The Winter Park City Commission discussed plans to purchase new buoys for the city’s lakes after previous ones were deemed not in compliance by FWC.
The safety of Winter Park’s lakes was the first of many topics discussed at the City Commission’s Monday, Sept. 10, meeting.
City Attorney Kurt Ardaman gave commissioners an update in the wake of the city being told to remove buoys from its lakes in June — a result of the buoys being deemed not in compliance by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission because of “technical specifications.”
Ardaman said the city now must look over a map of the city’s lakes and investigate purchasing buoys that are compatible with FWC’s regulations.
“All the markers that can be re-established as regulatory markers in the lakes will be shown on a map,” Ardaman said. “There’s quite a number of them. Under the statute, there are specific areas on the lakes that already specify where we can put the key points, so we can identify all of those. In addition to those regulatory markers, we can identify places on the lakes where markers can go that are hazardous conditions, which takes a little more evidence to establish. Both of those cases require the city to adopt an ordinance to approve those regulatory markers.”
Hazard markers — and the ordinance that provides for them — have to be presented to the FWC Commission for approval so the city can receive the proper permits, Ardaman said.
Lake boundary/informational markers — which don’t require any permitting — also will be brought before the City Commission in a second phase, Ardaman said.
But City Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel said something needs to be done immediately to ensure the safety of residents on the lakes.
“You’re not living in it — I can tell you it is just a matter of time until somebody gets hurt seriously out there,” Sprinkel said.
“It’s a matter of public health and safety, and it’s time-sensitive,” City Commissioner Carolyn Cooper said.
But Mayor Steve Leary said the city should take a step back, figure out where all buoys should be placed and find out the overall cost before placing buoys in random spots.
“We don’t know how much this costs; we don’t know the manpower,” Leary said. “Let’s take a look at the maps and say, ‘Yes, everything is included on here that we would do or we missed a certain couple areas.’ I think it would make a lot more sense that we all look at the maps first before we make any decisions and move on half-cocked dropping buoys.”
City Commissioners directed staff to bring forward more information within the week to help them make an informed decision about placement.
“Thank you for doing this, because I get this every single day — somebody calls me and tells me about the boats,” Sprinkel said. “I very much appreciate you doing this in a very quick way.”
The City Commission also moved the Fiscal Year 2019 budget another step closer to final approval on Monday, giving approval of the first reading.
The City Commission first saw the proposed budget at the July 9 meeting. After a few subsequent meetings, commissioners reached a consensus regarding two changes to the budget: allocating $10,000 in operating support to the Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts to provide free musical events, and providing up to $33,000 to replace flooring at Mead Botanical Gardens.
Funding for Blue Bamboo would come from the outside organizational support funding pool, which has $28,000 in remaining funds. The Mead Garden funding will be added to the Parks Major Maintenance CIP fund and may be contracted or performed in-house. This will reduce the general fund contingency to $460,000.
“Thank you for considering us — we’re very happy that we’re here and being considered,” Blue Bamboo President and founder Chris Cortez said. “If the funds are granted, 100% of the money will be distributed to performers at free events on Thursday night. This event is a unique opportunity for music students to perform with professional musicians.”
Commissioners also tentatively set the millage rate for the upcoming fiscal year on Monday, holding the line at 4.0923 mills for the 11th-consecutive year.
The millage rate is the amount per $1,000 of property value that is used to calculate local property taxes, and property tax revenue is the single largest contributor to general fund revenues for Winter Park (39% of total revenues). Every quarter of a mill increase or decrease in the rate would change annual revenue by $1.4 million.
City Commissioner Peter Weldon once again made a motion to lower the millage rate to 4.0 mills — in reflection of the $6 million in increased tax revenue the city has received over the past several years. Weldon has made the motion to lower the millage rate and offer a tax relief to residents every year since he was elected in 2016.
The millage rate still was approved at 4.0923 mills by a 4-1 vote, with Weldon dissenting.