Saturday, December 30, 2006

Home Sales This Month In LaBelle

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- For the month of December, there were 11 homes
sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $147,545. About
half the homes were in the Port LaBelle subdivision.

1) $205,000 on 7th Ave
2) $139,000 on El Rio Grande Dr
3) $138,000 on Fraser Ave
4) $188,000 on Gramercy Rd
5) $199,000 on Keystone Cir
6) $180,000 on Rainbow Cir
7) $85,000 on Rainbow Cir
8) $94,000 on School Cir
9) $30,000 on Sherwood Cir (lot)
10) $155,000 on E Palomar Cir
11) $210,000 on S Balsam Cir

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

In The Service

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Army Pvt. Marnelia R. Grijalba Parra has
graduated from basic combat training at Fort Jackson, Columbia, S.C.

During the nine weeks of training, the soldier studied the Army
mission, history, tradition and core values, physical fitness, and
received instruction and practice in basic combat skills, military
weapons, chemical warfare and bayonet training, drill and ceremony,
marching, rifle marksmanship, armed and unarmed combat, map reading,
field tactics, military courtesy, military justice system, basic
first aid, foot marches, and field training exercises.

She is the daughter of Jose R. and stepdaughter of Sonia E. Grijalba
of Old Muse Road, La Belle, Fl. Grijalba Parra is a 2006 graduate of
Moore Haven High School, Fl.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Land Owners Receiving Offers By Mail

Bait and Switch Tactics?

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA (December 26, 2006) -- Property owners around Hendry and Glades county are receiving postcards from N.R.L.L, an out-of-state real estate company offering to buy "for cash" if you are "interested in selling your vacant land quickly."  But, be very careful. If an offer sounds "too good to be true" it probably is, experts warn.

N.R.L.L. Inc., a holding company in Irvine, California has been soliciting land owners for many years in Florida and California. NRLL buys land and lots at very low prices, buys or transfers title in the names of one of its other associated companies, and then holds local auctions in large cities around the country, reselling the lots at much higher prices, and sells them "as-is."

Locally, in Hendry county, NRLL has offered Port LaBelle lot owners prices that seemed to be reasonable at first. One owner reports that an offer was made to buy a lot for $26,500 several months ago by NRLL. On contacting the company they wanted  the owner to sign a sales contract that did not provide any closing date, so the buyers could theoretically close whenever they wanted. After the seller objected, they sent a contract that did provide for a 90 day closing, but that still didn't get a quick sale either.  The contract "was subject to inspection" and sure enough, NRLL contacted the seller and said they weren't interested at the contract price after a so-called "inspection" of the property, but would "maybe" buy for $10,000 instead of $26,500. The seller elected not to go for what he believed to be a scam, and NRLL would not commit to a price at the time.

More recently, NRLL is sending postcard solicitations to owners in Pioneer Plantation, again offering a "quick sale."  When contacted at their 800 phone number, the company takes your information, and says because they are "so busy," someone will call you back in about a week. So, much for a "quick sale."

Actual prices paid by NRLL in Hendry county recently have amounted to just several thousand dollars per lot, according to county courthouse records. A recent Port LaBelle lot sale was to a Pompano Beach man for $26,500 last week.  NRLL gets their mailing lists from the county tax assessor's records, which are public records.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Minimum Wage Up To $6.67

Ag Information for Hendry and Glades County

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Gene McAvoy of the Hendry Agricultural Extension Office reports that the minimum wage will change for the State of Florida on January 1st!   Florida's minimum wage will go to $6.67 an hour on January 1, 2007, a 27 cent an hour increase to match inflation as required by an initiative passed by the legislature.  McAvoy tells employers to  remember to check that your payroll programs are correctly calculating the new minimum wage and that you have changed your Worker Information - Terms and Conditions of Employment forms (WH-516) to show the new minimum wage of $6.67. 

The Agency for Workforce Innovation has created a new poster that must be displayed after January 1 informing the workers of the new Florida minimum wage.  The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) poster with the $5.15 minimum wage STILL needs to be posted - and the rate not altered.  This is a Federal rule - even though Florida’s minimum wage is higher than the Federal law the FLSA poster must still be displayed. 

New Sticker Requirements for Farm Labor Vehicles

This coming year new stickers will be required for Farm Labor vehicles that transport agricultural workers.  The vehicles must have the new sticker on the left rear bumper or body by January 31, 2007. The stickers are issued for specific vehicles so if you have more than one van or bus make sure the sticker matches the vehicle you put it on.  If you lose it or it gets stolen you must ask for a replacement by writing a note explaining the circumstances of why you need a replacement sticker and for which specific vehicle.  It is recommended that you make a copy of the sticker before you apply it to the vehicle and then keep that copy with your tag registration.

