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Draft CRA waterfront plan to be presented

SEBRING — The draft design of the Sebring Community Redevelopment Agency’s Waterfront Redevelopment Project will be reviewed at a joint meeting of the CRA and the Sebring City Council, 5:30 p.m., June 17, at the Jack Stroup Civic Center, 355 West Center Ave. in Sebring.

CRA Board Chairman David Leidel said the public is encouraged to come to share their insight into the proposals.

Kimley Horn will be there to present both of them and talk through where they are at.

The designs incorporated the input that was given at the public meeting back in March, Leidel said.

“It is pretty exciting to see how they interpreted that input and I think when you see it — the use of that property is likely to be expanded tremendously, the access that folks will have and the opportunities that will be available with this property and the redesign of the caliber that we are looking at is really exciting,” he said.

Highlands News-Sun asked if the CRA has the funds to carry out and implement the plans for the waterfront.

The permitting process will probably take a while because there are so many different agencies that will be involved, but once that is completed, “We are going to be ready to move forward and start this as soon as possible.”

In March, the public weighed in on their opinions on what changes, if any, would improve the Lake Jackson waterfront area owned by the City of Sebring.

At the CRA hosted event at the Jack Stroup Civic Center, representatives from the design firm, Kimley Horn, provided illustrated examples of activities/events that could be part of a waterfront redesign such as: enhanced public swimming/pool, small craft dock, special events/wedding, night life, expanded beach, wellness activities, splashpad and playground, water sports/outfitter, event lawn, boardwalk and pier and food truck and market area.

The waterfront area under consideration in the redevelopment plan includes the Weigle House (yellow house) and Clovelly House (green house) north to the Highlands Lakeside Theatre, but the theater is not part of the plan.

Also, the regularly scheduled CRA meeting for June 14 will be changed to June 16, 5:30 p.m., in the City Council Chambers 368 South Commerce Ave., Sebring.

Are you ready for hurricanes? 2021 Expo brings good crowd, information

SEBRING — Rebecca Barry, meteorologist for WFLA News Channel 8, has done hurricane expos for 15 years, and has learned some things.

“In Florida, we consider ourselves experts in hurricanes,” Barry said, noting that the “hurricane hacks” she’s picked up can help take preparation “to the next level.”

The south-Georgia native and recent transplant to Tampa from Jacksonville, Florida, shared her hacks at Saturday’s Hurricane Expo in and around the Lakeshore Mall Food Court.

People ask each season how bad it will get. Her answer: “It only takes one storm at your house to make it bad.”

Colorado State University predicts 17 named storms and eight hurricanes, three of them major. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts 13-20 named storms and six to 10 hurricanes, three to five of them major.

Barry said August and September are the worst, peaking in the second week of September. Storms can form in the Gulf of Mexico in June and July, but tend to bring more rain than wind. To monitor storms, Barry recommends people download the Max Defender 8 mobile application to get real-time updates on possible tornado activity in their area.

She said Floridians know to stockpile water, food, portable lights and radios — with batteries — and whether to evacuate or shelter in place. Barry advises people to check to see if new floodplain maps have put their house inside a flood zone.

Inland areas like Highlands County see more wind and tornado damage than flooding, but slow-moving storms can drop more rain than an area can handle. People should find out the wind-load strength of their home, check for local flood plains and check to see if trees near or over their home might topple or drop branches.

Inland areas also see loss of power, Barry said. People may have generators, but should test equipment and replace any frayed electrical cords well before the season starts. She also recommends gasoline siphons if your gas cans are too big to pick up and pour into the generator tank.

Also, people who have chainsaws for debris removal will want to have two-cycle oil and ensure the chainsaw is working properly before a storm arrives.

When it comes to supplies, water doesn’t have to be store-bought. It can be faucet-filled, she said, and kept in the refrigerator or in freezer bags in the freezer. They will keep freezers cold in power outages and provide back-up drinking water.

Filling a tub is not necessary if you are on municipal water and not on a well. If you need a tub stopper, Barry said to get one well before the season to beat the rush. She also advises early purchases of rope, tie-down anchors, buckets, propane canisters, tarps, plastic sheeting, extension cords and manageable gas cans.

People often forget to get a grill lighter, she said. They might also consider filling a kid’s wading pool with sod or sand so pets can use the bathroom without going into a flooded yard.

Lastly, she suggested parents might consider letting children prepare a personal hurricane kit. It will help keep the child calm and educate them early on getting ready for hurricane season.

Some there got into the spirit early. Blue circular hand-held fold-up fans, available at the Duke Energy table, found their way into the hands of visitors and vendors alike to push breezes onto faces under sultry skylights.

4 shot, 1 arrested in Sebring shooting

SEBRING — A shooting early Saturday morning left four people shot, one of whom police arrested for illegal weapon possession.

The shooting took place a little after midnight on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at or near Lemon Avenue. Sebring police report that three of those wounded were in surgery as of 10 a.m. Saturday.

At least one of them had a wound to the upper torso and leg, said Sebring Police Cmdr. Curtis Hart. Another had a wound in an upper shoulder and the third had wounds to the leg and arm.

The fourth, JoeMichael Mack, was treated for a lower leg wound, Hart said, then arrested for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Sebring police said their investigation is still open. Anyone with information may contact Det. Stephen Williams at the Sebring Police Department, 863-471-5108.

People may also contact Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS (8477) or www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com. Anonymity is guaranteed.

Country's COVID numbers continue to drop

Florida wasn’t the first state to end daily COVID-19 reporting — and it certainly won’t be the last, as COVID numbers continue to drop around the country. Alabama just switched to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday reporting cycle and a number of states have already stopped reporting on weekends.

While Florida’s numbers have improved greatly, the state’s seven-day positivity rate of 3.33% is nearly double the national average of 1.77%. Through Thursday, the state’s seven-day average was 1,578 new cases a day, which is a decrease of 29% from the previous week, but testing also dropped 27% over the same seven-day period, so just modest improvement for Florida.

According to the Florida Department of Health, Highlands County has now vaccinated 46,448 people, which is 50% of the population 12 years and older. The state average is 53%.

Sumter County has the highest vaccination rate at 67%, while Holmes County has the lowest rate at 24%.

As a whole, the rest of the Southeast (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee) has a collective positivity rate of 2.91% and a 24% decrease in new cases from the previous week.

The Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah) saw a 14% increase in positivity rate over the past week, climbing from 3.08% to 3.51%. New cases did drop 10%, although testing dropped 22%.

The Pacific Northwest/Rockies (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming) also saw an increase in positivity rate over the past week, climbing from 2.95 to 3.11%. New cases dropped 32%, while testing dropped 36%.

Among states, Michigan has righted its ship over the past seven weeks, with a seven-day positivity rate of 2.46%, which is a 35% decrease from a week ago and an 85% decrease from two months ago.

States reported 19,816 new cases on Friday, which was 759 fewer than last Friday, which brings the seven-day average to 13,856. That’s a 20% decrease from the 20,390 new case average from the previous Friday. The 1.77% positivity rate is a 14% decrease from the previous week.

The seven-day average for deaths is now 383, a 22% decrease from last week. The lag time on death reporting is greater than any other metric, making it the most unreliable as it pertains to accurately portraying the current situation.