News Cast 9/19

News Cast for September 19th:

$40 million project proposed

The South Florida Water Management District is deep in the design of a facility to consolidate their operations in Okeechobee.

They want to break ground in early 2023.

Spokesperson Libby Pigman had further details on the facility.

“We are designing and plan to construct a new facility to house the Okeechobee Field Station on SR 70 and the Okeechobee Service Center which is currently in a two story office building on NW 5th Street.”

The new facility off NW 50th Street, or Hilliard Road, would be 99,000 square feet.  It would include a laboratory, administrative offices, an emergency operations center and also a call center for the Fish and Wildlife alligator nuisance program.

A meeting room would also accommodate up to 150 people.

They could use the old field station for storage but a final decision on the use of the facility has not yet been made.

The goal is to have the facility complete by late 2024 or early 2025.

An Okeechobee City Councilman is upset his campaign signs were pulled out of the ground by city staff.

Bob Jarriel said all of the signs found in the right of way were pulled up and none of the candidates were notified by the city.

He said the city handled the situation totally wrong.

“I feel like we have to be consistent on whatever we are going to do.  Code enforcement must be consistent all the time.  I resented today for two of my friends to call me and tell me they are pulling my signs down, and then have them tell me what the rules are.”

Jarriel says the city could have simply contacted the candidates and have them remove the signs themselves.

The city prohibits campaign or other signs in the rights of way.  The signs must be placed on private property with permission of the property owner.

A Glades County man pled no contest to manslaughter charges.

Ricky Harrell was charged February 26th with first degree murder for allegedly shooting his grand father, 75 year old Peter Matusiak to death with a shotgun after an argument in a home on Palm Avenue.

Two independent witnesses claim they had heard Harrell state he wanted his grandparents dead, according to Glades County Sheriff Deputy arrest reports.

Harrell is due to be sentenced on October 13th.

Highlands County Commissioners approved an engineering bid to start the design of their landfill expansion.

County commissioner Scott Kirouac said the county is running out of time and space to get the landfill expanded.

The current cell is about 85 percent full.  A cell is expected to last about 10 years.

Highlands County also recently was awarded the Flagler Award for Rural Tourism Marketing.  They have seen an uptick in tourism since 2021 with over $1.5 million collected in bed taxes already this year.

They have added some national televised events for motor cross, added four new golf tournaments, and 10 new sports events.  They also have begun a popular location for lacrosse tournaments.