News Cast 8/5

News Cast for August 5th:

City changes mind on property taxes 

Okeechobee City Council rethought a vote to reduce the tax rate. 

They vote 3-2 to lower it to 6.89 mills, meaning the total of all ad valorem taxes collected will remain the same this year. 

They had voted 3-2 to set the tentative millage at 7.6 mills at the council meeting on July 19. 

The state law limits property tax increases on homestead property to three percent. 

That would have put more of the burden on local businesses. 

Bob Jarriel said he was upset the council didn’t get input from the public at their earlier meeting. 

“We don’t care but we sit here and are supposed to represent the taxpayer.   We said all through COVID, be sure to visit your local businesses, make sure that we keep them.  We are sitting here tonight saying we don’t really care, this is how much we are going to spend and you’re not going to have any input.” 

Councilmember Noel Chandler objected to the comment that the council doesn’t care stating he knows many business owners on a personal basis and knows the challenges they face. 

“To sit here and listen to somebody that I don’t care.  I take offense to that.  I do care about these businesses.  Don’t sit her and tell them that I don’t care.” 

Business owner Wanda Morgan said the 10 percent tax hike for businesses that had been proposed would have been hard to handle. 

“My renters will have to pay more.  Will they be able to rent by buildings?  No!  These taxes need to stay down.” 

The proposed budget would increase spending by 2.53 percent. 

It includes $1.65 million for public works and an increase in starting pay for police officers to $45,000 annually. 

Police also requested three new vehicles for $175,000 and $500,000 for new police radios. 

Council will set another budget workshop to look at ways to reduce spending. 

A community celebration to welcome the cattle drive sculpture to town planned for Saturday morning at 10 am. 

Bridget Waldau of Main Street welcomed the sculpture to town on Monday.  

“Some people got to see the sculptures by accident as they were installed.  My general contractor said we don’t need a lot of people around but they are all installed.” 

She said this is an investment in Okeechobee and thanked all the generous donors who contributed. 

Sculptor Mike Wilson said this project will last for generations. 

“It is going to last forever.  This process has been done for over 2,000 years.  There are bronzes out there that are older than that.  These guys are going to be around awhile and I hope everybody likes them.” 

He said once he got off the airplane and saw all the pastures and cattle, he knew this project would fit in the community. 

Wilson was a guest on the WOKC morning show with Billy Dean. 

Two years probation was the sentence for a Belle Glade woman who allegedly molested a child at the former Okeechobee School for boys. 

Courtney Snipe was working for True Core when a fellow staff member said she saw the sex related incident inside a cottage. 

She pled no contest to child abuse and prosecutors dropped a charge of lewd and lascivious molestation. 

Pahokee will see a major improvement in roadways.  Millions of dollars are being on Barfield Highway and now in the downtown area. 

FDOT Spokesperson Melissa Ratling said they will mill and resurface SR 15 in both directions, they will upgrade pedestrian lighting on SE Barrack Obama Blvd, new sidewalks on the west side of the road, installing crosswalks, and signage and pavement markings. 

They will also install new guardrails at canal areas. 

The work will include nearly two miles.  The project started on July 29. 

The cost is $4.5 million. 

The Mayor Keith Babb said they also continue to seek a 50 room hotel. 

Peggy Boule Washington told the council that they want to do a beautification project along South Lake. 

“We would like to address the entire avenue that includes the palm trees donated to the city in honor of the storm of 1928 victims.” 

They will also put in a sign to remember Pahokee’s 100th birthday celebration.