News Cast for July 23rd:
The Corps of Engineers increased flows out of Lake Okeechobee to the west this weekend. 15 hundred cubic feet per second is being sent out the Caloosahatchee. Lake levels stood at 13.6 feet about a foot and a half lower than at this time one year ago.
In the courts, 40 year old Jose Luis Carrasco of Okeechobee received three years prison for lewd and lascivious molestation of a victim under 15. He was arrested April 25th.
24 year old Shea Etter received four years’ probation for allegedly stealing 85 hundred dollars from his employer, the Cash 2 Gold Store in Okeechobee.
Charges were dropped in a road rage confrontation in Okeechobee Little Farms that sent a 16 year old child to the hospital after being run over. All charges were dismissed against 19 year old Eduardo Sanchez and 28 year old Robert Koedam.
Indian Hammock residents requested improved fire protection in northern Okeechobee County, perhaps by getting a grant to hire new firemen and building a living quarters out of the Fort Drum volunteer fire station. Budget reviews continue today by commissioners.
State Representative Dr. Cary Pigman says he will do all he can to support the counties efforts to bring a natural gas power plant to the Fort Drum area.
He said a key element is the use of water at the plant that might have otherwise gone into sensitive areas like the Indian River Lagoon. County Consultant John Rhodes says there is a lot of support for the plant and that bodes well for our chances. A key meeting will be held Friday at quail creek plantation about the power plant.
Sports Cast for July 23rd:
April Hogenkamp won the Brahman Award for Okeechobee girls’ tennis this year. She said the award came as a total surprise. Hogenkamp became a key player in the lineup at the end of last season in both singles and doubles play.
She said she liked the sport and wanted to relieve some stress. Hogenkamp said she felt she was a better doubles player this year.
She predicts the girls tennis team is young and should have some good years ahead.
Retailers ready for expanded back-to-school sales tax holiday August 1-3
This year’s tax holiday increases price of tax-exempt clothing items to $100, and first $750 of computers and accessories
TALLAHASSEE – Florida’s Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday is bigger and better this year, and the Florida Retail Federation is working to educate consumers about some important changes in tax-exempt items. This year, the sales tax exemption for clothing items has been increased to $100 or less per item (up from $75 or less per item in 2013). In addition, the sales tax exemption for personal computers and certain computer-related accessories will be on the first $750 of the sales price. Retailers say that will expand the list of tax-exempt items, and they expect an average increase of at least 30 percent in store traffic over the weekend because of the sales tax holiday. (Download the FRF’s one-page flier here.)
FRF President and CEO Rick McAllister said that Florida’s strong job numbers are a good predictor of continuing growth in retail sales. Florida created 36,900 private-sector jobs in June 2014, and the statewide unemployment rate for June 2014 is 6.2 percent, down 1.2 percentage points from the June 2013 rate of 7.4 percent.
“Retailers are reporting a strong trend of sales growth of between 4 and 5 percent statewide, and we expect spending to remain strong through the crucial month of August,” McAllister said. “Florida’s economy is humming along at a nice pace, and we are very pleased to see consumer spending warming up. Consumer spending is at least 70 percent of the economy, so when retailers are doing well it usually means everyone else is doing well.”
In all, Florida residents are expected to save at least $40 million over the three-day holiday, which was passed unanimously by the 2014 Florida Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott. Combined spending for back to school and college is expected to reach about $5 billion in Florida, and tax-exempt sales will account for an estimated $600 million of that spending.
During the tax holiday weekend, there will be no state or local sales taxes due on the first $750 of the sales price of personal computers and related accessories purchased for noncommercial home or personal use. The term “personal computer” includes any electronic book reader, laptop, desktop, handheld, tablet, or tower computer, but does not include cellphones, video game consoles, digital media receivers, or devices that are not primarily designed to process data. The term “related accessories” includes keyboards, mice, personal digital assistants, monitors (except those with TV tuners), modems, routers, and nonrecreational software.
Clothing and shoes up to $100 will be tax exempt, along with school supplies up to $15. That includes pens, pencils, erasers, crayons, notebooks, notebook paper, legal pads, binders, lunch boxes, construction paper, markers, folders, poster board, composition books, poster paper, scissors, cellophane tape, glue or paste, rulers, computer disks, protractors, compasses, and calculators.
According to the National Retail Federation’s 2014 Back-to-School Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, the average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $669.28 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, up 5 percent from $634.78 last year.
ECONOMIC IMPACT OF THE SALES TAX HOLIDAY
A study by The Washington Economics Group (WEG) that examined the impact of the back-to-school sales tax holiday confirmed that increased spending during the three-day period in 2010 generated $115 million more in taxable sales, and $293 million more in overall sales. That generated an additional $7 million in revenue to the state of Florida.
The Florida Retail Federation is the statewide trade association representing retailers — the businesses that sell directly to consumers. Florida retailers provide one out of every five jobs in the state, pay more than $49 billion in wages annually, and collect and remit more than $20 billion in sales taxes for Florida’s government each year. For more information, visit the FRF website, and follow FRF on Facebook and Twitter.
News Cast for July 22nd:
A 33 year old Okeechobee man was charged with trafficking in met amphetamines and other drug charges after a drug raid by the narcotics task force at 1736 North East 39th Boulevard on July 18. 25 grams of molly and 6 and half ounces of marijuana were allegedly found.
27 year old Ashley Moore was charged with the theft of over 22 hundred dollars from Regis Hair Salon allegedly taking cash deposits and pocketing cash from haircuts over a three month period.
30 year old Ashley Ripoll of Buckhead Ridge was charged with two oxycodone related charges after an alleged undercover drug buy in Okeechobee
A structure fire caused 30 thousand dollars in damage to a city duplex at 114 NE 11th Street. City fire chief Herb Smith said the smoke detector wasn’t working and a baby’s cries awoke the family.
In the courts, Frank Marley received 57 months in federal prison for attempt to conspire to commit mail fraud and embezzlement from the Seminole Tribe. He was ordered to repay over 996 thousand dollars. Marley allegedly sent the tribe over 1 million in fraudulent bills for representing them on sports and entertainment matters, including approvals to build a radio station on the Brighton Seminole Indian Reservation.
Charges of sexual battery and battery were dropped against 27 year old Norman Velasquez Carrillos, he was arrested April 7th after a female claimed he tried to have sex with her.
Okeechobee County went to court trying to require the sheriff to continue to operate the jail. They ask a judge to declare the responsibilities of the parties involved, determine if the sheriff is required to operate the jail and order him to submit a budget for the jail. They also ask that a temporary injunction be imposed so the Sheriff operates the jail pending resolution of the court case.
University of Miami law students dug into healthcare policies to help a 35 year old migrant worker in Okeechobee suffering from kidney disease. Ariel Gonzales fell sick while picking oranges in January and was diagnosed with stage 5 kidney disease. Professor JoNel Newman said the undocumented worker wasn’t eligible for Medicaid and if returned to Mexico, would have died. She said his health has improved.
The DCF approved a policy in 2010 that allows undocumented workers to qualify for a y ear of emergency Medicaid for ongoing treatments needed to stay alive. Many hospitals receive a tax exemption for charity care.
Sports Cast for July 22nd:
Isidro Gomez won the Most Valuable Player award for Yearling soccer this year.
He was the team’s goal keeper. He said he appreciated the award but laments the fact the team didn’t have another unbeaten season. Gomez said he enjoys being the goal keeper and did all he could to help the team. Coach Erick Rios said Gomez sacrificed for the good of the team.
Gomez said he believed in giving 110 percent of the time. He thanked his teammates and his family for their support. He plans to play high school soccer this winter.
At the Florida Dixie boy’s tournament, ages 13-14 Okeechobee got off to a good start with a 16-1 victory over East Lakeland in Sebring.
Corps to adjust target flows from Lake Okeechobee to Caloosahatchee
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District will adjust the target flows to the Caloosahatchee River as part of its efforts to slow the rise in water levels at Lake Okeechobee.
Beginning Saturday (July 19), the new target flow to the Caloosahatchee Estuary is a 10-day average of 1,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79) near Fort Myers. However, this change will likely have little impact as local runoff into the Caloosahatchee River has regularly exceeded this target in recent days. Runoff will continued to be allowed to pass through Franklin as necessary.
The target flow for the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80) is unchanged at 0 cfs, although local basin runoff from the St. Lucie Canal (C-44) will continue to be allowed to pass through the St. Lucie Lock as has been the case for much of the past month.
“The increased target flow to the west allows us to release lake water when the opportunity presents itself while attempting to keep discharge rates below the high-flow harm threshold of 2,800 cfs at S-79 (Franklin Lock),” said Lt. Col. Tom Greco, Jacksonville District Deputy Commander for South Florida.
Today, the lake stage is 13.58 feet. It is currently in the Operational Low Sub-Band of the Corps’ water control plan, the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS). In the Low Sub-Band, under current conditions, LORS authorizes the Corps to discharge 3,000 cfs to the Caloosahatchee and 1,170 cfs to the St. Lucie.
“The lake is a foot-and-a-half lower than it was at this point last year, however it has continued to rise for over a month and has risen over a quarter foot just in the last week,” said Greco. “The target adjustment is appropriate given current and forecasted conditions although we will continue to monitor conditions and make adjustments as necessary based on LORS guidance.”
For information on water level and flows data for Lake Okeechobee, visit the water management web page at http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/WaterManagement.aspx.
SLCFD Firefighter Participating in Brotherhood Ride
St. Lucie County, FL — St. Lucie County Firefighter Paramedic Ed Hill heard about the Brotherhood Ride a bit late in the process, flyers had already been sent out and fundraising efforts started, but he thought he wanted to join.
The Brotherhood Ride is an organization of firefighters, law enforcement officers and first responders who ride bicycles to honor emergency responders who died in the line of duty. The 2014 Florida Ride will start on August 1 in North Naples, FL and travel across the east coast and back, ending in Port Charlotte. FL on August 4. The ride raises money for the families left behind.
The ride will honor four law enforcement officers, including SLCSO Sgt. Gary Morales. It will also honor, thanks to Hill’s participation, St. Lucie County Fire District Lt. Mark Morrison. Lt. Morrison passed away, while on duty, on March 4, 2012. Morrison had not been honored in previous rides.
Hill made a call to organizers and quickly got the approval to join the team of bicyclists.
Similar rides have taken place in Florida in 2009 and in 2012. Other rides have been in Charleston, SC, New York City, and Tennessee.
For more information about the Brotherhood Ride, go to their website www.brotherhoodride.com
Gov. Scott: Florida Businesses Creates 36,900 Jobs in June
Greatest month for private sector job growth since December 2010
TALLAHASSEE— Governor Rick Scott today announced that Florida created 36,900 private-sector jobs in June 2014. This is the single highest month of private-sector job creation since Governor Scott took office. The statewide unemployment rate for June 2014 is 6.2 percent, down 0.1 percentage points from the May 2014 rate and 1.2 percentage points from the June 2013 rate of 7.4 percent.
Governor Scott said, “Florida experienced a record setting month for private-sector job creation in June with 36,900 new jobs over the month and a total of 620,700 private-sector jobs added since December 2010. This news is great for Florida families, and Florida continues to have great success in our state’s economic recovery. Let’s keep working so that every person who wants a job can get one here in Florida.”
Since December 2010, Florida’s unemployment rate has dropped 4.9 percentage points, from the high rate of 11.1 percent down now to 6.2 percent in June 2014. Florida’s unemployment rate has declined or held steady over the month for 44 of the last 46 months.
“As the trends continue to tell Florida’s economic turnaround story, today’s announcement adds another important chapter with 36,900 private-sector jobs created and the statewide unemployment rate down to 6.2 percent,” said Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio. “This economic growth is not happening by chance. Policy matters, and this Administration will keep working to promote the pro-growth policies that are making Florida the best state in the nation in which to live, work, and start or grow a business.”
The long-term positive trends in the unemployment rate and job counts are among the most important economic indicators to consider when analyzing the health of Florida’s economic recovery. The state’s private-sector job counts have been steadily on the rise for over three years, showing that Florida’s businesses are responding to the state’s improving economic climate. Since December 2010, the state has added 620,700 private-sector jobs.
More Floridians Getting Back to Work
- Florida’s job growth rate over the year has exceeded that of the nation since April 2012.
- Florida’s private sector job growth month-to-month has been positive for 34 of the last 36 months.
- Florida has created 620,700 new private-sector jobs since December 2010.
- Florida job postings compiled by the Help Wanted OnLine data series from The Conference Board showed 263,855 openings in June 2014.
GDP (Gross Domestic Product)
- Real GDP is defined as the value of all final goods and services produced in a time period in a given economy (using constant, inflation-adjusted dollars).
- Real GDP is a standard measure of an economy’s output. For states, this number is not reported as frequently or as timely as the unemployment rate, job count, and job demand.
- Last month, the federal government released the 2013 GDP figures for the states, and Florida’s position is worth noting.
- Florida’s overall real GDP was $750.5 billion, which was the fourth highest real GDP behind California, Texas, and New York.
- In terms of real GDP growth rate, Florida grew at 2.2 percent, which among the ten largest states was the third highest rate.
- It was also above the national growth rate for 2013, which was 1.8 percent.
- In terms of trends, from 2008 through 2011, real GDP declined, including a drop of over 6 percent in 2009.
- For a second year in a row, GDP growth in Florida exceeded 2 percent, more good news for the state economy.
Home Sales Robust
- Home sales remain robust as the backlog of existing homes on the market is down by 31.3 percent from December 2011 (Florida Realtors).
- Florida median home prices were up 4.3 percent over the year in May 2014.
Economic Growth Trends Up Across State
- A recent U.S. Census Survey reported that Florida experienced an influx of people moving into the state. Florida also led the nation in migrations from Puerto Rico.
- Florida is running a trade surplus of over $18 billion – with $90.4 billion in exports and $71.8 billion in imports in 2012, up from $86.8 billion in exports in 2011 and $62.4 billion in imports in 2011.
Workforce Boards Assisting in Employment
- In June, Florida’s 24 Regional Workforce Boards reported more than 35,000 Floridians were placed in jobs. An individual who receives employment and training assistance through a CareerSource Center and finds a job within 180 days is deemed a placement and may be reported by a regional workforce board. Of these individuals, 7,239 previously received Reemployment Assistance.
- In 2013, more than 479,000 Floridians were placed in jobs, with 135,384 former claimants finding employment.
To view the June 2014 employment data visit www.floridajobs.org/labor-market-information/labor-market-information-press-releases/monthly-press-releases.
FHP TO FOCUS ON AGGRESSIVE DRIVING BY CAR AND TRUCK DRIVERS
~ Big trucks need more room. Practice patience on the highways.~
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –There’s little doubt what can happen when a passenger car collides with a tractor- trailer that is 80 feet long and weighs up to 20 tons. Such a crash can easily turn deadly. Tomorrow, the Florida Highway Patrol Commercial Vehicle Enforcement troopers will start another phase of Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks (TACT), a safety campaign aimed at educating motorist on the danger of aggressive driving when interacting with large trucks on the road.
“FHP is committed to making our highways safer and one way to do that is by reducing the number of commercial vehicle related crashes” said Lt. Col. Kelly Hildreth, deputy director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “Most crashes involving trucks involve driver error by both the car and truck driver. We can reduce crashes if we all share the roadways and avoid aggressive driving behaviors and practice patience around big trucks.”
The TACT campaign runs from July 18-31. Troopers will be looking for car and truck drivers who display aggressive behavior, such as following too closely, unsafe lane changes and speeding
Do you drive defensively around big trucks? Protect yourself and your passengers by learning how to share the road. FHP offers these tips for driving around large trucks:
- Stay out of the No Zone: Watch for the huge blind spots (No Zones) around large trucks.
- Pass trucks with caution: Pass on the left side for maximum visibility and maintain a constant speed.
- Don’t cut trucks off. Large trucks simply can’t stop as quickly as cars.
- Practice patience. Try to be predictable. Avoid making erratic moves if a truck isn’t going as fast as you’d like.
For more information about TACT and FHP’s Commercial Motor Vehicle Enforcement, visit: http://www.flhsmv.gov/fhp/
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles provides highway safety and security through excellence in service, education and enforcement. The Department is leading the way to asafer Florida through the efficient and professional execution of its core mission: the issuance of driver licenses, vehicle tags and titles and operation of the Florida Highway Patrol. To learn more about DHSMV and the services offered, visit www.flhsmv.gov, follow us on Twitter @FDHSMV or find us on Facebook.
News Cast for July 21st:
Okeechobee school board member India Riedel said the extra hour of instruction really helped Everglades elementary this year. She submits South Elementary, which will have a longer school day this year will also greatly benefit. She was supportive of having Everglades and Seminole have additional instruction time but their grades came in higher than expected.
Bear activity is on the increase in Glades County. Biologist Chad Allison with the Florida Wildlife Commission says nuisance calls are also on the rise. Allison said people are careless when they live around bears because they leave food out and some even feed the animals. US 27 are the most likely spot to see a bear in northern Glades County.
In the courts, 46 year old Timothy Frake changed his plea for allegedly robbing an 85 year old city resident on January 3rd. Frake also was accused of running over an off duty deputy on a bicycle who was trying to capture him. Sentencing is August 15th.
Jobless rates rose from 7 to 7.6 percent in Okeechobee in June. Glades County rose from 7.7 to 8 percent. 1355 collected benefits in Okeechobee and 380 in Glades County. Florida’s rate rose 1 tenth of a point to 6.2 percent. The national went up 2 tenths of a point to 6.3 percent. Last June Okeechobee had a jobless rate of 9.2 percent.
Angela Marsaglia won the Country showdown hosted by WOKC Saturday. She beat out five other talented contestants, a few from Okeechobee. Marsaglia plans to compete in the state finals this fall. She performed a cover of Stay and then her own original song, the one minute man, which entertained the crowd.
Sports Cast for July 21st:
Bruce Jahner decided to come back full time as the Okeechobee wrestling coach next year. The school had gone through three coaches in the past two seasons and Jahner says he wanted to bring back some stability. Jahner said the squad had its share of highlights this past year with several regional qualifiers and two state qualifiers.
He said the team battled injuries but were still competitive. The team has continued with conditioning in the off season and many of the wrestlers compete at weekend tournaments with the Okeechobee wrestling club.
News Cast for July 18th:
In the courts, 39 year old Christine Seigfried received three years in prison for child abuse. Five drug charges related to alleged meth amphetamine operations were dropped in the plea deal. During a drug raid last October 3 by the Narcotics Task Force at 1742 South West 24th Avenue, a 30 month old child was found in the home.
Helicopter pilot Larry Davis and mechanic John Henneman are crucial parts of the Florida Forest Service team in Okeechobee. They have a helicopter and plane at the Okeechobee airport that greatly detects and fights wild fires. Henneman says he works overtime to make sure the aircrafts are safe and that is important to the Forest Service.
Crime rates rose 6.1 percent in Okeechobee last year. Drugs and property crimes continue to be the main problem. Crime rates were down by 3 percent in the county but up nearly 36 percent in the city. The FDLE reported three murders last year in Okeechobee. Under Sheriff Noel Stephen says he doubts that a trend that will continue. Okeechobee’s crime rate was in the middle of the state’s 67 counties. Arrests rose by 15 percent.
Glades County saw a near 14 percent decline. Arrests dropped over 20 percent.
City officials approved plans for a new Dunkin Donuts at 205 NE Park Street, the building was previous a US Post Office, offices for South Florida Water management and a bank.
Among arrests, City police say 21 year old Melisa Lightey was charged with grand theft of 639 dollars from her employer, ABC Liquors.
Sports Cast for July 18th:
Samiya Washington won the defensive player of the year award for the Yearling girls’ basketball this year.
She said she felt she played strong defense and had a lot of steals this year.
Mariah Spelts took home the most improved player award. The 7th grader said she was never afraid when she took the basketball court and was happy to earn an award. Spelts says she’s looking forward to being a team leader next year.
Lakeside basketball hosting a basketball tournament in Okeechobee on Saturday and Sunday with games at Yearling and Osceola Middle school and Okeechobee High School.
Commissioner Putnam Announces Winners of Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Awards
Recipients Use Innovative Farming Practices to Protect Environment
Tallahassee, FL – Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam today announced the three winners of the state’s Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award, which recognizes agricultural enterprises that are at the forefront of developing and adopting environmentally innovative farming practices.
“The recipients of these awards have each demonstrated a sustained commitment to conserving our natural resources and improving our environment,” Commissioner Putnam said. “Whether producing milk, growing potatoes or cultivating nursery plants, they have all implemented best management practices that enabled them to reduce runoff and reuse water while producing high-quality agricultural products.”
The recipients are:
- Bryan Jones, owner of Riverdale Potato Farms in Elkton. Riverdale is a successful family enterprise that has produced hearty potato varieties for almost 30 years. Jones has developed innovative irrigation methods and equipment resulting in significant improvement in irrigation efficiency and reduced fertilizer runoff into the St. Johns River, while reducing operating costs and improving crop yields. Riverdale Farms uses a subsurface drip irrigation system that allows 90 percent water use efficiency, which greatly reduces the amount of surface water discharged from the edge of the field during irrigation events and storm events when compared to surface seepage irrigation. Nutrients are retained in the field, improving plant quality and reducing runoff. Through his participation in the Vegetable and Agronomic Crops Best Management Practices (BMPs) under the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bryan and Riverdale Farms combine subsurface drip irrigation with fertilizer banding, reducing fertilizer use by 60-75 tons.
- Randy Strode, owner and operator of Agri-Starts, Inc. in Apopka. This nursery has become one of the world’s leading suppliers of tissue culture starter plants. Agri-Starts currently has 452 plant varieties in production and another 104 in research and development. As the nursery business grows, so does its demand for more water. Agri-Starts developed and installed a system of cisterns, which enable the nursery to capture and re-use rainwater for 100 percent of its production needs. To further conserve water, the nursery also uses mist propagation, hand irrigation and wet pads to cool the nursery and provide continuous moisture. Agri-Starts is also enrolled in the Container Nursery Best Management Practices program, which has helped reduce pollutants, conserve precious water and produce high-quality starter plants to wholesale nurseries around the globe.
- Sutton and Kris Rucks, 3rd generation dairy family and owners of Milking R Dairy in Okeechobee. The nearly 1,200-acre dairy is home to 1,200 milking cows. Milking R also leases 2,000 acres for beef cattle and another 350 acres for row crops. When the Rucks built their existing facility, they consulted with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to design a model farm featuring a high-intensity area stormwater and wastewater system. Milking R uses only fresh water for watering cattle and flushing the milking parlor floor. Waste from the milking and free stall barns is contained in a three-stage lagoon system for recycling. Using the state’s Best Management Practices, the Milking R allows for the capture, storage, reuse and treatment of 100 percent of the wastewater produced on the farm. Besides reducing the cost of operations, the BMPs have also helped the Rucks reduce the amount of phosphorus imported to the basin.
Nominees from different areas of Florida’s agricultural industry were reviewed by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and industry and environmental groups. Environmental practices considered in the nominations include: Wildlife Protection and Habitat Conservation, Pesticide/Nutrient Management, Water Quality, Soil and Water Conservation and Waste Management/Recycling.
The Commissioner’s Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award has been presented annually since 1994. The program spotlights the environmentally innovative farming practices of the state’s growers and ranchers. The winners will be recognized at the Florida Farm Bureau’s Convention at the Commissioner’s Ag Environmental Leadership Breakfast in October. Information about previous winners is available here.
For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit www.FreshFromFlorida.com.