City approves new squad cars

OKEECHOBEE — It felt almost like Christmas Tuesday night at the Okeechobee City Council meeting when the council approved several requests from police Chief Bob Peterson. The first was the purchase of 11 new 2019 Dodge Charger Police Package Squad Cars at a cost of $21,839 per unit, along with 11 spotlights at a cost of $149 per unit. These items were budgeted for, and normally the department purchases 12 each year. According to Chief Peterson, these prices are comparable to those paid last year and although they did get bids locally, the local dealership was not the lowest bidder. They will be purchased from Auto Nation Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Pembroke Pines, Fla.

The second was the purchase of a new Harley Davidson FLHP Motorcycle in the amount of $21,727.24. Chief Peterson explained this item would be fully funded in-house. His goal is to address the needs of the citizens within the existing budget.

The third item on Chief Peterson’s “Christmas” list was the purchase of two Stalker SAMs, the mobile roadside radar units with trailers, tow harnesses, and spare tires, which were addressed in the last council meeting. The cost for these units will be $24,458. Chief Peterson explained that, unfortunately, these items were not in the budget because when the budget was being made, they thought the items would be covered by a grant, but soon after the budget was submitted, the rules for the grant changed and they no longer allowed the purchase of equipment with the funds. Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca explained, the funds to pay for the equipment would come from the Gas Tax Fund. Chief Peterson will order the units immediately, and they should help tremendously with the speeding in the neighborhoods around town. “Our goal is to bring most of the traffic back to the main roads where it belongs,” said Chief Peterson.

The city will also be purchasing a Hustler Super Z Mower at a cost of $10,694 from Gilbert Outdoors. This is a budgeted item and will be replacing an eight-year-old mower. Gilbert Outdoors is a local vendor with a good working relationship with the city.

The council approved the sale of city lots 17, 17A and 17B to Karl Davis of KD Construction on the condition that he develops them within five years. They also extended the Chamber of Commerce’s lease for a period of 60 months, and appointed Public Works Director David Allen as the liaison to the chamber. They also approved a request by First Baptist Church to shut down Southwest Fourth Street between Southwest Fifth and Southwest Sixth Avenues, and any part of Southwest Fifth Avenue the police deem necessary for safety on Oct. 31 from 3 until 9 p.m. for a Fall Family Festival.

Mayor Dowling R. Watford approved the proclamation of the month of October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and presented Jonathan Bean, executive director of Martha’s House with a copy of the proclamation. Afterward, Mr. Bean addressed the council with a call to the men of Okeechobee.

“Usually it is the women who come out to fight against domestic violence. Men need to hold each other accountable. These are your wives, daughters, coworkers, and neighbors,” he said.

It was decided during the last city council meeting to move toward a magistrate system of code enforcement in Okeechobee rather than having a code board. The intention at that meeting was to have the code board remain in effect until the end of January, and have the magistrate take office in February, but due to a mix up in the paperwork, the board was mistakenly abolished early at the last meeting, and at this time there is neither a code board nor a magistrate system in place. The council is working to reconcile this situation as quickly as possible by seeking a qualified magistrate immediately.

The final item on the agenda was the appointment of a replacement to fill the seat vacated by Councilman Noel Chandler until the newly elected council members are seated in January 2019. Because Councilman Chandler ran for the office of county commissioner, he must officially vacate his seat as of Nov. 20. This would have been the date he would have taken office if he had won. Even though he did not win, his resignation is still in effect. The council ran an ad asking for applicants to fill the position until Jan. 7, 2019, and the only person who applied was Councilman Chandler. The council voted to accept him to fill his own seat for the remainder of his term. Councilman Chandler abstained from voting.

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