A SPECIAL JOINT MEETING OF THE LAKE COUNTY BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, THE LAKE COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD, AND THE LAKE COUNTY LEAGUE OF CITIES REGARDING SCHOOL CONCURRENCY
OCTOBER 28, 2005
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in a special joint meeting with the Lake County School Board and the Lake County League of Cities on Thursday, October 28, 2005, at 10:00 a.m., in the Magnolia Room, Lake-Sumter Community College, Leesburg, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Jennifer Hill, Chairman; Catherine C. Hanson, Vice Chairman; Debbie Stivender; Welton G. Cadwell; and Robert A. Pool. School Board members present were: Scott Strong, Chairman; Kyleen Fischer; Becky Elswick; and Larry Metz. School Board member Jimmy Connor could not be present, due to another commitment. Others present were: Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; Cindy Hall, County Manager; Anna Cowin, Superintendent, Lake County Schools; Tim Scobie, City Administrator, City of Umatilla, representing the League of Cities; and Sandra Carter, Deputy Clerk.
CALL TO ORDER
Commr. Hill called the meeting to order and asked that each of the participants introduce themselves.
Several other elected officials and representatives of the various municipalities were present in the audience, as well.
Ms. Starr Ford, Legislative Assistant to Representative Allen Hays, addressed those present stating that, on behalf of Representative Hays, she would like to congratulate them on their first coordinated meeting and on moving forward with their work plan, noting that their mission will benefit the students of Lake County and Florida’s future. She stated that it was truly an honor to have Lake County represented as a model for the State and, possibly, the Nation. She thanked Chairman Hill and Chairman Strong for taking the initiative and the leadership to get these meetings up and running. She stated that Representative Hays is confident that they will arrive at an ideal model program, with the assistance of the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), and would like to thank DCA’s Secretary Thaddeus Cohen for including Lake County as part of the pilot project, to help meet the needs of its students in a more timely fashion, which is what it is all about – the students. She stated that they were very encouraged to see the spirit of cooperation among all the community leaders this date and that they appreciate what they are doing and know that they will do the County and the State proud.
Commr. Hill stated that she and Lake County School Board Chairman Scott Strong met, prior to this meeting, and put together the Agenda before them.
INVOLVEMENT OF MUNICIPALITIES
Commr. Hill stated that the Board of County Commissioners and the Lake County School Board would like to encourage the municipalities to participate in this process, in that their input is very important and valuable to them.
Commr. Cadwell stated that this process is probably going to be the most important thing they do during their terms, noting that they will be defined by what comes out of the process. He stated that, although there are those who do not think it is going to happen, he does not feel that anyone at the table does not want it to happen. He stated that, at the end of the day, it is not going to be the attorneys, the city and county managers, or the consultants, but those elected officials that are present this date and, if they cannot work things out together, maybe they should think about doing something else for a living.
Ms. Clutts stated that she would like to encourage an open line of communication, so that the cities are directly involved, whatever vehicle they choose to use.
Commr. Pool questioned whether it would be a violation of the Sunshine Law if any of the city leaders or members of this group communicated with each other outside the meetings.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, stated that this is not a formal committee or group; therefore, he did not see any problem with them communicating with each other, with the exception of the County Commissioners, who would not be allowed to meet amongst themselves.
ESTABLISHMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE PROCESS
Commr. Hill stated that establishing an administrative process would be the coordination of all the venues, at which time Lake County School Board Chairman Strong stated that he would nominate the County to handle the administrative functions. He stated that he felt the County would be the ideal candidate for same, noting that it is a serious job and that record keeping and the Minutes are very important.
It was the consensus of those present that the County handle the administrative duties involved with this process.
Commr. Hill stated that the Board of County Commissioners has hired consultants to assist them in this process and they believe the School Board will probably do the same. She stated that, since the final agreement will ultimately involve negotiations that may be contentious, the Board of County Commissioners believes an independent facilitator or moderator might be helpful in reaching a consensus. She stated that the Board of County Commissioners is suggesting that the facilitator be hired by the three bodies – the Board of County Commissioners, the School Board, and the cities and the League of Cities has requested that Mr. Lewis Stone, Attorney, City of Eustis, represent them in this process. She explained that the Board of County Commissioners, the League of Cities, and the School Board will each have to appoint someone to represent them in selecting a mediator.
