Local News Headlines 11-20-20

Florida State Troopers are investigating an accident last night that claimed a life just west of the Highlands-Hardee County line. FHP units were dispatched a little after 7pm to the scene near the intersection of Mel Smith Road and Highway 64. Highway traffic was blocked most of the might all the way up to Olivia Drive in Avon Park – its open again now, but no details have yet been released by the Patrol on the wreck.

Thanksgiving in The Heartland ended with a bang yesterday, as Highlands Radio Group personalities set up shop at Heartland Pharmacy in Lake Placid raising money, food and clothing donations for the New Testament Mission. The cash collection was a new record, topping $7,000 plus grocery gift cards. The food and warm wraps filled up the station van TWICE – all supplies and funds to help the New Testament Mission provide food and shelter for the less fortunate during the upcoming months.

Highlands County is spiking in Coronavirus numbers with another 47 confirmed cases of the bug reported yesterday – that’s 268 newly-recorded infections in just the last week, along with five new deaths blamed on the virus. As of yesterday, 62 of our neighbors were in area hospitals and being treated for the bug. Statewide, Florida crossed the 900,000 mark this week a with over 18,000 deaths. The most recent week’s testing statewide comes in with an 8.38% positive rate; during that same period, Highlands County had an 18.3% positive rate.

Avon Park city council members held a two hour special session last night to deal with – among other things – County Sheriff Paul Blackman’s demand to renegotiate the city contract with the sheriff’s department for law enforcement. They decided to seek a Florida Attorney General’s Opinion on whether or not the city could lose its charter if they don’t provide municipal law enforcement, and research companies that could help with the process of re-establishing a new local police department.

City Manager Mark Schrader was instructed to meet with the sheriff to determine what his demands would be for a possible extension to the agreement with the city.

Highlands County has a few more school age kids than we’ve had in recent years – at least if school enrollments are an indicator. County Public Schools enrollment bumped up this year by a little over a hundred students, reversing a two-year downtick from the last two school years. October figures show 11,946 students attending Highlands County Schools in person, with another 73 enrolmed through Highlands Virtual School. District officials say some of that increase may be due to various private schools having fewer virtual options.

The Florida State Transportation Department has issued a rather routine sounding traffic advisory for next week on a portion of State Road 17 in Sebring. Beginning Monday, sidewalks and parking spaces on North Ridgewood will be closed in advance of some demolition work. Yep, the Nancesowee Hotel. The sidewalk closure is set to begin November 23. The dry statement from the D-O-T says demolition of the front part of hotel is estimated to begin November 29.