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Orange Soil & Water Board Meetings Return to County Commission Chambers After 10-Year Ban

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – The Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors’ monthly meetings will be held in the Orange County Commission chambers at long last after a ten-year ban imposed by Orange County officials was recently lifted.

The Board returned to county chambers Friday, February 10, 2017 to hold its monthly meeting. Previous Board meetings were held in the Cypress conference room, a small space on the second floor of the Orange County Administrative building.

New Board of Supervisors Improves Relations With County Officials

Seat 2 Supervisor Daisy Morales and Seat 4 Supervisor and Board Chairman Eric Rollings at their monthly Board meeting at the Orange County Commission Chambers, Friday, February 10, 2017. Photo by Willie David/Florida National News

Seat 2 Supervisor Daisy Morales and Seat 4 Supervisor Eric Rollings, elected in November 2014, are among the most active and visible members on the Board who work closely with Orange County Commissioners and the Orange County Department of Environment Protection. Additionally, Supervisor Morales graduated from Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs’s Experience program, a thirteen-week initiative to help citizens better understand county operations and services.

District 13 State Senator Linda Stewart, who sits on the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee and Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee of the Florida Senate, spoke at the Board monthly meeting in the commission chambers Friday, February 10, 2017. Photo by Willie David/Florida National News

In addition, newly elected Seat 1 Supervisor Attorney Michael Barber and Seat 5 Supervisor Tiffany Dziekan were sworn in January 2017, while Seat 3 Supervisor Attorney Nicole McLaren was elected in 2012 and reelected in 2016. They all look forward to holding the Board meetings in the commission chambers.

Seat 4 Supervisor and Board Chairman Eric Rollings told Florida National News it took several months of convincing County officials that Board members are new and look forward to working with Orange County Government.

The 10-Year Ban Against Soil & Water Board

July 2007, the Board of Supervisors of the Orange Soil & Water Conservation District were told that the five-member panel was not welcome to use a county office on Michigan Street or County Commission chambers; meetings won’t be taped on the county’s TV, the Board would lose its only paid staff and would not get a penny in the following year’s budget ($61,000), according to Orange County officials. Read more – Orlando Sentinel

A Rift Among Board Members

At the time, the Board of Supervisors Chairman allegedly accused Orange County Government of wrongdoing involving $1 million and requested the governor and the state attorney general to investigate. However, no other Soil & Water board member endorsed the chairman’s claims. The conservation board’s vice chairwoman stated that the chairman does not speak for the board.

Supervisor Morales Pushes For Bylaws and Rotating Board Officers

“This Board cannot afford a repeat of 2007 in which a Board chairman acts without the Board’s approval,” Supervisor Morales told Florida National News at the commission chambers. “This Board has operated [for] far too long without bylaws and term limits for board officers. We need to implement bylaws similar to [the] Seminole County Soil & Water Conservation District Board. Seminole has bylaws in place since 1991.”

Supervisor Morales also pointed out at the Board meeting that the Board chairman should not use his official title to endorse political candidates for public office, saying that this could mislead the public that the Board is backing a particular candidate.

Morales added that the Board chairman’s use of the official title is more troubling when it is used to endorse candidates running for a seat on the Soil and Water Board, (See Orlando Politics) and for a seat in the Florida House, (See Orlando Politics). Seat 3 Supervisor and Vice Chairwoman Nicole McLaren pointed out the value of having the Board chairman’s endorsement. “…So honored to have the support of Chairman Eric Rollings in my bid for re-election!” An individual supervisor can endorse whomever he or she likes without the use of a Board officer title.

“It is critical to have a healthy and functioning Board, a competitive and functioning election process for Orange County residents seeking a seat on this Board,” expressed Morales.

Seat 1 Supervisor Attorney Michael Barber Discussed Sunshine Laws

Seat 1 Supervisor Michael Barber gave an overview of Florida Sunshine Laws that requires the Board to fully and promptly comply with the law. Photo by Willie David/Florida National News

Supervisor Barber gave an overview of Florida Sunshine Laws and stressed how important it is for the Board to fully and promptly comply with the law as it relates to public notices and public records. Barber also informed the members that the Board’s website can not remain shut down. (www.orangeconservation.org)

It appears that the Board’s website where notices, agenda and minutes are posted has been down for months. The Board held an election of officers, made an open call to anyone in the public interested in being appointed to Associate Supervisor, and discussed whether the Board should accept donations from commissioners with an earmark.

Orange Soil & Water Conservation District

The Orange Soil and Water Conservation District Board seeks to conserve, enhance, and promote the natural resources of Orange County by providing technical assistance, environmental education information, and economic incentives to county citizens and by exhibiting a diversified program to meet the county’s changing needs.

The District is a governmental subdivision of the State of Florida; a public body organized in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 582. Under this law the District has the responsibility of conserving soil, water, and related natural resources within the District boundary. The District also works closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and other state and local agencies. The District board is made up of five elected non-partisan and non-paid supervisors. Supervisor seats 1,3, and 5 were elected during the 2016 presidential election and Supervisors seats 2 and 4 are elected during the 2018 midterm elections.

The Board’s next meeting is set for March 10, 2017 in the Orange County Commission Chambers.

 

 

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