The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in regular session on Tuesday, April 13, 1999, at 10:00 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioner's Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Welton G. Cadwell, Chairman; Catherine C. Hanson, Vice Chairman; G. Richard Swartz, Jr.; Rhonda H. Gerber; and Robert A. Pool. Others present were: Sue Whittle, County Manager; Sanford A. Minkoff, County Attorney; Wendy Taylor, Administrative Supervisor, Board of County Commissioner's Office; and Toni M. Riggs, Deputy Clerk.
FIRE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES
Ms. Sue Whittle, County Manager, informed the Board that the County has some serious conditions right now with regards to fire dangers. She asked Mr. Tad Stone, Senior Director, Emergency Services, to update the Board on some action that the County will probably need to take prior to the weekend on burning bans.
Mr. Tad Stone, Senior Director, Emergency Services, explained that normally, at this time of year, the County's drought index is around 200, but currently the County is around 650, with 800 being the maximum desert like conditions. Mr. Stone stated that, when you go past the 500 point, you start moving into extreme conditions. The County has had some difficulties over the past several weeks, but it has managed to continue with the resources it currently has on hand. He explained that the standard Fire Prevention Code authorizes the Senior Fire Official, within the County, to institute a burning ban to eliminate the hazardous that exist out there. Mr. Stone stated that it was his recommendation, at this point, after considering what was going on around the County, even though he did not anticipate any break in the near future, to go ahead and institute the burning ban and limit the amount of exposure it is going to have on the County. He noted that the surrounding counties are already experiencing some significant problems.
Commr. Hanson made a motion to approve the burning ban.
Cadwell questioned whether the issue needed to be placed on the agenda first for Board action.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff explained that the item did not require Board action, and it is the Fire Official who has the authority to institute the burning ban, and he was before the Board today to make the Board aware of the issue.
Commr. Hanson withdrew her motion and questioned whether the County was being considered in the water restrictions.
Mr. Minkoff explained that there are still some existing water restrictions in effect for portions of Lake County.
Ms. Whittle directed Mr. Stone to distribute a flyer of information to the convenience stores, and to others, advising citizens what they can do in such situations.
Mr. Stone noted that he has brought in two additional crews during the day to cover the load that the County has been experiencing, and the fire departments have been contacted in the County and advised of the situation.
Ms. Wendy Breeden, Library Services Manager, stated that she would be presenting a proposal for a partnership between Lake County and Lake Sumter Community College (LSCC) to have a joint library system. Ms. Breeden stated that joint community college/public library facilities are still fairly rare, but there are a number of successful examples in Florida. The Broward County Library has two of the most notable examples of such joint efforts. It operates a 60,000 square foot regional library on the South Campus of the Broward Community College (BCC) in Pembroke Pines, Florida, as well as a 103,000 square foot joint library on the BCC North Campus in Coconut Creek. Dr. Sylvia Thomasson, Executive Vice-President and Vice-President of educational Services, Ms. Denise English, Library Director, LSCC, and she has visited these facilities in late Spring of 1997 and found both to have different, but workable models of operation. Ms. Breeden stated that the concept of a joint use library facility was first explored as part of the planning process for facilities and services to the outlying areas. In 1997 the concept was supported by the Lake County Library Board as well as LSCC staff, administration and Board of Trustees. The current Lake County Library Advisory Board has withheld its support of the project at this time. The members are concerned about the impact of such a facility on the local libraries,
The Board had a brief conference call with Ms. Debbie Passalacqua and Dr. Isaac (Bud) Call, Co-Directors, Broward County North Regional Library/Broward Community College joint use library. Ms. Breeden noted that they have been with the joint use since its opening in 1994.
Ms. Passalacqua explained that there was a need on the part of both organizations to build a large library, and she went on to explain some of the history of their joint effort. She stated one of the most visible ways that it has benefitted the community is by the programs they are able to offer to the public, thanks to the expertise of the college personnel. They have the faculty participation in providing free lectures and demonstrations for the public. The other major benefit is the collection itself, which is much more in depth than you would find at one of the other regional libraries that did not have a partnership with the college, because the college faculty participates in the selection of library material. Ms. Passalacqua noted that they are open 74 ½ hours a week; they have increased technical support from the library learning resources staff at the college; and they have 24 hour security provided by the college. She stated that there are 34 libraries in the Broward County library system, and the County has just passed a bond issue, which will fund the building of nine additional libraries. There is one main library, three regional libraries, and the County will be building two additional regional libraries. None of the libraries are technically city libraries, but the County might be considered to be a consolidated library system. Some of the libraries are operated in partnership with the cities, where the cities provide some funding to help operate the library. The County is still completely responsible for the operation of those libraries. There are three or four independent municipal libraries that are not part of the library system, but they serve the needs of their specific city. Ms. Passalacqua explained that there is no taxing district, and the system is funded with the general tax base of Broward County. The system is almost entirely funded through county taxes, and in addition to that they receive a small percentage of State aid. She noted that the bond issue was just passed March 9, 1999 by an election.
Dr. Call stated that initially the college and the county each put up 50 percent of the construction funds for building the facility, and for furnishing it. He stated that the County actually operates the library as it would any regional library, and it provides the college with a material budget each year. Increases in that budget are keyed directly to whatever percentage the library budget goes up in any one given year. The college provides security, utilities, and the maintenance to the building, and there are about 15 full time staff in the building, in addition to the approximately 65 people who are county library employees.
Ms. Passalacqua explained that the biggest hurdle involves early planning and making it a unified library and integrating as many of the functions of the library as possible.
Dr. Sylvia Thomasson, Executive Vice President of LSCC and Vice President of Educational Services, addressed the Board and stated that Dr. Robert Westrick, LSCC President, sends his regrets for not being able to be here with the Board this morning. Dr. Thomasson stated that LSCC needs a new library on the Leesburg campus, and it is a priority with LSCC. She stated that Mr. Ray Kinsey, Chief Financial Officer, LSCC, has it on the list with the State for funding. She stated that their position today is to say that they are pleased to offer the opportunity for Lake County to partner with them in this endeavor to develop a library that will be jointly used. Dr. Thomasson stated that they were especially proud of their strength in technology, and she felt that there were some other things, in addition to those that were mentioned by those on the telephone, that bring out strengths from the college to the County and the residents.
Ms. Denise English, Director of Libraries, LSCC, reiterated the comments made by Ms. Thomasson and stated that she supports the concept of a joint-use facility, and they are looking forward to making it the most successful library in the State of Florida. She prepared a list of additional advantages to the joint-use arrangement, which she presented at this time.
Ms. Breeden reviewed the Benefits in Brief (page 3) in the packet presented to the Board, and presented detailed information regarding population projections (as noted on graphs in the backup material), as well as a few Quotations on Libraries. Other information she reviewed from the backup material included the Joint Use Library Challenges; the Building Project Capital Costs ($5,100,000 - Lake County) ($4,812,098 - Lake Sumter); Budget-Income Analysis; Operating Cost per Capita; Lake County Library System Budgets FY 96/97, FY 97/98, and FY 98/99; Lake County Library System Grants, Services and Aid FY 97/98; and Lake County Library System FY 98/99 Percentages.
Mr. Alex Nixon, City Administrator, Umatilla, and member of the Lake County Library Advisory Board, addressed the Board and stated that he has three concerns, financial, feasibility, and focus. Mr. Nixon explained that there was the possibility in the future that there will be a decrease in funding for the libraries, because the County will have a big library, and it will only be duplicating its efforts. He stated that none of the libraries are in the position to increase the library funding to make up for possible losses from the County. Mr. Nixon addressed the $13 fee per citizen and noted that the cost for services is probably closer to $40. He referred to the capital amount of $5 million and stated that the Umatilla library could really use its own facilities. In looking at a central location, Mr. Nixon questioned the likelihood of additional traffic on Highway 441. Mr. Nixon stated that the County would do better with a member system that allows the County to handle traffic more locally. He stated that they like the idea of a central facility for research; the idea of a central facility for administration; and the idea of a support staff for programs that they do not offer and can be used full time, but in terms of everything else, they would rather have the 46 employees for a central library to be used among the libraries.
Commr. Cadwell questioned, if there was a funding source that would keep the cities at the rate they are now, and it was a funding source that would allow the cities to continue to work,
would the City of Umatilla be in favor of a central library at this point.
Mr. Nixon expressed his concern with the distance people will have to travel from each end of the County to get to a central library, because there is a regional interest. He stated that they would be in favor of a central research facility, but a central library with its own collection would eliminate them. He stated that overall they are against it.
Mr. Tom Swartwout, President of the Cooper Memorial Library Association, and an alternate member on the Lake County Library Advisory Board, addressed the Board and stated that the library had submitted a letter to the County stating that they are strongly opposed to the joint-use library, with the primary concern being funding. He stated that the libraries need the County and the County needs the libraries, so it will have a library system. Mr. Swartwout stated that, if there is funding available, in addition to their normal budget, they would still have very strong reservations, because they are overwhelmed with County patrons, and between the two libraries (Cooper and Umatilla), they have more than 50 percent of the County patrons that are served. He stated that the Umatilla Library has less than 6,000 square feet, and Cooper Memorial Library has 14,000 square feet. He further stated that Cooper Memorial Library cannot stand a reduction in funding, and if the County cuts funding, they will have to cut services. He feels that there are alternatives that have not been considered, and it should be the Lake County Library Advisory Board looking at alternate concepts and not just the joint-use.
Mr. Bruce Banning, City Manager, City of Fruitland Park, stated that the City of Fruitland Park basically assumes the same posture as Umatilla and Cooper Memorial, because they are concerned about funding and the reduction of funding. He stated that it was his understanding that LSCC has just authorized a contract for $1.6 million for a new facility in Sumter County, and he wondered if this was going to affect the LSCC campus in Leesburg.
It was noted that the project referred to by Mr. Banning was a separate project from the proposal being presented today.
Ms. Patsy Alderman, Assistant Manager, City of Groveland, stated that the City had appealed to the County this year for their upcoming budget to help with their library. The City of Groveland has been funding its own library since 1928, and with all of the growth coming into south Lake County, the demand is becoming more than what the City can take care of on its own. Ms. Alderman asked the Board to consider helping the City of Groveland to extend its library services. In order for anyone to go to a County system, the closest one would be Clermont, which is seven miles away. There is no public transportation at this time, and to do this centralized library, as being proposed with the college, it would be even further for someone to travel. She would like the Board to consider their need and their request.
Ms. Susan Boyer, Town Manager, Lady Lake, stated that Lady Lake's position is the same as the Board has heard from everybody else. They are concerned with maintaining the current funding level, and they are concerned about their ability to increase their funding, as well, because of the building of a new library.
Commr. Cadwell extended his appreciation to Ms. Breeden for working so closely with all involved with the library issue.
Ms. Breeden explained that the project has been discussed for two years, and it did come up two years ago as part of the facilities plan. The facilities plan was not approved, and Ms. Breeden felt it was in deference to the concerns of the cities where it looked like the County was trying to take over the libraries, and it was looking like a consolidated system, which was not the intent of the plan. The opportunity was there before, and now the County is going into its long range planning process, because it is required by the State Library.
Commr. Gerber stated that she understood that there was a proposal for funding that Representative Everett Kelly was working on last year at the State level.
Ms. Breeden stated that Representative Kelly and Senator Anna Cowin had identified a source of funds from the State level that would provide the community college side of the funding for planning and site preparation, but the money required a match, and the County was not aware of that until about two weeks before the deadline for having that money in escrow. Ms. Breeden stated that she has in her enhanced budget $350,000 for planning and design, if the Board decides to go forward with the project, and then the matching funds would be available for the next legislative session.
Commr. Pool questioned whether, in the event the County should choose to opt out and not participate in the joint-use facility, and the library is built at LSCC, would the facility be only open to the students, or would it be open to the public.
Ms. English explained that the college library has always been open to the public, and they do have a small charge for a library card, but it has been open since 1962.
Commr. Pool questioned whether the library at LSCC would be interested in joining the system, should it build the facility that would allow it to be opened even as part of the library system.
Ms. English noted that LSCC has not explored the option presented by Commr. Pool.
Ms. Whittle explained that, as in all of the Board's workshops, it is an opportunity to bring the Board options to consider, and to get some direction from the Board on how it would like staff to proceed. Any actual decision will need to be placed on the agenda.
Commr. Cadwell stated that, in 1992, the budget was less than $350,000, and now the budget is $1.1 million, and the cities do not feel that is enough, and if the County decides to participate in the proposal with LSCC, it will double the budget, with the County's partners not liking the idea. He did not think that the County could survive as a library system without its partners, and with a centralized library, those partners would need to change, and some of them would be on a different level. If the County doubles its budget for a centralized library, it will only keep the cities at their current level of funding. The Board still has to balance the other needs of the County, and Commr. Cadwell stated that, it is not just whether it is a good idea or not, but how it is going to be funded, and until the Board has an answer, he will not be able to support it.
Mr. Kinsey, Vice President, Administrative Services, LSCC, explained that LSCC has two sources of funding that it uses for capital facilities. One is the traditional method where they ask for capital funding of the plan. The library is being shown at $4.8 million, and it has been in their capital funding plan for the past three years. He stated that the State, over the last couple of years, has not funded new facilities. About three years ago, the Legislature developed a different method of funding capital facilities with joint-use ventures, as being described today. Under that method, the college seeks agencies to put up funds, and the State matches the portion from the college, and they, in turn, do many things, as stated earlier, in terms of maintaining and operating it. Mr. Kinsey addressed the $1.2 million figure noted in the material presented and stated that the college would be sharing one half of that amount, under the current plan. He explained the certification process with the State when anticipating a joint-use partner noting that the Legislature, over the last three years, has not funded too many new facilities for a community college, but they have funded 100 percent with these joint-use programs. Mr. Kinsey stated that, even if LSCC does not have a partner, it will proceed with its library plan through the process with the Legislature, and it will be built on the Leesburg campus.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he does not want LSCC to misunderstand him, because he supports the program, but he has not been able to find a way to do it.
Commr. Hanson stated that this is a good project, and it sets Lake County ahead and moves it forward, and it needs the member libraries. She felt that, to have the top quality and the best resources possible, the County needs a centralized library, and it needs to work like Broward County did with their branch libraries. She would be interested in seeing their organizational chart, because they talked not only about branch, but regional libraries. Commr. Hanson felt that the Board needed to look at the program from a different perspective, and she would prefer that the Library Advisory Board look at how this could be organized, and if everyone was not afraid of losing their funds, how they could think about this in a more visionary manner. The capital cost would be about $1.5 million for the County, and the County obviously does not have the funds, even though the program could be bonded. It could go out to the public to make a determination whether they supported it or not, and the County could have a dedicated funding source, and the libraries could know how much money they would have each year.
Commr. Gerber stated that she sympathizes with Groveland, because the Board has assisted all of the other cities, and they should be brought aboard. She stated that she was also reluctant to move forward, because the County just brought on Fruitland Park. If the County could find the money, all of this could be done, and perhaps putting it out for the question is not a bad idea.
Commr. Hanson stated that it would certainly require support from member libraries and their advisory committees.
Commr. Swartz stated that the question "what is the best way to organize and provide library services in Lake County" has never been answered . He stated that the original concept of the countywide library system was initially designed to help get State grant money. As it developed over the years, it has become increasingly more than $30,000, but the County has never been able to determine what is the best way to organize it. Commr. Swartz stated that clearly over the years the County would have provided no library services without the cities, but it is constantly in a struggle in the division of library services with the cities, because the County is not providing enough money, but the money it is providing is so significant that they cannot live without it. He stated that, if you take all of the services being provided, the County is funding more in all but two cases, and those are relatively close, than the member libraries' own communities are funding. Commr. Swartz stated that he could not see putting this back on the agenda without having had some way to answer that question. He suggested that the Board ask staff to look at two or three options of how it can organize library services for Lake County, and ask staff to take some time in trying to determine what is the best way for the County to organize it, and to bring it back with two or three different funding levels. Commr. Swartz stated that the question is can the County fund all that it thinks it may want to fund, which is the system as it is plus a large library, and what is the best way to provide library services for the citizens of Lake County, in both cooperation with the cities and independently of the cities. He agrees that maybe the next step for library services in Lake County is for Lake County to be a part of at least one large system. He suggested that the Board ask staff, from Ms. Breeden and her staff up through the County Manager's Office, to do what amounts to an independent study to try an evaluate the best way to organize it, and to do that over several levels of funding. He felt that the most cost effective way is going to be with LSCC. If the County prepared a plan, and then prepared, over a period of years, to implement the additional funding that was necessary, it may be that, over five years, the County may add one-tenth of a mill, depending on the level of service, and the way the system is formatted.
Commr. Hanson stated that this was good suggestion, and she felt that, by dealing with the issue, there will be a positive outcome. She stated that they were saying that, as a County, libraries are important, as well as education, and this is something that the County can do to help education, and the economic development.
Commr. Pool stated that he was very supportive of the library system and all of the member libraries, but the bottom line is funding. He stated that it is impossible for him to vote for something without a funding source. To arbitrarily raise taxes independently for the library is something he cannot do, but he believes that the County should support and get behind this program and everyone come together for the betterment of a library system. Commr. Pool stated that the County needed to include Groveland and all other cities that want to be partners and enhance those programs. He stated that without a dedicated funding source, the Board should go to the public to try to seek an opportunity for more of a dedicated source. To say that he was prepared today to vote for this central facility at the expense being proposed concerns him.
It was the consensus of the Board to ask staff to review the Library System and bring a proposal back to the Board at a later date.
Commr. Cadwell stated that the Board has had real good luck with the teams that Ms. Whittle has put together for different issues.
Ms. Whittle noted that staff would approach the issue with the same level team as they did with the fire issue.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting adjourned at 11:48 a.m.
WELTON G. CADWELL, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK