News Cast 7/15

News Cast for July 15th:

WAWA opens its doors 

The new WAWA store holding a grand opening and ribbon cutting today.  Regional manager John Waddingham provided the welcome. 

“This store is our 226th store in Florida with many more to come.” 

There were 40 people hired to work the store.  Waddingham said he could see more WAWA stores in Okeechobee in the future.  He said they offer a great customer experience and a full deli with hot food available.  They will also provide free coffee for the next 10 days in Okeechobee. 

Mayor Dowling Watford welcomed them to the city.  “It is great to see them here.  It is a great investment for the city.  The 40 jobs are big.  They were pleased to be able to staff the store quicker than the stores on the coast.” 

WAWA provided donations to the Treasure Coast Food Bank, Hospice of Okeechobee and the Skip Bryant Memorial fund. 

Pictures are available on the WOKC Facebook page.

A budget hike for the Sheriff 

Okeechobee Sheriff Noel Stephen’s budget sailed through the Board of County Commissioner’s budget workshop on Wednesday. 

He proposed a near $20.4 million spending plan that represents a 4.5% increase over 2021. 

Commissioner David Hazellief said he was proud to support the budget. “I’m proud to be in a community that never talks about defunding police. “ 

Sheriff Stephen said he wants to upgrade the starting pay of deputies by $2,000 to $38,000 per year.  He said he has lost 28 staff members to other departments.  He does not propose to add any staff this year. 

Schools start discussions on new high school 

A committee began work on the next steps in constructing the new Okeechobee high school on Wednesday. School Board member Melisa Jahner said she thinks students , the public, and school staff will have plenty of opportunity to have input on the plans. 

The school board wants to hire a contractor on October 19. 

The work to plan and design the new facility could take around nine months. 

A new survey from the Florida Ag Coalition found 98% of Floridians consider farming and ranching important. 

Chairman Gene Adams said Florida continues to be one of the largest food producers in the world. 

80 percent of those surveyed said they think Florida farmers help the environment. 

Adams said it is very important to have locally grown food.  He noted over 93% felt farmers get our grocery store shelves stocked during the pandemic.

“It is easy to take that for granted.  We are humbled to see the overwhelming support from Florida voters for that hard work and commitment of our farmers.  These survey findings indicate that Florida families truly do count farmers among their many blessings.” 

Florida agriculture adds $140 billion to the economy each year.