News Cast 10/7

News Cast for October 7th:

County seeks disaster aid

Okeechobee County meets with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today starting the process of getting federal aid into the community.

The county wants reimbursement for their costs and any damage to local facilities they own like roof damage done to the Douglas Brown Community Center.

Debris costs and overtime pay for county employees could also be reimbursed.

The county also will push for individual assistance as people survey damage to their homes and businesses.

Denise Whitehead said this is the first step in the talks with FEMA.

“We have had teams out assessing damage since the storm passed, they have canvassed the county.  They have probably been past your home taking photos, talking to residents, and getting a clear picture of what happened.  We also got a lot of self reported damage and photos from residents.  All of that goes into the report that we will review with FEMA.”

Whitehead would not offer a guess on whether the county will qualify for individual assistance.

The Okeechobee City Council finalized their budget this year.  They kept the tax rate at the rollback rate of just under 6 point 9 mills.

This means no increase in property taxes collected this year.  It could mean some will see tax reductions on their city tax bill as new taxable value and growth kicks in.

Councilmember Monica Clark wants city staff to review properties in the city that claim agriculture exemptions.

“We have some large pieces of property that have been sold.  A couple of them still have agriculture exemptions and have not been developed.  I wanted to know the process on how to get the status of those properties changed.”

City manager Gary Ritter said he discussed the issue with the tax appraiser and found every property in the city, with the exception of one, had proof it is used for agriculture purposes like cattle pasture or hay.

The Clewiston Fire Department may have been the most stressed out that it has been in years last week.

In addition to storm impacts, they had three separate structure fires.

A fire at MCM Paint caused evacuations of nearby residents. It sent toxic smoke into the air from items located inside the store.

Another fire damaged businesses at Royals Plaza.

Fire Chief Travis Reese said as many as 8 businesses saw damage in that fire.

A mobile home was a total loss after a fire in Horseshoe Acres on route 80 along the Hendry Glades County line.

There were no injuries reported in these fires.

The Indiantown Village council wants to prevent another mass shooting like they had on Labor Day weekend.

Two large events were held in Booker Park and five people were shot, one fatally.

Councilmember Carmine DiPaolo said he thinks the sheriff and the state attorney should be consulted in this conversation.

“You can’t control who is coming into the area.  This is when all the problem occurs.  It is not the people that live here.  It’s the people coming from the outside.  When the crowd gets that big its hard for law enforcement to handle it.  We have to send a message that this is not going to happen.  We are lucky one of those bullets didn’t go through a wall and hit a child.”

Consultant John Paul told the council that there is not a lot of county or state road improvements planned in Indiantown despite growth coming to the area.

“Other than Warfield Boulevard (710) there are no future plans, no sidewalks, bike lanes or new road ways.  Really the only plans out there is the eventual four lane widening of Warfield Boulevard.”

The village has five projects under review right now including a 25,000 square feet manufacturing facility, a village market, deli and gas station, an apartment complex with 32 units and a single family home development, River Oak, with 176 units.

Paul said Martin County is reviewing a large project on Citrus Blvd that is just outside the village limits.