The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in regular session on Tuesday, May 14, 2002, at 9:00 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioner's Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Robert A. Pool, Chairman; Welton G. Cadwell, Vice Chairman (arrived at 9:25 a.m.); Debbie Stivender; Jennifer Hill; and Catherine C. Hanson. Others present were: Sanford A. (Sandy) Minkoff, County Attorney; Bill Neron, County Manager; Wendy Taylor, Executive Office Manager, Board of County Commissioner's Office; Barbara Lehman, Chief Deputy, County Finance; and Sandra Carter, Deputy Clerk.
INVOCATION AND PLEDGE
Commr. Stivender gave the Invocation and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Commr. Pool stated that there was an Addendum No. 1 to the Agenda, containing several items for discussion and approval, one of them being a request from Community Services for approval to submit a COPS grant to the Department of Justice, for two School Resource Officers for the new East Ridge High School at Four Corners, in the amount of $250,000.00.
ADDENDUM NO. 1
COUNTY MANAGER'S CONSENT AGENDA
ACCOUNTS ALLOWED/COMMUNITY SERVICES/GRANTS/SHERIFF'S OFFICE
Sheriff Knupp addressed the Board stating that the COPS grant, which is a three year grant, that he is requesting from the Department of Justice does not have a match. He stated that it is money that his office can get for School Resource Officers, at which time he noted that they have had problems getting funds for said positions. He stated that the School Board has indicated that they have no additional funding for the positions and he felt this was a way to get School Resource Officers in the schools. He informed the Board that the STAR Program, which is a truancy program, and a request for a School Resource Officer for Umatilla Middle School will be coming before the Board at the meeting scheduled for May 21, 2002, and that match will be approximately $23,000.00.
Mr. Bill Neron, County Manager, informed the Board that there is a commitment that the County keep the deputies that are hired under the grant employed for one year after the grant expires. He stated that the County has never had a problem doing that, but he wanted the Board to be aware of said fact. He stated that he and Ms. Sarah LaMarche, Senior Director, Budget and Administrative Services, met with Captain Daniels, from the Sheriff's Office, regarding the School Resource Officers issue and he will be presenting a written report on said meeting to the Board within the next week or two.
Sheriff Knupp stated that he did not see a problem with being able to retain the two School Resource Officers, noting that he has submitted a plan to the Board to upgrade the Uniform Patrol Division over the next four years and, if it came to the point where the County could not afford to match the grant, he could bring said officers into the Uniform Patrol Division.
On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Hanson and carried unanimously, by a 4-0 vote, the Board approved a request from Community Services for approval of a request by the Lake County Sheriff's Office to submit the COPS grant to the Department of Justice, for two School Resource Officers for the new East Ridge High School at Four Corners, in the amount of $250,000.00; and authorization to pursue the subsequent contract and sign other related documents, as required, subject to the County Attorney's review and approval.
Commr. Cadwell was not present for the discussion or vote.
AGENDA UPDATE (CONT'D.)
Mr. Bill Neron, County Manager, informed the Board that he was pulling Item I. B. 1., on Addendum No. 1, under the County Manager's Consent Agenda, a request from Public Safety for approval to place a restriction on backyard burning of yard debris, burning of lands for any reason, and burning of unauthorized piles of debris not approved by the Florida Department of Forestry, until a later date, noting that it needs some further study. He then stated that the Florida Trust for Public Lands Presentation would be rescheduled for a later date, due to a scheduling conflict.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, informed the Board that he would like to add to the Agenda a discussion regarding House Bill 460, which has been passed by the Legislature and is pending before the Governor, that RV parks be assessed as commercial businesses, noting that they are currently assessed as residential dwellings. He stated that there will be a significant impact to the assessment programs, if the Governor signs the Bill. He stated that, with regard to the fire assessments, structures of 250 square feet or less pay no assessment whatsoever and the County has no way of knowing how many of the RVs are under 250 square feet, and, with regard to the solid waste assessments, if the RV parks are treated as commercial, they would be out of the assessment program totally, resulting in a significant loss of revenue. He stated that the County Manager was recommending that the Board contact the Governor this date, or authorize him to contact the Governor, and request that he veto the Bill, hopefully giving staff a year to redo the assessments and come up with a different methodology for handling RV parks, so that they do not escape paying anything. He stated that the Bill is required to have action taken May 15, 2002, thus, the reason for his bringing it to the Board's attention this date.
On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Hanson and carried unanimously, by a 4-0 vote, the Board approved a request from the County Attorney to authorize the County Manager to contact the Governor and request that he veto House Bill 460, which mandates that RV parks be assessed as commercial businesses, rather than residential, as they presently are assessed, due to the fact that there will be a significant impact to the County's assessment programs, if the Governor signs the Bill.
Commr. Cadwell was not present for the discussion or vote.
Mr. Neron, County Manager, stated that he would e-mail the Governor, regarding the matter, followed up by a telephone call.
Mr. Minkoff, County Attorney, informed the Board that his office received a call from the law firm of Nabors, Giblin & Nickerson, PA, regarding the issue of assessments, that he would like to add to the Agenda, as well.
Commr. Hanson questioned when the issue of approval of the $5,000.00 for the Lake Apopka Basin Study would be coming before the Board.
Commr. Pool stated that a date has not been set yet for the matter.
AMERICAN ASSEMBLY PROCESS
Dr. Lance deHaven-Smith, Professor, Florida State University, addressed the Board stating that he has been helping communities in the State of Florida for over 20 years with processes that deal mainly with population growth and development issues, as well as other issues. He stated that they often involve a variety of governments, such as schools, county commissions, cities, transportation planners, the State, etc., however, noted that there is not a standard forum that is used to resolve some of the intergovernmental challenges and build community support for some of the tough choices that have to be made. He gave a slide presentation regarding the American Assembly Process, noting that a Steering Committee has to plan it, if the Board is interested in having one. He stated that the process is not visioning, it is a fast paced very rigorous program that produces a written document, containing very specific agreements. He gave a brief background history of himself, noting counties and states that he has worked with over the years, with regard to the American Assembly Process. He stated that the process was developed in 1951 by former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, while he was President of Columbia University. He stated that the process generally lasts between two to three days, noting that it is very difficult to do it in one day, because they are trying to produce a written document. He stated that the participants are selected by a Steering Committee and should be representative of whatever the issue is that the County is dealing with. He stated that the participants are divided into several groups, with 15 to 25 people in each group, with a facilitator that is picked from the participants. He stated that they stay together until the last day and will address approximately seven topics during the three day assembly.
At this time, Commr. Cadwell arrived at the meeting.
AMERICAN ASSEMBLY PROCESS (CONT'D.)
Dr. Lance deHaven-Smith stated that he takes the notes from each group and writes a single draft statement that blends together the various views of the groups, after which he meets with the facilitators and goes over the statement. He stated that, on the third day, the assembly participants come back together and assemble as a whole group and go over the draft statement, which normally consists of between 15 to 30 pages. He stated that one of the things that typically comes out of something like this is consideration of a charter type of government and, if so, how the County would go about it. He stated that the facilitators should come from the group and should be able to express their views, however, noted that they should keep their groups on track and figure out the reasoning behind views. He stated that they should relay why people have certain positions, not just what those positions are, so that the Steering Committee can look for ways to accommodate different concerns and find a middle ground. He stated that it is a public forum and anyone that wants to attend the meetings can, however, noted that they try to keep the participants balanced and do not let anybody that walks in be at the table. He stated that said individuals can watch and observe, but cannot be participants in the process itself. He stated that the Steering Committee decides when and where the Assembly is held and they pick the topics and specific questions, which is the key to the process - the questions.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, informed the Board that the entire process will be subject to the Sunshine Law.
Dr. deHaven-Smith discussed the costs involved, noting that his fee is $15,000.00. He stated that the entire process should cost no more than $50,000.00.
Commr. Stivender stated that she felt the process would be a beneficial one for the County.
Commr. Pool questioned whether transcripts from other assemblies that have been held could be made available to the County, enabling them to glean some information from said transcripts, thereby, saving the County money.
Dr. deHaven-Smith stated that said transcripts could be made available to the County, however, noted that Lake County is a little different from other counties, in that it has a lot of water and public land, is in the middle of a transportation corridor that is funneling people through the County, and has cities that are very special. He stated that he does not know of another county in Florida that has that combination of pressure and resources.
Commr. Cadwell stated that the whole idea of the American Assembly Process is to bring people in the community together, to establish issues and determine the best way to solve those issues. He stated that he was not sure any information would be available that would help the County, with regard to doing the process cheaper.
Commr. Hanson stated that the American Assembly Process is a consensus building process and she does not feel that Lake County can take what another county has used and make it work for this County. She stated that this would be the citizens' plan, not the County's plan, or another county's plan, and the citizens need to feel like they have been a part of the process. She stated that she feels, if the County does not work harder on consensus building, they are probably going to get exactly what they do not want and nobody is going to be happy. She stated that she feels this is a step in the right direction and commends the County Manager for bringing it forward.
Mr. Neron, County Manager, suggested that the Board authorize him to begin working with Dr. deHaven-Smith, to try to flush out some of the issues and determine where, how, and what staff might be able to do to bring the costs down and then come back to the Board with a more detailed plan in two to three weeks.
On a motion by Commr. Hanson, seconded by Commr. Stivender and carried unanimously, by a 5-0 vote, the Board authorized the County Manager to work with Dr. Lance deHaven-Smith and bring a proposal back to the Board, with details, at a later date.
Commr. Pool stated that he felt the County might find, by looking at transcripts from past assemblies, where the direction has been, or what they have included in the process, thus, his reason for wanting the research.
RESOLUTION TO ESTABLISH A LAKE COUNTY ENVIRONMENTAL LANDS MANAGEMENT AND ACQUISITION STUDY COMMITTEE
Mr. Greg Welstead, Deputy County Manager, addressed the Board stating that they had before them a draft Resolution that would begin the process of looking at environmental land acquisition, however, noted that he feels, before the County puts together a formal process to acquire land, they need to look at the unique character of the neighborhoods in the County and come up with a methodology to determine the process; the extent of the lands that the County might want to purchase; funding mechanisms, etc. He stated that he was proposing a membership of 27 people on the committee and that he felt they should undergo an education process of other counties and what they have done, as well as receive an education of the environment in Lake County. He stated that he would suggest that the committee look at other alternatives, such as how to acquire property, how to choose which property to acquire, etc., and, once they have come up with a methodology and reached a consensus, to make recommendations back to the Board. He stated that he specified a time frame of approximately six months for the study, noting that he feels anything less than that will not allow the committee to really delve into the process and explore other alternatives.
Commr. Cadwell interjected that he felt the timeframe should be six months from the time that the committee is appointed.
Mr. Welstead stated that he would like to include technical expertise to the committee, to make their deliberations more meaningful, noting that he did not want to include just environmentalists or developers - he would like to have some sound scientific basis to the meetings, which is why he was including engineers and people who have been educated in physical and environmental science. He stated that, once lands have been acquired, he feels the School Board should be included, as well as someone with a recreational background, because, in his opinion, a lot of the lands that the County will possibly be acquiring will be buffered by agricultural lands. He stated that he also feels Lake Soil and Water should be included, because of their past experience and expertise in wetlands delineation. He stated that he included two representatives from the League of Cities, because the character of Lake County is different in the north than in the south, and that he felt the Property Appraiser and the Lake County Water Authority should be included, as well, because he feels it will be important to get their perspective. He stated that the membership of Board appointees - two from each district, would be to help balance the membership to what the Board would like, for a final result.
Mr. Bill Neron, County Manager, informed the Board that it would be his intention, if the Board approved the Resolution, to ask Mr. Welstead to coordinate the needed resources for the group and that, with regard to the timeframe, he feels six months would be a goal for them to shoot for. He stated that he would not want to see it drag on and on without a conclusion.
Discussion occurred regarding the language contained in Paragraph B., on Page 5 of the Resolution, which states, "The Board of County Commissioners shall select the Chairman of the Committee from among Committee members.", at which time the Board noted that they have never done that for any other committees and questioned whether there was a reason for it and how the Board would come up with a consensus as to who would be the Chairman out of the 27 members.
Mr. Neron, County Manager, suggested that the language be changed to read, "The Committee shall select a Chairman and Vice Chairman from its membership."
It was the consensus of the Board to use said language.
Commr. Hill questioned why the Board was creating so many committees.
Commr. Hanson stated that there was a time when there were not a great deal of committees, however, she feels that committees are part of the process of government that keeps the Board in touch with the public.
Commr. Hill stated that the committee is to come back to the Board with recommendations, when the Board has no idea whether the County can afford what they come back with. She stated that she hated to make people do a lot of work, when the Board cannot say whether the County can afford what the committee brings back to them, as a recommendation.
Commr. Hanson stated that she assumed they would work closely with the Trust for Public Lands and they know how to work a committee through the process, so that it will not be as time consuming and costly as it might seem.
Commr. Pool stated that it is the committee's task to say whether it is feasible and something that the Board might want to consider, what the costs are, and where the dollars may come from, as the County moves forward with it.
Commr. Cadwell stated that, if the Board approved the request this date, he would like for letters to go out to the groups as soon as possible, so that the process can be started right away.
On a motion by Commr. Hanson, seconded by Commr. Cadwell and carried, by a 4-1 vote, the Board approved Resolution No. 2002-73, establishing the Lake County Environmental Lands Management and Acquisition Study Committee, with the following changes: That the time frame be six months from the first meeting and that the language contained in Paragraph B, on Page 5 of the Resolution, be changed to read, "The Committee shall have the authority to select a Chairman and Vice Chairman from its membership."
Commr. Hill voted "No".
RECESS AND REASSEMBLY
At 10:20 a.m., the Chairman announced that the Board would recess until 10:30 a.m.
ADDENDUM NO. 1 (CONT'D.)
COVANTA BANKRUPTCY ISSUE
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, informed the Board that, pursuant to Florida Statute 286.011, he requested that the Board hold a Closed Session to discuss litigation that the County is involved in with Covanta of Lake, Inc. He stated that the Closed Session will be confined only to settlement negotiations, or strategy sessions related to litigation expenditures. He stated that a Court Reporter will be present to record the times of commencement and termination of the session and will record the names of the persons present and whoever speaks. He stated that the Closed Session was noticed in the newspaper and he had proof of the advertisement. He stated that the Closed Session commences as an open meeting, at which time it is to be announced that the Board anticipates spending approximately 30 minutes in said meeting, with Mr. Bill Neron, County Manager, and himself being the only persons attending. He stated that, when the Closed Session is concluded, the Chairman will reopen the Board Meeting and go back into the public session.
