The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in a regular session on Tuesday, September 9, 2008, at 9:00 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioners’ Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida.  Commissioners present at the meeting were: Welton G. Cadwell, Chairman; Jennifer Hill, Vice Chairman; Debbie Stivender; Elaine Renick; and Linda Stewart. Others present were Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; Cindy Hall, County Manager; Barbara Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance; and Susan Boyajan, Deputy Clerk.


Commr. Cadwell gave the Invocation and led the Pledge of Allegiance.

            AGENDA UPDATE

            Commr. Cadwell stated that he wanted to add one item, explaining that since Ms. Stegall was on the ballot this time, she could not serve on the Canvassing Board.  He related that as Chairman, he would go back on the Canvassing Board, but he also asked Commr. Renick if she would continue to serve on the Canvassing Board.

            Commr. Renick agreed to serve on the Canvassing Board.

            On a motion by Commr. Stewart, seconded by Commr. Hill and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board moved to place that item on the Agenda.

            On a motion by Commr. Stewart, seconded by Commr. Stivender and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the designation of Commr. Cadwell and Commr. Renick as members to the Canvassing Board.

            Commr. Cadwell noted that Mr. Bernie Yokel from Trout Lake Nature Center requested a chance to make a brief presentation to the Board.


            Mr. Bernie Yokel, President, Trout Lake Nature Center, thanked the Board for their support.  He commented that they had a very successful year last year, which could not have happened without the Board’s support.  He introduced their Vice President, Trina Raether, who also thanked the Board.



            Mr. Doug Krueger, Budget Director, stated that they were adopting the final resolution for setting Fire Rescue Assessments for the Fiscal Year beginning October 1, 2008.  He mentioned that these were the same rates that the Board previously adopted on July 15 with Resolution No. 2008-12, including a residential rate of $175, which was a $22 reduction of the current year’s rate of $197.  He added that other rates related to RV parks, hotels, motels, commercial, and industrial/warehouses were set in relation to the residential rate and were based on a study that was prepared by Government Services Group and on costs and incident data for the year 2006.  He recapped that the fire rate was reduced because the Emergency Medical portion of the Fire Rescue budget could no longer be funded by assessments and would be funded instead by a millage rate which would be discussed later in the meeting at 5:05 p.m., under Tab 3.  He reported that the assessment rate before discounts would raise about $17,000,000 and that the overall Fire Rescue budget was $22 million.  He also noted that included in the Fire Rescue budget this year were six new positions for Harbor Hills and the deletion of two office associate positions, and there was only one major piece of equipment that would be replaced.

            The Chairman opened the public hearing.

            There being no one who wished to address the Board, the Chairman closed the public hearing.

            On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Hill and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved and authorized the execution of Resolution No. 2008-134 to impose Fire Rescue Assessments against assessed property located in Lake County, Florida for the Fiscal Year beginning October 1, 2008; approved the rate of assessment; approved the assessment roll; and provided for an effective date.


            Mr. Daryl Smith, Director of the Department of Environmental Utilities, stated that this was approval for collection, management, and disposal of solid waste and recovered materials for fiscal year 2008/09, which includes an increase in the annual assessment from $174.00 to $184.00.  He recapped that most of this was related to the increase in the collection services, which increase every year because of a refuse rate index.  He pointed out that the County had not increased this rate in six years, and consequently they had about a $35 deficit between what they received from payment for the collection services and what they paid.  Based on that, they believe that a $10 increase was appropriate for this year.

            The Chairman opened the public hearing.

            There being no one who wished to address the Board, the Chairman closed the public hearing.

            Commr. Renick commented that they probably should have raised this rate last year, but no one could foresee the increases in gasoline expenses in addition to the increase in normal expenses and that she believed that $10 was reasonable to pass the costs on to those that were actually using the service.

            On a motion by Commr. Renick, seconded by Commr. Stewart and carried by a vote of 3-2, the Board approved the Final Assessment Resolution No. 2008-135 for Collection, Management, and Disposal of Solid Waste and Recovered Materials for FY 2008/09 which includes an increase in the annual assessment from $174.00 to $184.00.

            Commr. Hill and Commr. Stivender voted “no.”


            Commr. Renick related that Mr. Steve Smith from New Beginnings in South Lake County needed a Commissioner to sign the form which would enable New Beginnings, an organization to help the homeless in South Lake County, to apply for a grant.

            Mr. Fletcher Smith, Community Services Director, explained that New Beginnings is an incorporated, non-profit agency that has been in existence in South Lake County for at least two to three years.  He related that Mr. Steve Smith, who was the Director, was looking for grants and learned of an operational grant from the State of Florida, Office of Homelessness that would allow them to have funding to provide training, shelter, and paying jobs for some homeless people in South Lake County.  He believed this was a good program and that the forms were just to certify that the County was aware of their existence, that they were in good standing, and that the County did not have any objections to their applying for the grant.

            Commr. Renick added that endorsement of the form would mean that there were no known problems and that they were not in any way endorsing the program or obligated for anything.

            Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, reported that he verified that New Beginnings was a not-for-profit organization, and he did not see any problem with it.

            On a motion by Commr. Renick, seconded by Commr. Stivender and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board voted to put this item regarding New Beginnings on the Agenda.

            On a motion by Commr. Renick, seconded by Commr. Stewart and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board moved to sign the form for New Beginnings to help them get the grant from the Office of Homelessness.


            Commr. Stivender stated that she was appointed to the American Cancer Society Board, who was doing the Relay for Life in the Triangle area in May, 2009.  She asked approval to send letters to the mayors in each of the cities of Mount Dora, Eustis, and Tavares on County letterhead regarding that.  The Board gave a consensus for that.


The Chairman announced that there would be a recess until 10:00 a.m.


Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, recapped that he requested that the Board have a closed session, which was authorized by Florida Statute 286.011 to discuss pending litigation in front of court or administrative agencies.  He explained that the closed session would be confined to settlement negotiations or strategy sessions related to litigation and litigation expenditures.  He mentioned that they had a court reporter present who would record the entire session, the time of commencement and termination, and all discussions and proceedings, including the names of all present and whoever speaks.  He reported that none of the session could be off the record, and the court reporter’s notes will be fully transcribed and would be made public at the time that the litigation was concluded.  He stated that they were required to do a Public Notice of the date and time of the hearing, and he had a copy of the advertisement.  He stated that he; the Board; Ms. Cindy Hall, County Manager; Ms. Melanie Marsh, Deputy County Attorney; Ms. Erin Hartigan, Assistant County Attorney; and Mr. Duke Woodson, outside counsel, were in attendance.  He anticipated that they would spend approximately one hour in the closed session.


The Chairman announced that the Board would recess until 5:05 p.m.



Ms. Cindy Hall, County Manager, announced that this was the first of two public hearings on the Fiscal Year 2008/09 budget as required by Florida Statutes.  She stated that the purpose of this meeting was to present to the public the tentative budget for Fiscal Year 2008/09, including the proposed millage rates and their change from the rollback millage rates.  She explained that by State definition, the rollback millage rate was the rate when applied to next year’s tax base would generate the same revenue as was raised in the previous year, excluding new construction.  She pointed out that typically these rates would be lower than the current millage rate, but because the tax base was reduced by $1.8 billion from new exemptions provided by Amendment 1, next year’s rollback rate is actually higher than what the County was currently proposing.  She reported that at the end of the conclusion of public participation, the Board will adopt adjustments to the recommended budget or direct her to bring further adjustments to the Board at the second public hearing on September 23; and they will adopt a tentative tax rate and a tentative budget for 2008/09.  She also commented that the ad valorem tax revenues have been reduced by 17 percent over the past two years from the mandated reductions by the State legislature and by increased exemptions from Amendment 1.  She stated that the tentative budget they would be discussing eliminated 57 positions and reflected reductions in a number of programs; provided adequate maintenance of all of the County’s facilities, equipment, and infrastructure; funded currently-approved projects such as the downtown Tavares government center expansion; and made public safety and economic development the highest priorities, as illustrated by the addition of new positions for Fire Rescue and Economic Growth and Redevelopment.

Mr. Doug Krueger, Budget Director, stated that according to Chapter 129.200 of the Florida Statutes, they would be talking about the proposed millage rates and their relationship to the rollback rates, and he specified that the proposed Lake County General Fund millage was 4.6511 mills, which was a 10.79 percent reduction from the rollback rate of 5.2137 mills; the proposed Lake County Ambulance millage is .4651 mills, which was a 9.72 percent reduction from the rollback tax rate of .5152 mills; the proposed Public Lands Debt Service millage was .1101 mills, a 44.95 percent reduction from the rollback tax rate of .2 mills; the proposed Stormwater, Roads and Parks MSTU millage was .4984 mills, representing a 10.81 percent reduction from the rollback rate of .5588 mills; and the Fire Rescue MSTU millage of .3222 mills, which is a new millage for 2008/09 resulting from a State Supreme Court decision that prohibits funding for Emergency Medical Service from fire assessment fees forcing the County to fund this from a millage.  Mr. Krueger referred to a handout which provided a summary of the proposed changes that the Board would consider during that meeting that they directed the County Manager to bring forward at previous workshops and aligned the road program by carrying forward some funds currently budgeted in this year so that it coincided with the five-year road program that the Board adopted on August 19 and made technical adjustments to the earmarked revenues and fund balances.  He pointed out that there was a reduction of ten additional positions in the budget, five of those from the general fund and five from other funds, and there was an addition of four positions, one for the Supervisor of Elections and three for the Parks and Trails MSTU.  He reported that there was an addition of $500,000 for legal expenses related to the Niagara lawsuit, and there was a reduction of the contingency fund in reserve for operations of $2 million, because they used some of the fund balance carryover that they were projecting to purchase the Dodge dealership in the current fiscal year for the Sheriff’s South Lake substation.  He reported that they had an addition of $55, 207 for the Minneola and Howey in the Hills libraries to make them part of the County’s library system.  He added that the remainder of the adjustments were primarily to fund balances to bring those into alignment with actual numbers as well as adjustments to reserves in some of their special funds and were primarily related to capital projects.

The Chairman opened the public hearing.

Mr. Hugh Davis, Chairman of the Citizens’ Parks and Trails Advisory Group and resident of Leesburg, thanked the Commissioners for the tremendous help that they had given the cities in order to create new parks and recreational facilities and also for expanding the County’s recreational facilities.  He stated that in bad times people did not like to spend their money needlessly, and the County’s parks system was one place where people could go to enjoy themselves without spending very much money.  He added that in order to do that, all the infrastructures have to be maintained and kept clean, and he wanted to ask that the County allocate enough money to make sure that was done.

Mr. Bill Pierce, a resident of Umatilla, wanted the Board to explain the new fire assessment.

Commr. Cadwell explained that in the past that was done by assessment, and part of that assessment now had to come out of ad valorem tax, since first responder emergency medical service calls could not come out of the assessment.  He added that a Supreme Court decision dictated that it had to be funded in two separate funds and was separated out.  He also pointed out that the total fee would be less overall than it was before.

Mr. Gary Salzman, a resident of the Plantation at Leesburg and President of the PEAR Association, wanted to remind the Commissioners of the thousands of hours of volunteer work that has occurred there and ask that they budget specifically in line item detail the funds to be allocated specifically to PEAR Park as opposed to having it as part of a general parks or Public Works fund.  He was also concerned with safety and security on the common border with the park and the Plantation at Leesburg, and he believed the presence of park rangers at the park on a regular basis was important.

Commr. Cadwell mentioned that they put the park rangers back into the budget.

Mr. Greg Christoff, a resident of Clermont, stated that he had been living in Lake County for 11 years and complained about the attitude he received when he called the Property Appraiser’s Office about the valuation of his property.  He commented that even though last year was a tough year economically in real estate, he was still paying $2,000 more than he was last year on his investment properties, and he believed the valuations were completely out of line.

Ms. Lesha Coffield, Executive Director of the Early Learning Coalition of Lake County, commented that the Big Blue Bus program operated by the Early Learning Coalition provided an invaluable service for children and providers throughout Lake County.  She reported that in its three years of operation, it has been made available to over 175 chapter providers, including private centers, schools, family homes, informal settings, and public outreach events.  She related that this program has served over 3,000 children and opined that it was instrumental to the future success of the County’s children.  She noted that the bus provided literacy materials, curriculum guides, and other educational materials and supplies to both parents and providers.  She presented a card made by one of their child care providers, and asked that the Board reinstate the original budget request from the Lake County Children’s Services Council, which includes $25,000 for the Early Learning Coalition of Lake County.

Mr. Ron Plakke, a resident of Highland Lakes in Leesburg, was concerned about the future funding status of the Parks and Trails Department, including both operational and personnel.  He pointed out that the citizens of Lake County voted to tax themselves in 2004 for public lands acquisition to protect and preserve natural communities, watershed resources, open space, agricultural lands, resource based recreation, and archeological and historical sites.  He commented that the County has vigorously pursued many of these goals with success and has acquired many public properties meeting these qualifications and initiated a park ranger program that has shown expertise in the development and management of the park system as well as positive interaction with the public.  He stated that volunteers at PEAR Park have donated thousands of hours, personal equipment, and mileage expenses, and they were concerned about whether the County shares their commitment to this system, since the budget and the personnel for this department has advanced little during the significant transition from a smaller workload to a very large responsibility for the development and management of several parks and many lands throughout the County.  He stated that at the very minimum, this department should suffer no loss in operating budget or personnel reduction.  He also pointed out that although these were tight budgetary times, it would be appropriate for the Parks and Trails budget to be increased to at least begin to address the significant shortfall of this department’s budget.

Ms. Jeanne Etter, a resident of Mount Plymouth/Sorrento, was concerned that $80,000 was allocated for the Sorrento Park but only $25,000 was allocated for the new East Lake Community Park, and she wondered whether there should be more of the funding allocated to the East Lake Community Park, since it was now in the planning stages for the school, with trails going from there to the town center that was being planned.

Commr. Cadwell related that some of the funds for that would come from the school system, but that could be discussed at a later time.

Ms. Marilyn Bainter, a resident of Eustis, congratulated the Board on reducing the millage rate.  She expressed a strong concern regarding the intersection of 44A and Estes Road, which has been reported to the County as being one of the five most dangerous intersections in the County, and stated that improvements were in last year’s budget which promised relief from the danger of going through this intersection.  She also pointed out that this would more than likely be the route that residents from Mount Dora and all throughout the County would use to go to the new North Lake County Park, which would increase the traffic even more.  She related that they still did not have a light at that intersection, and the weeds and palm trees were so overgrown that drivers could no longer see around the corner without edging out onto CR 44A.  She was concerned that the Adopt-a-Lake program was a duplication of Lake Watch funded by the Lake County Water Authority and other programs.  She also mentioned that the Rosen plan might help to cut employee health costs.  She expressed concern about the amount of the current County debt.

Ms. Linda Ballard presented and read a petition from the Friends of PEAR Park asking the Board to approve in full the Parks and Trails budget for 2009 and increase it at least $200,000 to allow for additional staffing.  The petition also specifically reiterated the concerns regarding PEAR Park that had previously been brought up.  She presented the Board with photographs taken at PEAR Park, including those of people working in the gardens, the new facilities, bicyclists, and walkers.

Mr. Dave Bacon, a resident of Mount Dora, stated that he was happy to be living in Lake County but was concerned about his tax bill and could not understand why the top item for his county tax bill has increased so much.

Commr. Cadwell explained that the rate was actually dropping this year, but the difference in the value of his house is what would cause an increase.  He pointed out that a representative from the Property Appraiser’s Office was there and would answer individual resident’s questions in the rotunda area.

Ms. Cynthia Greenly, a resident of Tavares, stated that she volunteered for the Guardian Ad Litem program in Lake County and commented that they had many at-risk children in Lake County.  She did not want her outside agency funding being cut any more, since they were already very short of funds.  She opined that if they did not take care of those children now, a lot of them would become criminals.

There being no further individuals who wished to address the Board, the Chairman closed the public hearing.

Commr. Stivender expressed great concern regarding the cuts to the Children’s Services Council funds and believed that they needed to put that program back at the full funding in order to help those people, especially with the current state of the economy.

Commr. Hill commented that she thought that there were no cuts to the Guardian Ad Litem program next year.

Ms. Cindy Hall, County Manager, stated that she also did not think they reduced that, but she would check on that to be sure.

Commr. Stewart stated that she agreed that the Big Blue Bus was important and that they were preparing those children for being successful Lake County citizens.  She stated that even though they might not find the money in next year’s budget, she thought that they should make that a priority to look at it again in mid-year.

Commr. Renick stated that she thought there was a misunderstanding about parks and emphasized that they were actually taking money from stormwater and redirecting that to parks.  She stated that she knew they had some stormwater projects ongoing and they do have money in the fund balance to keep those going, but there were others in the works.  She did not want this to be a permanent switch, and they knew that they had a lot of park properties that they were trying to take care of.  She pointed out that it would go back to stormwater next year, because they had a number of projects that they needed to be doing.

Mr. Jim Stivender, Public Works Director, stated that they currently had a large reserve and they could move forward with the projects they had and did not have to add any large amounts of revenue to keep it going.

Commr. Renick stated that the South Lake County Regional Park was being rebudgeted and would come back in November, but she just wanted to make sure that went forward.

Ms. Hall assured her that all the projects that were currently budgeted in the current year would then go through the rebudget process, which would reallocate them next year.

Commr. Stewart asked Mr. Stivender to speak about the Estes Road and CR 44A intersection.

Mr. Stivender explained that they had a contractor already on board who would be starting within the next 30 days, and they hoped to have the intersection improvement and turn lanes all in by Thanksgiving.  He commented that construction projects take time and urged everyone to be patient with them and that they would get it done.

Commr. Stewart commented that she believed that sometime they would have to make a commitment to the 441 Center, since they were putting a big emphasis on their economic development.  She added that the 441 Center played a huge part in attracting good businesses to Lake County.  She also suggested starting a fund that they could put incremental amounts of money in as they go along until they did have enough funding to make that commitment.

Commr. Renick wanted to clarify that the Adopt-a-Lake Program was not a duplication of services by the other programs funded by the Lake County Water Authority or the St. Johns River Water Management District that were mentioned by Ms. Bainter, but all those programs were working together.

Commr. Hill stated that the Public Safety Coordinating Council was in the process of having a final mapping session, and all the partners were scheduled to participate in that, regarding the grant that they received for Public Safety involving the jail.  She explained that this was a final exercise that this group was going to do, and then they would make a recommendation to the Board in regard to the early intervention program.  She requested that they hold off on hiring the legal staff until that council finishes their report and made its recommendations.  She added that the Board has not yet heard from all the major partners, such as the judges and Lifestream, when that request was initially made.

Commr. Cadwell asked how long they would need for that.

Commr. Hill responded that it would be at the end of this month.

Ms. Hall clarified that that adjustment was around $180,000, which would show up on their list at the second public hearing.

Mr. Fletcher Smith, Community Services Director, stated that the mapping session was scheduled for October 2 and 3.  He explained that all the partners in the criminal justice system that range from the initial arrest through sentencing would sit together and look at the different options that were available.  He noted that they were looking at mental health issues.

Commr. Hill gave direction to Ms. Hall and the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) staff to negotiate with Lake-Sumter Community College regarding the possibility of transmitting the County’s emergency broadcasting capabilities through the college rather than a separate entity.  She believed that the college had the broadcasting capabilities they did not have previously in 2004 and 2005.

Commr. Renick added that she also had looked into that possibility.  She thought they would need to stay with Leesburg for this year but that they could look into that and see if it would not be better to go with Lake-Sumter Community College.

Commr. Hill commented that since they had until April of 2009 to make this decision, they would be able to look at both of them before they make that decision in 2009.

Commr. Cadwell noted that they wanted to make sure they would have the same coverage they currently had.

On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Hill and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the adoption of the changes that were recommended, which totaled $3,274,011 that were originated by the Board to the County Manager at the last workshop.

On a motion by Commr. Renick, seconded by Stewart and carried by a vote of 4-1, the Board approved the adoption of the tentative millage rate for the Lake County General Countywide Levy of 4.6511 mills.

Commr. Stivender voted “no.”

On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Hill and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the Lake County Ambulance MSTU of 0.4651.

On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Renick and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the Lake County Voter Approved Debt Levy for Public Lands of 0.1101 mills.

On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Hill and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the Lake County Stormwater, Roads and Parks MSTU of 0.4984 mills.

On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Stewart and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the Lake County Fire Rescue/Emergency Services MSTU of .3222 mills.

On a motion by Commr. Renick, seconded by Commr. Hill, and carried by a vote of 4-1, the Board approved the adoption of the Lake County 2008-2009 tentative budget as adopted for $442,625,755.

Commr. Stivender voted “no.”

On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Stewart and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board moved to set the final public hearing for the final adoption on September 23, 2008 at 5:05 p.m. or soon thereafter in the County Commission Chambers at the Lake County Administration Building, 315 West Main Street, Tavares, Florida.


Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, stated that they had discussed a case where Lake County was a defendant due to an accident that occurred on County Road 474 in South Lake County.  He reported that they had an offer of settlement from the plaintiffs for $100,000, and he commented that would be paid by insurance money and not Board money.  He recommended that the Board approve that settlement.

On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Renick and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board voted to place that item on the Agenda.

On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Stewart and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the settlement.


There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 6:03 p.m.