OKEECHOBEE — Noel Chandler was sworn in for his term as city council member before the council’s June 1 meeting. Chandler was elected in the special election held in May. He has served as councilman in the past and is happy to get back in the saddle again.
During the meeting, the council discussed an addendum to the interlocal agreement with Okeechobee Utility Authority. Specifically, the addendum would allow for compensation of board members. John Creasman, OUA Board Chairman, said it is often difficult to get people who are willing to serve, and the board felt compensation would help with this problem. He said the board is very active, putting in many hours each month. Councilman Bobby Keefe said his concern would be that the cost to OUA customers could increase. He wanted to be sure compensating board members would not negatively affect customers. Creasman assured him this would not happen and said they were considering other means of compensation that were not monetary. In the end, the decision was made to have the city attorney John Fumero draft language to add into the agreement which would allow for compensation but would require an approval process by the city and county. The council is not opposed to compensation, but wants safeguards in place before approving. The item will be discussed again after Fumero brings it back to the table. Okeechobee County Board of County Commissioners will be voting on the same item during its June 10 meeting.
The Okeechobee County Tax Collector’s Office requested a temporary closure of Northwest Third Avenue between Northwest Fourth Street and Northwest Fifth Street during weekdays for the purpose of administering the driver’s license road test. This would be done as needed when someone comes in to take a test. Councilman Bobby Keefe said he felt they should have planned for this when building the new offices rather than closing a street. Councilwoman Monica Clark said the driver’s license office was down near the lake for years without closing a street, and she believes if someone is taking a driver’s test, they should know how to drive in traffic. City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca said he was told part of the problem was parallel parking. They have nowhere for the test takers to parallel park without closing the street. Keefe suggested they set up cones in the parking lot, but the council voted three to two to approve closing the street.
An agreement for former councilman Gary Ritter to serve as city administrator was discussed. The contract presented by Fumero calls for Ritter to serve as interim administrator for a three month probation period. As long as council approves, he would move from interim to administrator at the end of three months. His salary would be $93,000 per year. Councilman Noel Chandler said he would like to see a resume, and Ritter agreed to provide one. The council voted unanimously to accept Ritter as interim administrator effective June 21.
Changes to the Charter Review Committee membership were discussed. Chandler had to resign when he was elected to city council, and Ritter will be resigning to take on the role of administrator. Former Councilman Wes Abney was serving as an ex officio member, and now that he is no longer a councilman, he could be made an official voting member said the mayor. This move was unanimously approved by the council. They made a decision not to replace Ritter, because the board is almost finished with its review of the charter.
The council discussed appointments as city liaison to various boards and committees . These changes are needed, because Abney has completed his term on the council and can no longer serve as liaison.
Because Montes de Oca, who is an engineer, is no longer serving as city administrator, the city will also need to hire an engineer. They will be sending out an RFQ to fill the position.
This was Montes de Oca’s last meeting as administrator, and he thanked everyone for a happy almost six years in service to the city.