News Cast 1/18


January 18, 2024

News Cast for January 18th:

Another purchase by the state

The Florida Department of Agriculture agreed to purchase a conservation easement for the Curren Dairy in Okeechobee for $1.6 million.

237 acres now used as a cattle ranch will not be allowed to develop into housing and will remain in agriculture.  The land has been used in agriculture for over 50 years.

Agriculture commissioner Wilton Simpson said buying development rights is more financially feasible for the state.

“The legislature appropriated $850 million last year to purchase land.  Then the state owns it.  They we have to go back to the legislature to take care of that land and we don’t do a good job at it.”

The land is considered part of the Florida Wildlife Corridor.

An car jacking and chase in Glades County on Wednesday

Glades County Sheriff David Hardin said it started with a suspicious person near the schools and continued with an attempted car-jacking at the post office and then a chase with the suspect on a bicycle.  He ultimately car jacked a truck at a local business and headed up US 27 toward Palmdale before crashing the vehicle near state road 29.

Hardin said the unattended vehicle had been left running in the parking lot.

Hardin said schools were immediately placed on lockdown when the school resource officer was informed of the trespasser.  A coach followed the suspect across the campus.

The name of the suspect was not immediately available.  He was taken to Hendry Regional Medical Center for evaluation and later released.

Charges will likely include grand theft auto and fleeing and attempting to elude police.  His first court appearance was scheduled for today.

“Fortunately, there were no injuries at all period.  No law enforcement vehicles crashed.  Unfortunately, the victim of the theft of the automobile lost his vehicle, it will likely be a total loss,” Hardin said.

He encouraged residents to always lock their doors because crime can happen anywhere.

“A vehicle is definitely never a good thing to leave running.  We tell our people if you like it, lock it up.  This shows you it can happen anywhere.  I’m very proud of the way my people responded and how the school responded.  Our partnership with the schools worked just as it should.  Kudos to my staff.  We arrested the guy in a safe manner.”

City and county officials say they are worried about traffic jams and bottlenecks in Okeechobee over the next several months.

The state will be resurfacing and improving route 70 east from the main light to near the overpass with new curb cuts, new pavement, and replacing and adding red lights.

County commissioner Kelly Owens said this is not the time of year to be doing this construction.

In the meantime, 710 improvements will continue as will a resurfacing of 70 west from Southwest 23rd to the Highlands County line.

In Okeechobee courts, 51-year-old Stephen Scott pled no contest to lewd and lascivious molestation of a disabled person.

He was accused of improperly touching a disabled female in June of last year.

He told officials he was trying to teach the girl a lesson.

He received three years in prison and two years sex offender probation.

He had scored 76 months behind bars.

Highlands County is discussing ways to control or curb future mobile home developments.

They currently have 14,000 units in the county and have approved over 9,000 more units.

Emergency Management Director Cory Amundsen told the county commission that RVS and mobile home parks can cause problems for first responders.

“The smaller layout make it more difficult and unsafe for EMS equipment to be brought into a home.  They are more likely to be damaged in severe weather. “

It also leaves a large population with increased needs during evacuations and storms.

He added these units can also cause issues for firemen because the homes often burn quicker, require more resources to put out, pose a higher risk for responders due to structure collapse or falling floors, and because fires often spread quickly and unseen with AC and HVAC underneath the floors.