elgin_jones_web_13.jpgEJones@SFLTimes.com

HISTORIC RAILROAD

The extension of the railroad that oil tycoon and developer Henry Flagler built in 1212 is 100 years old this week. The 128-mile extension of the Florida East Coast Railroad from Homestead to Key West was known as the Overseas Highway. It cost $50 million and took more than 10,000 workers around eight years to complete.

TERM LIMITS
Cuban President Raul Castro announced reforms that impose term limits on government officials. Castro, the brother of former President Fidel Castro, said at a party conference that limits of two five-year terms will be implemented. He also called for more media openness. If communist Cuba can impose term limits, and the president of the United States is subject to them, what about all state, local, and national public officials, including judges? The time has arrived.

Palm Beach County

RECYCLING POLICE
Lake Worth city officials have implemented a pilot program that will keep track of residents’ recycling habits. Waste collection trucks are equipped with bar code readers that will scan recycling containers when they are emptied. That will allow computers to monitor and keep tabs on who is recycling and who isn’t.

FAIR CONDITION
Two teenagers are in fair condition after being shot at the South Florida Fair in West Palm Beach this past weekend. Shots rang out just after midnight Sunday morning at the crowded fairgrounds. It created a panic and the fair was put on lockdown. The gunman remains on the loose.

LAYOFFS
Michigan-based pharmaceutical firm Perrigo Company is laying off 175 workers at its Lake Worth manufacturing facility where it makes a number of generic and over-the-counter medications.

Broward County

WATER BILLING
Deerfield Beach resident Hezekiah Jones was a victim of the city’s outrageous water billing and debt collection practices. City Manager Burgess Hanson’s staff arbitrarily added outstanding debts to customers’ current utility bills, even though some disputed it was they who owed the old debts. Legal Aid attorney Janet Riley, who is representing those residents, has threatened legal action claiming violation of consumer debt collection laws. City officials will now change their utility billing and debt collection practices to comply with state and federal laws. But it may be too late. Stay tuned.

HEATING UP

The race for the district 5 Broward School Board seat will be a hard-fought contest. The incumbent, Ben Williams, is retiring. The candidates are Torey L. Alston, Christopher C. Hugley, Ruth Roman Lynch, Roy L. Montgomery Jr. and Dr. Rosalind V. Osgood. The district carves out sections of predominantly black neighborhoods from central to northern Broward County. Many schools in this district have endured decades of neglect.

ARSON CHARGE
Michael Grider is charged with setting fire to a Wilton Manors duplex where he was a tenant. One witness told police the witness asked Grider if Grider knew his house was on fire and if he set it ablaze and that Grider answered yes and then went kayaking in a nearby canal. The property’s owner alleged that Grider set the fire after being served with an eviction notice. The blaze caused significant damage but no one was injured. Grider is charged with first-degree arson.

IN TROUBLE

Weston-based Community Bank of Broward lost $1.87 million in the fourth quarter. The struggling bank lost $1.1 million for the year. Community Bank wrote off $3.3 million in bad loans and repossessed $11.6 million worth of property during the fourth quarter of 2010.

HENNESY ON THE ROCKS
Fort Lauderdale police officer Michael Hennessy has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of a criminal investigation. The Broward State Attorney’s Office is reviewing a case presented by the Florida Highway Patrol to determine whether Hennessy provided false information related to a traffic accident involving his squad car.

CUTS COMING
Deerfield Beach Mayor Peggy Noland and city commissioners approved a collective bargaining agreement with the Professional Managers and Supervisors Association, even though managers acknowledge the contract was not properly ratified. The union represents supervisors and administrative workers. The agreement approves a 5 percent pay cut and increases in the amount employees pay toward their health insurance, among other provisions. Some union members complained they were not provided details of the contract or copies to review prior to the vote. Another ratification vote scheduled for Feb. 11 is likely to fail, according to some employees.

Miami-Dade County

TEACHER OF THE YEAR
Juan D’Arce, a teacher at West Miami Middle School, has been honored as the Minority Chamber of Commerce’s Teacher of The Year. He was recognized for volunteering and tutoring children at local schools. D’Arce is a former candidate for the Legislature.

MILITARY EXCERCISES
Recent military readiness exercises at Homestead Air Reserve Base scared some residents who were not aware of what was going on. The simulated war games are used for training and to ensure the readiness of the airmen. Lt. Col. Ted Munchmeyer issued a statement prior to the exercises informing the public of what would take place. But some residents were still not aware and wondered what was going on or if there was some sort of attack.

CUBA’S OIL

Oil spills and other environmental concerns are mounting over the Cuban government’s move to drill for oil off the island’s coast. This week, the U.S. Coast Guard and other experts spoke at a satellite sub-committee hearing on the subject at Sunny Isles Beach. U.S. Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and David Rivera, both Republicans from Florida, also spoke at the meeting. Instead of being about oil concerns, though, it was more an anti-Cuba forum.

Photo: Elgin Jones