Ocoee Commission establishes emergency access system uniformity
| 11:49 p.m. July 21, 2015
West Orange Times & Observer
OCOEE — In a partnership with the Ocoee Police Department, the Ocoee City Commission has been examining access systems for gated communities, so that emergency personnel would be able to use just one system to save time — and, as a possible result, lives — in emergencies.
At the commission’s July 21 meeting, all five members passed an ordinance and a modified resolution on such systems unanimously.
In passing the modified resolution with the ordinance, the commission was able to mandate specific technology for all future gated communities, which will need to pay for and install that system before residents move in, City Attorney Scott Cookson said.
The ordinance and resolution do not affect existing gated communities, which had a representative who requested the commission consider funding those communities’ switch to the uniform system, which must happen eventually in the interest of safety.
Police Chief Charles Brown said the commission would face many options for how to fund existing gated communities’ switch, from covering no costs to covering all costs.
District 1 Commissioner John Grogan said waiting until the budget arises to discuss that funding would be prudent, and District 4 Commissioner Joel Keller agreed, with the rest of the commission following in a vote.
Keller and District 3 Commissioner Rusty Johnson said the city mandating this change for communities should result in the city paying for the change, because residents there did not expect to face such charges when they moved in.
District 2 Commissioner Rosemary Wilsen did not agree that money contributed by all of the taxpayers of Ocoee should be used to fund the system changes affecting just the gated communities.
Ocoee police said they had received a bid of $34,840 that would cover 33 gates they had in mind, based on police discretion of which gates to cover in communities with multiple gates.
The commission and city staff will address matters such as funding existing gated communities’ switch to the uniform emergency access system during budget meetings, which they set dates for by vote.
Budget workshops will occur Aug. 12 and 19; budget hearings will be Sept. 9 and 21, all at 6 p.m. in the commission chambers.
The millage rate will be under examination in the budget, with a tentative rate set at 6.5 mills, based on a 4-1 vote with Mayor S. Scott Vandergrift opposing. Commissioners stressed that the actual rate ultimately would fall lower than that.
After an appraisal of 12 acres of city property at the northeast corner North Clarke and A.D. Mims roads, Charter Schools Development Corp. altered the price of its offer to $2.6 million for the entire lot, which the city paid $3.5 million for in what one resident called a mistaken overpayment, with this sale likely the best way for the city to cut its losses and get some money back. With fees between $300,000 and $400,000 each year while the city holds the property, that time could be now, Johnson said. Vandergrift agreed, saying investing in education should always be a priority.
Keller said the traffic queueing plans and design were the best he had seen for a school, much better than local public schools. But he had concerns with having so many charter schools, as well as possible financial impacts from the lot holding a school instead of something to generate tax revenue. His largest concern was whether this charter school — along with others recently approved — would be for Ocoee students.
Todd Lucas, a representative of the developers, said 83% of corporation students originate from within three miles, and parents must volunteer 30 hours per year, a clause for building communities near the schools. The school would have a planned capacity of 1,145 students from kindergarten to eighth grade, but it would start with around 600 children from kindergarten to sixth grade, possibly as soon as the 2016-17 year, Lucas said.
By a unanimous vote, the commission told staff to enter negotiations with Charter Schools Development Corp.
The commission also unanimously approved an $8,998 purchase of a replacement for the city's broken bulk mailing machine.
CHANGING THE GUARD
If Vandergrift executes his retirement July 31, the commission would have only four members, with Mayor Pro-Tem Grogan taking over as interim mayor Aug. 4, Cookson said.
A series of dates between then and a tentative Oct. 27 special mayoral election would include a final resignation date for any commissioners seeking to run for mayor, as well as qualifying and filing periods, Cookson said.
City Clerk Beth Eikenberry said this special election would cost at least $20,000 — likely closer to $30,000 — and that the cost likely would double if a run-off became necessary. Vandergrift called the price a rip-off.
If Vandergrift were able to wait until Sept. 16 to retire, the Ocoee City Charter would allow Grogan to serve the remainder of Vandergrift’s term and prevent the city from needing a special election, Cookson said. Under the current plan, Grogan would be interim mayor with another commissioner as interim mayor pro-tem, until a new mayor would be sworn in as a result of the special election, after which Grogan would return to his position as District 1 commissioner and mayor pro-tem.
For a retirement party for Vandergrift, the commission voted 4-1 to waive the fee to use Lakeshore Center, with Vandergrift dissenting.
Vandergrift offered a final request of getting some kind of college facility in Ocoee.
“Let me leave you with this thought,” he said. “Said one frog to another frog, ‘How fun time is when you’re having flies.’”