published: Friday, February 08, 2013
FROM THE FILES | 1891 organation through 1939 bankruptcy
Reliving history through the pages of the South Lake Press
In 1891, Clermont's city limits were 2,000 acres. Thirty-one men signed the notice of organization of the Town of Clermont at 2 p.m., June 9, in Wilson's Hall.
E.H. Goodenough was the first mayor (1891-95). Aldermen were W.H. Eavenson, V.L. Flood, J.B. "Jim" Jones, A.R. Gano and Joseph Tarpey. The law offices of William H. House at the corner of 7th and Minneola served as city hall for several years.
Minutes were kept of the first two meetings but none are available after June 15, 1891.
Following the big freeze of 1894-95, the town charter was abolished.
The town was then run by a Board of Trade consisting of 90 of its citizens, who took charge of every improvement. There were no taxes. Everyone pitched in with private donations or man hours.
The Clermont Clarion (South Lake Press) reports on Dec. 29, 1916, there were 75 registered voters; 62 voted for and 12 against re-incorporation. Much of the Board of Trade's duties reverted to city council. All bills were paid and the board turned over 19 sacks of cement and the $11.35 it had in the bank.
C.E. Roe was elected mayor. Meetings were held in the Woods-men of the World building at the foot of 8th Street on Lake Minneola.
The first mention of taxes in the city's minutes are on July 6, 1917. Millage assessed was 7 mills for roads, 1.2 mills for lights, 1.2 mills for publicity and 1 mill for the general fund.
A special election was held in August 1920 to issue $30,000 worth of negotiable bonds to build a water works system.
The 19th Amendment passed in 1920 and Kate D. Chase was the first woman elected to public office. She was the first town treasurer.
Also in 1921, the Florida Legis-lature annulled Clermont's charter and granted a new one. This was necessary because bonds had been issued and could not be sold because the old charter had no provision for a board of trustees.
A special election in 1921 was held to ratify the decision of the council to purchase the electric light plant from L.A. Zinsser for $10,000 at 8 percent interest. This was ratified by the voters.
Another special election was held in 1922 to issue negotiable coupon bonds of $65,000 for paving streets, laying water mains, discharging the city's current indebtedness and adding to the electric light works. A water tank was built at Lake Avenue and DeSoto Street. Water meters were available for $1.50 a month.
The assessed valuation of the city was $1,780,372 and millage was reduced from six to four mills. Meetings in 1922-23 were held in the library building on DeSoto Street.
In 1923-24, real estate was booming in the area and it was ironic that the city council outlawed gambling during the boom.
Council meetings were moved to the second floor of the Fesler building.
In October 1924, a City Planning Committee was formed. Members were Dr. A.L. Izlar, C.O. Roe, H.R. Scott, B.W. Wait, Albert Johnson, W.N. McKinney, Andy Aesheim, Mrs. W.M. Bess, C.D. Kennedy, Dr. O.I. Woodley, Edna O'Hara and H.C. Brown.
The purpose of the committee was to "prevent future growth placing the city in the condition that many Florida cities now find themselves, streets too narrow, improper location of business, manufacturing and residence sections, lost value of natural beauty such as lakes and streams and similar comparatively unimportant matters now that in a few years will retard progress and public convenience."
In March 1925, the city sold the municipal electric plant to Florida Public Service Company of Orlando, which paid $10,000 plus an agreement to pay $210.27 in one or two years at 7 percent interest.
In August 1925, the voters approved a new city hall and police and fire station to cost $27,000. This two-story building at the southeast corner of 8th and DeSoto streets was completed in June 1926.
In 1927, the city purchased a 10-acre tract on East Avenue and established Oak Hill Cemetery.
Also that year, the school published its first annual and built the grandstand behind the auditorium. Meals in the school lunch program were nine cents per meal. Area voters turned down school redistricting 933 against and 77 for. There were three routes for transporting children. In 1929 school enrollment was 254 pupils.
During the boom years, bond indebtedness piled up to $996,300 plus interest. The bonding company brought suit in 1929 to force the city council and the tax assessor to set a millage high enough to pay the paving bonds. The council refused to raise taxes.
The problem got worse and in 1932 the millage was raised from 11 mills to 266 mills. In 1933 the millage was 450, and in 1934 it was 691 mills. No one was paying their taxes including council members.
In 1937 there was a lien against every piece of property in the city. It operated on the revenues from the municipal water works.
The city went into bankruptcy in 1939 with a bond indebtedness of almost $1,500,000. At one point, the millage was 4,207 mills. Property values were decreased to almost nothing, and people neglected their property because they did not know how long they would have it.
Clermont was said to have the highest bonded indebtedness per capita of any municipality in the world. Finally, a bond refund plan was worked out according to the citizens' ability to pay (50 cents on the dollar.) The taxpayers paid 92 percent of the taxes by April 1, 1940, and a sizable amount of the debt was paid off.
Homes and businesses were attended to and the community took on new life.