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Finding a seat for the action

SEBRING — Starting Friday, sports fans have events to spectate and stand a really good chance of a good seat, especially if they have a golf cart or a boat.

Friday will see the three-day American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) Preview Tournament tee off at Sun ‘N Lake Golf Club. Saturday and Sunday will see the Liqui Moly ProWatercross National Tour open its 26th season at Veterans Beach, bringing in 120 competitors on Jet Skis and similar craft. Then, on Monday, the first of three Minor League Golf Tour tournaments at Sun ‘N Lake Golf Club will tee off.

Finding a way to view any of these three events should be easy, said Joel Lamp, senior director for Tourism & Events at Airstream Ventures, the company working with VisitSebring to bring such events to the area.

Casey Hartt, tourism consultant for VisitSebring – the trademark of the Highlands County Tourist Development Council, said she has already gotten social media messages asking for details. She said the ProWatercross event will be featured on a recap show on CBS Sports. However, Lamp said, people who want to see it in person will have ample opportunity.

People can bring their own chair and watch from the shore, but if they want to watch from the water, they’ll need to either have a boat – or a friend’s boat – moored on Lake Jackson or launch a boat from Veteran’s Beach before 8 a.m. Competitors will need to launch their craft after that, along with pits on the beach to prep their craft between races.

Saturday races will begin at 9 a.m.; on Sunday, at 8:45 a.m.

Courses will be marked with buoys, Lamp said, but whether spectators choose a land or water seat, they should have a good show. Lamp said competitors will race out 300 yards from the shore, turn into a zig-zagging course before heading into a 600-800 yard straightaway.

Each race will have three to five laps, Lamp said. Professional races will take place Saturday and amateur motos will take place Sunday.

“We are excited to start our 2021 ProWatercross season in an iconic racing destination like Sebring,” said AJ Handler, chairman of ProWatercross said organizers are excited to start at an iconic destination like Sebring, and said Veterans Beach provides an ideal venue.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase one of our beautiful lakes in a new way that continues our theme of being a premier racing destination,” Hartt said, noting that Veterans Beach has plenty of room for everyone to take in the races for free.

ProWatercross is a not-for-profit focused on safety education, preserving the environment, and amateur competition.

The golf tournament on Monday will tee off at 11 a.m., Lamp said, and then early Tuesday and Wednesday. Competitors are pushing to get on the Professional Golf Association tour. One of the better-known names in the competition will be Brook Koepka, Lamp said.

“These guys play at a very high level,” Lamp said.

Spectating either of the golf tournaments is relatively easy, Lamp said. The rule of thumb is to get a cart and follow quietly out of the way on the cart path, behind the competitors.

Stay or go? County to hear offer from CRA on library

SEBRING — The county is still working to replace the roof on the Sebring Public Library, but county commissioners will listen first to an offer from the city to swap buildings.

The Board of County Commission plans to give the Sebring Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) a slot on the April 23 regular meeting, a Friday morning, to hear their offer.

County Administrator Randy Vosburg said Tuesday that the CRA staff and board have offered to trade the Wachovia Bank building — the “horseshoe building,” as he and Commission Chair Scott Kirouac called it — at 228 N. Ridgewood Drive, plus some funds for renovation, in exchange for the county’s library building on Lake Jackson, which also houses the Sebring Historic Society archives.

The city wants to redesign that public area into a lakefront park that provides residents greater access to Lake Jackson, something people told him they want. If the city is successful at bringing more people to that park and to downtown, parking will be at a premium, Kirouac said, especially for library patrons.

Although he and other commissioners gave Vosburg the go-ahead to contract a $330,000 new roof for the building.

“I’d rather not put a new roof on it if an excavator is going to tear it down in a year and half,” Kirouac said.

Commissioner Chris Campbell said he didn’t want to pay more than $330,000 to renovate any building, since that’s the cost of the roof.

Commissioners Arlene Tuck and Kevin Roberts said the roof has been put off to the point they really should repair the roof before it gets damaged in what’s expected to be an over-active hurricane season or costs $450,000 or more to replace.

Roberts noted that the offered building would require $800,000 to $1 million to renovate with the possibility of needing to reinforce the floors to hold “thousands of pounds” of books and materials currently in the library.

Last summer, local engineer and former county administrator Carl Cool gave the city an initial estimate of $1.2 million to make that building into a new city hall.

Roberts also noted that the CRA had not reached out to the county about the library, until now, and still needs to acquire, demolish and rebuild several other buildings on the waterfront site just to move forward. The county would have to set public hearings to accept such an offer, he added, while hurricane season quickly approaches.

Parks & Facilities Superintendent Richard “Ric” Fleeger told the county its building has problems with “ponding” — leaves and twigs blocking water from running off the roof through downspouts. The roof on the east of the building has shingles, which will loosen and fly off in a storm as they age. Fortunately, he’s found no evidence of mold getting inside the building.

