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12304892872?profile=RESIZE_710x The great room’s open floor plan evokes a comfortable lifestyle and has adjacent living and dining areas that overlook the covered patio through floor-to- ceiling impact glass walls. Photos provided

Influenced by the breezy architecture of Bermuda and the West Indies, the 14 home sites in Bluewater Cove at Place Au Soleil in Gulf Stream provide peaceful havens of ease and well-being. Developed and constructed by a collaboration between Courchene Development and Ironwood Properties, the homes range from single level to two-story and were designed by Affinity Architects.

12304894859?profile=RESIZE_710xThe large covered patio has a complete outdoor kitchen for al fresco dining and entertaining. A custom pool and spa help to create a paradise for outdoor living.

The newly constructed home at 2911 Bluewater Cove is a 4-bedroom, 4½-bath, 2½-car garage design. It has hardwood floors throughout the main living areas and bedrooms and has crown molding throughout as well. A substantial mahogany front door with tongue and groove ceiling at the entryway welcomes you into the great room. Off to the right is the gourmet kitchen with island and Thermador appliances, including a 30-inch refrigerator and 30-inch freezer, dual ovens, six-burner gas cooktop and all the requisite culinary amenities including dual wine coolers and walk-in pantry.

12304767266?profile=RESIZE_584xThe club room provides a secondary retreat to be utilized as a TV room and office.

The whole house is equipped with impact windows and doors, custom millwork and built-ins, as well as being a Smart Home featuring LED 4-inch-square recessed lighting, and a Crestron low-voltage lighting system.

12304894682?profile=RESIZE_710xThe expansive owner’s suite has an oversized shower and free-standing tub. The suite overlooks a lush, private garden and has His and Her spacious walk-in closets with built-in shelving.

Offered at $4,875,000.

Contact Linda Lake, Sales Associate, Corcoran, 561-702-4898, or Kelley Johnson, Sales Associate, Corcoran, 561-703-3839,

Each month, The Coastal Star features a house for sale in our community. The House of the Month is presented as a service to our advertisers and provides readers
with a peek inside one of our homes.

Read more…
12290624879?profile=RESIZE_584xFlowers left beside State Road A1A in South Palm Beach to memorialize a pedestrian who was killed on Friday, Nov. 10, after being struck by a vehicle.  There were no apparent skid marks or any other evidence easily visible at the scene that showed there had been an accident. The Barclay condominium building is in the back to the right.  Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star


By Brian Biggane

A 73-year-old South Palm Beach woman crossing State Road A1A on Nov. 10 was struck and killed in a hit-and-run incident just north of the Barclay condominium.

The woman, who lived on the sixth floor of the Barclay, has been identified on Facebook postings and by a New York funeral home as Hatixhe Laiqi.  A black 2016 GMC Terrain hit her at about 6 p.m. Friday, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue dispatched units to the scene. Responding paramedics pronounced Laiqi dead at the scene and the investigation was turned over to the PBSO homicide division.

PBSO did not release any details of the incident over the weekend and did not return repeated calls to its media relations office by The Coastal Star. On Nov. 13, PBSO released its log of the event, which included information about the victim, the car and the incident.

The GMC Terrain was traveling north in the 3500 block of South Ocean Boulevard when it struck Laiqi as she was crossing the road, the report said, with Laiqi landing on the west shoulder of A1A.

PBSO said late Monday it had recovered the vehicle, which it said had Maryland plates. It identified the driver as Amneris Ramos, 43, of Boynton Beach. Charges are pending.

Mayor Bonnie Fischer said she received a call from Sgt. Mark Garrison, who commands the South Palm Beach post of PBSO, shortly after the incident and walked to the scene.

“We saw the body, we saw the shoes in the road, and the PBSO homicide van,” Fischer said. “I know she lived in the Barclay. She was crossing (the road) from the Barclay.”

The Pleasant Manor Funeral Home, Inc. in Thornwood, New York, is handling arrangements.

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By Larry Barszewski

The Ocean Ridge Town Commission on Nov. 9 appointed David Hutchins and Ainar Aijala Jr. to fill two upcoming vacancies on the commission.

Hutchins, a retired airline pilot who currently sits on the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, and Aijala, a retired longtime executive with the auditing and consulting firm Deloitte, will be sworn in at the commission’s January meeting.

“I would like to thank you guys for putting some faith in me,” Hutchins said after the 3-0 vote for him. “I think the experience I got at P&Z will be helpful and I’ll do everything I can and I’m sure I will learn a lot more.”

Aijala was not present at the special meeting. He was appointed on a 2-1 vote. Former Commissioner Robert Sloat, who served for three months in 2019 in an appointed capacity, also received a vote.

The two appointees will replace Commissioners Ken Kaleel and Philip Besler, who turned in their resignations effective Dec. 30.

Kaleel is resigning rather than be forced to submit a more comprehensive financial disclosure form that the state will be requiring from elected municipal officials beginning in 2024. Besler said he was resigning for personal reasons.

Kaleel and Besler were appointed to their positions in May, following the resignations of Commissioners Martin Wiescholek and Kristine de Haseth. Both had previous experience as commissioners.

This time around, Sloat was the only applicant to have served on the commission.

Kaleel and Besler were not allowed to vote for their replacements, so the decisions fell to the same three members who appointed them: Mayor Geoff Pugh, Vice Mayor Steve Coz and Commissioner Carolyn Cassidy.

The three made their selections from eight applicants—five who originally applied when the two seats were open in April and three who submitted their names in October.

The other applicants were Nicolas Arsali, Craig Herkert, Victor Martel, Mike Mullins and Peter Wolf.

The new appointments will last until the March 19 election. The candidate qualifying period for the March election is currently underway for the two seats and the one held by Pugh. The qualifying period ends at noon Nov. 17. For more information, contact Town Clerk Kelly Avery.

Both Hutchins and Aijala said they plan to submit papers to run in March.

Aijala served 38 years at Deloitte, including four years as CEO of its world leading global consultant practice. He retired in 2020 and has lived in town since 2019.

Aijala has served on the global board of Junior Achievements Worldwide.  He serves on the board of governors at The Little Club in Gulf Stream.

“I have always been committed to serving the communities in which we live, but until my recent retirement I was only able to fulfill this commitment through my involvement with charitable and not for profit organizations. I am now able to serve the residents of Ocean Ridge without conflict and would be eager to do so,” Aijala wrote in his application for the position.

Hutchins has been a town resident since 1990. He has been a member of the planning commission since 2017 and was an alternate member 2015-17.

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By Steve Plunkett

Thom Smith resigned his position as a Gulf Stream town commissioner at the end of the panel's Nov. 9 meeting.

"I have been honored and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to serve the town I feel so strongly about," Smith read from his prepared resignation letter. "We have a very special place to live and recreate and I look forward to it remaining so for many years to come."

Outside the meeting, Smith said he quit to have more time to devote to his accounting business and to family members who live outside of town.

He was not worried, he said, about having to disclose his net worth and other financial details on the state's Form 6 had he still been on the dais on Dec. 31. Filing the Form 6 is a new requirement this year for municipal officials.

"I could have handled it," Smith said.

Smith was appointed to the commission in April 2022 after serving as chairman of the town's Architectural Review and Planning Board. He replaced Donna White, who moved to Palm Beach Gardens.



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By Rich Pollack

The battle between Delray Beach and Highland Beach over who owes who money in a dispute over fire service fees is heating up after a preliminary report from state auditors showed the city failed to bill the town $2.2 million, mostly for pension contributions dating back several years.

At the same time, Highland Beach leaders are sticking to their claim, made before the state’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee earlier this year, that Delray Beach owes the town money because the city used the wrong calculation to determine fire-rescue service fees.

How the two conflicting viewpoints will be resolved could end up being decided through mediation or even in a courtroom, with Highland Beach Town Manager Marshall Labadie telling commissioners on Tuesday that the town is developing a pre-litigation strategy.

“If we have to go to mediation, so be it,” he said, adding that he spoke to an attorney specializing in these types of issues within days of the preliminary audit report being made public last week. The audit was ordered by the state committee in March.

While Delray Beach officials have not come right out and said that they will seek to get the $2.2 million that they should have billed Highland Beach, City Manager Terrence Moore said that the city will be using forensic auditing services to determine the precise calculation of the balance due to the city.

“Final data analysis from this exercise will be reported to the City Commission, enabling consideration relative to mediation and/or other opportunities available to both parties,” Moore wrote in a note to his commission.

In Highland Beach, town leaders said if it turns out the state auditors are correct and the city didn’t bill the town properly, the town shouldn’t be responsible for resolving the issue.

“Because they underbilled us, doesn’t mean we should have to pay,” said Highland Beach Commissioner Evalyn David, an attorney. “There’s an argument to be made that this is on them.”

 In the preliminary operational audit report, which focused on the financial processes used by Delray Beach’s Fire Rescue Department as part of its agreement with Highland Beach, the auditor listed a handful of findings that showed flaws in how numbers were calculated. 

“During the period October 2019 through December 2022, the City experienced significant turnover in certain key management positions, which may have contributed to the control deficiencies and instances of noncompliance disclosed in this report,” the auditor from the State Auditor General’s Office wrote.

Among the findings were:

  • Firefighter salary and benefit amounts recorded in the city’s accounting records and billed to the town did not agree with employee timekeeping records.
  • City purchasing policies and procedures did not ensure that goods and services ordered, received and distributed to the town’s fire station were accurately billed to the town.
  • The city didn’t perform timely collection efforts on the town’s nonpayment of billed services totaling $517,654.

The auditors also found that Delray Beach didn’t use consistent actuarial information to calculate how much Highland Beach should have contributed to the pension fund for the firefighters that were assigned to serve the town.

While some members of the Delray Beach commission have portrayed the report as a win for the city in published reports, Highland Beach leaders say it is just the opposite.

“I would be embarrassed if I was Delray,” said Town Attorney Glen Torcivia. “Delray looks like it wasn’t mismanaged, it looks like it wasn’t managed at all.”

Labadie told commissioners that Delray Beach’s financial issues and inability to provide the town with adequate records was one factor behind Highland Beach’s decision to start its own department, which will take over from Delray Beach in May.

“That’s one of the reasons we wanted to leave,” he said.

Going forward, Labadie said he and Torcivia are writing a letter to the legislative committee expressing concerns with the report, including that no one from the state auditor’s office contacted the town.

 That committee is expected to review the audit at a meeting in the near future.

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12281655484?profile=RESIZE_710xGov. Bob Graham presents an A1A sign to Jimmy Buffett in 1981 after they founded the Save the Manatee Club. Florida Memory

12281666068?profile=RESIZE_400xBy Ron Hayes

After Jimmy Buffett died on Sept. 1, too many national news reports reacted as if Florida’s beloved balladeer of boats, beaches and bars had written only two memorable songs in his 53-year career.

There was Margaritaville, of course, the most famous, and Cheeseburger In Paradise, the cleverest. But nestled within his 32 albums are gentler tunes — wistful, romantic and wise — that capture perfectly the Florida those of us living here know so well.

You could even argue that Jimmy Buffett once wrote a song about South Palm Beach and Briny Breezes, Delray Beach and Boca Raton.

There’s something ’bout this Sunday,
It’s the most peculiar gray,
Strollin’ down the avenue
That’s known as A1A

That song is called Trying To Reason With Hurricane Season, from his 1974 album A1A, and if the state Legislature agrees, A1A the state road will gain a new name when A1A the album turns 50 next year.

On Sept. 29, Rep. Charles Clemons Sr., a Republican from Alachua County, introduced a bill to rename the entire 338.752-mile stretch between Fernandina Beach and Key West “The Jimmy Buffett Memorial Highway.”

The name change would be only honorary, of course, with the Department of Transportation erecting “suitable markers,” like the 20 signs that appeared in 1998 when Florida’s Turnpike became the honorary “Ronald Reagan Turnpike.”

The Jimmy Buffett Memorial Highway.

Well, what do you think?



12281660299?profile=RESIZE_710xJake Soderberg, vacationing from Key West, calls the proposal to rename A1A for Jimmy Buffett ‘a disgusting idea!.' Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

“That’s a disgusting idea!” Jake Soderberg fairly spat.

Soderberg, 42, was perched on a wall at Palm Beach County’s Ocean Inlet Park one Wednesday morning in October. He was vacationing from Key West, the town that made Buffett famous, so you might expect some affection for the proposal. But no.

12281664089?profile=RESIZE_400x“His songs promote alcohol,” Soderberg sputtered. “All his songs are all about drinking.”

Well, not all his songs.

“Jimmy Buffett is just the same tired old songs,” Soderberg charged on. “He had a couple one-hit wonders that are old and tired now.”

At Lantana’s Municipal Beach, Mayra Mir of South Palm Beach wasn’t crazy about the honorary designation either, but for a different reason.

“I love Jimmy Buffett,” she began, “but it should stay A1A. It’s like nowadays they want to change history. It’s frustrating. Ever since I was born it’s been A1A.”

Mir declined to reveal her age, but was happy to note that she’s a grandmother.

“I don’t agree with a lot of the things that happened in the past,” she added, “but it’s history.”

12281657462?profile=RESIZE_710xAngel Bartoszewicz of Lake Worth Beach likes the idea. She grew up listening to Jimmy Buffett and loves his take on Brown Eyed Girl. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

Taking the sun nearby, Angel Bartoszewicz, 49, of Lake Worth Beach welcomed the idea.

“Yeah, why not?” she said. “I grew up listening to Jimmy Buffett. I’ve been to his Margaritaville restaurant in Key West. And, oh, the one in Hollywood, too. And isn’t there one in Orlando?

12281661856?profile=RESIZE_584x“His version of Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl …” She struggled for words to describe just how much she loves that song, and failed.

At the BurgerFi across from the pavilion in Delray Beach, Marvin and Vickie Chambers, vacationing from Blue Ridge, Virginia, were happy to chat while their BurgerFi burgers cooked.

“I’ve been playing drums in bar bands for 50 years,” said Marvin, 65. He’s drummed in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, mostly in a band called Wasted Acres, so he had a professional opinion about the proposed name change.

“I can tell you,” he said, “you always get heckled for Jimmy Buffett. Well, not heckled, but requests, I mean. Jimmy Buffett always goes over, and Margaritaville packs ’em in.”


12281658287?profile=RESIZE_710x‘He’s part of South Florida. He’s part of history,’ Tom Montgomery says of Buffett. Montgomery likes to ride his bike on A1A, here in Boca Raton. Tim Stepien / The Coastal Star

In Boca Raton, Tom Montgomery and his electric bike were taking a break in the shade of the South Beach Park pavilion. Three weeks ago, he pedaled that bike to Miami and back, so he knows A1A.

“It’s a great idea!” exclaimed Montgomery, 56. “He’s part of South Florida. He’s part of history. I’m from the Bronx, where they name highways for people I’ve never heard of, so I don’t have any problem with it.”

Montgomery has a point. You’d have a hard time finding any sentient American who hasn’t at least heard of Jimmy Buffett, and most could no doubt name at least one of his songs. Guess which one. But some honorees have a tenuous connection to their namesake roads at best, and some are long forgotten.

In 1989, the Gulf Stream Republican Club bid $25,000 at a public auction to have Northeast Eighth Street in Delray Beach renamed George Bush Boulevard after the incoming president traveled that short stretch en route to a brief weekend respite with a friend in Gulf Stream.

Perhaps you don’t remember Ben Sundy, but you’ve probably driven the Ben Sundy Memorial Highway. Sundy was a Delray Beach mayor in the 1950s whose memorial highway is better known as West Atlantic Avenue.

12281661874?profile=RESIZE_180x180Highland Beach is home to one woman with a special relationship to the proposed name change. State Rep. Peggy Gossett-Seidman will be voting yea or nay when the bill comes up in the next session, beginning Jan. 9.

Jimmy Buffett was a lifelong Democrat, and Gossett-Seidman, 70, is a Republican. But also a big fan.

“It’s a brilliant idea!” she gushed by phone between meetings in Tallahassee. “He’s Mr. Florida. I remember seeing him at the old West Palm Beach auditorium when I was young.

His music resonates with everyone, man, woman and child.”


In his 76 years, Jimmy Buffett recorded more than 300 songs on 32 studio albums that sold more than 20 million copies, but none of those songs ever reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Even Margaritaville, which made him a billionaire balladeer through numerous licensing deals, reached only No. 8 in 1977.

I blew out my flip-flop
Stepped on a pop top
Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home.
But there’s booze in the blender
And soon it will render
That frozen concoction that helps me hang on

Two weeks after his death at home in Sag Harbor, New York, of skin cancer, Margaritaville returned to the Hot 100 and reached the top of the Billboard Digital Song Sales chart.

At No. 1. At last.

Read more…

Related: Manalapan: Mayor, half of commission say they’ll resign before year’s end | Briny Breezes: Mayor, council president resign effective Dec. 15

By Charles Elmore

Half or more of the governing council members in some southern Palm Beach County coastal towns say they are considering resignation before Dec. 31 because they worry a new state financial disclosure law amounts to, as resigning Ocean Ridge Commissioner Ken Kaleel put it, a “Nosy Neighbor statute.”

It puts local governments in a massive hustle mode to keep functioning, whether that means appointments, special elections, rethinking of resignation plans or other solutions to keep the chairs filled.

Municipal leaders are attending workshops and meetings to figure out if they want to file the more rigorous Form 6 that discloses net worth and other details for the public to access. Records requested by The Coastal Star shed light on at least some aspects: Nearly 95% of officials in Palm Beach County filed required disclosures of the current form, but among those who did not, fewer than 10% who were assessed fines in the last five years actually paid them as of early October.

That’s an unpaid pile of more than $236,000 in fines, including 11 past-due bills sent to collection efforts, according to data from the Florida Commission on Ethics.

In time, some fines do get paid. They include $1,500 collected from former Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie in 2021.

Then again, in addition to ethics concerns, she was criminally charged with failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in alleged income from a commercial landowner.

She eventually pleaded guilty to lesser, misdemeanor counts of misuse of public office and failure to disclose a voting conflict.

For many, the issue in past years has been failure to file the less-nosy Form 1 that applies to a number of municipal officials, as opposed to the tougher Form 6 mayors and town council members face in 2024.

“The requirement to complete Form 6, whether contemplated by the legislators or not, will limit the effectiveness of local government,” said Bill Thrasher, who served for 17 years as town manager in Gulf Stream and now works part-time as the town manager in Briny Breezes. “In some cases, it may stop local governance altogether.”

In Manalapan, the mayor and three of the town’s six commissioners said on Oct. 24 that they would be resigning before the end of the year so they would not have to meet the new financial disclosure requirements.

Briny Breezes has been wrestling with whether it will be left with a quorum.

In other places, few people appear deterred.

In Delray Beach, the new filing requirements have not stopped 10 candidates from opening up campaign accounts for mayor and two other commission seats that will be decided in March. Ditto for Boca Raton, where at least four people are running for two City Council seats.

In Highland Beach, three incumbent commissioners who are up for reelection said they plan to run again. 

To keep things in perspective, most people who are required to file financial disclosures comply. In Palm Beach County in 2022, 94.8% did so, according to the Ethics Commission. That compared to 98.1% statewide.

What of willful disregard?
OK, but what about those deemed to have demonstrated a willful failure to file?

Removing someone from office is rare, but it has happened. Then-Gov. Rick Scott signed a 2016 order to remove Daniel Fils-Aime Sr. as a member of the CareerSource South Florida Region 23 Board in Miami-Dade County, for example.

In recent years, the Ethics Commission recommended removal from office in at least four cases around the state involving failure to file, but records show no action by Gov. Ron DeSantis. His office did not respond to a request for comment.

SB 774, signed into state law in May, requires mayors and commission members to disclose their net worth, assets and liabilities worth more than $1,000, the aggregate value of art and jewelry and other goods, and in some cases clients.

