Definitely in My Back Yard

When the residents of Mangonia Park heard that a girls' detention center might be built in their town, they put out the welcome mat

But even she thinks that's unlikely. The two municipalities have never discussed the idea, and the City of West Palm Beach has never had any official discussion of annexing the small town. "It's purely speculation and rumor," says West Palm Beach City Commissioner Howard Warshauer.

Since Mangonia Park was founded, residents have always kept their distance from West Palm Beach. Theirs is the kind of "quiet" town, not city, where police officers know the residents so well that, when someone does something wrong, an officer sits down with the culprit rather than "go whopping on their head," as Thomas puts it. The residents all know each other; they tend to get along and reminisce about Christmases in the old firehouse and town picnics, Thomas claims. He, like others, does recognize, however, that they've paid a price by letting so many businesses move into town.

Betty Thomas says, "We like it because it's quiet here. Except when it's noisy."

As a result nobody's terribly concerned about a jail moving into town. Most won't even see it from where they live, and they honestly believe the detention center will provide some residents with jobs and the town as a whole with much-needed revenue. That's the important thing.

It's late afternoon on a weekday, and, as residents begin to return home from work, it does actually get quiet in the Thomas' Mangonia Hills neighborhood. Seven of Thomas' 14 grandchildren, some visiting for the afternoon, play in the living room, where their own parents grew up, and watch videos on TV before dinner.

"I think we have a nice little town here, and I would like to keep it like that," Thomas says. "I could go out right now and leave my door open for three hours and nothing would happen. I could leave my lawn mower out in the lawn, and nothing would happen. You can't say that about everywhere. You can't say that about West Palm Beach.

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