News Cast 2/13

News Cast for February 13th:

Looking for the big bucks

The Okeechobee community had several requests of the Florida state legislative delegation in 2023.

The annual delegation meeting included over 10 presentations from various groups and organizations including city council, the Board of County Commissioners, and School Board.

Highway improvements, more septic to sewer projects, $15 million for the county jail, and a local option sales tax highlighted the list.

Rep. Kaylee Tuck said she is focused on road improvements in her district like route 70 west.

“We are actually working on that.  We are working with FDOT on a 70 expansion, at least widening or passing lanes, for me and Senator Erin Grall, it is one of our commitments over the next six years.”

County Commission Chairman David Hazellief said the jail is their top priority.

“We started out construction at $40 million.  Then somebody invented the word COVID.  Now we are at $75 million.  We have committed county funds of $25 million.  The match of $15 million would go a long ways.”

The rest of the money could come from a local option sales tax if the legislature is supportive.

The Okeechobee school system has 17 teacher vacancies.  They’d like the state to reduce the training requirements for teachers to earn their certifications

Superintendent Ken Kenworthy said it is often overwhelming for new teachers to learn how to teach and still meet these requirements.

He said the hero program that encourages and makes it easier for veterans to become teachers, has only led to the hiring of 13 teachers state wide.

The schools also want state funding to help with a new marine lab at the new high school.  The district is working with Yamaha on the project.

The main operators behind a large marijuana grow house that burned up in western Martin County have escaped justice.

The large barn on Fox Brown Road burned up about one year ago this month.

Chief Deputy John Budensiek said marijuana growing continues in our state despite efforts to make it legal in other states.

“I think sooner than later it will be a thing of the past.  Legal marijuana grows licenses are so expensive, and the electricity, and nutrients to run a legal marijuana grove, it can be too expensive really to operate.  The profit margins are a whole lot lower with supply and demand.”

Investigators said the operation was one of the largest operations they have seen in the area.

Everglades Elementary has the first-year teacher of the year.

Kari Lapp, who teaches kindergarten took home the Green Apple Award.

Kari Lapp grew up in West Palm Beach and started a career in medical billing.  She came in contact with teacher,  preferred it and the rest is history.

She said she was really happy and proud to receive this award.

She was asked how she gets her students involved in learning

“I use things that they like, and stuff that they are interested in, to get then engaged and want to learn.”

She thanked her school and administrators for being so welcoming and supportive to her.

Other teachers nominated this year included Joani Mae Comer of North, Siara Trofibio of Central, Andrei Soriano of Osceola, Shelbie Longberry of Okeechobee High, Tanya Camper of Seminole, Kristi Love of OAA, Tracie Bostic of Yearling and Nettira Ridley of South.

Joshua Weaver won the inaugural Tackle Warehouse Invitational bass fishing tournament on Lake Okeechobee Friday. 

He caught 72 pounds and 9 ounces of bass for his first career victory.

He took over $117,000 in cash and prizes.  It was his first tournament win as a professional angler.