The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in a special joint session with the Lake County League of Cities on Tuesday, October 29, 1991, at 7:00 p.m., at the Leesburg Community Center, Leesburg, Florida. Present on the panel were: Tony Otte, City Administrator, City of Tavares; Mike Trosper, City Councilman, City of Umatilla; Jeannie Olson, City Councilwoman, City of Umatilla; Robert Pool, Mayor, City of Clermont; Ann Dupee, City Councilwoman, City of Clermont; Hal Turville, City Councilman, City of Clermont; Sanna Henderson, Mayor, City of Leesburg; Welton Cadwell, President of the Lake County League of Cities and City Clerk, City of Umatilla; Richard Swartz, County Commissioner, District 3; Catherine Hanson, County Commissioner, District 4; Annette Star Lustgarten, County Attorney; Buddy Buie, City Commissioner, City of Eustis; Wayne Saunders, City Manager, City of Clermont; Dale Cunningham, City Manager, City of Mt. Dora; Dolly Chapman, Financial Director, City of Groveland; Bob Maguire, City Councilman, City of Groveland; Charles Boatwright, City Commissioner, City of Fruitland Park; Lee Hokr, Mayor, Town of Lady Lake; Ron White, Mayor, City of Fruitland Park; Bob Proctor, City Manager, City of Fruitland Park; Rex Taylor, City Manager, City of Leesburg; Mike Stearman, City Manager, City of Eustis; and Sandra Carter, Deputy Clerk.
Mr. Welton Cadwell, President of the League of Cities, opened the meeting by having each member on the panel introduce themselves. He stated that a meeting had been held earlier in the day at Vic's Embers between the Board of County Commissioners and some of the representatives of the League of Cities and that they had all agreed that there are some equity problems that need to be addressed, however, the matter of how to best address those problems was where the agreement stopped. He stated the main issue discussed was special assessments for disposal cost, at which time he requested the County Attorney, Ms. Lustgarten, to inform those present the time frame involved to enable it to go into effect next year.
Ms. Lustgarten, County Attorney, stated that the process the County has available to collect special assessments, or non-ad valorem taxes, is set up in the Florida Statutes. She stated that the County has created a Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU) which has the ability to collect non-ad valorem taxes for all types of municipal services, including solid waste. She stated that the County has the existing MSTU established; however, in order to utilize the uniform method for the levy, collection, and enforcement of it, the Board of County Commissioners is obligated to adopt a resolution expressing its intent to utilize that method by January 10, 1992, so that notice can be given to the Property Appraiser and the Tax Collector that the County intends to use it.
Discussion occurred as to whether the special assessments for disposal costs would be countywide - cities and county - or just for those residents in the County.
Mr. Cadwell informed those present that it was not the consensus of the League of Cities to go along with the special assessment for disposal costs for county residents only; therefore, at the meeting held at Vic's Embers, it was decided that a member of the League would address each city council, get their feelings on the matter, and proceed from there.
Mr. Hal Turville, City Councilman, City of Clermont, clarified the fact that if there is a special assessment that is approved by the Board, each city will have the opportunity to decide if they are going to go along with it or not, regardless of what the County does as a whole.
Ms. Lustgarten, County Attorney, stated that the ordinance adopted by the Board regarding same would not be applicable to the cities unless they voluntarily choose to become part of the MSTU.
Mr. Robert Pool, Mayor, City of Clermont, stated it is felt that the cities that recycle and compost are going to be charged unfairly. He questioned why the County could not come up with a certain fee and then charge those cities that recycle $1.00 less than that fee, and those that recycle and compost $2.00 less than the fee. He felt this would be a more equitable way to assess each individual city and that those cities that recycle and compost would benefit from doing so.
Ms. Lustgarten, County Attorney, stated that there are different components to the solid waste system - disposal, collection and recycling. She stated that the amount of waste generated will change, but the cost of disposal of same will not, whether it is disposed of at the resource recovery facility or at the landfill; therefore, as far as the special assessment is concerned, the Board will only address disposal costs. She stated that the other factors are different elements of the total picture.
Mr. Wayne Saunders, City Manager, City of Clermont, questioned whether there could be a different assessment for different areas of the County, noting that if a city is doing a good job of composting and recycling, their citizens may only put out one bag of garbage per week, whereas someone that is not recycling and composting may be putting out five or six bags per week, so their citizens are having to pay too much. He questioned whether the assessment could be less for those cities that have a recycling program, and even less for those cities that have a composting program as well.
Commr. Swartz responded, stating that, as long as the cities are providing essentially the same service, the cost is going to be the same. He stated that where they can differentiate is where they provide a different service, noting that the County is considering establishing some areas where they might only be charging for disposal, because they would provide no collection. He stated that this could be done, however, they would have to clearly delineate where they provide a service. He stated that what was suggested, in regard to a lesser fee being charged for recycling and/or composting, could not be done, because those cities that reduce the units of garbage they send for disposal would end up paying the same as those cities who have more units of garbage, because it would be based on the total disposal cost, divided by the number of households in the County.
Mr. Bob Proctor, City Manager, City of Fruitland Park, referred to the way that a water plant or wastewater plant operates, and stated that the special assessment would have to operate in much the same way, in order to make it equal for everybody. He stated that the County would have to have what amounts to a base facility fee that everybody pays, whether or not they use the facility, in order to ensure that the plant is operated and maintained, whether it is used or not. He stated that everybody has to contribute in order to keep the facility in operation.
Commr. Swartz stated that, essentially, that is what the special assessment becomes, because the County would take the total disposal cost (as best can be estimated for the coming year) and divide it either by tons, or by households, and come up with a per household, or per ton fee.
Mr. Turville interjected that, if the County goes to a special assessment, they are guaranteeing that recycling and composting does not have a prayer in Lake County, forever.
Mr. Proctor stated that the whole reason for meeting is not that they cities want a special assessment, but that they want equity in how they go about ridding themselves of solid waste. He stated that if each city were to seek out its most cost effective, environmentally safe method for disposing of its solid waste, it would mean that they starve the plant, and if the County residents do not use it, they starve the plant as well. Then, when the plant goes under, all residents will be assessed to pay for it, regardless of anything else.
Discussion occurred regarding people illegally dumping their garbage and how it could be enforced, at which time Ms. Lustgarten, County Attorney, stated that when an ordinance is enacted, there are limited methods for enforcing. She stated that county ordinances are also prosecutable by the State Attorney; however, she did not feel that enforcing an ordinance pertaining to solid waste would be a high priority on their list.
Commr. Hanson stated that the interlocal agreements between the cities and the County state that the County will either put into place mandatory collection, or do a special assessment; however, she feels that the County is going to have to do both.
The matter of enforcing the solid waste collection issue was again discussed, at which time Ms. Lustgarten, County Attorney, stated that the County has the ability to adopt an ordinance that says all households and commercial properties that generate garbage within the County must have it collected; therefore, they must enter into an agreement with a hauler to do so. She stated that, if it was determined that somebody was not having their solid waste hauled away, or was not taking it to a transfer station or the landfill, it would be a violation of the ordinance, and the County could send Code Enforcement officers out to cite the individuals.
Mr. Tony Otte, City Administrator, City of Tavares, stated that, if the County was doing the billing, he did not see inspectors being involved at all, noting that if somebody did not pay their bill, it would just show up on the dockets, to which Commr. Hanson responded, stating that this would be true just for mandatory collection.
Concerning the matter of equity, Commr. Swartz stated that the first thing the County needs to do is get the tipping fee at a cost that the County can live with, and that to go to a special assessment, all the County was doing was taking an unconscionable charge and putting it on the backs of the people, whether they live in the cities or the County, and he was not willing to do that until such time as he felt there was a conscionable one.
Mr. Pool stated that the contract with Ogden Martin needs to be renegotiated; however, in doing so, if the cities do not feel that it is a good agreement, then they will seek out other methods of disposal. He stated that the only way he would agree to a special assessment is if the County would give credit to the cities for recycling, and a second credit for composting.
Mr. Cadwell stated that the cities' first priority is the equity issue, and a fair and equitable rate their second, noting that they differ from the County on which is first and which is second. He stated that, if the tipping fee is $10.00 per ton and not paid equitably, then it is not a good rate. He then stated the reason why the equity issue is the cities' number one priority.
Mr. Proctor brought up the issue of paying for the incinerator, stating that it has got to be paid for, one way or another - the question is how they are going to do it. He stated that, whether they like it or not, everybody is going to have to pay for the plant, in some manner or another, so they may as well use it; however, the first thing the County needs to do is get the cost of operating the plant down to a realistic level.
Mr. Turville discussed the issue of operating the incinerator and what the cost per ton is going to be to do so.
Mr. Rex Taylor, City Manager, City of Leesburg, brought up the issue of the Waste Flow Control Ordinance that was adopted in 1988, and questioned whether the County has ever taken anybody to the Code Enforcement Board for violation of said ordinance, to which the County Attorney, Ms. Lustgarten, responded that several firms had been cited by Code Enforcement for violation of same. She stated that the County has absolutely enforced the Waste Flow Control Ordinance.
Ms. Lustgarten stated that it is not only the cost of the resource recovery facility that is at issue. She stated that the County has closed three (3) landfills which have been used by the municipalities for many years, and that the Astatula Landfill is required to be closed by the end of 1993. She stated that the
County has also constructed an ash monofill, at Astatula, to take the ash from the resource recovery facility, so the current tipping fee is covering the cost of all those facilities and obligations.
Mr. Turville questioned whether the $40.00 tipping fee would cover the cost of closing the four landfills, the ash monofill, and operation of the resource recovery facility, to which Commr. Swartz responded that it would not, in fact, it does not even come close. He also stated that the numbers the County is presently dealing with does not cover any of the projected costs for any new landfills, which is currently estimated at $38 to $71 million. He stated that this county is going to be liable for paying off the $79 million in bonds, and any profits that Ogden Martin might conceive to be entitled to over the life of that contract. He stated that he sat on the City Council for the City of Tavares when Ogden Martin tried to sell them on the interlocal agreement, but that they had refused to sign it, because they felt that it was a bad deal for the City of Tavares and for Lake County. He stated that assurances were given that have proven to be incorrect, or were misleading, the first one being that the County had plenty of garbage. He stated that the County does not have plenty of garbage today, and is not projected to have it for years and years to come. He stated that the assurances they made were not true then and are not true now. He stated another factor is that, at the insistence of Ogden Martin, the condition precedent in the contract required cities representing 75% of the population of Lake County to have to sign interlocal agreements, before the contract would become effective; however, when Ogden Martin could not get the cities representing 75% of the population to do so, that part of the contract was removed. He stated that, in his opinion, that was the beginning of the downfall, as assurances were made to the bank that issued the Letter of Credit that there was plenty of garbage. He stated that they also referred to state law regarding same; however, in quoting the Statutes, they did not quote all of it. He stated they failed to quote the portion that states that the State allows cities to recycle, and, as a part of recycling, composting is included, and that if cities want to make arrangements to recycle, they are not prohibited in doing so.
Upon being questioned as to whether he was saying that the County could break the contract, Commr. Swartz responded that he believed there were significant statements and assurances made by Ogden Martin that proved to be inaccurate, thus, have gotten the County into its present situation of not being able to afford to pay for the facility, which has created the inequities that everybody is complaining about. He stated that the County could devise a solid waste system that would not have any of the inequities being discussed this date, if they could resolve the issue that it is costing everybody too much and create a system that everybody can live with, whereby residents of the cities and the County will pay a fair and reasonable fee. He stated that the Board should tell Ogden Martin what the County can afford to pay, and if that is not good enough for them, then for them to take the facility and operate it as a revenue plant, which they stated it was designed to be. He stated that, if the County can obtain a fee with Ogden Martin that he feels is fair and equitable, he will vote for a special assessment.
Commr. Hanson interjected that the Board had agreed, at the last Board Meeting, to sit down with Ogden Martin and come up with a fair and equitable fee. She stated that the consensus was to go with the present fee, not only through Ogden Martin, but to put into force mandatory assessments and to mine the landfill, thus getting the fee down to a reasonable level.
Ms. Ann Dupee, City Councilwoman, City of Clermont, questioned the time table involved with sitting down with Ogden Martin and renegotiating, to which Ms. Lustgarten, County Attorney, responded that a negotiating committee is going to be discussed at the Board Meeting scheduled for November 5, 1991. She stated that the Board will be seeking RFPs from law firms that specialize in negotiating solid waste agreements, noting that said RFPs went out last week.
Concerning a question by Ms. Dupee as to whether the County is going to go ahead with landfill mining, Commr. Swartz responded that staff has been given direction to talk with the Department of Environmental Regulation (DER), to find out their receptiveness to the County mining those landfills and temporarily closing them, rather than going through full closure, and to determine DER's willingness to allow the County some flexibility in the consent order that is in place, to close Astatula. He stated that, given some reasonable receptiveness on the part of DER, the Board is looking at that very seriously, and unless they find something in the review that is much different than what they presently see, the County will probably try to move forward on mining Astatula and, ultimately, Lady Lake, and to at least use the remaining portion (approximately 74 acres) of Astatula II, with the intention of going back and using Astatula I, as it is mined.
Ms. Dupee questioned when the County does the mining, whether it will give the cities garbage to go to the incinerator, to qualify them for their 130,000 tons, to which Commr. Swartz responded that the potential to do so is there; however, staff feels that what will come out of the landfill will be too valuable to try and send to the incinerator.
Ms. Dupee questioned whether the County has tried to purchase the property that they felt was the best site for the new landfill so that they will have it when it is needed, to which Commr. Swartz responded that there has not been any decision on whether or not to go forward with the purchase of the new landfill, noting that it will depend on the outcome of landfill mining. He stated that it will all depend on how long Astatula can last.
Mr. Buddy Buie, City Commissioner, City of Eustis, stated the cities feel that Ogden Martin, as a private corporation, should be a profit making one, but the question is how profitable, noting that this is something that the cities have some questions about. He questioned how much responsibility the cities of Lake County have in guaranteeing that profit.
Mr. Mike Stearman, City Manager, City of Eustis, stated that Ogden Martin is not entitled to a profit if they misrepresented the County, and the County needs to keep that in mind. He stated that one of the things the cities may want to consider doing, to help the County in the negotiations, is instruct the haulers to go directly to Sumter County, during the interim period, noting that there is nothing to prohibit them from doing so, however, there would be additional operational costs involved from making the run there and back. He agreed with a statement made by Mr. Turville earlier, in that the cities are exactly where they were three years ago when they requested the County to go out and get the best deal they could from Ogden Martin, since they made the decision that they were going to do it. He stated the option is still there to take the garbage somewhere else and avoid the tipping fee.
Mr. Cadwell stated he hopes the County will do the right thing and renegotiate the contract, in good faith, and that the County will allow the cities to be a part of said negotiations, and that the equity problem will be resolved. He stated he wanted the Board to know right up front that the cities may need to seriously consider taking the percentage of inequity off their bill and refuse to pay it, and that they wanted the Board to know this is another choice the cities have and are looking at. He stated the Board is responsible for the residents of the County, but they are responsible for the residents of their cities, and they are going to move forward, starting this date.
Mr. Proctor questioned what would happen to the people in the County if the 14 cities decided that they were taking all their garbage to Sumter County, so that there is very little, if any, garbage coming from within the County, going to the resource recovery facility, to which Ms. Lustgarten, County Attorney, responded, stating that if the garbage Mr. Proctor was speaking of was not qualified to be recycled, then the Board would have to, at some point in time, seek some remedy, in order to enforce the County's Flow Control Ordinance. She stated that there are
interlocal agreements with three of the cities, and those cities are obligated to provide non-recyclable solid waste to the facility.
Mr. Proctor questioned what kind of recourse Ogden Martin would have, to which Ms. Lustgarten, County Attorney, stated that, at some point in time, the County could be considered in default of the agreement.
Commr. Hanson stated that she had heard some very valid concerns, some of which she was unaware of, before this meeting. She stated that she feels there is a way to work this problem out to where it can be equitable, and to where they can get the price down low enough to be competitive with the surrounding counties. She stated that if the Board can do that, she feels that everybody will be fairly satisfied. She stated she was told in July that the County could not get down below $80.00 per ton, yet the figure is now at $65.00 per ton, and she feels that it can be brought down to $40.00 per ton, and that she will work very hard to do that.
Commr. Swartz stated that, as much as he feels it is the wrong way to go, he will live with the incinerator, if the County can get to a fee that is fair and equitable. He stated that, if the Board will make it known to Ogden Martin that their primary concern is the best interest of the citizens of Lake County, he believes the County will be able to obtain an agreement, and obtain it quickly. He stated that the issue is not only equity, but having an acceptable deal. He stated that the League needs to be a part of the deal, beyond just having a member on the negotiating team, noting that the Board has stated that they would put someone from the League on the committee; therefore, they have got to let the Board know what they are willing to live with.
Mr. Rex Taylor, City Manager, City of Leesburg, questioned whether the Board would be willing to put a special assessment in the unincorporated areas of the County, if the fee goes to $65.00 per ton, even though there are other alternatives at $40.00 per ton, to which Commr. Swartz responded, stating that he would not vote to impose a special assessment on people that is an unconscionable one - one that they risk losing their homes over. He noted that the assessment cannot be put into place until October 1, 1992.
Mr. Cadwell thanked Commrs. Hanson and Swartz and the County Attorney, Ms. Lustgarten, for taking the time to meet with them and answering their questions.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of those present, the meeting adjourned at 8:45 p.m.
DONALD B. BAILEY, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK