published: Sunday, October 21, 2012
Fisher contract on BOCC agenda
By BARRY FOSTER
SEBRING - It should be a jam-packed meeting Tuesday evening as Highlands County commissioners consider a contract to hire Interim County Administrator June Fisher to that post full time, again take up the subject of county-assisted housing and hear a presentation on a major television production taking place in Lake Placid.
Highlands County commission chairman Jack Richie has indicated published reports last week detailing a new county administrator contract may have been pre-mature. Richie, who was assigned to oversee negotiations with Fisher, said that an agreement was reached Friday morning - but the salary figure and an accompanying compensation package will be different than published numbers.
Richie said the entire package won't be available to the public until Monday.
"It's in the hands of the attorney now," he said. "We wanted to make sure it was laid out the way Rick Helms' contract was laid out so it would be easy for commissioners to compare them side by side."
Attorney for the Highlands County Board of County Commission, Ross MacBeth, was asked to participate on the negotiating team with Fisher. He reportedly is the one going over and preparing the contract.
Fisher has been serving as interim county administrator since the abrupt termination of her predecessor - Rick Helms. Helms also was vaulted into the post when his predecessor - Michael Wright - was abruptly let go.
Highlands County commissioners earlier this month voted to offer the job to Fisher without considering other candidates
As part of their meeting, commissioners also are slated to hear a presentation on the Local Housing Assistance Program. A memo from Fisher indicates a number of recommended changes in the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program would increase revenue and interest in the program, which would allow "many more clients to be served" in the county.
It was in March of last year that county commissioners turned back more than $1 million in funds for assisted housing from the Federal Stimulus Act, administered through the Community Redevelopment Block Grants. Fisher, who was the county's services director at the time, had pushed the idea for revamping foreclosed homes. Only commissioner Greg Harris voted to go after the funding. Commissioners had been dismayed over repeated last-minute requests from staff indicating that if they could not get immediate approval, programs would fail or fall through the cracks.
In July of 2011, commissioners voted to give up the leadership of a five county grant consortium - turning that role over to Hendry County. Later, Human Services Director Mary Foy retired and the housing authority board went all but dormant.
When asked last week if Highlands County was getting back into the subsidized housing business, Richie responded, "The county's housing authority is down to one person if that tells you anything."
That one person is housing program specialist Lucy Castillo.
However, it appears the program is not quite dead. In July, commissioners proclaimed that they never said they wanted to stop subsidizing housing in the county, only that they wanted to "get out of the free housing business." With that they agreed to have a workshop on the matter.
At Tuesday night's meeting, commissioners will hear a pitch on a "Technical and Clarifying Program", which purportedly would improve the SHIP program by revising criteria for participants, increase the home buyers participation and add an interest rate to the loan. Similar changes reportedly would come with an Emergency Home Repair Program with provisions that would decrease the amounts of money allocated for repairs and decrease the amount of years for the loan.
In other action, commissioners are slated to hear about a major television production slated to be shot in Lake Placid. The program is entitled Major League Fishing and is a staple of the Outdoor Channel. The program is described as a made-for-television tournament series that highlights the fierce competition found in competitive bass fishing, with more emphasis on personalities, the struggles, the strategies, the conflicts and the emotions of the anglers.
Representatives of the program reportedly were with Highlands County Tourist Development Commission Executive Director John Scherlacher late last week surveying the area.
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