Douglas Park resident asks for help

OKEECHOBEE — Douglas Park resident Preston Wiggins came before the Okeechobee County Commission on Feb. 22 with an impassioned plea for changes in his neighborhood.

Mr. Wiggins said that while he appreciates the new portable bathrooms at the Douglas Park basketball court, there is much more that needs to be done.

“I don’t want them to be a Band-Aid,” he said. “I want the commissioners to come out and make a tour of what is going on in our community.

“I want stuff to be built out there,” he continued.

“Nothing has changed since I’ve been a kid in that particular neighborhood,” said Mr. Wiggins, who added that he now has grandchildren. He said the area has been allowed to deteriorate over the years.

“We used to be known for athletes,” he said. “Now there are no athletes.

“It is depressing out there,” he said. “There is nothing to stimulate the young people’s minds.

“There is nothing being built up in my community. It’s all falling down.”

He said the commissioners need to be more attentive to the Douglas Park area.

“They need to see you are more involved,” Mr. Wiggins said.

“I don’t believe you represent us if you are not a part of us,” he said.

“When is it going to be ‘we’?” he asked.

“It has always been ‘you’ and ‘us.’ When is it going to be ‘we’ as one?

“I’m not here to threaten,” he said. “I am just giving you the insight of the people you represent.

“I believe in being proactive,” he said. “It’s depressing. There is nothing out there.”

Mr. Wiggins noted that Commissioner Brad Goodbread, whose district includes Douglas Park, was invited to a recent community meeting and did not come.

Commissioner Goodbread explained that he was in Tallahassee on county business at the time.

“You came to us two meetings ago and you said you had a problem and needed some restrooms,” said Commissioner Goodbread. “I think staff was very responsive,” he said, noting county staff poured a slab and brought in portable potties.

“I am grateful and happy for that part,” said Mr. Wiggins, “but I don’t want it to be a Band-Aid.”

“We are trying to find out where to build bathrooms,” said Commissioner Goodbread.

“What’s the next move?” asked Mr. Wiggins. “You did the A. Where is the B and the C and the D?”

Commissioner Bryant Culpepper thanked Mr. Wiggins for coming to the board. “One of the things that has been missing is the passion of the members of the community,” he said. He said county projects take time.

“In Basswood we have been working on the sidewalks for over a year,” he said.

“If you look at what is coming to Okeechobee, we are going to be able to do a lot of things we have not been able to do for the past 30 years. I think you will find this board is going to move very quickly in helping the entire county,” he added.

Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs said Commissioner Goodbread was in Tallahassee with him at the time of the Douglas Park community meeting. He said the commission will be responsive to the Douglas Park community in the future. He said if Mr. Goodbread is not available, Mr. Wiggins can call him or other members of the commission. “We can’t create a plan unless we know what the challenges are,” he said.

“If Commissioner Goodbread is tied up, call me or one of the other commissioners,” he said.

“I’m just a mouthpiece for the people,” said Mr. Wiggins. He said he wants to see improvements not only in Douglas Park but throughout the whole county.

“I just want to thank you for bringing the conversation to us,” said Commissioner Kelly Owens.

“We need to continue to have dialog about what the needs are,” she said. “If someone in the community isn’t sharing that, we don’t know what those needs are. Let’s keep the conversation going. We’ll include you in the conversation.”

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

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