News Cast 12/3

News Cast for December 3rd:

While it may have appeared to be official last week, now it’s officially official. During their meeting on Tuesday night, the Okeechobee City Council officially ratified the inter-local agreement for the county to provide fire protective services for the city. Now that the agreement has been ratified, it will officially mean the doors of the Okeechobee City Fire Department will close forever next June. The agreement was approved by the city council last October and last week by the county commission. The decision to ratify the agreement was approved by a four to one vote and once again, Mayor Dowling Watford was the lone dissenting voice. Watford says, despite the possibility that this may save the city some money, this has been a disappointment since day one because this is a service the city has traditionally provided for over a century, one the citizens want, and now it will be a sad day, come June 1st. Regarding saving money, Watford says there may be some money saved but it will take some money to put this agreement into effect with payouts for sick leave and severance packages, not to mention the fact that city councils have a tendency to spend money instead of providing a tax break. Watford says the council will heed the suggestion of Commissioner Brad Goodbread in that there needs to be some kind of way to preserve the history of the city’s fire department and they will do that by preserving Engine #1 and constructing some kind of plaque and scrapbooks denoting the history of the Okeechobee City Fire Department. City Fire Chief Herb Smith declined to comment at this time.

There will be some new faces in local and national political offices come January. One new face will surely be State Attorney for the 19th Judicial Circuit of Florida after many years. It was announced last spring that State Attorney Bruce Colton was not seeking re-election and will be retiring in January after nearly 35 years at the helm. Colton pondered this decision over several months and after talks with his chief assistant, Tom Bakkedahl, decided this was the time to step down. Colton, who’s worked for the State Attorney’s office for nearly 50 years, says he owes his longevity to the fact that he was in the right place at the right time, he’s grateful and he was blessed with excellent people working around him and under him that were skilled and dedicated. Colton says after he retires, he’ll likely take a look at his neighborhood in Indian River County for ideas as to what to do to occupy his time.

  Colton, a Delaware native, moved to Florida in 1969 and attended law school at the University of Florida. He became the Assistant State Attorney in 1974 after two years as a public defender. He then was elected State Attorney in 1985. Colton says he’s most proud of the specialized divisions that were created during his tenure that seek to investigate and prosecute different types of crimes, establishing a victim’s services division, deferred prosecution and sexual assault and victim assistance. Bakkedahl, who ran unopposed for Colton’s seat, will succeed Colton next month.

There’s bad news once again on the COVID-19 front in Okeechobee County as the number of positive cases as of yesterday morning unfortunately rose again by eleven. There’s unfortunately more bad news as our streak of no increases in fatalities ended yesterday morning at twenty straight days.  As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 2,061 recorded positive cases of the Coronavirus since March and fatalities rose by one, making it a total of 44. 2,048 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. 212 county residents have been hospitalized as that figure also increased by one. 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.

As of yesterday morning, officials from the state health department are reporting 1,018,160 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 1,001,800 of those are FL residents. Florida’s death toll is at 18,776 with 55,567 people hospitalized. Florida joins Texas and California as the only states with at least a million confirmed COVID-19 cases since March.

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, or just bring photo identification. Testing is free in both locations.

If you have 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:

55 year old William Paul Lindstrom of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for battery and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. His bond is set at $10,500.00 dollars.

21 year old Kysell Marquise Merritt Richardson of Okeechobee was arrested for home invasion while in possession of a deadly weapon and contempt of court for failing to appear to answer for charges of prowling and loitering. He’s being held without bond.

35 year old Enevin Edward Lutjen of Okeechobee was arrested on a local capias warrant for battery charges. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

38 year old Justin Wayne Albritton of Okeechobee was arrested on two counts of touching or striking someone. He’s being held without bond.

34 year old Anthony James Downing of Okeechobee was arrested by for public intoxication. His bond has not been set.

42 year old Kenny Wayne Harrington of Okeechobee was arrested for shoplifting. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

55 year old William Paul Lindstrom of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for battery and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. His bond is set at $10,500.00 dollars.

22 year old Jesse James Mond the Fourth of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license with knowledge of it after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

19 year old Kevin James Clausell of Okeechobee was arrested by police for simple assault and battery charges. His bond is set at $750.00 dollars.

21 year old Gage Michael Wade Platt of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court for failing to appear to answer for charges of driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

18 year old Alkeccia Irene Clayton of Okeechobee was arrested for simple assault and battery charges. Her bond is set at $750.00 dollars.