News Cast 11/26

News Cast for November 26th:

A push for small business 

The pandemic was hard on all of us and small businesses suffered their share of troubles. 

The Okeechobee County Chamber of Commerce hopes Small Business Saturday tomorrow will help. 

The national holiday is designed to promote local shopping. 

Executive Director Paulette Wise said there is no reason to shop any place else but Okeechobee. 

“This is a wonderful time of year.  We hope it will be a great Christmas shopping season this year.  All the cargo ships off California supposedly coming to Florida is in the news.  Guess what?  We have so much merchandise in our town with our small businesses and they need our support.”  

Shoppers can visit the welcome station downtown on Saturday to get deals and coupons. 

Crime update 

A pickup truck stolen from Okeechobee ended up in a chase in Polk County. 

50 year old Tracy Mercer of Avon Park faces 28 criminal charges. 

The truck was located by Polk deputies at a Lakeland gas station with Mercer asleep in the driver’s seat, deputies said. 

He woke up and fled the parking lot and headed south down US 98 from Lakeland to Bartow.  During the chase he crashed through a chain link fence into a pasture endangering livestock. 

Deputies said Mercer was smoking methamphetamine as they approached the vehicle to make the arrest. 

Online gaming stopped for now 

The Associated Press reported a federal district judge rejected a stay requested by the Seminole Tribe of Florida late Wednesday after an earlier ruling blocked the tribe’s deal with the state to expand gambling and online sports betting statewide. 

Attorneys for the Seminoles argued the tribe would lose significant revenue from online sports betting, saying some of the money would be used to fund tribe programs.  

But U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich rejected the request, saying the tribe hadn’t shown that it would be irreparably harmed if a stay were not granted. 

Jobs remain plentiful in Okeechobee 

Jobless rates fell to 4.1 percent in Okeechobee in October. 

The region has lost 774 jobs this year. 

Labor economist Adrienne Johnston said there still is a great economy around Florida. 

“We are seeing continued recovery.  Leisure and hospitality continued to add jobs.  We saw strong games in professional and businesses services.  I think what we are seeing is a lot of economic activity and that is driving the gains in jobs across all industries.” 

Glades County had 3.5 percent unemployment, Osceola county 5.3 percent, and Martin County 3.3 percent unemployment in October. 

Hendry County had the highest rate in the state at 6.3 percent. 

Bell ringers are needed to volunteer for the Salvation Army this year. 

Last year donations helped 563 Okeechobee families. 

Kim Johnson said they plan to be at two local retailers Publix and Walmart starting today. 

Johnson said she is optimistic the campaign will be a success. 

“Last year we helped with past due rent, electric bills, gas bills, food boxes at our food pantry.  The kettle money goes directly to that program and the money is not used in Martin or St. Lucie.  It stays in Okeechobee to help people in need.” 

Improved phone coverage 

A cell phone tower was approved in a rural part of eastern Highlands County. 

The 264 foot tower will be located off 721 and Butler’s Bluff Road. 

It will serve Verizon customers. 

Developers said it will enhance coverage and public safety for those in the vicinity. 

Senior Vice President of Towercom George Davis said it meets a community need. 

“We are excited that the public welcomes the site and it will enhance coverage.  Hopefully other carriers will follow suit as the tower is designed to accommodate all.”