News Cast 5/31

News Cast for May 31st:

Sheriff needs a budget increase 

New radios for Okeechobee deputies will cost $2.6 million this year. 

The state will also kick in over $800,000 to increase the starting pay for deputies. 

Sheriff Noel Stephen said operating expenses are up about seven percent. 

He noted fuel prices also have an impact. 

“The operating expense is driven by fuel costs and has significantly increased all of my line items in the budget.” 

Stephen is also asking to increase the pay of veteran employees. 

The starting pay of deputies was pushed up to $45,000  per year and to $41,500 for corrections deputies. 

Memorial Day was observed in area counties. 

Okeechobee volunteers and the American Legion Post 64 placed flags on the graves of veterans on Saturday. 

In Glades County, the Buckhead Ridge VFW held an observance at the Ortona Cemetery. 

Indiantown rededicated their newly renovated VFW post. 

US Senator Rick Scott thanked veterans for their sacrifices. 

“I’m so proud to honor all our service members.  We are so grateful for the young men and women in the military who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe.” 

The Okeechobee High School Class of 2022 celebrated graduation on Saturday amid pomp and circumstance. 

Joy Whipple was among the students who gave speeches. 

She said time management was one of the keys to her success. 

“Over the past four years it is clear I’ve been a good student,  but more importantly I’m an athlete, an artist, a big sister, a daughter and a friend.  I’ve made time for it all and I can look back on these last four years with full confidence that I had an amazing ride.  I hope all of you sitting in front of me can say the same when they look back on their high school years.”  

OHS Principal Lauren Meyers wished the class well and saluted them for their accomplishments during tough circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The class of 2022 has certainly made its mark.  You have come to this stage amidst a global pandemic and have faced barriers unlike you have ever seen before.  You have embraced the Brahman way and have sought out ways so you can achieve our vision of achieving excellence.” 

 A record 31 students who graduated received an associates college degree from Indian River State College before their high school diplomas. 

A half cent sales tax will go before the voters in Hendry County to improve schools. 

Plans include a new LaBelle Elementary and another K-6 school. 

School Superintendent Michael Swindle says the youngest schools in the county are now 22 years old. 

He noted a state committee visited LaBelle Elementary last fall and in just nine minutes determined that the school needed to be replaced. 

A wildlife continued to keep firemen busy in Glades County over the holiday. 

The Gumhead fire near Palmdale was still sitting at 562 acres but was at 90% containment at last report. 

No homes were threatened. 

45 acres were burned during a wildfire now contained at Center Street and Berman Road. 

The smoke did have impacts over the weekend. 

A strong thunderstorm Saturday evening caused some power outages and also damaged some aluminum carports on route 68 west.