The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Friday, March 18, 1994, at 8:30 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioner's Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Catherine C. Hanson, Chairman; Welton G. Cadwell, Vice Chairman; Don Bailey; Rhonda H. Gerber; and G. Richard Swartz, Jr. Others present were: Frank T. Gaylord, Interim County Attorney; Peter F. Wahl, County Manager; Ava Kronz, BCC Office Manager; and Sandra Carter, Deputy Clerk.
The Chairman opened the meeting.
Commr. Hanson stated that this meeting was called to discuss the issue of utilities for the industrial park (Lake County Central Park), located at Hwys. 19/27 and the turnpike. She stated that, with new information that had been presented to Mr. Alvin Jackson, Economic Development Coordinator for Lake County, concerning Carroll Fulmer Group, Inc., she felt the matter needed to be brought to the Board's attention, to see if they wanted to change a decision that was made at the Board Meeting of March 15, 1994, which was to postpone action until April 19, 1994, with direction to staff to run some additional analysis and provide answers to some questions which had been raised by members of the Board.
Mr. Pete Wahl, County Manager, noted that he had distributed a memorandum to the Board, prior to the meeting, concerning the matter. In his memorandum, it notes that staff had received a letter from Carroll Fulmer Group, Inc., indicating some dates and timetables that they had received, as part of an attempt to obtain financing for their project. He stated that he felt it was imperative that the Board make a decision, this date, relative to whether or not the County could provide Mr. Fulmer with the assurance that he was requesting, verbally and in writing, by the end of March, 1994.
Mr. Wahl, County Manager, stated that he had met with Mr. Mike Anderson, Director of Facilities and Capital Improvements, and they felt that the County could comfortably assure Mr. Fulmer that water could be provided at the site no later than 9 months after closing, which is set for April 30, 1994. He stated that there are three options available for providing water to the site, being (1) the County setting up its own water utility; (2) Southern States Utilities (SSU) providing it; or (3) the City of Leesburg providing it, by refitting and developing the good well on the site.
Mr. Wahl stated that staff does not know what the costs will be for the County to provide the service. He stated that the City of Leesburg would like to refit and develop the good well on the site, to provide the service, however, due to the fact that it is not a permitted well, the County would have to go through the developing and permitting process and would have to dedicate some industrial park property for the use of that utility. He stated that, at this point, those are all unknown costs that the County is in the process of trying to determine, in order to make a recommendation to the Board on April 19, 1994. He stated that the County had received a firm figure from SSU. He noted that the County would have to have utilities at the site by February, 1995.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he would like to see the County get into some type of negotiations with the City of Leesburg and SSU and try to answer questions that were raised at the Board Meeting on March 15, 1994. He stated that the Board gave staff 30 days to come back with an answer to those questions and he felt it would be unfair to ask them to comment this date.
Commr. Swartz concurred with Commr. Cadwell, noting that he did not see why the Board could not answer the questions Mr. Fulmer proposed, this date, and do it in an affirmative way and still give staff time to answer the questions that were raised at the meeting on March 15, 1994. He stated that he felt it was important for the County to try to provide the service in the most cost efficient way, thus, his reason for asking staff to look at various options and to look very seriously at the County supplying the water.
Mr. Anderson, Director of Facilities and Capital Improvements, appeared before the Board and answered questions regarding the matter. He stated that he felt 9 months would be sufficient time to provide water through SSU, however, was not sure that 9 months would be adequate time for the other two options. He stated that the County was told, by the City of Leesburg, that it would take one to one and a half years for them to supply water to the site and he felt that it would take every bit of 9 months, to get everything in place, for the County to develop the on-site well and provide the service.
Commr. Bailey stated that he was not comfortable with the County committing to 9 months, with the County's track record.
A brief discussion occurred regarding the on-site well, at which time Mr. Anderson, Director of Facilities and Capital Improvements, stated that the County would need to decide whether to deal with the existing well, or go to a new well. He stated that, if the County went with the less expensive route, which would be the reservoir, the County would have to set aside 30 acres of land for said purpose, however, noted that said property has been estimated to be worth approximately $20,000 per acre, so the County could have a sizeable investment, if it chose to develop water on the site.
Mr. Edd Holder, Chairman of the Industrial Development Authority, appeared before the Board stating that the IDA, along with Pringle Development, Inc., originally approached the City of Leesburg, to see what could be done, together, to supply water to the industrial park. He stated that the IDA tried its best to do business with the City of Leesburg, however, there was no comparison between the City of Leesburg and SSU, with respect to the difference in price.
Mr. Holder stated that the County is sending a message to people that want to do business with Lake County, and studies have shown, which he noted have been discussed at Steering Committee Meetings involving over 100 individuals, that the County is not very friendly or welcoming. He stated that it was very important what action the Board took, concerning this issue, and the message that it was sending, as well as the reputation that it was creating for the County. He stated that there are 250 jobs at stake and noted that the IDA wants more jobs, because jobs are going to be the engine that pulls the rest of the train, for the County's economy. He encouraged the Board to look at the total picture before making a decision.
Commr. Swartz stated that the County was under some time constraints, but not constraints that would require them to make a decision that might not be the best decision. He stated that he felt the Board could deal with the matter before them this date (verbal and written commitment to Carroll Fulmer Group, Inc.) and, when the issue of a utility provider comes back before them on April 19, 1994, they will take the information available to them and try to make the best choice, considering time frames that the County will be committed to, costs involved, and other factors.
A motion was made by Commr. Swartz and seconded by Commr. Cadwell to authorize the Chairman to write a letter to Carroll Fulmer Group, Inc., indicating the Board's commitment that water will be at the property line, for hook-up, no later than 9 months after their closing date of April 30, 1994.
Under discussion, Commr. Swartz stated that there was no question that each of the Commissioners unanimously support putting infrastructure in the ground at Lake County Central Park, noting that it has been said repeatedly that the Board is committed to getting water and wastewater on the site, as soon as possible.
Commr. Hanson stated that the reason she brought the matter to the Board's attention was (1) to give Mr. Wahl the authority to move forward and make a commitment and (2) a statement made by Commr. Swartz that he probably would have made a different decision, had he felt there was an urgency. She stated that she felt there was an urgency, thus, the reason she brought it to the Board's attention.
Mr. Bill Spikes, a member of the IDA, appeared before the Board stating that he was a little uneasy about all the discussion that was being held, since the Board placed the responsibility of the issue on the IDA. He stated that the IDA made a recommendation to the Board that they felt SSU should be the provider of the utilities and now the Board cannot make a decision and he did not think it was fair to the members of the IDA, or staff, to put them in that position. He stated that he is, as a citizen, a little affronted by the situation before the Board this date. He stated that the County has a contract and a company that they are trying to get into the industrial park, to help build it up, however, he sees inactivity, rather than activity, which he does not like.
The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, which was carried unanimously.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 9:10 a.m.
CATHERINE C. HANSON, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK