News Cast 2/9


February 9, 2024

News Cast for February 9th:

9500  Crystal Payne 9513 Stephanie Rogers

9521  Barbara Golden 9529  Sgt. Stephen Pollack

Top lawman named

Sgt. Stephen Pollack was named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year in Okeechobee County.

Other officers nominated this year included Brady Rhoden, Matt Huffman and Sgt. Keith Hughes.

Pollack is head of the sheriffs traffic unit and he was able to secure valuable grant funding the department used to pay deputies to work overtime and focus on traffic enforcement.

“He is trying to stay up on aggressive driving. The grant dollars of $500,000 helped us to pay for overtime and traffic enforcement,” Sheriff Noel Stephen said.

“These men and women dedicate their lives to our profession and to our community. I can’t thank them enough. This is something we need to do more often. There is so much negativity in this world. These moments that are positive make us who we are. I’m very proud to be the leader of this ship and leading this young men and women,” he added.

The detention deputy of the year was Wade Morgan. Others nominated included Alex Garcia, Joshua Rhoden and Cody Roberts.

The volunteer of the year was Barbara Golden. Others nominated included Sally Craig, Bill and Brenda Swank and Brad Phares.

The law enforcement support employee of the year was Crystal Payne. Others nominated included Daniel Kidd, Denise Sikorski, Kathleen Watson and Eric Till.

The detention support employee of the year was Stephanie Rogers. Others nominated included Kayla Ammons, Cindy Kemp and Debbie Deloney.

The sheriff also honored Sgt. Javier Gonzales, Lt. Randy Thomas and Deputy Tim Higgins for 25 years of service.

He also honored Lt. Chris Hans and Shirley Till for 30 years of service.

The sheriff also swore in 14 new deputies and detention officers at the ceremony.

Another delay was ordered in the penalty phase and sentence hearing for Zephen Xaver, the admitted mass murderer in Highlands County.

Circuit Court Judge Angela Cowden issued an order February 1 to delay the penalty phase of the trial until May 20 in Sebring.

Xaver entered guilty pleas to five counts of first degree murder last March for a shooting at the Sun Trust Bank on US 27.

One of the victims in the bank was Ana Pinon-Williams of Okeechobee.

Court documents show there were some troubling signs about Xaver. He had previously lived in Indiana and witnesses said he was fascinated with guns and with killing people.

A former girlfriend, in her deposition, said Xaver told her he had dreams while they were both in high school. In those dreams he was hurting other students.

Congressman in Florida’s 18th District that covers Okeechobee and Glades County, Scott Franklin ® was asked about the state of the Veterans Administration and if they are doing a better job of treating veterans.

Franklin is a veteran of the US Air Force.

“The VA is the largest of all the government bureaucracies. It is a behemoth. It is hard to move that battle ship quickly.”

“I do think it is getting better. It really depends on which veterans you talk to. I speak to a lot of veterans who are personally satisfied with some of the care they get but they also hear from others who aren’t and that is frustrating.”

Franklin introduced a bill to ensure timely treatment for veterans who are seeking specialty care at the VA.

“As a veteran I understand how challenging the VA can be to navigate, especially while experiencing a health crisis. Far too often, vets suffer in painful and threatening situations waiting for a scheduled visit. That’s unacceptable.”

Franklin said veterans have earned the highest quality care by their service to the nation. He wants the Congress to hold the VA accountable to provide quick and reliable care.

The VA in 2020 updated their process to schedule specialty care appointments at VA facilities with community care providers. Appointments must be scheduled within three days from the date a VA provider

enters a referral and community care appointment must be scheduled within one week. A new report found only 10 percent of VA Medical Centers were able to schedule greater than 75 percent of their appointments under these standards.

Glades County has asked for bids from companies that specialize in studies to justify and impose impact fees for new development.

They have a study, but it is over 15 years old, and legally must be updated.

The fees could be used for things like roads, parks, fire rescue and police.

Chairman Tim Stanley said he thinks the county should start small and gradually increase the fees.

“I still feel for the single family that wants to put in their own small house and getting hit by this. Once we start getting developments that build 200-300 homes at a time. It will be an impact on them, but they will just push the cost onto the consumer.”

Stanley said Glades is getting more development applications. He said he was not for impact fees in the past due to the slower rate of growth.

“It seems like growth is upon us now. We are going to have money to provide the buildings and roads and stuff due to these impacts.”

Three vehicles were shot numerous times on I-95 Thursday morning. It appeared to be an incident related to road rage.

The Martin County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol are investigating.

Sheriff William Snyder said there were no injuries. Two of the vehicles became disabled on the Martin Grade (CR 714).

Snyder said it appeared the incident only involved these three vehicles and that his department is providing resources to the FHP who is the lead agency in the case.

The St. Lucie County Fire District and other agencies took part in a wildland training exercise on Thursday.

It took place the Bluefield Preserve on Okeechobee Road, near the Okeechobee-St. Lucie County line.

They used newly promoted and future fire officers to work on various strategies when fighting large outdoor burns and wildland fires.

The exercise was meant to keep firemen prepared and help them keep the community safe.