News Cast for August 12th:

The Okeechobee County Jail renovation and expansion now has an architect to draw up the blueprints of this rather large project. At last week’s Okeechobee County Commissioners’ meeting, they gave the green light to Lehigh Acres-based Secureitecture to begin the designs on the new and improved jail. Secureitecture representative Joseph Mrak was on hand at the meeting and he says he and his company are “very excited” about being chosen for the project and he sees it as a great opportunity. Besides renovating the thirty plus year old facility and addressing its capacity issues, they must also address the fact that standards and philosophies of operating the facility have changed, as well as the kind of jail population that exists today. Sheriff Noel Stephen spoke with commissioners last fall and said the 34 year old jail is in definite need of renovation and expansion, considering that the current facility has 232 beds but the average number of inmates is about 275. Plans for the project should be completed in about eight to ten months and the project should be completed about 14 to 16 months after that.

This past Friday was a very special birthday for a special bear. The Florida Forest Service joined the rest of the nation in celebrating the 75th birthday of Smokey the Bear, a celebration of Smokey’s wildfire prevention campaign which is the longest running public service campaign in US History. Smokey the Bear’s 75th then upcoming birthday was recognized late last month as a proclamation at an Okeechobee County Commissioners’ meeting with members of the Forest Service in attendance. Melissa Yunas of the Forest Service says this campaign started developing the spring after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Yunas says it felt wonderful the commissioners recognized the importance of Smokey the Bear and this campaign and it’s all due to the education efforts of Okeechobee County Fire and Rescue and Forest Service. In the last five years alone, Okeechobee County and Forest Service Firefighters have responded to over 259 wildfires that burned over 6900 acres, in many instances threatening communities.

Last month, the city of Okeechobee was the proud recipient of forty thousand dollars. Officials from the office of Governor Ron DeSantis say Okeechobee was one of six rural Florida communities to receive part of a $240 thousand dollar grant from the Competitive Florida Partnership Program, compliments of the Department of Economic Development. City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca says the grant is designed to fund the creation of a strategic plan to generate economic growth in the community, but De Oca says it’s also being used as a disaster resiliency plan. De Oca, who is excited at receiving this grant, says he applied for this grant with help from Central Florida Regional Planning and he was “honored” that Okeechobee was one of the six recipients. City councilmembers approved the grant agreement and execution of it at last week’s city council meeting.

A Port St. Lucie man may be facing charges in connection with a vehicle accident that killed a Jensen Beach man last week in Martin County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 86 year old Douglas Welock was riding a motorized scooter on the east shoulder of the 17 hundred block of Indian River Drive in Jensen Beach a little after eleven o’clock Tuesday morning when a Buick Park Avenue sedan, driven by 73 year old Richard J. Wibbelt of Port St. Lucie, was approaching on the southbound lanes of Indian River Drive. As Welock was entering the southbound lane, the front of Wibbelt’s car collided with Welock’s scooter. The impact caused both vehicles to end up on the grass shoulder of the road. Welock was airlifted to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce for treatment. Doctors pronounced Welock dead Thursday evening. Wibbelt was not injured in the accident, but charges may be pending against him as a result of the investigation currently being performed by FHP.

On the arrest report:

31 year old James Edward Rogers the Fourth of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

61 year old Robert Eugene Thompson of Okeechobee was arrested on a capias warrant for charges of sexual battery. His bond is set at fifty thousand dollars.

45 year old Diana Cruz Cruz Casiano of Okeechobee was arrested on a Martin County warrant for violating probation on past charges of trespassing. Her bond is set at five thousand dollars.

70 year old Cheryl Thompson Starbuck of Okeechobee was arrested on a capias warrant for grand theft charges. Her bond is set at five thousand dollars.

30 year old Edwin Javier Castro of Okeechobee was arrested for violating conditions of his pre-trial release after contacting a woman he was told to stay away from. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

32 year old Charles Anthony Robert Bloom of Okeechobee was arrested for prowling. He was released after posting bond.