News Cast for May 19th:

Okeechobee County looks at funding

The Okeechobee Board of County Commissioners are looking at a $2 per hour raise for employees

The county has 113 full time and 29 part time or seasonal employees.

The $2 dollar an hour raise would cost them $470,000 per year.

The county recently agreed to a contract extension with the fire rescue union.

County Administrator Deborah Manzo said that will also adjust their salaries with each employee due a 7.5 percent salary hike, plus a step increase of three percent, and a $1,000 bonus.

Suggestions for raising revenue included a franchise fee with Florida Power and Light that would bring in $1.6 million annually.

They are also proposing to raise the rates at the pool from $3 to $5 per person per visit.

They would also raise the county fee for each vehicle at the Okeechobee Music Fest from $3.00 to $5.00.

The county would also take a hit if the governor signs a bill that eliminates fire assessments on agriculture land.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce held a summit on infrastructure improvements needed in the state.

The governor unveiled a $4 billion plan to speed up some highway projects earlier this year.

The closest to our area is further extension of four lanes out further west on Midway Road in St. Lucie County.

Cathy Chambers told the crowd that every county in Florida has increased populations.

“The pandemic changed everything about work.  Rural Florida did really well.  Every single county in the state gained population in the last few years.  That is not true in rural areas in most states.  There is a different dynamic here.  You are still connected to urban or midsize cities in any part of Florida.”

The state has more job openings than bodies willing to work.  There are over 410,000 available jobs and 284,000 people looking for work.

With every 100 jobs open, there are 70 people looking for work.

The average rent in the state also went up by close to 25 percent in the past year.  The population is expected to grow by 2.9 million in the next 7 years.

Okeechobee deputies don’t suspect foul play in the death of 54- year-old Juan Garcia Posada.  He was found lying dead in a yard in the 3600 block of NW 3rd Street on Monday.

They are waiting on the cause of death and would like to talk with Santiago Lopez, who was visiting the man around the time he passed away.

In the courts, Arionna Mitchell of Jacksonville received four years in prison and fines and court cost of over $53,000 dollars.

Authorities said she tried to smuggle in 69 grams of cocaine hidden on her body into Okeechobee Correctional Institution on October 16th of last year.

Another lady was also arrested when guards found 120 grams of cocaine.

A five year old child was with these women at the time of the arrests.

By Taylor