A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
FEBRUARY 28, 2005
Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Monday, February
28, 2005, at 9:00 a.m., at the Lake Technical Center, Institute of Public
Safety, Lane Park Cutoff, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the
meeting were: Jennifer Hill, Chairman; Catherine C. Hanson, Vice Chairman;
Welton G. Cadwell; Robert A. Pool; and Debbie Stivender. Others present were:
CALL TO ORDER
Commr. Hill called the priority projects retreat to order at 9:00 a.m.
Ms. Cindy Hall, Assistant County Manager, stated that the special projects workshop booklet (included in the backup material) was compiled based on direction from the Board members and the County Manager and includes current projects. The booklet includes a description of the project, the status, what the next steps are and whether or not the project is funded. Department Managers are present and will answer questions on the projects. She asked the Board to rank the projects as (A) critically important (B) important or (C) proceed as time permits. A lot of the projects may not have full funding at this time and staff anticipates coming back at a later date with funding options. Ms. Hall explained that staff hopes to gain, during today’s discussion by the Board, any redirection or changes to any of the projects and a better understanding of the highest priority of the projects. She added that an update on the Master Space Study (Lake County Master Space and Facilities Plan) will be given at the end of today’s meeting and a follow-up discussion with the consultant from Carter Goble Lee (CGL) will take place at the Board’s regular meeting tomorrow, March 1, 2005.
PROJECTS – PLANNING
Mr. Bill Neron, County Manager, informed the Board that staff has been committed to completing the Lake County Comprehensive Plan with a goal of December 2005. The Master Space Study has been ongoing. The Transit Improvement Program was accepted by the Lake-Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization (LSMPO) at their meeting February 23, 2005, and County staff will be working with LSMPO staff to look at alternatives and funding. The Long-Range Solid Waste Plan goes down to a vertical construction of a new cell at the landfill.
PROJECTS - VERTICAL CONSTRUCTION AND PARKS, RECREATION
AND OPEN SPACE
Commr. Hill suggested discussing the projects in the order they appear on the list and that the Board might want to specify that some of the projects are essential for government operations while others, such as parks and recreation, might pertain to quality of life.
Regarding fire stations, Mr. Neron stated that the Lake Jem station and the replacement for the Minneola station are in the site selection process now. Money is budgeted for those and will be funded out of the fire fund and impact fees. Also, a station in the SR 42 area will probably be needed next year.
New Citrus Ridge Library and New Cooper Memorial Library
Commr. Pool stated that it might be helpful to identify not only the funding source but what dollars are available. He stated that Cooper Memorial Library is a very important issue in south Lake County but there are not a lot of dollars available.
Mr. Neron remarked that the Citrus Ridge Library is basically funded. However, for Cooper Memorial, there is no funding line that has currently been identified although the architecture has been identified. That project could cost $6 or $7 million. If Osceola County or Polk County participates in funding for Citrus Ridge, some money might be freed up for Cooper Memorial. Staff is continuing to work toward capital contributions from Polk and Osceola counties.
Commr. Pool opined that, if there is no participation by Polk and Osceola counties in the Lake County library system, member agreements with those counties might not be continued. He suggested that Cooper Memorial, rather than at one large location, could be diversified into three smaller locations. One location could be a shared space with Lake-Sumter Community College (LSCC) in south Lake County, with one satellite in Minneola and one much smaller location in Clermont.
Commr. Cadwell suggested two smaller facilities and Commr. Pool agreed that two would work, possibly with participation from the college with an annex and a smaller footprint on the existing site. Commr. Cadwell stated that a firm commitment from Osceola County needs to be tied down. He opined that the Polk County system compares to the Lake County system fifteen years ago. He asked if a Polk County resident could buy a Lake County library card if there was no reciprocal agreement.
Ms. Wendy Breeden, Library Services Director, confirmed that, if there was no agreement with Polk County, those residents could buy a card for $30.00 per year. She stated that the Polk County Manager and some of the Board members are talking about participating in operations of the libraries. About 45% of visitors to the libraries are not Lake County residents. About 20% of visitors are Polk County residents. Cooper Memorial Library is the busiest branch and Citrus Ridge Library is the second busiest.
Commr. Cadwell suggested that the County Manager should look at other types of agreements with other counties, such as fire agreements.
At the direction of the Board, Mr. Neron confirmed that he will schedule a meeting between the Chairmen of the Boards of County Commissioners and County Managers of Lake County, Osceola County and Polk County to discuss libraries and fire/rescue services in south Lake County.
Mr. Richard LeBlanc, Architect III, Public Works Department, stated that construction documents for the new Citrus Ridge Library are almost 100% complete. Groundbreaking may take place in May or June 2005.
Mr. Neron explained that the City of Clermont is willing to donate the downtown site of the current Cooper Memorial Library for a new building but that seems to be the only participation by the City.
Commr. Pool added that the majority of people who attended a recent meeting clearly want the library to be kept in downtown Clermont. That lot size minimizes the size of a library unless a two or three story building is built. He reiterated his suggestion of a smaller footprint on the existing facility downtown with a partnership to the east with LSCC where they have land available, the possibility of grant dollars, and the availability of parking. He stressed that he is looking for partners, including the City of Clermont, other counties, LSCC and the University of Central Florida. He asked if there might be any opportunity to salvage the existing building by getting rid of the mold. He asked how much that might cost.
