News Cast for May 26th:
Unidentified man killed in Highlands County
A 74 year old Lake Placid man was killed after being struck by a tractor trailer on US 27 just south of Lake Placid Tuesday morning. The driver was a 40 year old Venus man. The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating.
Pardell Rembert, 28, was accused of shooting a 16 year old by accident last November, is now accused of assaulting a fellow jail inmate.
Rembert reportedly slapped and punched an inmate as he sat and played cards. Deputies said the incident was caught on video.
Rembert was arrested after a drug deal turned violent last November in Douglas Park. Okeechobee Deputies said Rembert fired five shots at another man but missed and struck the innocent bystander.
A 45 year old Lorida man put up a fuss as he went to jail.
Highlands County Deputies said Seth Porter verbally abused them as they tried to investigate a domestic squabble. He actively resisted police when they told him he was under arrest and allegedly tried to grab one of the deputies tasers.
Charges include resisting arrest, felony battery and battery on law enforcement.
Keeping kids and booze apart
Operation Buzz Kill was meant to stop local stores from selling alcohol to minors this summer.
The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department said eight out of 24 stores sold alcohol to minors.
Sheriff Noel Stephen said the buyers they use in the undercover operation is clearly underage.
“We have to by state statute have to send somebody who is obviously under the legal age to attempt these purchases. These establishments have to make sure that the clerks are checking properly.”
The clerks who allegedly sold the alcohol were given appearance tickets to appear in court next month.
The department also checked on tobacco sales to minors.
Sheriff Stephen said he thinks it is getting easier for kids to purchase alcohol.
“It is sadly easier than we would like it to be. We are doing our due diligence to make folks aware that they need to be checking licenses and dates of birth of our youth to make sure they are of the proper age to purchase tobacco products and alcoholic beverages.”
Stephen said the operation was held on prom weekend. He said he wants to do his part of keep alcohol use among minors at a minimum during the summer break.
Residents urged to refrain from burning
The Florida Forest Service alerting motorists that pulling over to the side of the road on top of dead vegetation can start wild fires.
They ask residents in the Okeechobee district not to burn outdoors.
The state had 71 active wild fires burning over 5,500 acres on Tuesday.
They said the dry conditions are expected to persist for awhile.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month
Okeechobee is among the communities around the nation that are experiencing more mental health issues.
Debbie Clemons representing Okeechobee on the New Horizons Board spoke on the increase in cases as she accepted a proclamation from the Okeechobee Board of County Commissioners.
There were 20 suicides and 16 accidental overdose deaths in Okeechobee during 2020.
“Adequate mental health care in a community is invisible. You may not notice the issues in stores and on the roads. When you see people stumbling on sidewalks and sleeping in the woods, simply know that there are not enough mental health services to meet the demand.”
New Horizons of the Treasure Coast said they had 24 hour emergency service for crisis in Okeechobee.
They are also working with the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office on ways to improve training for law enforcement when they interact with those with mental issues.
Governor signs $2.5 billion gaming deal
Governor Ron DeSantis signed the compact for gaming with the Seminole Tribe that includes sports betting.
The Brighton Seminole Indian Reservation could see a new 100 bed hotel.
The state would get $2. 5 billion from the tribe over the next five years.
The U.S. Department of Interior has to approve the compact.
Okeechobee Economic Outlook looks promising
The Okeechobee County economic development corporation said the economic outlook for Okeechobee is good.
They have had plenty of prospects, 10 in fact, over the past six months.
Business Manager Kaylee King says one possible project is the former Advanced Stone building in the industrial park.
“My hope is that we can work with the county to bringing the building up to date. On the other hand we may have a tenant ready to move right into the building.”
They also have other prospects for the industrial park and the city commerce park.
King said they had talked to 10 different companies in the past six months.
She has made a practice of visiting many of these companies to get to know them and their operation and show them Okeechobee is interested.
“I think when you are recruiting a business you need to make sure it works for everyone. You need to make sure it works for them but works for us as a community. “
She said she takes tours of their facility and talks with the owners to get an idea on how they might fit into the community.
She added the OCEDC also works to retain and help local businesses expand while also working to welcome new business and do things to help them succeed.