News Cast 7/22

News Cast for July 22nd:

Fire protective services in the city and county of Okeechobee were once again on the city council’s agenda during last night’s meeting and it looks like the seemingly never-ending tennis match that this has become will continue a little while longer. The council approved a motion to have the city attorney, John Fumero, negotiate with the county attorney Wade Vose on an interlocal agreement on fire protective services to include buyouts of city employees. Mayor Dowling Watford says previously the county agreed that they would take all the city fire department employees that wanted to join the county by employing seven of them-six paramedics and one fire inspector-while the remaining employees would be taken through attrition and the city would pay for them. Watford now says the county would not be taking on extra employees; thus the need for buyouts for the employees that would not be retained by the county. The measure passed by a narrow three to two vote with Watford and Councilmember Monica Clark dissenting. Clark says this issue should wait a while, considering the union negotiations in October and those city firefighters that are in paramedic school (City Council-July 21st Fire Services Agreement 1). Watford, who has been on record as saying he does not think this agreement is a good idea for the city, says despite that, the agreement should be pretty simple for the city and county attorneys to work out.  The issue will likely come back up after their budget hearings next month or in September.

Suicide, and recognizing the warning signs of someone entertaining thoughts of it, was a topic of discussion amongst the Okeechobee County School Board at their meeting last week and they’ve taken some action. The school board voted unanimously to adopt a Suicide Prevention Policy for county schools. While most teachers are trained to deal with suicide prevention and recognize the signs, School Superintendent Ken Kenworthy says anytime you can shed light on something like this, it’s a positive thing to be able to help prevent it from happening.

Kenworthy says this policy will better educate teachers and students alike to recognize the warning signs of suicide. It was advertised beginning last month for thirty days and it officially went into effect last week for all county schools.

It was less than a week ago Okeechobee County hit the six century mark in the number of positive COVID-19 cases and now we’re knocking on the door of the seven century mark. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of cases in Okeechobee County is at 684 with two fatalities. 681 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from zero to 94 with the median age of the patients being 36. 62 county residents have been hospitalized. 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.

As of yesterday morning, there are 369,834 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state since March and 365,244 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 5,206 with 21,780 people hospitalized.

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. Wal-Mart is no longer doing their drive-thru testing program.

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

On the arrest report:

48 year old Keith Jerome Carnley of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on a capias warrant for charges of aggravated battery and causing bodily harm. His bond is set at $15 thousand dollars.

39 year old Sherman Lee Bryant of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court during his hearing on past charges of possession of cocaine, cannabis, drug paraphernalia possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and resisting arrest. He’s being held without bond.

27 year old Brianna Maggie Aguilar of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court during her hearing on past charges of cocaine trafficking and possession of cocaine with intent to sell it. She’s being held without bond.

59 year old Janice Jaunell Conklin of Okeechobee was arrested by police for leaving the scene of an accident after causing property damage and other traffic violations. She was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.