Local News

Minton Talks Economic Development Council To Kiwanis (AUDIO INCLUDED)

Minton Talks Economic Development Council To Kiwanis (AUDIO INCLUDED)

Econimic Development Council of Okeechobee Executive Director Tara Minton with Kiwanis presenter Wendy Woodman

Econimic Development Council of Okeechobee Executive Director Tara Minton with Kiwanis presenter Wendy Woodman

Someone is keeping tabs on the economic development in Okeechobee and that person spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee recently. Tara Minton is the Executive Director of the Economic Development Council of Okeechobee. The mission of the Economic Development Council of Okeechobee is to create an environment of prudent economic growth and to improve the quality of life in Okeechobee.

Minton attends on average seven to eight meetings per week in an effort to keep the council business members up to date on the political and economic proceedings within the county. Some of the meetings she attends on a regular basis are The Board of County Commissioners, The Okeechobee City Council, The Okeechobee County School Board, Okeechobee Utility Authority, City and County Planning Boards and Code Enforcement.

The Economic Development Council of Okeechobee celebrated it’s 25th anniversary in May.


SFWMD Sends Request for Bids to Start Caloosahatchee Reservoir Work

SFWMD Sends Request for Bids to Start Caloosahatchee Reservoir Work

Momentum continues toward achieving early water storage benefits

Fort Myers, FL — The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) this week issued a request for bids to start early construction of key features of the Caloosahatchee River (C-43) West Basin Storage Reservoir. The work is the precursor for achieving water storage benefits before the entire reservoir is complete.

“Momentum continues building, and this initial work paves the way for tangible benefits for the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Daniel O’Keefe. “This is the kind of progress that will accomplish major restoration goals.”

The request seeks bids for construction work, including:

  • Demolishing existing agricultural features such as buried pipes, culverts, irrigation pump stations and above- ground facilities across the 10,000 acre reservoir site
  • Construction of 7 compacted, above-ground earthfill mounds reaching 56 feet high at select locations to help compact the ground to support future structures
  • Moving approximately 1.8 million cubic yards of fill for the mounds, enough to fill 1 acre of land to a height of 1,100 feet, or 120 feet higher than the Eiffel Tower
  • Preparation of the foundation for construction of the 16 mile dam that will surround the reservoir

The work is the first step for the SFWMD to undertake expediting construction of the facility as part of Governor Rick Scott’s commitment to South Florida ecosystem restoration. The project as a whole is a joint effort between the District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).

This week’s action follows a June vote by the SFWMD Governing Board that authorized entering into an agreement designed to help the District receive federal cost credit for expediting construction.

C-43 Project Overview
The C-43 reservoir project was authorized by Congress in the Water Resources and Reform Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014.

It will one day hold approximately 170,000 acre-feet of water to be used during dry periods to help maintain a desirable minimum flow of fresh water to the Caloosahatchee Estuary. During the rainy season, the reservoir will capture and store excess stormwater and regulatory releases from Lake Okeechobee, helping to prevent excessive freshwater flows to the estuary.

Since 2012, the SFWMD has put the reservoir property to use with emergency water storage of summertime rainfall and high runoff. Temporary pumps and levee improvements have helped capture approximately 4.2 billion gallons of water that would have otherwise flowed to the river.

For more information on projects to protect and improve the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary, visit www.sfwmd.gov/caloosahatchee

Ken Keller News 6/24

Ken Keller News 6/24:

Budget Workshop meetings went into their third day for the Okeechobee Board of Commissioners. Department heads from the Sherriff’s office, Public Works, Road Maintenance and more presented preliminary budgets for the 2015-2016 year as way to fine tune their department before the County Commissioners submit their overall County budget. A portion of the Sheriff Department’s presentation dealt with increasing insurance and retirement costs for staff along with adjustments to tenured staff salaries. Under Sheriff Noel Stephen on why the adjustments are necessary. Sheriff Paul May went into further detail, saying this is a way to keep tenured officers on staff.

Under-sheriff Noel Stephens 6-24-15

Sheriff Paul May 6-24-15

The Board of County Commissioners have their June regular session on Thursday beginning at 9am. An agenda can be found on the County Website.

