A regular MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
april 13, 2021
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in regular session on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at 9:00 a.m., in the County Commission Chambers, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Sean Parks, Chairman; Kirby Smith, Vice Chairman; Douglas B. Shields; Leslie Campione; and Josh Blake. Others present were: Alan Rosen, County Manager; Melanie Marsh, County Attorney; Niki Booth, Executive Office Manager, County Manager’s Office; Gary J. Cooney, Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller; Kristy Mullane, Chief Financial Officer; and Kathleen Bregel, Deputy Clerk.
INVOCATION and pledge
Commr. Parks remarked that the Pledge of Allegiance would be led by Mr. Les Westlake who was a roads construction inspector for the Department of Public Works. He mentioned that Mr. Westlake had served in the United States (U.S.) Coast Guard from 1977 until he retired in 1998 as a Chief Petty Officer. He shared that highlights of his career included patrolling New Smyrna Beach, Florida, rescuing fishermen in northern California, providing support for the highly sophisticated Surface Effect ships in Key West, Florida, maintaining Aids to Navigations in New Orleans, Louisiana and conducting foreign vessel inspections in Boston, Massachusetts. He then thanked Mr. Westlake for his service.
Pastor Brooks Braswell with First Baptist Church Umatilla gave the Invocation, and then Mr. Westlake led the Pledge of Allegiance.
virtual meeting instructions
Commr. Parks mentioned that this meeting was a hybrid meeting which was a combination of an in-person meeting and one which allowed individuals to participate virtually. He asked for Mr. Erikk Ross, Director for the Information Technology (IT) Department, to explain how citizens who were listening remotely could participate.
Mr. Ross explained that this meeting was being livestreamed on the County website and was also being made available through a Zoom Webinar for members of the public who were unable to attend in person but wished to provide comments during the Citizen Question and Comment Period later in the agenda. He elaborated that anyone watching though the livestream who wished to speak during the Citizen Question and Comment Period of the meeting could follow the directions currently being broadcast through the stream; furthermore, he relayed that anyone who had joined the webinar via their phone could press *9 on their phones to virtually raise their hand and anyone participating online could click the raise hand button to identify that they wished to speak. He said that when it was time for public comment, he would then identify the person or their phone number, unmute the appropriate line, and allow the citizen to speak for their three minute timeframe. He added that anyone wishing to provide written comments could visit www.lakecountyfl.gov/commissionmeeting, noting that comments presented before 5:00 p.m. the previous day were shared with the Commission prior to this meeting, and that comments sent during this meeting would be shared with the Commission after the meeting was concluded.
Mr. Alan Rosen, County Manager, mentioned that Tab 31 Office of Human Services and Risk Management budget presentation had been added as an addendum since the agenda was first published, and would be presented between Tabs 19 and 20.
Commr. Parks asked for Tab 30 to be added to the consent agenda.
employee service and quarterly awards
Ms. Jeannine Nelson, Human Resources and Risk Management Manager, announced that they would be recognizing employees who had reached service milestones in their careers with Lake County as well as recipients of the quarterly awards as follows:
Kelly Ellis, Trades Crew Leader
Office of Parks & Trails
Keri Lyttle, Program Specialist
Office of Library Servicest
Osvaldo Nunez, Design Engineer
Public Works Department
William Vanderkin, Environmental Waste Technician
Public Works Department
Elissa Allison, Library Assistant I
Office of Library Services
Gregory Lane, EO/IV Team Leader
Public Works Department
Aaron Taylor, Library Assistant I
Office of Library Services
Robert Fickett, Battalion Fire Chief
Office of Fire Rescue
Dwayne Turner, Sign & Striping Technician I
Public Works Department
Juanita Popenoe, Extension Agent IV
Office of Extension Services
EMPLOYEE OF THE QUARTER
Heather Pelton, Emergency Dispatch Lead
Office of Public Safety Support
Ms. Nelson stated that Ms. Heather Pelton, Emergency Dispatch Lead with the Office of Public Safety Support, was the employee of the quarter. She mentioned that Ms. Pelton was selected as employee of the quarter because of her outstanding conduct, commitment, and consistently demonstrated initiative. She shared that on a recent evening, Ms. Pelton observed suspicious activity outside the Emergency Communications and Operations Center (ECOC) where the dispatch center is housed and quickly responded by notifying authorities; furthermore, this rapid action and awareness prevented burglary and resulted in a suspect being apprehended. She congratulated Ms. Pelton on being selected as employee of the quarter and thanked her for her resourcefulness and dedication to upholding safety in the community.
SUPERVISOR OF THE QUARTER
Erikk Ross, Information Technology Dept. Director
Information Technology Department
Ms. Nelson stated that Mr. Ross was the supervisor of the quarter, and was nominated for this award recognition by his coworkers. She relayed that Mr. Ross had tirelessly assisted with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine registration for Lake County’s vaccination site at the Lake Square Mall, ensuring that IT resources and operations continued to result in an efficient operation. She thanked Mr. Ross for leading by example and for his commitment to customer service, and then congratulated him for being supervisor of the quarter.
T.E.A.M. OF THE QUARTER
CARES ACT Administrative Team
CORE IMPLEMENTATION TEAM MEMBERS
Agency for Economic Prosperity
Tracy Garcia, Director Elevate Lake
Brenda DeMartino, Office Manager
Kimberly Haskins, Financial Analyst
Mary Ellen Stern, Manager, Business Development
Ericka Greene, Associate Director, Elevate Lake
Alexandra Sanchez, Manager, Business Development
Steven Clenney, Manager, Sports Development
Tiffany Hubbert, Manager, Tourism Development
Cole Scharlau, Fairgrounds & Event Center Program Manager
CUSTOMER SUPPORT TEAM MEMBERS
Misty Spahn, Agenda Coordinator, County Manager’s Office
Marybell Nunez, Office Associate V, Office of Emergency Management
Polly Berger, Office Associate III, Office of Parks & Trails
Amy Elliott, Compliance Coordinator, Office of Housing & Human Services
Sharon Stegemeyer, Program Specialist, Office of Library Services
Miranda Lanoue, Financial Coordinator, Office of Management & Budget
Roberto Rodriguez, Financial Coordinator, Office of Management & Budget
Jessica Santos Velez, Financial Associate, Office of Management & Budget
Djeff Ilere, Program Associate, Office of County Probation
Christina Whyte, Program Associate, Office of County Probation
Ms. Nelson remarked that the T.E.A.M. of the Quarter award went to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act Administrative Team, and that she wanted to recognize the many offices and team members across the County organization who had worked to develop and implement the Lake CARES Small Business Assistance Grant Program. She remarked that the Agency for Economic Prosperity served as the core group for this team, and were tasked with creating and implementing a new grant program which would aid businesses and residents who were negatively impacted by the COVID-19 virus. She commented that this team, which consisted of staff from many departments, worked with local businesses to help develop this new program, and created a process for registering applicants, reviewing applications, and providing community guidance to distribute this grant assistance. She indicated that thanks to the efforts of this team, Lake County was able to assist more than 2,000 qualifying Lake County businesses, Chambers of Commerce, and 501(c)(3) nonprofits, ensuring that they would receive financial assistance during this critical time. She congratulated this Lake CARES Act Administrative Team, and then identified each member.
Jacob Gault, Paramedic FTO
Office of Emergency Medical Services
Ms. Nelson introduce Mr. Jerry Smith, Director for the Office of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in order to present a special award.
Mr. Smith relayed that every year, the Tavares American Legion Post 76 honored a Lake County paramedic, and he was happy to announce that this year it was Lieutenant Jacob Gault, Paramedic FTO with the Office of EMS. He shared that Lieutenant Gault had been with the Office of EMS for about four years, had started as an emergency medical technician (EMT), went into the paramedic provisional program, and had recently been promoted to field training officer. He said that through the pandemic, Lieutenant Gault had been a stalwart member of their team by picking up additional work, covering shifts, working at the shot clinic, and being a positive and productive member of the team. He shared a story regarding a time that Lieutenant Gault worked on a cardiac arrest patient for 45 minutes, which had a positive outcome and was much appreciated by the patient’s family and the community. He then recognized Lieutenant Gault for this honor, and thanked him for his service to Lake County.
Mr. Tommy Carpenter, Director for the Office of Emergency Management, provided a brief update on the COVID-19 vaccination site at the former Sears location at Lake Square Mall. He reported that this site started on January 27, 2021, had been in operation for 58 days, and had administered 92,399 first and second doses of the vaccination shot, noting this was an average of 1,586 shots per day. He then mentioned the operating hours for this site, noting that they would begin having Saturday hours as well as later operating hours. He indicated that all eligible Floridians were able to get the vaccine. He reported that while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had placed a temporary hold on the Johnson and Johnson vaccination shot, this would not affect Lake County since they were administering the Pfizer vaccination shot. He stated that the 65+ population was at 82 to 83 percent vaccinated, and that the county’s overall cumulative positivity rate was at 8.9 percent. He thanked the many County staff, Constitutional Officers’ staff, and volunteers for their assistance with this process and for their ability to vaccinate a high number of residents. He gave a special recognition to Mr. Ross and his team for their efforts in assisting with site operations, and opined that Mr. Ross was well deserving of the employee of the quarter award.
On a motion by Commr. Campione, seconded by Commr. Smith, and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved the minutes for the BCC meetings of December 22, 2020 (Regular Meeting), January 12, 2021 (Regular Meeting), and January 26, 2021 (Regular Meeting).
commissioners board and committee updates
Commr. Parks explained that this was a new section to the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meetings and was added in order to show the residents that there were many volunteer committees which they would be eligible to participate in, that they dealt with a variety of issues, and that they demonstrated how the local government functioned. He summarized that this section of the meeting would include a brief update on what was happening with these committees in order to inform residents of what was taking place in their community.
Commr. Shields reported on the Tourist Development Council (TDC) and mentioned that this board had added three new members for a total of nine members. He shared that since the meeting was not published in the proper timing, they were unable to pass agenda items; however, they would be meeting again the following week to address these. He relayed that he had mentioned to the County Manager and County Attorney that the process for providing capital funds needed to be reworked; therefore, that was being worked on and would come before the BCC sometime in the future. He said that the TDC had also discussed whether a resolution stating that they did not agree with House Bill 1429 and Senate Bill 2008 should be drafted, noting this was legislation that addressed having tourist development tax (TDT) funding spent in other ways. He told the TDC that he would bring this to the attention of the BCC, but he thought the BCC liked to have flexibility and that merely having the ability to spend funding in a different way did not necessarily mean that they would do that. He stated that the Elder Affairs Coordinating Council was back on track, had a new Chairman, and had a vacancy for a District 4 representative. He relayed that one of the members mentioned that the Lake County Veterans Service Office was doing great work and was able to provide medical services such as hearing aids. He encouraged any veterans in the community to consider ways this office could help them, and then provided their phone number. He then acknowledged Mr. Carpenter for the great job he did discussing vaccinations at the Elder Affairs Coordinating Council meeting.
Commr. Smith stated that he had attended the Lake County Library System Advisory Board meeting, and that the Chairman for this Board had recommended that Ms. Vivian Wright, with the Eustis African-American Heritage Celebration, take the lead for the African-American Heritage Display Steering Group for all the libraries. He reported the following from this meeting: the Office of Library Services had received seven applications for the library trust fund fee; for National Library Week, the libraries were collaborating with the Lake County Animal Shelter so that anyone who had a library card would have their pet adoption fee waived; the libraries added linked-in learning services which gave over 16,000 instructional courses in leadership, small business education, and technology; and library circulation was starting to rebound and get back to pre-pandemic levels. He relayed that he also attended a meeting with the Upper Ocklawaha Basin Working Group, which included Lake Harris, Lake Apopka, and Lake Beauclair, and indicated that there was a lot of remediation happening.
Commr. Parks said that he represented the BCC on the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) Board which met monthly. He shared that they started working on their budget, and reported that toll revenue had increased 20 percent. He also mentioned that they were continuing to work on their call center response times, and were beginning to increase staff at the call center.
Commr. Campione relayed that the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee met on March 24, 2021, noting that several Cities accepted the invitation to join the meeting and compare strategies and look for areas they could collaborate on in order to unify the approach to affordable housing needs in the community. She indicated that they were able to make recommendations regarding the value limits on rehab homes that State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) funding was utilized for. She stated that the Early Learning Coalition had a training session on April 6, 2021 for new members, and a Board meeting on April 7, 2021; additionally, the Arts and Cultural Alliance met the previous day with the primary focus of the meeting being on a new grant program that they hoped to launch once they went through the process and obtained BCC approval. She explained that this would be one time grants to nonprofit groups in the county who were involved in arts and cultural affairs.
Commr. Blake said that the Children’s Services Council had met in March 2021 but he was unable to attend due to a conflict, noting that this was the last monthly meeting for this group since they had transitioned to quarterly meetings with subcommittee meetings as needed throughout the year. He commented that the Public Safety Coordinating Council, which monitors jail overcrowding, had also moved to quarterly meetings with a subcommittee meeting on the present day in the afternoon. He relayed that the previous Friday, there was a Lake-Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) meeting which he participated in, and shared that they discussed the history of the Lake-Sumter MPO.
Mr. Chris Carmody, with GrayRobinson, provided an update on the 2021 Florida Legislative Session and discussed the following: impact fees, the North Lake County Hospital District (NLCHD), and the expansion of the TDT for homerule and local issues; CFX, online sales tax, and documentary stamp tax for policy issues; and the public use building, the Green Mountain Connector, the Wekiva Trail, and public safety radios for Lake County appropriation issues. He reported that the bill regarding impact fees had a few elements to it which included the following: it said that impact fees could not be increased more than 50 percent; that fee increases could be subject to time limits; it started by defining what the fees could go towards; the bill was still being adjusted to be more flexible; and it was moving closer to the finish line but could be subject to the Governor’s veto. He relayed that the legislation regarding the NLCHD had moved through one committee but had not moved since that, noting that he thought it would not move further. He recalled that the piece of legislation that would expand TDT to cover flooding mitigation as well as require that there had to be a referendum to approve other uses of TDT was temporarily postponed in the Senate in its first committee of reference. He said the House version was technically still active, but it looked like it would not continue, although they were watching it. He remarked that for policy issues, the CFX fix remained and was still in good posture as they tried to get that bill to the finish line. He reported that the online sales tax bill had been passed and sent to the Governor. He explained that it would enforce the online sales tax which would have a positive net revenue boost for local governments as well; furthermore, it should be approximately $1.1 billion for the State and estimated to be about $200 million spread across the Counties. He indicated that at the State level, the revenue would be used in the short term to offset the expected rise in unemployment tax for businesses to replenish the unemployment fund; additionally, when that fund got to the amount of about $4 billion, which would probably take two to three years, then they would then take the revenue and offset the business rent tax and move it from currently 5.5 percent to 2.0 percent. He explained that the documentary stamp tax was collected on the purchase and sale of homes and went into the Sadowski Trust Fund, noting that this fund had traditionally been for affordable housing. He elaborated that over the last 10 to 15 years, the legislature took those funds out of the Sadowski Trust Fund and put them into general revenue, noting that the previous year was the exception since they fully funded the Sadowski Trust Fund for affordable housing but the Governor had to veto about half of it due to COVID-19. He mentioned that for the current year, an early version of this proposed that they would split it into thirds, with a third going towards housing, a third for resiliency for flooding mitigation, and a third for wastewater treatment. He indicated that many spoke out against this, and ultimately they cut it in half so that half of it would go towards affordable housing with a promise to continue it in future years, and the other half would be split in two so that basically a quarter of the full amount went to resiliency and a quarter went to wastewater, with both of these being grant programs that the County could apply for. He concluded by sharing information about Lake County’s appropriations. He said that the public use building, the Green Mountain Connector, the Wekiva Trail, and the public safety radios were all in the Senate budget. He relayed that the County had strong support for these items in both Chambers; however, he opined that the likelihood of all four of them making it to the finish line was slim since that would be difficult. He relayed that they had been working with staff and the County to express appreciation to the legislators for their support of the items. He reported that both the Senate and House budgets passed the previous week, and they were certified for conference with the budget conference starting probably the end of the following week. He then shared a few thoughts on the timing of the rest of the legislation session, noting that there was about two and a half weeks left until the end of the session.
Commr. Parks recalled that there had been some concern among the Commissioners since they had advocated for the Green Mountain Connector and the Wekiva Trail and there was only a certain amount of funding that would be allocated to District 5, noting this was the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) district that Lake County was in and was called the District 5 Trust Fund. He explained that there was only so much money that was appropriated from the State to the district, and that if these projects were awarded, they could compete and maybe affect or bump some other road project that was on the County’s list of priority projects that were done through the process of the Lake-Sumter MPO. He indicated that since the Board discussion two weeks prior, he had met by phone with Mr. Kevin Thibault, Secretary of FDOT, and Mr. Jared Perdue, District 5 Secretary, noting that he had good conversations with both of them and that they understood the situation. He relayed that both gentlemen said that there could be some decisions that the County would need to make, that they would work with the County, that this situation can happen, and that they would not view it negatively that the County had advocated for these items but also had other items on their priority list of projects through the MPO. He advised to move forward and to not ask for any of these items to be taken off or to stop advocating for these items at this point.
Commr. Campione asked for clarification that Commissioner Parks was saying that if the County got into a situation in which these two trails were awarded but it was going to displace another project, which could actually be another trail, then they would make the decision at that point in time.
Commr. Parks confirmed that was correct, and stated that the County would be able to work with FDOT at that time to make a decision.
Commr. Blake specified that his concern was that it could also affect road projects, and Commissioner Parks confirmed that was correct.
Commr. Campione opined that was the concern, and noted that it was not an issue of the BCC not supporting these two projects, trails, or their master trail plan; rather, the problem was if they displaced a safety project, such as paved shoulders which affect cyclists, or transportation projects that had been lingering and the communities had been pushing to have completed.
Commr. Parks understood the concern, and mentioned that they could search for other buckets of funding or appropriations.
Commr. Campione asked if they could at least agree that they would not displace safety projects. She opined that was difficult from a policy standpoint if they took funding away from a safety project, noting that safety projects were in place for a reason due to issues that needed to be addressed, such as accidents. She encouraged looking for additional revenue streams for trails that could be more dependable in terms of getting them finished rather than having to decide every year whether they would do a transportation or trail project. She opined this was an ongoing conflict each year.
Commr. Parks agreed and hoped that one of their goals was to get a funding plan for trails long term; additionally, he agreed that in concept they should be careful about moving safety projects down the list. He suggested they wait a few more weeks to see what happened, and hoped they would not have to make those tough choices.
Commr. Campione stated that possibly there was hope that some of the funding coming from the Federal Government would actually make its way into additional transportation projects across the State of Florida.
Commr. Blake reiterated that his concern was the process since the State had set up the MPO process, everyone weighed in, and it was a pretty tedious cycle of everyone getting together to decide what the priorities were. He expressed concerns for the future if the Board set a precedent by getting enthusiastic support for a couple of things that bypass the MPO process; furthermore, this could possibly make the people who serve on the MPO from municipalities or other areas wonder why they go through the process if there was a special interest effort during the last minute of legislative session and the annual MPO process became moot.
Commr. Parks agreed that Cities were valuable partners and they were all in it together with the MPO. He thought the process had been pretty good as he had seen other places around the state where they disrespected each other. He relayed to the MPO that the Board would respect that and be careful what they did over the next couple of weeks.
Commr. Campione mentioned that there was a meeting the next afternoon and that this should be discussed with the MPO and it should be explained what the BCC did with their priorities in light of what they knew regarding how FDOT did their funding. She reiterated that if they left these priorities intact, that she would want to include the caveat that if they should get the funding for these projects and they displaced other projects, then for everyone to understand that the Board may need to make some tough decisions at that point, especially if it was a safety or transportation project that needed to stay on track.
Commr. Smith commented that this was a learning process as he did not know that appropriations would come off the FDOT funding.
Commr. Parks explained that they can, and most of the time would be for transportation.
Commr. Smith remarked that the County had four legislative priorities, that the legislators worked hard to get them through, and he thought they should respect their due diligence, work ethics and what they had done for Lake County. He said he was glad that Commissioner Parks had met with Secretary Thibault, and that he was fine with leaving the priorities in order to see what happened.
Mr. Rosen stated that even though this was not a secure and ongoing piece of funding, there were a couple of things coming down from the Federal Government in additional funding opportunities, noting that one of them was the Community Funded Projects, or what used to be called Earmark Grants. He relayed that they had spoken to the County’s federal lobbyist regarding what projects they currently had that they wanted funding for which might make sense to fund through this opportunity. He stated that one of the ones they picked was the Wekiva Trail; therefore, they had asked for an additional $1 million from the Federal Government for the Wekiva Trail, noting that if this trail did not get funded from the Florida Legislature, they would have something coming through from another source.
Mr. Mike Stephens, with The Lake 100 Trails Committee and Friends of Lake County Trails, thanked the Board for the time to discuss trail priorities. He shared that these trail priorities were presented to the legislative delegation, the County submitted the priorities, and there had been a lot of work behind the scenes to get these priorities through the system. He appreciated the comments and understood the issue with FDOT, and thanked the Chairman for reaching out to Secretaries Thibault and Perdue to obtain their comments, hoping they would be able to work with them to find a resolution. He mentioned that they did not want to obtain design funding for the trail but be unable to get construction funding. He recalled that these projects had been presented almost a year prior, and that they had been working hard on them behind the scenes with many local, state, and national cycling groups. He expressed appreciation for Commissioner Campione’s comments about a permanent funding source and opined that the number one priority was to come up with long term funding for trails. He thanked the Board for their efforts toward these priorities, and emphasized that these were regional trails that would bring an economic impact to the county in addition to the quality of life aspects. He mentioned that in a State report the previous year, it indicated that there was $265 million a year in economic impact for 85 miles of trails in Marion County.
Commr. Campione asked for Mr. Stephens to describe the Marion County trail and why it was so popular.
Mr. Stephens explained that it was the Across Florida Greenway with the majority of it going through Marion County, but that it also went further east and west. He said he had been involved with it since 1998, and that it was 85 miles of trails which began in the City of Santos, went across State Road (SR) 200 to SR 44 and then further west. He reported that it included separate trails for equestrian, biking, and hiking, noting that this trail saw a ton of use with people coming from all over the country to utilize it.
Commr. Campione inquired if there were any segments which were part of a road system or was it all off road.
Mr. Stephens replied that there were paved trails, and that it would be part of the Heart of Florida Loop; additionally, the River to Hills Trail would connect with it on SR 40, at which point it would go from SR 40 west over to the Across Florida Greenway. He reported that there were 15 miles that had been paved already going west and another 15 to 20 miles that were currently being designed to go further west so that it would loop down to the Withlacoochee State Trail and the General James A. Van Fleet State Trail and then come to the other side of Central Florida on the Florida Coast-to-Coast Trail. He said it was a huge loop that was going around Lake County and that they desired to bring it to the county with the River to Hills Trail and part of the Green Mountain Connector in order to bring people using those trails up to Lake County.
Mr. Rosen mentioned that one of the Commissioners had asked if they could fit it into another budget that would not affect the MPO and FDOT. He asked Mr. Carmody if he had found any other funding source through the legislative process that would be allowable that would not impact FDOT and MPO.
Mr. Carmody responded that the legislators could fund a trail without going in the FDOT budget; however, they had not done that before and he expected that they would not change that. He indicated that going through this fund was their current process. He mentioned that occasionally there were exceptions and gave the example that if the County could show that the trail had an environmental benefit and was more of an environmental project than a trail, then they could attempt to have it funded through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP); however, he had never seen that done in previous years. He said he would be surprised if they made an exception for Lake County to do this, but he would make those inquiries if that was the Board’s desire.
Mr. Stephens relayed that the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails had an opportunities map and a priorities map, that all of the county’s regional trails were already listed on the opportunities map, and that when trails moved from the opportunities map to the priorities map, then that was when they would be eligible for Shared-Use Nonmotorized (SUN) Trail funding, noting this was what was funding the Florida Coast-To-Coast Trail. He indicated that this was updated every five years.
Commr. Parks thanked Mr. Stephens for his support of trails and for the trail advocates in the audience.
citizen question and comment period
Mr. Clark Morris, a Lake County resident, expressed concerns for traffic safety enforcement in the county, and asked the Board to consider adding additional law enforcement on the roads to assist with this.
Commr. Parks remarked that adding additional officers would be a budget issue.
Mr. Michael Lukasik, a local veteran, asked the Board to consider adding additional staff for the Veterans Service Office to help reduce the wait time for assistance.
Commr. Parks recognized that Mr. Lukasik had spoken to the Board previously regarding this matter, and asked for staff to follow up with him.
Mr. Ronald Moore, with Sea 2 Sea 4 PTSD, explained his peers support group program and volunteered to help Lake County establish this for its employees, noting that he was an advocate for veterans and first responders.
Commr. Parks thanked him for his comments and service, and indicated that he would follow up with him regarding this.
Ms. Cheryl Brown, a concerned citizen, shared her experience as a volunteer with a local animal rescue group, and opined that the Lake County Animal Shelter was not serving the animal needs of the community.
Ms. Rosemary Lupo, a Lake County resident, read a letter from Ms. Erica Esterson, a City of Clermont resident and teacher with Lake County Schools, who was unhappy with the Lake County Animal Shelter’s service for cats, noting that she was an active volunteer of trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs for cats.
Ms. Jamie Archer, a resident of northern Lake County, shared a challenging experience she had recently had with the Lake County Animal Shelter regarding a poodle that she had brought to them and desired to adopt. She mentioned that she was active in rescuing animals and suggested that the animal shelter review Marion County’s program.
Commr. Parks opined this was a sensitive issue and one that the BCC was passionate about. He relayed that he had personally fostered a cat from the Lake County Animal Shelter, and said that Ms. Whitney Boylston, Director for the Office of Animal Services, was very dedicated to protecting the lives of all animals.
Commr. Campione thought that Ms. Boylston should have the opportunity to address these concerns, and indicated that there were many facts that explained the cat population currently. She reiterated that if there were potential policy issues, then the Board should workshop this rather than address it at a BCC meeting. She expressed concerns based on public comments that this could be a more personal issue than a policy issue.
Commr. Parks thanked the citizens for attending and sharing their concerns, and indicated that the Board would consider possibly workshopping the issues.
Mr. Vance Jochim, a writer of a governmental blog, asked for the Board to consider adding a desk for press people to utilize during BCC meetings. He also mentioned a case regarding Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compatibility for websites and information about the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program.
Commr. Parks said that for the record, PACE was brought forward by himself and some of the other Commissioners as a topic for discussion which was never acted upon for good reason after learning the facts five years prior, noting he did not think it was an issue currently.
Mr. Gary Winheim, a City of Leesburg resident, shared concerns regarding traffic on Silver Lake Drive and Morningside Drive, and asked the Board to consider changing the speed limit on these roads to 25 miles per hour (mph).
Commr. Smith asked for Mr. Winheim to provide his contact information so that he could meet with him since this was within his district.
Mr. Vincent Niemiec, a City of Clermont resident, spoke on traffic safety issues and illegal U-turns near the Hunters Run and Regency Hills communities. He asked the County to place no U-turn signs in these areas.
Commr. Parks thanked Mr. Niemiec for his work regarding traffic in the Hartwood Marsh Road area, and asked for him to connect with Mr. Fred Schneider, Public Works Director, regarding the signs.
Mr. David Serdar, a citizen commenting virtually, thanked veterans for their service.
CLERK OF the Circuit COURT and comptroller’s CONSENT AGENDA
On a motion by Commr. Blake, seconded by Commr. Smith and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller’s Consent Agenda, Items 1 through 10, as follows:
List of Warrants
Notice is hereby provided of warrants paid prior to this meeting, pursuant to Chapter 136.06 (1) of the Florida Statutes, which shall be incorporated into the Minutes and filed in the Board Support Division of the Clerk's Office.
City of Clermont CRA Resolution 21
Notice is hereby provided of having received the City of Clermont Community Redevelopment Agency Resolution 21 adopting the budget amendment for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
St. Johns River Water Management District Annual Financial Report
Notice is hereby provided of having received the St. Johns River Water Management District Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2019-2020.
City of Umatilla Ordinances
Notice is hereby provided of having received Ordinances 2021-A and 2021-A-1 from the City of Umatilla.
City of Minneola CRA Annual Reports
Notice is hereby provided of having received the Minneola Downtown CRA Annual Report and the Minneola Mountain Properties CRA Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2020.
City of Eustis Ordinances
Notice is hereby provided of having received Annexation Ordinance 20-41, corresponding Future Land Use Ordinance 20-42, and corresponding Design District Amendment Ordinance 20-43 from the City of Eustis.
City of Umatilla Ordinances
Notice is hereby provided of having received the following from the City of Umatilla: Ordinance 2021-B; Ordinances 2020-K, 2020-K-1, & 2020-K-2; Ordinance 2020-L; Ordinances 2020-M, 2020-M-1, & 2020-M-2; and Ordinances 2020-N, 2020-N-1, & 2020-N-2 from the City of Umatilla.
Town of Lady Lake Ordinances and Resolutions
Notice is hereby provided of having received the following from the Town of Lady Lake: Ordinance 2020-10; Ordinance 2020-11; Ordinance 2020-12; Ordinance 2020-14; Ordinance 2020-15; Ordinance 2020-16; Ordinance 2020-17; Resolution 2020-108; Resolution 2020-109; Resolution 2020-110; Resolution 2020-111; Resolution 2020-114; Resolution 2020-116; and Resolution 2020-117.
City of Minneola Ordinances
Notice is hereby provided of having received the Comprehensive Plan Amendment Ordinance 2020-16, Annexation and Rezoning Ordinance 2020-15, and various supporting documents, from the City of Minneola.
City of Eustis Ordinances
Notice is hereby provided of having received Annexation Ordinance 20-47, corresponding Future Land Use Ordinance 20-48, and corresponding Design District Amendment Ordinance 20-49 from the City of Eustis.
COUNTY MANAGER’S CONSENT AGENDA
Commr. Smith asked for Tab 10 to be pulled for discussion.
On a motion by Commr. Smith, seconded by Commr. Shields and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the Consent Agenda, Tabs 3 through 16, plus Tab 30, pulling Tab 10 for discussion as follows:
Approval of Water Conservation Month Proclamation 2021-45, per Commissioner Parks.
Move to approve Resolution 2021-55 authorizing the release of the automatic statutory reservation of petroleum and mineral rights under Section 270.11, Florida Statutes, on property located on Hammock Ridge Road in Clermont, which was previously owned by Lake County.
Move to approve:
1. To convey Alternate Keys 1266319 and 1266297 to Marion County for use as the Medical Examiner Facility; and
2. Execute Transfer Resolution 2021-56; and
3. Authorize the Chairman to execute any necessary closing documents.
The fiscal impact is $10.00 (expenditure). Commission District 3.
human resources and risk management
Request approval of Amendment to County Attorney Employment Agreement. There is no fiscal impact.
AGENCY FOR ECONOMIC PROSPERITY
Move to approve a Lake County Waiver of Transportation Impact Fees for Project Lotus pursuant to Section 22-10, Lake County Code.
Move to approve Resolution 2021-57 in support of Senate Bill 982 and House Bill 6071 to reinstate the Qualified Target Industry (QTI) Tax Refund Incentive Program that expired in June 2020; and approval to send the resolution to the Florida Legislature.
PUBLIC SAFETY AND DEVELOPMENT SERVICES
Move to approve:
1. An addendum to the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement, Main Unit, with Professional Fire Fighters of Lake County, IAFF, Local 3990 calculated retroactive to September 27, 2020, as the beginning of the pay period encompassing October 1.
2. The associated Fiscal Year 2021 budget transfer moving the required funds out of the Fire Rescue Fund Reserves account.
3. Authorization of the Chairman to execute the addendum.
The estimated Fiscal Year 2021 fiscal impact is $514,610.00 (expenditure).
Move to approve the second amendment to the Service Exchange and Lease Agreement between Summit Broadband, Inc.
PUBLIC SERVICES AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Parks and Trails
Move to approve:
1. Contract 21-0428 for Green Mountain Scenic Overlook trailhead landscape and related services with Tom’s Playground of Central Florida, Inc. (Eustis, FL).
2. Authorization of the Office of Procurement Services to execute all supporting documentation.
The estimated annual fiscal impact is $30,600.00 (expenditure) and is within, and will not exceed, the 2021 Fiscal Year Budget.
Move to approve Resolution 2021-58 to reduce the speed limit from 40 mph to 35 mph on Silver Eagle Road from County Road 565A to the end of County maintenance (approximately 270 feet north of Maravilla Way) in Groveland. The fiscal impact is estimated at $200.00 (expenditure - sign materials) and is within, and will not exceed, the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. Commission District 1.
Move to approve Resolution 2021-59 authorizing the installation of stop signs and all way plaques on Greater Pines Boulevard at Brown Bark Trail and on Greater Pines Boulevard at Pine Cone Trail, in the Clermont area. The fiscal impact is estimated at $300.00 (expenditure - sign materials) and is within, and will not exceed, the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. Commission District 2.
Move to approve and execute Change Order #3 to the CR 455 Roundabout construction contract. The fiscal impact is $19,884.15 (expenditure) and is within, and will not exceed, the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. Commission District 2.
Move to approve Resolution 2021-60 supporting and authorizing County staff to apply for a Federal Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant for funding of design, right of way acquisition, and construction of the Wekiva Trail segment 1 and segment 5 in Tavares, Mount Dora, and Sorrento. The fiscal impact is $13,000.00 (expenditure) for the application preparation cost. The anticipated annual fiscal impact to the County for the approximate 4 miles, out of the 11.5 miles, is $23,000.00 to be funded from the MSTU. Commission Districts 3 and 4.
Move to approve:
1. The Office of Transit Services to purchase a replacement paratransit bus; and
2. Execute Unanticipated Revenue Resolution 2021-61 to accept an insurance claim payment for damages sustained to a paratransit bus.
The fiscal impact is $72,157.00 (in unanticipated revenue) and $94,727.00 (expenditure) to purchase a replacement paratransit bus and is within, and will not exceed, the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget.
Tab 10 contract with cri services for windscreens and netting
Commr. Smith remarked that when looking at the County parks, he wondered if the County could utilize the windscreens to advertise, place the County logo and “Real Florida, Real Close” on them, and possibly use TDT funds, instead of the General Fund, for these windscreens since it would then fall under economic development since it was branding. He thought it would promote Lake County when people were visiting or watching sports tournaments.
Commr. Parks was in favor of more branding and thought it was a good idea. He asked if staff could present some ideas for this.
Mr. Rosen relayed that he had already asked for Mr. Brandon Matulka, Executive Director for the Agency for Economic Prosperity, to research if this could be funded with TDT funds.
Commr. Campione said that possibly when the County held events, they could also utilize advertising or the County logo on the tents that were used for events. She indicated that many times these tents were used for events relating to tourism such as festivals.
Mr. Rosen commented that he noticed the previous weekend at the City of Tavares festival that possibly a better logo background could have been used. He gave the example of how the Lake County Fire Chief held a roundtable every month and had a great background that he used, noting that possibly the County could use something similar.
Commr. Parks expressed appreciation to Commissioner Smith for bringing this idea forward.
Commr. Smith made a motion to table this agenda item until they were able to obtain more information.
Commr. Campione remarked that she did not want the Board to delay something that staff needed to get accomplished. She questioned if it could be added after installment or have the County Manager work on it in conjunction with economic development.
Mr. Rosen asked for Mr. Bobby Bonilla, Director for the Office of Parks and Trails, to speak regarding this as he had the same question as to where they were within the current contract and whether this would impact operations if it was delayed.
Mr. Bonilla stated that it would be best if they could replace any windscreens that were damaged in the interim while this option is being researched as this would be better for game play and for the residents to not feel like the wind was affecting the game.
Commr. Parks asked how many were damaged.
Mr. Bonilla replied that over time, wind affected those in place as well as in areas where there were currently not any windscreens but they were being requested. He reported that the county had 26 ballfields, 12 pickle ball courts, tennis courts, and other areas in need of windscreens in the interim. He thought any funding up to $5,000 would help to address those needs at this time.
Commr. Campione asked to clarify that this contract was one that could be used whenever they needed to purchase one and did not require them to purchase a certain amount at this time, and Mr. Bonilla confirmed it was as needed. Commissioner Campione then suggested that they use the contract to obtain windscreens for areas that were critical at this time. She opined that they would most likely not want the logo on all the windscreens but to have them strategically placed; therefore, they would need some windscreens without the logo so this would have a contract in place to allow them to purchase when needed to replace any that were currently damaged.
Commr. Smith agreed with purchasing new windscreens for any that needed replaced but would not be in favor of adding anything new until they were able to determine the other option.
Mr. Rosen asked for clarification that if they determined that some of these expenditures were allowable through TDT funds and they had already expended the money, then they could journal entry that cost over to TDT funds.
Ms. Jennifer Barker, Executive Director of Administrative Services, responded that staff could come back to the Board at any time and request that funding be transferred out of TDT. She explained that they would need a public hearing for this; therefore, she asked that they do it at a point when they were holding a public hearing, noting that those happen frequently throughout the year so it should not be an issue.
On a motion by Commr. Campione, seconded by Commr. Smith, and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved, subject to the Board’s discussion regarding this, contract 21-0415 for supply and installation of windscreens and protective netting with CRI Services, Inc. and to authorize the Office of Procurement Services to execute all supporting documentation.
recess and reassembly
The Chairman called a recess at 10:53 a.m. for fifteen minutes.
early learning coalition
Ms. Lesha Buchbinder, Executive Director of the Early Learning Coalition, thanked Commissioner Campione for inviting her to speak. She mentioned that April was Child Abuse Awareness Month and that April 10-16, 2021 was the week of the young child, noting this was a perfect time to be presenting on the Early Learning Coalition. She indicated that she would be discussing the school readiness program, the voluntary prekindergarten program (VPK), the early learning partners, coalition funding, and if time allowed, how the Early Learning Coalition offered support to the youngest learners amid the pandemic. She indicated that even prior to prekindergarten, children gain from experiences which help prepare them for school; additionally, research confirmed that the first five years were particularly important for the development of a child’s brain and the first three years were critical in shaping the brain’s architecture. She explained that the school readiness program was a financial assistance program for low income families at or below 150 percent of the poverty level, and provided a child care resource for children at risk for abuse, neglect, or future school failure. She elaborated that this program was open to children from birth to age 13, assisted parents with accessing and affording quality childcare, prepared children to enter kindergarten, and built a foundation for success. She indicated that 100 percent of the poverty level for a family of four was $26,000 a year, noting that the cap of 150 percent for qualifying for care was $39,300. She said that with childcare assistance, a parent would pay approximately 4.2 percent of their annual income in childcare, but without it would be 56 percent. She reported that they currently had over 1,800 current enrollments, with 89 percent of those children from working poor families and the remaining 11 percent of active enrollments included children whose parents qualified for temporary assistance or were participating in a workforce program. She commented that the State of Florida was one of the first states in the country to offer free prekindergarten for all four year olds regardless of family income, noting that their first VPK class was in August 2005. She remarked that the VPK program prepared early learners for success in kindergarten and beyond, and that Lake County VPK partners were committed to helping children build a strong foundation for school. She stated that to be eligible, children had to live in the State of Florida, and must be age four on or before September 1st of that year. She reported that they currently had 2,100 children actively enrolled in their VPK program, and that the previous month, the coalition partnered with 129 early learning partners to offer school readiness and VPK programs to over 3,600 children in Lake County, noting this totaled $1.17 million for merely the month of March 2021. She indicated that the majority of their providers were small businesses, and that the Lake County School District offered the VPK program; however, the school readiness program was offered by private childcare providers, faith based providers and childcare homes, with some also offering the VPK program. She mentioned that teachers work with children on social development, respecting others, language skills, self-control, managing feelings and behavior, showing concern for friends, and asking questions. She stated that the current budget for the Early Learning Coalition of Lake County was $17.7 million, with $10 million allocated to school readiness, and $6.4 million for VPK. She explained that the school readiness portion of the budget was funded by their temporary assistance for needy families, which was a federal allocation, and their childcare development fund, which was another federal allocation; furthermore, both were discretionary and mandatory, and included childcare development funds State and Federal matching dollars. She mentioned that VPK was State generated revenue. She said that they expected the next round of Federal funding, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA), to give the State of Florida an additional $635 million for childcare and for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to provide $2.5 billion for the State of Florida. She referenced a handout that she had provided to the Board, and highlighted a few items within it. She opined that the pandemic had pushed the already vulnerable early childhood education further into crisis. She then relayed the following statistics for what the Early Learning Coalition was able to do in Lake County: spent $4.17 million to support providers, families and children; provided $113,000 in funds designed to strengthen the county’s overall early childhood system and improve quality early learning experiences for children; provided emergency and personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies for early learning partners, thanking the County for the small business grants to assist with this; suspended termination of school readiness services for families and extended the timelines for the submission of documentation; provided flexibility for eligibility if a parent had lost a job, had reduced hours, or was searching for a job; waived parent copayments; provided enrollment based funding for both school readiness and VPK programs; provided a full year of childcare to 235 first responder families, noting this was 364 children; and provided a monthly stipend to providers to assist with remaining open. She concluded by stating that the Early Learning Coalition, its Board of Directors and its staff would continue to provide support for Lake County’s early learning partners, families, and children. She thanked the Board for all they do to support families and businesses within their own districts and throughout Lake County, as well as for their continued investment into the Children’s Services Council.
Commr. Campione asked how many coalitions there were statewide, and how this fit into the whole structure of receiving Federal and State funding. She stressed the importance of people understanding that this was not merely an organization for just Lake County, but was something that fit into an overall structure.
Ms. Buchbinder responded that they were within Florida Statutes, Chapter 1002, noting that the VPK and school readiness program were in the statute and funded by legislature. She reported that there were 30 early learning coalitions across the state, and that their funding was a mixture of Federal and State dollars. She explained that the early learning coalitions were poised and ready to implement these services at the local level; furthermore, having other coalitions allowed for streamlining of processes. She emphasized that these were teachers and not daycare workers, and encouraged society to support their efforts.
Commr. Campione asked about the number of providers that the coalition provided support and oversight to, and what their interaction was in terms of their approach to learning or their curriculum.
Ms. Buchbinder replied that there were 115 providers, and that for the school readiness program, they were required to utilize a developmentally appropriate curriculum from a list established by the State of Florida. She said they were also required to use a character development plan, have 30 minutes of interaction with infants, and other requirements in the statute. She relayed that the coalition’s job was to reach out to childcare providers to see if they desire to provide school readiness and VPK programs, and if they do, then the coalition is required to contract with them and monitor them to ensure they were implementing the standards for the programs. She stated they also help with eligibility for families and the coalition has a family services division as well as a quality division to make sure providers have the resources they need.
Commr. Campione thanked her for presenting, and agreed with Ms. Buchbinder’s comment that childcare is an invisible part of the economy. She said that especially during COVID-19, they needed to make sure first responders and essential service providers had childcare available for them.
Ms. Buchbinder acknowledged the help of the Department of Health and Mr. Carpenter to answer questions from providers regarding COVID-19 concerns.
Commr. Parks thanked Ms. Buchbinder for all her work within the community.
public hearing: hooks street alternative corridor evaluation
Mr. Schneider relayed that this was the public hearing for the Hooks Street alternative corridor evaluation, and that the purpose of this hearing was to present the findings of the alternative corridor evaluation for Hooks Street and to request approval of the final study recommendations. He then introduced Mr. Dwayne Darbonne, with Metro Consulting Group.
Mr. Darbonne mentioned that he was the Principal Engineer (P.E.) Consultant Project Manager for the Hooks Street Alternative Corridor Study, and that the day’s presentation was a collaboration between their firm and the Lake County Public Works Department. He pointed out that the hearing was being held in accordance with federal and state laws and regulations, as well as Title VI compliance, and he then provided contact information for anyone wishing to express concerns they might have in regards to this compliance. He indicated that the need for improvements was identified by the Lake-Sumter MPO, that Lake County began the Hooks Street Alternative Corridor Evaluation (Study) in March 2020, and that the study area was in the City of Clermont and approximately 1.5 miles in length from Hancock Road to Hartle Road (County Road (CR) 455) in southeastern Lake County. He explained that an Alternative Corridor Evaluation (ACE) was a planning process that is used to identify and evaluate corridors, or in this case alignments, and recommend reasonable alternatives that should move forward to additional analysis as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). He then showed a map of the study area, noting that it extended from west of Hancock Road eastward across Emil Jahna Road to Hartle Road (CR 455). He shared that the purpose of the corridor was to extend existing Hooks Street as an east-west corridor in order to promote system continuity, provide additional multimodal options that support economic development and future planned developments, and maintain consistency with the Lake-Sumter MPO 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). He displayed a graph of the project process, and indicated the following: that they were at the alternative corridor evaluation study part; that the project was initiated in March 2020; that alternatives were identified; that they received feedback from the City of Clermont, developers and residents adjacent to the corridor; and that with Board action at this meeting, and if approved as recommended, then they would proceed with the final engineering design and permits which was the next step in the process. He commented that the traffic analysis of the area showed that the existing roadways were operating at a level of service (LOS) C, that building two lanes for the Hooks Street extension would have traffic volume ranging from 11,126 to 11,942 vehicles per day, and that initially building a four lane extension for Hooks Street would increase traffic by approximately 2,000 vehicles per day for a range from 13,590 to 14,040 vehicles. He showed a map of the future land use for that area, and pointed out that to the north of the Hooks Street corridor there was commercial development with residential development to the south; furthermore, anything proposed needed to blend into this future land use. He then shared that for public involvement, they had two presentations at the City of Clermont, four newsletters, and one alternative concepts public workshop; additionally, they conducted several small group meetings such as the one with the Hills of Clermont Homeowners Association (HOA). He mentioned that about 25 citizens signed in at the alternative concepts public workshop and that since the workshop, five residents had shared that they were in favor of the two lane alternative, five were concerned about noise and privacy and had requested a wall, three mentioned for the focus to be on Hancock Road and Hartwood Marsh Road first, three were concerned about drivers departing the roadway and ending up in their backyards, and four were concerned about SR 50 traffic. He mentioned that the City of Clermont was in favor of extending the existing four lane typical sections and building it as four lanes at this time. He remarked that the Hills of Clermont HOA had requested that there be a driveway connection which would be a right-in/right-out onto Hooks Street with a possible landscape buffer. He then explained three alternative alignments, provided information on the ranking of these alternatives, and reported that their recommendation was the green alternative. He indicated that the green alternative included the improvements such as a modified traffic signal at Hancock Road, an oval roundabout at Emil Jahna Road and Hooks Street, and a new traffic signal at Hartle Road, noting that there were turn lanes at each of the intersection signals. He explained that an oval roundabout was significantly less expensive, was safer, and would act as a traffic calming device to keep traffic within the speed limit. He then explained three alternatives. He said that Alternative #1 was the Complete Street Typical Section, and was a two lane roadway, had the wider bike lanes and sidewalks, and that shade trees could be potentially added along the corridor since it was slightly compressed. He stated that after speaking to the City of Clermont regarding their desire for a four lane alternative, his firm developed Alternative #2 Hybrid Typical Section (Initial) which would be initially a two lane roadway and was similar to Alternative #1 Complete Street Typical Section since initially there would be wider bike lanes and sidewalk but ultimately could be improved to a four lane at minimal costs. He explained that the backend of this hybrid option was Alternative #2 Hybrid Typical Section (Future) which was for the future and was a four lane road, noting that this option could keep the environmental aesthetics such as the trees; however, the bike lanes would have to be reduced but the sidewalks could remain as designed. He summarized that his firm recommended to the City of Clermont the green alternative alignment, the hybrid typical section (initial two lane), and the roundabout at Emil Jahna Road as the safest alternative. He indicated that the Clermont City Council preferred the continuity of the existing four lane Hooks Street section. He then showed an illustration of this option, and mentioned that this option did not have the shade trees within the right-of-way (ROW) but had two lanes in each direction, did accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists within a minimal bike lane and sidewalk width, and that this was basically a continuation of what was already existing for Hooks Street. He displayed a comparison chart of the estimated costs for the hybrid two lane to four lane alternative versus building the four lane alternative at the start, and reported that the cost difference for the two options was about $2 to $4 million, noting that ROW for the four lane required an additional pond which added to the cost. He then provided information on how citizens could provide comments through oral statements, written comments by mail or email, or through the study website. He concluded with next steps which included the BCC providing their preferences, and if approved at this meeting, the project could progress into final engineering and ultimately into construction. He recapped that his firm’s recommendation was the green alignment, and that the City of Clermont’s recommendation was for an initial four lane road construction as consistent with the existing roadway, noting that the City had voted unanimously for this option.
The Chairman opened the public hearing.
Mr. Lee Chira, a property owner in the area, indicated that the first thousand feet of ROW from Hooks Street going east was dedicated by Greater Construction when building the Hills of Clermont subdivision because it was anticipated that the road was programmed to eventually be a four lane road. He mentioned slides 13-15 from the presentation which addressed two-lane versus four-lane roads, and opined that when things are not planned for the future, then the community gets disturbed twice to build a four-lane later in the future if the two-lane is built initially. He asked for the BCC to consider the future, to look at the community and not merely Hooks Street, and suggested the use of bonds.
City of Clermont Council Member Jim Purvis remarked that Hooks Street was always envisioned as a relief road for SR 50. He said that the traffic counts on the existing Hooks Street were low because it currently did not really connect to anything; however, once it connected down to Hartle Road, that would relieve a lot of traffic off of SR 50 going west all the way to U.S. 27. He opined that this was the time to build the four lanes rather than in the future; furthermore, he reminded the BCC that the City of Clermont Council was unanimous regarding building the four lanes.
Ms. Barb Evenden, a resident of the Waterbrooke community, opined that she and her neighbors were not informed that Hooks Street would be extended. She expressed concerns for this road being extended and having a 45 miles per hour zone in front of their main entrance into and out of their development; furthermore, this would cause their entrance to be moved due to the proposed roundabout in that area. She understood that the road would be built, but asked the Board to not build the four lanes at this point. She also had concerns for traffic racing down this road if it was built as a four lane road and the safety for those in that area.
Mr. Harvey Plemmons, a resident of Waterbrooke, agreed with Ms. Evenden and supported the two lane road to be built first, with a potential four lane later if needed. He also had concerns for traffic and car racing if it was four lanes. He asked for the BCC to consider those who would be affected by this road extension.
Mr. Niemiec referenced the latest MPO reports, and asked why the four lane extension project for Hartwood Marsh Road was still in the design process and Tier 2 but not funded and moved up to Tier 1. He expressed concerns for safety on Hartwood Marsh Road. He inquired about where the funding of approximately $2 to $4 million would come from for the extension of Hooks Street and the proposed four lane road. He also asked how the Hooks Street project got bumped up in priority in front of Hartwood Marsh Road especially when this road had been on the project list for many years.
There being no one else who wished to address the Board regarding this matter, the Chairman closed the public hearing.
Commr. Parks asked for staff to address the MPO timing and budget that Mr. Niemiec had just mentioned.
Mr. Schneider remarked that these roads, for the most part, were funded out of transportation impact fees and also through FDOT grant assistance; additionally, they can be funded by developer’s contributions as they often donate the land, ROW, and stormwater ponds, noting that the Board would then enter into an agreement with developers to build part of the road or all of the road for impact fee credits which still involved transportation impact fees in a way. He commented that public-private partnerships had been the way that most of the roads in the City of Clermont area and much of Lake County had been built, whether two lane or four lane roads. He indicated that it was difficult to roll funds from year-to-year in the impact fee program to get enough funding to actually build a $10 or $20 million project which was the reason many of them had been public-private partnerships. He replied that in regards to the timing, Hooks Street was currently funded for design, but was not funded for ROW or construction; furthermore, for Hartwood Marsh Road, they were currently looking at the segment that ran from U.S. 27 east to just east of the charter school. He relayed that the plans had been completed but needed to be updated, and that the most recent agreement that the Board had with Hartwood Residential indicated that they would donate the ROW and the stormwater ponds in order to build that section. He explained that if the County had attempted to utilize an eminent domain process, it would probably have cost $3 million to merely accomplish that. He elaborated that the agreement with Hartwood Residential, noting they were under construction currently, allowed the Hartwood Marsh Road segment to move forward and that staff would be seeking additional funding from FDOT on that section. He said that the road which was currently funded in this area into construction was CR 455, or Hartle Road, which ran south from SR 50 to Hartwood Marsh Road and then began the project development and environment (PD&E) study that was recently approved by the Board all the way down to the Central Florida Expressway. He stated that the traffic model was based on the Central Florida Expressway model which they used to generate traffic on the expressway, and that Lake County tweaked this to do the CR 455 PD&E study, noting this had been updated some in order to review Hooks Street. He remarked that for east-west roads, there was currently SR 50 and U.S. 192 without much in-between; furthermore, if this extension of Hooks Street were to be constructed, then it would be an additional mile over to Hartwood Marsh Road with no way to go further east. He remarked that when reviewing all the roads which were programmed and put in the traffic model, and by the time they built CFX, Wellness Way and Schofield Road, there would be about another dozen east west lanes going between SR 50 and U.S. 192 which would disperse the traffic and was the reason why the traffic model did not necessarily show an increase on Hooks Street, although he noted that there would be an increase on Hooks Street. He relayed that the recommendation made to continue the four lane as it existed, depending on funding, was in deference to the city council. He then gave other examples of situations in which the Board approved four lanes for a roadway but two lanes were put for various reasons. He reiterated that much of it depended on funding, and that Hooks Street was not currently funded past the design phase; however, they were looking to get Hartwood Marsh Road funded for construction. He relayed that they would come before the Board in August/September 2021 in order to provide the five year transportation construction program; furthermore, if the Board desired to rearrange items, that could be accomplished at that time. He indicated that they also sent priority lists approved by the Board to the Lake-Sumter MPO, and that the City of Clermont had relayed for years that Hooks Street was their top priority; therefore, that may have been why it made it through the MPO. He commented that there was still the opportunity to get Hartwood Marsh Road done.
Commr. Campione said that it sounded like they were going concurrently forward and that one was not taking the place of another; furthermore, this was merely to go to the design phase.
Mr. Schneider confirmed that was correct, and that the next step was design for Hooks Street and the preferred method for getting Hooks Street in was to work out developer’s agreements for at least 50 percent of it, with the other 50 percent being straight impact fee or FDOT funding.
Commr. Parks indicated that construction would be the next phase for Hartwood Marsh Road from U.S. 27 to past the school. He inquired if they needed to make a priority move for this in August 2021.
Mr. Schneider responded that they were in conversation with one of the sand mines which still had the majority of the remaining ROW that was needed, and was currently owned by Cemex. He explained that when they started conversations with them, prior to performing the updated PD&E study, they were looking at the alignment through their project, noting this was still an ongoing conversation and that he had asked for them to respond within the next two months with their preference. He remarked that this could affect what the Board decided regarding funds such that if they were not ready for design or ROW on the extension of CR 455, then maybe the funding should be placed with the Hartwood Marsh Road project. He said that some things could be arranged depending on the Board’s priorities.
Commr. Campione asked that when the city council reviewed this and considered the two lane with the potential to expand to four lanes, if they took into account the other east-west connectors which would be getting into place prior to this even being built. She opined that it would not necessarily have the same counts as expected at this time. She relayed that she did not want to do something contrary to what the city council wanted if it was unanimous; however, she wondered if that was taken into consideration.
Council Member Purvis relayed that the short answer was no, it was not discussed in the terms just outlined; however, the Council was very much aware of what was going on with the other east-west proposed roads. He opined that the issue was that they were merely proposed roads. He reiterated that Hooks Street had always been viewed as the number one priority to relieve the east-west congestion in the City of Clermont. He opined that Wellness Way and Schofield Road were a long way away from being done.
Commr. Campione opined that those roads were moving faster than expected and were moving quickly.
Commr. Parks stated that Schofield Road was the Cemex requirement to connect into Orange County; furthermore, the CFX had the advantage of being a toll road and might be constructed before some of the other roads, although he hoped not before Hartwood Marsh Road. He opined that as quickly as CFX was moving, it could be finished in a couple of years because it was currently in the engineering phase, noting that it could have a great effect on the region too.
Council Member Purvis relayed that the bulk of the population was north of Hartwood Marsh Road, and asked how that volume of traffic would be moved south before they could go east.
Commr. Shields relayed that he was going to make a similar comment, and opined that the City of Groveland was exploding, noting their developments were due west of the City of Clermont. He said people were headed east into the City of Orlando, and asked how they would get people there.
Council Member Purvis remarked that the answer to Commissioner Campione’s question was that the City was looking at the short-term more than the long-term because they had a real need short-term to do something and Hooks Street seemed to be the most viable option.
Commr. Campione commented that from a budgetary standpoint, if it did save $2 to $4 million and they were able to design it so that it could go to four lanes, then it might allow them to move faster.
Commr. Parks relayed that he had attended the Clermont City Council meeting and that he preferred the original two lane hybrid alignment at that time, as he understood they had planned the ROW to be able to widen the road if needed.
Mr. Darbonne explained that they would not need more ROW for this option because they would be widening towards the median; therefore, the outside footprint of the roadway was established. He elaborated that what was not established was when the traffic would come and if it would be as projected. He said that even in 25 years, which was how the roadways were designed, it was still not there, noting this was partly because of the improvements already mentioned by Mr. Schneider and others. He thought that without those improvements, the traffic would be higher. He indicated that they included much of that modeling in this analysis and the reason why it showed up a bit more of a two lane road since they were doing a good job of getting the east-west projects done. He reiterated that all of those were included in their analysis.
Commr. Parks commented that he liked this hybrid option because he thought the four lanes could be planned for since one day it might need to be four lanes; additionally, he liked the ability to have biking along it and thought it fit with where the City of Clermont was going in the future. He said that he liked complete streets and thought the complete street format worked well in this area. He summarized that four lanes was what the City of Clermont wanted and voted for unanimously. He relayed that when the City made this decision at their meeting, he mentioned to Mr. Schneider that this might have added approximately $4 million to the potentially $100 million cost for all the roads in that area. He said that his concern was from a sub-regional aspect that this was a lot of money with Hooks Street being a priority of the City, Hartwood Marsh Road being long overdue in his opinion, and Hancock Road north from Hartwood Marsh Road to SR 50 being widened that he and Council Member Purvis were working on. He commented that was the reason he thought maybe this alignment might be fine as there would be less operation and maintenance (O&M) cost in the long run. He said in an effort to partner with the City of Clermont, since they might provide some funding for these three roads, he would respect their decision on this alignment, although he wanted to see if there were ways to significantly tweak it for the residents in regards to buffering. He asked for the alignment and cross section that the City had recommended to be displayed, noting it was the graphic without the trees. He expressed an understanding for the residents’ concerns who would be living next to this proposed road, and asked if they moved forward with the City’s recommendation of the four lanes, what else could be done in regards to buffering such as could the median be narrowed with enhanced buffering on the outer side and could the speed limit be lowered and designed from the start at 35 mph.
Mr. Darbonne replied that they could reduce the median from 22 feet to 16 feet, which he said was very similar to the hybrid option and would allow for a buffer on the outside for trees. He commented that the roadway produced indirect impacts from a visual perspective and the trees would help to shield that.
Mr. Schneider stated that the standard median was 22 feet, and that for most cars, it allowed one to traverse into the median area as a staging area without the front or back part of the car sticking out into travel lanes. He indicated that when the median begins to be reduced, especially when discussing the levels of traffic volumes mentioned, it was not the safest situation. He remarked that they could review this; furthermore, he said that once they got into design, their process was to have a public meeting during the design phase, noting this was still the planning phase. He explained that once they got into the design phase, they would have more detail and would look at buffers, residents’ concerns, etc.
Commr. Smith asked for clarification that with the hybrid two to four lane option, that it would be two lane with a bike lane and when it needed to become four lane, they would reduce the median.
Mr. Darbonne responded that they would reduce the median and the buffered bike lanes would go away and be reduced to the minimum four feet width. He remarked that in the interim, they got the value of having a buffered bike lane which was safer for on street bikers.
Mr. Schnieder inquired about the size of the drive lanes.
Mr. Darbonne replied that they had 12 feet everywhere in the complete street option.
Commr. Smith asked for the hybrid option, Alternative #2 Hybrid Typical Section (Initial), to be displayed. He said that he assumed they would not design any stormwater features in the median or allow any of the utilities to be in the median for future growth.
Mr. Darbonne confirmed that was correct. He said that as a last resort, if they had issues with a pond, then they would have to consider the median as a trench, but likely they would not do that.
Commr. Shields inquired what type of disruption to the existing traffic they would have when they would start to make the two lane a four lane road.
Mr. Darbonne responded that it would be minimal because with this option, they would build slightly wider than a normal lane and they would build a seven foot lane and then the 11 or 12 foot lane for the car. He explained that they would simply eliminate the bike lanes for the purpose of construction so the contractor could widen the median safely; however, it would be one lane of traffic allowed during construction so that traffic would be maintained.
Commr. Smith asked what the anticipated timeline was for the growth of the road to be needed as a four lane road.
Mr. Darbonne replied that they only projected out to 25 years which was required by standards and it was still two lanes. He commented that beyond that, the model was not as accurate. He noted that this did include the improvements in the area.
Commr. Campione relayed that she wondered if they should have more discussion with the City of Clermont about this as it seemed more in keeping with what they were trying to do with being pro-bicycling and pedestrian to have a road such as this which was not as much of a super highway running through residential areas. She said it seemed like this would allow for more of the safety features that the City was trying to promote but would give the alternative to grow if they needed to add the additional lanes.
Commr. Shields opined that SR 50 was a mess, noting that he gets off of SR 50 and onto Hooks Street as soon as possible when he is driving back from the City of Orlando. He guessed that once they extended this road, more people would also do this in order to avoid the traffic lights on SR 50. He remarked that with all the new houses and people coming into the City of Groveland, it was hard to imagine this road not being used.
Commr. Campione wondered that when they did their calculations, were they not taking that same amount of traffic and factoring in the volume they thought would be distributed.
Commr. Smith asked for the traffic count slide to be displayed.
Mr. Schneider indicated that there was a traffic count slide for both the two lane and four lane options.
Mr. Darbonne pointed out that with the four lane traffic count, it turned to LOS D for FDOT on SR 50, and that FDOT would have to be on notice that they would need to do something with SR 50, which he thought they were to that point with the CFX coming in and the things that the County was doing with Hartwood Marsh Road. He commented that it may not necessarily continue to get worse; however, if nothing was done, then he opined it would be a disaster in that area. He commented that as roadways went into that area, this was tampered down and the drive for more people to use this road became less attractive as it got congested. He reiterated that the more congested it became, the more people would look for alternative routes. He remarked that the model did not really see Hooks Street as that great of an alternative; otherwise, the traffic would have been much higher. He stated it was a mathematical model and was sophisticated, noting that he was not a traffic analyst but they had one on their team; furthermore, this person placed all the new improvements in and probably the reason the traffic was slightly lower since it factored in that projects would be ongoing in the next 10 to 15 years. He questioned why they go out 25 years to build something that they might need currently, but in 25 years, it did not look like it would be justified.
Commr. Shields asked if one was going east on Hooks Street and made a left turn onto Hartle Road, was it two lanes there, and Mr. Darbonne replied that Hartle Road was five lanes.
Mr. Schneider added that the intersections would be further evaluated in the design phase; therefore, if they needed a dual left or something, then those were the types of things they would consider in the design phase.
Mr. Darbonne commented that was the same thing at Hancock Road south of Hooks Street, they would like to consider a four lane alternative just to get through the intersection which would improve the level of service. He remarked that anywhere it was feasible to add additional lanes such that they would not need additional ROW from communities, they would review in order to increase the level of service, noting this was LOS 25 years into the future and not when the road opened.
Commr. Parks inquired that out of respect for the City of Clermont’s request for the four lane alternative, what could they show him as an alternative for a cross-section on a four lane which would have enhanced buffers on the side or a lower speed limit, particularly towards the neighborhoods.
Mr. Darbonne responded that there were currently 12 foot lanes which could be reduced to 11 foot lanes, and changes to the median as discussed, noting they would make it as safe as possible by making it as wide as possible at the locations where people would be sitting in the median. He said there would be concerns for service delivery trucks to be able to sit there without sticking out.
Commr. Parks asked if this would lower the speed limit.
Mr. Darbonne replied that it would not necessarily lower the speed limit because it was currently designed to be 40 mph; furthermore, that was the reason for the placement of the roundabout.
Commr. Parks opined that four lanes to four lanes in a roundabout could be challenging which one of the residents had noted, and Mr. Darbonne understood that concern.
Mr. Schneider explained that they would evaluate a roundabout for the four lane versus a traffic signal at that location. He relayed that when Waterbrooke was first being developed in the City of Clermont, the initial plan had their gate too close to the proposed Hooks Street; therefore, they moved the gate. He indicated that was one of the things they needed to be aware of, and they did not want traffic stacking back into a roundabout or traffic signal. He said they would do some further evaluation of that particular location at the north entrance to Waterbrooke; furthermore, there was an east entrance to this community onto the Hartle Road extension so there would be an alternative.
Commr. Parks inquired that if the BCC moved forward with the recommended build alternative, such as the City of Clermont recommendation with the roundabout, was there a way to invite residents to have input on the design that was more intensive then them merely emailing and providing comments. He asked if these residents could be engaged in the process.
Mr. Schneider replied that they could get them engaged as much as needed. He explained that first they would need to decide which option really worked and then have discussions with residents if needed. He indicated that they would have at least one public meeting as they went through the design process to put forward what the design was proposed to look like.
Commr. Parks opined that they had to do that in order to move forward, and reiterated that it would be more than merely talking at a meeting but actually having them actively work on this possibly with the City too. He understood that this was a little out of the norm; however, with the way things were happening currently, people had concerns about growth. He reiterated that he wanted to respect their concerns and provide something to them in terms of the design.
Commr. Shields thought those were good thoughts and opined that they had seen many statistics over the years which they did not pay attention to, noting that they continually hear the need for roads since it was taking longer to get to places. He relayed that he was attending a meeting in the City of Mascotte, which was next to the City of Groveland, and that they were building houses there too. He relayed interest in doing the four lane option, although he understood the concerns.
Commr. Parks relayed that Clermont Council Members had committed to him and the BCC that the City would put funding into the process of these three roads; therefore, he wanted to respect that. He understood that this would be an additional cost of up to $4 million; however, if the City was able to help expedite Hancock Road as well, then he could understand that. He said these were good questions to ask from the residents as far as additional costs since they lived in the city. He appreciated the City being willing to help with the costs as many do not. He indicated that if a Commissioner was to make a motion, it would be to approve this option conditioned upon setting up a design team with the residents who were present, if interested, and the City of Clermont, as well as making it clear that the City was contributing to the cost of construction for these other roads that were being worked on in this sub-region.
Commr. Campione inquired what the LOS projected would be for the hybrid #2 option; furthermore, what LOS would it be if they built at four lanes initially.
Mr. Darbonne replied that it would be LOS C for both the two lane and four lane, noting that it would be a LOS C up to 2025.
Commr. Campione then inquired if the capacity was in numbers of vehicles that would travel on it per day.
Mr. Darbonne confirmed that was correct, and explained that it was projected that it would attract 2,000 more vehicles in 25 years if the four lane was built, noting this was about a 25 percent increase if it was built moving forward.
Commr. Campione relayed that she had a similar situation in her district in which the residents who lived along the road that was a collector did not want it to be four lanes because they wanted to maintain the sense of not living off a super highway. She opined that it changed the feel, the safety, etc. and yet the capacity did not increase that much. She commented that if there were other alternatives that travelers were starting to use because they were available, then it seemed to fit together. She said that she was a fan of the hybrid with the two lanes with the capacity to go to four lanes if it was ever needed with the understanding that the numbers did not seem to add up to build four lanes initially.
Commr. Smith wondered if this conversation happened with Hartwood Marsh Road since it currently needed to be four lanes. He asked if it was discussed and made two lanes as he wanted to make sure the Board was doing their due diligence. He said he liked the alternative option and also liked saving $2 million; however, he did not want to put the citizens in a situation such as the one gentleman in the audience was facing currently.
Commr. Shields specified that when Hartwood Marsh Road was originally designed, it probably should have been a four lane road when it was first built since it was the only other east-west road.
Commr. Campione commented that there was no ROW, no way to do it, and that it was not designed; however, this was being designed so that if it was needed, they would already have the ROW. She remarked that road was probably a grove road that turned into a road which never really had sufficient ROW; therefore, she opined it was difficult to compare a road like that to a road such as this which was being built from scratch.
Commr. Smith indicated that whatever they did, he wanted to make sure they looked at 2045 and respected the City of Clermont; furthermore, he liked the four lane alternative, and he just did not want to get in a situation that they were currently with other roads.
Commr. Campione said that was the reason she wanted to point out that they were very different, and that if they started out with the alternative, then they had sufficient ROW to four lane and it was designed so that it could be four lanes as opposed to other roads that did not start out with that type of design in mind.
Commr. Parks relayed his understanding of that perspective, and stated that if it was just the BCC and the City was not involved, then he would be going with the hybrid alternative. He reiterated that he was considering his discussions with the City of Clermont in regards to contributing to the other two roads, despite it costing $2 to $4 million more to do this. He was hoping that there would be some significant design changes even to what the City had recommended while keeping the four lanes.
Commr. Campione asked if they could keep both options open so that this could be part of the discussion with the City moving forward.
Commr. Parks inquired what the Board’s options were and what they needed to do.
Mr. Schneider stated that the recommended approval for this meeting was the green alternative corridor and the typical cross section which was the four lane proposed by the City of Clermont, noting it was always dependent on funding. He asked if the Board wanted to get into a situation in which they could not come up with the extra $3 to $4 million and it had to be put off for a number of years, or would they want to get something in place because there was a developer ready to go. He remarked that some of those things could be caveats, and yes, the ultimate goal was to get the four lane in place but they had to weigh out the funding issues over the next few years. He explained that if this was approved at this meeting, it would be about this time the following year that it would be completed with design. He indicated that ROW was something that would have to be budgeted, that there would be properties under development that could dedicate the ROW, that there were other properties in which the ROW would need to be acquired, and that acquiring ROW could take some time with the acquisition being fairly expensive. He elaborated that construction was still at least a few years away for the entire segment. He remarked that he thought the west segment from Hancock Road over to Emil Jahna Road, which was Waterbrooke, was mostly owned by undeveloped projected future commercial retail and some residential going in. He opined that segment was more likely to move forward. He explained that sometimes they cannot find a developer who could upfront the entire cost of a four lane roadway so in the past, they had said to grade it, widen it, design it, and build the first two lanes, and then when the next two lanes were needed, they would come in and fill those two lanes. He indicated that this was one option and that the other option was if they had an extra $2 million or whatever it took to pay the developer to get all four lanes built upfront, noting this was not often the case. He stated that for this meeting, if the Board would approve the recommended build alternative with the alternate corridor evaluation and the particular cross section, then it could be with the understanding, depending upon funding, that it would be the four lane; furthermore, in working with the City and developers, if they found they could not get it all done, then they could at least get the first two lanes done.
Commr. Campione said that it sounded like either direction could be taken such that if they got the funds, then they could build all four lanes; however, if they did not get the funds, they at least had the ROW and they could design it such that they could add the two lanes. She commented they could wait to see if they got the developer involvement and if the funding came in, whether from the City or another source, then both options were available. She specified that if they started with the footprint of the hybrid, then they had what they would need to then switch over to a four lane design.
Commr. Smith opined that they should not design a four lane and not use it. He asked if it would be designed as a four lane.
Mr. Schneider confirmed that the goal would be to design it as a four lane roadway, noting it would depend on available funding; furthermore, if the funding was not available and the option was to build a four lane roadway or build nothing, then it would make it difficult to get something built. He reiterated that the goal would be for it to be four lanes if there was available funding and in working with the BCC, the City of Clermont and developers; however, it was still a few years out and there could be some changes that might occur between this time and the future.
Commr. Parks asked if it depended on funding but they would start with a hybrid design.
Mr. Schneider clarified that it would be designed as a four lane roadway.
Commr. Parks relayed that he did not want to get into a situation in which this roadway was coming ahead of Hartwood Marsh Road, for instance, if they had to make a choice of the County’s limited funding. He reiterated that he wanted to avoid that situation; additionally, he said he was trusting the conversations with the City that because of the three roads, that would not happen, and that with City funding being placed into these roads, this could expedite these three roads. He wanted to be clear that he did not want to build this road ahead of the Hartwood Marsh Road expansion.
Commr. Smith asked for the estimated cost slide to be displayed.
Mr. Schneider explained that the two lane to four lane option was building the initial two lane with the ultimate four lane footprint. He elaborated that the outside was all finished, the sidewalks would be in, the grades would be cut, and everything was in except for the median; therefore, they would add the two lanes and the median when necessary.
Commr. Shields asked what that would cost.
Mr. Darbonne responded they had not calculated that because it was future costs; however, it would probably be approximately $2 to $3 million, or a 50 percent increase, since it was 25 years into the future.
Commr. Parks inquired how much less it would cost with the changes he was recommending.
Mr. Schneider replied they would be unable to estimate that at this point, although he thought it would be about the same.
Mr. Darbonne added that the difference would be minimal, but it could be less since they were going from a 12 foot lane to an 11 foot lane.
Commr. Parks asked if they knew how much additional landscape buffer they would be able to provide for the residents along the south side.
Mr. Darbonne responded they would need to lay it out to see, noting there would be a compromise to go from 12 foot to 11 foot lanes, and reducing the median. He remarked that they would need to look at design vehicles and things like that.
Mr. Schneider commented that if there was a stretch of road that did not have a lot of driveways or streets on it, then they could reduce the median because they would not have to worry about cross traffic and the need for a staging area. He indicated that they could make it as narrow as desired, even down to a four foot concrete median, noting he preferred to have some type of median as opposed to a two lane strip. He stated that once they got into the design phase, they could consider bringing in some of those areas and adding more buffers to determine how that might work.
Commr. Parks said that the design would be pretty key for him in moving forward with the four lane hybrid option. He understood that it was not an easy decision.
Commr. Smith inquired what the estimated build time would be to go from the two lanes to the four lanes if they did the two to four lane alternative.
Mr. Schneider responded that if utilities were not in the way, noting they would not be, then it should go about nine months at the most. He explained that much of it would be prep time, maintenance and traffic, and they would have to shift the lanes out into the bike lanes so that the contractor had pavement to work off of.
Mr. Darbonne replied it would be about six to nine months.
Commr. Smith remarked that utilities would not be in the way since they would not be in the median, and that those would be taken care of initially.
On a motion by Commr. Smith, seconded by Commr. Campione and carried by a vote of 3-2, the Board approved the Alternative #2, the hybrid typical two lane to four lane roadway, with the caveat that if the City of Clermont wanted to discuss and revisit this, and that if they went with the four lanes, then they could discuss items such as how to create more buffers, how to do the design as mentioned by Commissioner Parks which would be more sensitive to the surrounding property owners, and the impacts and timing of the other east-west connectors, noting that the BCC was not trying to do something different than what the City requested; rather, they were taking into account those other factors.
Commr. Parks and Commr. Shields voted no.
recess and reassembly
The Chairman called a recess at 12:56 p.m. for 35 minutes.
2021 economic forecast
Mr. Rosen commented that it was budget season and that prior to the budget presentations, staff would provide an overview of the economic outlook for the state, region, and nation; furthermore, after that would be some revenue estimations, noting that as they got into May and June 2021, they would have more specific information. He relayed that the Office of Human Resources and Risk Management would present their budget first since this office would affect the other departments in terms of increased costs that were outside the control of the organization, such as insurance and such.
Mr. Matulka mentioned that he would be providing a historical overview and projected forecast for national, state and regional economic indicators to be considered as part of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget process, noting that historically this was presented at the beginning of the budget season. He displayed a slide depicting the sources utilized for the economic forecast information, noting that it was gathered from several sources and industry standard resources, such as the Wells Fargo Securities, TD Economics, and the University of Central Florida (UCF) Institute for Economic Competitiveness. He pointed out that the date range used for the information was wide, and that due to COVID-19, there were reports dating back to October 2020 and some as recent as March 2021. He relayed that the national outlook would include gross domestic product (GDP), inflation and interest rates, labor market, consumer spending, and business spending. He recalled that at the previous year’s presentation, they had reported that January 2020 marked the 126th month of the longest expansion on record; however, within two weeks of that presentation, COVID-19 put an abrupt halt to this expansion. He remarked that in March through May/June 2020, the U.S. economy was in recession, implying the shortest contraction in U.S. history, but expectations for the future were getting better with each passing day due to vaccine efforts and government stimulus. He then displayed a graph depicting the gross domestic product as well as the State of Florida and Orlando Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) domestic product, noting that it depicted the year-over-year percentage change and that the Orlando MSA included Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole Counties. He reported that the State and Orlando MSA were in a better position than the rest of the country through 2018 and 2019, that in 2020, the State dropped one percent as compared to the 3.5 percent decrease for the U.S., and that the Orlando MSA decreased significantly by 12.4 percent due to COVID-19 and its dependence on the tourism industry, travel, and indirect impacts to business. He indicated that for 2021, the State and Orlando MSA looked to rebound and were projected at a 7.3 percent increase and 12.3 percent, respectively. He relayed that in regards to inflation and interest rates, the Federal Reserve (Fed) had cut interest rates to near zero in the face of a pandemic induced recession, the Fed’s balance sheet had grown to $7.6 trillion, the federal funds rate was anticipated to remain between 0.0 percent and 0.25 percent through the end of 2023 and was critically tied to the U.S. economic outlook and directly influenced prevailing interest rates, and the Fed’s goal was to boost the economy which had been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. He explained that prior to March 2020 when they dropped the rate to the zero level, the last time they had cut interest rates to that level had been December 2008 during the housing bubble, noting this lasted until December 2015. He then displayed a consumer price index (CPI) graph which showed the ebb and flow of inflation over the previous ten years; furthermore, it had been positive in terms of growth, was declining since 2018, and was projected to rise to 2.4 percent in 2021 and 2.7 percent in 2022, noting that this would be the highest percentage increase year-over-year since 2011. He showed the 10 Year Treasury note and reported it was 0.9 percent in 2020 and was projected to be 1.2 percent in 2021 and 1.4 percent in 2022. He explained that the ten years was used as a proxy for several different financial matters such as mortgage rates, and also tended to signal investor confidence. He then related these points regarding the labor market: total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 379,000 in February 2021, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 6.2 percent; the labor market continued to reflect the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic; and in February 2021, most of the job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, with smaller gains in temporary help services, healthcare and social assistance, retail trade and manufacturing. He stated that for employment year-over-year change, the State of Florida and the Orlando MSA were outpacing the national average; furthermore, in 2020, the U.S. as a whole dropped almost six percent, the state stayed stagnant, and the Orlando MSA dropped almost seven percent due to the makeup of its economy. He indicated that employment was expected to rebound substantially this year and continue to grow into 2022, with the Orlando MSA outperforming both the state and U.S. in both those years. He commented that for unemployment, the Orlando MSA was in a better position than the U.S. and State for 2018 and 2019; however, in 2020, the Orlando MSA surged past 11 percent but was expected to decrease to 6.7 percent for 2021 and 5.1 percent for 2022. He remarked that for consumer spending: U.S. consumers were powering the recovery; low interest rates were helping to fuel consumer spending growth for the current year; the damage to the labor market would be a headwind for this growth, but as the pandemic faded, consumer confidence should continue to rise; and The American Rescue Plan Act, the CARES Act and supplemental unemployment insurance payments had helped to ease some of the pain consumers felt from the public health lockdowns. He indicated that consumer spending growth dropped to 2.6 percent in 2019 from 3.0 percent in 2018, the public health policies around COVID-19 contracted it by 3.9 percent in 2020, and it was expected to be at 5.4 percent in 2021 and 4.0 percent in 2022. He explained that what happened in 2020, the second quarter was coming off of being down about 6.97 percent in terms of consumer spending in quarter one as COVID-19 started to make news, the second quarter actually dropped 33 percent year-over-year, the third quarter saw a 41 percent increase, and in the fourth quarter of 2020, it leveled to about two percent in terms of a gain year-over-year. He relayed that for business spending, uncertainties felt by the pandemic had held back business investment going into 2021, and that interest rates being near zero for the next few years should help fuel investment growth once the pandemic subsided and the economy started to open back up again. He indicated that from a national standpoint, business spending was at about 6.9 percent in 2018 year-over-year, 2.9 percent in 2019, and contracted to 4.3 percent in 2020, noting that while this was partly due to COVID-19, it was also a presidential election year which typically contracted business spending. He said that there was a good outlook for 2021 at 8.8 percent projected, and 6.1 percent for 2022.
Mr. Matulka then reported on the state and regional outlook, and remarked that in the State of Florida from 2020-2023, Florida’s Real Gross State Product was expected to expand due to the positive momentum and stimulus packages, Florida’s payroll job growth would continue to outpace the U.S. growth as the labor market climbed out of COVID-19, the average payroll job growth was expected to be about 1.9 percentage points faster than the national economy, Florida’s labor force growth was expected to average 2.1 percent through 2023, and strong payroll job creation would boost Florida’s labor market recovery. He indicated that the sectors expected to have the strongest average job growth during 2020-2023 were financial activities, education and health services, trade, transportation and utilities, professional and business services, and construction. He commented that housing starts would pick up, but not fast enough to ease the shortage of single-family housing, and house price appreciation should slowly decelerate over this period as supply caught up with demand. He relayed the following for the State of Florida: real personal income growth would average a 1.3 percent growth rate through 2023; the average income growth was expected to be 0.4 percentage points lower than the national growth rate over a four-year span from 2020 through 2023; and retail sales was anticipated to decline at an average pace of -2.4% during 2020-2023, noting that it was contracting year-over-year by 6.6 percent in 2020 and again in 2021, but was anticipated to grow at an average rate of 4.0 percent during 2022 and 2023. He then relayed that for the Orlando MSA, population growth and personal income growth were anticipated, the unemployment rate was expected to be one of the highest within the state due to the theme parks being greatly impacted, and job growth was expected to be the strongest in other services, leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and education health services. He showed a graph depicting personal income growth and reported that the Orlando MSA was expected to continue to outpace the State with 1.4 percent in 2021 and 5.2 percent in 2022. He also showed a bar graph of housing starts and explained that while there was a negative percentage for 2019, 2020, and 2021, this did not mean that there was a loss of houses; rather, that there was a deceleration of housing starts. He concluded by showing a graph of the taxable property values forecast, noting that the source for this information was the Revenue Estimating Conference for Ad Valorem Assessments conducted by the State of Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research in December 2020. He reported that the forecast in Lake County was 5.3 percent year-over-year growth for 2021 and 5.8 percent for 2022, noting this was outpacing both the State and the Orlando MSA each year.
Mr. Rosen asked for clarification that for the numbers on the taxable property values slide just displayed, 2020 was from January to December 2020 and would affect the coming year’s taxes.
Mr. Matulka replied that he believed that was correct, but would check to confirm that.
Commr. Shields inquired if this was the current housing stock only or the current housing stock plus the new starts.
Mr. Matulka believed that anything that was not forecasted was current and was not taking anything new as that would be contemplated in the two forecasted years.
Commr. Shields asked if an existing property would go up 5.3 percent or if because a new neighborhood went in, it would go up 5.3 percent.
Ms. Tracy Garcia, Director for the Office of Elevate Lake, responded that it was an average overall, whether it was an existing property or a new property.
Commr. Smith asked if this was from the Lake County Property Appraiser, and Mr. Matulka said it was not from him. Commissioner Smith then inquired when the property appraiser would have his values submitted.
Mr. Rosen replied the property appraiser’s values would come at the end of May/beginning of June 2021.
Commr. Parks commented that the property appraiser was part of the conference and imagined that he was in line with similar calculation methods and estimates.
Commr. Campione said it would be interesting to see how the property appraiser’s numbers compared to those in this report, noting that these numbers reflected any new construction. She reiterated that the county had seen a lot of starts with new construction, as indicated in the presentation, even though there was a downturn due to COVID-19. She was uncertain if this was across the board with commercial or merely residential.
Mr. Matulka indicated that they had seen quite a bit of both relative to what they had seen in terms of commercial growth in Lake County. He said that there were new neighborhoods being seen in every district, noting this never really slowed down throughout the pandemic.
Commr. Parks thanked Mr. Matulka for the report. He hoped that the retail number would end up being higher than what was presented, and relayed that what he had heard from local banks across the state was that they were seeing savings and checking accounts at the highest levels since the 1950s and 1960s.
general fund revenue
Ms. Allison Teslia, Director for the Office of Management and Budget, provided an overview of the General Fund revenue outlook and considerations for the FY 2022 budget process. She displayed a graph depicting Lake County’s population since 2010, noting that there had been an increase of approximately 70,000 people, or about 23 percent, from 2010 to 2020. She indicated that the population numbers were estimates provided by the Bureau of Economic and Business Research with the exception of 2010, which was based on the census count as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. She also showed a graph which represented a 14-year history of the General Fund budget and included both the County Departments and the Constitutional Offices. She indicated that in 2008, there was a significant decrease in property values which impacted the General Fund revenue; furthermore, County budgets were decreased and General Fund revenues were utilized to meet operating needs to avoid adding an additional burden to taxpayers during the recession. She pointed out the following: that beginning in 2010, the General Fund reserves level began to decline; that in 2015, the reserves stabilized until Hurricane Irma made landfall in 2017; recovery efforts significantly reduced the reserves level until the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursements were received; and in the last three fiscal years, the reserves had steadily increased to the current level of $21.9 million, which was 13 percent of the operating budget. She showed a chart of ad valorem revenues in comparison with the value of revenue indexed to inflation using the annual consumer price index, and said that unfortunately due to inflation over the last several years, there was a gap in the amount of revenues needed to be collected in order to be in line with the increasing costs of goods and services, noting that the variance for 2020 was around 19 percent. She displayed a slide representing the makeup of the major General Fund revenues over the last 14 years and where the County stood with collections so far for the current fiscal year, and pointed out that they included the 2021 budget and actual numbers year-to-date in order to show the difference due to the CARES Act funds received. She then provided a brief overview of some of the major funding sources for the County. She remarked that the previous year, they were unsure of how property values would be affected by the pandemic. She reported that in reviewing market data provided by the Florida Realtors Association, Lake County’s single-family home sales increased almost 20 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020 as compared to the fourth quarter of 2019; additionally, median sale prices increased almost 10 percent. She indicated that based on this information, they were projecting a conservative increase in the ad valorem tax revenue of five percent, noting that they would have best estimates of property value increases from the Lake County Property Appraiser on June 1, 2021 and the certified values on July 1, 2021. She recalled that the previous summer, they were anticipating a decline in sales tax revenue due to the pandemic, and that while they did experience a decrease in revenue, it was not as severe as anticipated; furthermore, in the current year, they were trending about a seven percent increase in revenue collections over the same time period the previous year. She reported that State Shared revenues were currently trending about four percent less in revenue collections over the same time period the previous year; however, they were anticipating a projected increase of about three percent. She reiterated that all of these projections were conservative so that they could build the budget based on realistic expectations of revenue growth, and that these projections provided a net increase in projected revenue for the General Fund in the amount of about $5.4 million. She commented that as for some of the other major revenues, gas tax collections had made a slight recovery since the previous summer but were still trending at about five percent less than this time during the previous year; additionally, the hardest hit revenue stream had been the resort tax, noting that each month in the current year it was coming in about 25 percent less than the previous year, and staff would be monitoring the revenue very closely and making adjustments accordingly. She then highlighted some items for the Board to consider while working on developing the strategy for the upcoming fiscal year as follows: the voter-approved minimum wage increase would take effect September 30, 2021, the first year minimum wage would be $10 per hour and would increase over five years to reach $15 per hour, and although the first year effect on countywide personal costs would be limited, they expected to have a significant impact to the budget for contractual services and other costs over the next few years; as mentioned previously, the General Fund Reserves were currently at 13 percent of the operating budget, which exceeded the current Board goal of 7 to 12 percent of the operating budget but was still lower than the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) recommended 16.7 percent; and in the next several years, the County would need to identify funding for major road projects that would require a match to FDOT funding, noting that these projects included CR 466A, Phase 3B and the Round Lake Road extension improvements with these two projects needing approximately $5.6 million in funding to match FDOT funding. She concluded with these next steps: over the next couple of months, departments would be providing presentations on their budget proposals for the upcoming fiscal year; an overview of the budget considerations would happen in June 2021; and on July 1, 2021, certified taxable values would come from the property appraiser and the Board would adopt the tentative millage shortly thereafter.
Commr. Parks inquired if there was any anticipation of what the effect of the internet sales legislative item action might be.
Mr. Rosen replied that he had heard that the amount for counties was $200 million split, noting they would utilize the same calculation as they normally did for the sales tax distribution.
Commr. Parks recalled that Mr. Carmody had mentioned earlier in the meeting that it was $200 million for the counties but did not know what that would bring to Lake County.
Ms. Teslia commented that they did not have specifics yet regarding this.
Mr. Rosen indicated that he had inquired with Mr. Carmody but was waiting on a response regarding the calculation. He expressed concerns when the State was planning to take their portion and do something else with it, but noted that the County was hopefully expecting a slight increase in sales tax. He opined that this legislature would level the playing field because if someone shopped in Lake County then they paid the tax, but if they shopped online and had items sent to their home, then they did not pay the tax if there was not a footprint. He said this allowed local businesses to level the playing field with those people ordering items online.
Commr. Parks stressed that this was not a tax increase; rather, it was collecting the tax that had already been in place for so many years to make it fair to brick and mortar shops.
Mr. Rosen reported that the State of Florida was one of only two states in the nation who had not finished putting that in place.
Commr. Shields pointed out that the resort tax, or TDT, was a similar situation, and that he would have more information within the next month or two, noting that he thought there would be an increase in this especially since third parties were collecting and paying the tax.
Commr. Campione inquired about the five percent reduction in gas tax, and asked what that equated to annually, noting that she was curious what amount of funding the County might be losing.
Ms. Teslia responded that she would obtain that information for the Board, and mentioned that they had a schedule which would indicate amounts. She then was informed by staff that it would be approximately $600,000 to $700,000.
office of human resources & risk management budget presentation
Mr. Rosen explained that they would start with the Office of Human Resources and Risk Management Budget presentation, and that these budget presentations were informational on the current status of the County departments. He elaborated that they were not combining the total revenues with expenditures currently; rather, those would come later when they began to make decisions on the direction of the county. He indicated that he had been talking to staff about providing all of the options available for the County, noting this did not mean that the Board had to accept these options. He gave the example that with the gas tax, they had availability and the option to move forward with an additional fifth cent, although he realized this had not been approved in the past.
Mr. Jim Kovacs, Director for the Office of Human Resources and Risk Management, mentioned that the presentation would include an overview, organizational chart, accomplishments, efficiencies, benchmarks and the proposed budget for the office. He stated that the mission of the Office of Human Resources and Risk Management was to assist the County Commission by developing, implementing and facilitating cost effective and efficient programs for managing employees, employee benefits and loss control programs. He also displayed an organizational chart showing ten full time employees (FTEs) for this office. He then listed the following accomplishments for the office as follows: infrared thermometers and hand sanitizers were placed in all work locations throughout the county; COVID-19 questionnaires were added to employee computer workstations prompting employees to take their own temperature and monitor themselves for symptoms consistent with COVID-19; they transitioned to all electronic pre-employment paperwork rather than having individuals come into the office; new employee orientation became electronic instead of in-person, noting that a series of videos were developed in partnership with the Office of Communications; during the pandemic, they served the County by giving advice, direction and consultation to offices/departments on COVID-19 symptoms, exposures, testing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and return-to-work protocols; secured a full-time medical doctor for the employee Health and Wellness Center, Primary Care Connection, noting that they were receiving positive feedback on this physician; and began Primary Care Connection outreach through a monthly email of health topics, flu shot Fridays, and wellness to go through primary care services in South Lake. He shared that some of the department’s efficiencies included enhanced safety protocols such as the new identification badge system, proximity readers and special badges for secured access to the third and fourth floors of the County Administration Building (CAB), and an enhanced security entrance to the CAB, noting that the plan was to continue enhancing protocols in buildings throughout the county. He commented that some additional efficiencies included: preparing the Health and Wellness Center to begin pre-employment drug testing for all new hires beginning in 2021; initiated a process to begin criminal background checks for County positions deemed to be critical for public safety and security, noting that the background checks would be conducted using a fingerprint scanner and would enable them to receive State, Federal and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) records; in cooperation with the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, they moved from a paper paystub process to an all-electronic process, noting that employees could access their personal information including paystubs, W-2s, leave balances and more through the Munis Self Service portal; and they partnered with a vendor to implement a paperless Certificate of Insurance (COI) Tracking system to ensure compliance tracking on all County contracts which allowed the risk team to assist county vendors with submitting their insurance documents, including insurance renewals and new contracts, in a secure and digital format. He then showed several benchmark graphs comparing Lake County to surrounding counties in the areas of FTEs in the organization, number of county FTEs per 1,000 in population, human resources (HR) staffing ratios, active employees participating in the County medical plan, and average employee/employer medical plan contributions. He reported that Lake County had 914 employees, 2.49 FTEs per 1,000 in population, almost one HR person for every 100 employees, 1,164 active employees participating in the County medical plan which included Constitutional Offices’ employees, and that Lake County was the lowest in employer medical plan contributions and second lowest for employee share, noting that the County still had good benefits at a low cost. He then presented several budget charts for the Office of HR and Risk Management, property and casualty, and employee group benefits with each reflecting the FY 2021 adopted budget, the FY 2022 proposed budget, and the dollar amount and percentage change between the two. He indicated that the Office of HR and Risk Management was showing an increase in personal services, which was $821,481 for the FY 2022 proposed budget, because the FY 2021 did not include merit based increases as they were approved after the adoption of the budget, noting that there would most likely be an increase in that area for most of the departments. He added that as a result of this, there was also an increase in social security, Medicare and the Florida Retirement System (FRS). He stated that there was also an increase in operating expenses, which was $159,784 for the FY 2022 proposed budget, due to an anticipated increase in insurance costs that were purchased each year in addition to a reallocation of the costs assigned to every department for their share of those insurance costs. He remarked that this had not been done in quite a while; therefore, they trued up what the departments true share should be for those insurance costs. He concluded that the FY 2022 proposed budget for the Office of HR and Risk Management was $981,265. He reported that the property and casualty budget was showing a decrease in proposed FY 2022 operating expenses, and a decrease in reserves, which were at zero, for a total proposed budget of $4,919,630. He explained that for operating expenses, in FY 2021 the County had several large onetime expenses to the risk fund which they did not expect to continue; therefore, they reduced that amount by 3.36 percent. He specified that for reserves, from an actuarial perspective which had to be done every year on workers’ compensation and property and liability, they were anticipating higher liabilities so that impacted reserves. He relayed that worker’s compensation costs from the State of Florida were reduced, noting they had been on a five year decline since the State was trying to provide relief to employers by charging less for workers’ compensation. He concluded with the proposed FY 2022 budget for employee group benefits, noting that there was an increase of 1.91 percent in operating expenses, which were at $17,517,405, and a decrease in reserves, which were at $1,002,219, for a total of budget of $18,519,624. He explained that the change in operating expenses was due to health claims, noting that they had been trending below the national rate of health insurance inflation at seven percent. He opined that reserves were healthy; therefore, they reduced the charges made to all of the departments for each of their full time budgeted positions, which made the effect of a reduction in reserves. He indicated that it was intended to be a onetime reduction, although they may make additional adjustments.
Commr. Parks thanked Mr. Kovacs for his presentation.
office of parks and trails budget presentation
Mr. Bonilla mentioned that for the presentation, it would include an overview, organizational chart, accomplishments, efficiencies, benchmarks and the proposed budget for the office. He displayed an organizational chart showing 30 FTEs for the Office of Parks and Trails, and stated that their mission was to plan, develop, manage and maintain a clean, safe and attractive parks and trails system for health and enjoyment of all County residents and visitors while promoting recreation, sports and tourism; additionally, their goals were to preserve and restore lands to protect water resources, habitat and wildlife corridors while promoting eco-tourism through educational passive recreation opportunities. He then displayed a map depicting the current inventory of active and passive parks, trails, lakes, community centers, and nature centers that this office was responsible for, noting that there was a wide range of opportunities for residents and visitors. He indicated that prior to 2005, the County was providing 2.5 acres of park land per 1,000 residents, between 2005 and 2018, the County adopted a level of service of four acres per 1,000 residents, and currently the County was providing 10 acres of park land per 1,000 residents. He commented that the South Lake Trail System was the most popular one in the county, with the Hancock Trail also being popular; additionally, they had just opened Segment 4A in the Wekiva Trail System which was about 2.3 miles, noting that about six miles of this system would open sometime at the end of the year and would run from the Neighborhood Lakes Reserve to Seminole County. He reported that parks were open with staff available seven days a week, that 14 out of 16 boat ramps were open 24 hours a day, that this office maintained seven cemeteries, and that they had extended hours of operations at gated and staffed parks, which were listed on the slide displayed. He then mentioned several of the office’s accomplishments. He relayed that from 2007 to 2020, they had provided over 1,400 nature based events, noting that the pandemic caused an increase in the need for additional nature based events; furthermore, residents and visitors could sign up for events and activities at no cost to them. He displayed pie graphs depicting the percentage of activities held at the various sports complexes, and reported that in 2020, they had over 4,800 sports-related events, noting that for years outside of the pandemic it typically ran close to 5,400 events. He explained that while there was a decrease in sports events, there was a huge increase in the use of the passive parks, boat ramps, and the trail system. He shared that some of the improvements at the sports complexes included the completion of the following: athletic field lighting at the North Lake Regional Park; concessions, restrooms, additional parking, and walkway system at the East Lake Sports and Community Complex; a third multi-purpose field, additional fencing and starting to resize ballfield number five at the Minneola Athletic Complex; hauling operation at the South Lake Regional Park, noting that responsibility for this park had been transferred to the City of Groveland in coordination with County staff; and in partnership with the City of Fruitland Park, a multi-purpose field, sports lighting, parking, walking areas, and bleachers at the Northwest Lake Community Park. He mentioned that other accomplishments included: natural system improvements at the Pasture Reserve; playground shelters and enhancements to the educational building at Ferndale Preserve; beginning of resurfacing of the trail and design for boardwalk replacement at the South Lake Trail; surface improvements and striping at the Green Mountain Scenic Overlook and Trailhead, noting that this was one of the busiest trailheads in the county; restoration of areas within the passive and active areas of the Palatlakaha Environmental and Agricultural Reserve (P.E.A.R.) Park; completion of the recreational building and expansion of the dog park at Lake Idamere Park; in design for the boat ramp facility at the Pine Meadows Conservation Area and enhancements to the walkway and fencing for the recreation area; an observation overlook, canoe and kayak launch areas, enlarged parking, pavilions and trail system beginning at Lake May Reserve; additional accessibility at the Astor Park; and final touches for the nature center at Ellis Acres Reserve Nature Center. He remarked that for efficiencies, the office had been able to maintain staff levels at or below 32 FTEs for the previous 10 years, had performed cross training of staff in multiple disciplines, had supplemented staff, maintenance and repair operations through outsourcing, utilized volunteers and partnerships, participated in the development review process and reviewed over 228 applications, recycled and reused materials, and assisted in standardizing term and supply contracts to address repair and maintenance issues. He then communicated various benchmark information. He indicated that when comparing to the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) study, the Lake County Office of Parks and Trails had a smaller percentage for personnel services and capital outlay; however, they had increased the operating expenses since the facilities were open seven days a week, were impacted by nature, and required ongoing maintenance to keep them clean, safe and attractive for residents and visitors. He also displayed a graph depicting the usage of the South Lake Trail in 2019 and 2020, and pointed out the degree to which its use had increased due to the pandemic; furthermore, he displayed information which showed how the vehicle traffic had increased from 2019 to 2020. He reported that when comparing Lake County to surrounding counties, it was second to lowest in park operating expenditures per capita at $18.77, noting that the NRPA typical median operating expense per capita was $51.91, with a low of $22.76. He indicated that the county was third lowest to surrounding counties in terms of maintained park acreage at 3,919 acreage, and standalone county maintained multi-use trails at 23 miles; furthermore, while the county had 76 miles of trails when counting City trails, the County’s responsibility was for 23 miles. He then displayed a fee schedule comparison, and mentioned that Lake County was the lowest in terms of fees when compared to surrounding counties, noting that the Board could amend the fee schedule during the budget process if so desired. He showed a graph of ad valorem revenue trends, and explained that the fund balance would decline to zero in FY 2022 as a result of certain grants. He concluded with the Office of Parks and Trails proposed FY 2022 budget and noted the following: there was a slight increase in personal services at $1,937,166, noting that this was below the adopted budget for FY 2020 for personal services which was $11,000 more at $1,948,815 than what FY 2022 would be; a slight increase in operating expenses at $4,518,591 due to increases of new items; no recommendation to purchase any equipment so capital outlay was at zero, noting that they would rely on contractors and equipment on-hand in order to minimize purchases; other uses such as statutory requirements for the tax collector and property appraiser at $420,077; and a total budget of $6,875,834, which he opined was a fair and balanced budget request. He also shared some history regarding the master plan for active recreation or sports complexes, and relayed the following: in 2005, the BCC acquired the North Lake Regional Park property which was opened in 2009; in 2011, the County entered into an interlocal agreement with the City of Minneola for the Minneola Athletic Complex, in which the County made improvements, managed, and operated the site; in 2013, the County opened the first phase of the East Lake Sports and Community Complex; in 2014, the County entered into an interlocal agreement with the City of Fruitland Park for the Northwest Lake Community Park; and in 2020, the BCC transferred the South Lake Regional Park property to the City of Groveland to work in partnership in terms of developing and managing the site for active recreation. He noted that all these properties were consistent with the 2005 master plan and the updated and adopted 2018 master plan; furthermore, public meetings were held throughout the county and the public responded that the sites that were chosen were the preferred properties they desired. He indicated that there was one area that had not yet been addressed which was the Central Lake Regional Park, and he expressed the desire to have this final part of the plan in order to serve the county for the next 25 plus years.
Commr. Parks inquired about the South Lake Regional Park and asked if they were still on track with the agreement of co-branding, noting that he always considered it a county and city park. He relayed that they were in an arrangement with the City of Groveland to take over the operation of this park; however, there were still co-branding opportunities in place with the City. He shared that the park could be used for tourism and sporting events, that there was flexibility for tournaments to use the facility and that it would not be an impediment since the City would be working with the County, and that unincorporated residents would not be charged additional fees to get into that facility. He asked if this was all still on track.
Mr. Bonilla responded that it was still on track; additionally, the availability to use this facility for tournaments was included in the agreement, noting this was a long-term partnership. He mentioned that the entire South Lake community voiced what they wanted to see at that complex, and that it was there to serve not only the City of Groveland, but the surrounding community of south Lake County. He expressed an understanding that this was a growing population and relayed that the City was accelerating the developmental phase one which otherwise would have taken the County six to seven years for this phase one. He indicated that they were in constant communication with the City and that they were working with the project consultants in terms of preparing the bid package for the phase one area. He stated that this would save the County a lot of money in terms of operation as it was estimated to be at least $1 million to operate that facility seven days a week. He opined that it was a win-win from both sides.
Commr. Shields inquired how the County would work effectively in order to bring in tourism since economic development was a different division than parks and trails. He gave an example such that if the County only needed 11 more softball fields in order to host a specific championship, then how could the County coordinate so they knew where they should be directing events. He asked if the two divisions coordinated and discussed this.
Mr. Bonilla replied that his department had ongoing conversations with the Agency for Economic Prosperity and that any time they had an opportunity to bring in a large event, they would contact his office, noting that they do their best to then accommodate them.
Commr. Shields specified that he meant this in regards to long range planning and where the County should spend their resources in order to go after the bigger events.
Mr. Bonilla responded that there were additional properties that would eventually be developed within the master plan that was in place. He gave the example that the East Lake Sports and Community Complex was 75 acres but they had only developed about 45 percent of the site, that the North Lake Regional Park was basically set up for any future large events 25 years into the future, and they had the South Lake Regional Park and the Minneola Athletic Complex; furthermore, they also had the Wellness Way Regional Park which was another 100 acres. He stated that these were facilities specifically to drive large tournaments, while also addressing the needs of local residents. He added that this master plan gets reviewed by the Board every ten years, noting that staff would be providing an updated master plan to the Board in 2028. He indicated that the remaining piece was the Central Lake Regional Park in order to distribute these tournaments throughout the county so that all parts of the county could see return on investment.
Commr. Campione remarked that they usually heard feedback from the organizations that operated out of particular parks, noting that they often discuss their needs with Mr. Bonilla or Mr. Matulka.
Mr. Bonilla shared that in 2019, the Minneola Athletic Complex had 129 college teams come to play there, and it was a coordinated effort between his office and the Agency for Economic Prosperity. He relayed that this was an annual event and that while it did not take place in the current year due to the pandemic, they continued to make improvements to the site in order to ensure that it complied with the requirements for these types of tournaments. He said that the East Lake Sports and Community Complex was getting people from Seminole and Orange Counties.
Commr. Shields inquired about the passive park, Pasture Reserve, within his district and the possibility for it to be a location for a cell tower since there were no homes in the area and there was a cell tower company looking for a location. He asked if there had been any discussion regarding renting part of the property for such purposes in order to produce revenue.
Mr. Bonilla responded that he was working with the Office of Public Safety and the County Attorney’s Office.
Mr. Rosen asked if that land was purchased with a grant from the South Florida Water Management District.
Mr. Bonilla replied that it was not, and was purchased with the public lands funding.
Commr. Parks added that it was the County’s own bond; therefore, they should be able to do that. He expressed support for Commissioner Shield’s first question, and relayed that the Tourist Development Council might have some input on that, noting that the BCC had asked the TDC for input regarding facility planning. He commented that possibly there could be a joint meeting between the TDC and the Office of Parks and Trails in the future. He then asked Mr. Bonilla what his biggest challenge was in order to keep up with the population, noting that they received good remarks from the public regarding parks.
Mr. Bonilla indicated that they developed the facilities in phases as funding became available; therefore, if they were able to turn them around quicker, then that would save money in terms of the operation and maintenance. He gave an example that the boat ramps were extremely busy during the pandemic since 14 of them were open 24 hours per day, and reported that his office had an unmet need of at least $5 million for this; additionally, the trail system also had an unmet need of $5 million as there was a lot of resurfacing that needed to take place. He reported that since 2018, the Office of Parks and Trails was receiving slightly more in sales tax, noting that prior to 2018, they only received $350,000 for the entire county which made it difficult to keep everything going, meet the standards, and make sure they were safely open for public use.
Commr. Shields asked if they were charging a user fee for the boat ramps.
Mr. Bonilla replied that there was not a separate user fee by the County; however, in terms of improvements, they did receive a dollar from every vessel registration that was issued.
Commr. Shields thought that there was a fee for use of the City of Clermont boat ramp.
Commr. Parks indicated that the City of Clermont would charge $75 for a yearly pass for county residents.
Mr. Bonilla also commented that they were attempting not to displace local leagues, and that the County needed to monitor the growth especially around the Minneola Athletic Complex, noting that this complex could only accommodate a certain amount which might cause leagues to be displaced or to have the season stretched out which would cause additional wear and maintenance upkeep on the facility.
Mr. Rosen asked for the revenue slide to be displayed and mentioned that there was some additional information that Mr. Bonilla had presented to him. He explained that it was normalizing data and used benchmarks from the National Recreation Parks Association regarding typically how many acres of park land a county had per resident or square mile. He elaborated that this information would be good to see visually because it would show that other surrounding counties might have more trails than Lake County; however, they might have more square miles or people than Lake County, noting that staff would send this information to the Board. He said that in regards to the revenue slide, this was one of the things that concerned him. He mentioned that the County had many different types of funds, such as the General Fund, Municipal Service Taxing Units (MSTUs), etc. He explained that MSTUs acted similarly to the General Fund but for a specific purpose and for specific people in the county; therefore, the way those funds act should be a self-balancing set of accounts in order to take care of what they were supposed to do. He indicated that how it had been explained to him in the past was that they had relied on the General Fund to take care of any unmet needs where there was no fund balance in some of these other funds. He stated that technically speaking, if that did occur, these funds should actually pay back the General Fund for the costs that they incurred for spending money on these funds. He relayed that his philosophy would be that they needed to figure out a way to get these fund balances and MSTUs to a place where that was maintainable so they were not relying on the General Fund for these things; otherwise, the General Fund costs would really fall in the General Fund and that is where the fund balance would be. He then asked for the fee schedule slide to be displayed, and recalled that Mr. Bonilla had mentioned that Lake County had some of the lowest fees in the surrounding areas which had not been updated since 2009. He opined that fees were a value statement and that it was up to the BCC regarding how they looked at these, noting that they should review their fees for different departments. He said that most of what the County did, if not all of it, was a public good; therefore, there was a value to the public to have these things there whether they used them or not. He indicated that the ad valorem revenue was there to support these types of things, with there being a mix of user fees and ad valorem revenue. He thought it would be good in the near future to review what their philosophy was in terms of fees, and how much was it a public good and how much should it be supported by user fees; furthermore, the more it was supported by user fees, the less impact on the General Fund and on those people who might not use it as much. He understood that the higher the user fee, there was the chance that people might not use it.
Commr. Shields indicated that someone had sent an email to the Commissioners asking why they would spend money on trails. He said it was because trails were an economic driver; however, he asked if boat ramps were an economic driver, noting these were the types of things the Board needed to discuss.
Commr. Campione relayed that she had a question regarding Mr. Rosen’s comparison of the MSTU fund and fund balance to the General Fund. She said that the MSTU was the unincorporated area but they knew that as a general rule, they were providing parks and trails across the board; therefore, for her, it seemed like they should be having a discussion about whether they were using the right mechanism because they were not really just using the MSTU to address unincorporated areas as the unincorporated areas were open for everyone. She did not understand why there would be a situation in which they would need to dip into the reserves of the MSTU for operating expenses of the MSTU. She understood if they took it from the General Fund balance, then they would need to replenish it; however, she did not understand why they would need to have a reserve, unless they were actually using it to accumulate funds for future capital projects.
Mr. Rosen responded that was one use for it, or they could use “pay as you go” or build it up more than needed if they knew ten years out they would need it to build or replace something. He gave an example that another use might be if they had a hurricane and there were a bunch of trees down in one of the parks but there was not enough funding in the operating account, then that funding had to come from somewhere, whether the General Fund or MSTU, noting that it would generally come from the source used for operating expenses. He mentioned another example might be if a hurricane caused the roof to come off the new building at Lake Idamere Park, then it would need to be replaced; furthermore, if this was not budgeted for, which it normally would not be, then that funding would need to come from somewhere otherwise the park would need to be closed until funding could be found to fix those types of issues. He indicated that another example might be if they had additional usage of the park, such as mentioned by Mr. Bonilla, and there was not enough budgeted to maintain and fix anything after being played on a lot, then that funding would need to come from somewhere. He recapped that unforeseen circumstances was the reason that the GFOA recommended a certain level of fund balance so that when there were unforeseen things, there was money to fix them.
Commr. Campione stated that if it was a countywide MSTU, then what Mr. Rosen was saying made sense; however, she opined that if the roof came off of the building at Lake Idamere Park, then it really should be compensated to a large degree by the General Fund because there were a lot of city residents who had the benefit of that facility and it was not merely an unincorporated facility. She thought there was something that needed to be worked out on this.
Commr. Parks commented that maybe it could be for a scheduled improvement that was ten years out at that facility that was in unincorporated Lake County from the MSTU.
Commr. Campione agreed, and said that even with that, they might need to come up with a formula such that they drew upon the General Fund for operating and parks’ expenses and that it should not be an unincorporated MSTU. She opined that it needed to be across the board, and she thought that was how it had operated and that they had done both and compensated for the fact that they had the unincorporated MSTU but also were pulling from the General Fund. She remarked that maybe they needed to get more specific on how much should come out countywide versus unincorporated, or maybe they should not be using the MSTU at all for parks and it should all come from countywide General Fund. She stated that she could see the MSTU being used for drainage and road improvements that were in the unincorporated area; however, for the countywide parks that were open for everybody, they might need to look at it more comprehensively.
Commr. Parks recalled that the question of funding it out of the General Fund had been a discussion previously, and opined that would be a good discussion to have.
recess and reassembly
The Chairman called a recess at 3:15 p.m. for ten minutes.
agency for economic prosperity budget presentation
Mr. Matulka mentioned that he would provide a brief overview for the Agency for Economic Prosperity, and then would have the individual offices within the agency share information about their office, to include their accomplishments, efficiencies, benchmarks and proposed budget. He remarked that the Agency for Economic Prosperity provided assistance and managed services for both the businesses of Lake County and Lake County visitors, noting they worked to improve business and tourism in Lake County and were committed to the highest level of service possible. He then displayed an organizational chart depicting the three offices within the agency, which were the Office of Elevate Lake, the Office of Visit Lake, and the Office of Fairgrounds and Events Center, noting that there were 12.3 FTEs for the entire Agency for Economic Prosperity.
Ms. Garcia commented that the Office of Elevate Lake served as a liaison between companies and government with the goal of creating a business-friendly environment and quality jobs for the citizens of Lake County. She remarked that the previous year had posed a significant challenge due to COVID-19, and that this office spent most of their time in 2020 helping existing businesses with navigating the pandemic. She relayed that this office focused on disaster recovery and support efforts such as distributing timely information to the business community regarding loan and grant resources, PPE availability, and reopening phases. She stated that they also worked to create and implement the Lake CARES Small Business Assistance Grant Program, for which they received positive feedback from many of the businesses receiving the grants; furthermore, they continued to work with higher education partners as they pivoted from closures to online initiatives, as well as workforce development efforts. She recalled that even with the pandemic, they were still able to have several successful projects such as the following: the DiversiTech Corporation opened their State of Florida location in the City of Leesburg, which had created approximately 80 jobs to date; they were still assisting Kroger with preopening tasks as they geared up to start deliveries; Amazon’s last-mile delivery station in the City of Groveland was set to open sometime the coming summer; and Project Lotus, a confidential project in the healthcare industry, was expected to create between 140 to 150 jobs. She mentioned that some of their efficiencies included: the purchase of the Submittable program for the grant application platform to use for the Lake CARES Small Business Assistance Grant Program and any other future grant programs; the purchase of Hubspot, an invaluable customer relationship management (CRM) tool due to its distribution list capabilities, noting that at the beginning of the pandemic, information was changing by the hour and this platform allowed them to create email blasts quickly to share with Lake County’s business and community partners; the hiring of Ms. Mary Ellen Stern as the new Manager of Business Development, whose experience with the Small Business Association (SBA) business grant program proved invaluable as they launched the Lake CARES Small Business Assistance Grant Program; and the development of the call center to respond to applicants’ questions regarding the grant program, noting this call center was also shared with the Office of Housing and Human Services for their rental assistance grant program. She then displayed several benchmark graphs comparing Lake County to surrounding counties for FY 2020/2021 in the areas of adopted budgets and the budget allocation per business. She indicated that each County had its own unique set of circumstances that affected their budgets, and that Lake County’s FY 2020/2021 budget was the lowest of all surrounding counties. She explained that taking the budgets and dividing them by the number of businesses that each county had produced the budget allocation per business, noting that Lake County spent about $95 per business, was the lowest for surrounding counties displayed, and had 11,835 businesses.
Mr. Matulka then displayed the proposed FY 2022 budget for the Office of Elevate Lake, and remarked that it was essentially a status quo budget, noting that personal services at $504,388 had increased due to the merit based raises which were approved after the FY 2021 budget as mentioned earlier in the meeting. He added that operating expenses for this office at $440,341 had also increased as they aligned the budget to actual expenses seen over the previous two years, that there was no capital outlay, and that the grants and aids at $165,000 was decreasing due to the completion of the Wellness Way consulting agreement with the City of Clermont by the end of the fiscal year. He stated that the overall proposed budget for FY 2022 for the Office of Elevate Lake was $1,109,729.
Mr. Rob Price, Director for the Office of Visit Lake, commented that the Office of Visit Lake was responsible for promoting and strengthening the local tourism industry and business community, noting that tourism operations were funded by resort tax collections and were used to help fund the development of local events through sponsorships and advertising campaigns throughout the year. He remarked that since the State of Florida remained open during the pandemic, it gave the County a strategic advantage against many competing destinations outside the state, noting that Lake County was still able to host a number of great sporting and athletic events throughout the year. He then displayed a list of some of the key events and reported that they sponsored a total of 181 events, which generated an economic impact of almost $89 million. He explained that for their co-op marketing program, which provided funding to local Lake County tourism community partners, they were able to fund 49 programs and awarded almost $139,000 in outlay of TDT funds. He mentioned that some of the biggest events hosted during the pandemic included two major league fishing tournaments, the annual THE Spring Games softball event, the Mount Dora Craft Fair, and Light Up Mount Dora Christmas spectacular. He remarked that for marketing they wanted to welcome people in a safe and responsible way and developed a campaign called the “Perfect Distance Away” which resonated to visitors driving within the state since air travel was down, and to people’s desire to be socially spread out in the outdoors, noting that Lake County had many assets that allowed for this. He reported that this campaign was launched in mid-June, early July 2020, and he then showed some of the creative examples of this campaign. He relayed that the Office of Visit Lake’s COVID-19 response for tourism industry partners and visitors included the creation of a traveler information page to provide visitor destination and travel information, a partner resource page for industry partners seeking financial assistance and guidance for re-opening, communication networks with industry partners via email newsletters and surveys, and staff attended industry webinars and educational sessions regarding COVID-19 related responses. He then displayed some benchmark slides and reported that in terms of hotel occupancy, Lake County finished second at the end of the fiscal year at just under 50 percent when compared to surrounding counties, noting that occupancy had improved after everything shut down in April 2020. He was pleased to relay that they were beginning to see a rebound in occupancy with February 2021 being almost 65 percent. He showed a bar graph reflecting monthly TDT revenue comparisons for the county for FYs 2018, 2019, and 2020, and reported that the county was up 7.3 percent year-over-year for FY 2018, finished flat for FY 2019, was down 19.6 percent for FY 2020 during the pandemic, and for FY 2021 through January 2021 was currently off almost 28 percent. He reiterated his previous thoughts that based on hotel occupancy from February and March 2021, he felt confident that revenue numbers would continue to rise.
Mr. Matulka displayed a graph depicting resort tax collections as compared to the fund balance and the recommended fund balance for the county. He explained that while there was a drop between FYs 2020 and 2021 in the fund balance on the graph, this was if they had spent what was budgeted and was a worst case scenario as it would dip under the recommended fund balance of $4 million, noting this was $1 million for operational reserves and $3 million for the capital special reserves account; however, he stated that they had worked to adjust their operational expenditures for the current year to avoid having this scenario come to fruition in order to maintain the reserve numbers. He mentioned that this should allow them to adjust their numbers as they continued with the hopes that revenues would be expanding, although he said that they could not truly project exactly what those numbers would look like; however, over the next couple of months, things would become clearer. He pointed out that for FY 2020, they finished approximately $500,000 to $600,000 down in revenue collections, and for FY 2021, they were projecting to be down almost $1 million, which he noted would restrict the budget moving forward. He said that for FY 2022, they would most likely have to place caps on their event sponsorship program in order to ensure they were keeping it under budget, noting that program had been expanding year-over-year the previous five years and was a good program that many of their partners took advantage of. He reiterated that this was to help make sure this office could fund tourism at the needed level. He said that to put the $600,000 and $1 million figures into perspective, that while they were capping events, they needed to be mindful of any new capital projects that might be presented in the future at the current revenue projections; furthermore, those types of decisions would need to be weighed against what else might be in the budget in terms of marketing those programs but also the carryover into the next fiscal year. He gave the example that if they spent $1 million in the capital reserve account, then most likely with the revenue projections they were currently seeing and not knowing what the next couple of months might look like, then they would probably not be able to fill the reserves back up to the $3 million which they had historically tried to do each year. He summarized that while they had some great capital projects they were able to fund in the past, due to the constricted budget they would need to assess in future years if a project was worthy of funding if it meant they would not have the $3 million the next fiscal year, noting this was something the Board would need to consider. He relayed that he had spoken to the Lake County Tax Collector’s Office and indicated that their office was in the process of the remittance from the vacation rental platform, such as Airbnb and Vrbo, and they would be able to see that remittance within the next couple of months, which he hoped would have a positive effect. He opined that they were in a good spot at this point when comparing the county to what others in the industry were facing. He then displayed the proposed FY 2022 budget for the Office of Visit Lake and pointed out the following: the increase in personal services at $637,023 due to merit raises; operating expenses at $2,353,989 and the overall budget was reduced significantly due to the COVID-19 and adjustment of internal programs; capital outlay at $140,400 showed an increase in funding which was going towards the North Lake Park disc golf course, although this had been under operating expenses previously and merely moved to capital outlay; reserves were at $3,436,869 which he noted could change as they went into the November 2021 timeframe and saw what the actual collections were and what had not been spent in the promotional activities budget; and the overall proposed FY 2022 budget was at $6,568,281. He reiterated that this was all TDT funds and did not impact the County General Fund.
Mr. Cole Scharlau, Program Manager for the Office of Fairgrounds and Event Center, stated that the Fairgrounds and Event Center was a host venue for large scale events such as the annual Lake County fair, weekly farmers’ market and other events throughout the year. He reported that they had hosted seven events from December 2020 through February 2021 which were all well attended. He mentioned that they were currently hosting the 100th Annual Lake County Fair, noting that they were up 25 percent this year. He indicated that while the office was closed to the public on March 16, 2020, it did not impact their level of service; additionally, they were completing transactions safely at the rental window, they put up social distancing signs, and they purchased 35 new hand sanitizing stations to improve safety for shoppers, vendors and events.
Mr. Matulka displayed the proposed FY 2022 budget for the Office of Fairgrounds and Event Center. He indicated that the increase in personal services at $171,118 was due to merit increases, and that the increase in operating services at $80,727 was reflective of changes from the risk internal service charge and insurance increase as mentioned by Mr. Kovacs in the Office of Human Resources and Risk Management budget presentation as well as increases to align the budget with actual expenses, noting that some of that was due to their Comcast contract and repair and maintenance since it was an older facility. He said it was a status quo budget at a total of $251,845. He commented that this concluded the Agency for Economic Prosperity presentation of three separate budgets as presented.
Commr. Shields asked a philosophical question that if they were able to provide more funding, what they could do with the funding.
Commr. Smith inquired if the fairgrounds was self-sufficient.
Mr. Scharlau responded that their goal was to maintain budget neutrality; however, they had not accomplished that the previous two years. He indicated that they might be close this year.
Commr. Smith asked to confirm they had held seven events so far this year, and inquired how many more were planned.
Mr. Scharlau replied that was correct, and stated they currently had three more on the books. He explained that they had closed mid-January 2021 for event bookings in March 2021 due to the possibility of them potentially becoming a site for administering COVID-19 vaccinations. He said they would begin bookings again after the fair ended, noting they had a car show, a concert, another laser light show in June 2021, and a gun show in December 2021.
Commr. Smith encouraged them to add more events.
Commr. Shields asked why there were reserves within different divisions, and if that was a statutory requirement, such as the $3 million in reserves for this office.
Mr. Rosen explained that some of the reserves in the presentations were merely line items, and that ones they were seeing a higher level were their own funds or fund balance. He elaborated that different organizations called it something different, either a reserve or fund balance, although he considered them as different items with the reserve being something budgeted for and a fund balance being the beginning and ending of what an organization starts with, what they get in revenue, what they spend, and what they then have left over.
Commr. Parks mentioned that the $3 million for capital facilities out of TDT was a policy decision.
Ms. Barker explained that since the tourism section of the Agency for Economic Prosperity was 100 percent funded with the resort tax, then that is separated, is a self-balancing fund, and has its own reserve. She confirmed that as indicated by Commissioner Parks, there was a policy decision made to keep that $4 million as the reserve level. She stated that the other portions of the budget were funded with the General Fund so the General Fund reserve would apply to them and it would not be seen in their individual budget.
Commr. Shields thought he saw one for the Office of Parks and Trails.
Ms. Barker responded that the Office of Parks and Trails was funded with an MSTU as well as a portion with General Fund. She clarified that for anything not funded with General Fund then there would be a reserve.
Commr. Parks remarked that he would like for the Board to discuss sometime the $3 million capital and the $4 million total reserve for everything sports and tourism related. He understood why at one point there was a policy put in place; however, he thought they needed to review that. He questioned if it could be invested back into facilities and possibly tying it into planning with parks and trails so they could be completed in order to attract business. He clarified that he was not saying there should be any inappropriate uses for collection of money and it being used to attract business back into Lake County and to serve the residents as well. He thought there was some duality to that they should look at. He opined that continuing to save that funding could feel good and conservative to build the reserve up; however, it could be a loss for the county in a way.
Commr. Campione commented that if they had a long range plan for capital improvements and knew they needed a certain amount of funding for a particular capital outlay, then that would be one thing; however, to carry it over year after year when there were particular projects, needs or requests coming to the Board that were related to generating more visitors, then it seemed to not make sense unless it was done deliberately.
Commr. Shields said he was trying to understand the process, and asked what they needed to do in order to land the things they wanted to, noting that if it involved facilities, parks, trails, or whatever, then that was what they needed to do. He opined that sitting on funding did not gain anything.
Commr. Blake asked if the BCC set that policy, as he assumed it was the TDC who had made that decision and the BCC honored their preference.
Commr. Parks replied that it was a TDC decision but it ultimately came under the responsibility and purview of the BCC, although he was uncertain when it happened.
Ms. Melanie Marsh, County Attorney, reminded the Board that the TDC was an advisory only body and they did not make those decisions, although they did make recommendations to the Board. She believed that when they developed the capital program about six years prior, that the whole entire application packet with the rules and regulations came to the Board at that time and that the $3 million might have been approved as part of that package.
Mr. Matulka relayed that the economic action plan was coming to the BCC at the April 27, 2021 meeting, noting that this would be a high level start to that conversation which the Agency for Economic Prosperity wanted to have with the Board regarding which direction to go. He thought it would be a great idea to have a meeting or workshop between the BCC and the TDC if the Board desired, noting that the TDC members had expressed a desire to discuss the larger plan and goals for TDT funding for the future such as what to go after in capital, how much of the budget should be dedicated to that, how much should go towards marketing, etc.
Commr. Campione inquired about the high numbers for Sumter County on the comparison charts, and asked if this was because they included the value of the marketing that The Villages did on behalf of Sumter County.
Ms. Garcia responded that regarding the review of budgets, they could only access the Sumter County budget and a lot of the economic development initiatives were handled by The Villages themselves. She relayed that they did not have many of the same offices and expenditures that Sumter County had that Lake or Polk Counties might have since they did not have a separate entity like The Villages who handled their own economic development. She said that their office handled economic development countywide.
Commr. Campione asked if they looked at incentives that they were providing as part of their operating budget when they compared to other counties.
Ms. Garcia replied that they did do that, and shared what she had mentioned regarding Volusia County who had the $5.9 million unused incentive funding that rolled over, noting that the other Volusia County funding had $1 million allocated for grant match reserve for a potential Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant that was approved by the council. She explained that they had about $116,000 of economic incentives and then they had different amounts paid to Team Volusia Economic Development Corporation (EDC) which was a public-private economic development organization (EDO) and an incubator program which was $250,000 for the EDC and $295,000 for incubator program. She remarked that Orange County, with their $9.3 million budget, included approximately $7.2 million for different EDO groups that were in Orange County, such as the Orlando Economic Partnership (OEP), UCF, Prospera, and Grow Florida; furthermore, within that budget they had grants such as an innovation and technology grant program, a Darden Economic Development grant, a Smart Government Infrastructure grant as well as funds for their Qualified Targeted Industry (QTI) program which had been approved prior, and included funding for their small business development center (SBDC) and also about seven to ten UCF programs that they funded. She reiterated that they had many different items that were covered under their economic development umbrella. She stated that Polk County had almost a $6.5 million budget that included $1 million which went to their Central Florida Development Council (CFDC) which was their EDO; however, their CFDC was also public-private and they had investors who paid into their EDO activities. She reported that Polk County’s bonus incentive program was $3.7 million of their contributions with $206,000 for their community and small business assistant department, noting that they did not necessarily contract with SBDC as they actually had their own small business department within the county.
Commr. Campione thought this information was good; furthermore, when discussing the economic action plan, they should delve back into this to review exactly how the other counties were doing it. She commented that Lake County’s number should probably reflect some of the tax refunds they were doing, and asked if staff had captured that.
Mr. Matulka replied that would hit in fiscal year 2023 and would be a part of that year’s budget. He reported that this number was prior to those because Kroger would be one of the first ones as well as DiversiTech with the QTI program, and they would have to finish this year, pay their taxes, and then submit to the County. He indicated the County would begin carrying those in their budget on an annual basis in FY 2023 so the numbers would increase.
Commr. Campione mentioned that it might help to bifurcate it to the department’s actual costs versus incentives, grants, or funding of whatever else they might be doing, noting this would help with the comparison and in future discussions regarding the economic action plan.
Mr. Rosen inquired about the comment made by Ms. Garcia regarding Volusia and Polk Counties having a public-private partnership, specifically the $10 million including the carryover and the Volusia County’s economic development division and their payment into Team Volusia.
Ms. Garcia replied it was $250,000.
Mr. Rosen asked to clarify that it did not include Team Volusia’s budget.
Ms. Garcia stated it did not, and that was merely how much Volusia County was giving them.
Mr. Rosen relayed that what this did not show was the amount of money they were able to put into economic development that was not even coming from the County; therefore, they were able to balloon the amount of money or investment they put into it.
Commr. Campione asked if Marion County would be the same since they had the public-private partnership that they set up with their Chamber of Commerce, noting that their county government then helped to fund it.
Ms. Garcia confirmed this, and said that Marion County gave them $280,000 for the Ocala/Marion County and Economic Partnership.
Commr. Campione commented that if they looked at that budget for purposes of comparison, it would help the BCC understand how much was being put into economic development in order to get companies to come into particular counties and locations.
Ms. Garcia reminded the Board that when talking about a public-private or a private entity, they were not subject to a lot of the restrictions that a public entity might have in dealing with confidentiality. She opined there were good and bad things about this, and said to keep that in mind.
Commr. Campione specified that she was not saying it was the best model; rather, it was a model and that to get the full picture of what a community was doing to attract businesses, one needed to look at both the public and private side or partnership portion.
Commr. Shields relayed that Mr. Price had shared with him a demonstration of how he could track the spend of people coming to the county through cell phone data, noting that it could also provide information on where people were coming from.
Mr. Price added that it was geolocation data based on cell phones. He explained that when people sign up for an application on their phone, if they do not hit the privacy setting, then their information goes into a clearinghouse that is for sale. He indicated that staff buys the data which gives trends, but not the name and address of the person; furthermore, he opined that this proved that if they invested in an event or marketing campaign, then he could accurately present to the Board visitors who came to the county, where they were from, where they visited, and how long they were in the county. He indicated this was a new piece of technology that they would incorporate on their spend moving forward since it provided information that could make them more efficient on how they advertised or marketed to find the right visitor at the right time.
Commr. Parks reiterated that this was not taking names and addresses.
Commr. Shields pointed out that the program could determine where one lived even if one’s area code was different.
Mr. Price gave the example that if someone had a City of Chicago area code but lived in Lake County, then it would know that phone spent six to eight hours out of 24 hours in Lake County which made it determine the person was a resident and not a visitor. He emphasized that they were only looking at visitors and that they could separate residents from visitors with this data.
Mr. Rosen mentioned that he had discussed with Mr. Matulka regarding how they would determine if people were actually visiting for events if the County had provided funding to organizations to bring people to the county. He indicated that currently they relied on the organization who got the County funding to communicate with the hotels to determine there were visitors for the event and how many nights they stayed. He thought this type of data just presented was interesting and would provide more detail on whether events were truly bringing people into the county, and if they were staying in Lake County instead of staying in other counties.
Mr. Price noted that they separated out the data into whether the visitor was a short day trip, a day tripper or an overnight guest based on how many hours were within the point of interest (POI); additionally, he said they geofenced the tourism hotspots in Lake County so that staff could track what activity was happening in the county in real-time. He commented that this data along with other data could give a more cohesive picture.
office of county probation budget presentation
The Chairman handed the gavel to the Vice Chairman at 4:09 p.m. as he had to step out of the meeting for a brief moment.
Mr. Tony Deaton, Chief Probation Officer for the Office of County Probation, remarked that the mission of the Office of County Probation included: enhancing community safety by providing cost-effective supervision and guidance to offenders placed on probation and pre-trial diversion for misdemeanor crimes; effectively ensuring offender compliance with court-ordered sanctions as an alternative to jail, in accordance with Florida Statutes; and their Teen Court and Work in Lieu of Arrest (WILA) Juvenile Diversion Programs provided Lake County youth with the opportunity to be held accountable for their offenses while minimizing the stigmatizing effects of formal prosecution. He mentioned that some of their services included the following: pretrial diversion and misdemeanor supervision for offenders identified by the courts; placement and monitoring of offenders sentenced to perform community service through nonprofit community agencies; enforcement of restitution orders requiring offenders to reimburse victims for losses; vehicle immobilization services for offenders convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol; substance use monitoring and referral services; and employment, mental health, and community assistance referral and placement. He then displayed their organizational chart which depicted a total of 14 FTEs, noting that two had a dedicated funding stream specifically earmarked for juvenile diversion. He reported that the probation officer team monitored 3,908 court-ordered cases by performing 6,700 personal supervision contacts and 30,000 telephone contacts. He then displayed several bar graphs depicting active cases per year, active cases per officer by year, and the successful probationer completion rate. He indicated that they typically had 1,200 to 1,400 active cases at any given time, that the ideal amount of cases per officer was less than 200, and that their successful completion rate rose to 76 percent during the pandemic. He relayed that they enforced the collection of $52,300 in restitution from offenders which was returned to victims for their losses, and they coordinated the completion of 10,238 hours of community service by 293 adult offenders. He then relayed the following efficiencies for this office: monitored the law-abiding behavior of over 3,500 offenders using the FALCON Offender Watch list system provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; assisted the Lake County Jail and other law enforcement agencies in coordinating the seamless arrest of 77 probation violators at the jail and in apprehending 14 other wanted offenders at the probation office; assisted with the mental health jail diversion initiative by screening and diverting mentally ill persons to community mental health treatment programs; assisted Veteran’s Treatment Court by diverting eligible justice-involved veterans to community alternatives in lieu of jail; and helped staff the Citizen Information Line and Department of Health Line during the COVID-19 state of emergency. He then displayed several benchmark graphs comparing Lake County to surrounding counties in the areas of number of active cases, number of probation officers, number of cases per officer, and offender monthly supervision fees. He reported that Lake County had 883 active cases, six probation officers, 147 cases per officer, and had a supervision fee of $55, noting that the fee schedule was in accordance with Florida Law and allowed this office to offset the supervision of offenders by assessing probation monthly supervision fees. He thanked the Lake County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Office for holding Operation Green Light the previous month which helped over 400 people and collected over $70,000 which assisted probationers to get caught up on back fines and fees, and get their licenses reinstated. He then displayed the Office of County Probation proposed FY 2022 budget, with personal services at $782,188 and operating expenses at $44,261 for a total of $826,449. He indicated that this was essentially a status quo budget with the increase in personal services due to the FY 2021 merit increases and the operating increase due to the chargeback set by the Office of Human Resources and Risk Management; additionally, he stated that their budget was primarily supported by probation fees with over 72 percent being paid by offenders for the cost of their supervision. He concluded by highlighting that the Office of County Probation was part of the General Fund, with the exception of the Teen Court program, that fees were collected by the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller for probation services provided per adopted fee schedule, that limited-term positions provided ability to adjust staffing levels based on workload, and that the Teen Court and Work In Lieu of Arrest positions had dedicated funding streams which were earmarked for juvenile diversion.
Commr. Campione inquired if the Orange County numbers were because they utilized diversionary programs.
Mr. Deaton responded that he was unable to explain those numbers, although he mentioned that Orange County had a multitude of programs including a diversion program, a mental health program, a community service program, etc.
Commr. Campione asked if probation was only one facet of what they had, and Mr. Deaton said that was correct and noted that it fell under community corrections which was a huge organization.
Commr. Smith thanked Mr. Deaton for his presentation and opined that the Teen Court program was phenomenal.
The Vice Chairman passed the gavel back to the Chairman at 4:27 p.m.
office of transit services budget presentation
Ms. Jill Brown, Director for the Office of Transit Services, commented that her presentation would include an overview, organizational chart, accomplishments, efficiencies, benchmarks and the proposed budget for the office. She shared that the mission of the Office of Transit Services was to provide safe, accessible, efficient and cost-effective public transportation that meets the needs of residents and visitors in Lake County. She explained that their fixed route program was the LakeXpress which operated 10 buses on seven fixed routes, Monday through Friday from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., with $1 fares each way except for seniors, veterans and the disabled who would have half price fares and students who can ride for free with their student identification. She reported that their ridership was growing until FY 2020 when closures of schools and such due to COVID-19 affected it. She stated that their paratransit service, the Lake County Connection, was a countywide (door-to-door) service for mobility-impaired, developmentally-disabled and senior citizens who meet ADA and/or Transportation Disadvantaged (TD) eligibility requirements. She relayed that this service also operated Monday through Friday, from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., with Saturday service for dialysis services; furthermore, the fares were $2 each way within Lake County, $5 each way for service to the City of Orlando, and $10 for service to the City of Gainesville, noting that services to these cities were for medical purposes only. She noted that their ridership was historically high, and that there was a decrease in FY 2019 which was due to moving Medicaid eligible passengers to Medicaid transportation, and that it also decreased in FY 2020 due to COVID-19. She displayed an organizational chart of the office which showed five FTEs, as well as 77 FTEs and 15 part-time employees for their contractor RATP, who provided the services and maintenance to the vehicles. She stated that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lake County transportation remained open and available, noting that the fixed route continued regular service while the paratransit restricted services from March to June 2020 for life sustaining and medical trips only in order to ensure social distancing. She indicated that in order to ensure safety of employees and riders, they added extra safety measures such as additional bus cleaning and nightly sanitizing, encouraging social distancing, access to PPE for drivers and staff, installation of driver barriers, mask distribution for passengers, installation of high efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) 2 air filtration systems in all vehicles, education on the Presidential mask mandate for public transportation, and transportation to vaccination sites. She reported that this office completed phase one of its multiyear plan to improve access to bus stops which included making 29 bus stops ADA compliant and adding other enhancements such as benches, trash cans, and solar powered security lighting; additionally, improvements for 40 bus stops were planned for FY 2021, noting that all bus stop shelter improvements were 100 percent covered by their grants. She commented that another accomplishment of their office was the provision of transportation for nearly 70 residents to cold weather sheltering sites during the winter. She also mentioned that in October 2019, the County entered into a contract with Vector Media to manage the bus advertising program, and indicated that the contract had a minimum annual revenue guarantee which increased annually, that the County also received 50 percent revenue-share of the annual advertising sales, and that in FY 2020, the County received approximately $128,000 in revenue which went back into the transit system. She then displayed several benchmark graphs comparing Lake County to surrounding counties and reported the following for Lake County: fixed route trips per capita was 0.97; fixed route expenses per capita were $9.16; paratransit trips per capita was 0.32; and paratransit expenses per capita was $10.88. She showed a bar graph of Lake County’s fixed route costs per hour, and pointed out that fixed route costs per hour went up in FY 2019 due to having seven buses that were ready to be retired and cost more to maintain; however, those buses had been replaced and they were back on track with their capital improvement program which helped to reduce maintenance costs. She reported that the fixed route cost per hour in FY 2020 was $73.61, noting that this included additional costs for COVID-19 measures; furthermore, the paratransit costs per trips had increased in FY 2020 which she explained was due to the volume decreasing while they still had the expenses for safety measures and since it was based on trips rather than hours for the fixed route. She concluded with the proposed budget for the Office of Transit Services, and indicated that personal services was at $406,999 and had increased due to merit increases as already mentioned in the meeting, operating expenses was at $7,307,548 and reflected a decrease due to the COVID-19 ridership decline, capital outlay was at $43,138 and reflected available grant funding, and the total budget was $7,757,685, noting that they were asking for less General Fund funding since they had remaining CARES Act funds which were 100 percent reimbursable with no match required.
Commr. Shields inquired about service to the Four Corners area.
Ms. Brown responded that they would be doing a phone call with folks from Kroger to discuss a possible van pooling program in the meantime until they could figure out a funding source to allow for a north south bus route to connect the City of Leesburg to the City of Clermont and eventually down to Four Corners.
Commr. Shields said that the City of Groveland was putting in some workforce housing in their downtown area and mentioned that people would need to be able to get transportation to jobs. He relayed that thousands of jobs would be coming to the Ford Commerce Park due to Kroger and Amazon. He opined that it would be amazing if they could make a triangle trip from the Ford Commerce Park in the City of Groveland, to the Four Corners area, and up to the City of Clermont.
Ms. Brown replied that over 50 percent of their fixed route trips were for employment. She indicated that they were reviewing the costs and determining the actual need before they would be able to apply for a service development grant, noting that those grants were a 50/50 match so they would need to determine the funding for 50 percent of the request for the grant. She explained that the service development grants were only for three years; therefore, after the three years they would need to determine if the route was viable and how it would be funded.
Commr. Parks thanked Ms. Brown for all the efficiencies they had made through the year.
city of winter garden ordinance regarding truck traffic
Ms. Marsh relayed that the City of Winter Garden had passed the ordinance restricting truck traffic on Marsh Road, and that the Titan America attorneys had contacted her the previous day to inquire if the County was interested in joining them in a lawsuit. She said that it looked like currently Titan America was suing for a declaratory judgement claiming that the way the City of Winter Garden enacted their ordinance was done incorrectly; additionally, they also had a count for inverse condemnation and were looking to file a motion for a temporary injunction. She stated that if this was something the Board was interested in doing, then she would need to bring an agenda item back to the Board at their next meeting in order to obtain their authorization to join that litigation. She indicated that she would add this item to the next meeting agenda for the Board to decide what action they desired to take on the matter.
Commr. Parks said that he was interested in considering it as an option for the next BCC meeting agenda. He thought they had tried to go through the proper channels and work together; however, based on some of the letters he had seen, he was not sure there was a political will at this point to do anything differently so they might need to consider this as an option.
Ms. Marsh said that if they joined this lawsuit, then it forced them into the intergovernmental dispute resolution act, noting that this was a process that included mediation, joint meetings, and other requirements. She was not sure if Titan America realized that or maybe they did and that was what they were looking for. She expressed her understanding that Titan America had reached out to the City of Clermont asking them if they were going to join, and she did not know what the City of Clermont was going to do. She reiterated that this request was presented to her the previous day.
Commr. Parks indicated that it did not need to be decided at this meeting, but asked for staff to place it as an option to review at the next meeting, noting this would provide time for each Commissioner to do their own due diligence further.
Ms. Marsh stated she could add that to the next BCC agenda and the Board could then decide what they wanted to do at that meeting.
ADA compatible websites
Ms. Marsh clarified that regarding the comment made by Mr. Jochim during the citizen question and comment period of the meeting about the ADA compatible websites and the case in the Federal Courts, that case involved Winn Dixie stores which fell under Title 3 of the ADA while the County fell under Title 2. She did not believe that case was applicable to the County, was a facts specific case, and recommended continuing to make the County’s website as ADA compatible as possible.
new bcc meeting schedule: august – November 2021
Mr. Rosen relayed that the BCC had requested for staff to separate the zoning cases to a separate meeting and that the suggestion was to start in August 2021, with the first Tuesday of the month to be for rezoning cases and then the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month to be the regular BCC meetings. He explained that the reason staff wanted to wait until August 2021 to start this was due to the Board having meetings in the different districts happening in the next couple of months; additionally, this would give staff time to reorganize and prepare for these meetings. He remarked that they would try the new meeting schedule and if it did not seem to work well, then they would try something different.
Commr. Parks agreed that there was flexibility to change as they saw what worked.
On a motion by Commr. Campione, seconded by Commr. Blake, and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved the new BCC meeting schedule from August through November 2021.
renaming of state road 46
Mr. Rosen mentioned that FDOT was renaming SR 46 and had asked if the County or the City of Mount Dora wanted to be involved in renaming it. He asked if the BCC wanted to rename the section of the road or allow the City of Mount Dora to rename it.
Commr. Campione asked for clarification as she thought they had already named the section of SR 46 from the interchange all the way to U.S. 441.
Mr. Schneider explained that it was the short segment of SR 46, from U.S. 441 in the City of Mount Dora headed east to the new interchange, because at that point it became Sorrento Avenue which would be transferred to the County. He elaborated that after passing Sorrento Avenue, then it went back to SR 46 all the way out to Mims and Interstate 95. He said the Board could extend the name of Sorrento Avenue or come up with a new name.
Commr. Campione asked if it would be confusing to have the same road have a different name for that little segment and then turn into Sorrento Avenue. She commented that if it was Sorrento Avenue the entire way, then people getting off of U.S. 441 would know they were on Sorrento Avenue which would take them into Sorrento.
Commr. Smith remarked that there were roads with different names. He inquired if FDOT was handing this road over to the County or the City or merely wanting to change the name and keep possession of it.
Mr. Schneider responded that the six lanes that FDOT just completed would remain a state road, and that they would probably have a state shield marker; however, on the signs approaching the bridge and overpass, they said they would change the name on those signs to whatever name was decided upon.
Commr. Campione stated that section took people to Sorrento Avenue so it seemed like it should be named Sorrento Avenue.
Commr. Parks agreed.
Mr. Rosen summarized that the Board wanted to name it Sorrento Avenue, or have the City of Mount Dora name it Sorrento Avenue.
Mr. Schneider inquired how the Board wanted him to respond to FDOT.
Commr. Parks replied for it to be a continuation of Sorrento Avenue.
Mr. Schneider indicated that he would respond as such.
green swamp concerns
Mr. Rosen indicated that staff was working on providing answers back to the Board regarding the mining in the Green Swamp issue that would need to be discussed in a future public hearing. He wanted to clarify the discussion regarding having a hydrologist, and relayed that the County did not have a hydrologist on staff nor on contract and that they would have to find someone to do it for them. He asked for Board direction if they wanted staff to get a hydrologist to answer some of the Board’s questions or if they were merely wanting to know if the County had one.
Commr. Smith responded that came from him in regards to questions he might ask on this issue; furthermore, he thought it was his responsibility to talk to a hydrologist and not to make the County do so. He thought he could find someone from the University of Florida (UF) or UCF to ask questions about water.
Commr. Parks thought there were two different items and that when evaluating this case or a land use change, the question was if there was someone on staff that was independent if there was an issue in the future in which a hydrologist was needed.
Mr. Rosen said they could have an ongoing contract with a consulting firm that had a hydrologist so that if they had questions, then they could ask. He indicated that they did not currently have a contract or hydrologist; therefore, if they wanted one for this specific item, then they would need to find someone who was willing to answer these questions.
Commr. Parks said he was thinking more for the long term and not necessarily for the case that staff had been working on. He commented that it might be a good practice to have someone on call for items in the future for which there was no charge unless needed.
Commr. Campione did not think they should pay someone to be on staff full-time when these issues only came up from time to time. She opined that having a contract in place for when items needed to be reviewed was probably a good idea. She asked the Board to keep in mind that when experts were involved, then opinions were involved, and they could get different answers from different experts. She said this went to credibility and the weight that might be placed on one person’s opinion over another person. She said to be careful when getting into a situation in which someone is hired to be the County’s “expert” as it might not be as clear as it might appear.
Commr. Shields remarked that they already had the Lake County Water Authority (LCWA) report which said something different than the industry’s report for this issue. He questioned if they wanted to get somebody outside of those two.
Commr. Parks thought it was good to go through the process to get somebody who would be on call, noting that they might not even need them for another two years. He agreed that they had to be careful who was selected so that there was no conflict of interest.
Commr. Campione added that they should not be someone who is in favor of a certain business or industry.
Commr. Parks specified that it would need to be narrow in who was selected, noting that was what staff did and the Board did not get involved in that. He commented that conceptually, if they did move forward with getting someone, it should be someone who would not have a conflict or was trying to do different things or was representing development, etc. He realized that this might make it difficult.
Mr. Rosen commented that it could be an altruistic hydrologist. He summarized that for this specific project the Board was saying they did not want to get a hydrologist; however, staff could potentially go out for bid for a continuing service contract for someone who would keep the straight and narrow path such as someone in academia or a working relationship with a university. He stated that staff could bring the contract back to the BCC for approval. He explained that they might get two to four firms that they liked and have each of them on standby so that when there was an issue that they needed advice on, they could ask the Board who they wanted to utilize for the certain situation.
Commr. Shields asked to clarify if they were getting a hydrologist for this issue, and reiterated that they were at an impasse at this point as there were two saying two different things; therefore, he suggested getting a third independent one.
Commr. Campione expressed concerns that it was not simple to determine who was an independent one.
Commr. Parks inquired if Commissioner Shields was asking if there was someone who could weigh in independently between the two different opinions.
Commr. Campione commented for it to be similar to a judge who hears one opinion and then another and then comes up with a decision. She opined this was essentially what the Board was being asked to do.
Commr. Shields asked Commissioner Smith if having a third opinion would be helpful for him, since he was the one who had asked for this item to be tabled in order for him to be able to obtain more information.
Commr. Smith said that it would be helpful, and he reiterated that he or Mr. Rosen could go to UF or UCF to find someone who could assist. He hoped that whoever the County picked would have the integrity to go by the science and the facts and not by feelings.
Commr. Parks asked if they could see if there was someone else who could weigh in on the current issue and then present some options to the Board, outside of the consultant question which could take a few months to accomplish.
Mr. Rosen indicated that he would start that process.
Mr. Ron Hart, Executive Director for the LCWA, remarked that the LCWA was a non-biased agency, and that the only thing they were biased to was protecting the lakes, which he opined was all science based. He said that they were not looking to harm anybody’s side or interest; rather, to ensure that the water resources remained protected in some way. He opined that as governmental employees they were not being paid to promote any side or agenda, that if the BCC was looking to hire someone outside then they might be likely to reflect the position of whoever their client might be, and that if the BCC hired a staff person, then they would be paying that person to make their decision based on the best available information regarding that subject. He commented that in this particular field, his staff within his agency who were professionals on water, were hired to strictly give their position based on the resource and science that was available. He reiterated for the Board to not think of the LCWA as being biased in one way or another; rather, that they were merely presenting the best facts or best science that was currently available.
Commr. Campione appreciated the fact that Mr. Hart thought he was unbiased and not approaching it from a particular position; however, she felt that there were a lot of layers to this that had to do with policy and the weighing of different interests and she did not think the LCWA staff should present themselves as an agency rendering an opinion on this particular topic and the policy issues in front of the BCC. She relayed her struggle with seeing that as an appropriate role.
Commr. Parks asked to have some input since he had served on the LCWA. He relayed that one of the LCWA mission statements was to protect the surface water quality and resources for the entire county. He indicated that when he was on the LCWA Board, they did weigh in whenever it was an issue that might impact the surficial water resources of the county; however, he said that what they did not weigh in on was the permitting or consumptive use. He asked Mr. Hart if this was still accurate.
Mr. Hart confirmed that it was accurate, and stated that they do not get involved in the policy issue on a staff level, but that they just provide the recommendation based on what the science indicated, noting that the LCWA Board would make a decision if they wanted to be involved in some policy. He reiterated that it was only recommendations and was not anything that the BCC had to follow; furthermore, he did not want the BCC to think of the LCWA as being biased as that was not their intent in any way. He said they just wanted to project what was the best available information at that time regarding that subject, noting that this subject was water resources.
Commr. Campione opined that the LCWA’s mission was lofty in their focus on protecting water resources, surface water, groundwater, etc.; however, she felt that this was treading into an area that was not really the role of the LCWA. She gave the example that if they were asking the LCWA to give information on rainfall levels, water levels, and maybe sampling on water quality issues, then that was great technical data that the LCWA collects and has which could help when the BCC was making certain policy decisions. She opined that to reach a conclusion or render an opinion or recommendation was entering into a whole other realm that she personally thought was entering into the realm of policy and was not strictly data and information.
Commr. Parks remarked that Commissioner Campione would be able to elaborate on this as they continued to deliberate on the land use for sand mining. He reiterated that the LCWA Board felt that this was something they wanted to weigh in on due to their mission statement, and that Mr. Hart’s technical background was very qualified.
Mr. Hart relayed that he had worked with people who were very sound hydrologists and engineers within Lake County who might be willing to render an opinion regarding this particular issue, noting that he had someone in mind.
Commr. Parks asked for Mr. Rosen to reach out to Mr. Hart’s contact.
Commr. Campione said that it seemed like the sand mining industry and their interests should be represented in any selection of a third party so that there was a consensus on the individual being someone who was considered to be independent of the issue.
Commr. Parks thought the sand mining industry would have some of their own analysis.
Commr. Campione reiterated that she was attempting to create a fair playing field, noting that the LCWA had rendered an opinion and the sand mining industry had their experts; therefore, she suggested picking a third party person and getting the LCWA and the sand mining industry to weigh in on the County’s selection of the third party person so that it would be fair.
Mr. Hart noted that he did not want the BCC to think that the LCWA was anti-sand mining as he had contacts in the industry, noting that they were trying to play the middle ground and speak to what was in the best interest of the natural resources.
Commr. Parks understood that, and thanked the LCWA for their work. He said that before they had people weigh in on a consultant for this particular case, that they should see what Mr. Rosen could accomplish within the next couple of weeks to bring options back to the Board.
Commr. Campione asked for clarification if that in the future, any time there was a land use case that involved a water quality issue or had any water quality ramifications, was the Board going to ask the LCWA to give an opinion on how the BCC should decide on land development regulations.
Commr. Parks relayed that the Board had not asked the LCWA to weigh in on this case, but they did since they were an elected body. He thought the long-term goal was to have a consultant that everyone agrees with and who goes through the selection process, and for them to be on staff or on call to weigh in on a case.
Commr. Campione agreed that at the very least, they should have someone who was independent so that if there was a question about how this would affect resources, then their technical expertise should come into play, as opposed to going to another elected body and asking them to give a recommendation on what the County should do on their own land use cases, recommendations, and regulations. She thought they were treading into a territory that was not prudent.
Commr. Parks expressed an understanding for what Commissioner Campione was saying; however, he reiterated that the Board did not ask for it, that any elected body could weigh in on anything that the BCC did, and that the BCC can take in whatever evidence is presented, whether for a quasi-judicial hearing or for this legislative act that the BCC may take.
Commr. Campione said that she was merely trying to raise for everybody that once they go down this road, then it was one thing to say that the LCWA had the mission of protecting the water quality of water bodies in Lake County, which she opined was an important mission; however, if the Board was going to then turn to them to give an opinion on any decisions the Board made that were related to water quality issues, then they were getting into a situation such that as a BCC they should not be in. She commented that if the LCWA wanted to weigh in on something then that was fine, but not to make that the expert opinion that the BCC uses if they were going to rely on an expert opinion.
Mr. Rosen relayed that staff could start a process for the future to see if the County could have a contract for someone to be on call if needed, and that it would be up to the BCC if they wanted to utilize that person in the future. He did not know if they would be able to do that for this case since it was a long process, but they would research if there was anyone who might want to comment on this case and bring options back to the Board.
commissioner shields – district 1
leesburg city council meeting
Commr. Shields relayed that he had taken Mr. Rosen to the Leesburg City Council meeting the previous evening and to the Mascotte City Council meeting the previous week.
four corners meeting
Commr. Shields remarked that he held his second meeting with constituents in the Four Corners area on the previous Saturday, and shared that they were excited that the BCC would be holding a meeting in their area.
Commr. Shields commented that an individual with LovExtension had approached him at the Elder Affairs Coordinating Council meeting in order to invite him to visit her organization which delivered food to elderly people throughout the county. He relayed that this group had 600 clients prior to COVID-19, and had 900 clients currently, noting that it was partially funded by the BCC and through donations.
city of groveland cra
Commr. Shields said that he had received a brief on the City of Groveland Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and what was happening in that area. He mentioned that the City of Groveland was getting their downtown area back by having SR 50 going around it, that there was a hotel being built on the lake, that workforce housing was going in, etc. He shared that the Ford Commerce Park was not in the CRA; however, he thought some of that was still County owned and not in the city yet. He thought they should get that as part of the city for recruiting purposes.
Commr. Parks thought that within the Ford Commerce Park, part of it was County owned and unincorporated Lake County.
Commr. Shields thought there was some of both within it. He opined it was difficult to recruit companies when having both as companies wanted to know who they would deal with and what services would be provided. He said staff was working on this.
commissioner smith – vice chairman and district 3
resolutions 2021-62 regarding central lake regional park
Commr. Smith mentioned that he had the opportunity to meet with the City of Tavares, and noted that in regards to the master plan for parks, that the only one left was a park for central Lake County. He relayed that the City of Tavares approached him and indicated that the City, the YMCA, and AdventHealth Waterman were all wanting to partner together with the County to do a public-private partnership to help out with a portion of Central Lake Regional Park. He explained that Resolution 2021-62 was merely giving the County the ability to discuss with them who might do what for this park, noting it would come back to the BCC for review.
Commr. Campione asked for clarification that this was just to say there was a willingness to participate, embark on a mission to find a way they could all work together to move the park along, and that no funding commitment was included.
Commr. Smith said that was correct, and reiterated that there was no funding commitment attached to this resolution.
On a motion by Commr. Shields, seconded by Commr. Campione, and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved Resolution 2021-62 supporting exploration of a public-private partnership to establish a Central Lake Regional Park.
commissioner CAMPIONE – district 4
eustis meeting information
Commr. Campione mentioned that she had put together some information in preparation for the joint meeting with the City of Eustis which included maps displaying examples of densities, the City’s land development code and provisions, the County’s future land use map for northeast Lake County, pictures of densities at 3.5 and 4.5 units per acre, and her notes, noting that she would be sharing this information with the Board. She explained that she reviewed the City’s code and provisions and found that they had a rural land use and rural design district that actually had all of the language the Board discussed that would facilitate a conservation type design or a large lot design in a rural transition area; however, she relayed that the City was in favor of a suburban land use. She elaborated that the City also had a PD overlay district which allowed one to combine lot sizes, widths, and open space requirement, and that these two land uses could potentially be merged if they were attempting to come up with a more rural transitional land use. She commented that in regards to the County’s future land use map for northeast Lake County, it showed where the Wekiva boundary began, what densities were there, such as one unit to 20 acres or 40 acres, and where that was in relation to the Thrill Hill area.
Commr. Parks said that was helpful and he appreciated her putting this information together. He asked about the overlay district.
Commr. Campione responded that it was called a PD overlay district, and that it would allow a situation similar to the County’s planned unit development (PUD) which would allow items to be defined such as minimum lot widths, minimum open space, whether functional open space or if wetlands and water bodies could be counted toward open space, etc. She opined there was a lot of great language in the City’s rural design district which talked about connectivity such as wildlife corridor connectivity, trail connectivity, etc., noting this was in their rural land use designation with some mention of it in their suburban designation although she did not see that they had incorporated any of those items within the subdivisions they had approved. She explained that from what she had seen in the City’s code, it seemed like they would have to use the PD overlay district to actually put those items into a subdivision ordinance; otherwise, the subdivision would just have the minimum requirements, noting that was how she thought it had been done so far. She opined that this could be the mechanism to use, even if the Board did it with a Chapter 163 agreement with the City, and the County actually created their own City/County overlay standard, then it would create certainty for developers and land owners and everyone might feel more comfortable that there was a set standard for that area.
Commr. Parks said that was the goal.
commissioner blake – district 5
school impact fees
Commr. Blake commented that he would like to discuss an idea he had regarding school impact fees and a way to assist with affordable housing at a future meeting.
library childrens’ programs
Commr. Blake relayed that one of the city libraries in his district had mentioned to him that they had not restarted their children’s program because the County libraries had not restarted this programming yet. He inquired if this was something the County had not restarted yet or if it was a County policy that they were recommending to the member libraries.
Ms. Jo-Anne Drury, Deputy County Manager, responded that some of the children’s programming had slowly begun again, and that she would get additional information on this particular library and provide an update to Commissioner Blake.
commissioner parks – chairman and district 2
resolution 2021-63 regarding lincoln park community
Commr. Parks shared that the Lake County School District had entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Lincoln Park Community Learning Center. He explained that Resolution 2021-63 was supporting the conversion of the Clermont Elementary School into the Lincoln Park Community Learning Center.
On a motion by Commr. Smith, seconded by Commr. Shields, and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved Resolution 2021-63 supporting the conversion of the Clermont Elementary School into the Lincoln Park Community Learning Center.
Tab 28 regarding grants for high school competitions
Commr. Parks indicated that he wanted to table this item under his report to another meeting.
resolution 2021-64 for citrus label tour
On a motion by Commr. Shields, seconded by Commr. Blake, and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved Resolution 2021-64 in support of the Citrus Label Tour.
committee to assess canal dredging
Commr. Parks asked for discussion regarding canal dredging and the feasibility of having a committee to identify canals where assessment districts could potentially be set up to fund future canal dredging be added to a future BCC agenda.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 5:26 p.m.
SEAN PARKS, chairman
GARY J COONEY, CLERK