february 25, 2011

The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in a special retreat session on Friday, February 25, 2011 at 9:00 a.m., at Cooper Memorial Library, Clermont, Florida.  Commissioners present at the meeting were:  Jennifer Hill, Chairman; Leslie Campione, Vice Chairman; Sean Parks; Jimmy Conner; and Welton G. Cadwell.  Others present were:  Darren Gray, County Manager; Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; Wendy Taylor, Executive Office Manager, County Manager’s Office; and Susan Boyajan, Deputy Clerk.

economic action plan presentation

Commr. Cadwell inquired about how the meeting on March 11 would work.

Mr. Gray answered that it would be a follow-up from the first Economic Development Workshop that was held on February 1 and related that staff has been working with Commr. Campione to put the County’s action plan together, which would be brought back to the Board.  He explained that they were going to try to follow the same framework used by Mayor Jacobs when she worked with the EDC and to possibly have Mr. Brian Walters give them an overview and identify businesses to tell about their experiences.

Commr. Campione added that there would be a variety of new and established businesses that would answer specific questions to give their perspective about what the County does right and wrong and how the County could help them.

Mr. Gray stated that after that they would unveil the plan that they have put together and seek the input of the businesses as well, but they wanted to show it to the Board before they go forward with that.

Commr. Hill mentioned that they also met with the School Board Chairman and Superintendent, and their input is incorporated into this.

Commr. Campione began the power point presentation by explaining that the vision was to facilitate a more prosperous and diverse economy in partnership with others, since they recognize that they could not do it alone and that it needed to be a community effort, and their mission was to aggressively retain, attract, and grow jobs in Lake County while protecting and improving Lake County’s quality of life and unique character.  She mentioned that the issues that kept coming up over and over again during the workshop such as education, growing their tax base, and keeping their cost of living low went into the quality of life category.  She related that they came up with nine goals, including to create a business friendly environment, which would entail simplification of the government permitting process and always being mindful of the impact of governmental regulation on the success of the private sector to create and retain jobs.  She emphasized that an extremely important goal was to work with their cities to identify and promote their economic initiatives, and another goal was to ensure that they have an available and well-prepared workforce by providing education excellence.  She stated that another goal was to focus on retaining their existing businesses and helping them succeed and expand, and she read the other goals listed on the power point slide, including eco-tourism, recreation, sports and tourism.

Commr. Cadwell commented that the goal regarding sports and recreation would require that the County invest in some infrastructure and facilities.

Commr. Campione continued the presentation, stating that they should establish specific targets and track progress to know what was working and to correct the things that they were spending resources on unnecessarily.  She noted that she would talk about specific things to help make all of the goals happen.  She suggested that to create a business friendly environment, they should first identify County policies and regulations that adversely affect their economic vision and mission and implement strategies to correct them.  She stated that another goal was identifying proven models for streamlining and simplifying permitting and revising the current process, and she mentioned that Commr. Parks has been looking at this as well as what other areas were doing to come up with some proposals.

Commr. Parks mentioned that he has had some meetings with staff where they had discussed some good ideas, and he was looking for something more advanced and encompassing than the online permitting that the County currently has in place, with a cutting-edge website.  He believed they should also have a central website to assist new homeowners that move to the County with general questions.

Mr. Gray mentioned that they made a trip to Sumter County, where they picked up some very good ideas.

Ms. Amye King, Growth Management Director, stated that she was working on reorganizing her department, and she realized after visiting Sumter County that they could do what Sumter County was doing with just a minor restructure on their behalf.  She related that she was also working continuously with Information Outreach and Economic Development to figure out how to best streamline the process online, and she would have an advocate to help applicants work with state agencies that did not coordinate their online process with the County.

Commr. Campione commented that that was a good segue-way to the next goal, which was to establish a permitting advocate or concierge to walk business owners and prospects through the permitting process and coordinate with cities and other reviewing agencies, and noted that they were trying that with a company that was looking to relocate and bring a lot of jobs to Lake County.   She stated that they should explore opportunities to create regulatory conformity with the cities and work with willing cities to implement coordinated procedures, and opined that even though the County has been working on this in the past, she believed they could step it up to the next level for uniformity.

Commr. Parks added that they had an opportunity with the ISBA (Interlocal Service Boundary Agreement) they were doing with Mascotte and Groveland to have County staff available to handle County issues there at the City.

Mr. Gray related that they have discussed that with them, and they could come to the cities and do joint reviews with them as well.

Commr. Campione presented the next point of the presentation, stating that they should aggressively pursue the settlement of all Comprehensive Plan challenges in order to achieve certainty and closure, which they were already working diligently on, and they should initiate review of the Comp Plan to identify policies or land use designation that impede job creation and positive economic activity and pursue solutions to rectify those.

Commr. Hill commented that they should look to see whether things should be in the Comp Plan or the LDR’s (Land Development Regulations).

Commr. Parks mentioned that he and Mr. Gray had a good meeting with the new DCA Secretary, who made them aware of some pending legislation that would provide a new alternative state review which would allow Lake County to become one of the communities which would have pilot programs to expedite their Comp Plan use changes without the state review.  He also noted that the new DCA Secretary was in favor of expedited review and minimal state interference, as well as making the state more of a resource.

Commr. Campione stated that they can initiate an administrative correction process to address inconsistencies and fix the problems with the Comp Plan as they come up.  She also wanted the County to continually evaluate the development process for increased efficiencies and improved procedures, as well as reinforce a positive customer service attitude through training and internal policies as part of the business friendly goal.  The next goal she presented was to work directly with willing municipalities to assist with the implementation of each city’s economic initiates and to promote cooperation and coordination with the cities, and she gave some ideas for implementing that plan, including to have the Commissioners reach out to elected officials of the cities in their districts to assist cities with their economic initiatives and to utilize the ISBA, joint planning agreements, and interlocal agreements.  She also recommended creating and using inventory maps, matrix, and county-wide maps showing vacant parcels available for targeted industries and existing and emerging industry clusters for the cities to use as a planning and recruiting tool, stating that the County already has or is in the process of working on great information that could be shared with the cities.  She stated that the next goal was to assure that they have an available and well-prepared workforce for existing and prospective businesses and collaborate with educators to meet workforce needs and achieve educational excellence.  She asked the Board whether the County should hold an education and economic summit to discuss those issues, go over their vision and mission, share specific goals related to education and workforce needs, review existing programs, explore the possibility of expanding well-received programs, and adding new programs to address targeted industries.

Mr. Gray mentioned that he had met with Commr. Stivender and Superintendent Susan Moxley, who were excited to be part of this plan, as well as Dr. Churck Mojock from Lake-Sumter Community College (LSCC), who was also excited to come on board and to work with Lake Tech.

Commr. Campione related that the next recommendation was to utilize Economic Development staff to identify emerging workforce needs and coordinate and communicate with education partners in the business community.  She mentioned that the study being prepared by LSCC which was commissioned by Sumter County would be an excellent resource that Lake County could use as well to show where their deficiencies and needs are.  The next goals she discussed were to establish policies and programs that promote the retention, success, and expansion of existing businesses, giving examples of ways to do that, such as creating ways for communicating regularly with those businesses, and to establish policies and programs to assist start-up and developing businesses.  She commented that a lot of their Chambers were asking them to help put some of those in place in various locations in Lake County.

Mr. Gray added that they were currently working with South Lake on one regarding biofuels, and the Leesburg one has been successful.  He also mentioned that Groveland has indicated interest in biofuels.

Commr. Campione related that another goal was to attract and recruit new businesses to the County by targeting specific industries, drawing upon regional partnerships, such as improved utilization of the EDC, and to expand the list of the targeted industries to include light industry and manufacturing.  She noted that some ways to achieve this goal would be to work closely with the cities on their economic initiatives and to identify opportunities to connect them to the EDC staff, and to respond to RFI and RFP’s from Enterprise Florida for companies seeking to expand or relocate to the area, which they have been doing recently.  She also stated that they have been participating in regional collaboration, and there were a lot of opportunities in Sumter and Marion that they could be focusing on as far as collaborating with those counties.  She pointed out that there needed to be a community-wide effort to market the County, since a lot of the things the County had available and were doing were not well-known by the public.  Another goal that she discussed was working directly with the business community, cities, and other stakeholders to promote eco-tourism, recreation, sports and tourism, including implementing a new TDC (Tourist Development Council) grant application process, which they were working on.

Mr. Gray reported that they have completed a draft of that, which they will be taking to the TDC on March 16 and which would come back to the Board for approval.

Commr. Campione continued to explain that part of that goal was to identify infrastructure needs such as trail systems and sporting venues and to pursue funding for those needs, and they could consider establishing a tourism business retention and expansion program that specifically addresses the needs of existing tourism-related businesses.

Commr. Parks suggested that an incubator or part of an incubator could be geared specifically towards eco-tourism and outdoor fitness in the County.

Commr. Cadwell commented that they have not taken advantage of the charter flights that come into Sanford, which could provide the County with a chance to reach tourists who want to go somewhere else besides Disney.

Mr. Adam Sumner, Economic Development Director, commented that it has been something that he has been working on and that Mr. Gray has brought economic development and tourism together.  He opined that the staff is excited about the new direction and the new targeted approach to this, and he stated that he hoped to get the Board’s support for the business retention program’s focus on tourism.  He related that he has already gotten three requests from businesses asking him to meet with them to figure out how to help them diversify what they do, understand the programs that come in, and learn how to be a host hotel for events and tourism.

Commr. Campione opined that it was also critical for the County to protect and improve their quality of life and maintain the proper balance between job creation and the protection of their natural resources and unique character.  She mentioned that their downtown districts need residents in them in order to make them work and thought that exploring regulatory changes to encourage infill was an idea to counter subdivision-type development.  She also suggested that they could increase the concurrency threshold or tie it to infill, since there would be less of an impact in an area that was within walking distance of a school and adopt policies that encourage the redevelopment of existing buildings and sites.   She thought they should also include a way to support programs for improving the water quality of their lakes, rivers and waterways as part of their economic development plan.  The last goal she discussed was to establish specific targets and track progress of the economic development efforts, including having staff provide regular reports providing economic activity, implementation of new programs, employment trends, and new suggestions from the business community, as well as regular updates on simplifying the permitting process and creating a business friendly environment.

Commr. Parks commented that he believed they should let the public know as best as they could about the progress they were making on their goals.

Mr. Gray assured him that they were already thinking of doing regular updates, and the economic action team that has been put together has been brainstorming a lot of different ways to get that message out to the public.

Commr. Cadwell commented that a lot of the goals and suggestions have been done over the years, but they just did not promote themselves enough to let the public know what they were doing, but he believed that it would no longer be a concern with the staff they had now.

Commr. Hill pointed out that their education partners have indicated that they have not marketed themselves, but she believes the school system’s marketing efforts will increase since the School Board has hired Mr. Chris Patton and that the County and School Board could work together and share information.

Mr. Sumner informed the Board that Mr. Patton was working with their staff to provide the data so that the County could be an advocate on their behalf, since the County has got to take the lead to share that positive data to educate the public on their successes that they have been too modest to publicize in the past.

Commr. Campione stated that if they could get their School Board excited about some of those programs they talked about that the high-tech corridor provides, it could go a long way to improving student performance significantly in math, science, and technology through hands-on activity and application.

Commr. Hill clarified that everyone was in agreement that this would be a good presentation for the March 11 meeting for the business sector and the public to hear.

metro orlando edc dinner

Commr. Hill announced that the Metro Orlando EDC had requested an RSVP from the Board for their dinner, in which a table of ten was reserved for the Board, and she asked if the Commissioners wanted to attend that dinner at the Peabody on March 10.

Commr. Campione suggested that they ask School Board members to go using some of the extra seats.

Commr. Cadwell related that he would not be able to attend, and someone else could use his seats.

Commr. Hill stated that they will check into it and know they will have at least four seats available.

Mr. Minkoff suggested that they could perhaps invite a few of the elected officials from some of the cities to attend.

recess and reassembly

The Chairman announced at 10:20 a.m. that there would be a ten-minute recess.

budget discussion

Commr. Conner expressed concern that this year’s budget took $11 million out of reserves, which he did not think would be sustainable over a very long period of time, and he did not think they have had a discussion concerning where cuts might be made.  He stated that he believed retreats were appropriate times for the Board to give some clear direction on what their expectations are with regard to the budget that the County Manager would be bringing to them.

Mr. Gray stated that one thing he saw that they needed to do was to start doing a long-term plan of their budget with revenue models for major revenue sources looking out five years or beyond and matching the revenue funds and the models up with the projected expenses so that they were not spending more than what they were taking in, which would show the Board a big picture.  He commented that although statutorily they had to adopt their budget annually, they could have departments work on a two-year budget.  He related that the new budget director would start work with the County on Monday, February 28 and that he was very familiar with those types of models, and they would change the projections annually as the legislature changes different things.  He opined that one of their biggest needs was to look long term.

Commr. Conner commented that although he does agree with that approach, he was worried about the short-term.

Mr. Gray responded that he had a budget kick-off with all of the department heads and division managers recently to see where they currently were, and he assured the Board that he would be able to come back to them with more information in the next month or two.

Commr. Conner pointed out that they had cut 42 positions last year, and they would need to look at the big-dollar picture to do any further major cuts.

Mr. Gray noted that the majority of their general fund was mandated statutorily, and there was only a small part of their general fund budget that they had direct control over, but they would be bringing a couple of recommendations and plans back to the Board to help guide them through the process this year after the staff looks through the budget, while simultaneously working on the five-year plan.

Commr. Cadwell opined that the real money was not in their budget. He also suggested that if there was a change in the retirement system and the state did not take that extra money from them, they should keep that as a savings, and he wanted them to look at eliminating the furlough days as a tradeoff for that.

Commr. Campione commented that she did not want to use reserves to pay for operating expenses, but she thought they needed to look at the staff funding.  She also stated that furlough days bothered her because it created a lack of continuity with their work force, which she did not think was a very productive scenario, and she was in favor of getting everyone working full time.

Commr. Conner thought that EMS should help them with reduction of their $6.4 million part of the budget.

Commr. Parks added that even though it was a sensitive topic and that EMS did a great job with great people that worked there, he believed that everything was on the table for analysis.

Mr. Minkoff reported that the latest Senate bill reduces the employee contribution between 2 and 4 percent depending upon the salary, but it does not reduce the local contribution and keeps all of the money in the plan.

Commr. Hill stated that she believes they should look at all of their funding sources, including the sales tax which they were relying on heavily, and they were going to have to decide in the next couple of years whether they ask for that to be renewed after the sunset of that tax, especially since they have not been collecting impact fees.  She thought their capital projects were right on schedule, and they needed to have a discussion on fire services.

Mr. Minkoff mentioned that the initial estimate from the Property Appraiser indicated that there will be another significant decrease in the ad valorem value this year.

Commr. Parks asked how much the numbers would drop and asked what percentage of their budget was reserve.

Commr. Conner responded that at the beginning of the fiscal year they had $44 million in reserve, and if they spend it down by $11 million, they will have $33 million.  However, although they were strong financially, they would have a financial crisis three years from now if they continue to spend down the reserve.

Commr. Parks asked if they would decide what percentage of their budget would be in reserve and come up with a 3 to 5-year plan for what they would spend.

Commr. Conner pointed out that they had increased their reserve requirement from 10 to 15 percent, which would be about $17 million, which he believed would be too large a drop from current reserve figures.  He thought they needed to identify the big expenditure areas, and he did not think they would be able to close that gap themselves without virtually shutting County government down.

Commr. Campione asked if there were any areas that they could help with such as technical or personnel support for the Sheriff that would eliminate some duplication of services.

Mr. Gray stated that they would have to start looking at some of the duplication of services that they could combine, since that was where they would be seeing some of the savings.

Mr. Minkoff stated that they were exploring health insurance this year, but he did not think any of the constitutional officers have been willing to allow the County to take over any of their functions.

Commr. Cadwell related that they have always been sensitive to that in dealing with the constitutional officers, and although the Board would tell them they needed a certain percentage cut in their budget when it was needed, the constitutional officers would get offended if they suggest to them where to make those cuts.

Commr. Parks stated that he understood that and would not want to tell them what to do, but he thought they could extend the offer.

Commr. Cadwell stated that it would come down to political will to not fund certain constitutional officers the total amount they requested.

Mr. Gray stated that he wanted to come back before the Board at the end of April to show them the models that would give them a better picture and that he was working with the departments to look at different ways that they could be more efficient, even by combining departments.  He added that pursuant to the direction they got from the Board in December, they would be working under the assumption that there would be no fee or tax increases.  He informed the Board that the audit would be finished and they would do a mid-budget amendment in April, which would give them an even better picture of where they were at this point in the fiscal year.

Commr. Parks commented that he liked a higher conservative percentage than 15 percent reserve.

Mr. Minkoff reported that the County has an almost 30 percent reserve currently and statutorily was not allowed to have more than 30 percent.

Commr. Campione noted that they were told that they might find savings in the way that they run EMS.

Commr. Cadwell pointed out that the EMS money was not from the general fund.

Mr. Minkoff explained that it was a separate millage and budget that was levied county-wide at this point, which goes into a separate ambulance revenue fund.

Commr. Campione stated that they could make an adjustment to transfer any savings that could be found from EMS to the general fund by increasing one millage and decreasing the other.

Mr. Gray reported that Sumter County would be making their decision about whether to stay part of Lake-Sumter EMS on March 1, and he had a meeting set up with their County Manager next week to go over everything that Sumter County decides to do.  He thought that the Board could address it right after Sumter County makes their decision, which needed to be by April 1.

Mr. Minkoff added that if Lake County were to pull out of Lake-Sumter EMS, they would have to make that decision by April 1.

Commr. Campione asked whether it was possible to write specs for an RFP, get it out, and get answers back before April 1.

Commr. Parks commented that he would look at it from a comparison standpoint.

Mr. Gray stated that they could put together some specs.

Commr. Cadwell commented that he did not think it was good government to make that decision at a retreat, because a lot of citizens have a lot invested in that system, and the level of service of that activity has a lot to do with what the citizens think its value is.  He also explained that Sumter County pays the EMS service out of the general fund, since they do not have the ambulance tax, and he noted that Lake County only included Sumter County because they were in dire straits since they did not have an ambulance provider at the time.

Commr. Conner commented that there were a lot of fire stations now throughout the County, including in the rural areas, and he suggested doing an RFP and not lowering their level of service.

Commr. Cadwell pointed out that the cities were part of that also.

Commr. Parks related that constituents have come to him asking him to see if there was some savings they could find by looking at the ambulance service.

Commr. Conner opined that it would be difficult to make a decision by April, but he believed they needed to take a very critical look at that $6.4 million number, and he thought they needed to do an RFP to do that.  He stated that he believed they should make one of their goals in the next 90 days to communicate with the cities to let them know they want to do an RFP and at least examine that.  He opined that he did not understand the reluctance to scrutinize something, and that he believed they would have to do more of that.

Commr. Campione commented that she has looked at the budget, and she had a strong feeling that there were areas where they could save and still maintain that level of service.  She also stated that she did not think they should just accept on face value that that was the best they could do from a budgetary standpoint, and she opined that the process would result in the kind of scrutiny that she believed they needed to give this issue.

Commr. Hill opined that they should talk with Lake-Sumter EMS about the possibility of allowing them to solicit in a neighboring county, since there is an economy of scale which would make it a little more expensive because they were a smaller unit, which would become even smaller if they lose Sumter County.  She believed that they needed to at least go over the budget with EMS before deciding to do an RFP to see what ideas they had for cost savings in the future.

Commr. Conner asked Mr. Gray how long it would take him to get the RFP ready to put out.

Mr. Gray answered that they would have to get the specs and look at their policies to see how long they would have to allow for the bidding process, and he opined that it would be tough to do it by April 1.

Mr. Minkoff related that the RFP process for this was complex and specific and indicated that it usually took at least six months.

Commr. Conner stated that he thought they should have a goal in mind of getting an RFP out in the next 45 to 60 days and making it clear that they were not interested in decreasing the level of service.

Commr. Campione commented that she would not at all be in favor of decreasing the level of service either.

Mr. Minkoff indicated that the surrounding counties such as Marion and Orange have gone in a totally different direction of moving the ambulance company into their fire department, and they could explore that and have their fire department make a proposal at the same time.

Commr. Conner commented that he has heard from the experts that merging those models does not work very well, but he thought that there was an opportunity for the EMT’s to become paramedics and get higher pay, which would result in some cost savings.

Mr. Gray informed the Board that they would know by mid- to late March what Sumter County was doing as well, so they could put it on the Agenda then, and they could go ahead and get started and work in that direction.

Commr. Cadwell mentioned that the EMS Board would meet Monday, February 28, and would provide an update to them then.

Commr. Conner suggested that they add this issue to Tuesday’s agenda.

Commr. Campione summarized that the key is that they were looking at all of their options and for ways to save money, not reduce the level of service, and they were certainly sensitive to the fact that they do have a good operation at Lake-Sumter EMS, but she did not feel that they have any other choice.

Commr. Hill asked if there were any other goals that the Board wanted to bring up, and she noted that the findings of the Solid Waste Alternatives Task Force would be coming back to the Board in May.

recess and reassembly

The Chairman announced a 30-minute break at 11:30 a.m. for lunch.

goals and priorities

Mr. Gray informed the Board that he has been working with the department heads and managers to rebrand and reorganize County departments, looking at a more solution-oriented, customer service focus, which they talked about a little during the discussion of the Economic Plan, but they wanted to take that through the whole organization.  He related that he is setting up quarterly manager and department head meetings and will meet with employees about twice a year to get the whole organization involved in this process.  He mentioned that they are also looking at the long-term budget plan and five-year forecasting.  He stated that the Board talked about focusing on larger projects in the CDBG Program, including the Umatilla water utility mentioned by Commr. Cadwell, so they were putting together a program for the Board to look at.  He reported that he has already started meeting with the Parks and Recreation staff for the workshop that they were doing at the end of March, and he saw that they were in need of a long-term operation and maintenance plan for those park facilities.  He noted that some of the grant monies for parks the County has received have management plans with them, and they needed to make sure they were up-to-date with those plans, with the goal to open those lands up to the residents of the County.  He related that they have already been working on the county-wide fire services, and the next meeting is on March 15.  The cities are working on the inventory of their emergency services, and he and Mr. Minkoff have been meeting with a lot of the cities to talk about shared services and coverage areas.  He also reported that they have started putting the infrastructure in place for the Commission redistricting, and as soon as they get all of the census data, they would provide that information to the Board so that they could look at redrawing some of the lines based on the last census.  He explained that their goal was to get that done this year, since they were required to do that in 2011.  He related that they have a workshop scheduled in April to discuss roads and transportation, which would be tied into the five-year budget plan, and they really need to look at the future funding for roads and how they would maintain them.  He also stated that they were working on the implementation and finalizing of the Comp Plan, and he hoped they were close to getting that completed.

Commr. Hill added that she wanted to make sure by the end of the year that they have had some type of discussion regarding solid waste, and she opined that the task force working on that is an excellent group with members who were very technically oriented and focused.  She commented that staff has also done an excellent job directing their efforts as well as anticipating and providing them with all of the information they needed.

Commr. Conner stated that the sewer system in Umatilla should be their number one priority.

 Commr. Cadwell added that they were still talking to DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) about getting some help from them with that system.

Mr. Minkoff explained for those not familiar with the situation that it was a private water system that failed, and DEP was required to take it over under state law, but immediately then gave it to the County.

Commr. Conner commented that it was much more cost-effective for the city to provide central utilities there rather than utilizing a private water system.

Commr. Parks asked what department was handling that.

Mr. Minkoff answered that Public Works was currently handling that with the merger of their department with Solid Waste, but it was formerly handled by Environmental Services, and he explained that they had private contractors who maintain the system, so they just had to go out when there was a problem.

Commr. Cadwell noted that the agreement they were bringing forward with the City of Umatilla would have this included as part of it, and they need to go through an educational process with the users of that water system.

Mr. Minkoff reported that the City has approved the first reading of that agreement, so the Board should get that soon.

Mr. Gray asked the Board if there was anything else they wanted him to focus on.

Commr. Campione opined that as a result of feedback she has gotten from people who were trying to stay apprised of what they were doing and how they go through their decision-making process, she believed they needed to make open transparency and public involvement a priority, being always mindful of the public’s ability to get information and feel that they were being included in the process.

Commr. Parks stated that he agreed with that completely, and he believed that they needed to go the extra mile when it comes to public involvement, although he realized that previous boards have made great efforts to do that.  He suggested a group similar to a Grace Commission that former President Ronald Reagan started about 1980, which was a group of business people and various experts from across the country who came together, looked to see what government could do better and what inefficiencies government was possibly overlooking, and made constructive recommendations.  He suggested that the group could meet every month, with the kind of members they had on their solid waste committee, and work with staff.

Commr. Conner suggested that Commr. Parks’ idea would work better if they assigned the committee a specific task or directive, such as the duplication in fire and police.  He also opined that the County has had some cultural changes in a relatively short time, but not in the way they deliver services more cost effectively, and they needed to be cautious about who they appoint for those kinds of committees.

Commr. Parks thought that the task could be looking at how they do their efficiency and operational audits.

Commr. Hill noted that there were groups separate from the Board, such as the Florida Tax Watch group, that did recommendations regarding government.

Commr. Parks stated that he wanted to get people involved with how they did their audit programs.

Mr. Minkoff clarified that they did two kinds of audits, which were the financial audit that was required under state law by an outside auditing firm and performance-type audits which was done by an internal audit department maintained by the Clerk.

Mr. Gray added that he could give the Board a work plan that Mr. Jeremy Martin from Internal Audit has been working on, and they could reprioritize some of the areas that are mentioned on that.

Commr. Conner opined that those who want to communicate their thoughts to the Board would usually do it by e-mail rather than attending and speaking at the Board meetings.

Commr. Parks related that he and Mr. Gray went to the Minneola Council, where they were presented with an opportunity to work together with the City to take over the Minneola Athletic Complex, which would give them five ball fields plus two general fields and which they could use as a much-needed community park in south Lake with minimum investment.

Commr. Conner commented that a developer built those parks and that they were brand new and attractive.

Commr. Parks responded that they were new, but did need some work, and there was almost $300,000 that needed to be paid for the lights that were installed at the park, as well as some field upgrades.

Mr. Gray explained that this park would help to provide more needed field capacity space in south Lake, and none of the youth sports leagues in the Clermont area currently utilize that facility. He also added that it was a 25-acre park next to where the new Lake Minneola High School was located, and there was enough room for parking for large events, as well as overflow parking for the nearby schools.  He explained that the Clermont Little League never negotiated use of the field in the past because of the astronomical fees Minneola was asking them for use of the fields.

Commr. Parks stated that this arrangement would be a perfect example of governments working together, as well as result in savings for the County, and he noted that there was some adjacent land available to it.  He commented that these fields could be economic drivers, which would be part of their series of venues to take advantage of health and fitness activities and enable them to be able to hold tournaments.  He noted that they still needed some kind of regional park or facility, which he believed could possibly be fulfilled by NTC (National Training Center).

Commr. Hill suggested that he explore this, such as with maps and cost analysis, and he could present his information at the parks meeting at the end of March with the Board.

Commr. Conner stated that the Parks, Recreation and Trails Advisory Board was in the process of looking at 40 or 50 different parcels, and he wanted to ask them to add this to the list that they were looking at to go through the same analysis process.

Mr. Minkoff pointed out that the criteria were different, since this was a community park and not a regional park.

Commr. Parks stated that there was a possibility in the future of this becoming a regional park if the County were to purchase the nearby parcels in the future, since more acreage would be needed for a regional park.  However, there was an opportunity with the NTC for a public-private partnership that he believed they should look at to add four or five more ball fields, and he showed some concept plans for the field house.  He opined that it would also be a good economic driver.

Mr. Gray stated that he could present both concepts at the parks workshop, and he mentioned that he was getting some calls inquiring whether there has been a choice made yet between the eight properties that they have narrowed it down to so far.

Commr. Conner pointed out that there was already infrastructure there, and they needed to figure out what they were going to do with their capital TDC money before discussing any projects to make sure all projects are given a fair chance during that process within the next 60 days.

Commr. Campione asked whether their residents would have complete access, if the County would take care of the facilities, and if there would be any fees charged for use.

Commr. Conner responded that they would have to have contractual agreements with the hospital, NTC, or the owner of the property about the fee structures, maintenance, and other issues.

Mr. Gray commented that they would also have to balance the use out so that the local residents feel more included.

Mr. Gray asked whether they should present this to the Parks Advisory Board first.

Commr. Cadwell responded that he thought the Parks Advisory Board had planned to reschedule their meeting so that they could meet before the workshop.

south lake incubator

Commr. Parks emphasized that he wanted to make the South Lake incubator happen as quickly as possible, and he mentioned that although both Minneola and Clermont have expressed interest in it, the location of the site would depend on what the best site would be and which city was ready for it sooner.

Mr. Gray reported that they have been working with the Chamber Economic Development Group, UCF, and the Cities of Clermont, Groveland, and Minneola, as well as trying to get some private partners, to bring all resources to the table to try to make it happen.

Commr. Campione mentioned an idea to use the business tax receipt of $30 that the County collects which generates roughly about $400,000 a year for retaining their existing businesses and helping them succeed and expand, since they do not currently have a designated stream of revenue that goes to economic development.  She thought that since the business community pays these fees, they would go back into the efforts for the business community, such as for the business incubators or the Business Resource Center.

Mr. Gray stated that he would bring that back during the budget process.

contractor preference policies

Commr. Campione related that she gets a call from a gentleman almost every day who wants to know why they do not have a preference minority hiring policy for their capital projects, and she asked what the Board thought about that.

Commr. Hill recommended that she talk to the City of Orlando, who did that for the venues they were building, regarding what the shortcomings as well as positive things were about doing that.

Mr. Minkoff explained that the current policy of the County encourages them to try to get minority business enterprises involved, but they do not go so far as to delineate a certain percentage of jobs for that.

Commr. Campione commented that she personally felt that they should give a preference to local contractors and subcontractors on all of their capital projects, although she knows that there is a downside for the larger companies that might get penalized in other counties.

Commr. Hill remarked that was a different issue than minority preference.

Commr. Campione responded that she did not think that minority preference was really a good idea, but she believed that a preference for local business was.

Commr. Conner commented that although he has always been in favor of doing business with local companies, they had to be careful how they implemented it, that they had integrity in the process, and that they not inflate their GMP (greatest maximum price) by paying more to the local subcontractors.  He suggested that they keep in mind a hard number or a percentage.

Commr. Cadwell related that some vendors have asked the Board not to have that kind of preference policy, because those businesses would get penalized in other counties.

Mr. Minkoff added that Orange County has a reverse-preference policy which stated that it applies a preference policy against bidders who come from a county with a preference.

Commr. Hill related that Orange County also tried instituting a minority preference policy, but found that they did not have the workforce to fulfill that percentage, so they had to train a certain workforce in order to meet that percentage, which added to the cost and held up the projects.

Commr. Campione opined that a local majority business owner would also benefit from a policy that used local contractors, and there was a perception that they were not doing that.  She mentioned that she has seen policies that have 3 to 6 percent fluctuation that would be disregarded for local vendors, but that could be a lot of money depending on the size of the project.

Commr. Conner suggested that they could use a sliding scale percentage, depending on the size or cost of the project, and he opined that the County was doing a lot more consulting business with people in Lake County who were qualified to do it now since Mr. Minkoff has been County Manager.

Commr. Parks asked to get a comparison figure to show how much percentage they were doing more with local contractors since the changes were made.

mount dora-sorrento wekiva trail

Commr. Campione stated that one of her priorities was the Mount Dora-Sorrento Wekiva Trail, and she reported that they had discussed at their last East Lake Task Force MPO Meeting about the possibility of bumping the PD&E study up so that they could get that planning in the process with FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation) while they were still working on the design of SR 46 improvements and how important it is right now because of this window of opportunity to do that sooner rather than waiting.

Commr. Parks stated that there was some consternation at the last South Lake Task Force meeting about whether that would be taking funding away from the South Lake Trail.

Commr. Cadwell stated that this would be a one time opportunity to do it right when they do the Wekiva Expressway.

Commr. Campione brought up that they now had an opportunity to complete the loop around Lake Apopka which ties into the Green Mountain Scenic Byway and which would be beneficial for South Lake, which she felt was a good tradeoff.

Mr. Minkoff stated in response to a question from Commr. Hill that FDOT will do the design for the trail, but would not build it.

Commr. Hill pointed out that if they do not have the study done by the time they do the design, they would lose out on that funding.

park project for pine lakes area

 Commr. Campione related that she met with residents about the park issue in the Pine Lakes area, who indicated that they just wanted very low-maintenance multi-purpose fields with no lights.  They would have to reconfigure the location because of where the transfer station was located or possibly look at property that was slated for a middle school around Seminole Springs, although the residents did not want to travel that far.  She opined that they took very good care of that park and had so little as a community.

Commr. Cadwell pointed out that they had some scrub jay issues they had to mitigate.

Commr. Campione responded that some of the original land that was cleared is starting to grow back, and they would need to do something soon to avoid dealing with habitat issues.

social services programs

Commr. Campione opined, regarding the Grace Commission, that one of the specific objectives if they go that route might be to explore having a group that would look at their social programs from the standpoint of their mission, purpose, and endgame, so that the people that are working for them on those things understand philosophically that they were looking at the social programs as a safety net rather than a perpetual program, and she opined that some might be skeptical until they see what the need is and also might identify public-private opportunities that the Board was not seeing.

Mr. Gray pointed out that the presentation by Community Services related that the general fund portion of the Health and Human Services budget was about $6 to $8 million.

Commr. Hill noted that the legislature was looking at cutting a lot of that funding and scrutinizing it for any duplication of some of those services and agencies.

Commr. Campione opined that they might get some great recommendations from a committee about how they could meet some of those needs by reaching out to the community or some faith-based organizations, and she thought it was worth looking at.  She also asked what the full scope of service the Health Department provides, where they fit into it, and whether they were getting the most for the funding they were providing to them, since she has heard from someone who was concerned about the Health Department not having services available in South Lake County.

Mr. Minkoff related that the Health Department was operating a clinic in Clermont, but he was not sure what services they provided.  He opined that the reason there were less services historically in South Lake was because they had the federal health clinics for the agricultural workers which performed a lot of the same service that the Umatilla clinic did, and he related that he thought the federal clinics were still located in the Groveland-Mascotte area.

upcoming fire services meeting

Mr. Gray stated that he thought for the upcoming fire service meeting they would have the Chairman doing some opening remarks and a recap of the last meeting, give an update on the survey results from the departments, talk about some current collaborations they were doing already with other cities throughout the county, and talk about an outside resource or consultant to help them with this.

Commr. Campione added that Dr. Mojock talked to UCF, who seemed very excited about helping out, and was viewed as objective and academic as opposed to hiring a consultant.

Mr. Gray stated that while that was going on, they could continue to work with the cities on services.

Commr. Campione mentioned that there was an article in the newspaper about emergency response services for Tavares, Eustis, and Mount Dora.

Mr. Minkoff explained that he, Mr. Gray, and Mr. John Jolliff, Public Safety Director, met with the managers from Mount Dora and Eustis, who he believed were agreeable to working out a plan for automatic response for the Mount Dora/Eustis area, and they were going to see whether Tavares would participate.  He noted that it might include the County moving their fire staff out of the 44B station to Dona Vista, with Eustis staffing the 44B station.  He opined that that process was going very well, and the whole area would be covered by automatic response if Tavares is agreeable to it.

Commr. Campione commented that she thought it was a great idea, and she hoped that other cities would look at those types of agreements to possibly see if that would work for them as well.

Mr. Gray responded that they were setting up meetings with Clermont and Leesburg and have already starting meeting with Groveland and Mascotte to discuss doing that around the County.

Commr. Hill suggested that they talk to Fruitland Park, especially since it did not currently have a police chief or a fire chief.

Mr. Minkoff explained that Fruitland Park had a volunteer system and had been very antagonistic towards the County regarding that subject, and he noted that even though the County’s station was right across the street from the City, they would not call them.

Mr. Gray stated that he could talk to the mayor of Fruitland Park to discuss that possibility.


There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 1:45 p.m.



jennifer hill, chairman