City report shows decrease in violent crime

Lake Okeechobee News/Danika Hopper

CLEWISTON — The City of Clewiston has increased public safety, according to a report shared at the Dec. 16 meeting of the Clewiston City Commission.

Clewiston Chief of Police Aaron Angell, who presented the City of Clewiston Crime Statistics and Department Update, detailed statistics for the first half of 2019. The department is made up of 22 full-time staff, 16 of whom are police officers, and six civilian employees. They responded to 7,600 calls for service from Jan. 1, 2019, through June 30. Violent crime showed a 60% decrease; robberies were down by 62%; aggravated assault decreased 54%; and shoplifting showed a 19% decrease. One area that needed improvement is property crimes, which increased by 17%.

During the reporting period, 129 arrests were made, of which five were violent offenses, 21 were property crimes, and the remaining 103 were for various other arrests. Arrests were down 40% overall, which the chief explained could be attributed to staffing shortages and changes within the department.

In other business:
• The abandonment of a portion of the right-of-way that adjoins the property of Stephen and Norma Schneider located at 800 W. Royal Palm Ave., with deed restrictions, drew no public comment and was approved by unanimous vote (5-0.)

• Andy Tilton of Johnson Engineering Inc. updated the commission on the C-21 permit status and Herbert Hoover Dike Cutoff Wall Project. He shared a short video, which is available for public viewing on the city’s Facebook page and the city’s website. Commissioners voiced concerns regarding wear and tear on local roads, traffic safety, and public awareness and education regarding the importance of the project and the length of time it will take to complete.

• The commissioners approved a change order in the amount of $16,800 for the C-21 Bridge Project. They also approved the Wantman Group. Inc (WGI) proposal for additional structural engineering services in the amount of $99,830 for the C–21 Bridge Project.

• They approved amendments to the budget for 2019-2020, and a Johnson Engineering Inc. work order for $63,941.36 for the design of the East Ventura Avenue Road Resurfacing Project.

• The commission authorized the renewal of the Irrevocable Standby Letter of Credit from First Bank in the amount of $28,236 for two one-year periods pending the city attorney’s review of the letter of credit renewal documents. The letter of credit guarantees the Community Aesthetic Feature Agreement between the city and Florida Department of Transportation and secures the city’s obligation to restore the right-of-way in the event the local identification marker (“Welcome to Clewiston” sign) is removed. The cost for the renewal is $500 ($250 per year).

• Commissioners accepted the low bids for grounds maintenance services. Bids ranged from $52,800 to $59,775 for area A; $47,775 to $66,000 for area B; and $104,775 to $120,000 for areas A and B combined. Public Works Director Sean Scheffler made the recommendation to approve the low bidder after having inspected equipment and evaluating staff.

• Commissioners approved a change order and final payment to Florida Design Drilling Corp. for the emergency repair of the city’s water system.

• The City of Clewiston Comprehensive Emergency Plan Update, which is available for the public on the city’s website, was discussed and approved to be referred to county and state for review.

• Regarding the RECOVER Lake Okeechobee Stage Envelope Performance Measure, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has made a recommendation that the lake’s optimal level should be maintained at 12-15 feet. The city commission unanimously authorized the drafting and issuance of a letter in response to, and support of, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) scientific findings and recommendations regarding RECOVER.

The city meeting was then recessed for two “shade” sessions, regarding Clewiston Commons vs. City of Clewiston, and City of Clewiston vs. Johnson – Prewitt & Associates Inc. These meetings were requested by City Attorney Gary Brandenburg. Mr. Brandenburg explained that the closed-door meetings are conducted privately to discuss matters of litigation where a court reporter will keep the contents of the meeting private until the litigation is complete.

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