By Marc Crail Mount Dora City Council Member, District 4
I'm happy to give you this update on the April 27 Mount Dora City Council Work Session/Special Session. 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.
Mount Dora City Council met for a marathon 4 and 1/2 hours Thursday evening in a combination Work Session/Special Session.
The "Special Session" had just 1 item which needed to be dealt with by the end of April. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is pushing us to to get into compliance with their regulations on back-flow prevention which have changed in recent years. We needed to approve a "cross connection control program" to get into compliance with the State law. There are many details remaining since some of our neighborhoods use reclaimed water for irrigation while others use potable water. Our action on Thursday meets the State's deadline but there will be more info to report to you as those details get fleshed out.
The "Work Session" took up most of our meeting time. Here are some highlights of non-action items we covered.
1. We got an update from our arborist firm which has been systematically inspecting and mapping trees located on City owned property. They have already inspected thousands of trees in our parks and along our streets. They have more work to do but real progress has been made. As these 3 experts evaluate each tree they give it a grade ranging from good to dead and recommend corrective action if a tree needs pruning, removal, fertilizing, etc. E Sciences began its work in February and should wrap-up their inspections in a couple of months. We have about 85 different species of trees on city property mostly oaks and palms. There are about 126 trees (so far) that need to be removed. Next steps include developing an Urban Forest Master Plan and to prioritize the work needed to care for our beautiful trees. I'm happy that we are making progress and I'm impressed with E Sciences, our vendor.
2. We heard from another potential Economic Development consultant. Richard Levey made a very impressive presentation outlining what he thinks he could offer us as we continue to to work on our top priority strategic planning goal. Can you tell that I am growing impatient? I believe we are more than ready to make a decision on this choice and get to work! I'll be pushing hard to make that happen sooner rather than later.
3. We are beginning to work on our Capital Improvement Program budget (CIP) that will go into effect in October. There is an enormous list of needs and wants but we are constrained by the realities of a limited budget. This initial discussion involved a line by line review of the merits of each proposed item. In my estimation, capital spending must be closely linked to the priorities of our Strategic Plan which are Economic Development and taking care of our Infrastructure. We will rehash and refine this long list to pare it down and make it fit into our budget. Our top priorities should be the construction of a new public works facility and dealing with our downtown parking problem.
Spending taxpayers' money wisely is a big responsibility. As we work to develop the budget for next fiscal year I am reminded of this observation by comedian Bill Murray; "The best way to teach your kids about taxes is to eat 30% of their ice cream".
Thanks for the opportunity to help spend your money (wisely)!