News Cast 8/17

News Cast for August 17th:

August is the time of year of a lot of things in Okeechobee; schools restarting, primary elections, the Hurricane Season, but for the Okeechobee City Council, it’s also the time to discuss the budget. Councilmembers met in their first hearing last Wednesday night to discuss the budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year. City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca says the budget is proposed to be just over $4.34 million dollars and while he feels pretty good about how the hearing went, De Oca has been instructed by the council to speak with city department heads about finding ways to make some cuts to balance the budget better, specifically considering the lack of revenues this year and while that’s directly attributable to the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s also about the economy in general and not just Okeechobee’s.

City Councilmember Monica Clark suggested asking city department heads to see about making more cuts because the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the city’s revenue sources.

De Oca says the council is looking at fuel costs as something that can be discussed regarding cuts for this very difficult budget year and they will also be saving money by having all city departments using the same internet access. There will be another budget hearing tomorrow evening in City Hall right after their regular meeting, which will begin at five o’clock.

A vehicle fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County Firefighters late Sunday morning of last week. Crews were called to the 14 thousand block of State Route 70 just after 11:30 and arrived to find a BMW passenger vehicle completely covered in flames. Firefighters got the occupants of the vehicle out of harm’s way before commencing on fighting the blaze. They needed a little less than two hours to get the fire controlled and they used about 750 gallons of water to extinguish the blaze. Firefighters were told by the brother of the vehicle’s owner that he was trying to jumpstart it after it had been sitting for nearly a week and it burst into flames. Total damage is estimated at $17 thousand dollars. No one was hurt. The state fire marshal is investigating.

Okeechobee County is inching closer and closer the eleven hundred mark in positive COVID-19 cases. As of Friday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases in Okeechobee County is at 1,093 since March, with 12 fatalities. 1,089 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. 107 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.

During their meeting on Thursday, the Okeechobee County Commissioners renewed the local state of emergency in the county for another week, retroactive to last Friday.

Also as of Friday morning, there are 563,285 reported positive cases of the Coronavirus in the state since March and 557,337 of them are FL residents. Florida’s death toll now stands at 9,141 with 33,155 people hospitalized.

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:

29 year old Laron Savonte McNeill of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. His bond is set at $150 thousand dollars.

58 year old Stacy Lafawn Tyson of Okeechobee was arrested for concealing a sex offender. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

23 year old Carlos Luis Vazquez of Okeechobee was arrested on a fugitive warrant from Mobile, Alabama in connection with rape charges. His bond is set at $35 thousand dollars.

55 year old Forest Steven Roberts of Okeechobee was arrested on a fugitive warrant from Highlands County, Ohio on charges of cultivation and possession of marijuana and possession of criminal tools.  He’s being held without bond.