Mandatory Burn Ban Enacted for Unincorporated Lake County

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altTAVARES — With unusually dry conditions continuing to increase wildfire probability, the Lake County Department of Public Safety enacted a countywide burn ban today, in accordance with County Code 10.5-75.

According to John Jolliff, Director/Fire Chief for the Department of Public Safety, Lake County's Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) indicates 64% of the County is above 500, and it has been consistently over 500 for more than three weeks. The mandatory burn ban affects all of unincorporated Lake County, and shall remain in effect until further notice. Any burning within unincorporated Lake County will be in violation and will be considered a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a 60-day imprisonment and up to a $500 fine.

The ban prohibits all outdoor burning that has not been specifically permitted by the Florida Division of Forestry. This includes burning yard waste, bon fires and open-pit campfires on private or County property. Any outdoor campfire for cooking or heat should be within an approved fire container or enclosure, such as a grill or outdoor fireplace, rather than an open campfire.

Although the use of gas and charcoal grills are permitted, the public is encouraged to keep a constant watch for any stray sparks or embers while cooking outdoors. Additionally, due to the potential for accidental ignitions, the use of motorized equipment such as ATVs and dirt bikes are not suggested during times of high wildfire risk. Lawnmowers can also pose accidental ignition risks.

One of the more effective ways to reduce the possibility of wildfires is to clear underbrush or debris blown down in storms. These dry plants and vegetation create more fuel for wildfires. Wildfire prevention tips include:

•    Prune all branches around the residence to a height of 8 to 10 feet. Keep trees adjacent to buildings free of dead or dying limbs and moss.
•    Remove all dead limbs, needles and debris from rain gutters.
•    Avoid open burning completely, especially during this dry season.
•    Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish.
•    Rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs. Clear flammable vegetation from around and under structures.
•    Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
•    Store flammable materials in approved safety cans.
•    Keep items available that can be used as fire tools, such as a rake, handsaw, chainsaw, bucket and shovel.
•    Never throw a lighted cigarette from the window of a vehicle or walk off and leave a burning cigarette.

For more information about wildfire prevention, call the Lake County Department of Public Safety at (352) 343-9458.

Partnership between Fire Rescue and Sheriff’s Office Bolsters Emergency Response on Waterways

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TAVARES — If an emergency occurs on Lake County’s heavily traveled lakes and rivers during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a partnership between the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the Lake County Department of Public Safety, Fire Rescue Division, is prepared to respond quickly and effectively.

Similar to the past several years, paramedics from the Lake County Fire Rescue Division will partner with Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies in responding to emergencies occurring on the County’s most–used waterways during the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Beginning Saturday, May 28th and ending Monday, May 30th, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., a Lake County Fire Rescue Firefighter/Paramedic will be stationed on each of three Sheriff’s Office vessels patrolling the Harris Chain of Lakes, St. Johns River and Silver Glen Springs. Onboard Paramedics will be equipped with life-saving equipment, including a cardiac monitor and an oxygen tank.

“We’re happy to be teaming up with the Sheriff’s Office again to help promote safety on our waterways during the holiday,” said John Jolliff, Lake County Director of Public Safety/Fire Chief. “The ultimate goal is to better serve and protect the citizens and visitors of Lake County, and this partnership does just that.”


Lake County Government Offices to Close for Memorial Day Holiday

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altTAVARES— All offices of the Lake County Board of County Commissioners, Clerk of Courts, Property Appraiser, Supervisor of Elections and Tax Collector will be closed Monday, May 30th in observance of Memorial Day.

The following Lake County Library System libraries will also be closed May 30th and will reopen on Tuesday, May 31st, with regularly scheduled hours:

•    Astor County Library, 54905 Alco Road, Astor
•    Cagan Crossings Community Library, 16729 Cagan Oaks, Clermont
•    City of Tavares Public Library, 314 N. New Hampshire Ave., Tavares
•    Cooper Memorial Library, 2525 Oakley Seaver Drive, Clermont
•    East Lake County Library, 31340 County Road 437, Sorrento
•    Helen Lehmann Memorial Library, 17435 Fifth St., Montverde
•    Lady Lake Public Library, 225 W. Guava St., Lady Lake
•    Leesburg Public Library, 100 E. Main St., Leesburg
•    Marianne Beck Memorial Library, 112 W. Central Ave., Howey-in-the-Hills
•    Marion Baysinger Memorial County Library, 756 W. Broad St., Groveland
•    Minneola Schoolhouse Library, 100 S. Main St., Minneola
•    Paisley County Library, 24954 County Road 42, Paisley
•    Umatilla Public Library, 412 Hatfield Drive, Umatilla
•    W.T. Bland Public Library, 1995 N. Donnelly St., Mount Dora

The Fruitland Park Library, located at 205 W. Berckman St. will close on Saturday, May 28th and Monday, May 30th, and will reopen on Tuesday, May 31st with normal operating hours.

The Lake County Department of Public Works, Solid Waste customer service and administrative offices will be closed May 30th. The Lake County Central Solid Waste Facility, located at 13130 County Landfill Road in Tavares will also be closed, with hours of operation resuming on Tuesday, May 31st. All residential garbage and recycling collection for unincorporated Lake County will not be collected on May 30th, but will resume on the next scheduled date for garbage and recycling collection. All drop-off centers will be closed as normally scheduled.

LakeXpress, Lake County’s public transportation service, will not operate on May 30th. For more information about LakeXpress, or to view a bus schedule, call (352) 326-8637 or log on to www.RideLakeXpress.com.

Update from May 23rd Meeting of Lake County School Board

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altTAVARES — The Lake County School Board continued efforts at its regularly scheduled meeting on May 23rd to pare down its budget for the 2011-2012 school year. The School Board unanimously approved two measures to trim nearly three quarters of a million dollars from the budget.

In an effort to reduce operating costs during the summer, the School Board approved the District officially closing for the week of July 4th through July 8th. Fourth of July is a paid holiday for 12-month employees. During the balance of the week, employees will be allowed to use up to 32 hours of annual or personal leave. The closure is expected to generate an operational cost savings in utilities and gas of about $145,000.

In addition, the School Board approved closing all elementary and middle schools for the summer, except for four elementary schools operating summer school and ELC (Sawgrass Bay Elementary, Lost Lake Elementary, Rimes Early Learning & Literacy Center and Tavares Elementary).

During the shutdown, the air conditioning systems in the schools will be adjusted to provide enough air to maintain proper humidity to ensure a healthy environment. The school staff that normally works over the summer would relocate to the feeder high school. By combining staff at the high schools, the District is estimating a $600,000 savings in utility costs while still meeting all of the needs for the summer activities.

In other business:

•    The School Board reviewed proposed revisions to the dress code policy. The School Board has discussed making changes to the dress code for several months. District staff had prepared some modifications to the policy for School Board review and scheduled a series of informational meetings to help educate parents, guardians and students about the proposed changes. The School Board decided not to continue with the informational meetings or proposed dress code revisions. The Board is scheduled to consider the Code of Student Conduct & Policy Guide for its second reading on June 13th.

•    The School Board recognized 11 schools that reached a 90 to 100 percent participation in the Superintendent’s Reading Challenge for the 2010-2011 school year. This initiative took place from September 2010 until March 2, 2011 (Read Across America Day). During this time, Lake County students read a total of 463,570 books. This surpassed the number of books read during the 2009-2010 school year by about 125,000 books.

Ten elementary schools had 90 to 100 percent participation by their students. The schools that met this goal will receive a set of books for their libraries. These schools are: Astatula Elementary, Clermont Elementary, Eustis Elementary, Eustis Heights Elementary, Groveland Elementary, Lost Lake Elementary, Round Lake Elementary, Spring Creek Elementary, Tavares Elementary and Treadway Elementary. Umatilla High had 100 percent participation.


Timing is Right for Traffic Light Synchronization

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altTAVARES — The Lake County Department of Public Works will begin the process this week of rolling out some improvements to the traffic light synchronization timing on several roads in the Golden Triangle area of the County. The changes will help improve traffic flow through major intersections by reducing delays and wait times at traffic signals in an effort to reduce fossil-fuel emissions.

Tindale-Oliver & Associates, Inc. (TOA) assisted County staff with pinpointing target areas within the County that can benefit by retiming of the traffic lights. TOA will also be working with County staff on implementing the changes. Funding for the study and roll-out of the changes was made available through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant* program.

“The goal of the traffic light retiming is to improve traffic flow by reducing the number of stops motorists experience along the mainline of travel,” said Noble Olasimbo, Engineer, Lake County Department of Public Works. “Our hope is that by reducing the delay at these signalized intersections, there will be a reduction in fossil-fuel emissions over time.”

The improvements to be deployed this week are focused on the U.S. Highway 441/State Road 19/County Road 500A “triangle” area, and include:
•    U.S. Highway 441 from Lakeshore Blvd. to Lake Eustis Drive
•    State Road 19 from Dead River Road to U.S. Highway 441
•    County Road 500A from U.S. Highway 441 to County Road 19A
•    U.S. Highway 441 from College Drive to County Road 473 (near Lake-Sumter Community College)

For more information on the traffic light synchronization project, contact the Department of Public Works, Engineering Division at (352) 483-9092.

This work was made possible through the support of the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy under Award Number DE-EE0000786.
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