By Marc Crail Mount Dora City Council Member, District 4
I'm happy to give you this update on the June 20 Mount Dora City Council Meeting. I am just one of seven city council members and not its spokesman. I try to be unbiased in my reports, but what you're receiving is strictly from my perspective.
Friends and neighbors, here are my thoughts on what I consider to be several of the more important items from the June 20th City Council meeting.
There was a presentation on the Police Department's new body cameras. After careful study our patrol officers are now equipped with body cameras as well as the police car dash cameras which have been in use here for several years. The body cameras are tools for public safety. We hope that both officers and members of the public will be better protected and justice better served as a result of their use. FYI, the body cameras are being leased so that as technology improves MDPD will have the benefits of newer and more advanced technology.
We also heard a presentation from TJ Fish from the Lake-Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization regarding highway projects in our area. Several projects are currently underway and several more are just around the corner.
There were 14 Resolutions discussed and approved. While none of them was monumental my takeaway was that several of them are evidence of our concerted efforts to save money on things like chlorine for the city pool, work vehicles, fleet maintenance etc. Some are evidence of cooperation between Mount Dora and other governmental entities.
Other topics included updates to the City's IT policies and soon to be completed repairs to the 4th. Avenue dock. We are also tapping the State Revolving Loan Fund to borrow over $2 million at the attractive interest of .8%. Our City Manager and her staff are working diligently to do what is necessary to improve city services while squeezing every tax dollar. These "small" things add up!
There were a couple of non-agenda items I'd like to share with you. Our new Fire Chief is former Deputy Chief, Tim Griner. Chief Griner was selected after a national search process. I believe that his selection will be a good one for our community and for stability in our fire department. By the way, Tim is just the 10th Mount Dora Fire Chief in well over 100 years.
The rumors of possibly relocating of the Mount Dora Post Office have become public. The powers that be in the USPS will be holding a public meeting within the next month of so to discuss their need to increase their work space from its current 5,900 sq. ft. to a desired 9,000+. There are some USPS requirements including that the per square foot rental cost must be similar to their current rate and that the new facility has to be within a mile of the current post office. Mayor Girone has offered City meeting space for the meeting(s) and a date should be determined soon. While some nearby residents and merchants might object to the possible move, I think that growth in our city and a shift in the center of Mount Dora's population make this suggestion a good one. Things have changed since John Kennedy was president and the post office building moved to its current location some 55 years ago.
Concerns of one kind or another are always voiced at City Council meetings and those concerns provide us with opportunities to grow and improve but overall I feel good about the incremental progress we are making. There will be a public City Council Work Session Thursday 6/22 at 5:30. Feel free to join in the fun!
The quote of the day came from a gas station sign I saw on the internet from WallingfordSign.com. "A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory".
Thanks for the opportunity to serve. Marc Crail District 4 City Council Rep.
1. What is the Wekiva Parkway? In a nutshell, it’s an extension of State Road 429. The project is a 25-mile toll road that will complete the beltway around metropolitan Orlando and Central Florida. It will connect to State Road 417.
This estimated $1.6 billion project will link north Lake County to Seminole and Orange Counties. The increased accessibility to the area is expected to spur residential and commercial growth in Mount Dora and other parts of Lake County. The multi-lane parkway will also reduce traffic, travel times and accidents on State Road 46.
2.How will SR 46 near Mount Dora be affected? How many lanes will it be? SR 46 will be widened to six lanes, adding sidewalks, drainage and other improvements from just west of US 441 to just east of Round Lake Road (project sections 2C, 3A & 3B).
3. What is the projected time frame for that section? Work began on the section in October, 2017 and is scheduled for completion in 2020.
4. What will the new interchange of US 441 and SR 46 be like? It’s being reconfigured to become a signalized, at-grade intersection. There will be a flyover ramp for US 441 traffic coming from the north to flow continuously to the east to get to the parkway. US 441 and SR 46 will be six lanes in this area. Sidewalks, crosswalks and other improvements will be added. Scheduled to begin construction in late summer-early fall 2017 and finish in 2019 . See images (project section 3A & 3B).
5.Where is the parkway’s closest on-ramp from US 441 in Mount Dora? To access the Wekiva Parkway from Mount Dora, motorists will take SR 46 and use the loop interchange under construction now at SR 46 just east of Round Lake Road. The ramp will be open to traffic on March 31, 2018.
6.What will change on SR 46 between Sorrento and Sanford A Mount Plymouth area improvement realigning CR 46A north of Arundel Way to SR 46 began in early June, 2017 (project section 5).
In Seminole County, SR 46 will be replaced by the elevated parkway and parallel, non-tolled service roads for drivers who want to avoid tolls for local trips.This construction should begin before the end of the year. This configuration will extend from the now-open Sorrento area interchange (Section 4B) to near Orange Boulevard in Sanford. A 10-mile, multi-use trail will parallel the one-lane service road in Mount Plymouth near the Seminole State Forest to east of Sanford in Seminole County (project sections 6 and 7A).
7. What has been done to protect wildlife? The 2004 Wekiva Parkway and Protection Act required landmark environmental protections to be included in building the 25-mile parkway. During construction wildlife biologists are on staff to ensure protected species are not affected by work, and crews are educated about the different wildlife species along the corridor and how to avoid them.
More than 3,400 acres of land has been purchased for conservation along the parkway corridor. The two wildlife tunnels (totaling 80 feet of safe passage for wildlife) along SR 46 in east Lake County are being replaced by several wildlife bridges totaling 7,700 feet of safe crossing for wildlife. 10-foot tall wildlife fencing is being installed along many portions of the parkway to keep animals away from the roadway. That includes tunnels two feet underground to discourage small animals from burrowing into the corridor. Sections of the parkway closest to wildlife habitat include wildlife jump-outs, so that animals who do wander onto the corridor can exit safely. The jump-outs are elevated so animals cannot enter the corridor that way.
So far, more than 800 gopher tortoises, a protected keystone species, have been excavated and relocated from the corridor to state licensed recipient sites as part of building the parkway. Bat houses are being erected in strategic locations to provide safe lodging where their habitat has been disturbed.
8. When will shovels hit the dirt in the localized areas? Construction began in October, 2017 on the sections from SR 46 from 441 to east of Round Lake Road in Mount Dora. See images (sections 3A & 3B), as well as Seminole County (Section 6). A Mount Plymouth area improvement realigning CR 46A north of Arundel Way to SR 46 began in early June, 2017 (project section 5).
9. When will the entire Wekiva Parkway be complete? The entire parkway’s projected opening is 2022.
10. What is the cost of the project and how is it funded? The $1.6 billion Wekiva Parkway includes $500 million of non-tolled road improvements. The project is funded in the five-year work programs for both FDOT and CFX. For more local news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, 'like' Mount Dora Buzz on Facebook and download the area's free mobile app. Free monthly issues of Mount Dora Buzz are available here.
Lake County Schools Superintendent Diane Kornegay selected Bill Miller as the new principal for Eustis Middle School. Miller was most recently former Chief Academic Officer for the district.
The move is part of Kornegay’s efforts to make Lake County schools models of transformation and Lake County a destination district. The recommendations will be presented to the School Board for approval at the June 26 meeting.
After working in the district for 35 years, Miller came out of retirement to assume the role of Chief Academic Officer for Lake County Schools, overseeing curriculum and monitoring student achievement and the accountability of programs. Previously, Miller was principal of Leesburg High School from 2008 through his retirement in 2015, bringing the school out from state oversight and raising its grade to a C. He held several other leadership positions in the district over the years including Principal at Umatilla Middle School, Principal at Eustis High School and Assistant Principal at Carver Middle School.
Miller earned a bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education from West Chester University and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Nova University.
The City of Mount Dora will celebrate the raising of its new flag on Flag Day, June 14 at City Hall. This is the first flag chosen to represent the City of Mount Dora.
The winner of the city's flag design contest, Mount Dora resident Laura Varich, was chosen out of 58 entries that were submitted from January to March 2017. Mount Dora City Council members chose the top five and then the winner and runner-up.
"Each flag has its own story and Mount Dora’s first flag is no exception. It represents someplace special", said Mayor Nick Girone.
The flag will be presented and raised by the Mount Dora Police Honor Guard at 10 a.m.at the front steps of City Hall at 501 N. Baker Street.
Mount Dora Police are looking for a missing endangered adult, Linda Jean Hackett, 74.
At approximately 10:22 p.m. on June 8, police received a call from the woman's daughter stating she has not been able to contact her mother for the entire day. She also reported Hackett was using her debit card in unfamiliar places.
Police responded to the home and were unable to locate Hackett, who reportedly has dementia. The last known use of her debit card which was at a Sunoco in Ormond Beach and Volusia County units to that location.
If anyone has seen Hackett or her vehicle, an older black Volvo 850 with tag number L474S0, call Mount Dora police at 353-735-7174. For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, click here. Find out what's happening locally with just a tap on your phone by downloading the area's free mobile app. Monthly issues of Mount Dora Buzz are available here.
By Marc Crail Mount Dora City Council Member, District 4
I'm happy to give you this update on the May 2 Mount Dora City Council Meeting. I am just one of seven city council members and not its spokesman. I try to be unbiased in my reports, but what you're receiving is strictly from my perspective. Our June 6 Mount Dora City Council meeting lasted about 4 hours and included a number of resolutions and reports but the topic of the sidewalk renovations in front of Gianni's Italian restaurant at 425 Alexander St. drew the most discussion. Long story made shorter, in the fall of 2016 the owner of Gianni's got City permission to install 2 ground level wooden platforms in front of his cafe. One platform was between the building and the sidewalk and the other was between the sidewalk and the street. When the platforms were installed they were elevated and city staff determined that they posed a public safety issue and potential liability to the City. Apparently because the decks were completed in October (the beginning of the busy tourist season) city officials decided that rather than removing the platforms immediately and interrupting business during peak season they would work with Mr. Gianni and the building owner (Main Street Leasing) on an alternative which would be constructed in the spring of 2017.
Mount Dora has at least 4 significant downtown sidewalks areas which are not in compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements which the city is mandated to bring into compliance. ADA governs things like maximum 5% slope, 2% cross slope and minimum 44 inch sidewalk width. Our hilly terrain makes our city unique and beautiful but those hills are problematic in meeting ADA laws. The area in front of Gianni's is on that list.
City Manager Robin Hayes and Public Works Director John Peters presented their solution which will move the sidewalk in front of the cafe farther away form the building next to the curb and Alexander St. A palm tree and a utility cabinet will be removed to allow for clear passage for pedestrians. The new sidewalk will be 48 inches wide (slightly wider than the required 44 inches). They acknowledge that this solution is the best of several bad options. They said the City is not paying for the cost of these "improvements" except for about $1,000 for concrete for the new sidewalk. Several citizens and several City Council members voiced their concerns which included setting a bad precedent, favoritism to Main Street Leasing, not getting proper permits for the project and failure to get the approval of the Historic Preservation Board.
As I listened and read the documentation that we were provided at the start of the meeting I felt that we were dealing more with a process problem than a product problem. To me, a lack of discussion and prior notification of what was coming was the major cause of the situation we found ourselves in. My hope is that in the future the public and city council will be better informed especially on difficult decisions. I felt surprised and embarrassed that a project of this magnitude was proceeding without adequate public discussion and input. I trust that when presented with the facts and the available options together we can find the best way forward.
Action items on our agenda included:
We approved a preliminary plat for 14 new homes located on the former fire station and well field site at Lakes of Mount Dora.
We gratefully accepted a donation of about $40,000 from The Friends of the C.T. Bland Library for completion of the Nunan Butterfly garden. Many thanks to landscape architect Stuart Hall for volunteering his skills to create a beautiful plan for the garden. We also discussed the imperative need for proper maintenance of the garden. Volunteers will be welcome to help out!
We approved a contract to maintain the cooling and insulating oil circulating system in our 3 large electric transformers. This is an environmental safety issue.
During the discussion portion of the meeting I asked about the status of the Epic Theatre project. You can be assured that that job is not being held up by the City. In fact the approved plans have been sitting on a desk in the Planning Department for close to 2 months now waiting to be picked up by the developer. The developer is under no obligation to move ahead any faster than he/she chooses to but I have heard unfounded rummers that somehow the City is holding things up and nothing could be farther from the truth.
June 6 marks the anniversary of the Normandy invasion during World War II. Tens of thousands of American heroes including my dad risked and sometimes lost their lives that day on the beaches of France. President Harry Truman once wrote; "Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices." Words to remember and thanks to all who have served our country.
Marc Crail District 4 Mount Dora City Council Rep.
Due to a lightning strike Tuesday evening that hit a cast iron water main line, a boil water notice has been issued for the following areas:
- 700 Block of Old Eustis Road to Donnelly Street - Stewart Lane - Forest Road - Suzanna Drive - Overlook Drive from Old Eustis Road to Normandy Drive - Dogwood Mountain and Reserve
Drinking water should be brought to a full rolling boil for one minute and cooled before use. The repair to the water main was made late Tuesday evening and the city is waiting for lab results to come back. The city will advise citizens when the notice will be lifted for that area.
Yesterday at approximately 5:53 a.m. police responded to an alarm at the Dairy Queen in Mount Dora at 2590 CR 500A.
After clearing the front of the building and proceeding to the back, police discovered money on the floor and the office door appeared to be kicked in. A perimeter was set and a K-9 unit was called to the scene. The track lead to what appeared to be a Dairy Queen apron in the grassy area behind the restaurant. This burglary differs significantly from the rash of armed robberies at other Lake County businesses including McDonald’s, Denny’s, and Dollar General. No surveillance video has been released yet.
View from the south of the unfinished wall at 425 N. Alexander Street.
Even with their short stature, they have commanded a lot of attention. Last week walls were erected in downtown Mount Dora that made some residents and council members cringe. The three walls enclosed the public sidewalk in front of Cafe Gianni, significantly increasing its space for outdoor dining while obstructing pedestrians, strollers and wheelchairs from using the sidewalk. According to city code, property owners are required to get approval for exterior alterations to any buildings more than 50 years old that lie within the historic district. It’s the responsibility of Mount Dora Historic Preservation Board to approve, deny or modify the "Certificate of Appropriateness" for these projects. In this case, the changes to the building, owned by Main Street Leasing, bypassed the Historic Preservation Board. At its May 31 meeting, members of the Board were frustrated how this happened. “We live in someplace special. Should the city not embrace our historic preservation code rather than find ways around it?” said Board member Michael Moecker. “Shouldn’t the city be held to the same standard as others?” In a prepared statement, City Manager Robin Hayes stated the city has been working with the business owner, Gianni Liverotti, for several months and the project was exempt from approvals. Liverotti was unable to be reached for comment. John Peters, Director of Public Works and the supervisor of the project, said as of today no architectural or engineering plans had been done for the current construction, although the affected area includes ADA compliance issues, cross-slopes, drainage, a lamp post, curbing adjustments, a utility box, and a tree. Such plans are a standard, if costly, expense that Mount Dora homeowners, restaurants and other businesses are required to complete. The City Engineer, Paul Lahr, stated today he had never heard of the project. Other restaurants downtown have been granted permits to use city property for outdoor dining, but they have been required to use the existing sidewalks with a five-foot clearance for pedestrians in accordance with code 3.5.29. This is the first instance that a public sidewalk has been enclosed for the private use of a business. “Is it going to set a precedent for other businesses in the area?” asked resident Pamela Bisanti. “I'm concerned. At best this is extremely bad judgement on the part of the city to have given a permit for this work, and at worst it seems to give favoritism to an individual business.” This isn't the first time modifications at the restaurant have drawn negative attention. Last September a conspicuous platforms were installed to accommodate more tables. The project drew immediate reaction as being unsafe and unsightly. The permit for that project expired, but the deck remained for months despite complaints.
View from the north of project at Cafe Gianni's with sidewalk enclosed.
In an informal memo, Peters described the project as a "partnership." The city manager stated the city has been working on this modification for months, however the Historic Preservation Board and members of the City Council knew nothing about the partnership, the project, or why the city is involved in a construction project to benefit a private business. “My main concern is that the wall went up and it seemed to be a surprise to everyone,” said John Tucker, Mount Dora’s City Councilman representing that district. “I wish myself and other members of the council would have been advised.” Rather than skirt the City Council when a project is controversial, city staff typically advises the council of such projects. Tucker was left unable to answer questions of concerned residents for four days while he awaited basic answers from staff.
The issue also raised concerns among residents. "It may be legal, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for that location, because it goes through the public sidewalk,” said Denny Wood, current member of Mount Dora Planning & Zoning Board and past Mount Dora City Councilman. “It’s wrong that this kind of controversial project didn’t go before any advisory boards like the Historic Preservation Board or the Planning & Zoning Board, and especially that it didn’t go before the City Council.” “My concern is that it’s unsightly and an unsafe obstruction and takes public property for private benefit--of which the residents of Mount Dora get no benefit,” said Barbara Arco, a member of the city’s Community Redevelopment Advisory Committee.
Another resident, Janet Westlake, stated, “I have concerns about handicapped access and that it’s not very accommodating for the general public.”
The city manager stated the project would be ADA compliant upon its completion. The city did not respond to follow-up questions for this article before an extended deadline. The issue will be open for public comments at tomorrow's city council meeting at 6 p.m. at Mount Dora City Hall.