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Creating the County We Want

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					                   Okeechobee County Visioning Process
                      Creating the County We Want
                            Setting Priorities

                            Public Workshop 3 Report
                                               OVERVIEW

The third of three public workshops in the Okeechobee County Vision Process was held on April
10, 2006 at the KOA in Okeechobee. Approximately 45 people attended the meeting. The
facilitator provided a brief recap of the second workshop and then described the agenda for the
evening. The meeting consisted primarily of a review of information from experts on current
activities and new initiatives that address vision priorities. Participants were asked to rate how
well they thought those activities were addressing the vision priorities.

This report along with other meeting information will be posted on the Heartland Visioning
website at: http://consensus.fsu.edu/heartland/


                                      MEETING SUMMARY

This report is a facilitator summary of the meeting, primarily based on information reviewed at
the meeting and participant comments at the meeting. The meeting agenda is in Appendix A.

WELCOME, INTRODUCTIONS, PROCESS AND AGENDA REVIEW

Chris Pedersen, facilitator, welcomed everyone and explained the visioning process and
workshop agenda. He emphasized the importance of this opportunity for the residents of
Okeechobee County to have a voice in their county‟s future. Mr. Pedersen introduced Lynn
Topel with the Florida‟s Heartland Rural Economic Development Initiative. FHREDI is
sponsoring the visioning process with assistance from the Florida Department of Community
Affairs. Mr. Pedersen introduced Diane Vacca with FDCA who was in attendance. Mr.
Pedersen asked the elected officials in attendance to please stand and introduce themselves. He
then asked the Okeechobee County Vision Steering Committee members to introduce
themselves.

REVIEW OF THE VISIONING PROCESS

The facilitator explained that there were three rounds of meetings in the visioning process. The
first round meeting was used to identify what citizens treasure about Okeechobee County and
what they desire for the future of the county. The second round meeting‟s purpose was to
prioritize the desires that participants identified at the first meeting. The third round meeting was
to hear information on current and proposed activities that address vision priorities and rate how
well those activities are addressing vision priorities.


Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                           page 1
REVIEW OF “WHAT RESIDENTS VALUE” DRAFT

Participants were asked to review and make refinements to a draft of What Residents Value In
Okeechobee County. The draft was based on Treasures submitted at the first vision workshop.
Comments concerning the draft follow the draft.


What Residents Value in Okeechobee County - DRAFT

Okeechobee County residents value their small town atmosphere. When you walk into a
restaurant or a store, you know just about everyone there. People living in Okeechobee have a
cooperative and refreshing attitude. They stand ready to pitch in and help each other out when
needed. Okeechobee has a strong faith based community. Residents live by their values and
have respect for their neighbors. The streets are safe, crime is low, and it‟s a good place to raise
kids.

Okeechobee residents don‟t have to deal with many of the problems of more populated areas but
they still enjoy many of the same services and amenities. Okeechobee is quiet and clean.
Everything is convenient. There is a lack of traffic congestion. Housing densities are low. The
cost of living is low. Yet, there are good public schools and colleges. The doctors and hospitals
are great. There are downtown parks, a sports complex, community theatre, and unique historic
buildings.

Okeechobee residents also appreciate their wide open spaces, farms, and open land. They
appreciate the beauty of the natural habitat and wildlife. Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee
River and Prairee are prized for their beauty and recreational opportunities.

Okeechobee residents appreciate the cooperative spirit among civic and government leaders.
The various branches of government work well together and government and business cooperate
on a number of initiatives. Businesses in the community are supportive of educational programs.
Law enforcement provides exemplary services to the community.

Comments
   Fourth pp. spelling of prairie.
   Not traffic congestion at 4 in the morning. Otherwise you have to plan when you go
    anywhere. We do have congestion.




Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                           page 2
REVIEW OF RESULTS OF SECOND WORKSHOP AND REVIEW OF MATERIAL
FROM EXPERTS

Participants were asked to review the priorities developed at workshop two and then review new
information from experts that addresses the priorities.

The first step for participants was a review of the results of the rating and prioritizing activities
conducted at the second workshop. At workshop two, participants rated goals using a three-point
scale: 3 = I support this, 2 = I can live with this, 1 = I would like to see changes. The rating
appears next to each goal below. At workshop 2, participants also prioritized objectives that had
been developed from participant ideas at the first workshop. Participants were asked to choose
their most important objectives from the various categories of objectives. The number next to
each objective below indicates how many people selected that objective as one of their top
choices in the category.

After reviewing each goal and accompanying objectives, participants were asked to review
information from experts. Experts had been asked to submit information on the vision priorities.
They were asked to provide a brief description of the need and some current activities and new
initiatives that address the vision priorities. Participants were asked to review the expert
information and provide comments. The comments follow at the end of each section of material.

Participants were then asked to rate the section of material. The rating was to determine if
participants believed that the priority was being addressed by the current activities and new
initiatives. A summary ratings chart follows the material.


          Okeechobee County Goals, Objectives and Expert Information

Development Goal
We would like development in Okeechobee County to be thoughtful, attractive, and
compatible with the rural character and natural beauty of the county.
Statement Rating: 2.82            (3-46, 2-8, 1-1)

Development Objectives
Planning
29     Promote neighborhood development that includes sidewalks, recreation centers and
       a school.
28     Require parks and green space in both residential and commercial development.
23     Accommodate growth but preserve agriculture lands, open spaces, and natural
       areas.
22     Promote development in urban areas and not spread all over the county.
20     Place a moratorium on further development until infrastructure, health issues,
       sewer and water are upgraded and improved.


Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                           page 3
18     Preserve agriculture by using innovative ideas like greenbelt development and the
       transfer of development rights.
13     Create a technical committee comprised of engineers, surveyors, etc. instead of laymen to
       review proposed development
9      Discontinue mixed-use zoning that includes heavy industrial.
4      Allow more waterfront development.
       Create a countywide development plan to manage growth. (deleted at meeting)

Standards and Regulation
41     Strengthen code enforcement to remove of unoccupied and dilapidated buildings.
21     Create landscaping requirements for commercial and residential properties.
20     Improve building permitting and zoning.
20     Clean up overgrown yards.
19     Promote architecture with character.
17     Fine owners for trash on their property.
10     Require some green space among the asphalt in commercial properties.
6      Reduce fees and regulations for property investment.
4      Enact and enforce a sign ordinance.

Utilities and Other Infrastructure
37      Create a countywide drainage plan for stormwater management.
23      Make a concerted effort to put utilities underground.
17      Build infrastructure for sewer and water in the county.
11      Make Okeechobee Utilities Authority more accountable.
10      Build a quality water processing plant.
8       Improve the quality of OUA water (changed at meeting).

Residential Development Objectives
47     Create more affordable workforce housing for middle-income workers, teachers,
       police, nurses, etc.
37     Promote responsible, planned, residential growth.
28     Create a variety of housing types for retirees, families and limited incomes that
       include single-family homes, condos, apartments, etc.
25     Create a plan to revitalize blighted housing areas.
17     Create more low-income housing.
13     Encourage gated communities and residences of quality.
11     Develop more senior citizen assisted living complexes.
7      Develop programs to help people keep their home when they cannot pay the taxes
5      Limit residential development in rural areas to 5 acres per house.
3      Slow the rate of growth by limiting the number of multi-family units allowed in a year.
2      Keep multi-family growth clustered together.
2      Put a moratorium on further multi-family and triplex dwellings.
1      Enlarge the minimum number of acres for single family and general residential
       development.




Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                       page 4
Expert Information
Improve development planning and regulation

Need
The current population of Okeechobee County is about 38,000 permanent residents, projected to
reach about 54,000 by 2020 if the recent growth rate continues. The peak seasonal population is
currently estimated to be 50,000 to 55,000. The population figures do not take into account the
proposed 15,000-17,000 unit new town that may be constructed in the northeast part of the
county.

There is an estimated need of 400 to 500 acres of commercial development and 150 to 200 acres
of industrial development to service the projected population. There may be a need for
additional industrial to meet goal of diversifying the local economy and job base.

Current Activities
The comprehensive plan and local regulations can be used to address many of the issues that re
important to Okeechobee residents. The comprehensive plan was amended last year to make it
easier to allow for mixed-use developments including supporting commercial development
integrated with new residential communities. Recent land development regulation changes
include establishing a Planned Development zoning district to also facilitate mixed-use
development.

Sidewalks are not currently required for non-residential development and are not required for
residential development with lot widths over 150 feet. Current sidewalk regulations address new
residential development only. There currently is not a program in place to put sidewalks in
existing residential or commercial areas.

County regulations do not expressly require parks and green spaces in new development, but do
have limits on impervious surface coverage and therefore require some open spaces. The
impervious surface allowable is a much higher percentage for commercial and industrial than for
residential. The county does not regulate natural areas at the local level. The county depends on
state and federal regulatory agencies to address environmental resources.

There are no county regulations or policies to preserve agricultural land. The county
comprehensive plan establishes a density of 1 unit per 10 acres for land designated as agriculture.
Subdivisions are being developed at that density. The county could lower the density in
agricultural areas to make it a little less desirable to develop large lot subdivisions, but there are
legal issues involved that could end up costing the county a substantial amount of money.

New Initiatives
The county is developing and will implement a concurrency management system. Developments
will have to meet certain concurrency requirements for infrastructure or they will not be allowed
to proceed.




Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                            page 5
The county has committed several hundred thousand dollars to begin preparation of a master
drainage plan and the county is studying a stormwater utility as a means to raise some funds to
implement the plan. Following completion of the plan, implementation will involve prioritizing
projects and phasing their completion. The drainage system is a fairly high priority but
implementation will take time. All needs cannot be addressed simultaneously.

No comments

Affordable Housing Objective
47    Create more affordable workforce housing for middle-income workers, teachers,
      police, nurses, etc.

Expert Information
Increase availability of affordable housing for the workforce

Need
Okeechobee County needs a variety of housing stock, however, the greatest housing need is in
the area of affordable housing for the workforce and for seniors. The lack of quality, affordable
housing is a major obstacle to attracting, teachers, police officers, fire personnel, and service
workers of all types. In addition, businesses that might want to set up operations in Okeechobee
County need housing for their workers.

Current Activities
As of 3/24/2006, the following 376 new affordable housing units are scheduled for construction,
assuming approval of final HHRP allocations and other funds.

RENTAL (all scheduled for completion by late 2007)
   72 units for seniors, Taylor Creek, HHRP and other funds.
   80 units for seniors, Laurel Oaks, HHRP and other funds.
   8 units for families, BeacHouse townhouses, HHRP and private funds.
   96 units for families, Orange Blossom Apartments (Carlisle), HHRP and other funds.
   100 units for families, The Oaks at Shannon‟s Crossing. This is scheduled for
     construction using funds from Florida Housing Finance Corporation and other sources
     (none from Okeechobee County).

OWNER OCCUPIED
   11-17, Okeechobee Non Profit Housing, HHRP and possibly Federal Home Loan Bank.
   3, Habitat for Humanity, HHRP.

REPLACEMENT/REPAIRS OF EXISTING HOMES (No net increase in units)
   Approximately 50 homes will be replaced and 5 rehabilitated using HHRP and Home
     Again funds.
   ROAD has replaced 2 homes and has 8 scheduled for repairs, using Volunteer Florida
     funds.
   ONPH repaired 10 roofs using grant funds.
   Okeechobee County Senior Services repaired a number of homes.


Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                        page 6
Comments
Have a workshop for builders so they can understand and access those funds.


Transportation Goal
We would like a transportation system that provides for the efficient movement of people
and goods throughout the county and the region. (changed at meeting)
Statement Rating: 2.49     (3-37, 2-20, 1-6)

Transportation Objectives
44    Build alternative roadways, a loop, or bypass for trucks and vehicles passing
      through.
28    Build four lanes on SR 70 through the whole County.
19    Build adequate local highways with plenty of lanes and access roads.
19    Build four lane access to the coastal areas.
19    Build four lanes on US 441 north to SR 68.
18    Include sidewalks and bike paths on all major access roads
16    Create transit bus system especially for the city and nearby housing developments,
      shopping centers, to coasts, sports complex, library, top of Lake Okeechobee, different
      parts of town, elderly etc.
14    Conduct a traffic study to determine the appropriate location for new traffic signals.
      (added at meeting)
13    Implement beautification programs for primary thoroughfares.
13    Restore train depot and utilize as a transportation center and increase rail traffic.
10    Develop a bigger airport.
7     Open Treasure Island to 710 by way of bridge at Hi-Low Acres.
6     Create a railway to the south to bring visitors for the day and take people to work.
4     Add streetlights in appropriate locations, for example, the Lazy Seven area. (added at
      meeting)
4     Create 24 hour taxi service
2     Create a high-speed transportation system from coast to coast.
2     Do not allow airport expansion.

Possible locations for new traffic lights
 Put a traffic light on Ninth Street at the First Missionary Baptist Church
 Put a traffic light at the racetrack.
 More stop lights on 441 (Parrott) to control traffic flow and speed.

Expert Information
Ensure adequate transportation for the community

Need
US 441 and US 70 will continually need improvements to handle current traffic and anticipated
growth. Additional alternatives and bypasses are needed to alleviate traffic congestion.


Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                       page 7
Current Activities
FDOT provided funding for one of their consultants to complete a Master Transportation Plan
for Okeechobee County, but their funding ran out before our plan could be completed and now
they have assigned this project to in-house staff to finalize. This plan identified current
roadways and their classifications; future projected alternative roadways were to be included
with this plan also. After completion of the Master Transportation Plan, the County would be
able to proceed with implementing the objectives of the Master Plan.

The County has begun collecting field data from some of our communities in an effort to work in
conjunction with the master plan and assist with improvements to our existing roadway system.

The County has worked with FDOT, State and Federal Officials in order to obtain funding for
the highest transportation priorities within our County. Statistically over the last several years,
Okeechobee County has seen an increase in funding for State, Federal and local transportation
projects. A significant amount of this funding has been from grants in one form or another.

Concurrency Management is another area that the County has looked at to ensure that
development is properly addressing their impacts.

The County has contracted with Walter H. Keller, Inc. to perform an impact study and provide
the necessary information in order to implement impact fees. One of the elements to be
addressed in the study is transportation. Staff is currently finalizing the list of projects to be
considered in the study. We are anticipating impacts fees will be implemented before the end of
2006.




Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                            page 8
FROM / TO                                      FISCAL YR. STATUS/AMOUNT

US 441 NORTH:
CSX crossing to north of Cemetery Road    2006              Completed
North of Cemetery Road to NE 131st Street 2006              Underway – completion this year
Taylor Creek Draw Bridge rehabilitation   2011              $ 1.143 M

HWY. 70 (EAST/WEST:
S.W. 67th Drive – left turn lane          2006              $ 104,500 Engineering
                                          2007              $ 650,000 Construction
S.W. 87th Terr. – left turn lane          2006              $ 104,500 Engineering
                                          2007              $ 604,000 Construction
West of 98 to N.W. 7th Ave.               2006              $ 703,640 Right of Way
                                          2006              $ 943,964 Construction/utilities
S.E. 34th Ave. to Berman Road             2006              $ 124,769 P.D.&E.
S.E. 34th Ave. to N.E. 80th Ave.          2007              $ 3.374 M Preliminary Engineering
                                          2009              $ 4.369 M Right of Way
                                          2011              $ 17 M Construction
        th
N.E. 80 Ave. to Berman Road               2006              $ 20,000 Preliminary Engineering
                                          2007              $ 4.111 M Preliminary Engineering
                                          2009              $ 2.009 M Right of Way
                                          2011              $ 30 M Construction
Berman Road to St. Lucie County           2006              $ 522,779 Right of Way
                                          2007              $ 1.264 M Right of Way
                                          2008              $ 25,000 Environmental
                                          2009              $ 13.3 M Construction
Various locations - Corridor improvements 2008              $ 590,666 Preliminary Engineering

DOT WORK PROGRAM for 441 & Hwy. 70                          $ 79,276,818 (approximate)
There are several other projects within the program that were not listed. They didn‟t directly
relate to improvements to the paved roadway on these two highways.

Comments
 Consider extension of Berman Road.
 How can development concur with a master plan that has not been developed?
 All development has to have their road impacts evaluated and must offset the impacts.
  Offsite impacts must also be covered. They are aware of this when they apply for a permit.
 Put a traffic light on 441 and 18th.
 Something must be done with Wolf Road intersection. There a lot of accidents there.




Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                         page 9
Economy and Economic Development Goal

We would like a strong diverse economy with a variety of businesses that provide skilled
and unskilled jobs for all county residents.
Statement Rating: 2.82       (3-47, 2-6, 1-2)

Economic Objectives
35   Attract businesses that will employ more skilled and technical workers.
33   Develop an economic development organization to attract businesses
28   Attract more industry to provide jobs.
27   Attract clean, high tech industries to create a better tax base.
25   Develop a thriving main street downtown business area with a variety of stores and
     restaurants
20   Preserve a strong diverse agriculture economy,
18   Develop our airport and industrial park.
16   Increase workforce development so we have skilled labor.
16   Attract large companies that will supply jobs for the ever-growing community.
15   Develop programs to provide tax breaks and incentives for new businesses.
12   Promote Okeechobee tourism at the state and national level.
11   Enhance economic development programs.
9    Attract warehouse and Internet shipping businesses for young workers and those with
     lesser skills.
7    Develop a full scale “Green Market” at the Agriculture Center.
7    Develop more ecotourism.
7    Promote more bed and breakfasts with local activities.
5    Develop renewable agriculture products, for ethanol, energy, etc.
3    Create a Welcome Center near Flagler Park.

Expert Information
Develop and attract diverse new businesses and support retention and expansion of existing
businesses.

Need
The average income in Okeechobee County is $27,363. Economic development is needed to
increase the tax base, improve the quality of life, provide higher paying jobs for current residents
and provide jobs so that Okeechobee children can afford to stay in the county. There is a need
for a comprehensive economic development effort in order to accomplish these goals.

New Initiatives
 The Economic Restructuring Committee of Okeechobee Main Street recognizes the needs
  stated by the Visioning Committee as well as the importance to obtain input from the key
  players who will be directly impacted by any action taken or decided upon - the community
  business owners and operators. Therefore, a survey has been developed that is ready to be
  printed and distributed that has been designed to provide feedback from the business




Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                         page 10
    owners so as to provide a basis upon which to develop a plan that will both attract new
    commerce and support and enhance the commercial base currently in place.
   The cost of printing the survey will be absorbed by Okeechobee Main Street and hand-
    delivered by the Committee Members to the various businesses located within the LPA. It
    will also be available to those business owners outside the downtown district via the OKMS
    website. The results obtained from the survey will be compiled into a report and made
    available to all County, City and agency offices that will benefit from the data obtained.
   This project has been in the works for several months and it is anticipated that the surveys
    will be available for distribution within the next four weeks.
   In addition to the previously cited project, the ER Committee of OKMS has initiated plans to
    develop a brochure that will contain pertinent facts relating to the County & City and current
    trends with regard to population growth and residential development. The brochure will be
    used as a vehicle to solicit consideration of Okeechobee as a prime location for franchise
    expansion. The brochure will be included with a letter that will be sent to the various
    corporate headquarters with an invitation to participate in a “franchise fair” that is proposed
    for late fall 2006 or early Spring 2007. It is anticipated that this will initiate an interest in the
    area by the various franchises as well as provide a vehicle for the members of the community
    to connect with potential investment opportunities that may have otherwise eluded them.
   Again, the cost and labor involved to make this a reality will be absorbed by OKMS. The
    stage of progress for this project is in its initial phase. Currently, the research is in process to
    identify the potential franchise businesses that will enhance and serve to complement the
    existing commercial sectors of the community.

Comments
 It looks like Main Streets is doing a lot and the County is not doing much.
 It is important to note that the expert that we asked to provide information was with Main
  Streets.
 Main Street receives money from the City and the County.
 Other agencies should be more involved.
 Okeechobee County just completed an economic development plan that is on the web site and
  there is a job announcement for an Economic Development Specialist.
 We need to advertise and actively pursue new businesses and industries. We have a lot going
  for us. This is part of the new economic development plan including a list of the types of
  businesses that may be appropriate in Okeechobee Co.


Natural Environment Goal
Natural areas contribute significantly to our quality of life in Okeechobee County and we
would like the natural environment to continue to provide enjoyment and ecosystem
services for residents, tourists, and future generations. (changed at meeting)
Statement Rating: 2.84        (3-48, 2-6, 1-2)

Natural Environment Objectives
38    Restore the quality of the lake for fishing and boating



Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                              page 11
21     Beautify the community with parks and landscaping on roads, public areas, businesses
       etc.
19     Promote programs to protect agriculture lands and enhance natural resources.
18     Clean the canals and waterways.
15     Preserve our natural resources, open space, and rural lands.
4      Restore the river and wetlands

Expert Information
Enhance the quality of Lake Okeechobee

Need
There is a need to pay special attention to the restoration of Lake Okeechobee. The quality of
the Lake affects many things in Okeechobee. The quality of the lake is important for
recreational activities for residents and it is extremely important for economic development and
tourism.

Lake Okeechobee has three main problems: water level control, phosphorus pollution and exotic
plant and animal invasions. The first two stem from human development (urban and
agricultural) in the watershed that change water flow patterns and degrade water quality. The
third problem is addressed by various agencies through on-going management activities. Major
current projects to restore Lake Okeechobee‟s health are listed below. Okeechobee‟s watershed
extends all the way to Orlando, so changes in the watershed must be done over a huge area,
through several projects.

Current Activities
Everglades restoration; Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project
(http://www.evergladesplan.org/pm/projects/docs_01_lake_o_watershed.cfm): This project will
build several reservoirs and filter marshes (termed Stormwater Treatment Areas, or, STASs) in
the watershed to try to reduce high water levels and pollution. (State and Federal effort,
estimated cost $1.1 Billion)

Everglades Restoration; Aquifer Storage and Recovery Wells
(http://www.evergladesplan.org/pm/projects/proj_44_asr_regional.cfm): This project is testing
to see if wells can be built to pump excess water into the aquifers during flood periods, and
retrieved during drought periods. If feasible, as many as 200 wells might be built around the
lake. (State and Federal effort, estimated cost more than $1.5 Billion).

Everglades Restoration; other projects
(http://www.evergladesplan.org/pm/projects/landing_projects.cfm): Reservoirs and filter
marshes will be built downstream of Okeechobee to capture excess water and treat it before
sending it to natural systems. (State and Federal, cost varies with projects)

Lake Okeechobee Protection Plan
(http://www.sfwmd.gov/org/wrp/wrp_okee/projects/protection_plan.html): This plan focuses
mostly on cleaning up Okeechobee‟s phosphorus problems through a variety of research
programs on phosphorus control, and most importantly, working with landowners on farms and



Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                       page 12
in cities throughout the entire watershed to help clean the outflow from their properties through
implementation of Best Management Practices. (State effort, estimated coast of $330 million,
but changes as new information is gained).

Kissimmee River Restoration (http://www.sfwmd.gov/org/erd/krr/index.html): This project will
fill in about 22 miles of canal in the Kissimmee River floodplain and restore a more natural flow
to the river through altering management of the Kissimmee Lakes that supply most of the river‟s
water. In all, more than 50,000 acres of wetlands will be restored, as well as sending water to
Okeechobee in a healthier pattern. Much of the restored River is in Okeechobee County and the
aesthetic and tourism benefits should be substantial. (State and Federal Effort, cost about $500
million)

Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Long Term Management Plan
(http://www.sfwmd.gov/org/erd/krr/index.html): The Kissimmee Chain of Lakes region
comprises about 40% of Lake Okeechobee‟s waterhshed and suffers the same human-induced
pressures of altered water flow patterns, nutrient pollution and exotic species. This plan is
identifying the extent of these challenges and with that information, we can construct restoration
plans for this region, which then will help give healthier outflows to Lake Okeechobee. (State
and Federal effort, costs unknown at present).

There are myriad other efforts in the watershed including growth planning and environmental
resource permitting that must be continued to help prevent further deterioration of our natural
resources.

Okeechobee County also is home to the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, which at more
than 50,000 acres, preserves the largest remaining tract of a globally imperiled and unique
ecosystem, the “Florida Dry Prairie.” This is an original landscape of central Florida, the one
our ancestors (of all ethnic groups) encountered when living in the Florida wilderness, and a
place of unique plants, animals and landforms, a true treasure.

Comments
 Need a reference to landscape requirements and native species requirements

   Diane Vacca with FDCA gave a brief overview of the Rural Land Stewardship
    Program. It is a tool counties can use to preserve rural lands. The program is set up for an
    area of at least 10,000 acres. Collier County is considering the program and St. Lucie is in
    the process of implementing the program.
   The County Commission has conducted a workshop on the Rural Land Stewardship Program
    and they are deciding on its possible use in Okeechobee County.
   A question was raised about the 10,000 acre threshold.
   This program is a way to help our ranchers and farmers.
   The program allows landowners to cluster development with higher density and preserve
    large parcels of land without development.
   The County currently manages development because they decide what densities are allowed
    and where they are allowed.



Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                        page 13
   I have been to one clustered community that has high density but it is a nicely planned
    community with amenities and schools.


Education Goal
We would like a quality education system that has good personnel, good facilities, and a
variety of programs, and a variety of options. (changed at meeting)
Statement Rating: 2.82      (3-48, 2-6, 1-2)

Education Objectives
31    Create a vocational high school
27    Make community and government support of education a priority.
27    Improve technology and equipment in schools.
26    Create more business internships to help graduates enter the workplace with
      knowledge, experience and confidence.
15    Develop funding sources and build more schools
13    Conduct personal presentation seminars for 8-12 grade that includes topics like etiquette,
      resumes and interviews.
12    Create more after school programs and before school programs
11    Hire more black teachers in the school system.
8     Increase requirements for graduation and promotion.
9     Decrease requirements for expulsion and retention.
6     Create a recognition program in the community for teachers who are doing an excellent
      job.
4     Create private tutoring programs.
3     Develop more computer assisted learning to help teachers loosen up time and provide up
      to date material to students.
2     Provide a variety of education options (added at meeting).

Expert Information
Provide a high quality educational system with choices for children and adults.

Pre-K to 12

Need
Community and governmental support for education is critical. Our student population is
expected to grow by over 600 students in the next five years and to grow significantly faster in
ensuing years due to massive population growth of the county overall. We are experiencing our
greatest teacher shortage in modern times and have hired 77 new teachers this school year. Most
of these new hires were from the Midwest. We are also in the midst of a nationwide teacher
shortage. Housing prices are a deterrent when out of state teachers consider a move to
Okeechobee. The school district does not generate enough tax revenue to build classrooms and
ancillary facilities to keep pace with this growth and will rely heavily on state funding to build
new schools. The graduation rate is lower than the state average, and correlates with the




Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                        page 14
population demographics of the district. Recently, Hispanic students have generated all of our
enrollment growth, providing a unique challenge to our school district.

Current Activities
The district continues to expand teacher recruitment efforts and focus on salary enhancements.
The district will apply for special state funding for building a K-8 school in the near future.
Health insurance options are being examined, but Blue Cross Blue Shield is the only major
carrier serving rural areas in Florida. Schools have focused on providing technical support for a
continuing expansion of computer and related technology in schools. The district continues to
seek grants, including federal funding, for this purpose. The district has several vocational
programs at the comprehensive high school (OHS), but may need to consider a vocational high
school if explosive growth occurs as expected. More internships are needed to give students real
world experience.

New Initiatives
 See Career and Technical Education booklets which are appended. Copies are distributed to
  all students before entering high school and are available upon request.
 Several competitive technology grants have been obtained due to team efforts of school and
  district staff. Congressman Foley has been instrumental in obtaining federal funds for
  technology.
 The district will apply for a Special Facilities Construction Project, a funding source unique
  to small, rural districts in Florida. This program requires a commitment of local millage, but
  allows the district to receive substantial matching funds from the state. Because of past
  projects, the school district has no long-term debt. Our property tax rolls do not provide
  sufficient funds for either operating or capital needs and are supplemented heavily by state
  sources (sales tax revenue).
 We continue to seek solutions to the teacher housing problem. To date, this has not been as
  severe for non-instructional workers as most applicants are already Okeechobee residents.
  This may be a problem in the future.

K-12 Education Comments
 Need to address building a new high school. 600 students in 9th grade now
 We may be able to increase the size of the high school we have.

Post Secondary Education

Post Secondary Education Objectives
 Develop higher education and continuing education.
 Expand the university branch and make 4-year degrees available in Okeechobee.
 Create more college classes so our students stay in our community.
 Create a technical and trade education center.

Expert Information

Need



Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                        page 15
   Continue meeting the needs of local business, governmental agencies, county and community
    leaders by expanding program offerings and workforce training
   Additional facilities to provide vocational, academic, cultural and business strategic planning
    venues
   Address needs of the 50+ (seniors) community members in regard to continuing educational
    opportunities
   Address the needs of the 35% of adults who have not completed a high school education

Current Activities
 Approximately 1730 students attend classes at the Okeechobee Dixon Hendry Campus with
   more being served at all sites in Okeechobee County
 Continue to strengthen the seamless transition from Okeechobee High School to Indian River
   Community College (OHS graduates to IRCC has increased from 28% in 2000 to 51% in
   2005
 Continue supporting and tracking Okeechobee students through degree completion (the # of
   Okeechobee graduates per year has increased 81% from 2000-2005)
 Continue Adult Basic Education/GED outreach (since the 1999-2000 school year, 229
   individuals have earned a GED diploma)

New Initiatives
Addition of the new Williamson Conference and Educational Center at the Okeechobee Campus
will provide two additional nursing labs with a health science classroom, an office systems
technology suite, a culinary arts kitchen and classroom (for training and catering), a 175 seat
interactive auditorium, a business strategic planning center with two breakout rooms, covered
veranda and multi-purpose classroom

Development of a new Lifelong Learning Institute to meet the academic, cultural and cognitive
enrichment needs of the 50+ population. A focus group activity, to determine interest and needs,
has already been conducted.

Post Secondary Education Comments
None


Health Goal Statement
We would like quality health care services and facilities that meet the health needs of all
county residents.
Rating: 2.76 (3-43, 2-11, 1-1)

Health Objectives
33    Build a larger, new hospital with more services.
22    Develop maternity services.
19    Enhance emergency response and resources.
12    Create accessible hospitals and clinics in several different areas of the community.
11    Develop more healthcare services for low-income people.


Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                        page 16
8      Offer a wider selection of healthcare insurance.
8      Expand substance abuse recovery services and facilities

Expert Information
Provide convenient access to a quality health care system.

Need
Okeechobee County will need to attract additional doctors, nurses and other healthcare
professional as the population grows. Healthcare facilities will also need to be improved.

Current Activities
 Continue the current initiative on the extensive Raulerson Hospital medical scholarship
   programs now available at IRCC,
 Continue efforts to provide quality staff through our extensive facility recruiting program
   locally and at the HCA Eastern Division,
 Be an active partner in the IRCC funding program for the Williamson Conference and
   Educational Center to foster economic, community, cultural, and business development,
 Participate in career day activities in the local schools to encourage students to plan for
   potential medical careers,
 As disaster preparedness is a major component of quality healthcare, Raulerson Hospital
   continues to work closely and trains with the Department of Health and County emergency
   departments to ensure preparedness for potential disasters that may occur.

New Initiatives
 Continue Raulerson Hospital‟s deep commitment to education by funding teaching and
  student activities in Okeechobee,
 Plan to provide temporary housing for new staff during there efforts to acquire permanent
  housing,
 Continue to track the growth of Okeechobee County in support of our plans for the expansion
  of Raulerson Hospital and the services provided,
 Expand the recruitment program to provide the additional doctors, nurses, and medical staff
  required to handle the future growth of the county and the expansion of the facility.

Health Comments
 Include mental health services the need just keeps increasing
 There is a need for substance abuse services including a de-tox center. Provide space for
   private providers to expand existing services. It may require rezoning.
 Need information from the local health department, not just the hospitals.


Culture, Recreation and the Community Goal




Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                       page 17
We would like to maintain our unique character and sense of place by preserving our
diverse cultural and agricultural heritage, by supporting organizations that help build our
community and by creating a variety of recreational opportunities for all residents.
Statement Rating: 2.71       (3-40, 2-14, 1-1)

Cultural and Community Objectives
32    Preserve historic buildings. including the old train station, old Basinger School and
      old jail.
30    Create art and culture programs for children and youth in the community.
26    Develop a performing arts center.
20    Increase the use of the Agricultural Center – ideas include: add air conditioning, establish
      a “Yesterday Village”, and develop a “Wild West Show Days” exhibiting Cowboy Poets,
      especially our locals and our cracker talents.
20    Support a strong county fair association.
15    Create a new senior center.
12    Support the Arnolds Wildlife Rehabilitation Program.
12    Promote Okeechobee‟s “hidden” treasures, i.e. geological site in Ft. Drum, Okeechobee
      battlefield, Seminole Reservation, etc.
7     Promote Hispanic involvement in the community.
6     Provide staff at historical buildings and museums.
0     Move the old library (police), chamber and memorials to have one long open “mall” park
      from the country cooler to the fire department.
      Create a cultural arts center, possibly like Dolly Hand. (deleted at meeting)

Expert Information
Enhance Cultural and Community Opportunities

Need
The historic community theatre has been restored and is used primarily as an auditorium for the
Okeechobee Freshman Campus. It also serves as a large meeting room for the school district and
the community. As a theatre facility it is very inadequate for the following reasons:
 There are no dressing rooms.
 There is very little backstage or wing area.
 There is no construction facility for building stage sets.
 There is very little storage space for costumes, props, or set pieces.
 The stage is quite small with no room for multiple sets.
 The ceiling height on the stage does not allow for drops to be flown in.
 Lighting is adequate, but antiquated.
 Seating is not permanent and the audience floor is level causing obstructed audience viewing.
The local community theatre uses this stage to do two productions a year, requiring a great deal
of effort as the stage and seating must be cleared for the school after each performance.
Professional theatre companies have found this facility to be totally inadequate for bringing any
large theatre productions and we are restricted to small one set touring companies.



Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                        page 18
In regards to opportunities for our youth in the performing arts, these are either extremely limited
or non-existent. Students seeking careers in this area have found they are ill-prepared to compete
for performing arts scholarships or entrance to performing arts schools. There is a need for a
local performing arts youth theatre to allow students with talent opportunities to develop these
talents to their fullest. A performing arts summer camp would also help to build a program of
this type in addition to providing more summer activities for our youth.

Okeechobee is a unique city both because of its location and its history. There is a need to
preserve this history before it is destroyed by the urban sprawl, which even now is reaching
Okeechobee. New residents enjoy the small town atmosphere and the few historic buildings that
have been preserved. A very unique small-town jail, the Okeechobee Train Station, and the
historic Basinger School still need saving.

Current Activities
 Main Street, the Historical Society and other interested parties have banded together to work
   to save these sites. A new roof for the old jail has been approved to help stop the
   deterioration of the building. Contacts have been made by the county to gain ownership of
   the train station. It has been determined that the Basinger School would cost about $800,000
   to save and would need to be moved from its present location.
 The Okeechobee County School Board with the aid of Cultural Arts Grants from the
   Department of State provides cultural opportunities for the students in the Okeechobee
   County Schools. Professional touring companies bring quality productions to Okeechobee.
   Due to the size of the stage and the willingness of companies to come to Okeechobee, most
   of these productions are geared to elementary age students.
 Indian River Community College has begun a program to bring more cultural events to the
   Dixon Hendry Campus through the music and drama department. These have been very well
   received despite the lack of an adequate facility for bigger productions.
 Main Street Cultural arts committee has also been working with the Okeechobee County
   School Boar to provide cultural productions for the community in conjunction with the
   Okeechobee Community Theatre.
 The Okeechobee Community Theatre presents two theatrical productions each year, utilizing
   local talent. These productions are presented at the historic Community Theatre located at
   the Okeechobee Freshman Campus. It is hoped that by providing a performing arts facility
   Okeechobee will be able to provide not only more cultural opportunities for the community
   but for the young people of Okeechobee.

Comments
 Add on current activities, preserve and promote the Okeechobee battlefield.
 Correct spelling “school board”

Recreation Objectives
25    Develop Lock 7 as a destination on both water and land.
25    Develop waterfront recreation areas with environmental awareness programs,
      kayaking, canoeing, etc.
22    Create more neighborhood parks and open space for play, picnics, gathering, etc.


Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                         page 19
21     Preserve Flagler Park and enhance its use, for farmers’ market, art shows, block
       parties, etc.
18     Enhance existing parks: Platt‟s Bluff public park, JC Park
18     Create more recreational facilities for all age groups.
15     Create more recreational opportunities on public lands.
12     Create more parks on the waterfront
12     Develop additional features for the paved trail atop the Herbert Hoover dike.
12     Use Douglas Brown as a recreation area for at risk and all children and provide staff.
9      Create more boating facilities, i.e. gas, restaurant on the water, boat repair, sanitary pump
       outs at no charge.
7      Build a year-round heated indoor pool
7      Develop recreational areas geared toward the environment.
6      Provide for buffers, curfews, and time limits at the Sports Complex.
3      Create dedicated equestrian trails linking small community groups. (changed at meeting)
1      Do not expand the sports complex.

Youth Activities Objectives
36    Create a youth center, YMCA, or Boys and Girls Club for young people to gather
      outside of school hours.
11    Create more safe, clean facilities for our youth.
6     Create more parks for children scattered throughout the County.
1     Create a competitive travel sports program for youth, coast-to-coast.

Expert Information
Enhance recreational and youth activities

Need
There is a need for enhanced recreation areas, parks, pathways, and sidewalks. There is a need
for a youth center, YMCA, or Boys and Girls Club for young people to gather outside of school
hours.

Possible New Initiatives
 Develop Lock 7 as a destination on both water and land.
 Develop waterfront recreation areas with environmental awareness programs, kayaking,
   canoeing, etc.
 Create more neighborhood parks and open space for play, picnics, gathering, etc.
 Preserve Flagler Park and enhance its use, for farmers‟ market, art shows, block parties, etc.
 Create a youth center, YMCA, or Boys and Girls Club for young people to gather outside of
   school hours.

Recreation Comments
 Has there been talk about having a greenway for recreation and fitness, no motorized
   vehicles


Governance Goal


Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                         page 20
We would like a county that is safe, governed well, and a good neighbor to other counties in
the region.
Statement Rating: 2.76              (3-40, 2-10, 1-1)

Public Safety Objectives
36     Build a new up-to-date emergency operations center (EOC) to house all county
       disaster programs under one roof.
33     Strongly pursue a drug-free community.
18     Eradicate Deal with gangs and gang graffiti. (changed at meeting)
14     Increase health, fire, and police services before further development.
13     Provide more community policing.
12     Build a hurricane shelter with pet care.
17     Increase salaries for deputies, police, and fire fighters.
8      Improve Sheriff‟s office space.
6      Open a women‟s transitional housing program for those coming out of jail. (changed at
       meeting)

Expert Information
Enhance emergency management

Need
There is a need for a modern Emergency Operations Center.

Current Activities
The new Emergency Operations Center is in the planning stages. The current choice for the
location is at the north end of the old hospital now where the State's Attorney was located. The
plans for the EOC have been discussed at the last two BOCC meetings.

The EOC will house the dispatch for the Sheriff's Department and Fire Rescue, as well as the
offices of the Emergency Management Department.

The new EOC will enough room for all of the emergency service functions as well as well as
enough space for future expansion and growth. It will also house the County's new
communication system. This county-wide communications system is in the planning stages and
will handle all governmental agencies that want to be included.

Emergency Management Comments
    The City has declined to be part of the management center. They should be part of it.

Expert Information from Sheriff’s Office

Need
There is a need to deal with gangs and drugs in the community.
There is a need for additional space for the Sheriff‟s Office and for the jail.




Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                       page 21
Current Activities to Deal with Gangs and Drugs
 The Sheriff has assigned a full time Detective Sergeant to deal with gang activity. This
   officer, with the assistance of the entire Okeechobee County Sheriff‟s Office and
   Okeechobee City Police Department, will identify, monitor and then prosecute gang
   members criminal activities proven against them.
 The Sheriff has added an additional person to the Narcotics Task Force this year. The Sheriff
   now has four full time officers and the Chief has one full time officer assigned to the
   Narcotics Task Force Unit. The Sheriff has also implemented a program that rotates two full
   time Deputies, at two-month intervals, through the Narcotics Task Force Unit. The Narcotics
   Task Force detects, documents and prosecutes the drug users and drug sellers living within
   our communities.
 The Sheriff‟s Office works closely with other counties on drug issues.
Other Current Activities
The Sheriff has increased the Okeechobee County Sheriff‟s Office Traffic Unit one hundred
percent this year. They will be working on our school zones, neighborhoods and our highways
to make them as safe as we can. They will be conducting operations such as D.U.I. Checkpoints,
Following Too Closely, Move Over Act, etc.

The Sheriff has a full time Road Patrol officer, recently promoted to Corporal, assigned to the
Crime Prevention Unit. This Corporal also supervises the Citizens on Patrol Division, which
consists of approximately fifty volunteers. Together these two are instrumental with
implementing many programs that the Sheriff‟s Office offers our community such as:
Neighborhood Crime Watch Program
 Crime Prevention Program
 Child Identification Program
 Vacation House Watch Program
 Crimes Against the Elderly
 Sick and Infirm Check Program
The Okeechobee County Sheriff‟s Office Auxiliary Unit consists of all volunteers. These
volunteers donate a great deal of time every month to allow the Sheriff‟s Office to provide the
following programs:
 Traffic Control at all Okeechobee High School Football Games
 Traffic Control at the Junior/Senior Prom
 Traffic Control at Senior Graduation
 Traffic Control at the Alcohol/Drug Free Grad Nite
The Communications Division is in the process of obtaining an updated countywide radio system
that will allow all the County and City Governments to be able to communicate with each other.
This system will also allow us to communicate with any other County, State and Federal
agencies to may have to respond to our County. This structure will be built to withstand at least
a Category 5 Hurricane and be able to support all of our Essential Support Functions that work
together before, during and after any and all disasters.


Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                        page 22
New Initiatives
The Sheriff has recently received a grant that equipped the Okeechobee County Sheriff‟s Office
with an enclosed trailer and approximately one hundred child safety seats. The Sheriff is
implementing a Program called “Child Passenger Safety” that will he will allow Sheriff‟s Office
properly trained personnel to perform safety inspections of child safety restraint devices to
ensure that they are being properly installed and being properly utilized. This Program will be
offered free of charge and information will be posted as to when and where this program will be
available. This Program will also offer an affordable child safety restraint seat for those parents
who cannot afford a proper seat to safely and properly secure their children.

The Sheriff is working with his Traffic Unit and Auxiliary Unit to combine their efforts in
dealing with All Terrain Vehicles operating on County Roadways. This is a chronic problem in
most every subdivision within our County that needs to be addressed for everyone safety. These
officers will be stopping, identifying and educating both the children and their parents on the
Laws pertaining to ATV‟s on County Roads.

The Sheriff has been working with the County in preparing the Sheriff‟s Office for the upcoming
growth that Okeechobee County is currently feeling and anticipating the growth that is coming.
The Administration Building and County Jail have run out of space. Okeechobee must comply
with Florida Model Jail Standards and the county has been over our capacity for quite some time.
The Sheriff is addressing these space problems with the County Commission and the County
Administrator as they plan for the future.

Comments
 Under current activities you may want to put down the county-wide coalition that has been
  formed to address alcohol and drugs and write a grant; 40-50 from the public and private
  sector attended.
 We have had a 30% increase in arrests for drug violations. There are more of them than
  there are of us and they don’t follow the rules. It is not a war but it is an on going fight.


Governance Objectives
27    Combine the City of Okeechobee and the County into one government (all offices,
      police, fire, etc.).
22    Strengthen communication and cooperation between local government and state
      and federal agencies.
16    Increase recycle programs.
11    Create a County Commission with representation from all ethnic and economic groups
10    Create diversity in government offices and positions
7     Give extra consideration to current residents when making public policy decisions.
6     Allow more lay people (citizens who do not have businesses) to participate on all county
      boards.

Expert Information
Enhance cooperation between the city and the county


Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                         page 23
Need
Residents need government services. The delivery and quality of the services impact quality of
life in Okeechobee. Local governments need to deliver quality services in the best manner
possible.

Current Activities
City - County Cooperative Initiatives
 Development and implementation of an impact fee schedule
 Stormwater management planning and improvements
 Okeechobee Utilities Authority wastewater treatment plan expansions (funded through grants
    and appropriations)
 Hurricane Housing Recovery Program
Future Initiatives
 Countywide communications system.
No Comments


SUMMARY OF RATINGS FOR VISION PRIORITY ACTIVITIES

Participants were asked to rate the acceptability of how well each Vision Priority is being
addressed using this scale:

4 = This priority is being addressed adequately by current and new initiatives
3 = The initiatives to address this priority are on the right track but more needs to be done
2 = The initiatives to address this priority are on the right track but a lot more needs to be done
1 = The initiatives to address this priority are on the wrong track

                                                                         4    3    2     1    Avg
1.    Improve development planning and regulation                        9    18   9     1    2.95
2.    Increase availability of affordable housing for the workforce      5    18   12    2    2.70
3.    Ensure adequate transportation for the community.                  3    12   20    2    2.43
4.    Economic Development                                               7    13   13    4    2.62
5.    Enhance the Lake                                                   8    11   12    0    2.75
6.    Provide a quality K-12 education system                            10   18   8     1    3.00
7.    Provide a quality post secondary education system                  12   18   7     0    3.14
8.    Provide convenient access to quality healthcare                    8    13   13    3    2.70
10.   Enhance cultural and community opportunities                       8    15   13    0    2.86
11.   Enhance recreational activities                                    6    11   14    4    2.54
12.   Improve public safety by enhancing the Sheriff‟s Department        14   16   6     0    3.20
13.   Improve public safety by enhancing Emergency Management            11   14   10    1    2.97
14.   Develop stronger cooperation between governments                   7    18   8     3    2.81



Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                            page 24
Comments
Participants were given the opportunity to provide written comments on the ratings sheet.

   To “ensure adequate transportation for the community” the Master Transportation Plan
    should be completed prior to development.
   The “enhance the quality of the Lake Okeechobee” Vision Priority does not include ANY
    provisions for landscaping and native species protection.
   Sidewalks must be required for all non-residential development.
   Sidewalks should be required for all residential development.
   Example of Port St. Lucie and the tragic accident involving a mother and her infant.
   Development should not be governed by the selling of density credits, it should be governed
    by the comp plan.
   County regulations should include parks for ALL developments over 100 acres and should
    also pay impact fees.
   Health care – we do not need a new hospital.
   In Vision Priority “increase availability of affordable housing for the workforce” #17 - more
    low income housing.
   In Vision Priority “attract new businesses and support retention and expansion of existing
    businesses” – extend airport.
   In Vision Priority “provide a quality educational system: K-12” – Florida schools are last on
    the list, lets rebuild them.
   Pg 13 – Teachers need to get their own housing. Maybe they need to watch their budget like
    I have to, I’m on a fixed income.
   Pg 15 – Low income people need a hospital also, Raulerson is money hungry, they do not
    help the needy.
   Pg 19 – Hurricane shelter with pets. Please, my kitties miss their mommy and daddy.
   I think that the economic Development Goals are contradictory to the missions of small town
    atmosphere. A vocational H.S. would attract a population from all adjoining counties based
    on the need/demand of the successful completers. Most communities in Florida need to do
    more to celebrate the cultural makeup and diversity within communities. Did not like
    city/county as one government, has been tried in other communities and did not work.
   In Vision Priority “provide a quality education: K-12” – more faith schools. Teach TRUTHS
    – NOT theories.– MORE “character counts” programs – less politically correct.
   Control measures re: Brazilian Pepper trees
   Drivers Education refresher courses every new-renewal period – required – most people need
    courtesy classes.
   Development plan/regulation (presentation of Green Areas and Agriculture) and Lake “O”
    are two most important priorities. Both impact our quality of life significantly.
   We need a bus system.
   Mental Health Services need to be alcohol as well as Substance Abuse services.
   Okeechobee Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition needs to be utilized by the Sheriff’s
    Dept.
   In Vision Priority “enhance cooperation between city and the county” – the city and country
    should consider consolidation of the two government bodies.



Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                       page 25
   Mental Health and Substance Abuse services need to be enhanced (funding) for both adults
    and children.
   Contact John Romano of New Horizons showed you need/deserve additional information or
    input @ 772-475-1824.
   HA – It sounds great to have a plan on the website…What is being done to promote the
    information out of Okeechobee County.
   Affordable Housing - Current zoning regulations in City limit a house or apartment size for a
    minimum of 800+ sq ft (?). This is a real barrier to single nurses, firefighters, etc in finding
    an affordable place to live. This minimum size needs to be reduced to 400 sq ft. In reality
    many people will usually prefer 500 sf + up, but 400 sf should be available for those just
    starting out in their working lives.
   Development Planning and Regulation - Develop new, smaller denser village “clusters” in
    this county, like European villages, with enough population to support a small grocery store
    which is walkable for all residents, no need to drive. Each “cluster” should have an attractive
    village center to draw people to for social and recreational purposes. Stop low density sprawl
    between clusters and same for agriculture.
   Lake Okeechobee Quality - Audit all man-made chemicals going into Lake Okeechobee.
    Ask University of Florida to develop natural soil enhancement systems (natural soil bacteria,
    humus, microbial activity to ensure soil ground good clumps without pollution) to replace the
    need for all phosphorous and other fertilizer and chemicals within the next 10 years.
   Transport - Develop transit (buses, taxi, shuttles) before growth comes so that all our roads
    do not have to be enlarged for the growth, but let the transit handle people’s new needs.
   Attract new businesses to support retention and expansion of existing businesses – some old
    story with no results!
    Enhance the quality of Lake Okeechobee – Lake Quality Programs – lots of talk – poor
    results! No experts needed – lost 90 look at the H2O and declining fish numbers!
    Enhance recreational and youth activities – not a new problem just an ignored one.
    Enhance cooperation between the city and the county – lots of wasted $$ - lots of stubborn
    politicians!


CONCLUDING COMMENTS AND NEXT STEPS

Facilitators explained that a workshop report would be available on the website in about a week.
Facilitators would be working with the Steering Committee and FHREDI to produce a final
report that should be ready in about a month. The report will be available on the website and at
most government offices.

The facilitator asked participants if they had any concluding comments regarding ideas that
leaders should keep in mind as the county moves forward.

Concluding Comments
 Restoring the Lake got one of the highest scores. We need to keep the watershed green and
   not the Lake. Agriculture is important economically and as part of the landscape
 Farming is a big part of our heritage and we need to consider programs like the Rural Land
   Stewardship Program.


Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                         page 26
   Impending growth impinges on our quality of life. Most leaders grew up here and
    collaborate, e.g. the County and the Sheriff. We are going to be meeting new folks who
    don’t share our love for this community and heritage. We don’t want to loose our identity. I
    want to complement the County Commissioners, the Sheriff’s Office and the Health
    Department. They care about the community.
   I am new here and I moved here because it reminds me of what Lakeland used to be. Lack of
    attention to roads caused big problems in Lakeland. Okeechobee needs to build adequate
    roads before growth creates problems.

Facilitators thanked participants for their participation and encouraged everyone to stay involved
by participating in implementation of the vision priorities.
PROCESS EVALUATION EXERCISE

Participants were asked to complete a Visioning Process Evaluation Sheet to provide feedback
about the visioning workshop process. The results of the evaluation were very positive.
Participants ranked a number of statements about the process and provided written comments if
they were so inclined. The last question in the evaluation referred to the outcomes of the
visioning process and it is important to note that one of the main outcomes of the process, the
final vision report, was not yet available.

              OKEECHOBEE VISION PROCESS EVALUATION SUMMARY

Participants were asked to use the following five-point scale to rate the statements below.

5 = Totally agree and 1 = totally disagree

                                                                       5    4    3   2    1    Avg
The visioning process was clearly explained at each meeting.           30   3    1   0    0    4.85
I felt comfortable participating and providing input at the            27   5    2   0    0    4.74
meetings.
The facilitator made sure that all participants had a chance to        30   4    1   0    0    4.83
provide input.
Participant input was documented accurately.                           26   7    1   0    0    4.74
The facilitator helped us arrange our time well.                       28   4    2   0    0    4.76
Overall, I was very satisfied with the process.                        21   10   1   2    0    4.47
I was satisfied with the services provided by the facilitator.         23   8    2   0    0    4.64
I was satisfied with the way that the participants were able to work   24   7    1   1    0    4.64
together.
I was satisfied with what was accomplished.                            17   13   3   1    0    4.35

Participants were given the opportunity to write comments on the evaluation form.

   In order for everything to work from this workshop depends on how well everyone keeps up
    with the things that interest them the most. If we all take care of our „special things‟ we
    should see a definite positive outcome about the items that came from the workshop.



Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                         page 27
   Diminishing number of participants unduly skews the final results to the point they are
    virtually meaningless.
   Not enough effort directed toward „expert commentary.‟ This omission results in too much
    incomplete information.
   I learned that all I have to do to make my priorities community priorities is to see this process
    through to the last session.
   Very good way to reach a consensus of those items we value. My only concern is if any
    follow-up of information is planned and any use to be made of information.
   Perhaps meeting room could have been arranged differently (maybe circular) so all
    participants could hear and see each other.
   The facilitator was effective at directing the process.
   A different seating arrangement with tables for groups to share ideas, etc. might help improve
    communication between participants. (Mix in time to share with whole group time).
   Perhaps I missed this information- but would recommend adding a “flow chart” for
    participants as the start that shows the process and emphasizes what the outcome will
    include:
            o Who gets the final recommendations and how much „power‟ or „authority‟ is
                there in the recommendations?
            o Will there be any future, periodic meetings or surveys to monitor progress being
                made?
            o Will the results be published in the local newspapers? (Not just on the website)

   Would like to receive printed copy of final conclusions-final vision report
   If process and results happen because of this process I will be satisfied-something was
    actually accomplished
   I‟ve been to several similar meetings of this type- good ideas are being brought up but
    follow-through is very poor.




Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                          page 28
               Creating the County We Want
          Setting Priorities in Okeechobee County
                          Public Visioning Workshop 3
                                   April 2006

                                       Meeting Objectives

      Review community values draft
      Review goal ratings and prioritized objectives from second meeting
      Review information from the experts on vision priorities
      Discuss report and next steps

                                         Meeting Agenda

6:00   Welcome, Introductions, and Agenda Review

6:15   Review community values draft
       Rate and take comments

6:30   Review Results of Workshop 2
       Goal Statement Ratings
       Prioritized Objectives – any surprises or any comments
       Receive information on priority objectives
       Presentation of material and clarifying questions
       Suggest any new initiatives

8:30   Next Steps Discussion
       Schedule for final report and distribution to local governments and agencies
       What will happen next?
       How can you stay involved?

8:45   Evaluation

9:00   Adjourn

Meeting Guidelines: Please raise your hand when you would like to speak.
                    Please be concise when speaking so that others get a chance.
                    Please stick to the agenda.




Okeechobee Visioning Round 3 Workshop Report                                       page 29

				
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