News Cast 4/18

News Cast for April 18th:

Troopers probe another fatal crash 

A three vehicle crash claimed a life on US 98 near Cornwell in eastern Highlands County. 

A west bound sedan crossed the center line and collided with a tractor trailer near Lock Access Road Friday afternoon. 

The driver of the sedan, a 55 year old Sebring man, died in the crash. 

A 46 year old Okeechobee man driving the truck suffered minor injury. 

Two occupants of the third vehicle were injured when they struck the truck. 

A man trying to cross the Florida turnpike during the middle of the night near Kenansville was killed Saturday. 

The highway patrol said the victim was a 54 year old man from Iowa. 

He pulled over on the southbound shoulder and tried to run across the road and was struck by a north bound car operated by a 24 year old Hallandale Beach man. 

Raulerson Hospital celebrated the ribbon cutting for the new medical office building this month. 

Administrator Brian Melear said the new 4 floor facility, will help recruit new physicians to Okeechobee. 

“The goal is to bring in high quality physicians that will replace the high quality physicians who are retiring.” 

He said Raulerson has had a great staff for 43 years and plan to continue that legacy of care. 

“Our community was blessed for decades with our current physicians.  But with all of us, we get older, we move on, we transition.  The medical office building is about physician recruitment for this community.” 

The doctors on staff will include general surgeons, primary care doctors, orthopedists, and cardiologists.  Those offices will be on the second and third floors.  The first floor will include several clerical offices like registration, accounting, administration, and other non-clinical employees. 

They will leave the fourth floor vacant for future expansions. 

The first floor also will be the new entrance into the hospital. 

Melear said they are also looking at ways to add more private rooms at the hospital. 

The Yearling Middle School Dairy Team finished second in the state and the livestock judging team took third at the annual FFA competition. 

The school board honored those teams at their April meeting. 

The board also is considering reductions to the Okeechobee virtual program after a reduction in elementary students this semester.  At last count, 31 students were enrolled. 

The board also will try to hire nine additional teachers and increase staff by 11 positions for the 2022-2023 school year. 

The school system will host a public meeting on April 26 at 5 pm at the school board offices to discuss the new Okeechobee High School and a possible expansion of their career and technical education programs. 

The city of Okeechobee applied for a state grant to improve the dock at SEast 4th Street and Taylor Creek. 

City administrator Gary Ritter said the city could get some help from the state this year. 

“We have $200,000 in FREDAP grants for Cattlemen’s Square lighting and landscaping.  Centennial Park has a $50,000 grant and the state funded $240,000 for the SE 8th Avenue storm-water project.” 

The budget did not include funding requested to help renovate city hall. 

A second public hearing on the new Lake Okeechobee management plan was again dominated by comments against chemicals spraying of exotics and other vegetation on the lake and canals. 

Glenn Hunter argued the state is polluting the water by spraying too much. 

“22,600 acres sprayed in the past two years released 1.4 million pounds of phosphorus into the lake.” 

Dennis Lee said the constant spraying on the lake has created a new industry. 

“We got to kill these things because they’re bad.  That is bull.” 

Newton Cook said he thinks keeping the lake too high will kill the vegetation. 

He noted the lake has already lost 80 percent of its vegetation. 

“LOSOM keeps the lake too high, too often and too long.”