RPB Council Celebrates Students By Awarding Scholarships

This year’s Village of Royal Palm Beach scholarship recipients with council members and Education Advisory Board members. Photo courtesy Miranda Russell/Royal Palm Beach

The Village of Royal Palm Beach celebrated the successes of its students on Thursday, May 18 as the Royal Palm Beach Village Council presented $1,000 scholarships to 10 local high school seniors.

“It’s that time of year when we get to recognize some outstanding students who live here in the Village of Royal Palm Beach,” Mayor Fred Pinto said.

While Pinto had the honor of presenting the scholarships, the hard work of collecting the applications and interviewing the candidates was done by the village’s Education Advisory Board.

“This is a really special time of the year for the graduates, no doubt about it. Their families have lots to be proud of, and we’re proud of the fact that we have such outstanding graduating seniors,” said Councilman Jeff Hmara, who serves as the board’s liaison. “One of the favorite things that we get to do at the Education Advisory Board is the interview process, and it generates a lot of hope for the future. The mayor gets to do the most fun part — and that’s provide the checks.”

Seven of the students graduated this month from Royal Palm Beach High School: Sarah Ahmed, Sanjana Balkaran, Chloe Carpenter, Samuel Dorcelus-Cetoute, Daphna Edouard, Adonte Jakusik and Sophia Madden.

Seminole Ridge High School’s Robert Lebrun and Jana Wallace were also scholarship recipients, along with Kaiya Stegall from Berean Christian School.

“With all the world turmoil going on today, it’s really refreshing to see such talented young students moving out into the world, and they will be our future leaders,” Pinto said.

Later in the meeting, the council received the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office District 9 annual report, given by Capt. Ulrich Naujoks. “This will mark my 10th year involved in this presentation,” said Naujoks, who provided a list of statistics for 2022.

The Citizen Observer Patrol (COP) program provided 762 volunteer hours for a determined value of $22,821.90. There were a total of 102,594 calls for service, with 19,461 being direct calls, and the others being incidents such as traffic stops and business or residence checks. This was an overall decrease of two percent compared to 2021.

“As a commander, I would hope that as calls for service go down, our proactivity would go up,” Naujoks said. “We spend less time helping the public, so we should be interacting with people in other ways. If I’m low on one end, I’m looking for an increase on the other. The deputies were more active.”

Despite fewer calls, the crime index in Royal Palm Beach technically rose from 523 in 2021 to 585 in 2022. When looking at the 10-year index, crime is up since the pandemic, but still lower than pre-pandemic levels.

“The people in Royal Palm Beach feel very safe, and they should. But with safety sometimes comes complacency. ‘It’s OK to leave my car in the driveway with this in the back, no one is going to bother it.’ And then some kids come along,” Naujoks said, stressing that most crime in the village are crimes of opportunity.

One striking accomplishment for the District 9 Detective Bureau is the 43.75 percent case clearance rate, he noted. The national average is only 19.7 percent for detectives.

In other business:

• As the rebuilt Publix nears completion in the Crossroads shopping plaza, the owner of the property at 1180 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. requested a modification to the timeline requirement for installing public art at the site.

“Due to timing constraints associated with the earlier completion of the Publix renovation, the owner has requested additional time to receive approval for the commission and to install the public art piece, which is being created by international artist Wenqin Chen overseas,” RPB Public Art Professional Mario Lopez Pisani said.

The request for a six-month extension from the date of council approval also included a bond for twice the cost of the artwork, in the event of a default.

After extensive discussion and a presentation by attorney Janna Lhota on behalf of the property owner, the council approved the request 4-1 with Vice Mayor Jan Rodusky dissenting.

• The council unanimously updated its ordinance relating to swale parking. The clarification of swale parking restrictions requires that private property owners not store vehicles in that area.

“The big difference is [the vehicle] has to move every day. It can’t be stored there,” Village Manager Ray Liggins said. “You can’t park there enough that you can’t grow grass. There are the same limitations on commercial vehicles, and you can’t block through traffic.”

• The council also held its annual review, evaluation and merit pay determination for Liggins, which concluded with a five percent, lump sum increase, with the entire council in support. Several council members attributed the longevity of staff to his leadership.

“Sitting up here, that gives me pride that we are establishing a workplace where people appreciate it and enjoy working for the village, because if it was that bad, especially in this economy, people would be leaving,” Councilman Richard Valuntus said.