Brevard County Commissioner Andy Anderson was named a 2012 honoree of the 2012 Brevard Walk of Fame by Eckerd, an organization that offers life-changing behavioral health and child welfare services, including the Hi-Five and Computers 4 Kidz programs in Brevard. The Brevard Walk of Fame recognizes the most prominent and influential business and community leaders in Central Florida, as well as celebrities. Anderson has served on the Commission for 22 years and is a former member of the Palm Bay City Council. Other 2012 honorees include Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana; Gatto’s Tire & Auto Service President Pam Gatto; community activist Jim Handley; former Viera Hospital President and CEO Chris Kennedy; Gray Robinson attorney Jack Kirschenbaum; Florida State Rep. Debbie Mayfield; Johnson Law Center P.A. attorney Kendall Moore; retired vice president/general manager of Boeing Florida operations Lee Solid; Certified General Contractors President Jim Stivers; Channel 13 News anchor and reporter Allison Walker; TV news personality Barbara West; and retired professional wrestler Jake "The Snake" Leo Smith.
Citrus County Government has revised the structure of its senior staff—using two existing department director positions to create a dual-role position that fulfills the duties previously handled by the former deputy administrator, who departed last June. Effective last month, Ken Frink, director of public works, and Cathy Pearson, community services director, become assistant county administrators. Both assume significant additional responsibilities while maintaining their current primary roles. The positions are supported by assistant directors within their respective departments. The hope is for greater operational balance and efficiency. Also, the plan continues the county’s efforts to reduce the size of government and reflects an annual cost savings of approximately $80,000.
As part of its continuous surveillance, Fitch Ratings has affirmed Hernando County's $41 million in outstanding water and sewer revenue bonds at "AA-" rating and revised the outlook from Negative to Stable. The change reflects improved financial performance for fiscal year 2011 and an improvement in pro-forma financial results over previous projections. County officials cited a concerted effort by the Utilities Department, Clerk’s Finance Department and Budget Office. Fitch Ratings is a global rating agency that is recognized as providing objective and balanced credit opinions, along with research and data.
The Hillsborough County Commission on the Status of Women selected three women for induction into the 2012 class of the Hillsborough County Women’s Hall of Fame: Phyllis Busansky, Gwendolyn Miller and Jan Platt. Busansky served as the county’s director of Aging Services and director of Human Resources, and as executive director of Florida's Welfare-To-Work agency. She also served on the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners and as the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections before her death in June 2009. Miller committed 35 years to educating community children in Hillsborough schools. She was elected to the Tampa City Council, serving as chair. Platt served on Tampa City Council as well as the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners. Also, she has actively served on many community boards. The Hall of Fame was created to recognize women who have made significant contributions to the betterment of life for county residents.
County Manager Darren Gray has unveiled an initiative that urges all county departments to take the steps necessary to become certified as “business friendly.” As part of the certification process, department heads and staffers are tasked with reviewing processes to identify ways of enhancing the overall customer experience, as well as find ways to exceed customer expectations create an “open for business” environment. After the reviews and enhancements are made within each department, a meeting with the County Manager and department head will be conducted to assess the department’s customer service level. Once that review is completed, the County Manager’s certification goes into effect. To date, several departments have received the certification, including the Office of Economic Development & Tourism, County Manager’s Office, Office of Information Outreach, Public Works Department, Information Technology Department, Growth Management Department, Facilities Development & Management Department and Employee Services Department.
Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker had much to highlight when he outlined accomplishments achieved by Manatee County Government during 2011. Among them are community projects that came to fruition, including the Fort Hamer Rowing Park, Marine Rescue headquarters, Tom Bennett Park, the Palmetto Transit Station, Myakka Community Center and Rocky Bluff Library. Notably, they occurred with an annual budget that was $22 million less than in 2010. Other organizational highlights: Manatee County’s Green Team led the organization’s efforts to become a Green Certified Government in April; in September, the Federal Emergency Management Agency presented the county with a prestigious Class 5 Community Rating, which saves thousands of Manatee County flood insurance policy holders on their annual premiums; the Commission moved in October to unanimously adopt a “no kill” policy and direct Animal Services to work toward a 90 percent live release rate for all dogs and cats that come through its doors; and throughout 2011, the Commission approved more than $3.6 million in economic development incentive grants to 39 companies.
Fitch Ratings, a global credit ratings agency, confirmed the financial strength of Orange County Government by awarding the highest possible score. Fitch announced an “AAA” credit rating for general obligation debts for the county. Additionally, Fitch awarded the county with “AA+” and “AA-“ ratings for sales tax, capital improvement, public service tax and tourist development tax revenue bonds. While Orange County doesn't currently have outstanding general obligation debt, the Fitch rating is a sign of the strength of the county's economy. Orange County was also approved for the issuance of Orange County Sales Tax Revenue Refunding Bonds–Series 2012. The Fitch report also cited a low and stable tax rate, above-average wage growth, sound sales tax coverage, a broad employment base with a significant tourism component, ample reserves and healthy prospects for continued economic expansion as factors in the rating.
Osceola County Commissioner Brandon Arrington has been elected chair of MetroPlan Orlando. At age 37, he is the youngest person to serve that role at MetroPlan Orlando in recent history; it also makes him part of the only bi-generational family to serve in a leadership capacity on the board. His mother, Mary Jane Arrington, served as MetroPlan chair in 1998 and 1999 while also serving as an Osceola County Commissioner. As the metropolitan planning organization for Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, MetroPlan Orlando is comprised of elected officials from the three-county area, along with the largest cities in the region and representatives from the region's transportation operating agencies. It's ultimately responsible for implementing the counties’ transportation planning process. Arrington was also recently appointed vice-chair of the 2012 Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission and is the 2012 vice-chairman of the Lynx board of directors.
County officials are actively seeking input from residents as they move through the current planning and budget process and chart a course for the county's future growth and development. This month, they are asking citizens and business owners to attend one of three meetings—March 22, March 27 or March 29—to discuss results and trends revealed from a recent survey. (For specific meeting times, go to www.bringingopportunitieshome.com.) Over the past month, the National Research Center Inc., on behalf of Pasco County, mailed more than 1,200 surveys to a random sample of citizens, asking about the quality of county services. In 2009, the Board of County Commissioners developed a strategic plan, based on significant citizen input, that is focused on issues such as jobs and economic development, financial sustainability, growth management, customer service levels, transportation and environmental protection. As that strategic planning cycle comes to a close, the input will also be used to assess progress.
Pinellas Citizen University begins a new session April 12, offering residents a chance to learn how county government works and go behind the scenes in
the various service departments. Similar to leadership classes, the 10-week program brings students face to face with county administrators, elected officials, local experts and other decision-makers, exploring a range of county functions. Operations include, among others, planning a hurricane evacuation, balancing a $1.6 billion county budget, sitting in a grand jury room, listening to 9-1-1 calls and touring a county jail. Each week, the class meets at a different county facility, as participants learn firsthand how Pinellas County provides services to nearly 1 million residents.
The Polk County Board of County Commissioners has launched a redesigned website,
www.polk-county.net, to improve both look and navigation. The website provides better access to county services for residents, businesses and visitors. Enhanced features include a new menu structure and a “most popular” feature, an enhanced video library with built-in viewer, an improved Google Search tool that make information easier to find, direct access to the county’s Facebook and Twitter social media accounts, language translation, font resizing, and a new Citizen Service Center.
Beginning this month, vendors who want to do business with Sarasota County will be able to use a new, simplified online procurement system. The eProcure system provides a free, single website for county solicitations, policies, procedures and forms. Vendors who register with eProcure are automatically notified when bids are issued that potentially match their qualifications. A major advantage of the system is vendors may claim local preference when they register instead of completing stringent preference guidelines each time they submit a solicitation. The new system eliminates internal redundancies, improves reporting capabilities for vendor contracts and reduces the county’s environmental footprint by saving vendors the cost of preparing and printing submittal materials. Eprocure registration take place through April, and vendors must register to do business with Sarasota County. Vendors may continue to register after April, but they will not be notified about bids until they complete the registration.
The Seminole County Fire Department has both given and received. The fire department partnered with the Remembrance Rescue Project and has been showcasing FDNY's Rescue 4 throughout the county. The Remembrance Rescue Project is a not-for-profit created by firefighters to preserve awareness to the significance of 9/11 through the stories from FDNY Rescue 4. Rescue 4 is currently the only fire apparatus from 9/11 operating outside the city of New York and is currently touring as a 9/11 artifact, education project and fundraising tool for children of fallen firefighters. In addition, the Seminole County Fire Department has received two refurbished 6-by-6 units by virtue of a partnership created between Florida Forest Service and PRIDE Enterprises. These types of units are needed to help mitigate fires, as well as transport firefighters and evacuate residents in certain emergencies. The units are also helpful for the county’s prescribed fire program, which partners with Seminole County Natural Lands and Florida Fire Service. It’s estimated that a new unit would cost $120,000 to $150,000.
As the month began, ground was scheduled to be broken on the county’s consolidated Emergency Operations and Sheriff’s Communications Center. The 43,000-square-foot, $21 million facility is being built to withstand 180 mph winds; construction is expected to be complete by spring 2013. Features include an emergency operations room that can hold 90 emergency support personnel during disasters, 60 consoles for dispatchers, state-of-the-art news media broadcast room, citizens information center, ham radio center, 80-foot backup radio tower, backup generators, helicopter pad, County Council liaison room, meeting rooms, kitchen, and bunk rooms for men and women. The building is designed to be “green,” and county officials will apply for LEED silver certification upon completion. The current Emergency Operations Center was built in 1976 and covers 9,000 square feet. Last year, all public safety dispatching in the county for law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services was consolidated into a single, unified system under the Sheriff’s Office. The county’s emergency dispatchers currently work out of two different centers.