The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in regular session on Tuesday, June 30, 1998, at 9:00 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioners' Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: G. Richard Swartz, Jr., Chairman; G. Welton Cadwell, Vice Chairman; William "Bill" H. Good; Catherine C. Hanson; and Rhonda H. Gerber. Others present were: Sue Whittle, County Manager; Sanford A. Minkoff, County Attorney; Wendy Taylor, BCC Administrative Assistant; Barbara Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance; and Toni M. Riggs, Deputy Clerk.
Commr. Swartz noted that today the Board will be conducting a workshop to discuss Fire Rescue Services Special Assessment, with a presentation being made by Government Services Group, Inc. (GSG), and the Board will be discussing the solid waste franchise issue.
PRESENTATION - FIRE RESCUE SERVICES SPECIAL ASSESSMENT PROGRAM
Ms. Sue Whittle, County Manager, introduced Mr. Robert Sheets, Chief Executive Officer of GSG and asked him to begin with the presentation.
Mr. Sheets introduced Mr. David Jahoski, David M. Griffith & Associates, Ltd.; Ms. Camille Gianatasio, Vice President, GSG; and Mr. Mark Lawson, Nabors, Giblin & Nickerson, P.A. (NG&N) and stated that the purpose of the presentation was to review the way that they approached the project, the data they used, and the process they employed to try and give the highest level of certainty that the factual basis for the presentation for the report is without question. Mr. Sheets noted that Ms. Gianatasio served as the Project Manager and was involved with this on a day to day basis. He stated that they all received immense cooperation from County staff, and he complimented the Board for having such a great group of people.
Ms. Gianatasio walked the Board through the following handout material and explained specific areas in great detail:
TOPICS OF DISCUSSION
HISTORY OF PROJECT
CASE LAW CRITERIA
- Paid/volunteer personnel
Based on Historical Demand for Fire Rescue Services
Parcel Apportionment (Category/Parcel Apportionment)
Preliminary Rates - All Categories for Fiscal Year 1998-99 - 100% Revenue Requirement - $6,075,251
- Revenue scenario to fund
CRITICAL EVENTS SCHEDULE
Ms. Gianatasio noted that the pie chart in the report indicated that 86% of the calls come from residential property, therefore, through the analysis, residential property will generate 86% of the revenue required to support the service. It was determined that the dwelling unit is the best basis for apportioning the cost to residential property on a per unit basis. In the non-residential category, it was determined that there was a difference based on size and based on the use of the property, as reflected in the Preliminary Rates, with residential property paying an $82 rate per dwelling unit, and non-residential property paying amounts based on the building classification (in square foot ranges) for commercial, industrial/warehouse, and institutional.
Ms. Gianatasio directed the Board's attention to the issues that they would need direction on very quickly as they work through the process. She addressed the first issue involving vacancy credits for RV parks and stated that historically the County has provided some sort of vacancy factor for RV parks, and the rates in the report do not provide that vacancy factor.
Ms. Gianatasio addressed the next issue involving the institutional, tax-exempt category and stated that historically the County has imposed and collected assessment against institutional properties whether they were tax-exempt or not, and they have a lot of different options that they can provide to the Board, as far as this category. She stated that the County can continue to impose the assessments at the new rates, or they can help the County craft an exemption policy that is fair and meets all of the constitutional criteria, or they can craft something in between, which would provide for those properties to pay some minimum rate whether it be a flat rate, or a percent of the rates that have been calculated, but all institutional properties have to be treated the same. Ms. Gianatasio stated that any kind of exemption policy that the Board may decide to adopt, the money that comes from those properties that the County may not impose an assessment upon, cannot come from the other assessment rate payers, otherwise the County would be violating the fair and reasonable apportionment part of the case law criteria. So that money would have to come from other legally available revenue sources.
Ms. Gianatasio addressed the issue of a maximum rate within the notice and stated that, sometime towards the end of this month, they will have to send a first class notice to every affected property owner of their proposed assessment. This is a personal invitation for the assessment payers to come to a public hearing and provide the Board with comments about the program. The County can, by law, in that notice, provide a maximum rate, and if a maximum rate is placed in the notice, the County does not have to provide that first class invitation to every property owner, if it has already noticed them of the maximum. The County only has to provide notice if it exceeds the maximum notice that has been provided to them.
Ms. Gianatasio stated that, if they can get some sort of policy direction, it will help Mr. Minkoff and NG&N in crafting the legal documents that will help implement the program and impose the assessment, and it will help staff in finalizing the budget process. She noted that, in the report, which the Board members had before them, they had provided different levels of rates and what those rates would generate in revenue.
Ms. Gianatasio noted the Critical Events Schedule and explained that the ordinance will be a procedural ordinance, which generally sets up the procedures and mirrors the statutory requirements of collecting these assessments on the tax bill. The initial assessment resolution, which would be considered on the same day as the ordinance, will take into consideration everything in the report and all of the issues raised; it will outline how they prepared the apportionment methodology; it will provide guidance to staff on how to resolve the issues; and it will provide the final rates.
Commr. Cadwell questioned the vacancy credit for the RV parks, with Mr. Sheets explaining that, for the first year, the fees would have to come from the legally available sources other than the assessment revenues. After that, they would be a self-reconciling process, because based on the ultimate vacancy number for the first year, the next year when that category is calculated, those new numbers would be used to calculate the rates, and there would be a lower number of units, which would generate more revenue per unit. Mr. Sheets explained that it would not necessarily have to be ad valorem, because there would be other funds within the General Fund.
Commr. Hanson felt that, after some discussions, there was going to be a breakdown of different options for fees, which may include a combination of assessments.
Mr. Sheets explained that the consultants were charged with delivering a report that focused on the non ad valorem based special assessments. If based on the discussions today, the Board is wanting to make some different conclusion on some other tax equity issue, which would be the inclusion of a millage, or other revenues available to fund this program, they would go back and adjust these rates to reflect that additional revenue.
Commr. Cadwell questioned the logic behind the service being the same for someone who may live in the middle of the Ocala forest, as opposed to someone who may live right next to a station
Mr. Sheets explained that, after considering the commitment made by the County to enhance and to double its investment in fire services, and to continue that investment into the future, the consultants could not stand before the Board today and say that response time is a proxy for service level determination, after communicating with the team, staff, and the fire personnel. He stated that the recommendation today was a single service level, and for the Board not to waiver its commitment to see its level of service for fire rescue expand and grow. Commr. Good stated that there has been a lot of criticism about the regressive nature of the assessment, and the hybrid that was mentioned by Commr. Hanson, which would take a MSTU and an assessment and begin to approach the problem of the regressive nature. He stated that everybody pays a basic fee in the assessment for basic fire service, and a dedicated millage through a MSTU would approach the funding for those that have larger structures.
Mr. Sheets clarified that an assessment is paid not based on value, but based on demand, and homestead exemptions do not apply, and in many cases, property tax exemptions may not apply, and it has to meet that fair and reasonable apportionment test. He stated that, as it has been crafted in the report, it does not reach vacant land, or agricultural land, unless there are improvements upon those properties. He stated that, by overlaying an ad valorem millage, it applies as any ad valorem millage and everybody pays it, except for those properties that fall under the homestead exemption, or a portion thereof, and those properties that are exempt from property taxes. Mr. Sheets stated that vacant land pays it, agriculture pays it, and everybody pays it including those properties that are also paying the assessment.
Commr. Good stated that there is the option of buying down the assessment, which is one of the issues that needs to be considered very directly as a Board. He stated that the issues, in terms of level of response, are personnel, training level and response level, equipment that actually gets to the scene, and whether the Board is making a policy to try and respond with containment, or respond with controlled combustion. He stated that the level of service issue is the basis of the decision that the Board needs to face today, whether it is funded through a hybrid system or assessment. He questioned what the consultants have brought to the Board, in terms of standards that it can set to mark the difference between containment and control burns, and what the Board can use to measure the difference to make that policy decision.
Mr. Sheets explained that, after working on many other fire safety programs, they have not been able to make a definite determination of what would be needed to develop an answer for fire safety, but they have determined that the demand model is an excellent proxy for what is a fair and reasonable enforcement.
Mr. Lawson explained the legal parameters for policies set by the Board, which have been addressed by the Supreme Court, and stated that, as advisors, they have not found, nor has it been presented to them, criteria that can withstand all the analysis to accomplish that policy that the Board is wrestling with today.
Commr. Gerber questioned the percentage of counties and municipalities that have chosen to use the total non ad valorem assessment, with Mr. Sheets explaining that there has been a very small percentage that has chosen to use the non ad valorem assessments as their only source of funding.
Discussion occurred regarding the administrative issues, with it being noted that, if the Board chooses the non ad valorem assessment program, the two programs (MSTU and assessment) would be funding a single budget, and each program would fund a fraction of that budget.
Commr. Cadwell stated that, if a portion of the ad valorem was going to fire, he was wondering how it would involve Minneola, Lady Lake, Howey and Astatula and whether it could be done without their consent.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, stated that, it would be possible to do this without the cities' permission, but he would recommend that, if the Board chooses to use ad valorem, it go back to the cities and ask them to reauthorize the MSTU that is already existing. He stated that the main reason would be that this millage would count against the overall cities' ten mill cap. He stated that it does not count against the County's ten mill cap, but it would be a part of the County's municipal service area. He stated that, if the Board chooses that option, it needs to go back to the four cities.
Commr. Hanson stated that the County initially looked at a special assessment, because it made sure that everyone paid an amount, and she questioned how many people in the County do not pay taxes, which is information that the Board needs. She stated that, because of the study and where the County is moving, the County will be losing the ability of the commercial sector to underwrite the provision of services to the residential sector, which is typically what happens with taxes. She stated that the County will be putting more of the burden on the residential sector and less on the commercial.
Mr. Ed Havill, Property Appraiser, stated that approximately 3,500 parcels out of approximately 115,000 to 120,000 parcels countywide pay no taxes.
Mr. Sheets addressed the issue being discussed, which was the distinction between an assessment and a tax, and explained that, with an assessment, you have to charge the property owner in proportion to the amount of benefit they receive and then spend that money essentially back on that property owner. A tax must be assessed uniformly across the Board, and then when that money is collected from everybody who pays those taxes, it does not necessarily have to be returned in terms of expenditure on the properties that contribute it.
Commr. Good stated that commercial was not underwriting anything, because they are paying for a service, and whether that sector of property calls for it more often or not is not the question, but the question is whether the County has enhanced the level of service response when they call. He stated that the readiness to serve was the criteria, not whether or not they called for it.
Commr. Hanson stated that she was originally willing to increase the assessment by double and not any more but, because of the lack of calls to commercial, therefore the different funding structure for commercial, there are fewer dollars that would be coming in from commercial than what the County would be seeing if it doubled the fees. She stated that, if the County was going to double everything, it would be at the $7 million.
Commr. Swartz stated that, once you begin to implement ad valorem taxes, the vacant land and agricultural land, which virtually have no calls for service, start to be taxed. He explained that about 60% of the calls are medical calls, not fire suppression.
Commr. Swartz referred to Page 23 of the report, which identifies Special Benefit Assumptions, and stated that a judge may find that what the County has done was legally defensible, but he was not sure the County could stand before the people and claim that what they did made sense when the fire truck, or rescue truck, in 70 to 75% of the County can reasonably get there in seven to eight minutes, and the other 25 to 30% of the County may not get paid response in 25 minutes. He has difficulty understanding how the County is going to come close to protecting the life and safety of the intended occupants that are 25 minutes from the response that is driving this budget, as opposed to the seven minute average that the County might achieve in the more urban areas. He stated that the County was not going to lower the cost of fire insurance in those very rural areas that are that distance from a paid station.
Commr. Cadwell stated that a portion of the dollars will be collected for the service no matter where you live. He stated that there are residents that live on Lake Doer who have put in their own fire system, and they do not mind paying to have the service available, but outside of this basic service that the County is providing, they will, in no way, benefit from three times as many firemen, much less just two.
Commr. Hanson stated that she has talked to staff about asking Volusia County to put a person in Astor at the Lake County station. In reviewing the issues being presented, in terms of a balance for costs, Commr. Hanson stated that she recognizes that the cost to provide the service in the rural areas would be greater, but she had not reconciled the issue of balance.
Mr. Lawson stated that the issues that have been raised are very difficult and, from a legal standpoint, he could discuss why it would stand up before the judiciary, but the reality is that even though it may take 25 minutes as opposed to five minutes, the fact that there is service will have some impact on ISO. Mr. Lawson stated that he did not have an answer on the public policy side of the issue, because they do not have the criteria to make that determination.
Mr. Sheets stated that the fact the they have given the Board a factually legally defensable program does not mean that it has given the Board one that it can implement. In the rural areas, they may find that the composite value in those areas are lower than in the urban area, so if there is a blending and the assessments get reduced 10, 20 or 50%, the impact on them, from the additional millage, will be insignificant, if not zero, where in the urban areas, they will may be paying the same assessment, but they may also be paying more for the fire rescue services because of the values of their property.
Commr. Good stated that he was hearing from those people in the approved Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) who are asking for higher fire service, because they live outside of town in a larger home, or they live in a denser community, and he does not hear the people who live in the rural area that have always lived there saying that they need a tremendous increase in a level of service. He stated that, for this reason, this is an argument for putting in the hybrid millage, so that some of that cost is born by the new style of resident that has come in and made the request for service.
Commr. Swartz stated that the largest push for improved fire rescue in Lake County came from those more urbanized communities that are fairly densed, and it did not come principally from the more rural areas. He stated that at no time during any of the discussions with the County's fire system, within the report that came from the Fire Committee, was there every a discussion of setting a level of service based on the value of these homes.
Commr. Good stated that there is a significant difference in ability to pay that the regressive assessment does not address, but that the assessment and millage hybrid do address, and he realizes that they are not supposed to be taxing on ability to pay, but the reality is that this has to be taken into account when the County develops an assessment program, and to have a regressive assessment does not address that issue. He stated that the reality is that this has been brought to the forefront by denser communities and people with larger homes in rural areas. Mr. Lawson stated that the Board does not want to use value in an assessment program, because it really does not have a relationship to property, but it could assess larger homes, because they have more area than smaller homes. He stated that the problem is that, when working with governing officials to try and find the right answer, in order to get that more and more discreet data, you end up spending more money to implement the program than you would actually generate with the program.
Mr. Sheets stated that perhaps they were offering the wrong recommendation, but he was hearing a very strong feeling that there is a different level of service being provided in this County. If that was the case, instead of them trying to fix the assessment program, he suggested that they fix the service deficiency issue. He stated that they could easily present a cost out to the Board, which he felt would be incremental dollars in the budget, to put stations and personnel where the Board truly believes the County is lacking in service.
Commr. Hanson stated that she would like to ask staff to come back with a matrix to include a combination of 100% ad valorem; 75% ad valorem and 25% assessment; 50% and 50%; and 100% assessment, on an average home, which has been determined to be $80,000. She stated that she would also like to discuss, even though the Board cannot do anything with it today, long term solutions, such as government structure alternatives, and the creation of a stronger Fire Board that could be independent, or dependent, and to create a special district that could either have, or not have, taxing authority, being made up of County Commissioners and City Commissioners, with the cities being able to opt out, and it would be whatever that Board recommended, but to give that Board more authority and planning for fire than the Fire Board has today.
RECESS & REASSEMBLY
At 10:30 a.m., the Chairman announced that the Board would take a ten minute recess.
PRESENTATION - FIRE RESCUE SERVICES SPECIAL ASSESSMENT PROGRAM (Continued)
Mr. Paul Ludtke, Vice President of the Lake County Mobile Manufacturers Home Association, stated that he and the other members were in favor of the millage, because they want a fair and equal distribution of expenses. He addressed the proposal of $82 per dwelling and stated that, where they live, their property is not real property, because they rent the ground, but they own the house. Therefore, they are not entitled to an exemption. Mr. Ludtke stated that the $82 was going to hurt a lot of people in the parks, and if the County uses one mill, it will bring in $3,641,000. They were agreeing to go as high as two mills, which would bring in almost $7 million. The millage would be passed through their rents, and the rent would drop from $35 to $8.65, while someone with a $100,000 house would pay more money, but it would be a fair and equal distribution.
Commr. Swartz clarified that the same requirements for public hearings will exist whether it is a special assessment, or it is ad valorem millage, and there is no referendum requirement in either instance. The original referendum was put on the ballot by the County Commissioners, but it was not a requirement.
Mr. Richard Gandor, Tavares, stated that the one year data study does not appear to reflect the actual responses of Lake County. He felt that a three year, or a five year, data study would be more accurate. He addressed the issue of the value of residential parcels and stated that it does not affect the initial response, but it definitely affects the amount of time and effort in resources that are put into any type of fire in a large residential area. He stated that the assumption that it does not cost to provide protection to agricultural and vacant land is not true, because of what is happening today, and something needs to be incorporated into the study to take into account the agricultural and vacant lands. He discussed the idea that sprinkled buildings do not require as many responses and stated that sprinkled buildings, because of the malfunctions in alarms, require more responses from the fire service. He stated that sprinklers work probably 96% of the time effectively, so there would be less property damage, but there are more responses to sprinkled buildings. Mr. Gandor questioned what was going to happen with the $82 rate, if some of the County monies have to be given to the cities to provide protection.
Commr. Swartz explained that the rate being proposed includes the unincorporated area and the existing four cities that are in the County's fire system. He explained that there is no specific agreement right now with any of these cities to provide the service, therefore, they do not impact the special assessment.
Mr. Frank Royce, Chief Deputy to the Property Appraiser, stated that he had a few items that he would like to bring to the attention of the Board for consideration, if it was considering wholly or partially funding the fire system through ad valorem taxes. Mr. Royce stated that, as far as taxable value, the Property Appraiser's roll does not distinguish between improved and vacant in those total values. By using a millage based on value, any property that is partially or totally exempt will either pay no fire tax, or at least not its share fair. He stated that properties with an ag classification i.e. a five hundred acre pasture with a $5,000 mobile home, will be paying based on the land, not on the value of the home. He stated that the County was now assessing the rental mobile home parks, not the homes in the mobile home parks, on the ad valorem tax roll. He stated that only the land is being assessed and the ability to put those mobile homes on the land, so if the Board assesses on a millage rate, it would be assessing the land only, and it would not be recouping any of the value that is lost in those parks. In regards to the proposal to look at the ad valorem way of collecting fees, Mr. Royce questioned where the equity would be for fire protection for home owners living in a comparable size and quality home, but because of the land size, or location, their total assessments may be greatly different. He stated that, in the Property Appraiser's opinion, and the Tax Collector's opinion, the process has not been corrected, because there are still problems with the County collecting the fees, and until the process is fixed, the Board would be making the problem much more difficult. Mr. Royce stated that, in March, he met with the Special Assessment Office and gave them a list of the random samples that he had with problem parcels, and they are still wrong, so the County still has properties that are still not paying their fair share by thousands of dollars.
Commr. Swartz noted that the County has sent letters to many of those properties referred to by Mr. Royce.
Mr. Royce noted that he was not aware of this process, because the tax bills have not been corrected as they should have been.
Commr. Swartz explained that the County's consultant will be correcting the tax roll and presenting the Board with an accurate tax roll, for the Board to do the assessment.
Mr. Royce stated that, if the current process cannot collect the taxes that are due, the County needs to fix the process. He stated that, if there are problems on the Property Appraiser's tax roll, they are corrected through the process, by correcting the bill, correcting the trim notice, and correcting the assessment before the bill goes out, and after all of the taxes are paid, these problems have been corrected.
Commr. Good explained that the action that the Board is taking today is attempting to correct errors that have been found.
Mr. Ed Havill, Lake County Property Appraiser, stated that he takes exception to the fact of how this group in Tallahassee can find problems with his assessment roll when the Department of Revenue approves his roll. He explained that there was nothing wrong with the Lake County Property Appraiser's tax roll, and it was the County's assessment roll that was going to be corrected in January, 1998, but it was still incorrect.
The Board reviewed the handout material from the consultants, which included the information that had been requested earlier by the Board.
Commr. Cadwell stated that, no matter what path the Board takes today, fairness issues can be brought up, and if the Board does a combination, it would include twice as many unfairness issues in the process. He stated that the ad valorem taxes that are being collected now generate enough dollars to pay basically the Sheriff's budget and the court costs, and the rest of it is paid by other revenues. He would not be excited about raising the fire assessment and the ad valorem tax in the same year for fire.
Discussion occurred regarding Pages 42-43 and the Critical Events Schedule, with Ms. Gianatasio stating that the Board could move the policy direction date of July 7, 1998 to July 14, 1998, at the latest. The Ordinance and Resolution could be moved to the August 4, 1998 meeting, which would be the last date, and the final public hearing could be held September 1, 1998.
Mr. Lawson stated that the Board's policy direction will need to coincide with the County Manager's process of delivering a budget, and staff needs to know at what level this budget needs to be funded.
Ms. Sue Whittle, County Manager, pointed out that on July 14, 1998, she will be presenting the budget, which has to be done before July 15, 1998, and August 4, 1998 will be the final day to set the millage.
Commr. Hanson felt that the long term issues, as addressed in the information that had been requested from the consultants, should go to the Fire Committee for consideration.
Commr. Swartz stated that the information could be addressed at a workshop or a retreat.
Discussion occurred regarding the consultants not identifying a defensable position in the report, even though there may be one, with Mr. Sheets explaining that the hard part was defining what was rural versus urban.
Commr. Good questioned whether, if the consultants took response times, eight minutes, or more than eight minutes, and broke it down on demand, it would show a difference that would be defensable under the demand methodology.
Mr. Sheets explained that, if they could draw a line on the map, they would know how many calls took place north of the line and south of the line. He stated that the issue was not the data, but it was where to draw the line and the rationale for distinguishing it. He stated that the demand methodology would give the Board the answer as to the impact of its decision. If the Board comes back in a day or two and says here is the criteria, they will look at it and analyze it and see if they can come back and say that they can defend it for them.
Commr. Good stated that it would be worth looking at this issue with the appropriate maps and with revenue differentials that would result with the implementation of those proposed boundaries.
Commr. Swartz stated that the suggestion made by Commr. Good was one that he felt the Board ought to send the consultants away with today, as one of the things that it wants to see by the date in July. He stated that, if there is an underlying cost of the system that is still of benefit to those people that are a great distance from the paid stations, he believed it would be more of a marginal benefit than for those who are at closer proximity to those stations. So there would be a portion of the overall cost that even the rural areas would have to absorb, just as there is today, and then there would be an incremental change in terms of those living further away.
Commr. Gerber noted that the Board has always said that it cost more to provide services to those who live farther away from the service areas
Commr. Good stated that, if the Board was to reach for a hybrid system between an assessment differential based on the level of service, and a split between an assessment and millage, the County would be compensating those costs, but not assessing the people for services that they are not going to be receiving.
Commr. Gerber stated that, after seeing the figures that have been presented to the Board, she was not that excited about the split system, and she was not excited about knowing what the County will have to go through as far as assessing vacant property and ag parcels. She was hearing the experts say that these people are not getting the benefit, but the costs are greater to the County to provide that service to them.
Commr. Good explained that assessing the ad valorem for at least a portion would recoup those costs, but it would not be tied to the legal defense that the assessment would be tied to.
Commr. Swartz stated that he appreciated the points made by Mr. Royce, because the Property Appraiser will continue to assess the rental mobile home park just as he does today, based on the value of the land and the improvements of a club house, and the ability to have residential dwellings on it, but the revenue the County was currently receiving of $35 per unit would go away. He stated that Commr. Cadwell was correct when he said that there are problems with ad valorem assessments and with special assessments. He further stated that the push for this came from the more urban dwelling people that are living in more city like circumstances. He would like to see, even if the County uses a couple of criteria that the staff can help develop, an analysis, but the Board needs to understand that it would mean that the $82 would be an average, and the urban dweller would be a little higher number, and the more rural dweller would be a little lower number. Commr. Swartz stated that the County will need to take advantage of finding ways to contract with the municipalities.
Mr. Sheets explained that they have the data, and the issue will be putting together criteria that is more than just response time, and it will be difficult, because the County is growing and changing every day, and there will be highly urbanized areas that will fall in what they would define as the rural area.
Commr. Swartz clarified that the issue is not the definition of rural and urban, but it is the definition of service and locational criteria to the paid stations. He stated that the County can also plan for a provision of service within a three to five year period.
Mr. Sheets stated that they will be able to show one of the scenarios using the ISO standard of five paved road miles. He explained that for every lowering of the rate calculated in the rural area, there will be an off setting impact, and the $82 will not be the rate.
Commr. Swartz stated that there is an underlying infrastructure of manpower stations and equipment that will still be serving the more remote rural area, and there may still be a significant part that still fits the consultants' equation that the County is providing service to all of them, even though it may be only a marginal number.
Commr. Hanson stated that the study has shown to her the real weakness, which is that commercial and vacant land has paid more than their share relating to residential. She stated that, if the Board was to double the residential assessment, from the consultants' perspective of developing this assessment, the County would still be okay from commercial and residential.
Mr. Sheets stated that he still wanted to look at the Comprehensive Plan, because the County has a defined urban versus rural service area.
Commr. Good stated that it was important that they stay away from suburban, urban, rural and look at level of service delivery and service delivery areas and not look at proposed land use on the map, but real service delivery based on the map that staff had generated, which includes the locations of the equipment, locations of personnel, and how long it takes to get them there, and the level of response that they can give when they arrive.
Commr. Swartz stated that one of the areas that needed to be addressed was the suggestion that was made by Mr. Minkoff at one of the meetings, which was to indicate any occupancy at a RV park site during the year and begin to qualify it for a charge against the site. It was noted that currently such sites are being assessed at 60%.
Mr. Minkoff stated that two alternatives were discussed, one being that the owner of the recreational vehicle park could come in and establish the number of days that it was empty through affidavit, or other proof, and get a percentage, or alternatively to establish it had been empty the entire year and get a total exemption for that one spot.
Mr. Sheets stated that he and staff needed direction to come back with some recommendation and procedure in the process for an RV park to come in and apply for an exemption based on vacancy.
Commr. Swartz stated some direction needs to be given on the maximum rate for the notice and whether or not the Board wants to have any annual percentage increases in it. He further stated that the Board needs to give consideration of a cap for institutional charges, and to have an analysis of what the County would be charging at two cents and try to get some averages for some of the various users that fit into that category. He stated that, in the past, even though the institutionals have been paying under the system, they were already paying at a reduced rate, two cents per square foot as compared to six, and this will bring them up to whatever their percentage of calls are plus the increase that is already occurring.
Commr. Good stated that he sees the split as an advantage even though it raises some inequities, because none of these inequities are greater than what the assessment will bring, so he is still looking for a hybrid system.
Commr. Swartz stated that, if the Board eventually decides that it wants to consider ad valorem, the real problem right now is doing it with the four cities, which makes it even more problematic.
Commr. Good stated that this offers a way to address the regressiveness of the assessment, which is why he is supporting it.
Commr. Hanson stated that, even though the Board did set an amount, it could start at even a lower level the first year.
Ms. Whittle presented the Board with an information brochure that staff has been working on with GSG, which will go out with the first class notice and answer frequently asked questions. She noted that there were areas that had been left blank, which will require certain decisions to be made by the Board. She asked that the Board members look over the brochure, and to provide her with any comments or thoughts about how to improve it.
ADDENDUM NO. 1
COUNTY MANAGER'S DEPARTMENTAL BUSINESS
Mr. Don Post, Senior Director, Solid Waste, appeared before the Board to discuss the request for approval for the Chairman to execute an option not to renew Solid Waste and Recycling Collection Services Contracts with Exclusive Franchised Haulers and approval for staff to prepare bid specifications and scope of services necessary to rebid the Residential and Commercial Exclusive Franchises(s). Mr. Post noted that this action will still allow the County to review the contract and extend the contract at a later time with the current haulers. He reviewed the following information, which had been presented to the Board, and stated that the first items were negotiated with the contract haulers and are an expansion of the previous service:
Comparison of Florida County Collection Systems
Mr. Post noted that Polk County and Manatee County have waste management and BFI, and their contracts also expire on October 1, 2000, and they have opted not to renew the contracts, and to go out to bid. He further noted that staff will be presenting a new commercial container billing system to the Board on approximately August 11, 1998. The proposed options for the new program will help the leakage of commercial solid waste out of Lake County. He stated that, if the current contracts were automatically renewed at this time, the County may be restricted in the restructuring of any of these changes that are needed. Staff feels that the commercial disposal and billing system must be updated, because within the next seven years, and the length of the new contract, the disposal portion of the bill will increase, due to the higher debt of the current bond agreement, so the County should attempt to obtain the lowest possible cost for commercial collection. If the Board approves the recommended action, the contracts will expire on September 30, 2000, and it allows staff to go out for RFPs. However, the Board could recommend that the contracts be extended for an additional six months to allow inclusion of the commercial charges.
Commr. Cadwell questioned whether staff was going to continue to talk to the haulers in regard to this contract, as opposed to going ahead and preparing bid specs and scope of service.
Mr. Post stated that staff still has the opportunity to continue to work on the provisions of the current contract, and to renew this contract.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he did not want the Board to take any action today that will close the door on the Board continuing to work with the current haulers.
Mr. Post clarified that the action today will remove the deadline, and the County still has until October 1, 2000 to work on the renewal of these contracts, or to go out to bid, or a combination of both.
Commr. Swartz stated that, in fairness to the current vendors, unless the County can come up with an end result that it wants on the commercial side, as well as the residential side, he did not want to see them continue to put them through a lot of time and effort. He stated that the commercial side is the most troubling to him, because this has never been bid, and it was originally a negotiated contract. He felt that it needed to be bid and the County needed to get the market place to analyze the commercial and residential rates especially in light of what the County needs to do in the commercial billing area. Commr. Swartz had indicated to one of the vendors that the discussion being held today would be between the Board and staff, but if there was a majority of the Board that wants to have comments, the Board can allow them this opportunity. He did not feel it would be appropriate to have the vendors commenting, once the Board has asked staff to negotiate with them.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he did not have a problem not allowing them to speak today, as long as the Board was not closing the door to continue to work with them.
Commr. Swartz stated that, in fairness to the vendors, the Board needs to develop soon some clear criteria of what it wants to see in the contract. He stated that the three haulers that have served the County over the past years have worked through a lot of difficulties, and the need to take this out for bid is not for lack of overall satisfaction with the contracts that the County has today. He stated that the County has reached a point where it needs to be taken out into the market place and put it up for bid. He clarified that the action being taken today is to exercise the option that does not renew the contract and allow it to roll over, and it does give a time certain short of some negotiation that would result in a new contract, which would expire on September 30, 2000 absent some other action.
Mr. Post stated that some of the vendors have been involved in the Solid Waste Study Committee, and Waste Management has attended almost all of the meetings. Staff will be bringing the item forward to the Board tentatively on August 11, 1998.
Commr. Gerber made a motion, which was seconded by Commr. Good, to accept the recommendation of staff to approve for the Chairman to execute an option not to renew the Solid Waste and Recycling Collection Services Contracts with Exclusive Franchised Haulers.
Commr. Good clarified that the motion he seconded was to revoke the automatic roll over provision and exercise that authority.
Commr. Cadwell stated that, even though it was not part of the motion, staff was indicating that it was going to continue to work with the vendors in good faith and try and work the issues out with them.
The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, which was carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote.
REPORTS - COMMISSIONER HANSON - DISTRICT #4
Commr. Hanson informed the Board that she will be holding a District Meeting in Pine Lakes on Monday, July 6, 1998, and a meeting in Paisley on Tuesday, July 7, 1998. The meetings will involve discussions about the roads, and she will be touring those roads with staff.
REPORTS - COMMISSIONER GOOD - DISTRICT #2
CONTRACTS, LEASES & AGREEMENTS/WATER AUTHORITY
Commr. Good stated that the Board had taken the position to support the Water Authority's position in the Lake Lowery question. He stated that the Water Authority's position has changed and they will not accept any emergency permits, and that those permits should be revoked. Commr. Good was questioning whether the Board's position was to still to support the position of the Water Authority.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney noted that the Agreement between Lake County, Polk County, St. Johns River Water Management District, Southwest Florida Water Management District, and the Water Authority regarding Lake Lowery will be on the July 7, 1998 Board agenda, as well as a request for monies to spend in the litigation.
Discussion occurred regarding the next date that the Board will review the additional information that was requested today for fire rescue services, with it being noted that it would meet again on July 7, 1998.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting adjourned at 12:28 p.m.
G. RICHARD SWARTZ, JR., CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK