News Cast for July 18th:

Okeechobee County Commissioners will be starting their first of five workshops this morning to address the county budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year. Representatives from the county property appraiser’s office, facilities maintenance, health department, county library, medical examiner’s office, guardian ad litem program and the Agri-Civic Center will discuss their budgets and concerns they may have with the commissioners. This morning’s workshop will be held in the Historic County Courthouse beginning at nine o’clock.

While the budget workshops for the city of Okeechobee are not due to begin until next month, the city council did set their advertised millage rate for the 2019-2020 fiscal year at their meeting Tuesday night and it ended up going through a few numbers before they came to one they can agree on. The original millage rate was to be advertised at just over 8.99 percent, but that was defeated by a vote of three to two. A millage rate of 7 percent was proposed but was not seconded. Councilmembers did agree on advertising a millage rate of just over 7.99 percent. The proposed millage rate was agreed upon by all councilmembers except for Mayor Dowling Watford. Watford believes the millage rate should’ve been higher because if it’s advertised at a lower rate, it would be difficult to raise that rate back up if funds were needed for certain expenses. According to Watford, if the advertised millage rate is at its maximum, you also have the necessary flexibility to cover your expenses should they arise. Budget workshops for the city are set to begin on August 6th and again on August 20th.

Watford-Advertised Millage Rate 1

Watford-Advertised Millage Rate 2

A complaint of a suspicious vehicle led to the drug related arrest of an Okeechobee man early Saturday morning. Sheriff’s deputies were called to the 12 thousand block of Route 70 West a little before eight o’clock and found a Chevy Tahoe with the driver fast asleep at the wheel and his passenger, 25 year old Garrett Lee Chapman, also fast asleep in the vehicle. As deputies made contact with both men, they noticed Chapman was acting erratically; jumping around and was also sitting and standing continuously. Deputies also noticed an orange syringe cap near Chapman. They removed Chapman and detained him while a vehicle search commenced. Syringes which tested positive for methamphetamine were found. Chapman was arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. He was taken to county jail and his bond is set at $55 hundred dollars. The driver of the vehicle was not charged and later released.

A report of a brush and grass fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters Tuesday evening. Crews were called to the 16 thousand block of NW 29th Street just before 6:45 and arrived to find an area roughly the size of a quarter acre of heavy grass and brush burning slowly. Firefighters used about fifty gallons of water on the fire to keep it down close to the roadway. Crews from the Forest Service arrived to put a line around the fire. Investigators say lightning strikes from a storm that just passed through the area were the likely cause of the fire. No one was hurt and no structure damages reported.

Firefighters in St. Lucie County also had their hands full with a fire early yesterday morning but this one turned out to be a lot more serious. Crews were called to an area on Glades Cut Off Road and C24 Canal in Port St. Lucie a little before 3:30 for what was initially reported as a brush fire. However, firefighters arrived to a house completely covered in flames. The fire completely destroyed the one story home and investigators say the homeowner reportedly kicked out a hurricane shutter to escape the house. Red Cross volunteers were called in to help the six people-four children and two adults-that were displaced as a result of the fire. It remains under investigation.

On the arrest report:

20 year old David Alejandro Sandoval of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for leaving the scene of a crash that involved property damage following a vehicle accident. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

18 year old Michael George Harvey of Okeechobee was arrested on a local warrant for robbery with a firearm. His bond is set at one hundred thousand dollars.

39 year old Martha Marie Vandiver of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia following a traffic stop. Her bond is set at five hundred dollars.

33 year old Sierra Savanna Poswencyk of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court and failing to appear for her hearing on past charges of petit theft. She’s being held without bond.

36 year old Olger Alberto Cano-Castillo of Okeechobee was arrested for driving without a valid license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

33 year old Carlos Alberto Abreu Mendez of Okeechobee was arrested on a warrant from St. Lucie County on past charges of driving on an expired license. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

34 year old Brian Alan Perry of Port St. Lucie was arrested for contempt of court during his hearing for past drug offenses. He’s being held without bond.

24 year old Jessica Lynn Swain of Lake Placid was arrested on an Okeechobee County warrant on past charges of fleeing and eluding law officers and reckless driving. Her bond is set at eleven thousand dollars.