Thursday, January 9th News

The Okeechobee County Commissioners began 2020 by diving into an issue that has been going on for over three months; fire protection services. At their meeting yesterday, members of the County Fire Department discussed with commissioners some numbers of potential costs for providing fire protection in the city of Okeechobee should both the city and county fire departments merge. County Fire Chief Ralph Franklin says the costs were broken down into personnel costs, equipment and apparatus costs and more. Basically, Franklin says if his department were to merge with the City Fire Department, it would cost the county nearly $700 thousand dollars to provide fire services to the city and that would be a big savings to the city taxpayers. Franklin says while it’s still too early to tell, it looks as though the city has begun to prepare for a merger of both departments (Fire Protection Costs Discussion 1). Commissioners have instructed the City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca and County Administrator Robbie Chartier to negotiate the finer points and contract features of this possible merger. De Oca says he already sees the tension amongst the city firefighters on this issue (Fire Protection Costs Discussion 2). Ten city firefighters are already looking to be trained to be paramedics, since the county will be able to take on six paramedics and one fire inspector should a merger happen. The issue will be discussed again by both the city council and county commissioners at their next respective meetings. If a merger is imminent, a contract could be signed by as early as next October. Members of the City Fire Department did not wish to comment.

A report of a fire to a motor home caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters Monday morning. Crews were called to the 79 hundred block of Highway 78 West sometime after nine o’clock and arrived and found the fire had already been extinguished and there were several people standing outside the vehicle talking. Firefighters say the occupants that were renting the motor home were inside it at the time and were told of the fire by people outside. The occupants got out in time and shut off the power and propane to the motor home with no one getting hurt. After the fire was extinguished, the owner of the motor home was informed of what happened and it was turned over to him after an investigation was completed and there were no hot spots anywhere or any dangers of the fire re-igniting. Investigators say the fire originated from a gas line that feeds into the water heater outside the motor home. Total damage is estimated at around four thousand dollars. It remains under investigation.

A high school in Belle Glade was the scene of some drama yesterday following a report of a shooting. Officials from the Palm Beach County School District say a gun in someone’s possession accidentally fired and hit someone in the leg sometime around one o’clock in the parking lot of Glades Central High School. Fire and Rescue crews arrived on scene and attended to the injured before that person was flown to a local area trauma hospital. A spokesperson for the school says the shooting didn’t involve a student and it didn’t happen on the school’s campus. The incident forced a precautionary code red lockdown at the school that lasted until the students were dismissed at three o’clock. No one else was hurt. The name of the injured person has not been released. Law enforcement officers are still investigating the incident.

Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers are asking the public’s help in connection with a vehicle accident that led to the death of a man early Monday morning in Highlands County. FHP officers say the man, whose name has not yet been released pending family notification, was riding a Honda motorcycle south on Country Road 621 in Lake Placid at around four o’clock when he reportedly collided with a hog that was crossing the road. The impact caused the bike to roll onto its side and overturn, ejecting the man from the bike and he ended up on the west shoulder of the road. FHP investigators say as the man was lying in the roadway, an unknown vehicle that was traveling south on 621 drove over the man and kept going. The man was pronounced dead at the scene by medics. If you have any information related to this accident, please contact the Florida Highway Patrol office at (239) 938-1800. 

On the arrest report:

40 year old Brandy Lee Yorke of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for trespassing. Her bond is set at five hundred dollars.

20 year old Darrius Tyreese Houze of Okeechobee was arrested for resisting arrest and escape when deputies came to his home to serve an arrest warrant. His bond is set at ten thousand dollars.

30 year old Christopher Todd Hutcheson of Okeechobee was arrested for burglary, criminal mischief, trespassing and two counts of stalking. His bond is set at $16 thousand dollars.

30 year old Michael Delacruz of Okeechobee was arrested for resisting arrest with violence and on two counts each of robbery with a weapon and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. His bond is set at $81 thousand dollars.

54 year old Jose Cruz Galvan of Okeechobee was arrested for his fourth drunk driving incident and driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. His bond is set at $150 thousand dollars.

20 year old Charles Daniel Harper the Third of Okeechobee was arrested for aggravated battery on a pregnant woman and criminal mischief. His bond is set at $16 thousand dollars.

33 year old William Brandon Bailey of Okeechobee was arrested for petit theft, criminal mischief and possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. His bond is set at six thousand dollars.

18 year old Hailey Marie Farley of Okeechobee was arrested for failing to show up at a court hearing. Her bond has not been set.

59 year old Stephen L. Garrett of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.