Kirouac said the county would have a lot of investigation to make into the North Ridgewood Drive building to see what it has and what it would need to be useful. He also said he wanted to hear from the CRA and residents on April 23 as to what they would like to do.

However, he also said he had no big desire to move the library, given the expense of a move and of renovating another building.

Vosburg said library staff also have a survey they plan to put out to patrons, to get input between now and April 23 on what people want the county to do.

Feedback needed for Sebring Public Library

SEBRING — The Sebring Public Library is looking for community input on the future of the library so that patrons may be better served, and the county may plan for any potential changes.

Staff would love to hear from residents about what they imagine the next five to 10 years will look like for the Sebring library, including what future programs and services patrons would like to see; what areas in the library should be established, expanded or enhanced; the ideal location of the library; and more.

If you are interested in providing feedback, paper surveys will be available at the Sebring, Avon Park and Lake Placid public libraries during normal business hours, which are Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Friday from 1-5:30 p.m.

An online survey is also available at bit.ly/SurveySebLib or by visiting the Highlands County Board of County Commission website, highlandsfl.gov, or the Heartland Library Cooperative’s website at myhlc.org.

You will also find the survey on the county and Heartland Library Cooperative’s Facebook pages: search for highlandsfl.gov or HeartlandLibrary Cooperative.

The deadline to complete the survey is Wednesday, April 21. Only one submission per person will be accepted. Staff appreciates your support and feedback. If you have any questions, call 863-402-6716.

County and state COVID cases continue to increase
  • Updated

Highlands County’s COVID numbers continue to climb as the week progresses. The only improvement to the Florida Department of Health’s daily coronavirus report is the slight decrease in the positivity rate. Unfortunately, the small increases in new cases everyday is building and more deaths have been reported overnight. There have been six deaths over the past three days.

The county had an increase of 32 new cases of infection on Wednesday. The new cases brought the overall tally to 7,827 positive tests. The cases can be divided by 7,739 residents and 88 non-residents who have contracted the virus.

On the FDOH report, there were two deaths reported overnight to bring the death toll to 328 in the county. This has been a harsh week for deaths with one on Sunday, three on Tuesday and two on Wednesday.

Testing continued to be on the rise with 313 processed and 279 negative results. The positivity rate came down a bit to 10.86%. That’s down from the previous day but still too high.

Hospitalizations went up by two admissions for COVID to 620. The Agency for Health Care Administration showed 29 people hospitalized as of Wednesday afternoon. Statewide there were 3,104 patients being treated in the hospitals for the coronavirus.

Cases from long-term care facilities have been going up by two and is now at 684. Corrections cases remained the same at 126.

The Highlands County Board of County Commission is providing Moderna vaccines to those 18 years and older in the former JCPenney store at Lakeshore Mall on Wednesdays through Saturdays. The HCBoCC schedule is as follows:

  • Appointments only for first and second dose from 8-11 a.m.
  • Walk-ins for first dose from 1-4 p.m. subject to daily availability
  • Walk-ins for second dose from 1-3 p.m. subject to daily availability

For first doses, use the entrance closest to Planet Fitness. For second doses, use the entrance closest to the former Kmart store.

Eligible individuals may register for an appointment by calling toll-free at 866-200-3858 or by visiting myvaccine.fl.gov.

New cases statewide continue to climb with 5,885 added overnight. The new cases brought the overall total to 2,096,747 infections. Florida residents make up 2,057,359 of those cases and 39,388 non-residents make up the other cases.

Thankfully, deaths were down to 42 overnight. The overall deaths rose to 34,476. Of those deaths, residents make up 33,822 and 654 non-residents make up the rest.

Testing came in at 83,246 processed and 77,457 negative results. The state’s daily positivity rate was 6.95%.

After not updating the variant case count on Easter, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found itself updating variant numbers on consecutive evenings and there were an additional 764 cases of the U.K. variant in the United States on Tuesday evening. There have now been 16,275 U.K. variant cases.

Florida saw just one new case of the U.K. variant, but still leads the country with 3,192 cases. Michigan is No. 2, with 1,649.

There were 67 new cases of the Brazilian variant overnight, with 20 of them found in Florida. Of the 356 cases in the country, Florida has seen 84.

Deaths climbed considerable in the United States on Tuesday. After seeing 310 and 380 deaths the two previous days, states announced 828 new deaths on Tuesday.

New cases were down slightly from Monday’s numbers, with 59,786 new cases reported.

Hospitalizations were up close to 2,000, although nearly half of that can be attributed to Michigan not reporting hospitalizations for several days. There were 38,783 hospitalized on Tuesday, with 7,416 reported as being in ICU units, but not all states break down the number in intensive care.

According to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering, the United States has seen 30.88 million cases and had 558,626 virus-related deaths.

Globally, there have been 132.6 million cases and 2.88 million deaths.