Local News

Gov. Scott: We are Heartbroken by the Loss of Two Law Enforcement Officers in Orlando

Gov. Scott: We are Heartbroken by the Loss of Two Law Enforcement Officers in Orlando

ORLANDO, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott issued the following statement regarding the shooting death of Master Sgt. Debra Clayton, of the Orlando Police Department, and the death of an Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy.

Governor Scott said, “I am heartbroken and angered to hear of the shooting and death of Master Sgt. Debra Clayton this morning. I am also saddened by the death of an Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy who tragically lost his life in a vehicle accident while responding to this morning’s shooting. My wife Ann and I join Floridians across the state in praying for these officers and their families during this unimaginable time. We ask that God provide them with much needed healing, comfort and hope. Any act of violence against our heroes is cowardly and shameful and our state will not stand for it. I know the entire Orlando Police Department, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are working diligently to bring justice and ensure the Orlando community is safe and secure.

“This past year, our officers have faced challenges like never before. But even after the terrorist attack at Pulse nightclub last summer and the attack at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport last week, our law enforcement officers still wake up each day and choose to put their lives on the line in order to protect our state. I had the honor of visiting the Orlando Police Department last week to meet these officers firsthand to thank them on behalf of all Floridians, and it just breaks my heart that one of them has been senselessly killed this morning. I proclaimed this week as First Responder Appreciation week, and on the first day of it today, this tragic shooting serves as a sobering reminder of how important it is for each one of us to take every opportunity to thank these heroes for their service and sacrifice.”

Esteban Santiago Has Initial Appearance in Federal Court

Esteban Santiago Has Initial Appearance in Federal Court in Connection with Shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

Esteban Santiago Ruiz (Santiago) had his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia O. Valle this morning in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Santiago is being temporarily detained without bond.  A detention hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, January 17, 2017 at 1:00 p.m., before United States Magistrate Judge Lurana S. Snow in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Scott Israel, Sheriff, Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BSO) made the announcement.

Santiago is charged in a federal criminal complaint with violations of: Title 18, United States Code, Section 37(a)(1), performing an act of violence against a person at an airport serving international civil aviation that caused serious bodily injury; Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(c)(1)(A), using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; and  Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(j), causing the death of a person through the use of a firearm in the course of a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(c). The statutory charges authorize a maximum penalty, upon conviction, of death or imprisonment for life or any term of years.

According to the criminal complaint, on January 6, 2017, at approximately 12:56 p.m., Santiago was present in the Terminal 2 baggage claim area of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, when he pulled out a handgun.  The area was crowded with newly-arrived passengers retrieving their luggage.  Santiago started shooting, aiming at his victims’ heads until he was out of ammunition.  Santiago killed five people and wounded six more.  Moments later, Santiago was confronted by a BSO deputy.  He dropped his handgun on the ground and was arrested by BSO deputies.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ricardo A. Del Toro with assistance from Department of Justice Trial Attorney Larry Schneider.

A criminal complaint is merely an allegation, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Major Restoration Projects Progress in 2016

Major Restoration Projects Progress in 2016

WEST PALM BEACH, FL – From the Kissimmee River to Florida Bay, South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) in 2016 continued making progress on the goal of building major projects that will help restore South Florida’s ecosystem and ensure sound water supply management for generations to come.

“Getting projects done is our focus and priority,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Dan O’Keefe. “We broke ground this year on several key upgrades to our infrastructure that have been years in the making. Other massive projects have either been completed or are nearing completion. These are all vital elements to the future of water management in South Florida.”

One of the most important projects started this past year was at the very southern end of the water management system in Miami-Dade County. The District devised a plan to accelerate components slated to be built in the future in southern Miami-Dade County. Building these project components, which includes degrading weirs, connecting canals and building other features, will allow the District to deliver thousands more acre-feet of freshwater every year during wet and dry months to Taylor Slough in Everglades National Park, which connects directly to Florida Bay. This additional freshwater reaching Florida Bay will help to reduce elevated salinity levels that have occurred after droughts.

On the border of Palm Beach and Broward counties, the District in August completed the second phase of the extensive 10-mile long Hillsboro Canal bank stabilization and dredging project. This phase began in 2014 for 4 miles of the Hillsboro Canal from U.S. 441 east to Military Trail. The canal allows the District to provide flood protection to millions of residents and provides environmental restoration. A total of 37,000 cubic yards of sediment buildup was dredged out of the bottom of the Hillsboro Canal from Powerline Road to the G-56 Structure near Military Trail. A total of about $20 million has been spent on this project.

In Palm Beach County, construction is nearing completion on the L-8 Flow Equalization Basin, which will be able to hold about 40,000 acre-feet of stormwater runoff so that it can be released to stormwater treatment areas at a controlled rate, resulting in improved performance of those treatment areas. Completion of the project and the start of operation are expected next year. To date, close to $290 million has been spent on the project, which is almost complete.

South of Lake Okeechobee, work continued improving the ability of the key Bolles Canal to move more water south of the lake to reach the District’s complex water quality improvement system and eventually Everglades National Park. Construction was completed on the first segment of the $85 million canal improvement project and began on the second segment. The District has also started designing the third segment of the canal improvements.

The Bolles Canal and L-8 Flow Equalization Basin projects are part of Governor Rick Scott’s $880 million Restoration Strategies plan to complete water quality restoration in Florida. Other components of that plan, such as the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin, were completed in prior years and more progress on other plan components is expected in 2017.

In Martin County, the District began construction of the southern phase of the Lakeside Ranch Stormwater Treatment Area. Construction of this phase is expected to be completed in 2018. The northern phase was completed in 2012. This treatment area will be able to remove approximately 20 metric tons of phosphorus per year from stormwater runoff from the Taylor Creek and Nubbins Slough basins before that water enters Lake Okeechobee. To date, the approximately $130 million Lakeside Ranch project is about 60 percent complete.

In the St. Lucie Estuary, SFWMD contractors continued building the massive C-44 Stormwater Treatment Area and associated pump station in Martin County. To date, almost 17 miles of canals and 9 miles of berms have been constructed and most of the concrete water control structures including a spillway and several gates, are finished or nearing completion. The Stormwater Treatment Area being built by the District is expected to be completed by the end of next year and the pump station is expected to be completed by 2018. Coupled with a reservoir being constructed by the Army Corps, this project will hold and treat 50,000 acre-feet of stormwater runoff. The District’s portion of the project, estimated to cost about $350 million, is about 90 percent complete.

Also in the St. Lucie Estuary, SFWMD began work in October to repair the 526-acre Ten-Mile Creek Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area in St. Lucie County. Once repaired, the reservoir will be able to store more than 2,500 acre-feet of local stormwater runoff. The District is expected to complete the $8 million repairs in June 2017.

On the west coast, this year, SFWMD teams completed all of the land-clearing work necessary as part of the Southern Corkscrew Regional Escosystem Watershed restoration project in Lee County. This involves restoring the natural hydrology and habitat to more than 4,100 acres of pine flatwoods, swamps, wet prairies and marshes. The entire restoration project is expected to be completed next year. The project is estimated to cost approximately $40 million and is more than 90 percent complete.

In the western region, SFWMD contractors made progress on two crucial projects that will help the Caloosahatchee River Estuary.

The C-43 West Basin Reservoir in Hendry County will hold up to 170,000 acre-feet of water to help reduce Lake Okeechobee releases and provide freshwater to the estuary during dry months to reduce salinity levels in the estuary. Pre-loading and demolition work constructing earthen mounds needed for the reservoir are about halfway complete. Construction on a cofferdam and dewatering system for the S-476 Pump Station in the reservoir has also begun. The reservoir is slated to cost about $550 million and be completed by 2022.

Construction was completed this year on the C-43 Water Quality Treatment and Testing Facility in Hendry County. This project is being conducted by the District in partnership with Lee County over the next 8-10 years. Wetland plants and sediments have been installed in 12 tanks, and the initial phase of the planned experiments is now underway. This project will help demonstrate and implement cost-effective, wetland-based strategies for reducing nutrient loads, particularly nitrogen, from the Caloosahatchee River and its estuary. Study results of effective techniques will be used to determine the feasibility of scaling up certain water treatment technologies in future project phases. The $80 million project is about 50 percent complete.

In the northern most area of the District, SFWMD teams began work in March to install a new G-103 water control structure in Polk County to better maintain water levels and provide flood control in the Lake Rosalie area in the Upper Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. The $3.4 million project is more than 60 percent complete. It is estimated to be finished by May 2017.

Also, in the northern region, the District’s portion of the $760 million Kissimmee River Restoration Project is approximately 90 percent complete. The project is being built jointly with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Army Corps’ section is more than 80 percent complete. Backfilling of the MacArthur Ditch section of the river’s central floodplain is nearing completion and the final stretch of backfilling work will begin in early 2017. The District also began testing a new operation schedule for the Upper Kissimmee Chain of Lakes this year as part of the restoration project. The entire project is scheduled to be finished by 2020 and will restore historic flow to about 40 miles of the river and about 20,000 acres of floodplain wetlands.

