Under Mayor Teresa Jacobs’ leadership and through solid economic growth and responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars that continue to support public safety, infrastructure, parks and pedestrian safety, Orange County continues to undergo transformational quality of life enhancements that will benefit the region for generations to come.
Tourist-Generated Tax Revenues (TDT) Support Venues and Sports Bid Fund
The impact of tourism throughout Orange County’s 13 municipalities has been remarkable. As a result of strong TDT revenues, a six percent tax on short-term lodging such as hotel rooms, Orange County has invested almost $650 million in the downtown venues during the past decade, resulting in the Amway Center, the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (DPC) and an essentially rebuilt Camping World Stadium.
In September 2016, Mayor Jacobs led the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) in supporting an additional $45 million of Tourist Development Tax (TDT) funding to complete the second and final phase of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, and to establish a sports bid fund in the initial amount of $5 million, with annual replenishment amounts of up to $2 million.
Mayor Jacobs also proposed a plan to significantly restructure TDT debt, which would allow the BCC the option of other spending priorities. After receiving strong support for Mayor Jacobs’ TDT plan from the hospitality industry and the Tourist Development Council, the BCC unanimously approved her three-part proposal on November 1, 2016. The approved plan is an efficient way to utilize TDT for the benefit of local residents and the community.
The additional $45 million in TDT funding for DPC allows for the completion of Phase 2, which has an expected grand opening of 2020. When completed, Phase 2 fulfills the DCP vision which has become one of the most-celebrated artistic centers in the nation since opening in 2014.
In March, Mayor Jacobs joined community leaders at DPC to celebrate the highly anticipated groundbreaking of the historic Phase 2 construction. The announcement ushered in a new era for local performers with the addition of the Steinmetz Hall and the Green Room.
The Steinmetz Hall will be a 1,700-seat acoustical theater that will be the future home of the Orlando Ballet, Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and Opera Orlando. The hall is named after Chuck Steinmetz and Margery Pabst Steinmetz, two local philanthropists who committed $12 million toward the project in 2015. The Green Room, funded by Joyce and Judson Green, will provide a large rehearsal room and performance space. Additionally, Phase 2 will include more lobby space at the Center.
The DPC features the 2,700-seat Walt Disney Theater, 300-seat Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater, Seneff Arts Plaza, Dr. Phillips Center Florida Hospital School of the Arts, the DeVos Family Room and other event rental spaces. The Dr. Phillips Center is a private non-profit, collaborating with the City of Orlando, Orange County, the State of Florida and generous donors.
Community and Strong Economy Highlighted at State of the County
Mayor Jacobs welcomed hundreds of citizens and community leaders to the 2017 State of the County address in April at I-Drive 360, home to the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye —the largest observation wheel on the East Coast.
Under Mayor Jacobs’ leadership and through solid economic growth and responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars that continue to support public safety, affordable housing, infrastructure, parks, pedestrian safety, road construction and transportation improvements, Orange County has undergone transformational quality-of-life enhancements that will benefit the region for generations to come.
In addition to providing an update on the strong state of Orange County’s economic and operational abilities, a significant part of Mayor Jacobs’ address was dedicated to a poignant remembrance of the 49 lives lost in the 2016 Pulse tragedy, the heartbreaking loss of two law enforcement officers in early 2017 and how the region’s culture of collaboration, compassion and confidence continues to be a beacon of light, hope and unity worldwide.
To further honor those lost, immediately following the end of the State of the County address, Pulse Nightclub owner Barbara Poma and audience members joined Mayor Jacobs on the I-Drive 360 Courtyard to take part in a worldwide peace and unity movement known as “Let’s All Connect.” With the help of "Let’s All Connect” founders Andrew Tisba and Manuel Frederick, hundreds of State of the County guests helped to form a giant heart-shaped figure that encompassed the entire Courtyard — the largest gathering to date of the global movement.
Orange County Parks and Recreation Plans Three New Properties
Mayor Jacobs and the Orange County Parks and Recreation Division celebrated the grand opening of Young Pine Community Park and the groundbreakings of two new additional park facilities — the East Orange District Park Recreation Center and the new Deputy Scott Pine Community Park in 2017.
In January, Mayor Jacobs and District 4 Commissioner Jennifer Thompson joined local residents at the grand opening of Young Pine Community Park, a new park that features an inclusive playground designed for children with disabilities. The playground in East Orange County includes braille signs for those who are visually impaired, ramps and swings for children in wheelchairs, and a quiet area for those who can become overwhelmed by noise and crowds. It is the first new park in Orange County and Central Florida to feature an inclusive playground that welcomes children of all ages and abilities. Additionally, the 61-acre park features a dog park, workout stations, walking trails, a kayak launch, a fishing pier and multipurpose fields.
In April, Mayor Jacobs, Commissioner Thompson, and District 5 Commissioner Emily Bonilla joined the Christmas community for the groundbreaking of the East Orange District Park Recreation Center. The 243-acre property is located approximately 2.7 miles west of the intersection of SR 50 and SR 520 in Christmas.
Part of the Recreation Center’s funding comes from $20 million of Orange County’s INVEST funds, combined with a grant from the State of Florida. The State of Florida Department of Economic Opportunity appropriated $1 million that will be combined with $1 million of Orange County’s INVEST funds to help build the 5,000-square-foot recreation center. Additionally, a $250,000 legislative appropriation will help construct a concession building and restrooms. The park will also have two soccer fields with lights and a parking area.
Mayor Jacobs’ INVEST initiative, announced in 2015, is one of the largest infrastructure programs in Orange County’s history. Known as INVEST in Our Home for Life, the $300 million investment program provides for affordable housing, public safety, infrastructure, parks, pedestrian safety, road construction and transportation improvements.
In May, the community also joined Mayor Jacobs, Orange County District 1 Commissioner Betsy VanderLey and Sheriff Jerry L. Demings at the groundbreaking of the Deputy Scott Pine Community Park in Windermere. The 19.5-acre park will have two multipurpose fields — one for the new Windermere High School stadium and one for recreational activities. The development will be overseen by Orange County Capital Projects and is expected to be completed in early 2018.
Funding for the park came from Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) and Orange County INVEST funds. Through INVEST, $3.7 million was allocated under former District 1 Commissioner S. Scott Boyd and $3.7 million was matched by OCPS. The remaining funds come from Orange County Parks and Recreation capital improvement program funds. The total construction cost for the project is $9.7 million.
In September 2015, the BCC unveiled roadway signs in honor of fallen hometown heroes Orange County Deputy Sheriff Jonathan Scott Pine and Windermere Police Officer Robert German. In 2014, both beloved officers tragically lost their lives to senseless acts of violence while in the line of duty.
Community Improvement and Prevention Strategies in Pine Hills
The Pine Hills Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) continues to focus on revitalizing the Pine Hills economy by strengthening local businesses and reducing crime. The Pine Hills NID was created by Orange County Government in December 2011 in response to a recommendation from the Pine Hills Business Redevelopment Task Force.
Beginning in January 2017, the Pine Hills NID began a yearlong campaign to spruce up the Pine Hills business corridor. “Spruce Up Pine Hills Week” was held in January and provided a variety of short- and long-term initiatives to improve the aesthetics of Pine Hills by eradicating litter and graffiti.
During a BCC work session in January, Sheriff Jerry L. Demings also provided the Board with an overview of crime throughout Orange County, including a specific update on Pine Hills, which has more than 60,000 residents. Among the findings, Sheriff Demings reported that in 2016, the overall crime rate in Orange County had declined by 3 percent compared to the previous year. The Sheriff also reported that Pine Hills has experienced a 67 percent increase in the homicide rate since 2012. A large majority of the homicide victims and suspects are under the age of 25, therefore a focus on youth in the area is a priority.
The Sheriff’s Office is implementing a four-pronged approach that includes prevention, prosecution, enforcement and intervention. Orange County plans to work with the Sheriff’s Office to help evaluate crime prevention strategies, including additional street lighting, security cameras and removing abandoned and condemned homes.
New Pine Hills Bike Trail Opened
Funded by Federal Enhancement dollars administrated by the Florida Department of Transportation, the 2.5-mile Pine Hills Trail was completed ahead of schedule in August. Pine Hills Trail is the third-most needed trail in Orange County’s Trails Master Plan. The trail will be a valued recreational asset to this high-density residential area, which has more than 60,000 residents.
Orange County also conducted the Pine Hills Road Pedestrian/Bicycle Safety Study, which extended from State Road 50 to Bonnie Brae Circle. The study evaluated barriers and challenges to safety and identified opportunities for implementing safety improvements along Pine Hills Road for people walking, bicycling, driving or taking the bus. A series of community meetings collected data and analysis in addition to feedback from a community survey.
Orange County Animal Services 2017 Adoption Numbers Skyrocket as Future Plans Take Shape
Orange County Animal Services (OCAS) celebrated another fiscal year of record-breaking adoption numbers with more than 8,348 homeless dogs and cats finding homes through the efforts of the shelter, volunteers and media partners who hosted adoption segments and shared images of available animals and promotions. The numbers are up from the previous fiscal year, when OCAS reported 7,842 adoptions. An additional 1,311 pets were taken in by rescue organizations that matched them with loving, forever homes.
In further support of OCAS, the BCC unanimously voted in February to approve a new ventilation system within the shelter and to move forward in discussions of a new state-of-the-art animal shelter that would replace the existing facility. The move came after it was determined that renovations and retrofitting the existing facility with air conditioning in the main dog kennel area was not feasible. The new ventilation project, completed just prior to the rising summer temperatures, helped to bring temperatures down, promoted better air circulation and protected hundreds of canines from the recent H3N2 strain of canine influenza that impacted the Central Florida area. Other projects include the renovation of the shelter’s cat building, which will be receiving an HVAC system, and new glass storefront doors to brighten the space with natural light. During Orange County’s Budget Sessions, the BCC moved to approve $4 million toward the planning, development and design of a new state-of-the-art animal shelter.
Mayor Jacobs and the BCC also made a special visit to OCAS to help garner interest and attention for the shelter’s Lake Walk expansion project. The Lake Walk program encourages volunteers and staff to take a shelter dog out for a stroll around a cleared path just outside the lake on OCAS property. The initiative was designed to promote exercise among dogs and their human friends. In addition to each taking a shelter dog out for a walk, Mayor Jacobs and the County Commissioners took a facility tour to explore the shelter’s renovations and upgrades.
Additionally, Orange County Animal Services veterinarian Dr. Leili Haas was honored by the Florida Animal Control Association and named Employee of the Year in 2017. She is one of three full-time veterinarians at Animal Services and is supported by a team of clinicians. Together they handle nearly 10,000 pet spay and neuter surgeries annually and care for the hundreds of shelter pets daily.
Black History Month Recognized in Orange County
Orange County Government hosted and took part in several community events in January and February to honor and commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Black History Month, which celebrates the nation’s African-American heritage.
Orange County celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. King by reflecting upon his timeless lessons of courage, service and sacrifice. Orange County continues to stand united and echo Dr. King's empowering message that, "Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
In remembering Dr. King's selfless commitment to defending human rights and equality, Orange County honored Dr. King's legacy of hope, compassion, freedom, liberty and opportunity for all by taking part in several community events in January and February, including the City of Orlando’s 2017 MLK Holiday Parade in downtown Orlando. The annual parade brings the community together to remember the courage, triumphs and teachings of Dr. King.
During a February BCC meeting, Mayor Jacobs presented a proclamation to the Black History Committee of Orange County (BHCOC) that recognized the month as Black History Month. Signed by Mayor Jacobs and all six District Commissioners, Black History Month was established to “encourage all citizens to learn about the history and celebrate the contributions African Americans have made to the world, to our country and to our local community.”
Continuing its annual tradition, Orange County held its Black History Month Luncheon in February, an event coordinated by the BHCOC. Citizens and employees gathered on the lawn of the Orange County Administration Center for the free event that included food vendors, live entertainment, artists and informational booths about services available throughout the County. Orange County and the BHCOC have worked together for many years to develop programs and activities to support the goals and achievements of the nation’s brave and beloved African-American civil rights and community leaders.
To conclude Black History Month, Mayor Jacobs and the BCC participated in the Eatonville MLK Parade. The event honors and recognizes achievements made by Dr. King and other distinguished African-American leaders in history.
Asian Pacific Heritage Month Recognized in Orange County
Mayor Jacobs and Orange County’s BCC recognized Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with a proclamation and a festive cultural celebration organized by employees and community partners held on the lawn of the Administration Center in May.
The Orange County Asian Committee (OCAC), an employee-based volunteer organization formed in 2012, coordinated the event, which is now in its fifth year. The 2017 event was the most highly attended event since its inception. OCAC’s goal is to promote and preserve the heritage and culture of Asian Americans, while forming partnerships throughout the community and building relationships with local and international governments.
The event included a children’s art exhibit, cultural performances and traditional Asian breakfast for all participants. Additionally, the winners of the student art contest were announced. The art was on display in the Orange County Administration Center lobby through the month of May.
Additionally, Orange County’s Renaissance Senior Center hosted the Taiwanese Melody Music Troupe. The capacity crowd was captivated by an inspiring cultural and musical performance.
Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrated in Orange County
Mayor Jacobs hosted a celebration in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs annually from September 15 through October 15. The celebration included the unveiling of a Hispanic art exhibition, cultural dance performances and Hispanic food. The Hispanic Heritage Committee of Greater Orange County (HHCGOC) and Orange County BCC joined with the community on the lawn of the Orange County Administration Center to acknowledge the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month on September 19, 2017. The event and proclamation honored the culture and traditions of the Hispanic community in Central Florida and recognized the contributions of Hispanic citizens in Orange County.
The organization also hosted the Mayor’s Cup Soccer Tournament in October at Young Pine Park. The free outdoor event featured musical performances, bounce houses, activities for children, vendors and food trucks. Winners of the soccer tournament were presented The Mayor’s Cup award during the trophy ceremony.
Orange County Prepared for 2017 Hurricane Season and Irma
Orange County's Office of Emergency Management encouraged residents to take steps to be prepared for the hurricane season during the 2017 Hurricane Expo held in June at the Orange County Parks and Recreation Magic Gym at South Econ Community Park. The free, one-day event offered preparedness information, weather radios and first-aid kits. Emergency response and recovery subject matter experts from Orange County’s emergency response team answered citizen questions and provided information on safety, how to deal with floods, high-wind damage, protect property loss and how to contact Orange County Government during a disaster.
Hurricane Irma formed as a Category 5 in the Atlantic and reached Central Florida with extreme winds and heavy rain in the early morning hours of September 11, 2017. Throughout the storm and into the weekend – community partners, local leaders and staff at the Orange County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) worked diligently and around the clock to keep citizens informed and out of harm's way. In preparation of Irma, and to ensure the safety of homes and businesses, Orange County's Public Works Department distributed more than 123,000 sandbags at six different locations throughout the County. Shortly after, and in an effort to protect the life and safety of residents and first responders, the EOC was activated from a Level 2 to a Level 1, including the mobilization all emergency support functions. Orange County opened 24 shelters at local schools and more than 4,300 citizens took refuge in those shelters, including 350 citizens with special needs and those with pets.
The Orange County Sheriff's Office did an exceptional job enforcing the curfew, which was imposed by Mayor Jacobs from Sunday, September 10 to Monday, September 11, keeping streets safe and allowing emergency teams and first responders to do their jobs without interruption. Orange County’s 911 dispatchers answered 37,528 calls during Hurricane Irma. Fire Rescue also responded to more than 4,900 calls that came through 911 as a result of the storm.
Orange County responded to Hurricane Maria
In the wake of both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, Orange County continued to exhibit its cherished "neighbors helping neighbors" philosophy – a reflection of Orange County’s strong culture of caring and compassion. Under the leadership of Mayor Jacobs, and in partnership with numerous agencies and community entities, Orange County has continued to welcome Hurricane Maria disaster victims who have evacuated from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to Central Florida. To help with housing, access to schools, jobs and more, Orange County mobilized its Family Services unit and contracted with the local Heart of Florida United Way to help staff the Multi-Agency Resource/Disaster Relief Center. To assist the many individuals and organizations who wanted to help with relief efforts, Orange County launched a special webpage, "United We Can Do More," on the County website. From fundraising to providing first-hand assistance, Orange County continues to support storm-weary brothers, sisters and families from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Updated School Siting Ordinance Signed
Mayor Jacobs and the Orange County BCC joined Orange County School Board Chairman Bill Sublette, OCPS Superintendent Barbara Jenkins and OCPS Board members to announce the passing of the updated school siting ordinance and participated in a ceremonial signing in April.
The ordinance was passed at the BCC meeting on April 25. The school siting ordinance was originally adopted by Orange County Government in 1996, and these regulations were limited to traditional public schools. The updated ordinance establishes standards for OCPS to build new schools and renovate existing sites, including charter schools. Orange County Government and OCPS have jointly developed a revised version of the ordinance.
OCPS grew by nearly 6,000 students this year and is the second fastest-growing district in Florida. Over the past 13 years, the school district has opened 43 new schools to accommodate growth. Six additional new schools are slated to open next year.
Farm Bureau Hosted Agricultural Update for Orange County
The Orange County Farm Bureau held its 2017 Elected Officials Luncheon at the Citrus Club in May. Every year, the Farm Bureau’s board of directors updates Orange County officials on the nursery industry, agricultural lending and industry needs. Mayor Jacobs, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners, Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond and Orange County Sheriff Jerry L. Demings attended the meeting, which provided insight on the future of agriculture in Orange County. Mayor Jacobs also attended the Farm Bureau's annual Membership Dinner held in October at the Central Florida Fairgrounds.
The Orange County Farm Bureau assists in upholding the state’s reputation as a national leader in the agriculture and farming sector, and is part of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation. The bureau was founded to promote and protect the agricultural interests of farmers and ranchers as they work responsibly to provide an abundant food supply using Florida’s natural resources.
Orange County Prioritized Public Safety Enhancements
Under the leadership of Mayor Jacobs, Orange County continued to embrace its “neighbors helping neighbors” philosophy, with the shared values of fairness, integrity and character, excellence and innovation, professionalism and accountability serving as the platform for providing outstanding services to the taxpayers and citizens of Orange County. A key component of the County’s operations is keeping citizens safe through crucial public safety operations for local residents and its 68 million visitors.
Orange County Fire Rescue’s new Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Program, a new drone program unveiled in the fall, consists of six drones and accompanying equipment. The drones will be used for a variety of emergency responses including structural firefighting, water rescue operations, brush fires, hazmat responses and more. The department is expanding its number of certified pilots as well as testing the latest UAV gear and technology.
Fire Rescue also completed the final rollout of its three-tiered Water Rescue Operations Program in February. The program features firefighters trained in surface water rescue, rescue swimmer and rescue diver capabilities, enhancing the department’s ability to deploy the appropriate level of response for any water rescue emergencies. More than 250 rescue swimmers and 65 rescue divers are stationed in the areas of most critical need throughout Orange County. All 1,100 firefighters in the department are now trained in surface water rescue.
To further ensure Orange County’s top-tier safety protection for its citizens, 344 sets of ballistic equipment were deployed to crew members at all Orange County Fire Rescue fire stations in May — one ballistic set for each riding position. The equipment is housed on all emergency response units and includes ballistic vests, helmets, and trauma bags and tools like Skeds, which are Teflon slides that act as stretchers. This new equipment will improve the department’s response to critical situations by enabling crews to enter a dangerous scene faster and more safely, while also ensuring the highest level of safety to protect Orange County Fire Rescue first responders. Mayor Jacobs and Orange County Fire Rescue also broke ground on Fire Station 67 in September - the first Orange County fire station funded as part of Mayor Jacobs’ INVEST in Our Home for Life initiative.
Holden Heights Improvements Take Shape
Over the years, Orange County and partners have invested more than $35 million in infrastructure improvements that include sewer, storm water, sidewalks, curbs and road improvements. In 1995, Orange County began a large capital investment in Holden Heights to address environmental and infrastructure deficiencies in Holden Heights. The final phases of improvements are scheduled to begin construction in early 2018 for a total investment of about $4.6 million.
Additionally, Orange County built a 10,500-sqare-foot, state-of-the-art community service center in the heart of Holden Heights to provide services to youth, families and seniors. Holden Heights Community Center programs promote economic self-sufficiency and provide nearly 20 different services, such as computer and GED classes. As a result of these improvements and services, Holden Heights has up-to-date infrastructure, a healthy and clean environment and its citizens now have direct and convenient access to Orange County’s services.