Local News

News Cast 11/1

News Cast for November 1st:

The stalemate remains after Monday night’s school district meeting as members of the Okeechobee County School Board and the Education Association met last night to try and come to an agreement regarding teacher’s salaries. While the Education Association asked for a just over three percent salary increase, the board countered with bonuses ranging from 400 to over 1200 dollars from the state which would only last until the end of the year. Lisa Harwiss, president of the Education Assocation and a 1st grade teacher at Seminole Elementary says it’s a “slap in the face”.

Teachers’ Salaries 1

Assistant Superintendent Renee Geeting says while she’d like to see teachers get raises, there’s simply not enough money in the budget. The issue now goes before a magistrate on December 15th who will offer recommendations as to what can be done.

Teachers’ Salaries 2

Highlands County detectives are investigating the shooting death of a 28 year old Sebring man. Detectives say Joshua Dean Hickey was shot several times in his car outside his parents’ home in the Orange Blossom Estates just before 8pm on Monday. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Anyone with any information regarding this incident should contact the Highlands County Sheriff’s office or leave an anonymous tip via www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com. A reward is possible through Crime Stoppers.

Okeechobee county Firefighters are investigating two vehicle fires that happened between Monday night and yesterday morning. Last night, crews were called to the 11 thousand block of 441 just before 8 for a van on fire. The van owners tried to extinguish the blaze from water out of a hose at their home before crews arrived to finish the job. Investigators say the owners left the house for awhile and returned to find the fire emanating from the hood of the driver’s side. The owners got all their belongings out before the fire got out of control. Earlier this morning, crews were called to the 88 hundred block of Route 70 for a semi truck that had a burning tire near the rear axle. Investigators say the truck’s brakes locked up and caught fire. Crews got the blaze under control in about 15 minutes. No injuries at either incident.

On the arrest report today:

33 year old Manuel Mojica was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of marijuana with intent to sell and drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. His bond has not yet been set.

28 year old Tyler James Mehlmann was arrested for burglary and criminal mischief on an unoccupied dwelling. No bond has been set at this time.

41 year old Satena Marie Loper was arrested for an out of county warrant via Department of Corrections with a warrant stating Loper was released in error. She’s being held without bond.


Kiwanis Meeting Update: Fielden Institute For Lifelong Learning Presents to Kiwanis (AUDIO INCLUDED)

Kiwanis Meeting Update: Fielden Institute For Lifelong Learning Presents to Kiwanis (AUDIO INCLUDED)

Kiwanis Member Darrel Enfinger pictured with Fielden Institute Peer Leader Mary Hurley

Mary Hurley spoke recently to the Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee discussing the Fielden Institute For Lifelong Learning, which is part of the Indian River State College Foundation.

“They call it a Health Club for the brain because they focus on men and women who are fifty and better and really want to expand themselves..” said Hurley.

The peer leaders are volunteers who want to share knowledge with others. There are a variety of classes and lectures offered designed for men and women over fifty who are interested in exploring shared topics in a college atmosphere.  Offering include field trips, tours, lectures, discussion groups, hands on activities and more. Programs are offered on all five campuses and run October through June.

Examples of classes offered are Poetry Writing, Getting Started With Windows 10, Women on Wall Street, Making of The Next Best Seller, Hillbilly Elegy – An In-Depth Look into a Culture in Crisis and a variety of offerings involving films.

Anyone interested in learning more about the program are encouraged to call the Institute Office at 772-462-7880.

The Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee is a service organization that works to improve the lives of youth in Okeechobee. The club meets every Thursday at noon at the Lakeside Grill Restaurant on South Parrot avenue. Anyone interested in learning more about the club are invited to attend.

CLICK THIS LINK TO LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW WITH MARY HURLEY (RUN TIME 2:52)


News Cast 10/31

News Cast for October 31st:

Okeechobee County Sheriff’s investigators have released audio from a call made last Wednesday to the sheriff’s office by a suspect calling himself “John Carter”, claiming there was an explosive device set to go off at 3:45 at Everglades Elementary School. Part of the audio will be posted below. Students were evacuated from the school immediately before 3pm and taken to the Agri-Civic Center to be picked up by their parents. No one was hurt. The school was checked by bomb squad crews and it was clean. If you have any information on the suspect calling himself, “John Carter”, please contact the sheriff’s office or Crime Stoppers 1-800-273-8477. You may remain anonymous and be entitled to a reward.

Bomb Threat Audio

Yesterday, Governor Rick Scott announced that he will propose a 50 million dollar investment to speed up repairs for the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee as part of his next recommended budget. Scott says last week, Florida was proud to secure President Donald Trump’s commitment to accelerating the needed repairs to the Hoover Dike. This funding will build on the 50 million dollars in this year’s state budget to kick start the needed repairs. Governor Scott is the furst governor in Florida’s history to invest state money into this project.

Florida Highway Patrol officers are investigating a vehicle accident that left a Sebring man with serious injuries Sunday night. 20 year old Damien Grant-Gonzalez was driving north on Placid Lakes Blvd in Lake Placid approaching an intersection when he swerved left, crossing into the southbound lane, then went off the road and into a tree. Grant-Gonzalez was taken to Lakeland Regional Hospital in Lakeland for treatment.

Halloween has arrived and the Okeechobee City and County officials are offering tips for parents to keep their kids safe during this year’s costumes and trick or treating. Police Detective Bill Saum says kids should be wearing make up rather than masks because they take away peripheral vision and don’t wear costumes that’re too long because you can trip on them. Saum also says to make sure you wear something that glows in the dark. Saum says glow sticks are a good idea. Drivers need to be careful tonight especially on route 70 and 441; trick or treaters should be with an adult and never alone. Kids should be done by 9pm tonight.

Saum Interview

Saum Interview 2

On the arrest report:

20 year old Jacquis Lesha Roberts was arrested for marijuana possession under 20 grams. Her bond is set at 10,000 dollars.

33 year old Lemmie Chat Prescott was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for assault and elder abuse on his parents. Bond is set at $191,000.

49 year old Teresa Marie Holloman was arrested for possession of oxycodone with intent to sell. Her bond is set at $50,000.

42 year old Timothy James Burke was arrested for burglary. He was released after posting $20,000 bond.

54 year old Joseph Hardy Haney was arrested for defrauding a pawnbroker after trying to sell a Honda generator. His bond is set at $35,000 dollars.

27 year old Christian Trey Bockoras was arrested for violating probation stemming from previous charges of grand theft and burglary. He is being held without bond.

21 year old Collin Timothy Henderson was arrested for warrants and trespassing, petty theft. No bond is set at this time.

35 year old Travis Johnson was arrested for an out of county warrant on charges of burglary and petty theft. He was released after posting a 2,000 dollar bond.


C-17 Canal in North Palm Beach Reopened to Boat Traffic

C-17 Canal in North Palm Beach Reopened to Boat Traffic

Section of canal had been closed to navigation after portion
of the U.S. 1 bridge collapsed

North Palm Beach, FL – A section of the C-17 Canal in North Palm Beach has been reopened to navigation at the U.S. 1 bridge north of Northlake Boulevard.

The canal had been closed in this area for a week and a half as the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) removed debris from a partial collapse of the bridge on Wednesday, Oct. 18. The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) assisted FDOT, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Village of North Palm Beach with the canal closure so repair work could be conducted.

To get the latest information on navigation through SFWMD structures and waterways, visit www.sfwmd.gov/navigation.


Sex Offenders in Okeechobee During Halloween

Sex Offenders in Okeechobee During Halloween

Where are sex offenders on Halloween? Worried about your kids knocking on doors of sex offenders while trick or treating? Kids in Okeechobee are busy getting their Halloween costumes ready. The overall focus is to keep children safe, especially on a night when there’s so many of them outdoors.

Okeechobee County currently has (2) juvenile offenders, (104) offenders and (10) predators), that register with the Sheriff’s Office. Florida’s number of registered sex offenders is rising dramatically.

Restrictions can vary from case to case, depending on court-ordered probation requirements and the crimes committed. Some offenders and predators have no restrictions. But, for the most part, offenders and predators aren’t allowed to put up Halloween decorations, or in any way entice kids to come to their doors. This mission doesn’t just keep kids safe, it also helps these individuals stay out of trouble.

To search your neighborhood, check out the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Florida Sexual Offenders and Predators website, fdle.state.fl.us. The website allows users to find any sex offenders and predators living within a five-mile radius of a particular address in Florida. When you search the state database, you have several options. If you are looking for a particular person, you can type in as much or as little information as you know. In most cases, you will want to do a very broad search. Simply typing your ZIP code into the search tool will give you a list (with photos if they are available) of every registered sex offender who shares your ZIP code. Further down on the database search form, you will find the option to search within a one mile radius of an address you choose. Typing in your address will build a map that pinpoints the home (and in some cases, the work address) of every registered sex offender within a mile of your home.

Sheriff Paul May said, “In this day and time, we must use good common sense. Parents go with your children, watch what they collect at houses. If suspicious, throw it away but the most important thing is watch your children at all times.”

The Sheriff’s Office would ask that all Trick-or-Treaters be done by 9:00 p.m.

Be Safe and Have Fun


News Cast 10/30

News Cast for October 30th:

President Trump on Thursday ordered an acceleration of repairs to Florida’s Herbert Hoover dike, a project that has been dragging on since 2007 and is still more than a decade away from completion. Repairing the dike, which surrounds Lake Okeechobee and provides flood protection to South Florida, is a top priority for Governor Rick Scott. Trump directed his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, to speed up the Army Corps of Engineers project, according to the White House. The Trump administration also commended Florida for allocating additional state funding to the project in order to bring the major infrastructure priority to completion more quickly and cost-effectively.

Along with a couple of traffic accidents, Okeechobee County Fire and Emergency Crews were busy with a couple of vehicle fires on Thursday. Crews were called to the block of 8000 NW 24th Street for a trac hoe fire just before 8am and found the vehicle’s engine compartment was on fire. Crews needed about 20 minutes to get the blaze under control with no injuries. Crews say the owner was moving wood when he noticed the flames, not knowing how it happened. About 12 hours later crews were later called to the 30 thousand block of 441 for an SUV completely on fire on the side of the road. Officials say the driver left the scene when a white van picked him up. The vehicle was driven into a tree and caught fire.

Okeechobee County Commissioners proclaimed October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month at their meeting Thursday. One of the people present to receive this proclamation was Susie Pickering, an 11 year survivor of the disease, believes she is very lucky. Shirley Palmer was also on hand and she herself is a two time survivor and felt great about this proclamation. They both urge women to get mammograms at least once per year.

Halloween is tomorrow ad the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s officials are offering some tips for parents. They include: encouraging kids to use facial make up in lieu of masks; make sure all costume and accessories are flame resistant; plan a route in advance for those long trips and wear comfy shoes. They also recommend that everyone wrap up trick or treating by 9pm. Any further questions, please contact the Sheriff’s Office.

Okeechobee County Fire Department will soon be looking for a new deputy chief. Karl Holtkamp annouced to the county commissioners yesterday that he will be leaving his post next month to a job as training chief in Martin county. Holtkamp, a member of the county fire department for over 25 year years, says he didn’t come by this decision easy. Chief Ralph Franklin says he will look inside and outside the department for Holtkamp’s replacement and he says it won’t be easy to replace him. The new deputy chief will be chosen by the end of the year.

Florida Transportation officials say there will be some lane closures this week. In Okeechobee county, crews will be working on US 441 from SR 78 to SE 30th Terrace constructing a guardrail at Taylor Creek Bridge and they’re also working on SR 70 from NE 31st Ave to Berman Road, completing paving on the mainline and at median crossings.

Okeechobee Utility Authority say they will be temporarily be changing their method of chlorinating their potable water to ensure the future safety of drinking water in the community. Users may notice a bit of chlorine odor or taste in their tap water after October 30th. These conditions will last until November 13th. For information and details about special instructions, go to https://www.ouafl.com/announcements.html.

On the arrest report:

54 year old Frank Laperuta was arrested for 14 counts of animal cruelty. He being held on a 35,000 dollar bond.

30 year old Brian Matthew Arnold was arrested for driving on a suspended license and had an out of county warrant for dealing in stolen property. He is being held without bond at this time.

25 year old Katie Nichole Black was arrested for an out of county warrant for leaving the scene of the accident and no driver’s license. She was released after posting a 500 dollar bond.


News Cast 10/27

News Cast for October 27th:

An Okeechobee man is in critical condition after rear ending a Waste Management truck just before 8am yesterday. Florida Highway Patrol officers say 48 year old John Julian Crawn drove his pick up truck into the rear of 39 year old Joseph Alan Matheny’s Waste Management truck at the intersection of HWY 710 and Route 70E. Crawn had to be extricated from the vehicle and airlifted to Lawnwood Medical Center for treatment. Traffic was slow in that area for some time as crews cleared the roads.

Emergency crews were also busy a 441N near Fort Drum for a collision. Investigators say a white pickup truck collided head on with a semi truck just after 7:15am yesterday. The occupants of the pickup truck, both women, sustained serious injuries and one had to airlifted to Lawnwood Medical Center, the other was taken to Raulerson Hospital. No word yet on the names of the injured. Traffic was shut down on that road for at least 3 hours, both crashes are under investigation.

Students at Everglades Elementary were back in school without delay yesterday following Wednesday’s bomb threat just before 3pm. The school was searched by bomb squads and the school was found clean. Assistant Superintendent Renee Geeting says for the most part, it wasn’t a big problem for students getting back to the business of learning. There are no reported injuries and no arrests have been made at this time.

Geeting Interview Clip

FEMA officials are at the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center again today for the Disaster Recovery Center. This DRC has representatives from differing government agencies to assist those who were impacted by Hurricane Irma. You can speak with someone face to face and get your questions answered whether it be disaster assistance claim, appeals or initial registration. One of the agencies there is the Small Business Administration, offering loans to businesses and homeowners to help people recover. The Disaster Recovery Center will be open until 8pm tonight. Deadline for FEMA application is November 9th.

The second public hearing for amendments on regulations for medical marijuana treatment facilities in Okeechobee County came and went, with only one person, a local oncologist speaking about the benefits of medical marijuana. That said, the county commissioners approved a land use regulation change to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Okeechobee County. The vote was 4 to 1 with Commissioner Kelly Owens dissenting, claiming that the issue is still going through state regulation that haven’t been adopted yet.

Kelly Owens Interview Clip

Commissioners also approved a proclamation for the month to be Breast Cancer Awareness Month and approved for a work order with an outside company for construction services for work at the Oak Park subdivision and a purchase of extrication tools for the fire department, and a grant application for fire extinguisher training for county employees.

Okeechobee County Fire Department will soon be looking for a new deputy chief. Karl Holtkamp annouced to the county commissioners yesterday that he will be leaving his post next month to a job as training chief in Martin county. Holtkamp, a member of the county fire department for over 25 year years, says he didn’t come by this decision easy. Chief Ralph Franklin says he will look inside and outside the department for Holtkamp’s replacement and he says it won’t be easy to replace him. The new deputy chief will be chosen by the end of the year.

Holtkamp Interview

Franklin Interview

South Florida Water Management District managers are preparing the flood control system for expected rainfall this weekend. There is one to three inches of rain expected this weekend over south and easy of Lake Okeechobee. Managers are conducting pre-storm preparations like lowering canal water levels. They’re also coordinating with local drainage districts and municipalities to help them prepare for the rainfall.


News Cast 10/26

News Cast for October 26th:

It was a scary scene at Everglades Elementary School yesterday as a bomb threat was called into the school shortly before 3pm. Students were immediately evacuated and taken to the Agri-Civic Center to be picked up by parents or bussed home while the school was inspected for any explosive devices. Caitlin Clarke, mother of three daughters at Everglades was understandably scared.

Clarke Interview Clip

Stephanie Attiwell, mother of one son couldn’t hide her anger.

Attiwell Interview Clip

Sheriff’s Deputies say someone called in the threat using a mobile phone from Sprint claiming a stick of dynamite was set to explode at 3:45 but the school was searched and was clean. There have been no reported injuries to students and no arrest at this time. The incident remains under investigation.

The Okeechobee County Commissioners will meet today and among the items to be discussed will be a second public hearing regarding amendments on regulations for medical marijuana treatment plants. That public hearing will begin at 7pm at the council chambers at the Okeechobee County Courthouse.

FEMA officials are at the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center again today for the Disaster Recovery Center. This DRC has representatives from differing government agencies to assist those who were impacted by Hurricane Irma. You can speak with someone face to face and get your questions answered whether it be disaster assistance claim, appeals or initial registration. One of the agencies there is the Small Business Administration, offering loans to businesses and homeowners to help people recover. The Disaster Recovery Center will be open until 8pm tonight and tomorrow from 8am to 8pm. Deadline for FEMA application is November 9th.

Emily Hopkins Interview Clip

Osceola County Sheriff’s Deputies have a Kissimmee man in custody on charges of first degree murder. Investigators say 36 year old Yamil Lopez Rodriguez stabbed 50 year old Waldemar Marrero of Kissimmee Sunday night near the entrance to his home. Lopez Rodriguez was arrested and booked into the Osceola County Jail yesterday.

Halloween is just a week away and with that comes costumes, and kids’ trick or treating. Officials from Florida’s Poison Control are asking people to stay safe this season. Dr. Alfred Aleguas of the Poison Control Center is especially warning parents to check their kids’ trick or treat candy they receive and especially watch our for “Marijuana Edibles”. Dr. Aleguas also warns against glow sticks and glow jewelry; never break those open. He also states that you should never use or share any of kind of cosmestics that have a funny smell to them because they cause irritation. If you run into any issues, contact 1-800-222-1222 24/7.

Dr. Aleguas Interview Clip

On the arrest report:

42 year old Levi Russell Brown of Avon Park was arrested for 2nd degree larceny, drug possession and contraband by the Highlands Co Sheriff’s Deputies. His bond has not been set at this time.

40 year old Alicia Anne Jackson of Sebring was arrested on 2 counts of drug possession and drug paraphernalia. No bond has been set at this time.


News Cast 10/25

News Cast for October 25th:

Officials from FEMA have opened a Disaster Recovery Center at the Agri-Civic Center. This DRC will have representatives from different government agencies to assist those who were impacted by Hurricane Irma. There will be a chance to speak with someone face to face to answer questions regarding a FEMA disaster assistance claim, initial registration or filing an appeal; a welcome sight according to the Florida Professional Emergency Manager, Amy Howard. Howard says that  unlike the last time, representatives for the Blue Roof program and Food Stamps program will not be present this week.

Amy Howard Interview Clip

Okeechobee Utility Authority say they will be temporarily be changing their method of chlorinating their potable water to ensure the future safety of drinking water in the community. Users may notice a bit of chlorine odor or taste in their tap water after October 30th. These conditions will last until November 13th. For information and details about special instructions, go to https://www.ouafl.com/announcements.html.

Members of the Okeechobee County Planning Board last night approved a site plan for a new Cattleman’s Market on the 1800 block of NW 160th Street. This approval allows the owner, Greg Isbell to pull the building permit and begin construction of the market, allowing for livestock options to be open on Tuesday and Thursday, something that Engineer Steve Dobbs says people were looking for. It was approved by a vote of 4 to 1 with Joey Hoover dissenting, claiming that the project would be of impact economically and traffic wise on HWY 68.

Justice Department officials say they have charged a Honduran man with attemping to use a weapon of mass destruction in a planned attack at a Miami shopping mall. 53 year old Vicente Adolfo Solano planned to place and detonate an explosive device in a crowded area of the mall. Solano reportedly discussed this plan with a confidential human source and two FBI agents. He also provided three videos to the source where Solano makes pro-ISIS claims and anti-US sentiments. He’s now facing life in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Osceola Country Sheriff’s Detectives are asking for help in locating a missing person. 26 year old Damien Lewis was last seen walking in the vicinity of Michelson Court at the Champions Gate Resort in Davenport, Fl. Lewis is 5’10” and has long brown hair, brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a black shirt, jeans and carrying a black backpack. If you have any information please contact the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office at 407-348-2222.

Press Release 102317-01 Missing Adult Lewis Damien

Halloween is just a week away and with that comes costumes, and kids’ trick or treating. Officials from Florida’s Poison Control are asking people to stay safe this season. Dr. Alfred Aleguas of the Poison Control Center is especially warning parents to check their kids’ trick or treat candy they receive and especially watch our for “Marijuana Edibles”. Dr. Aleguas also warns against glow sticks and glow jewelry; never break those open. He also states that you should never use or share any of kind of cosmestics that have a funny smell to them because they cause irritation. If you run into any issues, contact 1-800-222-1222 24/7.

Dr. Aleguas Interview Clip

Dr. Aleguas Interview Clip 2

The Okeechobee Blood Roundup is coming next month and before that, there will be a coffee klatch beginning next week. There won’t be any lectures, just a question and answer session. The first coffee klatch will be at the Okeechobee Chamber of Commerce on 10/31 Tuesday, with a second on at Silver Palms RV Resort 11/1, and a third on 11/6 at the Okeechobee Public Library. All coffee klatches begin at 10am and you get a free pen and coffee mug.

On the arrest report today:

34 year old Pedro Lopez De Haro was arrested for driving on a suspended license when he was pulled over by Sheriff’s deputies for a window tent violation. His bond is set at 5,000 dollars.

29 year old Jonathan Patrick Bradley of Sebring was arrested in Highlands County for possession of marijuana in excess of 25 pounds and other drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. No bond is set at this time.

59 year old Ronald Arthur Ehrlich of Lake Placid was arrested by Highlands County for driving on a suspended license. No bond is set at this time.


FEMA Letter Says You Are Ineligible for Disaster Assistance? That May Not Be the Last Word

News Release

FEMA Letter Says You Are Ineligible for Disaster Assistance? That May Not Be the Last Word

ORLANDO, Fla. – Applicants for FEMA disaster assistance should not consider the initial determination letter from the agency ruling them ineligible for disaster assistance as the final word. FEMA offers these tips to keep in mind if you receive such a letter:

  • Applicants must read their letters carefully.

It may explain any problems that could be corrected. You may need to provide additional information or documents. If a mistake has been made, you should let FEMA know right away by calling the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585) or visiting a Disaster Recovery Center.

  • Everyone has the right to appeal any FEMA decision.

Appeals may relate to eligibility, the amount or type of help provided, a late application, a request to return money, or continuing help. If you were determined ineligible due to insurance coverage—but had under insured or uninsured losses—you can appeal the decision by submitting your insurance settlement paperwork. The appeal must be sent and postmarked within 60 days after you receive the letter.

  • In your appeal letter, explain why you think the decision about the amount or type of assistance is not correct. You will need to include your full name, the nine digit FEMA registration number and the four digit disaster number.
  • Be sure to sign the letter and include a copy of a state-issued identification card, such as a driver’s license. If you cannot do that, write: “I hereby declare under the penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.”
  • Date the appeal letter and include the FEMA application number and the disaster number (DR-4337) and mail or fax it to:

FEMA National Processing Service Center

  1. O. Box 10055

Hyattsville, MD 20782-7055

            FAX: 800-827-8112; Attention: FEMA


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