For more information on this project, contact John O'Malley, Environmental Health Director, Selva Selvendran, Kai Jones, or Roy (Mike) McGinnis, PACE-EH Coordinators, at the Palm Beach County Health Department
PALM BEACH COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT
May 2006 PACE EH Report
To: Daniel Parker, MSP,
Assistant Division Director, Division of Environmental Health
From: Selva Selvendran, PACE EH Coordinator
Subject: May 2006 PACE EH Project Update
During the month of the PACE EH Project in the Watergate Estates community of Boca Raton, Palm Beach County, made significant progress in the following areas:
Community survey instrument was completed and prepared for distribution.
Strong proof of community ownership of the PACE EH project was noted.
WE CARE, a local community group emerged as a significant resource for community mobilization.
Calvary Baptist Church remains committed to providing a meeting place for PACE EH.
Palm Beach County Office of Community Revitalization has endorsed and participated in PACE EH activities.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff?s Office Community Policing has continued to be an important partner in the PACE EH project.
The first PACE EH Coordinator has resigned to pursue another exciting assignment.
INTERIM STEERING COMMITTEE MEETING
The PACE EH Interim Steering Committee meeting was held on May 11, 2006 at the Environmental Health Section office in Delray Beach. Although the meeting had been scheduled on that date to facilitate the Code Enforcement Officer?s participation, he was unable to attend. The following were among the issues discussed at the meeting:
Low hanging fruit: The issue of an overgrown and trash-littered canal along the southern edge of the community had been raised in all meeting with residents. The steering committee had decided that this issue would be a ?low hanging fruit.? Initial research conducted by Courtney Shippey, Nancy Lashway, and Mike Vornhagen revealed that maintenance of the canal was the responsibility of property owners association of an adjacent multifamily housing development. Mike (Environmental Specialist at PBCHD working in the Watergate Estates area) and Nancy visited the Emerald Bay Apartments and spoke with the property owner?s representative, who committed to expediting the clean-up of the canal and an unsightly pile of solid waste on the ground near the canal. To date some of the trash had been removed, and a new dumpster had been placed on the site. Palm Beach County Code Enforcement had also responded to the issue of illegal dumping and littering in the area. It was hoped that success in getting the canal cleaned in a timely manner would present a highly visible outcome that would further encourage community residents that their participating in the PACE EH planning activities could yield good results.
Deputy Shawn Goddard, Palm Beach County Sheriff?s Office, reported progress on the establishment of a Community Policing substation on the church site. June 21, 2006 was given as the tentative completion date for occupancy. This substation will be a community resource in that it will be available for Community Action Team meeting and project activity, dissemination of information on a community bulletin board, and as a repository of informational literature. It will also be the main collection point for completed community survey questionnaires.
WE CARE should be encouraged to seek incorporation as a non-profit corporation and obtain 501c(3) status, in order to be able to seek grant funding for community development. In a meeting between Nancy, Courtney, and Chrystal Mathews of Palm Beach County Office of Community Revitalization (OCR), Ms Mathews had indicated that OCR would be willing to assist WE CARE with incorporation and application for the 501c(3) status. This information had been given to members of WE CARE. It was suggested that a meeting be set up with WE CARE to discuss the issue of incorporation.
The second PACE EH community meeting was held on May 22, 2006. The meeting had been advertised through mass mailings of flyers, and posters and flyers distributed throughout the community by members of the WE CARE community group and the Palm Beach County Sheriff?s Office. The meeting was held at the Calvary Baptist Church in the community. Thirty three (33) residents attended the meeting.
The meeting was called to order by Pastor Tye. Nancy Lashway, the PACE EH Coordinator, welcomed everyone and introduced the members of the WE CARE group and the Community Action Team, and the guest speaker, Chrystal Mathews. Nancy gave a summary of the PACE EH activities to date, and acknowledged the efforts of WE CARE in providing valuable community advocacy, and supporting the PACE EH project. In a PowerPoint presentation, Nancy summarized the PACE EH goals and objectives, and discussed the survey questionnaire that the Community Action Team has approved for gathering information about community issues.
Chrystal Mathews, Senior Planner from the Palm Beach County Office of Community Revitalization, addressed the meeting. Ms Mathews is the coordinator of the county?s Neighborhood Partnership Grant program, of which WE CARE was a recipient of $7,000 for publishing a community newsletter and doing landscaping at the entrance to the community. Ms Mathews gave a motivational speech, and made the point that seemingly impossible tasks can be done through positive attitude, making a start, and unity. Ms. Mathews shared information about successful projects in other communities that were made possible through the Neighborhood Partnership Grant Program.
