The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in regular session on Tuesday, February 10, 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; Catherine C. Hanson; William "Bill" H. Good, and Rhonda H. Gerber. Others present were: Sanford A. Minkoff, County Attorney; Valerie Fuchs, Assistant County Attorney; Sue Whittle, County Manager; Ava K. Kronz, Director, Continuous Quality Improvement; Barbara Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance; and Toni M. Riggs, Deputy Clerk.
Commr. Swartz informed the Board that, before the Board got started with the work session, as scheduled, it would address an item that had been published on the addendum.
ADDENDUM NO. 1
COUNTY MANAGER'S CONSENT AGENDA
COMMITTEES/CENTRAL PARK/CONTRACTS, LEASES & AGREEMENTS
Commr Cadwell informed the Board that a Special Meeting of the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) was held this morning to approve the Letter of Intent with Circuit City Stores, Inc. He stated that there was a question about a request they had made for an option on a portion of the property. The IDA has never wanted approve such requests in the past, but with the nature and size of this project, they had no problem with the option portion of their Letter of Intent.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, stated that the option was very important to Circuit City Stores, Inc., so it was indicated to them that it would be taken to the Board today to make sure the Board did not oppose it. The Letter of Intent allowed for the purchase of approximately 30 acres, and an option of five years for approximately an additional ten acres. He stated that the sale price is $35,000 an acre, however, there is a real estate commission of seven percent (7%) which will reduce it slightly; it is a cash sale with no financing; there are no other significant terms other than the County would be required to make the improvements to make it a buildable lot; and it is entirely within Phase II of the Industrial Park. Mr. Minkoff explained that the ten acres could not be marketed by the County for the five year period, and the consideration in this case would be the purchase of the 30 acres, which would be the money for the option of the additional property.
Commr. Cadwell stated that the County Attorney's Office, Mr. Mike Anderson and the Facilities & Capital Improvements Office, Ms. Sue Whittle, County Manager, and Mr. Alvin Jackson, Deputy County Manager, were very instrumental in helping the County accomplish these negotiations with Circuit City Stores, Inc., and he appreciated their efforts.
Ms. Whittle explained that the Board needed to approve the Letter of Intent, with the understanding that staff will go forward and negotiate the final contract.
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Good and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved the Letter of Intent for the sale of property at Lake County Central Park between Lake County and Circuit City Stores, Inc., and authorized staff to proceed with the negotiations and bring a contract back to the Board.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, informed the Board that he would be attending a meeting in Tallahassee today, and Ms. Valerie Fuchs would be sitting in for him.
LAKE COUNTY FIRE RESCUE ADVISORY BOARD'S REPORT
Commr. Swartz explained that this would be a workshop with the Board of County Commissioners and the Fire Rescue Advisory Board. He noted that this Advisory Board was established by County Ordinance.
The following Fire Rescue Advisory Board members introduced themselves: Mr. John Jolliff, Chairman, District 4; Doug Bressler, Vice Chairman, District 2; Art Ward, At-Large Position; Lee Windhorst, District 1; Ralph Bernish, District 5; Ralph Boartfield, District 3; and Richard Gander, Private Homeowner.
Mr. Jolliff noted that the Board had received a copy of the Report on the Level of Fire Service Provided in Lake County, Florida, which was submitted by the Lake County Fire Rescue Advisory Board, and he would be highlighting areas and talking about other significant issues that the Advisory Board spent hours discussing. Mr. Jolliff stated that career firefighters and the volunteers needed to be commended for their service today. It was noted that, in the report, it was the finding of the Advisory Board that major changes were needed and should be made to improve the delivery of fire rescue services. Mr. Jolliff noted that staffing should be based on expected firefighting conditions, as follows:
1. Life Hazard
2. Safe and Effective Performance of Firefighters
3. Potential Property Loss
4. Nature, Configuration, Hazards and Internal Protection of the Property Involved
5. Type of Fire Ground Tactics Employed
6. Ability and Type of Fire Apparatus Used
7. Expected Results
Mr. Jolliff stated that, in researching the issue of volunteers, the Advisory Board found that there were not 200 volunteers in Lake County, as it had been indicated to them. He noted that, on Page 6, there were statistics indicating the decline in the number of volunteers responding to alarms, with reasons being no time, tough training, balking bosses, little excitement, and employment pattern.
Mr. Jolliff stated that he would be promoting Option Three, which was the recommendation of the Advisory Board, as follows:
Option Three will allow staffing eighteen (18) combination stations with forty-six (46) personnel, twenty four hours a day, keeping nine (9) volunteer stations and one (1) non-active station. The significance of this option is that the estimated structure fire response time drops to seven (7) minutes, County-wide. The ability of the firefighters to engage in fire combat safely and to support initial attack is tremendously improved.
Mr. Jolliff addressed the issue of Level of Service and explained that, in most cases, some areas will have a response time of less than seven minutes, and some will have more, and the seven minutes will be an average amount of time. He stated that the Advisory Board was recommending a Volunteer Retention and Recruitment Coordinator and creative and innovative ways of funding, which they will seek from those who can provide expertise in this area.
Mr. Jolliff presented a seven minute video depicting the importance of a seven minute timing and mileage for firefighting reasons. He presented an Addendum to the Report, which included Appendix E - Response Mileage Comparison Report (corrected); Appendix F - Lake County Fire/Rescue # of Alarms Responded To; and Appendix G - New National Data on Public Misconceptions About Fire, which he discussed in great detail. Mr. Jolliff stated that it has been statistically shown that, if you have a good career department in place, it enhances the volunteer program, which would be a key issue. He reviewed the information he received from staff regarding the different types of fire/rescue responses noting a total of 6,801 responses for the Fiscal Year 1997.
Mr. Gander noted that there were 3,133 EMS (emergency medical service) responses made by fire/rescue workers, because an ambulance may not have been in the area, or it may have been in route to another call, and there were 759 alarms that were responded to by fire/rescue workers but were canceled before arrival.
Mr. Jolliff explained that EMS is a multi-billion dollar business, and it is being proven that they can provide a cost effective duel role in providing EMS, fire service, and a multitude of other functions. He stated that 50% of the fire service in the State is handling EMS right now, and as Lake County looks at putting a plan in place with a seven minute response countywide, maybe the money can be kept in Lake County lowering the money being paid by taxpayers for two different operations. He stated that this would be a recommendation and advice of the Advisory Board, if the County looks at this in the future.
Mr. Bressler explained that EMS is a logical extension of fire/rescue, and he wanted the Board to know that fire/rescue was doing all of the EMS before there was an EMS service established. He stated that EMS should not be taken away from fire/rescue, because the quicker an individual gets help, the better chance the individual has to live.
Mr. Jolliff addressed the need for a better level of service and noted the following options that were developed by the Advisory Board:
OPTION ONE Keep the current level of service with no improvement
OPTION TWO Add a minimum amount of personnel. Some improved Level of Service without decrease in response time County-wide.
OPTION THREE Recommended by the Advisory Board
OPTION FOUR Provides the greatest Level of Service improvement with six (6) minute average response County-wide.
Mr. Jolliff stated that, after talking to the cities, the following approximate costs for fire protection per household were presented to him by a representative from the League of Cities: Tavares - $136; Leesburg - $240; Eustis - $104; Mount Dora - $176. He stated that the Advisory Board was advising that the County build the foundation and keep the money in Lake County and work on joint response and automatic aid that reciprocates an equal service. Mr. Jolliff stated that the Advisory Board also feels that people should be taught more about fire safety. He stated that privatization was discussed as a option, but the Advisory Board felt the County should build up what it already has established. The benefits would include response time, firefighter efficiency and safety, life saving ability, and interlocal agreements. In conclusion, the Advisory Board would recommend that whatever plan it chooses to consider, it be implemented in a two year period, and because the Advisory Board needs some expertise in the equity area, a Task Force was being recommended.
Mr. Windhorst addressed the Board and presented information he had received regarding the formula the cities had used to develop their fire/rescue fees.
Commr. Swartz stated that the cities have a property based assessment, and they pay for their fire/rescue services out of the basic ad valorem, and the County has a structure tax.
Commr. Good stated that, as the Board moves forward in this workshop and begins to really access level of service versus cost of service and a cost benefit analysis, it really needs to be able to make a comparable comparison. The Board also needs to look at the urban service areas (joint planning areas), because there may be some differentiation in those versus those that might be rural fire service and rural level of service.
Commr. Hanson stated that she appreciated what the Advisory Board has done. The Advisory Board has presented a goal and not told the Board how to get to it, but it has given many options, and she feels that the County will end up with a combination of these options, and this fits in with the recommendation of forming the Task Force to take these recommendations and find out how the County can leverage the dollars and service, and all the potential providers, to get the level of service being recommended. Commr. Hanson agreed that there should be an average response time of seven minutes.
Discussion occurred regarding the desperate need for more manpower; the 225 hours of training, the desperate need for volunteers in any plan that the County might implement, and how Lake County has been involved in helping other areas of the country when they have experienced disasters.
Commr. Swartz discussed a previous station closing plan that had come from the Advisory Board and stated that he was concerned that what he was hearing today was somewhat the same as what the Board had approved to do earlier, and he questioned whether those things that had been recommended in the earlier plan had been put into place.
Mr. Bressler stated that there is a better volunteer response at the stations where there are paid firefighters; however, by placing one paid firefighter at a station was not enough for volunteers to feel they are really part of a fire crew.
Mr. Boartfield stated that no matter which option the Board chooses, it will take at least two years to accomplish the plan.
RECESS & REASSEMBLY
At 10:35 a.m., the Chairman announced that the Board would recess for 15 minutes.
LAKE COUNTY FIRE RESCUE ADVISORY BOARD'S REPORT (CONTINUED)
Commr. Swartz reconvened the meeting with the Fire Rescue Advisory Board and called for questions from the Board members, with regard to the overall report that had been presented.
Commr. Cadwell questioned whether, in the Advisory Board's research, a split level of service was considered for the different areas of the County, as well as different funding levels for these areas.
Mr. Jolliff explained that the Advisory Board had some discussion on the split level of service and different funding levels, but they did not get too involved with this procedure.
Discussion occurred regarding the volunteer level of service and the need for a Volunteer Coordinator, with it being noted that the cost to train a volunteer is approximately $900 in comparison to $25,000 to $35,000 that the County would be saving for a full time firefighter.
Commr. Hanson stated that, in regard to the urban expansion areas, there is already more than one level of service in the County, because there is the County level and the city level. She agreed that the County needs to give the best level of service, but there is the question of how the County can afford it and get volunteers and leverage the dollars.
Commr. Hanson had an individual from the Plantation contact her last week who has a statement that he would like to make to the Board, and she had suggested that he wait until the next meeting, but even though this was a private meeting, Ms. Sue Whittle, County Manager, suggested that he speak today, if the Board so desired, or he could wait until a regular scheduled meeting.
Commr. Swartz stated that he would like to have the Board interact with the Advisory Board to make sure the members have the opportunity to ask the questions they have as a result of the Advisory Board's report and recommendations.
Commr. Good stated that he had a concern with the dichotomy of need, the dichotomy of funding, and the dichotomy of level of service between rural and urban, and he did not feel the County could avoid it. He stated that, whatever action the Task Force takes, he hoped that it would not force a level of service on someone who really did not expect it from government. Commr. Good stated that he feels there is a significant difference between fire prevention, protecting lives, protecting property, and being a firefighter. He hoped that the Task Force very clearly takes into account the differences in these levels of service and keeps in mind that there are places like Bay Lake that want their community fire system and station and are willing to build it themselves and not impose on them a cost for service that would go somewhere else. Commr. Good stated that this was not, in any way, to diminish the need to improve suburban fire service in suburban areas, but traditional areas in the County needed to be recognized and may not want to pay up to $200 a month.
Discussion occurred regarding the information that had been provided in Appendix B (Page 5) of the report regarding Fire Shift Personnel and the Estimated Additional Cost Per Option.
Commr. Swartz stated that he did not see anywhere in the report the cost to implement Option Three. He estimated a cost of a little over $9 million for the items indicated, which would include Option Three, but the figure would not include the new and renovated fire station costs, and the new and replacement equipment costs.
Mr. Jolliff clarified that the best estimated cost that could be determined by the Advisory Board, on an annual basis, was $11.7 million.
Mr. Bressler noted that the $11.7 million would be the implementation cost and would be reduced each year after people were trained and equipment was purchased.
Commr. Swartz explained that the current fire tax, in this budget year, was raising just under $3.2 million.
Mr. Jolliff stated that, after the Advisory Board looked at a flat tax plus the square footage, the financial input from eight surrounding counties, and the methodology that Mr. Craig Haun had presented in 1995, it was recommending that the County get some expertise in this area.
Commr. Swartz stated that, whatever the Board does in fire service, it needs to have a realistic understanding of what will be the operational outcome at the end of implementing something, because ultimately the discussions being held will be seen by a lot of people in Lake County, and the Board needs to make sure that it is clear on what it is going to deliver at seven minutes, assuming that this will be the average time.
Mr. Frank LaFleur, Acting Fire Chief, explained that there are a lot of variable factors that will determine how fast a fire will grow in a period of time. He explained that, at an average response time of seven minutes, there is a very good possibility that the majority of a home will be saved.
Mr. Bressler addressed Commr. Gerber's question about the role of the Forestry Service and explained that the Forestry Service has the responsibility of protecting the forest in the State of Florida, however, they do not carry water, and they fight the fires with plows. He stated that their job is to contain the fires, and the fire department saves the structures within the forest.
Commr. Gerber stated that, when using the total of 6,801 fire/rescue responses, she found that 2% of all of the calls are structure fires; 7% are brush fire; 16% are vehicular accidents; .6% are extrications; and 46% are EMS. She was very concerned with the duplication of effort and questioned why an ambulance and a fire truck were both responding to calls.
Mr. Bryan explained that the fire departments are located in certain areas of the County where there may not be an ambulance, so they would be the first responders.
Commr. Swartz stated that the agreement the County has with Florida Regional was amended about a year ago to provide for payment to the fire system for making those calls in cases where the fire system could get there with the basic life support in advance of the Florida Regional advance life support.
Mr. LaFleur explained that the fire department arriving at the scene prior to the ambulance gives the patient an opportunity to live, and when the ambulance and fire truck are both responding, it is through the County dispatch and through what is set up with Florida Regional EMS that the ambulance crew decides whether it wants the fire truck to continue if they are in front of the fire truck.
Commr. Swartz noted that Tavares, Eustis, and Mount Dora are the only paid fire systems, and Astatula, Howey-in-the-Hills, Lady Lake and Minneola who are in the County's fire system, but Clermont, Groveland, Umatilla, Montverde, Mascotte and Fruitland Park are all volunteer fire departments.
Commr. Good referred to Appendix G, National Data on Public Misconceptions About Fire, which states that a fire doubles its size every 18 degrees in temperature rise and stated that, in terms of response time, the County may want to look at building codes and personal sprinkler and home sprinkler systems, and it may want to look at various materials that are being used to build homes and businesses in Lake County. He questioned whether there was a review committee with this group, or the Building Department, that looks at these types of improvements and would bring these types of recommendations to the Board. Commr. Good stated that, if there is not such a group, perhaps this task force could specifically address these issues as well.
Commr. Swartz stated that, as a routine, the County, through the Building Department, reviews southern building codes for changes, and there is a requirement in the Land Development Regulations (LDRs) that new development meet certain requirements, which may entail a fire hydrant, or a water system that can provide certain fire flows for fire suppression, and it can be in addition to, or in lieu of , the sprinkling of the building.
Commr. Good stated that, if the level of service is wanted by a community, it seems the community would be willing to support the Board in this action, and it would be an immediate response, and as building permits were pulled, this action would be taken.
Mr. Bernish explained that EMS, and the fire departments, work together and the County pays $10,000 to the Forestry Service for its services. He stated that Mr. Haun was concerned about the fire houses, because they were not built for hurricanes, so he did felt that money would have to be used for the fire stations to have them approved at the building code level.
Commr. Swartz stated that, while the Advisory Board, in its recommendation, did not get into any specific recommendations to alter the method by which the fire assessment is done, he has best been able to calculate it, based on the $11.7 million, and based on the $3.2 million currently being raised, and to implement Option Three, and if it was implemented over a two year period, the County was looking at $11.7 million as the initial cost for that level of service. Commr. Swartz noted that there was definitely a range of service that was wanted in the County including a group of people that may want a strong volunteer department with no increase in the fire fee, and a group of people that may want to pay three or four times what is currently being paid today. He stated that the recommendation, if it is implemented, would change the residential structure fee of $35 per unit to $127.75, which would be a 265% increase. In the commercial and industrial, it would go from six cents per square foot to 21.9 cents per square foot; the agricultural units, which currently pay about ten cents per acre would go to 36.5 cents per acre; the vacant land cost would go from $5 to $18.25 per lot; and the miscellaneous and church units, which are currently two cents a square foot, would go to 7.3 cents per square foot. Commr. Swartz stated that, while there are people who want a strong volunteer effort, there are others that want and are willing to pay for a certain level of service.
Commr. Cadwell stated that there were some areas that he would like staff to look into before the Board gets into any kind of decision making mode, with one of those being the different funding options, and to take into consideration that the County has just gotten through with the Supreme Court and the current fee structure, and he would like staff to contact some of the cities and have some staff talks in regards to some of the municipal service areas, to see if there are some areas in the County that the cities would be interested in providing any type of service for the County, in terms of first response in those areas.
Commr. Hanson stated that the County needed to look at the Volunteer Coordinator, and the recommended 225 hours of training, because there may be different levels of training.
It was noted that the 225 hours of training was required by the State.
Commr. Hanson questioned whether the Board wanted to have staff and the Advisory Board or others to come together for a short period of time, to come back with recommendations rather than having just staff look at the recommendations and options available.
Commr. Cadwell stated that what he was recommending involved staff type functions, and once they get the information from staff, the Board can decide whether it wants to go back to the Advisory Board, or take another direction on the issue.
Commr. Swartz stated that somewhere there had to be some more detail documentation as it relates to Page 6 of the 6-27-97 Draft (Appendix B), which shows $4.3 million over five years for apparatus; $4.1 million over ten years for the renovation and construction of new fire stations. He asked Ms. Sue Whittle, County Manager, to try and find the detailed information for the Board's review. He stated that, even though the Board was reviewing this in early February, the time frames the County was going to be under were fairly tight, and if there was some change in the fire tax, he did not believe there was any way the County could fund an increased level of service with the funds that exist. The recommendation that was adopted gave the County one paid 24 hour and now there are two others stations with two paid, and this was probably about as good a system as it can operate given the constraints to the revenue that it has today. The County is under time constraints relative to being able to do any first class noticing that might be required, with decisions that would have to be made in June or July at the latest, and Commr. Swartz suggested that, since the Board is meeting every second Tuesday of the month, the Board should plan to meet March 10, 1998, to look at these and other options to discuss and compare and see where the County is going. He did not feel that the Board, at the recommendation of the Advisory Board, has time to go back to some type of financial task force and make substantive changes in the method by which the County collects.
Mr. Jolliff extended his thanks to the Board for letting the Advisory Board present its report, and to Mr. LaFleur and his staff for helping them accumulate various information.
Commr. Swartz stated that, on behalf of the Board, he wanted to thank the Advisory Board for their time and effort, and for a report that opens up a lot of questions. He suggested that, in regards to the individual noted by Commr. Hanson who wanted to speak to the Board, it would be more appropriate to have him speak at another meeting. He noted that these workshops ultimately in all cases lead to some type of public hearing, at which time public time will be taken, but this was a time set aside primarily for the Board to work with the Fire Rescue Advisory Board.
Commr. Hanson understood the policy and that was why she was recommending that the individual speak at the next regular meeting at a time certain, as soon thereafter.
Commr. Swartz stated that, when individuals write thoughtful suggestions, or recommendations on an issue, they welcome them, because they are very helpful to the Board.
Ms. Whittle stated that the Board had indicated that this issue may be brought back to the Board on March 10, 1998, and she needed to check on the timing of the issue. She has recently brought a consultant on board who is working on some future needs and options, and secondly, on the funding options, staff was going to need some outside expertise, and she has already talked to the Nabors' firm, and she did not know if staff could have the funding options and possibilities in place by March 10, 1998, but she could report this back to the Board at the meeting next week.
Commr. Swartz stated that the Board could have a little more discussion on the first two concepts at the Board Retreat, because they were both budgetary issues.
Ms. Whittle stated that staff could also report, at that time, on time frames by next week that would be necessary to change any of the methodology, because there are certain windows of opportunity, if the Board was looking at the next budget year.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 12:15 p.m.
G. RICHARD SWARTZ, JR., CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK