News Cast for July 12th:
Stability at the top
Okeechobee County Commissioners said they are very satisfied with the work being done by County Administrator Deborah Manzo. The commission gave her high marks on her annual evaluation. Commissioner Kelly Owens pointed to the counties financial situation and said Manzo had done a great job in that area.
The county recently about $40 million from different state programs this year including $7 million for the current jail expansion project.
Manzo received a two percent merit hike and received a 4 percent raise in October. She received an additional $1,000 raise like all county employees in March.
She thanked her staff for making her look good.
Highlands County Commissioners added another penny to their tourist tax. They will raise an additional $394,000.
Tourism has been increasing since the pandemic especially in rural areas of Florida.
The county could use the money for facility maintenance, more research, more promotions and an indoor facility. There has been a demand from the public for an indoor pickle ball court.
County commissioner Scott Kirouac said the hike is warranted.
“For us to pass up on this money to collect this money and utilize it and get some of the data we are looking for, this is another tool, another pot of money, to increase the transparency of what we are doing at the TDC.”
They had a deadline to approve the increase themselves. If not, they question would have been on the ballot for voters next year.
The Florida Cattlemen Association intends to keep ranching a vibrant industry in the state. Newly elected President Pat Durden runs a ranch in Havana, Florida. He agreed to an interview to discuss a wide variety of issues including the environment. Durden responded to the critics of agriculture amid all our water issues.
“There are under 1 million cattle in Florida today. There are over 22 million people. There used to be 2 million cattle and a couple million people and we didn’t have any of these problems. To turn around and point to the cattle industry or any of the agriculture industry is somewhat laughable.”
Durden predicts that ranchers are sticking around and the industry will continue to thrive.
He encourages all farmers and ranchers to reach out to people and explain the benefits they provide the state in terms of land conservation, help to wildlife, and putting food in everyone’s mouth.
“We continue through our land grant institutions and through research to get better and better and more efficient at everything we do. We are using less water to produce more beef all across the country. We have just become more environmentally friendly than we have been and we were never that bad in any way, shape or form.”