Today Mount Dora City Council held a 'Work Session" from 9:00 until noon. Work Sessions are public meetings where discussions can take place but no actions or votes are taken. We discussed 5 topics today. I'll give you some information on each of them.
1. CITY MOTOR POOL FLEET MANAGEMENT We heard an excellent report from our Finance Director regarding our fleet of motor vehicles including emergency service vehicles, public works equipment, etc. Our fleet includes 214 vehicles with an average age of 6 years. Four years ago our average vehicle age was close to 15 years. Currently we own some of our vehicles and lease others. Some of our vehicles are used on a daily basis including police cars and others are only used occasionally such as a back up fire truck or another truck only used to clean out drains. This mix of leased and purchased vehicles seems to be a good idea since we do not have a vehicle maintenance shop or mechanics. We continue to look for every option to keep our fleet costs under control. Our new Public Works facility will include a fuel farm that will enable us to buy fuel in bulk and save money.
2. RAILS TO TRAILS UPDATE Last budget year we worked with partners (Lake County and Tavares) to submit a "BUILD Grant" for $25 million to purchase 11.5 miles of railroad owned property, design and build a bike/hike trail from Sorrento to Tavares. We were not awarded that grant but we will be improving our proposal and trying again this budget year. We think that a trail system would be very good for our local economy.
3. COMMUNITY RECREATION CENTER For several years a top priority of our Northeast Community Redevelopment Board has been to build a recreation and training center. Several potential locations have been studied. The favored location that has been recommended is where the old pubic works building was located near the corner of Lincoln and Highland. That parcel is contiguous to Lincoln Park. This facility could be used by youngsters, senior citizens and everyone in between. The consensus was to proceed with planning for this project. Speaking only for myself, I am concerned about both the cost of construction and especially about the operating costs of that proposed facility going forward. We'll be hearing more about the merits and concerns involved over the next few months.
4. PARKING UPDATE Downtown parking shortages have been discussed for the entire 14 years that I've lived in Mount Dora. It's been a long time coming but over the next few months we will be asking for RfPs or RfQs from developers to find out what ideas might be pursued to construct a parking structure.
5. POLICE DEPARTMENT ASSESSMENT Mount Dora has a long tradition of excellence in our police department. Our department has been accredited at the highest level for many years but the past couple of years have been bumpy. One of the reasons our City Manager selected Acting Police Chief Brett Meade is his expertise in organizational development. Under the leadership of Acting Police Chief Meade a comprehensive 222 page assessment of our police department has been conducted. There are 5 parts to the survey both qualitative and quantitative. Nearly 650 Mount Dora residents participated as well as every sworn officer and departmental employee. We discussed a draft copy of that report today. I'll add my personal observation that the very best organizations in business and government constantly assess themselves in order to set goals and to keep getting better. It takes guts to listen to the unvarnished truth and opinions of staff and customers and I admire the fact that this study was undertaken.
A number of important issues have been highlighted. We've have had a high rate of turnover and have terminated one police chief and had a second chief retire in the past two years. Disciplinary process concerns, training weaknesses and trust issues have been identified and can now be dealt with.
The study we heard about today is very well done and should help us address the issues and opportunities we are dealing with. I think the most important and positive statistic mentioned today is that 91% of the officers and employees of the police department believe that our department is headed in the right direction. That positive assessment on the part of our dedicated officers and employees is very important to our future success.
I've interjected my personal opinions a couple of times in this report but please keep in mind that I'm not reporting to you on behalf of Mount Dora City Council. I'm just one of 7 members so my colleagues may or may not agree with my observations.
My quote for you today comes from former First Lady Michelle Obama who said the following in a speech to high school students; "Know that this country belongs to you, all of you. With lots of hard work and a good education... anything is possible."
Thank you for your interest in Mount Dora and thanks too for allowing me to be your District 4 City Council Representative.
Marc Crail Mount Dora City Council, District 4 representative
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