West Palm Beach, frustrated with traffic problems, is taking a quick first step to stop some of the logjam, without waiting for its months-long mobility study to arrive at big-picture solutions.
Signs are going up at downtown intersections warning motorists, “Don’t Block the Box.” The signs remind drivers that if they block intersections or crosswalks, they could get hit with $166 fines.
State law forbids drivers to enter an intersection if they can’t make it all the way across without blocking traffic.
“By launching this campaign, the City hopes to alleviate congestion, avoid ticketing motorists, and improve the experiences of motorists driving through our City each day,” Mayor Jeri Muoio and Police Chief Sarah Mooney said in a joint press release Monday.
Members of the West Palm Beach Fire Rescue Department’s Hazardous Materials Team recently competed in a statewide competition in Daytona Beach, winning in 2 out of the 5 categories.
The awards received were as follows: Individual Best Risk Assessment, Individual Best Leak Control and 2nd place Overall. Team members are Captain Brian Walker, Lieutenant Shane Miller, Engineer Estefan Villalobos and Firefighter Luis Gonzalez.
It’s Manatee Awareness Month and the public can obtain free waterway signage, boating banners and decals, waterway cards, and educational posters to boost awareness.
The shoreline property signs warn boaters to slow down for manatees and feature the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s hotline number (1-888-404-3922) to report sick, injured, and orphaned manatees. The Club also produces outdoor signs for state, municipal, and county parks, marinas, and other sites where human/manatee interactions are a problem.
To obtain any of these free materials, you can email email@example.com or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646) and request these resources. Educators can also request a free educator’s guide filled with classroom activities and interesting manatee facts.
Save the Manatee Club encourages the public to watch manatees in their natural habitat on the Club’s webcams at ManaTV.org.
At sunrise, wind was starting to build and the city’s floating dock had a gentle bounce to it, as if sensing the hurricane’s approach.
Mayor Jeri Muoio said city officials met at 7 a.m. to coordinate the response of various departments: operations, logistics, finance and planning. A curfew is under consideration.
“Everybody’s waiting,” she said, adding that a hurricane looks more likely now than just a tropical storm. “Everything’s under control, waiting for things to happen.”
Cars will not be permitted on the roads after winds hit 35 miles per hour, probably around noon, she said.
Zone B — the barrier islands — have been evacuated.
Meanwhile, the media has descended, from near and far. The mayor said she’s been contacted by CNN and MSNBC, among others. TV reporters from Fort Myers planted themselves on the city dock before sunrise.
With Hurricane Matthew’s projected path set to side-swipe us, concern is rising like a tide and hurricane preps are in motion throughout West Palm Beach.
City Administrator Jeff Green said Tuesday many staffers are in the field rather than hunkered down in the Emergency Operations Center at this point. They’re going to all construction sites to make sure they’re ready to be secured against high winds, and making sure that city emergency equipment is positioned where it will be needed.
The Bristol Tower site on South Flagler Drive, the piles of debris at the recently demolished Carefree Theater site on South Dixie Highway and the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches construction site on Haverhill Road all are areas where the city is alerting crews to be ready to secure anything that could become windborne, said Green and his Development Services director, Rick Greene.
“We’re fueling up, making sure cars are positioned where need to be and cleaning the grates to make sure water drains as quickly as possible,” the city administrator said.
As of noon, Mayor Jeri Muoio had made a formal declaration of Local Emergency. That allows the city to obtain hurricane-related supplies without going through the usual purchasing procedures, Jeff Green said. All city government meetings for the rest of the week have been canceled.
At the Palm Beach Sailing Club, at 4600 N. Flagler Drive, Rear Commodore Richard Richardson said the club is alerting its 162 members to secure their boats and other loose equipment so it doesn’t damage their or anyone else’s property. New chains are being wrapped around the floating docks, the club’s inflatable tenders and small sailboats are being beached, and Sunfish cockpits are being filled with water to weigh them down.
Then the 96-year-old clubhouse, which has weathered many a storm, gets boarded up, he said. “Then we hoist a drink and hope for the best,” Richardson said.
We’re reprinting the announcement blow from the city’s website:
LATEST STORM NEWS
UPDATED TUESDAY, OCT. 4, 2016 11:00am
Mayor Jeri Muoio is meeting with senior staff to review city preparations.
City of West Palm Beach emergency operations officials are monitoring the storm. The City of West Palm Beach is currently in the forecast cone.
As the city prepares, officials are urging residents to make sure they are ready as well.
The following information is current as of 11:00am Tuesday:
THE CITY OF WEST PALM BEACH IS CURRENTLY UNDER A HURRICANE WATCH.
Trash pick up will be on a regular schedule Tuesday and Wednesday. Pick-up decisions for Thursday and Friday have not been made at this time.
YOU SHOULD NOT BE PUTTING ANY EXTRA DEBRIS, TRASH OR YARD WASTE OUT AT THIS TIME.
DO NOT PUT OUT ANYTHING FOR PICK UP UNLESS YOU HAVE CONFIRMED IT WILL BE PICKED UP. ITEMS PLACED ON THE STREETS AND LEFT UNCOLLECTED CREATE SIGNIFICANT SAFETY RISKS.
PUT AWAY OUTDOOR ITEMS:
Make sure all unsecured outdoor items (grills, plants, etc.) are moved to a safe place.
CLEAR YOUR STORM DRAINS:
The city is currently working to clear all storm drains but we need your help! YOU must make sure the storm drains on your street remain clear of debris. FLOODING IS MADE WORSE WHEN STORM DRAINS ARE CLOGGED.
SECURE ALL WORK SITES:
When a storm warning is issued, all construction and work sites in the city MUST BE SECURED. All construction materials must be tied down or removed.
EVACUATIONS & SHELTERS:
All evacuation and shelter information comes from Palm Beach County. The city does not operate shelters or issue evacuation orders. For the latest information on evacuations and shelters, please CLICK HERE.
SAVE 9-1-1 FOR AN EMERGENCY:
Please call 9-1-1 only in an emergency. Please be aware that emergency response will be affected during the height of the storm.
Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ Vocal Majority movement for “common sense” gun laws came to West Palm Beach city hall Tuesday, minus its namesake.
Vocal Majority spokeswoman Lauren North said Giffords, who survived a 2012 assassination attempt, was busy promoting the event elsewhere on Tuesday, as the group tries to turn Election Day 2016 into a referendum on gun violence, by drumming up support nationwide. The group aims to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, terrorists, criminals “and the dangerously mentally ill,” North said.
Mayor Jeri Muoio and City Commissioner Sylvia Moffett spoke at the brief event to lend their support to the effort, and to voice their endorsements of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, an advocate of gun restrictions.
Florida State Rep. David Kerner, D-Palm Springs, urged the public to press their elected officials to strengthen gun laws. Kerner, who said he was speaking as a former prosecutor “fed up” with a vocal minority opposed to gun laws, urged voters to empower elected officials “to stand up against the NRA.”
“The issue will define for many decades the morals and values of our nation,” Kerner said.
Moffett, whose district has seen more than its share of gun violence, urged residents to vote for candidates up and down the ticket who favor gun control. “Substantive but easy fixes can be put in place,” she said.
A person on the federal “no-fly” list shouldn’t be able to buy a gun at a gun show,” she added.
“It’s heart-wrenching and there’s something we can do about it,” Mayor Muoio added, “by enacting common sense gun laws.”
Worried about the perception of downtown crime, West Palm Beach likely will tighten its teen curfew law in November, at least for a three-month trial period.
That word, after a meeting Thursday in which officials of Related Group, CityPlace and the Downtown Development Authority discussed with Mayor Jeri Muoio and police how to improve downtown safety.
Muoio said Friday that downtown crime is not as frequent as news reports make it seem. Nonetheless the city is looking for ways to tweak patrol schedules, while it also replaces security cameras and adds bike and Segway patrols in neighborhoods just north of downtown. CityPlace has its own contingent of off-duty officers in addition to the city’s Entertainment District patrols, she said.
Probably in November, Muoio said, the city commission will consider moving its Friday and Saturday teen curfews to 10 p.m., from 11 p.m., she said. The downtown curfew already is 10 p.m. the rest of the week.
The city plans to collect crime data for the periods before, during and after the proposed ordinance, to gauge its effectiveness, she said. Also under consideration: bringing in a consultant to look at the overall security picture downtown.
A Peace in the Streets walk through West Palm Beach’s Historic Northwest is scheduled for Thursday, at 6 p.m., in response to a recent rash of shootings.
The peace walk will step off from Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, 801 8th St.
The march, organized with the help of Rev. Kevin Jones, is one of at least 15 that have taken place since the summer of 2015.
“We stop and engage folks, especially if they’re outside the homes or on the streets, talk to them, promoting peace, telling them why we’re there, hearing their ideas,” City Commissioner Cory Neering said Tuesday.
“The folks we’ve spoken to say, ‘We work, we take care of our kids, and we just want a community of faith,'” he said. “They see it as young men making poor decisions and getting into beefs with each other. They don’t see this as random. Neither do I. It’s very targeted. I’ve seen and heard where some of this stuff has been from Facebook posts and they get into it and they take it out on each other in the street.
“These folks are looking for answers and part of these peace walks is to show them that we care.”
The group has organized walks in the Coleman Park and Pleasant City neighborhoods, too, but decided to do this one in the Historic Northwest because of a recent increase in shootings, some of them fatal.
After the initial spree of shootings in 2015 eased off, the walks stopped. But now the group has decided “to keep this on the calendar, keep it moving,” Neering said.
People from throughout West Palm Beach and from all walks of life participate, he said. “It transcends race. We have whites, blacks, young, old, residents, residents from other parts of the city, who are all promoting peace.”