On December 16, 2010 I attended the public meeting of the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) of Hillsborough County. The EPC consists of five divisions and each division has a director. These divisions are air, water, waste, wetlands and legal and administrative services.
EPC Executive Dr. Rick Garrity gave a report on the status of the EPC. They have reduced their staff twenty-four (24) percent from last year, from 175 to 134 at present, and their budget has been reduced from $16.3 million to $13.2 million. Ad-valorem property taxes funding their budget have been reduced from $10.5 million to $8 million before fees. They lost their toxicology and public outreach positions due to these reductions. Dr. Garrity requested at the next meeting that the board address the EPC fee schedule, as they have not been adjusted for seven years. A rule draft for an adjusted fee schedule was proposed June 2, 2010 however the fees were not adjusted at that time. Dr. Garrity also spoke about some of the projects they worked on this past year, which can be seen in the presentation Priority Permitting Program.
The proposed budget for fiscal year 2011 for the EPC is shown on page 45 of the County Administrator’s Recommended Budget for FY 2011 , which is just over $13 million dollars. In comparison to the operating budgets for other boards, commissions and agencies, this exceeds the next most costly agency, the Planning Commission, by over three times. The Planning Commission budget is proposed at just under $4.3 million.
Commissioner Mark Sharpe recommended that the EPC submit to the Sterling Challenge last year. “Established in 1992, the Florida Sterling Council is a public/private not-for-profit corporation supported by the Executive Office of the Governor . It is comprised of public and private sector members. The Council is led by the Executive Committee which oversees the Governor’s Sterling Award for Performance Excellence and all Sterling process activities, including the annual Sterling conference.” The purpose of the council is to promote organizational performance excellence through the use of several assessment tools. The EPC is participating in this program and will continue to work with it in improving its overall performance.
Commissioner Sandra Murman expressed concern that her constituents have complained that there are roadblocks everywhere for economic development and that the EPC must streamline their processes to make it easier to obtain permits, and also that they must improve their customer satisfaction. Dr. Garrity stated that they received an eighty-three (83%) percent on recent customer service surveys. Commissioner Murman restated that they must work with developers, because that means construction jobs and to “work on it!”
Other items briefly discussed
- Jerry Campbell, the Air Division Director, expressed their desire to move forward in growing the Office of Sustainability to address greenhouse gases and energy use and our Climate Action Plan. Commissioner Mark Sharpe is Chairman of this division.
- Bob Stetler, the Wetlands Division Director, presented a program proposing a plan for “one stop” permitting with the EPC handling all permitting, compliance and enforcement to work with federal, state and local authorities.
- The BOCC would send a letter to the state requesting that they fund the rebate program for energy efficient appliances
- The Roger P. Stewart Center scored a 67 in its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDs) assessment, which requires a score of at least 75. Commissioner Beckner asked what a higher score would mean to us and was told that we could get into the carbon credit market.
- Commissioner Crist asked the EPC to work with the Muller Magnet School, which has been nationally recognized for its work in scholastic accomplishments. Dr. Garrity said hewould look into it.
- There were some comments on Brownfields. Commissioner Crist suggested that the best way to address this would be to propose to the state that the county would match funds to help redevelop these areas, and that the state would be more open to considering this if it was presented in this manner.
- Commissioner Crist asked if the EPC had knowledge of all county owned properties and their status. They did not and apparently the entire state does not have a good accounting of all of the land in its possession. They promised to have this information at the next meeting. Commissioner Crist said that the county had to be good stewards of its own land before they could expect private citizens to be held accountable.
- In February 2011 the EPC is going to start educating the general public along with private fertilizer applicator companies and lawn maintenance companies concerning the new fertilizer rule. This will be done through PSAs, brochures and door hangers. In March online applicator training and certification should be available and will be required to be obtained by all lawn care employers and employees no later than July 20, 2011.
More information will be provided regarding the certification and licensing requirements for the fertilizer rule as it becomes available.