Local News

Do Not Call Tops List of Consumer Complaints for July 2014

Do Not Call Tops List of Consumer Complaints for July 2014

Five Arrested During Month; $628,000 Recovered on Behalf of Florida Consumers

Tallahassee, FL – Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam announced today the top three complaints received in July 2014 at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services were regarding violators of the statewide Do Not Call List, fuel and cable. The agency received 3,956 complaints in July.

In addition, there were 37,461 calls, 811 live online chats and 400 emails requesting consumer assistance and information. The top three calls to the agency’s 1-800-HELP-FLA hotline requesting information or assistance were related to cable companies, the solicitation of contributions from charities and the Do Not Call list.

In the past month, the department has responded to many consumer concerns and taken action against several individuals or businesses operating outside of Florida law. During the month of July, the agency:

  • Initiated 273 investigations.
  • Arrested 6 individuals.
  • Recovered $523,317 on behalf of Florida consumers.
  • Registered 7,126 businesses.
  • Added 19,913 telephone numbers to Florida’s Do Not Call List. Currently, there are more than 695,000 numbers on the list.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the state’s clearinghouse for consumer complaints, protection and information. The call center is staffed with trained analysts who can respond to questions about programs and regulations under the department’s purview, provide information on a wide variety of topics or direct callers to the appropriate government agency.

Consumers who believe fraud has taken place can contact the department’s consumer protection and information hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832). For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit www.FreshFromFlorida.com.


FWC arrests man for illegal commercial lobster fishing

FWC arrests man for illegal commercial lobster fishing

On Aug. 2, officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) arrested Pablo Enrique Anaya-Rodriquez, 49, of Key West, for actively fishing commercial lobster traps without having the required crawfish license tags attached to his traps.

The arrest followed a lengthy investigation by FWC officers and investigators.

“When people operate illegally, it not only harms the resources but it takes business away from lawful commercial fishermen,” said Capt. David Dipre, area supervisor for the FWC.

Anaya-Rodriguez had been captaining the commercial crawfish vessel My Twins at Fishbuster Seafood on Stock Island. He was charged with 53counts of actively fishing commercial lobster traps without having crawfish license tags attached to his traps.

For more information on commercial fishing and licenses, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and select “Commercial Fishing” under “Saltwater Fishing.”


Governor Rick Scott Visits Palm City and Jupiter on “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful Tour”

Governor Rick Scott Visits Palm City and Jupiter on “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful Tour”

Governor Proposes Legislation to Increase Penalties for Polluters, Announces $20 Million Plan to Protect Indian River Lagoon

JUPITER – Governor Rick Scott kicked off his statewide “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful” tour today with two stops in the Treasure Coast today. In remarks to the Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce in Palm City and a visit to the Loxahatchee River Environmental Center in Jupiter, Governor Scott proposed important new environmental policies for the 2015 legislative session and highlighted record investments in Florida’s environment during his first term. New proposals to keep Florida beautiful include a $1 billion investment in Florida’s waters, with $500 million in funding for alternative water supply and another $500 million for springs restoration. The “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful” plan also commits to continued efforts for Everglades restoration, including new water treatment areas and water storage capabilities, and allowing the Department of Environmental Protection to issue tougher penalties for polluters and bad actors.

Governor Scott also announced that $20 million from this year’s budget will be used to purchase key properties needed for water storage projects to protect the Indian River Lagoon, in partnership with Martin County and St. Lucie County.

Governor Rick Scott said, “Florida’s natural beauty is a big reason why this is the best state in the country to call home. Our natural resources are the foundation of our economy – they drive tourism, housing, business, and agriculture – and they deserve our long-term commitment. We’ve made record investments in Florida’s environment, but there’s more work to be done. With a $1 billion investment in Florida’s waters, an ongoing commitment to the everglades, and tougher penalties for bad actors, we’ll ensure that Florida’s treasures are protected for generations to come.”

Martin County Commissioner Sarah Heard said, “On behalf of the Martin County Board of County Commissioners, I applaud Governor Scott for his continued efforts toward completion of the Indian River Lagoon-South restoration project. Martin County remains a strong partner and advocate of Everglades restoration and is proud to have generated $75 million in support of Everglades restoration thanks to the commitment of our citizens. Everglades restoration projects create jobs and provide a 3-to-1 return on investment. In Martin County, our waterways are our lifeblood and restoration is a wise use of taxpayer dollars.”

Martin County Commissioner Ed Fielding said, “The health of our waterways is critical for our region and we thank Governor Scott for his commitment to improving water quality in the Indian River Lagoon.”

Governor Scott’s “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful” plan also includes:

·        Hitting polluters and bad actors with tougher penalties

·        Investing $1 billion in Florida’s waters

·        Continuing efforts to restore the Everglades

·        Commitment to protect the Keys and Apalachicola Bay

·        Creating a position within the Governor’s Office to work with stakeholders and focus on moving water south

·        Advancing the C-43 and C-44 projects for South Florida’s estuaries

·        Forming a new Indian River Estuary Program

·        Committing $150 million to preserving sensitive lands, agriculture, and parks

·        Creating a $2 million grant so Florida’s State Park System can win its fourth national gold medal

·        Establishing transparency for water projects through a science-based grant process

·        Target key ecosystems with defined goals for environmental success.

For more information on the “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful” plan, click here.

To view release in browser, click here.


DHSMV PROMOTES CHILD SAFETY AWARENESS IN AUGUST

DHSMV PROMOTES CHILD SAFETY AWARENESS IN AUGUST

~Every Child is a Human Caution Sign~

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.— August brings the end of the summer break and the beginning of a new school year in Florida. It’s an ideal time for focusing on child safety, and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will do just that by launching its Child Safety Awareness Month. The theme of this inaugural awareness campaign is “Every Child is a Human Caution Sign.”

“Whether playing in the yard, riding in the backseat of a vehicle, or waiting at a school bus stop, a child is a human caution sign, “ said Captain Nancy Rasmussen, Chief of Public Affairs for the Florida Highway Patrol. “They are living reminders that we need to slow down, pay attention, and abide by traffic laws for their safety as well as our own.”

Each week, DHSMV will focus on different traffic related safety issues involving children, such as seatbelts and child restraints, bicyclist and pedestrian tips, school bus safety, and making sure a child is not behind the vehicle when backing up. The Department, in partnership with other state agencies, will be distributing safety reminders, such as:

Be Alert While Backing

  • Walk around your vehicle to check for children playing.
  • Turn off your radio to better hear your surroundings.
  • Keep your foot on the brake until you completely shift into reverse.
  • Back out slowly.
  • Teach children to never play in, on, around, or under vehicles.
  • Know your vehicle’s blind spots and look again before backing.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety

  • While on a bicycle, ride in the same direction as traffic and obey all traffic signs, signals and lane markings.
  • Always use a headlight and taillight at night.

~ more ~

  • Pedestrians should use the sidewalk if there is one; if not, walk on the side of the road facing traffic.
  • Always cross streets where pedestrians are expected, such as corners and crosswalks.
  • And be visible. Wear bright and reflective colors on your clothes, shoes and/or wristbands.

Bus Safety

  • Motorists are required to stop when approaching a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing and STOP arms extended.
  • The only time traffic approaching an oncoming school bus does not need to stop, is if there is a raised barrier such as a concrete divider or at least five feet of unpaved space separating the lanes of traffic.
  • Motorists should be alert and watch for children especially near schools, bus stops, school buses, and in school parking lots.
  • At bus stops, children should wait in a safe place away from the road.
  • Children should never walk behind a bus.
  • Remember, Stop on Red, kids ahead!

Seatbelts and Child Restraints

  • Buckle up. A seatbelt is your vehicle’s most important safety feature, but it only works if you use it.
  • Florida law requires the use of seat belts by drivers of motor vehicles and all children riding in a vehicle under the age of 18.
  • Keep children in the back seat, at least through age 12, if possible. Front seat air bags, when deployed, can be dangerous to children.
  • A new law taking effect in January 2015 will require children 4 and 5 years of age to ride in a booster seat.

To view the Department’s Child Safety Awareness Month video, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykzgp5iwiPU.

For more information on this and other safety campaigns sponsored by the DHSMV visit www.flhsmv.gov/SafetyTips/, or contact the DHSMV Communication Office at (850) 617-3102.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles provides highway safety and security through excellence in service, education and enforcement. The Department is leading the way to asafer Florida through the efficient and professional execution of its core mission: the issuance of driver licenses, vehicle tags and titles and operation of the Florida Highway Patrol. To learn more about DHSMV and the services offered, visit www.flhsmv.gov, follow us on Twitter @FLHSMV or find us on Facebook.


July Sees Above-Average Rainfall

July Sees Above-Average Rainfall

Water managers are again monitoring a tropical system

West Palm Beach, FL —South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) meteorologists reported today above-average rainfall fell throughout most of the 16 counties in July. Water managers also began the new month monitoring a tropical system.

“Water levels are rising across the region, and we continue to operate the system with a focus on wet season flood control,” said Jeff Kivett, SFWMD Director of Operations, Engineering and Construction. “District engineers adjust the system and monitor water levels closely as tropical systems and above-average rainfall have the potential to quickly change conditions.”

Tropical Storm Bertha was too far away from Florida on Friday to determine potential impacts to the regional system.


July Rainfall

For July, a total of 8.22 inches of rain fell District-wide from Orlando to the Keys, representing 117 percent of average, or 1.19 inches above average. Miami-Dade and

Broward counties were the wettest portions of the District, with both receiving more than 150 percent of average rainfall. Eastern Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties also received more than 120 percent of average rainfall.

An exception in the system was the East Caloosahatchee basin, which received 6.51 inches of rain, representing 84 percent of average or 1.25 inches below-average.

Lake Okeechobee stood at 13.94 feet NGVD today, which is 0.18 feet above its historic average for this time of year. The lake received 6.94 inches of direct rainfall, representing 115 percent of average, or 0.90 inches above average.

Wet Season Forecast

The National Weather Service’s today issued the following outlook:

  • Latest outlooks by NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) are for equal chances of above, below or near-normal precipitation for the second half of the rainy season.
  • Past years with similar atmospheric conditions have produced below normal rainfall during the second half of the rainy season.
  • The CPC outlook for August to October also calls for the likelihood of above normal temperatures.

South Florida Wet Season Facts

Wet Season Preparation
SFWMD maintenance and infrastructure upgrades are critical to the optimal operation of the regional flood control system of nearly 2,100 miles of canals and 2,000 miles of levees and berms. During the past five years, the District has invested $276 million in essential maintenance work, including:

  • Hardening pump stations
  • Overhauling gated spillways
  • Replacing project culverts
  • Dredging canals
  • Stabilizing canal banks
  • Enhancing treatment wetlands
  • On average, South Florida’s wet season begins around May 20 and ends around October 13, lasting for about 21 weeks.
  • Typically, about two-thirds of annual rains fall during the wet season, or approximately 35 inches out of 52 inches.
  • Since 1932, virtually all wet seasons have produced 2 to 4 feet of rainfall.
  • June is usually South Florida’s wettest month.
  • The wet season has three general phases:

o   Memorial Day weekend through July 4 weekend, which are typically the wettest six weeks of the year.

o   Early July through mid-August, which are hotter and often drier.

o   Late August through October, which are characterized by highly variable rainfall mainly due to tropical activity and cold fronts.

More information is available at:


Charles Murphy News 8/4

News Cast for August 4th:

IR Fatal 7-31-14 I-95 and mm 158

In the courts, Aleeta Alien, received 35 months in prison for attempting to rob the Barnett Bank branch back in 1999. He was originally sentenced to 15 years but appealed and then absconded on bond. He was located last year by border patrol in Michigan. He was given credit for over 34 months he’s already served.

A 71 year old Buckhead Ridge man won’t face charges after his case was sent to pretrial diversion. Carl Sutton was accused of shooting a neighbors hog that had been damaging his property. Charges will be dismissed if Sutton competes in the program successfully.

Okeechobee school board member Malissa Morgan says it is time that all Okeechobee schools have video cameras. She noted last month’s hearing involving a Seminole elementary para professional accused of pulling a child’s hair, might have been avoided with cameras around. She noted cameras in place at Okeechobee high school have helped some vandalism cases.

A good turnout for last week’s skate board camp funded by the Children Services Council and operated by the Police Athletic League and Community in schools.

Volunteer Heather Siler Dobbs worked with the younger kids on basic skills and thought the camp was a big success. The campers ended the week with a trip to the Fort Pierce city recreation center.

Sports Cast for August 4th:

Brahman baseball coach Eric Kindell predicts his program will continue to progress and should be a perennial contender.

His first year as coach resulted in a district title and is happy he has 8 seniors and a lot of juniors coming back this year to compete for jobs. Kindell said his team didn’t quit after an 0-6 start to the season and his coaching staff brought in some professional baseball players to talk to them about how hard the game is and how important it is to work hard every day. Kindell said those speeches meant a lot to his kids.

About 90 players could hit the practice field this morning as Okeechobee high school football opens the 2014 season. They’ll stick to one a day practices this week in the mornings and begin afternoon practices next Monday.

The first game is the exhibition with Lake Placid on August 22nd at Brahman stadium.


Centennial Committee adopts a slogan.

Centennial Committee adopts a slogan.

Okeechobee, Florida, 7/29/2014 — The City of Okeechobee Centennial Committee met with a full agenda to continue planning for the upcoming year. A procedure was announced by John Williams, Budget Liaison for funding and budgeting requests. Justin Domer, Social Media Liaison reported that our social media sites were not only catching on but thriving and more interest is expected when events begin.

We want to ensure that all cultures are represented during our upcoming Centennial year. The Cultural Liaison Jeanne Enfinger is asking that people from different cultures and ethnicities contact the City to form a committee where all backgrounds have a voice. If you are interested in participating please notify the City of Okeechobee contact information listed on this release.

The time line that will be the driving force of this upcoming year has progressed and will bring the history of our City to an audience of past, present and future citizens. Our Historic Time-Line Liaison Magi Cable continues to work diligently on this project. Sharie Turgeon, Media Liaison talked about the positive comments that had been expressed about the press releases and the helpful assistance and input of Katrina Elsken, Publisher/Editor of The Okeechobee News.

When discussing the Centennial year of the City of Okeechobee the committee voted and agreed to a slogan that will be a theme throughout next year that represents a proud city; “Our pioneering spirit continues.” The committee hopes to see that this slogan and the mission statement will be the foundation for which organizations, groups and businesses adopt when planning for 2015. Please notify the City Clerk’s office with event information so we may include this on our community calendar.

The Committee has discussed at length sponsorship opportunities and fundraising events. Once a schedule of events has been decided we will be able to continue these discussions with a true goal in mind.

The City of Okeechobee Centennial Committee is looking for a dynamic logo to be the icon of the celebration. Don’t miss the opportunity for your logo to become a part of Okeechobee’s history and future. All levels of artists are encouraged to create a two-dimensional work of art, or present ideas, to serve as the Centennial logo. All submissions must be at the City Clerk’s office at 55 SE Third Ave by 4:30 PM on August 19. No late entries, facsimile, or emailed entries will be accepted. The City reserves the right to reject any or all submittals. Entries and associated materials will not be retruned, whether accepted or rejected. The August 25 meeting all submissions will be reviewed with a final recommendation for approval by the City Council.

The Centennial Committee welcomes community input and participation. Input is welcomed at the meetings that are currently scheduled to run on the second and fourth Monday of each month at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, until further notice; these meetings will be recorded in the Public Notice section of the newspaper. Community participation would also be welcomed in working with committee members to plan, coordinate and run events, contests and/or programs associated with this remarkable milestone in our city’s history. Community involvement will be of the utmost importance in ensuring that all the diversity and rich history of Okeechobee are represented. Be a part of Okeechobee’s history and future; celebrate with the City of Okeechobee’s Centennial Committee.

For more information visit our facebook page: www.facebook.com/OkeechobeeCentennial, the city web site www.cityofokeechobee.com, Twitter ‘Celebrate Okeechobee’ @Okeechobee100 or contact the Office of the Clerk at 863-763-3372 ext. 215 or mjahner@cityofokeechobee.com.


Charles Murphy News 8/1

News Cast for August 1st:

Among arrests, 67 year old Michael Lewandowski, a former executive director of lamb of God ministries based in Pompano Beach, was arrested in Lake Placid for allegedly defrauding his former employers, Lewandowski was charged with grand theft, obtaining property by false personation, scheme to defraud and giving false improvement to a financial institution, he was later released on 27 hundred and 50 dollars bond. The incident occurred in April and the arrest on July 23rd. The arrest report said Lewandowski had been voted off the board due to a marijuana possession arrest and that he used fraudulent documentation to withdraw 54 hundred and 42 dollars from the companies account at TD bank.

In the courts, 24 year old Stuart Davis was sentenced to five years in prison for two counts of stalking a minor. He was arrested last November 23 on North West 34th Street for allegedly approaching two girls, ages 13 and 15, and offering them 70 dollars for sex. Six charges were dropped in the plea deal.

Most cases resulted in prison sentences in Operation pill crusher in Glades County. 10 suspects were arrested for sales of hydrocodone and oxycodone. Norman Flemming, and Israel Mathis received two years prison, Sara Lopez received 15 years, Katheryn Lopez three years, Artivistus Ware 17 years and Colton Lee 13 months on various drug charges.

Among arrests, 31 year old Christopher Phillips was charged with two counts of failure to secure workers compensation coverage. The arrest report claimed a construction company RTC, did two projects near Indiantown for CSX railroad like use of heavy equipment and construction without the proper insurance.

62 people died in boating accidents in 2013. There were nine boating accidents on Lake Okeechobee, five accidents in Glades County and four in Okeechobee County, but no fatalities. The report shows 1,193 registered vessels in Glades County and 481 in Okeechobee County.

Katie Purcell with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the statistics are pretty similar to past years in our area. Using life jackets, keeping a proper lookout and being focused while operating a boat are the main safety messages from the state to keep safe on the waterways.

Sports Cast for August 1st:

Artha Jonassaint took home the Yearling award for last year’s volleyball team. She was praised for her positive attitude and leadership skills on and off the court. She also is a scholar athlete.

Jonassaint said she considers this award a real honor. She noted the 2013 season went well for the Lady Bulls as they lost only one match. She intends to keep playing volleyball in high school. The OYFL opens youth football season this weekend with a jamboree in Sebring. Coach of the senior team Bruce Snell says they expect a good test on Saturday. The senior team is looking for kids 15 and under who are not playing high school ball to assist the program this year.

OYFL will have five teams including a flag team this year.

For video interviews check out our Facebook page!


Corps completes first construction contract for Indian River Lagoon-South project

Corps completes first construction contract for Indian River Lagoon-South project

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District has completed the first construction contract for the Indian River Lagoon-South, C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) project in Martin County, Fla.

Once all contracts are completed, the project will capture local run-off from the C-44 basin, reducing average annual total nutrient loads and improving salinity in the St. Lucie Estuary and the southern portion of the Indian River Lagoon by providing, in total, 60,500 acre-feet of new water storage (50,600 acre-feet in the reservoir and 9,900 acre-feet in the STAs) and 3,600 acres of new wetlands.

“Completion of this construction contract is an important step forward for the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area project,” said Col. Alan Dodd, Jacksonville District commander. “We now have the foundation in place to begin constructing the larger components of the project, which when completed, will be extremely beneficial to the St. Lucie Estuary, Indian River Lagoon and our Everglades restoration program as a whole.”

The C-44 project includes the construction of a 3,400-acre reservoir, a pump station with a capacity to pump 1,100 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water and 6,300-acres of STAs. Construction on the project’s first contract began in 2011 and consisted of constructing the western intake canal, eastern C-133/133A canal, all access roads and staging areas, and the construction of the Citrus Boulevard bridge and culvert.  The Corps is scheduled to award the construction contract for the reservoir in summer 2015.

All project components were originally planned to be built by the Corps, but in an effort to construct the project as expeditiously as possible, the local sponsor the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is scheduled to award the construction contract for the STAs and a portion of the project discharge canal in October 2014, and award the construction contract for the reservoir’s pump station in April 2015.  Construction of the C-44 Reservoir and STA is scheduled to be completed in 2020.  Upon construction completion, up to two years of operational testing will occur.

The Indian River Lagoon is considered the most biologically diverse estuarine system in the continental United States and is home to more than 3,000 species of plants and animals.  The C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area is the first component of the multi-billion dollar Indian River Lagoon-South (IRL-S) project, part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).


Be a Hero! Help rescue manatees, sea turtles by getting FWC decals

Be a Hero! Help rescue manatees, sea turtles by getting FWC decals

“Be a Hero!” by getting decals that help with the research, rescue, rehabilitation and management of Florida’s endangered manatees and sea turtles.

People can receive a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) manatee or sea turtle decal, and show their support for saving these iconic Florida species, with a donation of $5.

Rescues of manatees and sea turtles that are injured, ill or otherwise in distress are one of the many FWC conservation activities supported by decal donations.

The new editions of the decals are originally designed works of art, and available now at local tax collectors’ offices across the state and at MyFWC.com.

“People who voluntarily donate $5 for a manatee or sea turtle decal increase the chances that these species will remain in Florida for many years,” said Carol Knox, the FWC’s imperiled species section leader. “You can be a hero and show support for manatees and sea turtles by placing decals on your car, boat or truck, and on things your kids use a lot – like their computers, backpacks or bikes.”

This year’s edition of the manatee decal provides information on the back side of the decal about how and where to report injured or distressed manatees. Besides calling the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline, 888-404-3922 (FWCC), people can dial #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone or text Tip@MyFWC.com and report the location of the animal, its signs of injury or distress, the nearest boat ramp and contact information.

Often an ordinary citizen reporting an injured or ill manatee or sea turtle leads to the FWC being able to rescue the animal.

The new sea turtle decal features a leatherback sea turtle hatchling and the jellyfish it likes to eat. Leatherbacks, which average 6 feet in length and 500-1,500 pounds, dive deeper, travel farther and tolerate colder waters more than other sea turtles.

The decal serves as a reminder of important tips on how people can help sea turtles survive, which are on the decal backing:

  • Keep nesting beaches dark and free of unnecessary artificial light by turning off lights or keeping them low or shielded.
  • Remove chairs, boats, canopies and other objects from beaches at night, because they can become obstacles for nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings.
  • Fill in deep holes on the beach each day, as these can trap nesting females and hatchlings.
  • Anchor boats in appropriate locations, avoiding reef and seagrass habitat.
  • Properly discard fishing line that can entangle sea turtles and other wildlife.

Floridians can donate the $5 to receive a decal when registering a vehicle or vessel, or when renewing a registration through the mail, online or in person at county tax collectors’ offices across the state. Visitors or individuals from out of state interested in the manatee decal and sea turtle decal can order them online by going to MyFWC.com/Manatee or MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle and clicking on “Decals.” Purchasing the “Save the Manatee” and “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” Florida license plates at BuyaPlate.com also helps protect these species.


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