The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in regular session on Tuesday, September 8, 1998, at 9:00 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioners' Training 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: Alvin Jackson, Jr., Deputy County Manager; Sanford A. Minkoff, County Attorney; Wendy Taylor, BCC Administrative Assistant; Sue Michaelsen, Executive Secretary, BCC Office; Barbara Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance; and Toni M. Riggs, Deputy Clerk.
Commr. Cadwell gave the Invocation and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mr. Alvin Jackson, Deputy County Manager, noted that there were no changes to the agenda.
COUNTY MANAGER'S CONSENT AGENDA
CONTRACTS, LEASES & AGREEMENTS/STATE AGENCIES/GRANTS
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Good and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved the request for approval and execution of the First Amendment to the agreement between the Lake County Horticultural Learning Center and St. Johns River Water Management District for Stormwater Management Cost-Sharing Program to decrease cost-share of the original grant for line items 3, 5, and 10 and add line 14 Construction of Retention Areas as provided in Exhibit A-1.
WORK SESSION - COMMERCIAL SOLID WASTE DISPOSAL FEE
Mr. Don Post, Senior Director, Solid Waste Management Services, presented the Board members with a copy of the Lake County Solid Waste Rate Review and Analysis and stated that, at the conclusion of the workshop, staff was requesting direction from the Board on the detailed analysis of one or more of the options being presented. The detailed analysis will provide the Board the information necessary to determine which system, or systems, to implement for the collection of alternative commercial solid waste revenue. Mr. Post noted that the consultants, that the Board approved to review the monthly billings and performance for the waste-to-energy plant, have developed the estimates, a pro forma between now and the year 2001, and the average increased monthly cost between now and the year 2001. He noted that the monthly
average cost for 1997 was $1,062,300, and the monthly average cost for 2001 would be $1,421,205. The debt service will definitely be increasing on a monthly basis by the year 2001, and it would be roughly over $2 million more than what the County is currently having to budget. Mr. Post stated that the presentation would be made by Mr. Stan Keely, Principal with the firm of Glace & Radcliffe, Inc., who was charged by the County to do a detailed analysis on the different commercial processes that the Board could consider for future commercial revenue analysis.
Mr. Keely stated that Mr. David Green, CH2M Hill, was present today, and he assisted in developing the preliminary rate analysis of commercial solid waste collection alternatives.
It was noted that there were several members of the Solid Waste Study Committee present at the meeting.
Mr. Keely informed the Board that Glace & Radcliffe, Inc. was retained to review the County's current system of collection of solid waste from businesses and commercial properties. This review of the existing system was to determine its equity, long term liability, and its viability, based upon the market conditions of today. They were also retained to develop alternatives to the current system, and to establish a preliminary rate requirement of each of those alternatives.
Commr. Hanson stated that the information provided on the agenda sheet states that, in 1993, in an effort to satisfy the equity issue raised by the municipalities, Lake County adopted a residential solid waste assessment for all dwelling units in unincorporated Lake County. She stated that the incinerator generated it, and as part of the contract, Lake County was to implement a solid waste assessment.
Mr. Keely stated that currently the County system utilizes franchise haulers who are responsible for the collection of residential and commercial establishments. He stated that residential collection disposal rates are primarily paid through a non ad valorem assessment, and commercial establishments pay franchise haulers for service based upon the size of their container, and the frequency of service, as defined within their contract with the franchise haulers. For the disposal costs, the haulers are charged commercial rates, and they are charged a tipping fee that is based upon the estimated quantity of commercial solid waste. An assessment method is based upon tonnage brought into the waste-to-energy facility, or the Astatula Landfill, less the residential solid waste tonnages. The analysis has shown that the primary cost component of the solid waste system is fixed, and that is the waste-to-energy facility debt and
operation. The County, on its discretionary cost side, has done a good job of keeping these particular costs level despite a number of increased environmental requirements. The service agreement with the waste-to-energy service operator basically requires the County, if it defaults on payments for the facility, to offset revenue loss, and this could include County-wide millage. Mr. Keely and Mr. Green presented detailed information on the following, which was provided in the formal Review and Analysis:
(Lake County's tipping fee is highest in region)
Mr. Keely stated that the financial model shows that the County is facing a potential shortfall in the system funds in the year 2001/2002 primarily due to the payment for the Series A bonds for the waste-to-energy facility. A handout was provided to the Board from Malcolm Pirnie, Inc., Environmental Engineers, Scientists & Planning, which reflected Monthly Averages. He stated that County's current tipping fee is significantly higher compared to those in the region.
Commr. Swartz explained that the entire Solid Waste Enterprise Fund is made up of all of the costs mentioned plus all of the closure costs that the County has incurred, but the largest component, that has driven the tipping fee cost to the high level it is today, is the incinerator.
Mr. Post explained that most of the budget is debt service, which is the cost for the construction of the waste-to-energy plant, and the closing of old landfills.
Discussion occurred regarding the pros and cons of the tipping fees, with Mr. Post explaining that staff was not advocating that the County stop recycling. However the report received from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), indicates that, from all sources of recycling in Lake County, over 40,000 tons of materials were recycled last year. If you assign the value of $84.15 (tipping fee) for all material recycled, it would be $3.8 million. The County wants to encourage recycling. He noted that Lake County actually processed approximately 7,000 tons, so the rest of it was processed out of the County, which is a concern of staff.
Commr. Swartz explained that one of the assumptions made by the vendor of the incinerator was that Lake County would never recycle more than five percent of the solid waste stream, and the fact that the County is recycling more is good, but it is taking a significant amount of waste away from the incinerator.
Commr. Swartz clarified that, with regard to commercial solid waste, the discussion is about commercial users in the unincorporated area and/or within any city that might enter into an interlocal agreement with the County, but right now the County does not have any agreements that deal with commercial, and the inter-locals are only for residential.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, explained that ad valorem could be used countywide, not just in the unincorporated area. He stated that the Board could decide to finance the entire solid waste system out of countywide ad valorem taxes, and it would be applied in both the cities and the County.
Discussion occurred regarding the commercial rate alternatives (preliminary estimate of rates), in terms of current and projected ranges for tipping fees; container fees; ad valorem assessment; and non ad valorem assessment (noting that a variable rate was being recommended). It was noted that the current tipping fee is $84.15/ton, and the projected range is $93-183/ton, as the worst case scenario.
It was noted that there were two representatives from Ogden Martin in the audience.
Mr. Post stated that the Solid Waste Study Committee reviewed all of the detailed calculations, as noted in the Review and Analysis, and the consensus was that the container fee with a mandatory special assessment fee, or a non ad valorem assessment, would be the best route, as far as an overall process. Staff wanted to bring all four processes to the Board to get some direction. It was noted that the recommendation from the Committee was the container fee with a mandatory special assessment fee. Mr. Post stated that, at the meeting, the County Attorney had indicated that, unless the County staff was actually doing the billing, it would not have that 100 percent assurance that there would not be another company coming in and taking that material out. He felt that legally it would be less subject to a challenge to do a non ad valorem than the container fee. Mr. Post stated that staff could bring back to the Board a more detailed breakdown of the fixed costs, and the Board could make the decision at what percent of that fixed cost will be under the container fee, or under the non ad valorem, or it could be totally debt service, and all other cost would be based on an assessment and tipping fee.
Discussion occurred regarding the residential versus commercial waste stream that is currently being collected, with Mr. Post explaining that approximately 56 percent is commercial and 44 percent is residential.
Commr. Hanson stated that it almost seems to her that, if there is a contract based on certain things, and those things are found to be unconstitutional, or illegal, or whatever, it forces you back to the table to renegotiate the contract. She feels that they all need to go back to the table to look at a new contract to find a dollar amount that would be more equitable to the citizens of Lake County, not only to the residential community, but to the commercial community.
Commr. Swartz stated that the County has a problem with the lack of flow control, and the inability to control waste going out of Lake County. He stated that this was a problem that anyone could have in any solid waste system, but it has exasperated in Lake County, because there is such a tremendous amount of debt service in operational costs related to the incinerator, based on tonnages.
Mr. Minkoff stated that the County Manager has been talking with Ogden Martin about the contract, and Malcolm Pirnie has made the recommendation that the County talk to them. He anticipates formal discussions occurring with Ogden Martin, in terms of the agreement, to see if some changes can be made.
Commr. Hanson stated that she was not willing to give any direction on this issue, until the County can find some relief from a renegotiated contract.
Mr. Post stated that staff is talking to some of the different bond counsels that are selling the County's debt service on the secondary market, and one of the things that they said that would help with the County bond rating is a commercial program to ensure that the commercial flow was not exiting the County. They feel the County should look at some methodology to ensure collection of the commercial stream revenues, and to also look at the County's debt service, which is what staff is discussing with the financial consultants.
Mr. Minkoff noted that the comments made by Mr. Post would be alternatives, if the County was going to refinance or do some of type of arrangements with Ogden Martin, which would require restructuring of the entire agreement.
Commr. Hanson stated that the County needs to have some sort of a mandatory situation with the residential side of the community, and she was not willing to go to the public with the numbers being shown today.
Commr. Swartz stated that, the Board, at some of its retreats in the past, realized the problems that were fast approaching on the horizon, both the beginning of the principal payments, as well as other costs for equipment and other escalating costs. He stated that the contract is untenable, and the assumptions that were made, that were the basis for entering into the contract, were incorrect. He further stated that Ogden Martin had stood before the Board and assured them that Lake County would never recycle more than five percent. He stated that, if Lake County is only recycling five percent, and it was losing five percent of the waste stream, it would be a burden, but it would not be the absolutely unacceptable burden that it is becoming. The first direction that the Board needs to give to staff is that serious negotiations need to take place with Ogden Martin to revise the contract, in some way, to be consistent with realities, because it is not now. He stated that it is probably the worst incinerator contract that exists in this country today.
Commr. Hanson stated that, at the Retreat that was held in Mount Dora, the Board had said to start looking at the contract. She stated that some results have been coming forth, but she was not sure if any negotiations have occurred yet.
Commr. Swartz stated that he could not see the Board going forward and imposing any one of the three alternatives prior to having made every attempt to modify the agreement under which the County is laboring now. He felt that the number one priority seems to be the renegotiation of the contract with Ogden Martin, and this should be the direction to staff.
Commr. Good questioned the time frame involved for the County to be able to generate revenues, if it is unable to get Ogden Martin to renegotiate the contract, to be able to avoid the catastrophic situation being presented in the chart.
Mr. Minkoff explained that the ad valorem could be done at any cycle, with it being on the trim notice, and in regards to the non ad valorem assessments for commercial, the underlying study would have to be done, which takes probably five or six months. So other than raising the tipping fee, the earliest that any of the other alternatives could be accomplished would be October 1, 1999, when the County would see new revenues.
Commr. Swartz stated that he felt that the Solid Waste staff has done as much as they can to hold down the variable costs that they have control of, so at any point, either through a combination of reduction and expenditures and/or increased revenues that offset and bring the County to a point of stability between revenues and expenditures, this would stop. He explained that October 1, 1999 would be the first day that the County could begin to see increased
revenues, and how soon the County could see decreased expenses would be determined by the County's ability to do something with Ogden Martin. Commr. Swartz stated that the County renegotiated the contract with Ogden Martin a few years ago, and the renegotiated contract was worse than the one the County started with and that was why the Board never adopted it. He felt is was very imperative that, and he asked the representatives from Ogden Martin to take this back to the highest levels of their corporate, if the County does not get some relief from this contract, he believes that the County will reach a point where the citizens of Lake County will determine that it is cheaper to cease from being a party to that contract than to keep going down the road. Commr. Swartz stated that these need to be serious discussions to find a way to help Lake County get out of an intolerable and untenable financial situation, as it relates to the incinerator. Commr. Swartz stated that he felt that the Board members had expressed that this should be the number one priority. He did feel that the Board needed to give staff some direction assuming that the County gets reasonable relief from that contract. He felt that the Board should rule out the tipping fee, because the higher the tipping fee goes, the less garbage the County has and it keeps getting worse. He stated that, even though it appears to him that none of the alternatives are acceptable, it seems that some combination of the container fee and non ad valorem assessment, based on some variable rate, seemed to be the least harmful of the alternatives available.
Mr. Post stated that staff could have a complete generation study done, which it has not had done for over five years, of the total residential and commercial stream, and it could be utilized as part of that total figure to determine the actual tonnage the County has to work with and to determine what revenue could possibly be coming into the County.
Mr. Minkoff explained that the only flow control that has been recognized by the Federal Courts has been economic flow. He stated that ad valorem taxes is one way that everyone in Lake County could be forced to pay the costs of the waste-to-energy plant. He stated that it may be possible to assess within cities by the County, but the only absolute way would be through ad valorem where everyone will pay. He stated that he had some questions about the container fee being valid, because basically it was a larger tipping fee based upon a container size, and he was not certain that the County could compel large generators in the unincorporated area to even use the franchise haulers. He was fairly sure that the County could not do that in the municipalities against their will.
Commr. Swartz clarified that the Board was directing staff to aggressively meet soon and often with Ogden Martin to find some relief from the contract, and secondly, to go forward with a waste flow analysis for residential and commercial, and to bring forward an RFP, or some extension of contract to do that.
Mr. Post stated that staff will bring back some specifics, so the Board can authorize the County Manager to do an addendum to Glace & Radcliffe contract to authorize them to do an actual non ad valorem generation study for the approximately 4,000 businesses, to determine what their generation rate would be per business based on their categories, and they would use the Lee County or Palm Beach County as a base model to start off with. He further stated that staff could do some analysis with the Solid Waste Study Committee on the results of an RFP.
Commr. Swartz clarified that staff would bring back to the Board for consideration whatever proposals they have in order to continue to evaluate and provide information on some combination of the last three alternatives, container fees, ad valorem assessments, and non ad valorem assessments, and it might be the consultants that do these studies, or analysis, of what the County may be able to do.
RECESS & REASSEMBLY
The Chairman announced that the Board would recess until staff could set up for the next work session.
WORK SESSION - HEALTH SERVICES PERSPECTIVES
It was noted that representatives from the State Department of Health, and the Director of the Lake County Health Department, were present to present a Department of Health perspective of the provision of health services from the state and local perspective. The presentation was to include the Board's participation in the provision of health care and related services.
Mr. Fletcher Smith, Senior Director, Department of Community Services, explained that, about 18 months ago, the State Department of Health (SDH) separated itself from the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) into their own department. Today the Board would be getting an overview from the State officials of their strategic plans and their new structure of department. He noted that the purpose of the workshop was to discuss the priorities which are common to all three levels of government, which includes the County Health Department (CHD), and to determine how delivery of these services can be enhanced through mutual education and cooperation.
At this time, the staff members from the Lake County Health Department introduced themselves to the Board.
Dr. John C. Pellosie, Jr., Director of the Lake County Health Department, presented detailed information about the history of the health department, specifically in Lake County, and discussed changes that have been made over the years in the area of indigent care, as well as programs that have been developed to address specific concerns of those who qualify for this care.
Dr. Rick Hunter, Department of Health, Deputy State Health Officer, addressed the Board to discuss the State/County partnership for health services. Dr. Hunter presented detailed information relating to the following topics:
County Health Departments
Advantages of County Health Departments
Florida New Departments
Advantages of New Health Departments
Our Vision - Florida's Health Department Will Focus On
What About Primary Care?
