Local News

Our Village Okeechobee Hosts Back to School Event

Our Village Okeechobee Hosts Back to School Event

Leah D. Suarez

Back to School Expo

Our Village Okeechobee will be hosting the Back to School Community Wide Event with our Presenting Sponsors: The H.E. Hill Foundation, Walmart, and Florida Community Health Centers. The morning event will be held at Okeechobee High School on Saturday, July 22nd from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. Check in begins at the OHS Lecture Hall.

At this event, community organizations who provide services to families and children will be available to provide information, education and promote awareness of the available programs offered here in Okeechobee County. There will be activities for children and prizes as well.

While supplies last, families will obtain a backpack and/or school supplies for school aged children as well as have the opportunity to visit our clothing closet area. Children must be present to receive a backpack. Further, we ask for great attitudes at this free event.

We are seeking donations of new backpacks and school supplies as follows: notebook paper, composition notebooks, two pocket pronged folders, loaded pencil pouches (pencils, pens, scissors, crayons, colored pencils or markers, glue sticks, highlighter, gum erasers) as examples.

Additionally, we are seeking donations from the community of new or very slightly used children’s/young adult clothing items for the closet. Families will be able to select clothing in an effort to assist with “tight” family budgets at a stressful back to school time.

School supplies, backpacks and clothing can be dropped off at the Healthy Families/Our Village Offices located at 504 NW 2nd St, directly behind Badcock’s Furniture. Donations will be accepted until July 21st. If you intend to donate clothes, we are only accepting laundered, very gently used or new clothing for kids and teens. All other clothing will be disbursed among local agencies. The clothing should be appropriate for children to be able to wear to school.

Additionally, we would like to thank our other event sponsors: Christ Fellowship, Thrivent Financial, Green Design, CPA Tax Solutions, HPS/Healthy Families Florida, the Okeechobee County School Board, Big Lake Missions, Quit Doc Foundation and The Church of God of Prophecy “God’s Closet”, and numerous donors of clothing.


If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to assist with the event, please feel free to mail your check to: Our Village Okeechobee PO Box 1534 Okeechobee, FL 34973.


Our Village Okeechobee is still in need of donations to help defray the expenses from this event, and volunteers on the day of the event. If you are able to help in some way, please contact Executive Director, Leah Suarez at (863) 697-8718 for more information. Like Our Village Okeechobee on Facebook to stay informed about our activities in the community.

Charles Murphy News 7/11

News Cast for July 11th:

Okeechobee county commissioners

  • Tried to spur interest in adoption of cats and dogs from the animal shelter with lower adoption fees.   Dogs can be adopted for 75 dollars and cats for 50 dollars.  This equals what the county puts out for spay and neutering and shots. The county will offer specials during the year on the price of adoptions.
  • The fire tax will remain at 105 dollars this year for residential.  EMS fees rose from 80 dollars to 81 dollars and 52 cents for residential.
  • The county also accepted a 4 hundred thousand dollar grant for mental health court.
  • The commission will also debate whether to remove contractor Mac Worley from the Planning Board for failing to get permits on at least two construction projects.

Arrests include 54 year old Jesus Rivera Morales, accused of shoving his girlfriend down in a disturbance and then pointing a 40 caliber pistol at her on Sunday afternoon.  Charges include battery, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

29 year old Luis Severino and 20 year old Elizabeth Johns were charged with felony marijuana possession after deputies say they found nearly 4 pounds of marijuana and 53 hundred dollars in suspected drug cash during a traffic stop on North West 7th Street on Friday.

Sports Cast for July 11th:

The Okeechobee Darlings softball team won the Florida Dixie Youth State Title Monday as they swept a double header from Holmes County, 14-2 and 16-4. They advance, along with the Angels All-Stars to the Dixie Youth World Series.  It begins on July 28th in Sumter, South Carolina. Dalton Murray of Okeechobee was named to the Gulf South Conference First Team All-GSC Student athletes for the 2017 baseball campaign.

Murray was also named First Team All-South Regional team by the American baseball Coaches Association. Murray batted .378 which was third highest in the conference, slugged .579 good for eighth best in the conference, and had an on base percentage of .448, good for fifth highest in the conference.  He also drove in 44 runs, good for 10th in the conference.

Dalton says a position change helped him improve at the plate.

He says making the all conference team was a goal he set early in they year. Murray led his team to a 33-22 record and a berth in the NCAA Division II regionals this year.

Commissioner Adam Putnam Names Dr. Martha Rhodes Roberts as 2017 Woman of the Year in Agriculture

Commissioner Adam Putnam Names Dr. Martha Rhodes Roberts as 2017 Woman of the Year in Agriculture

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.–Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam today announced that Dr. Martha Rhodes Roberts has been named the 2017 Woman of the Year in Agriculture. Dr. Roberts dedicated 35 years of service to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, where she championed policy changes for the advancement of Florida’s agriculture industry, trade and production practices. The award, now in its 33rd year, recognizes women who have made outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture.

“I’m honored to name Dr. Roberts the 2017 Woman of the Year in Agriculture,” said Commissioner Adam H. Putnam. “During her tenure with the department, Dr. Roberts advanced Florida agriculture.”

Dr. Roberts was born in Oxford, Mississippi, and later moved to Gainesville, Georgia, where she attended Blue Ridge High School and participated in the 4-H Club. Roberts graduated summa cum laude from North Georgia College, and she continued her studies at the University of Georgia, where she earned her master’s degree in bacteriology, a Ph.D. in microbiology and public health postdoctoral studies.

Dr. Roberts joined the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Food Safety in 1968 as a Microbiologist/Chemist. She was appointed Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture in 1984, and was the first woman in the United States to hold this position. From 1991 to 2003, Dr. Roberts served as the department’s Deputy Commissioner and played a pinnacle role in shaping agricultural policies to improve practices in each stage of production. Beginning in 2003, Dr. Roberts served 13 years as Director of Industry Relations  and then as Special Assistant for Government Affairs for the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).

Throughout her career, Dr. Roberts served in leadership capacities for numerous organizations, including: President of the Association of Food and Drug Officials, Chairman of the Conference for Food Protection, the FDA Food Advisory Committee and the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods, the University of Florida International Trade and Policy Center Board of Directors, the Farm Foundation, Food Foresight and Chair of the Feeding Tomorrow Foundation. She has served on the Board of the Center for Produce Safety since its inception in 2007, and currently serves as a consultant with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture on FSMA implementation with the FDA.

Dr. Roberts has received numerous awards from the FDA, USDA and industry associations. In recognition of her lasting contributions to the agriculture industry, Dr. Roberts was inducted into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2003. She continues to support Florida agriculture as a scientific authority, industry counselor and advocate.

The Woman of the Year in Agriculture award is sponsored by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida State Fair Authority, and the award will be presented to the recipient during the 2018 Florida State Fair in Tampa.

For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com

Charles Murphy News 7/10

News Cast for July 10th:

Superintendent Ken kenworthy earned a 3.8, or high acceptable from the school board this year. In the comment section, board members had both positive and negative observations. One said Kenworthy showed great leadership skills and worked well to incorporate common core. Other said they would like to be more informed of what goes on in schools and needs to improve leadership skills and improve relations with his administrators.

In the courts, 19 year old Ahias Guarchaj of Indiantown was sentenced to 18 months in prison for attempted sexual battery of a co worker at a Minute Maid citrus grove in July of 2 thousand 15.  The report said Guarchaj pinched the woman, grabbed her beasts and made other advances then made threats to her and her family when he was rebuffed.

A local man sued Galley Maid Marine Products for being injured there during a fight last year. Jacob Bryan claimed he was attacked twice on the property after being invited there to see an ATV.   It said the manager there did nothing to treat Bryan or get emergency care or dial 911 for him.

Sports Cast for July 10th:

The Okeechobee Angels softball all-stars captured the state title Sunday. They defeated Hernando 9-5 in the first round, Lake Placid 6-3 on Saturday, and West Pasco 10-6 on Sunday. The advance to the Dixie Youth World Series

The Belles were eliminated Sunday, they defeated Liberty County 21-3 Friday, lost 12-11 to Belleview Saturday, and lost to West Pasco 10-2 on Sunday

The Darlings also play today in the championship round against Holmes County but must beat them twice to win the title.  They defeated Belleview 13-2 on Friday, defeated Blountstown 13-11 on Saturday, and Blountstown again Sunday 16-1

The  Junior Dixie boys lost a heartbreaker Friday 12-11 on a throwing error to Spring Hill and lost to East Lakeland 19-12 Sunday and were eliminated

Reducing Wildfire Risk Along the Treasure Coast

Reducing Wildfire Risk Along the Treasure Coast

The Florida Forest Service will be reducing the impact of wildfire disasters along the Treasure Coast beginning July 10th. Three large parcels of land have been identified, custom fuel reduction plans have been developed, and the implementation phase will begin with a specialized team arriving from Punta Gorda, FL.

“Mulching, chopping and grinding up highly flammable vegetation will reduce future fire intensity and improve firefighter access,” explains Forest Area Supervisor Trevor Taylor with the Florida Forest Service. “Once the volatile fuels are at a manageable level, a prescribed fire plan will be implemented to burn off the woody debris on the forest floor. This process will eliminate the risk of a significant wildfire threatening these neighborhoods for up to five years depending on the growth cycle.”

Project 1 – Working in conjunction with the City of Port Saint Lucie and Savannas Preserve State Park, the Florida Forest Service will mow, chop, and burn 40 acres of overgrown vegetation that borders two neighborhoods near Lyngate Park off Veterans Memorial Parkway.

Project 2 – Ten acres of unmanaged private land that borders ten homes in Vero Beach will be mowed, chopped, and burned to reduce the wildfire risk.

Project 3 – Working in conjunction with the Tanah Keeta Scout Reservation in Hobe Sound, the Florida Forest Service plans to mow, chop, and burn 180 acres inside the camp. This heavily wooded area borders several summer camp cabins and two adjacent neighborhoods.

The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests, provides management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests, while protecting homes, forestland, and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres. Learn more at FloridaForestService.com.

Man charged with sexually assaulting teen girl in grocery store bathroom

Man charged with sexually assaulting teen girl in grocery store bathroom

AVON PARK — A 49-year-old man is in the Highlands County Jail after he was charged with luring a 14-year-old girl into the bathroom at Winn Dixie in Avon Park and attempting to have sex with her on Thursday, July 6

Timothy Lynn Hero, 49, is being held on a $325,000 bond on one count of sexual assault on a victim between ages 12-18, four counts of lewd and lascivious behavior on a victim between ages 12-16 and one count of cruelty toward a child.

Detectives determined that Hero, who worked at Winn Dixie, had developed a cordial relationship with the girl — who was described by detectives as “especially vulnerable” compared to most girls her age — during her family’s previous visits to the store.

On Thursday, security video shows Hero leading the girl into the back of the store and then into the men’s bathroom, where he took her into a stall and sexually assaulted her. The act was interrupted by the girl’s father, who came looking for his daughter and broke down the door of the stall when he realized what was happening.

A statement from Winn-Dixie’s Reigonal Vice President, Eddie Garcia states: 

“We have zero tolerance for this type of behavior and we are taking this incident very seriously. This associate is currently suspended pending the outcome of this investigation as we continue to fully cooperate with the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office. The trust and safety of our customers is our highest priority.”

Note: All arrests do not lead to convictions. Everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty in court.

Charles Murphy News 7/7

News Cast for July 7th:

Okeechobee city administrator Marcos Montes De Oca received a near perfect evaluation from the city council this year. He says he works well with the council, tries to set priorities the community wants, and then completes projects in a timely manner. The council is expected to negotiate a raise with him at their July 18th meeting.

Glades county crime dropped dramatically, by over 30 percent last year. The report listed 381 total crimes, 3 hundred and 74 adult arrests and seven juvenile arrests last year. The most common crime was burglary 33, and larceny 85.  There were also 45 drug arrests and 28 arrests for DUI.

In the courts, 30 year old Johanna Klingler of Okeechobee received 29 years for counts of dui manslaughter and dui causing serious bodily injury.  A crash on October 28th of last year claimed the life of 27 year old Yvonne Diaz of Wesley Chapel and 4 year old Iyanna Williams of Micanopy near Gainesville.  Critically injured but able to recover were 19 year old Bryanna Williams and 10 year old Joseph Beal, Junior. Klingler will also serve 11 years of probation.

Arrests include 25 year old Steven Williams who allegedly wouldn’t get out of a vehicle after the report of a disabled vehicle near 70 east and 80th avenue July 4th.  Williams had to be tased twice in the struggle.  Charges include battery on law enforcement, resisting arrest and being drunk and disorderly.

Sports Cast for July 7th:

Alize Merchant, a freshman, won the MVP trophy for girls tennis this year. She says it was an unexpected surprise. She thanked her dad for his instruction and coaching and her teammates for making the year enjoyable. She says she got her season off to a good start which helped her to relax. She plans to encourage other athletes to try the sport.

OCRA Dixie boys, ages 13 and under get started in the State Tournament tonight at Spring Hill against the host team.  West Seminole and East Lakeland will also compete in the three day tournament this weekend.

Three OCRA softball teams compete in their state tournament in Bristol starting Saturday, the Darlings, 8 and under, the Angels 10 and under, and the Belles, 14 and under.

String of car burglaries working its way south in county

String of car burglaries working its way south in county

Highlands County Sheriff’s Office detectives are working to solve a string of vehicle burglaries that have occurred over the past few weeks.

So far, more than 30 cases have been reported, starting in the northern region of the county and slowly working south. Anywhere between 5 and 10 cars are being hit at a time, and many of the cars have had windows broken out in the process. The latest burglaries were in the Sebring Hills area and on Lakeview Drive on the night of July 4-5.

The best defense against this type of crime is to make sure no valuables are visible in your vehicle. Take your purse, computer, phone and especially firearms inside with you at night. You could also lock them in the trunk, but at the very least make sure they can’t be seen through the window. If they can’t see anything worth stealing, there is a good chance the thieves will pass you by.

It goes without saying that you should make sure your car doors are locked, too.

Detectives are asking residents all over the county to be on the lookout for anything suspicious in their neighborhood late at night. If you see something, call Central Dispatch and let us know so a deputy can be sent to the area to check it out.

If you have already heard about some of your neighbors being victimized and have a security camera that can see the street, check out your footage. Maybe you got a glimpse of somebody walking down the street in the middle of the night. You never know if your camera has an image that could provide a valuable clue.

Charles Murphy News 7/6

News Cast for July 6th:

The city of Okeechobee honored Cleveland Lamb by renaming the public works yard in his honor. Lamb retired after 44 years in June. Lamb says he took most pride out of a job well done.. He also thanked his co workers and the city council for their support over the years.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida and the administration of Gov. Scott on Wednesday ended a legal tussle over the tribe’s estimated $2 billion a year gambling operation in the state,

Under the terms of the settlement, the tribe will get to keep blackjack tables until 2030, while the state will continue to receive payments from the Seminoles. The deal brings with it an immediate payment of $220 million to the state – and as much as an additional $120 million over the next year.

Arrests today include, 31 year old Falone Kalmar of West Palm Beach charged in Indiantown with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, making threats to law enforcement and grand theft auto after a traffic stop on Farm road for too dark window tint.

Two men are sought after an armed robbery complaint in the 34 hundred block of North East Berman Road. The victims car broke down and another stopped to help.  One of the occupants pulled a knife and demanded they turn over his wallet.  Deputies say 6 hundred and 80 dollars in cash was taken. One of the victims hands were cut by the knife during the struggle.

Sports Cast for July 6th:

Kallen Pinerio was named the MVP for the OHS wrestling team this year. He won the most matches on the team and also qualified for the state tournament. He says he felt great about the trophy. Pinerio also is excited about next year.  He said the state tournament was a bit intimidating but he did his best and wants to go back there. He has been busy this summer with camps and tournaments.

June Rainfall Nearly Double District-wide Average

June Rainfall Nearly Double District-wide Average

Water Conservation Areas received more than twice their monthly average rainfall, leading SFWMD, DEP and USACE to take measures to address high water emergency

West Palm Beach, FL – After experiencing drought-like conditions throughout the dry season, the start of the wet season in June ushered in extreme rainfall, which dropped nearly double the amount of rain normally seen in the month across South Florida. The significant rainfall caused high water emergencies in the southern and central parts of the system, particularly the water conservation areas.

“These two extremes illustrate the system’s unpredictability and showcase the alertness required to take necessary actions when drought concerns turn to flooding realities,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Dan O’Keefe. “This is the nature of water management in South Florida and this is why we work 24/7 to protect families, businesses and the environment.”

The District-wide average rainfall for June was nearly 15 inches, or about 181 percent of average. The three water conservation areas, critical links in system, which convey water south from Lake Okeechobee to Everglades National Park, received the heaviest rainfall. Water Conservation Areas 1 and 2 received 18.49 inches, or 246 percent of average. Water Conservation Area 3 received 18.74 inches, or 219 percent of average.

Most of these heavy rains fell in the first two weeks of June.

It was in Water Conservation Area 3A that the heavy rains caused the most concerns. High water levels put wildlife at risk and threatened to damage plant life critical for the Everglades ecosystem. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission closed the conservation areas to recreation and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued an emergency order. In response to that emergency order, the District has taken numerous steps to protect theses areas’ wildlife and reduce water levels. These actions include:

  • Implementing emergency deviations with the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to send more water to tide using the S-197 structure in Miami-Dade County, as well as increasing pumping at the S-332D pump station and allowing the use of the S-343A and B and S-344 structures to move more water out of the conservation areas to Everglades National Park and the Big Cypress National Preserve.
  • Maximizing discharges from Water Conservation Area 1 to tide through the Hillsboro Canal in Palm Beach County.
  • Maximizing discharges from Water Conservation Area 2A to tide through the C-14 Canal in Broward County.
  • Maximizing discharges from Water Conservation Area 2A to tide through the North New River Canal in Broward County.
  • Maximizing discharges from Water Conservation Area 3A to tide through the Miami Canal in Dade County.
  • Maximizing discharges through the S-333 structure at the southern end of Water Conservation Area 3A to Everglades National Park.
  • Releasing water through S-334 structure to the South Dade Conveyance System where it is being sent to tide.
  • Using gravity to send water that would otherwise be pumped into Water Conservation Area 3A to tide. The S-13 Pump Station is also being used to pump water during high tide when it would be impossible to use gravity.
  • Moving water from the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin in Palm Beach County to Lake Okeechobee through the North New River Canal.
  • Moving water from Stormwater Treatment Area 2 to Lake Okeechobee through the North New River Canal.
  • Moving water from Water Conservation Area 1 in Palm Beach County to tide through the C-51 Canal.
  • Moving water from Water Conservation Area 1 in Palm Beach County to Lake Okeechobee through the L-8 Canal.
  • Maximizing flows out of Water Conservation Area 3A through the  S-344, S-343A and 343B structures.
  • Constraints removed from S-199, S-200  and S-737 structures, moving water into Everglades National Park from the C-111 Canal.
  • Performing daily inspections along the stretch of the L-37 Levee, bordering Water Conservation Area 3A in Broward County between Interstate 75 and Griffin Road, to ensure its integrity.

Areas of the Everglades Agricultural Area, the Big Cypress National Preserve and the Southwest Coast that includes the Fort Myers area and the Big Cypress Basin, also received more than 200 percent of average rainfall for June.

« Previous PageNext Page »