Milissa Holland, Palm Coast Mayor Candidate: The Live Interview

Milissa Holland, Palm Coast Mayor Candidate: The Live Interview

1. What are your top three policy priorities that you pledge will realistically be accomplished by the end of your first term. If they cost money, how do you propose to fund those priorities?

Stay within our current budget, which places us as the 5th lowest tax rate in a City our size within the State of Florida.  It is essential that we maintain the level of service we currently provide and yet we will have to find ways to do that with the impact that Covid-19 will have on our revenues over the next few years.  The City has maintained a reserve that has been consistent with our fund balance policy that I would insist that we keep as that has given us a high bond rating and has allowed us to withstand three hurricanes and a global pandemic over the last four years without disrupting City services.  Also having an Emergency Fund has helped while we have waited for FEMA reimbursement.  We have already started looking at ways to cut the budget this year, and have asked the administration to come back with additional ways to become more efficient within departments with minimal impact to the residents for the many services we provide.  I have not raised taxes in my entire term of office and will continue with that commitment moving forward.  We go through an arduous process of Annual Strategic Planning, that identifies our goals and objectives that allows us to spend well.  It is a testament to this process that we currently have zero municipal debt.

Public Safety is a top priority of mine and I will continue to invest in different aspects of it in our City.  We currently contract with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office to provide an additional level of service that meets the needs of the City of Palm Coast.  We are adding an additional five deputies to that contract this year following a request from Sheriff Staly in order to continue to ensure his strategies for community policing are met.  The other item we have agreed to is to completely create a new contract.  That’s important for many reasons.  The contract is 15 years old and our current Sheriff has adopted some brand new strategies in keeping the crime rate as low as possible in our City.  The contract as it stands today is not reflective of current strategies, technologies, personnel or services that would provide the agency with modern applications.  That’s not to say that this will be one that would be one sided as we want to ensure that it meets the City Council’s and communities input as that is and will be important as we move through this next phase of law enforcement within our City.  I am proud to share that 95 percent of residents surveyed feel safe in their neighborhood. Our Fire Department has been working hard over the last two years in developing a 10 year plan for the department to ensure that our residents will continue to receive quick response times with calls, a station plan for future growth that has been identified and accounted for using specific data models, continuing training for the department members and community outreach programs to name a few.  This plan will allow us to set aside funds that would support these important initiatives for years to come. Our firefighters and command staff have earned an ISO rating of two which places is very high in regards to a protection classification.  We are grateful for our first responders dedication, sacrifice and loyalty to our citizens health and safety 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Street lights are another aspect of public safety that we have invested in as a Council.  We currently have more than 2,800 streetlights in our City.  Lighting our roadways at night continues to be an important component in our City Strategic Plan as well as requested residential intersections.  Last year, continuous streetlights were installed on Lakeview Boulevard.  As of this month, we have signed the agreement with FPL to install 257 lights on Belle Terre Parkway. Design is also complete for 60 lights on Old King Road North during the widening project in which we secured funding from FDOT for.  The next roads on the list are Ravenwood Drive, followed by Seminole Woods Boulevard and Belle Terre Boulevard.  Finally, our Parks play a key role in public safety.  Our Palm Coast Little League alone has thousands of kids that play ball each spring and summer.  That is one league we have worked closely with on the Sports Alliance to ensure we have capacity for practice and game times available.  We will be focusing on future expansions on additional fields and parking in the upcoming years.  This also includes our trails, our Community Center that provides hundreds of programs a month and our many amenities that provide an outlet for all ages to stay safe and healthy.

Which brings me to my final top priority and that is quality of life.  After being a resident for 36 years, I know that the majority of our residents chose Palm Coast to call their home.  I hear from many of them regularly.  They share their stories of what’s important to them, what originally brought them here and that is in the back of my mind at all times.  Drainage is an important topic to many.  It is why we adopted a master stormwater plan in January of last year.  It is very comprehensive and for the first time it takes a comprehensive approach to improving our inherited engineered stormwater plan.  Our technicians have been busy in the field treating and cleaning out our canal systems in an effort to relieve some of the bottleneck areas that were causing backups to occur within the swales in front of your houses.  Using lidar (a laser sensor), they will then be able to determine a cleaning out of the swales by streets rather than one at a time.  We will also be able to communicate with you when and how that will be happening within your neighborhood so you can be prepared as well.

Roads, we have gone through an extensive process of analyzing and assessing the condition of the roads in Palm Coast and have drafted and prioritized a plan moving forward on how to address the roads with a comprehensive maintenance plan for that as well.  We will be communicating that plan as well in the future.  We have adopted a long range plan for our Parks and Recreation facilities that will continue to add onto our current inventory and for all generations to utilize.  We are very proud of our active retirees as well as the young professionals, families and everything in between and have received a lot of input that has helped tremendously in developing this plan.  This will allow us to set money aside annually to plan for these amenities moving forward.  I mentioned earlier about zero municipal debt.  We don’t borrow money for capital amenity projects.  We have adopted a 5 and 10 year plan that has some of our “Be Local Buy Local’ Sales tax dollars earmarked for projects that have been identified in this plan.  It is how the projects in the past were paid for in cash such as our expanded Community Center, which is utilized by thousands of our residents annually.  We have plans for pickleball courts in the near future as well as different trailhead restrooms and a kayak launch as examples of how we make the dollars go even further by applying for grants, utilizing sales tax and impact fees as it applies to growth.  We cannot forget about the arts as we have just recently adopted an Arts District in Town Center and have been working with the many arts organizations within our community to develop a collaborative strategy to add cultural arts opportunities year round for our residents to enjoy.

Lastly is Citizen Engagement.  I heard very early on that our residents felt a disconnect between their City and their needs.  We were receiving about 10,400 calls a month at our call center without having any way to track or follow up to ensure your requests were responded to.  That’s no longer the case as Palm Coast Connect was launched a year ago and it has improved the dialog with our residents so much that we have seen a 16 percent increase in resident satisfaction in our last survey.  We can now track every call, email, walk in and case logged as well as communicate directly with you on when you can expect a response and a resolution to our issue.  It has been transformative not only for our residents but it has helped us make better decisions for you at City Hall.