News Cast 6/1

News Cast for June 1st:

County eyes property downtown 

Okeechobee County Commissioners will ponder spending $1.25 million dollars to purchase the lots that front route 70 in front of the court house. 

County Commissioner David Hazellief urged the BOCC to talk this over. 

“I was asked by a local businessman on whether the county had considered the south half of the block that used to be Wherrell Auto Parts and a boat place.  Is listed as $1.25 million.  I personally don’t know how the county would pay for it.  It would have to be owner financing or something else if we want to pursue it.  I was asked to present the offer and said I would.” 

They also will review the county nepotism policy. 

Chairman Terry Burroughs explains at fire rescue a relative of an employee would like a job there. 

Sheriff departments around the area are taking part in “Click It or Ticket”, an effort to crack down on people not buckled up and children not in car seats. 

Highlands County is among them. 

Sheriffs spokesperson Scott Dressel said they don’t ignore rural roads and motorists have to start paying attention. 

“We are like all other law enforcement agencies and we are struggling to fill positions.  We try to cover as much ground as we can.  Obviously there will be more enforcement on places where there is more traffic.” 

He points out traffic enforcement on route 70 between Lake Placid and Okeechobee is difficult because many areas don’t have shoulders where they can safely pull someone over. 

A 29 year old Okeechobee man allegedly had almost 19 grams of methamphetamine in his vehicle. 

The Okeechobee narcotics Task force arrested Michael Watson on charges of drug trafficking and also for an earlier charge of sale and possession with intent to sell methamphetamine. 

He was stopped in the 18000 block of US 98near Basinger on Friday. 

His bond was $170,000. 

Local congressman Greg Steube said the county missed a deadline to apply for congressional funds to help pay for the costs of expanding the county jail this year. 

Some 25 million was to be sought. 

Steube said he would be glad to support the funding next year and expects the likely new congressman Scott Franklin to support the measure as well. 

Steube did apply for funding for the city to renovate city hall. 

Okeechobee, Highlands, Glades and other rural counties in Florida have seen more tourists this year. 

For example bed tax collections in Highlands County are expected to set a record this year. 

Tourism Coordinator Casey Hartt said a new survey shows more interest among travelers for rural areas. 

“I really was encouraged to see small towns as number two on the list were small towns or rural destinations.  We used to always see theme parks and beaches at the top of the list.  We have a lot of parks to offer and interest has really picked up since the pandemic.”