RECESS AND REASSEMBLY
At 11:20 a.m., the Chairman announced that the Closed Session had ended and that the Board Meeting would be reconvened.
COMMISSIONER CADWELL - DISTRICT 5
Commr. Cadwell stated that the Board endorsed the idea of his running for office with the Florida Association of Counties, to represent Lake County, as well as all the other counties in the State of Florida, and that he would like to add to the Agenda permission to use county letterhead to write to the other counties and ask for their support.
On a motion by Commr. Hanson, seconded by Commr. Stivender and carried unanimously, by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved to place said item on the Agenda.
On a motion by Commr. Hanson, seconded by Commr. Stivender and carried unanimously, by a 5-0 vote, the Board authorized Commr. Cadwell to use county letterhead to write the other counties in the State of Florida asking for their support in his bid for office with the Florida Association of Counties.
RECESS AND REASSEMBLY
At 11:30 a.m., the Chairman announced that the Board would recess for lunch and would reconvene at 1:30 p.m. for a Worksession regarding Solid Waste Funding Alternatives.
ADDENDUM NO. 1 (CONT'D.)
SOLID WASTE FUNDING ALTERNATIVES
Mr. Bill Neron, County Manager, informed the Board that the County has a serious situation, with regard to its current contract with Covanta and other issues relating to the County's solid waste collection and disposal, its continued funding of the solid waste operations, and how the County will pay for the system in future years. He stated that last year, when the Board decided not to proceed with universal collections, staff had just a very short period of time to come up with a special assessment rate and did the best job they could at that time, but, unfortunately, they did not recommend a high enough rate; therefore, staff has had to dip into reserves to keep the system operating. He stated that he would be presenting to the Board this date five alternatives, although staff is not pleased to have to present any of them. He stated that none of the options are options that are going to be politically popular or acceptable, noting that whatever option the Board chooses to continue funding the system with is going to cause an increase in costs to the people receiving the service. He stated that the alternatives that will be presented will be based on two principals of rate setting, one being that a service is a public good that should be shared and funded by all the people in the community, and the second being that certain services offered by local government are considered to be private goods that one can measure the amount and type of service where a fee is set, based on those types of services, such as water rates, sewer rates, etc.
Mr. Neron stated that, in looking at the system since he has been on board with the County, he finds that the situation in Lake County is one of the most complex situations that he has seen in his 30 years of public service. He stated that staff was trying to present a range of alternatives that will put the County's system on a sound financial footing in the next fiscal year and, hopefully, future fiscal years to come. He stated that, if the Board did nothing and kept the current rates, the County would run out of reserves sometime next fiscal year and the system would not be operating on a sound financial basis and that was not an option that he could recommend to them and have them meet the County's fiscal responsibilities. He referred to a spread sheet, containing Universal Collection Options, that had been presented to the Board prior to the meeting, which he reviewed, noting that residents in the unincorporated area of the County pay a $107.50 non ad-valorem assessment that is sent out as a special billing. He stated that the County's tipping fee is $95.00 per ton, which is probably the highest tipping fee in the State of Florida, and, as a result of the high tipping fee, most of the cities in the County have gone to other alternatives at a lesser cost. He stated that, as a result, more and more of the costs of the system are being put on the residents of the unincorporated area and some of the costs are to pay for past improvements, closure of old landfills, etc. He stated that, under the current system, everybody in the unincorporated area of the County pays $107.50; those people who subscribe to a once per week service pay $220.00 per year; those who have twice per week service pay $236.00 per year; and those who have a self-haul card pay $132.50. He stated that the County cannot stay with the current system and not run out of money next fiscal year.
Mr. Neron stated that Option 1 uses the current system of voluntary participation on the collection side and, in order to make up for the deficit, return the reserves to the level where they need to be, and operate on a self-funding source next fiscal year, the residential non ad-valorem assessment would have to be increased from $107.50 to $203.58. He stated that the tipping fee would have to go up from $95.00 to $156.60, however, noted that, if it gets that high on the commercial side, the County is going to find leakages in the system, because people will find ways to beat it and the County will loose tonnage at the landfill. He stated that the total bill for those people who subscribe to the service will be $334.67, a $114.37 increase on the once per week service and a $98.65 increase on the twice per week service. He stated that Option 2 involves going to a universal collection service, where all residential units in the unincorporated area would be required to subscribe to a garbage collection service. He stated that, under this scenario, the County's residential non ad-valorem assessment would increase to $286.83, which everybody would pay, with a tipping fee of $132.18, which is significantly more than the current $95.00 per ton, for a total service of $286.83, which is less than Option 1 overall, but still more than the current fiscal year. He stated that Option 3, which involves a universal collection service, is Option 2, except that the County would use a millage of .17886 mills to pay for the $1.4 million payment on the line of credit. He stated that, in 1993, an earlier Board borrowed $19 million on a line of credit, to pay for closure expenses and some other capital improvements needed for the system, and, between 1993 and the current fiscal year, that line of credit has been paid down to $11 million. He stated that, under Option 3, staff would propose to pay only the .17886 millage increase. He stated that it has a minimal impact on the non ad-valorem assessment of approximately $15 and still only reduces the overall rate on the $100,000 home, with the $25,000 exemption, by approximately $2.
Mr. Neron stated that, with regard to Option 4, staff tried to determine what the County will have to set the tipping fee at to attract the cities back into the system and get more people participating and paying the bills. He stated that staff met with some of the cities and feel that, if the County sets the tipping fee at $45.00 per ton, it could get a sufficient number of the cities back into the system, to operate the plant at full capacity, which will create some cost saving benefits for the County. He stated that, under this scenario, if the County goes to the $45.00 per ton tipping fee, the residential non ad-valorem assessment would go to $173.50, but the big impact would be that it would require a new millage of 1.25 mills. He stated that, when one differentiates between the millage and the non ad-valorem assessment and evens it all out, the total impact on the homeowner with the $100,000 home would be a total rate for collection and disposal of $267.52, which is only a $47.22 increase for the once per week service, or $31.50 for the twice per week service, which amounts to a $2.75 per month increase on the $100,000 home. He stated that Option 5 is another version of Option 4, where the County would use general fund revenue from reserves to pay the line of credit of $1.4 million, which, in effect, reduces the millage from 1.25 mills to 1.07 mills. He stated that the challenge with Option 5 is that, while the County may have sufficient reserves to do that next fiscal year, there is no guarantee that those reserves will be there in future fiscal years. He stated that those were the five alternatives and noted that variations could be done on each of them. He stated that there is no easy answer to the situation, but it is a situation that needs to be resolved and he, as the County Manager, could not recommend that it be ignored any longer. He stated that he would like to receive direction from the Board this date, or some time within the next week or so, as to what alternative they would like to pursue.
Mr. Neron stated that, under state law, if the County goes to universal collection, it has to do a first class mailing notice to all the residents in the unincorporated area of the County, which has to be completed by July 15, 2002, and, in that mailing, the Board has to set the maximum level of the assessments, so it is important for the Board to decide whether they are going to use a combination of millage and assessment, or just assessment. He suggested that the County use a combination of the non ad-valorem assessment and millage, in the sense of being as inclusive as it can, to have as many people involved as possible in solving the problem. He stated that a lot of the costs involved in the line of credit is for former landfills and post closure landfill expenses and he does not feel that it is fair that only the people in the unincorporated area of the County are sharing the primary burden for paying those costs. He stated that there is no easy alternative, however, noted that this was the best staff could come up with. He stated that, if someone had a better solution, staff was open to any ideas and considerations there might be.
Commr. Pool applauded staff for their many hours and input into this matter. He stated that this was a worksession and he did not plan to take public comment, however, noted that Mr. Roy Hunter, President of the Northeast Lake Chamber of Commerce, had spent a great deal of time on the issue and had come up with a proposed Option 6, which he would like to present to the Board, for consideration. He asked whether any of the community leaders who were present in the audience would like to address the Board.
Mr. Jim Colman, Town Manager, Town of Lady Lake, addressed the Board noting that Mr. Neron had distributed the handout indicating universal collection options to the League of Cities on Friday, May 10, 2002. He stated that some of the Town of Lady Lake city councilmen had reviewed the handout, however, he had not received any input from them, to date. He stated that he felt Options 3, 4, and 5 would be very tough to sell, with the increased millage, however, noted that, if he finds out differently, he would be happy to bring said information back to the Board at a later date. He stated that it is a tough issue and the County has some work ahead of it. He stated that the Town of Lady Lake will work with the County on the options being developed, however, noted that it is very early in the process.
Ms. Dottie Keedy, City Manager, City of Tavares, addressed the Board stating that she has not taken the matter to the City Council yet, however, noted that she has shared the handout with her fellow city councilmen, but has not received a response back from them, to date. She stated that, as the City that is paying the highest tipping fee and one of two that is still in the system, they will be looking for some equity in whatever the charges are and will have to weigh whatever the Board's decision will be regarding the matter. She stated that she will then make a recommendation to the Tavares City Council, based on their rate structure and what the impact on the millage and assessment will be to the residents. She stated that they may have to look at their rates, to lower them, to offset the additional costs, if the tipping fee goes down and by how much.
