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Commissioner District 1 Seat - Three Year Term

Question 1: Why have you chosen to run for office and what personal and professional experience do you bring?

Scott Maxwell - incumbent

Lake Worth Beach is truly a wonderful city with much potential and endless opportunity…unfortunately our city hadn’t always been governed as well as perhaps it could have been and I wanted to help change that. Crumbling infrastructure, excessive utility rates, neighborhood blight and crime were some of the legacy issues the old Lake Worth was known for. I said we could do better and promised to fix those issues. Many said it couldn’t be done; but it’s being done! With much hard work and acquisition of a professional city staff, these issues were addressed for the better. Our recent $150 million dollar investment into streets, underground utilities etc. has substantially improved infrastructure citywide and our quality of life. We tightened our belts and became a more efficient electric utility system and now enjoy some of the lowest residential rates in the state with an eye on addressing commercial rates next. Partnering with PBSO has been a godsend as crime rates continue to fall every year over the previous year since partnering about 12 years ago. Our city is shedding its legacy issues, and our future has never looked brighter, and I want to continue as a part of that transformation.

Sarah Malega

As a first-time candidate for District 1 in 2018, I lost by a small margin. The reason I ran then is the same reason I am running today.  Our City needs a governing body that cares about ALL residents and business owners, has open lines of communication, a welcoming City Hall that exhibits respect and integrity along with transparency and positivity. As a successful business owner since 2006, I understand financial challenges, the ever changing global and economic landscape, the ebbs and flows.

I also believe we need to offer leisure services, recreational programs, safe well performing schools, green space, and walkable communities so that we can attract buyers for new development or homes within the community.  Without increase in population you cannot support nor attract new businesses. We need term limits and life in our City will not improve until we have term limits. Within the first 120 days I would like to pass a resolution for term limits to appear on March 2022 ballot. Term limits avoid stagnation, promote democracy, and bring fresh perspective that is essential to a healthy community.

Question 2: What do you see as the long-term plan for the Lake Worth Casino building on the beach?

Scott Maxwell - incumbent

I support current discussions by the commission to consider a Public Private Partnership to address any identified capital project or enhancements that would be identified and supported by our residents.

Sarah Malega

I am a long-time supporter of our pool. We need to form a private public partnership with an entity that has a proven track record with an outdoor restaurant/bar and entertainment venue. A prime example is the partnership between Jupiter Marina and Blue Pointe Grill in Tequesta. They have a pool, all outdoor seating, tiki bar and a great view. This will give locals the pool we had for over 100 years and a place to “daycation” as well as attract tourist to contribute to our economy and bring revenue from a long-term rental agreement.

Question 3: Do you believe any of the penny sales tax should be spent on the oceanfront park? Please be very specific (for example, if you support spending on the pool, please indicate so).

Scott Maxwell - incumbent

While the capital project needs of the city far exceed the potential available remaining proceeds of the penny sales tax revenue, there have been discussions about using $6 million dollars or more to replace the failed pool. That said, while I don’t support using the money for a new pool, I would consider use of some of those funds should a reasonable, resident endorsed, Public Private Partnership agreement be struck.

Sarah Malega

Yes, I am in favor of a portion being spent on the casino/complex, pool. The pool is not only a historical representation of our town, but it is a recreational outlet, a meeting place for families and neighbors alike. With a good business plan, the City can and will be successful with our pool. We need to invest these funds in multiple locations throughout the city, but the pool is a definite priority.

Question 4: Do you support closing some street entrances into the South Palm Park neighborhood to vehicular traffic and why / why not?

Scott Maxwell - incumbent

I would support the closure of streets into the South Palm Park neighborhood only with the input and support of the homeowners involved. This concept has been tried years before and taking another look at it makes sense, however, we must be mindful of the unintended impact it could cause to adjacent areas. I have consistently asked for a citywide, comprehensive, traffic / traffic calming study; perhaps implementing such neighborhood enhancing strategies could start in the south eastern most section of the city, South Palm Park.

Sarah Malega

This is where it is imperative to have the residents and business owners input. I would hold a city meeting with the residents and business owners along the streets in question to learn their reasons for wanting to close streets. What is the benefit and what is the long-term impact on the community?

Question 5: Do you support keeping the contract with PBSO and why / why not?

Scott Maxwell - incumbent

You have heard me say many times in the past “the PBSO is one of the best things to happen to Lake Worth Beach since sunshine” Yet, the perception of some is that perhaps we spend too much for the contract or we might get better service by having our own police department. While I respect one’s perception, I respectfully disagree. Here’s why:

Some facts:

  • The cost of public safety is the single most expensive line item for most municipal budgets

  • The resources available to our city beyond the contract are enormous, for example, air support (helicopter), marine support, K-9 units, SWAT team, world class investigative services, extra traffic units (motorcycle), funding for additional code enforcement officer and others

  • Greater access to grant funding sources such as the $1 million dollar grant for the city’s south end to address violent crime

  • Response time for calls of service are vastly better than our old police department Is there is room for improvement, yes, however the PBSO is always willing to listen and do what they can to improve, for example, at my request, the PBSO has recommitted to beefing of community policing efforts city wide

  • and that recommitment will pay dividends.

Sarah Malega

Yes, I do support PBSO, I think they do a great job. However, we pay them $13.8 million a year and we need to reevaluate our needs for the city. It should be a mandatory requirement that ALL PBSO officers within the City limits wear body cameras for their safety as well as the safety of our residents. Body cameras will also aid the city shall a lawsuit occur involving PBSO and the City with a citizen. PBSO contract is up for renewal in September 2021 and I would push for this mandate.

Question 6: Do you support Lake Worth Beach keeping our electric utility why / why not?

Scott Maxwell - incumbent

The answer is YES!

First, there was a time when many questioned whether we could, or should, be in the electric business, so we went out and formed an Electric Utility Advisory Board and hired well qualified consultants to analyze the practicality and feasibility of divesting ourselves of the electric utility. Ultimately, it was determined that it would be nearly impossible to sell the electric utility due to the enormous financial obligations the city had with various nuclear and coal fired power plants and the understanding that FMPA (Florida Municipal Power Agency) would be unwilling to allow us to sell after having gone through the recent sale of the Vero beach utility to FPL.

Second, some don’t realize that the electric utility actually contributes millions of dollars to our General Fund to operate the city. Without these contributions, the city would have to dramatically cut services to our residents. Finally, in the past, high electric rates were a driving force behind the movement to sell, however, we have managed to cut residential electric rates to near FPL with an eye towards lowering our commercial rates next. The city has turned a legacy liability into an asset that benefits us all.

Sarah Malega

I support keeping our utilities if we keep jobs local and stop outsourcing to California call centers, start utilizing more solar on municipal buildings, lower cost of Commercial rates and remove the moratorium on solar. We cannot continue to overcharge businesses and deny solar usage on the simple fact that is a profit for our utilities. We must do what is best for the big picture. Every municipal building in Madison Wi. has solar on the roof, yet we do not. Commercial rates are high because that is most of the profit, we receive in utilities charges, yet businesses are closing left and right. We must not keep profit above what is right!

Question 7: What are your top two priorities should you be elected?

Scott Maxwell - incumbent

Continuing to improve quality of life and public safety for all residents is my primary concern. As our community grows with new residents, new residential units, small businesses, a reopening of the Gulfstream Hotel and an expanding Park of Commerce, it will be very important to focus on traffic flows, patterns and speed, parking in the downtown and adjacent neighborhoods as well as increased community policing to enhance the quality of life for all.

Sarah Malega

There are many items I wish to address and have community input on, such as improving our City summer youth camp to earn recognition and approval by Early Learning Coalition. However, due to a timetable, I would say term limits, so they are on the March 2022 ballot, and renegotiating services with PBSO since the contract is up for renewal Sept 2021.

Question 8: Are you supportive of legalizing AirBNB in Lake Worth Beach?

  • If so, under what circumstances?

  • If not, why not?

Scott Maxwell - incumbent

Under current Florida law, AirBNB / Vacation Rentals are legal. The issue is that municipalities do not have the authority to regulate AirBNB / Vacation Rentals as the state has once again deprived us of our Home Rule Authority as provided for in the Florida Constitution. We now have to either maintain our existing ordinances of no AirBNB / Vacation Rentals of 2 months or less, or allow AirBNB / Vacation Rentals with no restrictions at all. Lake Worth Beach, along with most of the municipalities in Florida have

been working with the Florida League of Cities to bring some compromise to the table between the State and local municipal governments. While this is been worked during every legislative session since about 2012, we are currently not citing AirBNB / Vacation Rentals until there is a final resolution to the issue. Owners of such operations are however required to get and maintain regular rental licenses and inspections. The best approach going forward would be to continue to work with industry owners and organizations to identify and adopt agreed upon best practices and work with neighborhood groups and home owners to get more cooperation from the state legislature.

Sarah Malega

I have had a lot of inquiries regarding short term rentals. Currently, there is a regulation prohibiting municipalities from mandating length and terms of a STR. I am in support of them. I will encourage local owners to establish minimum and maximum stays. This would aid in less traffic, fewer complaints from surrounding neighbors and less cleaning and restocking for owners. After speaking with many owners, I believe if local officials sat down with them, we could get the majority to agree. In addition, here are the regulations advised by Airbnb:

Question 9: What would you do to champion South Federal Highway development other than halfway houses and recovery centers? Please provide details.

Scott Maxwell - incumbent

While there is some good work rendered by sober homes, halfway houses and non-profits, our city has a disproportionate amount of them. That said, I would not support additional creation of these uses along South Federal Highway. I think we all know and understand the history of the existing motel style developments on South Federal Highway, sadly however, they have become obsolete and in some cases been a nuisance to the community. First we have to recognize and appreciate the limited depth of the land for properties on both sides of Federal Highway. Second we need to reevaluate the current land uses and zoning to develop potential uses that developers would like to pursue that are profitable and that complement the surrounding neighborhoods on both sides of Federal highway. HOWEVER, THIS CITY REVIEW PROCESS MUST BE DONE WITH NEIGHBORHOOD PARTICIPATION, INPUT AND ACCEPTANCE. <Emphasis added> Perhaps South Palm Park and Pineapple Beach neighborhoods could consider forming a planning committee to begin identifying what would be acceptable to each neighborhood. You will have my unconditional support with this effort.

Sarah Malega

I believe by adding to or redrawing the CRA boundaries to include the areas of S. Federal Hwy and S. Dixie Hwy we can bring smart development that includes businesses that will enhance our city. There are incentives for both development as well as small businesses available through the CRA. Unfortunately, due to current boundaries those funds cannot be used where we need them most. To carry this out you would need a “Finding of Necessity” study showing the need and that this area meets the requirements of Florida state statue 163.3

Question 10: What is the plan to maintain the mangroves that have been planted along the ICW in Bryant Park?

Scott Maxwell - incumbent

This is a county responsibility founded by state regulation. The number of mangroves has been reduced based on the original plan of 20 or so years ago. Our responsibility and obligation to the residents is to assure that the mangroves are maintained on a regular basis by the appropriate agencies.

Sarah Malega

Mangroves are imperative to our ICW, they help control algae bloom, aid in containing rising tide overflow as well as provide a habitat for marine life. We as a City need to adhere to the rules and regulations set forth in the Mangrove Trimming and Preservation Act of 1995 for maintaining them in the proper way.

Question 11: Is the CRA doing a good job?

  • If not, what would you change?

  • If so, what would you do to promote their work and / or improve their effectiveness?

Scott Maxwell - incumbent

I believe the CRA is doing a good job. The CRA is an independent entity responsible for redevelopment and infill within the CRA boundaries designed to eliminate blight, increase property values and related tax revenues that are reinvested thru Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to make further progress in the fight against blight.

CRA redevelopment can come in the form of property rehabilitation, traditional new development, land acquisition for new development and or providing grants or incentives for same. Our CRA has done some remarkable projects over the past several years and has earned numerous awards and recognition for its work. In fact, the Federal Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD) has recognized our CRA for the phenomenal job it did in implementing the $23+ million dollar NSP2 grant that rehabbed or built 150 + homes in our community.

There have been concerns from some residents that current public outreach efforts of the CRA may not been adequate for the general public to fully understand how CRA projects come about or how they with be realized upon completion. It would be great to identify additional creative ways to make communications from the CRA easier for the community to be part of.

Sarah Malega

Yes, I do think the CRA is doing exactly what a CRA is created for. However, I do believe the CRA needs to embrace effected communities and respond to their concerns on all projects, developments, and street changes. The CRA is landlocked by its boundaries, thus running out of “vacant” land to develop. If we add to the boundaries or redraw the boundary lines to the southern city border and include S. Dixie Hwy and S. Federal Hwy., they will be able to concentrate on the underdeveloped areas, that so desperately need attention. The CRA contributions to the City bring not only development but good homeowners and business owners who become involved citizens in the city, such as me.

Question 12: What would you do to advance the improvement of the condition of our city streets?

Scott Maxwell - incumbent

We are in the final year of the roads program funded by the $40 million bond referendum, and it looks like the program will finish on time and under budget!

First, we will need to conduct an updated needs assessment of roads so we can develop a new roads plan and find the funds to implement the plan. Please know that I strongly supported the use of sales tax dollars to complement the existing $40 million project.

Some suggestions might be:

  • Use the remaining sales tax revenues (approx. $6 million or so) earmarked for the pool if there is community support to do so. This would help build a significant number of streets.

