News Cast 6/29

News Cast for June 29th:

It looks like the “never ending tennis match” will likely go on for a bit longer. The Okeechobee County Commissioners and City Council met in a workshop format last Thursday night to discuss the future of fire protective services in the community and hopefully stop the back and forth discussion on it. A task force was recently formed to decide on a course of action should the city fire department merge with the county to help save the city money. Mayor Dowling Watford says the proposed five year agreement included using the fire assessment rate as the basis for the first year’s fee and it also allowed for the county to not only take on seven members of the city fire department but also take on additional people through attrition. Despite that, Watford, who was a part of this committee, says he is still not in favor of this proposed merger.

City resident Karen Bass agreed, saying the city fire department is not only part of the city’s identity but essential to the business districts and older residential sections of the city and a merger of both fire departments is just not feasible down the road.

The city council and county commissioners will have some more discussions about the issue amongst themselves and likely have another workshop down the road.

With the recent spike in positive COVID-19 cases, state lawmakers are taking some action and it’s not good news for bar owners or bar patrons in Okeechobee and other FL counties. Governor Ron DeSantis passed an executive order stating that bars are mandated and not permitted to sell alcohol for on-site consumption. Alcohol purchases can be made in bars but without consumption. Sheriff Noel Stephen says this order comes from not only Governor Ron DeSantis, but also from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation who issue bars their permits. Sheriff Noel Stephen says he and his department will be effectively enforcing this order and those places that are non-compliant will not get a warning.

Restaurants may continue to sell alcohol for on-site consumption if gross food revenue is more than fifty percent of their sales.

Okeechobee County officials say today is the last day to make any comments on the county’s proposed grant application to address the much needed street repairs on NE 304th Street that took an absolute beating from Hurricane Irma. Deputy County Administrator Louis Johnson says the county is looking to apply for a grant of nearly three million dollars for these repairs which cover nearly two miles of the road. The repairs will consist of resurfacing and storm drain repair to alleviate flooding. Johnson says despite the need for the repairs, there hasn’t been all that much in the area of complaints from people on the condition of the road.

Johnson says if and when the county receives this grant, it’ll likely be a year or more before the work on the road is done. Today is also the last day for resident comments on the county’s application for grant for work on Fire Stations #1, #2 and #4. Comments can be made to Johnson on all projects at ljohnson@co.okeechobee.fl.us.

Well folks, it looks like the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County has not only risen again, but we’ve surpassed the triple century mark. As of Monday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County rose to 343.

There are now 141,075 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state; 138,567 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 3,419 with 14,244 people hospitalized.

Along with the Wal-Mart parking lot on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7am to 9am each day, Okeechobee County residents can be tested for the Coronavirus at CVS Pharmacy in Okeechobee, the Okeechobee County Health Department, the emergency room at Raulerson Hospital or by contacting Florida Community Health Centers at (863) 763-7481. You must meet certain criteria before you can be tested and you need to make an appointment. If you’re not sure if you fit the criteria to be tested, please call the county health department and they’ll let you know for sure. These testing sites are available on weekends.

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.

A 20 year old Fort Pierce woman is dead and a 21 year old Fort Pierce man is in serious condition following a vehicle accident Wednesday night in St. Lucie County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the woman was driving a sedan eastbound at a high rate of speed and weaving across the inside and outside lanes on SR-68 near the 61 hundred block of Orange Avenue in Fort Pierce just before eight o’clock when she apparently lost control of the vehicle and went off the road. She then drove over the sidewalk before colliding with a fence, then colliding with two standing trees. The woman and her 21 year old male passenger were taken to area hospitals for treatment. Medics declared the woman dead later that night. The accident is under investigation.

On the arrest report:

29 year old Jayme Lee Casanova of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of fentanyl with intent to sell. His bond is set at $150 thousand dollars.

39 year old Jason Edward Gillis of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. His bond is set at $750 dollars.

28 year old Ethan Lynn Gopher of Okeechobee was arrested on a warrant from St. Lucie County for battery charges. He’s being held without bond.

29 year old Jonathan Harris Sills of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court during his arraignment on environmental charges. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

60 year old Scott Komitor of Deerfield Beach was arrested for writing a fraudulent check for $150 dollars. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.