A special MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
JANUARY 20, 2015
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in a special workshop session on Wednesday, January 20, 2015 at 9:00 a.m., at the Emergency Operations Center, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Jimmy Conner, Chairman; Sean Parks, Vice Chairman; Timothy I. Sullivan; Leslie Campione; and Welton G. Cadwell. Others present were: David Heath, County Manager; Sanford A. Minkoff, County Attorney; Barbara F. Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance; and Susan Boyajan and Victoria Bartley, Deputy Clerks.
Commr. Conner welcomed everyone to the retreat and explained that the work session would be a roundtable of different issues that they were facing this year, with each Commissioner bringing up issues that they wanted to discuss in an open forum.
COMMISSIONER SULLIVAN – DISTRICT 1
Penny Sales Tax Referendum
Commr. Sullivan explained that the penny sales tax would need to be put on the ballot well before its renewal in 2017, and a group was formed consisting of the School Board, the League of Cities, himself, and members of the business community to work towards the renewal of that tax. He related that they have hired a consultant named Mr. Bruce Barcelo out of Jacksonville who does special elections all over the State of Florida and is familiar with Lake County and have established a packet designed to contribute to the education of the public on the penny sales tax. He added that the League of Cities has contributed to fund a poll that would be done this month to determine what the sales tax dollars have been used for in the past and what they anticipate the dollars would be used for in the future based on the findings of the Sales Tax Oversight Committee that meets every six months, and he mentioned that the School Board has been an active participant. He commented that there was some criticism in the past about how the sales tax dollars were spent, since some projects did not get funded, but he pointed out that a shortfall in expected funds meant that decisions have to be made about which projects would or would not be funded. He noted that they would have the results of that poll at the end of this month which would give them more definition as they move forward, with one of the major decisions to be made being whether they would put it on the ballot based on the consultant’s findings and some other input. He pointed out that they did not initially take into consideration the presidential primary in 2016, which could be a better time than the general election to put this on the ballot, but they would use the poll results to make that decision. He explained, however, that putting it on the 2015 ballot would give them another chance if it did not pass at that time, and he commented that since this was considered very important to the fiscal wellbeing of the School Board and the League of Cities, those entities would do what they can to make sure this goes forward. He added that they would have to talk to the business community to try to raise money from the private sector for this campaign since they could not use public dollars for this. He concluded that he would report back to the Board at the next workshop.
Commr. Conner pointed out that the only criticism from the audit was that some projects did not get done, which he opined was no one’s fault, because the projections were based on expected revenues, and he did not think they needed to be defensive about that opinion. He commented that he believed that to be an unnecessary part of the audit, since they could not foresee how much revenue would come in during the next 15 years, and he pointed out that everything was subject to the economy. He related that he believes the private sector needs to run the campaign, and he opined it would have a better chance of passing if they could tie it into some kind of millage reduction.
Commr. Campione stated that she agreed with Commr. Conner about the projects not being funded due to a lack of available revenue, and she also pointed out that such projects were often funded by other sources or that some of the priorities might change over time. She stated that it was unfortunate that the findings were written the way they were, since it was not an accurate portrayal of how the sales tax fund was managed, and they have to overcome that perception, although she believes that the facts are on their side. She added that the consultant would formulate the strategies as far as getting information out to the public, so that people can associate the sales tax with certain things that they like and appreciate in their communities. She specified that the first referendum was passed in November 3, 1987 with 64.5 percent approval the year before the presidential election, and she suggested that they look at who voted in that election. She elaborated that the renewal of that occurred during the general election on November 6, 2001, a year after a presidential election. However, she mentioned that she did not get the numbers or the breakdown regarding the voter turnout during those elections, and she suggested that the consultant analyze that important information.
Commr. Sullivan mentioned that five cities have an election in November of next year, and it would cost about $150,000 for a referendum at that time versus $250,000 to hold a special election for this issue by itself.
Commr. Conner opined that the consultant they chose was good, and he commented that it was all about demographics.
Commr. Campione replied that they were in a different type of climate now, and she asked the County Attorney how much they were allowed to interact as long as they are not spending public dollars and whether they can take a public position.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, responded that the Commissioners can express their own opinion but could not use public dollars or resources, and he believed it was better if each Commissioner expressed their opinion individually. He added that the Board was able to use public resources to provide information such as what the previous sales tax was spent on.
Commr. Conner pointed out that he was on the record as agreeing to split the funding into thirds, which he believed was an indication that he supports it, but he emphasized that it was important that they all get on the record in support of it and why.
Commr. Campione clarified that they could have a link on their website that would list all of the projects across the county that were funded with the sales tax, along with pictures.
Commr. Sullivan further clarified that the fine line was that they could spend public dollars to educate but not to advocate.
Commr. Cadwell commented that their job is to set policy and priorities, which changes on a daily basis depending on needs, and he noted that the audit had gone outside of that. He opined that the sales tax is the closest thing they have that spreads the expense among everyone and gives relief to the property owners, and he emphasized that this tax was important for them. He suggested that they show the public what they have done with the money, and he wanted to make sure they were all committed to the renewal of the sales tax.
Commr. Conner asked if anyone was not supportive of it.
Commr. Campione commented that she has had debates regarding this issue with people who have criticized the school district or the Board for not using other tax dollars wisely, but she does not think there is any question that the sales tax is the fairest tax in that the revenue stream could be followed to illustrate the benefit to the taxpayer.
Commr. Cadwell pointed out that the sales tax should be a separate issue from discussions regarding other kinds of taxes.
Commr. Conner commented that 99 percent of residents want a Sheriff’s Department, although there is a small group of people that do not care about services such as public safety, parks and libraries.
Commr. Campione elaborated that there was a small group of radical people that would like to disband all government, but there is a much larger group of people that feel that they are taxed to death by local as well as federal government, feel they pay much more than their fair share of property taxes, and want the Board to be mindful that it is the taxpayer’s money. She opined that it takes a lot of effort to explain to people how their budget process works.
Commr. Conner stated that he does not know how the Board could be more fiscally conservative than they have been and noted that they have been working with less money and providing more services. He elaborated that they have cut 43 percent of their general fund workforce, they have not given raises to employees, and their revenues were $38 million less than they were six years ago. He opined that they need to promote how well they have made those reductions.
Commr. Parks commented that the challenge is pointing out the huge difference between what the federal government does from what the County does and demonstrating the efficiency of County staff. He added that they have cut tremendously and are headed in the right direction when it comes to efficiency. He also noted that another challenge will be getting the message out and getting more people involved so that they can see how well the County was working.
Commr. Cadwell opined that the Board needs to stand with confidence about what they have done with the money they had to work with for the provision of basic services, and he recommended that the Board stay out of the dialogue regarding how other governments have spent tax dollars. He also pointed out that they need to emphasize to people that the money to pay for things the County is required to do would have to be taken out of the property tax revenue if sales taxes were not used for those projects. He asked for a list of members on the committee that will help with the sales tax referendum.
Commr. Parks asked whether the Board has to vote to put the referendum on the ballot.
Mr. Minkoff responded that it will be done by ordinance contingent upon voters’ approval with a 45-day advertising time, and he estimated that the Board should pass the ordinance by July or August. He added that the cities could force a referendum without the County, but the County has to be the one to do it, and there would be an interlocal agreement about how to divide the proceeds which typically they would do before putting it on the ballot.
Commr. Campione opined that the best way to advocate for the sales tax would be to publicize how it will be used despite the makeup of the County Commission and indicated that she does not agree with Commr. Conner regarding the way the County has spent its revenue. She assured the Board, however, that she believes in the importance of the sales tax and will make a pitch for it in her own way, noting that it was for capital improvements.
Commr. Conner asked Mr. David Heath, County Manager, to research the makeup of the 159 positions which were cut, and he commented that they need to be giving similar messages regarding the sales tax and discuss what they agree rather than disagree on.
Commr. Cadwell asked about the committee structure and whether the members who make up this committee understand the importance of this tax.
Commr. Sullivan opined that they need to expand the committee to encompass the business communities in order to spread the word about the success stories that show they spent the money wisely by taking advantage of the cohesiveness of the governmental entities that agree about the importance of the sales tax. He added that they need to realize that in order to continue the success story, they would need to put a campaign together that would be run by the committee members, and he noted that the makeup of the committee is constantly changing, which he believed was because they were so early in the formulating stages.
Commr. Parks asked whether homebuilders and realtors would oppose the penny sales tax.
Commr. Sullivan answered that members of those organizations have not come to the committee meetings and participated, but there has not been an official statement of opposition.
Commr. Conner gave his perspective as a former member of the School Board, stating that they need someone from the private sector that can raise about $100,000 for this campaign, and he related that they had a firm committee structure the last time they renewed the tax including representatives of the School Board, the County, the cities, and the homebuilders, where everyone was united and on the same page, although he understood that they were currently in a different political climate. He elaborated that the plans to renovate every high school in Lake County along with architectural renderings of those renovations were very helpful and effective in passing the last renewal of the sales tax, and those projects were done for about $121 million. He pointed out that the schools were in horrible and unacceptable condition prior to that time, and he commented that they needed a firm committee structure this time as well in order to get their message out to the public and put together a campaign plan with benchmarks.
Commr. Campione opined that they would have a hard time raising the money and believed it would be better if they utilized a grass roots strategy, although they should still have a goal of raising money for that campaign.
Commr. Sullivan responded that they need to take into consideration that they may not be able to raise the $100,000 that they would need for a 60-day campaign in the current political environment, but the poll they were running would give them a good idea about that.
Commr. Cadwell requested that the Board be updated as the committee formalizes who the members are and the makeup of it.
Commr. Campione asked what will be on their list of projects using the penny sales tax.
Commr. Conner replied that they have not formulated their list yet, but staff may have begun doing that, and he opined that they should highlight public safety projects they would spend it on, such as ambulances and patrol cars as a good way to promote that. He added that all the government agencies at some point need to have their projects approved by their governing board.
Mr. Heath explained that they came up with a list of potential projects during the last referendum, and they went back and reconciled it after the referendum got approved to the revenues, noting that one of the issues of the audit was that they took the position that the ordinance indicated that the sales tax could be used on roads, parks, government structures, and other projects in four or five broad categories. He asked whether the Board wanted the list to be generic or contain a specific list.
Commr. Cadwell responded that he believes it should contain both, including specific projects that are on their capital improvement list or identified on their master plan, and he added that the list will evolve as the needs evolve.
Commr. Sullivan pointed out that the population of Lake County was much smaller the last time they had done this, and there currently are public safety needs as well as transportation projects that will need funding in the future. He elaborated that he would look at what the money has been spent on, what the public believes in, and the growth of the county.
Commr. Campione clarified that their list would start with public safety and then include transportation, parks, trails, sidewalks, government structures, libraries, animal services, and stormwater projects.
Commr. Cadwell commented that residents want parks and trails, which are also important for their economic development and tourism.
Mr. Minkoff recapped that last time it was set up half for transportation and half for everything else, and he cautioned that if they get specific, they would have to follow the guidelines they adopt.
Commr. Conner added that they have to have a theme, which he believed Mr. Barcelo will come up with, and he noted that everyone was in favor of public safety. He stated that he believed they could get some relief for their general fund if they could reallocate some of the money for patrol cars, ambulances, and fire trucks.
Commr. Parks added that there is currently about $45 million needed for sidewalks, and he noted that sidewalk projects are County, city, and school projects. He suggested that they look at allocating a fund and sharing evenly out of the penny sales tax the expense of those with the other entities, as well as possibly forming a committee to oversee that.
Commr. Cadwell cautioned the Board about committing a specific amount for that, and he mentioned that there could be a state mandate and legislation coming in the future without any funding from the state regarding sidewalks that they should monitor.
Commr. Campione added that a mandate could be an important part of the sales tax issue.
recess and reassembly
The Chairman announced at 10:10 a.m. that there would be a 10-minute recess.
Discussion of Sales Tax Issue (Cont’d)
Commr. Sullivan assured the Board that he would give them monthly updates about the sales tax committee, and he opined that he felt this was a great discussion about where they are headed. He added that the poll will give them some direction after it is done, and noted that the demographics of the county are different than it was the last time they did this. He also mentioned that there were large transportation projects going on throughout the county, such as CR 466A, CR 466, and CR 470 in the northern section, as well as the Turnpike exchange and the Wekiva Parkway, and he opined that the big issue is that the committee needs to be larger and encompass the whole county.
Commr. Cadwell wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page, believed in the sales tax without getting into specifics, agreed on how to deliver that message, and believed that the sales tax is a viable and fair source of revenue for the County.
Commr. Parks stated that he completely agreed.
Commr. Campione asked whether they would direct staff to bring specific ideas back to the Board, and she suggested that they could target replacing the fleet for the fire service and EMS, as well as get suggestions from Mr. Jim Stivender, Public Works Director, for some road projects.
Commr. Conner stated that he agreed with the point made earlier about grass roots, and he recapped that School Board members and Commissioners paired up and went out to community meetings the last time, noting that the renderings of the schools really helped and that they had a well-funded campaign.
Commr. Campione related that she thought that was a good idea and suggested that they go to community groups and civic organizations, such as the Chambers of Commerce.
Commr. Parks asked if he could present a power point presentation entirely on that subject with basic information.
Mr. Minkoff responded that a presentation that was informational only would be fine as long as it was not perceived to promote advocacy. He elaborated, however, that Seminole County had generated some controversy for a mailer that created the perception of being close to the line in terms of advocacy.
Commr. Sullivan related that they were hoping to formulate educational and informational talking points in the poll which would provide information to people in a non-biased and non-political environment. He also reminded the Board that they needed to make a decision by July or August about whether to put it on the ballot this year.
Commr. Conner commented that he agreed that user fees or taxes such as the sales tax are the most fair and have the least impact on most people. He concluded that they would look forward to Commr. Sullivan’s next report in about a month.
Recidivism and Re-entry Program for Jail Inmates
Commr. Sullivan related that the Public Safety Coordinating Council discussed the issue of recidivism at their local jail and the fact that there currently was no re-entry program for inmates from the jail back to the general population. He elaborated that they have involved numerous charitable organizations, churches, and law enforcement departments in that process; also, they have applied for grants in the past and have been turned down, since larger counties usually get those dollars. He commented that this was so important because about 60 percent of the inmates in the Lake County Jail return to the jail, and although there is a segment of that population that they would not be able to influence, they still would be able to make an impact if they could affect 20 percent of that population. He related that local groups have gone to the legislative delegation and asked for an appropriation to start that program, which would cost about $250,000, and a member of the County’s staff would help to coordinate and manage the money. He pointed out that there currently is no transitional facility or counseling, and he mentioned that he met with the Sheriff a few times to discuss this issue. He requested that the Board seek a legislative appropriation of about $250,000 to start the program, although it may only be a one-time allocation, and more money would be needed in the future to keep the program going. He noted that the County could also coordinate existing programs, including the transitional program that LifeStream has set up in Eustis and those of numerous organizations throughout the county, which he believed could be very successful in keeping inmates from returning to the jail and also extending the life of the jail by many years, which would save public dollars. He requested that staff apply for that legislative appropriation, and he added that this endeavor was in coordination with the Sheriff’s Office, Probation, Public Defender, Community Services Department, and Housing.
Commr. Cadwell commented that it would be easy to track the value of the investment that they make in this program within a year or two, and he suggested that they contact their federal lobbyist to see if there was anything available there, understanding that it would save money in the long-run.
Commr. Sullivan mentioned that the Sheriff could inform them of the cost of keeping a person in the jail, and 20 percent of that amount would be a substantial savings.
Commr. Conner commented that it was a good program and that he wanted to support it, but he asked whether the County would see any financial benefit from it. He added that he was reluctant to expand any programs.
Commr. Cadwell stated that they could track it and mentioned that it would save money in other areas as well.
Commr. Campione suggested that they figure out what 20 percent of the jail budget would be, and the $250,000 needed could result in a reduction in the jail budget. She also explained that part of the process would begin when the inmates were still in the jail during the final part of their sentence, and she suggested that they look at those programs which are already operating, such as those which help them with life skills and getting their GED. She added that individuals who volunteer at the jail doing mission work and counseling see the need and are asking for these types of programs to fill that void.
Commr. Cadwell added that many inmates are in the jail because of parole violations, since they feel helpless when they leave, and it is hard to get themselves out of a bad situation.
Commr. Conner noted that the long-term benefit would be seen when the inmates start being self-reliant.
Commr. Sullivan reported that an organization named New Beginnings requested $37,500 from the County out of SHIP funds and similar forms of funding for affordable workforce housing in South Lake County consisting of apartment complexes, but they do not have a lot of leeway to make a commitment to support something like this.
Commr. Parks thanked Commr. Sullivan for bringing this issue up, since it was on his list of items he was looking at as well, and he related that he was approached by Mr. Steve Smith from New Beginnings regarding an impending deadline for a grant for this project. He asked how quickly they could get the application signed before the project is lost.
Mr. Heath responded that it would not be done during this cycle, since it exceeded the amount of money he is authorized to approve, and the housing funding is already allocated for this year. He added that the Housing Advisory Board did not take action on it when it came up.
Commr. Parks asked whether this project could be approved retroactively.
Commr. Sullivan elaborated that the original request to the Housing Advisory Board did not include a timeline at that time, although the application deadline was that day, and stated that he would have discussed this during the budgetary process if he was aware of it six months ago.
Mr. Heath noted that there were a couple of policy issues relating to this, one of which is that they have to specify projects, and he suggested that the Board have a work session regarding policy issues and whether they could earmark a portion of the SHIP funds for these types of projects.
Commr. Conner opined that they would get more for their dollar through the SHIP program by allocating the money to an organization like New Beginnings.
Commr. Sullivan commented that he had no doubt that it would be a good use of $37,500, but he did not think they could commit impact fees to it. He also elaborated that this was a multi-million dollar 200-unit project using federal dollars.
Commr. Conner emphasized that he would not consider moving any money out of the general fund for anything unless it was of extreme urgency; however, he stated that he would not be against reallocating some SHIP funding or other similar types of funding. He commented, though, that they need to honor their existing process, which requires that the project go back to the committee for some kind of recommendation.
Mr. Heath suggested that they be proactive by setting up a work session to discuss a change of policy which currently focuses on single family rather than multi-family projects.
Commr. Campione asked why they need $37,500 from the County for this project.
Mr. Heath responded that these were highly competitive grants, and he noted that the options were to waive the impact fees, which would necessitate the County finding those dollars somewhere else; use other funding sources; or reprioritize the SHIP money.
Commr. Conner asked whether they could insist that local vendors be used to build the complex.
Commr. Cadwell replied that they could not do that with federal monies.
Commr. Campione commented that she likes the idea of the policy being broadened so that they could use the SHIP dollars for multi-family as well as single family residences. She opined that New Beginnings has been doing an exceptional job with things such as life programs.
Commr. Cadwell asked what other avenue is available to help those people, since he thought that currently the only other source of assistance is by committing general fund dollars and hoping they could get it back out of affordable housing.
Commr. Conner emphasized that he would not support using general fund dollars, and he asked about the timing of the funding cycles.
Mr. Heath answered that the current regular cycle is 18 months to two years out.
Commr. Sullivan pointed out that the Affordable Housing Committee had about $90,000 last year to work with, and $37,500 would be a large portion of that money.
Commr. Parks asked whether approving this project would delay some other projects until next year.
Ms. Dottie Keedy, Community Services Director, explained that the money that is committed would not be needed until next fiscal year, and they received close to $1 million in SHIP funding this year.
Commr. Sullivan commented that they used to get $2 to $3 million for that funding mechanism, and now they only receive $1 million.
Commr. Conner commented that he agreed that this would be a very wise use of that money, but the only issue is timing, and they wanted to make sure they go through the right process.
Mr. Heath clarified that they would have a work session on SHIP funding.
Mr. Minkoff noted that they were prohibited from doing anything that day.
Commr. Campione elaborated that they would need notice of the meeting with an agenda before the Board could take any kind of action on this issue.
commissioner parks – district 2
Four Corners Quality of Life Issues
Commr. Parks commented that residents in the Four Corners area in South Clermont often feel isolated from the rest of the county due to its geographical location, and he wanted to discuss ways to improve the economic situation, beautification, and how County government could get more engaged with assisting with quality of life issues, including implementation of the CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) for some portion of that area to go specifically for infrastructure and economic development, with revenues being redirected back to some key infrastructure and economic prosperity projects in the Four Corners area. He indicated that he thought that they could vote on that issue sometime this year after looking into the impact of that on the general fund, and he suggested that street lighting, sidewalks, public safety, a project using the second floor of the library, and new business assistance could be some uses for the money.
Commr. Conner commented that they could not expect to give away money to a CRA without it having an impact on the revenue stream, although he agrees with the concept of a CRA being a worthwhile idea. He specified that those involved with the Mount Plymouth-Sorrento CRA are thoroughly engaged in an organized manner on issues across the board.
Commr. Campione opined that the CRA would result in impacts to that area that would increase the unincorporated revenues, and the quality of growth that will happen as a result of the CRA will be better.
Commr. Conner commented that he believes that they need to be very careful about committing any future money this year that will affect them down the road.
Commr. Parks related that residents have been contacting him to comment that although the Board has done a lot of good things to create economic prosperity in other parts of the county, there was nothing happening in that region.
Commr. Campione suggested that the residents there could decide by referendum to impose an additional tax on themselves to set up a special benefit district with clearly-defined purchases for those funds. She opined that there was not a blighted situation in that area.
Commr. Cadwell added that the area and the dynamics in the Four Corners area were different than in the Mount Plymouth-Sorrento area, and most of the buildings are new in the Four Corners region. He mentioned that he would like to look into whether individual homeowners or commercial rental development would benefit most from a CRA.
Commr. Sullivan remarked that the Four Corners area is very unique and far away from municipalities, and he opined that they would run out of capacity sooner or later.
Commr. Cadwell replied that he agreed that they needed to look at that area, and he mentioned that Cagan Crossings is about to start a new phase. He suggested that they may be able to establish a taxing district or something similar to that.
Commr. Parks elaborated that some issues regarding the area are an absence of a community park and business opportunity centers.
Commr. Campione suggested that they could look at the possibility of having a business opportunity center at the library once or twice a week.
Commr. Parks mentioned that Economic Development & Tourism staff has met with some of the leaders in that area.
Commr. Sullivan related that the build-out of the second floor of the library would enable it to act as a community center as well as a library. He also expressed concern that a CRA in that area would have to be too large, making it difficult to raise enough money to do anything significant.
Commr. Cadwell commented that it was difficult to form an organized group with a sustained voice, because people from the rental housing come and go often.
Commr. Parks responded that there were some regular residents as well, and he suggested that they reach out to some of those individuals and plan to have a meeting down there.
Commr. Campione expressed a belief that some of the older places will get bought, torn down, or fixed up by the private sector; and she stated that an MSTU (Municipal Service Taxing Unit) could benefit things like lights and sidewalks.
Commr. Cadwell suggested that the staff be available at the library to talk to residents in an informal environment rather than having an official meeting.
Commr. Campione related that landscape beautification money that DOT has from year to year could possibly be used for a median and a “Welcome to Lake County” sign which could create a sense of belonging, community, and association with Lake County.
Commr. Parks pointed out that there could be gateway projects on Hwy 27 and 50 as they go into Clermont and possibly a Visitor’s Center in that area.
Commr. Cadwell relayed that the TDC was currently having discussions about a different business model for an easier and less expensive way to create gateways into the county in order to have a great presence for entry points into the county and identify where they may be.
Commr. Parks suggested that they should look into having a state lobbyist to help with the mandates of the state that are passed on to the County, including whether they should shift some lobbying from the federal to the state level, since it seems they are getting impacted more by what is happening with the state.
Commr. Cadwell responded that they have had issue-specific lobbyists in the past.
Commr. Conner opined that there is merit to having a lobbyist, since the lobbyists are so powerful in Tallahassee that the average citizen has no chance. He elaborated that although he does not want to spend a lot of money, he believes they more than get their money’s worth from the federal lobbyists that the County retains and that it would be good to have a lobbyist in Tallahassee.
Commr. Sullivan commented that he is surprised that they do not have one already, and although they have great working relationships with their legislative delegations, the Commissioners do not have the ability to be everywhere a lobbyist would be.
Commr. Parks pointed out that the legislative delegations would not always be in key positions for decisions that would be made by the State that would affect Lake County.
Commr. Cadwell recommended that they look at whether spending the money on a lobbyist would make sense based on the benefit and additional money it would bring to the County.
Commr. Parks clarified that he was not expecting them to do this right away and was thinking of making that decision for the next budget session.
Commr. Campione commented that although she understands the necessity in certain situations, she was mulling over concerns over hiring a full-time lobbyist versus hiring someone to help them as needed as they have done in the past.
Commr. Parks agreed with Commr. Cadwell that there would have to be an analysis of the dollar return on the investment and the cost efficiency.
Commr. Parks stated that the next item he wanted to discuss was regarding the budget process and improving economic prosperity, and he proposed that the County set up a fund that would enable their Economic Development Department to quickly be able to help with business relocation or growth through impact fee waivers or infrastructure assistance.
Commr. Campione clarified that they do not have a way as a non-charter county to give tax abatement as an incentive, and the only assistance they were technically allowed to provide would be the ones that are permitted under state law which they have used as incentive funds in the past; otherwise, the only other thing they have available to them would be what Commr. Parks proposed, which would be coming out of the general fund. She commented that she was not a huge fan of those kinds of incentives unless it was for something monumental to Lake County’s future, such as a large company that would bring thousands of jobs and would change the whole landscape of their economic base. She asked whether they need to put a policy in place that would address that issue.
Commr. Parks responded that he was talking about something specific that they would craft as a policy.
Mr. Heath pointed out that one issue is that the Board eliminated the incentives, so now they do not have the funds for them. He suggested that the Board have some sort of process for this in terms of specifying the permitted uses, and this could be a budget issue.
Commr. Cadwell commented that a better way to do it might be to commit to infrastructure, which will send the message that would make an impact without having to put a dollar figure on it or to put money aside.
Mr. Heath added that a current example of that is that the County is working with Senninger for the extension of Hartle Road.
Commr. Sullivan commented that it was a real challenge to create a policy that would be different than the way they are doing it now.
Commr. Campione commented that she agreed with Commr. Cadwell about the infrastructure being something that stays in the county and added that a worst case scenario would be for the company to leave the area after being given money to create jobs, which happens often, noting that companies that come looking for those incentives have just left an area that had given them money for creation of jobs five or ten years before. She opined that the Board and their staff are receptive to these types of requests that are tied to infrastructure, and she related that she would be comfortable continuing with that as their policy. She stated that the Board would make a decision if something large did happen, but setting money aside will result in more people asking for it.
Commr. Parks explained that his concern had been that other counties would be able to offer this type of assistance quicker if it was already designated.
recess and reassembly
The Chairman announced at 12:00 p.m. that there would be a recess for lunch.
commissioner parks – district 2 (cont’d)
Commr. Parks related that now that the Wellness Way Sector Plan has been transmitted and will soon be adopted, he wanted to know what the Board’s plans were to follow up on marketing it regionally and nationally regarding economic prosperity. He suggested that they could discuss come preliminary plans regarding that issue the next time they do an economic development update.
Mr. Heath responded that they were anticipating getting the Sector Plan back from the DEO (Department of Economic Opportunity) at the beginning of February, and they were planning to have that come before the Board for approval on March 24, which would be linked to a report given by Mr. Robert Chandler, Economic Development and Tourism Director, at that time.
Request by PFX Sports
Commr. Parks reported that he had been contacted the day before by Ms. Allison Strange from PFX Sports, a private firm which organizes all of the softball tournaments in South Lake on the NTC (National Training Center) fields, stating that PFX Sports, South Lake Hospital, and the City of Clermont are expecting approval that night at the Lake Sumter State College Board meeting to use part of the college’s property in Clermont for construction of four new fields, which would be enough to hold games for another 100 teams. He explained that normally the City of Clermont would submit an application to the TDC for matching funding of 50 percent of that project, which was a total of $700,000 to $750,000, but the next cycle is in April, and they want to start construction sooner before the tournament season is finished.
Commr. Conner responded that he does not see how that is possible if they are counting on using County money for that, unless they want to move the application dates up.
Commr. Parks elaborated that Ms. Strange and their contractor indicated that they could finish the project by April if they started immediately, although he is a little skeptical of that claim.
Commr. Conner expressed concern about jeopardizing the integrity of the TDC process.
Commr. Parks pointed out that the benefit to providing this funding would be the ability to host more teams immediately and the assurance that this tournament would stay in Lake County rather than be moved somewhere else. He commented that he believes there were softball complexes in the state that were very competitive to Lake County, and he was concerned that they could lose that tournament; however, he stated that he wants to respect the process as well.
Commr. Conner commented that every time they have partnered with Dot Richardson’s group, they have put people in hotels and have fulfilled all of their promises. He also pointed out that they could get much more for their dollar since they already have the land and infrastructure, but he wanted to protect the process and did not want the TDC to think that the Board is not allowing them to submit an independent recommendation. He concluded that he supports this idea but just wants to do it the right way.
Commr. Cadwell commented that the best way to handle this is for it to go through the cycle with everything else, which starts in April, but he would not be opposed to compressing the cycle as long as all of the proposed projects had a fair chance. He also did not want them to lose an opportunity to leverage some TDC money to move forward with a regional park or to combine the two missions of both local and tournament needs. He added that he was concerned about reacting to someone else’s emergency, and he believes that the County has shown a desire to partner with the NTC by giving them about $2 million in funding in the past.
Commr. Parks added that these fields are supposed to be less expensive because they were building it on flatter land located on the college site. He also clarified that the fields would be primarily used for tournaments, especially in the summer, but occasionally other local leagues play on them as well, although the first right of schedule was given to the tournaments.
Commr. Conner stated that they need to make sure that they have their priorities clearly defined and match it to the money they have when making a decision, and he expressed concern about the cities feeling like their projects did not get the same consideration as this one.
Commr. Campione opined that it was important to show that they were flexible enough to recognize meritorious opportunities without focusing too much on process.
Commr. Cadwell concluded that they will look into trying to accommodate it.
County Logo in Chambers
Commr. Parks suggested that they put a logo in County Commission Chambers with their slogan of “Real Florida, Real Close,” as well as the national slogan of “In God We Trust” at the bottom. He elaborated that he estimated the cost to do so would be about $1,500, and he offered to personally pay for part of that. He commented that it would present a good image to people coming to the BCC meetings.
Commr. Cadwell suggested that they get staff to look at doing that in-house.
Commr. Conner commented that someone in the private sector might donate that to them.
Commr. Campione opined that it might be better to have it out in the atrium, where more people would see it.
Commr. Conner added that they could put one in both the lobby area and in Chambers.
Ms. Kelly Lafollette, Communication Director, cautioned the Board against putting the logo in Chambers, because the School Board and other entities also meet in there.
commissioner campione – district 4
Mount Plymouth-Sorrento CRA
Commr. Campione related that the Mount Plymouth-Sorrento CRA will be presenting their findings, including a commercial area within the CRA, and she commented that they are hopeful that DOT will be willing to work on some improvements to SR 46, including a streetscape design, before it will be turned over to the County as part of the Wekiva Parkway project.
Keep Lake County Beautiful Campaign
Commr. Campione reported that they would have a workshop regarding training for Keep Lake County Beautiful on February 6, and she asked for everyone to help get the word out to anyone or any group who may be interested.
Commr. Conner asked Mr. Heath for staff to get a press release out for that.
Mr. Brian Sheahan, Community Safety and Compliance Director, explained that this training would be for the technical aspects of certification rather than for the actual work, and although it is not geared for the general public, anyone would be welcome to attend. He noted that there would be another workshop later on for which they would want maximum public involvement.
Litter on Roadways
Commr. Campione commented that she has become very concerned about litter on the sides of the roadways in Lake County, which she believes is caused by the fact that people are throwing their garbage out of their car windows and issues that they are having with the new trash and recycling containers and solid waste pickup services. She stated that she had talked to Mr. Stivender about trying to get the haulers to be more conscientious about picking trash up when it drops out of the container onto the roadway during the automated pickup process.
Commr. Conner asked Mr. Stivender if there has been an increase in calls regarding issues related to garbage on the side of the road.
Mr. Stivender responded that there has been more attention brought to this issue since October because of the new trash contracts, and he pointed out that they also have a contract with a company to pick up trash on the side of the roads before they start mowing the right of ways. He noted that they would be doing a massive pickup within the next 30 days, and he assured the Board that they were working through the issues with the vendors.
Commr. Conner opined that he does not think that the City of Tavares has had any problem with trash falling onto roadways with the automatic pickup of recyclables, and he expressed doubts that the litter is related to the issue of the new trash pickup system.
Commr. Campione replied that she believes it is definitely a problem in the rural areas.
Commr. Cadwell commented that it would be noticeable even if a vendor drops a couple of things on a quarter mile stretch of road that did not previously have any trash on it, and he expressed a belief that it was likely that the automated trash pickup trucks were dropping recyclables, due to an increase in recyclables being put out than before.
Mr. Stivender assured the Board that the vendors will cooperate with them to correct the problem, noting that staff checks the area themselves every time they get a call about a problem like this to verify that also.
Commr. Parks added that he did not see a problem anymore with that, but he did see a lingering problem regarding the unpredictable times and irregularity of the pickup.
Mr. Stivender replied that that was one of the issues they were working on resolving.
Commr. Campione remarked that she was hoping that the Keep America Beautiful program will make a difference, and she suggested that they invite the people involved with the Adopt-a-Road program to the Keep America Beautiful training and to also reach out to them offering assistance in order to encourage them to go ahead and start picking up the trash.
Gateways into the County
Commr. Campione recapped that they have discussed the gateway signs and noted that she has noticed other counties who have done a good job with their brand and placing them at good locations coming into different parts of the county, which Lake County should do as well. She suggested that a gateway sign could be a very nice asset for the community in a place like Astor.
Commr. Parks related that the City of Clermont had indicated that it would be willing to contribute to a cost of a gateway in that area, and he added that partnerships will be key on that.
Re-entry and Sewer Issues
Commr. Campione suggested that they include the Coalition of Lake Apopka issue at their legislative days.
Commr. Heath stated that he would bring back the issue of re-entry next month for action by the Board.
Commr. Campione elaborated that this was regarding the McDonald and Montverde boat ramps, as well as the additional things Montverde wants to do adjacent to that ramp, such as a park and public parking area. She also mentioned that staff had plans for funding of the lakefront at Ferndale using capital money which would help to get people to the lake through the Ferndale property through those improvements, and that could be their match for that. She added that the projects on that list were those that were deemed more realistic for getting that money, and Commr. Bryan Nelson from Orange County had a discussion about a state mandate of sewer connections for residents near the Wekiva River, the backlash from that, and ways to address water quality issues in the river without forcing residents to connect to the sewer, including monitoring wells that would be used to find out whether the septic tanks really are creating nitrogen issues. She reported that staff put together a good list of projects in response to Commr. Nelson’s request that the County look at things on their side of the river, including Wolf Branch Sink, which was high on the list and directly water-quality related, as well as East Lake Park sewer-related issues and a feasibility study for sewer in that area.
Commr. Cadwell asked about a study of sewers in the Mount Plymouth-Sorrento CRA.
Commr. Campione responded that it was not connected to the CRA, although there was definitely a desire in the CRA area for new activity, central utilities, and retrofitting for the business district, but there was a concern about forced connection. She elaborated that it is really preliminary at this point, but the sewer feasibility study would allow them to evaluate whether it would be a possibility.
Commr. Cadwell replied that he believed that would be a necessity if they truly want to change the long-range commercial makeup of the community.
Commr. Campione expressed a belief that residents in Mount Plymouth-Sorrento would much rather have Lake County as their utility provider than one of the nearby cities in order to retain their autonomy.
Commr. Cadwell asked the Board to keep an open mind about operating some small utilities, and he noted that the County missed an opportunity years ago to be in the utility business.
Commr. Campione added that she agreed with that, and the opportunity may present itself, especially in light of some of the environmental and river protection issues. She commented that she has tried to make it clear during her discussions regarding the CRA that they are not looking to force people off of their septic tanks.
Commr. Cadwell pointed out that the business plan in Astor worked, in which they had a model, and he commented that a lot of their land use was lost to the cities because of the County’s lack of utilities.
Commr. Campione commented that there was little danger of increased development in that area, since the densities were fairly unchangeable because of the Wekiva land use restrictions.
commissioner cadwell – district 5
Kurt Street Construction Project
Commr. Cadwell recapped that the Board discussed the road project in Eustis last week with the opening of the elementary school on Kurt Street.
Operational Budget for Parks and Trails
Commr. Cadwell cautioned the Board to be mindful of the operational budget that would be needed to construct new parks and trails, and he commented that it would be worse to have those facilities deteriorate to the point that they are in bad condition than to not have them at all, especially since their county is known for their parks and trails. He opined that he does not think they will be able to continue with the upkeep of their current and proposed projects with their current operational budget, noting that maintenance of the trails are similar to a lane of road, and he was concerned about their ability to keep up with those projects in about five or six years.
Commr. Parks stated that he completely agreed that they should not build them if they could not take care of them, and he added that it would be very embarrassing to have deteriorating facilities and complaints about those facilities. He related that he had heard that Amendment 1 would provide money for maintenance.
Commr. Cadwell commented that the County needs to have a long-range plan for maintaining their facilities, which they are holding up as an asset that makes them different and is important for economic development, and the Board should have a realistic discussion about the quality of parks and trails they will have in the future.
Commr. Parks noted that the cities maintain a portion of some of the trails.
Commr. Cadwell responded that some of the cities are more proactive than others, but they cannot rely on the cities or assume that they will all want or be able to do that.
Mr. Stivender reported that the City of Clermont has agreed to take over maintenance of portions of the trail through Clermont.
Commr. Cadwell commented that although the level of their parks is still great, it would not take much for them to go downhill quickly, and the maintenance for them is stretched now, with less employees working to maintain them than in the past.
Commr. Campione asked whether other counties contract out their maintenance.
Commr. Cadwell answered that some counties do and some do not contract out park personnel, and he believed it would be fine if it saved money; however, they would need to make sure the quality is maintained with the cost reduction. He added that currently there is always a presence by staff for the public at the parks.
Commr. Conner related a story about a good experience with a park ranger, who was a great ambassador for the County, and he commented that it meant something to him as a private citizen.
Commr. Sullivan related that one of his concerns is the capital dollars that they spend on parks and trails, and he does not see where the dollars would come from in order to maintain the South Lake Park at the level they need to. He added that the Board needs to set the policies that affect those expenditures and the operating dollars.
Commr. Conner elaborated that sports fields need to be maintained at a high level, and he indicated that there would be a lot of complaints from parents and residents if the baseball and other sports fields were unkempt.
commissioner conner – chairman and district 3
Commr. Conner related that he wanted to address the budget and commented that the Board does not know what the constitutional officers will ask for until June. He indicated that his goal is to roll the millage rate back this year, and he hoped they would be in a position to do that. He pointed out that a lot of the issues discussed during this workshop involved spending money, and he cautioned the Board to be careful about talking about all of the money they wanted to spend. He noted that he has been thinking about how they could spend less, and he opined that the discussion about the ongoing operational costs for South Lake Park is very important.
Commr. Campione replied that she did not think they were discussing using general fund dollars for the projects that were mentioned that day but rather using other funds such as tourism development dollars and SHIP funds, and she believed that they were being very sensitive of spending within their means. She added that the trash pickup program they were currently working on would hopefully involve people across the county helping them with that. She added that she thinks the Board has been continually evaluating ways to do things more efficiently, and she commented that these workshops give them an opportunity to ask those questions about whether there are other ways to do things that they had not thought of to make the money go further.
Commr. Conner asked for an update on the Miracle Field.
Mr. Bobby Bonilla, Parks and Trails Division Manager, responded that they were looking at April or May, with the amenities done by the middle of the next fiscal year.
Commr. Conner asked to be updated during that process, since this was important to him, and he asked for a timeline for that project.
summary of workshop goals
Mr. Heath related that the discussions that day would be a blueprint for 2015 and summarized the goals mentioned that day. He recapped that Commr. Sullivan would be giving the Board a monthly update on the penny sales tax committee, and he will get staff to start putting lists together of projects for each discipline that the Board discussed and try to reconcile revenue projects at this point. He mentioned that they will bring back an agenda item in February to add to their legislative priorities in terms of re-entry of $250,000 and contact their lobbyist about that. He stated that they would have a work session regarding a change to their priorities for the SHIP funds. He also indicated that he would look into a forum for identifying issues and outreach with Four Corners, as well as gateway signs in that part as well as other parts of the county. He recapped that they also discussed looking at state lobbyists, and staff would follow up regarding economic incentives as part of Mr. Chandler’s quarterly presentation. He noted that they would look at the marketing of the Sector Plan in March, and he and staff will follow up with Commr. Cadwell on the PFX funding and will possibly put it on the next BCC agenda. He also mentioned that he will follow up on the County logo, and they will be talking about the CRA during the next upcoming meetings. He assured the Board that they will follow up with the haulers and the Adopt-a-Road volunteers regarding the littering issue. He also related that they will bring back Lake Apopka, ecotourism, and water quality projects to be added to their legislative priorities. He added that he would follow up on the work on Kurt Street, and he announced that there was a work session scheduled on Parks and Trails. He noted that they will also look into the rollback brought up by Commr. Conner.
Commr. Cadwell reminded Mr. Heath to remember what they had discussed regarding the streetscape for SR 46.
Mr. Stivender responded that they were working on traffic calming and traffic circles.
Commr. Sullivan concluded that they should set the policies and the tone as Commissioners on what they want to spend money on rather than waiting until there is a crisis.
Commr. Conner commented that they need to speak with one voice articulately, professionally, and together regarding the sales tax.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.
jimmy conner, chairman
NEIL KELLY, CLERK