News Cast 9/8

News Cast for September 8th:

The Okeechobee County School Board will be meeting tonight following the Labor Day weekend and they will have their first public hearing on their proposed millage rate and the proposed budget for the next fiscal year. School board members will also be discussing emergency purchases of COVID-19 supplies and the purchase of new playground equipment for North Elementary School. The meeting will be held in the Freshman Campus Auditorium beginning at six o’clock. Seating will be limited due to social distancing guidelines and masks are mandatory. The meeting will be streamed live via the Zoom application. Please contact the school board office for instructions on viewing the meeting through Zoom or log on to the school board website at http://www.okee.k12.fl.us and check out school board agendas.

Speaking of the Okeechobee County School Board, the millage rate and budget for the Okeechobee County School District were tentatively set during their last meeting and in both cases, it’s looking pretty good. School board members adopted the tentative millage rate of 5.92 mills for this fiscal year for money to put toward educating students; less than the previous year by 0.67 mills. School Superintendent Ken Kenworthy says the reason for that is the ad valorem tax assessments are up for this year so there’s no need to have the millage rates as high to raise money for the school district. Kenworthy says he also projected a student enrollment increase by nearly 225 more students and that always helps lower the millage rate. Kenworthy says it’s due to more families selling their coastal homes and moving here.

The tentative budget for this year was set at $88.4 million dollars, an increase of nearly eleven million dollars from last year. Kenworthy attributes that to expenses being less than normal because of the COVID-19 shutting down schools and forcing students into online learning and that allowed for some saving. The other factor was the Florida Power and Light (FPL) power plant opening in the north end of the county, which was a blessing for taxpayers and became another revenue source and increased tax bases by hundreds of millions of dollars which led to more dollars rolling forward, according to Kenworthy, for this year.

Tonight will be the first of two public hearings on the millage rate and budget.

This morning, once again, some lucky people in Okeechobee County will be the recipients of some free food, compliments of the Treasure Coast Food Bank. Officials from the Treasure Coast Food Bank will be in town to distribute food to at least two hundred vehicles on the north section of town at the Coquina Water Control District, located on 242nd Avenue, for the second time in three months. While these events are normally held at the Agri-Civic Center, Assistant County Fire Chief Earl Wooten says this site was chosen mainly for convenience (September Food Bank-Coquina 1). People participating have pre-registered and they will receive a call from the county telling them they are eligible. If you’d still like to try and register, please text the word HUNGER to 21000 on your smartphone to get registration information. The food bank will begin at nine o’clock and continue until eleven o’clock. Another food bank distribution will be held at the Agri-Civic Center later this month.

Just another bit of a rise in the numbers of positive COVID-19 cases for Okeechobee County to report but unfortunately there was another fatality to add to the list. As of Friday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases in Okeechobee County is at 1,271 since March, and the number of fatalities is now at an even twenty. 1,267 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from zero to 94 with the median age of the patients being 38. 134 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 Friday morning in Hendry County there are 1,987 cases of the Coronavirus with 39 fatalities. 1,985 of those people diagnosed with the virus are Hendry County residents. Their ages range from zero to 101 with the median age of the patients being 37. Overall statewide as of Friday morning, there are 640,211 reported positive cases of the Coronavirus in the state since March and 633,060 of them are FL residents. Florida’s death toll now stands at 11,750 and there have been 39,667 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 every Tuesday and Thursday from eight o’clock 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.

On the arrest report:

46 year old Lynette Lashay Butler of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of illegal narcotics with intent to sell within a thousand feet of a school. Her bond is set at one hundred thousand dollars.

19 year old Santiago Luis Tinajero of Okeechobee was arrested for trespassing after being warned by the homeowner, identity theft and giving a false name to law enforcement. He was released after posting a $15 hundred dollar bond.

56 year old Mark Allen Lee of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine. His bond is set at three thousand dollars.

34 year old Jack Owen Albritton of Okeechobee was arrested for knowingly giving a false name to law enforcement. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

29 year old Krystal Gail Amber Lyons of Okeechobee was arrested on several counts of violating probation on undisclosed charges. Her bond is set at ten thousand dollars.

51 year old Sandra Ann Maddigan of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of a controlled substance without a prescription. Her bond is set at five thousand dollars.

35 year old James Henry Schock of Okeechobee was arrested on felony assault and battery charges. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

56 year old Mark Allen Lee of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine with intent to manufacture and sell. His bond is set at $60 thousand dollars.

34 year old Desiree Nicole Paulus of Okeechobee was arrested by police on burglary charges. Her bond is set at $35 hundred dollars.