News Cast 9/29

News Cast for September 29th:

Officials from Bass Pro Shops and Big Cedar met with Okeechobee County Commissioners during their meeting last week to ask their help in getting the permitting process with the US Army Corps of Engineers moved along so they can begin building one of their shops and motels and RV parks in the Okee-Tantie area of Lake Okeechobee. To that end, the commissioners decided to begin forming a consortium to go up to Tallahassee and speak with the US Army Corps of Engineers about the needed permits such as a manatee protection plan and a permit to alter the civil works in the Herbert Hoover Dike. Commissioner Bryant Culpepper says another thing that needs to be done is that the property needs to be brought up to 23 feet above sea level, which will require a lot of material. Culpepper says this is because Congressman Brian Mast, who blames his district’s toxic algae issues on this area, is holding the lake’s water back and that’s why it’s brought water tables so high that water that’s falling is not leaving the ground.

Besides his fellow county commissioners, Culpepper says Congressman Greg Steube and US Senator and former FL Governor Rick Scott could be part of this consortium because of Steube’s connections with the US Army Corps of Engineers and Scott’s business sense and what it means to the community if Bass Pro opens a site here.

TSome of those permitting issues include a manatee protection plan and a permit to alter the civil works in the Herbert Hoover Dike. Commissioner Bryant Culpepper says this consortium will likely consist of he and his fellow commissioners and people like Congressman Greg Steube because of his military background and US Senator and former FL Governor Rick Scott.

Besides the permitting, Culpepper says the property at Okee-Tantie will likely have to be raised to 23 feet above sea level because of water issues, which he believes are because of Congressman Brian Mast, in order to get this project accomplished. If the permits are attained by May of next year, construction can begin

Just a reminder that tomorrow is the last day folks; the last day you can complete your US Census information; a very important thing for the residents of any community, much less Okeechobee County. County Library Director Kresta King says since 2018, the US Federal Government has assigned the completing of the Census at libraries because they have internet access and people can come to the library to do their Census if they do not have internet access at home. King says it’s so important to complete your Census information because it will mean very important dollars for the community in federal funding.

King says most people don’t do their Census responsibilities because they don’t want the Federal Government “in their business” and that couldn’t be further from the truth; they don’t ask your Social Security Number or any private information.

You can complete your Census by calling the library at (863) 763-3536 or by calling the Census Bureau hotline at (844) 330-2020 or by logging on to www.my2020census.gov.

Okeechobee County’s COVID-19 case numbers as of yesterday morning have increased once again and unfortunately so did the number of fatalities. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, there are 1,556 positive cases of the Coronavirus since March and fatalities rose by two, making it a total of 27. 1,553 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from zero to one hundred with the median age of the patients now at an even forty. 170 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. Overall, as of yesterday morning, Florida has crossed the seven hundred thousand mark in positive cases as there are 701,302 reported positive cases of the Coronavirus in the state since March and 692,962 of them are FL residents. In another milestone, Florida’s death toll has surpassed the 14 thousand mark as we are now at 14,037 deaths and there have been 43,606 people hospitalized.

Okeechobee County residents can be tested, by appointment only, for the Coronavirus at the County Health Department between the hours of eight o’clock in the morning and two o’clock in the afternoon. This is an oral swab test. The Florida Community Health Centers have a drive-thru and walk-up COVID-19 testing site available every Tuesday and Thursday from eight o’clock in the morning until noon at the former Okeechobee Surgery Center located at 1655 Highway 441 North. No appointment is necessary and you don’t need insurance, but if you have it, please bring your insurance card, otherwise please bring photo identification. Testing is free in both locations. 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.

An Avon Park man is dead following a vehicle accident Friday night in Hendry County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the man, who was 66 years old, was driving a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) north on Highway 27 approaching the intersection of County Road 720 in Moore Haven at about 11:30 when he inexplicably lost control of the SUV, traveled off the roadway and into a ditch off the right side of the road, causing the SUV to overturn.  The man was taken to a local hospital for treatment where he was later pronounced dead by medics. The accident is under investigation. The victim’s name is not being released to the public due to Marsy’s Law.

On the arrest report:

60 year old Ray Junior Alvarez of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for drunk driving and damaging property following a traffic accident and field sobriety test. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

31 year old Alvin Eugene Crowell Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, contempt of court and resisting arrest. He’s being held without bond.

44 year old Carlena Denise Bain of Okeechobee was arrested on multiple counts of violating probation on undisclosed charges. She’s being held without bond.

62 year old Allen Douglas Fox of Okeechobee was arrested for corruption by threats, resisting arrest and causing a disturbance by public intoxication. His bond is set at $30 thousand dollars.

54 year old Daniel D. Greer of Okeechobee was arrested for withholding child support. His bond has not been set.

50 year old Howard E. Stout of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop and on a St. Lucie County warrant for driving without a valid license. He’s being held without bond.

19 year old Jaylen Baker of Okeechobee was arrested by police for simple assault and battery during a domestic dispute and driving on a suspended license. He was released after posting bonds of five hundred dollars apiece. 32 year old Carmelo Velez Junior of Pahokee was arrested on a Pasco County warrant for failing to appear in court to answer for past battery charges. His bond is set at just over seven thousand dollars