Alternatives to VRBO or HomeAway in Palm Beach County

vrbo-pga-national-jason-bloomIf you are looking to rent a home in Palm Beach County and do not want to use the VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) or HomeAway there are alternatives to these services.  The PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens offers a service call PGA National Home Rentals.   According to the website, the program not only offers vetted homes for rent but also allows interested individuals to purchase additional services from the resort such as Championship Golf, Resort Access, Spa Access, and other accommodations.

Summary: Jason Bloom reviews alternatives to VRBO or HomeAway in Palm Beach County including the PGA National Resort Home Rental Program.

Jason Bloom with some money saving tips for Palm Beach County Credit Card Users…

Palm Beach & Jupiter Residents can save money on their everyday spending with cash rewards credit cards.

In the Palm Beaches and Jupiter, FL as well as most other areas in the United States everyone is looking for ways to save money and gain returns on their investments.  Auditing your finances in Palm Beach and looking at how you spend your money can make a huge difference in how much you can save.  Using a cashback credit card is one way, if utilized properly, to gain 2% or more on almost everything you purchase

Everyone focuses on gaining returns on their investments.  Stocks, Bonds, Mutual Funds, CD’s, CDARS, and Savings accounts are a few investment options everyone looks at when determining how to invest their money.  Although I am admittedly far from an investment expert I had a few ideas on how everyone could grow their personal  wealth with a few simple steps.  Many people are always looking at the Amex rewards programs, sky miles, and complicated rewards cards that give you 5% on gas, 2% on groceries etc. I believe a straightforward cash back card can sometimes be the best solution.

citi-double-cash-credit-card-jason-bloom-cfoLooking from a personal perspective and working as your homes Chief Financial Officer (CFO) one can obtain the 2% Cash Back Rewards card from Citibank as an example.  There are no annual fees and you receive 1% cash back on upon purchase and 1% cash back upon payment for a 2% cash back on everything you buy each month.  Obviously if you are not paying the card off monthly or there are surcharges above 2% to use it the 2% will mean little when paying the interest rates on the cards or additional surcharges.  If someone is using this card daily for all day to day purchases of gas, cell phone, cable, telephone, groceries, day care, etc it can add up quickly.

A few examples below.  If a family spends $1,000 / month on day care and the facility allows payment via credit card without surcharges you can earn $240 / year in cashback by utilizing the card each month.  If you apply this to your cell phone bill, cable bill, groceries, gas, and other expenses you can see how it can add up fast.  Gaining a 2% return on your expenses as well as your savings can add up quickly.

Most companies like DirecTV, Comcast, Verizon Wireless, all allow credit card payments without a surcharge.  If you are buying it anyways why not get the 2% cash back.

A few of the best offers in 2016 are reviewed below:

Best Cash Back Credit Cards

The information provided here is intended to help you understand the general issue and does not constitute any tax, investment, financial/accounting, medical, or legal advice. Consult your accounting, financial, tax, medical, or legal advisor regarding your own unique situation.

Jason Bloom visits the Jupiter Beach Resort in Jupiter for a Staycation

Jason Bloom’s staycation at Jupiter Beach Resort

Jason Bloom - Jupiter Beach Resort
Great view of Jupiter Beach Resort

JUPITER, FL Last week we decided to start blog entries on the different hotels and resorts in Palm Beach County I have had the privilege to stay at over the past few years.  I have decided to label it Jason Bloom’s Palm Beach County staycation guide.  Last week I wrote about PGA National Resort & Spa, in Palm Beach Gardens FL and this week I will be taking a look at Jupiter Beach Resort in Jupiter, FL.  I will mention that my review of Jupiter Beach Resort is a few years old as I haven’t been there since 2012.

Jason Bloom - Jupiter Beach Resort Pool ResturantJupiter Beach Resort is a hotel / resort in Jupiter, FL located on the ocean.  The resort has about 168 rooms, a bar, and a restaurant.  The most appealing thing to me is the views.  The resort has excellent views of the Atlantic Ocean.  The secluded pool and accompanying pool bar are also a great feature.  It was really nice to lay poolside for a long weekend and have lunch and a few cocktails at the bar.
Jason Bloom - Jupiter Beach Resort Weddings

The resort hosts a lot of weddings as well which we had the pleasure of attending a few years ago.  The food was very good and views outstanding from the patio area overlooking the pool and ocean.  It is a really nice venue for a wedding with the aforementioned views coupled with the cool ocean winds.

Overall the rooms were great, service was very good, food was nice.  All in all this was a very relaxing staycation in Palm Beach County that I would highly recommend.  We didn’t have a chance to checkout the Spa but I have also heard great things about it.

Author: Jason Bloom, in Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter, and all of Palm Beach County

Photos Courtesy of jupiterbeachresort.com

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Jason Bloom talks DIY projects and how they can improve home value in Jupiter & Palm Beach

Accounting for Costs in DIY Is Vital to a successful project especially in Palm Beach County.

Palm Beach DIY with Jason BloomWEST PALM BEACH, FL Over the years Jason Bloom has done many DIY (Do it Yourself) projects including in Jupiter and West Palm Beach including bathroom tile, screen porches, showers, cabinets, painting, irrigation, electrical, etc.  Many of the projects have went well and turned out to be a significant cost savings.  A few, on the other hand, cost more than if a professional had been hired as learning as you are doing can be costly.  That being said, I a huge proponent of DIY projections.

Jason Bloom’s Tips For DIY:

  1. Understand the full scope of what you are doing before you start demolition.  I know from personal experience once you start demo it is too late to take it back and you will spend many nights and weekends finishing a project that you thought was a good idea at the time.  Make sure you really have the time to complete the project before you start it!
  2. Create a budget before you start the project and compare it to quotes by professionals who can complete the same work.  It is important to account for all costs and audit any unforeseen expenses.  Sometimes you will find it is less expensive to hire something out as the contractor already has the tools, equipment, and cost savings for materials that are not available to you.
  3. Make sure verify you do not need permits for the work you are performing.  Code enforcement showing up at your door stopping the project and imposing penalties and fees is not the time you want to realize you needed  a permit do that job.
  4. If you are not sure how to do something check out the internet first (or find a friend that does).  These resources  include youtube for instructional videos. These resources can help immensely as you can visually see different techniques for task completion.
  5. Research, Research, Research...this is where consulting a contractor first can come in handy to get a quote so they can point you in the right direction for what products and job scope you may have.
  6. Make sure you have the basic skills and physical capabilities to do it.  If you can’t hammer a nail it is probably best not to install that new wood floor.

A few projects that can be done on a DIY basis that have the potential to create a lot of value include:

  1. Flooring – Tile and Wood Flooring can be a great value add and can be installed by most determined DIYers.
  2. New Front Door
  3. New Garage Door
  4. Insulation Upgrades
  5. Replacing Light Switches, Ceiling Fans, and Electrical Outlets (Make sure the breaker is off)
  6. Sprinklers and Irrigation
  7. Landscaping
  8. Painting (This can be a huge cost savings and most people can do it without an issue.)
  9. Retiling your Bathroom (Sometimes you can make your bathroom look like a Palm Beach Resort Suite and others like the rest stop restroom.  You need to make sure you take your time and do it right the first time!)
  10. Repairing a minor roof leak.

A few projects completed recently.

You can save money and add value to your home by DIY so good luck!

Author: Jason Bloom, in Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter, and all of Palm Beach County

Palm Beach & Jupiter Moon is Rising on Jason Bloom

beautiful-moon-in-jupiter-fl-jason-bloom-homeThis was a gorgeous sight the other morning when I was taking my dog for a walk.  Pictures like this reinforce what it is like to live in paradise in Palm Beach & Jupiter.  Beautiful morning coupled with a gorgeous full moon. #jasonbloompalm

It seems strange that we have 12 full moons a year but you never really seem to realize it until they are happening.   If you are curious there is listing of full moons this year below.  Jason Bloom will be out to check out as many as possible this year.

It looks like the Sturgeon Moon was the one I caught the other morning.  It was absolutely stunning evening accounting for the day to day landscaping and natural beauty we see in Palm Beach everyday it was a great view.

This is when full moons will occur in 2016, according to NASA:

Date Name U.S. East UTC
Jan. 23 Wolf Moon 8:46 p.m. 01:46 (1/24)
Feb. 22 Snow Moon 1:20 p.m. 18:20
Mar. 23 Worm Moon 8:01 a.m. 12:01
Apr. 22 Pink Moon 1:24 a.m. 05:24
May 21 Flower Moon 5:15 p.m. 21:15
June 20 Strawberry Moon 7:02 a.m. 11:02
July 19 Buck Moon 6:57 p.m. 22:57
Aug. 18 Sturgeon Moon 5:27 a.m. 09:27
Sept. 16 Harvest Moon 3:05 p.m. 19:05
Oct. 16 Hunter’s Moon 12:23 a.m. 04:23
Nov. 14 Beaver Moon 8:52 a.m. 13:52
Dec. 13 Cold Moon 7:05 p.m. 00:05 (12/14)

Sturgeon Moon in August 2016

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I realized I had a few pictures of the Pink Moon from April 2016 as well…

Jason Bloom is always looking for the full moon in Jupiter.  As seen by the Hunters Moon this October.  We were able to grab a few extra shots this month.

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Palm Beach…Every wonder where money actually comes from….

Have you ever wondered where money comes from that you spend each day?  Each day we go about our business in Palm Beach spending money but have you really given any thought as to what is really backing all of those bank balances.   Those luxury vacations at area resorts or new cars you buy…what actually backs the money system in the United States.

The creation of money within the United States is mostly controlled by the Federal Reserve Bank.   Although the Federal Reserve is the main control mechanism the money multiplication process takes place within the commercial banking system where excess reserves are used to create new loans and inject more money into the economy.  The monies that are being injected into the economy can cause an out of balance affect and lead to increased inflation and an unbalanced economy.  The balancing of the economy is the main responsibility of the Federal Reserve.  The Federal Reserve employs techniques such as open-market operations, reserve ratio adjustments, and discount rate changes to keep the economy in equilibrium.  The equilibrium results in a controlled inflation rate, decreased unemployment, appropriate gross domestic product growth, and an overall efficient economy

Money in the United States is not created as many people might think through paper printing methods.  Although money is printed in the United States, the majority of our money exists only as IOU’s and agreements between customers and banks.  The Untied States uses a system of banking known as the fraction reserve banking system in which they are required to hold a specific percentage of checkable deposits on site at the commercial banks vault or at the Federal Reserve in the event that the owner would like to withdrawal their funds (McConnell & Brue, 2005).  This system allows the commercial banks to extend credit to its customers without physically having the money on hand that they are borrowing.  The fractional reserve banking system allows for the paper creation of money through lending.

The commercial bank is only required to maintain on site or at the Federal Reserve a small portion of checkable deposits for which the commercial bank is liable.  The reserve ratio is dictated by the Federal Reserve and stands at 10% and was last changed in 1992 (McConnell & Brue, 2005).  At the 10% reserve ratio, the commercial banks are able to lend 90% of their checkable deposits to potential customers.  Hence, as the entire amount of the deposit is held at the banks vault or at the Federal Reserve in their district, they will have an excess reserve ration of 90% allowing them to extend the excess reserves as credit to new customers through loans.  As the initial excess reserve is lent to a new customer the money creation process truly begins.

The money creation process starts to multiply as the 90% of excess reserves are giving to prospective lenders to reinvest and spend in the economy.  After the initial deposit of $100 was given to the bank, there is a reserve of $90 to lend to a new customer.   As this $90 was given to a new customer as currency, this currency was taken to a new bank and deposited as a checkable deposit.  The system multiplies itself throughout the banking process creating money along the way.  This multiplication process is known as the monetary multiplier and is explained as the spending of one household becomes the spending of another household and magnifies the effects of the original deposit (McConnell & Brue, 2005).  The multiplier equates to the reserve ratio divided by one and multiplied by the excess reserves of the checkable deposit.

The multiplication process is a process that involves all commercial banks in coordination with the Federal Reserve banking system.  The required reserves are mostly maintained at the Federal Reserve and as the borrowers of the multiplied monies deposit their checks, they allow the Federal Reserve to transfer money from one lender’s reserves to another.  As they banking system creates money, the Federal Reserve must regulate the creation process to protect against increased inflation, allow appropriate cash flows for the optimal economic conditions, and maintain equilibrium Gross Domestic Product.

The federal government passed a law in 1946 known as the Employment Act of 1964 in which it was stipulated that the federal government must use all practical resources that follow the market system to create economic conditions that enable employment opportunities to become available (McConnell & Brue, 2005).  In essence, the federal government has the responsibility to maintain prosperous economic conditions through its monetary policies and spending.  This law led to the creation of the Council of Economic Advisors who advice the President on the economic matters of the nation (McConnell & Brue, 2005).  The federal government uses governmental spending and tax changes to fulfill its responsibility created by this law.  Although the federal government plays a role in maintaining economic equilibrium, the Federal Reserve tends to control the economic production of the nation more quickly with its implemented monetary policies.

Although the Federal Government uses policies to stimulate and control economic conditions, the Federal Reserve must also maintain polices that lead to increased production and promote economic stability (United States of America: Economic Policy, 2007).  The Federal Reserves main control mechanisms to influence nation’s economy include open-market operations, adjusting the reserve ratio, and changing the discount rate.  These mechanisms can be used to administer easy money or a tight money policy for the nation depending on which policy best fits the adjustments needed during current economic conditions.  The main methods of developing an easy money strategy include buying securities from commercial banks, lowering the reserve ratio, and lowering the discount rate (McConnell & Brue, 2005).  These policies are mostly used when the nation is not running at full potential in relations to Gross Domestic Production, experiencing lower inflation, and are showing higher than normal unemployment rates.  A tight money policy dictates that the Federal Reserve should sell securities to commercial banks, increase the reserve ration, and raise the discount rate (McConnell & Brue, 2005).  These policies are usually implemented when the nation is facing increased inflation created from a demand pull in spending.  The ultimate goal of the Federal Reserve is to maintain equilibrium economic growth through these policies.

The combinations necessary to maintain a proper balance between economic growth, low inflation, and a reasonable rate of unemployment change within each economic cycle of our economy.  As the economy moves from peaks to troughs during an economic cycle different stimulus is needed to correct the market equilibrium.  In order to achieve the correct balance between equilibrium growth and recession the Federal Reserve must ensure its policies are not offset by other economic factors such as lags, changes in velocity, and cyclical asymmetry (McConnell & Brue, 2005).

The most used policy to maintain economic growth, low inflation, and optimal unemployment rates is the open market operations which include the buying and selling of government securities to limit or increase the available money supply.  As the Federal Reserve buys securities from the commercial banks, the reserves for these banks are increased allowing for the commercial banking system to increase the monetary supply of the country.  The increased monetary supply leads to increased spending by the consumers, increased capital investment by corporations, and higher employment rates as the economy has a high influx of funds and the interest rates will be lowered enticing investors to spend their money rather than investing (McConnell & Brue, 2005).  Adversely, the added cash flow into the economy will also eventually lead to inflation as their will be a higher demand for goods and services due to the increased money supply.

Open-market operations can also be used to decrease spending, increase the interest rate, and slow inflation.   The Federal Reserve accomplishes this end by selling securities to the commercial banking system and the public.  The resulting affect is attributed to the fact that the reserves of the commercial banking system is lowered allowing for less money to be created through loans.  Beyond the commercial banking system spending for the public will also decrease as their disposable income is lowered due to investments.  A security selling policy used by the Federal Reserve will result in a higher interest rate, higher unemployment, lower inflation, and slowed economic growth due to the decrease in cash available to the country.

The reserve ratio is another tool available to the Federal Reserve to control the equilibrium conditions of the nation.  As the Federal Reserve has not changed the reserve ratio since 1992, this method is less used by still effect in changing monetary policy (McConnell & Brue, 2005).  The Federal Reserve can increase or decrease the required reserves held by the commercial banking system.  When the reserve ratio is lowered it allows the commercial banking system to use excess reserves as new loans infusing the economy with new money.  The infusion of money creates more jobs which lowers unemployment, decreases the interest rate, and allows for strong economic growth.  Conversely, raising the reserve ratio requires the commercial banking system to reduce loans and increase reserves slowing the lending process.  This slowdown effectively reduces the money supply, increases the interest rate, increases unemployment, and slow economic growth.

The discount rate is another effective medium to control the economic output of the country.  As the Federal Reserve raises the rate it charges commercial banks for loans and are less likely to borrow from the Federal Reserve and turn to other commercial banks for loans decreasing the money supply lending to a slow down in economic growth.  Adversely, when the Federal Reserve decreases the discount rate commercial banks are encouraged to borrow money from them increasing the money supply available to make new loans and inject new money into the economy.

The money in the United States economy is generated mostly through the commercial banking system.  The United States uses a fractional banking system in which the commercial banks are only required to keep a percentage of demand deposits on hand at any given time.  The excess reserves allow these banks to loan customer’s money and increase the money supply.  An increase in money can have both positive and negative effects.  The Federal Reserve uses open-market operations, reserve ratio requirements, and discount rate adjustments to control these effects and steer the American economy toward growth, decreased inflation, and full natural employment.

Author: Jason Bloom, in Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter, and all of Palm Beach County

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Zika Virus In Palm Beach County?

zika-virus-alert-palm-beach-floridaPALM BEACH GARDENS, FL: Updated 08/09/16: A localized mosquito transmitted case of The Zika Virus has not now been reported in Palm Beach County according to the Palm Beach Post.   The news about the Zika virus has been very disconcerting to many people, especially those of us living in Palm Beach County where a major outbreak may be possible at any time and may have already started.  This concern has led me to write this blog post regarding the topic taking a look at the history, news, and my own personal perspective.  Please note that my background is in Accounting and that I am not a doctor or medical proffesional and am relying on the same sources reporting on the outbreak in my post that are readily available to anyone with a computer, smart phone, tablet, and the internet.  Please draw your own conclusions from all available data and consult your physician or medical professional for any medical advise regarding Zika.

Zika-Historical-Transmission-Palm-Beach-County

The History of Zika:

The history of the Zika virus as outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO),2016 noted that it was first noticed through an increase in case of microcephaly and Guillan-Barre syndrome.  This occurred in Uganda in 1947 in monkey’s and later in humans in 1952.

The first large outbreak of Zika was reported on the Island of Yap in 2007.    “An estimated 73% of Yap residents are infected with Zika virus. The Yap Island outbreak also suggests a lack of immunity in the island’s population. Regular exposure to infection by populations in Africa and Asia may have prevented the large outbreaks seen on Pacific Islands and in the Americas. Under-reporting, due to the clinical similarities of (mild) illness symptoms associated with Zika, dengue, and chikungunya infections might also account for previous Zika outbreaks being overlooked.” (WHO, 2016)

In October of 2015 Brazil reported an unusual number of microcephaly cases among new borns.  As a result, the WHO issued an epidemiological alert asking countries to report an increase in these cases in November of 2015 and sent a mission to Brazil to review the epidemiological information and clinical data.

By February of 2016, Samoa, Bonaire, Aruba, Trinidad and Tobago, Sint Maarten, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Argentina all report cases of Zika infection.  The United States reported it’s first case of sexually transmitted Zika infection in Texas.

You can find more information regarding the History of the Zika Virus at the WHO.

In the Wynwood community of Miami on July 29, 2016 Florida Gov. Rick Scott confirms four cases of locally acquired Zika.  As of writing this post on August 3, 2016 the count is now up to 15 cases of which 13 are in Miami-Dade and 2 are in Broward Counties.

How it can impact us?

The human impact: As a new father, I understand the complete terror accompanied with pregnancy and the constant worrying that something may go wrong and the baby will not be healthy.  The prospect of microcephaly occurring to any family is horrifying and the potential for a full blown outbreak in Palm Beach County is very frightening.

