Lake County Issues
The following information was received by James K., a TEA Party member. He asked each county commissioner two questions. Only two responded, Leslie Campione and Sean Parks. Only Leslie Campione's remarks are shown as Sean Parks had similar comments.
First response about the County Manager and the EOC is dated January 14, 2011 and is as follows:
Jim: I favored conducting a full search, although it concerned me that we would remain in somewhat of a holding pattern for at least 6 months while the search was conducted. Based on the prior Board discussions, I had the impression that the majority of the Board might be moving in the direction of promoting Darren to the Manager position. In preparation for the deliberations on Tuesday, and knowing that this might be the direction the majority was going, I obtained Darren Gray’s resume, job application, the Manager’s job description/qualifications and thereafter I conducted an interview that lasted almost 2 hours. In addition, I made some phone calls and checked out his credentials. I have to say that I was very impressed with Darren’s demeanor, skill set, apparent management style, 9 years of experience in municipal/government budgeting and finance (Orange County), Masters in Public Administration from UCF, knowledge of our local economy and central Florida economy, understanding of Florida Growth Management Law (6 years as Asst. Manager in City of Clermont and involved in joint planning efforts, resource protection, etc.), and lastly, his military experience.
The one thing that really bothered me was the “process” (or lack thereof). I did not like the fact that our interim manager had hired him for the Deputy position and now we were simply moving him into the #1 position without looking at other options. Therefore, I tried one more time on Tuesday to get support to conduct a search using an outside firm (initially I had suggested a “head hunter” firm and I didn’t get support, then I tried a search committee, but didn’t get support), but the other four commissioners favored hiring Darren. At that point I was faced with the problem of being the one dissenting voice. There are times to stand on principle (i.e. vote against something to “make a point”), and there are times that require unity. For the sake of getting behind the County Manager who obviously was going to be selected, I believed thatI the Commission needed to be unified. So I expressed my desire to search with an outside firm, when there was no support, then I used the opportunity to extol Darren’s qualifications on the record in a show of confidence and joined the other Commissioners in a unanimous vote. I want Darren to succeed, and therefore, I did not believe that I needed to be a dissenting vote. If I am not happy with his performance, I will not hesitate to let that be known when we conduct our first review (which will be 8 months out – right after the budget process concludes).
Regarding the EOC decision, each County in Florida is required by Florida Statutes to have an EOC that meets certain minimum standards. One of those standards is that it must be fully operational within one hour of activation. We did not approve construction on Tuesday, but instead we approved completion of the plans so that the actual costs could be bid out and ascertained. I am only in favor of proceeding under the following conditions: (1) no Lake County debt to fund it; (2) the current EOC space would be occupied by personnel that are currently housed off-site thereby reducing off-site lease costs; (3) 50% of the building would be used to consolidate 911 dispatch centers thereby giving the county and cities ability to operate one dispatch instead of individual dispatch centers all over the county ; (4) County’s mirror server is housed in the building; (5) Clerk of Court’s server is housed in the building; (4) building is occupied daily and is available for multi-uses; (5) original square footage cut; (6) EMS dispatch is moved to this location thereby eliminating approximately $16,000 to $20,000 of off-site lease space; (6) additional 911 grant funds are sought to cut County costs; (7) overall construction costs reduced by 2 million; and (8) no increase in operational costs (e.g. off-site leases reduced, no additional personnel, consolidation of dispatch units from other locations).
If you have any questions or want further explanation, please let me know. These were tough decisions. I worked hard to get all the information necessary to make the right call
The second response about the County Manager and EOC is dated January 17, 2011 and is as follows:
Dear Jim: Please feel free to share my response. I am working on setting up a process for getting my information out to those who are interested, but haven’t worked out the details yet. There are a couple things I would like to elaborate on. You asked about whether there is a set procedure for hiring a county manager. The County Manager job description is contained in the Lake County Code at the following:
As you may know, there are only two positions in “County” government that are hired directly by the Board of County Commissioners – the County Manager and the County Attorney. All other department heads are hired by the County Manager, and these positions are typically filled by advertising in trade publications, shortlisting and conducting interviews. There is not a particular procedure for selecting a County Manager in a non-charter County such as Lake County, other than to select a Manager that meets the standards in the Lake County Code. Thus, deciding how to go about conducting a search or whether to promote from within, is entirely at the discretion of the Board through a majority vote. Thereafter, the Board negotiates a contract, which addresses salary, benefits, severance, criteria and expectations.
With regard to the EOC, I want to clarify that the while the Florida Statutes requires each County in Florida to have an emergency operations center (“EOC”) which meets certain minimum criteria, the State has not mandated that we construct a new building. Our present EOC occupies approximately 2500 square feet in our administration building on the 2nd Floor with additional office space on the 4th Floor. Many concerns have been expressed about the safety of the building as an EOC (sky lights and a lot of glass, relatively old construction, wind load capability). From what I understand, the condition of the current building disqualifies our EOC for certain types of grant funding that would otherwise be available. I have checked whether we could retrofit an existing county building, but have reached the conclusion that it was be more costly to upgrade than to build something new due to specifications that apply to buildings used for emergency operation purposes. I was inclined to support the status quo (i.e building nothing and “make do” with what we have) until I looked at the current condition of our primary dispatch/communications center (which is far below typical standards) and realized that even if the Sheriff moves the current dispatch center to another floor to improve conditions, there would still would not be sufficient room to consolidate all dispatch/communication centers into one location (8 of the 14 cities have transferred their dispatch centers to the County but there is not enough room for taking on any more). Furthermore, significant upgrades to equipment (e.g. computers, servers, related infrastructure) would have to be made if the center is moved to another floor, and considering that the current primary dispatch center is located in a structure built as a jail in the 1970s, I don’t think it would be a prudent investment to make these upgrades. Furthermore, the EMS dispatch center (which handles EMS and fire calls after the initial 911 call has been made) is located a former shopping center – which may be a perfect place for many government functions, but its safety is problematic for a dispatch center. Thus, if we are serious about consolidation, constructing a new building is the only feasible way to do this. From an operational standpoint, the County and cities can save money by operating one central dispatch center (911 services are paid from a State tax on our phone bills and many cities also use general fund dollars to cover their dispatch costs). Appropriately, due to the grant requirements, this building would be one of the safest buildings in the County (if not the safest). I view the actual “EOC” portion of the building as incidental to the dispatch/communications center, and would not even consider the project if its only function was to house our “EOC.” I will not make a final decision until the actual construction costs come in, but as I outlined below, there are several financial conditions that still have to be met. In particular, I am looking very closely at the projected infrastructure sales tax revenue that would be used to pay the County’s portion of construction costs and I am evaluating the extent of savings that would come from terminating off-site leases that would no longer be needed. I will keep you posted on these items. Please let me know if you have further questions or concerns, and thank you for contacting me.