Local News

County Centennial Update Given To Kiwanis Club (AUDIO INCLUDED)

County Centennial Update Given To Kiwanis Club (AUDIO INCLUDED)

From Left to Right, Sharie Turgeon, Corey Wheeler and Jennifer Busbin

From Left to Right, Sharie Turgeon, Corey Wheeler and Jennifer Busbin

Members of the County Centennials spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee last Thursday at their weekly meeting. Jennifer Busbin and Shari Turgeon have been working with a committee to celebrate the County’s Centennial in 2017 and not duplicate much of the City Centennial which Okeechobee celebrated in 2015. The Centennial will have a kickoff event in January and a County birthday party and formal in December, but Busbin says throughout the year and activity called Amazing Okeechobee will be a highlight. Local businesses and citizens can still participate in the centennial planning by contacting Sharie Turgeon and the Tourist Development Council at 763-9353


Wild animals in circuses and other traveling shows denied “life worth living”

Wild animals in circuses and other traveling shows denied “life worth living”

Expert review finds “all five of the ‘freedoms’” compromised and supports ban on wild animal acts

Animal Defenders International (ADI) calls for immediate action to end the suffering of wild animals in circuses in the US after a comprehensive and expert analysis of scientific evidence found “all five of the ‘freedoms’” are compromised in traveling animal shows. Experts said that circus life for animals is one not “worth living.”

Jan Creamer, President of Animal Defenders International, said: “This new report supports decades of reports and evidence that the welfare of wild animals is seriously compromised in circuses. Having time and again exposed the suffering and brutality of animals in circuses, Animal Defenders International calls for federal legislation to end wild animal acts.”

‘The Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses’ report was commissioned by the Welsh government and undertaken by Professor Steven Harris, the 2nd Lord Dulverton Memorial Professor of Environmental Sciences at Bristol University, UK. The report summarizes: “The available scientific evidence indicates that captive wild animals in circuses and other travelling animal shows do not achieve their optimal welfare requirements, as set out under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and the evidence would therefore support a ban on using wild animals in travelling circuses and mobile zoos on animal welfare grounds.”

The Harris team consulted 658 experts and organizations around the world, including 138 animal trainers/circuses; 206 lawyers and veterinarians with expertise in wild animal welfare; 107 people working for NGOs; 144 biologists, researchers, behavioral, and species experts; 58 zoo and wild animal sanctuary staff; and relevant government officials and wildlife experts.

The views of the animal trainers and circuses were “very different to the other groups of experts” on several issues. The group “did not believe that frequent training is stressful for animals,” that the “frequency and duration of transport should be minimised to avoid unnecessary stress,” and “disagreed that the portable enclosures required for regular travel cannot meet the preconditions for good welfare” – in contrast to all other expert groups.

Findings of the 178-page report include:

  • “All five of the ‘freedoms’ are compromised in travelling circuses and mobile zoos”
  • “Most if not all of the twelve ‘welfare criteria’ used in the [European] ‘Welfare Quality project are compromised”
  • Life for wild animals in travelling circuses and mobile zoos does not appear to constitute either a ‘good life’ or a ‘life worth living’”
  • There is “No scientific evidence to suggest that some species of wild animals (vertebrates or invertebrates) are more suited to life in a travelling circus or mobile zoo”
  • Most animal performances “focus on tricks that do not reflect natural behaviours”
  • “Traditional animal training methods are coercive and based on force and aggression.” Circus trainers “have few or not recognised qualifications or formal training”
  • “Minimum recommended enclosure sizes for animals in circuses are on average 26.3% of the recommended enclosure size for animals in zoos”
  • There is “No scientific evidence that wild animals fully adapt to frequent transport”

The study included a review of 764 scientific reports and articles that had been peer-reviewed since 2007, following publication of a report by the UK Government on the subject. Harris’ report noted that there had since been “a substantial increase in the amount of information available.”

The continued use of wild animals in circuses is opposed by animal welfare experts, animal protection groups, politicians, and more than 2/3 of the American public. The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe has concluded “there is by no means the possibility that their [wild mammals in traveling circuses’] physiological, mental and social requirements can adequately be met.” A 2009 research paper co-authored by Professor Harris concluded “the species of non-domesticated animals commonly kept in circuses appear the least suited to a circus life.”

32 nations around the world have now banned either wild animals or all animals from traveling shows. It is time for the US to join this list.

Once a ban is in place, ADI has offered to assist with the relocation of circus animals should the need arise. ADI has just this year concluded an operation to enforce similar legislation in Peru, rescuing and relocating over 100 animals, with 33 lions airlifted to a sanctuary in South Africa.

Charles Murphy News 7/21

News Cast for July 21st:

The Okeechobee City Council held their July meeting Tuesday night with a large agenda. A few of the noteworthy items on the agenda were the rezoning of the north west addition at 1000 NW 7th Court from Holding to Industrial. That rezoning was requested by Jeremy LaRue of Total Roadside Services on behalf of property owners Dennis and Linda May Wilson. The motion was approved by the Council.

The Council voted in favor of allowing OUA to withdraw themselves from the City Pension plan with the intention of creating their own pension plan. Until now both City employees and OUA employees  shared the same plan.

The Council also voted in favor of beginning the process of funding 25% of the fire department budget through fire assessment and made clear by doing this, their intention was to lower the millage by the same percentage in order to offset the assessment.

Members of the County Centennials spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee last Thursday at their weekly meeting. Jennifer Busbin and Shari Turgeon have been working with a committee to celebrate the County’s Centennial in 2017 and not duplicate much of the City Centennial which Okeechobee celebrated in 2015. The Centennial will have a kickoff event in January and a County birthday party and formal in December, but Busbin says throughout the year and activity called Amazing Okeechobee will be a highlight. Local businesses and citizens can still participate in the centennial planning by contacting Sharie Turgeon and the Tourist Development Council at 763-9353

Fulford Impressive Showing At Miss Florida USA (AUDIO INCLUDED)

Fulford Impressive Showing At Miss Florida USA (AUDIO INCLUDED)

Fulford Florida USA picOkeechobee native Taylor Fulford recently competed in Miss Florida USA pageant, finishing fourth runner-up. Fulford was thrilled to make it that far, “it was a very memorable moment for me, I can still tell you how it felt to hear my name being called and to that placement. It was just a dream come true.”

There were sixty-six contestants competing this year. Fulford was happy to make the final sixteen cut and never imagined making the final five.

Taylor cited getting to know her fellow contestants and hearing her name announced as the fourth runner-up as her favorite moments of the pageant. Fulford says her biggest challenge was managing her type one diabetes along with her hectic schedule. Fulford uses her pageant platform to raise awareness for juvenile diabetes.Fulford Top 5 pic

This was Taylor’s third year competing in the Miss Florida USA Pageant and she has no plans to stop. “I am only 22 now and you can compete until 26, so I plan on competing until I win or age out”

In order to qualify for the Miss Florida USA Pageant, Taylor had to win a preliminary pageant which she did, Fulford is Miss Gainesville 2016. Fulford is a student at The University of Florida


SFWMD Allocates $2.6 Million to Respond to State of Emergency

SFWMD Allocates $2.6 Million to Respond to State of Emergency

Funding to improve public land water storage to address blue-green algal blooms

West Palm Beach, FL – The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board on Thursday allocated $2.6 million from its reserves to address the state of emergency declared by Gov. Rick Scott because of blue-green algal blooms in South Florida’s waterways.

“We have been taking every practical action possible to address the impact of the blooms since Gov. Rick Scott declared the state of emergency,” said Governing Board Chairman Daniel O’Keefe. “This money allocated will allow more water storage on public land in the Treasure Coast to further address the needs of residents and help lessen the bloom.”

The $2.6 million will also pay for improvements needed to manage stormwater runoff at two publicly owned properties in the St. Lucie Estuary. It will speed up improvements, such as ditch plugs and culverts in the vast DuPuis Management Area in western Martin County. Additionally, the funds will expedite the construction of a 320-acre impoundment in “Section C” near the C-23 Canal in St. Lucie County to store more local runoff.

Furthermore, the District is continuing several other ongoing operations to address the blooms. This includes storing more water in the Upper Kissimmee Chain of Lakes north of Lake Okeechobee, which slows down the flow of water south to the lake. High lake levels have led the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release water from Lake Okeechobee to the coastal estuaries for flood protection. Water from the lake as well as local stormwater runoff and nutrients from septic tanks all contribute to the development of algal blooms. The District has also been pulse releasing more water south through the L-8 and C-51 canals to lessen the need for estuary releases.

Private landowners and corporate partners have also been responding to the emergency by volunteering their land for water storage. Florida Power and Light Co. agreed to let the District use its cooling pond at the Martin Clean Energy Center near Indiantown to store up to 2.2 billion gallons per month for the next three to four months. Consolidated Citrus Limited Partnership has also begun storing local stormwater runoff on its 1,700-acre Sunrise Grove farm property near Palm City. Caulkins Citrus Company is storing water on 2,600 acres of its farming property, and Bluefield Grove is also storing water on its 6,800 acres of property.

For more information about blue-green algae, visit the Florida Department of Health’s website at http://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins/_documents/cyano-faqs-pio.pdf

Charles Murphy News 7/18

News Cast for July 18th:

002Charles Murphy is out on vacation for the next two weeks so Ken Keller will be filling in for him during our news cast. Please click LOCAL NEWS for more news.

Okeechobee School Districts’ chronic absence rate rose a 1/2% this year compared to last year. Chronic absence is defined by missing 21 or more days within a school year. The rate this year was at 11.7% of the student population. The district is attempting to reverse this trend by sending principals monthly attendance reports among other methods. The district has studied the data such as suspension, rates and ethnicity to see if there is any correlation. While there wasn’t a real connection found with ethnicity, the district did learn that suspension rates contributed to the rising numbers. Renee Geeting, assistant superintendent of Instruction Services says for the students chronically absent, there are consequences.


Despite the rising absence rate, the High School Graduation rate rose 5% to 65.9% this year.

With the county’s centennial celebration approaching there is a push to get the “Tantie” school on SW 5th and South Parrot historic site. Magi Cable, the president of the Okeechobee Historical Society gives a brief background on the city.


Statement from OCSO on Baton Rouge

Andrew and Sandra Galletto along with their daughter Sophia recently pre…

SFWMD Helps Florida Bay

SFWMD Helps Florida Bay

Today, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) submitted a request to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to expedite one of several authorizations necessary to immediately implement a plan to start restoring Florida Bay.

The improvements will double the flow of water directly into Taylor Slough by as much as 6.5 billion gallons more freshwater per year. The additional water reaching the bay during dry season and wet season meets stringent water quality standards. These actions will be the first steps to help save the bay by reducing salinity levels and promoting the recovery of seagrasses killed during a severe drought in 2015.

Required features of the plan include:

  • Connecting two canals to directly deposit water through the L-31 West Canal into Taylor Slough.
  • Sending additional water through the S-328 structure into the L-31 West Canal directly to the headwaters of Taylor Slough.
  • Rebuilding a levee and weir and adding plugs along the L-31 West Canal to encourage the flow of more water towards Taylor Slough. This will also keep more water in Everglades National Park.
  • Removing flapgates at the S-332i Pump Station to promote more flow.

Supplemental features of the plan that will also help deliver water include:

  • Installing several plugs in the L-31 West Canal to reduce drainage from Everglades National Park and to promote overland flow of water into Taylor Slough.
  • Modifying a weir at the S-332D structure to promote overland flow of water to the detention area into headwaters of Taylor Slough.
  • Increasing the pumping capacity at S-199 and S-200 pump stations, which will send more water flowing towards Taylor Slough and Everglades National Park, ultimately reaching Florida Bay.
  • Removing vegetation to increase the quantity of water flowing through the detentions areas into Taylor Slough.

Some of the improvements require Corps permitting. Today, the SFWMD requested the authorization to degrade about 250 feet of a weir to allow more water to flow through the S-332D Detention Area into Taylor Slough. Click here to read the letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting permits to begin helping Florida Bay. All of the proposed improvements will cost the SFWMD less than $3.3 million and could be completed before the start of the next dry season in November if the Corps approves the necessary permits quickly.

Corps to further reduce flows from Lake Okeechobee

Corps to further reduce flows from Lake Okeechobee

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District will further reduce the amount of water flowing from Lake Okeechobee beginning this weekend.

Starting Friday (July 15), the new target flow for the Caloosahatchee Estuary will be a seven-day average of 2,800 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at W.P. Franklin Lock (S-79) near Fort Myers.  The new target flow for the St. Lucie Estuary will be a seven-day average of 650 cfs as measured at St. Lucie Lock (S-80) near Stuart. Additional runoff from rain in the Caloosahatchee or the St. Lucie basins could occasionally result in flows that exceed targets.

“As a result of water releases, drier conditions and decreased inflows, the lake level has started to recede,” said Col. Jason Kirk, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Commander. “Although the lake is still high for this time of year, current conditions are providing us with the opportunity to further reduce discharges and bring some degree of relief to the estuaries experiencing above normal seasonal algal blooms.”

Additional water continues to be stored in the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes by the South Florida Water Management District, helping to reduce the inflows into the lake.  The additional storage, coupled with a reduction in rainfall and increase in evapotranspiration are all contributing factors into the Corps being able to reduce discharges from the lake, in accordance with the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS).

Today, the lake stage is 14.73 feet, almost one-quarter of a foot lower than it was last week. The Corps will continue to monitor conditions and adjust flows as necessary.

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.

Corps must remain vigilant in managing Lake O

Corps must remain vigilant in managing Lake O

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Water—in south Florida, we either have too much or too little.  For most of 2016, heavy rains fueled by El Nino mean we’ve had too much.

The flood control system operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District has prevented loss of life and major widespread property damage so far this year.  However, we remain concerned about how much rain may fall and where that water can go without causing impacts that have the potential to be worse than current conditions in south Florida estuaries.

Unseasonably wet conditions during the dry season tested our south Florida water management system.  We worked alongside our state and federal partners, utilizing any flexibility we could find in the system.  Despite those efforts, Lake Okeechobee recorded its highest July 1st stage since 2005.  The stage of 14.93 is more than three quarters of a foot higher than this point in 2013, another challenging year for water managers.

The high lake level for this time of year is concerning for a number of reasons.  During a normal wet season, the lake rises two to three feet.  The National Weather Service has issued outlooks that call for above-average precipitation over the next three months, which will likely add more water.  We’ve seen numerous instances over the past 20 years of tropical systems producing enough rain to cause a three to four foot rise in the lake.  A five-foot rise in the lake from this point takes us into uncharted territory.

The highest stage recorded for Lake Okeechobee is 18.77 feet.  We have seen increased seepage resulting in erosion and movement of foundation material from the dike when the lake reaches 18 feet.  We want to avoid a scenario where the lake rises so high, the resulting water pressure increases the potential for erosion that could cause the dike to breach.  Such a breach could cause widespread property damage and potential loss of life.

The Corps stands ready to respond should a breach scenario develop.  However, part of our mitigation to prevent a breach includes managing the water level in the lake to keep it from rising too high.  Unfortunately, this requires releasing water in quantities that, when combined with an equally large volume of basin runoff, upset the freshwater-saltwater mix in the estuaries.  The change in that mix, coupled with hot weather, and excessive nitrogen and phosphorus in the system from a variety of sources, are all among the factors fueling the algae affecting the estuaries.

The Corps and the Water Management District are making progress on ecosystem restoration projects that will make the flood control system in south Florida more environmentally friendly.  This summer, we will start efforts on the Lake Okeechobee Watershed and Western Everglades Restoration projects that will look at features to address some of the flows in and around the lake.  I encourage as many people as possible to participate in this process.

We are working to expedite permits for water storage projects in accordance with the governor’s request.  We continue to exchange information with state agencies on the algal bloom and other environmental issues. We all want to see better environmental conditions in south Florida, but we must also manage water in a manner that reduces the risk of life loss or widespread property damage. Eight million people in south Florida depend on the system to safeguard their lives and property.  Flood protection is what Congress expected when they asked the Corps to develop flood control solutions, and I believe it’s ultimately what the citizens of our nation expect as well.

Charles Murphy News 7/15

News Cast for July 15th:

7753914Joseph Stanley was named the new principal at Central Elementary. He said he expects Central to return to their days of being a B school in the next few years. Stanley is a product of Okeechobee schools.  He said he knows what local kids face and is hopeful he can help them. Christina Norman was named his assistant principal Friday.

Stanley 1

Stanley 2

 Joseph Stanley, Principal of Central Elementary, announces his Assistant Principal choice as Christina Norman.    Christina Norman, an Okeechobee High School graduate, has been teaching in Okeechobee County since 2008.  Mrs. Norman has participated in writing science curriculum maps, the Math and Science Partnership Grant, and Kagan trainings.  She has also created and modeled lessons for all new K-5 teachers.   Mr. Stanley was exuberant in his praise for Mrs. Norman and stated, “I am pleased to have Christina Norman join Central Elementary as Assistant Principal.  Her extensive knowledge of curriculum, as well as her background of teaching at Central, will be of great benefit to students and staff for years to come as we continue to put students first.

The home of the Tigers, North Elementary, will be welcoming a new Assistant Principal next week as the 2016-17 school year begins.  Tuuli Robinson, Principal of North Elementary, participated in a day of interviews as seven applicants vied to the position.  After careful consideration, Mrs. Robinson chose Shundra Dowers as her Assistant Principal.  Mrs. Dowers is a resident of Belle Glade and has worked in Palm Beach County as a teacher and administrator since 1997.  Most recently Mrs. Dowers served as an Administrator for Instructional Support and previously was an administrator at Title I and DA schools.  Mrs. Dowers was described by her previous supervisors as being easy to work with, a problem solver, and resourceful.  Mrs. Robinson stated that North Elementary is “very excited about the expertise that she will bring to our school.”  Tuuli Robinson also referenced Shundra Dowers’ diverse range of experience as an asset that will be of great value to the faculty, students, and staff of North Elementary.

Osceola Middle School will be welcoming a new Assistant Principal on July 20th.  Mrs. Erin Willis is moving to Okeechobee from Ocala, Florida.  Mrs. Willis began her teaching career at Okeechobee High School in 2006.  She then moved to Clermont and eventually to Micanopy, Florida working as a teacher and most recently as a Title I Specialist/RTI Specialist at the Micanopy Area Cooperative School.  She has returned to Okeechobee with her husband who will be managing the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve.  When reached for comment, Sean Downing, Principal of Osceola Middle School, stated that Mrs. Willis has worked with “the gifted program, response to intervention, differentiating instruction to meet the needs of individual students, and Title 1.  She has extensive knowledge in each of these areas and will be able to bring those strengths and talents to our school for the benefit of our students.”

Jody Hays, Principal of Yearling Middle School, had the pleasure of interviewing several exceptional candidates for the vacant Assistant Principal position.  Mrs. Hays chose Emily Streelman to work with her to lead Yearling Middle School.  Mrs. Hays stated, “Her kind spirit, love for children and extensive knowledge of teaching and learning makes Mrs. Streelman a tremendous asset to Yearling Middle School.”  Emily Streelman has worked in Okeechobee County as a teacher since 2009.  She was named Okeechobee County District Teacher of the Year in 2011 and most recently served as the Math and Science Coach for the District.  In this position, she worked with teachers across the district to develop curriculum, assessments, and lesson plans.  The plan she developed for science instruction improved scores in those classrooms where it was implemented.  Mrs. Streelman will be a tremendous addition to the staff of Yearling Middle School.

Shundra Dowers of Belle Glade will be the new assistant principal at North Elementary.

Erin Willis is the new assistant principal at Osceola Middle, And Emily Streelman will be at Yearling Middle School.

The Okeechobee tax base rose about 3.3 percent this year to over 1.6 billion dollars. Assistant Property Appraiser Mickey Bandi said 52 million was added to the tax base, of it, including nine new homes at Pine Creek. He said Okeechobee had more growth than some other Heartland counties. There was little change in commercial or industrial growth.

Bandi 1

Bandi 2

Okeechobee county commissioners approved 1.16 million in additional work with go underground to finish the Oak Park storm water drainage project and agreed to a water retention plan that allows for North West 8th Street to be extended west to US 98.



July 14 16-421 FL 14671 SBA Opens BRC; Working Capital Loans Available

Sports Cast for July 15th:

IMG_2286Diamond Wiggins said she is determined to improve her basketball skills so she can be more of an asset to the girls’ basketball team. Wiggins has always been one of the better athletes on the team.  She becomes a junior this year.

She said her improvement will have to come at the offensive end. Wiggins said the 16 win season last year was a testament to how hard the girls worked.

Wiggins says she thinks this team can break the long drought Okeechobee has experienced when it comes to no regional playoffs for girls’ basketball.

The OCRA Triple A all-stars compete this weekend in the Dixie Youth State tournament in Sebring.  They finished second at the District 8 tournament last month in Lake Placid.

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