Freeze Outlook for This Winter

The Southeast Climate Consortium has released an updated analysis of the risk of severe freezes in Florida during this winter. Being an El Niño year, that risk should be reduced. El Niño typically sets up a jet stream pattern with a strong subtropical jet flowing across the southern U.S. The position of this subtropical jet tends to "block" the intrusions of artic air masses that are needed for the severe freeze events. Keep in mind that severe freezes are unique weather events, and there's always a chance that they could occur in any phase of the Pacific Ocean.

Check on the link below on agricultural weather and the probability of the temperature in your county reaching: 32F or less, 28F or less, 25F or less, 22F or less, and 20F or less, during this winter.  There is also information there on the probability of dates of first and last freezes. for climate information.

CREW Helping Make Holiday Cheer

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA (December 21, 2006) -- CREW, a non-profit
organization in Clewiston has been busy this month making sure as
many people as possible have a good Christmas. Due to some private
individuals who live in Cape Coral, CREW was able to make the wishes
come true for 86 children in Hendry and Glades counties. Staff and
Board members with kids from the Baptist Church spent the day
Thursday before Christmas delivering gifts that had been handpicked
for these specific kids.

Volunteers from East Lake United Methodist came and worked on
replacing drywall in damaged homes in Moore Haven on December
2. First Presbyterian Church came and hung drywall, cabinets, and
doors in Clewiston on December 16.

CREW staff says the New Year will see volunteers coming every week
beginning January 6 until some time in March, and they are still
scheduling for anyone who would like to help work. Donors have
generously provided for the materials and costs of the repairs they
are still making due to Hurricane Wilma, and there are still some 350
families needing to recover from Hurricane Wilma, and a handful from
Tropical Storm Ernesto and from local fires.

A committee meets every month and finds local agencies and other
donors and volunteers to help meet the unmet needs of these
families. So far CREW has been able to help, or find others to help
over 300 families. CREW also helping low income residents strengthen
their homes against future storms and disasters, through the
statewide My Safe Florida program. For information contact Trish
Adams at (863) 983-2390.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Local Broker Counters Bad Real Estate News

Real Estate May Be On "Hold" In Coastal Counties, Local Broker Says Different Here

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- With the overwhelming news reports around South Florida of bad times in the real estate market, a local real estate broker wrote to the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel newspaper to counter their "falling real estate market" news articles. The Sun-Sentinel has gained a reputation for "doom and gloom" reports about the east coast real estate market over the last few months.

Paul Roser and wife Nikki have been active in Hendry county real estate for many years and felt it was time to get the other side of the real estate market news to those in the coastal counties. He sent the following letter to the editor of the Sun Sentinel in response to a recent "Bottom Falling Out of South Florida..." article published there:
"I realize that there are few 'Positives' these days but you might want to consider sending a reporter sometime to LaBelle to check us out...  Nikki and I have, personally - small two person agency, recently sold 30 acres at $218,000 per acre ($6,300,000) to an investment company next to projected new Wal-Mart site, a small mobile home park for $550,000, an old historic wood house for $300,000, and others...
Recently opened Burger King and Wendy's, local airport expansion, many new homes being built, new commercial construction all over the place. Several 1,000 - 5,000 residential units developments and waterfront villages, etc. being planned. Our Economic Development Commission and Chamber of Commerce are 'humming'...
The Bonita Bay Company, alone,  has invested MILLIONS in LaBelle and Hendry County all the way to Clewiston - most recently purchased even our famous Flora and Ella's Restaurant...
Many other  investment groups from Naples, Ft Myers, Ft Lauderdale, Miami, Palm Beach, etc. are also buying here in droves. Does this sound like the 'sky is falling'? Would be happy to meet with you and give you my insight at your convenience. I think the public would like to hear some POSITIVES and not always the negatives..."
Paul and Nikki believe those coastal investors should take a look at the real estate opportunities in Hendry county. For more information: local Hendry county real estate as published on Southwest Florida Online.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

One Of Your Friends May Be In Jail

One In Every Two Hundred In Hendry Jail

LABELLE, FLORIDA (December 16, 2006) -- The monthly jail population report by the Florida Department of Corrections shows Hendry County near the top in highest percentage of county population incarcerated at the county jail.  The report says 5.8 people for every 1000 in Hendry county was locked up in October, that's a little more than 1 in 200.  If you have 200 friends, maybe one is in the jail. Glades county has a lower rate of 3.5 per 1000 according to the report.

