News Cast for March 27th:

Unemployment remains low

The monthly report from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity showed unemployment at 3.4 percent in Okeechobee.

The Heartland region gained over 1,514 jobs in the past year.

Okeechobee also gained in population, some 1,054 new residents in the past year.

The report showed 7 of 10 industries in Florida lost job in February.

Labor Economist Jimmy Heckman said he is not concerned with just one month of data.

“We are not concerned at this time. This is the first time we’ve had a report that indicated they’ve lost jobs in quite a while. We don’t want to make too much of one month movement. We like to see more information before answering questions about trends.”

Port St. Lucie was the fastest growing region for job growth in the state in February at just under 1 percent.

Around the region Glades County had 4.1 percent, Osceola 3.6 percent and Highlands at 4.8 percent.

The Okeechobee Value Adjustment Board denied an appeal from Cattle Ranch Holdings who were denied an agriculture exemption for a residence and barn on their property.

The family leasing the land said the residence is used for offices and storage and the barn for weddings.

Jenny Cahoon told the board it was a bonafide ag tourism operation.

“No one wants to get married in the middle of a parking lot. They love the ambiance on the farm. The ranch allows the ambiance that allows brides and grooms to come and enjoy that farm.”

Property Appraiser Micky Bandi said he is not against ag tourism and there are no legal justification for these requested exemptions.

“To say I’m somehow out here against ag-tourism, I am not! I took an oath to uphold the statutes of Florida. It is my job to interpret as they apply to the tax roll of Okeechobee County. That is what I’m trying to do.”

The ranch has gone to court with the county over previous tax issues.

The Glades Economic Council and School Board are yet to sign off on a deal for the Chalo Nitka Grounds.

The two sides appeared to be on the road to a deal but the Economic Council still has concerns.

School Board Chairman Crystal Drake attended the last meeting and heard about the concerns.

The council wants the school board to rescind two motions, one an eviction, and the second the schools seeking the property by eminent domain.

School Board member Jenny Allen said she is running out of patience and these issues have to be resolved.

“As far as I’m concerned this has gone on long enough. This next go around, we got to do something. We either accept their offer, not accept it, and move forward. How much longer are we going to hash this out?”

Attorneys for both sides continue to talk and negotiate.

The school board wants 50 feet of property to help provide space for a new Moore Haven Elementary School.