Town News

2017 State of the Town

Why are we doing a State of the Town?

This is an opportunity to update you on what we are currently doing here in town and more importantly discuss the process for the vision and strategy that we have for our future. I recognize that you may already be aware of some of this information so I thank you for being patient if that is the case.

Summary

Oakland has a colorful and long history. Railroad Town, shipping point for vegetables and later citrus, early leading community in Orange County, home of magnificent Oak trees, A Tree City USA, community between the lakes, friend of the environment, home to scenic byways, historical – these are all descriptors of this quaint community. While Oakland has grown and is growing it is important to us to maintain our identity and preserve our history while serving our residents.

Background

Oakland operates with a Commission/Manager form of government through a Charter approved by the residents via a referendum. The Charter provides the rules by which the Town is operated and can only be changed by an election. The Commission is composed of a Mayor and four Commissioners who serve four-year staggered terms. The Commission sets policy, approves budgets and major contracts and employs a Town Manager. The Town Manager is tasked with presenting the Commission with these policies, budgets and audits and has authority to employ staff and conduct the Town’s business. All of this is by Charter.

Historically, besides general governmental functions – police, planning, maintenance, etc.- the Town has operated one utility, water, and contracted with Orange County for fire services. For approximately the past 13 years, the Town has owned and operated a K-5 elementary school with approximately 530 students. Entry to the Charter school is by lottery with preference given to Oakland resident students first. The school is chartered through Orange County Public Schools and funded by the state.

Our vision for the Town is to serve the citizens of Oakland with a government that provides a high level of service while keeping our ‘attitude’ as Oakland – a place where we maintain and preserve natural beauty and history while regarding each other in a friendly and respectable manner. Careful growth that fits into the fabric of our Town and a prudent fiscal approach. We want to mix modern, 21st Century techniques with old-fashioned neighborly communication and involvement.

With the above in mind we have set out to provide improvements and infrastructure as needed for the Town. Currently we are dependent primarily on residential property taxes and have carefully planned and phased these improvements over the years.

Accomplishments

Staff and Processes

A few years ago we reorganized our staff to address growth and needed services. We have a staff that functions in a professional, customer friendly manner and is focused on excellence in government. We have experienced department heads that are in my estimation the best around. We also routinely include the Orange County Fire Department and the Managing Director of the Oakland Nature Preserve as members of our management team.

We are committed to training our staff and providing the tools that they need to effectively perform the duties required of them. Consistent processes are important and some are required by law.

History Center

We have received a $225,000 matching grant from Orange County’s Department of Arts and Cultural Affairs for construction of Oakland’s very own Art and History Center! It will be built on Tubb Street where the “little white house” once stood, and will incorporate the existing Grace Park structure in its design. The old house was beyond repair and did not have any historical significance. In addition to the historical exhibits, this beautiful facility will serve many other practical purposes such as children’s arts and music programming, space for a coffee/ice cream shop/concession, and will also provide much needed public restrooms along this section of the West Orange Trail. Town Commissioner, Joseph McMullen and Public Works Director, Mike Parker have led this project and it will be a great addition to Oakland. The design is nearly complete and construction will likely begin in April of this year.

Coalition of Churches

The Coalition of Churches continues to do good work and the Town supports their efforts in kind and appreciates this wonderful group of members.

We continued our Thanksgiving dinner program, where in conjunction with the OACS and businesses who make donations, we were able to provide full Thanksgiving dinners including turkey, the fixings and pie for desert for more than fifteen families this year.

Website

We have implemented a new Town-wide website that provides the capability for regular updating and notifications to residents of Town information. We also have a Town of Oakland Facebook page. I encourage you to check these online tools for accurate information regarding the Town.

Habitat for Humanity

We currently have 15 Habitat for Humanity homes, the most in West Orange County.

Home at Last

We are the proud home to all six Home at Last homes for wounded war veterans with a seventh home in progress and an eighth that will be underway soon.

Oakland Nature Preserve

I believe this is one of the finest legacies we will leave to generations to come.

We continue provide programing that links science education between the Charter School and the Nature Preserve on Wednesdays that began originally as a pilot project with the Florida Department of Education. This has resulted in greatly improved student testing scores in science as well as knowledge of environmental education for our teachers. ONP’s Summer Camp program is thriving and its educational programs to other schools and groups is increasing. Environmental Tours and Presentations have grown and a Kayaking Experience on Lake Apopka has been instituted.

Our visitor numbers are steadily increasing every year!

Police

We continue to provide the Oakland Partners program, which is designed to ensure contact each day between the PD and those residents who sign up. If the PD doesn’t hear from the resident by noon, they call them. If there is no answer, the PD responds to their residence to check on them. There is no cost to the participating residents.

The Police department also performs vacation house checks for residents when are away from home. Just like Oakland Partners, you can sign up to have this done on the Town web site or at the police department.

This year the police department held our 6th annual Christmas toy drive, collecting hundreds of toys, which were distributed to families in need.

 Our officers provide proactive patrol on every street in Town at least twice per day, as well as conducting a park and walk of our charter school each day it is in session.

The Town continues to enjoy one of the lowest number of criminal incidents in our area.

Budget

As matter of law our budgets must be balanced every year and are also audited yearly for compliance, accuracy and approved financial processes both in Town and at the school.

Our Budgeting process increasingly involves rigorous involvement of Department Heads in development and monitoring to insure maximum efficiency and positive impact to citizens. This includes monthly status-review reports to Department Heads and to the Commission.

We have an ‘enterprise fund’ approach for our rental facilities to provide their maintenance and operation through funds from rental revenues rather than from the Town General Fund. This applies to the Town Meeting Hall, Post Office, Historic Town Hall, Parks and the Oakland Nature Preserve Environmental Education Center.

Oakland Avenue Charter School

We pride ourselves in operating a school that is progressive and offers parents an alternative to public or private schools.

OACS earned a school grade of a B for the 2015-2016 school year. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of our students (grades 3-5) earned proficiency level of higher in English Language Arts (ELA). Sixty seven percent (67%) of our students (grades 3-5) earned proficiency in Mathematics and 72% of our fifth grade students earned proficiency level in Science. Overall we earned 57% of the total possible points for school grade; 62% achieves a school grade of an A.

Our improvement from 2014-2015 to 2015-2016 school year earned recognition from Governor Scott for being ranked 142 out of 3196 in English Language Arts and 139 out of 3197 in Mathematics. Our overall rank in all areas including ELA, Mathematics and Science achievement levels ranked our school at 454 out of nearly 3300 school state wide. We are ranked 40 out of 477 charter school statewide as well for our improvements from 2014-2015 to 2015-2016 school year.

Our school is committed to the idea of community. As a community school, OACS aims to give back to the surrounding area for their support of our school. Last year 100% of our classroom participated in community outreach programs which included, visits to local retirement homes, giving care packages to our first local first responders, and a beautification project of our very own West Side Park. OACS donated more than $1300 dollars to non-profit organizations and charities including Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Arnold Palmer, Policy Unity, and Oakland Nature Preserve through our non-uniform day collections.

OACS prides itself on its partnership with Oakland Nature Preserve through weekly student trips for environmental learning and school staff membership in ONP Education committees.

Infrastructure – Hardware and Software and Utilities

Infrastructure of various kinds is necessary to ensure that operations and services are provided as required to meet citizen and customer needs. These provide direct services to residents and include:

Stormwater

Stormwater is something most people only think about when it rains. Here in Oakland, we are fortunate to have only a few areas where flooding can be an issue, but we, like everyone else who lives in Florida, knows how precious our water resources really are. During the past two years, much effort has taken place to relieve or eliminate flood issues. The small things, such as pipe and culvert cleaning, restoration of ditches and swales, and repair of existing structures, were not noticeable changes for residents. The larger tasks, such as cleaning and restoring flow to the debris and vegetation choked Motamassek Canal was very visible. Together, they make a big difference!

The treatment of stormwater runoff is just as important to all of us as well. During those same two years, new treatment swales were installed in several areas of Town, with the largest to date being in Speer Park. The new earthen berms not only provide treatment, but also serve to reduce erosion.

As exciting as all that stuff was, the best “stormwater news” news came in June 2016. After repeated attempts by Public Works staff to secure at least some level of grant funding for stormwater needs, the Town was finally awarded a whopping $454,000.00!! It was the result of 2 different grant applications….one was Federal (EPA), and the other State (St Johns). In conjunction with funding from the Town, The grants will be used for constructing Phase 1 of the Mid-Town Drainage Project. A contractor has been selected and the first shovels of earth will turn in about 30 days. Hopefully, we will have similar news about Phase 2 of the project at the next State Of The Town Address!

Additional initiatives are in the works which target stormwater pollution prevention. They are primarily driven by State mandates and you can learn more about them by visiting the Public Works webpage. Look for the NPDES Program.

Water

The Town’s water system has never been in better shape! Just over 2 years ago, improvements were put into operation that provided far greater system reliability, and stabilized pressures in all areas of the Town. The new and improved facilities have operated virtually without fail, even when Hurricane Matthew knocked out the power for 16 hours!

The project also expanded our reserve water capacity from 250,000 gallons to 750,000 gallons. The system was “put to the test” during the recent warehouse fire on Hwy 50. Since Lake County or Clermont didn’t have any fire hydrants in the immediate area, the responding firefighters utilized ours. For nearly 2 hours, our system delivered water through 2 hydrants, one of which was nearly a 3rd of a mile away from the fire. At the peak of the fire, the water plant was pushing out 2500 gallons per minute and still had the ability to do more.

The improvements we made in 2014, also allowed us to implement the irrigation schedules set forth by the St John’s Water Management District. Prior to this, the capacity and pressure limitations we experienced would not allow us to meet the Town’s irrigation demands. That is no longer the case.

Other water system improvements that have occurred in the past few years include pipe and valve replacements in specific areas, installation of updated telemetry equipment to support our metering operations, and installation of new pipelines that will enhance system reliability and improve water quality in outlying areas.

Conservation of our drinking water supply is extremely important to us. In the past few years the Town has taken several measures that will further conserve this precious resource. We enacted a tiered water rate structure in an effort to reduce wasteful practices. We have provided educational material to our customers through direct mailings, public events, and our website. And at various times, we have given out “low-flow” showerheads to our customers. But I believe the biggest “bang” in conserving our drinking water is yet to come. Right now, Town staff are working hard on developing an alternative source for irrigation water. It may come from harvested stormwater…it may come from Lake Apopka… or it may come from lower levels of the Floridian Aquifer.

Sewer and Economic Development on HWY 50

The state requires that we have a comprehensive plan filed with them and any changes to property use must be approved at the state level. Our comprehensive plan has not changed significantly in many years. We are also required to provide for different land uses within the Town. These uses must all be compatible with the overall plan.

Growth is inevitable and we knew that without sewer on HWY 50 we would never attract the kinds of businesses that would be desirable and we would in fact attract businesses that would not fit into Oakland’s identity without a sewer system. Sewer is better for the environment and we strongly believe that this will be a mandate by the state in the future, and note most mandates from the state are unfunded. With this in mind we:

Conducted visioning sessions with Oakland residents for feedback on a vision of HWY 50; five major development sites were identified with proposed and compatible land uses for each area.

Crafted and passed gateway corridor ordinances to support the vision; All major development in the Gateway must be reviewed and approved by the Town Commission.

Updated both the Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Code to insure quality development.

Secured $1,250,000.00 in funding from the State legislature to assist in constructing the main lift station and force main. We will continue to pursue funding from the state this year.

Conducted analyses of transportation systems, particularly in the SR 50 corridor, to ensure maintenance of levels of service with development. As part of this analyses we committed to maintaining Oakland Ave as a scenic byway. There are some provisions for center turning but not for a four lane road.

Secured the right of way for Motomassek Street and secured transfer of the Remington Road right of way from Orange County and the Turnpike Authority.

Coming improvements for traffic will include a connecting roadway between Oakland Avenue and Hwy 50 at Motomassek , and construction of a traffic roundabout at Oakland Avenue and old Hwy 50. These improvements are paid for from impact fees and developer contributions…. not taxes.

We have also retained a designer with much experience to help us with the design of new projects.

ARB Board

The ARB board was formed as a part of the visioning that we conducted for the coming growth on Hwy 50. Member makeup of the board includes residents at large, and residents with a required background in architecture, construction and engineering. The purpose of this board is to look at proposed commercial development to ensure it meets the look and feel of Oakland.

As new projects come in, they will follow the Gateway Corridor standards which cover all of SR 50 and Oakland Avenue.

Staff and our designer works with the requestor until the project meets our ordinances and requirements-all property owners have rights to improve their property based on zoning and ordinances. This is the law.

If it is commercial and/or major residential, the ARB will meet to consider the building design. Planning and Zoning will meet to consider the project’s site plan and site design and then when ready will pass the request. Town Commission will meet to consider the final request for the project. Town Commission does not meet with developers or discuss our POV on projects outside of public meetings. All of the above is subject to Sunshine law, public records law and advertisement law.

Preparing for the Future –

We will continue to pursue fulfillment of the objectives noted in the opening summary. As the recession is behind us we expect to be able to make even more gains in our community. This will include:

Continued investment in services such as the establishment of a more robust recreation function (including the Arts), more connectivity to our eco offerings, WO trail, ONP the Charter School and Town.

Increased utilization of technology for providing information and participation for residents, elected officials and staff.

As commercial development occurs on SR 50 and expands our tax base, we would like to reduce the tax burden on our residential properties.

Develop a program to add a middle school to the Town.

Establish a storm water utility.

I know that some of the change that has begun to come to Oakland is hard for all of us that are so proud and protective of this Town. I will also tell you that there is no one working harder to do the right things for this Town than all of the residents that serve on boards including the Commission and our staff. The time and the talents we have here are just amazing to me. I encourage all of you to take the time to become educated on the facts of what is happening, attend meetings, volunteer your time and participate effectively to help ensure that we consider all our options and respect each other as we move forward towards the future. The good news of this is that we are living in a vibrant community that people want to be a part of.

As you can tell I have love and pride for this small Town I have called home for more than 26 years. Again it is the residents here who make this Town what it is by volunteering their time and talents. We have many to thank for that, from our boards, to the Charter review committee, the Coalition of Churches and Dennis’s “Kitchen Cabinet”. The Town staff that includes everyone at the Charter School, Police Department, Public Works and Town Hall they are a hardworking, dedicated professional group of people!

I appreciate your time and attention and thank you for your support of the Town!


State of the town

Click below to download the Town of Oakland's State of the Town and/or PowerPoint Presentation