News Cast 3/6

News Cast for March 6th:

City to pursue tax abatements for housing

The Okeechobee City Council voted to pursue a tax abatement program. City Attorney John Fumero wanted direction on what specific land uses could be eligible for the incentives. A parcel on the Southwest side of the city was under consideration for an apartment complex.  The developer had asked for a tax break. Mayor Dowling Watford said there is not a lot of land left in the city to develop.

He said he would rather let the private sector decide the market for housing rather than give out tax breaks.

“I find it hard to believe that someone who is investing that amount of money needs a tax abatement to make a project work.  That is hard for me to believe.”

Councilmember Bob Jarriel said he thought the council needed to solve the housing issue so that teachers, first responders, and other employees of local businesses, can find a place to live here. The council was also introduced to Lindsay Sheppard who is the new executive director of the Okeechobee Economic Council. The city also plans to hold a ground breaking for downtown landscaping improvements they’ve been making.

A drowning at Okeechobee Music Fest 2023 is under investigation. The Okeechobee Sheriff’s Office said the name info on the victim is being withheld pending family notification. 

Several traffic crashes were reported over the weekend due to the heavy volume of traffic.

Crash involving horses 710 March 3, 2023

On Friday, Okeechobee County Fire Rescue, sheriff deputies, Animal Control and a local veterinarian worked together at a crash on highway 710 at 15A that involved numerous injuries and an extrication of a horse from an overturned trailer.

A Pahokee man was locked up on manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident charges this weekend.

Palm Beach Sheriff Deputies said 33 year old James Cole was east bound on Bacom Point Road on March 1 at 3:30 pm when the Dodge Ram he was operating, departed the roadway, mounted the sidewalk and struck and killed a pedestrian, Precious Barber.

Education will be a key focus of the state legislative session that begins today.

House Bill 1 that expands school vouchers to all students in the state will be a key measure that is likely to pass. Rep. Kaylee Tuck spoke about the bill at a Florida Chamber of Commerce event. She called it the most transformational and customized education option for parents and families in history.

Tuck said this will even help parents who home school their children. “To address the education of home education families, this bill creates a pathway for a parent to direct the educational instruction of their child via a personalized education program while also meeting school attendance requirements.”

Highlands Landfill Fire

The parent can use the scholarship to purchase curriculum or other educational resources. Democrats questioned if a Florida parent can use the vouchers to go to school out of state and the wording to prevent that will likely be included in the finished bill.

Highlands County Fire Rescue and the Florida Forest Service were busy putting out a fire at the landfill in Lorida on Sunday. At last report the fire had reached five acres. 13 units were at the scene putting the fire out on Sunday.

In the courts..

Aubrey Waldron pled no contest to charges of conspiracy to commit grant theft, forging bank bills, and possession of ammunition by a convicted felon. Waldron was sentenced to four year’s probation, a 5 thousand dollar fine and 18 months in state prison. He was part of a ring that stole 16 four wheel drive trucks, many around Okeechobee and Buckhead Ridge between 2016 and 2018. The stolen trucks were then traded for methamphetamine from a Highlands County drug ring.

A former Finance Director for the Glades County School Board was arrested in Arkansas on a local warrant for charges of grand theft and official misconduct. Sue Woodward, 68 allegedly misappropriate $15,257.88 for personal benefit, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said. Woodward had served as finance director for the school board between June, 2012 and September, 2021.

FLDE Agents discovered that Woodward, acting in her capacity as finance director, abused her position to alter her retirement worksheet so as to receive higher payouts for sick and vacation leave on her final paycheck than was legally allowed. Woodward turned herself in on an FDLE warrant and was booked into the Glades County Jail on a $15,000 bond. The case will be prosecuted by the Office of the State Attorney, 20th Judicial Circuit.

Indiantown Church Vandalized

The Indiantown Baptist Church was burglarized, vandalized, and the church piano damaged this past weekend. Sunday worship services were impacted as a burglar broke into the church on SW 150th Street late Saturday and vandalized the church. Church employees said they found broken glass, shattered windows, torn books of worship, overturned furniture, and a damaged piano. 

Martin County Sheriff Detectives are working the case and have potential suspects.

Martin County Sheriff deputies went into a dark canal on County Road 609 near Indiantown to rescue a man last week. The video went viral last week.

Sheriff Deputies involved include Brent Lavy, Cody Dionne, Wesnes Touissaint and Matthew Dunlop.

The sheriff also released the name of the man they saved, Darius Thompson of Indiantown.

An emergency alert from the drivers cell phone helped deputies locate him quickly.