Town hall meetings will occur twice a year

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee City Council has been hard at work ever since the town hall meeting going over the comments to see what, if anything, can be done to address the concerns brought up during the meeting, said City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca at the council meeting on April 2

Because the first one went so well, a decision was made to begin holding these meetings twice a year. Councilwoman Monica Clark suggested that one of the meetings be during the day so older residents who are not comfortable driving at night might be more likely to attend, and Councilman Bobby Keefe suggested that a less formal “Coffee with a Councilman” format might be less intimidating for those who are afraid to speak in a formal setting, and Councilwoman Clark agreed. It was determined that they would have one informal, daytime “Coffee with a Councilman” meeting and one more formal, evening town hall meeting each year from here on out.

Administrator Montes De Oca said someone has reached out to every person who commented during the town hall meeting to try to address his or her concerns.

One of the concerns mentioned during the town hall meeting was the city’s website, its need for an update, and the lack of an ability to post agenda exhibits. At the council meeting, the new website was debuted and can now be accessed by the public; but, of course, it is still a work in progress.

Finance Director India Riedel, who has been hard at work on the website for months, explained that the website complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and every word on it can be read aloud to you if you click on it. “Our goal is to have a vibrant, exciting, usable website for the staff and citizens of Okeechobee,” she said. There is even a live camera so you can see what is happening at the intersection of U.S. 441 and State Road 70.

In other business, Mayor Dowling Watford was presented a resolution by Mark Sittig of the Florida League of Cities for 35 years of service to the city of Okeechobee. Dallon Boyd was presented a certificate of appreciation for his service as a trustee on the police officers’ pension fund board. Mayor Watford proclaimed the week of April 7-13 as Crime Victims’ Rights Week; he proclaimed April 2 as National Service Recognition Day; and Fire Chief Herb Smith was recognized for placing first in the first responders portion of the Demolition Derby.

Dallon Boyd was presented a certificate of appreciation for his service as a trustee on the police officers’ pension fund board by Mayor Watford. Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble

An expenditure in the amount of $17,998 was approved for the purchase of six sets of firefighter bunker gear. This was a budgeted expense and is a normal yearly replacement. This gear normally lasts 10 years and is replaced on a rotating schedule. An expenditure of $8,645 was approved for the purchase of a 22-foot Christmas tree with a 6-foot star topper. This was also a budgeted item.

Mayor Dowling Watford was presented a resolution by Mark Sittig of Florida League of Cities for 35 years of service to the city of Okeechobee. Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble

Finally, Councilman Keefe made a motion to begin a review of the city’s charter, and after discussion in which it was determined that the last total review was done in 1962, it was decided this needed to be done and would be budgeted for next year. Staff will be directed to begin work on gathering information about what it will take to do this. He also brought up the need for vision and mission statements during the comments portion of the meeting and said he would like to start working on these.

Fire Chief Herb Smith Herb Smith was presented with a miniature wrecked car for placing first in the First Responders portion of the Demolition Derby. Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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