Local News

Charles Murphy News 5/9

News Cast for May 9th:

A 14-year-old girl who volunteered at the Head Start Program on North West 9th Avenue is charged with stealing a lap top and cell phone from a classroom there. Sheriff deputies say school officials found her with the cell phone when the victims son called the phone. Charges include petit theft and grand theft.

A 15 acre brush fire burned in the 16 thousand block of North West 2 hundred and 98th Street Saturday afternoon.  Six firemen from the County and State forestry battled the blaze as it threatened a home and out buildings.  A lawn mower spark caused the blaze.

A new report found Okeechobee has the fourth highest rate of drug arrests in Florida.  Bradford County was number one, Miami Dade number 2, Monroe Third, Okeechobee Fourth and Pinellas county fifth.

Okeechobee’s rate was 550 people out of every 1 hundred thousand people.

The report found 1,322 were arrested between 2010 and 2015 in Okeechobee for drug charges, with over 10 percent for possession.

Author of the study Tess Borden said the findings questions the effectiveness of treating substance abuse as a crime as compared to a public health issue.

Cops say the study occurred at the height of the pill mills in Florida.  They report ongoing problems with pain killers, heroin, marijuana and other street drugs.

Sports Cast for May 9th:

Okeechobee baseball is excited for the opportunity for regional play this year. Coach Eric Kindell thought his team played a good game in the district championship but a few mistakes came back to hurt them. He says the guys practiced hard on Monday to see faster pitches.

He thinks the game, win or lose, can be productive.

Softball regionals are also tonight.  Okeechobee faces South Fork in the fourth game between the teams this year at 7 pm.

Moore Haven gets a chance at revenge against the team that eliminated them last year, Admiral Farragut, with a home playoff game tonight at 7 p.m

Mast Introduces Bill to Expedite Federal Planning For Southern Water Storage

Mast Introduces Bill to Expedite Federal Planning For Southern Water Storage

 Everglades FIRST Act Instructs Army Corps To Expedite Required Studies

Stuart, Fla. – Following the recent passage of S.B. 10 by the Florida Legislature, U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today unveiled the Everglades FIRST (Flow Increases Rely on Storage and Treatment) Act.  The bill will expedite the federal timeline for the completion of reports that are required before Everglades restoration projects, including the S.B. 10 southern reservoir, can move forward.

“We cannot afford to wait another eight to ten years to begin construction on a southern reservoir.  Every summer with toxic algal blooms means more businesses are forced to close, more people lose their jobs and more children get sick,” Rep. Mast said. “Now that the Florida legislature has passed S.B. 10, the federal government needs to step up and do its part to get this project done as quickly as possible.”

The Everglades FIRST Act prioritizes projects designed to fix water reservoir storage capacity issues around Lake Okeechobee to minimize future discharges into the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, as well as related harmful algal bloom events that negatively impact our community.  The bill instructs the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite completion of required reports and construction for the following projects in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan: Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoirs, Loxahatchee River Watershed Restoration Project, Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project, and the Western Everglades Restoration Project.

In expediting these projects, Rep. Mast aims to improve surface water reservoir storage capacity in South Florida to meet the goals of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, to achieve the full benefits of the Central Everglades Planning Project, and to produce environmentally-beneficial changes in flow volumes in the Caloosahatchee, St. Lucie, and Loxahatchee Rivers, and Shark River Slough in Everglades National Park.

Environmental groups immediately praised the introduction of the legislation:

“Bullsugar thanks Congressman Mast for introducing his Everglades FIRST bill to expedite holistic planning of CERP storage projects both north and especially south of Lake Okeechobee, so we can end toxic discharges, restore Everglades National Park and recharge drinking water for 8 million Floridians as quickly as possible,” Bullsugar Co-Founder Chris Maroney said.

“The bill reaffirms the federal government’s commitment to restoring America’s Everglades,” Senior Regional Director for the National Parks Conservation Association John Adornato said. “Through Representative Mast’s leadership, Congress will be able to compliment the great step taken by the state of Florida to store, treat, and send water south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay, providing significant relief to the park’s estuary and surrounding communities.”

“Congressman Mast has demonstrated impressive leadership for America’s Everglades and the majestic St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries,” Audubon Florida Deputy Director Julie Hill-Gabriel said. “By expediting the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir project, the Everglades FIRST Act answers the call of countless advocates who refused to stand by as toxic algae lapped at their coasts. On the heels of Florida legislation that also advances this water storage project south of Lake Okeechobee, this bill demonstrates the federal commitment to moving forward together on this crucial restoration project.”

“We greatly appreciate Congressman Mast’s leadership toward fixing Florida’s water quality challenges,” President and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association Mike Nussman said. “Florida is the ‘Fishing Capital of the World’, and the future of our industry is dependent on clean waters and abundant fisheries. The Everglades FIRST Act will help ensure Everglades restoration is completed in an expedited and comprehensive fashion.”

“Congressman Mast’s Everglades FIRST Act will give Everglades restoration a much-needed boost,” Florida Conservation Voters Executive Director Aliki Moncrief said. “Growing up in South Florida, I learned early on about the important role that public lands like the Everglades play in our everyday lives. I’m grateful to Rep. Mast for showing exactly the type of leadership we need to restore these cherished wetlands.”

“By focusing on supporting the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the Central Everglades Planning Project, Congressman Mast’s Everglades FIRST Act can bring attention to the Congressionally-authorized projects and inspire more efficient efforts between the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District,” Temperince Morgan of The Nature Conservancy’s Florida Chapter said.

The bill will be formally introduced during a pro forma session on Thursday, May 11, 2017 with 7 co-sponsors: Francis Rooney (FL-19), Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), Bill Posey (FL-8), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), Gus Bilirakis (FL-12), John Rutherford (FL-4) and Claudia Tenney (NY-22).

Text of the legislation is available here.

FWC transplants aquatic plants to help restore Lake Istokpoga

FWC transplants aquatic plants to help restore Lake Istokpoga

Thousands of aquatic plants are being transplanted into Lake Istokpoga in an effort to help restore this popular shallow-water bass fishing lake in Highlands County.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) this week begins a major aquatic habitat restoration effort on Lake Istokpoga. It involves planting 30,000 jointed spikerush plants, 10,000 maidencane plants and 10,000 Kissimmee grass plants along the lake’s western and northern shorelines.

These native aquatic plants will serve as a valuable food source and habitat for many fish and wildlife species, including the Everglade snail kite. They also will enhance the chances that anglers will be able to catch largemouth bass, crappie and panfish on Lake Istokpoga.

This aquatic habitat restoration project is designed to enhance the biodiversity of the native plant community in the lake’s shallow-water marshes as part of ongoing restoration and habitat enhancement activities for Lake Istokpoga.

For more information about this project, contact Carly Althoff with the FWC’s Aquatic Habitat Conservation and Restoration Section at 863-697-6323

Commissioner Adam Putnam Provides Wildfire Update for Florida

Commissioner Adam Putnam Provides Wildfire Update for Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.– Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam and the Florida Forest Service announced today that more than 2,000 wildfires have burned over 150,000 acres in Florida this year, with nearly 125 active wildfires burning as of today, May 8, 2017. Current conditions by county, burn bans, and helpful tips regarding wildfires in Florida can be found here.

“Florida is in the middle of its worst wildfire season in years – with no end in sight,” Commissioner Putnam said. “With such an active wildfire season and much of Florida experiencing significant drought conditions, residents and visitors should take every precaution to help prevent wildfire.”

Conditions are forecast to get even drier and warmer into late spring and early summer. May is traditionally one of the driest months of the year in Florida, and that is the expectation for 2017. Commissioner Putnam asked Governor Scott to issue an executive order on April 11, 2017 in order to provide full resources to combat wildfires. The last time a similar executive order was issued was in June 2011.

Forecast wildfire danger for May 8, 2017:

Active wildfires in Florida:

County Burn Bans as of May 5, 2017.

Wildfires in Florida usually start and spread quickly, leaving little time to prepare for a possible evacuation. Homeowners can complete a few simple tasks that will help to defend their home against wildfire. One of the best ways to reduce a home’s wildfire risk is to create 30 feet of defensible space around the home. When creating defensible space, begin with the area immediately surrounding the home, about 3 feet out on all sides. Make sure this space is free of tall, fire-prone plants and materials. Keep this area clean and free of dead plant material and flammable mulches. Instead, opt for low growing, fire resistant plants and materials and use mulches, such as rocks or chunky bark. Deliberately space all plants so that none are placed directly under windows or vents around the house.

To increase home survivability, Floridians can do the following:

  • Keep mulch and pine needles away from your home, fence, and deck;
  • Keep roof and gutter free of pine needles;
  • Keep flammables away from your home;
  • Store fire wood at least 30 feet from your home;
  • Remove dead vegetation and debris from under the deck and within 10 feet of your home; and
  • Make wildfire preparedness a family project.

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

Charles Murphy News 5/8

News Cast for May 8th:

A truck driver was killed on the Martin Grade Saturday morning. Troopers say 63 year old William Keyes was travelling east bound when the tractor trailer left the road and overturned into a ditch west of route 609.

Congressman Tom Rooney has championed federal funds to combat our opioid drug epidemic. The state is expected to receive 27 million dollars to fight the problem. Rooney says the United States is the only country in the world where they expected life span is shortening.

In the courts, Seminole Indian, Shane Cypress received 38 months in prison and five years probation for child abuse.  Two charges of sexual battery and one count of lewd and lascivious conduct were dropped in the plea deal.  He has already served 38 months in jail awaiting trial in Hendry County

A Moore Haven man convicted in a fatal crash in Broward County, received two years house arrest and restitution of 77 hundred dollars after jurors found him guilty of the lesser crime of reckless driving causing serious bodily injury.   43 year old Josue Natal had originally been charged with vehicular homicide in the death of Vivian Silberwasser back in March of 2 thousand 13.

The proposed state budget did not include 65 million for the new Okeechobee High School.

It is the second year the state has not funded any work.

Superintendent Ken Kenworthy says recent tours of the campus by a state committee can only show how badly the school is needed. Kenworthy says a new school would greatly improve academic performance and give more opportunities for students.

Sports Cast for May 8th:

Okeechobee pushed Jensen Beach to the end but lost in a District championship game that took three days to complete, 2-1 on Saturday afternoon. Sean Osceola drove in Cody Louthan with the Brahman run. Jacob Winger drove home the winning run in the bottom of the sixth.

Okeechobee will travel to take on William T. Dwyer in the regional quarterfinals on Tuesday night.

Lillian Henry won the cross country MVP award as a freshman.

She made it to regional and was usually the top finisher for the Lady Brahmans in each race. Henry says she appreciated this award. Henry has been running races since she was six years old. She says she has a lot of work to do if she wants to make state next year.

There are no sports scheduled today.

Charles Murphy News 5/5

News Cast for May 5th:

A 10 year old child faces a felony charges for stealing his fathers truck and driving at high speed from Okeechobee to Indiantown Wednesday. He had a 12 year old girl in the truck with him.  The truck went into a ditch on 710 near Indiantown.

City police charged 35 year old home care worker, Melissa Johnson with grand theft for allegedly taking over 19 thousand dollars from a dying patient she cared for. A home being renovated was destroyed in a fire in Buckhead Ridge around 10 pm Wednesday.  The state fire marshall will determine the cause of the blaze at 1302 Chobee Street. No one was hurt as firemen from Okeechobee, Buckhead, The Seminole Tribe, and Lakeport battled the blaze.  It took close to 30 minutes to bring the fire under control.

Troopers investigating a fatal pedestrian crash on Dark Hammock Road near North East 1 hundredth Avenue reported at 3:15 AM Thursday.  23 year old Dennis Cummings was killed by a Mack Truck driven by 29 year old Jorge Martinez of Belle Glade.  Troopers say Cummings may have been hit by a vehicle earlier and was lying in the road when he was struck by the truck.

In the courts, a county jail inmate was convicted of misdemeanor criminal mischief for setting fire to his jail cell on January 30th.  The fire knocked out power to that area of the jail for 12 hours.  34 year old Billy Garmany was sentenced to 21 days in jail and 20 dollars restitution.  He and his cell mate, 26 year old Johnny Williams were earlier charged with first degree arson.  Charges against Williams were later dropped.

31 year old Richard Lee of Moore Haven was charged with stealing tools from his employer in LaBelle.  He faces charges of fraud, petit theft and dealing in stolen property.

National Day of prayer observance was held at the Court House lawn Thursday with prayers for local schools, local, state and federal governments and other needs.

Sports Cast for May 5th:

Crystal Hernandez Estrada was named the Brahman Award winner for girls soccer this year. The Ladies broke the school record for wins with 11 this past season. She says the award opened her eyes wide. Crystal never liked to leave the match and was very supportive of her teammates.

The District title baseball game won’t be completed might not need extra innings but it will need extra days after a thunderstorm and lightning halted last nights game between Jensen Beach and Okeechobee in the third inning with the Falcons leading 1-0.

The game will resume Saturday at 12 noon at Mets Stadium in Port St. Lucie.

Moore Haven softball defeated Northside Christian 5-3 to advance to the Class 3A Regional final next Tuesday at home against Admiral Farragut.

Glades Day softball defeated Miami Christian 15-0 to advance to the Class 2A regional final.

Rooney statement on passing of AHCA

Rooney statement on passing of AHCA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Tom Rooney (FL-17) released the following statement in support of the American Health Care Act, legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“I gave my word to my constituents who lost their coverage under Obamacare and were forced to work several part time jobs to pay for plans on the exchanges they couldn’t afford. I gave my word to my constituents who for the first time were able to obtain coverage, regardless of their health status. Under the status quo Obamacare will continue to fail, premiums will increase by 17% in Florida this year and my constituents living in these six counties – Desoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, Lee, and Okeechobee – will still be stuck with only one health insurance provider to choose from. The American Health Care Act is not perfect, but passing this bill out of the House is the critical first step in the process of reforming our broken health care system and making healthcare for all Americans better. The AHCA will now go to the Senate, where my colleagues will have the opportunity to make changes to and improve the bill.”

“As President Trump has said time and time again, this bill maintains the current protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions. I promised my constituents at my town hall in Englewood that I would only support a bill that keeps these important protections for people with pre-existing conditions. This bill provides states with funding to help cover the costs of enrollees with expensive medical conditions in the individual market. And let me be clear, because this is important, insurers in states that set up their own systems are still expressly prohibited from denying coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions. This bill may allow the system to operate differently than the top-down, federal government approach of Obamacare, but I believe it will create a market that offers people of all ages and incomes the opportunity to choose from a diverse array of specialized, affordable health care options that work best for their family.”

Rooney Rule to Restore Everglades Gains Grassroots Support

Rooney Rule to Restore Everglades Gains Grassroots Support

Today, Congressman Tom Rooney (FL-17) introduced the Responsible Environmental Preservation and American Infrastructure Restoration Act (The REPAIR Act, H. Res. 313), which would make a limited change to the House rules to allow Congress to direct necessary funding to vetted water resources development projects of the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. The REPAIR Act updates the definition of a “congressional earmark” to appropriately classify these critical public safety and environmental projects that provide for the management of the storage, release and flow of water from our nation’s rivers, lakes and dams. Since Congress enacted the so-called earmark moratorium in 2010, it has disproportionately impacted Corps and Reclamation projects simply because they happen to exist in specific states and districts and do not receive their funding through a formula or competitive grants.

“The problem with these projects being classified as “earmarks” is that they’re routinely underfunded and the earmark ban prohibits us from making up the difference when these projects are indiscriminately cut by the executive branch,” Rooney said. “This is especially harmful when additional money is needed to respond to unforeseen weather events like last year’s 100-year rain in Florida or when Congressional authorizations occur after the spring budget cycle.”

In Rooney’s district, the Corps’ is 100 percent responsible for funding and maintaining the integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee and shoulders 50 percent of the costs of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). The Corps classifies the Dike at its highest risk level, meaning there’s significant potential for a breach that would result in significant loss of life, overwhelming economic damages to the south Florida agricultural industry and catastrophic environmental impacts to the southern Everglades.

“I want to be clear – my idea is not a complete repeal of the earmark ban and I am not advocating for a return to the corrupt practice of earmarking funds for special interests. Frankly, if anyone is padding their pockets and buying votes in Congress, its political action committees that maintain their relevancy by perpetuating this idea that earmarks are the root of all evil and dysfunction in Washington. The greatest impediment to speeding up critical Corps projects in all of our districts is succumbing to the political expediency of blaming our dysfunction on a fictitious boogeyman.”

The Consolidated Appropriations bill of 2017 that passed the House yesterday provides the former Administration’s request of $49 million for the Dike and $106 million for South Florida ecosystem restoration activities – which is less than half of what’s required to complete these critical projects on schedule. Because the Dike and Everglades restoration projects are considered earmarks, only the executive branch controls how much money they can receive each year, not Congress. At the current combined state and federal rate of $183 million per year, it will be another 100 years before CERP is completed. In order to achieve the CERP’s ecosystem restoration goals within an acceptable timeline of 55 years, CERP requires a steady commitment of at least $325 million annually and the Dike needs at least $200 million per year to prevent a catastrophic breach.

Rooney’s proposal has garnered grassroots support that continues to grow –

“Our 2,000 public water system members appreciate your continued efforts on their behalf to support and promote their mission related to public health and environmental protection in Florida.” – Gary Williams, Executive Director, Florida Rural Water Association

“The more than 350 member companies of FTBA and the thousands of employees support your efforts to establish limited exceptions to the earmark moratorium for these economically-vital water resources development projects.” – Robert G. Burleson, President Florida Transportation Builders’ Association, Inc.

“The repeal of this earmark moratorium is integral to the nation’s economic development and sustainability” – Doug Wheeler, President and CEO Florida Ports Council

“In Sarasota County we experience the real consequences of the federal government’s delays and funding shortfalls and it’s essential that our Representatives have an opportunity to successfully intervene on our behalf” – Paul Caragiulo, Chairman of Sarasota County Florida

“The earmark moratorium presents a challenge for our economy, particularly when we have no recourse to advocate for necessary federal funds for projects.” – Mike Adams and David “Lefty Durando”, Co-Chairs of Northern Everglades Alliance

“On behalf of the Asphalt Contractors Association of Florida, we endorse the legislation and believe it should be expanded to include all transportation projects. Frankly, the members of our association never understood why Congress wanted to transfer that Constitutional authority to unelected bureaucrats in Washington.” – Jim Cordero, Director of Government Affairs, Asphalt Contractors Association of Florida

A full list of letters support can be found here

Charles Murphy News 5/4

News Cast for May 4th:

The Medical examiner ruled the death of 40 year old prison inmate, Jerry Wiggins was a suicide. Wiggins jumped off his cell block at the Martin Correctional prison in Indiantown on December 22nd. He was serving three life terms for the rape and murder of a nanny, Monica Rivera Valdizan in 2 thousand 4.

City cops and a state trapper were able to remove an 8 foot long alligator that wandered into a commercial plaza at 441 north and North West 13th Street Wednesday morning without incident.

Martin County deputies charged 57 year old Lonise Thomas with misdemeanor animal cruelty for the discovery this week of 11 sick and malnourished horses in an Indiantown pasture.

Thomas cooperated with authorities and perhaps avoided a felony charge.  He donated throroughbreds, quarter horses and appaloosas to the equine rescue and adoption foundation in Palm City.

City cops make an arrest of 38 year old Richard Bonnell for allegedly theft of a trailer and equipment from The Buxton Bass Funeral Home February 6th.  26 year old Brandon Humphrey was arrested at the same time when he allegedly gave police a false name.  Police also arrested 35 year old Melissa Johnson on grand theft charges.

A Hendry County jury convicted Tim Alexander of two counts of sexual battery.  He and another suspect, 21 year old Joshua Bryan of Palmdale held a part on a limousine and allegedly raped a 16 year old girl.  Methamphetamine, cocaine and alcohol were reportedly involved in the party back in 2 thousand 13.  Bryan is awaiting trial.

State wildlife officers won’t issue citations after a tug boat sunk in the Moore Haven wake zone in late March.  The tugboat did leak diesel fuel into the waterway.

Sports Cast for May 4th:

Mason Adams pitched Okeechobee into regional play with a complete game and the Brahmans used small ball to defeat Martin County 3-2 in the high school district playoffs Wednesday. Cody Louthan scored the winning run when a bunt was thrown away by the Tigers in the seventh. Adams says it was a total team effort.

Sean Osceola, Alex Lopez and Adams each had two hits in the game. Adams allowed four hits and struck out seven.

Coach Eric Kindell was pleased with his defense, offense and his pitching.

Okeechobee plays Jensen for the District Title Thursday night at 7pm weather permitting.

Okeechobee softball advanced in the regional playoffs with a 5-2 victory over Dwyer last night.   Jill Crosby pitched a complete game and hit a grand slam. She says the team didn’t lose confidence after falling behind 2-0 in the third. Okeechobee will host South Fork next Tuesday in the semifinals.

Moore Haven softball hosts Northside Christian in a 3A regional semifinal game tonight at 7 pm

Scouting for Lightning Caused Wildfires

Scouting for Lightning Caused Wildfires

In the past 24-hours, an abundance of lightning was associated with precipitation. In areas without significant rainfall reaching the ground floor, the Florida Forest Service Okeechobee District anticipates new lightning caused wildfires in the next couple of days often in remote areas.

Scouting lightning ignitions is the responsibility of the Florida Forest Service’s fixed-wing firefighter pilot. “Using a lightning map, I will make a flight plan to concentrate on positive lightning strikes, says Sanne Esque, Airplane Pilot, Florida Forest Service. “It’s commonly believed that the positive strikes, which are 5-10 times stronger than the negative strikes, are responsible for most wildfires.”

Sanne continues, “As I fly, I have up to 25 miles of visibility in our Forestry aircraft. It’s a very efficient way to spot the beginnings of a smoldering wildfire.” Sanne covers six counties along her route and radios to Florida Forest Service’s dispatch the location of the wildfires. Dispatch relays the information to State Wildland Firefighters in firefighting bulldozers and local fire departments to extinguish the fire.

A lightning strike has a potential to reach temperatures of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightning can instantaneously cause a wildfire on dry vegetation or lightning ignitions can smolder for days before they start to show visible signs. Lightning is a natural source of wildfire ignitions and historically causes a substantial portion of large wildfires.

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.

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