A REGULAR MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
June 24, 2014
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in regular session on Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 9:00 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioners’ Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Jimmy Conner, Chairman; Sean Parks, Vice Chairman; Timothy I. Sullivan; Leslie Campione; and Welton G. Cadwell. Others present were: David Heath, County Manager; Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; Wendy Taylor, Executive Office Manager, County Manager’s Office; Barbara F. Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance; and Susan Boyajan and Shannon Treen, Deputy Clerks.
INVOCATION and pledge
Pastor Brooks Braswell from the First Baptist Church of Umatilla gave the Invocation and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Commr. Conner requested to move Tab 23, the Rezoning Agenda, after Tab 30.
On a motion by Commr. Campione, seconded by Commr. Parks and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved the BCC Minutes of May 20, 2014 (Regular Meeting) as presented.
citizen question and comment period
Mr. Dennis Shipley, a resident of Mount Dora, submitted a petition to the Board from residents who were negatively affected by the horn blowing of the Cannonball Express. He urged the Board to implement a quiet zone from the Lake Shore Drive crossing to the Mount Dora Water Treatment Plant, as this was a one mile stretch of the most densely populated area that the tourist train traveled. He added that there were six railroad crossings in that stretch which required four horn blasts at each crossing, and there were a minimum of three round trips per day.
Mr. Sabastian Velilla, a resident of Mount Dora, also spoke in reference to the Cannonball Express and noted that the sound from the horn was 100 decibels, which was equivalent to a jackhammer. He then referenced some studies he found on the internet regarding the effect of train activity on residential property values which indicated that they would decrease about 23 percent if the property was within 1,000 feet of the railroad tracks. He suggested having a safety manager from the Department of Transportation look at the train tracks to see what it would take to make it a quiet zone.
Commr. Campione stated that she planned to bring this up under her report since it was in her district.
presentation by the florida association of counties
Mr. Scott Shalley, Director of Enterprise Programs for the Florida Association of Counties, presented awards to Commr. Parks and Commr. Sullivan for their recent completion of certification programs through the Florida Association of Counties (FAC). He explained that the certification program was launched to encourage continued learning and sharing in best practices among county commissioners throughout Florida. He congratulated Commr. Sullivan for completing the Certified County Commissioners (CCC) Program and Commr. Parks for completing the Advanced County Commissioner (ACC) Program, which was the next level graduate program for CCC graduates.
CLERK OF COURTS’ CONSENT AGENDA
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Sullivan and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved the Clerk of Courts’ Consent Agenda, Items 1 through 8 as follows:
List of Warrants
Request to acknowledge receipt of the list of warrants paid prior to this meeting, pursuant to Chapter 136.06 (1) of the Florida Statutes, which shall be incorporated into the Minutes as attached Exhibit A and filed in the Board Support Division of the Clerk’s Office.
City of Fruitland Park Rezoning Ordinance
Request to acknowledge receipt of City of Fruitland Park Rezoning Ordinance 2014-003.
PROPERTY: South of CR 466A and North of Pine Ridge Dairy Road
APPLICANT: Darrin Taylor, The Villages of Lake-Sumter, Inc., Owner
The City of Fruitland Park City Commission enacted the above Ordinance 2014-003 at its May 8, 2014 public hearing. Attached is a copy of the executed Master Plan Agreement.
Deer Island Community Development District Proposed Operating Budget
Request to acknowledge receipt of the Proposed Operating Budget for Deer Island Community Development District for Fiscal Year 2014-15, in accordance with Chapter 190.008(2)(b), Florida Statutes, along with cover letter stating that the public hearing is scheduled for July 21, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. at the Deer Island Clubhouse and a copy of Resolution 2014-6 from the Board of Supervisors of the Deer Island CDD approving the proposed budgets.
City of Fruitland Park Comprehensive Plan Amendment
Request to acknowledge receipt of City of Fruitland Park Comprehensive Plan Amendment for Ordinance 2014-012.
PROPERTY: West of Micro Racetrack Road and North of CR 466A
APPLICANT: DR GCS Holdings, LLC., Owner
The City of Fruitland Park City Commission enacted the above Ordinance 2014-012 at its May 22, 2014 public hearing.
City of Tavares Annexation Ordinance
Request to acknowledge receipt of City of Tavares Annexation Ordinance #2014-03, 15.15 acres, West side of SR 19 at the intersection of CR 561 as follows:
- 29925 State Road 19 – Parcel #06-20-26-000100006400 – Alt Key #3778813
- Parcel # 06-20-26-000100000801 – Alternate Key #1492874
- North half of Parcel #06-20-26-010000000200 – Alternate Key #2809451
There are no dwelling units associated with this annexation. Ordinance 2014-03 was approved by the Tavares City Council on May 21, 2014.
Plaza Collina Community Development District Budget
Request to acknowledge receipt of Plaza Collina Community Development District Proposed Fiscal Year 2015 Operations and Maintenance Budget.
Estates at Cherry Lake Community Development District Budget
Request to acknowledge receipt of Estates at Cherry Lake Community Development District Proposed Fiscal Year 2014-2015 Budget.
The public hearing on the proposed budget has been scheduled for August 5, 2014 at 1:00 P.M. at the office of Booth, Ern, Staughan & Hiott, Inc., located at 904 North Sinclair Avenue, Tavares, Florida 32778.
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Sullivan and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved the Consent Agenda, Tabs 4 through 21 as follows:
Request for approval and authorization for the Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners to sign the 2012-2015 Local Housing Assistance Plan (LHAP) effective July 1, 2014 and related Resolution No. 2014-84. There is no fiscal impact.
Request for approval and authorization for the Chairman to sign the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) agreement with the Yalaha Community Center, Inc. to officially release the community for full rights of ownership, use and control by the Yalaha Community Center, Inc. The previously funded amount for the project is $314,470 (from CDBG fund). There is no fiscal impact at this time.
Request for approval of Lake County’s participation in a Rule Challenge for a proposed Department of Juvenile Justice Rule on cost allocation. The fiscal impact is $1,000.
Request for approval to award contract 14-0027 to Humana Insurance Company (Humana) for group vision insurance, effective October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015, with options for extension. It is also recommended that the Board authorize the Procurement Services Manager to sign the appropriate forms necessary to bind the coverage associated with this agenda item. The fiscal impact for FY 2015 is $91,074.24 and is completely paid for by employee contribution.
Request for approval for Chairman and Commissioners to declare and sign Proclamation No. 2014-72 designating July 2014 as Park and Recreation Month. There is no fiscal impact.
Request for approval and signature of Interlocal Agreement between Lake County and the City of Fruitland Park regarding the Joint Development of the Northwest Lake Community Park. There is no fiscal impact. Commission District 5.
Request for approval to award contract 14-0214 to ByWater Solutions (Santa Barbara, CA) to implement and support new Integrated Library System software. Fiscal impact for the first year of contract support, which includes system migration, implementation and training, is $54,850. The fiscal impact for each year of subsequent support is $26,250. These expenses are partially grant-funded.
Request for approval and signature of "Easement Agreement for the Pasture Reserve Well Monitoring Site" for an easement to be granted to the St. Johns River Water Management District. There is no fiscal impact. Commission District 1.
Request for approval for the Lake County Library System to offer a new streaming video service. There is no fiscal impact.
Request for approval of the First Amendment to Fire and Emergency Medical Services Agreement between The City of Groveland and Lake County as provided in the Interlocal Service Boundary Agreement dated February 15, 2013. The fiscal impact is undetermined.
Request for approval to award contract 14-0425 for Sidewalk, Vacant Lot, Bridge Approach, Retention Area Mowing and Related Services to Blackwell Affordable Services (Kissimmee, FL) and Impressions Landscape & Water (Apopka, FL); and authorize the Procurement Office to complete all implementing documentation. The fiscal impact is estimated at $89,050.25 (Expenditure).
Request for approval to advertise for bids for the Sidewalk Retrofit Project for #4466 Southland Road and #4465 Palmetto Road at an estimated cost of $200,000.00; Tracking No. S/W14001. This project will be funded from the Renewal Sales Tax Capital Projects – Sidewalks Fund. Commission District 4.
Request for approval to award CR 50 (Washington Street) Intersection at US 27; Project No. 2014-04, Bid No. 14-0011, to Florida Safety Contractors, Inc., Tracking No. INT96014, in the amount of $330,046.75, and to encumber and expend funds in the amount of $243,176.75 from the Renewal Sales Tax Capital Projects – Infrastructure Fund and $86,870 from the County Transportation Trust Fund – Road Operations - Infrastructure Construction – Municipal Project. The fiscal impact is $330,046.75 ($243,176.75 funded by County for the roadwork portion of the project; $86,870.00 funded by the City of Minneola for the water line installation portion of the project). Commission District 2.
Request for approval of Resolution No. 2014-73 and execution of Supplemental Local Agency Program Agreement with FDOT for the construction of a northbound left turn lane at CR 473 and Westmont Road, Tracking No. INT11014. The fiscal impact is $160,468.00 – 100% Grant funded (Revenue/Expenditure). Commission District 3.
Request for approval to award Lake Saunders Outfall and Bay Road Drainage Improvements; Project No. 2014-08, Bid No. 14-0024, Tracking No. STR11038, to Estep Construction, Inc. in the amount of $711,961.00, and to encumber and expend funds in the amount of $711,961.00 from the Stormwater MSTU Construction/Lake Saunders Project Fund. Also request authorization to execute License Agreement with Florida Central Railroad Company, Inc. that is required for the portion of this project within railroad right-of-way. The fiscal impact is $711,961.00. Commission District 3.
Request for approval to award contract 14-0426 for Guardrail Weed Trimming and Trash Removal to CF Landscaping & Lawn Care, Inc (Ocala, FL); and authorize the procurement office to complete all implementing documentation. The fiscal impact is estimated at $46,965.15 (Expenditure).
Request for approval of Resolution No. 2014-74 (Parcel FP119), Resolution No. 2014-75 (Parcel FP115), and Resolution No. 2014-76 (Parcel FP120 & 121) instituting Eminent Domain proceedings for acquisition of property for the CR 466A Road Project and approval to proceed with pre-suit negotiations offers. The fiscal impact is not determinable at this time.
Request for approval to release a performance bond in the amount of $2,297,483.42; accept a maintenance bond in the amount of $147,014.47; execute a Developer's Agreement for Maintenance of Improvements between Lake County and John’s Lake, LLC; accept a cash surety in the amount of $105,218.08 for sidewalk improvements; execute a Developer’s Agreement for Construction of Sidewalk Improvements; and execute Resolution No. 2014-77 accepting the following roads into the County Road Maintenance System: Good Hearth Boulevard “Part” (County Road No. 1262), Willow Hills Lane (County Road No. 1262A), and Abbey Hill Court (County Road No. 1262B). Johns Lake Landing Phase 2 consists of 96 lots and is located south of SR 50, off of Hartle Road in Section 26, Township 24 South, Range 26 East. There is no fiscal impact. Commission District 2.
presentation by the early learning coalition of lake county
Ms. Rebecca Foley-Kearney, Children and Elder Services, stated that this would be the final presentation by recipients of the Children’s Services grant. She then introduced Ms. Lesha Buchbinder, Executive Director of the Early Learning Coalition of Lake County.
Ms. Buchbinder gave a demonstration on the subsidized childcare the Coalition provided to Lake County families using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which included physiological, safety, belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization. She noted that the average income for a family of three was $19,000, and they would spend 53 percent in childcare without childcare assistance, which would leave them with $8,000, or $744 a month, for the remainder of the year. She related that the families would spend only seven percent in childcare with subsidized childcare assistance, which would leave them with $1,400 a month for the remainder of the year. She stated that the Children’s Services Council had given the Coalition over $153,000 to date, and they bring in $16 in federal match money for every $1 and have brought over $2.4 million to Lake County since 2006. She mentioned that there were over 2,000 children currently in their care and over 400 on the waitlist. She expressed that parents were able to meet all of their family’s needs with these dollars.
Ms. Foley-Kearney thanked the Commissioners for the opportunity to have these presentations to provide insight as to how the grant dollars were utilized.
adoption of ordinances and revisions to lake county policy
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, explained that this agenda item included amendments to two different sections of the Code through two different ordinances, as well as a revision to a County policy and revocation of another. He noted that one ordinance dealt with the use of alcohol at County facilities and that it would require Board approval for anyone to possess or use alcoholic beverages other than at the Fairgrounds where rules were stated. He then placed the proposed ordinances on the floor for their first and final reading by title only, as follows:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF LAKE COUNTY, FLORIDA; AMENDING SECTION 2-2 OF ARTICLE I, CHAPTER 2, LAKE COUNTY CODE, ENTITLED “PUBLIC PARTICIPATION”; REPEALING LAKE COUNTY POLICY LCC-25 ENTITLED “PUBLIC MEETINGS IN COUNTY BUILDINGS,” PROVIDING FOR SEVERABILITY; PROVIDING FOR INCLUSION IN THE CODE; PROVIDING FOR FILING WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE.
AN ORDINANCE OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF LAKE COUNTY, FLORIDA; CREATING SECTION 3-7, ARTICLE II, CHAPTER 3, LAKE COUNTY CODE, TO BE ENTITLED “POSSESSION, SALE AND CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES IN COUNTY OWNED FACILITIES,” AMENDING SECTION 16-7, ARTICLE I, CHAPTER 16, LAKE COUNTY CODE, ENTITLED “CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES;” ALLOWING ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES AT THE LAKE COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS OR IN COUNTY OWNED FACILITIES WITH BOARD APPROVAL; PROVIDING FOR SEVERABILITY; PROVIDING FOR INCLUSION IN THE CODE; PROVIDING FOR FILING WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE.
The Chairman opened the public hearing.
There being no one who wished to address the Board, the Chairman closed the public hearing.
Commr. Campione related that they had discussed this at the last meeting and that this was just a clarification of what their policy was. She added that they provided for adequate insurance provisions in the event they authorize the use of alcoholic beverages at a County facility.
On a motion by Commr. Campione, seconded by Commr. Sullivan and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved Ordinance No. 2014-26 amending Section 2-2 of Article I, Chapter 2, Lake County Code, entitled "Public Participation;" and repealing Lake County Policy LCC-25 entitled "Public Meetings in County Buildings;” Ordinance No. 2014-27 creating Section 3-7, Article II Chapter 3, Lake County Code, to be entitled "Possession, Sale and Consumption of Alcoholic Beverages in County Owned Facilities;" and amending Section 16-7, Article I Chapter 16, Lake County Code, entitled "Consumption of Alcoholic Beverages;” and the revisions to Lake County Policy LCC-61, newly titled "Use of Meeting Space in Lake County Library System Branch Libraries."
municipal service benefit units
Mr. Steve Koontz, Fiscal and Administrative Services Director, explained that this presentation was to request approval of the non-ad valorem rate schedule and the assessment rolls for six Municipal Service Benefit Units (MSBU’s). He specified that the MSBU program was designed to fund the cost of municipal services for six subdivisions, which included street lighting at Picciola Island, Valencia Terrace, and Village Green and Homeowner’s Associations (HOA) at Greater Groves, Greater Hills, and Greater Pines. He related that the program had been in place since 1994 with the last one approved in Fiscal Year (FY) 2000. He mentioned that the assessments for each subdivision were collected on the property tax bill for each lot within the subdivisions and that 1st Class Notices acted as a TRIM notice every five years. He added that a public hearing was required to adopt the rates, and resolutions were done in “off” years to certify the assessment rolls. He stated that HOA assessments were reimbursed back to the HOA in quarterly payments after they were collected, and the budgets for the HOAs were based on their requests. He noted that the street lighting was paid directly on the utility invoices, and those budgets were based on the monthly utility bills. He related that letters were mailed on June 1 to notify effected residents of the public hearings being held today, and the assessments would appear on the November 2014 tax bill. He showed a chart depicting the rate schedules for the six subdivisions for the next five years and then asked for approval to adopt the non-ad valorem rate schedules and assessment rolls for FY 2015-2019.
The Chairman opened the public hearing.
There being no one who wished to address the Board, the Chairman closed the public hearing.
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Parks and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved Resolution No. 2014-78 adopting the "Picciola Island Subdivision" non-ad valorem rate schedule and the non-ad valorem assessment roll; Resolution No. 2014-79 adopting the "Greater Groves Municipal Service Benefit Unit" non-ad valorem rate schedule and the non-ad valorem assessment roll; Resolution No. 2014-80 adopting the "Greater Hills Municipal Service Benefit Unit" non-ad valorem rate schedule and the non-ad valorem assessment roll; Resolution No. 2014-81 adopting the "Greater Pines Subdivision" municipal services non-ad valorem rate schedule and the non-ad valorem assessment roll; Resolution No. 2014-82 adopting the "Valencia Terrace Subdivision" non-ad valorem rate schedule and the non-ad valorem assessment roll; and Resolution No. 2014-83 adopting the "Village Green Subdivision" non-ad valorem rate schedule and the non-ad valorem assessment roll.
public hearings: rezonings
Ms. Amye King, Growth Management Director, showed on the monitor that the cases had been properly advertised and noted that Tabs 1 through 4 had been approved by the Planning and Zoning Board with a 6-0 vote. She mentioned that Tab 2 had been pulled from the Consent Agenda at the Planning and Zoning Board meeting so that Lake County would be required to notify Orange County of the rezoning. She also noted that a card had been received for Tab 4, so that would be pulled off the Consent Agenda for discussion, and staff was recommending approval of Tabs 1, 2, and 3.
rezoning consent agenda
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Campione and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved the Rezoning Consent Agenda as follows:
Tab 1. Ordinance No. 2014-28
JTM Properties, LLC Property Rezoning
Request to rezone property from Planned Industrial (MP) to Light Industrial (LM) and to revoke MP Ordinance #2004-3 to accommodate recreation uses on the property.
Tab 2. Ordinance No. 2014-29
Orlando North Airpark/Long & Scott Farms Property Rezoning
Request to rezone property from Community Facility District (CFD) zoning, authorized by Ordinance #2012-74, to Agriculture zoning and revoke the previously approved CFD ordinance.
Tab 3. Ordinance No. 2014-30
Farran CP Amendment
Request to revoke Planned Commercial (CP) Zoning Ordinance #37-85 and replace it with a new Planned Commercial Ordinance allowing rural support uses on property located within the Lisbon Rural Support Corridor in the Leesburg area.
rezoning regular agenda
PH #10-14-1 – powers property rezoning
Ms. King presented the case, stating that the owner of the property was Alma Powers as Trustee of the Alma Powers Living Trust Agreement, and the applicant was Gilles Paul DuPuis. She noted that the request was to rezone a 2.17 acre property from Neighborhood Commercial (C-1) to Planned Commercial (CP) for vehicular sales uses and that the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) #87/6/1-3 would be revoked by the proposed ordinance; however, the caretaker’s residence use approved in the CUP would be included in the proposed ordinance. She indicated that the property was located south of Clermont and one-half mile southwest of the U.S. Highway 27-County Road 474 intersection in the Green Swamp Ridge Future Land Use Category. She related that the property currently had an existing building, which would be used for the proposed vehicular sales uses and for a caretaker’s residence, and the applicant indicated that no expansions or additions would be performed to the existing buildings. She pointed out that the proposed rezoning request was consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Regulations and that staff recommended approval of the request with conditions in the ordinance. She also noted that the Planning and Zoning Board approved the request by a 6-0 vote.
The Chairman opened the public hearing.
Ms. Kristine Baker, a resident of Clermont, explained that she was a local investor and also lived in the area of the proposed rezoning and that she was opposed to the rezoning, because it would decrease their home values and create environmental hazards in the lakes. She opined that the existing commercial buildings near the property would most likely be put out of business, and she did not see a need for two gas stations within such a small area. She added that she did not feel it was in the best interest of the surrounding area to rezone this property.
There being no one else who wished to address the Board regarding this rezoning case, the Chairman closed the public hearing.
Commr. Campione pointed out that the ordinance specified that the property would be strictly used for vehicular sales and not a gas station.
Ms. King elaborated that the land uses for this ordinance only allowed vehicular sales, a caretaker’s residence, and accessory uses associated with those uses, which did not include a gas station.
On a motion by Commr. Sullivan, seconded by Commr. Cadwell and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved Ordinance No. 2014-31 for PH #10-14-1, the Powers Property Rezoning, which was a request to rezone property from Neighborhood Commercial (C-1) to Planned Commercial (CP) for vehicular sales uses. Conditional Use Permit (CUP) #87/6/1-3 will be revoked by the proposed ordinance.
MCUP #14/5/1-5 – goose prairie peat mine
Commrs. Cadwell, Parks, and Sullivan all disclosed that they had met with Charlene Kolterman, Nancy Hurlbert, Rose Holler and Bill Newlon, the applicant.
Commr. Campione disclosed that she met with the same individuals, but had had a meeting with Bill Newlon and Steven Cook, as well as their consultants and attorney. She also noted that she had multiple phone calls and emails which were all recorded in the public record.
Commr. Conner disclosed that he had conversations with Ralph Smith and Matt Matulia, as well as ex parte communications with Mr. Bob Cisney. He then asked the County Attorney to explain to the public what a quasi-judicial hearing was.
Mr. Minkoff explained that the law required the Commissioners to disclose any conversations or meetings that they had on this subject prior to this hearing. He pointed out that the Board was supposed to make its decisions based upon the evidence presented today and that the evidence was not necessarily opinion unless it was provided by someone who qualified as an expert. He indicated that the applicant and the two individuals who filed notices of appearances were called parties and that the Board policy allowed everyone from the public to speak on every zoning case. He mentioned that the applicant had the burden of proving that his application was consistent with the County’s Land Development Regulations and Comprehensive Plan, and the opposition must show that there were valid reasons why the Board should not approve the zoning application.
Mr. Chris Schmidt, Planning and Community Design Manager, presented the case, stating that staff noticed some scrivener’s error in the ordinance after the Planning and Zoning Board meeting, which were corrected with strikethroughs and underlines, and he noted that the case was approved by the Planning and Zoning Board with a 3-1 vote. He explained that the applicant was requesting a Mining Conditional Use Permit for a peat mine on approximately 1,016.28 acres within the Agriculture (A), Rural Residential (R-1), Urban Residential (R-6), and Heavy Industrial (HM) Zoning Districts that were situated within the Rural, Rural Transition, and Industrial Future Land Use Categories. He indicated that the property was located south of Goose Prairie Road and CR 452 in the Lake Yale area and north of CR 44 in the Lisbon area. He related that the applicant proposed to mine approximately 328.49 acres of the 543.93 wetland acres, which was 60 percent of the project wetland area, in seven phases for approximately 17 years. He pointed out that the excavated peat would be transported to an off-site processing facility in Okahumpka and conditions were placed in the ordinance prohibiting peat processing at the mining site. He noted that the development of the peat mine included the construction of a temporary machinery staging area that would be used with the startup of the mine and during severe rainfall events for equipment storage. He remarked that the closest residential subdivision, Wedgewood PUD, was located to the east of the proposed mining area, and a 200 foot setback would be required for that. He mentioned that Public Works reviewed the traffic generation for the 12 truck trips per day and the stormwater and indicated that there was a pipe located in the southeast area within the berm along the north side of CR 44 which was built around the time of the railroad line in 1917 and appeared to be functional at approximately 25 percent. He reported that there were a total of 483 comments filed in support of the project, with 263 being Lake County residents, 208 non-Lake County residents, and 12 unknown. He added that there were a total of 99 in opposition, with 91 being Lake County residents, 7 non-Lake County residents, and 1 unknown. He also mentioned that they received a total of 4 comments from concerned residents with only 1 being from Lake County. He concluded that staff recommended approval of the request.
The Chairman opened the public hearing.
Mr. Glen Storch, Attorney representing the applicant, showed a presentation on the Goose Prairie Peat Harvest and Habitat Restoration Project, noting that their goals were to restore the historic wetland conditions, hydrology and habitat; harvest commercial grade peat from a portion of Goose Prairie; and cause no impact to adjoining neighbors. He pointed out that the first step in this process was approval of the plan by the County; then they had to apply for multiple permits from the St. Johns Water Management District and the Army Corp of Engineers before receiving the final operating permit from the County. He mentioned that this project would be done in 20 acre phases and the cost of the restoration would be paid for by the applicant. He then displayed aerial photos of Goose Prairie in 1941, 1953, and 1958 showing that it was a lake habitat. He added that the area began to shrink over time, because the peat material started to fill in the lake as vegetation began to die, as noted in the 1972 and 2013 aerial images. He indicated that the area would be restored back to what it looked like in 1941. He related that the total project area was 593 acres, but the total harvest area was 331 acres, which meant there would be a buffer of about 700 to 1,000 feet from the neighbors. He explained the steps in the harvesting and restoration process, noting that they would start with the construction of the berm, the site would be dewatered, the peat would be harvested, the reclamation activities would start, and then the water levels would be restored. He then showed examples of areas that had been restored after peat harvesting, pointing out that those areas contained deep, intermediate and shallow marsh along with open water, which was their design for Goose Prairie. He related that some of the landowners in Goose Prairie were willing to provide a conservation easement which will protect that area. He showed aerial photos of the distance of the nearest neighbors to the peat harvesting area, noting that the distance was about the entire distance of the subdivisions themselves.
Mr. Storch pointed out that since it was important to them that there would be no impacts to the neighbors, they had met with them and tried to address all of their concerns. He stated that they planned to limit the hours of operation to 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, the trucks exiting the site onto CR 44 must turn right, and only 12 trucks of material would be allowed per day. He indicated that there would be no sand mining on the site and that peat would not generate any dust, because it was a moisture dense, fibrous soil, and they would maintain the peat at a 50 percent moisture level. He added that the peat stockpiles would be at a maximum of 20 feet high, and there would be a minimum 700-foot setback from the neighborhoods. He related that they planned to disable the backup alarms on the trucks to help with the noise, there would always be approximately 500 acres of natural habitat areas available for wildlife, and the dewatering would be limited to the surficial aquifer so that there would be no impact to the quantity or quality of well water. He mentioned that there would be a tremendous benefit from this project, as it would create jobs and tax revenue for the County, it would restore the Goose Prairie habitat, and the horticulture industry depended on peat for potting soil. He pointed out that they had bond requirements for the completion and maintenance of the restoration areas, they would monitor the project annually, and they planned to create an advisory panel from the adjoining neighborhoods. He also noted that the Comprehensive Plan specifically provided for the enhancement of wetland areas and that mining was also provided for in those areas.
Commr. Campione asked how they would know if any dangerous chemicals had accumulated in that area after harvesting the peat with the potential risk of going downstream or into the aquifer.
Mr. Storch replied that they were required to test the peat area first before they began harvesting, and they would not harvest it if they found a problem.
Commr. Campione questioned why they had not tested the area first before applying for the permit and asked if he had a reasonable belief that there would not be a problem.
Mr. Storch confirmed that they did not believe there would be a problem based on the initial reviews they have had.
Commr. Campione clarified that those reports would have to be provided to the County, and the project could not move forward if a problem was found. She then mentioned that some residents had discussed with her about requiring baseline testing of the wells or locations around the site in order to determine whether any changes occurred in the wells.
Mr. Storch stated that that was a good idea, and they would not have a problem with that.
Commr. Cadwell commented that the baseline testing of the wells was also a concern of his, so he wanted to make sure that condition was placed in the ordinance.
Commr. Campione asked how wide the peat piles would be and how they would keep the piles from becoming dry and dusty, since the water would drain down from the top.
Mr. Steve Cook, the owner of the project, replied that the width of the piles would be about 40 feet and explained that peat had a unique ability to move water through its fibers and to the surface, so the water within the piles would shift towards the outside to keep it hydrated.
Commr. Parks asked how wide the access easement on CR 452 was.
Mr. Cook replied that the lease agreement provided for a 150-foot strip on the edge of that property to access CR 452; however, they did not need that much since it would only be used as a backup access for emergency vehicles. He added that they could fence off a smaller corridor if the emergency vehicles did not need that much.
Commr. Parks stated that he would like to require it to be only 50 feet since many of the residents were concerned that it could become a major road one day.
Mr. Cook answered that he would have no problem with that stipulation.
Commr. Parks asked if they could address the concern about the CO2 emissions and their proposal to create an advisory panel.
Mr. Cook pointed out that they have done a lot of research on CO2 emissions and that a peat bog in its pristine state could be a carbon scene. He indicated that the carbon would begin to rise above the water level once the carbon accumulated in the wetland and displaced most of the water, which would allow the oxygen to be absorbed into the peat and aid in the decomposition process. He related that the peat would then become aerobic once elevated above the water and would begin to decay causing the CO2 emissions to start. He noted that the area would once again function as a carbon sink after they removed the peat. He added that the peat was then used in potting soil, and the carbon was sequestered into the soil when plants were planted.
Mr. Storch answered that the idea of the advisory panel came from the neighbors, and the concept was to appoint seven members from the neighborhood to review the applications and annual reports, give advice on their planning materials, and notify them of any impacts to the neighborhoods.
Commr. Sullivan commented that his questions about the baseline well testing and the easement on CR 452 had already been answered, and he thought the advisory panel was a great idea. He added that the traffic concerns were a DOT issue and that he was comfortable with everything so far.
Commr. Conner asked what kind of equipment would be involved on the site.
Mr. Cook replied that they used a hydraulic excavator, which was similar to a backhoe, and they would only use two at a time.
recess and reassembly
The Chairman announced at 10:24 a.m. that they would take a 10-minute break.
MCUP #14/5/1-5 – goose prairie peat mine (cont’d)
Ms. Karen Consalo, representing the group Protect Goose Prairie, gave a presentation explaining the group’s concerns. She pointed out that they were a group of over 100 concerned citizens who lived in the surrounding neighborhoods and who also enjoyed the peace, tranquility, beauty, and ecological integrity that currently existed in the peat bog. She related that there were some major Comprehensive Plan policies that they felt were violated by this application, specifying that Policy 1-7.5.3 dictated that development could not be approved unless it was compliant with the entire Comprehensive Plan. She also mentioned that there was a conservation policy specific to Goose Prairie which recognized it as a beautiful, pristine, ecological area that was to be protected. She noted that there were also several policies related to the protection of water, water bodies, habitat, and vegetation and that most of the flora and fauna on this property had not been properly catalogued and identified. She commented that she, along with their group and their biologist, had requested access to the property to properly survey the flora and fauna and were denied access. She stated that the CUP would also violate objectives and policies to protect residential neighborhoods, and many residents would be affected by this mine from the adverse effects on the ecology, noise, air quality, smell, and traffic, as well as a constant imposition on their quality of life. She mentioned that a peat bog served to retain and cleanse the water for the aquifer, and there had been very little to address the potential for flooding of neighbors and the concerns with their sewers. She noted that the Comp Plan also required permanent preservation for environmentally sensitive land and conservation easements to protect the isolated wetlands, and there was no indication in the application that the land would be preserved once it was reclaimed. She indicated that dredge and fill activities were not allowed on isolated wetlands unless the property was 70 percent wetlands and the impacts did not exceed 25 percent of the wetlands, and this application did not meet those circumstances. She stressed that the application violated many of the Comp Plan provisions and pointed out that the application was missing key information, such as the operating plan and a tree survey and plan, and asked the Board to require these before approval. She then submitted a report from the Florida Geological Society published by the University of Florida that noted that peat mines in Florida had a detrimental effect on water quality and hydrology and that they altered the water flow, volume, nutrient concentrations, and turbidity of water. She added that it also stated that peat bogs stored carbon dioxide and destroyed the habitat.
Mr. Scott Davis, who performed a site species inventory on the Goose Prairie property, stated that this is a basin marsh ecosystem and referred to the backup materials that he handed out describing what a basin marsh is and other information regarding this property and its ecosystem. He specified that he found 69 plant species and one species of animal that were tracked by the state, including the Florida Scrub Lizard, considered a species of special concern, although he did not think that would be impacted from the peat harvesting project, and the Spoonleaf Sundew, which was a plant that is listed by the state as threatened and which have very specific requirements in order to grow and reproduce. He specified that Goose Prairie currently is defined as a fresh-water, non-forest wetland, but after the mining or harvesting of the peat, the definition would be more akin to a pond or lake. He expressed concern that many species within a survey area wetland cannot tolerate long-term deep water or open water conditions, and he theorized that a number of species occurring on the surveyed property likely will occur on the other side of the property since the area he surveyed is surrounded on three sides by the project. He also noted that although the post-mining ecosystem the project would create would be functional, it would not reflect the historic ecosystem.
Commr. Parks asked whether basin marshes can have open water.
Mr. Davis responded that basin marshes have hydro periods where they will have sections that are under water; however, it fluctuates, and no two basin marshes are identical. He specified that the Spoonleaf Sundew does not grow in deep water.
Mr. Charles Lee, Director of Advocacy, Audubon of Florida, presented a copy of a letter he sent to each Commissioner and the County Attorney’s Office to be entered into the record in opposition to this proposal. He explained that the central issue is that the applicant must demonstrate by presenting data and analysis that the proposal they are making is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan provision, Policy III-3.1.2, that specifically addresses Goose Prairie, which states that the County shall preserve the integrity of the wetlands and water bodies on Goose Prairie as an intact ecosystem of county significance by protecting its natural resources including wetland and upland communities. He referred to a statement in the staff report stating that this project is consistent with protecting the integrity of the wetland system and pointed out that there was no data and analysis directly appended to that sentence. He opined that that analysis should be rejected as a matter of law and fact, since it consisted of a self-serving statement rather than specific data and analysis. He related that Goose Prairie is a basin marsh that was never a 20-foot deep lake at any time in history. He stated that the 1941 aerial photograph depicted by staff illustrates that it was a prairie at that time rather than a lake, which contained a little more water than it typically did because of the weather conditions of the time which caused periodic flooding, and he pointed out clumps of marsh grasses sticking up through the lake, which he emphasized was never 20 feet deep; however, the proposal at hand is to sculpt it out to remove the muck. He commented that it was not apparent in any material from the County he reviewed exactly what the final bottom configuration of the lake was going to be and where the dredging would end, but he opined that it would be fundamentally different than it was in a natural condition, although the Comp Plan assured preservation of the integrity of the area. He concluded that the proposed ordinance and rezoning was not consistent or within the ambit of what the Comp Plan allows, and he added that although there have been allusions to a conservation easement on that land, nothing in the ordinance suggests that. He concluded that the essential issue is whether this is consistent with their Comp Plan, and since they do not believe the evidence shows that it is, the request must be denied for that reason alone.
Commr. Cadwell asked whether Mr. Lee was indicating that there is no environmental value to the end product.
Mr. Lee responded that he believed this proposal will result in a net loss of environmental value and would replace what are currently marsh or hardwood swamp wetlands with 174 acres of open water. He expressed other concerns regarding the uncertainty of the conditions for the boundaries and parameters of the mining operation and the fact that the peat is a highly organic, phosphorus-laden material, which might cause poor water quality and high amounts of algae. He also opined that the biological oxygen demand will eat up the oxygen that is available. He added that although open water has some wildlife benefits for ducks and other water fowl, the increase in open water availability due to this project will be very small.
Ms. Elizabeth Kapoor, a resident of Leesburg, opined that it was very misleading to call this project a restoration rather than creation of an artificial lake, and there were a number of particulars about the proposal that she had reservations about. She was concerned that a biologist who had previously spoken stated that he was not permitted to take a census of what was there. She also had a question regarding the lack of benchmarks for testing the peat for contamination, and she noted that the prairie was created by a natural hydrologic process. She commented that she was opposed to this project.
Ms. Bobbie NeSmith, a resident of Leesburg, commented that she was against mining of any kind in Goose Prairie, because it is a protected land and has been recognized as such since 1970. She pointed out that the County agreed many years ago to protect that land rather than purchase it as requested by the state years ago, since they did not have the funds to purchase it. She pointed out that the Lake County Water Authority, who owned five acres in that location, was surprised that peat mining was considered for that area, and she opined that removing the peat would interfere with the natural hydrologic processes of Goose Prairie. She added that she was very familiar with the area and that Goose Prairie was never a lake at any time. She expressed total opposition to the project.
Ms. Marian McKinney, a resident of Leesburg, expressed unhappiness about the consideration of this request and noted that the Board was made up of elected officials who were supposed to represent the residents; however, she opined that only those with a lot of money were getting represented.
Commr. Conner assured her that the Commissioners would make a very fair decision based on the information.
Ms. McKinney reminded the Board that the County had promised to protect that land and emphasized that it was never a lake.
Ms. Peg Lindsay, a resident of Leesburg and President of the local chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, whose mission is to preserve, conserve, and restore the native plants of Florida, noted that although peat has value from those who will benefit from its sale, an intact thriving ecosystem has value to all of the citizens of Lake County and the state. She reiterated that this was a basin marsh and an area of ecological significance, which must be preserved. She suggested that the Board table the vote that day and visit Goose Prairie as well as places in Lake County where peat has been mined in the past, which she believed would demonstrate that what they would gain would be more than what they would lose.
Mr. Vance Jochim, a resident of Tavares and a writer of a blog about local government and fiscal issues, opined that this was a property-rights issue, with people trying to use a lot of environmental rules and issues to take away the rights of a land owner which are defined by the US Constitution. He commented that homeowners who live around the area have legitimate questions, but he believes that all of the normal issues and main concerns of the local residents such as noise and traffic have been addressed and mitigated by either the applicant or the staff. He opined that they had a very complex Comp Plan, and Governor Scott gave the counties permission to revise all of the excessive restrictions in the plan. He mentioned that the County has already made some revisions to the Comp Plan due to lawsuits at that time. He concluded that he believed the Board should approve this proposal.
Ms. Cheri Anderson, a resident of Grand Island, related that she was opposed to the mine.
Mr. Steve Johnson, a resident of Clermont, related that their community came together after the 2004 hurricanes and that Mr. Steve Cook brought in equipment to repair the road to the entire neighborhood and helped the cleanup effort extensively. He commented that he had known Mr. Cook personally for many years and knew that he would never do anything intentional to destroy the lands. He opined that this project was the kind of business they need, and he requested that the Board approve the request.
Ms. Ashley Martinec, a resident of Grant Island, displayed some pictures of the numerous animals living in Goose Prairie which she believed would be displaced by the mining project. She specified that she had found 23 species, including sandhill cranes, bald eagles, vultures, bears, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, indigo snakes, gopher tortoises, scrub jays, owls, woodpeckers, and various other snakes and lizards. She commented that this area was a wet prairie rather than a lake, and she would like to keep it that way as a nearby resident of that area, as well as to continue to enjoy the tranquility of that location.
Ms. Laurie Laventhall, a resident of Leesburg, commented that one of the things she treasured was the quiet after relocating to that area 20 years ago from New York, and she noted that about a third of their five-acre property extends into Goose Prairie. She mentioned that she can hear noises from Durastress from time to time, which makes her concerned about the noises she would be subjected to from the proposed mining operation, and she also expressed concern about allergens in the air which would impact her mother’s health. She remarked that Goose Prairie has never been a lake and was pristine in its current condition. She also made reference to statistics being able to be manipulated to show anything that a person wants them to show and opined that the company who is requesting to do the mining has used some selective arguments. She added that she would be very sorry to see the wetlands disappear, and she expressed concern about the possibility of the mining process tainting or draining the water in her well. She commented that she believed this project infringes on her rights as a property owner, and this restoration would bury the natural habitat under water. She emphasized that she is very much against this proposed project.
Mr. John Condon, a resident of Grand Island, mentioned that he had a background in civil engineering and expressed concern regarding the increased truck traffic of 50 truckloads per day that he figured would be needed to haul the peat on CR 44 to the Okahumpka processing plant. He elaborated that this increase in traffic would trigger a backup of vehicles and create delays and blockages to business entrances, resulting in an overall reduction in the roadway capacity and disrupting the flow of traffic for a road that is already operating at 117 percent capacity.
Mr. Harold Stuckmeyer, a resident of Okahumpka and an employee of C & C Peat for about 30 years, stated that the company is essential to his livelihood as an independent contractor and have helped him to secure the equipment he needed to stay in business. He assured everyone that he has seen nothing but good come from harvesting peat, such as creation of jobs and restoration of the wetlands.
Mr. Randy Crecelias, a resident of Clermont and one of the owners of C&C Peat, asked for the Board’s continuing support for mining and agricultural activity in the county, and he pointed out the importance of mining, noting that many things come from either mining or agriculture, both of which are important to their economy. He assured everyone that they try to minimize any impact they would have. He concluded that he was in favor of this project.
Mr. Herb Olmstead, a resident of Grand Island, related that all of his questions have been answered in the first half hour of this hearing, and his concerns have been put to rest. He mentioned that he only learned about this peat mine a few days ago, and he noted that although he saw the horrible way that peat was made, it appeared that that would not happen in this project. He requested that the Board make sure the mine is monitored if the project is approved to make sure that all of the conditions the applicant has agreed to will be followed.
Ms. Joan Hritzik, a resident of Leesburg, noted that she has lived in Lake County for 42 years and has noticed that many things impacting residents have been appearing at the different locations she has lived. She commented that she is against the proposed project for many reasons and believed it could also be against the law.
Mr. Kendall Wherry, a resident of Ft. Myers and owner of Wherry Truck Lines, stated that they have had a business relationship with C&C Peat since 1992, and during that time they have pulled a lot of raw materials into the facility and a lot of potting soil loads out of that facility to go back down to southwest and south Florida. He commented that he has come to know and understand the C&C Peat model during that period of time, and he pointed out that the owners have lived and been in business in Lake County for 33 years. He opined that the owners of C&C Peat are good people, have a great attitude, keep things simple, are positive, provide jobs, and are the kind of business people that make up the backbone of America. He related that he was in favor of the project and noted that he drove hours to be at this hearing to relay his thoughts.
Mr. Scott Taylor, a resident of Sorrento, commented that he and everyone else have to live by the restrictions and rules imposed by the Comp Plan and that he believes it is the piece of legislation that the Board has to abide by. He opined that there was no question that this was not a restoration project, but a peat mining operation that would do nothing to improve the environment. He asked the Board to follow the Comprehensive Plan and deny this project.
Mr. Vincent Skinner, a resident of Goose Prairie Road in Leesburg, mentioned that he lives in the homestead that was built in the 1920’s by his great-grandparents, who benefitted from the resources of Goose Prairie to survive the difficult era of the Great Depression. He noted that he has seen Goose Prairie in various conditions, noting that it had gone dry in the late 1980’s. He mentioned that his great aunt, who worked for the agricultural department, tried to get Goose Prairie made into a wildlife preserve, and he opined that the proposed project will be exploitation of this habitat. He related that Lake Eustis was allowed to flow through the culvert into the prairie to create a spawning ground for fish and other wildlife, and he indicated that opening that culvert again could return it to that condition without creating a peat mine.
Mr. Paul Hughes, a resident of Harbor Shores in Leesburg, mentioned that he agreed with Mr. Lee who spoke previously and asked the audience to imagine the upper aquifer as below a large square sponge base and a layer of sand under that. He stated that all the pesticides, insecticides, and agricultural products used in the past and the future are captured by the peat as it comes down the hill; however, all of the contaminants would go into their aquifer once the peat is removed. He disputed the applicant’s claim that they had found a layer of limestone 70 to 75 feet deep between the upper and lower aquifer protecting the lower aquifer, noting that the aquifer is never level and contains holes. He was concerned that the applicant would not be able to follow up on their promise to fix any problems to their wells that the project might cause. He requested the Board to make a decision based on integrity and to vote against the project.
Ms. Rose Holler, a resident of Harbor Shores in Leesburg, pointed out that there were over 2,500 homes, approximately 4,300 residents, and several housing developments within one mile of the proposed mine site; and the Comp Plan was changed for the peat mine project from Rural Village Suburban to Rural. She added that there is construction of several housing developments in progress, and the number of residents, homes, and traffic will only increase. She commented that there will be no measurable increase in jobs due to the peat mine, since there will only be two employees at the site. She related that the residents of the area have rallied against the Goose Prairie Peat Mine, information was gathered, and meetings were held; and she presented a petition with over 1200 signatures opposing the mine. She stated that the pristine ecosystem has been with them for hundreds or even thousands of years, and she did not think it was logical for the prairie to be restored after being dug up. She asked the Board to listen to the residents and vote against the proposal.
Ms. Charlene Kolterman, a Nebraska resident with a home in Wedgewood, presented some photographs of the prairie that were taken from a video that was shown by C&C Peat. She mentioned that she studied and read a lot of the information regarding this project to try to understand it, and she found that the County Commissioners in the 1970’s vowed to preserve Goose Prairie and actually wrote to the Division of State Lands and the Department of Natural Resources in Tallahassee in 1980 stating that Goose Prairie was an endangered land in Lake County. She related that it was zoned Rural Village in 2006, which does not allow for peat mining, and the Comp Plan also restricted that. She noted that when the applicant requested a zoning change in 2009 to allow mining, they were told that they could wait until after the 2030 Comp Plan changed the future land use to Rural, which is what they did.
Ms. Linda Bystrak, representing the Oklawaha Audubon Society, pointed out that the Goose Prairie area is not really a rural area and contains thousands of homes. She commented that she had asked at the time of the adoption of the Comp Plan that Goose Prairie be protected, which resulted in quite a long discussion about what could be done to protect that location. She recapped that the Board decided at that time to add something to the policy which would give it extra protection of equal status to the Green Swamp and the Wekiva Springs area, and she read those sections aloud.
Ms. Nancy Hurlbert, a resident of Harbor Shores in Leesburg, related that she is a retired civil engineer who intended to talk about the impacts to water quality, air quality, and traffic; but those issues have already been exhaustively addressed. She stated that none of them are questioning the integrity of C&C Peat, the need for economic development in the county, or that there may be an opportunity for peat mining elsewhere in the county. She pointed out, however, that the County has a very specific policy stating that they shall protect the integrity of Goose Prairie and calling for an intact ecosystem rather than restoration of that site. She appealed to the Board to look at this policy.
Ms. Sharon Womble, President of the Harbor Shores Homeowners Association, commented that she and her husband moved to this area to live in a rural and beautiful area, and she opined that Goose Prairie was a precious peat bog which was worth fighting for. She explained that peat land ecosystems are the world’s largest and oldest global environment organizations and are fundamental to addressing some of the world’s greatest problems such as climate change. She elaborated that peat bogs are like the “kidneys” to their land which filter water as nature’s purifier, and she opined that they are important and should not be destroyed. She stated that the peat is a resource like coal or iron and cannot be replaced for thousands of years, since it replenishes at a rate of only one millimeter per year. She noted that because of the sandy soil, the only thing that retains water is their peat for times when it is needed, and some companies of gardening products are looking for alternatives to peat to put in their products in order to conserve it.
Mr. Bob Cisney, a resident of Grand Island, commented that there were people that stand to gain financially from this project as well as those who stand to lose, although the people who lose far outnumber those who will gain. He urged the Board to vote against the request.
Ms. Lynda Blackford, a resident of Montverde, mentioned that the property across the street from hers was peat mined with no adverse consequences to her well, the environment, or her health. She added that there has been no noise from the peat mine and that her property did not decrease in value during that time. She specified that it was now part of Bella Collina, one of the most upscale developments in Lake County. She asked the Board to vote in favor of this proposal.
Mr. Leslie Edwards, a native of Lake County, mentioned that he remembers fishing at Goose Prairie as a young boy when Hwy 44 was a clay road, and he noted that usually there was about 4 or 5 feet of water there and much wildlife at that time, such as otters, ducks, and an occasional goose. He commented that he believed the restoration proposed by this project would be of benefit to everyone, and he asked for it to be restored to the way it was at that time.
Mr. Errol Kangas, a resident of Leesburg, stated that he was in opposition to this proposed peat mining and voiced concerns regarding dust, since his wife suffers from emphysema, which might make it necessary for him to move.
Mr. John Fleming, a resident of Leesburg, asked what constitutes restoration and what would happen to the plants and animals, some of which were endangered. He also asked what would happen to the canals and Lake Eustis and expressed concern about those water bodies being drained by the mining activity, especially since they are currently low.
Mr. Anthony Walker, a resident of Mascotte, related that he has been employed at C&C Peat for 12 ½ years and that they were a great family to work for. He discussed how the company had helped local government and citizens recover after major storms came through the area, including clearing roadways for emergency vehicles and roof repairs. He concluded that this was the type of business people need in their community and requested that the Board vote in favor of the project.
Mr. Glenn Sorage, representing the applicant, assured everyone that he wants to make sure the conditions discussed were in the ordinance, and he emphasized that the County’s Comp Plan does not prohibit anything being done at Goose Prairie. He explained that the kind of wetland areas that have special protection such as the Green Swamp do not allow for dredge and fill activities except for mining that meets local, state, and federal standards; but mining is allowed in other kinds of wetland areas per the Comp Plan. He specified that Goal 3 regarding the Goose Prairie area states that the County shall preserve, protect, and enhance the County’s habitat and wildlife, upland communities, wetlands, and soils, and he noted that they were enhancing them. He also commented that peat mining and harvesting is permitted in the area if they met certain conditions, which they have strived to do. He assured everyone that this project will also improve the stormwater retention area and decrease flooding, as well as decrease fire and air pollution from the smoke and be better for those with respiratory diseases. He noted that restoration to a condition similar to when the area was a lake is being proposed, and he referred to a binder of information that was provided to staff which explains in detail what will be done and how it will be done.
Commr. Cadwell mentioned that the idea of mining in Goose Prairie has been discussed for years, and he indicated that he would be talking to staff about any possible inconsistencies with the Comp Plan. He commented that he remembers and has fished in that area long ago as well and that any changes made to areas in Florida are always a balancing act. He assured everyone that that area is important to him and was part of his heritage and that he does not make decisions like this lightly. He indicated that he would be in favor of the ordinance if they make some changes in the ordinance to reflect what has been discussed regarding operational hours, prohibition for processing on the site, height limits, minimum of 700 foot setbacks, and the creation of an advisory council to the operation plan, although he commented that he believes that needs to be between the citizens and the operator.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, suggested that they require that the developer or property owner create this advisory council of seven members chosen by the community, that they meet at least quarterly, and that the minutes be provided to the County’s Growth Management Department.
Commr. Cadwell opined that the County has one of the model mining ordinances in the state and putting that additional condition in the ordinance would not be warranted in this particular case. However, he wanted to make sure all of the other conditions they discussed were in the ordinance, such as the harvest area size of 300 acres, project size, and total site size.
Commr. Parks asked if the Board would consider putting a stipulation in the ordinance to follow Chapter 62-345.100 Florida Statutes regarding uniform mitigation assessment methodology which would require them to demonstrate objectively through state statute that value and function would be exceeded if they moved forward with the peat mine.
Commr. Cadwell added that he wanted a condition regarding the baseline on well monitoring as part of the ordinance.
Commr. Sullivan commented that although he was a believer in supporting business, he wanted to make sure it fits into the neighborhood, and he believed this is a project that could do that. He suggested that they do the baseline testing on 20 acres at a time, and he suggested incorporating the conditions that the applicant mentioned into the ordinance. He elaborated that he believes in property rights and that this does not hurt their environment because of all the mitigation requirements of the County. He pointed out that the Water Management District will also look at this.
Commr. Parks asked that they also add as a condition for the applicant to turn off their backing up beeping noises on their equipment.
Mr. Minkoff responded that there was an alternative method to provide that warning that was not audible that was approved by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration.)
Commr. Campione related that she grew up in that area and appreciated it as was one of the most beautiful places in Lake County. She commented that she was a strong advocate of property rights, but she believed that they have to find the right balance between being productive and industrious with protecting the environment. She noted that she also looked at whether someone was doing something with their land that was truly affecting someone else’s use and enjoyment of their own property that rose to the level of a nuisance, such as dust, noise, and health issues, but her research indicated that those nuisance issues are being addressed for this project and that the conditions in the ordinance protect the surrounding neighbors. She assured everyone that the area will be beautiful when this project is finished with thriving wildlife. She added that she wanted to make sure the 20 acre cell requirement was in the ordinance which requires the applicant to restore that small area before they move on, as well as a limit of the use of two backhoes at a time and a six-month rather than a one-year review period. She asked for clarification from County staff of their position about the one Comp Plan provision mentioned regarding prohibition on mining.
Ms. King explained that staff reviewed this application and found that the restoration qualities associated with the harvesting of the peat falls in line with that policy in the Comp Plan, and they agree that it was consistent with the policy.
Commr. Conner commented that he was a little uneasy about the project, partially because of the fear of the unknown, especially what the impact would be on wells and other water supplies, so he will not support the motion. He added, however, that he respected the fact that the Board has added a lot of provisions and believed the protections they put in were commendable.
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Sullivan and carried by a vote of 4-1, the Board approved Ordinance No. 2014-32, MCUP #14/5/1-5, Goose Prairie Peat Mine, a request for a Mining Conditional Use Permit for a peat mine with the intent to harvest the peat and reclaim/restore the wetland system, with the following conditions: the operating hours must be limited to 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, only 12 trucks of material will be allowed per day, the processing of peat will not be permitted on site, the peat stockpiles must be at a maximum of 20 feet in height, a minimum of 700 feet setback from neighbors will be required, baseline testing of the wells must be completed, the backup alarm on trucks must be disabled and a visual alternative must be found for OSHA compliance, an advisory council with seven members selected by the community must be created to meet with the owner on a quarterly basis and the minutes provided to the Growth Management Department, a 20 acre cell will only be allowed to be harvested at a time, on-site heavy equipment will be limited to two at a time, the project must be monitored every six months to ensure reclamation standards are achieved, and the applicant must follow Chapter 62-345.100, Florida Statutes entitled Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method.
Commr. Conner voted “no.”
Mr. David Heath, County Manager, recapped that he and his staff gave a presentation to the Board during a work session on January 28 regarding the budget, at which time the Board gave consensus for staff to work with the Sheriff to try to address his needs, including the issue of employee compensation. He related that they have gotten the preliminary property values from the Property Appraiser’s Office as of June 1, as well as the budgets from the constitutional officers and the proposed budgets from the County departments. He stated that they would give a presentation of how they propose to balance this year’s budget and would go over each of the five millages for the General Fund, Parks and Stormwater MSTU, Lake County Fire Rescue, Public Lands, and Lake Ambulance MSTU. He also recapped that since they used a portion of the Infrastructure Sales Tax last year to balance the FY 2014 budget, he thought it would be appropriate to update the Board on that fund’s revenues and obligations; also, they will give a budget summary followed by how the proposed millages would impact the owner of a typical house in Lake County, alternatives to a possible millage change, and the calendar specifying critical dates for adopting the budget.
Mr. Steve Koontz, Budget Director, recapped that the FY 2014 Countywide Budget adopted on September 24 was $351.2 million, with the General Fund Budget of $124 million and reserves of $8.8 million, which was 7.6 percent of the operating expenses, and he pointed out that the 2014 millage rates were kept at the FY 2013 level. He related that some of the things they had to do as part of the budget process were to decrease the County departmental budgets by 5.3 percent, decrease the Constitutional budgets by .8 percent, eliminate the Law Library, eliminate the Lynx bus routes from the General Fund, use $1.1 million from the Infrastructure Sales Tax for the debt service, and make use of the significant savings in the Juvenile Justice costs to fund the shortfall in the Parks and Trails budget of about $400,000. He went over the millage rates for FY 2014, including the General Fund millage of 4.7309 and the total millage of 5.9368 mills, and he gave an overview of the general fund, displaying bar charts showing a historical perspective of the revenues, expenses, and reserves of the General Fund from 2008 to 2014. He commented that the largest part of the General Fund is the ad valorem, which has gone from $101.4 million in 2008 down to $70.1 million for this year, and he noted that the expenses in the General Fund in 2008 were about $178 million, which was down to $116.9 million in 2014. He pointed out that those expenses have flattened out from 2011 to 2013 due to the efforts they have made to decrease costs, although other costs have increased, such as Medicaid expenses, which presented even more of a challenge to them to cut expenses. He reported that there has been a steady decline in the reserves from 2010 to 2014 as expenses have exceeded revenues, and he displayed a bar graph illustrating that trend, which has resulted in a decrease in the reserves for a low of $10.5 million in 2014. He added that there was a high of 374 County positions in 2007, but the positions in the General Fund have decreased 43 percent or 159 positions through attrition and staff reductions. He displayed a pie chart illustrating the four major components of the General Fund, which were the County departments making up about 26 percent, Judicial Support making up about 2 percent, the Constitutional Offices making up 59 percent, and the transfers and non-departmental making up about 13 percent.
Mr. Koontz then presented a revenue analysis of the recommended FY 2015 budget, and he noted that even with the increases in property value expected for 2014 and 2015, it was still 32 percent below the highpoint of 2008. He reported that FY 2014 had a .64 increase in the county’s property values to $14.8 billion, and the best estimate they have gotten from the Property Appraiser’s Office on June 1 was a 3.57 percent increase for FY 2015, which will bring the property values to just over $15.3 billion; however, he pointed out that he expects to get the certified values on July 1, and he will make adjustments after receiving that figure. He presented the recommended budget that was put together by staff for the ad valorem taxes in the amount of $86.1 million based on a $13.5 million increase in revenues using a proposed millage rate of 5.6124, which was a .88 increase to the 2014 millage. He related that the projected intergovernmental revenues, which includes sales tax and revenue sharing, of about $19.3 million and other revenues such as fees, charges, and excess fees are expected to bring in about $20.4 million; and the total pool of revenues are expected to be $134.1 next year. He stated that the total County Departments budget equals $31.6 million, the judicial support is about $3 million, constitutional officers is $73.5 million, and the nondepartmental expenses are expected to be about $16 million. He indicated that based on those expenses, they estimate a reserve of 7 percent or $8.6 million, with PO carry-forwards of $1.4 million, and the total expenditure budget is $134.1 million. He specified that the County Departments budget had to account for a slight increase in the FRS rates, included a three percent raise for employee compensation, contained enhancement of information technology, and included the first phase of the Astatula Fuel Remediation Project; and he added that the proposed budget also includes a slight increase for Animal Services, although they will be working with the Sheriff, moving that funding out of the County departments, and transferring that to the Sheriff in the future. He noted that items that were kept constant at the 2014 funding level included Medicaid, Social and Children’s Services Grants, Health Department, economic development, and communications.
Mr. Koontz reported that there was a 3 percent increase in the Clerk of Courts’ budget for FY 2015 over FY 2014, although they had a small amount of excess fees budgeted for the Clerk; the Property Appraiser had a slight increase of 2.15 percent; the Sheriff’s budget is expected to increase about $3.6 million or 7.69 percent; the Supervisor of Elections had an increase of about 3.96 percent; and they would be getting the Tax Collector numbers on August 1, although they expect a decrease in excess fees for next year to be reflected for the Tax Collector. He summarized that the total budget for the Constitutional Officers was $75.5 million, which was 59 percent of the General Fund, which also reflected an increase for the cost of maintenance and utilities, as well as lease costs for the new building for the Tax Collector in Leesburg. He mentioned that Judicial Support is a very small part of the budget at about 2 percent of the General Fund, which includes a technology component, an overhead component made up of maintenance and utilities, and some personnel for Court Administration, the Public Defender, the State Attorney, and the Guardian Ad Litem Program; he added that this budget had some increases in operational expenses and will also include the purchase of new furniture for the Jury Selection Rooms over the next three years. He explained that Non Departmental expenses include transfers, CRA payments, and Medical Examiner expenses, and they have increased the transfer to the Fire Fund to offset the governmental building fire assessments. He added that Non Departmental items that were kept constant were the library transfer of $3.7 million, Public Transportation of $1.1 million, transfer to the Medical Examiner of $800,000, and a small Solid Waste transfer of $300,000. Mr. Koontz pointed out that the proposed 2015 budget does not include funding for reclassifications and new positions, salary compression, or the FEMA invoice for the hurricanes and tornadoes; and it does not address increasing demands for service.
Mr. Koontz presented a bar graph illustrating that the Parks and Stormwater MSTU revenues have gone from $6 million in 2008 to $3.9 million in 2014; however, he related that the FY 2015 best estimate projection for the Parks and Stormwater MSTU shows an increase of 2.58 percent from the previous year, and he mentioned that this fund no longer is used for roads as it formerly was until 2010. He noted that the stormwater funding has decreased consistently from $4.4 million in 2008 down to its current level of $500,000 and that the funding for parks from that fund had increased until 2011 but has decreased since then due to the decrease in overall funding. He specified that Stormwater receives about 13 percent of the ad valorem revenues or $500,000, which is enough to fund the ongoing operations but not future projects, and there is some cash brought forward from previous years for stormwater capital projects for a total of $3 million. He related that their expenditures include their operations of about $500,000 which includes project management, flood plain reviews, permitting, inspections, and monitoring; and the projects for next year include Wolfbranch Sink at an expected cost of about $2 million and other smaller projects for a total of $3 million. He mentioned that they put some of the Public Lands funding that was historically in the General Fund into the Parks fund as well as a transfer from the General Fund for operations and maintenance, which amounts to $4.79 million after the statutory deduction, resulting in a total of $5.34 million with the cash brought forward from the fund balance and the PO carryforwards. He pointed out that this budget does not include any operational reserves, and he described the budget as being mostly for operations. He stated that one of the challenges for this budget is that although the Parks and Trails revenues have been declining since 2010, the responsibilities have been increasing with the addition of new active and passive parks and recreational areas, with more parks expected to open in the near future, resulting in underfunded repair and maintenance costs over the last couple of years. He assured the Board that staff has been getting all they could out of every available dollar, and he mentioned that this budget also has no operational reserves. He displayed a map which showed the locations of the active parks in the county, which required intense maintenance. He also pointed out that they included a transfer of $1.1 million from the General Fund in the FY 2015 recommended budget to address issues such as ADA repairs and transition plans, playground repairs, and pavement repairs, since many of the parks have become regional in nature. He announced, however, that there is no proposed millage increase to the Parks and Stormwater MSTU.
Mr. Koontz next gave an overview of the Lake County Fire Budget, pointing out that the two main sources of revenue making up this budget are ad valorem and the Fire Assessment, and he reported that the trend is that the MSTU decreased from a high of $3.6 million in 2009 down to $2.6 million in 2014. He related that they did the full study for the fire assessment in 2011, and the Board approved the more conservative approach of using a breakdown of 75-25 of the ALS versus non-ALS, which slightly impacted the revenues resulting in a decrease to about a $16 million level. He noted that although overall the funding has decreased, expenses have been increasing in general since 2009 due to expansion of the County’s fire services. He mentioned that when the revenues were good, they were able to increase the reserves in the Fire Budget, but the reserves have been decreasing since 2012 in order to cover the increasing expenses. He displayed a bar graph illustrating the firefighter position comparison which showed that there were 172 firefighters in 2008, and through the years from 2008-2010 there was an increase of 10 positions due to some volunteer stations that became full-time stations and to staff Station 99 in Clermont, with a lot of that paid for with grant funding which expired in 2013 that took care of the salaries of some of those positions. He mentioned that they were expecting an increase in the MSTU revenue of 2.67 percent for FY 2015, and he noted that the recommended budget includes an increase in the millage rate from .322 to .473, which would generate about another $1.2 million in revenues. He indicated that they would be doing a full study and coming back before the Board about fire assessment transfers, and he reported that the proposed budget would have total revenues of $23.81 million after the cash brought forward. He commented that the majority of the expenses for this fund are for personnel of $16.3 million, along with other smaller expenses such as operating, capital, transfer fees, and reserves. He pointed out that expenses are exceeding revenues, resulting in declining reserves, and they are also expecting increasing personnel costs in the future due to increased Special Risk FRS rates, three percent raises for employees, and expiration of grants that funded 12 positions. He mentioned that the budget includes a new Financial Coordinator position and funding for automatic aid agreements. He added that the FY 2015 reserves are budgeted at 10 percent, and the fund will be more structurally balanced in the FY 2015 budget, with new revenues equaling expenses; however, he pointed out that the new budget does not include funding for salary compression, replacement of the aging fleet of fire trucks, and replacement or renovation of other aging infrastructure.
Mr. Koontz reported that there was an expected increase in the Public Lands Voted Debt value of 3.57 percent for FY 2015, and he recommended that they decrease the millage rate from .190 to .161, which would result in a decrease in revenues of about $440,000, because they have exceeded the goal of a $500,000 reserve to mitigate any fluctuation in revenues and changes in values. He related that there was cash brought forward of about $900,000, total revenues of $3.29 million, and total expenses of $3.29 consisting of principal, interest, fees, and reserves; and he opined that this fund is absolutely structurally balanced. He stated that the Lake County Ambulance MSTU was a countywide millage which showed a .64 percent increase in the FY 2014 budget, and they were expecting a 3.57 percent increase in FY 2015. He indicated that they have included an increase in revenues for this fund of about $1.5 million or a millage rate change of .1 from .3853 to .4853, which would result in total ad valorem revenues of $7.44 million and total revenues of $7.77 after the statutory deduction and cash brought forward is taken into consideration. He noted that they have included a payment to EMS of $6.3 million under the expenditures, and he listed other expenses including CRA payments, ALS payments to cities and to Fire Rescue, and reserves, for a total of $7.77 million.
Mr. Koontz recapped that the Infrastructure Sales Tax for FY 2014 had a beginning fund balance of $8.28 million and new revenues of about $6 million, and he listed the projects that were included in that budget, including the debt service for the 800 MHz radio system, capital improvement debt service, Lake EMS, Parks and Trails funding, judicial center construction, sheriff vehicles, and an Animal Services project. He listed FY 2015 projects that they recommend to be funded from the FY 2015 Infrastructure Sales Tax budget, including the 800 MHz radio system, Parks and Trails, Sheriff’s vehicles, the balance of funding for the South Lake Regional Park, the Tax Collector Building in Clermont, Lake EMS capital funding, the Lake Idamere Miracle Field, lights for Woodlea Park, Animal Services vehicles, and renovations to the Umatilla Health Clinic for a total estimate for those proposed projects of $8.7 million. He pointed out that some of the unfunded needs that are not addressed in this budget are $1.3 million requested for the Lake Wekiva Trail Corridor, Animal Services facility improvements requested by the Sheriff, future space needs for the Tax Collector, replacement of aging HVAC in existing buildings, potential fairgrounds relocation, and replacement of County equipment, vehicles, and other infrastructure.
Mr. Heath recapped that he received requests for funding of specific projects from the Commissioners immediately after the January work session, including $50,000 in funding for the South Lake Water Initiative from Commr. Parks, which did not need to be put in the budget since the legislature awarded a state appropriation for that. He related that Commr. Parks also requested that they move plans for the South Lake Regional Park forward by developing the master plan and providing fencing to ward off dumping and vandalism issues. He recapped that Commr. Campione’s request was to fund the Rescue Coordinator position for Animal Services, but he pointed out that Sheriff Borders indicated that he would make that a priority and would try to fund that by efficiencies through use of inmate labor for other types of work at Animal Services. He stated that Commr. Conner requested funding for the first phase of the Lake Idamere Miracle Field, which would be augmented by the state with a matching grant, as well as funding for the lights at Woodlea Park in Tavares through the infrastructure sales tax, which he hoped to do with a matching cooperative arrangement with the City of Tavares. He related that Commr. Cadwell asked staff to look at acquiring additional property for East Lake Park, which would cost about $800,000, and they identified 40 acres that they were planning on purchasing using the Infrastructure Sales Tax dollars for that purpose. He commented that the General Fund budget addressed the priorities the Board had expressed in January such as addressing the Constitutional Officers’ requests, maintaining existing levels of service, addressing the issue of employee compensation, ensuring that the budget is more structurally balanced, and providing long-term funding stability. He emphasized that the reserves are currently effectively exhausted, and further reductions in staff would result in service issues and service delivery problems.
Mr. Heath explained that the Parks and Stormwater MSTU proposed budget provides countywide funding of parks, maintains the existing level of service, and provides funding stability for parks; and he assured the Board that they were attempting to address the growth issues related to parks as so many new parks and recreation areas are being added to the County inventory. However, he pointed out that the new budget does not address long-term capital maintenance, such as trail pothole repair, or future stormwater needs and projects; and he opined that the County spends very little on stormwater for a county their size. He related that the Fire Rescue Budget maintains the current level of service, addresses employee compensation, provides for long-term funding stability, and makes the budget more structurally balanced; however, it does not address salary compression. He added that the Lake County Ambulance budget addresses the request for Lake EMS funding, addresses capital needs, maintains the current levels of service, and provides funding stability. He assured the Board that he understood the seriousness of the effects of a millage increase, but emphasized that even with the millage increase, the revenue would only equal the 2010 level. He specified that a homeowner who owned an average house with a value of $150,000 with homestead and a taxable value of $100,000 would be paying an additional $110.33 per year with the proposed millage increase. He commented that it would be extremely difficult to balance the budget without that millage increase, resulting in the County facing the same budget challenges that they have been struggling with over the last several years for many years to come, and he pointed out that the Sheriff could appeal his budget to the Governor and cabinet if he was not satisfied with the amount of his budget, which would necessitate the County to set aside additional funds in an amount of up to $3 million for that contingency. He also emphasized that there would be approximately a $15.1 million funding gap without a millage rate increase to address needs in the General Fund, the Fire budget, and the Ambulance fund, and he recommended to make public safety their first priority in that case by funding the proposed Sheriff’s budget, Fire Rescue at its existing level of service, and proposed EMS budget out of the general fund. He opined that they would have to rely on the Infrastructure Sales Tax if they did not increase the millage by using up to $5.74 million of that budget to pay the principal and interest payment on the debt for the Judicial Center, which would also cause the elimination or delay of several projects such as the Judicial Center completion, the South Lake Regional Park, and the projects outlined by the Commissioners’ requests. His other alternatives for balancing the budget in order to make up the $9 or $10 million shortfall after using the Infrastructure Sales Tax included a reduction of 40 percent to the departments, which would entail a reduction of 30 to 50 positions; elimination of raises for all employees; elimination of grant programs; delay of the Astatula Fuel Remediation project; closing Discovery Gardens; closing the three branch libraries at Astor, Paisley, and East Lake as well as a 40 percent reduction of funding to member libraries; and cutting of economic incentives to businesses. He noted that they only had a limited base of $25 million to work which the County had control over and that the County needed to have fundamental operations to remain viable as an organization. He added that the Parks and Trails budget would be funded by cutting stormwater projects, and he would have to have a work session with the Board as soon as possible if the millage was not increased so that he could discuss the needed reductions with the Board as well as notify staff as soon as possible if layoffs were needed. He specified that the Board would set the tentative millage and assessments by July 22 with the two public hearings for the budget set for September 9 and September 23.
recess and reassembly
The Chairman announced at 2:25 p.m. that there would be a five-minute recess.
budget workshop (cont’d)
Commr. Conner expressed appreciation for the cooperation the Board has had with Sheriff Gary Borders over the last several years and opined that he has been an exceptional partner with the Board.
Sheriff Borders commented that although he is asking for a $3.2 million increase in order to increase the salary of the employees at the Sheriff’s Office, he has cut all of the money out of his budget that he was requested to cut by the Board for the last three years. He commented that he has lost some employees to other agencies because of the low starting pay, and they needed to address that problem. He opined that his employees have served Lake County well, resulting in a reduction in the crime rate for the last four years, and they have reached out to the citizens in their communities and partnered with them to provide the best level of service possible. He related that they have done salary surveys comparing their salaries with those of surrounding counties and within the county.
Mr. Fred Costello, a resident of Clermont, presented a flak jacket, also known as a “bullet-proof vest,” to the Commissioners to examine and pointed out that this item is not really bullet-proof, since a high-speed bullet or piece of shrapnel can still kill or injure a deputy who is wearing it. He commented that if they agree that public safety is their highest priority, they must continue to support the Sheriff and his staff. He requested that the Board approve the Sheriff’s budget unanimously and to place a line item for the Sheriff’s budget on the ad valorem tax invoice. He opined that the voters will pay the price to support the people who risk their lives every day to protect them and keep them safe. He discussed some problems that Sheriff’s deputies’ families are facing due to economic hardships and mentioned that research was conducted regarding economic issues and the effectiveness of the Sheriff’s Office. He pointed out that crimes such as burglary and criminal mischief were down as much as 40 percent during the time period between 2011 through 2013. He opined that the deputies and their families are burdened with low starting salaries, a five-year freeze on salary increases, inflation that constantly diminishes their purchasing power, tight family budgets, and stresses on family relationships caused by the need to work excessive hours to make ends meet. He specified that deputies are paid a starting salary of $35,485 with a take home pay of about $28,326 per year, which makes it necessary for the deputy to enrich their pay with extra duty details, overtime, or a spouse’s pay. He concluded that pay scales must be increased to enable the deputies to provide an acceptable standard of living for their families.
Mr. Costello related that the salary of a Lake County Sheriff Deputy ranks 12 out of the 15 counties and cities which were surveyed, which were Marion, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia Counties and the cities of Astatula, Clermont, Eustis, Fruitland Park, Groveland, Howey-in-the-Hills and Lady Lake, resulting in loss of deputies who leave to work for surrounding law enforcement agencies, including ones that were trained within Lake County. He noted that the Board’s approval of the Sheriff’s budget would help to replace worn out equipment, strengthen their competitive position, reduce financial stresses on deputy families, and mean continued safety for the people of Lake County. He then asked for everyone to rise and express their appreciation with applause to Sheriff Borders, the deputies that keep the community safe, and all First Responders, including Fire and EMS personnel.
Sheriff Borders added that Lake County had the best First Responders, EMS, fire fighters, and deputies; and he would like to increase the salaries of their existing employees.
Judge Don Briggs related that he was there in support of State Attorney Brad King and Public Defender Michael Graves regarding the issue of the completion of the Judicial Center. He pointed out that delays in the construction with their current contractor has delayed the completion of that project over a year, and the money in the budget from the infrastructure sales tax for the next phase of the Judicial Center project would have already been spent if that delay had not occurred. He commented that Mr. King’s and Mr. Graves’ offices were already out of space, and it was costing Lake County money to continue to rent space for the State Attorney’s office employees rather than having them consolidated into the Judicial Center. He expressed support for Mr. Heath’s proposed budget.
Mr. Brad King, State Attorney for the 5th Judicial Circuit, asked the Board to finish what was started regarding the Judicial Center project, and he noted that he continually brought in new lawyers and was the largest law firm between Orlando and Jacksonville with 35 lawyers who work for him in Lake County. He related that he regularly sees lawyers who leave after working two or three years in his office in search of a better opportunity that would enable them to pay their law school debt. He commented that the lawyers who work for them recognize that they provide a public service by handling the cases of criminals who go through the court system, and giving those attorneys a place to work that looks like a professional law office would make them feel more appreciated by the citizens for that service and give them more incentive to continue to work in his office. He commented that it is important to have experienced attorneys in the courtroom to convict the criminals that threaten their society, but they are having trouble attracting and keeping good lawyers when they have to work two to an office or have to struggle with the victims’ children having to sit in the foyer when they come to their office, since they had to convert the playroom to office space. He requested that the Board help him in that small way by finishing the Judicial Center project to keep good lawyers working for them and their citizens in Lake County and to continue to provide quality service.
Mr. Michael Graves, Public Defender for the 5th Judicial Circuit, commented that he appreciates the extremely good relationship his office has had with the Lake County Commission, and he stated that he agreed with Mr. King about the difficulty of hiring and retaining good employees. He recapped that the Public Defender’s Office was moved out of the courthouse in May 2007 and into temporary space in the old Public Works building in anticipation of building new space for them in the courthouse in the future; however, he pointed out that over seven years later they were still in that temporary space with temporary infrastructure. He emphasized that they were out of space, and he will be in front of the Board soon to request rental space if they do not complete the renovation of the Judicial Center, since their staff has grown more than 25 percent over that seven-year period, and he has had positions that he has wanted to relocate for the last 18 months to serve the citizens of Lake County but has not been able to do so because of lack of space. He added that he needed more soundproof rooms because of attorney-client privileged communication, and the infrastructure of the building they currently occupy is beginning to fail, resulting in the closing of the office early because of air conditioning issues five days in the last month. He reminded the Board that there were $50,000 worth of County-owned servers in that office that required a separate air conditioning system. He commented that he thought it would be best for all parties for his office to be placed behind the security of the courthouse, and he noted that he was the second largest law firm in the state with 43 employees currently in that office space. He stated that he was only asking for a serviceable and not an opulent office space, and he added that the current space was not set up for the digital and electronic age when they moved into it seven years ago. He opined that the blueprints for his new office that is planned for the Judicial Center will carry them through for a minimum of 12 years without the necessity for any additional space. He thanked the Commissioners for the difficult job they do.
Commr. Conner commented that they were very fortunate to have a great relationship between the Board and the great Constitutional Officers, State Attorney, and judiciary in Lake County. He opined that the Commissioners were very grateful for that, and they have all worked hard to maintain that relationship.
Mr. Brian Gamble, Fire Lieutenant from Lake County Fire Rescue, related that he and his employees have come out to show their support for the Fire Rescue budget, and he mentioned that they have firefighters who have been working out of hotels for the last six years or in stations where the ceilings have collapsed. He added that they have also been facing wage issues and have lost 50 quality employees in the last five years after they have spent over $1 million to train them. He asked the Board for their support of the proposed budget.
Mr. John Drury, Tavares City Administrator, related that they were building a regional park for Lake County in Tavares, and the City spent $1 million ten years ago purchasing a 40-acre site and preparing it so that Lake County did not have to build a regional park in that area as the master plan originally called for. He recapped that they partnered with the County five years ago to start building the fields, and they have been managing, staffing, and taking care of it. He specified that 43 percent of the users are Lake County residents, 20 percent are from other cities within the county, and 27 percent are Tavares residents. He explained that Tavares was planning to partner with the County again to provide lighting for the fields in order to continue to provide recreational park services to Lake County residents as well as the other cities, and he expressed an intention to provide 50 percent of the cost to do that.
Mr. Vance Jochim, who writes a blog about local government activities and fiscal issues called FiscalRangers.com, opined that he was a taxpayer advocate rather than an anti-tax advocate and specified that he has calculated that the proposed millage rate will amount to a 19 percent increase. He commented that he was in favor of an increase for the County, because it has gone through a lot of shrinkage, been very transparent, made their budgets assessable, and had performance audits done to look at efficiency and effectiveness issues. He opined, however, that the constitutional officers did not need to do any of those things, and he expressed concern regarding oversight and transparency of the constitutional officers’ budgets of up to $50 million. He stated that although he does not question the skills or the values of the employees of those offices, there have been no performance audits. He requested that the Board set some conditions and ask for the same transparency as a lot of other governmental agencies if it makes a decision to approve an increase in the taxes or the budget for those constitutional offices.
Commr. Conner replied that Sheriff Borders presents his budget to the Board frequently, and Commr. Parks has acted as liaison one year and met with him several times during that time regarding his budget.
Ms. B. Grassel, a resident of Tavares, opined that transparency in the Sheriff’s budget would be detrimental to residents’ safety, since some things in his budget should not be known by those trying to break the law. She requested adequate and fair funding and compensation for all of their public safety employees, especially those in the Sheriff’s Office, noting that all of the FRS employees were impacted greatly three years ago by three percent being taken away by the state. She commented that they need to support the people who are keeping them safe, and she emphasized the danger that deputies face every day. She pointed out that the budget reflects the County’s priorities, and they will find a way to do something that was truly important.
Commr. Campione commented about the effect of the sharp increases in property values in 2008 during the real estate boom and clarified that it would take them ten years to get back to that point. She stated that it would be interesting to know whether the reduction in fire assessments are related to annexations of land areas into the city limits, especially as the Board contemplates the ISBA agreements and potential for greater annexation opportunities, since those would result in contraction of the unincorporated areas and a decrease in the MSTU and the assessments.
Commr. Sullivan related that he agreed with the analysis that they would not grow out of this problem and added that the Save Our Homes initiative only allows a three percent increase on the valuation of homesteaded properties. He opined that cutting economic development programs would not make common sense, because they need to get the balance of residential and commercial property back in line so that the taxation for funding their government will not be borne solely by homeowners. He expressed concern that the tough decisions they have to make could hurt taxpayers, who they have sworn to look after, the most. He stated that he has extensive experience with budgets and other financial matters, and he believes the proposed budget looks like a reasonable one as they move forward, although he would be looking through it further to try to find further savings by cutting things that would not support their policies.
Commr. Parks expressed concern that the cost for the Astatula Remediation would get more expensive if they put that off, and he asked for the specific cost of that cleanup.
Mr. Heath responded that they had an ongoing cost of about $200,000 a year for that, and cleanup will cost about $470,000 to $500,000. He mentioned that a presentation about that issue will be on the agenda for the next meeting.
Commr. Parks expressed support for the Sheriff’s deputies and public safety personnel and mentioned that he had gone on some ride-alongs with the Sheriff’s Office and the fire department to get some hands-on experience. He stated that he wholeheartedly supported the Sheriff’s budget, and public safety was a primary priority for him. He added that economic development will suffer if the crime rate in the County goes up, especially since South Lake is close to the Orlando area, and it would be hard to attract new business growth with a higher crime rate or if fire services and EMS become too overloaded. He mentioned that families also want good parks, and there was already a shortage of ball fields in South Lake. He commented that there was a level of service that needed to be met, and they had to be sure they were funding basic maintenance to keep up with that. He indicated, however, that he would also be mindful in looking for efficiencies.
Commr. Conner pointed out that Commr. Cadwell has warned them year after year about the economic predicament that they were in, and this is not a surprise to them.
Commr. Cadwell commented that the Board did what they believed was the right thing to do at the time because of the economic conditions, but the Board is aware of the situation they are currently in. He commented that they were now considered urban and were no longer running a rural Sheriff, ambulance, or fire department as they historically were. He pointed out that they should remember to help all of their public employees who serve the public every day extremely well, and they have laid off 157 of their fellow citizens.
Commr. Campione commented that she agreed with Commr. Cadwell about the appreciation of their employees and wanting to take care of them, and she especially appreciated how difficult the public safety jobs were. She wanted to continue to look for solutions that do not require a tax increase, since she feels uneasy about the proposed millage increase, especially in addition to a value increase, which could feel substantial to a lot of residents and businesses.
Commr. Conner opined that the Board is as fiscally conservative a County Commission as they will find anywhere, and he pointed out that they had gotten through several economically tough years and $30 million less in property tax revenue without raising taxes, which was an incredible accomplishment. He noted, however, that the County’s infrastructure is crumbling, such as aging fire trucks that are 13 years or older. He opined that although he hated taxes, he realized that the County had some pressing needs, and he admitted to being so singularly focused in the past on not raising taxes that it has resulted in some oversights. He also commented that Lake County has a great quality of life, and public safety and good parks are important factors to retaining that quality of life. He emphasized that he believes Sheriff Borders is doing an excellent job keeping the crime rate down, and he related that he really appreciated law enforcement and the danger they face on a daily basis. He noted that even if the millage rate is increased, the County will still be at 2010 levels of ad valorem revenue, and he pointed out that the increase seems high because they have delayed the tough decisions as long as they could. He added that they have not balanced their budget since he has been a Commissioner without using the reserves which had been conservatively accumulated in prior years; however, even though the Board instituted several policies which continually lowered the amount of required reserve, they are now at a point where it cannot be lowered anymore. He assured everyone that he will still take a close look at the budget to look for any further reductions that could be made.
recess and reassembly
The Chairman announced at 4:00 p.m. that there would be a five-minute recess.
COUNTY MANAGER’S DEPARTMENTAL BUSINESS
n. hancock road & turnpike exchange project and agreements
Mr. Fred Schneider, County Engineer, Public Works Department, explained that the purpose of the presentation was to present agreements for the construction of a new Turnpike interchange and the extension of North Hancock Road in Minneola and to request approval of the agreements between Lake County and the Florida Department of Transportation, the City of Minneola Community Redevelopment Agency, and Family Dynamics, which was the owner of the Hills of Minneola DRI property which surrounds the Turnpike interchange. He recapped that the North Hancock Road extension PD&E Study was completed in 2008 and approved by the City of Minneola and Lake County. He also mentioned that FDOT has approved their PD&E Study for the Turnpike interchange and has funded the project at a cost of $30 million. He explained that the City of Minneola Redevelopment Agency is responsible to pay back DOT up to $15 million towards that interchange project, and Family Dynamics has agreed to fund $6.7 million to build two lanes from the Turnpike north to CR 561A. He added that the Board is funding the construction of the N. Hancock Road project from CR 50 north to the Turnpike’s project at an estimated construction cost of $8.6 million, which does not include the design costs and right of way expenses; however, DOT has recently provided a TRIP Grant to Lake County in the amount of $2 million to help them with their part of the project. He displayed a map illustrating the three segments he previously mentioned, noting that the project will include a multi-use trail on all segments and a sidewalk near the Turnpike project on the west side.
Mr. Schneider reported that two parcels of right of way remain on the Lake County project for acquisition, with the County Attorney’s Office working through the eminent domain process through the court system, and Family Dynamics is donating the land needed for the right of way for the Turnpike interchange and N. Hancock Road as well as land needed for the stormwater ponds. He explained that the first proposed agreement is a multi-party agreement to set up the general principles in which the project will be funded, commenced, constructed, and maintained, noting that the County will maintain North Hancock Road when it is completed with the exception of between the Turnpike ramps and the bridge over the Turnpike. He related that the second agreement is a two-party agreement between the County and Family Dynamics which sets forth the specific requirements of Family Dynamics for the construction of N. Hancock Road from the interchange north to CR 561, which was a requirement of DOT in order to ensure that the project is completed. He specified what the obligations in those agreements would be, relating that the first agreement requires that the Turnpike will construct the new Turnpike interchange and a segment of N. Hancock Road, including the bridge over the Turnpike Mainline; that Lake County will complete the N. Hancock Road Construction project from CR 50 north to the Turnpike project; that Family Dynamics will complete the two lane N. Hancock extension from the interchange north to CR 561A; and that the Minneola CRA will repay the Turnpike up to $15 million toward their investment in the interchange. He specified that the second agreement further defines the responsibilities of the County and Family Dynamics as related to the construction of N. Hancock Road outside of the Turnpike interchange, requires the construction of two lanes of an ultimately designed four-lane roadway, and adds a further stipulation that the construction will include all of the earthwork and stormwater pond construction necessary for a future four-lane roadway. He elaborated that they were offering Transportation Impact Fee credits in the amount of $1.43 million to Family Dynamics for the extra work above and beyond what they would have normally been required to do for just construction of a two-lane connection, as well as giving them credits for the intersection at the north end where it intersects 561A, since they would be donating the extra land needed to improve the curvature and sight distance at that intersection. He summarized that the N. Hancock Road and Turnpike interchange is fully funded for construction and that the proposed agreements set forth the responsibility of all the parties for funding, construction and maintenance of the completed project; and he requested approval of those agreements under Tabs 31 and 32.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, pointed out that the agreement has not been signed yet by all of the other parties, since they are still working on some of the attachments for these complex agreements, but they will not present those agreements to the Commissioners for signature until they are complete. He commented that Mr. Schneider has been working hard on these agreements and pointed out that they would probably result in $50 million in road construction that the County will benefit from but does not have to pay for.
On a motion by Commr. Parks, seconded by Commr. Sullivan and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved a Transportation Impact Fee Agreement with Family Dynamics, LLC for the construction of N. Hancock Road north of the Turnpike's Minneola Interchange and an Agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida's Turnpike Enterprise, City of Minneola Community Redevelopment Agency, and Family Dynamics, LLC for the construction of N. Hancock Road and the Turnpike's Minneola Interchange.
appointment to enterprise zone development agency
On a motion by Commr. Sullivan, seconded by Commr. Campione and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board reappointed Ms. Emily A. Lee to the Enterprise Zone Development Agency under the category of Non-profit community-based organization operating within the Nominated Area to serve a four-year term ending June 12, 2018.
appointments to the women’s hall of fame committee
On a motion by Commr. Campione, seconded by Commr. Sullivan and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board reappointed Ms. Debbie Stivender, District 1; Mr. Rick Reed, District 2; Ms. Jeanne C. Bauer, District 3; Ms. Tracy Belton, District 4; and Ms. Jean M. Martin, District 5 to the Women's Hall of Fame Committee to serve a one-year term ending June 12, 2015.
reports – commissioner parks – vice-chairman and district 2
awards to local athletes
Commr. Parks mentioned that the Gatorade High School Girls Track and Field had named Kaylin Whitney from East Ridge High School as Florida’s athlete of the year, which was also mentioned nationally in USA Today. He also noted that Lachlan Hovius, another local young person who resides in Groveland, set a new national triathlon record which beat Lance Armstrong’s previous record, and he asked if the Board could invite both of them to a meeting to honor those athletes, since Lake County is the up-and-coming sports capital of Florida.
REPORTS – COMMISsIONER campione – DISTRICT 4
concerns about cannonball express railroad crossings
Commr. Campione referred to the previous comments made about the horn from the Cannonball Express. She related that she had contacted Mr. Mark Reggentin, Planning and Development Director for Mount Dora, and was told that it would cost about $100,000 for each crossing to make the crossings safe without having to blow the horn out loud four times for each crossing. She suggested that they look into it themselves to see what could be done, and she recommended putting a railroad crossing at the one just outside the city near where the most homes are instead of at all of the intersections. She commented that the horn is very loud near the train, but it is more tolerable the further away it is.
Mr. Jim Stivender, Public Works Director, explained that it was a federal requirement for all railroads in the United States to do certain things at crossings, but he assured the Board that he will identify what is necessary for each crossing and get that information to them.
cr 44 widening project
Commr. Campione related that she planned to try one more time to deprioritize the CR 44 widening project at the upcoming MPO meeting, since many residents who lived near there were adamantly opposed to the design because it would significantly impact them and change the way they could leave their homes and neighborhoods. She specified that one of the big changes would be the inability to travel northbound after exiting from Lowe’s without having to make a U-turn on US Highway 441 to come back on CR 44 or taking a side road.
Mr. Stivender commented that he would like to see US 441 six-laned in the future because of all the changes happening in that area, and he expressed concern about a four-lane gap when six lanes on 46 runs into US 441 after the Wekiva Parkway project is complete.
study of round lake road extension
Commr. Campione recommended that the Board study the Round Lake Road Extension, because it was another big issue with regard to the Wekiva Parkway which might cause a north-south traffic flow problem.
Mr. Stivender responded that he will be making a presentation on that issue in August.
reports – commissioner cadwell – district 5
ribbon cutting ceremony at hickory point volleyball complex
Commr. Cadwell reminded the Board of the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Hickory Point Volleyball Complex on Saturday, July 5.
leesburg lightning game
Commr. Cadwell related that the Leesburg Lightning game was on Tuesday, July 1, and they would be honoring the Economic Development and Tourism Department, with Mr. Robert Chandler, Economic Development and Tourism Department Director, or someone from his department throwing out the first pitch.
REPORTS – COMMISSIONER conner – CHAIRMAN AND DISTRICT 3
input for state of the county address
Commr. Conner indicated that Ms. Kelly LaFollette, Communications Director, would be talking to each Commissioner to get their input for the State of the County address.
commr. cadwell appointed to expressway authority
Commr. Conner related that he sent a letter to the Expressway Authority appointing Commr. Cadwell to their board.
Accomplishments over 90 days
Commr. Conner opined that they have gotten a lot accomplished over the last 90 days, and he commented that he appreciated how the Board has been working together.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 4:22 p.m.
jimmy conner, chairman
NEIL KELLY, CLERK