Local News

Governor Rick Scott Appoints Five to Central Florida Regional Planning Council

Governor Rick Scott Appoints Five to Central Florida Regional Planning Council 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced five appointments to the Central Florida Regional Planning Council.

Hazel Sellers, 63, of Bartow, is a Polk County School Board Member. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning May 12, 2015, and ending October 1, 2015.

Donna Howerton, 59, of Sebring, is the vice president of South Ridge Abstract. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning May 12, 2015, and ending October 1, 2015.

Elvie Posey, 68, of Okeechobee, is a retired dairy farmer. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning May 12, 2015, and ending October 1, 2016.

Robert “Jeff” Kincart, 41, of Lakeland, is the president of Kincart Construction Company and the vice president of American Compliance Technologies. He succeeds Marshall Goodman and is appointed for a term beginning May 12, 2015, and ending October 1, 2016.

Mary Yeargan, 59, of Brandon, is the director of district management for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. She succeeds Deborah Getzoff and is appointed for a term beginning May 12, 2015, and ending at the pleasure of the Governor.

The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.


Rooney: Protecting Florida Farms from EPA Power Grab

Rooney: Protecting Florida Farms from EPA Power Grab

Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Tom Rooney (FL-17) issued the following statement on legislation under consideration in the House today to block an EPA proposal that would give the agency unprecedented new authority to regulate bodies of water on private property, including ditches and farm ponds.

“Floridians understand and respect our waterways unlike any other state,” Rooney said. “Environmentalists, farmers and businesses have come together to protect our environment and eliminate water pollutants, and their efforts are working. It’s time for the federal government to learn from this functioning dynamic.

“We all want clean water, but for the EPA to start regulating farm ponds and puddles would be laughable if the costs weren’t so high. Complying with the EPA’s new rules would cost Florida farmers, families and local governments billions of dollars. It will slow our economic recovery, kill jobs in our state, and hurt our farmers’ ability to feed the nation.”

The House is scheduled to vote today on H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, which would require the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the current proposed rule and develop a new proposal that takes into account comments received, economic analysis, and recommendations from state and local officials, stakeholders, and other interested parties.


Statement by Commissioner Putnam on Updated Citrus Forecast for 2015

Statement by Commissioner Putnam on Updated Citrus Forecast for 2015     

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Following today’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on an updated 2015 citrus forecast for Florida, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam released this statement:

“The updated citrus forecast, which has decreased by 5.6 million boxes since the April announcement, illustrates just how severely citrus greening is devastating Florida’s citrus industry. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has requested $18 million this year to support research, to grow clean citrus stock and to remove and replant diseased trees. We will fight to save Florida’s $10.7 billion citrus industry, and the 64,000 jobs the industry supports.”

The USDA forecast for this year estimates 96.4 million boxes of oranges, down from the 104 million boxes produced last year. This represents a decline of 60 percent since the peak of citrus production at 244 million boxes in 1997-98.

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


Charles Murphy News 5/12

News Cast for May 12th:

Organizers reported a good turnout of over 200 people for the event.Okeechobee city council approved a special needs park for kids in Flagler Park in a 3-2 vote last week. The park will be fenced and be placed at the west end of the park.

Some on the council predicted it would help downtown businesses. Others questioned the safety and said the park property north of route 70, the old baseball fields and Skateboard Park, would be a better location. They also questioned the costs of maintenance. Park facilitator J.D Mixon said the park shouldn’t take that long to construct.

Mixon 1

Among arrests today, 35 year old Jamie Herrin was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon after the report of abduction last Thursday in Buckhead Ridge.

Glades and Okeechobee county deputies are investigating claims from a couple that two men armed with a machete and rifle abducted them from their home and held them at a residence on North West 6th Street in Okeechobee.

The male said he got away, made his way to the Marathon Gas Station on route 70 west at Eagle Bay and called the law.

The law went to the home and found Daniel Tindall and Herrin sitting in the living room with a loaded 22 caliber rifle nearby. Since both are convicted felons, they were arrested.

33 year old Erin Hancock was held on 50 thousand dollars bond charged with possession of methamphetamines and controlled substances. Also charged in the incident with drug charges was 34 year old Matthew Tate. Deputies say Tate was acting suspiciously at the Sunoco Store on US 98 Friday, acting disoriented; a K-9 unit was dispatched and alerted to drugs in the vehicle, some two grams of meth and some prescription pills.

Press News Release Homicide Investigation Update 2

Suspect Arrested for Attempted Murder

Sebring PD Patrol Car Crash wInjuries

Sports Cast for May 12th:

The Lady Brahman golf team reached regional for the second year in a row this past year, but will not enter a rebuilding phase.

Five seniors graduated last year, and three will graduate next month off the team.

Coach Bruce Conrad said it was a successful season for the team. Conrad plans to visit the middle schools in the next couple of weeks and try and recruit players for next year’s girls golf team. Conrad said of all the sports, golf provides the most job opportunities after graduation.

Conrad 1

He noted the KOA golf course was very cooperative as they helped the girls play home matches and also practice there this past fall.

Conrad 2


Suspect Arrested for Attempted Murder

Suspect Arrested for Attempted Murder

Osceola County (May 11, 2015) –On May 10 at approximately 10:10 p.m., Osceola County Sheriff’s deputies responded to Poinciana Medical Center located at 325 Cypress Parkway in Poinciana. Upon arrival, deputies spoke with the victim who indicated he was visiting relatives on Royalty Court in Poinciana. Jonathan Quinones came to the residence looking for his girlfriend. He wanted her to leave with him and she refused. Quinones stayed in his car in the driveway and would not leave. The victim approached him and asked him again to leave. As the victim was walking away, Quinones stabbed him in the back and chest.

Due to the severity of the victim’s injuries, detectives obtained a felony warrant for Attempted Murder. Deputies arrested Quinones and he was booked into the Osceola County Jail.

Jonathan Quinones (DOB 4/3/91) 5291 Images Circle, Kissimmee


Interactive Wildfire & Burn Authorization Map

Interactive Wildfire & Burn Authorization Map

A Reference Tool for the Smoke in Your Area

OKEECHOBEE, FL. – Through the Florida Forest Service’s Fire Management Information System, the Okeechobee District maps out all the wildfires and burn authorizations in their area on any given day. This interactive map is available for the public to use as a reference tool for identifying smoke columns in your area. Click here for a three minute YouTube tutorial.

“This mapping system is a simple a way to measure, track and differentiate wildfires and burn authorizations,” says Wildfire Mitigation Specialist Melissa Yunas, Florida Forest Service. “This is also a good reference tool to investigate unauthorized burns and to provide education on burning safely.”

In 2015, the Florida Forest Service has investigated 20 illegal burns while conducting routine fire patrols. Out of the 20 illegal burns, 15% have resulted in wildfires that required suppression.  Landowners or burners can be issued a Notice of Violation and charged for the cost of suppression if their fire escapes regardless of whether it is authorized or not.

It’s important to note that not all burns require an authorization. What type of burning requires authorization from the Florida Forest Service?

  • Acreage burns. If you’re planning to burn woodlands, grass pastures, home lawns or any other large area, you need an authorization.
  • Pile burns. Whether you’re burning multiple piles of land clearing debris generated on site or simple yard debris you generated while trimming trees and shrubs, if the pile is greater than 8 feet in diameter, you need an authorization.

If residents are unsure if their planned burn needs to be authorized, please contact your local Florida Forest Service. Know the law before you strike that match or lighter.

Burning is essential to Florida’s Agriculture and Land Management Communities. Ranchers/ Dairy farmers obtain pasture authorizations and accomplish burns that aid in increasing the diversity and structure of vegetation, which benefits wildlife and maintains livestock production. Citrus growers obtain pile burn authorizations for pruning and cleaning the citrus groves. Farmers burn the stubble of their crops they have been harvested; fire also enriches the soil and helps to combat disease, insects, and weeds. Land managers obtain ecological authorizations to manage their land for animal and water conservation or aesthetics.

The Florida Forest Service manages more than 1 million acres of public forest land while protecting 26 million acres of homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire. For more information about the Florida Forest Service, go to www.FloridaForestService.com.

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

If residents are unsure if their planned burns needs to be authorized, please contact your Florida Forest Service:

Martin County (772) 221-4045;    Saint Lucie County (772) 468-3915;  Indian River County (772) 778-5085;

Glades County (863) 674-4000;    Highlands County  (863) 655-6407;   Okeechobee County (863) 462-5160


Charles Murphy News 5/11

News Cast for May 11th:

The odyssey of Walter Morgan was put on display last week as he has been making a remarkable recovery from being badly burned last year in Highlands County. Morgan received third degree burns to 85 percent of his body from the neck down.

Today, after many surgeries, he has started to live a relatively normal life. Walter says he has come a long way. He wants to return to college soon and become a diesel mechanic.

Morgan 1

Morgan 2

His mother says the power of prayer and modern medicine saved her sons life. She thanks all of the people who sent the family inspirational messages, prayed for Walter, and donated at various fund raisers. His sister Shelby says Walter really persevered and never gave up in his recovery. Video on our Facebook page.

Cherie 1

Shelby 1

001The former home of Barlow’s restaurant was gutted in a structure fire late Friday afternoon. 3 hundred thousand dollars in damages were done to the near 6 thousand square foot building on 441 south east. The first units arrived at 4:30 pm and found smoke coming out of the attic and roof area. 18 firemen from Okeechobee county fire rescue, city fire department and Martin County Fire rescue battled the blaze. The State Fire Marshall will determine the cause. There were no injuries.

wokc news photo seminole wax museum 2Seminole Elementary put on a special wax museum night last Thursday. Students studied about famous figures in history and then portrayed them.  Just like at Night at the Museum, they were wax figures and you had to push a button to get them to talk about that character. Six third grade classrooms took part, about 85 students, as they read books and researched their characters.

Sports Cast for May 11th:

Daniel Shelley was named the Most Valuable Player for the Okeechobee high school boys cross country team this past season. Shelley has been really working hard to improve his running skills.

He said he really appreciated the award. Shelley finished in the top five at the district finals as a sophomore. He credits that to hard work and running extra miles in the off season

Shelley 1

He praised his coach for pushing the runners throughout the season. He expects the team to return to regionals again and make a run at state next year.

Shelley 2


Homicide Investigation Update

Homicide Investigation Update

SEBRING –

Padron, Jonathan Daniel

Padron, Jonathan Daniel

At approximately 4:30PM yesterday, May 9th, Highlands County Consolidated Dispatch received a call of a suspicious incident at Gen Pak, 116 Chicane Dr., Sebring, which is located in the Sebring Airport Industrial Park. Upon arrival deputies found Thomas Bernard Nelson, 25 years of age, of Sebring, in the parking lot, the victim of a shooting, and he was deceased. Further investigation has revealed the shooting was drug related.

Highlands County Sheriff’s Detectives are looking for assistance from the public to locate a person of interest in this case, Jonathan Daniel Padron. Padron is a Hispanic male, 25 years of age, 6’ tall, with brown hair and brown eyes. His last known address is 433 Spring Lake Dr., Sebring however Padron also has connections in the Arcadia area of DeSoto County, and in Miami. The picture at left is an image from 2013 thus Padron’s appearance may have significantly changed since that time.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Jonathan Daniel Padron, or any other information relative to this case is requested to contact the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Unit and Detective Du’Wayne Kelly, at 863-402-7250 or 863-402-7200. Anyone with information who wants to remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward is asked to call Heartland Crime Stoppers at 800-226-TIPS(8477), contact us on the internet at www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com or simply scan the QR code at right. Anonymity is guaranteed!

05 10 2015 Press News Release Homicide Investigation Update


Okeechobee County Emergency Management and Florida Division of Emergency Management Conduct Hurricane Exercise

Okeechobee County Emergency Management and

Florida Division of Emergency Management Conduct Hurricane Exercise

IMG_0445In anticipation of the upcoming 2015 Hurricane season, Okeechobee County Emergency Management, Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) and the Palm Beach County All Hazards Incident Management Team (AHIMT) conducted a team deployment exercise at the Okeechobee County Emergency Operations Center on May 6th.

“This is the most ambitious hurricane exercise we have conducted across the state in several years.” said Okeechobee County Emergency Management Director, Mitch Smeykal. “The state exercise started on April 29 and will continue through several phases in different parts of the state until the end of May.

IMG_0439Over the past several years many of the people who were working at the state emergency operations center during the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons have moved on or retired. This exercise enhanced the training of the new field teams and state emergency operations center personnel for a major hurricane activation.”

The 28 person AHIMT from Palm Beach County was integrated into the Okeechobee County Emergency Response Team (OERT) structure to simulate the actions which would be taken prior to landfall of a major hurricane similar to the Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928.

“The forecast track of our mock hurricane (Hurricane Gibson) was very close to the track of the 1928 storm which devastated the area and cost over 3,000 lives. Because of advanced warning systems and enhanced meteorological products we hope to never have a repeat of such a large loss of life from a tropical system. However, its good practice to prepare for the worst and hope for the best”, said Director Smeykal

For more information on how you can prepare to weather the storm contact the Okeechobee County Division of Emergency Management (863)763-3212 or the Okeechobee County Chapter of the American Red Cross at (863) 763-2488.


Former Barlow’s Restaurant Destroyed by Fire

Former Barlow’s Restaurant Destroyed by Fire

At 1624 hours on May 8, 2015, Okeechobee County Fire Rescue responded to a reported commercial building fire at 12642 SE Hwy 441. The first units arrived at 1635 hours and found a 6000 square foot closed restaurant with smoke coming from the attic/roof area. Crews forced entry into the building through the front door and began an aggressive interior attack on the structure. Crews began opening up the ceiling area to access the fire in the attic. Fire conditions began to change rapidly and the fire grew in intensity causing the roof structure to become compromised. Due to the structures instability, all crews were removed from the interior of the structure and a defensive fire attack began.
Water supply was established by drafting from a nearby canal and supplemented by the use of water tenders. The City of Okeechobee Fire Department’s Aerial Tower was raised and the master stream device flowing 1000 gallons of water per minute was used to control and extinguish the fire. A total of 18 personnel responded to this incident that was comprised of, two engines, two water tenders, one rescue, a safety officer, and two chief officers from Okeechobee County Fire Rescue, one aerial tower and one chief officer from the City of Okeechobee Fire Department, and one engine, one water tender, one rescue and one chief officer from Martin County Fire Rescue. The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office provided traffic control as Hwy 441 was shut down for about an hour. The State Fire Marshals office is conducting the investigation into the cause of the fire. Crews remained of the scene until 2130 hours assisting the State Fire Marshal with their investigation and checking for hot spots. No one was injured during this incident. The building is a total loss with damage estimated at $300,000.

For more information contact Okeechobee County Fire Rescue at 763-5544 from 8am – 5pm, Monday – Friday.


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