News Cast 10/7

News Cast for October 7th:

The proposed inter-local fire services agreement was again a topic of discussion during last night’s Okeechobee City Council meeting but it’s still not official yet and no vote was taken unlike their last meeting; the council instead discussed making certain changes to the agreement itself before voting on it. The council decided they would pay the salaries of three city firefighters/emergency medical technicians (EMT’s) for two years as they go to work for the county and in that time, they will decide on whether or not they would like to go to school to become paramedics.  The council also decided on providing lump-sum payment packages to city fire employees based on their respective years on the job, whether they go and work for the county or not. Mayor Dowling Watford says despite this agreement being “as good an agreement as we’ll get”, he still is not in favor of it because he still believes residents still want the city fire department and he doesn’t agree with the city having to pay the county for fire protective services.

The inter-local agreement will be up for approval during the city council’s next meeting. If approved, it will go into effect in June of next year.

A Sebring man is facing life in prison after being arrested for possession of child pornography. Highlands County Sheriff’s Department Spokesperson Scott Dressel says 72 year old Ronald William Wells was booked into county jail in late August after investigators say he was in possession of three hundred images of child pornography on his laptop computer. The Special Victims’ Unit of the Highlands County Sheriff’s Department was forwarded a cyber-tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and an investigation revealed the images were uploaded from Wells’ home. Interestingly, Dressel says Wells was arrested while his son, 43 year old David William Wells was arrested back in March for the same crime.

The younger Wells was arrested for possessing over sixty images of child pornography. Bonds for both men have not been set. Both father and son Wells are each facing life sentences in prison if they are convicted.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County as of yesterday morning rose again past the 16 hundred mark, but thankfully the number of fatalities remained the same.  As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 1,601 positive cases of the Coronavirus since March and fatalities remain steady at 28. 1,598 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from zero to an even one hundred with the median age of the patients now at forty. The number of county hospitalizations also remains steady at 177.  Those who have 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 720,125 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 711,358 of them are FL residents. Florida’s death toll is now at 14,767 with 45,004 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 floridahealth.gov or the Center for Disease Control at cdc.gov.

On the arrest report:

45 year old Angel Lynn Barnett of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on charges of forgery. Her bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

32 year old Christie Juracit Shockley of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of the controlled substances Xanax, hydrochloride, hydromorphone, oxycodone and buprenorphine without prescriptions. Her bond is set at twenty thousand dollars.

45 year old Jennifer Louise Laird of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of synthetic cannabis. Her bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

38 year old James Dean Brown of Okeechobee was arrested on charges of battery and obstruction of law enforcement. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

19 year old Rebecka Augustine Lamb of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, introducing contraband into a detention facility and contempt of court for failing to appear to answer charges of driving without a valid license. Her bond is set at $55 hundred dollars.

45 year old James Alan Shockley of Okeechobee was arrested on a local capias warrant for working as a contractor without a license and giving law enforcement a false name during his arrest. His bond is set at two thousand dollars.

44 year old Franklin Heath Everheart of Okeechobee was arrested by police on charges of cyber-sexual harassment. His bond is set at $750.00 dollars.