Gas prices hit three-year high

Brace your wallets. Prices have popped to three-year highs at the gas pump.

Florida’s statewide average of $2.74 per gallon marked the highest since December 2014, according to motorist organization AAA The Auto  Club Group. It costs $5 more to fill the average Florida tank than it did a year ago.

Palm Beach County holds the dubious honor of leading the state with an average of $2.86, by AAA’s count.

That puts a premium on shopping around. In Jupiter, prices ranged from $2.73 at the Circle K on West Indiantown Road to $3.07 at the Mobil at West Indiantown and Central Boulevard, per price-tacker GasBuddy  on Sunday evening.

Blame high oil prices, said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins.

“The price of oil is about 25 percent more than last year, as what used to be a global supply glut is now tightening,” Jenkins said.

Gas prices are likely hit their annual peak within the next couple weeks if they are not there already, Jenkins said.

Global tensions or an early storm in the Gulf of Mexico could push prices higher still, but the bottom line is “travelers will likely find the most expensive summer gas prices in four years,” he said.

Florida ranks 20th among the states for the most expensive gas. Of course, it could be worse. It could be 2008, when Florida’s average peaked at $4.08.

In Wellington,  prices ranged from $2.77 at the Shell on 441 near Southern Boulevard and the Marathon on State Road 7 near Pierson Road to $2.99 at the Shell on Southshore Boulevard.

In West Palm Beach, the low-price leader was Murphy USA on Belvedere Road with $2.66 per gallon on Sunday, according to GasBuddy.


Flood map confusion: October surprise for thousands in county?

More than 50,000 Palm Beach County properties will be reclassified as being in or touching flood zones in October, and a map made available this week on a county website lets homeowners look up their homes.

But not everyone viewing the map is getting a clear message about whether costs for particular homes are going up, particularly in western and central Palm Beach County.

At stake are potential increases of hundreds or thousands of dollars a year to insure homes.

Flood insurance plans unite Rubio, Warren, but upset Fla. agents

A Wellington homeowner noted a property currently classified as relatively low risk now sees a pending designation of “special flood hazard area” in October. Does that mean simply a piece of the yard is in or touches a flood zone, or that a lender could now require flood insurance for the entire house?

An explanation on the map says: “Just because a Special Flood Hazard Area touches your property, that does not necessarily mean your structure is located within the flood zone.” That might not shine as a beacon of clarity for many homeowners concerned about the practical effects: whether they have to buy flood insurance and, even if they choose it voluntarily, at what cost.

How safe is your property insurer? Check out the Palm Beach Post’s guide

Check with your bank or mortgage holder and insurance agent before jumping to conclusions, county officials advised.

“Just because your property touches a special flood hazard area does not mean your house is in a special flood zone and you have to pay more for insurance,” said Doug Wise, county floodplain administrator.

Wise said 50,839 Palm Beach County parcels are moving to higher-risk flood zones, 45,640 are coming out and 36,983 are staying in.

County officials note it’s the first time since 1992 that flood maps have been revised by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Typical homeowner policies do not cover floods. Flood insurance must be purchased separately. Most policies come from the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program, though private agents can arrange purchase and some private insurance companies now offer flood policies of their own.

The stakes can be serious for homeowners barely making ends meet. Banks can make consumers pay for costly “force placed” flood insurance if they don’t buy it on their own. Homes can be placed at risk of foreclosure if owners can’t keep up.

Meanwhile, Congress is working on bills to set the rules for what homeowners pay as the flood program comes up for reauthorization Sept. 30.

To look at the Palm Beach County map, visit:

Type in a property address in the bar in the upper left corner.



Few switch from Citizens insurance as up to 50,000 Oct. offers await

Up to 50,000 transfer offers are in the pipeline for October, but customers of state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. are accepting less than 10 percent of the offers regulators approved so far in 2017.

That’s 13,460 accepted offers to transfer to private insurers this year compared to 139,244 offers approved by the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation as the heart of hurricane season draws near.

Readers can compare financial safety ratings and complaint information about Citizens and private companies at The Palm Beach Post’s Insurance Explorer.

Private companies don’t necessarily follow through with the maximum offers they are allowed, and up to 19,520 August offers are still outstanding, but the bottom line is still a relative trickle leaving Florida’s second largest property insurer.

Citizens downsized to fewer than 500,000 customers from a high of 1.5 million five years ago, largely through such offers. Customers are automatically switched unless they take pains to decline. About 10 percent of the company’s customers live in Palm Beach County.

Now offers from private insurers are slowing down as many remaining Citizens customers are becoming choosier about taking offers if they don’t see clear advantages in price or coverage.

Approved for October offers are Safepoint Insurance Co. (35,000) and Southern Oak Insurance Co. (15,000). No offers were made for September.

Meanwhile, the Citizens board finds itself without a representative from Palm Beach County. Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis announced the appointment of former Florida Senate president John M. McKay of Bradenton to the board Tuesday, a day after Wellington accounting executive Juan Cocuy’s three-year term ended. Cocuy did not seek reappointment, according to company officials.

Chris Gardner, who has been chairman since 2013, received another term on the board  as Gov. Rick Scott appointed him, this time to fill a vacant ninth seat.  Scott also reappointed Jim Holton of Indian Shores and Bette Brown of Tavernier.

Forget polo? Study: Wellington’s low, low used-car prices lead nation

Wellington may be better known for polo ponies and homes with their own airplane landing strips, but a new report says it boasts the lowest used-car prices in the entire country.

Apparently dealers are practically giving them away for an average price of $1,815 less than the rest of the nation, according to Most affordable model: BMW 7 Series, priced $1,997 below Florida’s average, says Autolist, which describes itself as “an automotive buyer intelligence firm and car shopping site based in San Francisco.”

OK, but what dealers?

“I absolutely can confirm we have no conventional car lots in the village with big flags and signs,” said assistant village manager Jim Barnes. “I think what do have are automotive consultants or brokers who work with individual buyers.”

Commercial and industrial concerns take up less than 5 percent of the land area in the village, he said.

If you search online for car dealers in Wellington, several entries pop up including a handful with addresses in a village business park. A sign on one door said “by appointment only.” A man at another office declined to be interviewed on the record but said some were wholesalers or bought cars at auction. What about the low prices? Hard to say, but you never know if the competition might forget to include a down payment in the price, he said.

Autolist figures Palm Beach County is home to four of the top five deal meccas in Florida and six of the top 10. These include No. 2 Palm Beach Gardens, No. 3 Boynton Beach, No. 5 West Palm Beach, No. 6 Delray Beach and No. 10 Boca Raton. already had Palm Beach County pegged as a low-price standout last year. But Wellington has become entrenched as the nation’s No.1 savings citadel since September, 2016, it says.

The most recent study analyzed more than 81 million vehicles and 4.6 billion unique data points across vehicles nationwide, including more than 560,000 active listings in 67 Florida counties, Autolist said.

“Autolist determines the rankings of cities and counties based on the dealers who are situated in those precise zip codes,” a statement from Autolist said. “Additionally, Autolist uses total used vehicle counts across all dealers in our database in a given area in order to calculate price residuals and rankings. In the case of Wellington, many small dealers within the city limits fed into our data-set to allow for statistical significance and the corresponding No. 1 ranking.”

Most Affordable Cities in Florida to Purchase a Car

  1. Wellington – Cars $1283 cheaper than Florida average
  2. Palm Beach Gardens – Cars $1138 cheaper
  3. Boynton Beach – Cars $1098 cheaper
  4. Miami Beach – Cars $1048 cheaper
  5. West Palm Beach – Cars $1007 cheaper
  6. Delray Beach – Cars $1004 cheaper
  7. Deerfield Beach – Cars $919 cheaper
  8. Fort Lauderdale – Cars $918 cheaper
  9. Pompano Beach – Cars $908 cheaper
  10. Boca Raton – Cars $897 cheaper

Vehicles with the Biggest Savings in Wellington


  1. BMW 7 Series
  2. GMC Terrain
  3. Acura ILX
  4. Chevrolet Traverse
  5. BMW 5 Series


These vehicles exhibit average savings between $1844 and $1997 off average prices in Florida, Autolist said.

Wendy’s hidden messages? Vast sins revealed in Palm Beach County

First people spotted a hidden message with the word “Mom” around the neck of burger icon Wendy.

