The referendum set for March 17 that would have decided the fate of both projects has been postponed because a city staffer missed a required publication deadline to announce the referendum.

EUSTIS – Voters’ voices were to be heard regarding a decision on whether to construct the Eustis Community/Conference/Sailing Center and expand Carver Park.


Now they won’t be – at least not right now.


The referendum set for March 17 that would have decided the fate of both projects has been postponed because a city staffer missed a required publication deadline to announce the referendum.


When the Daily Commercial asked for the identity of the city staffer and whether they were facing consequences, city officials called it a personnel matter between Eustis City Manager Ron Neibert and staff.


Additionally, Neibert said that while the referendum will still be appearing on the March ballot and can still technically be voted on, results will not only be considered invalid but will not be released to the city or to the public.


“We would have liked to have had it pass in March, but now, rescheduling it gives us more time to get community input and to get more information about both projects out to the public,” Neibert said Monday.


Neibert said he contacted the Supervisor of Elections office with the news and was told that notifications letting voters know the vote will not count will be placed at the polls.


Then, at a city meeting scheduled for Thursday, commissioners will determine whether to place the referendum on the August Primary Election or November General Election ballot.


“The move provides additional time for the City to engage the public with appropriate advertising, education, and outreach. The City remains committed to both projects and the opportunity to continue to seek public opinion,” a press release from the city reads.


City Spokesperson Kristina Rosenburg said because of the additional time now gained to educate residents on the two projects and what exactly they entail, the city will start hosting public meetings at the community center.


The meetings, she said, to be led by city officials and will include renderings, financial and other informational materials and the opportunity to have any questions answered.


“It’ll be good for the community, the city manager, city officials and others to engage with the community and to answer any questions anybody should have,” Rosenburg said.


Whenever it does end up appearing on the ballot, the referendum will ask voters to approve a loan in the amount of $11.4 million to help fund two projects, including the community, conference and sailing center building that would replace the aging community center at Bay Street and Northshore Drive next to the Eustis Historical Museum.


The second project, coming in at $1.4 million, would allow for the expansion of the Carver Park Recreational Facility. Overall, it would gain about 4,000 square feet of space.


The project would include making the ceilings higher to better accommodate camp and after-school activities, adding courts for basketball and volleyball, pickleball, soccer facilities and more.


The city has $3 million cash from reserves set aside for the build-out of the community center and Carver Park rec center expansion. It plans to seek grant and sponsorship opportunities to cover more of the cost.


That would leave about $11.4 million that the city would have to borrow for both projects.


City staff said the estimated millage, based on the city’s current tax base, would be 0.7770, or about 78 cents for every $1,000 in taxable value. That would mean $78 annually for the owner of a property with $100,000 in taxable value.


The only difference people should keep in mind the next time around is that the exterior design of the Community/Conference/Sailing Center will have been modified to a more traditional design than the original contemporary look the city had proposed.


The more traditional, Florida-style facility was based on feedback from residents and after a survey conducted by the city to see what design residents liked better, the answer was clear since more than 75 percent of those who’d chimed in as of last week were for it.


The second design, that will now be used as a baseline going forward, was resident-funded and created after objections to the original and drawn up by Lake County Architect David Jass, who was also responsible for the first design.