It’s all about the kids. Officers from Mount Dora Police Department took thirty eager students from three local schools shopping at Target. The students got a one-on-one shopping experience with a police officer and spent a $100 gift card to buy clothes, shoes, or toys. The toys aisle was, no doubt, the most popular.
"I'll be happy with anything," was the response one young child gave when an officer asked him what he wanted for Christmas.
MDPD arranged for a visit from Santa while Target and McDonald’s provided breakfast for the families. The retailer also had snacks, treats and crafts available for the kids. Upon leaving, the families received a shopping cart packed with everything needed for a traditional Christmas dinner and food staples donated by Lake Cares Food Pantry.
Above: Shopping carts packed with Christmas dinner and essentials await the 21 families.
Staff from the local schools and Mount Dora Police Department’s School Resource Officers helped preselect the participants due to their familiarity with the students.
The "Shop with a Cop" program is supported by donations from local citizens and businesses, as well as two “Tip A Cop” fundraisers at Chili’s restaurant. Mount Dora Police also hosted a surprise Christmas party at the police station earlier in the week for four single mothers and their six children who received toys, bikes and a visit from Santa.
By Marc Crail Mount Dora City Council, District 4 Representative
Regular readers please pardon this often repeated explanation that what follows are my impressions of the City Council meeting and do not necessarily reflect City Council as a whole. I am only one of seven members.
There were actually 2 meetings (today). The first was a 3:00 City Council Work Session which I could not attend due to my work schedule. Several items were discussed during the work session including; an economic development update, a final report on the results of a fire department study, a Fire Assessment Fee update, a report on street lights and a discussion on the operation of Air B&B's in Mount Dora. Work Sessions are opportunities for City Council members to discuss topics in public but no actions were taken.
The regular meeting began at 6:00 p.m. There were presentations on the recent Patriot Cruise which is a wonderful annual event to honor vets and there was also a presentation awarding the city a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting.
Next up was a presentation by representatives of Service Line Warranties of America (SLWA). This is the company we contracted with in May to offer water and sewer line coverage to Mount Dora residents. Over the past few weeks homeowners have received 2 poorly worded letters from SLWA complete with the city's logo encouraging them to sign up for this voluntary program. At our last meeting several city council members, including me, reported complaints from residents regarding the content of the letters, as well as their discomfort with the idea of selecting one vendor to provide this kind of warranty.
Although SLWA is a BBB A+ rated company that offers similar warranties in 450 cities and claims a 98.6% customer satisfaction rate, I believe that their lack of proper coordination with the City and the content of their letters were botched to the point that no amount of corrections can repair the damage done. I tried to make a motion to end our contract with SLWA, but I was told that this was just a discussion item. Instead, Mayor Girone asked for a consensus of the members that SLWA confer with city staff to re-boot the program. District 3 council member John Tucker and I voiced our opposition to that plan, but the 5 other members agreed with the mayor. I was able to get assurances that we will be able to vote on this at our next meeting on January 2 and I was assured that no more letters from SLWA will be coming between now and January 2.
We approved 10 resolutions on a variety of topics. In my mind, the most significant dealt with a project that will eventually interconnect our reclaimed water lines with Apopka's. Apopka has massive reclaimed water storage capacity. At certain times of the year particularly in the late winter and spring (dry months) we have a shortage of reclaimed water which is utilized for sprinkling lawns in several areas of the city. In order to provide for a reliable reclaimed water source as our city grows purchasing reclaimed water from Apopka when it is most needed at a favorable rate is a good idea. Another resolution dealt with accepting significant funding from Saint Johns River Management District to help offset the costs and another approved the contract to design the project.
Several other resolutions we approved will correct a variety of storm water problems around town and enables us to provide for an additional lift station to serve the Wolf Branch Innovation District.
My "quote" of the day comes from, of all places, a sand sculpture sited on beach on the gulf coast. I don't know the author but I agree with the thought; "There is no elevator to success...you have to take the stairs".
I hope you and your family will enjoy a Merry Christmas or a Happy Hanukkah and a fantastic New Year. Thanks for allowing me to be your District 4 City Council Member. I think that despite some inevitable bumps in the road, we are headed in the right direction!
Thirty-three acres of orange groves may become Dora Landings, Mount Dora’s newest residential development. The proposed 129-home subdivision lies between Pine Street and Limit Avenue with Grandview Street running down the middle. Read more
The price tag is steep. The City of Mount Dora has not reconsidered its claim that the Starry Night mural painted on the wall and back of a home along Old Highway 441 is illegal signage. The city labeled it such even though there are no words on the painting or an artist’s signature.
Instead of staying the fines until the appeal is heard, today a second magistrate hearing resulted in the homeowners, Nancy Nemhauser and Lubomir Jastrezbski, being slapped with a $3,100 fine while they wait for the appeal process to play out. The magistrate, who is contracted by the city, could have levied fines over twice that amount.
Despite Mount Dora’s reputation as an art community, the city originally cited the artist’s interpretation of van Gogh's painting as a graffiti violation then abandoned that claim.
Not overlooked by residents critical of the city’s handling of the case are the prominent illegal signs just a couple of blocks away on three commercial buildings. One illegal sign on the side of a building is the size of a billboard and has remained in place for years. Across the street is another illegal off-site sign that is erected annually to promote the owner’s tenants. Additional violations are the conspicuous, over-sized posters in a vacant building's windows which were installed several months ago on the same main thoroughfare of downtown.
The owner of those three properties, Main Street Leasing, has made significant donations to the city and has not experienced the same swift enforcement as the homeowners. Instead the city decided to pause enforcement of MSL's violations until they can review the code. The homeowners were not given the same consideration.
The homeowners' attorney, Laura Hargrove, stated the case involves significant First Amendment and private property rights issues, in addition to the city's selective code enforcement.
The house is not located within a homeowners association, so no deed restrictions apply for paint colors or murals. According to the city during the first magistrate hearing, there are also no city codes for residential paint colors or murals.
By Marc Crail Mount Dora City Council Member, District 4
It's my pleasure to provide you with a report on a few of the more important or interesting items on tonight's Mount Dora City Council meeting agenda. Just a reminder that what follows is my own interpretation of events. I am just one of seven council members so what you are reading is the world according to Marc.
The first thing I'd like to tell you about was not an agenda item, but it was a part of the City Manager's Report. Most Mount Dora residents received a mailing during the past week from a company called Service Line Warranties of America. It was in my opinion a poorly written piece titled "Important Information for Mount Dora Homeowners" and it offered an exterior water line warranty for $5.33 a month. It caused lots of heated discussion and brought up even more questions. Representatives from the National League of Cities and the company have been asked to be at our upcoming December 14th meeting which begins at 6:00 p.m. to hear our concerns and answer our questions. This is a public meeting at City Hall and if you're interested you should feel free to attend. I'll let you know what we learn in my next report following that meeting.
We approved a piggyback contract for approximately $56,000 to inspect and treat over 1,800 wooden utility poles around town. The last comprehensive wooden utility pole assessment was done about 20 years ago so this is long overdue. Some of the wood utility poles are as much as 45" tall and they do have a limited lifespan especially in our Florida weather. The cost of this program will be covered by the electric utility fund.
We also authorized a committee of city staff to continue the selection process of a firm to produce a Parks & Recreation Master Plan. Six companies made proposals. Staff has narrowed the list down to three finalists. They will make their recommendation to city council early in the new year. We anticipate that the development of a new master plan will help us plan for needed facilities over the next 10-15 years.
In my last report I mentioned the catastrophic collapse of the roadway and embankment on Magnolia Ending in the Dogwood Mountain neighborhood during Hurricane Irma. There was some good news and a little bad news in the update we heard tonight. The good news is that there could well be significant funding for that massive repair project (which could cost up to $1.5 million) from the available from the US Department of Agriculture as well as from FEMA. On the downside, work can not begin until the plan is approved by all parties so the work we thought could begin in early January will be delayed by several weeks. I hate delays, but it's far better to get it right than to get it fast.
After the regular City Council Meeting, we reconvened as the Community Redevelopment Agency Board and heard a good report on way-finding signage that will be an essential step in improving our downtown parking situation. City Council authorized the city staff to proceed with this project as quickly as possible.
I hope you are enjoying the holiday related events that make Mount Dora especially fun at this time of year. Please shop and dine locally to support our local businesses. As usual, thanks for allowing me to represent District 4.
I read a brief but wise quote from Samuel Huffenstein; "Prejudice is the child of ignorance."