A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
JULY 30, 1985
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Tuesday, July 30, 1985, at 9:00 a.m. in the Board of County Commissioners Meeting ROM, Lake County Courthouse, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Glenn C. Burhans, Chairman; James R. Carson, Jr.; Claude E. Smoak, Jr.: and C. A. "Lex" Deems. Commr. Windram was not present for the meeting. Others present were: James C. Watkins, Clerk; Michael C. Willett, County Administrator; Chuck Sowers, Fire Coordinator; Christopher C. Ford, County Attorney; Sanford M. Minkoff, County Attorney's Office; and Mary C. Grover, Secretary.
Mr. Watkins gave the Invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Commr. Deems.
FIRE DISTRICTS-FIRE DEPARTMENTS
At 9:00 a.m. the Chairman called the meeting to order for the public hearing to discuss the fire protection special assessment fee.
Mr. Michael Willett, County Administrator, addressed the Board and audience and gave a brief synopsis on what the Board has done to date on fire protection. He informed the audience that the Board approved to place a question on the March 13, 1984, ballot asking the voters if they favored the expansion of fire protection in the unincorporated areas of the County, funded solely by an assessment on structures and real property. He stated that 61% of the voters voted in favor of the expansion of fire protection. He stated that he had copies of the ballot question for those who would like a copy. He also informed the audience that the Board hired Mr. Chuck Sowers, Fire Coordinator, to begin developing plans for fire protection in the unincorporated areas in the County.
Mr. Sanford M. Minkoff, County Attorney's Office, addressed the Board and audience and stated that the purpose of today's meeting was for the Board to adopt a resolution, which was read in its entirety by Mr. Minkoff.
The following addressed the Board to discuss the fire protection special assessment fee:
Mr. Charles Blymyer, Bassville Fire District, addressed the Board and stated that he has spoken with a high percentage of the citizens residing in the Bassville Fire District who are concerned with the structure tax. He stated that through his observations from being a Fire Commissioner for the fire district, the senior citizens cannot afford to pay the structure tax as they are on a fixed income.
Mr. Cal Buikema, Melbourne, addressed the Board and stated that he was representing the owners of Holiday Travel Park in Leesburg. He questioned how the structure tax would affect the travel trailer parks in the County. Mr. Willett explained that the County would bill the individuals who are residing in travel trailer parks and who are listed on the tangible tax rolls as a residential unit and then bill the owners of the travel trailer parks at a rate of 40% on the balance of allocated spaces. Mr. Buikema requested the Board review the final percentage figure that is being charged to the balance of RV spaces after those that will be receiving a tax bill, as taxed, so that the percentage rate is more in line with the actual occupancy rate in the park.
Mr. Ford, County Attorney, suggested the Board adjourn the meeting to enable the Maintenance personnel to work on the sound system in the Meeting Room. Due to the reaction of the audience, it was the feeling of the Board to continue with the meeting.
Mr. Carroll L. Ward, Jr., Astatula, addressed the Board and discussed his concerns with the structure tax. Commr. Smoak informed Mr. Ward that several insurance agents have informed the Board that several insurance companies could not sell fire insurance to those individuals who live in the unincorporated areas in Lake County with a Class 10 fire rating. A Class 10 fire rating indicates that there is no responding fire department. Mr. Ward stated that the Property Appraiser has his building where he keeps his cattle classified as nine (9) different buildings. He stated that the building is basically one building. He stated that he has requested that the Property Appraiser go out to his property and determine the correct classification of buildings on his property.
The following citizens had requested permission to speak before the Board, but indicated that their questions had been answered:
L. W. Haskell, Leesburg
Doris M. Fitswater, Leesburg
Mr. Bill Fitzwater, Sparky's Fish Camp, Leesburg, addressed the Board and stated that his concern was that the tax would increase for some residents but would decrease for others. He stated that the fire tax on his property would increase from $42.00 to $500.00. He stated that he has four (4) trailers and four (4) apartments located on his property. He questioned if each of his units would be charged the $35.00 fee. Mr. Willett read the portion of the ballot question relating to residential structures.
Mr. J.D. Glover, Shockley Heights, addressed the Board and stated that he is currently paying $25.00 to the Volunteer Fire Department and did not feel that he should have to pay the $35.00 for fire protection. He questioned if he would have to continue to pay the $25.00 dues to the Volunteer Fire Department. The Board informed Mr. Glover that a portion of the assessment fees collected would go to the fire departments.
Mr. Wayne Thompson, Tavares, addressed the Board and stated that he had no problems with the current fire districts, but he would like to see proper management of the districts.
Mrs. Robert Goss, Fruitland Park, addressed the Board and stated that she did not think the assessment was fair to those people who have built commercial structures which are fire proof.
The following citizens had requested permission to speak before the Board, but indicated that their questions had been answered:
Martha L. Hall, Paisley
F. W. Lamb, Paisley
Beverly Morris, Leesburg
Mrs. Earl Nelson, Bear Lake Boulevard, in District #5, addressed the Board and stated that it was her understanding that the structure tax would not go into effect until 1987. She stated that she and her husband live on a fixed income and did not object to paying the $35.00. She questioned if the $35.00 would go to the Volunteer Fire Department in Lake Mack. Commr. Burhans explained the County would be contracting with the current fire districts. Commr. Smoak also explained that the intent is that all the funds collected within a given year will go to those fire departments which respond in that given area. He stated that the funds from the structure tax will be received until approximately January, 1986. He stated that it would be up to the local volunteer fire departments if they continued to have membership drives. He also explained that 5% of the funds collected would go toward administration costs.
Mr. Ford, County Attorney, informed the Board that a petition with 60 names had been received from those standing outside the meeting room requesting that the meeting be moved to another location. It was the feeling of the Chairman to continue with the meeting at the present location.
Ms. Norma Ryder, Yalaha, addressed the Board and stated that she had a problem with the legalities of a governing body reversing the vote of the taxpayers in Lake County in regards to the assessment pertaining to agriculture. She stated that she did not feel the agriculture sector should be exempt from the tax this year as the majority of the fires have been brush fires on agricultural property.
Mrs. Josephine Stuart, Howey-in-the-Hills, who had requested to speak before the Board was not present at this time.
Mr. Sunderman, Clermont, addressed the Board and expressed concern regarding a portion of the letter he had received from the County Administrator's Office informing him of today's meeting. He stated concern about property being taken away if a property owner did not pay the tax.
Mr. George Woods, Tavares, addressed the Board and stated that he owns property on Wolf Branch Road which is located in the unincorporated area of Lake County. He stated that he was unable to vote on the structure tax as he resides in the City of Tavares. Commr . Smoak explained to Mr. Woods that the Supreme Court ruled freeholder elections as unconstitutional. When freeholder elections were held, only people who owned property could vote. Mr. Ford stated that the only means to get the present election laws changed would be through the legislature.
Mr. Jack Nelson, Executive Vice President of Golden Gem Growers, addressed the Board objecting to the structure tax assessment. He stated that according to his calculations Golden Gem Growers proposed fire assessment fee would be approximately $42,000. He stated that he felt that $.06 per square foot on Golden Gem's square footage is unfair and unequitable. He stated that he felt that Golden Gem did not need any additional fire protection. He stated that he was not opposed to paying their fair share for the benefit of the entire County, but strongly opposed to paying 10% of the entire fees for all institutional,
commercial, and industrial structures to be assessed in Lake County. Commr . Smoak stated that he felt the Board should look at graduated assessment levels with classifications within that specific category.
Mr. George Evans, Umatilla, addressed the Board and also questioned if a portion of the funds collected would go to the fire department in Umatilla for the purchase of equipment and full time fire fighters. Commr . Burhans explained that the funds could be used to update the fire equipment but stated that it was not possible to fund full time fire fighters with the assessment at this time.
Mrs. Sylvia Bristow, Eustis, addressed the Board and
questioned if she would have fire protection if she pays the fee. Mr. Willett indicated that she would be covered.
Mr. Rudolph Ecker, Groveland, addressed the Board and stated that he felt a letter should have gone out to the residents informing them of the structure tax prior to the question being on the ballot.
MS. Jan Van Selus, Umatilla, questioned if the Board had discussed alternative methods for the assessment. She also ques- ioned how many people from the total population turned out for the election.
Commr. Smoak stated that he would contact the Supervisor of Election's office to see what the voter turnout was March 13, 1984.
Mr. Elmer Warren, Umatilla, and Mr. L. J. Reynolds, Altoona, addressed the Board to give their opinions on the structure tax.
Mr. Willett stated that the County plans to place a substation in Ferndale, South Lake County, manned with volunteers.
Mr. Sylvester Reynolds, Eustis, addressed the Board and stated that he did not vote for the tax and further stated that he did not object to the $35.00 tax. Mr. Wilbur Young, Leesburg, had requested to speak before the Board, but was not present at this time.
Mr. R.L. Halstead, Lady Lake, had requested to speak before the Board, but indicated that his questions had been answered.
Mrs. Rita Fletcher, Cove Mobile Home Park, Leesburg, addressed the Board and stated that it was her understanding that the change from ad valorem taxes to the structure tax was to make even distribution of the tax. She stated that she did not think the tax was being evenly distributed and felt the Board should look at the matter further.
Mrs. Irene Sewell addressed the Board and commended the Board and Mr. Sowers for not implementing the assessment fee on the agricultural properties.
Mr. Stephen Turner, Grand Island, had requested to speak before the Board, but was not present at this time.
Mr. G.D. Hillebrant, Umatilla, had requested to speak before the Board, but indicated that his questions had been answered.
Mrs. Helen Sullivan, Leesburg, stated that she did not object to paying the $35.00 structure tax. She stated that she has been pleased with the Bassville Fire District. She further stated that she felt the structure tax should be assessed by the square footage or by the assessed value.
Mr. Sowers, Fire Coordinator, addressed the Board and audience and explained the reasoning for choosing the amount of $35.00 per structure.
Mr. Larry Fetter, Pine Island Fish Camp, Lady Lake, addressed the Board to object to the increase in taxes. He stated that he had voted against the tax at the special election. He stated that he felt he was paying more than his fair share in taxes.
The following citizens had requested to speak before the Board, but were not present at this time:
Eldis E. Woelfer, Lady Lake
Mr. Willis McCall, Umatilla, was present to discuss the structure tax with the Board.
Ms. Judy Crew, Leesburg, addressed the Board and stated that she would be speaking on behalf of her mother, Mrs. Ruth Johnson. She stated that her mother owns four (4) rental units. She stated that her mother is on a fixed income and could not afford to pay the proposed fee of $175.00. She questioned who would assist her mother if a fire occurred. Mr. Sowers stated that the County would not have a contract with the City of Leesburg to provide fire protection outside the city limits as it was the decision of the City not to go outside their city boundaries. Be stated that there is a development project going in on Bwy. 44 where a new station will be established, manned with volunteers.
Ms. Erma Gray, Clermont, addressed the Board and questioned if it was possible to reverse the structure tax pertaining to the residential units in setting a fee which would be equitable to all property owners. She stated that she felt a meeting should be held, with a representative from each fire department and a representative from each area being present to discuss the entire program.
Rev. Gavin, Yalaha, had requested to speak before the Board, but was not present at this time.
Ms. Teralene Faircloth, Sorrento, addressed the Board and stated she felt a letter regarding the structure tax should have been sent prior to the election. She further stated that she did not think it was fair that people who do not own property could vote on the structure tax.
Mr. Ford once again explained the voting laws for the State
Mr. Jimmie Hixon, Tavares, addressed the Board and stated
that she was in favor of the structure tax.
Mr. Sowers informed the audience that a general meeting will be held later and that his office will notify all the fire departments involved to discuss the budgetary process.
Mr. Ford indicated that Mrs. Ruby Sapp, Eustis, had requested to speak before the Board, but was not present at this time. He stated that she left a letter requesting the Board lower the structure tax assessment.
Mr. C. Williams, Tavares, had requested to speak before the Board, but was not present at this time.
Mrs. Nancy Davis, Clermont, addressed the Board and questioned how the vacant lots would be assessed. Mr. Willett indicated that only buildable lots would be assessed and lots which were not buildable would not be assessed.
Mr. Gunard Brautcheck, Eustis, addressed the Board and stated that as a farmer, he felt the increase in fire taxes would affect agricultural prices.
Mrs. Martha Simpson Johnson, Mt. Dora, addressed the Board and stated that she felt there was a double taxation on the mobile home parks. She also commented on the meeting being held today as most of the mobile home residents are currently out of state. She also requested the Board reconsider the assessment of $35.00 per residential unit.
Mr. L. G. Simpson, Mt. Dora, also addressed the Board to discuss the fire assessment for mobile home parks..Mr. Jim Grigsby, Leesburg, and Mr. Julian R. Jucha, Umatilla, were present to discuss the structure tax with the Board.
Mrs. Lisha Perry, Sorrento, addressed the Board to discuss the structure tax as it would pertain to greenhouses. She stated that she did not object to the $35.00 fee per residential structure, but she did object to the 2$ per square foot for miscellaneous structures. Mr. Willett informed Mrs. Perry that the structure tax for miscellaneous structures would not be assessed in the 1985-86 fiscal year, as staff was continuing to do research on the assessment of the miscellaneous category.
Mrs. Robert Gosnell, Lake Seneca, was present to object to the structure tax.
Mr. George Parker, Newton, N.J., and Mr. Norris Ogiste, Umatilla, were also present to discuss the fire structure tax with the Board.
Mrs. Bernice Glover addressed the Board and commended all the fire entities who responded to the fire in Astor.
At this time Commr. Burhans expressed the Board's appreciation to those citizens being present for today's meeting.
On a motion by Commr. Smoak, seconded by Commr. Deems and carried unanimously, the Board directed Mr. Willett and his staff to research the assessment of $.06 per square foot for commercial structures and come back to the Board with a recommendation prior to the adoption of the actual levy which may be less than the trim bill notice levy which has to be adopted today.
FIRE DISTRICTS-FIRE DEPARTMENTS/RESOLUTIONS
On a motion by Commr. Carson, seconded by Commr. Deems and carried unanimously, the Board adopted the Resolution which, according to the provisions of Florida Statute 197.0126, allows the collection of special assessment as provided for by ad valorem taxes for use in the unincorporated areas of Lake County and in the Paisley, Northwest, South Lake, Bassville, Mt. Plymouth, and Pasco Fire Districts beginning with the 1985-86 fiscal year and continuing thereafter.
RECESS & REASSMBLY
At 1:00 p.m. the Chairman announced that the Board would recess for lunch. At 2:30 p.m. the Commissioners reconvened for a Budget Workshop. Those present for the Budget Workshop were: Glenn C. Burhans, Chairman: James R. Carson, Jr.: Claude E. Smoak, Jr.; C. A. "Lex" Deems; James C. Watkins, Clerk; Michael C. Willett, County Administrator; Robert L. Wilson, Finance Director; Donald Smalt, Administrative Services Director; Bill LeHeup, Budget Analyst; and Mary C. Grover, Secretary,
FIRE DISTRICTS-FIRE DEPARTMENTS
Mr. Buswell, Fruitland Park, addressed the Board to discuss the letter he had received pertaining to the structure tax assessment. The Board informed Mr. Buwell that he would be receiving the $35.00 assessment on his tax bill.
Mr. Michael C. Willett, County Administrator, presented the Board with a letter he had drafted to be sent to the Northeast Ambulance District and the Northwest Ambulance District giving them the opportunity to enter into a contract with the County for the provision of ambulance service in the area encompassed by the Northwest and Northeast Hospital Districts.
Discussion occurred regarding the portion of the letter pertaining to the Medical Examiner. It was the feeling of the Board that additional information, such as deliveries at the morgue, cleanup and ground maintenance for the morgue should be included in the letter. The Board also agreed not to send Attachment 2 - Proposal for Furnishing Emergency Ambulance Service for Lake County, Florida.
Discussion occurred regarding the overall budget for 1985- 6, the proposed millage rate, and the funds it would generate.
FIRE DISTRICTS-FIRE DEPARTMENTS
On a motion by Commr. Carson, seconded by Commr. Deems and carried unanimously, the Board approved to set, pursuant to the Florida Statutes, the maximum fire tax rates as follows: I. Residential -
Each individual residential type structure and residential rental space shall be assessed not to exceed $35.00 annually;
II. Institutional, Commercial, and Industrial -
All institutional, commercial, and industrial structures shall be assessed not to exceed $.06 per square foot annually, provided, however, the minimum assessment shall be $35.00.
On a motion by Commr. Carson, seconded by Commr. Smoak and carried unanimously, the Board reaffirmed action previously taken by the Board pertaining to travel trailer parks in that the County would bill the individuals who are owners of R.V. units appearing on the tangible tax rolls as a residential unit and then bill the owners of travel trailer parks at a rate of 40% on the balance of allocated spaces.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting adjourned at 3:40 p.m.
GLENN C. BRHANS, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK