Work Session & Regular Meeting Recap
Our work session began with a discussion regarding access roads to The Lakes of Mount Dora. In the presentation to Council we learned that, just recently, Lake County has determined that a traffic light is warranted at the intersection of SR 44 and Britt Road. It was reported that the process to budget for, and prepare for, that traffic light can take up to two years. From 2017 to 2018 the amount of cars traveling Britt Road has increased by almost 30%. There is also a traffic light planned for the intersection of Wolf Branch and Britt Road, also taking up to two years to complete. May 8th is the next planned meeting after which we should receive a better timeline for the completion of these traffic signals.
City Manager switched the agenda and we discussed the Fire Assessment Fee next. Our Fire Chief, along with a representative from GSG (consulting group), gave a great presentation about our Fire Assessment Fee and the potential for a Hardship program to waive all, or a portion, of the fee for homeowners that qualify. The average home in Mount Dora is 1,660 sq ft. If the assessment the fee (which on your property tax bill for this year is a flat $219) were calculated by square footage the average home would pay $232.40 (1,660 x $.14). The GSG rep noted that only a handful of cities in Florida use the square footage method. Regarding the Hardship exemption two criteria must be met to even apply for the waiver of the fee. First, the property must be eligible for homestead exemption (this rules out renters). Secondly, the residents of the home must meet the income limits. City Council will set the income limits for the household and that includes the income of all residents in the home. City Council will vote to create the Hardship Policy in the coming months. We are using Leesburg's policy as a guide and it was stated that Leesburg has a total of 12 homeowners that applied and qualify for the Hardship.
Lastly we discussed Budget Parameters ahead of diving into the budget for next year. The City Manager wanted to get some direction from Council to guide staff in creating their respective departmental budgets. Examples include: Is it Council's desire to balance the 2019-2020 budget while maintaining our current milage rate of 6.3000. All Councilmembers agreed on that rate remaining unchanged for budgeting purposes (not to say this is set in stone). We discussed the potential to set aside money for the City's grant programs for organizations like The Chamber of Commerce, The Masonic Lodge and/or The Merchants Association, etc. Council was given the homework assignment of considering items like this and reporting back to our City Manager so they can plan accordingly. It was also brought up by our City Manager that it would be worth considering an increase in pay for the City Council, including the Mayor. Our HR department is going to compare our salaries with surrounding cities and report back to us during budget discussions. We also discussed the potential to change the start time of our Council meetings to 5pm or 5:30pm which no member objected to but nothing is set in stone. We did agree though to cancel the second work session of each month (3rd Tuesday) unless there is something important to discuss.
Onto the regular meeting. This was another very quick meeting. We had a presentation from The Friends of the Environment awarding the two Mount Dora High School students that won the poster contest creating award-winning posters for this year's Earth Day celebration.
We also had a presentation from Peter Wincup regarding the new Volunteer Business Solutions Advisory Committee. This was an idea that I had and approached Mr. Wincup for his help with creating. The VBSAC will be a Leadership Team of five volunteers that will aid existing and potential businesses with specific issues/questions/concerns free of charge. We think this free service may be a nice selling point for our landlords when they show available space to a potential business owner. It is also our intention to help prevent new business owners from dumping their life savings into a dream business that may fail because they didn't have the proper guidance. Our committee will obviously only give suggestions and we also intend to create a team of resources to help further with specific business needs as necessary. Mr. Wincup and I have worked to form our Leadership Team which will consult with businesses interested in utilizing this service and hopefully work to get a new business off on the right foot to avoid so much turnover in tenants, particularly downtown. The same hope goes for existing businesses who could use some advice on say cutting costs or merchandising, etc. The VBSAC plans to make presentations to landlords, the Merchants Association as well as the Chamber of Commerce in hopes of being able to offer our services sooner rather than later.
Both Resolution 2019-27, Approval of the Blueberry Festival and Resolution 2019-29, Approval of the Twilight 5K were moved to the Consent Agenda and approved unanimously without discussion.
Resolution 2019-24, Approval of the Social Media Policy. After some bit of discussion, City Council decided to continue this discussion at our April 2nd meeting. Our City Attorney is going to reword the Resolution so that emails are exempt from the "Elected Officials cannot comment on any form of internet discussion". It was a concern that the strictness of the policy as it was written could actually prohibit Councilmembers from communicating openly with residents who email us. The point was also brought up about certain Councilmembers sharing information with the public and that is fine so long as the information provided is just the facts. The point was also raised regarding upcoming elections and how a current council member could share thoughts/intentions and campaign via a website or Facebook while meeting the guidelines of this Resolution. City Attorney is going to present us with a new Policy at our meeting on April 2nd.
Resolution 2019-23, Purchase of a Forklift. This was approved unanimously.
Resolution 2019-33, Execution of a Consent to Assignment of Utility Billing Service Agreement. This was approved unanimously.
Resolution 2019-22, Adoption of the Parks & Recreation Master Plan. The Master Plan was adopted unanimously.
We wrapped up just after 7:30pm.
I asked specifically about sending these preludes and recaps to our meetings and got the all clear. I just cannot share my opinions. If you have any questions/concerns please reach out.