Garbage collection fee to increase

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee County residents will pay a little more for garbage collection at the start of the new fiscal year.

At the June 25 meeting of the Okeechobee Board of County Commissioners, the board agreed to raise the minimum annual assessment for solid waste collection and disposal to $238 per dwelling, starting Oct. 1, 2020. The previous rate of $220 per residence had not increased in six years, explained Kelly Conrad, county budget director. She said the county’s current contract with Waste Management for residential garbage collection runs through December 2022. Prior to the renewal of the contract, the county will negotiate a new contract. The county would also have the option to go out for bids from other companies, but the waste must be disposed of in the landfill in Okeechobee County, which is operated by Waste Management.

The maximum rate was set at $300.

In other business at the June 25 meeting:

• The commissioners agreed to sell Florida Department of Transportation frontage along the southern line of the property at the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center. The land is needed for the changes planned for State Road 710.

FDOT’s appraiser appraised the property at $286,200. The county hired a private appraiser, whose estimate came in lower than the FDOT offer. Commissioner David Hazellief said he thought both appraisals were too low, but said he would vote in favor of the sale in the spirit of cooperation with FDOT. For the past several years, the State Road 710 project has been under design, explained Community Services Director Denise Whitehead. FDOT has begun to acquire the necessary properties along this roadway segment.

• The commissioners appointed Tammy Hollander to the Tourist Development Council Advisory Board. There are still vacancies on the board. The Citizen Board and Committee Application is available upon request to tourism@co.okeechobee.fl.us or at the Historic County Courthouse 304 N.W. Second St. Okeechobee, 34972, in Room 123.

• Commissioner Brad Goodbread said a resident has put in their own speed bump on a private road in Rosewood Estates subdivision, which is resulting in complaints from drivers whose vehicles have been damaged. The commissioner said the houses were originally part of McArthur Dairy. “My family redid the old dairy houses years ago in the 1990s,” he said. Initially, the area had a homeowners’ association. The roads between the houses are not county roads, he explained.
“A resident has built a quite substantial speed bump,” he said. “I have gotten complaints about it. It is pretty ridiculous.”
He asked if code enforcement could do something about it, as even private roads must be clear for emergency vehicles.

• Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel Stephen told commissioners he is having trouble purchasing new vehicles for the deputies. He asked that the funds budgeted for new vehicles and insurance dollars for vehicles that have crashed be forwarded into the next year’s budget.
“We having an issue trying to find police package vehicles,” he explained. “They are not being made.
“It has always been a problem anyway — especially now with the virus,” the sheriff said.

• Deputy County Administrator Louis Johnson reported on the county stormwater outfall, which drains into Nubbin Slough. He said the South Florida Water Management District has some questions about the way Four Seasons, Spot in the Sun and Berman Road connect to the SFWMD stormwater treatment area (STA). The commissioners will send a letter to SFWMD, and discussed asking to be on a future SFWMD agenda. SFWMD was to meet in Okeechobee on Aug. 12 and 13, but those meetings have been canceled, said Ms. Chartier. The board had previously rescheduled the county’s August meeting to make the commission meeting room available for the SFWMD governing board. Since SFWMD will not be using the commission meeting room on that day, the board agreed to move their regular meeting back to Aug. 13.

• Commissioner Hazellief encouraged property owners who have 5 or 10 acres or more to contact the Florida Department of Agriculture to sign up for their Best Management Practices (BMP) programs. “Otherwise you come under SFWMD rules,” he warned. “They may require you to put retention on your property.”

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