News Cast 12/29

News Cast for December 29th:

COVID activity picks up 

Positive test rates for COVID jumped in Okeechobee and Glades County last week.  The Department of Health reported positive test rates jumped from less than one percent to over 7 percent in Okeechobee.  Glades County had a positive test rate of 14.2 percent. The report listed 39 new cases in Okeechobee and 17 in Glades County last week. The omicron variant has led to record new daily case counts across Florida. 

Alligator hunting could be allowed to harvest gators 24 hours per day during the hunting season. The Fish and Wildlife commission is expected to decide in March.  Dr. Brooke Talley said the hunt began in 1988 strictly as a commercial harvest.  It proved to be so popular it was A expanded to the private sector. Some concerns raised about the proposal included eco-tourism and would alligators be visible on lake Okeechobee during the hunting season for tourists to see. 

“So far the feedback we have gotten from eco tour operators has been very positive,” Dr. Talley added. 

Some processors see a lot of spoiled alligator meat now and worry about more spoiling due to warmer day time temperatures. Supporters note the proposal would only add hunting seven hours per day. It is now allowed from sunset to 10 in the morning. Daniel Watson said he’d like to see all hunters considered regardless of the game so there are fewer problems. 

“I support all the opportunities for hunting.  Especially if it allows the younger hunters or those that can’t hunt all night the chance to get out there and harvest a gator.” 

The state reported 8,216 alligators were harvested last year.  

A violent shooting last year resulted in a light jail term for an Okeechobee man. Edwardo Taylor received a sentence of one year in the county jail with credit for time he’s already served. He pled no contest to a trespass charge. Taylor allegedly  shot several rounds from a handgun striking Jaren Hall in the chest on August 4th of last year at the Cattlemen’s RV Park. 

Several rounds went through the walls of residences nearly striking children and a baby. 12 criminal charges were dropped in the case. 

Charges against another suspect allegedly involved in the incident, Laron McNeil, were also dropped. 

The village of Indiantown approved an architect for their municipal complex, REG Architects of West Palm Beach. 

Vice Mayor Anthony Dowling supported the other finalist showing staff rankings showed quite the difference. 

“A difference of 21 points is a lot in my opinion. “ 

The council rezoned 6.6 acres on Warfield Blvd to village mixed use for a proposed commercial development. 

 The also allowed the village manager to make offers of employment to prospective employees. 

Courts weathering pandemic without backlogs 

Clerk of the courts Jerry Bryant predicts about a normal amount of case filings in Okeechobee courts for 2021. He said the court dockets have not been overloaded and the judges have adapted well to more virtual hearings. Bryant said the county is not seeing the backlog in criminal cases other parts of the circuit are seeing. 

“I personally don’t know that our judges are overwhelmed.  Our two judges have really adapted well to the zoom hearing process.  They have handled the case load pretty well.  The county judge is also handling his case load quite well.” 

Bryant reported the US State Department increased passport fees this week.  The clerk handles the application process. 

The new fees went into effect on December 27.  A new passport for 16 and older costs $130.   If you are under 16 the passport costs $100. A renewal of an adult passport costs $130. The application tells  you what documents and forms of identification you need for a passport. 

More coyotes are showing up especially in farming communities across Florida. Biologist Angeline Barker with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the coyotes are after food and they aren’t picky eaters. 

“Dog food is made to be attractive so dogs will eat it.  It is attractive to any wildlife.  Raccoons, foxes, coyotes eat it.  One coyote found dead had dog food in his stomach.  A big reason they come into urban environments is an easy meal.  Eating dog food out of a bowl is a lot easier than running down a rabbit for your meal.” 

Coyotes are often fed unknowingly by dog owners. Little dogs are also on the menu of coyotes. There has been an increase in coyote attacks on small pets in suburban areas of the state. It remains rare for coyotes to attack humans. Barker said the coyote has not had much of an impact on the Florida panther habitat. 

Marina fees will go up to $450 per month at the Pahokee Marina. That is still one of the lowest rates in the state. Resident Sam McKenzie argues there are no amenities at the marina and there is no justification for the increase. “We have no Wi-Fi, no trash pickup.  There is nothing for the $250 people pay.  There are no amenities granted in the contract.” 

Mayor Keith Babb opposed the increase.  He said the city should improve the marina first. 

City Manager Greg Thompson said improvements are on his radar. They include removal of old boats and structures. 

“I want to grow the business.  You have to make it worth to come to Pahokee to camp at our beautiful facility, one of a kind facility, on Lake Okeechobee.” 

An Okeechobee teen was sentenced as a youthful offender for robbing someone with a deadly weapon. 

Salvador Medrano also pled no contest to charges related to stealing some ones vehicle. 

Court records show he was sentenced to 120 days in jail plus two years of house arrest and three years of probation. 

He was not convicted of a crime for the incident reported in July , 2020. 

He also will serve 250 hours of community service.