News Cast 10/27

News Cast for October 27th:

Representatives from Lehigh Acres-based architectural firm Securitecture, paid a visit to the Okeechobee County Commissioners’ meeting last week to give an update on the progress of the county’s upcoming jail renovation and expansion project. Securitecture Principal Joseph Mrak says the pre-design report has been completed and the design process on the jail renovation and expansion will begin next month. Mrak says the new jail will consist of two new housing pods that will house nearly double the number of inmates each one can hold now and it will also have two new classrooms for inmate education programs and indoor and outdoor recreation areas. The pre-design phase took about eight months to complete and Mrak says that was due to the many interviews he and his team had to do with judges, prosecutors, jail staff and others to get a feel to what is needed. Mrak says he found that all in all, everyone works pretty well here and that’s refreshing.

Mrak says as the new jail is being built, the old one will be demolished. There will also be a new kitchen and laundry built and the sheriff’s office, intake area, medical area and corrections area will be renovated. The estimated cost of the project will be about $47 million dollars and construction should begin in July.

While we may have been pretty lucky this year thus far and we’re just over a month until the official end, it’s important to realize that we are still in Hurricane Season. With that in mind, now is the time to make sure your home is strengthened to withstand a hurricane or tropical storm. Mitch Smeykal of the Okeechobee County Emergency Management Center says your garage door is the most vulnerable part of your home and once that goes, the rest of your home will surely be next. Smeykal says to replace your garage door once every ten years or use a retro fit kit.

Smeykal says while using plywood and aluminum is a good solution for boarding up your windows, poly plastic and some fabrics work just as well and they are not as difficult to put up on your windows.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County as of yesterday rose once again by just over 24 over the course of the weekend but fortunately the number of fatalities stayed the same.  As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 1,724 positive cases of the Coronavirus since March, and fatalities are holding steady at 38. 1,719 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. 190 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 yesterday morning, the state has 782,013 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 771,989 of them are FL residents. Florida’s death toll is at 16,449 with 48,281 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

An Avon Park man is dead following a vehicle accident Wednesday afternoon in Highlands County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the man, who was 26 years old, was driving a motorcycle east on State Road 66 near South George Boulevard in Sebring at around 3:45; the same time a tractor trailer was approaching from the opposite direction. FHP officers say the motorcycle driver went off the road and onto the grass shoulder, passing some stopped vehicles, before re-entering the roadway and he lost control of the bike. The bike crossed the center line and went into the opposite lanes, where the driver of the oncoming tractor trailer collided with the motorcycle, ejecting the Avon Park man from it. Debris from the bike ended up colliding with a third vehicle, a pickup truck, which was stopped on State Route 66. On-scene medics declared the motorcycle driver dead at the scene. The drivers of the tractor trailer and pickup truck were not injured. Names of people involved in the accident are not releasable to the public due to Marsy’s Law. It’s under investigation.

On the arrest report:

37 year old Winter Galloway of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on a Collier County warrant for violating probation on past charges of driving on a suspended license. Her bond has not been set.

36 year old Joshua David Roach of Okeechobee was arrested for dealing in stolen property. His bond is set at $75 hundred dollars.

21 year old Edwardo Ciannelli Taylor Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of resisting a law officer without violence. He’s being held without bond.

25 year old Zavius Corderra Long of Okeechobee was arrested on two counts of battery on a law enforcement officer and on a warrant from St. Lucie County for violating probation on past charges of criminal mischief. His bond is set at $40 thousand dollars.

43 year old Eva Hofer Blackwood of Okeechobee was arrested on charges of battery, possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia and two counts of contempt of court for failing to appear for past charges of driving on a suspended license and attending a pre-conference hearing. Her bond is set at five hundred dollars.

28 year old Jimmy Paul Wellman of Okeechobee was arrested for failing to leave private property as instructed by the owner. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

37 year old Tonya Marie Bell of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past fraud charges. Her bond has not been set.

36 year old Steve Henry Futch of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving, driving on a suspended license and resisting arrest after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

32 year old Mark Andrew Marker of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of methamphetamine possession. He was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.

58 year old Edwin Berle Rucks Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for criminal mischief and grand theft. He was released after posting a $65 hundred dollar bond.