The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Wednesday, September 2, 1992, at 5:30 p.m., at the Tavares Middle School, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Michael J. Bakich, Chairman; Don Bailey; Richard Swartz; and Catherine Hanson. (Commr. Gregg was not present due to another commitment). Others present were: Annette Star Lustgarten, County Attorney; Peter F. Wahl, County Manager; and Marlene S. Foran, Deputy Clerk.
There were approximately 300 people in attendance.
The Chairman, Commr. Bakich, opened the public hearing on the Solid Waste Assessment Program.
Mr. Pete Wahl, County Manager, appeared before those present and stated that the purpose of the public hearing this date was to receive comment on the solid waste assessment program, and to consider the adoption of the solid waste assessment program for Lake County. He stated that Ms. Diane Martin and Mr. Don Roach, representing the Resource Development Group, who have been involved with assisting the County with trying to create an equitable municipal service benefit unit system, and County staff were present this evening to address questions regarding the solid waste assessment program. Mr. Wahl stated that a municipal service benefit unit program consists of an assessment that is imposed on each unit (property) so that it receives a benefit and also shares in the cost of said benefit.
Mr. Wahl stated that the second purpose of the meeting this date was to consider the resolution relating to the management and disposal of solid waste. The resolution must be considered this evening in order to present the assessment roll to the Property Appraiser by September 15, 1992, as required by law. He stated that the Board has before them approximately one-hundred (100)
pieces of correspondence received in opposition to this issue, and a list of frequently asked general questions and recommended answers regarding the assessment program.
Mr. Wahl stated that the final purpose of the meeting is for discussion among the Board on action to be taken on the proposed assessment roll.
At this time, Mr. Wahl presented a series of overlays which addressed the various components of the solid waste assessment program in Lake County. In summary, Mr. Wahl stated that the costs of solid waste disposal needs are to be shared by all of the people who are generating solid waste. He stated that the assessment is based on an average of 1.2 tons per year per household, which is an estimate of what the average household generates in one year. It does not reflect the true and complete cost of a full countywide recycling program, but it is the intent and direction of County staff to move toward the creation of a county-wide recycling program that services everyone totally and equitably.
At this time, the Chairman, Commr. Bakich opened the meeting for public comment and instructed those wishing to make public comment to limit their comments to three minutes.
Ms. Lucy Honican, a resident of Umatilla, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment and expressed her concern for those who do not have the additional income to pay the $74.00 assessment. Mr. Wahl stated that a financial hardship program is available through the Social Services office for those who cannot pay due to a financial hardship.
Mr. Mac Elder, a resident of south Lake County, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment and expressed his concern that the Board is not following the direction of the citizens of the County. He expressed his disapproval of the special concessions that have been made to the incorporated areas of the County, and the special rates that have been given to out-of-County haulers. Referring to the Ogden Martin Systems
incinerator, Mr. Elder questioned how government can fully subsidize private enterprise at the expense of the taxpayer?
Mr. James W. Carroll, a resident of Altoona, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment and stated that he sells the garbage that is generated by his household. He stated that government is not representative of the people.
Mr. Morris Ray Scott, a resident of Altoona, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment and stated that he does not understand the assessment and hopes that this issue can be resolved quickly.
Ms. Mary Neil, a resident of Leesburg, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment and stated that they have contracted with a hauler to remove their solid waste. However, due to being out of town, they did not receive notice of the assessment until August 13, 1992, which did not allow time to have said assessment removed from their tax bill this year. She expressed her opposition to waiting a full year to have said assessment removed from their tax bill. She further stated that her sister has received an assessment on her taxes although she has contracted with a hauler for several years. At this time, Mr. Wahl responded to Ms. Neil's concerns.
Ms. Katherine Hilderbrandt, a resident of Paisley, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment and expressed her concern with roads conditions in her area that are not maintained, and have no road signs. She questioned where the money is being spent that is being collected at the transfer stations. At this time, Ms. Martin responded to Ms. Hilderbrandt's concerns.
Ms. Joan E. Gathings, a resident of south Lake County, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment and questioned why mobile home parks are not required to pay an assessment for solid waste. Mr. Wahl responded that mobile home park residents prepay their assessed value through a fee that is charged by the mobile home park, as a commercial property. Ms. Gathings presented, for the record, receipts showing her recycling
bills and expressed her concern with the distance that must be traveled from south Lake County to the nearest transfer station located in Eustis. She further stated that they compost their garbage and resent being told they can no longer compost. At this time, discussion occurred regarding composting.
Mr. Louis Fries, a resident of Leesburg, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment and stated that a household should not have to pay for a service that it is not receiving.
Mr. Jim Goonan, a resident of south Clermont, appeared before the Board and stated that he lives outside of the city, because he chooses to take care of his own needs. He stated that more thought should be given to this issue.
Mr. Raymond C. Hoffman, a resident of Umatilla, appeared before the Board in opposition to the assessment and suggested that consideration be given to a pay-by-bag solid waste collection system, in which a household pays only for the garbage generated. He stated that this system is being used in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and the system works.
Mr. L. Ebaugh, a resident of Altoona, appeared before those present and brought up for discussion where additional transfer stations will be located. He further questioned the current status of the renegotiations with Ogden Martin Systems, at which time Mr. Wahl responded that the Board adopted Sensitivity Case Three, Scenario Two, in July 1992. He stated that the Odgen Martin Systems contract could be reviewed in the Clerk of Court of office.
Mr. Mitchell Chesnut, a resident of Leesburg, appeared before those present and requested clarification on how the Board arrived at the $74.00 assessment tax. Mr. Wahl responded that said amount is based on the tipping fee of $62.33 x 1.2 tons.
Mr. Joe Woodnick, a resident of Yalaha, appeared before those present and brought to the attention of the Board a certified letter (for the record) sent to the Board prior to the meeting this date requesting that the Board delay voting on the assessment at this time. He stated that the $74.00 is a fictitious rate, and
reviewed a report received from Ogden Martin Systems, which indicates that the non-ad valorem assessment of $74.00 is far from the true assessment needed. He reviewed a memo, dated July 13, 1992, to Ms. Eleanor Anderson, Executive Director of Management and Budget, from Public Financial Management (PFM), which states that the analysis prepared by PFM is based on the assumptions which were outlined in the evaluation report dated May 29, 1992, and any modifications to said assumptions could result in significant changes in the projected system disposal costs. He addressed the inequity issue and, referring to mobile home parks, etc., stated that there is no provision in the law which allows the County to distinguish what is, or is not, a commercial property.
Ms. Annette Star Lustgarten, County Attorney, stated that, in developing the assessment program, the County has identified improved residential property, which is the approach being taken in the first year of the program. She stated that the County does have the ability to distinguish between various kinds of property in developing an assessment program.
Mr. Woodnick stated that, to resolve this issue, he would recommend that tipping fees be comparable to surrounding counties, and that independent individuals be allowed to work together to resolve this issue.
Mr. Dan Eastwood, a resident of Tavares, appeared before those present and suggested that the Board and the residents of the County review the summary billing report prepared by Ogden Martin Systems. He stated that the County has spent $80,000,000 to get rid of 67,000 tons of garbage and suggested that the Board take a long hard look at the contract and the inequity issue. He addressed the issue of a ban on composting in the County until the year 2004. He further stated that the County may be in a better position to pay the incinerator off in eight years, or to consider court proceedings with Ogden Martin Systems.
Commr. Swartz responded to Mr. Eastwood's comments regarding composting and stated that assumptions show that the County, as an operational strategy, cannot provide a compost plan for residents in the unincorporated area, however, a resident does have the right to compost in his own yard.
Mr. Wayne Scott, a resident of Howey-in-the-Hills, appeared before those present and stated that a large number of households in the unincorporated area of the County compost and recycle newspapers, and the assessment is not fair, or equitable.
Mr. Leonard R. Baton, a resident of Paisley, appeared before those present and expressed his concern that the County does not maintain the road on which he resides, and questioned why he should pay an assessment for garbage pickup when the road is not accessible to a garbage truck. Mr. Wahl responded that the $74.00 assessment fee pays for the cost of disposal, not for collection.
