Newscast For Monday, September 12th 2022

City Council debates spending habits

The majority of the Okeechobee City council is doing what it can to cut spending this year.

They approved the budget at the first public hearing.

The tax rate at just under 6.9 mills would mean the city collects the same amount in ad valorem revenues this coming year as they did last year.

Councilmember Bob Jarriel said the city is spending $300,000 more this year and still getting complaints from staff.

“We have to borrow $535,000 to balance our budget and we come up with these low revenue projections?  I don’t agree with that.”

Councilmember Monica Clark agreed with the suggestion that the city is spending way too much.

“Our millage rate should be somewhere around 5.2 mills compared to other cities.  We are still at 6.8 even with cutting out a large budget item, the fire department, at $1.6 million.”

The budget includes $706,000 for fire service with most of that going to Okeechobee County Fire Rescue.

Public Works plans to spend $1.64 million.

The city police budget is near $3.22 million.

Smoke from a wild fire made it difficult for motorists on SE Everglades Boulevard in Okeechobee Sunday afternoon.  County firemen said no homes were threatened.

A private plane crashed in rural Osceola county near Kenansville.  Three people were injured including a child.

The plane crashed into a pond during a rain storm.

Fire rescue had to use chain saws to get to the plane.

A single vehicle crash claims a life north of Indiantown on Saturday.

The Florida highway patrol says the crash occurred on Allapattah Road near Minute Maid Road around 3 am.

They have released few details

Okeechobee County Commissioners proclaimed September as Hunger Awareness Month.

They also proclaimed the month as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

Chad Adcock with 211 said there has been a 33 percent increase in suicides in our region in the past year.

“We know there has been a mental health crisis.  There has been a rise in suicides.  They describe it as the third wave of the pandemic.  12 to 18 months after the pandemic the mental health side of the crisis is at its peak.”

There have been four suicides in Okeechobee this year.

More surveillance leads to more drugs in Okeechobee.

After complaints from residents the Okeechobee Narcotics Task Force focused efforts at a local RV resort making five arrests on Friday.

They stop a motor home and another vehicle and allegedly find drugs like cocaine, LSD and pills.

Five people are behind bars facing charges.

They include 36 year old Darlene Flesche, 36 year old Bobbie Sue Hajen, 37 year old Martin GArcia, 37 year old Joshua Burton, and 60 year old Joseph Abruzz.

The Highlands County School Board is tightening up thier health education courses.

They will not mention gender identity in any grade and will give parents the opportunity to attend the classes or chose to take their children out of these classes.

This is a draft of the policy that is to be voted upon by the board.

School Board attorney John McClure said they have to tell parents if their child ever asks about gender identity.

“There are some parents that will say you are bringing shame upon the family and we can’t have that.  They may kick the child out or abuse the child.  There are things that have happened involving matters like this in the past.”

Resident Marilyn Snell said she thinks students can figure out health education issues on their own.

“Parents do not give up our rights to parenting our children.  It is not the government’s responsibility it is the parents.   Some parents fail at that.  We deal with that as we need to.  It is not the government’s responsibility.”