  • We could use the remaining funds from the bond proceeds coupled with reprioritizing other citywide capital needs to see how much we might be able to do

  • Or, if the residents are satisfied with how the city executed the $40 million dollar bond roads plan, maybe we could consider another bond referendum to place us closer to getting all streets in the city to

  • the appropriate quality level. Remember, the city originally put forth a $63 million dollar bond referendum that failed by less than 30 votes.

Sarah Malega

A few areas of concern are the streets that flood, becoming impassable and add to the street’s deterioration. We need to repair the drains that need repair. There are several that have been filled in with runoff, dirt and debris from surrounding alleys. I would like to see a weight limit placed on the trucks that use our side streets. In addition, there is concern about the type of claw truck we use to pick up bulk trash. The claw has caused gauging in some of the new streets and sidewalks.

Question 13: We have many vacant storefronts downtown with some landlords charging high rents / making property too expensive to promote redevelopment. What would you do to fix this?

Scott Maxwell - incumbent

It is unclear as to what the business models might be for the landlords who seem to be holding multiple properties empty, and of course that is their right. However, there are a few things we could do to encourage landlords to find suitable tenants at market rate rents.

Enforce, what I believe is an existing ordinance that requires shop owners to use some type of art or window dressings to fill their storefront windows and make them appealing to the eye when

passing by

  • Encourage more new residential unit development for residents with more disposable income

  • Improve the parking situation by implementing a comprehensive parking plan that addresses downtown and adjacent neighborhood parking needs

  • Encourage the CRA to develop meaningful partnerships and incentives for new business

  • Require minimum maintenance standards for empty store fronts

  • Identify and implement lawful fees and charges so there is an incentive for property owners to work harder at finding a suitable tenant

  • Get the Gulfstream Hotel open!

Sarah Malega

As a business owner who has rented in this town for over 10 years, I understand the importance of good landlords who care about the City not just their portfolio. Unfortunately, this city cannot set rent rates. In the past, a vacant property tax was considered but in general this approach causes more harm than good. A good relationship with SBA agencies is a great resource to help fill empty commercial spots. When someone applies for an SBA loan, it would be great if Lake Worth Beach had incentives to entice more small businesses. It does not help that as a City, the utilities department requires a deposit of up to 2 to 3 ½ times a monthly bill from every business in the city that is held indefinitely, nor does it help that our commercial rates are higher than most including water. To overcome empty unattractive buildings, we

could have a resolution requiring commercial spaces to have window dressings like the wraps on our electric boxes. I am also in favor of city issued official for rent signs with landlords’ license number displayed. This helps generate revenue and shows potential renters that the landlord holds the correct business license.

Question 14: Covid-19 has taken a toll on our country and our city. What initiatives would you propose the city make to help our residents and businesses recover?

Scott Maxwell - incumbent

Covid response decisions derive from Federal, State and County levels, which includes the funding of Covid testing, vaccine and vaccine distribution as well as mandates on City restrictions. That said, there are 3 areas we have focused our resources and efforts on.

They are:

  • advocating for the financial assistance for our population needs.

  • coordinating with non-profits to supply direct assistance when resources become available.

  • acting as a conduit of vital information related to services, programs, and funding assistance when available.

Additionally, there have been numerous pushes of information on the City Website and social media, in addition to the 39 “Navigating the New Normal” COVID Updates full of important information, links and phone numbers.

Additionally, I have personally:

  • Distributed informative Covid information brochures to virtually every home in the city, and in three languages.

  • Resourced, packaged and distributed nearly 5000 individual Covid Care packages which contained hand sanitizer, soap, gloves and toilet paper.

  • Organized and coordinated efforts to provide 1200 Turkeys and related food items to feed an estimated 5000 for thanksgiving

  • Been working on developing a process for those without computer access to place them on a level playing field as others when attempting to schedule their vaccination appointments.

Sarah Malega

Vaccinations need to be easier to obtain and we need to support the PBC Health Care District and their efforts to vaccinate our residents. I would love to see the Fire Department vaccinating as Delray Beach did. Currently we have two organizations doing weekly food distribution, and I am thankful for every volunteer who assist. However, I would like to encourage those organizations to work together to get food delivered to those who cannot leave their homes or have no transportation. We need to continue social distancing and mask mandates while in public buildings. It would be beneficial to all if we add hand sanitizer stations throughout the downtown as well as the beach. As for business relief, the City should allow businesses to use all or part of their deposit towards their utility bills with a 12-month repayment plan. Unlike municipalities that did not charge for business license renewals, Lake Worth Beach required payment in September. Undoubtedly, meetings between the City and business owners would yield many ideas for helping our small businesses survive this exceedingly difficult period.