erosion Solutions For Palm Beach Island

By Madelyn Greenberg

(8-7-13)

The long awaited federal EIS process for the "Southern Palm Beach Island Comprehensive Shoreline Stabilization Project" will begin at a "public meeting" on August 12th, at 5:30 pm, at the Town Hall of the Town of Palm Beach. At this public meeting, residents will have the opportunity to comment on the scope of the EIS. The Environmental Impact Study, which will cover the areas south of the Lake Worth pier, in Reach 8, in Palm Beach through Reaches 9 & 10 in South Palm Beach, Lantana to the former Ritz Carlton, Manalapan.

The public notice for this meeting was recently sent by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Condo Managers along the entire coastline of Reaches 8, 9 & 10. This is welcome news for thousands of residents that have been living in jeopardy, since the EIS process could very well lead to a joint project between the Town of Palm Beach and Palm Beach County. The Town of Palm Beach manages their own coastal projects and funding, while the Town of South Palm Beach, Lantana and Manalapan are under the beach management of Palm Beach County.

This upcoming public meeting and the federal EIS process will be directed by Mr. Garett Lips, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager. At the Monday, August 12th 5:30 pm meeting, the public will have the opportunity to listen and to make comments and recommendations about the proposed study and what they believe it should incorporate. There will also be information provided about where the public can send their written comments.

Readers of The Condo News will recall the eleven part series on Beach Erosion and Condos in Peril. You may still catch up with the series below on this page. The series explained the severity of the erosion situation that has taken place in the southern areas in the Town of Palm Beach, South Palm Beach, Lantana and parts of Manalapan with photos that demonstrated the seriousness of the beach erosion and dunes from south of Sloan’s Curve in Palm Beach down to Manalapan.

Throughout the series it was stressed that for these areas of shoreline that are critically eroded, the ultimate solutions will be derived through a federal process, the Environmental Impact Study, which is directed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. An EIS is a description and analysis of all environmentally-related aspects of a project. This EIS will review a range of alternatives and actions such as beach nourishment projects that can take place after the selection of options are studied thoroughly to determine what will serve environmental concerns and the best interests of the public.

Because of the dire needs of this entire stretch of critically eroded beach, an organization comprised of concerned property owners in the Town of Palm Beach, financed a beach nourishment plan. This organization, the SOS, has requested that the Army Corps of Engineers will study their plan as one of the alternatives which they believe will best serve to protect the environment and to protect the entire area of shoreline. The name of this plan is: "The Coalition to Save Our Shoreline, Inc. (SOS) Beach Nourishment Plan & Design for Reach 8". This large scale beach nourishment plan was designed by Coastal Engineer, Karyn Erickson, and will become an alternative that will be studied in the EIS process.

This Environmental Impact Study is extremely important. According to FDEP Deputy Division Director, Danielle Irwin, "This process will make it possible for Reach 7, Reach 8 and the southern municipalities to get projects". Specifically, Fondren said that "the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for Reach 8 and Central Palm Beach (South Palm Beach, Lantana to Manalapan) will help guide the future direction in the Beach Management Agreement (BMA) with projects such as north of Phipps Ocean Park, at Sloan’s Curve" in Reach 7. This EIS is therefore of great significance to those who live at risk with critical erosion and the fear of Mother Nature’s wrath striking and causing irrevocable harm to them and their upland properties.

 


Beach Erosion from T.S. Sandy Severe; Condos in Peril 

A Series 

by Maddy Greenberg

Devastating damage up and down the south end strip of The Town of Palm Beach on S. Ocean Blvd. from Sloan’s Curve south to the town’s boundary. Some photos demonstrate the severity of Tropical Storm Sandy’s beach and dune erosion and the imminent danger residents are in without adequate shoreline beach nourishment and protection.

Beaches are the Economic Engine for Florida

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel with SOS Board Members Carla Herwitz of 2275 S. Ocean (left) & 

Eileen Curran (right) 

of 2778 S. Ocean. Blvd.,

Palm Beach

Rep. Lois Frankel 

with Arlene Kurtis 

of 3360 S. Ocean Blvd.

U.S. House Representative Lois Frankel (D-Fla) spoke with residents of the Town of Palm Beach at a meeting hosted by the Harbour House on South Ocean Blvd. The opportunity to meet and ask questions of our Representative came about through Dr. Max Rosenbaum.

Harbour House President, Stewart Tabakin, introduced Rep. Frankel to an audience about 100 people.

The focal point of her discussion was the importance of the beaches in Florida and their source of revenue. The economic engine in Florida according to the Congresswoman is driven by the property taxes from the residents, especially those properties along the shoreline. Wide beaches and dunes attract people to live on the shoreline and bring tourism to Florida. Frankel explained that the property taxes from the coastline residents are a large revenue apparatus as well as the tourism and hospitality. She said that the monies derived from property taxes, tourism and hospitality in communities along the coast fund the fire, police and school departments throughout the State.

Frankel said that "these are the reasons why the beach issues, such as erosion and the need for shoreline protection for upland properties, are not just local issues." It affects all those residing in the State of Florida, on the shore and inland.

When asked if the Town of Palm Beach uses federal monies to restore its beaches, Frankel said, that "The Town did not want federal money to renourish the beaches." The Town of Palm Beach is unique from the rest of Palm Beach County because they do their own coastal management which did not include federal monies in the funding of their projects.

Arlene Kurtis, resident at 3360 S. Ocean Blvd., expressed her concerns and said that her local government has refused to restore the severely eroded dunes for this upcoming hurricane season. Mrs. Kurtis wanted Frankel to know about the seriousness of this situation in the south end of the Town of Palm Beach.

Eileen Curran, a Coalition To Save Our Shoreline (SOS) board member and resident of 2778 S. Ocean Blvd., described how the inlets cause interruption to the natural flow of sand from north to south. She described how the Army Corp of Engineers dredges the Lake Worth Inlet and it dumps the sand 15 to 20 miles out to sea, instead of placing it on the shoreline south of the inlet. This resulted in the loss of sand showing in the severe erosion of our beaches. Mrs. Curran asked for Rep. Frankel’s help in correcting this situation to get the Army Corps to dump the sand at no cost on the beaches in the Town of Palm Beach. Frankel said she appreciated this information and it gave her weaponry to use.

Lewis Katz, Reef Condo on S. Ocean Blvd., said that there is a debate over who should pay for protection of Condo/Co-op shoreline properties in the Town of Palm Beach. He said the new notion by the Town is that taxpayers should be "self sufficient" and rely totally on seawalls for protection from the wrath of Mother Nature and the ocean. Katz said sea walls cause erosion issues. He stated that coastal structures, wide beaches and dunes need to be considered before building giant seawalls to armor the shoreline. Katz asserted that the upland properties and buildings serve as protection for the properties behind them and therefore designing environmentally suitable beach nourishment projects with coastal structures, wide beaches and dunes in front of the existing seawalls will serve to not only protect the beachfront properties, but all those behind it.

This writer asked Rep. Frankel for her assistance in areas of our shoreline that have never had beach nourishment. These areas have severe, critical erosion and as a result of these conditions, many of the properties in those areas are in jeopardy. A Federal Environmental Impact Study must be done before beach projects can be permitted and constructed. Frankel asked what areas were referred to that had not had beach nourishment, are being eroded and were not proposed to get it without an EIS. She was told in northern Reach 7, or Sloan’s Curve and Reach 8, south of the Lake Worth Pier. Frankel said that she would do her best to help us with the EIS process and our beach issues.

Lastly, Congresswoman advised the audience of residents to "keep pounding and pounding your officials about the beach issues." She said "this issue is much too important and residents and taxpayers should keep it at the forefront." An SOS board member’s response to me was that they totally agree with Frankel.

Until next time, be well and stay safe.


State, Town of P.B. officials, Coastal Engineers Speak with Residents

Residents expressed their frustration regarding the serious erosion of the beaches, jeopardizing their properties

Severe shoreline Erosion and loss of dunes shown in photo taken on 3/10/13 looking toward the Lake Worth Pier. This photo was not taken during a storm.

SOS Coastal Engineer Karyn Erickson, President of Erickson Consulting Engineers; Richard Hunegs, Chairman of the SOS & resident & President of 3360 Condo on S. Ocean Blvd.; FDEP Deputy Director Danielle Fondren Irwin, Beach Management

Overflowing audience of residents at the SOS Public Service Meeting, (flowing out to the hallways and standing room only)

The March 21st Public Service Meeting sponsored by The Coalition To Save Our Shoreline Inc. (SOS) was successful in bringing over 300 residents, standing room only to speak with State, Town officials and Coastal Engineering expertise.

The spontaneous response of the overflowing audience of residents to the presentations led the meeting to a different level. The residents expressed their bitter frustration and despair to the long unresolved severe erosion conditions of the beaches and the loss of their dunes, which they clearly felt put their homes and safety in jeopardy. There were numerous rallying cries of "What can be done NOW to protect our homes against this summer’s storms?" and "How SOON can we have beach nourishment and groins to protect our homes?"!!

The momentum that this meeting took on was quite remarkable. For the first time, residents had the opportunity to express their total frustration and, most importantly, they demonstrated the pent up anger which sent a powerful message to the Town of Palm Beach. The State, whose Inlet to Inlet regional project is proposed to cover these areas of shoreline, clearly heard the desperate need of the residents to obtain large scale beach nourishment projects with groins.

In response to the residents frustration at their dire situation and their dissatisfaction by the lack of action on a beach fix, Richard Hunegs, Chairman of the SOS said, "This requires political action because, as the Town of Palm Beach demonstrated with the Flagler Bridge, to get things done at higher levels, you have to take action now!"

The SOS has declared that this is the time for taxpayers to sound a rallying cry to save their properties and make a large impact on the Town Council in The Town of Palm Beach. Mr. Hunegs believes that shoreline erosion and the jeopardy that exists for the safety of the residents and the protection of their properties is at the "apex of all of the Town’s issues"!

Mr. Hunegs first called upon Town of Palm Beach Councilman Richard Kleid, who told residents that if there was a storm threat there would be sand bags on the way. The residents rejected Kleid’s statement and were displeased with Mr. Kleid’s announcement that the Town of Palm Beach could not restore the dunes or put sand on the beaches during the current turtle season. SOS’s Coastal Engineer Karyn Erickson, who was a presenter at this meeting, responded to Councilman Kleid that during turtle season it is possible to obtain an emergency extension until June 1st.

As a result of the anger vented by the residents, Town of Palm Beach Councilman William Diamond advised that "This meeting should be transported to the next Town Council Meeting on April 9th and I will place the SOS on the agenda."

To transport the SOS’s Public Service Meeting’s momentum, the SOS has prepared a Petition to be signed by each resident and taxpayer. This Petition, which will be submitted to the Town of Palm Beach Town Council, demands that the town act immediately to restore the dunes in the south end of the town in order to protect homes and properties from this summer’s storms and hurricanes. This is an effort to address the emergency situation that exists. The Petition also requests that the Town of Palm Beach apply for the necessary permits to undertake beach nourishment projects for those areas in the south end of the town that so desperately need adequate, long-term shoreline protection.

It appears that the SOS has immediately responded to the outcry of the residents at the Public Service Meeting and is actively going forward to have the Town of Palm Beach obtain the necessary shoreline protection for their residents.


Part 8: Benefits from the Palm Beach Island 

BMA Pilot Project 

Aerial Photo taken by Brian Lee for the SOS; shows the eroded beaches and dunes south of the Lake Worth Pier at low tide in the Town of Palm Beach. Much like their neighbors north of the pier, south of Sloan’s Curve. South of Palm Beach, those municipalities have NO beaches due to armoring of their shoreline.

Condos l-r are the Palm Beach Hampton, the Palm Beacher and Bellaria

It is necessary for all shoreline residents who live in the Town of Palm Beach, Lake Worth, South Palm Beach, Lantana & Manalapan to realize that they share a coastline from the Palm Beach Inlet to the Boynton Beach Inlet. These communities became an island, the Palm Beach Island, when the two inlets were created.

As a result, the coastline of each of these towns becomes interdependent on the other since sand flows past town boundaries in a north to south direction, unless interrupted by obstacles.

Due to the critically eroded beaches on Palm Beach Island and in recognition of the dependency of every town shoreline/beach within Palm Beach Island, the State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), under its Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems, has established the Palm Beach Island Beach Management Agreement (BMA) as their "Pilot Project".

To accomplish the goals of this Palm Beach Island BMA "Pilot Project", the State has outlined their plan for meeting the needs of the shoreline of each of the communities involved. The Agreement will improve the permitting process by monitoring sand drift, ocean current, sea turtle nesting and near-shore hard-bottom environments.

This Agreement will impact 15.7 miles of shoreline from inlet to inlet. Each community will be required to contribute to the cost of monitoring in accordance with the percentage of shoreline that their town occupies. According to the FDEP, "the BMA is designed to be a cooperative effort among the municipalities within the coastal cell, (from Palm Beach Inlet to Boynton Beach Inlet) and the success of the BMA is dependent on the participation of all the municipalities and implementation of the cell-wide monitoring plans."

The FDEP proposed this regional approach to shoreline protection in March, 2012. A series of Stakeholder Meetings was held with representatives of the Town of Palm Beach, South Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Lantana, Manalapan, Palm Beach County, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers.

As a journalist, I attended each of the all day meetings which took place from last spring to late fall of 2012. During the first two Stakeholder Meetings, it appeared that the Palm Beach BMA "Pilot Project" would consist of nothing more than to streamline the permitting process for the renourishment of shoreline areas where projects had already been done. However, after the power point presentation by Coastal Engineer Karyn Erickson, there was a shift in the direction of the BMA.

Karyn Erickson, the Coastal Engineer retained by The Coalition To Save Our Shoreline (SOS) developed a large scale beach nourishment plan and design with limited coastal structures south of Sloan’s Curve in the Town of Palm Beach. This plan will also benefit the coastline of communities that are south of the Town of Palm Beach.

Following the SOS/Erickson presentation, the FDEP BMA Meetings took on another dimension. The original draft of the BMA would now include "Proposed Activities" which are the new construction of environmentally suitable beach restoration designs and plans for critically eroded areas along the shoreline that, previously, did not have projects and would now be a part of the beach management draft. Deputy Director Danielle Fondren said that "as a result of the SOS’s ‘bulldog tenacity’ the Department decided to include ‘Proposed Activities’ which would, at a later time, be added to the document under ‘Projects Listed’".

A large scale beach nourishment plan such as the SOS/Erickson plan with limited coastal structures, will not only give adequate protection to the entire section of Reach 8, south of the Lake Worth Pier, but it will provide sand to the system for their southern neighboring municipalities.

Richard G. Hunegs, Esq., Leader of the SOS has stated that "As residents and taxpayers, we need to put emphasis on the need for our municipalities on Palm Beach Island to fully cooperate with the FDEP BMA ‘Pilot Project’. This is a one time opportunity that we have at our doorsteps to protect the most important asset that we have, our beaches. This is an investment in the value of our properties. As Florida property owners, we all will be affected by the outcome of this ‘Pilot Project’ being offered to us by the FDEP".

Hunegs stresses that "We now have a rare opportunity that the State of Florida’s Beaches and Coastal Systems, under the leadership of Deputy Director Danielle Fondren, has provided us. We, as individuals and residents of municipalities on Palm Beach Island must support the BMA in every way possible. We understand that financial concerns are great but we must look at the long term. Investing in our future and the protection of our beaches, environment and upland properties is of the utmost importance and will be cost effective in the long run".

"We must strongly urge our municipalities to become proactive participants in the protection of our shoreline and upland properties. As taxpayers, we must not tolerate the usual reactive stance that puts all of us in jeopardy."


Part 7: More Good News Regarding Beach Nourishment

Photo taken by The Town of South Palm Beach Police Officer, Mark McKirchy from the pool deck of Horizon’s East condominium with Ocean Front Inn’s Tide’s Bar & Grill and the Tuscany Condominium in the background  demonstrates the CRITICALLY ERODED SHORELINE and lack of beach in the Town of South Palm Beach. Notice that the wave has receded in the forefront, but it hits the seawalls. South Palm Beach, needs sand desperately from the beaches north of them. They are in jeopardy, which is easily seen here. No beach remains for South Palm Beach, unless their northern neighboring municipality gets a large scale beach nourishment, which will also feed those beaches to the south of them. What is needed here is to work together to protect the shoreline and the homes beyond it.

At the January 22, 2013 South Palm Beach Town Council Meeting, the Town Council, in a motion passed unanimously, publicly gave their support to the Coalition To Save Our Shoreline (SOS) and their efforts for beach nourishment.

South Palm Beach Council Member Bonnie Fischer introduced this agenda item and spoke about the goals that the SOS is pursuing to gain adequate shoreline protection. These include, among other things, the foresight and vision of the SOS to retain Coastal Engineer, Karyn Erickson, President of Erickson Consulting Engineers, Inc. to develop an environmentally sound full beach nourishment plan combined with limited coastal structures, such as groins, that will continue down the shoreline and benefit towns like South Palm Beach".

There was a positive and lengthy discussion between the Town Council, South Palm Beach residents and Richard Hunegs, Esq., who is the Leader of the SOS. Conversation ensued regarding the common interests of the Town of South Palm Beach and the residents who live in the Town of Palm Beach, on the dire need for adequate shoreline protection in these long neglected areas of Palm Beach Island. The Town Council and the audience agreed with Mr. Hunegs, who said that "due to the severe beach and dune erosion that exists, the risk to our environment and to our condos is staggering".

The Town Council and the audience all reacted positively to the SOS for their "tenacity", as Councilwoman Fischer described this "proactive" organization. Fischer spoke highly of the SOS and Coastal Engineer, Erickson. Fischer said that she "has looked at the SOS/Erickson plan and believes it is a good one for Reach 8 and the Town of South Palm Beach". She said that the plan is a "very viable plan" and that it is "the only one that makes sense".

Hunegs spent a great deal of time promoting and encouraging the Town Council Members to become signatories on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Beach Management Agreement (BMA) for the pilot program that will extend from Palm Beach Inlet to the Boynton Inlet along Palm Beach Island.

Council Member Stella Jordan said that she "fully supports the SOS and the BMA and that South Palm Beach should get involved with the BMA". Council Member Fischer whole heartedly agreed. Councilwoman Jordan also said that she is "thankful for everything the SOS has done and continues to do for all the residents along Palm Beach Island".

The second item of good news on adequate shoreline protection came during an interview with FDEP Bureau of Beaches & Coastal Systems, Beach Management Deputy Director Danielle Fondren. Fondren said that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), Beach Management, endorses "flexible structures like beach nourishment" and "hard coastal structures like groins". Fondren said that her Department is in favor of combined projects and will permit coastal structures like groins. She said, "Coastal structures such as groins are an appropriate action". Fondren said that the best results come when a plan "pinpoints coastal structures, like groins, in areas where they are needed, like ‘hot spots’".

This is exciting news for areas along the coastline that have not previously had groins or hard coastal structures to hold the beach sand on the shores. Groins are perpendicular coastal structures that are meant to slow the loss of sand and the currents and would still allow for movement southward in the littoral drift.

According to FDEP, Beach Management Deputy Director Fondren, "The Department wants to do what makes sense for the longevity of a project". This is welcome news to the many severely eroded areas on the south end of the Town of Palm Beach, the Town of South Palm Beach, Lantana & Manalapan.

More to come in Part 8 of this series. Stay tuned.

 


Part 6: Beach Nourishment & The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Aerial photo taken by Brian Lee for the SOS, demonstrates how the eroded 

beaches even at low tide in Reach 8 at the south end of the Town of Palm Beach, (not too dissimilar from their neighbors to the north of them in Reach 7), provide little or no protection for the upland properties that lay beyond them. This photo shows 3200 Condo who is representative of the major problem that currently exists; where one decent storm could mean a catastrophe. South Palm Beach and southward, have even less or no beaches due to their armored shoreline. For the south end of Palm Beach Island, their only hope is finally receiving the adequate shoreline protection through a "large scale beach nourishment project" with limited coastal structures to give it "longevity." This journalist, hopes that the LIGHT at the End of the this Tunnel, shines brightly and these proposed activities BECOME a BEACON of light for Palm Beach Island.

Finally, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for those critically eroded areas along the shoreline on the south end of Palm Beach Island!

This article will address "Who" is responsible for the planning of such monumentally positive action. Also, in this article, there will be a discussion of "How" adequate shoreline protection for these long neglected beaches will be achieved and finally, "What" produced the light at the end of the tunnel?

Under the Leadership of Deputy Director Danielle Fondren, the State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and its Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems, Beach Management, will now include a LARGE (environmentally suitable) beach nourishment project at the south end of Palm Beach Island. Such a project has never been entertained before. It will be included in the Department’s adopted Statewide Strategic Beach Management Plan strategy for proposed activities within the Agreement area.

As to the "light at the end of the tunnel", Deputy Director Fondren " attributes the extra attention, the new policy concepts, the large scale beach nourishment plan concept in Reach 8 and the prospect of coastal structures like groins incorporated into such a project, to the Coalition To Save Our Shoreline (SOS)". During this interview, Fondren repeatedly praised the continual efforts of the SOS as the instigation for this forward motion and the FDEP’s participation in guiding the Town of Palm Beach and Palm Beach County in initiating these "proposed activities".

Fondren referred to the civic-minded advocacy group, SOS, as a "bulldog" organization "that had and continues to have the wisdom to retain Coastal Engineer, Karyn Erickson, to develop a full scale Beach Nourishment Plan & Design for Reach 8," (which is environmentally suitable and has never been developed before) "and a second coastal alternative for Reach 7, including the Sloan’s Curve area", which is critically eroded as well. Deputy Director Fondren "welcomes Karyn Erickson’s continual involvement in this process". She said she "respects new ideas like those of Karyn Erickson" and was "happy to provide a venue for the SOS to have Karyn Erickson present the beach nourishment plan and alternative". Fondren stressed that if not for the "advocacy and persistence" and hands on "involvement of the SOS, none of this extra attention to these areas of shoreline that had not been previously nourished, would be happening".

This is great news for areas such as those that have previously been denied the proper nourishment and protection of their shoreline and their homes in this State. According to SOS Leadership, Richard Hunegs, Esq., "These areas of shoreline have been sorely neglected by the Township and Palm Beach County for years and it is time that they rectify this." An excerpt from the BMA, "The completion of feasibility/design studies and associated environmental impact statements for Reach 8 and Central Palm Beach projects," will be "eligible for State funding assistance in accordance with the Beach Management Funding Assistance Program." The Beach Management Division of the FDEP, besides sharing funding, will therefore become an active "participant in the entire process;" as Robert Brantly, FDEP, Beach Management, Coastal Engineer Program Administrator, said to this journalist in an interview. Brantly said that this is "something significant" having a "large scale project tied to Central Palm Beach." Brantly said that, they "are stepping forward for a project in Reach 8 through the BMA process to develop a joint project."

According to Deputy Director Danielle Fondren, this process will make it possible for Reach 7, Reach 8 and the southern municipalities to get projects. Specifically, Fondren said that " the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for Reach 8 and Central Palm Beach (South Palm Beach, Lantana & Manalapan) will help guide the future direction in the BMA with projects such as north of Phipps Ocean Park, at Sloan’s Curve" in Reach 7. Finally, through the Beach Management Agreement (BMA), a pilot project in the State of Florida that extends from Palm Beach Inlet to Boynton Inlet, light at the end of the tunnel is within our sights.

Richard Hunegs, Leadership of the Coalition To Save Our Shoreline (SOS), was proud and pleased by Fondren’s praise and the progress that we have made. He said that the SOS will continue to retain Karyn Erickson’s services so that she will actively be engaged in the process and will make sure that her environmentally sensitive plans and strategies are included in the final projects that are constructed on Palm Beach Island.

More important information is coming in Part 7 of this series. So stay tuned.


Part 5: Historical Beach Data a Key to Protection

Aerial view of the south end beaches in the Town of Palm Beach taken at low tide by photographer, Brian Lee. It shows the beaches in front of the Meridian Condo at 3300 S. Ocean Blvd. going northward to the Dorchester Condo. This photo is representative of all the eroded and shallow beaches in the south end of the Town of Palm Beach, even at low tide. The photo was taken from a helicopter for the Coalition SOS by Mr. Lee.

The beaches and sunshine in Florida have historically been what has attracted people to visit and move to our state. The communities & hotels that line the shoreline also serve as major revenue and tax assets that make Florida and more specifically Palm Beach County an attraction for so many people.

Whether or not you live directly on the coast, most residents and visitors enjoy the beaches. The beaches serve much more than just a recreational function. The most significant function of the beaches is, or should be, protection for the upland properties and for the residents who live there and in the neighboring vicinity. Richard Hunegs, Esq., who serves as the Leadership for The Coalition to Save Our Shoreline (SOS), has consistently stressed, "that we are a society that loves the seashore. The preservation of our beaches must be the underlying rationale for properly designed beach nourishment projects that are environmentally sensitive while giving adequate protection for upland properties. It is our job as taxpayers to assure that our beaches, for which Florida is famous, are adequately nourished and maintained to protect sea turtles, our homes and our investments".

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), Deputy Director Danielle H. Fondren and her staff are working on the Palm Beach Island Beach Management Agreement (BMA) pilot project with Palm Beach County and the municipalities between Lake Worth Inlet and the Boynton Beach Inlet. Through this pilot project the Department is coordinating its regulatory responsibilities with other state and federal agencies, local municipalities, the county and the public, "to streamline a program to protect the environment and to provide net ecosystem benefits". According to Fondren, "The BMA was initiated in part to address coastal erosion and environmental resource protection on a regional basis. Palm Beach Island has experienced critical erosion along more than 75% of its shoreline".

The purpose of this series has been to educate and enlighten residents of Florida and to bring out issues and possible solutions to this serious crisis that exists on our shorelines. The problem of severe beach erosion on Palm Beach Island did not just appear after Tropical Storm Sandy. Local municipalities and Palm Beach County which are in charge of coastal management for these areas along the shoreline have watched this situation worsen over time.

Several months back, Richard Hunegs on behalf of the SOS, in conversation with Danielle Fondren, expressed his concern that the local Palm Beach shoreline has become so eroded that not only will our "friends from the sea" not be able to survive because of no beach, but he feared for the residents and their upland properties. He explained that this was "due to years of neglect in certain areas of the shoreline, particularly the south end of the Town of Palm Beach". Hunegs expressed that this "has led to a situation where it will take far less than a catastrophic storm to devastate and destroy."

At December’s BMA Meeting, FDEP Deputy Director, Fondren presented a "Historical Shoreline Policy" concept that would make it possible according to her to "recapture shoreline" in new beach nourishment projects using historical shoreline data. The Historical Shoreline Policy concept was presented as an idea of how the FDEP may balance the historical erosion with environmental resource protection. This "recapture of the shoreline" could benefit new beach nourishment project areas on Palm Beach Island according to Ms. Fondren, "given some areas have seen shoreline recession of more than 200 feet since the 1940s."

"The main benefit for any of the Beach Management Agreement municipalities, (Palm Beach, South Palm Beach, Lantana & Manalapan), may be in providing project engineers with flexibility to design a project that would afford storm protection to upland property. Any of the municipalities in the BMA may benefit from the policy".

Deputy Director Danielle Fondren also said that the FDEP Beach Management Agreement’s goal "is to use the historical analysis to improve our ability to manage coastal erosion and environmental resources. The pilot BMA provides the FDEP the opportunity to explore historical data and find a balance between the protection of Florida’s beaches from erosion and the protection of environmental resources".

Richard Hunegs Esq. serving as the Leadership for the Coalition to Save Our Shoreline said the SOS highly endorses the adoption of the Historical Shoreline Policy by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for Beach Management of our Beaches & Coastal Systems as a NECESSITY especially for those areas that have thus far been denied any real adequate beach nourishment projects. Hunegs commends Danielle Fondren and her staff for this innovative approach to balance and better protect our shoreline and the residents of Florida. He also urges all the municipalities that are involved in the BMA pilot project to give the FDEP and Ms. Fondren their complete support to initiate this Historical Shoreline Policy as soon as possible.


Part 4: Seawall "Quick-Fix" — 

More Harm Than Good?

Photo by Bonnie Fischer, SPB Councilwoman

Taken by South Palm Beach Town Councilwoman Bonnie Fischer, 

shows the waves in South Palm Beach pounding the seawalls. 

Where is the beach?

Bonnie Fischer, Town of South Palm Beach Councilwoman and resident, describes how her seawall armored shoreline is under water because the once deep luscious beaches of South Palm Beach are now so dramatically eroded that the beach is under the ocean and there isn’t any sand on which to put sand dunes up against the seawalls! The waves lap against the seawalls and the beaches which once were wide, no longer exist except for possibly a slim space on which to walk at low tide. The seawalls that line the beachfront properties of South Palm Beach have their own issues; some are cracked while others are collapsing. The seawall at the Imperial House, at the Town’s boundary, had to be shored up some years ago because it proved woefully inadequate.

To the south of Ms. Fischer’s municipality, the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Manalapan/Lantana had serious problems when part of their seawall collapsed. The private homes in Manalapan, which have seawalls, suffered tremendous damage to their properties from the storm, Sandy. Their seawalls did not protect their shorefronts from the storm that was 200 miles offshore.

By definition, seawalls cause loss of sand because they provide a stationary object against which a retreating beach narrows and eventually disappears. It is also believed that seawalls may intensify certain wave action during storms that lead to beach loss. Wave action is intensified by seawalls rather than dissipated.

There has been much controversy over the role of seawalls. Most coastal engineers now agree that seawalls are destructive to the beaches.

The Corps of Engineers and Fla. Dept. Environmental Protection Beach Management Deputy Director, Danielle Fondren, both agree that beach nourishment is the environmentally preferable alternative to seawalls and as the method of choice in responding to beach erosion. Also, planting vegetation with beach replenishment nourishment instead of building seawalls has proven to be much more successful in halting beach erosion. Nourishing/re-nourishing beaches are a critical decision in this time of rising sea levels. Once a nourished beach is in place, storm waves must fight the sand absorption of the beach and dunes before they can reach the buildings.

Because the fate of sea turtles is a critical environmental issue, the renourished beach provides for new nesting areas for the turtles. Erosion, on the other hand, produces scarps or "cliffs" that present serious problems for nesting sea turtles which can not climb the scarps to lay their eggs.

It is the belief of Richard Hunegs, Esq. who serves as the Leadership for The Coalition To Save Our Shoreline, (SOS), that since we are a society that loves the seashore, we need to be certain that our beaches are receiving the best and most capable management possible. Representing the SOS, Mr. Hunegs has been dogmatic about his belief that in this time of rising sea levels, preservation of our beaches for future generations should always be the underlying rationale for properly designed beach nourishment projects that will be environmentally sensitive while giving adequate protection for upland properties that belong to the residents of this State.

Because of the concerns of Mr. Hunegs and the many residents that he represents, the SOS retained and financed Coastal Engineer Karyn Erickson to assist them in creating environmentally sensitive beach nourishment projects with limited coastal structures so that their town finally gives all areas that lie within it, the adequate protection that they deserve and require.

The seawalls of South Palm Beach have created a situation where the full beach nourishment project that Erickson designed for the SOS is needed to provide a feeder beach to give sand to their system. The seawall "Quick Fix" has proven to cause more harm than good.


Part 3: Positive Progress on Beaches & 

Coastal System, Thanks to FDEP 

Deputy Director Fondren

(12-12-12)

The above two photos were taken by South Palm Beach Councilwoman, Bonni Fischer. These photos, taken at the Imperial House, are representative of the entire shoreline and the perilous conditions that exist from Sloan’s Curve through La Bonnie Vie in Palm Beach and continues through South Palm Beach, Lantana and Manalapan. The properties with sea walls did not fair well, many cracked, collapsed, had seepage under the walls, and the waves, in some cases, went over towards the buildings. Sea walls are known to erode the beaches until there is little or no beach left. The entire strip of beaches with or without sea walls is in dire straits.

The purpose of this series has been to inform and enlighten local Florida residents of the important issues concerning our shoreline. This series continues to explain why things have gotten to this dangerous level; whose responsibility it is for protecting our coastline and the possible solutions for this major crisis.

At a recent Beach Management Meeting held by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, (FDEP), three important announcements were made that are a giant step toward adequate shoreline protection for our homes. Under the leadership of Danielle H. Fondren, Deputy Director of Beach Management at the FDEP, significant strides have been made. These three announcements that were made by the FDEP at last week’s meeting will have positive and beneficial ramifications for beach nourishment projects within the Town of Palm Beach, and will also be helpful to its neighboring municipalities along the coast. Southern neighbors like South Palm Beach, Lantana & Manalapan can reap positive results. Areas like Singer Island and northward can also utilize what has been presented at the Beach Management program.

Ms. Fondren & staff announced that they had decided that a policy change was necessary. This change has incorporated historical data on shoreline conditions dating as far back as 1940 which was retrieved through the cooperation of Palm Beach County. It is important to note that 1964 was the year that the State of Florida first recognized beach erosion as a statewide issue. Therefore, Fondren and staff have settled on 1964 for the retroactive date of shoreline conditions in order to ease permitting for new beach nourishment projects. Ms. Fondren explained that their concept "would affect future nourishment proposals in those areas that have not currently had nourishment projects". This new policy would "make it possible for future projects to be able to reflect back on the 1964 shoreline numbers for beach nourishment levels". Ms. Fondren also said that this "gives flexibility to the plans for potential shoreline projects going out into areas that have previously been unable to be permitted because of the resources in the area". This new policy concept is "allowing for some recapture of the shoreline to occur".

Richard Hunegs, Esq., Leadership for The Coalition SOS, believes that because of the persistence of his organization, in concert with others, the state agency, under the guidance of Ms. Fondren, has made tremendous strides with their intervention on behalf of the residents of this State. Hunegs believes the FDEP’s stand and new Historical Shoreline Policy concept will change the face of beach nourishment and the permitting process. It will allow better designed protective beaches with greater width to be created as they had existed years ago. Mr. Hunegs said that the SOS believes this type of policy shows great foresight and is highly commendable.

The next significant FDEP announcement by Deputy Director Fondren was that Florida has a world renowned reputation for their coastal policies. Fondren said that "the FDEP’s role is to sustain the beaches with balance". "Our job is to refine our methods and to find a continual balance". She said that their policy endorses "flexible structures and a combined effort of hard structures". When asked in conversation after her remark, Ms. Fondren explained that "flexible structures consist of beach nourishment which would also include dunes." "Hard structures," Fondren said, "are groins and or breakwaters." That would mean that the State of Florida FDEP Beach Management endorses both of these as a solution for our beach erosion problems. This is quite a revelation and it is most significant and positive.

Deputy Director Fondren also declared that the State Strategic Beach Management Plan is to incorporate beach nourishment plans and coastal alternatives that were presented to the FDEP, "such as those presented by Coastal Engineer, Karyn Erickson, with possible solutions in the Reach 7, Reach 8 area". (Reaches 7 & 8 are in the south-end of the Town of Palm Beach). She said that these are potential alternatives that can be appropriate.

These three announcements are significant for those living in perilous conditions along the shoreline. Richard Hunegs, the SOS Leadership, credits Danielle Fondren for these enormous accomplishments and forward motion. He also credits Robert Brantley, Coastal Engineering Program Administrator, Bureau of Beaches & Coastal Systems of the FDEP who works under Fondren’s leadership. Hunegs especially gives accolades and strongly compliments Coastal Engineer Karyn Erickson, whom the SOS has retained. It was the SOS that financed her development of a beach nourishment plan and second coastal alternative, both with limited coastal structures. Richard Hunegs says that this is all due to Erickson’s fine work. The SOS will continue to endorse and to utilize Erickson’s exceptional coastal engineering capabilities and knowledge for the benefit of all residents of the Town.

South Palm Beach Councilwoman, Bonni Fischer is also enthusiastic and supportive of the announcements made by FDEP Deputy Director Fondren. Fischer agrees that they can benefit South Palm Beach and their beaches.

Richard Hunegs believes that there are now reasons to be positive. He said that Danielle Fondren is "showing the way" and "it is now up to the Town of Palm Beach to put its oar in the water to get this accomplished by adopting the programs that Fondren and the FDEP have presented." "The Town has to adopt what has been presented by the FDEP without further delay."


Part 2: What All Residents Need To Know About Who Provides Shoreline Protection And How Each of Us Can Make A Difference

(11-28-12)

Photo taken from the rooftop of a condo after T.S. Sandy by Atriums Condo Manager, Marc Ritcher, shows fast and furious waves knocking the dunes out at the Halcyon, and overcoming the seawall at the Patrician and pounding the seawalls at the Claridges and La Bonne Vie. What looks like sand on all sides of the first sea wall is in fact the waves crashing over the wall towards the building. This was only a Tropical Storm. The sea wall does not appear to be doing much good. In Ft. Lauderdale is has been 

reported that a sea wall collapsed. The sea walls are known to cause tremendous beach erosion. This area has never been provided a beach nourishment project as of yet.

Photo taken by Residences at Sloan’s Curve Manager, Ivan Fraser. None of the condos and buildings within Sloan’s Curve have ever received a beach nourishment project and there is little beach left due to severe erosion. You can see that one small surge and these homes will be flooded out. Sloan’s Curve area is dire need

Photo taken by Atriums Manager, Marc Ritcher. Having never received a beach nourishment project and having a severely eroded beach and then little left of their dunes, the Atriums, like their neighbors, the Halcyon, the Emeraude, 3360 and like those north and south of them are in jeopardy when another storm strikes.

Dorchester Condo has the ocean up to what remains of their beach stairs. Severely eroded beach has never had a beach nourishment project and the dunes are now eroded as well. No protection here. Photo taken by Dorchester Manager, Ned Fleming.

It is about time that residents who live in the State of Florida and are taxpayers understand what we can do to help protect our shoreline.

The first thing you need to know is that neither the State of Florida nor the Federal government provides beach nourishment projects. That responsibility falls squarely on each municipality. For example, the Town of Palm Beach has its own coastal management department. Some shoreline municipalities are under the purview of their County for providing shoreline management, as is the case with Singer Island and South Palm Beach which are under the shore management of Palm Beach County.

The Town of Palm Beach will be used as an example for this scenario. The Town is responsible for the development of beach nourishment plans and designs that will adequately protect all of the Town of Palm Beach shoreline so that their taxpaying residents are protected from a storm event. The Town of Palm Beach should then proceed to develop the best projects. The Town of Palm Beach has been fortunate to have the assistance of a town organization, called The Coalition To Save Our Shoreline, (SOS) which as you already know is under the leadership of Richard G. Hunegs, Esq. The SOS has retained a well respected Coastal Engineer, Karyn Erickson, to design a beach nourishment plan and second coastal alternative for two areas of the Town. These plans include a limited number of coastal structures that will hold the sand in place. These types of plans in these specific areas have never been developed before by the Town for its residents. The SOS plans both provide adequate and environmentally sensitive beach nourishment and have been acknowledged by other coastal engineers to be viable. The plans have been submitted to the Town, the State and the County. It is the Town’s responsibility to develop beach nourishment projects. According to an SOS source, these beach nourishment plans were developed by the SOS because it appeared that the Town would otherwise continue to neglect those areas as they had done for so many years.

The process that follows is that the Town goes next to the State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection, (FDEP), to get a permit. The State approves the design and then the Army Corps of Engineers usually follows the State’s recommendation and would also approve the permit that the Town requests.

From there the permitted project goes back to the Town of Palm Beach, whose taxpayers finance these coastal management projects. Whether projects are done individually or jointly, neither the State nor the Federal government is responsible for developing the beach nourishment plans or implementing them. The State and Federal governments only grant permits for the projects presented to them.

Allen Wyett, former Town of Palm Beach Councilman for many years and currently adviser to the NAPB, a north end civic organization that is in agreement with the SOS, confirmed that the Town of Palm Beach is responsible, by tradition, for developing beach nourishment plans and projects which are submitted to the State for approval.

