A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
JANUARY 23, 2009
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in a special session for a Board Retreat, on Friday, January 23, at 8:00 a.m., at Trout Lake Nature Center, Eustis, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Welton G. Cadwell, Chairman; Jennifer Hill, Vice Chairman; Jimmy Conner; Elaine Renick; and Linda Stewart. Others present were Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; Cindy Hall, County Manager; and Susan Boyajan, Deputy Clerk.
EVALUATION PROCESS OVERHAUL
Commr. Renick stated that she thought that the evaluations were not specific enough, and she wanted some kind of performance objectives. She stated that Page 33 of the packet that was handed out showed some performance objectives that Punta Gorda used in their evaluations that were described in terms of quantity, quality, and time frames and that the objectives should be measurable, attainable, and set mutually between the County Manager and the Commission. She also commented that she wanted Ms. Cindy Hall, County Manager, to do a self-evaluation. She opined that the evaluations they had been doing were not that helpful.
Commr. Cadwell suggested that they go back and look at their goals and select some that were important to them. He inquired whether she was thinking it needed to be specific to a particular issue, and he thought they should keep using general performance dimensions as well.
Commr. Renick responded that if there was a particular department that needed to be accomplishing something that they were not, then they could use goals specifically related to that. She pointed out that Punta Gorda’s evaluation form contained both the performance dimensions for generally how the employee was doing as well as the performance objectives. She noted that the Board would set the timeline and grade them as to where they were in the process of achieving the goal.
Commr. Hill thought there should be less than ten rating scale choices, and the Board agreed that three to five of those would be sufficient.
Commr. Conner commented that he thought they needed to go through a process that was transparent where they shared the evaluation with each other and had an open public discussion about strengths, weaknesses, and expectations. He also stated that they should decide which form they were using and what their grading scale would be.
Commr. Cadwell directed Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, to have his office look at that to make sure there was nothing that would conflict with their contract. He asked if they would need to amend their contracts to do an evaluation in six months.
Commr. Renick commented that they could keep their current performance dimensions and just add to that. She also noted that the objectives needed to be measurable and specific.
Mr. Minkoff stated that it would be difficult to come up with their performance goals and complete the evaluation within six months from the last evaluation.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he was thinking they would do that in six months from the time they decide on what those goals were. He also commented that Ms. Cindy Hall, County Manager, knew that the Board wanted all that information ahead of time before making those kinds of decisions.
There was consensus to bring this up for discussion again and decide on the objectives at the February 10 workshop.
CHANGE IN TROUT LAKE PRESIDENT
Mr. Bernie Yokel, President of Trout Lake Nature Center, announced that Mr. Hugh Kent would become the new President of Trout Lake starting next week. He also thanked the Board for the support that they have given to Trout Lake and that it has been very important to them.
Mr. Kent commented that he still considered Mr. Yokel the heart of Trout Lake, and he would like to talk with all the Commissioners over the course of the next couple of months about possible future plans for Trout Lake.
Commr. Cadwell stated that the Trout Lake staff were very interested in some of the conversations that they have had regarding expanding their job to include the other properties.
Commr. Cadwell stated that Commr. Conner brought up the fact that he thought that in certain situations, Commissioners should be on selection committees, but he noted that they have always chosen not to do that, except in the instance of the courthouse and the constitutional officers building, because that involved other constitutional officers.
Commr. Conner stated that he did not have a suggestion as to what procurement model worked best, because he has seen a variety of different models for different situations. He commented that he was not asking for any cultural changes right now, and he did not have any recommendations to do anything differently regarding the RFP’s that were currently going out.
Commr. Cadwell opined that he preferred not being involved in a lot of that selection process, because if he did not form relationships with any of those people, it was easier for him to tell them he could not talk to them about it and just have them go through the process. Commr. Cadwell also inquired whether they were still looking into local vendor preference.
Ms. Hall explained that there was a group of purchasing agents county-wide, including the School Board and many of the cities, that unanimously would prefer not to have any specific built-in local preference. However, she has informed all the departments to be sensitive to the fact that they like to support the organizations and vendors that are county-based. She commented that they had a good representation of Lake County vendors.
Commr. Renick stated that when she first became a County Commissioner, she brought up a local vendor preference and thought that was what they should do. However, she explained that she changed her mind, because it would make it harder for the local vendors to work in other counties, and they looked at the best value. She commented that the way they currently have been handling this issue has been working well.
Mr. Minkoff pointed out that the County removes a lot of the impediments to local bidders, such as waiving performance bonds when there would not be a risk to the County and breaking projects into smaller parts so that the smaller vendors could bid on them.
Commr. Conner was concerned that they were not getting the message out to the public about all the pro-business decisions that the Board makes. As an example, he mentioned that over half of the money they were spending with PPI on the construction projects was going to local vendors.
Commr. Renick suggested that Mr. Chris Patton, Public Information Coordinator, Information Outreach, cover some of the important issues for their website. There was a discussion about whether he should be completely objective and have complete autonomy regarding what he would be reporting or whether the Commissioners should have some control over the content. She talked about having a link to stories about current issues written as a reporter would write them.
Commr. Conner asked if he could write about County business on his own website. He stated that he wanted to be proactive and get a positive message out.
Mr. Minkoff warned the Commissioners to use caution while looking at his web site because of the Sunshine Law, since it would be considered a discussion if they responded to anything on the website.
Ms. Hall mentioned that communication was a goal that staff was focusing on, and there were some things that they were working on this year that she wanted to inform them about. She stated that Mr. Patton was working on a quarterly news letter in order to get the word out to as many people as they possibly could about things that were going on in the County and to get a bigger presence in the community. They were going to contact those in their various distribution lists to ask them if they would like to receive that on a quarterly basis. She informed the Board that they were working with the School Board to partner with them on different programs in order to have a positive presence in the school system. They were also working on having a Speaker’s Bureau, with Mr. Patton doing the training of either the department directors or those people who would be giving those presentations to make them more interesting. In addition, they would have Community Nights at the libraries with a discussion of a topic chosen by the librarians that would be of interest to the community, and people from the County with expertise on the chosen subject would speak and lead the discussion. One of the things they would like to do as part of the community evening events at the libraries was to have little video snippets of interesting things that take place in the different departments that would be filmed by Mr. Doug Woodyard, Telecommunications Director, Information Technology, with Mr. Patton writing a script for it. These could also be televised in other venues, such as Lakefront TV.
Mr. Conner mentioned that the equipment needed for this project could probably be found in the school system.
Commr. Cadwell stated that they could try doing what Commr. Renick suggested regarding having Mr. Patton write stories for the website, and inquired whether he would interview the Commissioners or write about what he perceived happened at the meeting.
Commr. Renick responded that he would write about anything that would happen at the meeting. She also commented that their image was important regarding economic development.
Ms. Hall pointed out that because many topics were discussed at every meeting, he could not write about everything, and it would have to be his selection as to the type of thing that he felt was noteworthy to put in there.
Commr. Hill commented that it improved their image when their staff went out and met the public, since they presented such a professional image.
RECESS AND REASSEMBLY
At 9:20 a.m., the Chairman announced that there would be a ten-minute recess.
PROCUREMENT PROCEDURES (CONT’D)
Commr. Hill stated that she would be fine with whatever process that they chose to go with, but she just wanted to make sure that they knew the process and all of the rules, and she referred to the Guide to Public Procurement, which she found helpful. She mentioned that she was concerned about change orders in the past, which were handled in the department and did not come back to the Board. She commented, however, that change orders have not currently been a problem.
Mr. Minkoff explained that the Board had given the departments the ability to do the change orders themselves up to a certain amount, which was why they were not seeing them.
Commr. Hill stated that if the amount exceeds that limit, she wanted to make sure it would come back to the Board. She also commented that she did not want to be part of the process of actually choosing the vendors.
GOALS AND FOCUS AREAS
Ms. Hall explained that there were eight goals that the County had initially adopted three years ago, which were discussed and confirmed again at a retreat last year. She noted that there were some sub-categories within them that were specific areas that they were working towards regarding those eight goals. She related that she had asked the department directors to submit accomplishments that supported the goals, and she highlighted some things they were doing that were detailed in the handout. She noted that customer service has probably been their strongest focus for the last year and a half, which came about from a workshop at that time when the Board had some concerns about customer service. She related that Growth Management was an area that was particularly targeted, and they have revamped almost all of their processes, many of them in concert with Public Works.
Commr. Cadwell commented that this was the longest he could remember that someone did not call him with a complaint about an employee, and they were currently getting positive calls. He also mentioned the pleasant atmosphere found in the County offices.
Ms. Hall continued to explain that they put on a county-wide training program for customer service, and they considered that to be quite a success.
Commr. Hill commented that the training also emphasized how the employees treated each other as well as the public.
Commr. Conner mentioned that he has been happy with the culture created by the County employees and that staff obtains information for Commissioners to try to help them make good decisions.
Ms. Hall stated that they have also been working with external communication, such as the Department of Environmental Utilities’ involvement in student internships, classroom programs, community volunteer opportunities, and various media outlets. She spoke next about innovative changes and specified that they had process improvement ambassadors in each department who looked at new ways to do things as well as some improvements that could be made internally within the departments. She pointed out the downsizing of vehicles in the fleet operation, and she stated that they currently had only five take-home vehicles, which were down from 60 or 70 vehicles in the past as well as a significantly reduced fleet countywide. Ms. Hall stated that there have been some innovative changes made using technology, and she reported that the IT Department has actively been working with all departments to do custom type reporting and custom applications that meet their needs.
Ms. Hall talked about the second goal, which was Lake County being a leader in multi-jurisdictional cooperation, and she related that they saw themselves in the position of being able to take that lead with organizations and agencies that they worked with, including the Lake County Economic Development Advisory Council, Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, City of Tavares, City of Clermont, Lake County Water Authority, and Congress of Regional Leaders. She felt that one of their greatest successes was their partnership with Polk and Osceola County in funding the Cagan Crossings Library. She pointed out that they have made significant strides in the goal of making the economy of Lake County strong, diversified, and sustainable over the last year or two, including identifying the Comprehensive Plan and adopting a Strategic Plan for Economic Growth. She commented that a lot of activities were taking place in the arena of economic development. However, she relented that it was an area that they still needed to work strongly on.
Ms. Hall stated that many transportation projects were going on that were contributing to the next goal of offering a quality, reliable transportation network in a multi-modal system, such as the LakeXpress fixed route system, which has been expanding, and a number of joint projects with other cities. She noted that they also had a contract that combines roadside mowing and litter pickup. Relating to the goal of providing social services to those in need, she related that the Community Services Department provided a huge array of services to people throughout the community. She explained that there has been some restructuring within that department to consolidate the citizen support services such as veterans’ services, elder affairs, and children’s services. She stated that the Adopt-A-Lake Program and all the parks, trails, and mosquito and aquatic plant control issues that they were working on illustrated their progress on the goal of preserving environmental resources. Also, she mentioned that the Florida Building Code that would be coming forward this year stresses maximum energy efficiency. She thought they were participating in urban development that was well planned and implemented, and they indicated a number of areas on the handout to illustrate that. She indicated that they were trying to blend into the community and work with the community in order to reflect their values and to keep the appearance of Lake County esthetically pleasing and well-designed. She also noted that many of the communities liked an art type of image, so the County was working on a number of projects to promote arts in Lake County.
Commr. Cadwell stated that they would look back on their goals when they came together to decide what initiatives they wanted Ms. Hall to work on this year. He commented that these goals still were relevant, but they might tweak or change some of them.
CONTROL OVER POSITIONS DURING HIRING FREEZE
Commr. Conner stated that he wanted to talk about two things that were inter-related, which were position control and the budget, which he was very concerned about. He understood that the County budgeted positions and gave authority to the County Manager to fill or not fill positions somewhat at her discretion, but he believed that once a position was not filled or needed, then they ought to eliminate those positions unless there were special circumstances. He thought that if she wanted to hire those positions again, then she had to come and justify it.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he thought they already did that through the budget process.
Commr. Conner asked if there was currently a hiring freeze.
Ms. Hall answered that there was a hiring freeze, and she approved any position that was advertised and rehired.
Commr. Conner expressed a belief that the Board should get more involved in the position control business and the budget process, because he believed that ultimately budget cuts were coming. He referred to lists of positions that have been filled since October 1, positions that were frozen this fiscal year, and those that were eliminated last year through the budget process that was prepared by Ms. Hall. He stated that he realized that some of the positions were for Public Safety, which was normally exempt from hiring freezes, but he was concerned about the $5.6 million from their fund balance in their operating budget right now. He opined that the easiest way to cut the budget was through attrition, since they would not be hurting anyone. He stated that given the economic environment they were in, he would like to add one more layer of accountability through the process before positions were hired, exempting Public Safety positions. He stated that he might agree with every one of the hiring decisions that were made, but he felt very strongly that the Board needed to engage more and get more involved in those processes of the budget cuts that were inevitably coming.
Ms. Hall stated that she included in there all the positions that they actually did eliminate last year through the budget process and noted that there were many of those. She explained that those 29 positions that were frozen were not eliminated, and conceivably if one of the positions was later needed for a particular reason, she could unfreeze it.
Commr. Cadwell commented that in these tight times, it was probably a good idea to bring the hiring of someone or the unfreezing of a position back to the Board, but that there might be situations besides Public Safety where they may need to hire someone. He also pointed out that they approve the positions during the budget process anyway.
Commr. Renick suggested that Ms. Hall could give the Board a report with the justification for why she wanted to hire for those positions.
Commr. Cadwell commented that because something was frozen did not mean that they did not need it, but just they could not afford it at that point. He explained that would mean that they would be lowering the level of service that they were providing.
Commr. Conner opined that if a position was not needed, it should be eliminated and not frozen, and he felt that the Commission was delegating some of the position control, which was a budgetary issue, to the County Manager. He stated that the issue was going to become what they would be able to afford.
Mr. Minkoff explained that the way their ordinances and County Manager system was set up, the Board has not imposed a hiring freeze. He related that the County Manager, in managing the budget, which was her primary job, has determined that there were some positions that she was not going to fill. He related that the Board has given the County Manager full authority over all the employees, and they would have to change their structure of government. He added that the way the Board would normally control that would be to amend the budget.
Ms. Hall further explained that they were creating a fund balance by restricting the hiring of positions, and hopefully as they tackled next year’s difficult budget, that fund balance would help them carry forward for next year and give them a head start for more restrictions next year. Their plan was to come to the Board at the workshop on February 10 with some initial thoughts and policy decisions for the current year to give them a head start in preparing for next year.
Commr. Conner related that it was uncomfortable for him to be relying on fund balance in their operating budget, because he was concerned about depleting the reserves by $5.6 million.
Ms. Hall explained that the fund balance was money that was there that could either be spent or not spent, and if it was not applied against services, it would end up in reserves. She pointed out that the reserves they currently had were healthy, and she did not think it would have been necessary in a normal year to cut $5 million worth of services and put that money in reserves. She stated that the current year was different than they had thought it was going to be, and she was concerned in general about next year. She noted that usually in any budget year there was a portion of the fund balance that comes forward that funded operating expenses, because there was always money left at the end of the year. She specified that in a normal year, they reduce all revenues statutorily defined by 5 percent, which helped with all revenues other than ad valorem. She related that typically there were expenditures that did not happen, resulting in the leftover money or fund balance.
Commr. Hill opined that the property values next year were going to be re-evaluated, so they may not collect as much ad valorem per value. She added that the Property Appraiser’s Office usually could give them a pretty good estimate as to that value change well in advance.
In response to concern expressed by Commr. Conner regarding the cost overruns in the Fire Rescue budget, Commr. Cadwell asked Ms. Hall to give them an update on that.
Ms. Hall reported that the overtime budget for the Fire Rescue Division was $1 million, which was not an appropriate budget and was done in error, and they were committed to fixing it within the structure of the Fire Department’s budget. She explained that the portion of the fire fighters’ salaries that is automatic overtime was not budgeted there, and a portion of that money was budgeted in the salary lines. She stated that the error that has been apparently happening for a number of years in the firefighters’ salary and overtime budget was that the automatic overtime was not adequately identified in any line that the firefighters get. She pointed out that they were concerned about this, and very shortly after this issue came up, the Fire Rescue Department gave to her in writing things that they will do to curtail overtime, including moving people around from station to station for adequate coverage instead of calling in off-duty people for overtime and reducing the training time of new recruits by having them shadow lieutenants for 60 rather than 90 days. She added that in the past, they have used overtime for projects, public education appearances, and community events, but they were not using overtime for those types of things anymore.
Commr. Renick pointed out that in the past since that department was not fully staffed, they were able to use the extra money budgeted for salaries to pay the overtime, but they were not able to do that when more of the vacant positions became filled. She also commented that the level of service requested by that department of a certain number of firefighters per station was not the necessary level of service, and she believed that they needed to discuss the use of floaters in the future.
Mr. Minkoff pointed out that the Board’s plans would have to be reflected in the upcoming contract negotiations.
Ms. Hall related that they would be bringing to the Board an amendment that would move money around to straighten that situation out and get it into the overtime line.
SMOKING POLICY FOR COUNTY PARKS
Commr. Conner inquired whether their County parks have a no-smoking policy.
Commr. Cadwell stated that new signs were just put up in the park at the north end of the County stating that there was no smoking in the play areas.
Commr. Conner mentioned that there was no smoking on any school property, and he believed that children should not have to breathe cigarette smoke within the confines of the County parks. He asked that a policy come forward on that.
Commr. Cadwell directed Mr. Minkoff to draw up an ordinance that would ban smoking in County parks.
Mr. Minkoff commented that there might be some legal issues with that, but noted that other governments have had success passing them.
Commr. Conner mentioned that he has been talking a long time about wanting a mentoring policy that would allow some of their qualified employees to spend up to an hour a week to go to a school to mentor a child as paid time. He asked if there was a mentoring policy in the County that officially recognized that.
Ms. Hall related that Ms. Sharon Tatum, Public Education Specialist, recently had a conversation with Ms. Susan Moxley, Superintendent of the Lake County Schools, regarding the School Board and the County working together on different ways that mentoring would be most effective for both entities, and they intended to come back to the Board with that.
Mr. Minkoff mentioned that his office currently has a program with Tavares Elementary, and they have allowed employees to do mentoring in the past as paid time for roughly an hour a week.
ACCEPTANCE OF CREDIT CARDS
Commr. Hill asked if they could include Animal Services to the list of departments that would be able to accept credit cards to make it easier for people to adopt the animals.
Commr. Stewart opined that she thought it would help adoptions.
Ms. Hall reported that there was a very slight expense to that, including the cost of the machine, but that they could set it up. She also mentioned that they were currently looking at that.
COMPREHENSIVE PLAN PROCESS
Commr. Cadwell stated that they have been thinking on a staff level about the best way to proceed after receiving the Comprehensive Plan to have the public hearings. He related that he would prefer once it was completed and forwarded to have staff look at it and make recommendations on it before the Board studied it. Then, he thought they should schedule some regional meetings split up at different times with a full Board instead of having everyone come to Tavares on one day. He directed Ms. Hall to try to have staff take no longer than 60 days to make their recommendations on any part of the Comp Plan that they thought the Board should be made aware of.
Mr. Minkoff commented that 60 days was probably an optimistic time frame, and they were probably looking at 120 days before it was ready for them to start having their actual adoption hearings. He also reported that it was scheduled for public hearing for the LPA (Local Planning Agency) to make a recommendation on January 30.
REQUEST FOR CHANGE IN PROCESS FOR INTERNAL HR AUDIT
Ms. Hall suggested that they change the process that they had discussed regarding the internal audit of the Employee Services Department to move that to an external firm, because she did not know that their Internal Audit Department had the expertise in-house to handle that type of an audit. She felt that she would be more comfortable about the quality of that audit if they used an outside firm which was very objective and knowledgeable regarding the issues having to do with human resources and the legalities associated with that.
Commr. Renick stated that although she understood Ms. Hall’s reservations, she was concerned about the way it would look to the public, especially if some of the attorneys involved reported back to Mr. Minkoff.
Commr. Hill thought that the perception would be that an audit from the Clerk’s Office would be less objective, since they were also a government entity. She pointed out that Mr. Minkoff would not be part of an outside legal team, but they would only be reporting to him.
Commr. Conner noted that they have always used the Clerk’s Office for these types of audits, and to change the process for this particular audit would be a deviation that would bring attention to themselves. He mentioned that the IT (Information Technology) audit that the Clerk had previously done contained a lot of criticism. He pointed out that there has already been a representation that using the Clerk was the process that they were going to use, and they would be inviting a lot of criticism if they did not use the same process that they normally used.
Commr. Hill opined that HR was almost a specialized legal field.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he agreed with Ms. Hall’s concerns, but he believed that since they have already asked the Clerk to do this audit, changing their mind now would result in a negative perception.
It was decided that no action would be taken to change the previous Board action.
Ms. Hall asked Commr. Cadwell to accompany her to speak with Mr. Neil Kelly, Clerk of the Court, about refining the process.
Commr. Cadwell agreed to do so.
REQUEST FOR CLOSED SESSION
Mr. Minkoff requested that the Board have another closed session at the next Board Meeting on January 27.
On a motion by Commr. Conner, seconded by Commr. Hill and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board moved to put that item on the Agenda.
On a motion by Commr. Conner, seconded by Commr. Hill and carried unanimously, the Board moved to hold a closed session on January 27 at 9:00 a.m. or soon thereafter.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 11:40 a.m.
WELTON CADWELL, CHAIRMAN
NEIL KELLY, CLERK