Local News

Charles Murphy News 6/30

News Cast for June 30th:

From the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office, Cody Cooper was arrested last week for possession of marijuana less than 20 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia. Cooper was the passenger in a car that was pulled over when the driver was observed not wearing his seat belt. The car also had expired tags. Cooper was transported to County jail and the bond was set at $1,000.

The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s department wrapped up the second of two camps last week with an awards luncheon at the Sports Complex on Friday. The camp was for teens between the ages of 12 and 15 years old. Campers enjoy a week of field trips, activities and learning things such as animal and fish identification, hunter safety, target shooting, archery and fishing. Camp Coordinator Mark Roberts wants the campers to have fun and learn but to also learn a valuable message. When asked what he thought the kids enjoyed the most, Roberts was surprised by what he observed. The camp has gone on for about 8 years now.

The Okeechobee Board of County Commissioners met at the Historic Courthouse located at 204 NW 2nd St. A majority of the meeting was a presentation and questioning with the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office Budget presentation. There have been a stale mate between the Sheriff’s office and the Board of County Commissioner’s office for sometime. The Sheriff’s office is asking for a total budget of 14.8 million for the 2014/2015 year. The County wants the Sheriff’s office to trim that budget to 12.8 million. Sheriff Paul May pulled statistics from comparison counties to show that the budget he is proposing is on par with the other counties of similar size compared to the amount of service provided. The County maintains that there is no room int he budget to make the two million dollar difference. A major point of interest is who will run the county jail. Sheriff May says he won’t run the jail and his department on a 12.8 million dollar budget and he would turn it over to the county. The County Commissioners stated they feel the jail would be more expensive to the tax payers if run by the county and less efficient. The board continues to look for alternatives before the issue goes to litigation.

On the police blotter, Dustin Dicara was arrested on the charge of aggravated assault using a deadly weapon. According to the police report, the alleged victim got into a dispute with Dicara about drugs when Dicara threw him out of his home threatening him with a firearm. His bond is set at $5,500.

Hurricane History Focus Of Kiwanis Club Meeting (AUDIO INCLUDED)

Hurricane History Focus Of Kiwanis Club Meeting (AUDIO INCLUDED)

Judge William Hendry pictured with Kiwanis Club President JD Mixon

Judge William Hendry pictured with Kiwanis Club President JD Mixon

Okeechobee Historian Judge William Hendry spoke to the Kiwanis Club  recently and entertained the club with stories about the hurricane history in Okeechobee, specifically from the years of 1928-1949. Where today we get hurricane updates with the click of a mouse, citizens had to be updated by watching for certain flags being raised in the middle of town. Judge Hendry says that Okeechobee is much better equipped to recover from a hurricane today because of the drainage system.


Charles Murphy News 6/25

News Cast for June 25th:

An Orange County couple sued the Okeechobee Sheriff’s Office for negligence for an August crash last year near Orlando involving one of the Sheriff’s information technology employees, Jason Knapp. Juan Caceres and Bertha Quispe were injured on the Florida turnpike. They allege they were stopped in traffic in a 2006 Dodge Charger and Knapp didn’t stop in time and caused a rear end collision. He was cited for an improper lane change but that citation was dismissed in traffic court, two months later. The litigation seeks damages for pain and suffering, loss of income, hospital bills and other claims. The litigation says Caceres suffered serious bodily injury in the wreck.

Three were arrested Monday afternoon in Okeechobee in the 600 block of NE 14th Ave. Officers arrived in reference to an unattended child in a park vehicle. Upon arriving, offers found a 20 year old Matthew Scott McGhee, 24 year old Megan Marker and Freddie Mott of Okeechobee in the car with the child. After smelling marijuana, offers searched the car and found substances tested to be oxycodone and heroin. Mott had a warrant for violation of probation and was placed under arrest with added charges of procession of controlled substance and heroin. McGhee and Marker were both placed under arrest for procession of controlled substance and heroin.

Okeechobee County Fire Rescue were called to a brush fire involving farm equipment last Saturday at 7365 SE 74th Way in Okeechobee. Units responded to find a SOD tractor on fire. A row of approximately six tractors and one trailer were positioned from north to south at the address. Crews were able to extinguish the fire using about 1000 gallons of water and half a tank of foam. Efforts were made by the OCSO to contact the equipment owner. The State Marshall were notified and scheduled an investigation.

The University of Wisconsin and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation came out with their annual health rankings. Okeechobee County Health Department Administrator Erin Hess recently discussed the results of the findings. Obesity, Teen Risky behaviors and safe places to play continue to be issues the department focuses on but one issue that has become a priority has become homelessness and the affect it has on school aged children. More on the rankings will be reported in a few weeks.

SFWMD to Refurbish Buckhead Ridge Navigation Lock

SFWMD to Refurbish Buckhead Ridge Navigation Lock

The Lake Okeechobee structure is scheduled to reopen to boat traffic August 1

Okeechobee, FL — The S-127, known as the Buckhead Ridge Navigation Lock, on the north shore of Lake Okeechobee is scheduled undergo maintenance and refurbishing work to extend the life of the lock mechanisms.

The lock will be closed to boat traffic beginning Monday, July 7. Work is scheduled to be complete and the lock reopened to boaters by Friday, August 1.

For information about the lock and the inspection of the lock, please contact Gary Ritter at (863) 462-5260, ext. 3017, or gritter@sfwmd.gov



TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Department of Health reminds residents and visitors that it is important to “Drain and Cover” this National Mosquito Control Awareness Week. The Department encourages everyone to take simple precautions to protect themselves and their neighbors from mosquito-borne illnesses which have received increased attention recently in Florida.

“A simple and easy way to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses is to follow the “Drain and Cover” method,” said Dr. Celeste Philip, Deputy Secretary for Health and Deputy State Health Officer for Children’s Medical Services.  “Drain water from any containers around your home, cover your skin with clothing and mosquito repellent and cover doors and windows with screen to keep mosquitoes out of your home or business.”

DRAIN standing water to stop mosquitoes from multiplying:

  • Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers where sprinkler or rain water has collected.
  • Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren’t being used.
  • Empty and clean birdbaths and pets’ water bowls at least once or twice a week.
  • Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.
  • Maintain swimming pools in good condition and appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.

COVER skin with clothing or repellent:

  • Clothing:  Wear shoes, socks, and long pants and long-sleeves. This type of protection may be necessary for people who must work in areas where mosquitoes are present.
  • Repellent:  Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing. Always use repellents according to the label. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535 are effective. Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old.

COVER doors and windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out of your house: 

  • Repair broken screening on windows, doors, porches, and patios.

For more information and to view weekly reports containing information on mosquito-borne disease surveillance in Florida, visit http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/mosquito-borne-diseases/index.html

The Department works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.

Follow us on Twitter at @HealthyFla and on Facebook.  For more information about the Florida Department of Health please visit www.floridahealth.gov.

Gov. Scott: Private Sector Job Trends Have Been on the Rise for Over Three Years

Gov. Scott: Private Sector Job Trends Have Been on the Rise for Over Three Years

TALLAHASSEE—Governor Rick Scott today announced that Florida was among the hardest hit of the states during the recession but is now a leader among the states in job gains, unemployment rate decline, and growth in job demand. The long-term positive trends in the unemployment rate and job counts are among the most important economic indicators to consider when analyzing the health of Florida’s economic recovery.

Governor Scott said, “Long-term trends demonstrate that Florida’s poised for success. Private sector job trends have been on the rise for over three years, our unemployment rate has declined or remained steady for 43 of the last 45 months, and for the fifth month in a row our labor force has grown. Florida’s had an amazing turnaround, and we have to continue working everyday to create jobs for families.”

Since December 2010, Florida’s unemployment rate has dropped 4.8 percentage points, from the high rate of 11.1 percent down now to 6.3 percent in May 2014. Florida’s unemployment rate has been below or equal to the national unemployment rate for 13 consecutive months. The national unemployment rate for May 2014 was also 6.3 percent. Florida’s long-term unemployment trend has been steadily decreasing over time. Florida’s unemployment rate has declined or held steady over the month for 43 of the last 45 months. Minor fluctuations month-to-month are to be expected as people move in and out of the labor force for a variety of reasons.

The state’s private-sector job counts have been steadily on the rise for over three years, showing that Florida’s businesses are responding to the state’s improving economic climate. Since December 2010, the state has added more than 580,000 private-sector jobs. Florida’s job count in May 2014 was 7,761,900, a decrease of 17,900 jobs over the month. For April 2014, Florida’s job count was revised up, showing that the economy added 34,900 private sector jobs in that month. Over the year, Florida added 218,800 jobs, an increase of 2.9 percent compared to May 2013.

For the fifth month in a row, Florida’s labor force has increased over the month.  On an annual basis, Florida’s labor force has increased for 51 consecutive months. This economic indicator can be a sign of optimism as more people are entering the labor force with confidence in their prospects for finding employment. The labor force is defined as the sum of employment plus unemployment (those with a job and those without a job but actively seeking work). Florida’s labor force participation rate, which is labor force as a proportion of the total civilian noninstitutional population, was 60.8 percent in May 2014, up 0.4 percentage point from the May 2013 participation rate of 60.4 percent. The labor force participation rate has now increased for five consecutive months.

More Floridians Getting Back to Work

  • Florida’s job growth rate over the year has exceeded that of the nation since April 2012.
  • Florida’s private sector job growth month-to-month has been positive for 34 of the last 35 months.
  • Florida has created more than 580,000 new private sector jobs since December 2010.
  • Florida job postings compiled by the Help Wanted OnLine data series from The Conference Board showed 254,122 openings in May 2014.
  • Florida’s unemployment rate has remained below or equal the national unemployment rate for 13 consecutive months.

GDP (Gross Domestic Product)

  • Real GDP is defined as the value of all final goods and services produced in a time period in a given economy (using constant, inflation-adjusted dollars).
  • Real GDP is a standard measure of an economy’s output.  For states, this number is not reported as frequently or as timely as the unemployment rate, job count, and job demand.
  • Last week, the federal government released the 2013 GDP figures for the states, and Florida’s position is worth noting.
  • Florida’s overall real GDP was $750.5 billion, which was the fourth highest real GDP behind California, Texas, and New York.
  • In terms of real GDP growth rate, Florida grew at 2.2 percent, which among the ten largest states was the third highest rate.
  • It was also above the national growth rate for 2013, which was 1.8 percent.
  • In terms of trends, from 2008 through 2011, real GDP declined, including a drop of over 6 percent in 2009.
  • For a second year in a row, GDP growth in Florida exceeded 2 percent, more good news for the state economy.

Home Sales Robust

  • Home sales remain robust as the backlog of existing homes on the market is down by 31.3 percent from December 2011 (Florida Realtors).
  • Florida median home prices were up 6.1 percent over the year in April 2014.

Economic Growth Trends Up Across State

  • A recent U.S. Census Survey reported that Florida experienced an influx of people moving into the state. Florida also led the nation in migrations from Puerto Rico.
  • Florida is running a trade surplus of over $18 billion – with $90.4 billion in exports and $71.8 billion in imports in 2012, up from $86.8 billion in exports in 2011 and $62.4 billion in imports in 2011.

Workforce Boards Assisting in Employment

  • In May, Florida’s 24 Regional Workforce Boards reported more than 40,700 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, 8,533 previously received Reemployment Assistance.
  • In 2013, more than 479,000 Floridians were placed in jobs, with 135,384 former claimants finding employment.

To view the May 2014 employment data visit www.floridajobs.org/labor-market-information/labor-market-information-press-releases/monthly-press-releases.

SFWMD Offers Recreational Hunting Opportunities

SFWMD Offers Recreational Hunting Opportunities

South Florida’s natural areas are abundant in small game and waterfowl

West Palm Beach, FL — In an ongoing effort to provide recreation opportunities on its public lands, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has approved continued seasonal hunting in Miami’s Rocky Glades and the C-23/C-24 area on the Treasure Coast. In addition, more acres are now available for hunting use at the Lake Marion Creek and Southern Glades management areas.

Open for a ninth season, hunters will have access this year to approximately 5,143 acres in the popular Rocky Glades Public Small Game Hunting Area in western Miami-Dade County. Non-native reptile hunting is also available there. Open for a seventh season, hunters will have access this year to approximately 1,185 acres in the C-23/C-24 Public Small Game Hunting Area in St. Lucie County.

The SFWMD Governing Board also authorized expanded hunting for the 2014-2015 season in the following areas:

  • In Miami-Dade County, the District incorporated 357 additional acres for hunting into the Southern Glades Wildlife and Environmental Area. Hiking, biking, fishing and wildlife viewing are also available.
  • Approximately 342 additional acres adjacent to the Lake Marion Creek Wildlife Management Area in Polk County were opened to hunting. The larger 8,083-acre management area is part of the headwaters of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, and includes activities such as hiking, camping and wildlife viewing.

All hunting activities are administered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), in partnership with the SFWMD.

The South Florida Water Management District continues increasing recreational access to its public lands while managing them to support environmental restoration, water supply, water quality and flood control missions. At present, the District owns 621,000 acres of land that are open to the public. Many of these properties are in their natural state or have enhancements such as picnic tables, informational kiosks, campsites and hiking trails.

For more information on recreational opportunities throughout the District’s 16-county region, visit www.sfwmd.gov/recreation.

Charles Murphy News 6/20

News Cast for June 20th:

Okeechobee Youth Basketball camp

Okeechobee Youth Basketball camp

An Okeechobee jury convicted Greg Jackson of attempted first degree murder this week. Jackson faces life in prison for allegedly shooting Xavier Fulks nine times and running him over four times. Prosecutors are unsure what motivated the attack between former friends on Christmas Eve of 2012.

79 year old Franklin Hollibaugh entered into a plea deal for allegedly dragging a Martin county deputy. Carmine Dipaolo with his vehicle on 441 in Port Mayaca. He pled no contest to aggravated battery, failure to obey police and resisting arrest and received two years house arrest and 10 years’ probation.

City council extended their moratorium on impact fees and named 10 citizens to their centennial celebration committee. They include Magi Cable, Justin Domer, Jeanne Enfinger, Donna Gaiser, Susan Gittings, Dawn Hoover, J.D Mixon, Antoinette Rodriguez, Sharie Turgeon, John Williams, Shirley Johnson, Mary Beth Cooper and Katrina Elsken.

FCAT results showed some successes and some problem areas for Okeechobee schools. Students at grade level for reading rose by 3 percent in third thru fifth grade, dropped by 1 point in grades 6 to 8, and dropped three points in grades 9-10. Math scores went up 7 points in grades 3 to 5, went down by 6 percent in grade 6 to 8, and science scores went up 3 points in fifth grade science and up 1 percent in 8th grade science.

Assistant Superintendent Joni Ard says North Elementary and Everglades Elementary fared the best this year. Despite some gains Ard did not rule out the possibility of school grades dropping this year mostly due to the work of the lowest performing students.

Joni Ard on FCAT results

Osceola County Fatality

Sports Cast for June 20th:

Youth Basketball Camp photos

Youth Basketball Camp photos

Tiffany Bowers took home the Brahman Award for Flag football at the awards banquet this year. She plans to attend the University of St. Petersburg and become a pediatric oncologist. Tiffany said she really enjoyed the award and the season.

Tiffany Bowers on Brahman Award for flag football

The flag team struggled to a 3-7 record this year but Bowers is the only senior that graduated. Corey Coleman hit a walk off sacrifice fly to score Ethian Durfee and give Okeechobee a wild 9-8 win over Lake placid in the district tournament for 13 and 14 year old boys last night at the sports complex.

They score twice in the eighth and twice in the ninth to erase an 8-5 deficit. Okeechobee had jumped to an early 4-0 lead.

The two teams finish the tournament next weekend in Lake Placid. Okeechobee Coach Rick Durfee, Colton Leppert had an RBI double and Dillion Moris an RBI single for Okeechobee.

Kumari Brown had a two run triple and DJ Williams a two run double for Lake Placid. OCRA AAA all stars and Ozone All Stars play in their district tournament starting tonight in Sebring.

Rick Durfee on OCRA win over Lake Placid

President Obama Nominates Two to Serve as U.S. Attorneys

President Obama Nominates Two to Serve as U.S. Attorneys

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama nominated Arthur Lee Bentley III and David Rivera to serve as U.S. Attorneys.

“These two men have proven themselves to be not only top-flight attorneys but dedicated public servants,” President Obama said. “I am grateful for the work they have already done on behalf of the American people and confident that they will ensure justice is served as United States Attorneys.”

Arthur Lee Bentley III: Nominee for United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida

Arthur Lee Bentley III has been the Acting United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida since July 2013.  He served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Middle District of Florida since 2000, during which time he has held leadership positions including First Assistant United States Attorney from 2008 to 2013 and Chief of the Criminal Division from 2007 to 2008 and again from 2010 to 2013.  Previously, Bentley worked at Hogan & Hartson LLP, where he was a partner from 1993 to 2000 and an associate from 1990 to 1992.  He was an associate at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP from 1989 to 1990 and a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of Florida from 1988 to 1989.  From 1985 to 1987, he served as an Attorney Advisor in the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.  Bentley began his legal career as a law clerk for Justice Lewis F. Powell of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1984 to 1985 and for Judge Clement F. Haynsworth, Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit from 1983 to 1984.  He received his J.D. in 1983 from the University of Virginia School of Law and his B.B.A. in 1980 from the University of Georgia.

David Rivera: Nominee for United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee

David Rivera has been the Acting United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee since April 2013.  He has served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Middle District of Tennessee since 2004, during which time he has held leadership positions including First Assistant United States Attorney from 2008 to 2013 and Chief of the Criminal Division from 2007 to 2008.  From 1999 to 2004, he worked in the United States Attorney’s Office in the District of Puerto Rico, serving as Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division.  Rivera was an Assistant State Attorney in Broward County, Florida from 1994 to 1999 and an Assistant District Attorney in Bronx County, New York from 1988 to 1993.  Rivera received his J.D. in 1988 from Pace University School of Law and his B.S. in 1982 from Oral Roberts University.  He also served in the United States Air Force and the United States Air National Guard.

FWC Commissioners receive Florida panther update

FWC Commissioners receive Florida panther update

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists provided an update at the agency’s June Commission meeting in Fort Myers regarding Florida panther research and conservation programs.

Due to the success of panther-conservation efforts over the past 40 years, the panther population has grown significantly since the 1970s, when the panther was federally listed as Endangered.

Biologists have updated their “population range estimate” to reflect an increase to 100-180 adult panthers in Florida. Based on this estimate and habitat availability, panthers likely have reached their carrying capacity south of the Caloosahatchee River.

Historically, panthers ranged throughout Florida and into seven other southeastern states. Today, most panthers are found south of the Caloosahatchee River in Florida. The FWC and partners such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are preparing for the natural expansion of the increasing population.

Because large tracts of land are needed to sustain a healthy panther population, private landowners will be crucial to range expansion.

“Due to the expansive habitat needs of the Florida panther, the continued growth of their population presents a unique challenge to the FWC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said FWC Commissioner Liesa Priddy. “As panther range expands, impacts on private landowners will continue to increase.”

With the increasing number of panthers, there also are increasing interactions and conflicts with people. The FWC and partner agencies currently are working with landowners to address the challenges they may face in having panthers on their lands.

“We know panthers can prey upon pets and livestock, and we strive to find solutions that work for people who experience these very real losses,” said Thomas Eason, director of the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation.

People can help with panther research by reporting sightings at FloridaPantherNet.org. Reporting observations can help FWC biologists address panther conservation needs by identifying the areas used by these large cats.

Florida residents can support panther conservation efforts by purchasing a Protect the Panther license plate, available at BuyAPlate.com. Fees from license plate sales are the primary funding source for the FWC’s research and management of Florida panthers.

To report dead or injured panthers, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone.

For more information on Florida panthers go to FloridaPantherNet.org

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