News Cast 8/30

News Cast for August 30th:

The Okeechobee School Board is finalizing plans for the new high school so they can go out to bid and start construction. 

They are looking for ways to fill a funding gap of up to $5 million.  The state has provided $82 million. 

High school principal Lauren Meyers said they are planning a higher ceiling in the band room at the request of director Clint LaFlam. 

“Clint’s job is to protect his band program and my job is to protect all programs.  I appreciate the board and Mr. Kenworthy hearing all the concerns on the proposals and going back to the drawing board and looking for other options.” 

Laflam told the board that students can’t hear announcements or even when drills are going on while they are practicing. 

The new gym will hold 2,500 spectators. 

Board member Jill Holcomb said that doesn’t mean graduation will be held there. 

“Even though it gives us a larger capacity it still would limit the number of tickets the students would get.  We want to make sure the students get as many tickets as possible so as many family members and friends can come and witness the graduation.” 

A celebration of community heroes…focused on first responders and veterans. 

A special luncheon was hosted by Indian River State College.    The Okeechobee Chamber of Commerce honored several local agencies including Our Village, the Health Department, the Kiwanis Club and others. 

Leah Suarez received the award on behalf of Our Village and spoke on helping those in need. 

“It is very common for us to hear if they would just pull themselves up by their boot straps they can make it just like we did.    Growing up in poverty using food stamps and selling watermelons on the side of the road to get through high school and college, some of the people we meet don’t even know what boots are.” 

Tabitha Trent with South State Bank was thrilled with the turnout and the response. 

“It is truly an honor to recognize all of our heroes, local, national and abroad.  It was a complete privilege to do so.” 

The key note speaker was the Florida Director of Veterans Affairs, retired Marine Corps Major General James Hammer Hartsell. 

The General first responders make great personal sacrifices to benefit us as he spoke about some incidents that occurred during his military career. 

“It is a personal sacrifice when we help others beyond ourselves.  They work very long hours and are away from their family for extended periods often during crisis situations.  Responders get called to help other people when they want to be helping their own families.” 

In the courts Kevin Hughes goes on trial in Okeechobee today for allegedly murdering his wife in Viking in April, 2019. 

34 year old Jennifer Minnette Benson Hughes was found shot to death on the property off Pee Vine Trail. 

The Florida Highway Patrol released some details on a single vehicle crash that claimed the life of an Okeechobee teen in Broward County last week. 

The driver of a Ford excursion, a 17 year old boy, somehow lost control of a Ford SUV on US 27 not far from I-75. 

Joe Marlin Hilliard passed away at the age of 79. 

He was a member of the Florida agriculture hall of fame and had worked at Hilliard Brothers Cattle since the 1960s. 

He was considered a giant in the cattle, citrus and sugar industries. 

Garbage bills will go up three percent in Highlands County to $216 dollars per residence. 

A new cell at the Lorida landfill will cost up to 14 million. 

The existing landfill is about 90 percent full. 

The BOCC also lowered the tax rate to 8.1 mills.  This is the first tax decrease in the county in eight years. 

Commissioner Arlene Tuck supported an even lower millage or 8 mills.  She said department budgets have padding for supplies and maintenance. 

“That is mostly where we get our money back from.  Those moneys are a slush spot for a lot of the directors.  I really wish they would be more careful with those.”