News Cast 3/25

News Cast for March 25th:

The 19th Judicial Circuit of Florida that serves Okeechobee, Indian River, Martin and St. Lucie Counties will soon be looking for a new state attorney come next fall. Officials from the State Attorney’s office announced yesterday that Bruce Colton will not be seeking re-election next fall and will retire in January of next year. Under Colton, the 19th Judicial Circuit grew from ten attorneys to 58 with a staff numbering upwards of 150 people. Colton began working as an Assistant State Attorney in 1974 and later became the State Attorney in 1985. Throughout the years under Colton’s leadership, there has been the establishing of specialized departments to investigate and prosecute major crimes, sex crimes and economic crimes, and establishing adult and juvenile drug courts. Qualifying period to file to run for the position runs from April 20th thru the 24th.

While the Okeechobee County Commissioners and Emergency Management officials did not hold an emergency meeting on the Coronavirus, one particular meeting from last week garnered some attention that reached national levels. Commissioner Bryant Culpepper commented on a possible cure that he learned from watching a program on a 24 hour news network that involved holding a hairdryer just below your nose and letting the hot air blow through your nose and that would supposedly kill the virus. The comments were met by many unfriendly comments directed at Culpepper, some going as far as saying they are “ignorant” and “stupid.” Culpepper says he was making these comments mainly to address people who don’t have health insurance and cannot go to the hospital and allow them comfort of knowing that some simple treatments could work. Despite that, Culpepper says there is some truth to the hot air and the virus. Culpepper admits he might’ve “jumped the gun” with his comments on this so-called Coronavirus cure but he says he’ll always think outside the box. He never thought it would get the attention it got and he believes the reactions he received were meant to destroy everything he’s tried to accomplish during his ten years as a county commissioner.

Meanwhile, as of now, there are still no reported positive cases of the virus in Okeechobee County. The closest areas to Okeechobee that have cases of people who’ve tested positive are in Palm Beach, Martin, Highlands and Osceola Counties. Martin and Highlands Counties each have four cases, Osceola has 26 cases and Palm Beach has 101. There are 1467 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state with 1379 of those being FL residents and the death toll is now at twenty. Okeechobee remains in a local state of emergency (LSE) as of last week, joining 63 other Florida counties and they’ve declared a Level 2 activation which is added personnel at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). All gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and other places where large gatherings can happen are closed. School campuses remain closed until April 15th but online classes began yesterday. Restaurants are doing take-out orders and delivery only, with the exception of Brahma Bull Restaurant, Parrott Island Grill and Golden Corral which are closed at this time and not taking any orders. All bars, pubs and nightclubs also are closed until further notice. Property Appraiser and Tax Collector’s office are having people use their drive thru access at this time.

Raulerson Hospital is now at a Level 3 Lockdown and they are not allowing any visitors to patients at this time.

As of today, the Okeechobee County Administrator, administration offices and the election offices will be closed to the general public until further notice. You can still reach those offices by calling (863) 763-6441 for the administrator’s office and (863) 763-4014 for the elections office. You can also reach these offices by email, fax or by US Mail. Please log on to www.co.okeechobee.fl.us and www.voteokeechobee.com respectively for more information on these two offices.

The Okeechobee County COVID-19 information line is open from 8am to 5pm every Monday thru Saturday. This hotline will be 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 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.

Okeechobee County residents can be tested for the virus at the County Health Department or at the emergency room at Raulerson Hospital. You cannot get tested for the virus at Lab Corp or Quest Diagnostics. Test results normally take three to seven days before they are released.

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.

County commissioners and emergency management officials are set to meet again tomorrow morning in the Historic County Courthouse for their regular meeting and be briefed on the status of the Coronavirus in the county. The meeting will be streamed live on the commissioners’ website beginning at nine o’clock.

A vehicle fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters Monday night last week. Crews were called to an area of NW 240th Street just after eleven o’clock and arrived to find a travel trailer completely covered in flames. Investigators say the owner tried pulling the trailer onto the tire rim and that caused sparks thereby igniting the trailer. Firefighters needed just over an hour to get the fire controlled and they used about 15 hundred gallons of water to get the blaze extinguished. No one was hurt and no other structure damages reported. Total damage to the trailer is estimated at about seven thousand dollars.

A Clewiston man emerged from a vehicle accident without a scratch this past Friday afternoon in Highlands County but the same unfortunately cannot be said for a Bartow man. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 32 year old Kevin Scott was driving a Chevy Silverado pickup truck northbound on Highway 27 in the right lane approaching the intersection of State Road 70 in Lake Placid at around 2:45 at the same time a semi-truck and trailer, driven by 49 year old Domingo Martinez, was heading west on Route 70. FHP officers say Martinez drove through the intersection after getting a green light at the same time Scott drove his vehicle through a red light, causing Scott’s vehicle to collide with Martinez’s trailer. Scott was taken to Tampa General Hospital for treatment where he was later pronounced dead by medics. Martinez was not injured. It remains under investigation.

On the arrest report:

38 year old James Michael Kendall of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for violating probation on past undisclosed charges. He’s being held without bond.

55 year old Herbierto Gispert of Okeechobee was arrested on a warrant from Broward County for not paying child support. He was released after posting a three hundred dollar bond.

31 year old Eugene Jermale Dennis Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for resisting arrest. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

35 year old Ashley Ann Bobo Melvin of Okeechobee was arrested by police for possession of methamphetamine, a controlled substance without a prescription and drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. Her bond is set at $5750 dollars.

48 year old Tammy Lee Williams of Stuart was arrested for retail theft. Her bond is set at five hundred dollars.

33 year old Daniel Asa Floyd of Jacksonville was arrested for possession of a controlled substance without a prescription and drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. His bond is set at eight thousand dollars.