Local News



~ Don’t be that driver! Work on safety. Get home safely. Every Day.~

TALLAHASSEE, FL – The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) recognizes April 11-15, 2016, as National Work Zone Awareness Week. In order to raise awareness and educate citizens on work zone safety, FDOT has collaborated with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSVM) and law enforcement partners. Work zones provide unexpected road conditions, and motorists should use extra caution in these areas.

National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) is an annual spring campaign held at the start of construction season to encourage safe driving through highway work zones. This year’s theme, “Don’t Be THAT Driver! Work on safety. Get home safely. Every Day.” reinforces the message that motorists should be constantly alert and prepared for dynamic changes in and around work zones.

Driver-related factors that affect work zone crashes include speeding, in-vehicle distractions and inattentive or aggressive driving. Nationally, in 2014, distracted driving was a factor in 16 percent of fatal crashes in work zones, while speeding was a factor in 29 percent. Some simple tips for improving safety include: be alert, slow down to posted speeds, avoid distraction, don’t tailgate, and expect the unexpected.

FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold said, “Safety is our top priority, while providing the best infrastructure system in the nation. The department is dedicated to making our roadways safe for all who work in and travel through our work zones. We are proud to partner with law enforcement to ensure safe travel on our highways for Florida’s families and visitors.”  

“Construction workers in work zones face many perils in the course of their job, including death from inattentive motorists. Every life matters and remaining focused while driving is critical to ensure safety on our roadways,” said DHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. “In 2015, there were more than 6,500 crashes and just under 80 fatalities in work zones. In an effort to save lives, it is vital that motorists take work zones seriously by slowing down and keeping their hands on the wheel, eyes on the road and mind on driving.”

For more information and a link to FDOT work zone video click here.

Commissioner Putnam Urges Floridians to Exercise Caution During Florida’s Wildfire Awareness Week

Commissioner Putnam Urges Floridians to Exercise Caution During Florida’s Wildfire Awareness Week

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam and the Florida Forest Service are asking citizens to exercise caution with all outdoor fires during Florida’s Wildfire Awareness Week, April 10-16. Since January, nearly 800 wildfires have burned more than 13,500 acres in Florida. Most of these fires were caused by people.

“Wildfire Awareness Week is an important reminder of the devastating effect wildfires can have on our communities and natural resources,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “Wildfire activity in Florida increases during the spring, so it is especially important that Floridians exercise caution in the coming months.”

Wildfire Awareness Week was created in recognition of Florida’s devastating 1998 wildfire season, when more than half a million acres burned and 337 structures were damaged or destroyed by wildfires.

The most frequent causes of wildfires during this time of year are uncontrolled yard waste fires and unauthorized debris burns. The Florida Forest Service is reminding citizens that authorizations are required for all burn piles larger than 8 feet in diameter and broadcast acreage burns. Citizens should adhere to the following outdoor fire safety requirements:

  • Call before you burn to obtain an authorization;
  • Make sure your burn meets Florida’s required setbacks;
  • Never leave a fire unattended;
  • Never burn on windy days or when humidity is below 30 percent;
  • Keep a water source and suppression equipment on hand; and
  • Completely extinguish the fire before leaving it.

“Fortunately, extra rainfall has helped keep many recent wildfires small and manageable,” said Florida State Forester Jim Karels. “However, conditions can change quickly and drastically in Florida, so it is important that Floridians understand their critical role in helping to prevent wildfires.”

The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than one million acres of public forest land while protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres. To learn more about Florida Forest Service programs, visit FloridaForestService.com

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

Buyer Beware – deadly super pill found in Central Florida

Buyer Beware – deadly super pill found in Central Florida


ORLANDO, Fla. – Agents with FDLE Orlando are warning residents about a drug known as “super pill” which is now being found in Central Florida and contains deadly levels of fentanyl.

FDLE’s Orlando crime laboratory recently started seeing counterfeit drugs, not legally prescribed, containing dangerous amounts of fentanyl or fentanyl mixed with other drugs like Percocet, Xanax or Oxycodone. Although the drugs look identical to regular prescription pain killers, they contain fentanyl.

“It is important for consumers who need prescription pain killers, to get them from licensed pharmacies,” said FDLE Orlando Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks. “Consumers have no idea what they are buying when they purchase prescription drugs on the street and just one pill can be deadly.”

For pill drop off locations near you please contact your local law enforcement agency.

Charles Murphy News 4/8

News Cast for April 8th:

WOKC news photo castle dedication 4Castle dedicated its memory field for over 1 hundred children in Florida who lost their lives due to abuse and neglect last year. Community leaders attended the ceremony on Wednesday. Foundation Chairman Greg Thogerson said Castle programs work to strengthen families. The goal is one day to eliminate child and infant death due to abuse and neglect.

The Pregnancy Center of Okeechobee hosts former Gator great Tim Tebow tonight for their spring fundraiser.

Tebow 1

Cheri Watford said tickets are still on sale for the event at Quail Creek Plantation.

Cheri Watford on Pregnancy Center fundraiser

WOKC News photo castle dedication 3Governor Rick Scott signed the legacy bill into law Thursday.  It’ll provide 2 hundred million per year for Everglades restoration funding with priority to those projects that will release harmful releases from lake Okeechobee.

A brush fire gutted a pole barn at 8150 South West Connors highway near Port Mayaca on Tuesday.

Among arrests, 29 year old Jarrod Neal is charged with selling methamphetamine to undercover informants working for the narcotics task force.

Sports Cast for April 8th:

Rumor Juarez drove in four runs as Okeechobee softball won their senior night game, 10-0 over Glades Day last night. The senior hadn’t played much in her career, but took advantage of her final home game to shine.

Rumor Juarez and seniors on victory over Glades Day

Fellow senior Peyton Campbell drove home two runs.  She was happy with the performance.

Jordan Lawlis threw a five inning shutout.  Other seniors honored included Cheyenne Nunez and Hannah Collier.

Coach Mary Huff said her team played well in all areas.

Mary Huff on win over Glades Day

Okeechobee will play Jensen Beach in the first round of districts next Tuesday.

A seven run fourth inning rally gave Okeechobee an 11-4 victory over Jensen Beach in a key district baseball game on Thursday. Jarred Morgan went 3 for 5 with two RBI.  Baron Stuart had two hits and two RBI. Sean Osceola added two hits. Morgan and Osceola also combined for three shutout innings in relief.

On the sports schedule this weekend, OHS boys’ baseball visits Treasure Coast tonight at 7 pm.

Statement by SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Daniel O’Keefe

Statement by SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Daniel O’Keefe Re: Gov. Scott’s Signing of the Legacy Florida Legislation

“Governor Scott continues to lead on restoring the Everglades and protecting the ecosystems that define South Florida as a great place for families to live and work. Thanks to the Florida Legislature and his signing of the Legacy Florida legislation today, a dedicated source of funding will be available to focus on projects that accomplish restoration and environmental protection.”

Governor Scott Signs Legacy Florida Legislatio

Governor Scott Signs Legacy Florida Legislation  

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, on Everglades Action Day, Governor Rick Scott signed HB 989 which creates an annual dedicated source of funding to protect Florida’s environment. The dedicated funding includes:

  • Up to $200 million for Everglades restoration;
  • Up to $50 million for Florida springs; and
  • $5 million for Lake Apopka.

Under Governor Scott’s leadership, an historic $880 million water quality plan was created to protect the Everglades and a record $135 million has been provided for springs restoration. The Legacy Florida bill will take effect on July 1, 2016. Governor Scott will hold ceremonial bill signings in the coming weeks across the state.

Governor Scott said, “I want to thank the Florida Legislature for fulfilling the promise I made to create a dedicated source of funding to restore the Florida Everglades. Florida is known across the world for our pristine ecosystem and waterways, supporting our economy and quality of life. Over the last five years, we have invested more than $688 million for Everglades restoration. This legislation will continue our commitment to protecting Florida’s environment so future generations can enjoy all that Florida has to offer. I applaud Senator Negron and Representative Harrell for championing water issues and their work on this legislation.”

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Jon Steverson said, “Governor Scott’s signature of the Legacy Florida bill proves his commitment to the protection of Florida’s water and natural resources, which are vital to our economy and way of life. I applaud the Florida Legislature for the passage of this bill. The dedicated funding provided in this legislation will allow us to focus on projects that will greatly benefit our natural resources, including Everglades restoration and springs protection.”

Senate President Andy Gardiner said, “I want to thank all who worked on this important legislation to ensure Florida’s waters are protected for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. Florida families and businesses rely on the quality of our water, and it is important that we invest in their future quality of life. Thank you Governor Scott for signing this legislation today.”

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said, “I am proud to join Governor Scott and Florida Legislators and applaud the passage of Legacy Florida. As a seventh-generation Floridian, I want to ensure that my children and grandchildren can enjoy Florida’s beautiful waters and coasts. The Legacy Florida program will allow us provide clean water to Florida’s growing population and will aide us in completing the decades-long restoration of the River of Grass.”

Senate President-Designate Joe Negron said, “The passage of Legacy Florida is an historic achievement in Florida and will bring much needed relief to communities effected by water releases in Lake Okeechobee and St. Lucie. I want to thank Governor Scott for signing HB 989 into law today and also recognize fellow members of the Legislature for their joined efforts on this important legislation.”

Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto said, “I was extremely proud to be the first co-sponsor of the Legacy Florida bill which will ensure dedicated funding for projects that will reduce freshwater flows to the Caloosahatchee River from Lake Okeechobee. I’d like to thank Governor Scott for signing the bill into law today and continuing our shared commitment to our estuary. This is a vital step in taking care of our state’s most valued resources.”

Representative Gayle Harrell said, “By passing this legislation to establish the Legacy Florida initiative, the House is ensuring we have a dedicated and reliable funding source to restore the Florida Everglades, the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers and end the releases from Lake Okeechobee.  Legacy Florida will enable us to preserve these natural treasures for future generations.

Representative Matt Caldwell said, “The restoration of Lake Okeechobee, the Indian River Lagoon, and the Everglades is a major concern for all of Southwest Florida. With the passage of Legacy Florida, we are taking steps to solve those concerns by creating a dedicated funding stream with the sole purpose of protecting the health of the Everglades.”

Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation, said, “The Everglades Foundation applauds Governor Scott for supporting this important legislation that will dedicate funding to Everglades restoration, and especially the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, to help move projects to completion. The Everglades is an economic engine for this state and a sound investment. Restoration projects create jobs and protect the water supply for one in three Floridians.”

Eric Draper, Executive Director of Audubon Florida, said, “On behalf of Audubon Florida, I am proud to join Governor Scott in supporting Legacy Florida and its commitment of Amendment 1 funds to ecosystem restoration and springs recovery. Dedicated funding will ensure steady progress on the projects needed to provide clean water to the Everglades and estuaries. Floridians should welcome this major step forward toward implementing plans to meet water quality goals and delivering freshwater flows.”

To view a copy of the transmittal letter, click HERE

Charles Murphy News 4/7

News Cast for April 7th:

An Okeechobee county consultant recommends the county and city combined their E 911 centers and dispatchers. Assistant County Fire Chief Karl Holtkamp said it would speed up response times for ambulances.

Holtkamp 1

Holtkamp 2

City Police Chief Denny Davis said it is certainly something the city will consider.

Davis 1

Davis 2


In the courts, 24 year old David Thompson received 15 years in prison for a series of armed robberies in Stuart.  The case dates back to 2013.  3 other Indiantown teens received rison sentences of between 3 and 10 years behind bars.

Among arrests, 18 year old Brett Corales arrested by Brighton Seminole police for possession of 64 grams of marijuana candy and loitering and prowling on private property.

Deputies surrounded a home on North East 11th Court late Tuesday after 25 year old Oscar Calzada made verbal threats to kill people.  He was charged with grand theft auto.

Sports Cast for April 7th:

Aubrie Reister won her third MVP trophy for girls swimming this year.  She said she enjoyed her four years on the swim team and will have some great memories to cherish

Reister encouraged the younger swimmers to stick with the sport and give it their all. She will major in education and theatre at the University of West Florida and pursue a career as an elementary teacher.

Reister 1

Reister 2

Moore Haven baseball lost to Evangelical Christian 7-2.

On the sports schedule

OHS track visits Clewiston for a meet this afternoon at 3:30.   OHS flag football will host Jensen Beach with JV at 5 and Varsity to follow.  OHS softball will host Glades Day for senior night, the game is scheduled for 7 pm.  Moore Haven track also holds a meet with LaBelle, Immokalee and John Carroll.

Moore Haven baseball will host Marco Island Academy at 7 pm.

U.S. Senate hears testimony in support of education savings accounts for Native American students

U.S. Senate hears testimony in support of education savings accounts for Native American students

Legislation would allow children in BIE schools to access educational choice        

WASHINGTON D.C. (April 6, 2016) – Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs heard testimony on the Native American Education Opportunity Act (S. 2711), which expands education savings accounts (ESAs) to students attending schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). Sen. John McCain first introduced the bill in March to help bring school choice options to families on tribal lands in states that have existing ESA programs in place, including Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Mississippi.

“The Native American Education Opportunity Act will serve as a life line to students trapped in literally some of the worst schools in America – it is morally unacceptable to standby and defend the status quo,” said Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children. “Only 53 percent of students attending BIE schools graduate high school – far below the national average of 81 percent. Just as concerning, a report that came out this week cited numerous safety concerns at BIE schools. Simply put, these schools are unsafe and academically unfit for our Native American children.”

“When you have a 50 percent graduation rate, you need to think outside-the-box,” said Sen. McCain, who sits on the Indian Affairs committee. “I’ve been on this committee for many years and there hasn’t been much improvement in BIE schools. Here we have a proposal to allow parents another opportunity to provide their children with another education.”

Arizona State Senator Carlyle Begay (R-LD7) testified in support of the S. 2711 and spoke about his firsthand account of being born on the Navajo Nation and attending a BIE boarding school as a child.

“My experience, and the many others like mine, is the perfect example as to why America should not focus on systems of education, but rather ensuring access to educational opportunities that children need and parents want,” Begay testified. “It’s imperative that we build upon our obligation of quality [education] options, access to high-performing schools and creating opportunities now for Native American families through policies like the Native American Education Opportunity Act.”

ESAs allow parents to use their child’s state allocated education funds on the education expenses such as private school tuition, online classes, tutors, books and other education options.

In Arizona, children living on the state’s 22 tribal lands automatically qualify for the state’s ESA program. However, Native American children attending federally funded BIE schools are not eligible since the schools funded federally. The Native American Education Opportunity Act would fix this disparity and expand the ESA programs any state with students attending BIE schools that have ESA programs, currently that would include Nevada, Florida and Mississippi.

“The Native American Education Opportunity Act allows BIE families to participate in a program that is open to almost every other tribal student in Arizona’s reservation communities,” added Sen. Begay. “There are 185 BIE schools in the nation. Nearly 5 out of 10 students attending these schools will not graduate high school. What if we could give ESAs to those BIE students in Arizona who would not have made it to graduation otherwise?”
Full video of the hearing: http://1.usa.gov/1V9O7FN.

Charles Murphy News 4/6

News Cast for April 6th:

Treasure Coast crime stoppers offering a reward of up to 1 thousand dollars to determine who killed 54 year old Clemente Garcia in Four Seasons.   His body was found in a remote trail just east of North East 60th Avenue.  Deputies aren’t releasing many details but request tips from the public.

Among arrests, 33 year old Kyle Hough of Moore Haven was charged with punching a fellow patient during a group therapy session at Port St. Lucie Medical Center.

30 year old Clyde Crouch of Fort Pierce was charged with cocaine trafficking after an illegal u turn on route 70 in western St. Lucie County.  Deputies said they seized 15 thousand dollars in cash and a kilo of cocaine, and seized a jeep, then went to his home on route 68 west and allegedly found another half kilo and nearly 4 thousand dollars in cash.

A home security camera caught 45 year old Michael Gonzales as he allegedly burglarized a home on North West 1 hundred and 41st Street on March 26th.  A 22 caliber pistol and a total of 11 hundred dollars in items were allegedly stolen.  Jail guards and his probation officer recognized Gonzales.

The American Red Cross Okeechobee office helped 16 local families that were victims of house fires last year.   They’ve helped six families so far this year. Samantha Ruwe said they are in need of volunteers to assist in their mission. Other programs include various life skill classes, first aid, and a campaign to assist low income families and senior citizens by installing smoke detectors.

Ruwe 1

Ruwe 2

Sports Cast for April 6th:

The Lady Brahmans threw a scare into Lincoln Park before losing last night 2-1 in Ft. Pierce. Okeechobee struggled at the plate with only three hits.  Kassie Weldon had an RBI single in the seventh. Coach Mary Huff said the Brahmans must pick it up offensively.

Mary Huff after LPA loss

Lincoln Park is 22-5 and ranked fourth in Class 5A. Jillian Crosby pitched a strong complete game and allowed just five hits.

Elijah Finney pitched a two hit shutout as Okeechobee baseball defeated Martin County 4-0. Armando Rodriguez had two hits and a stolen base, and Gabe Greseth and Zeke Matthews had RBI singles. Moore Haven softball lost at Bishop Verot 6-1 last night.

The sports schedule today includes Moore Haven softball hosting Imagine School of North Port at 6:30 pm

Bass stocking completes new public freshwater fishing opportunity in Ft. Pierce

Bass stocking completes new public freshwater fishing opportunity in Ft. Pierce

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commission (FWC), in partnership with the Treasure Coast Research and Development Authority, is pleased to announce the stocking of 700 Florida largemouth bass fingerlings into the 7-acre pond at the St. Lucie County Treasure Coast Research Park which was completed March 30.

“The addition of the bass today, along with the 3,500 bluegill and redear sunfish previously stocked in November, will establish a balanced fish population at the pond,” said John Cimbaro, FWC fisheries biologist. “The previous stocking of sunfish have grown to a catchable size and the bass fingerlings released today will be ready to catch in about a year. It’s been a pleasure working with Treasure Coast Research Park to provide both a recreational and educational opportunity on-site.”

The sunfish will provide food for the bass, while the bass will prevent the sunfish from overpopulating, which can sometimes result in the sunfish growing too slowly.  Sunfish will reach a weight of about 1 pound, while bass may grow as fast as a pound a year to a trophy size of 8 pounds or more. An established fish population will also benefit local wildlife, such as herons and egrets.

The lake, and the aquatic community it supports, currently serves as an outdoor classroom for students at Westwood High School.

Located in Ft. Pierce, the lake is adjacent to S. King’s Highway and is accessed from Research Center Road

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