Impact of Welfare Reform on Department of Health
Consensus That County/State Partnership Has Eroded Due To
Focus on Contract to Restore Partnership
Core Service Levels
Continued Concerns of New Health Department
During the presentation, Dr. Hunter presented the Board members and staff with information pertaining to the County Health Department Funding Sources, Percent Funding By Source, Estimated 1997 - 1998 Contract Year; and the Major Recurring County Health Department Budget Reductions, 1995-96 through 1997-98.
Mr. Meade Grigg, Planning Evaluation and Data Analysis Director, for the State Department of Health, explained the pie chart depicting the Percent Funding By Source, as well as new handout material showing the Planned Board of County Commission Contributions to County Health Departments 1997-98, and information regarding the Total 1997-98 approval operating budget; 1997-98 planned Board of County Commission contributions; Board of County Commission funding as a percent of total CHD; and the per capita BCC contribution by total population.
Commr. Hanson stated that there should be more consistency from the State level, as to the amount of dollars they contribute to the County, and what each County contributes should have nothing to do with how the County chooses to allocate their dollars. She felt that the State should be very consistent with the per capita, and she would like to see the in-kind figures, in a comparison for each County, because she knows it varies tremendously from county to county.
Mr. Grigg presented additional information including the draft of the Agency Strategic Plan, 1999-00 through 2003-04, Florida Department of Health, and the County-State Performance in Achieving Goals, which he reviewed with the Board.
Commr. Swartz noted that, in staff's backup information, there was a chart indicating the Funding Allocation for County Wide Health Services, Covering Fiscal Years 1995/96 through 1998/99.
Commr. Hanson noted that the Board would soon be receiving the Lake County Indigent Health Care Study for consideration.
Commr. Swartz asked that the representatives continue their presentation by discussing the facilities issue.
At was noted at 12 noon, Commr. Swartz, Chairman, turned the chairmanship over to Commr. Cadwell, Vice Chairman.
WORK SESSION - HEALTH SERVICES PERSPECTIVES (CONTINUED)
Mr. Ron Walsh, Acting General Services Bureau Chief, State Department of Health, stated that they have recognized a need to replace facilities, and they put together a fixed capital budget annually. Mr. Walsh stated that this year's submission is finished, with the deadline being September 1. He stated that a budget request is sent to the counties in mid-May, and his staff of architects are available to assist the local health departments and counties in pricing units and helping to put together a good site search and costs for facilities. They also administer the contracts after they are appropriated, and a Project Manager is assigned to the project after it is funded. Mr. Walsh stated that they like to set up a Design Team concept and work together to set the goals for the building. He stated that they like to have the County provide the site, and then the State will provide the construction money, and pursuant to Chapter 154 of the Florida Statutes, the County can own the building when the project is completed.
Mr. Hunter stated that every health department will have at least one structure that is owned by the County through this process, and they do lease clinic space, but typically the administrative structure will be purchased through this process. He stated that, although the deadline was September 1, if the County was in a hurry, they could try and go back and plug in a supplemental request this next session.
Commr. Hanson stated that she did not feel the County should give any direction, or take any action, on the information provided today, until the Board gets the Indigent Health Care Study to help determine priorities.
Mr. Smith questioned whether any renovation dollars were available to the County, because the County was considering vacant shopping centers, in its search for sites.
Mr. Walsh stated that there are renovation dollars along with new construction.
No action was taken at this time.
RECESS & REASSEMBLY
At 12:10 p.m., Commr. Cadwell noted that the meeting would recess until 6 p.m. for the first hearing on the 1998/1999 Budget.
PUBLIC HEARINGS - FIRST HEARING ON 1998/1999 BUDGET
The following individuals, from the County Finance Department, were present for the first public hearing on the budget: Barbara Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance; Sarah LaMarche, Budget Director; Tracy L. Zeller, Senior Budget Analyst; Julia A. Wilson, Budget Analyst; and Kevin McDonald, Senior Budget Analyst.
Commr. Swartz stated that this was the first public hearing for the purpose of amending and adopting the tentative budget, re-computing the proposed millage rate, if necessary, and publicly announcing the percent by which the re-computed proposed millage exceeds the rolled-back rate.
Mr. Alvin Jackson, Deputy County Manager, stated that the tentative Annual Budget for Lake County for Fiscal Year 1998/99 was submitted to the Board for consideration. The budget provides for continuation of existing programs at current service levels, along with selected enhancements, with no change in property taxes from the prior year's rate. Mr. Jackson stated that, for the General Fund, the proposed millage is 4.733, which is the same as 1997/98. For the Ambulance Fund, the proposed millage is .268, which is an increase from the millage of .158. This will prepare incrementally for the cost of services in the Fiscal Year 2001, when the current contract expires and changes in the Legislation. The total budget is $180,681,835, which is 7.2% over last year. Mr. Jackson noted the following major budget increases: General Fund ($3.5 million); Road Impact Fee Fund ($3.8 million); Lake County Ambulance Fund ($.7 million); County Fire Control Fund ($3.1 million) and Sales Tax Capital Projects Fund ($1 million). The County Transportation Trust Fund and the Landfill Enterprise Fund decreased by approximately $400,000 each due to limited resources and rising costs of operations. At this time, Mr. Jackson
highlighted information in the Tentative Budget Fiscal Year 1998/99 booklet, as well as noted the Lake County Government's Vision, and the four Focus Areas adopted by the Board. Mr. Jackson stated that the County Manager, Ms. Sue Whittle, wanted him to express her sincere appreciation to Lake County's Board of County Commissioners, Constitutional Officers, Department and Office Directors, and the staff of the Budget Department for their tireless and professional efforts in assisting staff in the completion of this budget.
Commr. Swartz opened the public hearing portion of the meeting and called for public comment.
Commr. Hanson stated that there had been one request from the Cultural Affairs Council, in the amount of $2,000, to fund incidental expenses including mail-outs, paper and postage. She noted that the license tag money cannot be used for administrative costs.
Ms. Connie Patrowicz, Chairman of the Lake County Cultural Affairs Council, addressed the Board and explained that the Council found out that the license tax money that the Council receives, which is approximately $18,000 a year, can only be used for programs. Ms. Patrowicz noted that the Council has generated a few donations, but it will take approximately $2,000 this year to pay for those essential items. Ms. Patrowicz noted many of the activities that the Council has been involved in and stated that she felt the Council had a pretty admirable record for a few years of existence.
Commr. Gerber volunteered to be in charge of the fund raising for the Cultural Affairs Council, for the requested amount of $2,000, and therefore, no action was needed by the Board.
Mr. Don Huntington addressed the Board and questioned whether the fire assessment issue had been settled.
Commr. Swartz explained that the Board voted last Tuesday to use the special assessment fee of $82, at least for the first year of the new fire rescue system, which is a part of the budget being presented tonight. He noted that one of the major increases in the budget was the $3.1 million in the County Fire Control Fund.
Mr. Huntington stated that, being a small business man, he was wondering why the County cannot adopt a formula where a business will be assessed the $82 for the first 10,000 feet, which is the same rate for a house, and then access everything over 10,000 square feet at a rate per footage. He stated that there are many houses in the community that are worth a lot more than his building, and the houses pay $82, and he has to pay $750. In five years, the fee
will be almost $1,000 on top of his taxes. He was concerned about the small "Mom and Pop" businesses that will be put out of business, because they cannot afford the fee.
Commr. Swartz stated that the increase doubled the fire budget, from $3 million to $6 million, but the percentage of the increase that the commercial area pays, actually as the increase, is smaller. If the County had doubled the fire tax, Mr. Huntington's tax bill would have gone up 134%, which was the average increase for the residential, but the County analyzed the calls for service to residential, institutional, warehouse and commercial, and as a percentage, the commercial and industrial went down. He stated the increase is a portion of the overall increase of the system. He stated that the area that is having the most substantial increase is the residential. He explained that 82% of the entire fire and rescue system will be paid by residential.
Mr. Huntington stated that, out of all of the money that will be collected, only about 2% of the people are going to have any better fire protection than what they have now, because unless you have a fire station within five miles of every resident, there will be no fire protection, because it takes five to seven minutes to level a building. He stated that people will be paying for something that they will never get in fire service.
Commr. Swartz stated that the Board has acknowledged that this would be the first step to improve the system. He stated that the County has tried to take the five stations, that currently have one firefighter on duty, and put two people in each of those stations. He stated that the Board has rolled back the property tax rate three years in a row, and the Board is concerned about all of the taxpayers, whether they are big or small, or residential or commercial, and they understand Mr. Huntington's concerns.
Mr. Don Armstrong, Maggie Jones Road, Paisley, stated that, in Paisley, there is no fire protection the way things are right now. Mr. Armstrong stated that the people in Paisley had fire protection for years, but since they have been paying for fire protection, the fee has increased from $35 to $82.50, and there was no way that the Board can show him that he is getting $82.50 worth of fire protection, or two to three times more than what he had before when he agreed to the $35. He stated that it does not show, in the budget information, how much is collected in the Paisley area, or how much Paisley pays in taxes, or what the people are getting for it.
Commr. Hanson stated that she would like the Board to re-look at the allocations of the dollars. She stated that it had been proposed that a fire station be put in at CR439 and CR42, but she strongly objects to this, because she feels it ought to remain very active in the community.
She stated that, if one is put in that would support the CR44B station, then it ought to be closer to CR44A, so that it can handle CR44A in both directions. She would also like to see the Board look very carefully at the possibility of adding at least one paid fireman in Paisley, as it tries to redevelop the volunteer program that has been there in the past. She felt that this was the very least that the Board could do for that area, because it would be dealing with Lake Mack from Paisley and all of the way out to the river.
Mr. Armstrong stated that the County would be dealing with Lake Kathryn and Lake Mack, and Paisley was one of the six original fire taxing districts. He noted changes that have occurred since that time, including the issue of the volunteers, and questioned how the County can increase the fire tax and give the people in this County no protection.
Commr. Swartz explained that the Board has recognized all along the difficulties of trying to provide fire protection in the most rural areas. He stated that the Board has understood all along that trying to provide fire protection in the rural areas was going to be the most difficult task that it could do. He further stated that the County is trying, with this first step, to put in place a system that will allow it to do several things. The proposal before the Board was put together by the County's fire system people, and people within County government, while trying to look at what are limited resources and trying to allocate them as best they could understanding that, not only are there places like Paisley, Bay Lake, and Lake Jem, there are areas in Groveland and Mascotte that have the same types of concerns, and they are legitimate concerns. Commr. Swartz stated that the County is going to ensure that there is equipment that will be able to fight fires in those rural areas, and this budget includes money to buy equipment, if necessary, for the tankers that would be used in the rural areas, which would not be used in the urban areas. This budget includes money for a Volunteer Coordinator, a person who's job is exclusively to go out and find volunteers particularly in those more rural areas where the County historically had better volunteer departments. It is the Board's intention, as it moves forward from year to year, to take the additional funds that are generated and try to further address other areas as best it can. The County may be able to enter into agreements with some of the volunteers for some of the areas to cover some of the stations, until the County can get paid people.
Mr. Armstrong stated that there was nothing mentioned in the proposed budget about Paisley or Altoona, and they were mentioned as a group, and not as one. He questioned whether, as County Commissioners without representation for the peoples' taxes in Paisley, if a structure
burns down, are they liable for suit, because they are being charged for something that they are not getting.
Mr. Roy Hunter, Sunset Drive, Paisley, addressed the Board and presented it with pictures and personal background information on many of his brave and unselfish neighbors. in Paisley. Mr. Hunter stated that, in talking to his neighbors, they have realized that there are more important issues attached to the fire tax and fire station. Mr. Hunter stated that these people need the Board's help, and they need something local, so they can be protected. They do not mind paying the fee, even though they cannot afford it, if they get value. Mr. Hunter stated that they were asking for two paid staffers, or two paid shift volunteers, which would give them protection and security now. He stated that they want the station to stay in Paisley. He noted that, on September 17, 1998, at 6 p.m., they are going to have a town meeting at Spring Creek Elementary School, and he invited everyone to attend the meeting. Mr. Hunter noted that Commr. Hanson will be the quest speaker. Mr. Hunter stated that, according to postal authorities, there are 1,387 residents or businesses in the Paisley area, but the figure does not include Lake Mack, or the area east of there. He stated that, at a rate of $82, it would amount to $113,934, less $5,000, which is the amount it costs per year to maintain the Paisley building and equipment. He wanted to know where the $108,934 was going in the County. He stated that, at a rate of $35, it would amount to $48,545 less the $5,000 for the building and equipment expenses. He does not see where the County has given Paisley $43,545 for each year the people were taxed $35. He stated that, at a rate of $82, this should be more than enough for two paid staffers in the daytime. He noted that the Volunteer Coordinator would be getting about $50,000.
Commr. Cadwell stated that, in regards to the Volunteer Coordinator, this was a position that was initiated by the volunteers that have left the County.
Commr. Swartz explained that the Volunteer Coordinator was clearly one of the things that the Board was trying to put into place that would have the most impact toward trying to improve the volunteers in the rural areas like Paisley. He further explained that the future location, relocation, and any proposed station is still subject for review. Commr. Swartz stated that the Board is not satisfied with the way the volunteer program has existed in the County, and it is committed, along with its staff, to try and find a better way to do it. He stated that this Board is going to continue to look, during each budget year and during the course of the budget year, at the revenues, and the best locations for the stations.
Commr. Hanson stated that, if the Board is really sincere in trying to pull together more volunteers, it is important to keep the fire stations within the community where it is trying to raise the volunteers. She stated that she supports having the fire station remain in Paisley, and she would like to see at least one person paid there now in the daytime.
Mr. Donald Milligan, Grove Land Road, Mount Dora, stated that it is not his purpose, or the purpose of this hearing, to question the assessment of his home, rather it is to express concern over the proposed rates of taxation. Mr. Milligan reviewed the taxing process in the State of Virginia, as compared to the State of Florida, and stated that a large portion of Lake County consists of homeowners whose income is no longer increasing, because they are senior citizens, retired, and on fixed incomes. Mr. Milligan suggested that it is time to consider more carefully that the demands made in the County budget be reconsidered, and he also suggested restraint in appropriation funds. He noted that he lives in the City of Mount Dora and is paying city taxes, as well as County taxes.
Mr. Tim Condrin, Paisley, stated that he was disappointed that the fire service hearing was held on a Tuesday afternoon, at 1:30 p.m., which was election day, and limited the amount of people that could come in and comment and express criticism and express admiration for the plan.
Commr. Swartz explained that the budget hearings had to be held at certain dates, and the County has to alternate so that they are not on the same night as the School Board. He stated that the County had its first major fire meeting on February 10, 1998, and it has had meetings almost every month on fire.
Mr. Condrin hoped that this oversight would not occur again. He stated that he is the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee of the Paisley Community Association, and there are about 75 members, with most of them being elderly. He stated that it is a non-profit social organization, and it is a neighbor to the Paisley Fire Station. Mr. Condrin stated that their insurance is $1,800 per year. He was concerned about the insurance rates, and if the Paisley Fire Station is eliminated and moved five or six miles down the road, what will this do to not only the association's insurance, but to his personal insurance. He stated that the jump from $35 to $82 is not the issue that he is concerned about, because he just wants the service. He stated that there are those on a fixed income, and it is more of an issue to them. Mr. Condrin stated that Paisley is a growing area, and the Spring Creek Elementary School is less than a mile from the present fire station, and he felt it would be a mistake for the Board to give any more
consideration of moving this fire station. Mr. Condrin stated that he felt the Board was going in the right direction by getting a Volunteer Coordinator to get the volunteers active again. He would like to see one paid staff person at the station. He did not feel that the County needed to pursue other property and take on a big capital expenditure, because a lot of staffing and a lot of improvements could be made to the existing station.
Commr. Swartz stated that those of the Board, that can attend the meeting on September 17, 1998, will be there, and he challenged Mr. Condrin, as being a leader in the community association, to have people come who will be interested in finding out what it would be like to volunteer in the Lake County fire system. He stated that there will be people available to tell them, and to take applications and to begin getting people to volunteer in that area.
Commr. Hanson stated that the meeting will be September 17, 1998, at 6 p.m., at the Springs Creek Elementary School, and all of the Commissioners are welcome. She noted that the meeting will be advertised, and a press release was going out today.
Ms. Bertha M. Carroll, Umatilla, addressed the Board and stated that the volunteers in Umatilla were treated so bad, until they all dispersed. Ms. Carroll stated that Umatilla has a fire station and a truck, and the land was donated by her father-in-law for the station, but they do not get anything for their money. She discussed the history of the volunteer program in this area and noted that grant money paid for the truck, and then the previous fire chief moved their truck and tried to close the station, and she had to contact the NAACP for assistance. Ms. Carroll stated that there were people in Umatilla that could absolutely not afford the $82.
Commr. Cadwell stated that the previous fire chief did try to close the station, and the County left it open, and at that point, it tried to rebuild some of the volunteer program, but some of the County policies kept that from happening. He stated that the County has to get volunteers for that open station. Commr. Cadwell stated that the County was not going to be able to do anything with the fire service without those volunteers.
Commr. Swartz asked that Ms. Carroll work with Commr. Cadwell to set up a meeting in the community, so the County can work again to try and put together a volunteer program.
Mr. William Deckman stated that his evaluation on his property went up $915 this year, in addition to his County taxes. Mr. Deckman stated that, with the volunteer program, the response time was faster, even though the equipment was antiquated. He stated that the County has added nothing but new fire trucks. He questioned whether anything had been done by the County about the two incidents that he reported regarding the fire trucks, because life and time
is of the utmost importance. Mr. Deckman discussed his concerns involving the cost of the postage to mail out the fire notices to the people in Lake County, the lights at the Lake Mack fire house being on day and night, and the proposed move of the Paisley fire station. He questioned why there was a ballot the first time to approve the $35 fee, but there was not one this time.
Commr. Swartz explained that the County Commissioners that existed at that time chose to put it on a straw ballot
Mr. Ken Roach, Ranch Road, Eustis, addressed the Board and stated that, since the people are being charged for something that they are not receiving, he wanted to know what the liability of the County is to the people, as asked earlier by Mr. Armstrong.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, stated that the decision of where to place firemen, and how many there are would not entail liability to the County, in case of a fire, or other accident, due to response. He explained that a fireman, in operating a vehicle, if he drives the vehicle negligently, could cause liability to the County, but decisions on how many firemen to have and where to have them and where stations are located and how quickly they respond would not cause liability to the County.
Mr. Roach stated that, if the people are paying for fire service to protect their homes, then this County should be liable, if it does not provide that service. He noted that he was not getting anything right now at the $35 rate.
Commr. Swartz stated that, in the next five years, the proposal being made will significantly improve the fire and rescue service throughout all of Lake County, even in the first year. He explained that there is not enough money in Lake County, or support from a lot of people in Lake County, that would want to pay as much as it would cost to have paid firefighters in every station, and that is why the County is going to have to rely on volunteers in many of the stations.
Mr. Roach stated that, in 1984, the people voted for the $35 fee. In 1986, the County was spending approximately $2 million a year to support 32 volunteer stations, and even though the stations had a lot of junk, there was a reasonable response time. He stated that now there are nine stations that are trying to provide service for the County, and these stations cannot provide the service that the County needs. He stated that his son-in-law lost a $500,000 warehouse, because of the response time by the fire service. Now he is being charged impact fees and building permit fees to replace that same building. Mr. Roach also made reference to another situation that involved two mobile homes that were lost by fire in Pine Lakes, and the negative response they got when they requested assistance. He stated that the first step was the volunteer system, and it was ruined.
Commr. Swartz stated that an apology has been given to the volunteers, and he will do it again tonight by saying that, to any of the people who have been volunteers in Lake County's fire rescue system, this Board will uniformly agree with him that they do apologize, and he has said repeatedly that some of the actions that the Board took, with the best intentions and with the best advice and recommendation of the fire chief, the Board took always with the understanding that those steps were going to improve the volunteer system, not weaken it. He stated that he did not believe there was anyone on the Board that disagreed that there were decisions made that were wrong and harmed the volunteer system.
Mr. Roach stated that, according to the budget, over the next five years, the County is going to hire 27 more firemen.
Commr. Swartz clarified that, in this year's budget, there is a total of 27 actual firefighters, and there are some additional staff people including the Volunteer Coordinator, and a Fire Chief.
Discussion occurred regarding the salaries for the firefighters, which fall into the high risk category.
