The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Thursday, December 19, 1991, at 9:30 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioner's Meeting Room, Lake County Courthouse, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Michael J. Bakich, Chairman; C. W. "Chick" Gregg; Donald B. Bailey; Richard Swartz; and Catherine Hanson. Others present were: Annette Star Lustgarten, County Attorney; Mike Anderson, Interim County Manager; Ava Kronz, Assistant to the County Manager; James C. Watkins, Clerk; Robert K. McKee, Chief Deputy Clerk; and Sandra Carter, Deputy Clerk.
The Chairman, Commr. Bakich, opened the meeting.
CLERK/COUNTY BUILDINGS & GROUNDS
Mr. Mike Anderson, Interim County Manager, informed the Board that a request for Board action which had previously been submitted on October 15, 1991, concerning the Clerk's records storage building, would be submitted, for the Board's consideration, once again. He stated that staff still feels it is a viable project, and one that is justified. He stated that they need some additional monies to cover the site conditions that were not anticipated when the budget was originally prepared. He stated that it was, more or less, a generic budget for construction of a facility this size, that was not site specific. He stated that the site that was selected (Mosquito Control) has some unusual subsurface soil conditions, in that it was old wetlands that had been filled in (before there were any kind of regulations that dictated how the County was to treat filling in swamp areas), so it is a very unstable site, however, feels that it can be utilized for an application like this, but the County will have to do some additional foundation work, which was not anticipated when the budget was prepared. Due to this fact, staff is requesting that an additional $50,000.00 be allocated to the budget, increasing the
original budget from $400,000.00 to $450,000.00. He stated that the Clerk's Office has reached a point where space in the Old Post Office (present records storage building) has pretty well been used up, with the space remaining being very limited. He stated that the proposed building is a single level, 10,000 sq. ft. building, which would be specifically designed for record storage, thereby giving the Clerk ample storage space well into the end of the decade. He stated that it would have a sort of back-up effect in that, when it is complete, it will free up the Old Post Office which can then be used for the Tax Collector's Office (in the Space Study it was considered that the Tax Collector would move into that building). He stated that the County still has to get the Property Appraiser's Office out of the building that it is presently housed in, noting that the Space Study indicates that that particular building is probably the one that is in the worst condition. He stated that it will either have to have a lot of money spent on it, to bring it up to standards, or it will have to be cleared away all together. He stated that it has been pointed out that the Property Appraiser and the Tax Collector should be either adjacent to one another or in close proximity to one another.
Upon being questioned by the Board regarding the matter, Mr. Watkins, Clerk, stated that he felt the letter he sent to the Board expressed his feelings concerning the two issues. He stated that he felt the Property Appraiser and the Tax Collector both articulated very well their needs, and their feelings regarding the matter. He reiterated the fact that the Old Post Office building has reached its maximum, however, feels that through management of the space that is left, the Clerk's Office can continue to use it, but, feels that it is under the utilization of commercial property. He stated that, if it is not suitable for office space for county employees, an alternative would be to market it for office space for something else, and use those funds to build the warehouse and help build the new Tax Collector's Office. He stated that he feels
the Records Storage Building is a good idea and one that should be pursued.
Mr. Bob McKee, Chief Deputy Clerk, interjected that, although the square footage that the Clerk presently occupies is adequate for record storage today, there is still an absence of climate control and fire protection, so the records are put at some degree of risk.
A motion was made by Commr. Gregg and seconded by Commr. Bailey to approve a request, as previously submitted, for a Records Storage Building to be constructed for the Clerk of the Circuit Court.
Under discussion, Commr. Hanson stated that she was concerned about the fact that a meeting had not been held, as yet, with the other constitutional officers, to address their concerns, and wondered if there might be some other alternatives that could be looked at, to get by in these very tight times, rather than moving ahead with this project.
Commr. Swartz interjected that he feels the Clerk's Records Storage Building is an issue that is not dependent on the other constitutional officers, and their needs, as their needs are real and separate from that, and has to be addressed, but feels that this is a step the County needs to take, regardless of what they have to do, in dealing with the constitutional officers.
Commr. Bakich stated that he concurred with Commr. Hanson, however, feels that the County is in a position where it has to very seriously look at properly supplying appropriate needs of the Clerk's Office, for records storage.
The Chairman called for a vote on the matter, which was carried.
Commr. Hanson voted "No".
Mr. McKee questioned the need for staff to receive some direction regarding what step to take next, concerning the matter.
It was the consensus of the Board to start over again, from scratch.
RECESS & REASSEMBLY
At 9:55 a.m., the Chairman announced that the Board would recess until 10:00 a.m.
Commr. Swartz, Chairman of the Fire and Rescue Services Study Committee, thanked the members of said committee for the time and effort they put into this committee. He stated that the Property Appraiser, Ed Havill, and Ms. Debbie English, one of his assistants, were present in the audience to clarify the very difficult issues of trying to merge a fire special assessment with the Property Appraiser's records, as they were not designed for that. He stated that the Property Appraiser's Office tried to accommodate the committee as best they could, and he thanked them for that. He noted that Mr. Bob Duty, from the Forestry Service, was also present in the audience to answer any questions there might be.
Mr. T. J. Townsend, Vice Chairman of the Fire and Rescue Services Study Committee, appeared before the Board stating that, on October 15, 1991, the Board adopted Resolution No. 1991-178, creating the Lake County Fire and Rescue Services Study Committee, to evaluate fire and rescue services facilities and needs, and make appropriate recommendations to the Board. He stated that, on said date, the Board appointed individuals to serve on said committee, at which time he noted said appointments. He stated that the committee held considerable discussion with respect to rescue services, which were not specifically mentioned in the 1984 referendum. He stated it was decided by the committee that, regardless of past perceptions, rescue services are necessary, and should be included as an integral part of fire protection services in the future. He stated the committee concluded that the current budget for fire rescue services was not adequate enough to even maintain the current level of service, which had already been impacted by severe budgetary constraints and morale problems. He
stated that staff was requested to present a budget for FY 1992-93, which was considered to reasonably accommodate the needs of the service, however, was rejected by the committee, with a request to present a new budget proposal, based on maintaining current authorized staffing levels, and a modest allowance for the purchase of new equipment. After much consideration of several proposals, the committee endorsed a budget of $4,798,361.00 for FY 1992-93 (which would be funded by special assessments totaling $4,303,226.00), with the balance coming from other revenue sources. He stated that the next step was to allocate this funding requirement to the various classes of property to which the non-ad valorem special assessment would apply, being: residential, commercial, agricultural, vacant land, and miscellaneous structures. He then stated the formula that the committee recommends, being:
Residential - $50.00 per residential unit, plus an additional square footage charge of $.006 for units over 1,500 sq. ft.
Commercial and Industrial - $.07 per sq. ft.
Vacant Buildable Lots - $5.00 minimum for one acre or less, with additional land being assessed as vacant acreage.
Vacant Acreage - $.50 per acre
Agriculturally Classified Acreage - $.25 per acre
Miscellaneous Structures - $.03 per sq. ft.
Mr. Townsend stated that this formula will produce the following funding:
Residential - $2,681,000.00 (70.5% of the total)
Commercial and Industrial - $782,000.00 (20.6% of the total)
Vacant Buildable Lots - $130,677.00 (3.5% of the total)
Vacant Acreage - $108,000.00 (2.8% of the total)
Agricultural Acreage - $65,000.00 (1.7% of the total)
Miscellaneous Structures - $35,000.00 (0.9% of the total)
Mr. Townsend stated that this would bring in $3,802,069.00, noting that while this figure falls approximately $500,000.00 short of the amount needed to fund the desired budget, the committee felt that it would be unreasonable to further increase the special
assessment rates, and that the budget would have to be reduced accordingly. He stated that the committee reached a consensus that no other areas of the unincorporated areas of the County should be excluded from participation in the Lake County Fire and Rescue Service funding obligation. He then noted a number of concerns which had been expressed by various members of the committee, that time did not permit consideration of, being:
1. The relationship with EMS and dispatching services.
2. The deployment of fire stations and disbursement of equipment within the County.
3. Optimum staffing for high and low demand stations.
4. Placement of the fire service within the County government structure.
5. The current level of management efficiency.
6. Measures needed to improve employee and volunteer moral.
Mr. Townsend stated that, because of these concerns, the committee recommends the establishment of a longer term advisory committee, to oversee the continued development and integration of the countywide fire and rescue services organization. He then expressed appreciation, on behalf of the committee, to all those on the County staff who aided the committee, for their outstanding cooperation and assistance, in dealing with a difficult assignment, within a very restrictive time frame. He also thanked Commr. Swartz, for chairing the committee, as well as Mr. Ed Havill, Property Appraiser, and Ms. Debbie English, a member of his staff, for their invaluable help in producing a great deal of data which the committee requested. He stated that it is the committee's recommendation to go forward with this funding mechanism.
Discussion occurred regarding emergency services (the committee found the present arrangement somewhat confusing and felt that it could bear some scrutiny, however, were unable to deal with it, due to time constraints); the possibility of having a step increase in the fee for commercial property (the committee discussed, however, it was decided to leave it the way that it was presented, due to not having access to needed data); the
possibility of giving credit for sprinkler systems (the committee did not act upon due to not having access to needed information); whether the percentage of funding had changed, or whether it had followed where it presently is (the committee found it to be substantially different from the report that was given); substandard non-buildable lots, and how they will be classified (such lots would be aggregated and all the lots in the parcel would be added together and then divided by the minimum acreage required for building, which would be the equivalent number of buildable lots - the assessment would be on that basis).
Regarding the matter of non-buildable lots, Mr. Ed Havill, Property Appraiser, interjected that, what is going to end up happening, is (1) the Building Department, Planning & Development, and Zoning are going to have to define buildable lots all over the County; (2) people are going to have to be hired to go through every one of the 14,000 to 15,000 lots throughout the County and reclassify them for fire assessment purposes (whether they are buildable or not), and figure out what category to put them in. He then referred to the March presidential primary ballot (straw ballot), stating that he and the County Attorney have been communicating with each other, however, he has not yet signed anything for 1992, as he has stated that he would do the non-ad valorem assessments, but only if they are approved by a majority vote of the citizens of Lake County.
Ms. Debbie English, Property Appraiser's Office, appeared before the Board and answered questions regarding buildable and non-buildable lots, at which time considerable discussion occurred regarding the matter.
Discussion occurred regarding lots that are contiguous and how the property owner should be charged, at which time Mr. Jack Kofoed, a member of the committee, suggested treating the matter like a homestead exemption, in that, if one has property that is contiguous, and can prove it to the Property Appraiser's staff, then a reduction would be given.
Commr. Swartz discussed problems with multiple non-buildable lots, stating that, if the County deals with it on a per lot charge of $5.00 per lot, and then so much additional for acreage, then, in those situations where one happens to have lots that are contiguous and an individual can prove it, and all together they do not add up to one acre, that individual will only have to pay $5.00 total for all his lots.
Mr. Claude Smoak, former county commissioner and a member of this committee, stated that what Commr. Swartz suggested makes sense, because it puts the burden of proof on the property owner to go to the Property Appraiser's Office and show them in black and white that their lots are contiguous, noting that the Property Appraiser's staff could then handle it. He stated that it would be very similar to the way that homestead exemptions were previously handled, before automatic renewals were enacted. He stated that another safety device is one that is presently in place, in that, if the property is used for agricultural purposes, it would not come into play anyway, as it would be classified as agricultural. He stated that an individual would only have to get the matter straightened out with the Property Appraiser's Office one time, and then the record would be correct from that point on. He stated that one of the reasons this was never implemented in the past was due to the fact that the cost of doing it exceeded the benefit of doing it, however, with the way that Commr. Swartz suggested doing it, with the agricultural classification, the cost of doing it should be significantly less - in fact it will raise $100,000.00 more in money, because 20,000 parcels will be added back on.
Regarding the matter of the fire and rescue assessments, Mr. Smoak stated that he felt the people of Lake County should be given the right to say yes or no. He stated that the committee has presented the Board with a 7 to 1 recommendation, to present to the voters in the March referendum, which he felt was fairly derived. He stated that the committee discussed the possibility of placing a lower tax on residential structures, and then adding a figure for
rescue, due to the fact that rescue was never part of the discussion in 1984. He noted, however, that it has become two-thirds of the cost for fire response. He stated that it is a necessary thing, and that the committee feels it should be referred to as fire and rescue, but that the Board needs to address the fact that the benefit is going to the people, and their structures and property, and that is where the majority of the cost of delivering the services would be determined, by this method.
Commr. Bakich stated he felt the Board needs to redefine the policy pertaining to fire and rescue, and come up with a better definition of what rescue is and how the County is going to fund it. He stated that he felt this is one of the problems that the County has had with this issue.
Commr. Swartz stated that there are some things that this committee needs to understand, regarding the fire and rescue services, which is that the cost for rescue is very, very low compared to the cost of providing the fire service. He stated that the cost of providing the rescue is more than paid for by the monies that are proposed to go into that fund, and that is why staff presented numbers that are based on fire call data.
Mr. Smoak stated that the committee came up with something that they felt was fair and equitable, and something that the public can identify with. He stated the committee's recommendation to the Board is that they make a decision to vote the proposal that is before them this date up or down, in terms of placing it on the March referendum, but that they leave it basically intact, with the clarification on vacant lots. He stated that the County may be looking at a budget document that has between $400,000 to $500,000.00 more money in it, at the end of the year, by using these same numbers on the front side of the budgetary process. He stated another thing to consider is that the $1.5 million that was borrowed by the Board of County Commissioners, to consolidate all of the outstanding debts in the six fire districts, in 1985, will be paid for in two years, which will give the County an additional
$330,000.00 in their budget, that is going to enhance that budget another 10% right off the top.
Commr. Hanson stated that what the Board has heard this date again shows the need for a five year budget, or a five year projection in all the areas of county government.
Mr. Smoak stated that, if the Board puts this issue on the March presidential ballot, they are going to know what the people want, and it will allow them time to develop something between then and the time that they adopt the budget; however, if they wait until the September primary to do it, they will not have enough time to do so.
Commr. Gregg had stated earlier in the meeting that he felt there ought to be some reasonable step involved for commercial, such as from 0 to 5,000 sq. ft.; 5,000 to 10,000 sq. ft.; and 10,000 to 50,000 sq. ft., and that if the Board entertains the idea of a step, they might want to increase the seven cents to eight cents, before it goes on the ballot.
Commr. Swartz stated that he saw no problem with doing so, as long as the Board takes the approach of raising the seven cents to another number, and then providing a discount.
Mr. Townsend stated that he did not think any member of the committee would have a problem with adjusting the rates within a category, as suggested by Commr. Gregg, as long as the amount of money produced by that category remains what it is; however, if the Board starts taking money out of one category and putting it into another, then they are tampering with a very difficult conclusion that this committee had a hard time reaching, and he hoped that the Board would try to somehow maintain the percentages attributed to each property classification.
Commr. Swartz stated that he could not support the recommendation of the committee, noting the reason why, but that he did not want to kill the issue, as he feels that the fire system does have needs. He stated that he does not believe that what the Board is asking the voters to approve completely meets those needs
and suggested that another commissioner make the motion to place the recommendation of the committee on the floor for a vote.
A brief discussion occurred regarding the fact that Commr. Swartz did not want to put on the floor a request to approve the recommendation of the committee, when it was a unanimous decision of that committee, at which time Commr. Gregg stated that he felt Commr. Swartz had an obligation, in that, if he did not support the recommendation of the committee, that he should put something on the floor that he could support.
Commr. Swartz stated that he felt the committee's recommendation deserved to be considered by the Board, noting that Commr. Smoak was right, and with the exception of making a minor change to the vacant lot issue, felt that the committee wanted their recommendation to be voted up or down, and, in that sense, he would be glad to make a motion to accept the committee's recommendation, as outlined on the handout before the Board, changing the vacant buildable lot recommendation, as had been indicated, to maintain the dollars within the categories, but, that if the Board wants to consider something that would look at stepped square footage, but results in the same number of commercial dollars, that is consistent with what the committee feels comfortable with, then, his motion, to be consistent with what the committee is saying, would include that proviso, and he would so move.
Commr. Bailey seconded the motion. He then urged the Board to unanimously support the committee's recommendation, to give the people of Lake County a chance to address the issue.
The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, which was carried.
Commr. Swartz voted "No".
The County Attorney, Ms. Lustgarten, interjected that she would have a resolution pertaining to the ballot issue ready for the Board's approval at the Board Meeting scheduled for January 7,
1992, due to the fact that it has to be submitted to the Supervisor of Elections' Office on that day.
It was suggested that she have the resolution ready for the Board's perusal at the Special Board Meeting scheduled for January 3, 1992.
Ms. Kathy McDonald, Interim Executive Director of Health & General Services, was requested to have some figures prepared for the Board to review and discuss, at the Special Board Meeting scheduled for January 3, 1992, as well, based on the way that they are presently prepared, as far as square footage is concerned, as it pertains to fire sprinklers.
Commr. Gregg brought to the attention of the Board the fact that the Florida Marlins (Miami baseball team) is interested in locating a spring training camp in the Central Florida area, and will be sending the Board a Request for Proposal (RFP) concerning the County's interest in the matter. He stated that the Tourist Development Council (TDC) has had some discussions about it, and has expressed an interest in locating the camp on their portion of the property located at Hwys. 27/19 and the turnpike. He noted that the Marlins have given the Board some additional time, due to the fact that they are a little late in entering the game. He suggested that Commr. Bailey respond on the Board's behalf, due to the fact that he heads the TDC.
On a motion by Commr. Gregg, seconded by Commr. Bailey and carried unanimously, the Board approved a request to support further investigation into the RFP, pertaining to the Florida Marlins locating their spring training camp in Lake County, at the location alluded to earlier.
Ms. Ava Kronz, Assistant to the County Manager, was requested to direct said letter to the Florida Marlins (within 24 hours, if possible).
BUILDING DEPARTMENT/DEEDS/PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT
It was noted that this item was pulled from the agenda of the regular Board Meeting held on December 10, 1991, due to staff not having all the necessary information pertaining to it.
On a motion by Commr. Bailey, seconded by Commr. Hanson and carried unanimously, the Board approved a request to accept the following Non-Exclusive Easement Deeds:
Large Lot Waiver
Sharon S. James - District 4
Jeffrey Sargent - District 4
C & S Sovran Credit - District 5
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting adjourned at 11:55 a.m.
MICHAEL J. BAKICH, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK