A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
BLUE RIBBON COMMITTEE
MAY 2, 2003
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in a special meeting with the Blue Ribbon Committee. The meeting was held in the Magnolia Room, Everett Kelly Building, Lake Sumter Community College, Leesburg, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Welton G. Cadwell, Chairman; Catherine C. Hanson; Jennifer Hill; and Robert A. Pool. Commissioners not present: Debbie Stivender. Others present were: William A. “Bill” Neron, County Manager; Gregg Welstead, Deputy County Manager/Growth Management Director; Mr. Sanford (Sandy) A. Minkoff, County Attorney; Wendy Taylor, Executive Office Manager, Board of County Commissioner’s Office; and Toni M. Riggs, Deputy Clerk.
Commr. Cadwell stated that this is a special meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, and they will be hearing a report from the Blue Ribbon Committee (Committee), which has been working with the County Manager over the last several months.
The Board approved the formation of the Committee for the purpose of conducting a review of all programs and services offered by Lake County government.
Commr. Cadwell noted that Commr. Stivender was not present, because her daughter is expecting a baby at any moment, and the Clerk of the Court, Mr. James C. Watkins, is in Tallahassee for an Article V legislative meeting. Mr. Neil Kelly, Senior Chief Deputy Clerk, and other staff members were here on his behalf.
At this time, Commr. Cadwell asked that everyone at the table introduce themselves. Those individuals included the following: Commissioners Hill, Cadwell, Pool, and Hanson; Constitutional Officers - Ed Havill, Lake County Property Appraiser; Bob McKee, Lake County Tax Collector; Emogene Stegall, Supervisor of Elections; George E. Knupp, Sheriff of Lake County; County staff - Bill Neron, County Manager, Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, and Blue Ribbon Committee members - Bill Deese; Claude Smoak; Pat Sykes-Amos, Chair; John Moore; Robert Westrick; and Greg Nelson.
PRESENTATION - REPORT FROM THE BLUE RIBBON COMMITTEE
Commr. Cadwell stated that the Committee will make their report and, then they will take questions, or input, from those present at the table. He stated that they will then set aside some time to hear public comment on the report, if time allows.
Ms. Sykes-Amos, Chair of the Committee, stated that all of those present at the table have been furnished with a copy of the Committee’s report. She explained that they met with each of the Constitutional Officers, as well as department heads, to try and determine where monies are being spent. The Committee first determined that it was not their purview to tell elected officials what they should do or not do in certain areas. She stated that the report is more general, and they do get into more specific areas. She stated that the County needs to watch the analysis, as budgets are presented to them. Ms. Sykes-Amos stated that the Board can ask a specific level of questions in their capacity as decision makers for the County.
Dr. Westrick stated that the Committee felt a need to look at the way the whole country is doing things differently. He felt that sometimes some good comes from tough times and that individuals become closer in terms of working together to solve a problem, or a concern. Dr. Westrick stated that the federal government is pushing down to the state government, and the state government is pushing down to the county government. The universities, community colleges, and K through 12 are being crunched but they are doing more collaborative work. Their sense was that, in times of tough decision making, perhaps the meetings with the School Board was a good step, and the meetings they had in South Lake was a positive step towards working on problems. He stated that it behooves the Board to work with the elected officials, and the Constitutional Officers, in the same manner, and to look at ways they can collaborate and do things better to stretch the taxpayer’s dollar.
Mr. Smoak stated that Dr. Westrick has summarized the attitude of the Committee. He stated that the most telling paragraph in the report is on Page 2, as follows: “As a general observation, the mind-set that each budget year brings an automatic increase of 5% to 7% in funding and expenditures for the various programs of County government is not an acceptable option.” Mr. Smoak stated that, when they first looked at the County budget, there were two columns, the proposed budget for the fiscal year, and the enhanced budget, which creates a culture of saying ask for more. After having conversations with the County Manager, he has now taken some action to change the budget process. Mr. Smoak stated that they were all impressed with the level of confidence from the Constitutional Officers’ staff, and the County Commission’s staff. He stated that the County Commission’s staff is a really good mix of new people, bright people, with good ideas, and some older people who have been here for awhile that have a knowledge and a history of the County. He stated that it is a real eye opener to see the amount of money being spent in the County today ($300 million) versus the amount of money spent fourteen or fifteen years ago ($40 million), when he served on the County Commission. Mr. Smoak stated that it is not a case that Lake County is doing a bad job but, from their perspective, it is that they could look at it differently. He knows that it is hard to say no to an entire audience of people that are lobbying for specific issues that cost new dollars, but that is the key word. He wanted to congratulate all of them and state that it was the Committee’s intent to ask that they re-double those efforts in trying to work together, to keep the cost of government down, and to ask the Constitutional Officers to do their part as much as they can to make that happen.
Mr. Moore stated that he wanted to compliment the County Manager’s Office for being very open with everything and helping them to obtain information they needed to draft this report. He stated that Mr. Neron has implemented new approaches to the budgeting process by looking at what is a necessity, what do they actually have to have to perform the “core mission” of County government, and what the extras would be, if they had the money. He hopes that Mr. Neron carries this through the budget cycle because, if they are going to make it without raising taxes, they have to look at the “core mission” of County government.
Ms. Sykes-Amos stated that, as shown in the report, they asked that, in the budget process, when a department asks for the funds, it is to be explained, because it is either mandated by a statute, an ordinance, or a law. She stated that there are also areas where government has rightly, or wrongly, stepped in and taken over things that may not belong in the government arena anymore and, if funds are tight, those areas total the discretionary money and are the ones that everyone has a special interest. She explained that not saying no has gotten the entire government in this position today.
Mr. Nelson stated that, after looking at all of the information, they found that everybody runs great programs, and he would echo the comments made earlier, but it is going to be a lot of little things that are going to make the difference, when the Board starts trimming a little here or there, or sharing a service here or there. He stated that it is going to be incumbent upon the management team to make those recommendations.
Mr. Deese stated that he would like to commend the County Commission over the years in their efforts to try and provide services for all of their citizens. He stated that it is great to be able to do this when the funds are available but, in a year like the one they are facing, as stated by Mr. Moore, they have to look at the essential services that they need to provide to their citizens, and some of those fringe benefits that they are providing may have to be reduced, or eliminated. They have got to manage the taxpayers’ dollars and guide them in the most essential way, yet provide them with the most essential service. Mr. Deese stated that, as elected officials, they have to look at the “core mission” and essential services.
Ms. Sykes-Amos explained that each Committee member has his or her own business, and they are all fighting issues, such as health insurance, in their own business. She further explained that the cost for retirement benefits is almost doubling for the County employees, and they do not have a lot of latitude in this area, as well as in the area of social security. So the special interests that each of them carry in their heart are the ones that get cut, or discussed.
Mr. Smoak stated that Mr. Neron provided the Committee with everything that they asked for and more and, to return the favor, they invited him out of the last several meetings, to simply put the Committee in a position of developing the final draft for public release. He stated that Mr. Neron did mention to them some of the things that he has implemented in the budget process, since their discussions, and he asked if it would be appropriate for Mr. Neron to address the Board and the public at this time, to explain what some of those changes are in the budgeting process this year, and what he has instructed his staff people to present to them, as opposed to the previous year.
