Last week the Palm Beach County Commission decided to grow and burn sugarcane on the old Mecca Farms property, and this week the county commission approved 12,900 acres of wind turbines that will ultimately employ 15 to 20 skilled workers in the Glades, where more than 4,000 residents are looking for jobs. Unemployment rates in November were 44.9 percent in South Bay and 30.4 percent in Pahokee.
Environmental groups are concerned about the negative environmental impact of over 100, 30-story-high fans. Besides, there are less expensive and more efficient ways to conserve energy like the renewable, geothermal, self-sufficient Free Enterprise Agency plan that I proposed three years ago for the Glades. If the county had employed that plan, there would now be 2,000 permanent light manufacturing jobs in the Glades.
Burning sugarcane off the Mecca Farms property is a really bad idea. In the Glades, burning is a long-standing practice, and anyone who moves under the rain of ash cannot complain. But residents who are already situated next to the old Mecca Farms debacle are entitled to continue to enjoy clean air. I believe the commissioners are about to buy more lawsuits. Why close sugar production in the Glades, take away their jobs, only to create a nuisance and jobs in Palm Beach Gardens?
Not only will environmentalists sue to prevent the Mecca Farms sugarcane burning, but nearby residents will have a cause of action sounding in nuisance. Commissioner Jess Santamaria is a voice of reason and has consistently maintained that the county should unburden itself by selling the Mecca Farms property. Santamaria was not present when the commissioners voted to burn sugarcane.
I have discussed job creation alternatives in the Glades with Commissioner Santamaria and I am convinced that he is sincerely interested in creating jobs in the Glades. I proposed the creation of a county association to be formed to construct and operate a job-training and production facility for 2,000 workers. Then Florida Sen. President Jeff Atwater favored the plan. I drafted legislation and offered it to State Sen. Larcenia Bullard, who proposed a modified plan for Miami-Dade.
Commissioner Burt Aaronson, usually a cautious member of the commission, favors the wind turbines and wants to proceed without hearing from environmental groups. I think that is a mistake. Environmental groups are poised to stop 114 whirling fans that will only employ 10 to 15 workers, and the fast moving blades will kill 40 times that many birds each year.
Burning and turbines are two really bad ideas for the economy and the environment.
Frank Morelli, Wellington