The required Form 1 for most municipal officials asks for sources of income, liabilities and business investments, with less emphasis on specific dollar amounts.

It may get a bit uncomfortable, but some say they are staying.

South Palm Beach Mayor Bonnie Fischer said, “It is what it is. If we have to do it, we have to do it. I don’t think there’s any way out of it. I’m not resigning. That won’t make me resign.”

Vice Mayor Bill LeRoy agreed, despite concerns about the law.

“This is a unique town and I’m in a unique position here, because I am retired,” he said. “I own very little. I’m not afraid of it. I don’t think it’s necessary. You don’t need anything to scare people when running for public office. It’s hard enough to find people as it is, and we don’t need something like this to make it even more difficult.”

The Form 6 filing deadline for those holding office as of Dec. 31, 2023, is July 1, 2024, state officials say.

Late-filing penalties start at $25 a day, after a grace period that ends Sept. 2, 2024, to a maximum of $1,500. The commission can impose a greater fine, up to $20,000, if a third party files an ethics complaint and it is found to have merit.

Since Jan. 1, 2018, 312 office-holders in Palm Beach County have been fined for not filing, according to Florida Commission on Ethics records.

Records show 20 of those fines were fully paid over about half a decade.

Fines were waived in at least 25 cases. Two fines were written off for people who died. The majority are listed as “active” or under appeal.

‘Service requires sacrifice’
Some city and town elected officials have already suggested all of this is too rich for their blood, especially in towns where the salary may amount to modest or zero dollars.

“Every meeting I’ve been to I’ve had questions about resignations, and from my unofficial tally I think you’re going to see 20% of the county’s elected officials resign before the end of the year,” Town Attorney Glen Torcivia told South Palm Beach’s council Oct. 10, mentioning several smaller municipalities. “I hope 20% is not too conservative.”

Kaleel, the Ocean Ridge commissioner who says he is resigning, calls the law a “Nosy Neighbor” affair because it primarily benefits busybodies, while elected officials determined to reap ill-gotten gains often can find a way to hide them.

“Somebody that’s bad is going to be bad, and they can hide it in a number of ways — gold bars, cash in closets — we’ve already found that out,” Kaleel said.

Proponents of the law say it is helpful and a step in the right direction. Plenty of money and economic activity can flow through towns regardless of size, through contracts or project approvals. Indeed, many towns sit on coastal land highly prized by developers.

Supporters call attention to the fact that the same Form 6 disclosure rules currently apply to state legislators, the governor and even many local officials, and life has not come to a standstill.

“Please note that for years county commissioners, school board members, sheriffs and others on the local level have been required to file the Form 6, and this has not been a deterrent to the government attracting and retaining qualified individuals to serve in these positions,” Caroline Klancke said.

She is executive director of the Florida Ethics Institute in Tallahassee, a nonprofit organization that says it was founded to protect and advance the cause of ethics.

Some see it connected to a bigger picture of Tallahassee imposing its will on cities and towns.

In Briny Breezes and previous stops, Thrasher’s career has featured plenty of pushback against what he regarded as state efforts to take power from local governments.

“For years, local governments have seen the pre-emptive efforts of the state in weakening and chipping away at home rule,” he said.

Lantana Mayor Karen Lythgoe says she doesn’t know what other council members will do, but she has no problem providing the financial information.

“Public service requires sacrifice and I’m willing to make it,” Lythgoe said. “There’s no private data you have to provide, no Social Security number, no taxpayer ID number, no bank account numbers, nothing that could be used to steal your identity. They want to know what you have and what you owe.”

She continued, “I have no trouble saying this is my net worth and what my liabilities are, but everybody’s going to make up their own mind. I’m not quite grasping what people are trying to hide. I guess some people are touchy about their net worth. Maybe because I don’t have any I’m not so concerned.”

Is it really a deterrent?
At least one Lantana council member, Kem Mason, said he is still thinking about whether to fill out the form. 

“I don’t have a lot of details except what I picked up from the Florida League of Cities meeting and I’ve read somewhat about it,” Mason said. “My concern is that our personal information is going to be out there for everybody to have. I don’t even understand why the governor and all the other officials all the way down to the sheriff have to do it themselves. It’s nonsensical to me.”

As he sees it, “If somebody’s going to be unethical, or do any kind of criminal act, they’re going to do it. They’re not going to put it down on paper. They’re not going to admit to it if they have that inclination in the first place. So, where’s the logic there? If there is any kind of unethical goings-on, wouldn’t a discovery in a court room bring all that out?”

Mason said the new law is “a smokescreen for the public to make them feel better about themselves that their officials are ethical people but in reality, it really doesn’t do anything.”

Larry Barszewski, Brian Biggane, Steve Plunkett, Rich Pollack and Mary Thurwachter contributed to this story.

Read more…

Related: Along the Coast: Is new law ‘nosy’ or advancing the cause of ethics? | Briny Breezes: Mayor, council president resign effective Dec. 15

Successor is hired for retiring manager

By Larry Barszewski

Seismic tremors are rumbling in Manalapan’s town government, where the mayor and at least half of the Town Commission say they will resign before the end of the year.

In addition, long-serving Town Manager Linda Stumpf retires in a year, which will change the dynamic in Town Hall as well.

Town officials hope to avoid any major aftershocks, but they realize the town could find itself in a precarious situation.

12281647263?profile=RESIZE_180x180At their Oct. 24 meeting, commissioners opted for a seamless Town Hall transition when they agreed Eric Marmer should be hired as Stumpf’s heir apparent. Marmer, 34, who currently serves as human resources and risk management director in Highland Beach, will join the town as assistant town manager this year and move into Stumpf’s position when she retires in September 2024.

The path forward isn’t as clear when it comes to the mayor and Town Commission, which was evident at a workshop immediately following the commission meeting. The issue being considered was a new state requirement for elected municipal officials to disclose additional personal financial information.

At the workshop, a majority said they will resign before Dec. 31 so they will not have to comply with the new financial disclosure requirements. And they said they’re not sure the town will be able to find others to serve who will be willing to fill out the more intrusive disclosure form that will be posted online for anyone to access.

Mayor Stewart Satter, elected to his position in March with no opposition, said he may have “the shortest mayorship in history.” Also indicating they will resign rather than comply are three of the town’s six commissioners: Kristin Rosen, who also took office in March without opposition; Aileen Carlucci, appointed to her seat in March 2022 after no one ran for an open commission seat; and Richard Granara, initially appointed to the commission in 2019 to fill an unexpired term.

The three other commissioners — Simone Bonutti, Chauncey Johnstone and Vice Mayor John Deese — said, as of the Oct. 24 meeting, they had not made a final decision on whether they would stay or go.