Mr. Neron pointed out that the existing building is only 14,000 square feet and a new facility would potentially be 20,000 to 30,000 square feet.
Ms. Breeden stated that the consultants determined that a total of 45,000 square feet are needed for Cooper Memorial. The current leased space (on Minneola Avenue) is 7,000 square feet.
Mr. Jim Stivender, Jr., Public Works Director, advised that, unless a building has a true historical significance, it is best to demolish it and start over.
Commr. Hanson opined that it makes a lot of sense to partner with the college but that does not address the issue of a library in downtown Clermont. She opined that the first location could be at the college and then we could find out how many people would use it.
Commr. Pool stated that the more a library is wanted downtown the more the City may be willing to participate and he would like to ask the City to participate financially as well as donating land.
Ms. Breeden advised that the legislature may be able to provide $500,000 but the County may have to provide additional construction dollars. The colleges might be able to ask for construction dollars for their part. She advised that LSCC might be in the planning stages for a new library facility at this time.
Commr. Cadwell pointed out that partnering with LSCC becomes an issue of their dollars benefiting their students. There are a lot of issues that would be involved and a library at the college would be a different kind of library than a public library.
Regarding parking at the downtown location, Mr. Neron stated that the City of Clermont is considering buying at least one adjacent lot and, by building vertically, there should be enough parking spaces.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, advised the Board that the lease for the new 7,000 square foot library (on Minneola Avenue) will expire in 2007 and has two one-year renewal options.
Mr. Neron confirmed that staff will begin working on looking at two medium sized library sites in south Lake County, one in conjunction with Lake Sumter Community College at their campus and the second at the existing downtown site. The number one priority site will be at the college. Staff will also request financial participation on construction from the City of Clermont.
Mr. Neron stated that the architect selection process has been completed and a recommendation on the fairground improvements should be ready soon. The intention is to build the new, air conditioned exposition hall while still using the current one and then tear it down. The other buildings will be renovated and upgraded, the intersection will be realigned, and there will be drainage improvements.
Mr. Stivender stated that there have been talks with the Browns, property owners to the west, who, with other neighbors, may possibly do a major realignment of the road. While not affecting the fairgrounds much, it would bypass a lot of problems in the SR 44 study. It would not hold up renovations at the fairgrounds. He confirmed that one option does include moving the Stavros restaurant.
Commr. Stivender stated that she hopes we would not move the restaurant.
Furniture Country Warehouse
Mr. LeBlanc stated that he has a proposal from the architect to begin the programming study on the Furniture Country warehouse on CR 473, Leesburg, as well as code, building and use evaluations. Six departments, as listed in the booklet, have expressed interest in utilizing the building. The study might be completed in early May and, provided there is no extensive work necessary, the project might be completed in the fall or early winter of this year.
Mt. Plymouth/Sorrento Community Building and Community Park and Library
Commr. Hanson stated that the community building and park projects are in this year’s budget. She stated that those two and a library can be done on one site. She stated that the County can partner with Florida Communities Trust and The Trust for Public Lands can coordinate some fundraising activities. She stated that a small community park, a trailhead (coming up from Apopka, Sanford or Mount Dora) and a nature center (for the Wekiva) could be included and could help get grants. Land prices between Mount Plymouth and Sorrento will not be cheap but it will be a great area to create a type of town center, a gathering place, for the public.
Mr. Neron confirmed that about $8 million has been earmarked for the northeast community park as well as the community building in Mt. Plymouth/Sorrento.
Mr. Minkoff confirmed that Ms. Quinnette Durkin of his staff is working with the Mt. Plymouth-Sorrento Planning Advisory Committee (Advisory Committee). There is one parcel that would accommodate realigning the road and probably leave twenty or thirty acres that could be used for these purposes. He advised that they have been looking at available parcels within a three-mile circle of the intersection of CR 437 and SR 46 and stated that property values there are increasing rapidly.
Commr. Hanson stated that a regional park might not be possible in this area. She stated that it would be good to have a library near a community center. She mentioned the smart-growth concept and referred to Ft. Pierce where the community center is on top of a library. The Mt. Plymouth/Sorrento area also needs a new elementary school and there may be some opportunities to pull that in also. She remarked that this is a master plan or overlay.
Mr. Neron stated that, by co-locating the library and community center, common meeting rooms and staff could be shared.
Mr. Minkoff informed the Board that the lease for the library facility has just been renewed for five years.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he does not want the library to hold up the community building and park unless it will be a joint building.
Commr. Hanson stated that the better plan may be to have a small community center and small park in Mount Plymouth and then have one a couple of miles away. A regional park may be a little further off in time. She reiterated that there are opportunities for other partnerships and there is a need to act quickly.
Mr. Minkoff stated that, if the Advisory Committee likes the location, there is a willing seller although a price has not been determined.
Mr. Neron suggested that, on all of the projects, if there is any land involved, the quicker a site is found and bought, the better it would be.
Commr. Hanson stated that she will keep the Board posted on this project.
Health Department Clinic Renovations
Mr. LeBlanc stated that the Umatilla health clinic project is on hold because there have been some mold problems with the building. In doing a renovation study, the State recommended about 10,000 to 12,000 square feet, the Master Space Study came in at the same amount, and a meeting between the architect and Mr. Rodger Amon, Administrator, Lake County Health Department, confirmed that amount of space. He stated that the question is what will be done with the building. Will it be renovated, added onto, or demolished? Will a new location for Umatilla health services be found?
Commr. Stivender stated that people in that area are concerned that a health clinic should stay in Umatilla. She opined that this is a priority and is critically important.
Commr. Cadwell stated that we are moving in the right direction as long as staff understands the philosophy that none of the options eliminate a health clinic in the Umatilla area.
Mr. Neron stated that the Health Department did not make the priority funding for those funding sources during the presentation of the “Game of Lake” budgeting process. Over the last year and one half, the Health Department has been band-aided with additional lease space but we do not know what to do and how to fund it. This is a classic case where something needs to be done and an available source of funds has to be identified.
Mr. LeBlanc stated that other clinics have been closed and leased space is being used. On a long term, no decision has been made.
Ms. Hall stated that the Space Study recommends that a health center be included in a south Tavares campus. This would combine some of the rental facilities in Mount Dora and Tavares into a centralized administration clinic. There still would be a clinic in Umatilla and a clinic in south Lake County would be needed.
Mr. Minkoff stated that staff, at Mr. Amon’s request, currently is looking for lease space in Clermont.
Mr. Stivender explained that a consolidated location in south Tavares would include the maternity clinic, which is currently beside Lake Square Mall, the administration’s leased office space, and the leased space that was the Tavares Health Department. The State has been asked for grant money to help fund the south Tavares facility. The Leesburg clinic, which has been closed for some time, is not in the right location. He stated that the biggest challenges are in the central area, the south part of the County and the Umatilla area. He suggested that, if these three buildings are to be used again, they would have to be gutted. If the same site in Umatilla is to be used, that building might need to be torn down. He stated that staff, in the past year, has been instructed to emphasize Umatilla as a priority versus the other two facilities because it serves residents from Astor to Umatilla to Mount Plymouth. He confirmed that the older buildings in Tavares and Leesburg could be turned into general office space or could be sold.
Commr. Hanson opined that the mobile health clinic might be able help some of the folks in the outlying areas that are utilizing the Umatilla clinic as well as helping some of the residents in the Clermont area.
Mr. LeBlanc stated that the Umatilla area is growing very fast and needs the larger space.
Commr. Stivender asked if the Board needs to make a decision now that the Umatilla clinic needs to be remodeled and added onto.
Mr. Neron pointed out that the Space Study needs to be completed and then staff will get these projects moving forward.
Mr. Minkoff stated that, regarding the Lake Jem station, a conceptual site plan was delivered last week and eminent domain will begin against Blandford Groves to try and condemn a 2.5 acre site at the corner of Shirley Shores Road and CR 448. It is anticipated that the hearing will be done and the property will be secured before the end of the year.
Mr. Gary Kaiser, Public Safety Director, explained that two stations are being done this year and then the stations planned for SR 19/US 27 and Paisley.
Regarding a station in the vicinity of Old Hwy 50 and CR 455, Commr. Pool stated that, as Clermont progresses eastward, the City might annex as much as they can in the next five years. Therefore, the County would want to avoid duplication of a City facility.
Commr. Cadwell pointed out that the County and the City of Clermont, under the Joint Planning Agreement, are supposed to coordinate those efforts.
Mr. Neron stated that the two top priorities are the Lake Jem station and the replacement further east of the Minneola station which the County has to move out of on September 30 or October 1, 2005.
Mr. Kaiser stated that there still needs to be a fire station in that area and, regardless of how far the City annexes, there is still a lot of unincorporated area to be served.
Commr. Pool opined that he does not see the need for the County to build a station in the SR 50 corridor. If the County does build a station there, he stated that there should be an agreement in hand that the County would be compensated for the facility if it were to be annexed by the City of Clermont.
Mr. Kaiser stated that presents the opportunity to work collaboratively with the City of Clermont on first response agreements, etc.
Mr. Neron explained that a site has been set aside at the Christopher C. Ford Commerce Park on US 27 at SR 19 to handle new growth and which will be funded from impact fees.
Mr. Kaiser stated that joint cooperative agreements on covering areas are the key to the future. By looking at a geographic area and eliminating municipal boundaries, the need for fire stations can be determined. The GIS (Geographic Information Systems) analysis clearly showed where the fire stations need to be in terms of response times to be within those acceptable ranges.
Commr. Hanson opined that the County might want to look at buying the entire block, if a community center is not built next to the fire station, in Mt. Plymouth for expansion of the fire station if it is determined to be a good location.
Regarding the City of Leesburg’s fire station at the airport, Mr. Kaiser explained that the County has a first response agreement with Leesburg that is working very well. The closest unit responds to the call, with the City covering portions of the unincorporated area and vice versa with the County responding to parts of the City. That agreement is spinning off into doing some joint planning and first response in other areas.
Mr. Neron confirmed that the station in Paisley is programmed in the 2005-2006 budget, which is subject to approval by the Board.
Mr. Kaiser stated that staffing is in place for the station east of Minneola and the Lake Jem station.
RECESS AND REASSEMBLY
At 10:05 a.m., Commr. Hill announced that the Board would take a 15 minute break.
Citrus Ridge Library (Continued)
Commr. Hill clarified that, while Polk and Osceola Counties will be asked for input, Lake County has asked the legislature to help with funding which they have given in the amount of $500,000. She wants to make sure Lake County is proceeding with the Citrus Ridge Library while exploring talks with the two other counties.
Commr. Pool stated that he wants to proceed with the project. He explained that, if Lake County does not get participation from Polk and Osceola Counties, in either capital or operational dollars, he does not want to give them reciprocal agreements and opportunities to check out books. He stated that Polk and Osceola should not expect to utilize Lake County facilities that are paid for with Lake County taxpayers’ dollars.
Commr. Stivender asked, if not serving the two other counties, does it need to be built to the size that has been planned.
Commr. Cadwell opined that there probably will be an interlocal agreement with Polk and Osceola Counties. If not, there still will be enough of those citizens buying library cards which would create the actual foot traffic to require the larger facility.
Commr. Pool agreed that there probably will be participation by Polk and Osceola Counties and he is trying to put on pressure for that participation. He pointed out that the library has already been designed and to change it now would cost more money than to try to redo it.
Fire Station – Mt. Plymouth Expansion
Commr. Hanson stated that she would like to direct staff to continue to work with the County Attorney on the potential purchase of the block around the fire station in Mt. Plymouth, for future fire station expansion, and come back with some figures. That area continues to handle more and more calls and service extends out to Wekiva Falls and Seminole County.
Mr. Minkoff commented that his office has already contacted two property owners in considering it as a possible site for the library and community building. One of the parcels is definitely for sale and the other one probably will be for sale. The current fire station is an old metal building and, in order to rebuild, more property would be needed. He stated that staff looks at 2.5 to 3 acres for a new fire station.
New Cell at Landfill
Mr. Neron stated that a financial update on Covanta and a progress report for permitting of the new cell at the landfill is on the Board’s agenda for March 15, 2005. He confirmed that staff is proceeding on this project and that a consultant’s study is wrapping up on the filing of a permit for the 52 acres as well as the new cell. Waiting two weeks for the update will not delay the process.
Agricultural Center Renovations
Mr. Neron stated that there have been some problems with the bids for the Agricultural Center renovations. Rebids could be in by the first of May 2005 for the Board’s consideration.
Mr. LeBlanc confirmed that the Agricultural Center will be annexed by the City of Tavares before renovations are completed.
Parks and Recreation and Open Spaces
Commr. Hill stated that the Ferndale Preserve discussion is on the Board’s agenda for March 1, 2005, and it is not on today’s list of projects. She noted that the appraisal came in at twice the original appraisal price.
Ms. Hall explained that staff thought, when they came to the Board the first time, that was a likely scenario but it has not yet been brought to The Trust for Public Land (TPL). She stated that tomorrow staff will ask to go back to TPL and request 75% funding from the price that is now known. That will increase the matching funds from $600,000 to $1 million and a portion of that is being funded by two other sources.
Mr. Neron stated that the Ferndale project may be eligible for reimbursement from the future environmental land bonds. While funding is still available from a combination of sales tax and pari-mutuel money, from a staff viewpoint, it would be better to free up that funding if this project is recommended to be funded from the environmental land bonds.
Mr. Neron stated that he will update his memo to the Board (dated November 1, 2004, Additional Estimated Funding Sources For 5-Year Capital Improvement Program) which will indicate funds that may be available for these projects.
Northeast Community Park
Commr. Cadwell explained that $1 million came out of the pari-mutuel money to purchase property for the northeast community park. The Board previously committed excess revenues from the Christopher C. Ford Commerce Park to pay for the development of the northeast park as well as the park in Mt. Plymouth-Sorrento. He stated that the Board now needs to approve the site plan and move forward. A concept plan was developed after numerous community meetings.
Mr. Neron will review all the numbers for this park and others and will bring an updated report back to the Board.
Commr. Hanson stated that the parks are moving forward and the northeast community park can be the model for others.
Commr. Stivender stated that the Tavares area needs a park also.
Mt. Plymouth-Sorrento Community Park
Commr. Hill noted that the Mt. Plymouth-Sorrento Community Park was previously discussed.
Potential Purchase of Conserve II Property
Mr. Neron stated that the appraisal process is underway and the available potential funding source is the $2.1 million that has been set aside in sales tax for the potential purchase of the Conserve II property. There is also the potential to use some impact fees as well as some recreational impact fees. The funding package will not be put together until the appraisals are completed.
Mr. Minkoff stated that about 260 acres are being appraised. The breakdown of dry acres versus wet acres is not available at this time.
Mr. Stivender stated that a five-acre Department of Transportation (DOT) retention pond will come off the parent property for the six laning of US Hwy 27. Some additional property has been asked for so that the road can be aligned in the best way. He stated that all the funding sources are available. He stated that School Board administration has shown an interest in this property as an elementary school site.
Commr. Pool stated that there are multiple funding sources for the property which will be an asset from a recreational standpoint, a transportation standpoint and for green space acquired lands.
Commr. Cadwell asked if anyone has said anything about a complex. He asked if we need this property purely for transportation and recreational needs.
Commr. Pool opined that the property is important regardless. He stated that the property is a good fit in the right location and it is a win, win, win situation.
Commr. Hanson remarked that it is a large enough parcel that funding from the land acquisition should be considered.
Mr. Minkoff clarified that DOT has not bought the property yet. It may be possible to negotiate with the City of Orlando and/or Orange County but the upland prices will be very high. The terms that have been discussed include giving Orlando and Orange County the right of first refusal at fair market value.
Commr. Pool stated that the connection from the Lake Louisa corridor up to Hancock Road and Hartwood Marsh Road, coupled with the opportunity for recreation and a potential school site, offer many opportunities for this location.
Commr. Hanson stated that her priority would be Mt. Plymouth-Sorrento while the Conserve II may be needed for transportation reasons.
Mr. Neron reiterated the need to purchase land, and land bank it, for these regional parks since property prices are increasing.
South Lake Trail Project
Mr. Stivender stated that the South Lake Trail Project is ready to go out to bid and mile markers will tie it to the West Orange Trail.
Commr. Pool explained that this segment of trail will go east to the Orange County line and will also go west to Groveland and Mascotte. He stated that he understands that the developers of the 1.2 million square foot shopping center at the Orange County line have embraced the trail concept and have agreed up give up a portion of the corridor for a trail.
Public Lands Acquisition Program
Mr. Gregg Welstead, Deputy County Manager/Growth Management Director, stated that a job description for the Public Lands Manager has been completed. With the recent departure of Mr. Bob Stephens, Parks and Recreation Director, both positions might be partially folded together. A key element is to determine whether a “greenprint” of the County should be done for program implementation.
Mr. Neron explained that, with the departure of Mr. Stephens, the planning function for Parks and Recreation, the planning function for bikeways and trails, blueways and environmental lands might be coordinated into two or three staff positions in the Growth Management Department to coordinate planning and programming. The day-to-day parks maintenance and development will be under the new Facilities Development and Management Department. Once this staffing process is concluded, the item will be brought to the Board for approval.
Mr. Neron further explained that the policies and procedures for the process for ranking and acquiring environmental lands will go to PLAAC (Lake County Public Lands Acquisition Advisory Council) this week and will eventually be brought to the Board for review and approval.
Ms. Hall stated that design plans have been drawn up for the Boundless Playground and staff from the Public Works Department will ensure it incorporates everything needed to move forward with the project. She stated that it is likely that an extension for the State grant dollars will be needed.
In response to Commr. Hill’s comments regarding not losing the grant money, Mr. Stivender stated that plans have been sent to the vendor for prices on the equipment. Staff has redirected and rearranged the list of responsibilities to make sure the County’s share of the project, and the private sector’s share, will stay on task and that commitments are fulfilled.
Commissioners Hill and Cadwell stressed that this important project should stay on schedule and that the grant money should not be lost.
Commr. Stivender stated that the bid opening is March 1, 2005, and the commencement documents are due to the State within 60 days from the bid opening.
Mr. Neron advised that the Board will get at least a monthly report of what has been done and what needs to be done.
Mr. Stivender stated that a meeting will be held this afternoon regarding PEAR (Palatlakaha Environmental and Agricultural Reserve) Park. The Board previously approved a request to apply for grant funding and a concept plan has been prepared. HHI, Inc., of Orlando has been asked to give a quote to complete the site master plan.
Mr. Neron confirmed that this project is in the master park plan but the actual development plan for the site is not. He stated that the source for the $3 million for the project has not been identified but, hopefully, some grants and some local match from infrastructure will be available. He clarified that future dollars on PEAR Park have not been identified at this point. He explained that almost $1 million was spent on land acquisition for the additional 25 acres which took the majority of the pari-mutuel portion of funds for central Lake County. He stated that, after the plans are done, there might be some grant funds available and, if local matching funds are found, the park might proceed in a piecemeal fashion.
Commr. Hanson pointed out that several of the parks may be phased in and that, perhaps, the phases could be identified.
Mr. Neron referred again to updating his November 2004 memo on funding sources. He stated that, as the financial feasibility for the comprehensive plan is done, some future long-range funding sources will have to be identified for some of these projects.
Mr. Neron stated that, basically, staff has been proceeding with the blueways project (a comprehensive series of recreational waterway trails) per the Board’s direction.
Commr. Hanson reported that getting the message out throughout the State probably has already had some impact and more and more private sector products will be coming to the forefront.
Mr. Greg Mihalic, Economic Development & Tourism Director, stated that the permit will be completed in about eight months. Better maps have to be done and areas have to be identified for canoe rental, food concessions, and other commercial products. As time goes on, staff will be better able to understand and promote assets. Discussions are being held about television promotions.
Commr. Hanson stated that the blueways project fits very well with the restoration of the St. John’s River and its tributaries and of the recreational aspect of those waters.
Ms. Blanche Hardy, Environmental Services Director, stated that she was asked by the St. Johns River Alliance, Inc., to join their committee and sit on a tourism, economic development and environmental subcommittee. The blueways project is already very successful in identifying Lake County as a blueways area.
Commr. Hill remarked that the project ranking list was provided by staff for informational purposes for the Board.
Mr. Neron stated that staff will be proceeding full speed based on the Board’s direction today.
Commr. Hanson requested that another retreat be scheduled for priorities of the Board.
Commr. Hill suggested that bringing in a consultant to facilitate that retreat might be beneficial.
Per the Board’s direction, Mr. Neron advised that a retreat to help determine the Board’s priorities for the year, and into the next five years, with the use of a facilitator, will be scheduled before the upcoming financial retreat.
Ms. Hardy stated that a public meeting will be held regarding utilities for the Shockley Heights area. The Department of Agriculture has additional funding this year and has identified this project as something they will consider as a priority. While not promised, a grant could be available in the amount of $1 million and will be pursued very quickly. If the grant is approved, it can actually help begin system installation. The grant will not fund everything; however, getting that particular grant for a low income area will open doors to other agencies.
Commr. Cadwell commented that preliminary discussions are taking place as to the options for running a system but there needs to be a meeting with the residents to be sure there is buy-in from them that a water system is what they need. He stated that there has not been any discussion of the Board being in the utility business and that is not even in the thought process.
Ms. Hardy stated that we have approximately $6.5 million in requests before State and Federal governments. This morning she reviewed and approved the package to go State Rep. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla). He has an upcoming meeting with the chairman of the committee that would fund that. Rep. Hays has assured staff that this is a priority project. If Lake County gets that funding, that would cover the entire project and construction probably could begin within two years. Talks have been held with Seminole County and the system could be given to them with the support of the State of Florida. Seminole County would run it, operate it and maintain it after Lake County pays for it.
In response to questions, Ms. Hardy and Mr. Neron confirmed that Seminole County would do all the permitting. Seminole County is already in the utility business and would expand their existing system.
Commr. Hanson stated that this is a water quality issue and a river quality issue. The Wekiva Falls area sits on a bubble and there is a lot of salt water intrusion and it is a poor area for septic tanks which can flow back to the river. She stated that this has been an environmental issue which was addressed by the Wekiva task force.
FEMA Hurricane Reimbursements
Ms. Regina Frazier, Budget Director, advised that Lake County has gotten the $6 million debris project worksheet into the federal system requesting FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) reimbursements for damage from the 2004 hurricanes. That emergency funding is estimated to be about 50% of what the County may ultimately be eligible for and those funds might be received within six weeks. The roads’ list is being prepared by Public Works and the County Attorney’s Office in an effort to complete the rest of the debris project worksheets.
Mr. Minkoff stated that Public Works has done an almost heroic effort by visiting every street where debris has been picked up. They have taken photographs and are compiling books that will be sent to FEMA to try to persuade them that all of these roads are either public or are “orphan” roads that FEMA should pay for. Hopefully, the packet will be delivered to FEMA this week.
Ms. Frazier stated that all of the other costs, such as overtime and supplies, have been processed and are in the system.
Mr. Neron stated that about 80% to 90% of the expenses are in debris removal and the $6 million will give the County cash-in-hand for about half of it.
New Financial Software
Ms. Barbara Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance, stated that meetings have been held since last summer in working on the RFP (request for proposal) for new financial software. Three top vendors were selected last week and site visits are planned for March. Hopefully, contract negotiations will be completed by the end of March with installation by the end of this fiscal year, September 30, 2005. The bids came in at about $1.5 million.
Mr. Neron confirmed that the Board had already set aside $1 million.
Public Safety Coordinating Council
Mr. Neron stated that an ordinance is being drafted by the County Attorney for the Board’s consideration that forms the Lake County Public Safety Coordinating Council (Council), as authorized by State statute. He said the Council will look at processes and procedures of the criminal justice system to look for improvements.
Mr. Minkoff suggested that the Board members might want to do some research and talk with commissioners in other counties. In some counties, the Council has worked well and in other counties it has not worked well at all. The statute essentially puts the planning level for jails, courthouses and other things with a group outside the Board of County Commissioners.
Mr. Neron explained that the formation of the Council came out of a request to look at mental health issues at the jail and this can be a communication vehicle to get everyone to talk about some of these issues.
Mr. Minkoff stated that the statute talks about having the Council but most counties probably do not have one. He stated that information will be presented to the Board with the proposed ordinance.
Master Space Study Review
Ms. Hall referred to the eleven-page Lake County Master Space and Facilities Plan presentation which is included in the agenda packet. The presentation, by Carter Goble Lee (CGL), was made to the Board at a workshop on February 8, 2005. The consultant’s goals were to look for quality work space, a standardization of space assignments, the ability of departments and agencies to have easy intercommunication, the maximum use of County-owned facilities and cost effective solutions. CGL came up with a range of different costs for the options which were presented. They also analyzed all of the current space needs by category. Ms. Hall referred to Page 4 of the presentation which shows that the County currently has 420,000 square feet of space and is about 50,000 square feet short at this time. By the year 2020, the need is projected to be about 750,000 square feet. CGL presented four different options to the Board, all of which revolved around expansion of the Judicial Center. Two options propose demolishing the current Sheriff’s Office headquarters building (old jail) and all four options propose a south Tavares complex and recommend future complexes in both south Lake County and north Lake County.
Ms. Hall recapped the four options, all of which address parking requirements. Prices were presented based on building out to the square foot recommendations and bonding and debt service payments. She remarked that, at the February 8 meeting, the Board indicated they preferred to keep the Growth Management Department and County Administration in the downtown area. The Board seemed to like Option 1 the best with the exception of keeping Growth Management in the downtown area. The consultants will present a fifth option for the Board’s consideration at its regular meeting tomorrow, March 1, 2005.
Ms. Hall explained that the consultants did not address how to handle parking in the study. Their goal was to find out where the Board wants the functions to be located and then a programming study could be done.
In response to Commr. Cadwell’s previous request for an economic analysis of leased property and the tax value, Mr. Neron stated that Mr. Mihalic and Mr. Minkoff are heading up a group to work on that analysis.
Commr. Stivender stated that there will be a parking deficit, per the Tavares city code, in downtown Tavares no matter whether another building is built downtown or whether half of it is moved out. She asked if staff will ask for a decision tomorrow on the master study.
Mr. Neron opined that staff will be looking for general consensus so that further detailed information can be provided. Depending on which option is chosen, the parking deficit could be 800 to 900 spaces versus 200 to 300 spaces. If only 200 to 300 spaces are needed, the deficit might be able to be handled with surface parking rather than building a parking garage which is estimated to cost $10,000 per space. Keeping everything downtown would require construction of a parking garage while moving some departments out could alleviate some of the parking requirements and could possibly eliminate the need for a parking garage.
Commr. Cadwell stated that certainly has to be interwoven into what good government is, whether everyone should be together and what the effects are on the downtown area.
Commr. Stivender stated that she missed the February 8, 2005, meeting and that everything is still not on the table. She stated that she has a drawing relating to discussions about taking the whole block where Freddy Belton’s office and Beef O’Brady’s is located. She stated that discussions include doing a private-public partnership with retail downstairs which could possibly be leased by the County instead of building a south complex for other constitutional officers. She opined that a public safety complex at the landfill might be a good idea and that the Sheriff could be moved there. She stated that there have always been talks about moving the Public Works Department to the area with fleet maintenance. EMS could be put out in that direction. She stated that there is no need to put the Property Appraiser and the Tax Collector at the south Tavares site because there is plenty of space in town for them. She stated that those options, and a parking garage, need to be discussed before any buildings are torn down. She stated that she does not want to be portrayed as tearing down functional buildings and replacing them in another area at three times the cost. She stated that she does not want to put the County in debt. She stated that, when elected five years ago, she promised the judges that she would stand up for them. She stated that additional judges will require a Judicial Center. She stated that the five Commissioners need to stand up and voice their priorities. She stated that the Judicial Center and a parking facility have been promised, downtown, for almost 15 to 20 years. She stated that the last three space studies indicate they are needed and they need to be finished before other projects are added. She agreed that the Sheriff’s employees, over 600, use a lot of downtown parking spaces. She stated that it makes complete sense to move the Sheriff, fire and EMS to a complex near the existing public safety complex. She stated that there is no need for others to move out of downtown. The City is trying to redevelop downtown Tavares and needs the economic base. She stated that she will defend her district just as the other Commissioners defend their districts. She stated that the viability of downtown needs to be kept downtown.
Commr. Pool stated that he supports most of Commr. Stivender’s remarks. An important part is what the City of Tavares expects or wants because they are our partner in this. He stated that to move or shift things, without mutual understanding with the City, would be wrong.
Ms. Dottie Keedy, Tavares City Administrator, stated that the City has great concern regarding parking and would love to see a parking garage. Even if some things are moved out of downtown there still will be a parking issue, especially if the Judicial Center is expanded. She stated that the City would certainly support a parking garage but would not like to see the County buy more property for surface parking because that continues to erode into the tax base, the CRA, the TIF District specifically. She stated that having the County facilities downtown are great for downtown and having as many employees as possible is an economic benefit to the City. She stated she hopes the County will always have a significant presence in downtown.
Commr. Hill remarked that she did not know about discussions regarding the Belton/O’Brady’s properties.
Commr. Stivender stated that it has been in the works for probably a year.
Commr. Cadwell asked Commr. Stivender to share a copy of the drawing with the other Commissioners.
Mr. Stivender stated that a public-private partnership has been discussed whereby a person could leave the round Administration Building and never touch the ground until arriving at the Judicial Center.
Commr. Cadwell stated that partners who retain private ownership, perhaps a condo-type ownership, while taking care of the parking issue and not hurting the City, should be looked at. He opined that anytime the Clerk of Court and the judges have asked for anything over the last 13 years, the Board has pretty much done what they wanted, short of building a new courthouse. He opined that the Board has responded to them.
Commr. Hanson asked Ms. Keedy if the City is giving any incentives to encourage multi-family development in the downtown area.
Ms. Keedy stated that the City is looking at its comprehensive plan and its zoning districts and probably will be increasing the maximum allowable density downtown even higher than the current 25 units per acre. She noted that the Lake Region Packing Association property was zoned to require some mix of residential by whoever develops that unless a change is requested. She confirmed that the City has no height restrictions.
Ms. Hall stated that the County is in the process of negotiating with MV Transportation, Inc., to be the new provider for Transportation Disadvantaged and the contract may be presented to the Board on March 15, 2005. She explained that it is clear that the number of trips being provided is more than was budgeted so more money will be needed. If this year’s trip demand remains on track, about $415,000 additional dollars will be needed.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he does not know how LifeStream Behavioral Center (LifeStream) did the job they did with the money that was given to them.
Ms. Hall stated that the number of trips is increasing and she asked for direction from the Board as negotiations are proceeding, either additional funding or reducing the number of trips.
Mr. Neron stated that there is a 15% to 20% increase in the cost per trip but the majority of the increase in costs is that the utilization of the system has increased significantly.
Ms. Hall stated that the analysis on the trips at the current trend indicates that funding is available in the budget for an extra 60,000 trips in the current year; however, the utilization trend appears that another 80,000 trips would be needed in the current year.
Mr. Minkoff remarked that the proposal by MV Transportation was based on the same number of trips that were done last year and the proposal was $800,000 more than last year’s.
Ms. Frazier stated that the 80,000 trips projected through the end of September 2005 are based on last year’s number of trips.
Commr. Pool asked if there are other providers that may want to negotiate based on new numbers.
Commr. Cadwell stated that time is limited.
Ms. Hall stated that there were two responses to the bids. Both were similar in price. There are certain fixed costs that have to be covered.
Ms. Frazier stated that the RFP is almost $1 million more than the cost of the same amount of trips last year.
Mr. Minkoff pointed out that, even with $1 million more, trips likely will be cut next year. Because of the growth, there still will be service concerns of either more money or telling people they cannot ride. That is because certain people do not pay the right price for their trips.
Ms. Hall clarified that the correct figure for next year, Fiscal Year 2006, at the current trend of trips, would be about $1.8 million, combining the increase in costs and an increase in trips. The increase for the current year would be $415,000.
In response to Commr. Pool’s inquiry regarding other dollars from the federal government, Mr. Neron stated that, if anything, he would expect to see further cutbacks by some of the state agencies.
Mr. Neron stated that further information will be available for the Board at their meeting on March 15, 2005.
Ms. Hall explained that some of the drivers from LifeStream, who is still providing services, are leaving because of the uncertainties associated with transition to the new service. She asked the Board to consider offering up to $40,000 to LifeStream to offer an incentive package to the drivers to entice them to stay until the transition takes place.
On a motion by Commr. Hanson, seconded by Commr. Cadwell and carried unanimously, by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved to add discussions regarding incentives for LifeStream Behavioral employees to the agenda.
A motion was made by Commr. Hanson and seconded by Commr. Cadwell to approve up to $40,000 for incentive packages, on an interim basis, for drivers of LifeStream Behavioral Center as an incentive to stay until the transition to the new Transportation Disadvantaged provider takes place.
Ms. Hall and Mr. Neron confirmed that the amount, up to $40,000, would be offered to LifeStream, ensuring that the incentive will go to the employees over the next 60 days or so. Hopefully, a new contract will be presented to the Board for approval on March 15, 2005. The transition will start immediately after a contract is approved. MV has indicated that they are trying to hire many of the LifeStream employees.
Commr. Hanson remarked that Growth Management needs to look at future designing coming into the comprehensive plan, perhaps giving incentives to developments that are gearing up for mass transit or alternatives to using private cars to get to and from work.
Ms. Hall confirmed that there is money in the budget for this amount and a budget transfer would not be necessary at this time. She stated that staff will come back to the Board, once the contract is finalized, with a budget change that would cover everything.
Commr. Hill called for a vote on the motion which carried unanimously, by a vote of 5-0.
Mr. Minkoff asked for direction from the Board regarding contract negotiations with MV. An alternative to increased costs would be to say that some clients will not be transported. The way the contract is structured, if the trips are reduced, the contractor’s fee goes higher automatically because it is based on a certain number of trips. He opined that the contract will not be ready for presentation to the Board on March 15.
Commr. Hanson opined that cutting trips is not an option. She remarked that the Board, as alluded to by the City, ought to look at increasing the gas tax by five cents and dedicate that to this issue. She stated that she backed off of the five cents years ago.
Commr. Pool commented that a full nickel might not be necessary and that he has heard that one penny generates about $800,000 in gas taxes.
Commr. Hanson agreed that one penny might be enough. She opined that there may be some support for this issue if those dollars were to be designated for public transportation.
Commr. Cadwell stated that the Board has not even come close to the costs involved if the transit plan which was presented (to the Lake-Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization) is implemented.
Commr. Hill asked if, rather than going to a gas tax, the urbanized cities that a route goes through could be asked to participate with dollars.
Commr. Stivender stated that would be double dipping.
Mr. Neron stated that information on these issues will be provided to the Board.
Mr. Minkoff confirmed the Board’s direction to go forward with negotiations with a new contract with MV Transportation, Inc., based on the cost of at least the number of trips that were made last year.
Commr. Hanson asked if an estimate of additional tax collection revenues to be expected this year can be provided.
Mr. Neron stated that the amount of increase is estimated to be at least 10% and last year was about the same. That is primarily new growth, but also would include some increase in property values.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 11:45 a.m.
JENNIFER HILL, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK