Homeowners that experienced flooding of their homes during Hurricane Ian (September 2022) are encouraged to contact us about possible funding from the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) for flood mitigation projects that include either:
Elevation of flood Prone Homes (New finish floor is lifted 1.5ft above Base Flood Elevation (BFE)). Homeowners with elevated homes will need FEMA-sponsored Flood Insurance for the remaining of the structure’s life. However, flood insurance is not required to apply for the grant.
Acquisition and demolition of flood-prone homes The affected homes will be purchased by the City and will be demolished soon thereafter. No new structures will ever be allowed to be constructed on those parcels.
Please note that this opportunity is completely voluntary. If eligible to submit to FEMA, the City will submit a Hazard Mitigation Grant Program(HMGP) application to the Florida Division of Emergency Management for funding consideration under the Hurricane Ian disaster to include the properties of interested homeowners under the elevation and acquisition/demolition categories.
FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program Community Workshop
I have proposed at the Commission Meeting on January 8, 2023; that we should consider implementing a Video Live streaming meeting. On behalf of the residents, I believe this is important because it provides transparency and accessibility to the public. By live streaming, citizens can stay informed about the actions and decisions being made by their elected officials and can easily access this information from the comfort of their own homes. This also ensures accountability and open communication between the government and its constituents, allowing for greater civic engagement and a more democratic society.
A LIVE STREAM OF THE WINTER SPRINGS COMMISSION MEETINGS will increase participation:
People with disabilities will have even greater access to meetings.
The ability to “zoom in” from virtually anywhere minutes before a meeting alleviates the need to make the long drive home from work.
Citizens with children can now participate more effectively from home, instead of having to find childcare in order to physically attend a public meeting.
Meetings are running 4-5 hours long.
This is not fair to our community members, who are just there for that one item.
Avoid making residents wait for hours to speak.
Respecting Time is a form of Respect.
Most Important Issues are at the End of the Meetings
Creates more Transparency.
Our neighboring cities are using VISUAL Video for their city commission meetings.
At the urging of state Sen. Jason Brodeur, Florida lawmakers ordered an audit of Winter Springs after residents have long raised concerns about the operation of the city’s water and wastewater systems, a massive sewage spill into a neighborhood pond and allegations of public documents being withheld.
But recently elected Mayor Kevin McCann called the allegations a political witch hunt and blasted members of the state Legislature’s Joint Legislative Auditing Committee for not alerting city leaders of the probe.
“These are paid political operatives that are putting this stuff forward,” McCann said last week during the committee hearing in Tallahassee. “We’re financially sound, and they won’t find anything here. … This is a pure weaponizing of this committee.”
Brodeur, who grew up in Winter Springs, said nearly all the complaints he receives from residents in his district pertain to Winter Springs’ operations in City Hall. An operational audit conducted by the state’s auditor general over the next several months, Brodeur said, would take a hard look at the Seminole County city.
“With a city of 38,000 people, clearly everything is personal,” said Brodeur, a Republican from Sanford. “Everyone knows everyone. So all I would like … is to have a third party, independent audit, say: ‘What are they doing? Are the contracts kosher?’ … I just want to get to the bottom of it. If some of this stuff is untrue, I want to say that an independent, third party came in and we looked at it, and it’s not true. So go pound sand. But if it is true, we want a corrective action plan.”
Before voting unanimously for the audit, committee members said the probe could take up to 18 months to complete.
Irritated, McCann pointed out that the audit’s completion would be timed as the city’s 2024 election season begins to heat up, giving political fuel to his opponents.
State Sen. Jason Pizzo, the committee’s chair, shot back at McCann during the contentious hearing, saying he aims to have the audit completed quickly and it is not political.
“If somebody is screwing with you, and this is a vendetta, we’re going to find out,” said Pizzo, a Democrat from North Miami Beach. “If somebody is out to get you, I’ll get ‘em. You understand what I’m saying? If you have larceny in your heart, you’re going to hate me. If you don’t, you’re going to love me. … I’m really a fair person.”
The audit would take a look at Winter Springs’ contract with Veolia Water North America for its water and wastewater operations, and whether the city is complying with its state-issued water consumptive use permit.
It also would examine the city’s policies on public records requests, and whether officials are complying with Florida’s Sunshine Law.
The audit also would evaluate the city’s ethics and fraud policies and Winter Springs’ code of conduct.
The auditor general does not have enforcement authority, Pizzo said. Rather, it can refer its findings to the State Attorney’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or the state’s ethics committee.
In 2011, Winter Springs launched construction of a reclaimed water plant for $3.5 million. Two years later, it approved $6.3 million in upgrades to its potable water system. The city is currently replacing its aging wastewater plants at a cost of over $70 million.
Then, in 2019, Winter Springs contracted with Veolia to manage the city’s water, wastewater, stormwater and reclaimed water services after several sewage spills into water bodies and high levels of chlorine were detected in the drinking water.
“They tried to ram it through,” Brodeur said of the Veolia contract.
Winter Springs officials said at the time that Veolia is an international company with experience in managing and operating public water systems that would do a better job than the city’s short-staffed public works department.
In January 2021, a faulty valve caused up to 15,000 gallons of partially treated sewage to flow into a stormwater pond, killing hundreds of fish and causing a stink that lasted for weeks, according to the committee’s report.
The spillage led to the state’s Department of Environmental Regulation sending the city a warning letter that threatened Winter Springs with tens of thousands of dollars in fines if it did not comply with repairing its systems.
According to the state committee’s report, residents urging for the audit said city officials are underestimating the costs of replacing the water systems and are not being transparent in providing information.
Brodeur, as an example, noted that a city resident recently made a public records request regarding the costs of replacing the water treatment plant.
“He was told that it would be over $1,000 to answer his public records request,” Brodeur said to the legislative committee. “So somebody knows something, and doesn’t want anyone else to know.”
Brodeur pointed out that over the last three years, Winter Springs has lost a city manager, two police chiefs, a city clerk, two finance directors, two parks directors, two public works directors, three community development directors and two city engineers.
McCann was named mayor by Winter Springs commissioners in April 2021 after Charles Lacey, who served in that role for about a decade, resigned amid policy differences with other commissioners.
McCann was elected in the November general election, defeating candidates Mark Caruso and Brandon Morrisey.
At Thursday’s state committee hearing, McCann called the allegations “overwhelmingly, factually inaccurate” and said his city will comply with the audit.
“I am the new guy, and this is a bit overwhelming,” he said.
Jesse Phillips, president of the Winter Springs Community Association, which asked for the state probe, said in a written statement that his organization welcomed the audit and urged city officials to comply.
“The issues facing our city necessitate an independent review,” he said. “We need to stop the finger pointing and to understand how we got here and to find solutions to fix the problems affecting our health and livelihoods.”