Commissioner Fisher stated this has been interesting, he saw a lot of new faces here today he has not seen for the eight years he has been on the Board, which he thinks is great to see people get involved in government; and it probably showed them how many hats the Board wears. He asked staff to put a slide up while he talks about this. He went on to say he learned a long time ago with the north end of the County, they were depending on the federal government to help them after the shuttle loss, and they never came; he learned they needed to invest in themselves and to set the tempo for the way the community should be; and Titusville kind of did that. He explained the slide is a picture of the old Miracle City Mall that is all asphalt; that asphalt ran directly into the river and the Lagoon since 1969; north of that, that subdivision, the water runs directly into the Lagoon; it has been said that over time that doing something and trying to incentivize and help this project in the heart of Titusville was not prioritizing or was not a good investment; with the next slide people will notice those black lines and pink lines are new stormwater pipes that are going in on this site; what is on the top right, it was all asphalt; after a rain storm, all of the nutrients are draining right into the river; now all of those pipes are now being replaced, which is one mile of pipe, and 100 baffle boxes; and the subdivision to the north on Hopkins Avenue is now getting treated water into the green area which are new ponds being developed on this site before the asphalt. He noted the runoff collection at the new mall site, there are 12 new retention ponds, a mile of stormwater, 100 hookups, baffle boxes, and that will now treat that water; in 1969 there was zero treatment; and the first one inch, where the majority of the pollutants come from, is being treated. He stated it went from a $90,000 tax base, and it will probably be seven or eight times once it is developed; someone is pumping $43 million into the first phase of the project; and the North Brevard Economic Development Zone did contribute to the project. He pointed out this is a Lagoon project if he has ever saw one; the only thing he does not see in the plan is there is a lot of properties like this 1969 mall on Babcock in Cocoa, and all of that runoff is not being treated; instead of beating these things up, people should be talking about how to encourage some of that to start happening; the Board has a lot of priorities; to him, he has always felt like the power is in the Commissioners vote; and if people want things, the Board needs to vote to do it. He went on to add the Board took the lead on the stormwater utilities when it knew that was a problem; it helped with the fertilizer thing; the power is in the Commission’s vote to make a difference; the Lagoon is a serious issue; and he will be voting for Option 4 when the time comes. He noted the reason he is voting for Option 4 is that they can grab money faster and bond it with a sales tax than he thinks the County can with property taxes; and it contributes to the visitors who benefit off of the Lagoon to help clean it up and pay for it.
Chairman Barfield expressed his appreciation to Ms. Barker, staff, and everyone who has helped with this; it is an amazing plan; he could see the look on her face in April when he said a plan was needed by July; and it turned out very good. He stated Commissioner Fisher was talking about what is being done in Titusville; he has the Merritt Square Mall and the Veterans Lake behind it, and that is what is happening there as well; it makes a huge difference in Sykes Creek; and they have done the same thing on North Merritt Island with Pine Island retention. He went on to add there are a lot of things that has happened; there are a lot of things over the years the County has done with State funding and one-time requests; and the County's Legislative Delegation have been supportive of that. He explained as the Board has talked about, the County needs a steady amount of revenue so it can plan and work around a number of different activities at once, so it does not have to stop and re-mobilize, and continue to keep hacking away from this; he is onboard with the one-half cent sales tax; and he thinks that is the way to go; procedurally the Board will have to approve the plan first and work from there.
Commissioner Smith expressed his heartfelt appreciation to staff for the presentation; and he stated a lot of smart people worked on this. He went on to say he recently saw a headline from Florida TODAY; there was a big picture of a kayak, and headline said, “Is it too Late to Fix the Lagoon;” that was 1995; and here it is 21 years later asking the same question. He went on to say he wants to shout out to the State Legislators; the last three years the County has received about $80 million for dredging projects; and that is Steve Crisafulli, Debbie Mayfield, Rich Workman, and Tom Goodson. He stated for people who say the County does nothing, the County does a lot; this program being talked about today lays out a specific plan for the County to do a whole lot more; and it does not depend on the State or the feds. He added it shows the State and the feds that the Board means business; he has spent a lot of time on the phone and he has visited the State Senators and Representatives; and they have opened a lot of doors in streamline permitting, which is probably the biggest thing the County has going forward. He stated the County had a Mandate from those people and from Federal and State bureaucracies to come up with a sustainable, scientific plan, that is what they wanted to see; and that would be the key to getting 50/50 matches. He stated he has been assured over and over again if the County came up with this plan, it would get those 50/50 matches; if the Board goes forward with this and comes up with $300 million over the next 10 years, it can conceivably wind up with maybe $900 million with the matches; and the County can receive an awful lot. He noted staff can put these plans together, the permitting can be gotten, and a big dent can be put in this in 10 years, and still have sustainable monies going forward. He pointed out the beauty of this plan from his standpoint is it sunsets in 10 years, so the Board sitting then can revisit this, and if it feels necessary, it can be put back before the public. He stated poling indicates that over 60 percent of the people support these fund raising efforts, and whatever plan is chosen today, is going to pass substantially. He stated the study he saw yesterday, indicates that if the Board goes forward with the one-half cent sales tax, which is what he supports, because he does not think the property owners alone should be shouldering the burden of this funding; the property owners will, along with an awful lot of other people, share the burden if the one-half cent sales tax is passed; the one-half cent sales tax produces the largest amount of money over the 10-year period; and the study also indicated that only 42 percent of that money would come from local residents, which he finds interesting. He asked the person who gave him the information was where the other 58 percent comes from because he finds it hard to believe the sales tax would come from outside the County; in fact, it does not come from outside the County, a good portion comes from Brevard County businesses, because they spend money and spend sales tax; and the 42 percent is impressive, the one-half cent sales tax is the way to go, it has the most benefit for the County, and it gives the County the best bang for the buck. He advised the Board he is in favor of that, and when it comes time, he will make the motion to move forward with the one-half cent sales tax.
Commissioner Anderson expressed his appreciation to staff for the work they put into the plan. He advised the Board he is for Option 4.
Commissioner Fisher stated there are a couple of things the public needs to be aware of; he does not think the Board can lobby for this; and he asked the County Attorney if that was the case.
Attorney Knox replied the Board cannot provide advocacy.
Commissioner Fisher inquired if the Board should add a fact sheet or let the plan speak for itself; he stated a group needs to get together on that side of the dais to explain to the average Joe what this means; there needs to be an organized effort to help get this passed; and there will be some nay sayers. He inquired what the Board is allowed to do.
Attorney Knox responded it can provide information of what the problem is, what the solution is, but it cannot go much further; the Board cannot advocate and say to the people to go out and vote for this; and the Board cannot be an advocate for the tax or the referendum.
Commissioner Fisher stated someone needs to get organized and go fight for this. He inquired when the sales tax can start to be collected.
Attorney Knox replied the way it works is a Notice to the Department of Revenue needs to be sent if this passes, and it goes into effect 60 days after that date; and it should be around February 2017.
Commissioner Fisher inquired since the Board has a projection of what the sales tax is, will it have the ability to bond that.
Attorney Knox replied he believes that is accurate.
Commissioner Fisher inquired if the Board voted for the property tax, it would not be collected until the following year.
Attorney Knox responded it could not be collected until the 2017/2018 budget year.
Commissioner Infantini stated in October 2013 she asked the Board, minus Commissioners Barfield and Smith, to declare the Lagoon one the highest priorities of the County, and the Board shot it down; in March when there was the fish kill, she put an Agenda Item forward asking the Board to declare a State of Emergency, because she thought it was an emergency; and again, it was shot down 4:1. She stated she guesses the only way to get the Commissioners to realize it is a priority is to ask the taxpayers to throw another $300 million into, and then it will get behind it. She stated it appears that is the only way the Lagoon is going to become an emergency for the Board; and she inquired if a one-half cent sales tax could be used for de-mucking, because she thought it did not pass in the legislation presented.
Attorney Knox advised the answer is yes for two reasons; the first reason is it is capital maintenance; and more importantly there is a provision in the Sales Tax Law that allows counties over 75,000 population that have a taxable value to asses value ratio of less than 60 percent to use it for Parks and Recreation programs. He went on to add by looking through the findings on the ordinance, it says the Indian River Lagoon is considered a recreational project; and therefore, the money can be used for operations and maintenance as well as the capital maintenance, which is the muck removal.
Commissioner Infantini noted she wants to go on record of saying she 100 percent disagrees, she does not think the Lagoon is a facility of Parks and Recreation, but where it touches the shoreline, she thinks it is; but she does not think it is a legally permissible use of the sales tax.
Commissioner Fisher stated one of the things the Board has the power over was, and it was a 4:1 vote, is when the stormwater, and there were 900 outfalls, this Board had to make a tough decision to raise the stormwater fees for the first time since 1994; and it was done at a step level. He stated it was showing the Board cared about the Lagoon because it made a rate increase. He stated he argued with Commissioner Infantini in that the power is in the vote, and the vote to raise stormwater fees, she did not think it was a priority.
Chairman Barfield inquired what Commissioner Infantini expected to get from the declaration of emergency.
Commissioner Infantini replied what would happen would it allows the Governor of Florida to remove all requirements on permitting and all costs; and it expedites the permitting. She went on to say the permitting process is one of the very longest in St. Johns River Water Management District, and they can suspend all of the permitting requirements; and they can go from a nine-month time period to say a 10-day time period for a permitting process. She noted the permitting costs could also be waived by the Governor. She stated there were a ton of people here who asked for the Board to vote for it; she is going to vote for this; and while she philosophically disagrees, people came and spoke and took their time. She stated it is not something she personally agrees with, but the people said what they wanted, and she wants to put it out to the voters. She stated she does not think it is a lawful sales tax, but that will be taken up somewhere else rather than today's meeting with research.
Chairman Barfield advised the State of Emergency that was filed in other counties with the Indian River Lagoon discharge, what came out of that came basically a low-interest loan to businesses that are already losing money; and nothing came out of that.
Commissioner Infantini stated it also reduced the permit costs and time.
The Board reviewed and approved the Save Our Lagoon Project Plan.