april 12, 2011

The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special workshop session on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 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:  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.

Agenda update

Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, reminded the Board that they would have a short union negotiation closed session at the end of the meeting in the conference room.

Mr. Darren Gray, County Manager, stated that they had one addendum to the agenda which they would do after the workshop presentations.

presentation by public works

road history and transportation funding

Mr. Jim Stivender, Public Works Director, informed the Board that in the past three years since the Transportation Task Force completed their report in 2008, they have been working on several scenarios associated with their funding, future funding, and exactly what they would do over the next 30 years, and this presentation would summarize those findings.  He noted that the first part of the presentation would show the first 100 years of roads in Lake County, and pointed out that there was a lot of activity in downtown Clermont in 1911, illustrating the intersection of Montrose Street and 7th Avenue at that time.  He illustrated early rural roads which were made with straw to stabilize the sand, which he pointed out was done on many major roads around 1912, before paved roads were in use by 1917.  He showed a photograph of the intersection of Main Street and US 27 in Leesburg in 1951 just a few years before they four-laned it, and another photograph taken in 1971 north to the Citrus Tower from Clermont when it was only a two-lane road and still had a lot of citrus groves in the area.  He then showed a picture of the intersection of US 27 and 441 in 1961, which he noted was currently under construction and has been under construction five different times in the last 50 years, when it was a four way stop and before it was signalized.  He next pointed out that a lot of things had already changed in downtown Tavares by 1993 with a lot of construction occurring, showing a picture which illustrated the Lake Region Property being cleared out.  He explained that he would focus his presentation on what occurred in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s in Lake County when some of the revenues and issues experienced real change, mentioning that the County did not have subdivision regulations as they currently have until 1976, and the principal driving force was citrus at that time with 120,000 acres.  He reported that between 1978 and 1983, the State transferred almost 300 miles of roads to the County such as 561 and 455; however, they did transfer the 5th and 6th cents of gas tax to local counties to maintain those roads, but it was still a major challenge to take on.   Another maintenance challenge he discussed was that they had 360 miles of clay roads at that time, although a lot of the maintenance was done by the citrus industry.  He related that things changed in 1983, when citrus groves started greatly disappearing because of freezes, and the value of the remaining groves dropped, which affected the taxes collected which went into the general fund, resulting in the County seeing rezoning cases skyrocket to 40 or 50 per month as people started utilizing their property for things other than citrus.  He reported that impact fees of under $300 per home regardless of size were implemented in 1985, and from 1984 to 1986 they received 6 cents of gas tax.  He also mentioned that the prices were favorable for their construction material at that time.

Mr. Stivender stated that they currently had less than 160 miles of clay roads and that they went 17 years without a new revenue source until sales tax came along in 2003, with impact fees picking up the difference for the capacity and road repair issues.  He mentioned that the Comp Plan was adopted in 1991, and general fund money was used sparingly from 2005 to 2007 for road work.  He explained that the gas tax was principally used for road maintenance rather than major capital improvements.  He stated that the County was broken into three regional districts, which were north, central, and south and showed a current map of the Commissioners Districts as well as Road Maintenance Districts.

Mr. Stivender related that they were trying to forecast what would happen in 2014 and beyond 30 years in the future, and he commented that the County is currently going through painful fallout from a high boon, but slower growth would be more sustainable.  He opined that since most of the County’s funding sources have been sustainable, except for impact fees, they have been able to maintain what they were responsible for over the last 30 years.  He explained that they went through several years where the MSTU (Municipal Service Taxing Unit) portion was used successfully for road maintenance, which was helpful regarding microsurfacing and other programs to extend the life of roads at a lesser cost than an inch of asphalt, and he reported that they would spend the money that was left in that account by the end of this year.  He further explained that it was only collected in the unincorporated areas of the county, and he believed that in the future it would only be utilized in the rural areas and to manage non-County maintained roads.  He explained that the County Gas Tax of one cent has been in effect since 1941; and the Constitutional Gas Tax consisted of the fifth and sixth cents he previously mentioned, which came to them starting when the secondary road system in the 70’s and early 80’s was transferred to the local cities.  He also mentioned that the Ninth-Cent Local Option Gas Tax was created in 1972 by the Florida Legislature and passed in Lake County in 1982, which they share equally with the cities.  He discussed the local option fuel taxes, noting when they were adopted and when they would expire, and he pointed out that these six pennies were currently 60 percent of their maintenance fund.  He specified that there were 1,390 miles of County-maintained roads and 297,000 residents in the County.  He commented that 51 percent of the 108 miles of local roads fall within the jurisdiction of the cities, and they want to explore the options of the formula to better share the six cents and to create better collaboration between the cities and the County regarding responsibility and maintenance of roads.  He illustrated on a chart that 66 percent of the local option gas tax currently goes to the County with the rest going to the cities, and he suggested that more money be reallocated to the cities based on population and the road miles they maintain, since the formula was now based on 1979 numbers, which would give them the ability to improve some of the cities’ programs. He reported that since 2003 they have split the sales tax three ways, with one-half of what the County receives going to transportation, with half of that money used for resurfacing of roads.  He reminded the Board that 2017 is not that far away before the sunset of this tax, and its renewal would need to be voted on by the public sometime during 2016, so he recommended that the Board find out the public’s priorities in 2015 for the focus of future projects.  He distributed a handout with charts showing the progress of roads and the rating system, and he commented that the ARRA along with their resurfacing program has resulted in a large decrease in the last few years of their worst roads in need of resurfacing or what he called “the 90 miles of ugly roads”.  However, he cautioned that they still had to keep up with that in the future.

Mr. Stivender noted that the six impact fee districts as they were prior to 2010 which were color coded on the overhead map were based on 1984 information, even though the County has changed dramatically.  He opined that regionalism with the cities and the County all working together within a total of three districts is probably a better fit, with all of the cities in South Lake working with the County along the  Highway 50 corridor east and west regionally to form District A.  He mentioned that District B would contain the Leesburg, Fruitland Park, and Lady Lake corridor; and the Golden Triangle and east Lake County area would form District C.  He referred to a chart which showed road impact fee revenue over the years, which was used to offset the costs associated with expanding the road system due to population growth.  He reported that in the 1980’s through the mid-90’s, $2 to $4 million per year was needed to build the infrastructure and widen roads throughout the County, with the population at that time at 100,000 to 150,000, and as costs and other demands rose due to substantial growth, that amount increased to $4 to $6 million.  He pointed out that even though the demand, population, and traffic counts have not changed in the last few years, the County still needed to enhance their system, regardless of the funding source, and he believed that they should plan for a $6 to $8 million capital improvement program to ensure a sustainable system.  He mentioned that the five cent local option fuel tax has been available to the County since 1993, and it can easily help to build up the infrastructure needs over time by generating over $4 million a year.  He suggested that it could be a caveat to work with impact fees as a credit, and he showed an impact fee scenario on an overhead which illustrated how the impact fee could be reduced or discounted with the adoption of the local option fuel tax, making it more palatable.  He opined that there was a demand for some type of infrastructure improvements for economic growth and sustainability, and he noted that one of the challenges he has faced without impact fees was that he has lost the developers as partners for building of roads in exchange for impact fee credits.  He summarized the funding sources he discussed and his recommendations regarding those, and he asked for direction from the Board on the approach they should be taking in the future before they work out the arrangements with the 14 municipalities over 2012 so that they could have everything in place in 2013 to get those pennies addressed by 2014.

Commr. Hill asked how they would plan for 2013 as a Board and present it to the community, and whether they would present the plan to the cities through the MPO.

Mr. Stivender responded that he has given the Board all of the transportation funding options at one time, which all fit together, and he believed that renewal of the six cents local option gas tax and working out the arrangement with the cities should be the center of attention right now, with everything else being addressed associated with that funding source.  He specified in response to a question from Commr. Cadwell that the gas and sales tax funds have to be renewed in the year that they run out, with the sales tax as a referendum and the gas taxes as a four-fifths vote of the Board.  He recommended sending the packet of information he just presented to all of the city managers and then revisit this issue in a couple of months.

Mr. Gray opined that the six cents were crucial for keeping up the existing funding for the maintenance of their roads, and he recommended speaking to the city managers when they meet on a monthly basis, as well as through the MPO and on an individual basis so that they could adjust the formula for the population changes within a six-month to one year time frame, so that is all worked out with all of the cities before the renewal of the pennies comes up.

Mr. Parks opined that the larger issue would be the additional five cents and the portfolio of options for paying for the County’s future transportation needs, especially in the south part of the county, and he related that he wrote up a proposal that he would like to present at some point. He stated that although currently the purview of the existing impact fee committee is to review existing expenditures, he would like them to become an advisory board to review the 2008 Alternative Funding Report and to use any other professionally accepted methods to make recommendations on the weighty issues that were coming up regarding how to meet their transportation needs, including the questions regarding the additional five cent fuel tax, special districts for transportation, transportation impact fees, designating certain portions of their general fund for transportation, and changing the MSTU.

Mr. Stivender stated that he believed they could meet with the cities, work up some arrangements, and get back to the Board by October; and then they could come back sometime next spring for the overall report.

Commr. Hill commented that having other revenue sources would change the impact fee formula.

Commr. Cadwell gave direction for Mr. Stivender’s staff to move forward with the redistricting of the benefit districts, working on the redistribution formula, and renewal of the current six cents.  He commented that they should not minimize the work that the previous Alternative Funding Task Force had done.

Commr. Campione opined that the County has created a dependency on impact fees and new growth, which would put them in a position if they do not have enough growth of not being able to take care of their capital needs and enhancements such as changes to intersections, turn lanes, and signalization which are present whether they have new growth or not.  She commented that they should have a good distribution of funding sources.

Commr. Hill commented that they also need to look at what the legislature would be doing in regard to transportation funding that might change the scenario they were looking at.

Mr. Stivender added that he was also watching to see what the federal as well as state government would do in the future that would affect how they collect transportation funds, although he believed that it would take several years for the federal government to enact any changes.

Commr. Campione suggested that they incorporate the ISBA process for negotiations with the cities.

Commr. Parks made a motion, which was seconded by Commr. Cadwell to revise the purview of the Impact Fee Committee to include providing a recommendation to the BCC within one year of the effective date for funding of transportation needs and future needs of school infrastructure associated with the growing population, and the advisory board shall examine all professionally-recognized methods for transportation, including but not limited to the 2008 alternative funding for transportation report and the school impact fee report as provided in the summer of 2011.

On a motion by Commr. Parks, seconded by Commr. Conner and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board moved to amend the motion on the floor, after some discussion, to the following:

On a motion by Commr. Parks, seconded by Commr. Cadwell and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board moved to revise the purview of the Impact Fee Committee to include providing a recommendation to the BCC within six months of the effective date for funding of transportation needs and future needs of school infrastructure associated with the growing population, and the advisory board shall examine all professionally-recognized methods and data for transportation, including but not limited to the 2008 alternative funding for transportation report and the school impact fee report as provided in the summer of 2011.

Commr. Cadwell asked Mr. Minkoff whether they could direct the impact fee committee to do that without having to change the ordinance.

Mr. Minkoff answered that they would have to adjust the ordinance, but they could do that pretty quickly, and the committee could be working on it in the meantime per the Board’s direction until they get that done, which should be by the first of the month.

recess and reassembly

The Chairman announced at 9:55 a.m. that there would be a five-minute recess.

After the recess, Commr. Cadwell directed Mr. Gray to set up a meeting with their legislators for the Board to request local support to allow the County to index the gas tax, which the state has been allowed to do for their portion.

presentation by parks and trails division of public resources

Ms. Wendy Breeden, Public Resources Director, noted that the 2010 census figures that have just been released indicated that Lake County has grown by 41 percent or 86,000 people for a total population of 297,000 citizens who could make use of the County’s ball fields, pavilions, playgrounds, trails, and other unique natural resources.  She related that she would be introducing potential projects for the Board’s consideration and discussion.  She read the mission statement of the Parks and Trails Division, which was to provide a clean, safe and attractive parks and trails system for the health and enjoyment of the County’s residents and visitors, while preserving and protecting their natural resources, commenting that the staff worked hard to make it a reality and emphasizing the goals of clean, safe and attractive facilities.  She specified that the division currently has 22 staff members, divided among administration, public lands, passive parks, and active parks with staff based out of three locations, and she illustrated on the overhead the organizational chart.

Ms. Pamela Kirchner, Financial Coordinator for Public Resources, related that she would be going over the revenues and expenditures as adopted in their 2011 budget as net amounts which include interest and fund balance less any applicable transfers to the Property Appraiser, Tax Collector, and administration that was budgeted.  She explained that there were ten revenue sources for the division, four applied to the Public Lands Program and six applied to the Parks and Trails Program, which include the general fund, the MSTU, bond funds, impact fees, infrastructure sales tax, and federal grant funds; and she presented a chart which showed the various amounts in the revenue categories for the division as a whole, noting that the largest sources of revenue were the MSTU and general obligation bond funds.  She reported that there were seven types of expenditures, which included personal services; operating; reserves; and capital for equipment, land, and improvements.  She presented a chart illustrating that as well, which showed that the two largest types of expenditures were capital improvements for properties and operating costs.  She then noted that they have two primary sources and two secondary sources of funding for the Public Lands Program, the largest primary funding source being the general obligation bonds which were the result of a bond referendum that was passed in 2004 allowing a limited ad valorem tax not to exceed one-third of a mil to be levied beginning in 2007 through 2026 for $34.7 million in bond proceeds.  She noted that those bonds could be used to acquire and improve lands within the County to preserve natural areas, protect open space from overdevelopment, provide parks and trails, and improve water quality.  She stated that the second primary source of funding is the general fund, which is used for personnel, operating, and restoration activities, and she noted that some monies from last fiscal year have been carried over to the current year.  She also explained that the two secondary sources of funding were from grants and income-generated revenues such as lease payments for a cell tower and house and citrus proceeds.  She then presented a chart of expenditures of the public lands program, which showed that by far the largest expense currently lies in capital for land acquisitions and improvements on the property, both of which come entirely from the bond proceeds, and the other expense types of personal services, operating, and restoration are funded primarily by the general fund.

Mr. David Hansen, Public Lands Program Manager, mentioned that even before the passage of the public lands referendum, the Board appointed members to the Public Land Acquisition Advisory Council (PLAAC) which established three main focus areas by which to evaluate properties for potential acquisition, which were water resources, environmentally sensitive lands, and to provide recreation lands, as well as participated in the development of a GIS-based evaluation model known as a green print.  He presented a chart that specified the ten properties that were selected as the most fulfilling of the established focus areas, which range in size from 8 ˝ acres to over 800 acres totaling over 2,040 acres, and he showed some photographs taken of some of the properties.  He reported that management or restoration activities are taking place on every property from pulling out an occasional invasive plant to full-scale restoration projects.   He pointed out that they also have some capital projects underway in addition to the restoration projects, such as master site plans which are being developed for Lake May Reserve, Ellis Acres Reserve, and the Pasture for improvements on the properties such as rest rooms, picnic areas, and trails to enhance the passive recreation experience.  They also have been developing an ordinance outlining acceptable and unacceptable activities for visitors to the public lands properties to allow for a rewarding experience for visitors while remaining cognizant of the fragility of the natural resources on the properties, which was pending public hearing and Board approval.  He mentioned that they were aided by 11 volunteers dividing their efforts among four properties, which were the Lake May Reserve, The Pasture, Neighborhood Lakes, and Mount Plymouth Lakes for things such as litter pickup and adding to the species list.

Commr. Hill asked what the difference was between restoration and capital improvements.

Mr. Hansen responded that it would depend on whether it were plants or buildings, further explaining that depreciable assets could go under the bonds, but plantings have to come out of the general fund.

Commr. Hill commented that the voters were anticipating being able to utilize the properties.

Mr. Minkoff added that it was also a timing issue as well, since it would have all probably qualified if they reclaimed an entire site immediately after buying the property, but a lot of restoration efforts would be considered maintenance and not capital-type improvements.  He also commented that it was a conservative determination, since they were subject to the rules regarding bonds.

Ms. Breeden stated that one of their challenges has been to keep the general fund portion of their funding stable.  She related that steps have already been taken towards their goal of opening several targeted properties which were Lake May, The Pasture, and Ellis Acres, and after infrastructure is put into place using referendum funds once the site plans are complete, the next step would be to add park ranger staff who could provide presence at the property, take over most of the restoration projects, and provide educational events.  She assured the Board that this could be accomplished without increasing the budget by reducing the contractual cost for restoration by having staff take over a lot of that activity.

Commr. Cadwell mentioned that he had received a letter from a bird watching group from Sarasota, who was so overwhelmed by their visit that they will promote Lake County on their website.  He commented that he constantly receives calls about getting those lands open, and he hoped today to give direction to move forward toward making that happen, since the public has an expectation of being able to use those properties.

Ms. Breeden stated that the Parks and Trails staff is fairly maxed out, and they would have to take care of maintenance and staffing issues in order to move forward with some of the opportunities.

Commr. Hill asked if she was looking to reduce the restoration funding and adding extra staff.

Mr. Gray opined that the least expensive thing to do was to put capital improvements on properties, and the most expensive thing was to operate and maintain those sites over their lifespan.  He reported that they are putting together a five-year plan on how they are going to fund this division from here and forward.  He emphasized that there was a cost to open a park, and he would provide the Board with all of that information in the next couple of months so that they could look at what priorities the Board would like to move forward with.

Commr. Campione expressed concern about being able to take care of all of the public land, and she commented that they needed to look at this issue seriously from a sustainability standpoint and at how realistic it would be to do this for the next five to ten years.  She suggested that they re-evaluate whether this was the public land they want to hold on to indefinitely and whether they could readjust some of their funds to take on more of the capital-type improvements associated with the land that can be used by the public.

Commr. Conner asked where the money was coming from to open these properties.

Ms. Breeden responded that they were recommending under the current budget to replace some of the extensive funding that they have spent contracting out restoration projects such as burns and removal of trees with funding for additional staff.

Commr. Conner expressed concern that they could hardly afford to keep the parks open that they have right now, and he thought they needed to be very cautious about letting good intentions get out of hand financially.

Commr. Campione pointed out that they were saying that they would shift money that was currently being used for restoration over to staffing, so they would not be spending more.

Mr. Gray assured the Board that they would be taking a good look at what this would cost them, so they could make some good decisions on whether and how they want to fund this in the future, and he noted that that would be part of the May workshop.

Commr. Campione commented that some of these properties do not have any development pressure because they were in extremely rural areas and have been used in the past for some less-intense farming activity such as cattle.  She noted that other jurisdictions were looking at the possibility of putting those back on the private market with restrictions on them for conservation purposes, and she asked whether they could do that under the referendum as long as the funds resulting from the sales would be put back in the fund for either land purchase or capital needs.

Mr. Minkoff responded that he believed that what she was suggesting would be acceptable, but he would need to verify that.

Commr. Cadwell had doubts about there being a market for large parcels of property that could not be developed, and he commented that one of the pieces was important as part of the major wildlife corridor from the Wekiva to the Ocala National Forest.  He pointed out that the committee spent a lot of time and thought deciding on which properties the County should buy, although he thought there may be some opportunity to do that.  He suggested that they have staff analyze those for any revenue opportunities on those properties.

Commr. Parks mentioned that there is an income source from the gopher tortoise relocation of about $800 a tortoise.

Commr. Campione commented that she totally agreed with the mission of the conservation and preservation of land, especially land that has development pressure or is vital to a certain amount of recreational use for the good of the public, but she believed this was a good time to step back and look at all of this from the standpoint of how much it will cost and whether it was sustainable, as well as looking at some revenue sources associated with public land, the possibility of some of it being returned to private ownership with conservation easements in place, and things of that nature in light of the budget restraints that were out there.

Ms. Breeden explained that there was something in the ordinance that stated a certain percentage of the bonds should be taken out of general fund to operate it, and they were not meeting that percentage. She stated that when they review these properties, they would also decide which ones were going to be important pieces of their eco-tourism program that they were trying to build.

Ms. Kirchner reported that there were six funding sources for the Parks and Trails program, the primary source being the MSTU that is shared with stormwater, which is currently at 0.4984 mil, and another funding source is the infrastructure sales tax funds used for capital projects, which has brought in $350,000 annually over the last two years which is funding improvements at five park locations, which were East Lake, PEAR Park, Astor, Lake Idamere, and North Lake Community Park.  In addition, they had $1 million encumbered in committed projects last year which was carried to the current budget year, including improvements at East Lake Community Park, Lake Idamere, Sorrento Park, and Woodlea Sports Complex.  She explained that the impact fee funds they receive are divided into three districts of north, central, and south. She specified north district funding of $9,000 is being used for improvements to East Lake Community Park; central district improvements are budgeted at $11,000 for PEAR Park; and south district projects are budgeted at $660,000 for South Lake Community Park, Ferndale Preserve, and the South Lake Trail, noting that there were committed projects that carry forward from last fiscal year within those budgets.  She reported that they also have two restricted funds for boating improvements and fish conservation totaling $419,000 that are generated from boating and fishing license surcharges, including projects carried forward from last year.  She explained that $66,000 is generated from recreation fees from pavilion rentals, advertising fees from field banners and kiosk fliers, and revenue from the concession stand agreement at the North Lake Community Park.  She then described the six expenditure types for the Parks and Trails Program, including personal services, operating, restoration, and equipment, which were all covered entirely by the MSTU; as well as capital improvements at various parks and boat ramps which made up $2.6 million or 41 percent of the total expenditure budget.

Mr. Bobby Bonilla, Parks and Trails Director, related that their division originally had 22 properties, with East Lake Community Park, Ferndale Reserve, North Lake Community Park, and a section of PEAR Park added at a later date, for a total of 916 acres, and they also currently maintain 15 boat ramps, eight paved trails, nine unpaved trails, eight blueways trails, and seven cemeteries.  He pointed out that the parks operate seven days a week from sunrise to sunset, and he displayed a list of all of the parks and other entities on the monitor that he discussed.  He reported that they currently have 15 capital projects in the works either in design, construction, or bidding phases, some of which offset some FTC requirements, and he mentioned that they were applying for grants for some of the projects.  He commented that they were still in the process of catching up and still had a lot of work to do, and he specified that they had ten maintenance staff for maintenance of over 3,000 acres of property, which is four times the national average per maintenance employee, but they were committed to maintaining the highest level of service, and he would be bringing forward various options and recommendations.

Mr. Tom Eicher, Manager of Parks and Trails, emphasized that providing a clean, safe, and attractive environment was in their mission statement, encourages people to use the parks, and gives the staff direction on how to deal with some of the situations that they find in the parks.  He related that in 2006 they were only a five-day operation with no presence in any of the parks on weekends, with 75 percent of their acreage passive or undeveloped, and only two of the 12 playgrounds and parks had flushing toilets.  He added that at that time, they also had a minimal number of picnic tables, trash receptacles, and pavilions, but today they have many more amenities that have been put in since then, which have attracted many more residents to the park facilities than in the past.  He mentioned that they have also had an unwanted element in the past, but adding weekend park ranger presence to the parks has eliminated a lot of their problems as well as given them a lot of opportunities.  He stated that the rangers patrol, inspect, lead events, take part in EOC activities when needed, and are involved in habitat restoration in parks; and he mentioned that some of their maintenance staff is cross-training to learn some of the native flora and fauna and to do herbiciding.  He pointed out a slide showing where they were doing restoration work, which is directed or actually done by the rangers based on the management plans.  He presented a chart showing the number of nature-based events annually since 2007, noting that the FCT (Florida Communities Trust) grant requires that they perform 24 educational events per year in each PEAR and Ferndale Preserve.  He mentioned that they have recently entered into an agreement with the Water Authority sharing canoes, kayaks, trailers, and personnel for events.  He showed a slide which specified the amount received from the FCT as well as the Board for Ferndale Preserve and PEAR Park purchases, and he noted that the FCT grant comes with conditions, such as filling out an annual report for both properties which addresses restoration according to the management plan and timing of their schedule for the capital projects addressed in the grant, as well as do the restoration of the property and improvements such as trails, pavilions, boardwalks, observation towers, fishing piers, parking, and restrooms.  He reported that they have completed all of the small projects over the last four years, but since they did not have the dedicated funding to address the FCT, they have had to take the money out of their maintenance budget, and they estimate that they would need $4.5 to $5 million over the next ten years to fully address the requirements of the two FCT grants, which they did not have in their maintenance budget.  He concluded that the Parks and Recreation Master Plan and the Trails Master Plan both look for connectivity of people to destinations as the ultimate goal, as well as connecting parks, natural areas, cultural resources, neighborhoods, and town centers.  He commented that the events that the rangers put together actually help them make connections to nature and the public, the past with the present, and hopefully the present with the future.

Ms. Breeden commented that most of their challenges were ultimately tied to the capital and operating funding and that staffing and maintenance dollars are scarce in every fund throughout the County.  She stated that one of their biggest challenges was that there were too many opportunities, and they would talk about some of the possible future opportunities at the end of the presentation.  She noted that there were limited capital funds to meet FCT requirements and to complete their projects; however, staff does an excellent job of establishing priorities and trying to allocate resources to benefit all parts of the County.  She opined that the ratio of maintenance staff per acre is just too high, and the strain on current staff without relief will eventually lead to a reduced level of service resulting in facilities that were less clean, safe, and attractive and possibly less accessible.  She specified that there were immediate needs for staffing and operating funds at the East Lake Community Park, which is scheduled to have fields open this fall, and there was a request to reorganize and classify some existing staff to improve efficiencies.  She pointed out that any new parks that are opened in the future would need to be staffed and maintained.  One of the opportunities she mentioned was that an increase in the amount of infrastructure sales tax funds of $150,000 per year over the next few years could help meet the FCT project requirements.  She also suggested that they apply for a small portion of CDBG funds to assist with eligible projects such as East Lake Community Park and Pine Forest Park, and they would like to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of Parks Management by reorganizing and increasing staff in order to support their mission and to improve the acreage ratio.  She mentioned that there were opportunities to build additional ball fields in targeted areas to attract outside sporting events and help meet community needs, and they wanted to work with Information Outreach to add to the array of promotional and website information to better support eco-tourism.

Mr. Bonilla stated that most of their inventory consisted of passive parks, and the Parks Master Plan adjusts the balance.  He identified the five regional planning areas that were identified in the Parks Master Plan, which were Northwest, South Central, Southeast, Central, and Northeast Lake County, as well as the six community parks and two regional parks which were recommended for the County, and he reported that the Parks, Recreation and Trails Advisory Board made a final recommendation to complete and fulfill the requirements of the master plan at their January 11, 2010 meeting.  He also reported that the design is completed and documents forthcoming for the existing community parks of North Lake and East Lake, and the development of South Lake Community Park and the South Lake Regional Park would still need to be determined.  He commented that completing the Parks Master Plan was a first step, but they would need the funding and the resources to develop those parks and realize those goals, and he explained that the Parks Master Plan, which was adopted in 2005, was intended to be a ten-year plan.  He commented on the great progress they have made since he has been with the County, and he showed a graph which illustrated the increase in the amount of scheduled games in North Lake Community Park from 2009 to 2011, which he pointed out benefits local businesses.  He also conveyed a recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board to keep the fees the same as they currently are to allow the teams to organize and the concession to make ends meet.

Pine Forest Park Project

Ms. Breeden related that Parks and Public Works staff members have worked with Commr. Campione to develop a plan to add two ball fields to Pine Forest Park in Pine Lakes, with a site plan to have the least impact to the ecosystem in that area, which would impact the budgets from both of those departments in order to reconfigure the drop-off station.  She explained that if the Board wanted them to move forward with this project, the next step would be to meet with the community to gain its approval, and with further direction, the master site planning for the ball fields could begin this fiscal year using projected savings from other capital projects.  She noted that this proposal was approved by the Parks and Trails Advisory Board.

Commr. Campione stated that this was a compromise to give that area more ball fields without impacting habitat and vegetation.  She commented that this park was used a lot, and the community wanted a little more in the way of active recreation opportunities.  She also pointed out that there were no plans to put in lights there, and she believed they were addressing the needs in that area in a cost-effective way.

Commr. Conner indicated that he would support moving forward, but he expressed concern about whether the number of users would be worth the amount that they would be investing.

Commr. Campione opined that this was a significant compromise for the residents compared to what was originally planned out there, since this was slated to have a much larger operation on it.

Mr. Bonilla explained that in 2000, even before the development of the Parks Master Plan, these ball fields were part of that inventory, but it never had been built.  He noted that currently there was some funding available out of some CDBG funds from the savings from the Sorrento Park project.

Mr. Gray informed the Board that he will bring the funding options for the Pine Forest Park project back to the Board.

On a motion by Commr. Campione, seconded by Commr. Cadwell, and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved moving forward with the community presentation of the Pine Forest Park project and to have staff get back to the Board with the cost of the project.

North Shore Overlook and Trailhead Project

Ms. Breeden announced that the next project for consideration was the North Shore Overlook and Trailhead on Lake Apopka, and she explained that the St. Johns River Water Management District has identified an alignment for an 18-mile bicycle and pedestrian trail spanning 20,000 acres north of the shore restoration area of Lake Apopka, pointing out the location on the overhead map.  She continued to explain that the trail would use existing crushed lime rock roads on the tops of dykes and would be maintained by the water district, and the trail was poised to draw a large number of birders from across the nation, as well as provide an important link in a 47-mile new trail around Lake Apopka.  She mentioned that the trailhead would be just off of CR 455, providing access to the west side of the proposed trail, and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) provided a grant to the Green Mountain Scenic Byway to develop conceptual plans for the trailhead and overlook.  She related that after discussions with the water district, the Scenic Byway Committee has come to the County with their proposal, and the water management district would supply the land for the North Shore Overlook and Trailhead through a long-term lease to Lake County.  Additionally, the Byway Committee would apply for a scenic highways grant in the amount of $685,000 to fund 80 percent of the trailhead construction, and they would also seek donations from matching funds from local groups and citizens.  She informed the Board that the Byway Committee was asking Lake County for help with the required 20 percent match of approximately $171,000 to handle construction of the facilities and for the County to maintain the overlook and trailhead. She stated that this proposal was also approved by the Parks and Trails Advisory Board on its meeting on March 14 and that staff was requesting direction regarding this project.

Mr. Gray stated that he believed this was a very important project and wanted to make the Board aware of it as they were going through the budget process.

Commr. Parks commented that he was looking at this as being a potential economic driver, and he pointed out that this would be contingent on receiving the grant.

Commr. Campione commented that she has heard many positive things about the bird watching in that area, and she believed that this fit squarely in their economic development plan.

On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Parks and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the support of the North Shore Overlook and Trailhead project, contingent on the grant funding and to move forward with the agreement with St. Johns River Water Management District.

Minneola Athletic Complex (MAC)

Ms. Breeden related that the next project for consideration was the Minneola Athletic Complex (MAC), which has become available as a possible option for a South Lake community park.  She specified that the park is 24 acres, already has five sports fields with some amenities in place, and would provide immediate relief for Lake County sports needs.  She stated that MAC meets the Parks Master Plan requirements for a community park in that part of the county, and the Parks and Trails Advisory Board gave its approval of this project.  She noted, however, that MAC does not meet or replace the need for a regional park in the area, and she mentioned that the School Board is interested in having first priority use of one or two of the fields for a high school baseball team.  She also pointed out that this complex would need additional amenities such as pavilions, trash cans, park benches, a path system, tennis courts, and perhaps basketball courts to make it a true community park; and the existing fields need some improvements such as dug outs, safety padding, and upgrades to the irrigation system.  She noted that continued maintenance of the current fields would be necessary to avoid deterioration and replacement of the Bermuda grass should the BCC decide to proceed with negotiations.  She added that staffing of the park would require two crew leaders and three park specialists, and in a response to an inquiry by Commr. Campione, she assured the Board that there would be concession stands at that park.

Commr. Parks related that he has talked with Mr. Mark Johnson, Minneola City Manager, and the city council members about this, and he requested that the Board authorize the County Attorney and County Manager to go forward to negotiate an agreement with them.  He opined that South Lake’s needs for active recreation are under-served, and although this is a short-term measure, they recognize that they have very serious budget constraints, and this would give them a few years to meet the need in that area.  He added that they would have to put some money into it to upgrade it to a standard which would enable it to be used for tournaments as an economic driver as well as serving the local community.

Commr. Conner asked how many fields and for what age groups they have there.

Mr. Eicher responded that he believed the complex had a full-sized football field, full-sized soccer field, an over 300-foot softball field, 300-foot baseball field, 200-foot softball field, and one little league field; and that the complex contained a total of 25 acres.

Commr. Conner opined that this was a great opportunity, and he asked if this would relieve some of the pressure of the Clermont Little League situation.

Mr. Gray responded that even though the Little League currently plays only on the Clermont fields rather than the Minneola fields, it will add capacity for the South Lake Little League to incorporate the Minneola fields as well and help with field usage.

Commr. Conner opined that this project would get the most value for their money in terms of number of participants for the dollar invested, and he emphasized that this facility was already there.  He suggested that the County work with the School Board for the routine maintenance of this facility.

Commr. Parks commented that this project would save the County money, since they were not building another facility, and he believed it would be an example of governments working together.

Commr. Cadwell expressed concern that they balance attracting outside events with meeting the community needs with any possible use agreements with the school system or NTC (National Training Center).

Commr. Parks responded that the key is going to be the management of the park.

On a motion by Commr. Parks, seconded by Commr. Cadwell and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board moved to direct the County Attorney and County Manager to pursue final negotiations with the City of Minneola for the Minneola Athletic Complex (MAC), having the School Board included in those discussions, and to have discussions with the City of Clermont and the youth organization that runs the Little League group.

South Lake Regional Park

Ms. Breeden stated that the South Lake Regional Park was the last option they wanted to discuss, relating that in June of 2010 the County Attorney’s solicited responses to their request for properties that could be used to develop a regional park in South Lake County resulted in 48 responses, and staff visited and thoroughly evaluated the properties based on a wide range of criteria.  She noted that they had narrowed the list down to six properties, which they would present.

Mr. Eicher went over the six South Lake park options, stating that the order the properties were presented were not indicative of any ranking.  He related that Property No. 1 was over 100 acres with wetlands on the north and southeast, which was also part of the connection of the South Lake Trail Phase 3 that goes from Clermont into Groveland, and the second property (Property  No. 7) was closer to the Mascotte line just north of SR 50.  He explained that Property No. 26 is just off of CR 565B, which had a lot of useable acres and could be expanded, and Property No. 48 is the Clermont sprayfield, with the additional piece added from the National Training Center property just north of SR 50.  He stated that Property No. 29 is part of a subdivision that was platted, and the developers of that property are willing to work with the County on any type of layout necessary, as long as it works with their subdivision.

Commr. Conner asked if they have defined a location for where they want that park located.

Commr. Cadwell opined that the corridor of Property No. 1 was where the users were coming from and what makes the most sense for them to look at, and it was noted that Properties No. 26 and 48 were also in that location.  He expressed concern that the price of Property No. 26 could be too high, since it contains a lot of acreage, and stated that they needed to take that into consideration.

Commr. Conner commented that they could not completely prioritize a property without a price.

Commr. Parks stated that they needed to authorize staff to get appraisals on those properties.  He commented that he thought Property No. 1 was good because it had the trail access, and the size of Property No. 26 presented some expansion opportunities in the future for a larger athletic complex, but if they get an opportunity to acquire the Conserve II property for free, he did not think they could pass that up.

Mr. Minkoff related that their initial approach was to not discuss price with any of the property owners, because they wanted to choose the best property.  He suggested that rather than getting appraisals right away, the first step would be to go back to the property owners and get their price, and then they could evaluate whether they need to appraise it.

Commr. Conner commented that they should be able to take advantage of the market.

Commr. Hill opined that the Conserve II property was more plausible, since they did not have to spend money for the property and could start construction sooner.  She also pointed out that this park would not be for the specific corridor mentioned previously, since it was a regional park.

Commr. Conner opined that they would regret purchasing land that was not in the right location, and he asked whether the Board was still interested in the National Training Center property, which he believed was large enough for a regional park.

Commr. Cadwell agreed that would probably be a great project that they could continue to discuss with the NTC, but the Minneola project could meet some of the need in that area immediately.

Commr. Hill commented that the Northeast Lake Park was heavily utilized and has turned into a wonderful regional park, even though it was in a remote location, and she did not think Conserve II was a bad location for a regional park.

On a motion by Commr. Parks, seconded by Commr. Campione and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board moved to direct staff to continue to work with the landowners to get the best price, looking at all available options, including donated land; appraise the ones that they determine to appraise; and bring the Board back the top options that they could negotiate, including Conserve II and the National Training Center.

county manager’s consent agenda

addendum 1-I – use of fairgrounds for southern palms events

Ms. Breeden explained that the original request is for approval for the Lake County Fairgrounds to rent the facilities for vehicle sales events, but she requested that she be allowed to amend that to ask approval to rent specifically to Southern Palms, since they would have recreational vehicle (RV) models for people to look at, but no sales would be made at that location.  She added that this event was expected to draw about 800 people for a period of several days.  She further explained that she brought this back before the Board because there was a policy regarding rental of the fairgrounds and  automotive sales that was not approved, and staff was directed to come back if it was going to happen in the future.

On a motion by Commr. Campione, seconded by Commr. Conner and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board moved to allow staff to proceed with the use of the fairgrounds for the Southern Palms event which includes the showing of RV models, as opposed to RV sales.


There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 12:30 p.m.



JENNIFER hill, chairman