Mr. Roy Hunter, President of the Northeast Lake Chamber of Commerce, addressed the Board stating that they had an opportunity to benefit not just northeast Lake County, but all of Lake County. He referred to a handout that had been distributed to the Board containing information regarding a proposed Option 6, which he feels will be kinder to those whose homes are less than $120,000, which are the majority of the homes in the County. He stated that they do not want curbside collection, noting that they were happier with the ability to self-haul, however, realize that they must learn to change too. He stated that the County contains 39,711 homes valued at $120,000 or less, which comprises approximately 79,000 voters. He stated that there are 9,525 homes that are valued between $120,000 and $200,000, which comprise approximately 19,000 voters, and 3,151 homes valued at over $200,000, which comprise approximately 6,300 voters, with 481 homes out of the 3,151 valued at over $300,000. He stated that the figures given to the Board this date by staff are somewhat different from their previous figures, but their method is the same, at which time he noted that Option 4, which they prefer, actually equates to a $115 hauling fee and a flat $58.50 county fee. He stated that they believe the $58.50 fee is unfair as a flat fee, noting that it should be based on millage, resulting in a fair assessment to the working class and to the elderly. He stated that his figures amount to $13.77 less than staff on a $100,000 home. He stated that some of the things discussed by Mr. Neron and staff has not been incorporated in the cost to the people with the $200,000 and $300,000 homes. He stated that his figures come out to $31.67 less than staff on a $70,000 home and $46.57 less than staff on a $70,000 home, with the extra $25,000 exemption, which ends up being a $50,000 difference in the exemption than staff's figures. He stated that their figures come out to $60.78 more on a $225,000 home and $120 more than staff on a $325,000 home.
Mr. Hunter stated that government is supposed to be for the greater number of people and for the good of the people and that is what they are asking the Board to do, be for the greater number of people. He stated that they feel their figures are kinder to the people having homes under $120,000 and that staff and Mr. Neron are kinder to those people having homes above $120,000. He stated that the indigent need help and would suggest a more equitable way for the criteria regarding solid waste and fire tax fees, at which time he asked the Board to simplify matters, by removing all requirements regarding assets, because older people can get confused about all the "ifs" and "ands". He suggested that the County use the 150% poverty level of income only, noting that all other assets, whether home, auto, cash, stocks, etc., are already reflected accurately in the income level, whether through interest dividends, or the facts that are reflected in taxes or insurance. He stated that the additional homestead exemption guidelines by the State and the County call for income levels only to be used in the criteria. He stated that his plan would result in less bookkeeping and would be the fair thing to do. He asked that the County put the language pertaining to exemptions on the front page of the solid waste notices in larger print, rather than on the bottom of the back page. He stated that money left over from previous years could be used and noted that additional savings for the County could be achieved by reducing the line of credit on the landfills with the $5 million left in the old sales tax. He stated that he felt the $5 million should be applied to the $11 million line of credit and noted that, if the Board does that, over the years of paying off the rest of the $6 million, the County would save $200,000 a year in interest, which he feels is worth looking at, and he feels the Covanta loan could be refinanced, possibly saving $1 million per year.
Mr. Hunter stated that residents of Lake County would pay a lot less, whether it is Mr. Neron's plan or his plan, if the Board would incorporate the savings he alluded to. He discussed negotiating with the haulers, noting that the fee is currently $128 and solid waste is figuring out to be $115. He stated that the drop-off centers, or transfer stations, could be rented to the haulers, so that they could use smaller four-wheel drive trucks to protect the sand roads and then dump the garbage into larger trucks at the drop-off centers, noting that eventually the County will not have any use for them. He stated that calling them drop-off centers would negate the need for special transfer station permits. He stated that there would be benefits to the haulers, such as no accounting or bookkeeping and no bad debts. He stated that all the homes would be involved, rather than being scattered, as it is now, and it would be easier for the haulers to obtain loans and plan their needs. He stated, however, that the County should negotiate with them, obligating them to a contract, based upon universal curbside collection. He asked that the Board consider his proposal, noting that he feels he has some valid answers. He stated that he felt savings and interest and refinancing the Covanta loan and negotiating with the haulers could lower the cost for everybody and the County would not have to worry about citizens not meeting their obligations, as the County would be showing that it is meeting its obligation to the voters.
Ms. Barbara Newman, Vice Chairman, Solid Waste Study Committee, addressed the Board stating that Mr. Neron presented the proposed plan to the Solid Waste Study Committee the week prior to this meeting and the Committee agreed that none of the options satisfied them totally, however, noted that it was the consensus of the members who were present to endorse Option 4, with the possibility of a one time payment. She stated that they realize this is a very difficult decision for the Board and appreciate the fact that Mr. Hunter put so much time into researching the matter, noting that he presented his option to them, as well. She complimented Mr. Neron and staff for coming up with the options that are being presented, noting that it gives the Board something to compare against. She encouraged the Board to take the advice of professionals who know what they are doing and know how to compare things to other things equally and fairly and not pull numbers from unknown places.
Commr. Pool stated that none of the commissioners can say they like or enjoy what they are going to be doing, as the County moves forward with this matter, noting that any time there are increased costs involved, it is not fun for anyone - those on fixed incomes, those that live less fortunately, or those that have lots of money, but do not want to spend more money. He stated that the Board is trying to do what they think is right by the constituents and citizens that they represent and he hopes, as the County moves forward, that they will come up with a plan that will be as equitable as possible and still resolve some of the issues of concern.
Commr. Hanson stated that she sought Mr. Minkoff's advice on the legality of using the local option sales tax - the current one cent sales tax, to pay down the line of credit, and he indicated that it could be done. She stated that there were two issues of lines of credit - one in 1993 and one in 1995, for a total of $19 million, which has been brought down to $11 million. She stated that, for the first three years, the County did not pay any principal, because it did not have the money to pay for the closure of many of the landfills in the County, at a significant cost. She stated that, when the voters approved the one cent sales tax, it was part of that plan and was for the closure of landfills, however, noted that very little of the one cent infrastructure sales tax was actually used for the closure of landfills. She stated that she feels the Board has another option, which differs from the Solid Waste Study Committee, of which she serves on as the liaison commissioner, being that she feels the County should have universal collection and that the incinerator needs to be at full capacity, so it is in the County's best interest to bring the cities back in, to get to full capacity and remain there. She stated that the costs have reached such a level that it is imperative that the County also fund solid waste with ad-valorem dollars. She stated that the County has always operated on the principle that the current system would pay for itself, but it has reached such a point that that cannot happen, without a tremendous burden to the citizens of the County. She stated that the County Manager has indicated that the County can pay at least $1.4 million on the line of credit and, if the County adds to that an additional $5 million from the current one cent sales tax, it will bring down the line of credit to just under $5 million. She stated that the County will have to refinance the line of credit before the end of the year, because it was a short-term loan that has been dragged out, and the interest rate will probably double from its current rate of 2.11%. She stated that she believes this is something the Board needs to look at and feels that the County could then refinance the remaining line of credit for six years. She stated that it is a debt that the County owes and needs to take care of.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he feels, under Option 4, even if the County used some of the sales tax money, it would be better served in lowering the ad-valorem, as opposed to the tipping fee.
Mr. Neron stated that, if the Board so directed, staff could bring some options back to them, between now and the next Board Meeting, as to the impacts of what that would be.
Commr. Hill stated that she was not convinced that Options 3, 4 or 5 were good at all, because of the dual taxation, as it pertains to cities. She stated that, with the millage, she feels it is a dual taxation. She stated that her option would be a variation of Option 2, which would be to go with universal collection and the no self-haul and lower the tipping fees, but to ask the cities to help the County with it. She stated that the cities should be asked, if the County lowers the tipping fees, whether they would share in the costs to retire the bonds with a special assessment fee, and, if that is the case, she would agree to using the old one cent sales tax, however much the Board decides on, to retire the bond issue. She stated that she feels the County needs to look at its own budget, with regard to operations and the cost effectiveness of what the County is doing in-house, to make sure that it is doing everything it can. She stated that she would rather stay away from the millage totally, due to the fact that she feels it is a dual taxation, as it pertains to cities.
Mr. Neron informed the Board that staff was trying to present to them a realistic package, with the best information they have available at this time. He stated that, as staff goes through budget review, there may be some further cuts that can be made, however, noted that staff has not met with the haulers, to negotiate a universal collection rate, to date. He stated that there is some reduction over the current rate, but staff did not want to promise more than they could deliver. He stated that, as the County finalizes this plan, he feels they can reduce the costs further. He stated that the other aspect of the pay down of the line of credit is that it has more of a long term impact than it does a short term impact, noting that the County would be reducing the principal, which is always a good thing to do, but, depending on how much the overall payment is reduced, between the $1.4 million and what the County is currently paying, that is the only savings that is spread across the rate base, over the next four, five, six, or seven years, until the line of credit is paid off. He stated that, if staff could get some firm direction this date, he would like to do an add-on for next Tuesday's Board Meeting, to at least continue this discussion, because very soon the County is going to start running out of time.
Mr. Minkoff stated that a public hearing is required on the assessments and then trim notice hearings on the ad valorem are required. He stated that, if the County notices the ad- valorem assessment at a maximum of $173.50 for Options 4 or 5, then the County cannot go higher than that; therefore, during the September hearings, the County could not lower the millage, without causing a deficiency in the system. He stated that the first decision the Board needs to make, in May of this year, is the maximum non ad-valorem assessment, however, noted that once the Board does it, there is no going back - they cannot go higher.
Commr. Stivender questioned, if the Board chooses to go with universal collection, whether it means that everybody in the County receives garbage collection at their door. She stated that that was her issue before - equality. She stated that people do not want dumpsters or drop-off centers and she does not believe the County needs self-haul. She stated that, if the County goes to universal collection, everybody should be getting the same service, for what they are paying for. She stated that another concern she has is with the retirement communities, noting that, in discussions with her, prior to this meeting, she was informed that that had been taken care of, in that they would be allowed to keep their current systems. She questioned whether they would be allowed to keep their current systems, or whether they will be required to go with the universal collection.
Mr. Neron stated that universal collection is universal collection, however, noted that there may be some isolated instances where it would not make economical sense to serve particular residences. He stated that the County would do a variance process and give refunds to those residences for the non ad-valorem portion of their assessment. He stated that staff would probably recommend to the Board that a process be set up for that to be done - to either have some type of a committee review, or have some sort of staff process for a consistent application of those variances. He stated that it was his understanding that those companies that are receiving a dumpster type commercial collection under the current system will continue to receive it.
Mr. Dan Gordon, Manager, Hawthorne, addressed the Board and questioned the fact that, if Hawthorne goes to universal collection, whether everybody was going to get the total charge on their tax bill - the non ad-valorem assessment, plus a millage increase, as well, assuming there is one. He stated that Hawthorne contracts directly with the hauler, to pick up the garbage and recycling, and Hawthorne pays that separately. He questioned how it will be done, if everything is going to be on the tax bill.
Mr. Bill Gilley, Senior Director, Solid Waste, addressed the Board, in response to Mr. Gordon's question, stating that staff has discussed the issue of having some sort of rebate program, to get residents like those in Hawthorne close to what they are currently paying. He stated that, if they were to do the combination with the millage, there would be a substantial savings in that area, because non ad-valorem assessments are $173.50 and the millage on a typical house in Hawthorne is below the level of what it would have been if they put everything on non ad-valorem.
Mr. Neron stated that the bill of the residents in Hawthorn may go up a little, with the combination of the millage and the non ad-valorem. He suggested that Mr. Gordon meet with Mr. Gilley after the meeting, or between now and next week, to try to work out some basic scenarios for Hawthorne.
Commr. Pool stated that both the Solid Waste Study Committee and the Board feel that Option 4, with some variations, including pay down of the debt service, would be the best way to go, because the County is going to have to renegotiate or refinance it anyway.
Mr. Neron interjected that the banks are no longer going to give the County short-term rates for a long-term debt, which they have been doing. He stated that they have informed the County that they either want to renegotiate the terms, or the County is going to have to go out for bids. He stated that, under either scenario, the current situation will change regarding the line of credit.
Commr. Stivender stated that she was for universal collection, however, feels that adding the millage onto it would be no different than raising taxes.
Commr. Cadwell stated that it would not be a special millage, it would just be an extra 1.25 mills that will be added to the 5.14 mills that the County currently has.
Mr. Neron stated that the County cannot do it as an MSTU (Municipal Service Taxing Unit), because an MSTU cannot be done in the cities. He stated that the County will have to add it to the ad-valorem millage.
Commr. Hill interjected that the cities could do a special assessment designated just for this, without the County raising the millage, noting that next year the County may want to raise it again. She questioned how they could be assured that the millage rate would stay the same.
Mr. Neron interjected that it is a policy decision each year from the Board, however, noted that the County does not have the luxury of time to go to each of the cities to get their permission and convince them to do a special assessment on the tax bill.
Commr. Pool stated that what the County is trying to do is put everyone in the mix and the ad-valorem does that, where, if the County goes with a special assessment, it is the County residents only that will be affected - the city residents will be opting out of the system. He stated that none of the options are attractive and make the County out to be a hero and all of them will affect the citizens, but everyone will pay the same rate. He stated that the County can either put it on the millage as an increase, or it can put it on the tonnage and per assessment costs, but, either way the County is going to have to collect those dollars to pay the fees and the equitable way is to have everyone included, which is through universal collection, but at $45 per ton, not the $95 per ton.
A motion was made by Commr. Cadwell and seconded by Commr. Hanson to instruct staff to bring a recommendation regarding Universal Collection Option 4 back to the Board on May 21, 2002, with two alternatives, one being to reduce the line of credit by $5 million and the other reducing it by $2.5 million and that those savings be placed in the ad valorem millage column, when it is brought back to the Board for action.
Under discussion, Commr. Hanson stated that her recommendation would be the $5 million, plus the $1.4 million.
Mr. Neron interjected that he would be bringing that scenario back to the Board, as well.
Commr. Stivender suggested that a scenario involving Option 2 be brought back to the Board, as well, with some refiguring of the numbers.
Mr. Minkoff, County Attorney, stated that none of those options would make any difference, because Option 5 shows the entire line of credit being paid, so it is showing a zero line of credit. He stated that, if the County were to pay more than $1.4 million, it would just reduce next year's and the following year's payments. He stated that it is not going to go lower than 1.7 mills this year, no matter what the scenario is.
Mr. Neron stated that staff had a basic understanding of what the Board wanted, with regard to this matter. He stated that he would be bringing a recommendation back to the Board at the Board Meeting scheduled for May 21, 2002.
The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, which was carried, by a 3-2 vote.
Commrs. Hill and Stivender voted "No".
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 2:50 p.m.
________________________________ ROBERT A. POOL, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK