The Lake County Board of County Commissioners held the State of the County Address on Thursday, October 18, 2001, at 6:30 p.m., in the rotunda area of the Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Catherine C. Hanson, Chairman; Robert A. Pool, Vice Chairman; Welton G. Cadwell; Jennifer Hill; and Debbie Stivender. Others present were: Sanford A. (Sandy) Minkoff, County Attorney/Interim County Manager; George B. Knupp, Jr., Sheriff; Bob McKee, Lake County Tax Collector; various city officials, department heads, dignitaries; and Sandra Carter, Deputy Clerk.
There were approximately 230 people in attendance.
INVOCATION AND PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
Reverend Terry W. Jackson, Rector, St. James Episcopal Church, Leesburg, gave the Invocation and the Honorable George E. Knupp, Jr., Sheriff, led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Commr. Catherine Hanson, Chairman, presented opening comments and welcomed those present to the 2001 State of the County Address, at which time she introduced the other members of the Lake County Board of County Commissioners, as well as constitutional officers and dignitaries that were present. She thanked the First National Bank of Mount Dora; First Federal Savings Bank of Lake County; First Union Bank; Florida Power Corporation; Sprint/Florida, Inc.; and Sumter Electric Cooperative, Inc., for sponsoring the event this evening. She noted that the entertainment was being provided by the Eustis Middle School Band, under the direction of Mr. Gerald Ricke, Band Director.
Commr. Hanson expressed a special thanks to Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney/Interim County Manager, for working tirelessly to keep the County's operations running while the search for a new County Manager was being conducted, and to the Senior Directors and their staff, for the efforts they have made over the last year and especially the last few months to keep the operations going and on an even keel.
STATE OF THE COUNTY ADDRESS
Commr. Hanson stated that the theme for this year's State of the County Address was Preserving the Past and Envisioning the Future, which she feels is really what county government is all about. She stated that the County is in very sound financial condition, at which time she noted that there was no increase in the tax millage this year. She stated that, out of the 67 counties in the State of Florida, Lake County has one of the lowest millage rates in the State. She stated that the County's population has grown to over 216,000 and is expected to increase to 265,000 by the year 2010. She stated that, faced with the increase in population, the County must plan carefully and try to provide a high quality of life for all its residents, without losing sight of preserving the past, which she noted the County takes seriously. She stated that restoration of the McTureous Memorial Park in Altoona is being completed, memorializing the honor that was bestowed on one of Lake County's fallen soldiers, and that the restoration and rehabilitation of the Historic Courthouse and the establishment of the Lake County Museum in that building has preserved the early beginnings of the County. She stated that that project recently received an award for Outstanding Restoration by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. She stated that steps are being taken to preserve the more than 1,400 lakes in the County and noted that the County is working with the various communities in creating pride and ownership in their appearance. She stated that, during the last fiscal year, the County was able to partner with the cities and non-profits in the provision of recreational facilities and, by using the penny tax, was able to give them $250,000.00 each year, for several years, to build new facilities or enhance existing ones. She stated that the County also partners with the Lake County School Board, in providing $100,000.00 each year for After School Programs.
Commr. Hanson stated that the County has been successful in locating one of Circuit City's largest distribution centers at the Christopher C. Ford Industrial Park and noted that construction is under way for a very large Home Depot distribution center there, as well. She stated that the County currently offers $200,000.00 in Jobs Growth Incentive Trust Funds each year for new positions created by industries which pay at least 110% above the minimum wage and has increased the average annual wage in the County to $10.90 per hour. She stated that the County must continue to seek out industries that increase its tax base, so that homeowners do not have to bare the burden of supporting government operations by themselves, and find ways to keep its existing businesses financially healthy. She noted that the County provides funding for the non-profit organizations that help those in the community who need special assistance in areas such as medicine and health care and programs for children and senior citizens.
Commr. Hanson stated that the County has opened three new fire stations in Fruitland Park, Bay Lake, and southeast Umatilla, and is in the process of establishing two more stations in Astor and south Lake County. She stated that they have also added more highly trained personnel and now have 12 stations manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She stated that the County must find ways to provide infrastructure, such as roads, so that the residents can travel safely, at which time she noted that the County has budgeted nearly $33.5 million this fiscal year for roads. She stated that the County has opened three new branch libraries this fiscal year in Citrus Ridge, Sorrento, and Groveland, and is planning to have libraries in Paisley, central Lake County, and Astor in the near future. She stated that the County has plans for community centers, which will become core activity centers for the various clubs and organizations in the community, and will provide activities for youth and adults alike. She stated that, through grant funding, the County's libraries are offering literacy programs and the Library Division has established a Mobile Training Lab, which contains computers and workstations for students and residents of all ages to utilize, in achieving higher educational objectives. She stated that the Board is trying to communicate with the general public more and more often, through meetings in the communities and other methods, and will continue to find ways to involve the public in the decision-making process, so that they are truly representing those who elected them to serve.
Commr. Hanson stated that envisioning the future is where the challenges lie, noting that the County must continue working together for the good of all Lake County and must find new and innovative ways to fund the programs which are so essential to the education, health, safety, and well-being of the County's residents. She stated that the County is faced with major challenges, such as the incinerator and reaching a cost-effective settlement with that company, as well as with the new task of protecting its communities and families from the threat of violence and terrorism that hovers over the United States, at which time she noted that the County is taking every measure it can to protect its communities from this threat. She stated that the County has adopted a Comprehensive Plan to preserve and improve the public health, safety, and welfare of its citizens, to establish methods for the prevention of overcrowding, to provide adequate and efficient transportation, water, sewerage, schools, parks, recreational facilities, housing, and other requirements and services, and to establish methods to conserve, develop, utilize, and protect its natural resources.
Commr. Hanson stated that the County will continue its efforts to provide its citizens with opportunities for a high quality of life and enjoyment, however, noted that there is no quick fix, that it takes the support of the citizens, the cities, the businesses in the County, and those who serve in non-profit and other organizations throughout the community to make it happen. She stated that the County is in good health and she knows that, united as one, it can overcome and conquer any challenge that may greet it.
2001 WOMEN'S HALL OF FAME
Commr. Hanson announced that the Lake County Women's Hall of Fame inductees for 2001 were Ms. Rena Poole and Ms. Ann Dupee.
Commr. Stivender provided a brief narrative on the accomplishments of Ms. Rena Poole and presented her with a plaque and lapel pin commemorating her induction into the 2001 Women's Hall of Fame, and Commr. Pool provided a brief narrative on the accomplishments of Ms. Ann Dupee, at which time he presented her with a plaque and lapel pin commemorating her induction into the 2001 Women's Hall of Fame, as well.
At the conclusion of the State of the County Address, Commr. Hanson thanked staff for doing such a fine job in preparing the Administration Building for the State of the County Address and informed those present that the Historical Courthouse was open, for anyone who would like to take a tour of the Historical Museum. She invited everyone to partake of the refreshments that were being provided and to socialize.
There being no further business, the State of the County Address was adjourned at 7:20 p.m.
__________________________________ CATHERINE C. HANSON, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK