News Cast 4/4

News Cast for April 4th:

SFWMD to finish trail

The South Florida Water Management District plans to put a pedestrian walk over a the Taylor Creek Locks so hikers and bikers don’t have to leave the Okeechobee Scenic Trail.

Mike Cheek is with the South Florida water management district.

He explained the details of the project at the district’s regular public forum on recreation.

“The new pedestrian pass through over the top of the gates will be on the landside gates. The Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail will be contiguous and you will be able to cross over the S-193.”

Previously hikers and bikers had to get off at Nubbin Slough and take a section of 441 before getting back on the trail.

Okeechobee will also get some recreational facilities from the new Lower Kissimmee basin storm water treatment area at the old Rio Ranch on 70 west.  This will include a parking lot, bathrooms, information kiosk, a small shelter with benches, a pedestrian walkway and a connection to the National Scenic Trail.  Some 2,500 acres will be used to store and clean water along the Kissimmee River.

Some primitive campsites will also be put in on district land off US 98 near Fort Basinger.

An Okeechobee man was charged with fleeing law enforcement, along with drug and ammunition charges after a reported shooting incident.

Scott Byrd fled a mobile home park in the 5400 block of 441 south east after a shot was fired.

The victim claimed someone shot at him at point blank range but was not hit.

Alcohol may have played a factor in the incident and deputies said no one was injured.

Byrd was not charged in the shooting. 

Deputy reports showed they found small amounts of illegal drugs.  An infant was also in the fleeing vehicle.

Okeechobee County Fire Rescue said $5,000 in damage was done after a vehicle and brush fire in the 32,000 block of US 441 north.

The Division of Forestry surrounded the blaze and no structures were damaged.

A vehicle fire sparked a brush fire on NW 399th Street.  About $70,000 in damage was reported to the vehicle and tools but no injuries were reported.

Highlands County commissioners will study impact fees, the cost just over $95,000.

The majority said it would be pointless to do the study unless they were willing to put in those fees.

One of those was Commissioner Scott Kirouac.

“I wish we could tell ourselves what we need.   I think we know better than outside firms and consultants.  I wish I had the money this county has spent on studies.  It is exhausting.  Everything has to have a study.  WE have to have them to back up what we implement.”

Arlene Tuck opposes impact fees.

“To me this is another tax.  We collect another penny for infrastructure tax, we collect property taxes, and to me this is adding another tax on top of that.”

The Okeechobee Board of County Commissioners defended their code enforcement officers from complaints.

A Viking resident said the officers are being too aggressive and making residents live in fear of violations.

Daryl Honeycutt said the officers are out there constantly.

“The county is treating the people out there as subjects and not as citizens.  When you have to live in fear of your own county enforcement agencies, that is getting a little ridiculous.  I can understand being out there to prevent people from bringing in a lot of garbage or something, but when you are out there for minor things, that concerns me.”

Chairman David Hazellief defended the work code officers do.

“You should never be in fear of our code enforcement officers.  They don’t carry guns.  They don’t enforce the law.  If you are not in compliance they will write you a citation and then you can go to the special magistrate where you can present your case.”

The county holds special magistrate hearing each month at the county health department.