News Cast 4/21

News Cast for April 21st:

County still thinking about it

Okeechobee County might consider buying the property one block south of the court house fronting state road 70 west.

They were once again approached by the property owners who would prefer to see the county get the property and convert it into a park to show off the court house to passersby.

The asking price is $1.25 million.  There is a lease on the property that likely will last out the decade.

County Commissioner Brad Goodbread supports the purchase.  He noted at one time Central Park in New York City was in farming.

“Nobody can even think Okeechobee will be that big.  Maybe not in our lifetime but Okeechobee one day will be large.  1,000 people move each day to Florida and 700,000 acres go out of agriculture production.  It doesn’t take paper and pencil to figure out we are going to get full one day.”

He said the community needs to conserve green space now before it’s too late.

Commissioner Frank DeCarlo said he would like the county to buy the park but right now they can’t afford to.

“I’d like to own it and I’d love to see the county acquire.  If it cash flowed because of the rentals and we could get a payment with a balloon or something like that and look at it down the road, I don’t know if it’s the right time.”

The commission agreed to discuss the matter further at budget time.  In the meantime the owner is free to sell it to private interests.

Local congressman Scott Franklin is keeping up the pressure on the United States Department of Agriculture to help farmers, ranchers and growers hurt by last year’s hurricanes.

Congressman Franklin said growers aren’t hearing back from the USDA like they should.

“I hear the need for more employees at USDA.  The feedback my office has received is you don’t have the folks in the office like you did before COVID.  I don’t know what the situation is.  The people farmers used to call aren’t there answering the phones anymore.”

Franklin said congress and the Biden administration need to cut through the red tape of government.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said they are trying to speed up the payments to farmers but said they don’t enough funding.

He said the last program funded $3 billion in disaster assistance nationwide.

“We have looked at ways to get disaster assistance out more quickly.  We established a pre-filled application process for farmers with the program and ended up saving farmers about a million dollars in time.  We got checks out within two weeks of the application being submitted.  We are trying to make it easy on the farmer.”

Glades County Commissioners could schedule a joint meeting with Hendry County to discuss the new fire station north of LaBelle.

The two counties have yet to resolve a contract for using the facility and how they will manage and share the costs.

LaBelle would provide an ambulance and Glades a fire truck at the new facility at State Road 29 and Pollywog Crossover road to better serve residents north of the Caloosahatchee River that live in both counties.

A coach and high school chaplain faces criminal charges.

A 36 year old Okeechobee man Donny Raney is accused of having a romantic relationship with an 18 year old girl he met at Okeechobee schools.

Raney was immediately relieved of his duties as a coach at Yearling Middle School.

Florida law prohibits any school board employee from having relations with a student, no matter the age.  The actual charge is a second-degree felony called An authority figure engaging in a romantic relationship with a student. 

The parent of the female became concerned about text messages that had been exchanged between the two and called law enforcement.

The alleged relationship had been going on just over a month.

Raney was released on a $50,000 bond.