RPB Seniors Picked For Advisory Board

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council approved the appointment of seven members and two alternates to its newly established Ad Hoc Senior Citizen Advisory Board on Thursday, Aug. 18.

The board was established in July to be a partner for planning and implementing systems and programs to address matters concerning senior citizens. The committee is scheduled to sunset on June 30, 2017.

Councilwoman Selena Smith, who headed the selection process, said more than enough residents had applied for the board. After speaking with them, she recommended Helen Benvenuto, Mary Hazell, Judith Kohler, Iris Levin, Barry Martin, Elaine Plachter and Sandy Rubin as regular members, and Mary Kaminski and Maxine Yoss as alternates.

Although Smith’s nominations were approved 5-0, some council members questioned the concentration of applicants from a particular community.

Councilman David Swift said he was concerned that six of the 11 who applied were Greenway Village residents. The others were one from Royal Pines, two from Village Walk, one from Counterpoint Estates and one from Madison Green.

“The concern I have is that Strathmore Gate East and West is a large retirement community, and I was thinking about at least somebody from there,” Swift said. “Crestwood Estates is a large area; La Mancha, I guess no one applied from there. I could give you some people from there to take a look at.”

Mayor Fred Pinto shared Swift’s concern about having a large number of people from the same community. He asked whether they could reach out to members of communities that are not represented.

“From a timeline standpoint, I’d rather we take a little bit longer,” Pinto said.

Village Attorney Jennifer Ashton said that the council would have to re-advertise for applicants. “There is nothing wrong with re-advertising to get a broader applicant pool,” she said.

Smith said she had met with several homeowners’ associations as well as the Young at Heart Club board to get applicants.

“I did want a nice variety of different backgrounds,” she said. “I do agree there is a large number of Greenway South applicants… I feel that in the last four months, I’ve spoken to as many people as I can.”

Smith asked whether people Swift had mentioned had applied, and Swift said he was not sure if they were aware of the open positons.

Smith noted that she had fought to get seven members rather than five in order to get broader representation.

Vice Mayor Jeff Hmara said he had spoken to several residents about the board, and only one had applied.

“I agree a broader cross-section would be better,” Hmara said. “On the other hand, unless we get some sense of how to make that happen, we could go through the process and wind up right where we are right now.”

Village Manager Ray Liggins said the meetings will be open to the public and participation is welcome. However, the board’s duties are very specific as it relates to the planning and implementation of senior programs.

“In lieu of re-advertising, maybe part of the agenda could include public comment, and make that public comment part of the record,” Liggins said.

Councilwoman Jan Rodusky agreed that representation should be as broad as possible, but did not want to discount those people who had already applied.

“Let’s be sure and keep them in the context of this board before we go and find brand-new ones,” Rodusky said.

Smith made a motion to accept her recommendations, with the condition that the meetings are open and anyone is welcome to participate, which carried 5-0.

In other business, the council approved the sale of its two fire stations to Palm Beach County.

The village has been protected by Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue for more than 15 years. Ownership of the stations date back to when the village had its own fire department.

Liggins said that last November, the village entered into an agreement with the county that identified the potential to sell the stations, using the property appraiser’s market value.

The agreement will convey both fire stations to the county, with the purchase price for Village Station No. 1 (now Station 28) on Royal Palm Beach Blvd. at $978,310, and Village Station No. 2 (now Station 29) on Belvedere Road for $768,354.

If the county chooses to purchase the stations, it would be restricted to fire-rescue operations. If approved, the village would no longer levy fire-rescue impact fees unless the village opts out of the municipal service taxing unit.

Liggins said that if the village chooses to go back into the fire-rescue business, the county has agreed to sell back the stations using the same methodology.

Pinto asked whether there will be a future ordinance eliminating the fire impact fees, and Ashton said recommendations would be forthcoming on what specific fees to add or remove, and what impact fee collection would stop upon closing the sale of the stations.

“We are coming back to you to have a formal vote on the fire impact fee collection,” she said.

Swift asked why it was a good deal to sell the stations, and Liggins said it takes the village out of responsibility for the stations.

“At Station 28, we’re maintaining the outside of the building, and we’re responsible for structural issues, and that is on both of the buildings,” Liggins said. “This really gets us out completely, and the county is accepting the buildings as full fee-simple ownership with full maintenance responsibilities.”

He reiterated that if a future council decides to maintain a fire department, it can take back the buildings in a reasonable deal with the county.

“Some of our major concerns were the locations of these stations,” Liggins said. “They are great locations for serving Royal Palm Beach. The county has agreed to leave them as fire stations. We thought these locations were more important than the actual price.”

Ashton said one of the main points of discussion was that the fire stations remain fire stations.

“They shall remain for fire-rescue purposes forever,” she said. “A big concern for us was that with all the western growth happening right now, these stations would be picked up and moved far away from Royal Palm Beach, and then if you ever decided to get back into the fire-rescue business, you would be left without facilities. The county was agreeable to those deed restrictions.”

Swift made a motion to approve the agreement, which carried 5-0.