Yesterday, Florida's new Surgeon General issued a new Rule regarding students and COVID-19 quarantines. In accordance with the rule, a parent or guardian of a child who has been exposed to a person infected with the virus will still be notified by a school official. If the student shows any COVID-19 symptoms, they must stay home as outlined in the rule. Free COVID-19 testing is available at local pharmacies and the Lake County Health Department. However, if the exposed student has no symptoms, parents or the legal guardian can opt to quarantine the exposed child, without penalty for being absent, or to allow the exposed student to attend school without restrictions. Students that test positive for COVID-19 are still required to quarantine and will not be penalized for being absent. With the new rule, a child currently under quarantine, but not positive for COVID-19 and showing no symptoms, can return to school if decided by the parent or guardian. Lake County Schools is encouraging parents to regularly monitor their child’s health for any COVID-19 symptoms and if present they must stay home as outlined in the rule. Additionally, the school district recommends that all students exposed to COVID-19 wear a mask for seven to ten days when they return as a precautionary measure.
By Marc Crail Mount Dora City Council, District 4 Representative
Mount Dora City Council held a rather long but productive meeting on 9/21. I've chosen several of the more important items to tell you about in this report. I'm a member of City Council but I'm not representing the council as I'm writing this report. What follows come only from me as an individual council member.
During our previous meeting I suggested that we ought to form a Citizens' Building Height Advisory Committee to study and discuss how best to manage building heights in the downtown historic area. The building height issue has been a hot button topic that has driven a wedge between segments of Mount Dora residents over the past year. It needs to be dealt with as soon as possible to help heal the rifts within our community and to address the concerns of our residents regarding future development in the downtown area.
To that end, a 13 member committee will be formed. The committee will consist of 6 members who have relevant professional experience and expertise to be nominated by the City Manager and 7 members nominated 1 each by the 7 council members and approved by a majority vote. Watch for nomination forms to be widely available in the next few weeks. If you are interested in serving please apply. Once the committee is formed it will have up to 6 months to come up with its recommendations and report back to city council.
We adopted a resolution to submit a grant requesting $3.3 million from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund for public infrastructure. If we're successful, this state money would be used to help address utility and traffic issues in the area near Round Lake Charter School (Vista Ridge Dr.).
You may be familiar with a 12 acre property known as Forest Park. It's located directly behind the library on a steep, environmentally sensitive parcel. That land has a number of trails running through it. We will be applying for a $50K grant to study the possibility of developing a child friendly outdoor education area there over the next several years. This area would be an extension of the W. T. Bland Library's kids education campus. The first steps will be to do an environmental assessment and a trails assessment. Properly planned, minimal development will be necessary to preserve the character of the property and a plan for maintaining the property will be crucial as well. If everything comes together over the next year or so, these plans could come to pass. If not, the grant money can be returned if we decide not to proceed. Community involvement will be encouraged.
We discussed and approved the first reading of an ordinance dealing with the requirements for future murals in Mount Dora. Permits, materials, maintenance and aspects of historic preservation are all included in this proposed ordinance.
As I mentioned last time, the final approved millage rate for the upcoming tax year was approve for 5.9603 mills, slightly under our goal of 6.0 mills. It's a done deal.
Our search for a new City Manager is nearing its end. Four finalists will be in town for interviews next week. There will be a public "Meet & Greet" event on Tuesday evening September 28 at 6:00 in the Community Building. Please plan to attend.
I think we had a productive meeting that will enable us to continue moving forward. Thanks for providing me the opportunity to serve as your District 4 City Council member.
Our quote today comes from former First Lady Barbara Bush. "Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people." Amen to that!
By Marc Crail Mount Dora City Council, District 4 Representative
By Marc Crail Mount Dora City Council Representative, District 4
First allow me to apologize for being so late in sending out these meeting notes. I've been experiencing "technical difficulties" since last Friday that prevented me from sending or receiving email from the City's platform. If you've sent me an email and I haven't responded I will soon. We're good to go now although what was once Breaking News has turned into Yesterday's News.
Our 9/7/21 city council meeting was just shy of 5 hours long with many important discussions and action items. I've selected a few of them that I think you might be most interested in. As usual, please understand the I'm not reporting on behalf of Mount Dora City Council, what follows comes from me alone.
We heard an encouraging update from city staff regarding the rail-trail project. Tavares and Mount Dora have each approved sharing the project costs. Lake County Commissioners also were meeting on 9/7 and hopefully they have also committed to spend about $15 million of their American Rescue Plan funds on this important project. I haven't heard the results of their meeting yet. If all the partners are in, we will attempt to strike a deal with CSX Railroad to purchase their right away.
There was another long discussion and vote following our City Attorney's presentation on the petition seeking to amend the City Charter with language limiting building heights in the Historic District. This may seem like an open and shut issue but like many things, simple answers to complex questions are not adequate. Here's the quick and dirty version from last night's meeting, from a non-lawyer's perspective. Here goes...
Council had asked our City Attorney to give us her best thinking on a "Sufficiency Determination" in regards to the petition on building heights. I am not an attorney so I readily admit that I have no expertise in the legalities involved. I depend on our City Attorney to guide me. In essence, our City Attorney strongly suggested that because of several changes in Florida case law over the past decade or so, this kind of land development code issue would not be able to be the subject of a City Charter amendment. That is her legal opinion. Other attorneys may have other opinions but our attorney was adamant in her advice to us.
After the discussion a motion was made to waive the improper form used by the petitioners (it lacked either the signer's date of birth or the signer's Voter's I.D. number) and to move forward allowing the petition being validated. That motion failed in a 3-4 vote. Voting "yes" were Doug Bryant, Pam Burtnett, and Cathy Hoechst. Massy, Rolfson, Gunther and I voted "no".
I suggested that in order to work toward resolving this issue that is creating such ill will and divisiveness among our residents we should convene a blue-ribbon commission (not unlike a citizens' Charter Review Commission) to carefully study and come up with a set of recommendations that would meet the needs of our citizens and help mend the rift we are experiencing. We need to get to work on this asap.
The petitioners seem likely to proceed with their plans to ask the Lake County Supervisor of Elections to verify the signatures and if they have a sufficient number, they can come back to City Council then Council will consider it again.
Plans were approved for adding 20 additional parking places at the W. T. Bland Library.
You're probably aware that we are looking for a new City Manager. We had over 50 applicants and cut the field to 9 semifinalists. We ranked those semi-finalists at the meeting and will invite the top 5 to come for in person interviews, meet with city staff and have a reception to meet and greet the Mount Dora public later this month.
After months of work we have decided that we can reduce the Fire Assessment fee down from $219 per house to $209 per year.
You'll recall that just to be safe, we had preliminarily proposed a maximum millage rate of 6.2 mills for owner occupied houses for next year. Our goal was to reduce that initial tentative millage 6.2 mills to 6.0 mills. We were able to come in a little bit under that at 5.9603 mills.
That's what I have for you today. Please be sure to fact check and double-check that information that is being circulated about current issues. It's important to make certain that you are getting factual information. That leads me to a quote by Mark Twain who said; "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes".
Thanks for allowing me to serve as your District 4 Mount Dora Council member.
By Marc Crail Mount Dora City Council Representative, District 4
Last week Lake County Schools Superintendent Diane Kornegay proposed a plan that would require students and staff at schools with the highest COVID-19 positivity rates to wear masks until the rates drop. Masks would continue to be strongly encouraged, but not required, at schools with lower positivity rates. Kornegay called the proposed policy “a risk-based, data-driven system that allows for a targeted rather than a sweeping approach” to help reduce the spread of the virus in schools and the growing number of students being sent home for quarantines because of exposure. School Board took no action on the plan at their special meeting on September 2, however, it plans to vote at its Thursday, September 9th special meeting. Under the new policy, staff would review the positivity rate for each school over a two-week period. Any school with a positivity rate below 3 percent would be categorized as “Green.” Those between 3 and 4.9 percent would be identified as “Yellow.” Those at 5 percent or higher would be classified as “Red.” When a school reaches “Red,” students, parents and staff would be notified and masks would be required until the positivity rate at the school drops below 5 percent and is maintained for 14 calendar days. “If the fire alarm goes off at Treadway Elementary, we don’t evacuate the students at Beverly Shores Elementary,” Kornegay told the board in her presentation on September 2. “But we react to the alarm at Treadway. Looking at the data, we can see that the alarm has gone off at Treadway, which has a positivity rate of 8.27 percent (for Aug. 16 – 27) while the positivity rate at Beverly Shores has remained under 2 percent.” Other Lake schools in the “Red” zone based on data from Aug. 16-27 included: ·Seminole Springs Elem – 6.00% ·Umatilla Elementary – 6.88% ·Eustis Middle – 6.83% ·Mount Dora Middle – 6.41% ·Umatilla Middle – 7.01% ·Umatilla High – 5.70% Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order prohibiting school districts from implementing mask requirements without allowing parents to opt out, and the superintendent’s proposal allows parents to opt out of having their child wear a mask, even when their school has a positivity rate higher than 5 percent. To initiate an opt-out, parents would be asked to complete a form or send a letter to the school. Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper recently ruled that the governor’s order is unconstitutional. But the governor’s order remains in effect until the judge’s final written order is submitted. If the law changes and the School Board approves Kornegay’s proposal as it currently stands, Lake County schools that move into the “Red” category would require masks and accept parent opt-outs for medical reasons only. Under this scenario, students whose parents opt against them wearing a mask when their schools are in the “Red” zone could choose to allow their children to temporarily work from home without being marked as absent. They would complete assignments through Google Classroom with the help of teachers from the district’s Lake Assist after-hours student support program until the positivity rates drop and the mask requirement is lifted.
The September 9th special meeting will begin at 9:30 at the Lake County Administration Building, rather than the school district office. The livestream of the meeting is available here.
It’s anything but just another year for Mount Dora High School. 2021 marks its 100-Year Anniversary, and one of the ways the school is marking the milestone is with a community fundraiser to improve its deteriorated stadium and peripheral athletic facilities.
The school’s principal, Marlene Straughan, along with an energized group of parents, organized a fundraiser for renovating the two aging concession stands and restrooms which are in severe disrepair, as well as adding a press box and sound system. The group also intends to address problems with the Hurricane locker rooms and PAC House.
The Hurricane’s football field has been plagued with drainage issues because of the natural spring that flows underneath. Currently, any period of heavy rain renders the field unsafe for sports until it has had an appropriate number of days to dry out. Lake County Schools has pledged $250,000 toward fixing the drainage and re-sodding the approximately 97,000 square- foot field. The drainage work is set to begin in February, 2022.
The goal is to raise $2 million to include design, construction, potential overruns and an endowment for future maintenance of the almost 50-year old stadium and auxiliary structures. The top priorities are the concession stands, restrooms and press box, however if the entire fundraising goal is reached, the secondary improvements can be done, as well as the endowment.
Families and businesses can purchase engraved bricks that will be installed on the home side of the stadium for $100 to $250 depending on the size. Donors of $1000 or more will receive an appreciation plaque on the building, and naming rights for both the field and stadium are separately being offered for donations of $250,000 or more. All donations are being handled through Mount Dora Community Trust and can be made online here. Logistics and bids will be handled by Lake County Schools.