Ken Keller News 6/23

Ken Keller News for 6/23:

The Board of County Commissioners are holding a series of budget workshop meetings as they continue to work towards a county budget for the 2015/2016 fiscal year. Budget presentations began on Monday with proposals from the departments of Animal Control, E-911, Emergency Management, Vehicle Maintenance/Fleet, Fire Rescue/EMS, Cemetery and Solid Waste. Fire Chief Ralph Franklin defended Fire and EMS increasing their budget by saying that the department needs to hire more personnel to handle the increase in calls. Franklin says that no new personnel has been hired since 2007 and calls have increased over that time by 37%

Ralph Franklin Interview

Budget work shop meetings continue Tuesday with department heads making their budget presentations for Veterans Services, Senior Services, Library, Parks and Recreation, Sports Complex, Summer Camp, Agri-Civic Center, Ag-Extension, TDC, Facilities Maintenance and Capital Projects. An agenda can be found on the county website.

Among arrests, 20 year old Zavius Long was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Deputies say he threatened another man with a knife on June 18th. The victim allegedly used a racial slur to anger the suspect, who is African-American. The victim claimed Mr. Long waved a nine millimeter handgun at him.

32 year old Curtis Beachum of Dixie Ranch Acres was charged with 7 alleged violations of the Florida animal fighting act. Deputies claimed he possessed seven roosters, ten hens, and twelve chicks, combs, spurs and other items commonly used in rooster fights. Bond was set at $35,000 dollars.

SFWMD Readies Storage for Wet Season Water on the West Coast

SFWMD Readies Storage for Wet Season Water on the West Coast

Efforts continue to identify storage opportunities

Fort Myers, FL — South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) engineers have made thousands of acres of land available for water storage this wet season to benefit the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary.

“Critical planning and engineering during the past dry season allowed the District to prepare an array of options to store excess wet season water that would otherwise flow to the river,” said SFWMD Governing Board member Mitch Hutchcraft. “And we continue to work toward bringing more storage online to increase flexibility going forward.”

Throughout the watershed, several new storage projects have come online since the last rainy season, including:


Operational/Available to Store Water:

  • Nicodemus Slough – 34,000 acre-feet: The District began operations in January, and has successfully utilized the site in Glades County to store water and also provide water supply to the river and local agriculture.
  • Boma Property – 1,500 acre-feet: Three new electric pumps have been installed and improvements have increased storage capability.  The site in Glades County was tested and utilized for water storage in the spring.
  • North Six Mile Cypress Slough – 1,400 acre-feet: Through a partnership with Lee County, construction was recently completed to store water and redirect historic water flows to Six Mile Cypress Slough.
  • Mudge Ranch – 396 acre-feet: The site located just north of the Caloosahatchee River in Glades County recently came online to store water.


  • Alico Ranch — 91,944 acre-feet dispersed storage: Located in Hendry County, the project has been contracted and is under design.
  • Babcock Ranch – 1,214 acre-feet: The site in Charlotte County is contracted and is under design.

Additionally, the District has coordinated with local West Coast drainage districts to hold as much water as possible within their facilities, including:

  • East County Water Control District – About 1,000 acre-feet of storage is being made available at Mirror Lakes/Halfway Pond.
  • Barron Water Control District – About 5,000 acre-feet is being made available through weir and operational improvements at the C-2.

City of Okeechobee works to prevent drownings

City of Okeechobee works to prevent drownings

By Charles M. MurphyOkeechobee News

Updated June 19, 2015 at 04:31PM

OKEECHOBEE — Each year around this time the city gets a rash of them — plastic above-ground pools sold by major retailers.“These pools pop up on almost a daily basis,” City Fire Chief Herb Smith said. “You drive around and you see a new one.”This year maybe five to six have already been spotted in the city limits.Each summer the code enforcement officer visits these properties to make sure the pools are meeting state and local regulations. Each year about 20 warnings are given to residents who don’t understand the rules.Chief Smith said the goal is not to fine these residents, but to make sure they comply with all regulations and that the pools are safe.“We try to make people aware. We are stringent in the city about that. That’s just one of those things that I’m really adamant about doing. There is no reason we can’t keep kids safe in the pools because it’s easy enough to do,” he noted.Chief Smith said if a fine is what gets someone’s attention, they will certainly do it.A major problem is ladders being left at the side of pools. This allows neighborhood kids to get into pools without supervision and that leads to drowning. He noted drowning is one of the leading causes of deaths for children in the United States each year.“Most people don’t know the regulations, they figure everything is cool,” he said. “Florida law requires the barrier.Stores can sell pools in any size they want. Most people aren’t aware of the barrier rule.”Pools start to appear on store shelves in February. They cost anywhere between $500 and $700 for the most part.The affordability of the pools makes it attractive to working families.Smith said the state requires a four-foot barrier on these pools or that the pool be fenced. The walls of the pool can serve as its own barrier but when a ladder is left in position, the pool no longer conforms to code.Smith said violators can be fined up to $500, almost the price of the pool. Chief Smith noted some of the pools being manufactured are not four feet high and that also doesn’t conform to the code.“There is no warning label and people just assume the pool is safe, but it’s not. When ladders are left on the pool, kids of any age can climb them,” he added.Chief Smith said a child is naturally curious and when they see that ladder and pool there going to go right for it.“The ladders half way in and half way out are easy to assess. The easiest way to remedy the situation is to warn people about the ladders,” he said.Chief Smith isn’t that big on using tarps to cover a pool because a child can still get in the pool and get tangled in the tarp and drown. He said manufacturers do sell pool covers that are safe.“A tarp might keep the leaves from getting in but if a child got in the pool, the tarp would help drown the child and make it harder for the child to get out,” he added.Another problem with these pools is the electricity required to run the pool pump. Chief Smith described some nightmarish scenarios where extension cords are used and regular household outlets are used to power the pool. Not only is this unsafe, it is also illegal. Most homes do have a proper outlet on the outside when the home is built.The city requires the electrical to have ground fault interruption or GFI. It is similar to the electrical outlets you have in your bathroom and is designed to cut off electricity if there are any problems.“People do their own homemade wiring which can’t carry the load and even use cheap extension cords. I’ve seen regular household outlets used and extension cords used and sent out windows. This is not legal and not safe,” he said.The pool is also supposed to be set up on flat surfaces.Chief Smith said in the summer downed power lines are also a problem. He said many residents don’t realize this and place the above-ground pool right below a power line. Should the power line fall into the pool, disaster can happen.“We’ve never had it happen, but we’ve had power lines do damage on cars and homes,” Chief Smith noted.Chief Smith said the fire inspectors would be glad to visit your home to talk to you about how to make your pool safe. He said they also provide free fire inspections on homes for residents upon request.Chief Smith said drownings don’t hit home until it happens to someone you know or a neighbor.“Then it sinks in pretty deep with you. We don’t need to get to that point. Let’s do some preemptive safety measures right now. None of us want to get to the point of a child drowning,” he added.The city and county are working on a program to provide free smoke detectors by the end of the year to needy families. New laws require a 10-year battery in the smoke detectors.

Source: City of Okeechobee works to prevent drownings

Charles Murphy News & Sports 6/22-7/3

Local News & Sports for June 22nd to July 3rd:

Charles Murphy is currently on vacation. Ken Keller will be filling in for him during the news broadcasts in the morning and afternoon.

I will try to post as much as I can from the Okeechobee News and surrounding areas websites and from what Ken Keller broadcasts.

We’re sorry for any inconvenience this may cause anyone.

Thank you!

Charles Murphy News 6/19

News Cast for June 19th:

In the courts, 54 year old Johnny Slone received 13 years in prison and 2 years’ probation for 28 felony charges related to giving false information to recyclers and dealing in stolen property. Slone’s case involving a stolen forklift and trailer also led to the arrest of two local business owners.

Charges against Oscar Rodriguez and his wife were later dropped. They then sued the Okeechobee Sheriff for false arrest in federal court. That complaint continues to be litigated.

An Osceola county judge dismissed traffic infractions against a St. Petersburg mother whose six year old daughter, Heidi Harris, died in a crash on 441 near Yeehaw Junction in August of 2 thousand 13. Luz Harris was attempting to make a left turn into a private drive but was struck by a tractor trailer that was passing her.

City police patrolman JP Zeigler was presented a Florida Life Saving medal this week by Police Chief Denny Davis and the Mayor Jim Kirk. Zeigler helped the mother of a nine month old infant who appeared to be choking on May 4th.

Zeigler says the best gratification he gets from his job is not arrests but in helping people in the community. Video on our Facebook page.

Zeigler 1

Zeigler 2

Libby Maxwell was named to replace Gary Ritter as the face of the Okeechobee service center of South Florida Water Management District. Maxwell had worked for state representative Dr. Cary Pigman. She said she likes that the job is always about different issues. She serves as a liaison between local governments, the public and the water management headquarters in West Palm Beach.

Maxwell 1

Maxwell 2

Sports Cast for June 19th:

Hugo Torres was named the Brahman Award winner for boys’ soccer this year. The recent graduate also received a four year letter for soccer.

Torres said the award means a lot to him. Torres said he always tried 1 hundred percent and left it all on the field.

Torres 1

He said his senior year was disappointing as the team won only six matches. Hugo enlisted in the US Navy and ships out on October 6th. He will have two years of college in Chicago.

Torres 2

OCRA baseball will host the pitching machine and Tee-ball district tournaments this Saturday and Sunday at the sports complex.

Okeechobee will have two Tee ball teams in that tournament competing with Sebring for state.

The rookie tournament includes squads from Avon Park and Lake Placid.

Gov. Rick Scott: Florida Businesses Added More Than 16,000 Jobs in May

Gov. Rick Scott: Florida Businesses Added More Than 16,000 Jobs in May

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Today, Governor Rick Scott today announced that Florida businesses have created 879,700 private-sector jobs since December 2010. In May 2015, 16,200 private-sector jobs were created across Florida. Florida’s annual private-sector job growth rate, now at 3.9 percent, has exceeded that of the nation since April 2012. Florida’s unemployment rate for May 2015 was 5.7 percent, down 0.6 percentage point from the May 2014 rate.

Governor Rick Scott said, “We are excited to announce May was another strong month for job creation in Florida, with over 16,000 new private-sector jobs created. Since December 2010, Florida businesses have created over 879,000 jobs, which means more families are able to live their dreams right here in Florida. We will continue to cut taxes and create an environment where businesses can grow so Florida can become the global destination for jobs.”

Florida’s unemployment rate decreased by 0.6 percentage point over the year from the May 2014 rate of 6.3 percent, down to 5.7 percent in May 2015. Florida’s unemployment rate has declined by 5.0 percentage points since December 2010.  On an annual basis, Florida’s labor force has increased for 63 consecutive months. This week, Governor Scott also announced that Florida’s real gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014 was $769.7 billion, up 2.7 percent from 2013. This growth rate exceeded the national growth rate of 2.2 percent. Among all states, Florida had the fourth largest real GDP in the nation in 2014.

Governor Scott made the announcement in Kissimmee at Photon-X, an imaging technology company that will be creating 110 new jobs in the Orlando area. Photon-X staff consists of technologists and engineers providing technical expertise in a variety of areas including optics, imaging, sensors, photonics, physics and computer science.

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio said, “Florida’s overall economic climate continues to improve as we implement policies that support a pro-growth environment. Florida’s GDP growth exceeded the nation’s in 2014, job demand remains near record levels, and the state has recovered all of the total jobs lost during the recession.”

More Floridians Getting Back to Work

  • Florida’s private-sector job growth month-to-month has been positive for 43 consecutive months.
  • Industries gaining the most jobs over the month in May were education and health services with 6,800 new jobs, trade, transportation, and utilities with 6,300 new jobs, and financial activities with 4,100 new jobs.
  • Florida has created 879,700 new private sector jobs since December 2010.
  • Florida job postings compiled by the Help Wanted OnLine data series from The Conference Board showed 283,949 openings in May 2015.

Home Sales Robust

  • Florida’s housing market reported more closed sales, higher median prices, increased pending sales and more new listings in April, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®.
  • Florida median home prices were up 11.4 percent over the year in April 2015.
  • Florida building permits were up 16.8 percent over the year in April 2015.

Workforce Boards Assisting in Employment

  • In May, Florida’s 24 regional workforce boards reported more than 33,225 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, 6,486 previously received Reemployment Assistance.
  • In 2014, 470,534 individuals were placed into jobs through the regional workforce board, including more than 23,986 veterans.

To view the May 2015 employment data visit www.floridajobs.org/labor-market-information/labor-market-information-press-releases/monthly-press-releases.

Governor Scott Appoints Nirlaine Tallandier Smartt to the St. Lucie County Court

Governor Scott Appoints Nirlaine Tallandier Smartt to the St. Lucie County Court

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced the appointment of Nirlaine Tallandier Smartt to the St. Lucie County Court.

Smartt, 48, of Port St. Lucie, has been an assistant state attorney with the Ninteenth Circuit since 2009. She practiced with Tallandier-Smartt & Everett-Jones, P.A. from 1996-1998, and Butler, Burnette & Pappas from 1995-1996. She also served as an assistant state attorney for the Thirteenth Circuit from 1993-1995. Smartt received her bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York College at Oswego and her law degree from Vanderbilt University. Smartt fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Thomas J. Walsh, Jr.

Governor Rick Scott said, “Nirlaine has a strong legal background, and I am confident she will serve the families of St. Lucie County with integrity.”

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