County increases rates for C. Scott Driver facilities

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee County commissioners approved changes in the rental and deposit fees for use of C. Scott Driver recreation facility at their Dec. 12 meeting. The deposit for use of the C. Scott Driver facility was increased from $250 to $500 for a full day rental. The day rate fee for the C. Scott Driver facility was also increased from $250 to $500.

Community Services Director Denise Whitehead said the increase in the deposit for the C. Scott Driver facility is based on the property damage experienced there. She said since March, there have been 10 times the county did not return the deposit:
• March 2019: Minor property damage, facility not cleaned;
• April 2019: Trash left everywhere, not cleaned;
• April 2019: Major property damage, lamp post light;
• July 2019: Minor property damage, door frame; tables left out;
• July 2019: Evidence of alcohol; minor property damage; renter extended rental time;
• August 2019: Evidence of alcohol; not cleaned;
• September 2019: Minor property damage to the women’s bathroom;
• September 2019: Evidence of alcohol;
• October 2019: Evidence of alcohol;
• October 2019: Evidence of alcohol.

Ms. Whitehead said in all but one case, damages were less than $500.

She said most of the repairs were handled by county staff.

“The major concern is people say they won’t have alcohol and then have it,” said Commissioner David Hazellief. “There has to be some kind of mechanism to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“The current policy is to withhold deposit and put them on the ‘do not rent’ list,” said Ms. Whitehead.

“That doesn’t solve it because they get someone else to rent it for them,” replied Commissioner Hazellief.

“If you don’t have that money in hand, they are going to go to the winds,” said County Attorney Wade Vose. “Usually the best way is to get the money in hand and then punish them by keeping it.”

“If they do everything based on what we have stipulated, they are going to get the money back,” said Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs.

“I don’t want to put the deposit up to where it isn’t feasible,” opined Commissioner Kelly Owens. “I still want it to be accessible to the community as a whole.”

“To some people $500 is a lot of money,” said Commissioner Brad Goodbread. “But it’s got to be painful to break the rules. If you get it to a point to where it hurts if they don’t do what they are supposed to do, you are probably are going to get more compliance.”

Ms. Whitehead said another way other counties have addressed this issue is to have on-site staff during the event. She said that additional cost would be passed on to the renter.

“Personally I would like to have someone there just because it maintains the integrity of the facility,” she said.

The commissioners also reviewed the restrictions on use of alcohol at all county facilities.

All requests involving the serving, sales or presence of alcohol (BYOB) require a Liquor Liability Insurance Policy. In addition to the General Liability Insurance policy, a Temporary Event Liquor Liability Insurance policy in the amount of $3,000,000 with Okeechobee County Board of County Commissioners named as additional insured is requirement. In addition, an extra duty OCSO deputy must be hired for the event.

The updated facilities use schedule includes maximum occupancy for county facilities:
• Civic Center: 192;
• Douglas Brown Center: 120;
• Bassinger (aka Alton Chandler) center: 100;
• C. Scott Driver facility: 240.

Some adjustments were also made to special events permits. All special events will require a General Liability Insurance policy with Okeechobee County Board of County Commissioners named as additional insured in the amount of $1,000,000.
The special event rate for events estimating 5,000 or more persons was increased from $500 to $1,000. Special event rates are in addition to any rates, deposits or fees associated with facility rentals.

Events expecting more than 1,000 participants will be required to have extra duty OCSO deputies. The number of deputies required will be determined by the OCSO.
In a related matter, Ms. Whitehead said the Parks and Recreation Department is looking for ways to improve the parks.

For example, if there is a half day of school and there is an issue with teenagers gathering in a park, instead of trying to keep them out, they will look at offering some programs for them in the park, she explained.

If there is a problem with people parking in areas where the county does not want cars, instead of putting up a fence, they might put in picnic tables and other equipment to encourage people to use the space for the intended purposes.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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