Local News

Charles Murphy News 2/1

News Cast for February 1st:

Tate, Thad

Tate, Thad

A proposal that may lead to more construction of health care facilities is being considered in Tallahassee. It would allow rural county hospitals in Okeechobee and Hendry counties to expand their facilities or services without state approval and exempts them from the certificate of need review for the construction of new or replacement hospitals. Local senator Denise Grimsley has sponsored the bill.

In the courts, charges of sexual battery on a child were dropped against 19 year old Charles Hart.  He was accused of inappropriately touching and sexual contact over a six month period after a DCF investigation.

Martin Mobarak recently became the new fixed base operator at the Okeechobee County airport.  He notes he has been involved in several successful business ventures. Mobarak says the central location of the Okeechobee airport is a great asset that should lead to new development. The fixed base operator controls the airport terminal building, fuel farm and a maintenance facility.

Rooks, Dequan

Rooks, Dequan

18 new jobs could be created by a new drug rehabilitation facility approved last week for 1669 state road 70 east, the former homes by Jolicouer. The applicant, Gerarld Jolicouer agreed to comply with all building and landscaping codes.   He said it is designed to have family based drug counseling to reunite the addicts to their families. He said the existing buildings can meet codes noting they have gone through four hurricanes with little damage.

SFWD Emergency Pumping Update

Martin Fatal 1-31-16 CR-711

IR Fatal 1-31-16 SR-60

Hardee Press Release

Press News Release Media Alert

Press News Release Attempt to Identify Robbery Suspect

Sports Cast for February 1st:

Anthony Knighton scored 21 points to lead a balanced Ft. Pierce Central to a 92-71 victory over Okeechobee in boys high school basketball Friday.

It was a close game for a half as the Brahmans had a five point first half lead and a 38-37 lead at the half.

Fort Pierce outscored the Brahmans 29-9 in the third quarter.

Knighton said the coach got his team going at halftime. Ft. Pierce improved to (13-7) and Okeechobee is now (14-13) on the season. Shaquoy Ferrol had 14 points and Antawyn Fludd added 12 points and eight steals for OHS. Chris Epps added 10 points.   Jonah Jacks had 10 points for the Cobras.

Knighton said it was a different Okeechobee team than the one his team defeated by 44 points in December and he wasn’t surprised it was a closer game.

Anthony Knighton on Ft. Pierce central win

Seniors Fred Bradley and Chris Epps played their final high school games at Okeechobee High.

Fort Pierce won the freshman game 68-58 and the junior varsity contest 50-35.  Mateo Vasquez had 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Brahmans.

OCRA will hold signups this Saturday, February 6 from 10 am until 2 pm for softball, t-ball and baseball at the trailer at the sports complex. Anyone who can’t sign up Saturday can call 863-801-7505 for further assistance. Please bring a birth certificate to the signup

‘The world is watching’: Music festival plans on track

‘The world is watching’: Music festival plans on track

OKEECHOBEE — With the inaugural Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival just five weeks away, festival organizers are busy getting everything ready for the event.

At the Thursday meeting of the Okeechobee County Commission, festival property owner Clifford Rosen thanked county staff for their support.

“I want to express gratitude to the county and to the team effort that is not just us, it is everybody who is making it happen. It wouldn’t happen without that support,” he said.

“It has been a pleasure to work with everybody,” said Mr. Rosen.

“There is a lot to get done. There are always things to work out, but I am very comfortable,” he added.

“We have a lot to do, but we are on target for that.

“I am really happy that the New York Times listed Okeechobee as one of the top places to visit in the world this year,” he added.

“We are truly putting on a lineup and a festival that is among the best in the country, right in line with Coachella and Bonaroo, thanks to Steve (Sybesma) and his team,” Mr. Rosen said.

“The intent of this was to create a world class music festival,” said Steve Sybesma,

“We have over 100 artists. We have some of the top artists in the world,” he said. “Our festival lineup is as good as any in the country.

“It’s very difficult to get artists to believe in you in the first year of the festival,” he continued.

“My partner Paul (Peck) came from Bonaroo. One of his specialties at Bonaroo was creating the superjam.”

He said the “superjam” concept is to bring together artists who have not worked together before, to create a unique music experience.

At the Okeechobee Music & Arts festival, this musical collaboration will be called the “PoWow.”

“We will have some of the artists on the show and some special guests to come in just for this,” he said.

The music festival will have five stages. Three main stages will be in the open area near the lodge. One stage will be near the newly-created beach and the “jungle stage” will be in a clearing in a wooded area.

Mr. Sybesma said the festival will offer a unique experience. The beach area will have a Ferris wheel and a place to relax.

“The area we call YogaChobee will have daily classes for yoga and sustainability classes,” he said.

“We have instructors coming in from all over the United States.

“We will have a tea area where you can relax.”

There will be street performers throughout the festival area, he said.

“There will be a lot of entertainment.

“The world is watching,” he said.

People are coming from all over the United States as well as from other countries.

“This is something the county of Okeechobee will be proud of,” he said.

“It’s going to be good for all of us.”

Mr. Sybesma, who is from Indiana, said he fell in love with the property at first sight.

“Okeechobee is a very special place,” he said. “The beauty of the land will be reflected in the event.

“We have some of the top people in the world involved in the preparation of the event. They say this is one of the best festival sites in America.

“We think it is a great place for the next best festival in America,” he continued.

One thing that is special about this site, he said, is that this is the only festival site in America that has six miles of paved roads.

“It’s convenient for the campers to come,” he said. “We also have a lot of high ground because of Cliff’s development of the property through the years, and we did work on the site this year to fill low areas.”

He said the lighting effects in the woods will be spectacular.

“What we hope is a partnership to the community, we hope this is a big benefit to the community.”

Mr. Sybesma said they don’t expect to recoup their investment in just one year.

“It’s a massive investment on our side,” he said. “It’s not something we come in here and do one year. First year festivals traditionally don’t make money.

It’s something that we have to build on over several years.

“We have to build a community of people who want to come back and grow the festival.”

Benefits to the county

The festival will have some direct benefits to Okeechobee County.

The festival will pay sales tax, including the 1 percent sales tax that goes to the county, on tickets and food and beverage sales.

The festival is also involved in some charity initiatives. Two dollars from each ticket sold will go to charity, with the money divided between Okeechobee Communities In Schools, Feeding South Florida, The Nature Conservatory and Headcount (a voter registration drive).

“Our goal is to create a holistically sustainable festival,” he said. “We want to work towards a zero waste event. It won’t happen the first year, but we are doing things such as using biodegradable cups.”

“We’re confident the overall effect to the community will be very positive,” he said. “We are excited to be here and appreciate the support you have given us.”

Local businesses will benefit even before the festival, he continued. Hundreds of people will be staying in the hotels and eating in the restaurants.

Community members also have the opportunity to volunteer at the festival, allowing some who could not afford the ticket price to participate and enjoy the event. He added that they won’t be able to use all of those who offered to volunteer as they had more than 3,000 applications.

Spectrum, the vendor in charge of beverages, has encouraged nonprofit organizations to work in beverage booths, where they will earn money for their nonprofit organizations. These teams of volunteers will be allowed to camp on the site.

Traffic plan in place

The festival property will have four entrances, including two for general public, one for vendors, one for VIP and emergency vehicles.

“My job is to make sure everybody gets to and from the fun without a detriment to your community,” said Susan O’Rourke, a traffic engineer from Stuart.

Ms. O’Rourke said she has been working with the sheriff, planning department, school board, St. Lucie County roadway department, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, the State Department of Transportation and the City of Okeechobee to coordinate the traffic flow plan.

Festival goers will come in from U.S. 441 and SR 70.

“Right now we think about 60 percent of traffic will come in on U.S. 441,” she said.

This traffic coming from the north, will turn on N.E. 144th St.

“We are going to have staff at the intersection of U.S. 441 and 144th St.,” she said. She added they will also have a tow truck on site.

Another traffic team will be stationed on SR 70 at N.E. 128th.

Ms. O’Rourke said they will install changeable message signs throughout the area about a week before the event.

“We anticipate traffic on SR 710 to SR 70,” he said.

Staff will be at the intersections with walkie-talkies, “so if something happens, we can respond quickly,” she said.

“We have it under control to the best of our ability. We have a lot of backup plans, let me assure you.”

Emergency officials comfortable

County Fire/Rescue Chief Ralph Franklin and Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office Major Noel Stephens said they are both comfortable with the plans.

“We will still have a full shift on duty to handle 9-1-1 calls,” said Chief Franklin. “We have some outside people coming in for the festival. There will be a member of my command staff on the scene throughout the festival.”

He said they will be conducting some training in the next few weeks in anticipation of the festival.

Major Stephen said the OCSO has been in communication with their counterparts in Tennessee who handle the Bonaroo festival.

He said he is comfortable with the security and traffic plans.

“It will not deplete or take away from those services our tax payers pay for during that weekend,” he said. “We’re going to utilize outside counties to provide traffic and security at the event.”

After the festival, county staff will meet with festival staff to review plans for future festivals.

“We will learn from what this first event will bring,” said Maj. Steven.

Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

Charles Murphy News 1/29

News Cast for January 29th:

031529-033227.264_snapshot_01.56_[2016.01.28_10.15.53]25 thousand people are expected to attend the first Okeechobee Music Fest from March 4th thru the 6th. The land owner Clifford Rosen and promoter Steve Sybesma spoke to the Okeechobee County Commission Thursday to say the planning process has gone smoothly. Both the Sheriff and Fire Chief have indicated they are okay with the plans. Sybesma predicts this will become one of the best music festivals in the United States.

Clif Rosen and Steve Sybesman on Okee

Top road priorities for the County Commission in Okeechobee this year include the 710 extension road to 441N, Platts Bluff Road improvements, sidewalks on Charles Harvey Boulevard and improvements on Lofton Road near Basinger. Commissioners also surpluses just over half an acre known as Common Park at the north end of South East 30th Terrace.

031529-033227.264_snapshot_12.46_[2016.01.28_09.55.46]Smash and grab bandits hit the Town Star Convenience store on route 710.  Surveillance photos of the suspects and their vehicles are online at wokc.com,  they used a concrete slab to bust a hole in the building and then busted open a cash register and safe.

Glades County commissioners awarded a near 1 point 6 million dollar bid with Lynch Paving and contracting this week to reconstruct a portion of Kirby Thompson Road.  They money will come from state funds.

031529-033227.264_snapshot_14.08_[2016.01.28_09.58.11]An 84 year old Moore Haven man was killed in a Hendry County wreck last night.  John Smith was in a north bound Toyota pickup that collided with the wheel housing of a wide trailer going south bound driven by 27 year old Michael Doctor of Clewiston.  Smith’s vehicle spun out of control and went into a water filled canal.

Fatal Crash Hendry County

Angel Ball (Gala) Pre-Event Press Release (Final)

Sports Cast for January 29th:

Eli Finney and his family celebrated his signing a baseball scholarship to play for Indian River State College this week. Finney said having this decision over with should help his performance on the mound this year. He says the Brahmans have a very strong pitching staff this year.

Eli Finney at signing party

Mom Renea Finney said the family put in a lot of time to support his career.

Renea Finney on Eli signing

Dad, Tom Finney, coached Eli in youth and travel ball.  He said last year’s injury was a tough ordeal to go through for everyone.

Tom Finney on Eli signing

Indian River Pitching Coach Mark Ward said he was thrilled to get one of Okeechobee’s best.

Mark Ward on Eli Finney signing

Video is on our Facebook page.

Moore Haven boys basketball defeated Okeechobee Wednesday 77-74 for their 19th win of the season.  Okeechobee could not hold an 8 point fourth quarter lead.  Shaquoy Ferrol had 23 points and 14 rebounds for OHS.

On the sports schedule tonight OHS boys basketball will host Fort Pierce Central for a triple header with freshmen at 4, junior varsity at 5:30 and varsity at 7 pm.  It will be the team’s senior night.

Corps to increase flows from Lake Okeechobee

Corps to increase flows from Lake Okeechobee

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District intends to release more water from Lake Okeechobee starting this weekend as it continues to manage the lake level in the midst of El Nino conditions.

Starting Friday (Jan. 29), the new target flow for the Caloosahatchee Estuary will average 2,800 cubic feet per second (cfs) over seven days as measured at W.P. Franklin Lock (S-79) near Fort Myers.  The new target flow for the St. Lucie Estuary is a seven-day average of 1,170 cfs as measured at St. Lucie Lock (S-80) near Stuart.  However, runoff from rain in the Caloosahatchee or the St. Lucie basins could occasionally result in flows that exceed targets as the water passes through the spillway gates at the Franklin or St. Lucie structures.

“Although we’re announcing our decision to increase flows from the lake today, the net effect is no change due to high amounts of runoff passing through the Franklin and St. Lucie structures,” said Jim Jeffords, Operations Division Chief for the Jacksonville District.  “The heavy rain this month has limited the ability to send any water south.  We will look to start releasing when possible east and west in order to slow the rise and maintain storage capacity in the lake.  However, we won’t be able to do that until the runoff drops below the target flows we’ve announced.”

Today, the lake stage is 15.54 and continues its upward trend, having risen three quarters of a foot over the past two weeks.  It is currently in the Operational Low Sub-Band (within one foot of Intermediate Sub-Band) as defined by the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS).  Under current conditions, LORS authorizes the Corps to discharge up to 3,000 cfs to the Caloosahatchee and up to 1,170 cfs to the St. Lucie.  However, flows at Franklin yesterday averaged 5,500 cfs from basin runoff while the St. Lucie saw an estimated 1,800 cfs.

For more information on water level and flows data for Lake Okeechobee, visit the Corps’ water management website at http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/WaterManagement.aspx.

Arnold’s Wildlife Rehab Center Promotes Fundraiser To Kiwanis Club (Audio Included)

Arnold’s Wildlife Rehab Center Promotes Fundraiser To Kiwanis Club (Audio Included)

From left to right: Kiwanis member Dowling Watford and Pat Shepherd representing Arnold's Wildlife Rehab Center

From left to right: Kiwanis member Dowling Watford and Pat Shepherd representing Arnold’s Wildlife Rehab Center

Pat Shepherd spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee representing Arnold’s Wildlife Rehab Center in order to promote a fundraising event.

Shepherd spent most of the time educating the club on what the Center does. Arnold’s is the largest wildlife rehabilitation center in South Florida. The closest facility to them is in Naples and they only rehab birds. Arnold’s rehabilitates many species of animals.

Arnold’s takes in on average one thousand animals a year, rehabilitates them and returns them to their natural habitat.

Arnold’s is a non-profit 501(c) organization that must raise  funds to operate. They are hosting an Elvis themed dinner at the KOA this Saturday. You can see more details while also learn more about Arnold’s at arnoldswildlife.org


Charles Murphy News 1/28

News Cast for January 28th:

IMG_1792An Alabama judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Moore Haven Junior Senior High School Principal Tim Wilder.  The Dothan Eagle reports that Wilder had sued to get his job back as Superintendent at Houston County Schools after a female employee claimed he sexually harassed her and the school board fired him.

Glades County commissioners approved going back to Okeechobee County Fire Rescue to serve Buckhead Ridge with EMS services.  Positive Medical Service and the county could not come to an agreement.  Just over 90 thousand dollars is budgeted by the county for that service. Chairman Tim Stanley says Buckhead Ridge residents haven’t voiced many concerns.  He said there was some concern about availability of ambulances 24 hours per day with the private provider

YMS NHS Breakfast 2The county also approved a land donation from A Duda and Sons for the entrance to the Love’s Travel Center project on US 27, about 40 jobs could be created there.

The Okeechobee Freshman Campus was ranked in the top 23 percent of schools in their classification in a new report issued by US News and World Report. The magazine gave the OFC a bronze medal for their efforts. Principal Carol Revels says the School Board honored the school for the designation.

Carol Revels on OFC bronze award (2)

Sports Cast for January 28th:

OHS wrestlers pounded South Fork last night, 63-18.  Jacob Myers, Lamar Williams, Blake Everett, Austin Scee, Kallen Pineiro, Andrew Bates, and Drayton Billie had pin falls victories for the Brahmans. Pineiro defeated Jacob Ishan in just over a minute.

Kallen Pineiro on victory over South Fork

He said the 132 pounder had a six inch height advantage but it didn’t discourage him. Jarrett Mills waited until the final seconds to defeated Sebastian Davenport, 4-3.  He said he wrestled a defensive match.

Coach Bruce Jahner said all of his guys got after it and really showed what they could do. Three seniors were honored, Alex Hernandez, Alex Bryan and Patrick Covington before the matches at senior parent night.

Bruce Jahner on win over South Fork

OHS wrestlers are back in action tonight at Lake Placid at 6 pm.  Moore Haven middle school basketball

Battles West Glades school today with girls at 4:30 and boys at 5:45 pm.

Update to Fire/Death Investigation on Primero Drive

Update to Fire/Death Investigation on Primero Drive

Osceola County – Osceola County Sheriff’s detectives are investigating the incident on Primero Drive as a murder/suicide. The Medical Examiner’s report shows both Darrell Lee Rogers, 47, and Jean Marhefka-Rogers, 72, died of apparent gunshot wounds. The evidence inside the residence indicates Darrell shot his wife before turning the gun on himself. Detectives also have reason to believe Darrell set the fire which destroyed the mobile home.


On January 23 at approximately 5:55 a.m., Osceola County Sheriff’s deputies and Osceola County Fire Rescue responded to 2497 Primero Drive in the Siesta Lago Mobile Home Park in Kissimmee. Fire Rescue located a male deceased inside the residence and a female with critical injuries. The female was transported to a local hospital and died a short time later.  The Medical Examiner’s Office have confirmed the identities of the two individuals who died on Primero Drive in Kissimmee. They are married couple, Darrell Lee Rogers, 47, and Jean Marhefka-Rogers, 72

Charles Murphy News 1/27

News Cast for January 27th:

A 37 year old Clewiston man pled not guilty yesterday at his arraignment on charges he stole 23 thousand dollars’ worth of equipment from a Glades County job site late last year. Reisel Rodriguez will face one count of grand theft as two counts were dropped.  He reported stole two trailers, tile, grout and a tile saw.

Three Okeechobee ranches were ranked high among 35 properties in the state rural and family lands protection program this year, Pelaez and Sons, Todd Clemons Unit One and the Triple S Ranch.

Only 20.3 million was budgeted for state purchases but Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam would like to add 25 million this year. Jim Carl with the Department of Agriculture explains a lot of work goes into these priority lists.

Pelaez and Sons measures 1375 acres, the Clemons Unit one 1922 acres, and the Triple S Ranch over 7 thousand acres. 70 farms applied to take part in the program.  Half of them were in the Lake Okeechobee watershed.

Indiantown is being considered as possible locations for the Martin County Fair Ground.  Two sites on Citrus Blvd across from Timer Powers Park and near the Indiantown Airport are being looked at.

In the courts, Shawana Denis pled no contest to charges she pepper sprayed a man friend last May 18th in a jealous rage.  She received one year probation.  Denis had served 16 years in prison for the murder of Isaac McNeil that occurred in 1995.

Among arrests, 36 year old Damon Cook was charged with grand theft for allegedly stealing an I pad.  He was later beaten up by the boyfriend of the I pad owner, deputies say, the I pad owner and the boyfriend are also facing charges related to battery.

Sports Cast for January 27th:

South Fork defeated Okeechobee 72-61 in boys’ basketball action last night. Stanley Spence had 19 points and Hunter Towell had 14 points for the Bulldogs.  Shaquoy Ferrol had 21 points and Trey Youmans added 13 points for OHS.

South Fork also won the Junior Varsity contest 49-41.

Moore Haven defeated Lake Placid in boys’ basketball to claim their 18th win of the season, 72-60 on Monday.

OHS softball expects another strong campaign in 2 thousand 16. Softball opens tonight with a preseason tournament in Palm Beach County at Palm Beach Gardens.  They will play Palm Beach Central at 5 pm.

Also tonight boys’ basketball visits Moore Haven with JV at 5:30 and varsity at 7 pm.

OHS wrestling will host South Fork at 6 pm.

Sports schedule for January 25-31

Sports schedule for January 25-31


OHS girls basketball district tournament at South Fork 7 pm

Moore Haven girls basketball district tournament at Evangelical Christian 6 pm

Moore Haven boys basketball at Lake Placid 6/7:30 pm


OHS boys basketball at South Fork 5:30/7 pm freshmen at 4 pm


OHS girls softball preseason classic at Palm Beach Gardens vs PBC 5 pm

OHS boys basketball at Moore Haven 7 pm

OHS wrestling hosts South Fork 6 pm


OHS wrestling at Lake Placid 6 pm


OHS boys basketball hosts Fort Pierce Central  4/5:30/7 pm


OHS girls softball preseason classic at Palm Beach Gardens at 7 pm

JV wrestling at Martin County Tournament 9 am


Blacksoxs at Boca Panthers 11/1pm

Charles Murphy News 1/26

News Cast for January 26th:

About 25 thousand dollars in property damage was done after a structure fire at 1090 South West 13th Avenue on Sunday night. City and county firemen responded and were able to rescue a dog from the flames. It’s believed an electric blanket left on might have sparked the blaze. The American Red Cross came to the assistance of Dalton Tyson and his family.

In the courts, 37 year old Michael Paigo of Okeechobee was sentenced to six years in state prison for lewd and lascivious battery on a 15 year old child.  He allegedly victimized the girl in Lake County after meeting her at services at a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall in Tavares.

37 year old Dale Alderman of Glades County received two years’ probation for child abuse.  Glades county deputies say he slapped the face of a teenage girl and pulled chunks of hair out of her head during an argument over washing dishes last February 7th.  He fled the scene before deputies arrived, but later returned to cause an argument and was arrested.

Among arrests, 54 year old Patricia Thornton was charged with resisting arrest, battery on law enforcement and disorderly intoxication after she allegedly kicked the shin of a deputy responded to a bar disturbance on Sunday night.  Thornton allegedly got upset with the bartender when she wasn’t served.  She had to be pepper sprayed.  She was also accused of slapping the hand of a jail guard.

51 year old John Bravchok was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after a domestic quarrel with another man.  Witnesses told deputies that Bravchok tried to stab the victim twice late Saturday night.

In politics, four new local candidates have come forward.  Phil Baughman will run again in County Commission District 1 and Brad Goodbread again in District 3.  Steve Cates has decided to run for property appraiser, and William Markham for Okeechobee County Sheriff.

Sports Cast for January 26th:

South Fork jumped on Okeechobee early and defeated the Lady Brahmans 63-14 at the District 6A-13 tournament on Monday. Tiannea Fryson had 18 points and Destiny Graves added 13 points for South Fork. Aaliyah Johnson led Okeechobee with four points.   The Lady Brahmans end their season at (16-8).

In the other games Heritage ripped Jensen Beach 71-33 and Eau Gallie blew out Bayside 56-20.  South Fork meets Sebastian river and Eau Gallie meets Heritage on Wednesday.

Palm Beach Lakes went on to win the boys soccer district title after their 3-2 win over Okeechobee in overtime.  South Fork is the district runner up this year.

On the sports schedule today, OHS boys’ basketball has a triple header at South Fork.  Freshmen start at 4, Junior Varsity at 5:30 and varsity at 7 pm.

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