Ms. Frances Hartle, a south Lake County resident, appeared before those present and stated that she has received two assessments for the two residences on her property, although they have a hauler service picking up their garbage. It was noted that Ms. Hartle failed to return her card in the mail, at which time, Ms. Martin was requested to address Ms. Hartle's concerns.
Mr. Ross Buchanan, a resident of Altoona, appeared before the Board and questioned why the tax bills were mailed prior to the public hearing on the assessments. Mr. Buchanan noted that the negotiation effort resulted in a $.16 per ton savings, or approximately $.20 per household. He addressed the inequity to rental properties, the costs of administration for solid and hazardous waste and recycling, and references to cash reserves. Mr. Buchanan stated that he does not support said assessment, because it is based on a contract that will spell economic disaster for Lake County. He stated that, if the assessment is passed, it will result in an unfair disadvantage to people in the unincorporated areas and will result in a class action lawsuit.
Ms. Lois F. Thomas, a resident of Fruitland Park, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment and stated that she is a widow who cannot pay the $74.00 assessment. She stated that she sells her newspapers and feeds the animals what food she might have. Commr. Bakich directed Ms. Thomas to County Social Services.
Mr. Allen Brush, Jr., a resident of DeLand, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment and expressed his concern with the possibility of the assessment escalating.
Ms. Allene Long, a resident of Leesburg, appeared before those present and presented a number of questions regarding the operation activity, how long the assessment is to apply, and why this is not an ad valorem tax. She further stated that her average landfill disposal is .23 tons of solid waste per year, which is far short of the estimated 1.2 tons of solid waste per household.
Mr. Daniel Wilson, a resident of Eustis, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment and stated that the $74.00 assessment will not end the problem of solid waste disposal. He stated that he does extensive recycling and has no use for a regular pick up service.
Mr. Taft H. Lloyd, Jr., a resident of Tavares, appeared before those present and requested clarification of the definition of an ad valorem tax and stated that the Board must listen to the taxpayers.
Ms. H. Sender, a resident of Fruitland Park, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment and stated that said assessment represents a pay cut to the citizens of Lake County at a time when County employees are receiving large pay increases.
Ms. Mary Bedford, a resident of Yalaha, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment and stated that said assessment presents a hardship and expressed her concern with the assessment on rental property.
Mr. David A. Tarrance, Bishop of the Church of God Prophecy, Umatilla, appeared before those present to speak for the residents
of Lake County, who are on a fixed income, that will experience a hardship due to the tax assessment.
Mr. James Razzan, a resident of Umatilla, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment and stated that he is on a fixed income and cannot pay the assessment. He expressed his concern with the large tax increases on his property in the last twenty years, and stated that it is not fair for a man to work all of his life and have the government take it for taxes.
Mr. Jessie Brown, a resident of Okahumpka, appeared before those present in opposition to the tax assessment and stated that her home is located next door to the incinerator, which is presenting a health hazard to those who live in the vicinity of the incinerator. She noted that her garden turns brown when it rains, and damage has occurred to the paint on her automobile and on her home. She further stated that she has not received her assessment in the mail and had no knowledge of said assessment. She stated that she composts her garbage and takes a small bag a week to the incinerator next door. She stated that the trucks drive by her house as early as 5:30 a.m. each day and drop litter along her property. Mr. Bill Cummins, Director of Solid and Hazardous Waste, noted that any reports of fall out, or damage to property should be promptly reported to his department, at which time, direction was given to Mr. Cummins to address this issue with Ms. Brown.
Mr. William G. Haynie, a resident of Howey-in-the-Hills, appeared before those present and requested clarification on the purpose of the proposed assessment, and who owns the incinerator and the property on which the incinerator is located. He further questioned how the County can assess for something they do not own. Commr. Swartz responded to Mr. Haynie's questions and stated that, through the service contract with Ogden Martin Systems, the County is obligated to pay the operations and maintenance costs of the facility, the pass through costs of the facility (including property taxes), and the debt service (principal and interest) over the life of the facility.
Mr. Robert Willets, a resident of Umatilla, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment, and stated that he deposits his solid waste at the transfer station located in Paisley, and his total solid waste bill since October 1, 1991 had been $6.00. He stated that the County budget in FY 1988-89 was $2,000,000,000 and noted that County spending is up 500%. He further stated that the solution to the solid waste problem is to recycle plastics and cardboard in place of burning and to cancel the contract with Ogden Martin Systems.
Mr. Keith Holtz, a resident of Grand Island, appeared before those present to express his concern with contractors dumping construction materials on private property. Mr. Holtz was directed to speak with Mr. Cummins.
Ms. Linda Fetter, a resident of the Haines Creek area, appeared before those present and stated that she received a call from the Sheriff's Department this date regarding illegal dumping of construction materials on what appears to be her property. Ms. Fetter was directed to follow up with the Sheriff's Department and to contact Mr. Cummins regarding said matter.
Ms. Erler Laverne Bauldree, a resident of Fruitland Park, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment and expressed her concern with the inequities between those who have a hauler service and those who do not, and having said assessment attached to her property taxes. She stated that she does not object to the increased tipping fees, but does object to the County assessing $74.00 on her property and threatening to take her property if she does not pay the assessment. She questioned if there is to be a cap on said assessment.
Ms. Donna Backus, a resident of Fruitland Park, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment and requested that the Board listen to the voice of the taxpayers in Lake County, stating that the taxpayers put the Commissioners in office, and they can remove them from office.
Ms. Reha S. Burdick, a resident of Orlando, appeared before the Board and stated that she owns property (lots) in Lake County, which can be described as rural campsites, with vacant trailers on the sites. She stated that, although there is a security light on said property, she should not be required to pay an assessment on property that is vacant. Mr. Wahl stated that there is a vacancy exception in the Ordinance which addresses property which is not capable of being inhabited.
Mr. August P. Strachovsky, a resident of Leesburg, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment and stated that the taxpayers do not support this tax assessment.
Mr. Wendell Smith, a resident of Ocala, appeared before those present and stated that he owns a vacant duplex, and his mother, who lives with him, owns a vacant house in Lake County. He stated that they are property owners, not residents, and do not generate any solid waste. He stated that the leaflet, which was mailed with the notice of assessment, states that the County must provide solid waste disposal facilities for all residents. It is only fair that the associated costs be shared by all residents. At this time, Mr. Smith questioned why the assessment is being levied against property owners and not residents. He further questioned the fairness of threatening to take ones property for failure to pay for garbage that one does not produce. He stated that property does not generate garbage, residents generate garbage. He suggested that the County develop a system which charges a resident on the basis of the solid waste which is generated.
Mr. Kenneth Mills, a resident of Fruitland Park, appeared before the Board and stated that the young citizens of the County cannot afford to pay the proposed assessment.
Mr. Michael Page, a resident of Clermont, appeared before those present and stated that the choices available are to pay to take care of the solid waste garbage, or to do away with the contract with Ogden Martin System. He stated that he does not object to paying for the mistake of the shortsightedness of the
previous Commission; however, the residents should not be forced into paying for something they did not approve in the first place. He stated that the technology exists to install load cells on large trucks and at transfer stations to weigh solid waste, and each household is billed for the solid waste generated by that household. Mr. Page presented questions addressing the three exceptions to paying said assessment, littering, use of inmates to pick up road trash and additional discussion on the charge by weight system.
Mr. Robert Montana, a resident of Lake Kathryn, appeared before those present and stated that the estimated 1.2 tons of garbage per household averages out to 46 pounds of garbage per week per household. He stated that he does not generate that amount of garbage in one year. He expressed his concern that the assessment is not an equitable tax.
Mr. Robert White, a resident of Tavares, appeared before those present and asked for clarification of the services being provided for the assessment, what is considered allowed trash, and the use of a commercial dumpster. Mr. White questioned if the $74.00 assessment includes the expense of installing additional transfer stations, to which Mr. Wahl responded that the additional transfer stations are figured in said assessment. Discussion occurred regarding the property taxes on the Ogden Martin incinerator, and the fact that the former Board, in executing the agreement with Ogden Martin Systems, agreed to accept the responsibility of the property tax on the incinerator on the assumption that the incinerator would not be taxed.
Mr. Patrick Quinn, a resident of Paisley, appeared before those present in opposition to the assessment and expressed his concern with the number of County residents that will receive an exception to said assessment. Mr. Wahl stated that, based on the experience factor of other counties that have similar programs, less than one-tenth (1/10) of one percent (1%) of the residences will qualify for an exception.
Mr. Keith Hollingsworth, a resident of Paisley, appeared before those present and questioned if those residents who are in the County for only a few months a year will be assessed. Mr. Wahl responded that their property will be assessed for a full year.
Ms. Lillian Angel, a resident of Astor, submitted a written comment in opposition to the tax assessment.
In response to a question presented from the audience, Commr. Swartz stated that the three ways in which a household can pay into the proposed solid waste system are through the special assessment in the amount of $74.00; through a Homeowner's Association, which has contracted with a franchised hauler based on a tipping fee; or an individual household may contract with an authorized hauler.
At this time, the Chairman closed the public comment portion of the meeting.
Ms. Annette Star Lustgarten, County Attorney, stated that before the Board this date is a resolution which sets the special assessment rate and adopts the special assessment roll.
Commr. Hanson stated that the solid waste assessment proposal before the Board this date is not a perfect proposal, but the Board will do everything possible to work out the problems that are present. She stated that the Board is very sensitive to the situation, and they are working toward keeping the tax as low as possible.
Commr. Bailey stated that there are many problems that will need to be reviewed, at which time, Mr. Wahl stated that the suggestions provided this evening will be addressed by staff.
Commr. Bakich stated that the document before the Board this date is not a perfect document, but he is encouraged by the progress that has been made. He stated that there are many concerns that need to be addressed and resolved.
Ms. Lustgarten stated that the resolution before the Board provides for the adoption of the solid waste management system assessment. The assessment is spelled out in the assessment roll
and will apply to individual property. The rate of assessment for Fiscal Year 1992-1993, ending September 30, 1993, will be $74.00, and is set forth in the Assessment Roll. The Assessment Roll will be delivered to the Lake County Tax Collector, and the uniform method of collection shall be as provided in Sections 197.3632 and 197.3635, Florida Statutes, applicable to the unincorporated area of Lake County.
Commr. Swartz stated that there is no question that there are inequities between the cities and County residents, and inequities between the County residents depending on which class of solid waste system they choose to use in the assessment proposal. There is no question that, if all of the people who live in the unincorporated area were part of the special assessment, the garbage generation rate would be lower. Commr. Swartz addressed the issue of the need for convenient, reasonable locations of transfer stations for garbage disposal, and the commitment of the Board to deal with the inequities that are present in the proposed program. He addressed the issue of a good recycling program, and the inequity that exists between those who do not have recycling and the 7,600 homes that are benefiting by a good curbside recycling program.
Commr. Bailey stated that the transfer stations are an important issue and stated that it is not economically feasible to provide curbside recycling in the rural areas of Lake County.
Commr. Swartz stated that he very reluctantly will vote for approval of the solid waste management system that is before the Board this date, due to the fact that the system that is in place at this time is worse than what is being proposed. He stated that the Board, in the next year, will have to commit to address and remove some of the inequities that are present in the proposed system. There is no doubt that the assessment will increase unless the base of the system is spread so that everyone shares as equitably as possible.
Commr. Bailey made a motion, which was seconded by Commr. Hanson, to approve the Resolution setting the assessment rate and approving the assessment roll.
Commr. Swartz stated that the Board must find a way in the future to schedule hearings early enough so that corrective actions can be made before notices are sent out, and before the final public hearings are scheduled.
The Chairman called for a vote on the motion which carried unanimously, as stated above.
Commr. Gregg was not present for the discussion or vote.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 10:00 p.m.
G. RICHARD SWARTZ, JR., CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK