News Cast 8/6

News Cast for August 6th:

Members of the Economic Council of Okeechobee County were in attendance during Tuesday night’s Okeechobee City Council meeting and they presented a Flagler Park Master Plan to the council. Jennifer Tewksbury, Executive Director of the Economic Council, gave the presentation of the plan and the main idea of the plan is to celebrate the community’s rural, agricultural identity with each park that make up Flagler. The Economic Council contracted with Michael Flaugh, a Stuart-based landscape architect, who drew up his idea of the Flagler Park Master Plan. Flaugh became very interested, and even excited, at the mere opportunity of undertaking this task.

Frank Irby of the Economic Council, who says Tewksbury is the “instigator and motivator” of this plan, thinks Flaugh’s concept will work very well because each park will have a specific theme.

The project will now go out for bid over the next two months and Flaugh will be among the bidders. The development of this project began last year but the COVID-19 pandemic halted the plan temporarily. Tewksbury declined to comment for this story.

With Tropical Storm Isaias giving Florida residents a scare recently, now is the time to make sure your home is strengthened to withstand a hurricane or tropical storm. Mitch Smeykal of the Okeechobee Emergency Management Center says your garage door is the most vulnerable part of your home and once that goes, the rest of your home will surely be next. Smeykal says to replace your garage door once every ten years or use a retro fit kit.

Smeykal says while using plywood and aluminum is a good solution for boarding up your windows, poly plastic and some fabrics work just as well and they are not as difficult to put up on your windows. Remember, we are in the heart of Hurricane Season.

Okeechobee County is knocking on the door of the four-figure mark in the number of positive COVID-19 cases. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases in Okeechobee County is now at 975 since March with six fatalities. 971 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. 89 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.

Also as of yesterday morning, the state has surpassed the half-million mark in reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state since March as there are now a reported 502,739 cases and 497,181 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll stands at 7,627 with 28,573 people hospitalized.

Okeechobee County Commissioners will meet once again this afternoon with County Emergency Management officials and County Health Department officials to discuss the status of the Coronavirus in the county. The meeting will be held in the Historic County Courthouse beginning at four o’clock. Seating will be limited due to social distancing guidelines. It’ll be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.

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

A vehicle accident claimed the life of a 45 year old Belle Glade man and injured several others early Monday morning in Palm Beach County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say a 25 year old Belle Glade woman was driving a sedan eastbound on US-98 near Connors Way in West Palm Beach shortly before six o’clock, right behind the driver of another sedan that was entering the crossover paved median on the road. The driver of the first sedan did not slow down and rear-ended the second sedan. The impact sent the second sedan rotating counter-clockwise before coming to a stop east of the crossover median. The first sedan went off the main road and collided with a guardrail before stopping on the shoulder of the road. On-scene medics say the passenger in the second sedan succumbed to injuries he received. The driver and passenger in the first sedan and driver of the second sedan, all from Belle Glade, received minor injuries. Names of the people involved in the accident are not being released to the public due to Marsy’s Law. The accident remains under investigation.

On the arrest report:

58 year old Jeffrey Scott Hultman of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on several counts of battery on law enforcement, threatening public servants and resisting arrest. His bond is set at seven thousand dollars.

18 year old Joshua Leo Bonilla of Okeechobee was arrested for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell and tampering with evidence. His bond is set at $45 thousand dollars.

26 year old Jaime Gonzalez of Okeechobee was arrested on twenty counts of possession of photos depicting minors engaging in sexual acts, one count of transmitting child pornography and violating probation on past charges of felony battery and two counts of possession of a controlled substance. He’s being held without bond.

26 year old Kelsey Ann Hammack of Okeechobee was arrested for not having a license plate on her vehicle and fleeing and eluding law enforcement after a traffic stop. Her bond is set at $2750 dollars.