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Code Board issues Monday deadline for Nan-Ces-O-Wee demolition
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SEBRING — The owner of the Nan-Ces-O-Wee Hotel has until Monday to demolish the three-story structure, according to a Tuesday ruling by the City of Sebring’s Code Enforcement Board.

Sebring Police Cmdr. Curtis Hart said the Code Board approved a motion to give the owner of the building, Tony Collins, until Nov. 2 to demolish the structure and if he hasn’t done so by then, the board authorized the City’s building official to take action to demolish the structure.

On July 21, 2020, the City of Sebring sent a letter to Collins, stating the building, at 139 N. Ridgewood Drive, needed to be repaired or demolished. The letter noted there had been a partial building collapse – the rear wall of the northeast quadrant of the building has a collapse at least two stories in height and has taken with it approximately a 10-by-50-foot section of the adjacent floors and a portion of the center tower.

Collins filed a demolition notice with the City of Sebring on Sept. 4, but it appears that no demo work has been done on the building.

Collins had offered to donate the building to the Sebring Community Redevelopment Agency, which was considering the offer.

CRA Executive Director Kristie Vazquez said the CRA received three quotes for the demolition of the structure: $180,000, $186,165, and $504,000.

The mission of the CRA is to eliminate slum and blight in the targeted area, she noted. The hotel has become a blighted property in the district, and the City has ordered the building to be demolished due to it being a threat to public safety.

CRA’s commonly fund demolition of structures within their districts as a tool for redevelopment in an effort to revitalize the area, and make way for new development, Vazquez said.

CRA Board Chair David Leidel said recently that due to title issues with the property, the CRA will likely not be accepting the donation.

Farfromhünger: Program seeks to provide food, gardening, nutrition

SEBRING — Have you ever had raw okra, put sweet potato greens in your salad or eaten hibiscus?

Did you know you can, and that you can grow them yourself, right here, in Florida’s sandy hills and subtropical climate?

Aisha Alayande of Heartland Core Wellness — formerly called Drug Free Highlands — and Jasmine Westbrooks of EatWell Exchange have done that at a community garden on North Commerce Avenue. They want to teach people in Highlands County to do the same, so everyone has enough to eat.

It’s part of a program called Farfromhünger, a Heartland Core Wellness partnership with EatWell Exchange, Heartland Foodbank, and other community partners to provide nutrition education, food prep demonstrations, community gardens, blood pressure checks, cessation classes and more to people in the community.

Studies have shown, Alayande said, that even when county residents have a job and a nearby store, that doesn’t mean they can buy much food or that the food they can buy is healthy.

A few years ago, local health officials conducted studies for the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP), Alayande said. CHIP is an initiative that started in 2018 from Florida Prosperity Partnership meetings. Results showed this area has needs.

“We have food insecurity here,” Alayande said.

First, is a transportation issue, she said: People without reliable transportation cannot get to supermarkets or good farmers’ markets.

Some may have a Dollar General nearby, a safe walking or quick driving distance, but those stores don’t carry fresh produce.

Other stores have limited selection, she said, but it’s not just access. It’s also culture.

“Here we have a high-diabetes population,” Alayande said. “We’re a fast-food nation.”

People eat drive-through, but also live on processed shelf-stable boxed or canned foods full of carbohydrates, salt, sugar and/or preservatives.

In 2017, Alayande said, studies showed 31% of the Highlands County population was obese, versus 26% statewide.

“That’s one in four in the state and one in three in the county,” she said.

To solve problems of access, the Farfromhünger partnership has The Heartland Food Bank providing food at noon every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 928 State Road 17 in Sebring.

To deal with selection, a community garden at 200 N. Commerce Ave., Alayande said. It may also help people overcome food-based addictions, she said, which are just as prevalent, perhaps more so than chemical addictions.

“A lot of issues come from trauma and a side effect is a poor relationship with food,” Alayande said. “The goal with the community garden is to reintroduce healthy foods and also different ways of incorporating them into your diet.”

People meet at 8 a.m. every Saturday to grow okra, hibiscus, sweet potatoes, Malabar spinach, pineapple, peppers, basil and oregano; to learn about food nutrition, and to establish a better relationship with food.

Alayande and Westbrooks also will host a seminar at 3 p.m. today (Friday), available through HeartlandCoreWellness.org on how people can reverse these problems and change eating habits for the better.

Ultimately, Alayande said, she wants to have cooking classes at her offices, teaching new healthier takes on Southern cuisine — lighter versions of greens and cornbread.

She said people can air-fry okra, or just eat it raw. She has.

“It had a sweetness to it,” Alayande said.

She’s most proud of the people who volunteer to grow food, to whom Farfromhünger gives starter plants.

The volunteers are a diverse group of ages and cultures, she said.

One girl, 4 years old, from a family who has grown food for a while was educating adults on the different plants, while old and young worked together to establish the plants.

“That is one of the joys of having this garden,” Alayande said. “Food brings people together.”

Highlands adds 31 more virus cases

SEBRING — Highlands County had 31 more COVID-19 cases in the Wednesday update from the Florida Department of Health for a three-day total of 88 cases.

Highlands had one more reported death from COVID-19 in the latest data for a total of 114 who had died due to the pandemic.

The overall number of coronavirus cases in Highlands is 2,633 with the median age of cases at 48. Statewide, the median age of those infected is 40.

Florida added 4,115 coronavirus cases for a total of 790,426 cases. There were 66 new virus fatalities statewide for a total of 16,571 Florida residents who have died during the pandemic.

The previous week, Oct. 18-24, state school report shows the most new cases last week in an educational facility in Highlands was four at the Great Commission Bible Institute on West Center Avenue, Sebring.

South Florida State College had two more student virus cases for a total of nine cases, including eight students and one staff member.

Hardee Senior High had six more cases last week (four students and two staff) for a total of 33 (27 students, two staff and four unknown).

The following nine counties had triple-digit increase in virus cases: Broward — 632, Dade — 728, Duval — 113, Hillsborough — 222, Lee — 137, Leon — 106, Orange — 262, Palm Beach — 239, and Pinellas — 124, for a total increase of 2,563 cases.

Gilchrist, Gulf and Liberty counties had no new cases in the Wednesday update of virus data.

Nationwide, there have been 8,800,316 COVID-19 cases with 226,864 deaths.

Worldwide, there have been 44,159,482 cases with 1,169,052 deaths.

Cyclist hit, killed on U.S. 27 in one of four wrecks

SEBRING — A 50-year-old Sebring man died Tuesday afternoon on U.S. 27 in Avon Park while trying to cross the highway on a bicycle.

His was one of four wrecks with injuries from mid-afternoon Tuesday to Wednesday morning in the Avon Park-Sebring area.

FHP is no longer releasing names on their initial press reports. The year, make and model of the vehicles involved are also not included in that report.

Reports state the motorists had worn seat belts and were not injured.

Also, reports do not indicate whether or not charges, if any, are pending investigation.

The wreck took place at 3:42 p.m.

The SUV was northbound on U.S. 27, in the left-hand lane, approaching the intersection with Keiber Boulevard, FHP reports state.

The cyclist made an apparent attempt at crossing the highway from east to west and went directly into the path of the SUV, reports said.

The front of the vehicle hit the left side of the cyclist, knocking him and the bicycle into the median, while the vehicle also traveled across the grass median and stopped in the southbound lanes, facing north.

Emergency medical personnel transported the cyclist to nearby AdventHealth Sebring where he was later pronounced deceased.

Another wreck at precisely that same time Tuesday was far less fatal.

Based on preliminary information from both the Highlands and Polk County sheriff’s offices, the driver of a silver Honda SUV lost control at 3:42 p.m. for unknown reasons and hit a tree on State Road 64 East.

The wreck was in the area of East Arbuckle Road, near the entrance to Arbuckle State Park, according to Highlands sheriff officials.

Both agencies said the female driver was entrapped with a leg injury, but conscious.

Once freed, she was flown to Lakeland Regional Medical Center.

Polk deputies cleared the scene in two hours.

Then, a wreck at 9 p.m. Tuesday on Sebring Parkway between West and Sandra Boulevards damaged two cars and sent two injured motorists to a local hospital.

Units from nearby West Sebring Station 9 and Sun ‘N Lake Station 7 responded to the wreck.

The road was closed for a short while personnel tended to two injured patients and did road cleanup.

Both patients were transported, according to reports from Highlands County Fire Rescue, although reports from the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office had no one being transported.

Finally, another driver of a gray pickup hit a tree at 8:24 a.m. Wednesday at the 90-degree turn that connects Brunns Road and Flare Avenue in Sebring.

Highlands County sheriff’s officials don’t have any further information as it’s an FHP case, and FHP has not yet issued a press release on the wreck.