Mr. Frank LaFleur, Acting Fire Chief, informed the Board that the base salary for a firefighter is about $24,000. The State Pension Fund is 27.8% of that salary. He stated that $40,000 would include salary plus benefits.
Commr. Hanson stated that, in regards to the impact fees being paid by Mr. Roach's brother-in-law, he should not be charged the fees again for the same type of use.
Mr. LaFleur stated that there are seven paid stations in the County, and there are 21 volunteer stations throughout the County that do operate where there are volunteers.
Ms. Hildegard Sender, Magnolia Terrace, addressed the Board and discussed a minor auto accident that she was involved in where an ambulance, a fire truck, two Sheriff's cars, and the State Highway Patrol came to the scene of the accident. She felt that this was very wasteful spending.
Commr. Swartz explained that the County tries to coordinate as best it can when there are automobile accidents particularly where the threat of fire is not necessarily known.
Ms. Sender stated that she has a few rentals, and now the County was going to charge her $50 per household that she has not collected from her tenants this past year, and she will have
to pay it out of her pocket. She felt that it should not come into effect until next year, so she can budget for that money. She questioned who appointed the County to protect everybody from fire. She stated that she bought outside of the city, because she wanted to live in the rural area.
Ms. Mary Bennett, Demco Road, Altoona, addressed the Board and stated that she works in Paisley, and she was asking that the Board look at what will happen to the insurance, if the fire station is removed from Paisley. She stated that the insurance that is going to be re-figured, for all of the people who are going to be losing a fire station, warrants the attention of the Board and whoever is formulating this group. She stated that she would be very concerned if this was not made a part of the thinking process, and she feels that the Board needs to enter into this process by looking at how the people will be affected by the removal, the closure, and the lack of insurance coverage.
Ms. Kyleen Fisher, Lake County School Board, District 5, addressed the Board and requested special consideration to the volunteer fire stations, which directly serve the Lake County School system, specifically Spring Creek. She stated that, if the Board has any designs to make changes, it needs to make sure that they benefit the students of the Lake County School system and that they are not a deterrent.
Commr. Hanson stated that she talked to Ms. Fisher earlier today about how the Board feels about having fire stations in the community, which is much the same as how it feels about schools remaining in the communities.
Commr. Swartz called for further public comment. There being none, the public hearing portion of the meeting was closed at 7:55 p.m.
Commr. Swartz noted that it was not necessary to try and amend the budget for the Cultural Affairs Council, since Commr. Gerber has offered to assist with the fund raising efforts.
Commr. Hanson stated that the Lake Mack area has indicated that they have very much closed its station, because of the lack of volunteers, and she was hoping that the County could make amends. She stated that, not only will it take the Board, but it will take the community to say it wants to help give it better protection. She hopes that the County will do a much better job than it has in the past few years in the area of volunteers.
Commr. Swartz publicly announced that the proposed millage rate, which is the same millage rate that the County has this year, is 4.047% higher than the rollback rate, which is the aggregate proposed millage.
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Good and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved the tentative millage rate of 4.733 for the General Fund, and the tentative millage rate of 0.268 for the North Lake Ambulance Fund, for Fiscal Year 1998/99.
Commr. Cadwell made a motion, which was seconded by Commr. Good, to adopt the tentative budget for Fiscal Year 1998/99 in the amount of $180,681,835.
Under discussion, Commr. Hanson stated that she would be voting against the budget, but it stems from the development of the special assessment for fire and the methodology used.
Commr. Good clarified that the action that the Board takes tonight, to tentatively approve the budget, is separate from the action the Board took on the Resolution establishing the fire assessment.
Commr. Hanson stated that it was part of the budget, and therefore, she was voting against it, because of the fire assessment, not the total dollars, but the method used to arrive at those dollars.
Commr. Good clarified that the Resolution for the fire assessment was a separate issue, and it was passed, but the budget approved today will maintain the County millage and establish the North Lake Ambulance Fund millage.
Commr. Swartz explained that last Tuesday the Board acted to create the final assessment roll, and that was a vote in which Commr. Good and Commr. Hanson dissented as to the method by which it would be collected. The budget before the Board tonight is based on the tentative millage rates that have now been unanimously approved, and the Board now has a motion on the floor to approve the tentative budget, in the amount of $180,681,835.
Commr. Swartz stated that, on behalf of the Board, he would like to thank all of staff, the department heads and the people within the departments that worked on the budget, the Clerk's Finance Department, which as of October 1, 1998 will become the Board's Finance Department, and the Board, because the fire tax issue has been a difficult one, and it has not been easy to come to the decisions. He stated that starting tonight, but moving forward on October 1, 1998, Lake County will be taking a large step to improving the fire system. The Board and staff are committed to working tirelessly to find ways to provide the best fire protection and emergency rescue service that they can for all of the areas of Lake County, and while Paisley, Lake Kathryn, and Lake Mack have been mentioned often tonight, there are other areas of the County that unfortunately will only receive the same incremental benefit that many of the others do.
The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, which was carried by a 4-1 vote.
Commr. Hanson voted "no".
Commr. Swartz announced that the final adoption hearing will be September 22, 1998, at 6 p.m., or as soon thereafter, in the Board Room at the Lake County Administration Building.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting adjourned at 8:03 p.m.
G. RICHARD SWARTZ, JR., CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK