Okeechobee City Council votes to renovate city hall

OKEECHOBEE — Mold at Okeechobee City Hall led to an increase in the costs of renovations planned in the General Services Department for the coming year.

Okeechobee City Council approved a contract change with Green Design of Palm City for an additional $13,939 at a special meeting Tuesday.

The council also approved two other changes to the construction project for a total cost of $26,565.

The existing duct system that services that area of city hall was completely saturated with mold and mildew. The duct system must be removed immediately and replaced due to possible air quality concerns.

There were also electrical problems and problems with water that corroded pipes and wires.

Improvements were made to meet building code and make the building safe to inhabit and conduct business.

The city also extended the date for competition by 21 days.

The city council would like city hall to look and feel like it did in the early 1900s.

Councilman Noel Chandler said he likes to see historic buildings restored.

“Those who have lived here all their lives can remember what we used to be. I predict we will have more people come by and look at it and what we’re done,” he said.

The original city hall included the police department, fire department, a city jail, and a residence for the fire chief.

Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca said the older buildings often have improvements needed after they are inspected.

“There were some unsafe electrical boxes. We have addressed those major concerns. I think this will restore the building back with higher ceilings and the old walls,” he added.

The city also considered two other improvements. One would bring high ceilings for an additional $9,766. The second would add two windows for $2,860.
The funds would be transferred from reserves.

Council member Monica Clark said the city might want to put in the two windows now instead of doing it independently. The windows will bring in more sunshine and light to the department.

Councilman Mike O’Connor asked whether the city should restore it to historical conditions.

Mayor Dowling Watford said the trend for governments has been to restore old buildings.

“The windows don’t have to be done but the others have to be done,” he said.

He said there were no windows in this location when city hall was built.

Council member Noel Chandler said the electrical problems could have been dangerous.

“We are lucky the building didn’t burn down,” he said. Councilman Chandler said he was happy with the quote the city received.

“I think the price is very reasonable,” he added.

“When you remodel old buildings things don’t always go like you think it will,” Mayor Watford said.

Councilmember Clark did not vote due to a conflict of interest.

Council member Gary Ritter was absent.

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