News Cast for March 5th:

The Lake Okeechobee coalition focused on releases going out of the lake and saving vegetation in the lake.

Gil Smart told the group they should support buying even more land to store and treat water around the lake.

St. Lucie commissioner Larry Leet supported the water treatment project in Indiantown which will produce usable fertilizer and cement. He thinks land application of sludge and septage is a big part of our problem.

Activist Newton Cook said with the lake this high so long there is really no vegetation left for the fish to spawn.

The group did not support Okeechobee County in efforts to oppose the Lower Kissimmee Storm Water Treatment Area.

The city of Okeechobee did a new employee pay schedule study.

The consultant noted many municipalities have had to increase pay to remain competitive in the market place.

Vice Mayor Monica Clark questioned the other cities Okeechobee was compared to in the study.

She said Indian River County, Stuart, and Port St. Lucie have higher standards of living than Okeechobee and were not good comparisons.

The consultant found that while high ranking city officials and department heads are paid competitive wages, the salaries of many general employees are behind other cities.

The state legislature approved a reparations bill to pay former clients of the Okeechobee School for Boys, who claimed years of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. The bill has never gotten this far and is on the governor’s desk. Some $20 million in damages could be paid out to living survivors of the Okeechobee school and the Dozier school if the governor signs the bill.

The legislature won’t be taking up a bill to consolidate soil and water conservation districts.

Suzie Bishop in Highlands County said the proposal died in committee. They would have combined 54 districts into seven.

She said the Highlands district will be subject to an extensive audit done by a state agency.

The Highlands County Board of County Commissioners approved a large scale comprehensive plan amendment that past the muster of the state. 610 acres would be used for agriculture and growing row crops.

While a commercial application for a part of the property has been withdrawn it could be resubmitted in the future.

The acreage is located on nine-mile grade south and west of Fort Basinger. The land was set aside for the Kissimmee River restoration as flood plain but was not needed for the project.