It will be a very long day for family members and friends of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas victims. As they have said in the year since the shooting, of course, every day is a long day.
School security remains an issue for parents, even though Frank Barbieri told me this week that he doesn’t get as many calls as he did when the year began. Barbieri is chairman of the Palm Beach County School Board, and his district includes Boca Raton and West Boca.
Some safety improvements in county schools—financed by the 2016 sales tax surcharge—were underway before last Feb. 14. The district has added others, because of the shooting and the resultant legislation.
Among other things, the bill required at least one police officer on every campus. The district police force didn’t have enough—the countywide gap was 75—so Boca Raton officers have been patrolling elementary schools in the city. The department actually assigned them immediately after the shooting.
For the balance of last year, the city received no compensation. Since August, however, the district has been reimbursing the city. According to a city spokeswoman, the daily rate is about $636.
Barbieri said the district has hired 66 officers since August and that the plan is to go above 75, though a final number remains uncertain. The district maintains a school-by-school list of security improvements that have been made and are scheduled.
“You can’t see it,” Barbieri said, but parents who ask about individual schools get the information. “We don’t want to publicize” any remaining potential weaknesses, Barbieri said.
One goal is to have a single entry point at all schools. This is easier to do at smaller elementary schools and harder at large campuses designed to be open. Many older schools were built to be more open in the subtropics.
I wouldn’t expect to see any armed teachers or other personnel at Boca Raton or Delray Beach schools. A bill in the Legislature would require sheriffs to train what the bill calls “guardians,” but only if the school board approved the program. The Palm Beach County School Board is on record against arming teachers.
At the school district’s pace, Boca Raton officers will be off city campus by the end of the year. The other effects of the shooting will continue.
Oasis a winner
Organizers say the first Oasis Championship in Boca Raton was a smash.
Last weekend’s PGA Champions Tour event at Broken Sound’s Old Course was the initial year of a three-way sponsorship deal with West Palm Beach Oasis Outsourcing. Insurer Allianz sponsored the event when it began in 2007 until last year.
Eddie Carbone of Pro Links Sports is the tournament’s director. The Oasis, Carbone said, had “record attendance” with “huge crowds” for Sunday’s final round. The number of volunteers also was higher.
Carbone cited several factors. The winner was Bernhard Langer. In addition to being the tournament’s first repeat champion, he’s a local guy, with a house in Boca Raton’s northwest section. Gary Nicklaus—whose Hall of Fame father, Jack, lives in Palm Beach County—was in the field, along with the popular Fred Couples and first-time senior tour player Retief Goosen, who won two U.S. Opens on the PGA Tour.
He also praised Broken Sound for having the course in what the players said was perfect condition and the city for its annual in-kind services contribution. Finally, Carbone added, “There was that Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce weather on Sunday.”
The event raises money for Boca Raton Regional Hospital and other area non-profits, this year Junior Achievement. Carbone said Oasis officials were very pleased with the event. Next year, Carbone said, organizers are looking at “expanding,” perhaps with evening activities. “There’s always more you can do.”
BRRH announces gift
Boca Raton Regional this week announced what the hospital said is the sixth, eight-figure donation toward its quarter-billion-dollar capital campaign.
The $10 million comes from Lou and Anne Green, whose relationship with Boca Regional dates to the early 1990s. The Memory and Wellness Center already bears their names. Lou Green has served for many years on the hospital’s board of trustees and foundation board.
When the new, seven-story patient tower is complete, the lobby will be named for the Greens. The tower is the centerpiece of the remake of Boca Regional’s core facilities as the hospital prepares for its partnership with Baptist Health. Three floors of the new tower will remain vacant, to accommodate growth.
Delray’s new chief
Delray Beach has a new police chief.
It’s Javaro Sims, one of the two assistant chiefs whom City Manager Mark Lauzier was considering. He will replace Jeffrey Goldman, who started in January 2014. Last year, Lauzier made Goldman an interim assistant city manager and gave Sims and Maria Olsen each a stint over the last six months as interim chief to evaluate them.
I asked Lauzier what made him choose Sims. In an email, he called the two “very qualified and knowledgeable people with long, successful careers in law enforcement.” Lauzier was able to “assess their performance, hear from department members and listen to extensive community input. After this multi-faceted review and interview process, I was impressed with Sims’ knowledge, training, background, community support and ongoing dedication to our city as well as his One Community vision for our city and the police department.”
IPic is about to open its theater-office project in downtown Delray Beach, but the moment likely may happen without any elected officials present.
The company sent invitations to a grand opening gala on March 6. But City Commissioner Ryan Boylston said he and his colleagues plan to be in Tallahassee that Wednesday for Palm Beach County Day. According to Boylston, iPic said the company couldn’t change the date.
Commissioners are unlikely to cancel the trip to Tallahassee. Among other things, they will want to ask legislators to back off further encroachment onto home rule. Legislation that failed last year would have greatly reduced how the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency can spend money.
Boylston said iPic told him that the company would hold a “smaller event” later for commissioners. Of course, only one person remains in office from the commission that approved iPic in 2015. That’s Mayor Shelly Petrolia—and she opposed the project.
There’s no information on iPic’s website about when movies will start. I contacted the company’s public relations representative for confirmation and details. She did not respond by deadline for this post.
Delray waterway report
There’s a jaw-dropping number on page 49 of the City of Delray Beach Intracoastal Waterway Water Level & Infrastructure Vulnerability Study.
According to the consultants who prepared the report, it will cost almost $400 million to protect the city from rising seas. For comparison, that’s about three times the city’s general fund operating budget.
Of the estimated $378 million for higher, stronger seawalls, raised roads and other projects, $157 million alone would go to the Tropic Isles neighborhood south of Linton Boulevard and east of Federal Highway. The consultants identified it as the city’s largest problem area.
Not surprisingly, the report jolted city commissioners at Tuesday’s workshop meeting. I’ll have more next week.
Petrolia blasts CRA
Mayor Shelly Petrolia delivered a jolt of her own earlier Tuesday when she and city commissioners met as the community redevelopment agency.
Having asked to add the item to the agenda at the last minute, Petrolia vented about the CRA’s choice on Jan. 29 of BH3 to develop the key parcel of CRA-owned land in The Set. Petrolia had supported Uptown Delray at that meeting, as she has supported Uptown for the last year as it supposedly passed from one ownership group to another.
Petrolia claimed that she asked for Tuesday’s discussion to raise the issue of the board’s failure to designate a No. 2 candidate for the 600-800 blocks of West Atlantic Avenue. In fact, Petrolia tried to engineer a second vote that would rank Uptown over BH3.
“We’ve got a problem,” Petrolia claimed. The problem she imagined stemmed from a comment about BH3 needing to drop its request for $13 million in public subsidies. Commissioner Bill Bathurst had made the comment—to me and others—and Petrolia intimated that the remark amounted to an unfair advantage for BH3. Shouldn’t all the bidders have had a chance to alter their proposals and gain support?
CRA Attorney David Tolces responded that “nothing improper” happened with the award, despite Petrolia’s loose handling of the meeting. It was the first of several times that Tolces would reject Petrolia’s contention that the city faced a legal problem from the award.
The deadline for bid protests has come and gone. Petrolia wondered if one of the other bidders could sue. Well, sure, Tolces said. Anyone can sue. Petrolia tried another angle. “That’s a hypothetical,” Tolces said.
Petrolia hoped that her warning—“I’ve hardly been sleeping”—would persuade one of the four board members who supported BH3 to ask for a second vote. It didn’t happen. But she did secure a vote to make Uptown the No. 2 bidder. Even that might not mean anything. If the CRA couldn’t agree on a contract with BH3, the board could rehear proposals from the other developers.
The staff committee ranked Uptown last among the five bidders. Yet Petrolia continues to be Uptown’s cheerleader, assisted primarily by CRA board member Angeleta Gray.
“I just want to have an open conversation,” Petrolia said when discussion began. But one wonders what remains hidden about her campaign for Uptown.
New luxury condo VP
The new vice president at Group P6 is Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer’s former campaign consultant.
Todd Richardson is vice president of sales for the company, which is developing two downtown luxury condo projects—327 Royal Palm and 475 Royal Palm—and a downtown senior living center, Concierge. The company is based in Boca Raton and is looking for other projects.
After two decades as a consultant and strategist, Richardson told me, he wanted out of politics. When Singer makes his run for reelection next March, Richardson said, it will be with a different hired hand.
“He’s my friend,” Richardson said of Singer. If the mayor wanted him to work as a volunteer, Richardson said, he would do so. As for any involvement beyond that, “It would be a big surprise. I’m enjoying what I do now.”