News Cast for July 29th:
Okeechobee schools are expected to have a few more students this coming year. The district unveiled a proposed 67.6 million dollar budget this month which raises local taxes by 337 thousand dollars and raises spending by 1.7 million.
The district will see an increase in state aid of about 900,020 thousand dollars. They have yet to negotiate salary adjustments with employees. School Board chairman Joe Arnold says he’s non-committal on the likelihood of raises. He said the district is in a better financial situation this year. About 30 million is budgeted for the various schools.
The Okeechobee Kiwanis Club raised over 650 dollars and household items to help the Martha’s House battered women and children shelter. Executive Director Jonathon Bean says its basic needs for the residents.
Sports Cast for July 29th:
Megan Hargraves was named rookie of the year and the top hitter in terms of batting average for the Lady Brahman softball team. Hargraves batted 370 this year as a freshman. She said the batting award was her goal.
Hargraves says another goal is to follow in the footsteps of four year Brahman shortstops like Kelley Smiley and Naomi Stephens who were able to earn college scholarships.
Hargraves said she always tries to make solid contact and put the ball in play.
She said the regional playoff game against Pembroke Pines was a memorable but stressful and intimidating experience. She said it should prepare her for the years to come.
The team lost only two seniors this year and figure to be a contender once again for the next several seasons.
Governor Rick Scott Appoints Sam Accursio to South Florida Water Management District
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced the appointment of Sam Accursio to the South Florida Water Management District.
Accursio, 52, of Homestead, is the owner of Sam S. Accursio & Sons Farms. He currently serves as the vice chair of the Agriculture Practices Advisory Board and a member of the First National Bank of South Florida Board of Directors. He succeeds Juan Portuondo and is appointed for a term beginning July 28, 2015, and ending March 1, 2019.
The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
News Cast for July 28th:
The Florida Vital Statistics report found over 25 percent of Okeechobee’s population is now Hispanic, a total of 10,356 residents.
The report found 238 marriages in Okeechobee last year.
422 residents died, the biggest causes were heart disease and cancer which caused over 1 hundred deaths apiece.
There were 553 births and 58 of them to mothers age 19 and younger.
Glades County reported that nearly 25 percent of their population is now Hispanic, about 3,072 residents. They had 60 births, 44 marriages and 91 deaths, the leading cause of death heart disease and cancer.
The Federal government is cracking on tax refund check fraud which has caused Floridians 10s of millions of dollars. They are requiring south Florida check cashers to require more forms of identification, to take their photo and thumbprint and require a phone number if the amount cashed is over 1 thousand dollars.
Kelly Jackson with the IRS Miami Field Office says there has been an epidemic of these crimes.
Among arrests, a corrections guard at Okeechobee Correctional was charged with child neglect. Roy Wolf Junior is accused of allowing a two year old child in his care to leave a home in Kings Bay, and play in a puddle in the street last Friday.
31 year old Thomas Windham of Gardendale, Alabama was arrested in Okeechobee Saturday for trafficking in morphine charges in Alabama.
Sports Cast for July 28th:
Abraham Baltazar was given one of the team leader awards for the boys’ soccer team this past season.
He didn’t get a lot of playing time but was always pushing his teammates and setting a good example.
He said the award came out of the blue. Baltazar said he always showed up to practice on time, gave his full effort and was always ready when called up.
Baltazar plans to attend college and pursue a degree in sports medicine and become a physical therapy.
He said he will always remember his teammates and his years of playing soccer.
Jonathon Crawford was shut down by the Reds due to ongoing right shoulder inflammation after two appearances in the Florida State league. He will be examined by team doctors.
Detectives Arrest Suspect for Poinciana Homicide
Osceola County – Early this morning, Osceola County Sheriff’s detectives arrested Carlos Serrano-Rivera and charged him with First Degree Murder, Possession of a Controlled Substance Without a Prescription, Possession/Use of Drug Paraphernalia and Violation of Probation.
On July 24 at approximately 7:46 p.m., Osceola County Sheriff’s deputies responded to Cypress Parkway and Country Club Drive in Poinciana in reference to a single car accident. The car, a gold Chrysler Sebring, had hit a tree. Upon arrival, deputies located the driver, Andres Alibizu-Conde, 32, from Poinciana. He had sustained life-threatening injuries that were not consistent with the car accident. The driver was transported to Osceola Regional Medical Center where he died a short time later.
Detectives obtained information the incident was drug related and they identified Rivera as a possible suspect. On July 26, deputies located Rivera in the area of Food Spot, 881 Towne Center Drive. When Rivera saw deputies, he discarded drug paraphernalia in nearby bushes. Rivera was taken into custody and questioned by investigators.
Rivera initially did not cooperate with the investigation, but later admitted to detectives he was with the victim at the time of the incident. Based on the information, detectives obtained a felony warrant for First Degree Murder. Rivera was arrested and booked into the Osceola County Jail.
Carlos Serrano-Rivera (DOB 1/8/83), 651 Floridian Drive, Poinciana
News Cast for July 27th:
Martin county deputies wrote 47 speeding tickets in a matter of hours as they try to slow down traffic between Okeechobee and Indiantown. Commander Steve Mochen said they plan to set aside each Wednesday for speed crackdowns. They worked 441, Martin Grade and 710 in July. Mochen said most of the drivers cited were going 25-30 miles over the speed limit.
Florida is fighting the Environmental Protection Agency on enforcement of the clean water act on smaller waterbodies. Earlier this month, Attorney General Pam Bondi sued the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA over the clean water act stating Florida is better suited to establish regulatory rules that protect Florida waterways. Kathy Aterno with the Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund argues the state is doing a terrible job protecting its waterways.
Two current city employees and several Okeechobee residents have applied for the job of Okeechobee City Administrator.
Public Works Director David Allen and Deputy Clerk Melisa Jahner are joined by Okeechobee residents Wendy Durbin, Marcus Montes De Oca, Gary Priest, and Roseanna Schachtele. 17 people have applied for the job. City council will review the applicants on August 4th.
Sports Cast for July 27th:
Jay Queha Jones was named the most improved player for the Lady Brahman girls basketball team this past season.
The freshman joined the junior varsity after the start of the year and moved up to varsity to see some time by the end of the schedule. She is one of the taller girls in school at 6 feet tall.
She said she thinks basketball can bring big things for her. Jones said her first taste of basketball was a positive experience
Jones is playing travel ball this summer with the Lakeside Basketball team.
Osceola Deputy Arrested for Purchasing Prescription Medication Illegally
Osceola County – Late this afternoon, Osceola County Deputy Sheriff Jason Sigman, 38, was arrested by deputies with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office charged with Trafficking in Oxycodone. Earlier today, deputies received information Sigman contacted an informant to make arrangements to purchase illegal prescription medication.
Based on the information, deputies with the Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET) and Osceola County Investigative Bureau (OCIB) conducted an undercover operation. During the operation, Sigman, who was on duty and in uniform, purchased Percocet from an informant while being monitored by undercover agents.
Sigman was arrested and taken to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office to be interviewed. He cooperated with the investigation and, based on his statements and the evidence, Sigman was arrested and booked into the Osceola County Jail with a $50,000 bond.
Sigman has been employed with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy sheriff since March of 2008. His current assignment was Patrol West. Sigman was immediately removed from duty without pay, pending the termination process.
“We do not tolerate any criminal activity regardless of who breaks the law. When these allegations were brought to our attention, we acted quickly and the investigation resulted in this arrest. The Sheriff’s Office works hard to establish trust in the community and we will not allow anyone to compromise that trust.” stated Sheriff Bob Hansell.
News Cast for July 24th:
A full day for county commissioner’s yesterday. They cut the ribbon on enhancements made to Lock 7 which include a paved parking area, comfort station and restroom and walkway to the Herbert Hoover dike. Engineer Erick Padron saluted the FDOT staff and contractor Lynch Construction for having a smooth project.
The commission tabled action on an Employee wellness center which could provide a 58 hour per week clinic at the Treasure coast Medical Associates. The proposed cost is 139 thousand dollars for the first year. The county expects to save on health insurance costs.
The annual county budget proposal is close to 91 million dollars. Commissioners showed little support for a property tax hike this year. They plan to meet again August 4th to try and trim the budget. A county consultant said they still have financial issues, just not as bad as before, but that reserves keep dwindling and costs of operation rising.
The commission set the fire tax at 105 dollars, a 15 dollar increase, and the EMS taxes at 80 dollars per residence, a 16 percent increase. They can reduce those charges later. They also decided not to pay off the loan on Fire Station 4 which would have 1.2 million because it would not save enough in interest payments.
Among arrests, a local accountant was charged with the theft of 13 thousand dollars from a local restaurant. 43 year old Wendy Madrigal was held on grand theft charges.
Sports Cast for July 24th:
Baron Stuart was named the Most Valuable Player for the Brahman baseball team this year.
The right hander was the staff ace at the end of the year and was also a solid bat at first base in the middle of the Brahman batting order.
Stuart said he hopes this is a sign of things to come for him.
Stuart has high hopes that the team can take the next step next year. He said he planned to work hard in the off season to improve.
Stuart said his start in the district tournament helped him to mature and deal with the pressure. He thanked the coaches for the trust they had in him this year.
Stuart said he had something to prove and wanted to stand out to earn his varsity spot this year.
Governor Rick Scott Highlights $74 Million for VISIT FLORIDA to Continue Record Tourism in the Sunshine State
Governor Rick Scott Highlights $74 Million for VISIT FLORIDA to Continue Record Tourism in the Sunshine State
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott visited the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to highlight $74 million in the “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget to continue attracting record numbers of tourists to Florida. Last year, Florida welcomed a record 98.9 million visitors, who spent a total of $73 billion while in the Sunshine State.
Governor Scott said, “Florida is the best tourist destination for families. Every 85 visitors to our state support one job, and a growing tourism industry means more opportunities for our families and a stronger economy. With countless attractions like the Clearwater Marine Aquarium throughout our state, we are welcoming a record number of visitors to Florida each year. I look forward to our investments in VISIT FLORIDA continuing to grow jobs and promote Florida as the ultimate travel destination across the world.”
The number of travel-related jobs is up 4.8 percent over last year, employing 1.2 million Floridians. For every dollar that was invested in VISIT FLORIDA last year, the state saw a return of $3.20. This May, Governor Scott announced that according to VISIT FLORIDA, more than 28 million visitors came to Florida in the first quarter of 2015, an increase of 6.2 percent over last year and the largest first quarter for visitation in the state’s history.
Will Seccombe, President and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, said “Our thriving tourism industry employs 1.2 million Floridians and is essential to maintaining the growing economy in our state. VISIT FLORIDA is grateful to Governor Scott for his support as we continue our work of promoting everything the Sunshine State has to offer and attracting another record number of visitors.”
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium rescues and rehabilitates injured animals in order to release them back into their natural habitat. They also provide long term care when animals cannot be released. In 2014, the Aquarium welcomed approximately 600,000 visitors, and are on track to welcome 800,000 visitors this year. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium also hosted the filming of both Dolphin Tale movies, which had an economic impact of $1.3 billion for the state from 2012-2014.
David Yates, President and CEO of Clearwater Marine Aquarium, said, “In the past four years, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium has welcomed an incredible number of visitors from across the country, and we appreciate Governor Scott’s focus on growing the economy and investing in tourism. The animals at our facility, including the beloved Winter and Hope from the Dolphin Tale movies, serve as symbols of courage, perseverance and hope, and we are proud to share their stories with the thousands of individuals who visit our Aquarium each year.”
Senate President Andy Gardiner said, “Florida is a world-class travel destination, and our state’s record number of tourists last year helps us continue to build on that reputation. More visitors mean more jobs for Florida’s families, which is why Governor Scott and the Legislature continue to invest in our thriving tourism industry.”
Senator Jeff Brandes said, “Governor Scott’s work to improve the economic climate and make investments in VISIT FLORIDA helps make Florida a top tourist destination. With this investment, our great attractions and beautiful climate, we look forward to welcoming another record number of visitors to our great state.”
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said, “I am proud to join Governor Scott in recognizing our improved economic climate, our recent record tourism numbers, and the over 1 million Floridians that are employed by the tourism industry. By continuing to make strategic investments in tourism, we are working to build on this exciting success and create even more opportunities for families across the state.”
Majority Leader Dana Young said, “The $74 million for VISIT FLORIDA in the “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget is great news for our state. This money will help Florida recruit more tourists to enjoy our world renowned beaches, attractions, and climate. We have made impressive gains in tourism, and we are excited to welcome more people to Florida.”
Rep. Larry Ahern said, “As Florida’s tourism industry continues to boom, I want to thank Governor Scott on behalf of beach communities and tourist destinations around the state for being so supportive. The growth of our state and our state’s economy is tied to those who choose to visit us. I applaud the Governor for keeping his focus on making Florida the best place to work, play, retire and visit.”
Representative Kathleen Peters said, “I thank Governor Scott for his investments in VISIT FLORIDA. Every 85 visitors that come to Florida support one Florida job, and we look forward to reaching our goal of 100 million visitors in Florida this year.”
Representative Chris Sprowls said, “Every year, more and more visitors come to visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and this year they are on track to welcome 800,000 visitors from across the country. Funding for VISIT FLORIDA will help highlight attractions that create jobs, like the aquarium, and show visitors that Florida is the best travel destination in the world.”
Representative James Grant said, “I am grateful to Governor Scott for his support as we work to continue welcoming record numbers of visitors to the Sunshine State. The tourism industry is directly tied to Florida’s economy and is essential to job growth. Last year, 99 million visitors came to Florida and spent $73 billion, and we know VISIT FLORIDA will continue to recruit even more visitors to the Sunshine State.”
Representative Chris Latvala said, “I am proud Florida is one of the top tourist destinations in the world and that we on our way to reaching our goal of 100 million visitors in Florida. I congratulate Governor Scott for making important investments in tourism, which will greatly pay off for Florida’s economy and families.”
News Cast for July 23rd:
City council set an August 4th special meeting to discuss applicants for the city administrator position. 17 people applied by the July 15th deadline.
The city lighting ceremony will join the Main Street Winter Festival this year in honor of the cities Centennial celebration. December 4th the tree lighting and speeches with a visit from Santa Claus will also include a snow play area for the kids. The city donated 2 thousand dollars for the snow and the children’s services council gave Main Street 15 hundred dollars.
Garbage rates will rise slightly to 229 dollars per city residence this year. City employees will pay 8.3 percent more for health insurance this year about 49 dollars per month for the employee plan. Council also accepted a 2 hundred thousand dollar grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to do more work on drainage in the city.
Council also agreed to begin foreclosure proceedings on property at 407 North East 9th Avenue due to ongoing code violations.
Among arrests 43 year old Kerry Wimberly was charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a motor vehicle and battery by strangulation. He allegedly got into an argument with a girlfriend that resulted in a car chase June 27th; he bailed from the vehicle on foot when deputies gave chase. The victim and friend said Wimberly drove at them at high speed while they sat in a parked car awaiting deputies on US 98 north.
30 year old Savannah Youngman was charged with child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. She allegedly forced a 10 year old child to steal from stores and punished him if he didn’t shop lift.
51 year old Don Morgan was charged with two counts of sale of methamphetamines. Morgan allegedly sold to a confidential source on two occasions out of a residence on state route 78 west back in March in an Okeechobee narcotics task force investigation.
The county commission plans to cut the ribbon on recent improvements they made to Lock 7 which include a comfort station and paved parking area.
Sports Cast for July 23rd:
Lyn’d Lewis won the Most Valuable Player and Most Kills award for Yearling volleyball last year.
The 8th grader used her height and athleticism to be a key cog on the Lady Bulls squad last year.
She said she appreciated the awards she received. Lewis said good anticipation and instincts help at the net when you try to score points. Her advice to the younger players is to try hard and do the best they can do.
Lewis said she tried to show leadership this year to the other players to encourage them.
Lewis plans to play for Okeechobee high school volleyball this year.
GOVERNOR SCOTT: FLORIDA’S PRIVATE-SECTOR GROWTH RATE BEST AMONG LARGE STATES
TALLAHASSEE – Governor Rick Scott announced today that Florida’s private-sector job growth rate of 3.9 percent in June was the highest among the 10 most populous states, including Texas and California. This is the fourth month in a row Florida’s growth rate has been number one among large states. Among all states, Florida ranked second in the nation. Florida’s job growth rate is significantly higher than the nation’s, which is at 2.5 percent.
Governor Scott said, “These positive economic trends show our pro-growth policies are working for Florida families. Florida continues to beat larger states in job growth rates, and we are leading the rest of the nation in the number of jobs created. Florida is clearly the best state to live, work, and raise a family.”
In June, Florida ranked second in total private-sector jobs added, with more than 265,200 jobs created over the year. This is the third consecutive month since the recession that Florida has created more private-sector jobs over the year than Texas. In addition, Florida led the nation in job gains over the year in the financial activities industry, with more than 14,400 jobs added, the most of any state.
Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio said, “Florida’s economic resurgence continues to set a national standard. Our job growth rate outpaces the national rate and is the best among large states. This growth is the result of smart policy—cutting taxes and regulation allows the private sector to thrive.”
Since December 2010, Florida businesses have created 896,900 private-sector jobs. In June, the unemployment rate dropped to 5.5 percent, almost half the December 2010 rate and the lowest since March 2008.