Scrap-metal firm at port says Riviera Beach hampers its business

4:50 p.m Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 Local
Steel rebar arrives at the Port of Palm Beach in 2015. The rebar was made from scrap metal exported to Turkey by Stonerock Shipping Corp.

Stonerock Shipping Corp. has exported millions of dollars worth of bulk scrap metal from the Port of Palm Beach to international steel companies in countries such as China, Malaysia and Turkey since 2014, but the operation has not been without controversy.

The city of Riviera Beach has refused to issue it a business permit, and that’s hurting its business, the company has told port officials. Residents of Riviera Beach and Palm Beach, and even other port tenants, have complained about what they say is an unsightly pile of scrap metal.

The scrap is transformed into steel rebar at far-flung facilities around the world, and some of the rebar has even come back to the Port of Palm Beach to be used in construction projects in Miami.

Despite that success, the company has been unable to obtain a business license from the city, and that has hampered its ability to enter into long-term contracts with suppliers, and its profitability, company officials have told port executives. Stonerock operates under a 40-year $38.5 million contract with the port.

Last week, the port commission agreed to amend its contract with Stonerock to allow it to split a $556,000 payment due Jan. 1 into two payments, with half due Jan. 1 and half due July 1.

Paul Zielinski, the port’s deputy director and chief financial officer, said at a Dec. 21 commission meeting that Stonerock officials told him the lack of a business license continues to have a detrimental impact on the business.

Stonerock officials did not address the port commission, and declined to comment Friday.

Zielinski said Stonerock is a scrap metal handler, not a processor. It receives bulk metals, then stores and loads them before shipping them.

But Riviera Beach officials view the operation differently.

City Councilwoman Dawn Pardo said Friday in an email, “Scrap metal processing facilities are not allowed in the City of Riviera Beach. The city has attempted to work through this situation with Stonerock and the Port.”

Pardo said city staff met with Stonerock over the summer and is trying to fit the use into the city’s comprehensive plan.

“I believe in 2015 or 2016, the city wrote Stonerock and told them they would allow their business to operate until a solution was agreed upon. Since then, we have all watched the scrap pile up and eventually be transported to foreign lands,” Pardo said.

“Why Stonerock is now attempting to modify their agreement with the Port by using the City as the scapegoat should be questioned. In the meantime, piles of corroded metal sit just feet away from the Lake Worth Lagoon,” Pardo said.

A row of shipping containers serves to block the view of the scrap metal, but nearby residents have said they don’t like looking at it, and have also raised concerns about runoff into the Lake Worth Inlet.

Port spokeswoman Aidy Alonzo said Friday that the port has not received any formal complaints about the scrap metal pile for more than a year.

The port’s drainage system filters runoff before it enters the water, port officials have said.

In 2014, Riviera Beach’s then-city manager Ruth Jones said in a letter to the Port’s executive director Manuel Almira, that the scrap metal business is not allowed under the port’s general industrial zoning designation. However, the port disagrees.

In 2015, the company stopped operations for a few months after Riviera Beach issued a cease-and-desist order.

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