If you really look at how bad microcephaly can be, it becomes an even more concerning issue.  Reviewing the Facts about Microcephaly from the CDC microcephaly is a condition where the baby’s head is much smaller than normal.  Depending on the severity some of the symptoms can include:

-Seizures
-Developmental delay, such as problems with speech or other developmental milestones (like sitting, standing, and walking)
-Intellectual disability (decreased ability to learn and function in daily life)
-Problems with movement and balance
-Feeding problems, such as difficulty swallowing
-Hearing loss
-Vision problems

The jobs impact: The possibility of this outbreak to devastate tourism in Palm Beach County is a very real threat to the area’s economy and job market.  This threat is real and the local and state officials need to take action now.  CNN Money outlined some concerns in it’s article Could Zika pose a problem for Florida’s Tourism industry? where it addressed the fragility of Florida’s economy and its reliance on tourism and the money and tax revenues it generates.  Accounting for all of the jobs in Florida including those in hotels, resorts, amusement parks, and restaurants one needs to be very concerned of a potential mass scale outbreak of the Zika Virus in Palm Beach County.

Palm-Beach-Gardens-930x363The real estate impact: The massive impacts on real estate values could be catastrophic.  If the spread of the virus is not controlled home values will plummet as those who are pregnant or looking to get pregnant will push families to relocate to ensure the safety of their unborn children.  This migration will flood the market with available homes.   Working in parallel to mass exodus, those who may have moved into the state of Florida at a current approximate rate of 1,000 people per day net (State of Florida, 2016) will decline drastically resulting in even less demand for housing.  The, we could see a fallout from the snow birds who look elsewhere to spend their winters and money through fears of Zika for themselves and their visiting families.

After the first case of mosquito transmitted Zika was announced in Miami, one neighborhood produced another 13 cases.  Less than a week later 2 more cases have been confirmed in Broward county outside of the initial outbreak zone.  Although any movement or infection rate cannot be accurately predicted one could infer the potential threat is real and our ignorant bliss through non-exposure to the Zika virus in Palm Beach County may be over very soon.

Many of these may be worst case scenarios but panic and fear of the unknown has a real impact on our daily lives in Palm Beach County especially when so much of our economy is dependent on elective vacations when so many other “safer” options are out there.

As the situation changes I will continue to add to this post with more information and details.

Updated Links 08/24/2016:

Second non-travel related Zika case confirmed in Palm Beach County
Report projects about 400 non-travel Zika cases in Florida by mid-September

Updated Links: 10/14/2016:

Florida IDs new Miami neighborhood as Zika zone

Updated Links: 11/18/2016:

WHO ends Zika Public Health Emergency

Author: Jason Bloom, in Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter, and all of Palm Beach County

Sources:
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Wal-Mart Savings Catcher

SC1Saving cash is a priority for all individuals and families including those in the Palm Beaches.  A simple app from Wal-Mart really makes it easy to find the best deals without going from store to store.  I have been using the app for about a month now and have been really impressed with it’s ease of use and very happy with the results that I have been seeing.  You can use the savings catcher to scan receipts from any Wal-Mart in the country.  We have used it in Jupiter, West Palm Beach, and Pinellas Park so far without any issues.

QRCodeWhere do I get it?

  1. Download the app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store for free.
  2. Set-up an Account on the App by simply providing your name and email address.

How do I use it?

  1. Start scanning receipts!!  You will notice a “Savings Catcher” icon on the app all you do is hit the icon and you will be able to scan your receipts.  If for some reason the barcode or qr code does not scan (mostly because the receipt printer is mostly out of ink) you can add the TC# and date manually.  The TC# is located between the Bar Code and the QR code on the receipt.SC3

What does it do?  

The app scans your receipt’s QR Code or Barcode and pulls up all items purchased on that receipt.  It then goes out to all advertised competitors which in our local market is mostly Winn-Dixie, Target, K-Mart, and Publix for grocery items and compares their advertised price to what you paid.  If the competitor price is lower you are automatically credited to your savings catcher account which then can be redeemed via electronic gift card (which never expires) or work through a third party service and have it sent via Amex gift cards.

 

Wal-Mart Provides a good video description of the Savings Catcher as well as more details on their site.  Wal-Mart Savings Catcher

Watch the savings add up!!

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I was very impressed with how easy it was to use the app and it makes grocery shopping so much simpler.  Many shoppers pull all of the ads and go store to store to find the best deals.  This really makes it easier to just shop and know you are getting the best deal.  I highly recommend the app

Author: Jason Bloom, in Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter, and all of Palm Beach County

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