Okeechobee City council sets millage rate

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OKEECHOBEE — At its Sept. 21 meeting, The Okeechobee City Council set the millage rate for the fiscal year 2020/2021 at 7.6018 and a new operating budget was officially adopted.

The council discussed a resolution to make customer hookup to Okeechobee Utility Authority’s water/sewer system mandatory. City Administrator Marcos Montes de Oca said OUA has made a change in the way they handle their fees, and they now allow payment plans. According to state statute, if a homeowner’s septic tank or drain field fails and they are within 600 feet of available service lines, they must hook up, but if they are farther away, they can choose to put in new septic tank or drain field.

“There’s not a lot of teeth in that statute,” said Montes de Oca. “That’s why if there’s a resolution from us, when they do a building permit, we could verify it with the building department going forward.”

Council Woman Monica Clark suggested making the requirement within 100 feet of the lines rather than 600 feet so it would be more affordable for the homeowners. The consensus of the council was to have the administrator work on the issue with OUA and come up with a plan.

In a related matter, former Councilman Gary Ritter, who lives in the Southwest section, said his house is hooked up to the OUA sewer system, but his two daughters live in the same area and are on septic tanks. Both of them having been experiencing problems to varying degrees, and one of them can barely live in her own home, because the water table is so high right now and she cannot even flush her toilets. He said he has talked to several people in the area who are interested in getting on OUA sewer lines. He said both of his daughters are at the point of wondering if they should pay $7,500 for a new drain field, or can they just hook up to OUA and not worry about it anymore.

Recently, the city council voted to set up a charter review committee to go over the city’s charter. The following people applied to sit on the committee: Suzanne Bowenm, Noel A. Chandler, Steve Dobbs, Jamie Gamiotea, Jeremy R. LaRue, Sandy Perry, Cary Pigman, Gary Ritter, Myranda Whirls and Hoot Worley.

When the council originally discussed setting up the committee, they agreed that seven members would be selected but when ten applied, they agreed unanimously to accept them all. The committee will select a chairperson from among themselves at their first meeting. The entire charter review process is expected to take at least a year.

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