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Okeechobee County Emergency Operation Center (EOC) Activates to Level 2 (Partial) Activation

Okeechobee County Emergency Operation Center (EOC) Activates to Level 2 (Partial) Activation

“In support of the Okeechobee County Music and Arts festival, the Okeechobee County EOC will move from our normal activation posture, level (3) (monitoring) to a partial activation level (2). This will begin at 8:00AM Thursday March 1, 2018 and continue thru Monday March 5th.” said Okeechobee County Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal, “Due to the size and the length of the event, we have emergency management partners arriving from several parts of the state to lend assistance”.

Participating personnel and equipment are from the following agencies;

National Weather Service Office Melbourne (NWS)

Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM)

Regional Domestic Security Task Force (RSTDF) regional 4 and 6 Incident Management Team (IMT)

Residents are reminded to do their weekly shopping early in the week of February 26th due to the influx of festival attendees seeking food and other supplies. Expect extra traffic on the roads especially on Thursday March 1st and Monday March 5th as festival attendees are arriving and leaving the festival and the county.

“This is not the first time this event has been held in Okeechobee County and as in previous years we want to be prepared for any issues which may arise during the festival .”

The Okeechobee County Emergency Operations Center will be staffed for 12 hour shifts each day. Several of the partner agencies will also be staying at the EOC for the length of their deployment.

“These types of cross county partnerships are nothing new within the emergency management community.” “There are a limited number of EM personnel within Florida and when one of us needs assistance the others come to help”

For more contact Emergency Management Director, Mitch Smeykal at (863)763-3212.


News Cast 2/21

News Cast for February 21st:

One of the veteran officers of the Okeechobee Police Department recently returned to duty. Detective Bill Saum returned in the last couple of weeks after recovering from surgery on his right shoulder, needed because of wear and tear over the years as well as exacerbation from moving items in his garage. Saum says he missed his job and he’s very happy to be back, and he’s not the only one. Saum had his shoulder surgery in the middle of January and needed just under a month of recovery time before returning and he’s still rehabbing. He has been in law enforcement for over 31 years and plans to retire in a couple of years.

Saum Return 1

Saum Return 2

Okeechobee City Councilmembers approved a purchase of two unoccupied lots to a south Florida based construction company at last night’s meeting. Karl Davis Construction purchased the two lots at just over $260,000.00 dollars. City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca says these lots are perfect for development. De Oca says the lots, which are near Industrial Park on NE 9th Avenue, have been unoccupied for over ten years.

De Oca-Purchased Lots

City Councilmembers also declared this week as “National Engineers Week,” and approved an appointment of Dallon Boyd to the Police Officers Pension Fund Board of Trustees and an appointment of Robert Jarriel Senior to the Planning Board as an alternate member.

Okeechobee County firefighters had their hands full with a brush fire Monday afternoon. Crews were called to the 20 thousand block of NW 260th Street just after one o’clock for a blaze that burned about ten acres of brush and grass. Crews got the blaze under control in about an hour and a half by putting a line around it with no one getting hurt and no structures damaged. Cause is under investigation.

Officials from the Okeechobee Utility Authority say they will be smoke testing the wastewater lines in areas of the county today to verify sewer connections or possible problems with the wastewater lines. Areas that will have these tests being done are Casey Lane, Karen Court, Andrea Lane and Chobee Street in Buckhead Ridge. You may see or smell smoke coming through your fixtures. This will not last more than an hour and it is not harmful. The testing will begin at 8:30 am and last until 5:30 pm. Any questions can be referred to the OUA.

On the arrest report:

33 year old Tony Lee Frost of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for aggravated battery on his pregnant girlfriend after a domestic dispute. His bond has not been set.

37 year old Thomas William McGill Junior of Okeechobee was arrested on an out of county arrest warrant from Hendry County. He’s being held without bond.

31 year old Amber Nichole Thibault of Okeechobee was arrested for failure to appear in court for past drug offenses. She’s being held without bond.

37 year old Matthew Shane Tate of Okeechobee was arrested for failure to appear in court on past charges of driving on a suspended license. He’s being held without bond.

27 year old Bobby Damale Redden of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation. He’s being held without bond.


News Cast 2/19

News Cast for February 19th:

Thanks to a recent approval by the Okeechobee County Commissioners, there will soon be a pipe installed on Highway 441 near NE 144th Drive. County Engineer John Howle says the 48 inch pipe is necessary because of flooding beginning at the ditch near Dark Hammock Road and NE 138th down to NE 144th.  Howle says the construction will be going on at the same time road crews will be putting in a turn lane there and traffic flow should not be inconvenienced too much if at all. The cost of the installation of the pipe will be about $51,000.00 dollars and construction should begin in the next week or so.

Howle-US 441 Pipe Construction 1

Howle-US 441 Pipe Construction 2

In the wake of the tragic high school shootings in Broward County this week, officials from the Highlands County Sheriff’s Department are beginning to organize a training scenario for this kind of event should it ever come to pass around here. Spokesperson Scott Dressel says the training at this time is still in the planning stages. Dressel says in the meantime, there is now an increased presence of law enforcement officers at area schools and in addition there are more patrol units and detectives in neighborhoods around the schools.

School Shooting Training Scenario 1

School Shooting Training Scenario 2

A Lehigh Acres man will be in prison for a long time after being found guilty on a host of charges. A Lee county judge sentenced 29 year old Malcolm Lamar Porter to 30 years in prison for battery and sexual battery with threat of force as a reoffender. Attorneys say in March of last year, Porter told the victim there was a snake loose in her house and as she called 911, Porter came up from behind and choked her into unconsciousness then he sexually battered her. The victim was able to escape momentarily when sheriff deputies arrived. He was found guilty last week after a two day trial.

On the arrest report:

47 year old Patrick David Bush of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for battery and child abuse following a domestic dispute. His bond has not been set.

37 year old Todd Mitchell Hawes of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine after a traffic stop. His bond is set at $5,000.00 dollars.

56 year old Robert Michael Lentz of Okeechobee was arrested for driving without a valid driver’s license. His bond is set at $500.00 dollars.

47 year old Scott William Alcock of Ft. Pierce was arrested for violating probation for past theft convictions. He’s being held without bond.

31 year old Marionell Gonzalez of Okeechobee was arrested for driving without a license and criminal mischief after destroying a mailbox. His bond is set at $1,500.00 dollars.


The People of U.S. Sugar Provide More Than 1,300 Pairs of Shoes for Area Children with Laces of Love

The People of U.S. Sugar Provide More Than 1,300 Pairs of Shoes for Area Children with Laces of Love

Clewiston, FL – Recently, U.S. Sugar President & CEO Robert H. Buker presented more than 1,300 pairs of new shoes to school board officials, teachers and student representatives from Hendry and Glades county schools from Laces of Love, a Naples-based non-profit organization dedicated to providing children in need with a new pair of shoes. The shoes were collected as part of a company-wide competition.

“Lending a helping hand to the youth of our community is a large part of who we are at U.S. Sugar,” said U.S. Sugar’s Community Relations Manager Jennifer Black. “We are proud to support Laces of Love and make sure that students in our local schools who need them get a new pair of shoes.  This partnership with Laces of Love is a win-win for U.S. Sugar and our communities.”

For the third straight year, U.S. Sugar and its employees increased the amount of shoes that had been donated over the previous year.  Last year’s shoe drive produced 1,000 pairs, and this year, with the company providing an equal match to its employee donations, more than 1,300 pairs of shoes will be distributed to students in Hendry and Glades county schools.

As a motivation to encourage competition among its many different departments, U.S. Sugar once again offered a trophy and a year’s worth of bragging rights to the department that brought in the most shoes. For the second year in a row, the winning department was Agriculture Operations and Railroad, headed by Ken McDuffie, Sr. VP.   Sugarcane operations and railroad division employees generously donated more than 200 pairs of new shoes.

The Laces of Love Charitable Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)3, not-for-profit organization that provides new shoes to low-income and disadvantages children and educates the public about the needs of these children. U.S. Sugar has been a partner since 2015.


News Cast 2/16

News Cast for February 16th:

Recently, an officer of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department was honored for his outstanding service. Corporal Bryan Lowe was chosen as the 2017 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. Lowe was honored this past Saturday by the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution and given the Law Enforcement Commendation Medal for his service. Sheriff Noel Stephen says Lowe is someone who has an even bigger future. Lowe, who joined the sheriff’s department after a stint on the police force, last month received a lifesaving award from Sheriff Stephen for helping a badly injured driver after an accident.

Stephen-Lowe Recognition 1

Stephen-Lowe Recognition 2

The Okeechobee County Fire Department now has a new deputy chief. Captain of EMT Training Earl Wooten was announced earlier this week as the new deputy chief, succeeding Karl Holtkamp who resigned last November after a 25 year tenure at the helm. Wooten has been a part of the County Emergency Center for 19 years and he believes familiarity will be his best asset as he begins his new job. Wooten officially begins as the new deputy chief tomorrow.

New Deputy Chief 1

New Deputy Chief 2

Rodeo Day is next month. This week, the Okeechobee County School Board proclaimed March 9th of this year as Rodeo Day in Okeechobee County. Michelle Harper and Ernest Basil of the Lake Okeechobee Elks Lodge were on hand to receive the proclamation. Rodeo is a tradition here in the county and Harper says it’s because of agriculture. Harper says elementary schools will be visited by rodeo queens and every second grader in the county will receive a book called “B for Buckaroo” and if they read the book and pass the test, they will get an ice cream social from the Elks Lodge. March 9th will also be the night for the first nighttime rodeo in Okeechobee County.

Rodeo Day 1

Rodeo Day 2

On the arrest report:

31 year old James William Anthony Griffin the Third of Indianapolis was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on 70 counts of possession of child pornography. His bond is set at $1,750,000.00 dollars.

26 year old Adam Joseph Moore of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license and possession of marijuana after a traffic stop. His bond is set at $500.00 dollars.

46 year old Donald Lee Losee of Louisburg, North Carolina was arrested on an out of county arrest warrant for failure to appear in court for charges of driving on a suspended license. His bond is set at $5,000.00 dollars.


Save the Dates via Unicorn Children’s Foundation 3/4; 4/12; May

Building communities of acceptance, support and opportunity  for individuals and families challenged by neurodiversity.

Make a Secure Online Donation Today –  Donate Now!

 

Save the Dates


The Unicorn Disco & Diamond Ball

Sunday, March 4, 2018

5pm – 11pm

Boca West Country Club – Boca Raton

Co-Chairs: Gregory Fried & Kurtis Lutz

Click here for more info

 

Springtime in Paris Dinner

Thursday, April 12, 2018, 6pm-11pm

Indian Creek Country Club – Miami Beach

Chair: Gwen Taylor

*Ultra exclusive country club!

Click here for more info

 

Unicorn Virtual Golf Tournament

Entire month of May, 2018

Any club of your choosing, in the world

More info TBA

 

Formula 1 Electric Indoor Go-Kart Experience

“Speeding for Special Needs”

June 2018 (TBA)

K1 Speed – Hollywood, FL.

More info TBA


News Cast 2/15

News Cast for February 15th:

For the third time in as many weeks, there was another bomb threat reported at Florida Power and Light’s Power Plant on the 21 thousand block of Route 60. Okeechobee County Sheriff’s deputies say there were bomb threats written on the inside walls of the portable toilets. In this latest report, the threat read “BOMB THREAT? BOMB FROM ISE,” written in black permanent ink but with no date on it, similar to the other two times.  It was reported by a manager of the nearby construction site for Zachary Industrials. Despite this, it hasn’t impeded the work of the employees according to Zachary Spokesperson A.J. Rodriguez. Deputies say there is no suspect information at this time and it’s still being investigated.

Rodriguez-Third Reported Bomb Threat

Officials from the Florida Forest Service will be out and about in neighborhoods such as Fort Drum, Viking and Indian Hammock handing out literature and talking to residents about the dangers of wildfires and what people can do to protect themselves from it and surviving it. Spokesperson Melissa Yunas says people need to clean off their roofs and gutters and keep vegetation a good distance away from your home. Yunas says of the wildfires that have happened in Florida in 2018, they were all in the North Okeechobee area. Yunas also recommends being careful with machines such as lawnmowers and ATV’s that can spark on grass and brush. More information is available at the forest service website at www.FloridaForestService.com.

Yunas-Wildfire Awareness Campaign 1

Yunas-Wildfire Awareness Campaign 2

Florida Highway Patrol officers are investigating a vehicle accident that left one man dead Tuesday night. Officers say 43 year old Aumon Jackson of Lehigh Acres was driving a KTM motorcycle east on Lee Boulevard in Lee County when the driver of a Nissan Titan drove right into Jackson’s path while trying to turn onto Lee Boulevard and the front of Jackson’s motorcycle struck the left side of the other driver’s car. The crash killed Jackson instantly. The Nissan driver fled the scene on foot before paramedics and FHP arrived. If you have information on the other driver, please contact the Florida Highway Patrol.

On the arrest report:

27 year old Bobby Damale Redden of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for violating probation on past drug offenses. He’s being held without bond.

39 year old David Allen Eason of Okeechobee was arrested on an out of county arrest warrant for carrying a concealed weapon in Taylor County. He’s being held without bond.

57 year old Charles Earl Ingram of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past drug offenses. He’s being held without bond.

28 year old Manuel Gutierrez of Okeechobee was arrested for leaving the scene of an accident and driving without a valid license after a hit and run accident. He was released after posting a $1,000.00 dollar bond.

30 year old Ycherra Denise Lucky of Okeechobee was arrested for fraudulent use of a credit card and failure to return stolen items. She’s being held without bond.

19 year old Jordan Lee Cutler of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of aggravated battery. He’s being held without bond.

18 year old Robert Lamote Futch of Okeechobee was arrested for disorderly conduct at Okeechobee High School. He was released after posting a $500.00 dollar bond.


SFWMD Secures Land Exchange Necessary to Advance Everglades Restoration

SFWMD Secures Land Exchange Necessary to Advance Everglades Restoration

Land exchange near Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge allows the District to further Gov. Rick Scott’s Restoration Strategies Plan to restore Everglades water quality

West Palm Beach, FL – Last week, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) finalized an agreement to exchange two parcels of land near the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in western Palm Beach County. This timely deal keeps Gov. Rick Scott’s Restoration Strategies Plan on track to hit its completion target for design and construction of water treatment and storage projects by 2025.

“Completing this land swap is a big step forward in the state’s ongoing and incredibly successful efforts to restore the health of Florida’s Everglades,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Dan O’Keefe. “This will help SFWMD advance the bold vision of Everglades water quality laid out in Gov. Rick Scott’s Restoration Strategies Plan.”

The deal exchanges SFWMD-owned lands for 1,327 acres of federally owned land west of the Loxahatchee Refuge known as the Snail Farm parcel. The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) will now take ownership of SFWMD’s 2,586 acres east of the Loxahatchee Refuge known as the Strazzulla parcel. The deal also includes the release of restrictions held by DOI on other SFWMD-owned properties.

The Snail Farm parcel is crucial to the expansion of Stormwater Treatment Area 1 West, which is part of the Restoration Strategies Plan to complete Everglades water quality restoration.

“SFWMD has invested significant effort and resources into Restoration Strategies because we are committed to creating a restored and vibrant Everglades to be enjoyed by generations to come,” continued O’Keefe.

The Strazzulla parcel is located in close proximity to the USFWS offices of operation on the east side of the Refuge and major roadways for better public access. The land swap provides USFWS a piece of property where it can expand public access for recreational opportunities and other uses by the agency.


News Cast 2/14

News Cast for February 14th:

Yesterday, the therapeutic bodywork facility known as The Purple Orchid had a ribbon cutting ceremony and “delayed” grand opening. The event was put together by the Okeechobee County Chamber of Commerce. Owner Marci Lookabill says she got the business name “The Purple Orchid” from her daughter. Lookabill says she was pleasantly surpised by the number of people who showed up to support her in her new business which she opened back in November. She has been a licensed masseuse for nearly 10 years. It is located at the 600 block of SW Park Street in Okeechobee.

Lookabill-Ribbon Cutting Ceremony 1

Lookabill-Ribbon Cutting Ceremony 2

The Okeechobee County School Board reconvened for their monthly meeting last night and approved a proclamation for February to be Black History Month. Faculty and students from the Douglas Brown Tutorial Group were on hand to accept the proclamation, Educational Director of the Douglas Brown Tutorial Group Linda Baker. There will be a Black History Program performance on February 22nd at the Williamson Center at Indian River State College where all the skills and acts will be performed by children. The program will begin at 6pm.

Black History Month Proclamation 1

Black History Month Proclamation 2

In what is becoming a growing problem, some residents of Berman Road spoke to the Okeechobee County School Board at last night’s meeting as to what can be done about truck drivers speeding through there during the early morning hours often without regard for children who are present and headed to school. One resident, Andre Walther, a deputy in the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Department, says he’s surprised as to how bad it’s become. The board voted unanimously to speak to Sheriff Noel Stephen about putting extra patrol in the area during the early morning hours.

Truck Problem 1

Truck Problem 2

Okeechobee County firefighters had a brush fire to contend with on Saturday. Crews were called to the 18 thousand block of NW 276th Street for a five acre blaze that apparently started with a lit cigarette that had been left there. Crews got the fire controlled in about 45 minutes. No one was hurt but the fire did destroy a small pop up camper. Total damage is estimated at $3,000.00 dollars.

On the arrest report:

19 year old Martin Noel Gibson of Okeechobee was arrested by police marijuana possession and resisting arrest at the American Legion Fair. Police were originally called there because of a fight. He was released after posting a $2,000.00 dollar bond.

19 year old Joel Jermain Jackson of Okeechobee was arrested for battery and simple assault during a fight at the American Legion Fair. He was released after posting a $500.00 dollar bond.

32 year old Dawn Michelle Blankenship of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for battery on her mother during a domestic dispute. Her bond has not been set.

50 year old Francisco Perez-Galicia of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving, driving on a suspended license, eluding authorities and child abuse. His bond is set at $20,000.00 dollars.

23 year old Kevin Morales-Gonzalez of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on his girlfriend during a domestic dispute. His bond has not been set.

20 year old Jonnie Savannah Ritten of Ft. Pierce was arrested for possession of marijuana and the drug spice as she entered the correctional facility. She was released after posting a $20,000.00 dollar bond.


News Cast 2/13

News Cast for February 13th:

Okeechobee County Firefighters are investigating the cause of a fire to a bus Sunday night. Investigators say the driver was driving the bus on the Florida Turnpike in Okeechobee County when he heard a pop and the bus swerved and he pulled over to the shoulder. The driver got out and noticed smoke and flames on the right rear of the bus near the wheel. The driver evacuated the 43 passengers before crews arrived just before 8:20 and needed about 20 minutes to get the fire controlled while using about three thousand gallons of water. No injuries reported. Total estimated damage to the bus is $50,000.00 dollars.

Foster Family Appreciation Week is this week in Okeechobee County. Commissioners approved the proclamation at their meeting last week. There are about 21 children in foster care in Okeechobee County who are in secure, stable homes. Denise Waninger of Devereux Community Based Care in Okeechobee says an important aspect in successful placing of a child in foster care is keeping them in their community of origin. Waninger says there are currently three foster homes in the community and she hopes there will be more in the near future.

Waninger 1

Waninger 2

This is also the week to appreciate the helpline. Okeechobee County Commissioners last week approved the proclamation of this week as 211 Helpline Awareness Week. 211 Helpline is a national suicide and rape crisis hotline as well as resource and information referral. Community Relations Specialist for Okeechobee Michelle Miller says it’s been quite successful last year alone. The 211 Helpline has been around for 65 years.

Miller-Helpline Awareness Week

Today will be the ribbon cutting ceremony for The Purple Orchid for therapeutic bodywork in Okeechobee County. The Purple Orchid opened in November of last year and they offer different types of massage and scrubs. Purple Orchid owner Marci Lookabill says she’s excited but at the same time nervous for the ribbon cutting ceremony. Lookabill has been a licensed masseuse for nearly 10 years and recently worked in Port St. Lucie at Club Med and other places mentoring and training other therapists. The ribbon cutting ceremony begins at noon at The Purple Orchid at the 600 block of SW Park Street next to Jersey Mike’s.

Lookabill 1

Lookabill 2

Florida Highway Patrol officers in Highlands County had their hands full with a couple of accidents over the weekend that left two women with serious injuries. On Saturday morning, 18 year old Alyssa Todd of Lake Placid was driving a Nissan Versa south on Old Highway 8 and Hicoria Road when she drifted onto the northbound lane and onto the shoulder and rotated clockwise before hitting a fence and a utility pole guy wire then overturned. Todd was airlifted to Lee Memorial Hospital for treatment of her injuries.

Sunday, 75 year old Rosa Lopez of Sebring was driving an ATV north on Avalon Road and was turning left onto another road when she lost control of the ATV, causing it to overturn and throwing Lopez off of it. She was airlifted to Lakeland Regional Medical Center for treatment. Both accidents are being investigated.

On the arrest report:

25 year old Chad Allen Leitner and 27 year old Amber Dawn Leitner of Okeechobee were arrested by police for simple assault and battery after a domestic dispute. Both were released after posting bond.

30 year old Pedro Jimenez of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on an out of county arrest warrant from Palm Beach. He’s being held without bond.

43 year old Joseph Paul Shirey of Okeechobee was arrested for battery and false imprisonment on his girlfriend during a domestic dispute. His bond is set at $30,000.00 dollars.

25 year old Diana Marie Faison of Okeechobee was arrested for ten counts of petty theft and nine counts of grand theft. She’s being held without bond.

18 year old Jaquan Thompson of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on another inmate at the county jail. His bond is set at $2,500.00 dollars.

32 year old Perry Isham Sallette the Third of Okeechobee was arrested for failure to appear in court for previous drug charges and driving with a suspended license. His bond is set at $30,000.00 dollars.

27 year old Bobby Redden of Okeechobee was arrested for lewd and lascivious conduct on a jail employee. His bond is set at $1,000.00 dollars.

23 year old Matthew Lee Cox of Okeechobee was arrested for an out of county arrest warrant. He’s being held without bond.

22 year old Benjamin Robert Wilson of Okeechobee was arrested for resisting arrest after deputies tried to serve an arrest warrant on him. He’s being held on a $500.00 dollar bond.


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