Local News

Commissioner Putnam Recognizes National Garden Month in April by Encouraging More School Gardens for Students

Commissioner Putnam Recognizes National Garden Month in April by Encouraging More School Gardens for Students

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam recognizes National School Garden Month in April by encouraging more schools to start gardens for students.

“Children who help grow fruits and vegetables are more likely to make healthy choices, and schools can use the gardening experience as part of a well-rounded curriculum,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services operates the state’s school nutrition program, including school breakfast, lunch and Summer BreakSpot, in all 67 counties. In the past three years, the department has worked with dozens of schools across the state to implement and support school gardens. In addition, the department began its own garden in Tallahassee that helps educate students, teachers and parents about how to start and maintain a school garden.

School gardens teach children where their food comes from and provide a hands-on approach for a science-based curriculum with a focus on nutrition, health and wellness. Studies show children involved in a school garden eat more fruits and vegetables and score higher on science achievement tests.

Many schools use the produce from their gardens for snacks or meals in their own cafeterias, while others share the bounty with food pantries or others in need.

For more information about the school garden program at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, please visit FreshFromFlorida.com/FarmtoSchool.


Charles Murphy News 3/31

News Cast for March 31st:

Okeechobee schools want a new high school and plan to seek special state funds to replace 15 buildings on the existing high school campus. One option would cost nearly 48 million, a second, a combination of the freshman campus and high school would cost about 60 million. The school board would like to apply for state funds by this August in time for next year’s state legislative session. Dr. John Watson spoke to the school board about the decision. Watson has worked with the district on Seminole Elementary, Everglades elementary and Osceola Middle school in the past. Local tax dollars would only pay for a small percentage of the costs. With a 1 billion dollar budget surplus this year, it appears to be a good time to ask for state funds.

The school board would have control over bids and how the buildings look. One decision would be whether to build an auditorium and gym or a larger gymnasium.

Cadaver dogs have a date to visit the former Okeechobee school for boys, now operated by G4 S youth development. The Sheriff’s office would like to put to rest allegations of bodies being buried there similar to ones at the Marianna School for boys. The search will occur from April 14th thru the 16th.

In the courts, 30 year old Jose Montes Rodriguez pled no contest to the first degree murder of his coworker. The two worked together on a sod crew in Kenansville when Rodriguez shot Cesar Francisco Rodriguez during an argument last March 24th. Rodriguez received 30 years in prison for the crime.

Among arrests, 28 year old George Timmes was charged with two counts of aggravated assault and three counts of battery after a domestic dispute involving a knife near Treasure Island. Timmes allegedly turned the knife on himself and was injured.

Sports Cast for March 31st:

The cross country teams had a decent 2 thousand 14 and Coach AJ Mayernik said it was all about effort.

Mayernik said he got everything he expected out of the runners this year. The girls finished fourth in districts and Vernice Leon qualified for regional.

The boys’ team finished district runners up and had a strong showing at the regional race. Coach Mayernik said the experience gained in that race will be big next year.

The Brahman boys tennis team is tied with Jensen Beach at the district tournament , each team with 10 points. Singles finals and doubles play continues today.   All five singles players and two doubles teams are still alive for Okeechobee.

The girls team has just one team alive, the #2 doubles of Artha Jonassaint and Chelsea Walker and are in fourth place.

On the sports schedule tonight;

OHS tennis district tournament continues at Halpatiokee Park in Stuart 9 am.

OHS baseball visits Avon Park 7 pm

Moore Haven softball at Glades Day JV 4 pm/ 5:30 pm

Moore Haven baseball at Immokalee 5 pm

OHS JV softball at PECS 5 pm.


Gov. Scott Honors 230 Veterans with Governor’s Veterans Service Award

Gov. Scott Honors 230 Veterans with Governor’s Veterans Service Award

THE VILLAGES, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott awarded 230 Florida veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Award for their service to Florida and the nation.

The ceremony was held at The Villages Eisenhower Center. During the ceremony, Governor Scott highlighted the service of Florida veterans Captain Steve Printz and Tech Sergeant Jermaine Troiano.

Captain Steve Printz

Captain Steve Printz is a retired Navy Captain who served 22 years in active duty with tours across the United States and the Mediterranean. Captain Printz has been married for 46 years and lives in The Villages.

Tech Sergeant Jermaine Troiano

Tech Sergeant Jermaine Troiano is a USAF veteran who served in the Korean War and had the honor of marching in President-Elect Eisenhower’s inaugural parade. Tech Sergeant Troiano and her husband Guy have lived in Florida for almost 20 years.
Florida Veterans Medal

The “Governor’s Veterans Service Award” honors Floridians who have served in the U.S. Military. The front of the medal depicts the Great Seal of the State of Florida. The back of the medal displays the five seals representing the five branches of U.S. Military with an inscription that reads “Honoring Those Who Served.”


Scandinavian Countries Highlight “Fresh From Florida” Grapefruit in New Promotion

Scandinavian Countries Highlight “Fresh From Florida” Grapefruit in New Promotion

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam announced today a new partnership between the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Nordic Total Produce that will feature “Fresh From Florida” grapefruit in 724 stores in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway.

“Florida’s famed citrus is the best in the world,” Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam said. “Expanding our reach to the rest of the United States and across the globe supports Florida’s economy.”

Florida international agricultural exports remain a vital component of the economic strength of the state, generating more than $4 billion in cash receipts and placing the state as the 8th largest agricultural exporter in the United States. More than 60 retailers in 27 countries that have partnered with “Fresh From Florida” in 4,700 stores across the globe.

Recent efforts by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to promote Florida agriculture include product sampling, store displays, advertising circulars and promotional outreach to consumers.

“We have been pleased to work with Florida marketers to strengthen awareness and sales interest for a variety of promotional support for Florida grapefruit. Our team looks forward to discussing future opportunities as this season comes to a close,” said Total Produce Nordic Chief Operating Officer Jakob Scanning.

For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.


Man Who Tied Rope Around Neck of James Meredith Statue on University of Mississippi Campus Indicted on Civil Rights Charges

Man Who Tied Rope Around Neck of James Meredith Statue on University of Mississippi Campus Indicted on Civil Rights Charges

Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Felicia C. Adams of the Northern District of Mississippi and Special Agent in Charge Donald Alway of the FBI Jackson Office announced today that a man was charged with federal civil rights crimes for engaging in threatening conduct directed at African American students and employees at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi.  Graeme Phillip Harris was indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of conspiracy to violate civil rights and one count of using a threat of force to intimidate African American students because of their race or color.

According to the charging documents, Harris, a student at the university, conspired with others to use the cover of darkness to hang a rope and an outdated version of the Georgia state flag, which prominently depicts the Confederate battle flag, around the neck of the James Meredith statue on the campus of the University of Mississippi, with the intent to threaten and intimidate African-American students and employees at the university.  The iconic statue honors Meredith’s role as the university’s first African American student after its contentious 1962 integration.  The incident occurred in the early morning hours of Feb. 16, 2014.

“This shameful and ignorant act is an insult to all Americans and a violation of our most strongly-held values,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “No one should ever be made to feel threatened or intimidated because of what they look like or who they are.  By taking appropriate action to hold wrongdoers accountable, the Department of Justice is sending a clear message that flagrant infringements of our historic civil rights will not go unnoticed or unpunished.”

An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.  The investigation is ongoing.

This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Jackson, Mississippi, Division’s Oxford Resident Agency and the University of Mississippi Police Department.  The case is being prosecuted by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Mississippi.


Charles Murphy News 3/30

News Cast for March 30th:

IMG_90668 people are dead after a church van crashed in Glades County early today. The Florida highway patrol says the victims were from Fort Pierce. The van was east bound on state route 78 and ran a stop sign and through the intersection of US 27 north of Moore Haven and landed in a canal. 10 other passengers were taken to four area hospitals for treatment.

The Army Corps of Engineers continues to reduce flows out of Lake Okeechobee. 5 hundred cubic feet per second will be sent out the St. Lucie locks this week. 25 hundred cubic feet per second will be sent out the Caloosahatchee. The lake dropped more than a quarter foot last week to 14.18 feet.

Two teenage killers in Okeechobee will have their chance at parole and freedom. A ruling from the Florida Supreme Court eliminates the life without parole sentences against Mark Alvarez and Kevin Cutts, who were 17 when they killed. A new sentence hearing will be ordered should the two men ask for them. The two men would face a minimum of 35 years in prison.

Assistant State Attorney Ashley Albright said victims’ families will be notified should the hearings be ordered. City Administrator Brian Whitehall was given another strong evaluation by city council. He said it’s the city hall staff that makes him look good. He said he has enjoyed his 10 years in Okeechobee and has no plans to leave. Goals for the new year are getting the Centennial Park off the ground and improving drainage in the community.

Shara Hawk OTTC

Press News Release Arrest Made in House Party Shooting

Sports Cast for March 30th:

IMG_9051The boys and girls tennis teams compete at their district tournaments today. While the Lady Brahmans would be a long shot to advance, the boy’s team is considered one of the favorites. #1 singles player Otto Ramirez has been in that position for the past four years and says a district title would be a nice way to end his career.

He noted he has enjoyed his high school career nonetheless. Ramirez has been a tennis lifer, having started the sport early in life. Ramirez plans to study mechanical engineering in college.

Jensen Beach figures to be the biggest threat to Okeechobee this year.

Lady Brahman softball fell short at the Kissimmee Klassic as they fell to Winter Springs 10-3, Oak Park 5-1 and Kissimmee Osceola 12-3 over the weekend.

Moore Haven softball defeated Clewiston 5-1 and Community School of Naples 10-4 in games last week and remain ranked in the state.


Charles Murphy News 3/27

News Cast for March 27th:

The Former Executive Director of Okeechobee Rehab, Nancy Zeigler was charged with workers compensation fraud by the Florida Department of Insurance. She was released on bond. The 53 year old already faced a charge of Medicaid fraud for allegedly bilking the system for 34 thousand dollars in adult day care, respite care and transportation that was not provided clients.

Okeechobee schools lowered their administrative costs in the past year by five dollars per student. They spent 641 dollars per student, which is well above the state average at 527 dollars per student. Okeechobee spent 4 point million on school administrators last year.

Glades County had one of the highest school administration costs at they spent 189 dollars per student, and about 1.4 million total last year.

Actor R. Lee Ermey brought his military makeover show Designing spaces to film this week to help Lt. Robert Keefe who fought and was injured in Afghanistan. Crews were improving his landscaping, adding a hot tub, bathroom tile and other improvements to the home. Ermey says the community should do all it can for wounded veterans. Ermey has spent over 30 years acting, and spent many years in the military, having been injured fighting in Vietnam himself.

Video interview with on our Facebook page!

Sports Cast for March 27th:

Justin Canady had two hits and three runs batted in and Josh Crouch drove home two runs to lead Sebring to a 7-1 victory over Okeechobee last night. Starter Everette Hurst threw five strong innings to get the win.   Baron Stuart had two of the Brahmans three hits on the night.

Lady Brahman softball got a complete game and an RBI single by Jordan Lawlis to defeat Lake Nona 2-1 at the Kissimmee Classic tournament. The girls play Oakleaf Orange Park at 1 pm today.

Flag football rallied from a 13-7 deficit to score 20 points in the fourth quarter and defeat Lake Placid 27-13 Thursday.

Ro Wingfield scored on a 53 yard pass from Baylee Farless to cap the comeback. Coach Whitlock said he challenged the girls at halftime to pick up the effort and it paid off

Dracia Peacock also returned an interception for a score and Farless threw a second touchdown pass to Sarah Hurst in the game.

Moore Haven baseball hosts Everglades City tonight with JV at 4 and varsity at 7 pm.


$4 Billion Dollars Separate House and Senate Budget Proposals

$4 Billion Dollars Separate House and Senate Budget Proposals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT: Morgan L. McCord
March 27, 2015                                    850.212.5052

 

Tallahassee, Fla. - A more than $4 billion dollar difference between the House and Senate budget proposals is detailed in the latest Budget Watch from Florida TaxWatch. The nonpartisan taxpayer watchdog group’s annual analysis of the initial budgets shows that the largest point of contention between the chambers is in funding the health and human services portion of the budget.

“The Legislature faces a bumpy road to Florida’s final budget as the House and Senate work to bridge the very large gap between their budget proposals in the next several weeks,” said Kurt Wenner, Vice President of Research for Florida TaxWatch, the state’s independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy research institute and government watchdog. “However, despite the initial sticker-shock difference created by the health care issues, the budgets are very similar in many other categories.”

The total House proposal equals $76.154 billion, which is less than current spending and the Governor’s budget recommendation, while the Senate version would be the largest in state history at $80.425 billion. The Senate budget includes federal funding to cover the uninsured at Florida hospitals through the Low Income Pool (LIP), and an alternative to Medicaid expansion called the Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange. Pending federal approval, this would allow Florida to draw down federal Medicaid funds, which would be given to low-income Floridians to purchase private health care coverage.

The chambers’ proposals also differ in education spending. Neither the Senate nor the House increased per-student funding to the governor’s recommendation, but both chambers do include additional per-student funding over current spending. However, more than two-thirds of the increased appropriation comes from a $494 million property tax increase for local taxpayers. In addition to slightly higher per-student funding increases, the House includes more money for school construction and maintenance costs than the Senate.

Though the budgets are submitted, more than $1 billion in General Revenue remains unallocated by both the House and Senate, even after assuming reserves of $1.1 billion. Some of these dollars will likely be used to fund tax cut proposals. While the House unveiled a $690 million tax cut package this week, the Senate will wait for federal approval of the Low Income Pool before announcing their proposal. It’s also likely that some of the leftover money will be appropriated during the budget conference process between the chambers, a practice that lands projects on the Florida TaxWatch Budget Turkey Watch Report, an annual analysis of accountability and transparency of the budget process.

“Legislative leaders have answered the taxpayers’ calls for more transparency while building Florida’s budget this year, and we commend them for their efforts to create and enforce processes that help the public understand why their hard-earned money should be funding certain projects,” said Wenner. “It is our hope that the great work to improve the budget process championed by Senator Latvala, Senator Gaetz and Representative Corcoran will not be undermined by the addition of projects in budget conference that receive no public scrutiny or debate.”

The Budget Watch also details the chambers’ funding proposals for agriculture and environment (including Amendment 1 implementation), transportation and economic development proposals, criminal justice and court funding, and the latest General Revenue increases from March.

Read the Budget Watch and learn more about the $4 billion difference.


Gov. Scott: Florida Has Added More Than 807,000 Private-Sector Jobs Since December 2010

Gov. Scott: Florida Has Added More Than 807,000 Private-Sector Jobs Since December 2010

NAPLES, Fla. — Governor Rick Scott today announced that Florida businesses have created 807,100 private-sector jobs since December 2010. In February 2015, 14,900 private-sector jobs were created across Florida. Florida’s annual private-sector job growth rate, now at 3.9 percent, has exceeded that of the nation since April 2012. Florida’s unemployment rate for February 2015 was 5.6 percent, down from the January 2015 rate of 5.7 percent.

Governor Rick Scott said, “Today’s announcement of more than 807,000 new private-sector jobs since December 2010 is great news for Florida families. More than 14,000 jobs were created during the month of February alone, and more opportunities are becoming available for families each month. We know that a great job helps dreams come true in our state, and we will keep working to make Florida the best place in the world for families to succeed.”

Florida’s unemployment rate decreased by 0.9 percentage point over the year from the February 2014 rate of 6.5 percent, down now to 5.6 percent. Florida’s labor force increased over the month and over the year in February. In February, Florida’s annual labor force growth of 1.9 percent was more than double that of the nation’s, with 0.8 percentage point annual growth. On an annual basis, Florida’s labor force has increased for 60 consecutive months.

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio said, “February was another strong month for Florida’s continually improving economy, with nearly 15,000 new private-sector jobs, growth in the labor force, steadily falling unemployment, and record job demand. These positive trends are evidence that Governor Scott’s policies have spurred economic growth in the Sunshine State.”

More Floridians Getting Back to Work

  • Florida’s unemployment rate has declined or held steady for 53 consecutive months.
  • Florida’s private-sector job growth month-to-month has been positive for 40 consecutive months.
  • Florida has created 807,100 new private sector jobs since December 2010.
  • Florida job postings compiled by the Help Wanted OnLine data series from The Conference Board showed 292,249 openings in February 2015.

Home Sales Robust

  • Home sales remain robust as the backlog of existing homes on the market is down by 32.5 percent from December 2011 (Florida Realtors).
  • Florida median home prices were up 9.1 percent over the year in February 2015.
  • Florida building permits were up 1.6 percent over the year in January 2015.

Workforce Boards Assisting in Employment

  • In February, Florida’s 24 regional workforce boards reported more than 35,900 Floridians were placed in jobs. An individual who receives employment and training assistance through a CareerSource Center and finds a job within 180 days is deemed a placement and may be reported by a regional workforce board. Of these individuals, 6,944 previously received Reemployment Assistance.
  • In 2014, 470,534 individuals were placed into jobs through the regional workforce board, including more than 23,986 veterans.

To view the February 2015 employment data visit www.floridajobs.org/labor-market-information/labor-market-information-press-releases/monthly-press-releases.


Governor Rick Scott Appoints Two to St. Johns River Water Management District

Governor Rick Scott Appoints Two to St. Johns River Water Management District

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced the reappointments of Charles “Chuck” Drake and Frederick “Fred” Roberts Jr. to the St. Johns River Water Management District.

Drake, 56, of Orlando, is the vice president and a hydrogeologist with Tetra Tech Inc. He currently serves as a member of the National Ground Water Association and previously served as an executive committee member for the American Institute of Professional Geologists. Drake received his associate’s degree from Valencia Community College and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida. He is reappointed for a term beginning March 27, 2015, and ending March 1, 2019.

Roberts, 36, of Ocala, is an attorney with Klein and Klein LLC. He currently serves as the vice chair of the College of Central Florida Foundation Board of Directors and the chair of the Boys and Girls Club of Marion County Board of Directors. Roberts received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from the Stetson University College of Law. He is reappointed for a term beginning March 27, 2015, and ending March 1, 2019.

The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.


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