OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee County commissioners apparently are not happy with the county’s health department.
At their Sept. 17 meeting, commissioners expressed dismay the county health department did not have a representative at the meeting to answer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic. It was mentioned attendance could be done remotely if there are concerns about safety precautions in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the Sept. 24 commission meeting, the budget request for the health department was on the county agenda. Again the county officials were disappointed no one from the health department was at the meeting to answer questions.
The commission approved the health department’s budget of $1,674,233, which includes $210,000 from Okeechobee County with the remainder of funds coming from the state. However, they did not approve changes to the health department’s fee schedules, holding that discussion until they get some answers from the Florida Department of Health.
Commissioner David Hazellief suggested sending Tallahassee a letter, asking them to “send someone down to help resolve the problems.”
One issue of concern he mentioned was the health department’s permitting of septic systems for lots that do not have permitted structures.
“I think we need to send them a very compelling letter,” he said.
“We will send that to the Florida Surgeon General,” agreed Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs.
“It has been everything from not wanting us to distribute food to the needy, to septic systems, to the wrong elevations. I think we need to have some cooperation,” continued Hazellief. “There’s two sides to every story, I appreciate that. It would be nice if we heard both sides.”
He said the public deserves more courtesy from a government agency.
Hazellief said he did not want to hold up funding to the health department because that would hurt the community members who depend on their services.
He suggested tabling the approval of the new fee schedule “until someone from Tallahassee comes down.”
“I have a problem with part of their staff,” said Commissioner Bryant Culpepper.
“When they make rulings, it’s not in accordance with the state. It’s just what they want to do. I have an issue with that,” he said. “It has been over and over again with one particular individual.
Commissioners approved a motion 4-1 that the existing fee schedule remain intact. Commissioner Kelly Owens voted against the motion.