County to fence sports complex

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee County officials plan to use fencing and security cameras to combat problems of fights, vandalism and drag racing at the Okeechobee Sports Complex on U.S. 441.

At the Wednesday, Jan. 13, meeting of the Okeechobee County Commission, Director of Facilities Donnie Oden said the plan calls for using a 6-ft. fence to stop vehicle traffic from entering the property from U.S. 441. He said they can include a gate in the fence for emergency access.

Athlete’s Way, the paved entrance to the Sports Complex is off Northwest 10th Terrace.

“With a matter of putting in a few gates and some fencing, we can secure the entire perimeter,” Mr. Oden explained.

He said the county can shut the Sports Complex down in the evenings as well as use security cameras to prevent some of the vandalism.

County Administrator Robbie Chartier said many of the problems come from high school students who park at the sports complex and walk to the high school.

“The school system has rules about who can drive and park on campus,” she said. Those who are not allowed to park at the school — due to poor grades or poor behavior — are parking at the Sports Complex, she said. This has resulted in a problem with fights and vandalism at the Sports Complex.

These teens have created problems at the Sports Complex to the degree that it often requires two county deputies to be at the complex in the afternoon, according to the staff report.

Commissioner Bryant Culpepper said some high school students may want to go the Sports Complex after school to use the ball courts.

“It’s a shame to punish the good kids for the actions of the trouble makers,” he said.

Fencing the Sports Complex boundary on U.S. 441 would mean those students would have to walk farther to the entrance. He suggested a pedestrian entrance on U.S. 441.

Putting a pedestrian entrance across from the high school would not deter the problem of students parking there, said Commissioner Burroughs.

Fencing on U.S. 441 will keep people from driving through there, said Director of Parks and Recreation Albie Scoggins.

“It will reduce the number of fights, drag racing and vandalism,” he said.
It will also increase the safety of people using the Sports Complex, he said.

Mr. Scoggins said parents have not been taking their small children to the Wooden Jungle in the afternoons due to intimidation by these high school students.

They are even starting to create a mud bog in the low-lying wooded area of the Sports Complex, Mr. Oden added.

“I think putting a fence along U.S. 441 with a gate and blocking access is the right idea,” said Mr. Irby.

In other business, Mr. Oden reported on progress of other projects.

Security equipment upgrades are planned for the Judicial Center and the Historic Okeechobee County Courthouse; $214,149 has been budgeted for the Judicial Center and $6,471 for the Historic Courthouse. Triad Security Group completed onsite analysis of the current system. A working agreement with County I.T. Triad has been signed and the county is waiting for the annual maintenance contract to be completed.

The Recreation Department plans to add two non-mechanical batting cages at the Sports Complex.

County staff is working on security cameras at Lock 7.

The county is working on a cemetery mapping system with GPS. This will be based on cemetery records of ownership of cemetery plots and recorded burials. This would be available on the cemetery website.

The county will use property on U.S. 441, which was previously the site of the old Ag Barn, to house larger animals picked up by Animal Control. Fencing is being installed to provide a place to hold horses, cows, goats and any other large animals at that location. Previously, Animal Control had to make arrangements with private property owners to house large animals.

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

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