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Sebring Council to discuss holidays

SEBRING — The Sebring City Council will discuss whether or not have the annual Christmas parade and also talk about possible cancellation of Halloween trick-or-treating due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City Council will meeting at 6 p.m., Tuesday.

Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund will discuss trick-or-treating this year in light of the pandemic, the agenda notes.

Given the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the risks associated with possible virus transmission while people are in large crowds and gathering, Chief Hoglund would like a recommendation from staff and Council as to whether trick-or-treating should be approved or cancelled for 2020, according to the agenda.

Ian Belanger is the presenter on the Christmas Parade issue.

The Avon Park/Sebring Jaycees have coordinated the Sebring Christmas Parade for many years. The Christmas Parade is the City’s largest annual event drawing thousands of spectators, the agenda states. The event requires much coordination and effort on the part of the Jaycees.

Jaycee member Belanger will discuss with staff and Council whether or not the parade should be held in view of the pandemic.

Also, Council will discuss the property tax millage rate.

Council approved a tentative millage rate of 5.8184 on July 22 and will approve a final millage rate at the Public Hearings scheduled for Sept. 16 and Sept. 23.

Council had requested the finance director to provide the increase amount in ad valorem revenue that would be generated from .25 mill and .50 mill increases.

The current millage rate is 5.3184.

Increasing the millage rate to 5.5684 would provide the City with an increase in revenue of $150,076, according to the agenda.

An increase to 5.8184 would boost the revenue by $300,151.

Charity with a purpose

SEBRING — Much like the title of Jimmy Buffett’s new album, living in the time of COVID-19 has been like Life on the Flipside.

Social gathering restrictions and limits to the number of patrons in restaurants and bars have all led to changes across the board. But despite it all, the Heartland LakeSharks Parrot Head Club has continued to serve the community of Highlands County and usually to the sounds of Jimmy Buffett and Trop Rock.

One of 215 Parrot Head clubs around the world, the Heartland LakeSharks Parrot Head Club is made up of people who enjoy the sounds of Jimmy Buffett and Trop Rock, as well as helping out their community. “Our motto is ‘party with a purpose’,” said John Howard, president of the Heartland LakeSharks.

The Club holds monthly meetings for its members called Phlockings. These meetings see Trop Rock artists brought in for members and guests. More than an excuse to party, the Club also collects items for local charities.

Started in 2014, the Club selects charities based on suggestions from its members. “Once a charity is identified, our board of directors investigate the charity to determine the need and if it fits what we can offer,” said Howard.

A new charity for the Club this year was St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. At the January Phlocking, the Club raised and donated $2,700.

“Our primary concern is the well-being of our members and the public who might attend a Phlocking,” said Howard. “We try to make it clear that due to the virus situation we might be forced to cancel any event on short notice.”

Many of the charities also have their own guidelines, meaning the Club must make sure that the charity will accept the items they collect.

For the March Phlocking, the Club had planned to make Easter baskets and hand-deliver them to various organizations around Highlands County. “When the virus hit there was a lot of confusion as to how we could safely hold a Phlocking, prepare the baskets and safely deliver them,” said Howard. “Therefore, we canceled all planned activities.”

The Club faced a similar situation in April but by May they were confident enough to hold another public Phlocking and ended up collecting 190 pounds of items used to make ditty bags for veterans. The bags were produced by Finishing Touches in Lake Placid and distributed to food pantries across the county.

By July the Club still had reservations about holding a public Phlocking at a local restaurant, so they held a private event at a member’s home instead, where they were outdoors and able to adhere properly to social distancing guidelines. “During this event, we collected 583 pounds of items for Peace River Shelters along with 1,040 pounds of food for Heartland Food Bank,” said Howard.

In the month of August, another private Phlocking collected 385 pounds of school supplies delivered to the School Board of Highlands County. For the month of September, the Club is going back to a public Phlocking.

On Sunday, Sept. 27, the Club will gather at Caddy Shack Bar & Grill in Sebring. “We do prefer public events where all fans of Jimmy Buffett and the Trop Rock lifestyle have a chance to join us,” said Howard. The Club welcomes the public to the September Phlocking and will accommodate as many as they can while still maintaining social distancing guidelines. Information on the Club can be found at

Howard and the Heartland LakeSharks are proud that they have been able to continue to operate at any level and continue contributing to their favorite charity organizations. “We believe that these organizations have greater needs than ever before,” said Howard. “Sometimes, there are unexpected triumphs. For example, one couple in our Club donated $1,200 to the Golden Corral in Lake Placid to help them continue to feed the hungry and a group of us won a $500 attendance award on a February cruise which we just donated to RCMA in Lake Placid. Makes us all feel good.”

County nears 2K virus mark

With 10 new COVID-19 cases showing up on Sunday’s release of numbers by the Florida Department of Health, Highlands County continued its crawl towards the 2,000-case barrier. The county has now seen 1,996 cases, which consists of 1,987 resident cases and nine involving non-residents.

After seeing seven deaths in Saturday’s update, there were no additional deaths on Sunday’s report, keeping the county death toll at 77.

With 333 cases (17%) related to long-term care facilities, Highlands County is still more than twice as high as the state average of 7% of cases being tied to a long-term care unit. The county’s death rate of 4% is also twice as high as the state average.

The county’s 10 new cases did come from 416 processed tests, yielding a positivity rate of just 2.4% for new cases, the lowest the county has seen in the past 13 days.

There have been 209 hospitalizations for COVID-19, which is 11% of all cases, which is close to twice the state average that sees 6% of cases requiring hospitalization. There were 27 currently hospitalized as of Sunday.

Nearby, DeSoto County saw just one new case out more than 50 tests, so a good day on the testing front there. They have now had 1,534 cases.

Glades County saw one new case out of 11 tests and has had a total of 475. More than half of the county’s positive results are correctional facility related, with 272 of the cases tied into corrections.

Hardee County had an increase of 13 positives out of just 82 tests, giving a positivity rate of 15.85%. Hardee County has seen double-digit positivity rates in 10 of the last 14 days and has had 1,224 cases.

Okeechobee County saw nine new cases out of 88 tests for a positivity rate of 10.23% It’s the second straight day with a double-digit positivity rate for Okeechobee County, with the previous 12 days all in single digits. There have been 1,333 cases in the county.

The news was good for the state overall, with 2,423 new cases and a positivity rate of 4.26%, the lowest the state has seen in the past two weeks. The state now stands at 663,994 cases, with 656,485 of those being Florida residents. There have been 7,509 non-resident cases.

There were eight new deaths reported, bringing the total to 12,764. Of those, 156 deaths have been non-residents.

According to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering, there have been 6.5 million cases in the United States and 193,176 deaths.

Globally, there have been a total of 28.8 million cases and 921,564 deaths.

The Highlands County Board of County Commission, in partnership with the Highlands County Department of Health and AdventHealth Sebring, will have free COVID-19 drive-up testing 5-6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday at the AdventHealth medical complex at 4240 Sun ‘N Lake Blvd. in Sebring.

Testing will be available by appointment from 5-7 p.m. on those days at that location, weather permitting.

Another testing event will have drive-through testing 8-9 a.m. Sept. 22 in the north end of Lakeshore Mall parking lot at 901 U.S. 27 South, near the old Sears.

Testing by appointment will be 8-10 a.m. Sept. 22.

Appointments can be made by calling 863-386-5690 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays.

All ages are welcome. People being tested must be Highlands County residents, according to a valid government identification card, and must be prepared to provide their date of birth, address and contact number.

Commission asked to support M-CORES through county

SEBRING — County commissioners will have a resolution in front of them Tuesday to support the creation of the Southwest-Central Florida Connector.

The resolution supports a route that would send that corridor through portions and Hendry and Glades Counties to then run north through Highlands toward southern Polk County, with interchanges on State Roads 70, 66 and 64.

The resolution, also in favor of the program that would create the corridor, the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) program, also states that the county, its incorporated communities and its special districts supports the improvement of its existing transportation infrastructure network.

Legislative Affairs Grants Coordinator Sydney Armstrong is scheduled to present the resolution, which would have no immediate budget impact.

In the past, the commission has spoken in support of the corridor project in general and in favor of improving road and communication infrastructure, overall.

Also on the agenda for the Board of County Commission is a public hearing on a Large-Scale Plan Amendment for text amendments to the Highlands County 2030 Comprehensive Plan to provide for higher housing density in the county.

To be presented by Planner II Danna Riddell for approval and transmittal to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the proposed amendments would allow higher densities for affordable and workforce housing, address intensity and density requirements throughout various future land use designations, delete redundancies, reflect policy changes and provide clarification.

It’s based on a housing study, finalized in May of 2019, that found a higher density of 16 dwelling units per acre, versus the current 12 units, would be more appealing to investors looking to build multi-family housing in the county.

The Tourist Development Council, represented by Lead Marketer Casey Hartt, and Development Services Director Leah Sauls will ask the county to waive fees and costs on the Highlands County Multi Sports Complex and on Traffic Operation Division’s services, an EMS Unit, and Highlands County Sheriff’s Office traffic control to host the Gran Fondo New York (GFNY) Florida Sebring Cycling Event on Oct. 25.

It is listed as the first upcoming event on

Fiscal impact, from increased cost and loss of rental revenue, is estimated at $23,601.74.

At the start of the meeting, commissioners will also have a vote to proclaim Sept. 25 as “Disabled American Veterans Day” in Highlands County.

Disabled American Veterans (DAV) was founded by World War I veterans on Sept. 25, 1920, was chartered by Congress on June 17, 1932 and is celebrating 100 years of serving veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families, survivors and communities by helping and empowering veterans to lead high quality lives with respect and dignity.

Other agenda items include:

- A Public hearing to change zoning on approximately 3.63 acres at 6404 Old Oak Ave. in Sebring from Mobile Home Subdivision District (M-1) to Mobile Home and Residential Subdivision with a Flexible Unit Development District.

- A public hearing to change zoning two parcels inside Spring Lake Improvement District in Sebring: An approximate 11.32-acre portion of a 43.88-acre parcel, located at 200 Healthy Way, from Agriculture (AU) to Multiple-Family Dwelling Including Motel and Hotel with a Planned Development District (R-3 PD), and an approximate 6.14-acre portion of a 205.55-acre parcel, located at 100 Clubhouse Lane, from Agricultural with a Conditional Use District (AU CU) to Multiple-Family Dwelling Including Motel and Hotel with a Planned Development District (R-3 PD).

- Two hearings to consider land use and zoning changes on 6.3 acres at 140 Holmes Ave. in Lake Placid from Agriculture (AG) to Commercial (C) and from Agricultural District (AU) to Business District (B-3), respectively.

- A request to vacate the public right of way on Lemon Street north of Avon Park, which is now Nucor Drive, serving only the steel plant.

- Years of service recognition for Landfill Operator III Keith Faust, carpenter Jermaine Jackson in the Bridge & Concrete Division of Road & Bridge Department, Emergency Management Manager LaTosha Reiss and Planner I Dana Riddell (5 years); Zoning Official Jo Anne Sawdy (10 years); Mechanic I Douglas Folts of the Maintenance Shop (15 years), and Mechanic II James DePalma of the Maintenance Shop (25 years).