This unexpected admission of moral error adorned the lobby of a Wendy’s restaurant in Loxahatchee at least through July 12, 2017. (Charles Elmore/Palm Beach Post)

Then came a startling confession of sins on a massive corporate scale beside the counter of a busy Wendy’s location in western Palm Beach County this week.

“All of Wendy’s sins off one word — FRESH,” the message proclaimed.

You have to admit it makes a provocative conversation piece for patrons who notice it in line. Or perhaps it can be read as a refreshingly humble and self-effacing theological statement.

But it’s safe to say this was not the original plan. A remodeling effort a few years back employed this slogan, except with the word “spins.”

Somehow, that was not what appeared this week on the gleaming white interior wall of the restaurant off Southern Boulevard, near a big intersection where Loxahatchee, Wellington and Royal Palm Beach converge. It’s not clear how long it had been like that. Puzzled customers began to notice for at least a couple of days.

JAE Restaurant Group, the franchise organization that owns and operates the restaurant, shed light in a statement to The Palm Beach Post.

“The word is supposed to read ‘spins,’ ” the statement said. “One of the letters on the interior sign inexplicably went missing.  We are in the process of fixing the signage and have removed the rest of the word ‘spins’ until we can complete the word with a new letter.”

Call this one a sin of omission.

Wellington fake landlord ordered to pay back $283,000

A federal judge has ordered a Wellington man to pay back $283,621 after prosecutors said he collected rent checks on scores of properties he did not own, changing lockboxes and posing as the rightful landlord.

In April,  Kesner Joaseus was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges involving fraud and identity theft.

As needed, the money must be paid through 50 percent of earnings in a prison job or 10 percent of gross earnings after release,  U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg ordered this week.

Joaseus, then 46, and two other men targeted some 80 properties in Palm Beach and Broward counties, prosecutors said in early 2016.  They used company names similar to an out-of-state firm that owned and renovated properties, jumping in to arrange renters first and have payment made out to them, officials said

In one example, Joaseus and associates took control of a 1,173-square-foot house on Churchill Road in West Palm Beach, according to court records. They allegedly found a tenant and collected $1,950 in security deposits, application fees and first and last month’s rent. The victim paid $900 a month until the legitimate owner informed her she was in the house illegally.

Attempts to seek comment through Joaseus’s attorneys were not successful.


Citizens board members AWOL, can’t be found, meeting postponed

Update March 15: The manhunt is over. Eight board members met by phone to approve the reinsurance matter and a janitorial contract by an 8-0 vote in a meeting lasting less than 10 minutes.

Original post: Board members of state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. including one from Palm Beach County could not be located for a teleconference Friday, forcing postponement of a scheduled meeting to approve a financial transaction.

“I want to express my apologies to all on the call,” board chairman Chris Gardner said more than 20 minutes into a scheduled 1 p.m. meeting. “This didn’t work and I’m sure there’s a good reason.”

There was no date set for a rescheduled meeting, though apparently it was not for later in the day Friday. Gardner closed by saying, “Have a good weekend.”

Citizens board member Juan Cocuy of Palm Beach County.
Citizens board member Juan Cocuy of Palm Beach County.

The eight-member board did not have enough participating members to take action. Board member Juan Cocuy of Palm Beach County could not be located, though his staff was looking for him, officials said. A call to Cocuy’s voice mail at a Wellington office was not immediately returned.

The board’s consumer representative, Bette Brown of Monroe County, was announced as unavailable, for reasons not disclosed. Board member Jim Henderson of Seminole County may have had difficulty establishing or keeping telephone contact, officials said.

The meeting, publicly noticed for at least several days on the company’s website,  addressed a requested board action involving $300 million in Everglades Re II catastrophe bonds. Citizens policyholders pay for the bonds, which have less than a 1.5 percent chance of being needed in a given year but provide money to help pay claims in the event of rare and severe storms. The state’s insurance consumer advocate and others have questioned whether Citizens bought too much offshore reinsurance, some of it in multi-year contracts, needlessly costing its customers money even as the company’s risk exposure was dramatically falling along with its number of policies.

The board was being asked approve calling the bonds to give “full flexibility to optimize the structure of its 2017 risk transfer program without any existing risk transfer carryover and will be able to take full advantage of current market conditions,” according to documents posted for the meeting.