August 2, 2016 City Council Synopsis with Video Link

John McKinney (center) holds copy of the city's proclamation in support of its Vietnamese-American community, surrounded by members of the Vietnamese-American community


Trees, police, a proclamation, taxes, books, bad boxes and a lease 

In its zippiest meeting of the year, Mount Dora city council completed its August 2 agenda in just under an hour—with most of proceedings taken up by public comment and a proclamation.

Perhaps it was because council had already done its heavy hauling late the previous week, completing two rounds of interviews of prospective city manager candidates. On July 30, after initially ranking Calvin Peck highest among the prospective candidates by a 2-point margin, council voted 6-1 to pursue permanent city manager contract negotiations with Robin Hayes. Hayes is currently Oviedo’s director of management services and communications.

Absent from the August 2 meeting were Marie Rich and Mark Slaby.

Charlie Sanz complained to council about the city's handling of a proposed tree ordinance
Charlie Sanz complained to council about the city’s handling of a proposed tree ordinance

During public comment, Charlie Sanz was critical of the reception of a proposed tree ordinance she and a citizens’ group had drafted. Sanz said the draft ordinance, intended as “a non-political exercise” with the goal of “healing our torn community” had been leaked to local media and received negative treatment by that media after a storm downed trees around the city. (Our story here.) Furthermore, Sanz said, the draft that had been submitted to staff for review it was mishandled, neglecting to “keep it in the community” by involving “outside parties” in its review. After Mayor Girone cut Sanz off after four minutes, resident Tom Cutshaw came up to the podium to continue reading the statement, requesting that the draft be returned to the citizen group and asking the city to draft their own tree ordinance. “If we are going to heal the community,” he said, “council is in the best position to set the example.”

Next, resident Rozann Abato and Rev. Lucious Taylor of Bethel Free Methodist Church presented deputy chief Robert Bell of the Mount Dora Police Department (standing in for police chief John O’Grady) with a banner “from all citizens of Mount Dora” thanking Mount Dora police. “We hope it will remind you daily that we know you have our backs,” said Abato,” and we want you to know that we have yours.”  “I want you in the Mount Dora police department to know you are appreciated, not tolerated,” Rev. Taylor said. “There has been a breakdown in respect, both for officers and for citizens as well,” he said, but the summit between the community and police at Bethel Freed Methodist Church on July 15 made a great beginning. (Story here.)  “Coming together is progress,” he said, “but working together is success.”

Rev. Lucious Taylor, Robert Bell and Rozann Abato after Taylor and Abato gave Bell a banner expressing the support of citizens for Mount Dora's police
Rev. Lucious Taylor, Robert Bell and Rozann Abato after Taylor and Abato gave Bell a banner expressing the support of citizens for Mount Dora’s police

Mayor Girone next read a proclamation recognizing the contributions of the Vietnamese-American community to Mount Dora through their cultural, religious and political lives. The proclamation also recognized a Freedom Flag donated to the city as the official symbol of the City of Mount Dora’s Vietnamese-American community.  John McKinney, who received the proclamation from Girone, emigrated from Vietnam to Mount Dora in 1965. In his comments, McKinney said he had graduated from Mount Dora High and learned to speak “Southern Vietnamese” along the way. Over the years, McKinney has owned and operated many restaurants in the Mount Dora area, including Olympia Banquets and Kiku Japanese Steakhouse.

Many members of the extended Vietnamese-American community were on hand for the ceremony. McKinney then demonstrated the virtues of community. He held up a single chopstick and cracked it, saying, “This is what happens when you stand alone.” Then he held up a half-dozen pairs of chopsticks. “This is what happens when you stand together. You can’t be broken.”

Mayor Girone (center) receives the Freedom Flag
Mayor Girone (center) receives the Freedom Flag

Then it was on to scheduled business, with each item flying by with little discussion and unanimous approval.

First, council approved setting the maximum tentative millage rate at 5.997 mills.  That’s the same rate as last year, but with average property values rising 4.28%, keeping the present millage rate will actually result in a 1.69% increase in ad valorem taxes—the amount of revenue the city takes in from property taxes.

Laurie Tillett (First District) said that for all of the services the city provides, “$720 a year”—tax on the average Mount Dora home—”is a pretty darn good deal.”

Next, council approved an interlocal agreement between Lake County and the City of Mount Dora for library services until Sept. 2019. Lake County pays the City each month for library services, and by doing so the county receives aid from the state for a variety of services, including e-books, centralized cataloguing, replacement computers, on-line databases and programs. The W.T. Bland Library carries about 85,000 items in all, while patrons can access 600,000 items through the county’s 6 branches and 9 city libraries. Mount Dora will get a little over $200,000 from the county in 2016-17.

Mark Crail (Fourth District) praised the effort of staff at the W.T. Bland Library. “Square foot for square foot, there isn’t a library around which gets more use.”

Then council approved 5-0 a request for electric pull-box retrofits at Wastewater Treatment Plant #2. Years ago the boxes had been installed too low (below grade) and flood with water when it rains. To fix the problem, Public Works wants to raise the tops of existing boxes high enough to prevent water intrusion. There is no off-the-shelf solution; instead, the retrofit kits will have to be specially engineered and manufactured at a total cost of $17,365.

City attorney Groot had no items to mention for his update to council.

Interim city manager Leinbach had just one in his update, recommending approval of a 5-year agreement with New Episcopal Children’s Services for a daycare located in a city-owned property on North Highland. The former lessee had not attended to a number of environmental and safety concerns at the property, and Episcopal Children’s Services will be responsible for addressing all of them as part of their lease agreement. Cal Rolfson (Second District) voiced his support, saying, “This daycare is an important part of the NECRA community.” Council unanimously approved the recommendation.

During council comments, Ed Rowlett (Third District) asked about the status of Fifth Avenue resurfacing. According to Mayor Girone, the schedule is being delayed somewhat due to the limited supply of asphalt. He added that he didn’t think the work would get done by the original completion date of September 1.

Cal Rolfson (Second District) made a plug for the Grandview Commercial Market Study open house on Thursday, August 4, at the Martin Luther King Center from 1-6 p.m.  It’s your time to give a comment to the (contract) how we can upgrade that part of our community,” he said, adding he hoped everyone would consider giving an hour of their time to help out. “That part pf Mount Dora is just as  uch of our community as  downtown.”

Council adjourned at 6:52 p.m., emptying everyone out onto the steps of City Hall with the evening still very young.

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Video of the Meeting:

David Cohea, Writer (