News Cast 2/23

News Cast for February 23rd:

State Attorney to fight for funding

State Attorney for the 19th Judicial Circuit Tom Bakkedahl said he doesn’t want a repeat of a six percent budget cut this year and plans to lobby hard in Tallahassee for more funding.

Bakkedahl said the budget cuts last year impacted six full-time attorney positions.

He said all of his offices in Okeechobee, Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin County were impacted.

“I don’t want to reduce attorneys.  I think eliminating staff and reducing attorneys is only going to create a danger for public safety and I’m not willing to do that,” he added.

He said the funding is important to keep criminal cases moving through the system.

“Okeechobee is not getting their fair share.  The legislature passed our budget and the governor because of COVID and budget shortfalls held back the six percent. “

Schools deal with bus route struggles

Six bus routes for Okeechobee County Schools don’t have a bus driver this yera.

That has led to delays in picking up and delivering students to and from school.

Last week a bus broke down on US 441 north and those with no cell phones were unable to contact their parents.

Assistant Superintendent Dylan Tedders said they understand that parents can get worried when students aren’t home on time.

“It didn’t impact as much as the beginning of the year due to virtual instruction.  Now that we are at 90% capacity the buses are fuller.  A group from South Elementary was able to communicate with 90 percent of the parents to give them a heads up.  A lot of those students did have a cell phone and they let their parents know.”

He notes the district continues to work hard to try and hire new bus drivers.  They currently have six positions vacant.

He noted the district pays for the CDL license training.

Tedders said they will try to appeal to some retired drivers who might be interested in even part-time work.

He said having substitutes available would be a great help.

He noted he’s unsure why fewer people want to be bus drivers.

“With people losing their jobs we can provide an opportunity and we can provide the avenue toward your CDL.  Some people think having a 71 passenger bus is a little scary.”