Okeechobee City Council considers consolidating fire departments

OKEECHOBEE — During the City Council meeting on July 16, Councilman Bob Jarriel suggested it might be time to consider consolidating the city and county fire departments.

“Seventy-five percent of our ad valorem taxes go to the fire department,” Mr. Jarriel said. He explained that he thought they did a wonderful job, but the majority of cities in Florida do not have both city and county fire departments and the city’s millage rate is much higher than the norm. He recommended a workshop with the county commissioners and fire department to discuss combining the departments.

When the council asked for comments from the public, there were not many. Frank Irby, of Hospice, encouraged them to have the discussion with the county.

Councilman Ron Jarriel, a retired firefighter from Palm Beach County, said they consolidated over there and it worked very well, although he cautioned them to be sure none of the city firefighters lost their jobs in the process. He made a motion to meet with the county to discuss fire department issues, and Councilwoman Monica Clark seconded the motion.

In other business, the council:

• Approved additional repairs on the fire department ladder truck in the amount of $70,819.89. According to City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca, mechanically, everything needs to be repaired and, rather than do things piece by piece, they want to do a complete overhaul. A new truck would cost approximately $1 million, and this truck was donated to the city about 14 years ago. So far the city has invested about $10,000 in it. This is the only ladder truck in the entire county.

• City Clerk Lane Gamiotea was recognized for 30 years of service to the city as assistant clerk and then as city clerk. Mayor Dowling Watford presented her with a certificate of recognition along with a gift from the city. Mrs. Gamiotea was also surprised when fellow city clerks Lakisha Burch from Loxahatchee Groves and Chevelle Nubin from Wellington arrived at the meeting and presented her with a certificate from the Florida Association of City Clerks.

Lane Gamiotea is presented a longevity service award for 30 years of service to the city of Okeechobee by Mayor Dowling Watford at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 17. Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble.

• The council considered a consensus by the Planning Board regarding mobile food vendors. The city code does not specifically address mobile food vendors, but the planning board reported that it most closely fits in the category of peddlers, which are not allowed in the city. Planning board members recommended not changing the code at this time.

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