“It does sadden me that we’re all in this position,” Carlucci said. “You live here because you want a quiet life and not be in Palm Beach where everyone knows everything about you. You’re in Manalapan because you want to be understated. So, we do live in a community of understated individuals and I don’t see us being able to fill a commission.”

Small pool of candidates
The town had only 384 voters as of September, limiting the number of people eligible to serve. Rather than candidates coming forward to run, Stumpf frequently must go out and find potential candidates and encourage them to offer their service. There has not been a contested election in town since 2011.

It’s not always convenient to serve and commissioners receive no pay. Often during the off-season, members of the commission fly in from their homes up North to ensure that there is a quorum for commission meetings.

Commissioners have had to file a disclosure, known as Form 1, that is less detailed than the newly required Form 6, which is already required of the governor, state legislators, county commissioners and others.

The new requirement may make it more difficult to find people willing to serve, but Stumpf is optimistic she can at least get enough commissioners to reach a quorum so the commission can operate. A quorum is four of six commissioners.

The mayor is a separate position and not part of the quorum since the mayor votes only in case of a tie.

“I do believe if two of my commissioners stay, I will be able to find two others,” Stumpf said after the workshop. Four commissioners are needed to conduct business, but the Town Charter says if there are as few as two commissioners remaining, they can appoint additional commissioners until a quorum is reached, Town Attorney Keith Davis told commissioners.

The town also plans to contact residents about the situation and to see if some are willing to come forward and serve under the new requirements. Carlucci’s and Granara’s seats are up for election in March. Any replacements appointed for them would serve only until March, so the town also needs the appointees or others to file for the election — or the seats will become vacant again.

The qualifying period is Nov. 7 to 21, but Davis said the county supervisor of elections has offered to hold a second qualifying period in January if needed because of unexpected departures due to the new requirements.

While the commission may survive the imminent departures, officials said the Town Charter may have to change to improve the odds that the town can continue functioning as a local government in the future.

The commission could form a charter committee to look at potential changes, although those wouldn’t likely get on a ballot for voters to decide until 2025, Davis said. One possibility includes reducing the number of commissioners, which would leave fewer seats to fill.

Unincorporating an option?
Davis said if the town can’t find enough people willing to serve, there is the potential it could “unincorporate and be consumed by a neighboring municipality,” such as Ocean Ridge or Lantana, or become an unincorporated part of the county under control of the County Commission — though Stumpf and several commissioners said those weren’t options they would consider.

At the workshop, commissioners were open to suggestions.

“We could just not file and roll the dice, and suffer the consequences,” said Satter, who said he even considered offering to pay the fines for commissioners who don’t file, which could reach $20,000 each.

“I had very reliable counsel suggest to me there would be a conflict of interest if I paid everyone’s fine,” Satter said.

If all commissioners resigned, Davis said, the charter charges the governor with appointing an interim commission, which would then call for a special election not less than 60 days from its appointment.

Two issues with that: Davis said it’s not certain the governor’s appointments would have to be town residents and it still leaves the same problem — would anyone file to run in the special election given the new disclosure requirements.

Another thought surfaced — get rid of the elected positions altogether — but Davis said he’s not aware of any option that doesn’t include an elected governing body.

“This will become real to most of the people in the town of Manalapan after there is no commission, because this commission does more than just budgets and managing the town,” Granara said. “There’s so much construction activity going on here now that requires variances. And that stops. That all halts.”

If most commissioners leave, Deese wondered what the remaining commissioners would be getting themselves into.

“If Simone and I would stay, I’m afraid it’s going to be a nightmare for us trying to deal with it, trying to figure out what to do next,” Deese said.

Town Hall newcomer
All the discussion led Satter to think of Marmer, who attended the workshop.

“I want him to understand what he’s buying into,” Satter said. Marmer said he did.

“The town will be in good hands. It’s going to be an unusual time,” Satter said. The town plans to prepare a contract with Marmer for the commission’s consideration at its Nov. 14 meeting.

Marmer, who has a master’s degree in public administration from Florida Atlantic University, has been with Highland Beach for almost four years. He moved quickly through the ranks, coming in as financial services manager and then being promoted to interim finance director and assistant town manager before moving into his current position in May.

Previously, he served as a senior buyer for Boynton Beach for two years.

“I have had the opportunity to meet the current staff in Manalapan, and from what I have seen, they have a professional staff that is well-suited to adapting to any changes that may come,” Marmer said in an email to The Coastal Star. “I am incredibly excited about the challenges that lie ahead. I believe challenges invite progress, and that’s why I want to come to Manalapan.”

The uncertainty caused by the new financial disclosure requirements was partially behind the decision to hire Marmer before the end of the year. The town considered five applicants for the position.

“We’re very fortunate that we’ll get this done before the end of the year,” said Stumpf, who has been town manager for 13 years and was first hired as the town’s finance director in 2003. “Due to Form 6, I felt it was wise to get someone in that could work with me. … He will be ready to go when I leave.”

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Related: Along the Coast: Is new law ‘nosy’ or advancing the cause of ethics? | Manalapan: Mayor, half of commission say they’ll resign before year’s end

By Steve Plunkett

At least one alderwoman will stay on the dais next year, but different people will fill two and perhaps more of the Town Council’s six seats.

Mayor Gene Adams and Town Council President Christina Adams have resigned effective Dec. 15, avoiding a new state requirement to reveal in detail their personal finances.

How the council will fill those spots is an open question. It is scheduled to meet only once more this year, on Dec. 7, though one or more special meetings could be called.

“It has been my honor and privilege to serve the town of Briny Breezes,” Christina Adams wrote in her resignation letter, which was read aloud along with her husband’s at the council’s Oct. 26 meeting.

Alderwoman Liz Loper took the opposite tack.

“I am staying on board. I’m fine, not going to resign,” she said.

State law now requires local elected officials holding office on Dec. 31 to list their net worth, assets and liabilities in detail next July. The electronic paperwork, called the Full

Disclosure of Financial Interests, or Form 6, has for years been a requirement for Florida’s governor, state legislators, county commissioners and school board members.

Local officials, on the other hand, submitted a Statement of Financial Interests, or Form 1, which asks for information in broad brushstrokes. Mayor Adams, for example, on his Form 1 for 2020 reported that his primary source of income was his job at Target Corp. and that he has a 401(k) retirement account and owns Target and Pfizer stock.

The new Form 6 requirement has created a time crunch in Briny Breezes.

The Adamses and Alderwoman Kathy Gross were already up for reelection in March, with qualifying set for Nov. 14-28. Town Attorney Keith Davis encouraged the other council members to decide as soon as possible if they will stay or quit.

“The elephant in the room is the question of OK, are there residents in the town who will be willing to be Form 6 filers,” he said.

Davis said under the Town Charter, the council does not need a quorum to appoint people to fill council vacancies, though he said having a quorum would be preferable.

