News Cast for July 3rd:

How to spend federal money

Okeechobee County like all governments received dollars from the American Rescue plan during the pandemic.

They received $8.1 million and still have roughly $3.35 million hanging around.

County Administrator Deborah Manzo led the discussion on what options the county had to spend the remainder of the funds.

Those options included using it for the county share on the medical examiner’s building, further jail expansions, or pursuit of broadband internet.

There was support for each of these three items.

Commissioner Terry Burroughs gave an update to the commission on progress being made on the route 70 west widening.

“I asked FDOT to give us a timeline and a map and the estimated cost of the expansion of highway 70 from Okeechobee County to DeSoto County.  That should be available between July 15-30.”

He went on to say, the project is still years away.

“Obviously it will take a long time, but at least they are starting on some of the planning, design and engineering studies.”

Florida sports betting got a big win in court that could soon make it legal in the state again.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned a ruling that threw out a Florida gaming compact, claiming the Seminole Tribe sports betting and casino expansion violated federal the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IRGA).

Legal experts predict the tribe could restart online sports betting on its Hard Rock Sportsbook app in the second quarter of 2024.

The attorneys also expect more legal action over this issue.

Lauren Butler took home the Outstanding Cattlewoman Award for 2023 from the Florida Cattlemen’s annual convention in Marco Island.

She is the County Extension Director and Livestock Agent.

She was thrilled to be recognized amid so many great women in agriculture.

“It is really special because this organization is made up of some really awesome women all over the state.  There is organizations in almost every county.  To be chosen as the one, that maybe represented the industry to the best of their ability in their local community was really cool.”

She grew up on a ranch in Pasco County near Dade City.  She said the people in agriculture love what they do and want to keep doing it.

“I was raised on 8,000 acres, this was my mothers family and we had a lot of connections to the land.  We tried to be as environmentally progressive as we could as we raised and operated a commercial cow-calf operation.”

She admits that growth and development may be the biggest issues that are facing our ranchers.

A 300 percent rate hike is proposed for the Lake Istokpoga Marsh Water Improvement District.

They have imposed $8 an acre but that is not enough to pay for the replacement of 25 culverts that will cost $2.5 million.

Congressman Scott Franklin is trying to help with federal moneys of $450,000.

Property owner Frank Youngman said they can’t afford this jump.

“Farmers are not making a nickel.  Caladium farmers just took one of the worst disasters in my lifetime.  Citrus growers haven’t produced fruit in two years.  I’m paying for water I’m not using.  To go from zero to 400 miles an hour at one time is a little bit more than should be expected from us.”

The commission set the assessment at $24 per acre.

The water goes eventually to Harney Pond and Lake Okeechobee.

By Taylor