News Cast 10/26

News Cast for October 26th:

Okeechobee County Commissioners got a visit from officials of Tampa-based AguaCulture, who presented a pilot program to the commissioners designed to remove the invasive algae and sludge in Lake Okeechobee which results from the quick-growing plants that absorb nutrients from the water. These plants are later sprayed with chemical herbicides, causing the plants to fall and sink to the bottom leading to the sludge and algae. Nick Szabo, owner of AguaCulture, says this project would harvest all the algae and sludge into a liquid that would replace the lost nutrients. It’s done through a combination of an aquatic harvester, reels and pumps.

Szabo says several neighboring counties such as Collier, Glades and Highlands are asking that this project be done for them because it’s a problem everywhere. After the presentation, Okeechobee County Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt a resolution to participate in this project. Szabo says a result of this project is the creation of hay, something apparently badly needed across other states and quite valuable.

This past Saturday was a historic day in the world and no, it was not the official seven day countdown to Halloween, it was World Polio Day. It’s the day to remember those who have been stricken by Polio and to remember those who cannot walk and are confined to a wheelchair for the rest of their lives as a result of the disease. This is a proclamation that was approved by the Okeechobee City Council and County Commission during their respective meetings last week. Okeechobee County School Board member and local rotary club member Melisa Jahner was on hand at both meetings to receive this proclamation and rotaries all over the world are seeking donations to help stop the spread of this debilitating disease and promote the vaccination of those who have it throughout the world. Jahner says since 1988, rotaries have raised $2.1 billion dollars and just as many volunteer hours to help those afflicted by it and there’s more where that came from.

October 24th was chosen for World Polio Day in honor of American researcher Jonas Salk, who developed the vaccine for the disease in 1955.  This disease mainly affects children ages five and below and if left untreated, the results can lead to paralysis. With the exception of Afghanistan and Pakistan, Polio cases have dropped by nearly one hundred percent worldwide. There is no known cure for Polio once you have it.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County as of Friday rose once again and that was unfortunately coupled by a rise in the number of fatalities by one.  As of Friday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 1,698 positive cases of the Coronavirus since March, and fatalities now number at 38. 1,695 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from infant to one hundred with the median age of the patients being forty. 191 county residents have been hospitalized. Those who’ve tested positive are being cooperative with the county and their health providers and going through routine contact tracing. Along with fever, coughing and shortness of breath, other COVID-19 symptoms to watch out for include chills, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat and a sudden loss of sense of smell or sense of taste. Overall, as of Friday morning, the state has 771,780 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 761,924 of them are FL residents. Florida’s death toll is at 16,340 with 47,953 people hospitalized. Okeechobee County residents can be tested, by appointment only, for the Coronavirus at the County Health Department between the hours of eight o’clock in the morning and two o’clock in the afternoon. This is an oral swab test. The Florida Community Health Centers have a drive-thru and walk-up COVID-19 testing site available every Tuesday and Thursday from eight o’clock in the morning until noon at the former Okeechobee Surgery Center located at 1655 Highway 441 North. No appointment is necessary and you don’t need insurance, but if you have it, please bring your insurance card, otherwise please bring photo identification. Testing is free in both locations. The Okeechobee County COVID-19 information line remains open from 8am to 5pm now every Tuesday thru Saturday. This number, which also doubles as the phone number of the County Library is manned by live personnel and callers can ask about county updates on the Coronavirus and what is being done. The hotline will not address questions about the virus itself or medical questions. The County Library phone number/hotline related to county updates on the Coronavirus is (863) 763-3536. Any questions related to the virus itself, please call the Okeechobee Health Department at (863) 462-5800 or the 24/7 Department of Health hotline at (866) 779-6121. Remember, the key to avoiding the Coronavirus is good personal hygiene. Washing your hands for at least 20-30 seconds with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol in it is recommended. Avoid touching your eyes or face with unwashed hands. Practice social distancing by keeping at least six feet away from someone when greeting them and not shaking any hands. Avoid shopping at peak hours and use delivery services instead.  Avoid places where there are 10 people or more. If you need further information about the virus and recommendations for preventing it, please log on to the Department of Health at or the Center for Disease Control at

On the arrest report:

41 year old Neal Lee Minton of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on two counts apiece for contempt of court for failing to appear to answer for charges of driving on a suspended license. He’s being held without bond.

38 year old Shawn Thomas Eckenwiler of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of the controlled substance fentanyl and drug paraphernalia, two counts of petit theft and for violating probation on past charges of felony driving on a suspended license and failing to appear in court to answer for the charges. He’s being held without bond.

52 year old Carmen Stacy Barber of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of the controlled substance morphine without a prescription and drug paraphernalia. Her bond is set at $55 hundred dollars.

41 year old William Allen McClure of Okeechobee was arrested for dealing in stolen property. He was released after posting a ten thousand dollar bond.

21 year old John Carlos Leon of Okeechobee was arrested by police for possession of the controlled substance oxycodone without a prescription. He was released after posting a five thousand dollar bond.