OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee County roadways will soon have higher clearance. At their Dec. 26 meeting, county commissioners approved the purchase of a Genie TZ 34/20 Boom lift from Kelly Tractor Company, in the net amount of $27,724 per the Florida Sheriffs Contract.
Road Department Director Bryan Moore said previously, county staff only had the capability of reaching branches up to 12 feet high with a pole saw. He explained 12 feet of clearance is not high enough for vehicles such as box trucks, semis, RVs and livestock trailers. As a consequence, drivers swerve to the center of the road to avoid tree limbs, which creates a safety hazard. He said vehicles also hit low-hanging limbs, which also creates a safety hazard.
With the new boom lift, the county road department can trim tree limbs over county roads up to 16 feet, he said.
According to the county staff report, the boom will also be a valuable asset during and after weather events.
The method the county uses now is very unproductive and inefficient due to the need of constantly re-trimming the same areas because of the low original cut height, according to the staff report.
The boom lift will be used in direct conjunction with the chipper that was acquired in fiscal year 2018-19. The tree trimming will open up the roadways to receive more light and move tree drip lines off the edge of the pavement, thus slowing the deterioration of the asphalt, Mr. Moore continued.
Funds are available in the Road Maintenance Equipment Budget for this purchase due to cost savings realized with the purchase of a short stick excavator.
Mr. Moore estimated that 90 percent of trees along county roads have limbs that need to be cut.
Commissioner Brad Goodbread said while the safety issues must be addressed, he does not want to remove all of the canopy from county roads.
“I am 100 percent behind trimming the branches that are hit by vehicles,” he said. But limbs higher than 16 feet should be left alone.
Mr. Moore said on some roads, removing limbs that are 16 feet and lower will remove all of the canopy, but that some roadways have trees with branches are 30 feet high.
In other business, the commissioners approved a request by the Okeechobee Rotary Foundation for a fee waiver for use of the Agri-Civic Center on Saturday, Feb. 22, for the Annual Wild Game Dinner also known as Beast Feast. The goal of the Okeechobee Rotary Foundation is to provide scholarships and other support to the Okeechobee community, including mini-grants for educators. The estimated cost to the county is in the amount of $700 (facility use fee). The county administrator recommended approving the request.