Okee-Tantie proposal deadline extended

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee County residents will have to wait a little longer to find out what will happen at the Okee-Tantie Recreation Area.

At their April 25 meeting, the Okeechobee County Commissioners voted to extend the deadline for submission of the request for proposals from May 1 to May 16.

County administrator Robbie Chartier said three companies have expressed interest in bidding. No bids have been submitted yet.

One of the companies asked for the extension.

“They are wanting some more time to do some conceptional drawings for their proposal,” she said.

“In thinking this through, I want to be fair but at the same time I want this to move forward,” said Commissioner Kelly Owens.

“Just to ensure that we do get more than just one person submitting for the RFP, I am willing to do 15 days,” said Commissioner Owens.

“I want it to be clear this is in no way showing a preference,” she said.

“The more options we have to choose from to do something for our residents here and our economy here is the most important thing,” said Commissioner Brad Goodbread.

“There’s only one Okee-Tantie,” he said. The county only has one chance to get this right.

In a related matter, the county discussed setting up a citizens committee to review the Okee-Tantie proposals with county staff.

“All I want to do is get another set of eyes on it from the community,” said Chairman Burroughs.

Each county commissioner will nominate one person to serve on the committee. The county administrator will act as the coordinator.

The park infrastructure was damaged in the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005, reducing the number of usable camping spots. The Okee-Tantie campground has been closed since 2012; it had been losing money for years when the county opted to close it.

The first time the county sought proposals it was for a lease on the park. Guy Harvey Outpost and Elite Resorts initially proposed a long-term lease, and planned to rent the RV spaces to visitors.

At the June 9, 2016 county commission meeting, Guy Harvey representatives explained that after doing more research into the expense that the renovations will require, including replacing the utility lines, they determined that in order to secure the necessary financing, they need to purchase the campground portion of the property so that they can sell RV lots there.

They proposed to lease the area with the boat docks, marina and the main building (formerly Lightsey’s Restaurant). The county will maintain operation of an area that will be designated for airboats. The leased property will still be owned by the county. Guy Harvey Outpost and Elite Resorts want to purchase the campground area from the county.

This change in the proposal required the county to obtain permission from the state, since the state still had an interest in the property.

The county completed the purchase of state’s interest in the Hog Island property in October 2016. This allows the county the option to sell the campground portion of the Okee-Tantie Recreation Area.

At their Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016 meeting, the Okeechobee County Commission adopted an ordinance which allows the county to consider factors other than price when choosing the best “bid” on county property. It allows the commissioners to choose the proposal they determine to be best for the future of the county.

According to information provided at earlier meetings, the county will maintain ownership of the marina and the area near State Road 78 which includes the building that formerly housed Lightsey’s Restaurant. The county will also maintain ownership of an area on the east side of the property which would be used for launching airboats.

Due to the changes in the concept, the county had to put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) on the property and allow all interested parties to bid. The bid is for the highest and best use of the property, not just the highest price.

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