News Headlines 6-25-21

The Highlands County Sheriff’s Department reported a death at the County Jail yesterday. 49-year-old Pedro Jose Clemente-Haddock was exercising with other inmates in a recreation yard when he collapsed about 1:30pm. Deputies and medical staff immediately responded, and EMS arrived approximately five minutes after he collapsed and transported him to Highlands Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Jailers say there were no suspicious incidents before Clemente-Haddock collapsed. His death is being investigated – an official cause of death will be determined by the Medical Examiner.

A Sebring man is being hunted by Polk County lawmen … The Lake Wales Police Department says 40 year old Tex Gifford of Sebring is responsible for the Fathers’ Day murder of 42 year old Bruce Spry of Bradenton. Police say Gifford was involved in a verbal argument with Spry Sunday – Gifford allegedly returned with a gun and shot Spry. Gifford has been charged with first degree murder and police are asking for help finding him. Heartland Crime Stoppers is offering a $5,000.00 reward for any information leading to his arrest. Call 1-800-226 TIPS.

Your chance to get your voice heard on where your County tax money goes begins July 6th – County-sponsored “Town Hall” style meetings to see the upcoming year’s proposed budget presentation will be held on July 6th, 7th and 8th in Sebring, Avon Park and Lake Placid respectively. The first – on July 6th – will be in the County Board Chambers at the Government Center downtown – all meetings begin at 6pm. The Board itself gets its first presentation of the proposed budget that morning at their regularly scheduled meeting.

Expect an already greasy traffic situation on the Sebring Parkway’s construction zone to get a little greasier Monday and Tuesday of next week. Portions of Desoto Road will need to be shut down while crews take down the existing traffic signal poles. This won’t be a full, two-day shutdown – only for a few hours at a time when the work will obstruct a lane at a time. Put together with the outbound lane closures on the Parkway itself, and motorists may want to just find an alternate route. By the by, those shutdowns WERE scheduled for this week – the schedule was updated earlier this week to Monday and Tuesday, the 28th and 29th.

School scheduling was a bit goofy during the pandemic year just passed, but they still did testing – and Highlands County’s third graders scored below the state average in the Florida Standards Assessment exams this past school year. 46% of Highlands County third graders scored “satisfactory” or above on the skills test … tops in the County was Sun N Lake Elementary with 55% and Lake Country Elementary with 53% of their kids scoring satisfactory or better. Statewide, 54% of third graders scored at or above that “Satisfactory” level.