Local News

Local News 8/25

Local News for August 25th:

The Okeechobee Board of County Commissioners met in session on Thursday. Among the items addressed on the agenda were the commissioners recognizing several proclamations including recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day being September 10th. The Board also issued a proclamation stating September as Hunger Action Month. Representatives from the Treasure Coast Food Bank were present to address the board on the state of hunger among the population in Okeechobee. The Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee presented the Board with a check of $1770 to buy two new park benches for Kiwanis Park.

The picture is with Sheriff Noel Stephen, Amanda Busbin and Kiwanis member Teresa Bishop

John Gurney, the Economic Development Director for the Chamber of Commerce of Okeechobee County gave a quarterly economic development update. The report was mainly positive, showing Okeechobee County was among the lowest in unemployment within the area and showed among the highest average salaries over surrounding counties.

With over population of jails becoming an issue nation-wide, county officials are looking for ways to reduce the prison population while maintaining the safety of their citizens. Okeechobee is no different. Speaking to the Kiwanis Club, Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel Stephens spoke of a new program called Mental Health Court that much like Drug Court, is aimed at giving assistance to those with mental health issues in an effort to keep them out of jail. (CLIP) Amanda Busbin has been tabbed the Mental Health Court Manager and Sheriff Stephen predicts the program to become active with the next few months.

Interview with Sheriff Noel Stephens


SFWMD Settles Lawsuit, Moves Forward with Infrastructure to Benefit St. Lucie Estuary

SFWMD Settles Lawsuit, Moves Forward with Infrastructure to Benefit St. Lucie Estuary

Settlement gets Lake Point Restoration public-private partnership back on track to store water from Lake Okeechobee

Port Mayaca, FL – The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) today approved a legal settlement with the owners of the Lake Point Restoration project in western Martin County.

“This settlement gets a solid environmental project back on track,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Dan O’Keefe.

The District will receive full ownership of the mined property and will be able to build a storage project that could hold approximately 3,000 to 4,000 acre-feet of Lake Okeechobee water that would otherwise be bound for the St. Lucie Estuary. Additionally, the settlement allows the District to buy needed rock for infrastructure maintenance purposes at a fair market price.

The Lake Point Restoration project is a public-private partnership approved by both the SFWMD in 2008 and Martin County in 2009 on land initially slated for residential development adjacent to Lake Okeechobee.

Click here to view the settlement between SFWMD and Lake Point Restoration.

Local News 8/22

Local News for August 22nd:

The First United Methodist Church of Okeechobee has a new Pastor after Pastor Bruce Simpson retired after thirteen years in Okeechobee.

Pastor Don Hanna comes to Okeechobee after eighteen years of service in Marion County and most recently in Palatka.

Pastor Hanna has held service in Okeechobee for about six weeks and greatly appreciates the support he and his wife Joy has received from the community. Joy is a P.E teacher now at Everglades Elementary.

Interview with Pastor Don Hannah

On the Arrest reports from over the weekend..


Brandon Lee Simmons was arrested for violating Florida State Statute 843.23 by removing, destroying, altering, damaging or circumventing the operation of an electronic monitoring device.

Luis Daniel Severino was arrested and charged with five counts including possession of marijuana over 20 grams and possession with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver. His bon


d has been set at $35,000

Curtis Randolph Sutton was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia after being stopped for operating a motor vehicle without a valid tag


Timmy Lee was arrested for possession of Methamphetamine after we was pulled over for failure to obey a stop sign

Erica Marie Delacruz was arrested on charges of attempted murder depraved without premeditation. Her bond was set at $250,000

SFWMD Prepared for Heavy Rainfall from Tropical Disturbance

SFWMD Prepared for Heavy Rainfall from Tropical Disturbance

District lowering canal levels and taking action to protect residents and wildlife from flooding

West Palm Beach, FL- The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is continuing operational measures that began over the weekend to provide maximum flood protection for South Florida’s 8.1 million residents as rains from tropical disturbance 92L are expected to fall throughout the region over the coming days.

“Our system has been prepped ahead of time and is ready to accept the incoming rainfall stemming from this latest tropical disturbance,” said SFWMD Chief Engineer John Mitnik. “We urge all residents to make sure their own properties are free of obstructions that would block water from exiting through local drains and swales.”

Approximately 1-3 inches of rain is forecast to fall on areas of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday as much as 4 inches of rain has been forecast in some areas of the Lower East Coast.

SFWMD opened tidal structures and lowered canals in Broward and Miami-Dade counties over the weekend and is doing the same in Palm Beach County today.

Discharges to tide and to the South Dade Conveyance System are at maximum allowable levels given downstream conditions from the Water Conservation Areas, where heavy June and July rainfalls have created a high water emergency.

View SFWMD’s Storm Update website and learn how to contact your local flood control district.

Learn about SFWMD’s Flood Control System.

For helpful preparation resources, visit FLGetAPlan.com.

Watch B-roll footage of SFWMD’s Operations Control Room.

SFWMD Python Program – 500 Snakes Eliminated

SFWMD Python Program – 500 Snakes Eliminated

Milestone is latest accomplishment of SFWMD Governing Board program that eliminates Burmese pythons and eggs to protect native Everglades wildlife  

West Palm Beach, FL – The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board’s innovative Python Elimination Program hit a major milestone today, with hunters killing their 500th Burmese python in less than five months.

“The speed with which hunters are finding and eliminating these destructive snakes showcases not only their dedication to the effort, but also the enormity of this invasive predator problem in the Everglades,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Dan O’Keefe. “Every one of these 500 snakes killed helps ensure the lives of hundreds of native species essential to the Everglades ecosystem.”

Python Hunter Jason Leon, of Miami, killed the 500th snake, a 7-foot foot python caught around 5 a.m. today. Earlier this month Leon also caught one of the largest snakes, measuring in at 14 feet and 9 inches. Hunter Dustin “Wildman” Crum holds the record for the largest snake killed with a 16-foot-10-inch python. Hunter Michael Valcarce has the most pythons killed, with 52 snakes.

In total, the snakes eliminated through this program would stretch more than 3,300 feet in length and weigh in at more than three tons. Elected officials and celebrities ranging from U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., to celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey have taken part in the hunts as well, bringing international awareness to the issue of invasive pythons and the District’s efforts to eradicate them.

About the Program

The program began on March 25, 2017 when professional python hunters were selected and given access to District-owned lands in Miami-Dade County for the pilot phase and later in Broward and Collier counties as the program expanded. These independent contractors are paid $8.10 per hour, up to eight hours daily, to hunt in the Everglades. Depending on the size of the snake presented, they can also receive additional payments of $50 for pythons measuring up to 4 feet and an extra $25 for each foot measured above 4 feet. An additional $200 is given for each eliminated python nest with eggs.

The invasive Burmese python, which breeds and multiplies quickly and has no challenger or predator in the Everglades ecosystem, has decimated native populations of wildlife. The more of these snakes that can be eliminated, especially the females and their eggs, the better chance future generations of native wildlife can have to thrive in the Everglades ecosystem which Floridians have invested billions of dollars to restore.

Rooney, Perdue View Ranchers’ Land and Water Conservation Efforts

Rooney, Perdue View Ranchers’ Land and Water Conservation Efforts

Thursday morning, Congressman Tom Rooney (FL-17) and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue observed critical water quality and land conservation projects during a helicopter tour over  South Florida and discussed the importance of reauthorizing these programs in the upcoming Farm Bill. These water and conservation projects help Florida’s farmers and ranchers coordinate with state and federal agencies to share in the stewardship of preserving and protecting the state’s natural beauty. The two were joined by Jim Strickland, owner of the Strickland Ranch, Vice Chairman of the Florida Conservation Group and a former president of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association; Julie Morris, the Conservation Program Manager at the National Wildlife Refuge Association; and Russell Morgan, the Florida Conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Florida has one of the largest beef cattle operations in the country and we are fortunate that our cattlemen also play an integral role in the preservation of Florida’s natural and agricultural lands,” Rooney said. “Today, we saw how our ranchers are working with the state and federal government to contribute to overall ecosystem restoration and water quality efforts in South Florida. I am glad Secretary Perdue was able to learn firsthand how small investments by the USDA in these conservation easements help our state obtain rights to the lands needed for storage projects and conservation efforts. It was important for him to see the unique, functioning dynamic among farmers, ranchers and environmental groups in Florida who can work together toward a common goal.”

The tour, led by Jim Strickland, highlighted active water conservation projects and potential sites for future conservation easement projects. Most of these projects occupy land that was purchased through federal agricultural land easement programs administered by the USDA and other agencies. Ranchers and landowners who participate in these programs sell their land development rights to the government at a discount, which allows them to recoup some of the losses associated with keeping their land undeveloped in favor of helping with water conservation efforts. One such program, the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership, is a voluntary program authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill that allows eligible partners to carry out high-priority wetland protection, restoration, and enhancement to improve wildlife habitat.

“Water conservation and land easement purchase programs aren’t just important to us ranchers,” Jim Strickland said. “These programs also make sure that the communities downstream from these lands, like Englewood and Charlotte County, continue to have the quality drinking water that they need. Expanding these programs and educating landowners and the public about their value has been a statewide effort. The Florida Conservation Group and our partners, like Julie Morris with the National Wildlife Refuge Association continue to champion water conservation at all levels of government and it is really encouraging to see Secretary Perdue take the time to come to Florida and see the positive results of these programs in person. I’m confident that the Secretary’s support will lead to even more cooperation between conservation easement participants and the federal and state governments.”

“The upcoming Farm Bill is going to be very important for these programs and having Secretary Perdue as an ally in this administration will go a long way towards furthering Florida’s water and land conservation efforts,” Rooney concluded.

Local News 8/17

News Cast for August 17th:

Okeechobee County is being sued by neighbors from Otter Creek over the recently approved Cattlemen’s Livestock Market. A ranch and neighbors along with the Okeechobee Livestock Market have appealed the ruling to approve a special exception for the project on a 100 hundred acre spread off NW 160th Street. They also sued Okeechobee for damages. The plaintiffs claim the property will have adverse impact on the residential neighborhood with more noise, truck traffic and should be areas that are zoned heavy industrial. The alleged project will hurt adjacent property values.

A routine traffic stop resulted in a narcotic related arrest Tuesday afternoon. Brady Rhodes of Okeechobee was pulled over after failing to stop at a posted stop sign. Rhodes and a passenger seemed nervous and a strong cologne odor was coming from inside the vehicle. The officer requested K9 as he wrote out the citation. A search of the vehicle not only found marijuana but also paraphernalia. Rhodes was issued a citation for a failure to stop and arrested for possession of cannabis resin. Bond was set at $5,000.

East Meets West on SFWMD’s SOUNDSCIENCE Podcast

East Meets West on SFWMD’s SOUNDSCIENCE Podcast

Newest Governing Board members talk about priorities

West Palm Beach, FL – The newest stewards of South Florida’s water resources recently stopped by the South Florida Water Management District SOUNDSCIENCE podcast booth for a quick introduction.

As volunteer SFWMD Governing Board members, Jaime Weisinger represents southwest coast counties while Brandon Tucker represents east coast counties.

Listen Below:

  • Jaime Weisinger (At-large for an area that includes Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry, Highlands, Glades, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola and Polk counties)
  • Brandon Tucker (At-large member for an area that includes St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties)

Charles Murphy News 8/15

News Cast for August 15th:

Jorge Guerrero was sentence to 40 years behind bars for child pornography production and possession.  He possessed lewd photos of 9 year old Diana Alvarez, who went missing in May of 2016 in a Fort Myers suburb. Searches have taken place in Yeehaw Junction, Okeechobee, Indiantown and Moore Haven since the child went missing. Rewards are also offered by Southwest Crime stoppers.

A jury in federal court, Ft. Myers convicted three men of conspiring to distribute more than 5 hundred grams of methamphetamine using federal express. One shipment was intercepted in Okeechobee at a local motel. Convicted were 37 year old Brown Laster of Tampa, 44 year old Jerry Browdy of Riverview and 30 year old Wesley Petiphar of Davenport. They face 25 years to life in prison when they are sentenced October 30th.

A 29 year old local man apparently thought a friend of his had been raped and is himself behind bars trying to stick up for her. Okeechobee deputies say Donald Johnson of North East 23rd Way, was facing charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, armed burglary, criminal mischief and grand theft firearm.  Deputies say the possible rape at a local motel remains under investigation.

Johnson is accused of stealing a revolver out of a parked car at a local bar and pointing it at another man he thought was involved.  Johnson was disarmed during the struggle and no shots were fired. Bond in the case was set at 53 thousand dollars.

63 year old James Pollock was charged with burglary and petit theft after he allegedly stole a jack and tools off a front porch on South East 4th Street on Saturday afternoon.  A resident spotted Pollock looking through the window at him and Pollock fled from the scene only to be caught by city police in the 3 hundred block of South East 6th Avenue.

Sports Cast for August 15th:

Okeechobee boy’s soccer is coming off a disappointing year. Coach Lonnie Sears says his team defense let the team down last year. He says he had two sophomores and one freshmen on defense last year so they should improve with experience.

He says the talent was there and the team had a lot of experience.  He says he had a good time with this group.

Sears says he thinks there is talent in the middle school level that should contribute.

Alberto Diaz was the lone senior to play college soccer.  He will play in New York State.

Jury Convicts Three Florida Men For Trafficking Hundreds Of Packages Of Methamphetamine From California To Florida And Georgia

Jury Convicts Three Florida Men For Trafficking Hundreds Of Packages Of Methamphetamine From California To Florida And Georgia

Ft. Myers, Florida – Acting United States Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow announces that a federal jury today found Brown Laster, Jr. (37, Tampa), also known as “AB” and “Rooster;” Jerry Browdy (44, Riverview), also known as “JB,” “Red,” and “Cuz;” and Wesley Petiphar (30, Davenport), also known as “Wildman,” guilty of conspiracy to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine. Each faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 25 years, up to life, in federal prison. The sentencing hearings are scheduled for October 30, 2017.

According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Laster, Browdy, and Petiphar were part of a conspiracy to ship kilograms of methamphetamine from Sacramento, California to various hotels in Florida and Georgia via Federal Express. The evidence showed that, throughout 2015, the men had sent approximately 40 packages of methamphetamine through the mail per week. The packages were delivered to coconspirators who had been recruited to wait at the hotels for the packages of methamphetamine to arrive. The packages were then delivered to local drug traffickers. In addition, witness testimony revealed that the men enforced the conspiracy through violence, including one incident where a cooperating witness had a gun placed in his mouth with such force that the gun knocked out some of his front teeth.

This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, with assistance from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office (Georgia), the Placer County Sheriff’s Office (California), the Lakeland Police Department, and the Miami-Dade Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Dan Baeza and Mike Leeman.

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