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Updated: 08/10/2017 08:30:04AM

Spring Lake OKs budget, assessment workshop

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SEBRING — Spring Lake Improvement District supervisors liked what they saw with the draft budget and a plan to talk to a consultant in November about what an assessment study would entail.

However, they took no action on suggestions from District Manager Joe DeCerbo about reorganizing the staff structure, and they flatly refused to reopen the district’s Facebook page, which has been dormant since October 2014, just months after it was established.

DeCerbo said, while reviewing old meeting minutes, he found a dormant resolution on Facebook from 2014, on which the board had never acted. He mentioned it at Wednesday’s monthly meeting to find out what the improvement district’s board of supervisors wanted to do.

“Everybody’s going to this, and we talk about transparency,” DeCerbo said.

Supervisor Brian Acker brought up concerns about records retention under Florida’s Sunshine Law. Board Chair Bill Lawens asked who would monitor the page and police who can or cannot post to it. DeCerbo said he could ask staff for Sun ’n Lake Special Improvement District or for the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners to see how they manage such things. As he understood it, a page can be set up to let the administrator either approve or deny posts before they display on the page.

Acker said someone would have to spend a fair amount of time managing the page, necessitating another job on staff. Supervisor Gary Behrendt said the site, to him, started as a gossip page and now has posts and articles being spread without verification.

“It started as a way to see my grandkids, but now I constantly get posts from friends of friends,” Behrendt said.

DeCerbo also told supervisors that he will look to leave Spring Lake sometime in the future, after his temporary job has now stretched to 10 years as district manager. The district has fixed a lot of its problems, including the drainage issue and the need for a new wastewater treatment plant. Now it needs someone to run its daily operations, and DeCerbo intends for that person to be Assistant Manager Clay Shrum as “operations director.”

“There are a lot of things I involve myself in as far as a supervisor,” DeCerbo said. “I need to see if he’s capable of doing that.”

DeCerbo thinks Shrum is capable He was just awarded the State Utility Administrator of the Year Award at the recent Florida Rural Water Conference.

Reorganizing is all about job functions, DeCerbo said. When the district evaluates what each person does from that perspective, it can rearrange the organizational chart to match.

Going forward, DeCerbo said, the district needs to market itself to potential businesses, especially once the U.S. 98 sewer lines get approved and installed.

In other business, for Fiscal Year 2017-18, supervisors approved a draft $1.3 million budget to provide drainage, general government, street lighting, mosquito control and parks. The General Fund assessment is $291.93 per unit, a 3 percent decrease, and the Village I assessment is $42.84 per unit, a 9 percent decrease.

Supervisors won’t make any changes in those assessments this year, and don’t know yet if they want to in the near future. However, they have agreed to invite Owen Beitsch, senior director of Economic and Real Estate Advisory Services for Community Solutions Group - GAI Consultants Inc. down from Orlando to give a run-down on what it would cost and what they would need to do to revisit their assessments in the future.

The district, in 45 years, has not made significant changes to the way it collects or calculates assessments, which are done by property strap numbers or acreage, according Bill Nielander, Board attorney. Other such districts in Florida have gone with assessments based on services provided to each property. Supervisors want to know how that would change the Spring Lake revenue stream.

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