The council passed a resolution “expressing opposition” to the new disclosure requirement. It also told Davis to prepare resolutions to ask the supervisor of elections for an additional election qualifying period the first two weeks of January and to raise the limit on Town Manager Bill Thrasher’s spending authorization so he could pay for more things without council approval.

Susan Brannen, president of the Briny Breezes Inc. board, was much in favor of having a second qualifying period for candidates.

“We don’t have everybody in Briny at this point, so it’s very hard to reach out and inform our Briny residents of what’s happening. And this would perhaps give additional time for people who are truly interested in stepping forward,” Brannen said.

In other business, the council approved paying consultant Engenuity Group Inc. $265,000 to perform what Thrasher called “the next level” of planning for Briny’s proposed sea wall and drainage improvement project.

“We’ve not heard any word on our construction grant (application) which is $14.4 million,” Thrasher said.

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Along the Coast: Storytime

12281638691?profile=RESIZE_710x12281639862?profile=RESIZE_400xABOVE: Deborah Dowd reads ‘With Lots of Love,’ written by Jenny Torres Sanchez, to teacher Jill Quiggin’s fourth- grade class at Plumosa School of the Arts on Oct. 26 as part of Delray Reads Day and the Read for the Record campaign by the nonprofit Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County.
RIGHT: Melissa Bauerlein and her children, Donovan, 1, and twins Parker and Cameron, 3½, listen to the same book at Boca Raton’s Downtown Library.

BELOW: Boca Raton City Council member Yvette Drucker and Mayor Scott Singer read ‘With Lots of Love,’ by Jenny Torres Sanchez, to children at Boca Raton’s Downtown Library on Oct. 26 as part of the Read for the Record campaign by the nonprofit Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County.

Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star12281640254?profile=RESIZE_710x

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Thankful. That’s the word for November. In today’s world, I think we can all be thankful for health, home and safety.

In this edition, readers will find our annual Philanthropy Season Preview. This special section provides information and contacts for organizations in our area dedicated to assisting our community.

Locally, there are staggering unmet needs for children and families, seniors and animals. Art and science, historic preservation, and our endangered environment are also in need of financial assistance. Organizations that promote health and wellness are critical and worthy of your support.

Many of the groups you’ll read about inside this paper will be familiar since they’ve been supporting our community for years. A few are new. With your financial help, all are well-positioned to reach the members of our community most in need in the coming year.

As I consider my own end-of-year giving, I’m drawn to situations outside of my daily scope of knowledge: children who need comfort at a crime scene, seniors without means to buy groceries, families living in cars because they can no longer afford rent. And to the groups that simply provide joy to people with little, through literacy, music, clean laundry or visits with furry friends.

Helping just one person improves our entire community.

At The Coastal Star, our hope is you will also consider this newspaper an essential member of the community. We, too, could use your financial support.

Although the paper provides more than municipal reporting, what sets us apart from other publications in our coastal area is a steadfast focus on spotlighting the decisions made by our local officials: good, bad and messy. Professional reporting doesn’t come cheap.

All donations will help pay for stories we’re working on right now and hoping to pursue in the coming year.

As part of your year-end giving, we hope you will consider a donation to The Coastal Star. Like a donation to the other local organizations featured in this month’s Philanthropy Season Preview, your support helps to make our community healthier, safer and more secure.

Please give.

Mail your contribution to The Coastal Star, 5114 N. Ocean Blvd., Ocean Ridge, FL 33435.

Or donate online at

Donations made online to The Florida Press Foundation benefit The Coastal Star Community News Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit fund. They are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law and are subject to a 5.5% administration and processing fee.

Contributions made directly to The Coastal Star have no processing fee and are not tax deductible.

— Mary Kate Leming, Editor

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12281634690?profile=RESIZE_710xJeff and Aggie Stoops, shown at home in coastal Delray Beach, donated $5 million that helped HomeSafe renovate in Boca Raton and Lake Worth Beach. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Brian Biggane

Earning her undergraduate and master’s degrees in social work proved to be excellent preparation for Aggie Stoops’ current role as a member of the board of directors and one of the key benefactors of HomeSafe of Palm Beach County.

Established in 1979 before evolving into its current mission in the 1990s, HomeSafe offers four group homes around the county for children ages 7-17, as well as an apartment complex for ages 18-23, serving about 80 at-risk youth and young adults a year.

“HomeSafe deals with difficult cases,” said Jeff Stoops, Aggie’s husband. 

“We’re pretty much one step away from lockdown,” Aggie added. “There are only five agencies working in therapeutic home care in the state of Florida and HomeSafe is one of them.”

Aggie worked at Florida Baptist Children’s Home and did placement for the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch while a student at Florida State University. She left the health care industry to raise her own four children, but with them out on their own she sought out an opportunity to return to the field and has found it.

Jeff, 65, and Aggie, 64, who live in coastal Delray Beach, began their involvement with HomeSafe in 2014, and Aggie was named to the board two years later. In 2021, the couple made a $5 million contribution to the organization.

Marketing and Events Director Chere Camus Brodi said those funds have been instrumental in recent renovations of HomeSafe campuses in both Boca Raton and Lake Worth Beach.

Other campuses are in West Palm Beach and Royal Palm Beach, and HomeSafe’s 13-unit Palm Place apartment complex in Palm Springs is for aged-out participants.

Most of the children, all of whom are referred to HomeSafe from other agencies, have spent much of their lives in substandard family environments or foster homes and are down to their last chance. For that reason, the campuses house only 12 residents, with each getting a room to themselves, as well as a dedicated therapist 24 hours a day.

“We’ve gone from shared rooms to independent rooms, because the current science says giving them control and independence is the best thing,” Aggie said.

Residents typically attend local schools and are otherwise not restricted to campus. “We have outdoor facilities and a basketball court, acres of space at most of our campuses.

They can run away, but most don’t have a place to run to,” she said.

The program has produced many success stories, with students moving on to higher education at schools such as the University of Florida and Palm Beach State College.

While the residences are very different from sober homes, Jeff Stoops said some municipalities have pushed back rather than welcome them.

“We were in protracted negotiations in Wellington,” he said, referring to the Royal Palm campus. “A lot of people were like, ‘We’re very sympathetic to your cause but we don’t want you in our backyard.’ It was pretty intense.”

Nonetheless, Aggie said, the authorities relented and there have been no complaints since.

The Stoopses’ philanthropic endeavors stretch far beyond HomeSafe. Jeff, who will retire in December after serving as CEO and president of SBA Communications for the past 22 years, is also chairman of the board of the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties. SBA Communications is a worldwide owner and operator of wireless communications infrastructure based in Boca Raton.

The couple supports numerous other organizations through their Stoops Family Foundation. Jeff earned his law degree from Florida State and is a board member of Seminole Boosters. The couple makes a point of attending every home FSU football game.

As for HomeSafe, its initiatives include Healthy Beginnings, which attempts to assess the status of every child born in Palm Beach County before the mother even leaves the hospital.

“We come in with our information and brochures, letting them know we’re there,” Aggie said. “Most parents are fine, but there are those who need assistance.”

For more information on HomeSafe, visit

Send a note to or call 561-337-1553.

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12281632286?profile=RESIZE_710xDuring a Sept. 6 unveiling event for the Center for Arts and Innovation, CEO Andrea Virgin stands with board member Matt Cimaglia (left) and Antoine Chaaya, the partner in charge of the project for the architect Renzo Piano Building Workshop. No renderings of the latest plans have been released yet. Photo provided

By Mary Hladky

The Center for Arts and Innovation has raised enough money to meet initial requirements set by Boca Raton during negotiations to complete a deal that allows a performing arts complex to be built on city-owned land in Mizner Park.

If center officials had failed to meet the requirements, the city could have halted the project by terminating a development agreement and the lease of 1.8 acres of city land on which the complex will be built.

The fundraising deadline was Oct. 21, one year after the City Council approved the deal. Center officials needed to raise $25.4 million, which is 25% of the hard construction costs for the project. They also had to show that they had a minimum of $12.7 million in cash.

Center officials surpassed those requirements, raising $26.4 million for hard construction costs that includes $12.8 million in cash, according to a report sent to the city.

“On behalf of all the tremendous supporters who made this threshold moment possible, we thank you and look forward to continuing our partnership with the City of Boca Raton,” center chair and CEO Andrea Virgin wrote.

“Based upon the information provided, the center is currently in compliance with the requirements” of the development agreement, Deputy City Manager George Brown wrote in an Oct. 25 email to the City Council.

Virgin will report on the project’s status at the Nov. 27 Community Redevelopment Agency meeting. Council members also sit as CRA commissioners.

The city has set additional fundraising deadlines in 2024 and 2025, as well as deadlines for matters such as submitting detailed plans for the project, obtaining building permits and raising money for reserves and endowments.

The project will transform the north section of Mizner Park. Plans call for completely renovating the run-down city amphitheater and building a performing arts center, jewel box theater, rooftop terrace, outdoor performing arts spaces and a garage. The complex would accommodate 6,000 people in all its venues.

Under the deal, the project must be completed by 2033. But Virgin wants to start construction in 2025, the year that marks the city’s 100th birthday, and complete it in 2028.

An architectural firm, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, whose partners include Pritzker Architecture Prize-winner Renzo Piano, has started work designing the complex. The firm’s worldwide projects include the Shard in London and the new Whitney Museum in New York.

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12281629469?profile=RESIZE_710xA Boca Raton elevated flight observation area with seating for 12 should be completed by spring. Rendering provided

By Rich Pollack

It’s been almost 120 years since the Wright brothers’ historic flight at Kitty Hawk, yet there’s still something special about watching an airplane take off.

“People have just always been fascinated with flight,” says Scott Kohut, deputy director of the Boca Raton Airport Authority, which oversees the airport and its average 200 flights a day.

If all goes well, residents of south Palm Beach County will soon have a comfortable spot where they can take in the sights and sounds of everything from larger charter jets to two-seat propeller planes rolling down the runway.

Plans for a covered observation area on the west side of the airport are taking flight with construction to begin soon and completion planned for early spring.

The 4-foot-high elevated observation area, on public property separated from the actual airport by a chain-link fence, will have three benches and seating for about 12 people, with public parking spaces just a few feet away.

Visitors will also be able to eavesdrop on conversations between pilots and the control tower, which will be broadcast to the area.

Located in an area next to the Airport Authority’s offices just north of Florida Atlantic University’s main campus, the observation deck will include educational signage about the airport’s history as well as about the native species visitors might see while watching aircraft take off and land.

The airport and the surrounding area are home to a variety of plants and animals including gopher tortoises, burrowing owls and other birds, according to Kohut.

Without an observation deck, people wishing to see the aircraft come and go can only peer though the fence on both sides of the airport, something Kohut says is not uncommon.

“We have a large variety of aircraft here,” he said, adding that over the years Marine One with then-President Barack Obama onboard landed at the airport, as did former President Donald Trump’s helicopter.

The observation deck project, Kohut said, is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $900,000, with the Florida Department of Transportation covering the majority of the expense.

Kohut said that both he and Clara Bennett, the Airport Authority’s executive director, came from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport — which has a popular observation area — and wanted to bring the concept to Boca Raton.

“We saw this as a great opportunity to continue bringing members of the community to the airport,” he said.


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By Brian Biggane

After years of discussions and delays, the South Palm Beach Town Council at its October meeting unanimously authorized Town Manager Jamie Titcomb to send out requests for bids for the construction of the new Town Hall.

The current Town Hall was built in 1976 as a public safety building and has evolved as a hodgepodge of additions, renovations and repairs that no longer satisfies the town’s needs. Council members decided early on that renovations to the existing building wouldn’t be cost effective and that new construction was the better way to go.

At one point, an architect’s proposal to erect a five-story structure was dismissed as too extravagant and too costly.

At last month’s meeting, Town Attorney Glen Torcivia made a lengthy presentation laying out options and the council agreed to solicit two bids, one for designing and building the project and the other for hiring a representative to oversee the construction from start to finish.

“Let’s get going,” Mayor Bonnie Fischer said. “It’s going to be an exciting project, and now I feel confident there’s impetus going forward.”

Titcomb said he anticipated sending out the request by mid-October and giving applicants for both 30 days to respond, meaning the council will not be taking any action at the November meeting.

He said a special meeting could be called to give the interested parties — state statutes require at least three bids to go forward — an opportunity to make presentations.

The town had determined it would prefer the builder use structural insulated panels (SIPs), but a previous solicitation resulted in only one bid. Titcomb said this solicitation will be broadcast nationally, including through SIPA, the national organization for SIPs construction.

Fischer said she hoped the new building would also be a community center with a coffee shop that would attract people who walk every day along the walkway.

Torcivia’s presentation offered two options going forward: design bid build or design build. The council opted for the latter, along with an owner’s rep, and Titcomb explained the difference.

“In design build you’re going after companies that are all under one umbrella, the whole thing from design to construction,” Titcomb said. “Usually, the concern there is what happens if there’s a conflict between something that goes wrong.

“That’s where the idea of having an owner’s rep comes into play, where you need someone with credentials to anticipate and troubleshoot, but in the capacity of the town itself.

So, you’re hiring somebody to look out for the owner’s best interest.”

He said the owner’s rep will typically be “architects or engineers who have experience in the field. It’s good to have a dedicated representative because this is going to be a full-time project.”


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South Palm Beach: News briefs

PBSO honor — The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office honored resident Ellen Barnes as its Star of the Month for her “selfless commitment to improve the community” by consistently picking up trash along the beach. Sept. 1 marked four years that PBSO has served the town.

Manager seeking grant — Town Manager Jamie Titcomb was authorized by unanimous vote to prepare, execute and submit a Florida Grant Program application to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for $75,000 for a flood vulnerability assessment as it relates to sea level rise, ocean incursion and related water and coastal issues. The town would have until 2026 to execute the studies involved.

Dune restoration — Mayor Bonnie Fischer said she learned from Palm Beach officials that the dune restoration project that has been planned will not occur until 2025. She said she found out while attending a conference of the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association in Fort Lauderdale.

— Brian Biggane

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By Mary Thurwachter

Lantana welcomed its first assistant police chief — Thomas Mitchell — in October. But Mitchell is no stranger to the seaside town of 12,000 residents. He has been the Police Department’s commander for four years.

12281627486?profile=RESIZE_180x180Chief Sean Scheller introduced his second-in-command during the Oct. 9 Town Council meeting.

“This is long overdue,” Scheller said, acknowledging the community’s and the department’s growth.

Mitchell, 59, said Lantana “is a fabulous town to work for” and one he has felt a bond with ever since 2004, when Hurricane Charley destroyed his parents’ home in Port Charlotte on the Gulf Coast.

“The Lantana Police Department was deployed over to assist with policing services in Charlotte County,” Mitchell recalled. “At that time, Sgt. Jeff Tyson” — later Lantana’s police chief — “knew my parents lived over there and every morning he would go by and check on them.”

When Mitchell finally convinced his parents “to come back to my house for a little while,” Tyson “would go and make sure the house wasn’t being pillaged. Everybody there who worked for Lantana would go by and my mother would make them coffee in the morning when we were able to get a generator there. I never forgot that.”

Besides that connection, Mitchell said he and Scheller knew each other as detectives. Scheller worked for Lantana and Mitchell was with Delray Beach, where he worked for 27 years, including during Hurricane Charley.

“We’d come across each other and formed a fantastic professional relationship,” Mitchell said. “When this opportunity came about when Commander [Robert] Hagerty retired, there was no way I could say no.

“Lantana’s got a lot of talent,” he said of the department. “There’s so much growth opportunity in the town, and with that said there’s going to be so much growth opportunity for the Police Department. I’m looking forward to helping.”

The new position was needed for several reasons, Scheller said. Among them are: increased staffing over the years requiring additional supervision and mentorship; extensive projects and technological advances requiring oversight and policy development; succession planning within the Police Department; and providing opportunity for middle management advancement for current staff within the department.

Mitchell will oversee the department’s day-to-day activities, allowing Scheller more time to spend in the community.

Mitchell recently handled the new radio implementation program.

“We outfitted all the new patrol cars with new recording cameras as well as license plate cameras,” he said. “Obviously, Sean oversees everything. And we have an outstanding relationship. We keep in touch with each other continuously. I will not make a decision that’s going to make him look bad. He knows exactly what I’m up to every day. And he has input on everything. The five sergeants answer directly to me until we’re able to bring in another commander.”

Mitchell’s annual salary is $140,000 and benefit costs are approximately $61,700 (e.g., FICA, pension, health insurance), according to Finance Director Stephen Kaplan.

“However, we anticipate saving $40,000 as we promote other officers up through the ranks as we fill the vacancies,” Kaplan said.

Prior to his promotion, Mitchell made $131,019 with approximately $62,460 in benefit costs.

It’s likely that his replacement as commander will be someone who already works in the department, Mitchell said.

Vice Mayor Lynn “Doc” Moorhouse, attending the meeting via phone, praised Scheller for his choice in assistant chief.

“I know he’s bringing people through the ranks, as he should,” Moorhouse said. “We have the best Police Department.”

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By Mary Thurwachter

A year ago, Hurricane Nicole damaged the south sea wall at Lantana’s beach. This year, if all goes as planned, the breached barrier will be repaired.

To that end, the Lantana Town Council at its Oct. 23 meeting awarded an $83,663 contract to BDI Marine Contractors for the repairs.

BDI Marine was the lowest of three bidders — with the highest at $202,572 — on the project.

Funding for the work will come from available reserves and will be included in the mid-year budget amendment in March.

Public Services Director Eddie Crockett told the council he anticipates work to begin early in November and said the contractor would have 90 days to complete the work.

“When the current damage was being evaluated, we noticed the sea wall had been repaired years ago,” Crockett said. “But the time frame and cost are unknown.”

Crockett said if the sea wall is not repaired, the breach would only get worse.

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Lantana: News briefs

Sales tax extension — Town Council members expressed their support for a resolution asking Palm Beach County voters to extend the one-cent sales tax for infrastructure projects through Dec. 31, 2036. The current sales surtax sunsets by Dec. 31, 2026, at the latest. Tequesta, Atlantis and Loxahatchee Groves have approved similar resolutions.

Planning board service honored — The Town Council recognized Hypoluxo Island resident Erica Wald with a proclamation for her service on the town’s Planning Commission from June 11, 2012, to Sept. 11. Ward’s latest term ended and she did not file paperwork in time to seek reappointment.

Police employee recognition — The Town Council presented an award to Detective Tom Dipolito as the Police Department’s Employee of the Second Quarter. Dipolito, Chief Sean Scheller said, was recognized for the research and implementation of several large technological projects, including license plate recognition cameras and security measures at the Police Department.

Public services getting new car — The Town Council authorized spending $33,309 for a new 2024 Toyota RAV4 hybrid for the Public Services Department. The new vehicle will be assigned to the grants and contract administrator. This individual’s current vehicle, a 2019 Ford F-150, will be reallocated to the Parks and Recreation division. The Ford will replace the division’s inoperable 2004 Ford Ranger that was previously approved for surplus.

Municipal election date change — The Town Council voted to amend its charter to change the date of municipal elections from the second Tuesday in March to the third Tuesday, March 19, when there is a presidential primary election.

Veterans Day celebration — The town will have a Veterans Day celebration at 10 a.m. Nov. 11 at Bicentennial Park, Mayor Karen Lythgoe announced. Public Services Director Eddie Crockett, a veteran, will be the guest speaker. In the event of rain, the program will be moved to the council chambers.

— Mary Thurwachter

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12281624087?profile=RESIZE_710xWitches head south on State Road A1A during the annual charity ride. A stiff breeze kept the more than 350 participants pedalling hard as they shouted greetings to fellow witches along a course that looped between Anchor Park and George Bush Boulevard. The ride, a fundraiser for Achievement Centers for Children and Families, raised a record $33,000. A week of witchy events led up to the signature bike ride. Mary Kate Leming/The Coastal Star

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