OKEECHOBEE — Keeping up with the times, the city of Okeechobee has approved an agreement for services with eSCRIBE Software Ltd. for webcasting and automated closed captioning. For many years, city residents were frustrated at being unable to view city council meetings online as they can the county meetings, but the holdup has been the lack of closed captioning. They could not legally provide the service to the community unless it was provided to everyone which includes those who cannot hear. This is per the Americans with Disabilities Act.
For the last six months or so, while the state was under a state of emergency, communities were permitted to utilize YouTube without having closed captioning, but now that the state of emergency has been lifted, they can no longer use the YouTube channel, unless they provide closed captioning.
With this new agreement, the city will once again be able to record and publish its meetings online. Beginning in January or February, all meetings will be recorded and available on the city’s YouTube channel.
In addition, City Clerk Lane Gamiotea said they are working on the microphones and sound equipment, and viewers will soon see a great improvement in that, most likely as soon as the next meeting.
In other business, Councilman Bob Jarriel said he considered it a privilege to serve on the city council and he would love to hear from the public during the town hall meetings or during the monthly meetings. He said he sees people post online, and he wishes they would come to the meetings and say what they think, even they do not agree with him. He does not mind at all. He just wants them to come down and talk to the council. “Let’s start the new year off right,” he said.
Councilwoman Monica Clark commented about the tree lighting and said it was the council’s intention to follow CDC Guidelines and she explained it was her idea to have city employees come and have a little background music, and the ONLY reason for that was because she thought it would make the live stream more special for the people watching it if there were people there instead of canceling the whole event. She just felt it would be a smaller, more controllable sized group. “I personally thought the live stream would be more special to the citizens than canceling the whole event. I want to apologize if anyone felt slighted or excluded. I was just trying to make it a little more special on the live stream. I really want to apologize to ANYBODY in our community, not just city residents, but anybody in our community that felt that we were trying to exclude them.” She went on to explain how seriously she takes COVID and said, “This too will pass. Hopefully, next year’s Christmas will be better.”
Mayor Dowling Watford said, “The council had a serious decision to make and we had differences of opinion here. Whether you agree with it or not, we have a responsibility for public safety or public health. Some people on social media did not understand or agree with it.