City, county make progress on interlocal agreements

Drafts to be prepared, presented to full boards
Feb. 21, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

Representatives from Lee County and the City of Sanford reached a consensus on several interlocal agreements Wednesday — tasking their respective managers with drafting the new agreements to be presented to the full boards.

Wednesday was the second meeting for the subcommittee — composed of Commissioners Kirk Smith, Amy Dalrymple and Jim Womack and council members Samuel Gaskins, Poly Cohen and Rebecca Wyhof —charged with reviewing the handful of interlocal agreements between the county and the city.

After City Manager Hal Hegwer and Lee County Manager John Crumpton draft the agreements, the committee will review the documents at 1 p.m. March 11 in the West End Conference Room of the Sanford Municipal Building, located at 225 E. Weatherspoon St., before submitting them to the full boards.

The agreements discussed are as follows:  

Agreement: Tax Collections

The city now pays 1 percent — roughly $144,000 per year — to the county for the county's collection of city taxes. Instead of charging a flat fee, the city will now pay the county the exact cost associated with the county's collection of city taxes, estimated to range somewhere between $150,000 and $200,000. The county was interested in increasing the fee to a flat 2 percent.

This way the city is paying its fair share, Wyhof said, without the county making a profit from collecting taxes.

The city could potentially begin collecting its own taxes, Gaskins said, but this would lead to a drop in the collection rate for both entities.

"We have no problem with the level of service," he said. "It's our understanding that the collection rate is above the norm."

Agreement: Economic Development Corporation

The boards did not settle on a formal agreement or change. The EDC is interested in partnering with the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce as an all-inclusive business recruiting and advocating organization and will be presenting its draft organization model at the upcoming March 1 Economic Development Summit. The EDC Board agreed Wednesday morning during its regularly scheduled meeting to move forward with joining the chamber, Womack said.

Womack said his main concern is that control of the EDC be proportional to the funding contributed by each agency, with an increase in participation from the private sector.  

Agreement: Planning and Community Development

The Planning Department was discussed at length during the previous meeting of the subcommittee. Womack, who originally suggested that the county part from the city in this area to prepare for the natural gas industry, said he met with Sanford-Lee County Planning Department Director Bob Bridwell about how they should move forward.

"As long as (Bridwell) sits here and is divided in two or three shops, it makes it difficult for him to do his job for the city and county," Womack said. "I'd propose we work in the upcoming fiscal year [toward] getting his entire team under one roof."

The Planning Department is now housed in several different government buildings.

As for improved communication with the county — one of the points of concern raised by several commissioners — a list of reports the county wants should be drafted and Bridwell will work to make those available, Womack said.

"We need to communicate to (Bridwell), and we haven't done that," he said. "We need to say 'Here is a dashboard of reports' and 'Here is how often we need you to appear (before our board).'"

Agreement: Building Inspections

The group discussed increasing fees to cover all of the department's expenses. Before the recession, the department was able to cover a majority of its expenses with building permit fees, Crumpton said. The fees are well below the average around the state, Hegwer said, and increasing the fees would more than likely cover the cost of the expenditures.

Agreement: Geographic Information Services (GIS) and Strategic Services

With no funding methodology in place now, Womack suggested the funding be split according to the ad valorem tax method. This would split the cost of the department fairly between the two boards, he said.

GIS would also be moved into the same building as the Planning Department.

Agreement: Parks and Recreation

No change to the current agreement besides cleaning up the document for language. The county oversees the Parks and Recreation Department without funding assistance from the city. However, the city does undertake projects like extending the greenway and neighborhood parks that are beneficial to all the residents,  Crumpton said.

Agreement: Animal Control

The county will drop the $64,000 fee to the city for animal control. Originally the county was interested in the city paying for half of the direct costs because half of the calls to Animal Control were made within city limits.

Hegwer said the Lee County Sheriff's Office, which oversees the Animal Control, provided exceptional service and raised the professionalism in this area.