In situations such as the Town of Palm Beach, the municipality is responsible for implementing adequate projects that have been permitted by the State and or Federal government. Any belief or assertion that State or Federal red tape could prevent Town Officials from the development of a beach nourishment plan that has adequate protection would be erroneous.

Once the projects have been developed and permitted the taxpayers provide the revenue to protect the shoreline which in turn protects their entire town.

There seems to be some confusion between repairing the latest damages to the dune system and the development of adequate protective beach nourishment plans. It is significant to point out here that the dunes should not be the only defense against a storm. Constructing adequate beach nourishment projects would avoid this current crisis.

The Town of Palm Beach has asserted that their "level of adequate protection" is satisfied as long as the buildings are still standing, whether or not they are flooded and therefore unsafe and uninhabitable. This is the Town’s definition of adequate shoreline protection. In the Town of Palm Beach, two organizations, (both the SOS & the NAPB), are at odds with this level of protection as stated by the Town of Palm Beach and believe it is highly inadequate and unacceptable. It is a waste of tax dollars to promote projects that pursue the Town’s current "level of protection".

As a resident you can make a difference and find out the level of protection in your own municipality. Most importantly, stress that any beach nourishment plan must assure that the dunes will lie beyond the beach and are the last line of defense, not the properties and buildings where so many people live. We need to create beach nourishment projects that will not waste our tax dollars. We must protect our valuable shoreline and the homes that lie beyond it.

 


Part 1: Heed the warning that Sandy left in her wake before it is too late

(11-14-12)

Atriums Condo- 3400 S. Ocean, demonstrates the severe beach erosion, loss of dunes and beach steps. At high tide the ocean is pounding what is left of the dunes. One good surge and the damage will destroy valuable real estate and endanger residents.

Photo by 3400 Condo Manager:

Marc Richter.

Severe dune erosion in front of The Reef Condo, 2600 Condo and all their southern neighbors. Another storm and the buildings are in jeopardy. This portion of beach had been renourished in 2006 and the sand had washed away shortly afterwards and along with it, 

 tax dollars 

Photo taken by 2600 Condo Manager:

Hector Pintos.

Ambassador II Co-op. The Town claimed that the sand washed down from previously renourished beaches to their north to give the Ambassador a large beach. Sand on a flat beach is not designed to protect. Look how close to the buildings it is. One good wave and disaster would be forthcoming. 

Connie Dubé, Administrative Assistant checks out the damage.

Photo taken by Ambassador II Manager:

Donna Crandall

2100 at Sloan’s Curve. Nothing remains of the previously eroded beach and the dunes have been devastated as much as their beach steps. The waves are seriously too close. Another tropical storm could cause severe damage. In desperate need of much better shoreline protection.

Photo by 2100 Condo Manager:

Kristin Feesl

Tropical Storm Sandy, which became "Super Storm" as it moved up the coastline and struck the northeast, should ring all the alarm bells for those who live in Palm Beach County and any of the shoreline municipalities that suffered severe beach erosion from nothing more than a "Tropical Storm."

Up north, Sandy left behind "Catastrophic Devastation" in those shoreline communities that were wiped out and totally destroyed by a fluke "Super Storm" that caused so much tragedy for so many. The fact that locally, Sandy as nothing more than a slow moving Tropical Storm, completely wiped out dune systems, with already eroded beaches in front of them, should be a "WAKE-UP CALL" for all those shoreline municipalities’ where their residents’ homes at this point are hanging out in the abyss.

Hearing the reports of how some of the shoreline in the Town of Palm Beach has been left bare from merely a Tropical Storm, makes it essential that coastal management stops spending more and more tax dollars on repetitive reviews and studies around which continues the procrastination that keeps their residents in peril. It is the responsibility of government to protect the citizens and their properties before tragedy strikes and wipes out a community. We don’t want to need FEMA; we want proactive protection so that we don’t lose everything we value.

In the Town of Palm Beach , the most major issue that is little known by the public is what our Town considers their acceptable "Level of Protection." The Town thinks it is acceptable if everything is washed away, destroyed and "sacrificed" as long as the buildings are still standing. The buildings can be completely flooded and therefore uninhabitable, but according to Town standards this is their acceptable level of "Shoreline Protection."

A source from the Coalition to Save Our Shoreline (SOS) says that both the SOS organization and their ally organization from the north-end of Town, the NAPB, have a major bone of contention with the Town of Palm Beach’s failed level of protection for the thousands of residents that live in this peril. As Condo News readers are all aware from our last issue, the purpose of the SOS is to gain adequate shoreline protection for the residents living on or near the coast in the Town of Palm Beach. To that end, under the leadership of Richard G. Hunegs, Esq., the SOS retained and financed well respected Coastal Engineer, Karyn Erickson’s development of an environmentally sensitive and permitable beach nourishment plan and design with an additional coastal beach alternative in two areas of coastline in the town to rectify the neglect and impending catastrophic conditions that have been allowed to exist for so many years.

As a resident in a local municipality who now understands the implicit need for adequate shoreline protection, you each need to contact your municipality and make sure that they know the beaches should be adequately renourished and designed to be our first line of defense. The dunes should be the last line of defense, not the properties and buildings where so many live. You can play a part in avoiding certain disaster. Contact your municipality and let them know your thoughts on this matter.

More to come ...

 



Palm Beach County Drenched by T.S. Isaac

Outer band from T.S. Isaac churned up the ocean -- 

view from 3360 S. Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach, FL

Photo by Maddy Greenberg


 

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The Condo News print newspaper is published every other Wednesday. It is circulated throughout Palm Beach County, from Delray to North Palm Beach, and from Singer Island, Palm Beach and South Palm Beach to Royal Palm Beach, in Condominium, Cooperative and Home Owner Association Communities. For more information, or to have the Condo News  brought to your community, e-mail us or write to: P.O. Box 109, West Palm Beach, FL 33409. Tel:(561) 471-0329