News Cast 7/26

News Cast for July 26th:

The Okeechobee High School Swim Team will be having tryouts on Monday, Aug 2nd and, Tuesday, Aug 3rd, from 3 to 5 PM at the Okeechobee Sports Complex pool. I am looking forward to seeing all the returning swimmers and meeting new ones. This team is open to all high school students, incoming 9th graders through 12th grade. For more information, you can contact Coach Boon at 863-801-1407

Investigating a fatal crash

Troopers said they are piecing together what happened in a crash north of Okeechobee at the intersection of U.S. 441 north and 36th Street on Friday.

An elderly Okeechobee woman was killed in the crash.  An Okeechobee man was transported to a regional hospital for serious injury.

Details about the crash had not been released.  The intersection has long been known as one of the most dangerous in Okeechobee.

Commissioners continue to look at jail expansion

The Okeechobee County Board of County Commissioners approved the purchase of several items for up to $30,000 related to the county jail.

The list includes modular cells, detention equipment, security electronics, and a pre-engineered metal building.

They also could hire a communications firm to help them get a sales tax referendum approved.

The referendum would be set for the general election in November, 2022.

Steven Van Core with Vancore Jones Communications of Tallahassee said the county can’t use money to convince voters but can use the funds to educate them.

“The county can’t spend money to tell people or request people to vote yes.  In my opinion, you should spend money to educate the public.  If you pass this referendum, this is what the money will be spent on.  Here are the protections in the bill to make sure the money only gets spent in Okeechobee and does not go to Tallahassee.”

County Administrator Debra Manzo said they are looking to add parks and other projects to the sales tax referendum.

“Parks, such as playgrounds and ball fields, and a hurricane shelter at the Ag Center, having a dual-purpose facility.”

They have worked on a state appropriation request of $30 million for the jail.

They could also use about $2 million in funds from the federal government through various stimulus programs.

The estimated cost of the jail expansion is $55 million.

Okeechobee Schools hire foreign teachers

Okeechobee Schools agreed to a contract with Educational Partners International to provide foreign teachers to the district.

This will help fill some vacancies.  The current number is 20 teaching positions.

Assistant Superintendent Dylan Tedders said they have used this pool of teachers before and have seen good results.

“We are not the first district to use them.  We have had several teachers that have been here for a few years now under this same program.  They have been able to survive and maintain their job.  Our principals continue to hire and rehire them and then ask for more.  If we can find them, they have expertise, and are certified.  We will continue to go down that route especially with vacancies.”

Pahokee considers industrial park

The Pahokee city commission was asked to consider the development of an industrial park.

They own 34 acres at 1515 Rim Canal and a private firm has come forward wanting to lease nine acres, Acting City Manager Rodney Lucas said.

Lucas said industry would be a good addition to Pahokee.  Much of his background has been in economic development.

“My million dollar question has always been is it housing or an industrial park?  You don’t have an industrial park.  Industrial parks pay for themselves.”

Some on the commission would rather develop the property into housing.

Vice Mayor Regina Bohlen supported looking at this project noting Belle Glade got a shot in the arm with a new industrial project.

“It does not make a whole lot of sense to refuse jobs.  If a company wants to come here and has the potential to hire 50 people and develop some land.  Isn’t that what we all talk about all the time?”