News Cast for July 28th:

Tourism still booming

Okeechobee could set another record for bed tax collections this year.

Since the pandemic, more tourists want to visit rural areas where there are less people.  Many of the visitors want more outdoor activities.

Community Services Director Denise Whitehead said tourist bed taxes continue to rise as a result.

“We averaged about $350,000 a year in bed taxes per year.  This year we have six months at $377,000 already.  We expect another strong year for bed taxes in Okeechobee County.”

The county collected over $501,000 in bed taxes last year.

A 19 year old Okeechobee man was sentenced to six months in jail and four years probation for an alcohol related crash near Vero Beach.

Matthew Lawrence seriously injured the other driver, Kristin Husar in the crash on Oslo Road.

He was also ordered to serve 100 of community service for the accident last April 9th.

The accident occurred at the intersection of Oslo Road and 43rd Avenue.  Police said it appeared Lawrence ran a red light.  He measure point 38 blood alcohol after the crash which is above the legal limit for drivers under 21.

The Florida Department of Transportation submitted three options to improve the intersection of Martin Grade and 710.

One is adding striping and rumble strips along with an acceleration lane as traffic pulls off Martin Grade and heads north on 710.

A second proposal is adding a concrete median between SE 126th Avenue in Okeechobee and Martin Grade.

The third is connecting Martin Grade to SE 126th in Okeechobee County with a new intersection.

County commissioner Doug Smith said the Martin and Okeechobee commissions must meet and decide what they want.

“Get everybody in the room at the same time.  There are two counties, two FDOT districts and we have to agree on something.  Straightening out the intersection gives us a controlled intersection that seems to make a whole lot of sense.”

Indiantown Mayor Susan Gibbs Thomas supports turn lanes for both lanes of traffic off 710 to keep traffic flowing.

“710 is like getting on and off of I-95.  The traffic is flying.  You have the off ramps on 95 and that is what it reminds me of.”

The Okeechobee County airport is planning a $1.7 million dollar parking lot expansion this year.

Airport Manager John Hurst said his budget projects the airport to make money for the county this year.

He predicts a budget surplus of between seven and 10 percent.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will no longer require the county perform ground water tests from the old county landfill.

By Taylor