Winter Garden commissioners delayed taking action regarding new voting district boundaries after two commissioners asked for more time to view the report produced by the city’s appointed districting commission.
The City Commission was scheduled to vote on adopting the report at its regular meeting, Thursday, Feb. 24.
However, District 2 Commissioner Ron Mueller motioned to postpone the second reading of the ordinance. That was seconded by District 4 Commissioner Colin Sharman.
Mueller explained the charter allows the commission to go over the redistricting for up to 120 days before the next city election, which would be in December. He said he hasn’t had the time to go through all the changes yet and would like the opportunity to meet with GIS personnel to further discuss the map.
Although he said he believes the committee did a great job, he has some questions and said he doesn’t understand the need to push the matter because it is not due for months.
District 1 Commissioner Lisa Bennett questioned the delay, stating commissioners had appointed the districting board who were unanimous in their decision that the map was a good submittal and did not break up neighborhoods.
“We had three months or so when we were meeting to ask questions and we had a month since the last,” she said.
Sharman said he was to meet with the city manager and staff this week, but the manager was unavailable because of medical issues.
He said the map, which would aim to make a greater percentage a minority district, he has in mind is completely non-self-serving, and although it may not make the cut, he would like the opportunity to at least explore it.
“I don’t know if what I was envisioning would even be possible with the numbers but I haven’t had the opportunity to do it,” he said.
District 3 Commissioner Mark Maciel suggested the commission complete the discussion so the ordinance is not further delayed.
Mayor John Rees said he believes the commission appointed the committee and had the opportunity to go to the meetings and go through the map.
“When we appoint them, we want them to come up with the boundaries and the districts that they think, without any influence from an individual because, to me, I think it gerrymandering, so I always hold this at an arm’s length,” Rees said. “I understand that they went through all the meetings and all the work in coming up with this, and I just didn’t feel like it’s this commission’s job … to start nitpicking it.”
Rees said he doesn’t believe his opinion on the matter will change.
“If any of you felt like you needed more time, I would grant you that when there’s not an urgent need to do that; it wouldn’t matter what your reason was,” Mueller said.
After much discussion, the commission approved delaying the second ordinance to the next meeting on Thursday, March 10, 4-1, with Rees dissenting.
PENSION, RETIREMENT PLANS
The commission heard the second reading of two proposed ordinances relating to pension and retirement plans for both general employees and firefighters and police officers.
The general employee plan proposes two basic changes which include changing the Board of Trustees term from serving for two years to serving for four years and increasing the period of the Deferred Retirement Option Plan’s participation from 36 months to 60 months.
The firefighter and police officer pension plan changes mirror the general employee pension in relation to the change of term length and D.R.O.P.
IN OTHER NEWS
- Winter Garden commissioners recognized Shepherd’s Hope for its 25th anniversary, which took place Feb. 14, with a special proclamation paying tribute to the organization’s efforts for the community.
- City commissioners approved the Winter Garden Little League Opening Day at Little League Complex.
- The Winter Garden commission re-approved a resolution of the Winter Garden Community Redevelopment Agency recommending extension and modification of the plan for a period of 10 years.
- City commissioners approved a resolution adopting the Orange County local mitigation strategy resolution.
- Winter Garden commissioners heard a recommendation to approve Assignment of Easement from Orange County to the City of Winter Garden for Hyde Park Drainage Ditch.
- The Winter Garden commission heard a recommendation to approve a site plan for a new headquarters for NEI Construction at 751 Garden Commerce Parkway.
- City commissioners approved a resolution in support of a 1% transportation surtax referendum on the Nov. 8, countywide ballot for consideration by the voters.