ADOPTION OF TENTATIVE WORK PLAN
Commr. Hill informed those present that the County received a document from the State and that Mr. Harry Fix, representing the Lake County School Board, and Ms. Amye King, Assistant Senior Director of Growth Management, went through the document and came up with a joint work plan. She stated that there are some key dates that have to be met, so the three
entities are going to have to meet every two weeks and everyone is going to have to make that commitment, which does not mean that they will not be meeting with their respective Boards in between said meetings, so it is going to be a very active, time intensive process. She noted that the following dates are actual transmittal work dates that have to be met:
November 1, 2005
January 1, 2006
March 1, 2006
April 15, 2006
June 1, 2006
Ms. Janet Shira, B & H Consultants, representing the City of Mascotte, addressed the group stating that they were forwarded a copy of both the Department of Community Affairs’ work plan and the County’s work plan by Ms. King and were asked to respond as to which one they would prefer to work under, however, pointed out the fact that it now appears the group is only talking about working under the County’s work plan and questioned the reasoning behind it.
Ms. King stated that the difference between the two plans is that one puts the consultants in charge of working through the milestones and transmitting everything and the other one has staff as the lead agent in getting the documents to everybody, however, noted that it does not mean that the County is not going to work with the consultants.
Ms. Shira stated that the City of Mascotte would like to go on record as preferring that DCA be in charge of the process.
Mr. Fix stated that it was never intended that DCA be the facilitator.
Ms. Shira stated that, if the group is going to ask the cities for their opinion on a matter and then make a decision about it, they should send something back out explaining that a decision has been made, before the representatives of those cities get to a meeting and find out about it then.
Ms. Dottie Keedy, City Administrator, City of Tavares, stated that she did not know that DCA had hired a consultant and questioned what their role would be in the process.
Mr. James Stansbury, Regional Planning Administrator, Department of Community Affairs, addressed the group stating that he would be acting as DCA’s liaison, working with Lake County, all the local governments, and the School Board on this project. He stated that, with regard to the consultant that DCA hired, it is somebody that is going to assist them with the school planning, because DCA does not have a lot of experience in that regard. He stated that he was not sure whether or not they would be doing a draft element for DCA, but that they would be available, if any of the pilot communities have a technical question on school planning that DCA does not feel they can answer.
Ms. Keedy questioned whether there would be any flexibility in the schedule.
Ms. King stated that the milestone dates indicated earlier are based on the distribution of funds from the State back to the County, so the County has to meet those deadlines, for purposes of the grant. She stated that they are DCA’s deadlines, not the County’s. She stated that the other dates are dates that staff threw out there for discussion.
Ms. Nancy Clutts, City Councilwoman, City of Tavares, questioned whether each of the cities was going to have a representative to help facilitate writing the draft from their point of view.
Mr. Minkoff, County Attorney, stated that all of the elected officials are going to write this plan. He stated that the Board of County Commissioners will have their own meetings on the side, talk about what they want, and come to the meetings indicating same. He stated that each city will do the same thing and he assumes the School Board will do the same, as well.
Ms. Clutts questioned whether each city will have a template to look at, to interject and add to, or whether they will be starting from scratch.
Mr. Minkoff stated that the County is one of the six pilot communities in the State, so, by virtue of being a pilot community, there is no agreement to copy from.
Ms. Clutts questioned whether there would be a way to look at the grant money that has been allocated to the School Board and the County, to see if the League of Cities might be able to utilize some of it to represent them, with regard to writing the plan.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he could not imagine the fourteen cities being able to hire one person to represent all their views, however, noted that, if they can come to that conclusion, he feels they need to talk to the School Board and the County about using some of the money that they have to help the cities pay for it.
Ms. Clutts questioned whether they could get a firm commitment from the School Board and the Board of County Commissioners that they would be agreeable to that, should the cities be able to get the votes from the League of Cities.
Commr. Cadwell stated that, with regard to the financial end of it, the Board would have to approve the request at one of their Board Meetings, but that he would certainly support it.
Mr. John Christian, Mayor, City of Leesburg, stated that he would like to be involved early on in the process with input from the City of Leesburg.
On a motion by Commr. Pool, seconded by Commr. Cadwell and carried unanimously, by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved the tentative work plan regarding the issue of school concurrency, as presented.
Mr. Gregg Welstead, Deputy County Manager/Growth Management Director, addressed the Committee stating that the first item of consideration was the interlocal agreement and what requirements were in that agreement. He stated that the Florida Statute that covers said agreement is F.S. 163.3177 – Public Schools Interlocal Agreement, at which time he reviewed what elements have to be included in said agreement.
Mr. Minkoff stated that each city, the County, and the School Board, or the cities as a whole, will submit their issues to an administrative person a few days before each meeting, who will email them out immediately, so everybody will see what everybody else’s issues are, and then they will come to the meeting and, hopefully, agree on the issues, or debate them. He stated that each meeting will be handled that way – once they decide on what the issues are, they will discuss them at the next meeting and each group, or entity, will submit its position on each issue and the Committee will then debate those issues and, hopefully, agree on them. He stated that he consulted with the city attorneys present this date and the consensus was to hire a retired attorney from Orlando, Mr. Bob Hamilton, who was the attorney for the City of Orlando for 25 to 30 years, as their first choice for the mediator. He stated that their second choice would be Mr. Bob Nabors, with Nabors, Giblin & Nickerson, in Tallahassee, who has worked for both the School Board and the County. He reminded everybody that a mediator is not a decision maker, but a facilitator, to try to keep the group moving forward. He stated that the goal is to get a good person, but not necessarily one that they agree with his or her decisions on any of the issues.
A motion was made by Commr. Stivender and seconded by Commr. Pool to approve the recommendation made by Mr. Minkoff and the city attorneys that Mr. Hamilton be the group’s first choice for a mediator and Mr. Nabors their second choice.
Under discussion, Mr. Strong stated that he did not know either of the two gentlemen and questioned whether the School Board felt comfortable with moving forward with the recommendation and allowing the process to continue.
It was the consensus of the School Board to move forward with the recommendation.
The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, which was carried unanimously, by a 5-0 vote.
Mr. Steve Richey, Attorney, addressed the group stating that he had not heard anything about public input in this process. He stated that some of the people present at this meeting were representing other groups and interests that he feels would have positive input and they had not been told what they needed to do to make sure that they receive everything that is distributed to everybody else involved in this process. He asked that they adopt some policies for public input, at which time he noted that, if the process is going to be closed to the public and then opened to them through the Comprehensive Plan process, it would be fine, but the public needs to know that.
Commr. Hill stated that the public will be involved in this process, but the group will have to establish as to what level the public will be involved.
Mr. Stansbury readdressed the group stating that the Legislature adopted Bill 360, which requires school concurrency. He stated that, prior to that, school concurrency was an option, but it is now something that is required by law. He stated that the legislation also provides for establishing a schedule by which each local government is required to adopt a Public School Facilities Element. He stated that Lake County has agreed to be a pilot community, so that DCA can have a model to take to other local governments to look at and use, in preparing their Public School Facilities Element. He stated that, to that end, there are four different components to school concurrency, being an Interlocal Agreement, a Public School Facilities Element, a Capital Improvements Element, and an Intergovernmental Coordination Element. He stated that most of the foundation of this process is going to probably be the interlocal agreement, because that is where everybody is going to come to an agreement on the method for coordination, local services, and a lot of things that will actually go into the element. He stated that the work product that DCA is looking for is a draft, noting that they did not think they could look at having a final adopted Public School Facilities Element by June 1, 2006 – that it was not realistic. He stated that they hope, once they have the draft element, the County and the cities will move forward with adopting it, noting that there is no need for them to wait until the time that they are on the schedule. He stated that the County could adopt it early and get it out of the way. He stated that, by November 1, 2005, the group will have the work plan that has been discussed this date and, by January 1, 2006, DCA hopes to have an interim draft interlocal agreement. He stated that it would be the group’s first draft and then, by March, 2006, DCA is looking for a realistic document that everybody has looked at and come to a general consensus on. He stated that it does not have to be the signed agreement, but a final draft. He stated that it will be the same thing, in terms of the April 15, 2006 task - the draft Public School Facilities Element, noting that DCA would like to have it to look at and give their input on, as to whether the group is going in the right direction, in meeting the statutory requirement. He stated that he does not expect any judgments, in terms of whether or not it is a good idea, but rather in meeting the statutory requirement, or the fact that they have three points addressed, but still need to put some attention towards another one. He stated that, what they are looking for at the end of this process is a final draft Public School Facilities Element – something that they will be able to take around to the other counties in the State and ask whether it would work for them. He stated that they may need to call on some of the officials in Lake County, be they with the cities, the planning departments, the School Board, elected officials, planning officials, etc., to go to some of the other communities and advise them about their plans.
Commr. Hanson questioned whether there was an underlying assumption that the County will utilize the school facilities to the maximum extent possible and was informed that the County will handle it the same as it would any other public facility, in terms of roads, water and sewer, etc. She stated that her reason for asking the question is that there are some innovative things being done around the Country to maximize the use of schools and she was wondering whether it would fit into this plan.
Mr. Stansbury stated that DCA is not going to put a box around the County - that everything should fit.
Superintendent Anna Cowin, Lake County Schools, stated that, in light of what was stated earlier by Mr. Richey about public input, she noticed that, over the next two weeks, the group will be working independently on various issues to bring back to a joint meeting and wondered if it would be possible, should the group wish to do so, to have one date set aside within those two weeks to obtain input from the public on specific issues - where this group could meet together, or have a representative present from each group, to obtain testimony from the public. She stated that it would provide input into the actual issues that everybody has to come to the table with and then they can honestly say that, not only do they have input from the County, the School Board, and the cities, but also from the community. She stated that the other approach would be, independently, to have hearings and in those hearings have public input.
Commr. Cadwell suggested that the group obtain public input a month or two into the process, once the group starts putting together a work product, noting that there is nothing for the public to comment on at this time.
Ms. Janet Shira, representing the Mascotte City Council, questioned whether it was going to be elected officials voting, or whether each of the jurisdictions could appoint somebody to vote on their behalf.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he felt that was something the cities needed to decide on their own. He stated that, as long as said individual had the power to vote, on behalf of the city, he did not care. He stated that the cities need to decide among themselves how they want to be represented.
Ms. Becky Elswick, Lake County School Board, agreed that the cities need to be involved in the process, however, noted that she was not sure all the cities were being represented this date. She stated that, if a particular city is not going to make a commitment to be involved in the process, the group has got to encourage that city to be involved, to make sure that they do not kiosk the group’s efforts.
Commr. Pool stated that, at the end of the day, if a city has not been active in the process, by attending the meetings and keeping track of what is going on, or does not pay attention, and then states that they do not like what the group is doing, he does not feel the group should be concerned about that city’s opinion. He stated that he does not feel they should be allowed to stop the process, if they have not been involved in it.
Mr. Minkoff stated that everybody is going to have to make an effort to encourage all the cities to attend the meetings, but they need to understand that this group is not going to adopt anything. He stated that, ultimately, the fourteen cities, the School Board, and the County are going to have to approve the interlocal agreement, which is going to be done at sixteen separate meetings away from this group. He concurred with Commr. Pool’s statement that, if a city does not come to the table, the group does not want them at the last hour to say that they want to change a portion of the agreement that everybody has spent hours negotiating and agreeing on. He stated that, hopefully, the cities, the County, and the School Board will encourage everyone to come and be at the table, so that the agreement will be one that everybody can approve.
Commr. Pool clarified the fact that the Board is going to try to make a decision on what they feel is correct, or incorrect, and vote on it, whether it be a 3-2, 4-1, or 5-0 vote, and the School Board will do the same and the fourteen cities need to understand that.
Mr. Wayne Saunders, City Manager, City of Clermont, interjected that that is not what the law states.
Mr. Minkoff stated that Commr. Pool was assuming that the cities are going to have a unified voice, however, noted that there are fourteen cities, with several different points of view on the issues, and each one of them is ultimately going to have to agree.
Ms. Kyleen Fischer, Lake County School Board, suggested that it be documented at each meeting who is present representing what entity.
Commr. Hill stated that a roll call will be taken at each meeting.
At this time, it was noted that each of the fourteen municipalities was represented this date.
The next meeting has been scheduled for Friday, November 18, 2005, with the location to be determined at a later date.
OTHER BUSINESS (CONT’D.)
Mr. Larry Metz, Lake County School Board, informed the group that the issue of public input was briefly discussed, but no decision was made regarding it. He suggested that there be a session at the end of each meeting for public input, limited to matters on the Agenda for that particular meeting, subject to reasonable control of the Chairman.
Commr. Hill stated that the thought process was to allow public input.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 11:10 a.m.
JENNIFER HILL, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK