Guy Harvey Outposts, Bass Pro Shops submit proposals for Okee-Tantie; Proposals are submitted but have not been opened

OKEECHOBEE — Guy Harvey Outpost and Bass Pro Shops have submitted proposals to take over the Okee-Tantie Recreation Area. The deadline to submit proposals was May 16.

The bids have not yet been opened. According to the county administrator,  the sealed bids will not be opened until the county commission meets.

The next step is for the proposals to be reviewed by an advisory committee, who will make recommendations to the Okeechobee County Commission. The county commissioners will make the final decision on which proposal to pursue.

At the May 11 Okeechobee County Commission meeting, each county commissioner nominated one person to serve on the advisory committee. Those appointed are Eddie Lehman, John Campbell, Don Fox, Frank Irby and Wes Williamson.

The county administrator will act as the coordinator. The committee meeting date has not bee set.

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.

At that time, 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.

Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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