News Cast 3/26

News Cast for March 26th:

County to slowly work on jail

Okeechobee County continues to try and meet the needs of the overcrowded Okeechobee County Jail.

They approved going forward with $15 million in improvements on Thursday

The estimated price of the entire project is $55 million.

The county doesn’t have the money right now and are waiting for a sales tax hike next year.  The voters must approve the sales tax hike in November, 2022.

Commissioner David Hazellief said the Sheriff is supportive of the plan, “He would like the commission to commit to do whatever we can financially to make sure the project is completed.”

The first phase would include a new jail pod, renovations to the existing kitchen, site work and sewer improvements.

The commission also approved an employment contract with Debra Manzo as the new county administrator.

She is scheduled to begin work on June 28 but could arrive sooner if her current employer, the town of Lantana finds a replacement sooner.

Her annual salary will be $135,000.

Pahokee city manager resigns

Chandler Williamson told the City Commission that he will resign his position on April 2.

He made the announcement before two new city commissioner were sworn into office.

Williamson was accused of misspending $5,800 on a city credit card last June.

An investigation found Williamson repeatedly used his city credit card to attend homecoming at his alma mater, Benedict College.

Williamson spent $4,505.44 to attending homecoming four times between 2015 – 2018, according to the report.

Williamson was also accused of taking trips to Las Vegas and using the credit card.

The Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General also found Williamson closed city hall from November, 2015 to December, 2017 and gave city employees unauthorized bonuses and multiple paid holidays without the approval of the city commission.

Okeechobee News briefs

In the courts, Daniel Phillips pled no contest to a charge of robbery by sudden snatching.

He was sentenced to three years on probation.

He was shot on July 22nd of last year when he tried to steal $140 dollars in marijuana from a resident on North West 6th Street.

Lake Okeechobee remains high….some 2 1/2 feet higher than this time last year.

The levels have dropped about 3-quarters of a foot in the past month.

The Corps of Engineers to lower releases out the Caloosahatchee and continue releases to the St.Lucie.

They are also sending more water south

A 50 year old Vero Beach man held at the Okeechobee jail on half a million dollars bail.

He’s charged in two states with stealing cattle and selling them.

Scott Smith was ranch manager at Bhakta Farms west of Vero Beach and allegedly sold cattle without authorization for $49,000 in Okeechobee County.

Job losses reduced in February

Unemployment in February drops to 3.3 percent in Okeechobee and 3.1 percent in Glades County.

The state average was five percent.

Both counties saw a reduction from January levels of about half of a percent.

The Career Source Heartland reported 1,700 jobs were lost in the Heartland region in the past year with about half of the losses in leisure and hospitality like restaurants, hotels and motels.