News Headlines 8-2-18

Sun N Lake commuters saw what looked worse than it turned out yesterday afternoon just east of the golf course, as a 2005 GMC Yukon flipped over on the westbound shoulder of Sun ’n Lake Boulevard. The driver and his family were maneuvering through an afternoon rainstorm when the driver told deputies his steering locked up, the car hit a soft spot and flipped onto its roof off the shoulder of the road. Reports are both adult passengers, and the child inside were all wearing safety restraints and came out of the accident shaken but unscathed.

School’s open – just not yet for the kids. Highlands County’s school staff is back at work this week, with teachers’ work days on the agenda to allow instructional staff to prepare things from now until Monday, the 13th, when the first day for most students happens. About 75 new teachers in the District had their orientation session Monday and Tuesday at Hill Gustat Middle School, and found out that preparation sometimes includes the physical plant – the air conditioning had blown out after Sunday’s electrical storms. The District is still hiring, by the by – as of the other day there were still 63 openings for teachers due to be filled by substitutes until permanent staff can be hired.

Speaking of schools, Highlands County Schol Board members were briefed at their meeting this week on a simpler set of security precautions in place this year in case "bad stuff" happens here. For the last few years, the District has had three levels of security measures – gate closure, safety closure, and full lockdown, depending on the level of concern and threat. This year, there are only two – Controlled Campus, and Active Threat levels. Rationale – to make it less confusing to both parents and employees in a time of stress and crisis.

Have you got Saw Palmetto growing on your land? Sorry, but there’s some paperwork to go through before you can make it a cash crop. The berries are popular as a natural remedy for mens’ prostate issues, but the state’s now involved after adding the plant to the list of Commercially Exploited Plants list. It’s a misdemeanor to harvest saw palmetto berries without a permit, or to harvest them on land not your own without written permission from the landowner. The bad news? Get caught planning to sell berries with no permit, and you could get up to a year in jail. The good news? Filing for a native plant harvest permit won’t cost you anything. The law went into a effect a couple weeks ago.

If you’ve hit the Highlands County Sherriff’s Department Facebook page lately, you can’t not have seen their daily reminders to make it a 9pm routine to lock the cars up, lock the doors and batten down the hatches each night. The office began promoting the 9 p.m. Routine in August of 2017. One year later, the memes are a bit beyond just cute posts – the department says they seems to be working. A comparison of vehicle burglaries from the year before the 9 p.m. Routine began locally with the same time frame in 2017-18 shows a 38.5% decrease in vehicle burglaries. Sheriff Paul Blackman gave credit to the publicity campaign, and to deputies for clearing cases with arrests, as well as increased participation in Neighborhood Watch and security camera programs.