BOARD OF SUPERVISORS MEETING MINUTES
MEETING DATE: 4/26/2022
Meeting Location: HSWCD Conf. Room – Bert Harris Center
FINAL – Approved 5/17/2022
Recorded by: Susie Bishop
MEETING SCHEDULED START: 3:00 P.M. CALL TO ORDER: @ 3:03 P.M.
PUBLIC MEETING ANNOUNCEMENT READ BY CHAIRMAN
John Causey Chairman Highlands Soil & Water Conservation District
Steve Smith Vice-Chair Highlands Soil & Water Conservation District
Doug Deen Sec./Treasurer Highlands Soil & Water Conservation District
Pam Fentress Supervisor Highlands Soil & Water Conservation District
T.J. Wohl Supervisor Highlands Soil & Water Conservation District
Susie Bishop Ex. Director Highlands Soil & Water Conservation District
Kayla Nickerson BMP Tech Highlands Soil & Water Conservation District
Carlos Torres District Cons. USDA- NRCS
I. Welcome & Introductions
II. Approval of Agenda
Motion to accept Agenda as presented (Fentress/Smith) Unanimous approval.
III. Approval of Meeting Minutes – March 15, 2022
a. Motion to approve minutes as presented. (Fentress/Wohl). Unanimous approval.
IV. Financial Activity
a. Overview & Approval of Financial Reports- March 2022 – Bishop reviewed the
bank statements and financial reports. Fentress shared concerns regarding the total amount of funds held by the District and the large payments to cost share projects. Bishop confirmed the funds in the BMP & FCO accounts are not accessible to the District making the total of assets as of March 31, 2022 at $1,139,531.76 held in 3 CDs and the General Fund bank account. Bishop will review the CD terms and interest rates with the banks and report back to the Board. Bishop explained the cost share projects are at the discretion of FDACS-OAWP leadership. The District has no authority to determine where cost share dollars are invested, the contract responsibilities include employment of technicians, provision of administration of the contract funds and completion of an annual financial audit. The District does have sole authority to manage the General Funds within the boundaries of law for use of public funds. With no further questions being asked motion made to approve financial reports as presented (Smith/Wohl) Unanimous approval.
V. Agency Partner Updates
a. FDACS & MIL – Bishop reported the MIL is on schedule with deliverables.
The MIL Manager has asked for consideration of purchasing a side-by-side vehicle and trailer for work in the citrus groves. Due to closer planting of trees it is difficult for them to perform their evaluations using a full size truck. Bishop and the MIL will present purchasing options at the May meeting. Nickerson & Deuberry reported on their progress with IVs and cost share projects. The Department is close to completing all IVs in the critical BMAP areas. And completion of cost share projects is being concentrated on from now until the end of June.
b. NRCS – Torres was not present to give a report. Bishop reported she and Jeff
Schmidt have completed the review and revisions of the MOA with USDA-NRCS. Once final version is presented it will be executed by Dr. Causey.
c. HCBCC – Commissioner Kirouac was not present to give a report.
VI Old Business
a. HB 783/SB 1078- Updates – Bishop distributed questions she had asked FDACS- OAWP as follow up to the statewide call held last week. It is confirmed all current Supervisors will need to qualify to run for election in the November 2022 Election. Qualifying week is June 13 – 17, Noon to Noon. For the 2022 Election all will be qualifying and serving at large. The determination is still unanswered as to if Supervisors will need to run in future Elections aligned with the County Commissioner District boundaries. As the HSWCD Board sits now there is only one District not represented, District 5 and two current Supervisors represent District 4. Fentress stated she will not seek re-election in November 2022. Smith, Wohl & Causey intend to file for the November 2022 Election. Deen was absent, Bishop will contact him to advise him of requirements.
b. SWCDs Statewide – For informational purposes only, Bishop distributed an
unaudited spreadsheet she created listing the activity of all Districts in the State
reflecting contracts held with FDACS-OAWP, membership in AFCD, number of
Supervisors and staffing. The results show a large number of inactive Districts.
VII New Business
a. Climate Smart Program – Per a request by Fentress to seek funds via a new
Climate Smart Grant Program, Bishop presented the findings regarding the new
program being offered through USDA. Having completed research and a meeting
with USDA-NRCS State Conservationist Juan Hernandez, Bishop concluded it would be difficult for HSWCD to apply due to limited staff and vastness of the development of a project along with implementation and management of the project. This program is designed for very large projects to be created and managed fully by applicant. Some applicants to date include UF at $ 100 million and similar applications from FAMU, GA & AL Universities with large staffs. The project must develop means for carbon sequestration and directly impact communities. It is not a traditional cost share opportunity for individual farmers. At the time of the meeting Bishop held with Hernandez it was predicted at least ½ billion dollars will be requested from Florida alone and this is a nation-wide program. Bishop asked for direction from the Board about proceeding with application. Consensus was not to proceed.
b. Exit Strategy Discussion – Causey and Bishop opened the floor for discussion
regarding a strategy for dissolving the District in the event future legislation required abolishment. Various strategies were discussed with an idea presented by Fentress to continue providing services to ag producers, seeking funding from new Federal Grant programs for a variety of programs and provide a broad range of assistance to farmers. Funds in the District’s General Fund are public dollars and can’t legally be distributed to a private or non-profit entity. Causey recommended the development of an exit plan be tabled until anticipated legislation becomes law. Wohl agreed stating the sitting Board should make these decisions once legislation is passed. Consensus was to table development of an exit plan for the District.
VIII. Executive Director’s Report
-Bishop reported the annual audit is still in process and she is requesting it be
completed and presented at the May meeting.
-Bishop reported on March meeting action items completed.
-CFRPC has requested the District partner with them to sponsor and organize the 2nd Land Expo to be held on June 7, 2022 at the Bert Harris Center. Consensus was for District to participate and provide funding for lunch.
-Bishop reported a request for her to serve on an advisory committee with UF-
IFAS (Del Bottcher) to participate in a FDACS-OAWP contract to develop tools for ag producers to use in the implementation verification process.
-Bishop did not attend the Lay of the Land Conference due to conflict with the
Statewide FDACS-OAWP meeting to discuss SB 1078 and surgery date for her husband.
IX. Citizens Not on the Agenda – None
X. Supervisor Comments
Fentress – Reported the Governor recently endorsed Wilton Simpson for Commissioner of Agriculture. Simpson’s opponent, Chuck Nadd is publicly blaming farmers for polluted water issues. There is a right to clean & healthy waters campaign forming for next year’s legislative session and many groups still feel agriculture is the cause of concerns about quality of water in the state.
Smith – None
Wohl – None
Causey – Concerns were expressed about employee retention amid the ongoing discussion about potential abolishment of SWCDs statewide. Bishop shared most of the technicians would be picked up by FDACS-OAWP because the work would still need to be completed. The Admin. staff of SWCDs will be more greatly affected.
Meeting Adjourned at 4:15 p.m.