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News Cast for July 27th:

Okeechobee County Commissioners met yesterday in their regular meeting after six days of budget workshops and established the county’s millage rate of eight in order to keep property taxes down for residents and business owners. With that, some budgets were affected, specifically the sheriff department’s budget. Sheriff Noel Stephen was proposing a twenty million dollar budget to allow him to mainly help retain his experienced officers. With the established millage rate, Stephen’s budget will be set at just over eighteen million dollars, a number he’s disappointed with and not just because it doesn’t allow him to retain his experienced officers. Stephen goes on to say he wanted to work with the commissioners to establish a “happy medium” for his budget but apparently communication is an issue. Commissioner Bryant Culpepper says he and his fellow commissioners would love to give the sheriff what he needs but with the mild recession the county is just getting over, the dollars were just not there to do it, without raising the millage rate and sending property taxes higher.

Commissioners also established tax assessment rates for some departments including a three percent increase for the fire department and 27 percent for emergency medical services. Solid Waste and Street Lighting for Oak Lake did not have any changes in their tax assessment rates.

Last week, the Okeechobee County Emergency Management, in partnership with several other county agencies, conducted a full scale exercise in the county. Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal says the exercise simulated an active shooter event combined with a hazardous materials incident where the shooter would carry the hazardous materials into a crowded area of the town. Smeykal says this was done because of the rise of more unusual type of threats over the last couple of years in the country. Smeykal says the exercise, which covered areas such as the Cattleman’s Rodeo Grounds and Raulerson Hospital, took a year to prepare.

An Okeechobee woman is in county jail on a host of drug charges after a traffic stop on Wednesday. Deputies stopped a Cadillac four door on the ten thousand block of Route 70, driven by 53 year old Valerie Michelle Malloy for a tint violation. Deputies then asked to search the vehicle and K-9 units arrived and searched it, finding a glass methamphetamine pipe, bags containing large sums of money, and other bags used to transport drugs. A further search turned up oxycodone and hydromorphone and Malloy’s bra also contained a bag of marijuana and methamphetamine. Deputies arrested Malloy and charged her with trafficking methamphetamine, possession of marijuana, cocaine, controlled substances and drug paraphernalia. She’s being held on a $180 thousand dollar bond.

Okeechobee County Sheriff’s deputies have a local man in custody on charges of child abuse. Deputies were called Wednesday to the home of 45 year old Marcel Lopez on the 66 hundred block of SE 88th Boulevard just after five o’clock during an argument he was having with his fifteen year old daughter about a boy she was seeing that her parents didn’t approve of. When Lopez told her to sit down and she refused, they started arguing and he slapped her on the thigh and cheek and then threw a PVC pipe at her. Deputies arrested Lopez and booked him into county jail. His bond has not been set.

On the arrest report:

35 year old Kristi Elizabeth Fair of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for petty theft and fraud. Her bond is set at $750 dollars.

41 year old Coty Veach of Okeechobee was arrested on a warrant from Texas for bigamy. He’s being held without bond.

42 year old Traci Michelle Evans of Okeechobee was arrested on a warrant from Highlands County for an undisclosed charge. Her bond is set at five hundred dollars.

18 year old Diego Humberto Salcedo of Okeechobee was arrested for driving without a valid license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a $250 dollar bond.

26 year old Brandon Clinton Pitt of Okeechobee was arrested by police for driving on a suspended license after he crashed his vehicle. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

25 year old Ashley May Rodriguez of Okeechobee was arrested for petty theft. She was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.