Mr. Neron stated that one of the things that the Committee discussed in one of their early meetings is that right now they start the budget process already looking for cost plus, so to speak, and what they have now plus a percentage increase and, while the budget has been presented from the budget office, he has asked his department heads to go back and take this year’s dollars and, in realizing that they are going to have to fund an increase for the Florida Retirement system, health insurance, and any other increases that might be there, to give him back a budget with this year’s dollars and how they would have to react from a program aspect to live within this year’s dollars, and what changes might be made if positions need to be eliminated. He stated that he has just gotten them back this past week and has yet to review the information, but he will be sharing this with the Board throughout the process. He also hopes that, in the next few weeks, staff will start to bring some of the major budget issues to the Board for their input and discussion, prior to the actual presentation of a balanced budget in July. Mr. Neron explained that Board has to adopt a balanced budget; they cannot do deficit financing, and the biggest unknown are the expenses that the Legislature will be passing to the County. Mr. Neron stated that it is going to be a difficult budget year, but he was sure that working with the Constitutional Officers, and with the Board and staff, they will be bringing the Board the information and, unfortunately, it is the Board that is going to make these difficult decisions as they go through the budget process.
Commr. Cadwell stated that Lake County is in pretty good financial shape, when looking at their government compared to any other government in the State of Florida, in terms of debt service and having one of the lowest tax rates. He stated that, unlike the State, he does not feel the County is in a financial crisis, but they could certainly be in one, if they did not heed some of the advise of the Committee.
Mr. Havill stated that he would like to thank the Committee for their report. He explained that government started out with a few necessary programs, such as public health and public safety, and now they have approximately 1,600 different programs, because the public keeps wanting. As he has said for years, the public does not understand millions and trillions of dollars, but they do understand $4.50 a week more for taxes when it is coming out of their pocket for a new program. The problem is that they think that somebody else is paying for it. He stated that the issue of new people paying for growth is a real complicated problem. Mr. Havill stated that they are seeing this all across the country and, in Lake County, they are seeing school system leadership saying that they do not want business like solutions, such as the ones suggested by Mr. Carl Lunderstadt, a member of the Joint Committee for School Impact Solutions, but that they want more money out of the people’s pockets. He explained that they have been in a recession for the last three and a half years, and they are still in one. Every day they read about companies laying off people, selling their excess plants, and one out of every four factories is sitting idle in this country. Mr. Havill stated that he talks with a lot of people, and he has been very concerned about expenses over the years, as they all very well know. He stated that the County has expensive vehicles that are being bought by the taxpayers, and they are being traded in more often than necessary, when less expensive vehicles, and even less vehicles, would serve the necessary purpose. He stated that they are creating positions, to help out friends, that are unnecessary in their offices, which may be fine in good times, but the taxpayers are having a tough time. Mr. Havill explained that last year, when the Tax Collector sold tax certificates, he charged back one out of every three tax certificates to the County Commission, and he believes that number is going to go higher as time goes by. Mr. Havill stated that it is time for them to really stop talking about raising taxes, or adding a utility tax or something else, because the taxpayers are not a bottomless pit of money. He stressed that they have got to get serious and meetings like this are good but he questioned what is ever done. He stated that it is up to the Commissioners to put pressure and heat on not only the County Manager and the departments in the County, but all of the Constitutional Officers, and to not accept budgets for millions and millions of dollars, but to get into the details of how this money is being spent, because it does not belong to the Constitutional Officers, or the Board, but to the taxpayers. He stated that he was against the penny sales tax, because he saw the waste with the extension of it. He stated that they have talked about cutting back on the libraries and having less hours and using volunteers, as suggested by the Committee, but they need to start implementing these ideas. Mr. Havill stated that he is proud of the job done by Commr. Hill. She is the taxpayers’ representative, because she looks at everything as far as spending their dollars, and they all need to do that in their offices. Mr. Havill stated that they need to start spending public money like they spend their own money.
Mr. McKee stated that he would like to thank the Committee for all their efforts, and he is sure that the taxpayers appreciated them taking their time to make this report. When speaking about the economy and tough times and, when there is an upturn in the economy, there ought not be a windfall for government. Mr McKee stated that, when the legislature is suggesting that more costs will pass down to the local level, then it is time to tighten their belts, but it is always time to tighten their belts, and they ought not be waiting to see what the state is going to do. He stated that, from the Constitutional Officers’ side, their business is service delivery and let there be no question there is a direct correlation between growth, service delivery, the cost of those services, and the consequential taxation of the public. His explained that his office creates formulas to approach things, just as an economist would do, but one of the factors of which he has no control in his formula is growth. As the population increases, the need for service increases, the associated cost proportionately increases, and they add people in order to provide basic services, the ones that are constitutionally and statutorily mandated of them. He asked them to help them control the ones they do not control. As the County continues to grow, he will continue to increase his budget no matter how efficiently he might run his office, because growth does not pay for itself. Mr. McKee stated that he looks forward to sitting down with the other Constitutional Officers, and the Board, to discuss the specifics in budgeting next year, not revenues, not funding, but expenses. He invites the Board to look closely at his budget, and he would expect them to invite him to look at their budget, and he feels that collectively they will be able to find solutions.
Ms. Stegall thanked the Committee for all of the time that they put into this report and stated that, after reviewing her budget, and the operation of her office, she is open for any recommendation they may have for her.
Sheriff Knupp extended his thanks to the Committee for giving him the opportunity to present his budget to them. He stated that they must keep in mind that his office is different than those sitting here with him, because they have to operate 24 hours a day and provide a service to the taxpayer for law enforcement. He stated that Lake County is growing by about 1,000 persons per month and, as they have growth, there are going to be problems and costs. He stated that there is a factor built into the number of people living in a community, in terms of the number of individuals required to provide a service for those people. He explained that law enforcement is going to go up as the County grows and, as the State of Florida puts more of a burden on them. He stated that right now the State is trying to turn the Division of Family Services over to them, and they are looking at giving juvenile justice back to the County, which will be a cost, and right now they do not have a facility to house juveniles. He is currently 80 people over the current population allowed in the jail, and they are sleeping on the floor, and this is a cost to the taxpayers. He runs the jail in conjunction with the Board of County Commissioners and, if they look at the figures for law enforcement, the County has the lowest crime, when compared to surrounding counties. The Sheriff’s deputies have done an excellent job in keeping the crime rate down. Sheriff Knupp stated that they are towing the line but, with growth, they are going to have more funding for deputy sheriffs and equipment.
Commr. Hill stated that every year the Board has addressed the ongoing problem with solid waste and Covanta, and she did not know how much Mr. Neron was able to share with the Committee about these issues, because this was left out of their report. She wondered whether, as a “core mission” of the County, these items were discussed with them.
Mr. Smoak stated that the Committee did discuss solid waste and Covanta (formerly known as Ogden Martin), but there was not a whole lot this Committee could do. He stated that, when the Chairman was making his comments about the current financial condition of the County, he was wondering how that would be magnified if it was not for Covanta. He stated that the Committee could make no recommendations, because the County is continuing to review the contract with Covanta. Until they resolve the real problem with Covanta, it is absolutely going to be a cash drain on Lake County. Mr. Smoak explained that this issue has a lot of history with a lot of personal emotion with him, because he was on the Board when this item was adopted, and all of the negative aspects that were brought before the Board at that time have now come to pass and a few more on top of them. He stated that the County is obligated to pay the Industrial Revenue Bonds and, unless they can negotiate, or legally void those at some time, it is a reality. The Committee did not feel it was something in their purview to look at because they know it is something that the County reviews constantly. He stated that the people of Lake County are paying the heaviest levy in solid waste disposal fees, because of that contract. The Committee recognized that they have serious problems with it, and that staff is on top of it.
Commr. Hill stated that she wanted to set the record straight for those who may not have been here at that time, that Commissioner Smoak and Commissioner Bailey voted “no” on the Ogden Martin (now Covanta) issue.
Commr. Cadwell stated that it influences the Committee’s discussions, because the County is taking general ad valorem taxes and putting them back into the solid waste problem, which is something that he thought they would never do.
Mr. Smoak explained that, from day one, they guaranteed a definite number of tons of solid waste to the plant, and the County did not have anywhere near that kind of production of solid waste in Lake County at that time. They imported solid waste into Lake County and paid for that importation of solid waste to feed that plant.
Mr. Moore explained that, as a Committee, they did not address that specifically but Mr. Neron was very forthcoming in the fact that they were in negotiations, and he kept the Board up to date on the issue, so there really was not much they could say about it, even though it does affect the general fund.
Commr. Hill explained that the County does have a solid waste facility that is separate from Covanta, but they are connected to one another.
Mr. Moore stated that the Committee did talk about solid waste, capacity issues and personnel, and some of that has already been addressed in the consolidation and privatization of some services.
In response to a question, Ms. Sykes-Amos clarified that the Committee is not recommending the implementation of a utility tax, and everything in their report is about cutting expenses and looking at other items.
Dr. Westrick stated that the Committee did talk about the problem with Covanta and felt that it needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
Commr. Pool thanked the Committee for their willingness to step forward and, as stated earlier by Commr. Cadwell, the County is far better than many counties with their ad valorem tax and debt service, but there are problems and issues of concern. He stated that, as mentioned, Mr. Smoak voted against the Ogden Martin (now Covanta) contract, and the cities did not like the idea, they thought it was a bad idea, and he believes it is a worse idea today, but he does believe they are going to come up with a solution. He addressed the comment about “core mission” and stated that citizens come to them on a daily basis requesting additional services, or additional funding. They need to trim these budgets but, as they expand and grow, they need to make sure that those needs are there and that they are meeting the needs of the people of Lake County and not providing extras. Commr. Pool stated that people are going to continue to come to Lake County, and they have to be prepared for growth, from all standpoints. and he feels that this Board will support the increase in impact fees for schools. He stated that it is their responsibility to find some of these answers, and to work with the business community to figure out how best they can handle what is coming their way, along with other counties such as Orange, Osceola, Brevard and Seminole. He stated that they need new roads and new schools, and they need to work together to find answers. Commr. Pool stated that it is nice having such a committee, but the Board needs to make sure that what they are doing is benefitting the citizens. He was glad to see in the report the information about Children’s Services, the need to find the “core mission”, and the need for volunteers. He applauds the different service organizations who take steps to help them, but they need to do that on a larger level and extend that volunteer base.
Mr. Smoak addressed the issue of recreation and parks and stated that the County already has the greatest number in acres of parks for this size county. He questioned why the Board would embark on an incredibly expensive consultant study to determine parks and recreation needs in the County, when the County’s active recreational programs are basically city functioned services. He would suggest that they reexamine where they are headed with the parks review and look more at how they can partner with cities who have active recreational facilities already in place and expand those programs through direct monetary grants. He explained that the number one greatest expense is always personnel and, if they build parks, they will hire people, and next year they will need more people, because they will have more programs and more kids. Mr. Smoak stated that the cities of the County are the magnet areas where growth is occurring, with maybe the exception of The Villages and the Four Corners. He stated that this is an example of an area where it has ballooned into serious demands on the budgetary assets of the County. He explained that library services, in the 1980s, were virtually all locally owned volunteer libraries, and there was no county library system. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers who ran those programs Mr. Smoak stated that now all of the volunteers are gone and the County has a million dollar budget, which is higher than the law enforcement budget in 1988, so the sense of community that the volunteers generated has been lost. He stated that the net effect of what was a very innocent effort has now evolved into a major County expense that continues to grow and, if they are not careful, they are going to find themselves in exactly the same position with recreation and parks.
Mr. Havill addressed the issue of the land acquisition program for public lands and stated that, as property appraiser, he gets stacks of information about where government has bought property that was on the tax role the prior year, and he has got to exempt it or, in the case of the County Commission, make it immune from taxes this year, therefore, it shrinks the tax role. He also pointed out that his entire budget to appraise everything in the County for his whole office is under $2 million compared to the $4 million that Mr. Smoak is talking about for the countywide library system.
Commr. Pool stated that, when the Board went to expand the library program, the comments made by the Board were very clear, that they would embrace libraries but questioned how they would pay for them. Commr. Pool stated that, after he left the City of Clermont as Mayor, 80% of the little league program consisted of County residents. He does not deny that cities provide the best service, but that is because they (the City of Clermont) charge a higher tax, and an impact fee for recreation. Today, in Clermont, a three bedroom home pays $500 for recreation, and the County charges zero. There used to be only four little girls softball teams, and today there are 27 teams. He stated that the County is growing and they could do a better job in partnering with the cites. Commr. Pool stated that he admires the County for committing dollars along the way, but it did not always take care of the maintenance, and the ongoing programs that were needed.
Ms. Sykes-Amos stated that it is the Committee’s idea that the County not create another department. She stated that the County needs to partner with the cities and send money to cities to offset their costs for their recreation programs. She clarified that the Committee is not saying not to provide the service.
Mr. Moore explained that they already have recreation on three levels in the County, the national forest, the state parks at Lake Louisa and north of Leesburg, and city recreation. They need to maximize the use of these existing facilities, because they are all paying for them. He also noted that the Lake County Water Authority is now part of recreation.
Mr. Smoak stated that he met with some of the School Board representatives a couple of days ago and the issue of recreation came up for discussion. He stated that they have all indicated that they want the Board to talk to their counterparts and other governmental agencies. He stated that the Board can negotiate with developers for recreational facilities, which are also available to the schools. In regards to impact fees, Mr. Smoak stated that it is the greatest unfairness to people. He explained how the first $10,000 of somebody’s cost in their new house is going to be government generated costs. He stated that he not going to the Board meetings and speak against impact fees, but it is not a fair way to do it, and this idea of growth paying for itself is not true. He hopes that the Board will not vote for the school impact fees (approximately $4,200), and he hopes that they will not say that this is the solution to the school problem, because it is not a solution, it is another band-aid that is going to end up costing everybody in this County additional funds forever.
Commr. Hanson thanked the Committee for their report and stated that they were a very good mix of people, and she appreciates them taking their time to make their recommendations and look at the issues of the County. She stated that she has been on the Board the longest, 13 years now, and there were tough times in the 1990s, with a recession. At that time, they decided to look at mandates, the needs versus the wants, and to put this in their policies, and they have pretty much kept that process through the years. They have had a conservative budget, and they remain one of the lowest ad valorem tax counties in the State, however, over the years, they have added the Childrens’ Services Commission, which she sees as a prevention of future problems for kids at risk who would eventually fill up the jails, and then they would have to build more jail space. She also knows that, when the dollars are short, the prevention needs are the lowest on the list to be funded. The volunteer program started in the early 1990s, and they have a great deal of potential to carry that further because they have an excellent source of volunteers within the County that have the expertise in many different areas. Commr. Hanson stated that she originally voted against library services, because there was no funding source when they agreed to start building libraries in the unincorporated areas, however, they are very much needed in the small communities but, perhaps a volunteer library would have been better, because it is part of the County system, and she understands that they have already moved forward on reducing the hours based on need. She stated that recreation has traditionally been a partnership with the cities, and the County has provided some passive recreation, but they have counted on the cities to provide the active recreation, and she feels that it should remain that way because, if this changed, it would be opening up a whole new area of bureaucracy. She stated that some of the issues that were mentioned and that are tremendously important include better collaboration, not only with the Constitutional Officers, but with the cities. The services are there and often there is an overlap or duplication, but she feels they are fairly conservative. Commr. Hanson stated that one of the problems they face with growth is the vested buildable lots in the unincorporated area of the County. She stated that there is still a lot of the County that is unincorporated in spite of the annexations, but those lots are ones that were approved in the 1920s through the 1980s. These lots are owned by individuals, and the County has to provide them permits, because they are buildable lots. Those people are demanding the level of service that is the same level of service they received when they lived in a city and now that they are in the rural area, those people are no longer willing to accept anything else, or pay any more dollars for it. She stated that one point that was missed in the presentation was the encouragement of light industry. Even though it does not bring the need for services, it does bring more tax dollars to help with the tax base, and this is one of the weaknesses she sees in the Comprehensive Plan, and in their planning and, not only in the County, but in the cities. The cities have made a major effort with their industrial parks, but it is not enough proportionately because they are growing much faster residentially than they are industrially.
Ms. Sykes-Amos explained that, with every home that is built in the County, there is a deficit, and every time they decide to give a building permit, somewhere they have to figure out where they are going to fund that deficit. She explained that people buy property in the rural area, and they need to remember that they bought it knowing that they would not have specific services, yet they still expect them, but Ms. Sykes-Amos stressed that it has to be an education process.
Mr. Smoak explained that Lake County has always been a single industry county and continues to be a single industry county. It used to be an agricultural county basically financed by citrus groves, but now it is a construction industry.
Commr. Hanson stated that they talk a lot about growth paying for itself, but growth would pay for itself, if their level of service stayed the same and the public was not demanding a higher level of service.
Mr. Deese stated that they need to make sure that the public, when making a demand for higher services, knows that it comes with a price tag
Mr. McKee stated that there are financial consequences associated with growth, which are being ignored. He sated that they need to find quantifiable formulas that they can all use , in order to face reality.
Ms. Sykes-Amos stated that the Committee did talk about Municipal Service Taxing Units (MSTUs) and Municipal Service Benefit Units (MSBUs). They also talked about a specified millage for recreation, or libraries, so, if the citizens want this level of service, then they have got to say they are willing to pay for it, otherwise, they, as elected officials need to say they are going to fund it at this specific level.
Commr. Pool explained that the citizens of Lake County had the wisdom to vote for the continuance of the penny sales tax, with one third going to the cities, one third to the County, and one third to the schools, so part of that one cent was designed for acquisition of properties, recreation, transportation, education so, in theory, the citizens have agreed that they will help pay for it.
Ms. Sykes-Amos stressed that the citizens did not fund services, they funded infrastructure, and the County has to fund maintenance and service. As she stressed earlier, they have to be more direct and educate the public.
Sheriff Knupp stated that he has 75 volunteers that work at the Sheriff’s Office, and they are using volunteers throughout the County in all of their substations, and in the main office.
Ms. Sykes-Amos explained that the volunteers have to have a role to play and, when you look at places that thrive on volunteers, the effort has been made for them to serve a useful purpose, and they feel welcomed. It was suggested that the program be developed to the point where they almost have specific job descriptions.
Commr. Cadwell stated that they need to do a better job with volunteers and identifying projects that are going to touch people where they will want to volunteer.
Commr. Hanson stated that a few years ago, the County instituted the Citizens Academy, which is similar to the Sheriff’s Academy, and it is one of those things that they may call a “frill”, but it brings in people from the County, about 35 at a time, twice a year, to help the public become better educated on what is going on in the County. There is a cost involved but there is also a benefit to the community, which is hard to put a dollar amount on but it has been a great program. She stated that it has to be part of the answer to help the citizens to better understand the process.
Sheriff Knupp stated that they have gotten a lot of volunteers from the Police Academy because, as they go through that process, they become interested in volunteering for the Sheriff’s Office.
Mr. Smoak stated that one of the greatest problems that the Board faces is the disingenuous reporting that occurs in this County from “The Lake Sentinel”. He stated that they never pick up their share of bringing a sense of community to bring them together. They work diligently and with great effort to create divisive situations. Mr. Smoak stated that they all need to work toward a common goal of creating community and creating the best environment for all. Mr. Neron extended his appreciation to the Committee for their work.
Commr. Cadwell stated that, with the time constraints that they are under today, at Tuesday’s meeting, the Board will have a public comment period, if there is anyone here that would like to comment on what they have heard today.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting adjourned at 10:10 a.m.
WELTON G. CADWELL, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK