january 30, 2017

A special meeting of the Lake County Board of County Commissioners was advertised for Monday, January 30, 2017, at 2:30 p.m., at the Clermont Community Center, 620 Montrose Street, Clermont, Florida, to discuss flooding and high water issues in Emerald Lakes Mobile Home Park in Clermont.† Commissioners present at the meeting were:† Sean Parks.† Others present were:† David Heath, County Manager; Bill Veach, Assistant County Manager; Melanie Marsh, County Attorney; and Susan Boyajan, Deputy Clerk.

welcome and introductions

Mr. David Heath, County Manager, expressed appreciation for the attendance of those present and explained that this meeting was pursuant to a previous discussion at a County Commission meeting.† He had everyone present at the meeting introduce themselves, and those in attendance included Mr. Darren Gray, Clermont City Manager; Mr. Randal Raney, Government Affairs Representative; Mr. Jim Pirino, President of Emerald Lakes; Mr. Bill Gorman, Manager of Emerald Lakes; Ms. Hannah Dushane, Aide to State Representative Larry Metz; Ms. Cammie Dewey and Ms. Susan Davis from the St. Johns River Water Management District (St. Johns); Ms. Peggy Cox, Lake County Water Authority Board Trustee for District 1; Mr. Mike Perry, Executive Director of the Lake County Water Authority; Mr. Jim Stivender, Public Works Director; Mr. Nick McRay and Ms. Mary Hamilton from the Lake County Public Works Department; and Fred Schneider, Engineer, Lake County Public Works Department.

purpose of meeting and discussion of legislative priority

Mr. Heath emphasized that the intention of this meeting was not to discuss Rep. Metzís proposed legislation or lowering the water levels, and related that the singular purpose was to have a discussion with all of the stakeholders about a legislative priority that would solve the flooding problems at Emerald Lakes.† He recapped that Mr. Bill Veach, Assistant County Manager, went over the legislative priorities for the current session with the Board of County Commissioners (Board) on November 22, wherein the Board discussed possibly proposing to the legislative delegation an additional legislative priority to identify and specify a technical solution for dealing with the flooding at Emerald Lakes.† He expressed his expectation of coming to a consensus that afternoon that he could present to the Board to move forward with that course of action and to be responsive to their legislative deadlines.† He specified that he estimates that an alternatives analysis study of the ultimate solution of this problem would cost about $300,000, and he opined that it would be a better approach to have the request thought out before rather than after they receive the funding.† He opined that this was an emotional subject, and he listed three things to think about for this study, which were what they are trying to achieve, what types of things they needed to look at, and who would administer the study and could remain objective.† He asked what the scope would be and if there were many alternatives.

Ms. Hamilton responded that they can somehow partition and pump out water from the areas that were prone to flooding.

Mr. Perry related that the Water Authority looked at several alternatives depending on the issue, noting that they may need to change the roads to add a side drainage feature if the problem of water in the streets was due to the roads being built with an inverted crown where all of the water is directed to the center of the roads.

Mr. Pirino pointed out that the homes themselves are raised two to three feet off of the ground, but many of them have add-on structures that are at ground level and are more prone to flooding.

Mr. Perry clarified that there has never been any water actually inside the homes but noted that they could raise the yards if that became a problem.† He related that they have also talked about options related to a dike or levy system, and there was ongoing work currently with the County for the South Lake Water Initiative effort that looked at the disadvantages to bringing the water levels down.

Ms. Cox commented that the stormwater system at Emerald Lakes needs to have some way to drain the stormwater that gathers in the streets and carports into a system that is connected back to Clermontís system using a pump to propel it uphill.† She recapped that right now it flows to a small culvert right into the marsh that was six inches below the street, which results in the water not dissipating after a heavy rain for several days, and she elaborated that the system currently is so low that the water does not have anywhere to go.

Mr. Perry added that they also looked at directing the excess water utilizing a strong and heavy sump pump to a few specific areas.

Mr. Heath asked whether the work the Water Authority did was ever put in a report.

Mr. Perry responded that it was written in a letter to Rep. Metz last year, although he noted that there was little engineering that went into it and was just a conceptual summary of some options that might be available.

Mr. Stivender commented that those options needed to include some design concepts and prices, since there were three or four options within the construction area alone, with each one having their own merits based on both short-term and long-term costs.

Mr. Pirino added that at the present water levels, water in the street is only part of the problem following a rain, and soil saturation causing a constant seepage onto the roads and walkways has also caused slip and fall injuries resulting in a pending lawsuit by a resident who fell outside the clubhouse.† He added that mold has grown due to the area being consistently wet.

Mr. Stivender replied that the solution for soil saturation could be accomplished by the same pumping system.

Mr. Schneider suggested that they should look into at least three options.

Mr. Perry mentioned that they had come up with five or six alternatives, but they were related to addressing a few different issues, such as water in the streets or in the homes.

Mr. Schneider stated that he believes that historically the lake levels and the street were at the same elevation and asked whether the lake ever backed up into the streets.

Ms. Cox replied that it does back up in the boat ramp area, which was lower than the lake elevation.

Mr. Perry opined that the levels of fill in the area have subsided, since it was built in a marsh, and certain portions of some of the roads are below where the drain is.

Mr. Stivender added that the historic drought of 2000 created a void, and everything was at a lower level when the water came back.

Mr. Pirino replied that the settlement on the roads is predominately not from the land sinking but rather from underground piping that has given way, and they have remedied that, except for two areas where they have had significantly lowered levels, which were at the clubhouse, where they had to drill down to bedrock to prop it up recently, and behind the swamp on the south side of the community where they have lost about 20 feet of lot line to the swamp.†† He emphasized that there has only been problems in the last two years.

Mr. Stivender responded that the Green Swamp was not flowing until about two years ago.

Mr. Pirino opined that a regular crown would just result in the water being relocated onto the already-saturated lawn and not the drain.

Mr. Schneider asked if the water gets to the drain.

Ms. Cox answered that it gets to the drain most places but noted that they would change the drainage system, which would include culverts and a proper stormwater system, if they change the road system.

Mr. Schneider explained that the scope of work does not have to be restricted only to three options, and the consultant will look at the project and decide that before they negotiate and finalize a contract.

Mr. Heath clarified that the focus would be specifically on stormwater and roads in Emerald Lakes, noting that a consultant would first look at and evaluate existing conditions, develop three to five alternatives, estimate the short and long-term costs, and come up with a recommended solution which would include design concepts.† He further clarified that stormwater would include pumps, walls, and dikes, and the process would include public participation.

Mr. Stivender elaborated that there would be displays at the public meetings showing what the concepts would be.

Ms. Cox stated that she did not know what it would cost to raise up the earth level of the entire development, although she realized that would be an expensive undertaking, and she noted that the level at the boat ramp was measured at 96.3 feet, with the development built below the recommended elevation at about 99 feet.

Mr. Heath asked if they could do that without displacing the residents.

Mr. Schneider responded that the homes would have to be moved to do that.

Commr. Parks asked the officials present from St. Johns whether it was possible to get a permit to do that.

Ms. Cammie Dewey responded that that kind of project may not require a permit.

Commr. Parks related an incident that happened in Deltona resulting from a deluge of rain where an emergency action sped permitting and funding up.

Ms. Dewey recalled that they had done some emergency authorizations to address the issues at that time, such as flooding and the inability of emergency vehicles to get to certain areas, with the application process finalized later by the City of Deltona.† She added that Deltona brought in temporary pumps to pump the water out of certain places where they could not just move that water to another basin or area which would cause flooding somewhere else, and the permitting process was concluded later.† She noted that they have used a combination of factors to deal with the flooding problems in the long term, some of which were covered by grants.

Mr. Pirino specified that there would be about 150 homes in the main portion of the Emerald Lakes development that would need to be raised, since the ones on the hill would not have to be raised.† He pointed out that the cost to raise the elevation would include the additional cost of $25,000 per home just to replace the car ports, screen rooms, and driveways.

Mr. Perry related that the Water Authority had also looked at relocating the boat ramp to a place outside one of the levees as well as reconfiguring the levees.

Mr. Heath asked if there was any other language anyone would like to add to the request besides roads and stormwater.

Ms. Cox asked whether there was a way for the City or the County to ask the State to buy this property for restoration as a marsh as part of a land acquisition program rather than using the FEMA option after a natural disaster.

Mr. Perry added that it would cost between $8.5 million and $13 million to buy out those properties.

Mr. Pirino related that he had the property appraised two or three years ago for a loan at over $11 million, which does not include the value of the homes which he estimated at another $10 million to $12 million.

Mr. Heath clarified that that would not be an option for the residents and then received consensus that they would limit the options to stormwater and roads.

Mr. Perry voiced concern that they would be proposing to spend public money to enhance private property.

Mr. Gorman pointed out that the residents of Emerald Lakes pay a total of about $96,000 a year in property taxes.

Ms. Cox opined that if a system is devised to improve the stormwater management, it would need to be tied into the City of Clermont in order for it to work, which would take it out of private ownership, with the streets and everything else still owned by the co-op.

Commr. Parks asked who would pay for pumps and other equipment if it was needed as part of the solution that is identified by the study as well as long-term maintenance and operational costs.

Mr. Heath commented that that would be part of the evaluation.

Mr. Stivender related that they could get grants for capital improvements most of the time, but the property owners would be responsible for the long-term maintenance.

Mr. Heath stated that it could be part of the background of the RFP in terms of the description of existing conditions at Emerald Lakes.† He then asked if $300,000 sounded like a reasonable cost for the consultant to conduct the study.

Mr. Stivender responded that they needed to have some design concept plans and documentation, and core samples might have to be done.

Ms. Cox suggested that they put everything in the request that they think might possibly need to be done when asking for the appropriation for this.

Mr. Schneider related that they will be doing detailed plans which could take a lot of time and effort, including surveying, geotechnical engineering, studying the contour of the area, and investigations which would include discussions with the homeowners.† He concluded that he believed that $300,000 would be a good figure.

Mr. Veach concurred that $300,000 would be a good funding amount for the request.

Mr. Heath asked who would administer the study if they were able to get the state grant and opined that it needed to be an objective party.

Ms. Dewey commented that St. Johns would not be involved in that endeavor until it comes to them for permitting and noted that the only projects they have been involved with recently have been a limited number of restoration projects.

Mr. Gray commented that the City of Clermont does not have the staff to oversee this project.

Mr. Heath explained that the funding will not be available until July if that funding request is granted, they will get the contracts in 2018, and the study would be done in 2019 or 2020.

Mr. Heath directed Mr. Veach to work with County staff on a legislative priority that would reflect their discussion that day.† He related that they could get this before the Board for their consideration at the BCC Meeting on Tuesday, February 7 and asked everyone to get any comments to Mr. Nick McRay and Ms. Mary Hamilton by that Thursday afternoon, February 2.


There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 3:30 p.m.



timothy i. sullivan, chairman