“The District has worked on multiple fronts over hundreds of miles to make progress and complete projects that will provide better flood protection, ensure water supply, restore natural systems and improve water quality in South Florida,” O’Keefe said. “This was all accomplished because of Governor Rick Scott’s leadership and our Governing Board making the best use of taxpayer dollars. The benefits of these projects are being realized now and will continue for years to come. We will all look back at 2016 as a crucial year for the restoration of South Florida’s ecosystem.”



Indian River State College holds line on tuition

Indian River State College has been rated as the 3RD most affordable college in the country and most affordable of Florida colleges for the second year in a row according to the U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Report. In addition, IRSC has reinforced its long-standing commitment to affordability with no increase in tuition and fees for the 2016-2017 school year, maintaining the College’s low tuition rate for the fifth school year in a row.

“IRSC is committed to maintaining quality at reasonable cost, while helping students avoid student loan debt. Affordable higher education is the gateway to good career prospects and a skilled workforce for our community,” said Dr. Edwin R. Massey, IRSC President.

Average net price for full-time freshmen at IRSC was $1,807 in the U.S. Department of Education report. The net price is based on the cost of attendance after financial aid, grants and scholarships are subtracted.  Associate level tuition at IRSC remains $103.83 per credit and $117.10 for Baccalaureate level credit, 40% less than Florida state universities and about 88% less than private career universities serving the Treasure Coast.

At IRSC, students are assured of quality as well as affordability. IRSC’s emphasis on teaching and student success has resulted in national recognition as a Top Ten National Finalist for the Aspen Prize for Excellence for two consecutive award cycles and selection as one of the nation’s Achieving the Dream colleges. IRSC’s combination of quality and affordability results in increasingly larger graduating classes, with 2,170 students graduating in December, 2016.

The IRSC Financial Aid Department works closely with students to help them obtain all types of financial aid, including grants and scholarships which do not require repayment.  About 72% of IRSC freshmen typically receive financial aid or scholarships, and over $40 million in financial aid was awarded to IRSC students last year.

Established in 1960, IRSC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and received a flawless reaccreditation in 2014, ensuring transferability of credits to universities for continued undergraduate and graduate level studies.

IRSC offers over 150 programs including, Bachelor’s Degrees, Associate in Arts Degrees for the first two years of college, Associate in Science Degree programs for career training and Quick Job Training.  Campuses are located in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach and Okeechobee and the IRSC Virtual Campus offers online degree programs and hundreds of courses.  For more information call toll-free 1-866-792-4772 or visit www.irsc.edu <http://www.irsc.edu> .

Florida First Responder Appreciation Week

Florida First Responder Appreciation Week

For the third consecutive year, Governor Rick Scott is recognizing first responders and their families by proclaiming January 9-13, 2017 as Florida First Responder Appreciation Week. First responders play a critical role in keeping our communities safe, and all Floridians benefit greatly from the services they provide. Governor Scott is encouraging all Floridians to take the time out of their day to show first responders and their families how much we value their service to our cities, counties, and state. Schools and colleges can take this opportunity to help our state’s students express their gratitude for the sacrifices that first responders make to protect and assist Floridians.

Today Seminole Elementary invited the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office for breakfast in honor of First Responder Appreciation Week. The teachers and parents helped the children prepare the breakfast. Meanwhile the children served all first responders.

“A great breakfast prepared by the staff at Seminole Elementary this morning and we were served by the student council”, stated Cpl. Michael Hazellief.

We’d like to thank everyone for not only breakfast but for the cards and letter from the children.

Michele Bell, PIO

Charles Murphy News 1/10

News Cast for January 10th:

Congressman Tom Rooney says he is encouraged so far with the moves being made by president elect Donald Trump. Rooney withdrew his endorsement of Trump in September. Rooney says the first 1 hundred days of the new administration will be spent on immigration reform, debate over health care laws, and finding a new supreme court justice. He says his priority will remain agriculture and veterans’ issues. He says his main concern is the battle over Lake Okeechobee.

Rooney 1

In the courts, 25-year-old Anthony Bonnett was sentenced to one year in jail and four years’ probation for a wild police chase on a motorcycle on December 29th of 2 thousand 15.

Police Chief at the time, Denny Davis was injured as he was drug by the motorcycle after a chase from the center of town to Playland park.  The chase ended in a minor traffic crash.

Bonnett pled no contest to fleeing and eluding police resulting in injury, escape, and misdemeanor drug charges.

A man target practicing with a 45 revolver accidentally discharged one round into his hand Saturday at a local ranch.  The victim was treated at Raulerson hospital.

Alaska Resident Arrested in Connection with Shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

Press News Release Polk County Wanted Subject

Sports Cast for January 10th:

South Fork defeated Okeechobee in girls basketball Monday night, 47-38. Alkeecia Clayton led Okeechobee with 17 points. Lady Brahman Joe Smith said his girls gave the Bulldogs too many free points. Kendarly Duperot had 24 points to lead South Fork. She says after some injuries early in the year South Fork could be on a roll

Smith 1

Smith 2

The sports schedule today includes:

  • OHS girls soccer hosts Glades Day at 6:30 pm
  • OHS girls basketball travels to Royal Palm Beach for JV at 6 and varsity to follow.
  • Moore Haven middle school basketball visits Osceola in Okeechobee with games at 4:30 and 5:45
  • Yearling Middle school will host Brighton Middle for basketball at 4:30 and 5:45



ORLANDO, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced that he will propose $5.8 million in funding for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to add 46 counterterrorism agents as part of his 2017-2018 recommended budget. The agents will specialize in counterterrorism and intelligence and will be organized into counterterrorism squads that are stationed in each of FDLE’s seven regions. Counterterrorism agents will work hand-in-hand with local, state and federal intelligence agencies to establish a planned, deliberate and comprehensive effort in support of domestic security.

Governor Scott said, “Today, I am proud to announce that I will include $5.8 million in funding for FDLE to strengthen their counterterrorism and intelligence efforts as part of my 2017-18 recommended budget. Terror is a threat to our state and nation and we need specialists that are solely dedicated to identifying these terrorists and stopping them before they attack.

“Just last year, Florida came under attack when a terrorist, inspired by ISIS and filled with hate, stormed into Pulse Nightclub and killed 49 innocent people. Following the attack, I spoke to many of the victims’ families and mourned with them at funerals. Their lives will never be the same, and as the father of two daughters the same age as many of the victims, I cannot imagine the pain these families are going through. This recommended funding is a critical investment in our state’s counterterrorism operations that will work to ensure that our law enforcement officers have the resources they need to curb this senseless violence.”

FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said, “Governor Scott recognizes that we all have a role to play in defeating the terror which fueled the attack on Pulse Nightclub. I applaud the Governor for his leadership in recommending this funding which will allow FDLE to integrate additional specialized agents into existing counterterrorism intelligence networks. The 46 counterterrorism positions funded by the Governor’s recommended budget will serve a critical role in protecting Florida families from the evil of terrorism.”

Charles Murphy News 1/5

News Cast for January 5th:

Among arrests:

  • 18 year old Anthony Jones, recently released from the Okeechobee Level 10 juvenile prison, led South Daytona Police on a high speed chase in a stolen car New Years night, bolting from the crashed car into the woods and an apartment complex.  He faces charges of grand theft auto, resisting arrest and fleeing and attempting to elude police.
  • 52 year old Kenneth Hamner was charged with killing his 74 year old mother, Sheila, in White City.  December 10th he told St. Lucie deputies that an Hispanic male armed with a machete had killed his mother and injured him.
  • 31 year old Derrick Williams of Pahokee kicked a state wildlife officer and was tased three times as they tried to arrest him for illegal fishing with a cast net in Canal Point.
  • A man wanted on drug charges in North Florida tried to run from Okeechobee Deputies on Everglades Boulevard Tuesday night.
  • 45 year old Tracy Davis reportedly shoved a deputy.  A k-9 unit found him hiding in a yard on South East 25th Street. He faces battery on a deputy, resisting arrest and marijuana possession charges.
  • Two local teens who angered an elderly woman by smoking marijuana in her home against her permission were charged with battering the lady Tuesday, 19 year old Jose Jimenez Slone and 18 year old Camryn Cashwell.

In the courts…

40 year old Altonya Pryor of Okeechobee was sentenced to eight years in prison and two years probation for an arson fire and burglary at Oak Lake Villas on December 22nd of 2 thousand 14. She pled no contest to arson, burglary attempted tampering with evidence, creation of a fire bomb and grand theft. She reportedly made a home made bomb out of a coke can, ignitable liquid and a rag and threw it into one of the apartments, possibly to cover up the theft of Christmas presents from the residence.

Sports Cast for January 5th:

Janel Aponte scored four goals in the first half as Okeechobee walloped Moore Haven 8-0 in girls soccer action last night by mercy rule. Ashton English, Alani Garcia, and Chelsea Burgess added goals for the Lady Brahmans. Aponte says she has enjoyed her first year in soccer

Coach Eric Swant says Aponte is the center piece of the new soccer program because she battles and really loves the sport

It was the ninth victory of the season or Okeechobee who is approaching a school record for girls soccer wins, 10 in a season.

The JV boys soccer team rallied to defeat Moore Haven varsity 3-2 Wednesday. Sebastian Chavez had two goals.  Antonio Vega scored the winning goal. Moore Haven coach Felipe Morales says his team couldn’t keep up the pace down the stretch. The Brahman JV is now 9-0 on the season.

On the sports schedule today…OHS girls soccer hosts Sebring with JV at 5:30 and varsity to follow.  Girls basketball hosts Sebastian River with JV at 6 pm and varsity around 7:30 pm.  Boys soccer visits Osceola High in Kissimmee with JV at 4 and varsity to follow.  Osceola middle school basketball travels to Brighton today with girls hoops at 4:30 and boys around 5:45.  Yearling basketball hosts Moore Haven with girls at 4:30 and boys around 5:45.  Moore Haven girls soccer hosts Seacrest Country Day at 5 pm.

Charles Murphy News 1/4

News Cast for January 4th:

Dowling Watford was selected Mayor by his city council colleagues last night. Mayor Jim Kirk retired after his last term after 26 years as Mayor. Watford says it was a humbling night. Video is on Facebook.

Police Chief Bob Peterson also took the oath of office last night. Video on Facebook.

Noel Stephen was sworn in as the 17th Sheriff in Okeechobee history Tuesday. Stephen says he doesn’t’ plan any major changes but wants to take care of the employees, and keep people safe.  He called it a team effort. Video footage on Facebook.

David Hardin was sworn in as Glades County Sheriff.

Monica Clark also took the oath of office as the second female ever on Okeechobee City Council. She talked about economic growth and the city being more friendly to business. She said she was excited about this opportunity. Video footage on Facebook.

Arrests include 34 year old Felipe Jose Mendoza on charges of burglary, possession of burglars tools and trespass on school property.  He was caught in the act of burglarizing Yearling Middle school.  Two portable classrooms were broken into and the kitchen.

26 year old Katlain Ripley and Ethan King were charged Friday with stealing a vehicle at 2727 highway 441 south east.

30 year old Rolando Pena was charged with two recent burglaries with counts of dealing in stolen property, grand theft and giving false information to a pawnbroker. One residence ON north west 4th Street and a second on North West 27th Avenue were burglarized.

Sports Cast for January 4th:

Lake worth Christian jumped out to a 25-7 lead after the first quarter and cruised from there for a 61-40 victory over Okeechobee in girls high school basketball on Tuesday night

Sports get back in action after the holiday today.

The boys soccer team is at 5 wins 6 losses and 2 ties, a disappointing start to the season.

Defensive back and captain Jesus Garcia says he still thinks the season can be salvaged. He says the team always struggles at districts and need to get over that hump this month.

On the sports schedule today, OHS boys soccer hosts Moore Haven at 4 pm and OHS girls soccer hosts Moore Haven at 6 pm.

Rooney Sworn Into The 115th Congress

Rooney Sworn Into The 115th Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Thomas Rooney issued the following statement after being sworn into the 115th Congress today:

“It is an honor and a privilege to be elected to serve the people of Florida’s 17th District for the next two years. I am humbled by this opportunity and am reminded of the sacred trust the people have placed in me every time I put my hand on the bible and take the oath of office. I am resolved to serve my constituents to the best of my ability, support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and make our country safer, freer and more prosperous.”

“During his eight years as President of the United States, Barack Obama overstepped the constitutional limits placed on the executive branch. He relied almost exclusively on executive action to implement his most contentious policies, enacted a disastrous health care law and created countless unnecessary regulations that have stifled American economic growth. On November 8th, the voters clearly demonstrated their dissatisfaction with these abuses of power by decisively electing a Republican majority to serve them in the House and the Senate and by electing a Republican President.”

“Our nation faces many challenges but I look forward to working hard in this newly-unified government to promote and successfully enact a positive conservative agenda that protects individual liberties and responds to the will of the people. I am confident that Congress and the new Administration will put our country back on the right track and rebuild Americans’ confidence in their elected officials.”

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