News Cast 1/20

News Cast for January 20th:

School Board gets update on new OHS

The Okeechobee County School Board approved a short list and agreed to negotiate with CRA Architects to draw plans to design a new Okeechobee High School. Superintendent Ken Kenworthy said he sees some movement on the state possibly funding the new high school. He expects the school board to know in March whether the new high school will receive state funding this year.

School Board member Joe Arnold said the state is likely to spend some dollars since the budget deficit was not as high as projected.

Kenworthy said the schools lobbyist has positive thoughts and is optimistic the special project funding will be approved.

In other actions;

Okeechobee Schools will hold the annual teacher recognition banquet virtually this year.  They will hold the ceremony online Friday at 6 pm. The district reported 24 more COVID cases with eight staff members testing positive. Superintendent Ken Kenworthy said he expects about 90% of Okeechobee students to return to in person learning with the remainder using virtual school this semester.

Brush fire destroys travel trailer

Okeechobee County Fire Rescue reported $15,000 in property damage but no injuries after a brush fire caught a travel trailer on fire in northwest Okeechobee County Monday. Fire crews were dispatched at 1:30 pm to 16692 NW 268th Street for the report of a brush fire. When crews arrived at 1:53 pm they found a two acre brush fire and the travel trailer on fire. Firemen got assistance from the Florida Division of Forestry and were able to contain the blaze to four acres. A cause of the fire was under investigation

Courtsey of OCFR

Payne faces additional charges

An Okeechobee man charged with shooting a man to death last month was charged with three felonies and held on $1.1 million dollar bond, Sheriff Officials said Tuesday.

Danny Ray Payne, 63, will face charges of manslaughter with a firearm, committing a first degree felony with a weapon, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Payne is charged in a December 18 shooting near the intersection of NW 30th Street and NW 59th Terrace. Okeechobee County Sheriff Deputies said the victim was shot in the leg and died despite life saving efforts form deputies and paramedics.

The name of the victim has not yet been released. Payne had originally faced charges of murder, attempted murder and shooting into an occupied dwelling.

City election not likely until April

A special election to fill a seat on the Okeechobee City Council is tentatively scheduled for April 27. City Clerk Lane Gamiotea told the council Tuesday night that they expect to have candidate qualifying from February 8-12. Gamiotea said at this point no early voting in planned. One precinct could be used at the Okeechobee First Baptist Church Recreation Outreach Center. Absentee ballots will be available. The council will consider an election proclamation at the next meeting on February 2. This would be the first special election in the city in 31 years.

City says no to scooters

Photo credit to Kristoffer Trolle

Bird Electric Scooters was rebuffed after asking the city to consider a deal to allow them to provide scooters in the downtown area.

Scooters are seen as a way to reduce traffic and pollution.

The company works with many cities on apps to show where the scooters can be operated safely.

Councilmembers said Okeechobee sidewalks and infrastructure were not set up to operate scooters in a safe manner.

City officials called them a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Police Chief Robert Peterson said Florida law prohibits the use of scooters on roads and sidewalks and he was unsure how cities like Fort Pierce had legally allowed scooters.