The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Friday, January 9, 1998, at 9:00 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioner's Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: G. Richard Swartz, Jr., Chairman; Welton G. Cadwell, Vice Chairman; William "Bill" H. Good; and Catherine C. Hanson. Commissioners not present: Rhonda H. Gerber. Others present were: Sanford A. Minkoff, County Attorney; Sue Whittle, County Manager; Ava Kronz, Director, Continuous Quality Improvement; Barbara Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance; and Toni M. Riggs, Deputy Clerk.
Commr. Swartz noted that an emergency meeting had been called to consider a resolution relating to a proclamation of a natural emergency in Lake County. A working group, which has not been formally adopted by the Board, met yesterday to look at some of the issues that were particularly occurring in south Lake County. It was noted that staff had prepared a video of this particular area for the Board to view. Commr. Swartz noted that the following individuals were present in the audience to discuss the flooding issue: Mr. Wayne Saunders, City Manager of Clermont; Captain Larry Chester, Lake County Sheriff's Department; Dr. Robert Taylor, Executive Director, Lake County Water Authority; and Mr. Tommy Merrill, Chief of Police, Groveland.
Mr. Alvin Jackson, Deputy County Manager, noted that press releases for the meeting were mailed to The Daily Commercial, The Sentinel, The Tri-County Sun, and the South Lake Press. He noted that staff also attempted to contact the mayors and city managers of Mascotte, Minneola, Groveland, Clermont, and Montverde.
Ms. Sue Whittle, County Manager, stated that, according to the State Emergency Management Plan, in the event of an emergency disaster situation, the impacted counties will maintain primary responsibility for coordinating the emergency response effort. The County Emergency Management authorities direct evacuations, coordinate shelter activation, and request outside assistance. They may also activate mutual aid agreements with neighboring counties in between municipalities within the County. Ms. Whittle stated that the reason for considering a declaration of local emergency would be to upgrade, or activate the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) of the County and begin coordinating efforts in anything that may be needed.
Mr. Jim Stivender, Sr. Director, Public Works, addressed the Board and stated that, as discussed at the meeting yesterday, the water flow from the Green Swamp, Little Creek, and Big Creek into Lake Louisa is now actually down; however, the lakes in the area that were discussed by Dr. Robert Taylor were rising, or peaking. The Palatlakaha River and the structures on it are not designed to equalize the flow, so there is a staging area in the lakes around Clermont and the whole general area before it flows out. Mr. Stivender explained that there is more saturated soil in this particular area, and the County has taken the necessary steps to plug Dwight's Road, which is two to three miles south of Lake Louisa, so people can get to their homes. He narrated the video and explained that the water has dropped about nine to twelve inches at Big Creek, which goes into Lake Louisa, since this video was taken. The County has placed 18 to 24 inches of clay on the road as of yesterday, and staff would be going to assess the area today. Mr. Stivender explained the pipe system in this particular area, and the water flow pattern.
Dr. Robert Taylor, Executive Director, Lake County Water Authority, explained that the Lake County Water Authority, in a sense, controls the level of the Clermont Chain-of-Lakes through a series of six water control structures. He noted that the Board had received a handout that included some historical information, as well as some information about water flow into and out of the Clermont Chain-of-Lakes, and the Green Swamp, and some information about how the Water Authority regulates those water levels. Dr. Taylor stated that, on December 14, 1997, all of the water control structures were completely opened, and at that time, the level was 96.55 feet above sea level. There is a regulatory range that the Water Authority tries to maintain and that is between 96.0 and 97.5 feet above sea level. He stated that they had not anticipated the County getting eight or nine more inches of rain in the last half of December. As of yesterday, water levels in Lake Minnehaha had almost leveled off indicating that the Lake Louisa situation would be getting better. He did not anticipate the water levels going up any substantial amount, if the County does not get any more rain.
Mr. Wayne Saunders, City Manager, Clermont, addressed the Board and stated that Emerald Lakes Mobile Home Park is the major concern in the City of Clermont. He stated that it was constructed in a very low area, and there had been some voluntary evacuation from the park yesterday. He explained that the mobile home park was two separate sections, and one section was called "the island", which was the worst part of the park, and no vehicle can get into it. He stated that half of the southbound lane of CR 561 was covered in water for approximately 75 feet. He felt that everything that can be done is being done, and he appreciated all of the help by the County.
Commr. Swartz pointed out that the Sheriff's Department had been helping the police department with some of the voluntary evacuations, and staff has been involved by providing sand and pumps.
Commr. Hanson stated that she would have to leave the meeting and requested that the Board move ahead and approve the resolution and then continue with the presentation.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, explained that the resolution would allow the County to suspend its own purchasing rules and other rules, so it can take whatever actions are necessary on an emergency basis and request assistance from the State, and to perhaps provide financial assistance to those people who have been, or may be injured, by the floods. The resolution would last for seven days, unless it is extended or canceled before that time, so this may be discussed again next Tuesday at the Board meeting. It could also invest the Chairman or the police agencies, or the fire departments with other powers as necessary to force an evacuation.
Ms. Whittle stated that the resolution makes the County primarily responsible for coordinating any kind of effort, and the County would activate EOC and Ms. Karen Jones, Deputy Chief, Fire/Rescue, and her staff would begin the coordinating efforts.
Mr. Minkoff noted that the title to the resolution had been changed to remove the reference to "hurricane."
On a motion by Commr. Good, seconded by Commr. Hanson and carried unanimously by a 4-0 vote, the Board approved Resolution No. 1998-9 relating to the proclamation of a natural emergency.
At 9:35 a.m., it was noted that Commr. Hanson left the meeting.
Commr. Swartz stated that, at the meeting yesterday, it was determined that there was a lag time from the time the water hits the ground in the Green Swamp before it is first seen in Lake Louisa and in the Chain-of-Lakes.
Dr. Taylor stated that it would take weeks for the water to actually get through the Clermont Chain-of-Lakes. He explained the maximum release rate and stated that the flow into Lake Louisa has dropped down, but the maximum amount was still being released.
Mr. Stivender discussed the Apopka Beauclair Canal and noted that staff would be looking at it today.
Mr. Tommy Merrill, Chief of Police, Groveland, stated that, after having the culverts checked on Bay Lake Road, he found that there was flooding back over to Empire Church Road and back into Groveland, but there was no flow coming through Bay Lake Road. He stated that there is some kind of restriction between Empire Church Road and Bay Lake Road on private property.
Mr. Stivender stated that staff had gotten a call several weeks ago about this matter, and staff has worked with the Sheriff's Office to see if they could find something. No specific problem could be found, but they would be spending more time trying to find it.
Captain Larry Chester, Lake County Sheriff's Department, explained that further assistance has been offered by the Sheriff's Department, and he noted that calls have been received for sandbags.
Commr. Swartz noted that Ms. Jones would be setting up the EOC, and the phone number for people to contact would be 343-2351 for specific help.
Commr. Good questioned whether there was any way to deal with submerged septic fields.
Ms. Jones stated that the County was not taking mitigation of private property. The County was providing sandbags and sand for those communities that have asked for them. She stated that the County was sensitive to the issue in Clermont, but there were a lot of people in the unincorporated areas that have water up to their front and back doors. She explained that a large amount of rain has been predicted for the next three months. She noted that Public Health is supposed to monitor the septic tanks, but staff will be doing a press release, after the meeting, to let people know that they are activated to take calls from people with flooded yards that have septic tanks and where power systems and waste water may be compromised. This will give the County and the State an idea of how wide spread the problem is at this point in time. The State is now operating off of its Emergency Support Functions (ESF), a form of its emergency operations dealing with the disaster areas that have already been proclaimed in Osceola, Polk and other counties to the south. Ms. Jones informed the Board that, if the County finds that it is having a large amount of problems, the public shelters would be opened again and the County would issue press releases
Mr. Saunders extended his appreciation to staff and the Sheriff's Department for all of their cooperation.
In behalf of the Board, Commr. Swartz stated that he appreciated staff's efforts and the efforts of the Sheriff's Department.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 9:50 a.m.
G. RICHARD SWARTZ, JR., CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK