OKEECHOBEE — Mayor Dowling Watford issued a proclamation concerning the upcoming special election during the Feb. 2 meeting of the Okeechobee City Council. The proclamation declared an election for the purpose of electing one city council member would be held on May 4, 2021. The qualifying period for individuals who wish to run for office begins at noon on Feb. 8 and ends at noon on Feb. 12. The election is necessary due to the resignation of councilman-elect Russ Cale, who resigned his seat before taking office.
In other business, Bailey Harden was recognized as this year’s South Florida Fair Scholarship recipient. Councilman Bob Jarriel said, “I’m a trustee for the South Florida Fair, and we have a scholarship committee. They don’t let me serve on it, but they always tell me after they interview young people from Okeechobee that we have the most polite and respectful young people of any that they interview. They tell me that every year, and this year was no exception.”
A bid was awarded to B&B Site Development, Inc. in the amount of $184,813.65 for Southeast Eighth Avenue storm water conveyance. They will be installing a separator box which will discharge near the little bridge on Southeast Eighth.
Additional costs to BIS Digital for on-site setup, installation and training on the new audio and video equipment was approved. These services will help the city resume using Zoom and YouTube during its meetings.
A budget amendment for legal services in the amount of $25,000 for additional code enforcement foreclosure fees was approved.
Frank Irby, who was appointed to the Flagler Park Design Review Advisory Committee resigned, and Jennifer Tewksbury, who was serving as an alternate was moved into his place. Paulette Bragel, owner of Brown Cow Sweetery will serve as an alternate in Tewksbury’s place.
City Fire Chief Herb Smith gave an update on fire services. All of his personnel have submitted applications to Okeechobee County Fire Rescue and have received tentative job offers.
County Fire Chief Ralph Franklin has scheduled a meeting with the city firefighter to give them an opportunity to ask questions. County human resources will be there as well. The two departments, city and county, have always had quarterly meetings, but have upped those to monthly to ease the transition scheduled for June 1.
All his firefighters have successfully completed their second semester of paramedic training. They should be finished with training by the beginning of March after which they will take the state exam. The firefighters have been given projected shift assignments.
Smith was consulted on this, and said he appreciated that. The firefighters are in the process of completing orientation with the OCFR. At 8 a.m. on June 1, all the city firefighters will report to OCFR. “It should go fairly well, because we are prepping it in advance. I really appreciate the county working with my department,” said Smith. “I’d like to thank them for their help during this transition.”
Smith also mentioned a huge increase in COVID-19 related calls in the last two months. Mayor Watford asked if the firefighters have had their vaccinations, and Smith said only two or three of them chose to get the shot. He said he felt it was because of the uncertainty of the vaccination. Mayor Watford said he would strongly encourage everyone to get their shot. “That’s just my personal opinion,” he said. There have been no positive COVID-19 tests among the city firefighters.
Council member Monica Clark and Mayor Watford commended the Okeechobee County Commissioners, especially Terry Burroughs for efforts to get more vaccines to Okeechobee citizens.