Ms. Mathews praised WE CARE for their work in the community, and encourage the community members to unite behind WE CARE within the framework of the PACE EH initiative, and take the next steps toward community improvement. Ms. Mathews stated that through WE CARE?s efforts, the County has budgeted funds to establish a neighborhood park.
She implored the community members to develop a neighborhood plan. The plan must be in writing, adopted by the community residents, and formally presented to policy makers. She stated that the community planning approach is how other communities have become successful. The plan would be a blueprint to put policy makers on notice, and make them accountable to the community.
Other issues discussed at the meeting were:
A resident reported that she has been engaging other residents on the streets and telling them about PACE EH, and the efforts to strengthen community involvement. She stated that some people will throw away letters from Palm Beach County Health Department without reading them, and therefore, would not be informed about PACE EH.
A resident expressed an interest in having the County Commissioner visit the community, and indicated that the County Commissioner has shown very little interest in the community. Ms. Mathews and others responded that the Commissioner is more likely to become interested when the community has a written plan, and residents demonstrate commitment to improving the community.
Stacey of WE CARE stated that distributing and completing the survey will be very important in development of the community plan, because the survey will help to identify the issues most residents care about, and a plan can then be developed to address those issues.
Residents again stated that the community was experiencing problems of:
Solid waste dumping in the cul-de-sacs.
Need for a Crime Watch program.
Need for speed bumps to reduce speeding through the community.
Police stopping youth without probable cause.
Widespread drug trafficking.
Need for designated safe houses in the community for children.
INITIAL NEIGHBORHOOD MEETING:
On March 6, 2006, the first community meeting for the Palm Beach County PACE project was held at the Calvary Chapel. A sign up table was provided in the back of the church along with a suggestion box for those hesitant to verbalize their opinions. Residents were encouraged to sign in with names and addresses, in addition to indicating willingness to volunteer to help PACE efforts. There were 40 names on the sign-in sheet, however, some who neglected to sign in are known by the facilitator and mentioned that they are available for any help.
Nancy Lashway briefly introduced the PACE project with emphasis on the need for community engagement. Afterwards, the floor was opened up for discussion of issues. Those immediately expressed were:
-The need for a centralized place for community meetings and activities.
-The lack of activities for youth resulting in destructive behavior and drug activity.
-Vacant and overgrown properties seen as eyesores and bringing down the general image of the community.
-The rat population especially as seen in the dirty canals filled with overgrown plant material and trash.
-Stray animals/irresponsible pet owners.
-Past efforts and promises made to assist the community gone astray.
Volunteers were solicited from the audience who seemed the most vocal to serve on a team of core representatives from the community to meet in two weeks.
This meeting represented a turning point for the community development process and the PACE EH project. Ms. Mathew?s presentation served to highlight the effect of the PACE EH project in galvanizing community interest and participation. More important, however, is the awareness and focus that the meeting brought to the importance of WE CARE as a community resource. As a result, there is the strong sense that the community, through WE CARE, has assumed responsibility for the PACE EH project.
Courtney Shippey attended the Florida?s 16th Annual Growth Management Conference in Orlando, Florida on May 18th and 19th, and participated in the various informative PACE EH related sessions. At the summit, he also met Daniel Parker, DOH PACE EH Coordinator, Samuel Brobbey, Jr., Statewide PACE EH Liaison, Julianne Price, Indian River County PACE EH Coordinator, Detective Teddy Floyd, Indian River County PACE Project, and discussed PACE EH project strategies and activities.
WE CARE volunteered to distribute the community survey questionnaire in a community-wide mailing with their newsletter. The questionnaires were copied at the PBCHD?s print shop, and staff from the Environmental Health & Engineering Division (EHE) assisted in folding and stuffing envelops for the mass mailing. WE CARE will collect completed questionnaires from community members and from the central drop-off point at the Community Policing substation. The survey data will be entered into a database and analyzed by PBCHD staff. The data from the survey will also be used for the county-wide Mobilization for Action through Planning and Partnership (MAPP) project, which is also underway.
Nancy Lashway, PACE EH Coordinator, announced that she would be leaving the project at the end of the month to pursue an Emergency Preparedness research assignment in New York. Nancy had achieved remarkable success in engaging residents of the community, and in gaining their acceptance, trust, and cooperation. Community residents have expressed their regret on hearing that she is leaving. PACE EH project staff acknowledges that Nancy?s departure is a great loss for the project. However, the momentum achieve through Nancy?s efforts, the encouraging levels of community ownership of the project, Community Action Team efforts to administer the survey questionnaires, and continued action by the Interim Steering Committee will sustain the project until a new coordinator is hired.
Past Palm Beach County Updates