Hendry county shares the highest rates of locked up persons, over 5 per thousand people with Bay, Desoto, Escambia, Franklin, Hamilton, Hardee, Jefferson, Levy, Madison, Marion, Monroe, Okeechobee, St. Lucie, Wakulla, and Washington counties.
Some counties may be experiencing high incarceration rates due to the contracting of bed space for federal inmates, says the report.

Sixty percent of Hendry prisoners were awaiting trial. The average daily jail population was 222 each day. The lowest county incarceration rate is Union county with only  1.7 per thousand.

Port LaBelle May Get Lowered Taxes?

LABELLE, FLORIDA (Dec. 14, 2006) -- In what may turn out to be an embarrassing situation for long-time Hendry Tax Appraiser Kristina Kulpa, this week's tax assessment hearings continued with evidence that sky-high property tax assessment values might have been a tad too high in Port LaBelle.

Special Master Dan Stevens, for the Hendry Value Adjustment Board, continued hearings Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning on petitioner CHL Holdings, Inc. and CHL Home Builders, Inc. try at reducing tax assessments values on their extensive holdings of vacant lots in the remote dozen square mile Banyan Village subdivision east of LaBelle and also those owned in Units 1 through 9, just east of LaBelle. Stevens found that CHL has overcome the presumption of correctness that county tax appraisers are given under Florida law. Tax Appraiser Kristina Kulpa's office says the lots are worth $26,500 in Banyan Village and about $34,000 in the other closer-to-town units. CHL's owner Charles Svirk says he's today paying not more than $5000 to buy lots in Banyan Village, but maybe they are worth $6000 to $8000. Stevens is now giving CHL the apportunity to prove the lots are worth less than the tax appraiser says.

(Photo: left, appraiser's attorney Jay Wood; right, county appraiser chief Cliff Wood)

Some Embarrassing Letters

Charles Svirk, Jr. as 100% stockholder of the two real estate companies testified Wednesday that he had letters sent out to all 2005 buyers of the four Banyan Village Port LaBelle Units10 through 13 a few months ago asking if those buyers knew that building homes on their lots is illegal at this time. The letter also asked if the vacant lot owners knew when water would be available giving choices to check on the letter survey. 13% said they didn't know water was not available, 10% said they thought water would be installed in 2005, 39% said in 2006, and 30% didn't know. The Svirk letter, written by former company attorney Mark Lapp, now attorney for Hendry county, and the letter signed by Svirk also suggested that because Svirk's company planned to fight the higher property assessments, Banyan Village property owners property taxes would be lowered if his "legal actions" were successful.

But Special Master Stevens became visibly upset by the letter, pointing out that the letter was untrue, and that no property owner's taxes would be lowered, because Svirk's petitions would have no effect on any other lot owner. Stevens also pointed out that the survey asking lot buyer's knowledge of water lines in the subdivision was misleading at best. Stevens said that none of the answer choices given on Svirk's survey were correct answers. Water is not expected to be available in Banyon Village until 2007 or 2008 said Stevens, but the questions in the survey presumed water availability in 2005 and 2006. Stevens told Svirk that the letter was flawed in that it was promising things that were not true. County tax appraisal staff said they had received lot owners' phone calls asking when their "new" lower tax bill would be coming, because they thought CHL was handling their cases with the Value Adjustment Board, only to be told that's not going to happen.

Banyan Village was platted about 1972 and has laid vacant for 35 years because no water or sewer lines have been installed even though money has been available for years. Water lines were first promised by the county back in 2002, and then again in 2005. The county went to bids in June 2006 for the work. Svirk's companies have for many years sent out postcards to all Port LaBelle lot owners offering to buy lots, and if contacted sellers were offered as low as $100 per lot. CHL got thousands of responses from owner's tired of waiting for the land to be developable but still owed property taxes year after year. Svirk also bought hundreds of tax certificates from the county when taxes were not paid on the vacant lots, and eventually had the lots sold for taxes at public auction and ended up as the eventual buyer of significant numbers of Port LaBelle lots over the years.

CHL Overcomes Presumption of Correctness

After ten hours of testimony this week, Special Master Stevens announced CHL and Svirk had overcome the "presumption of correctness" that Hendry Tax Appraiser Kristina Kulpa's staff have by law in setting values for these Port LaBelle lots. Stevens found that 51 acres of commercial land in Banyan Village was highly overvalued by the county appraisal and set the new number at $15,000 per acre. For all the Banyan Village residential lots, Stevens found that the tax appraiser failed to include in their calculations hundreds of sales.

The tax appraisers left out "group" sales where one deed contained many lots sold or bought by one owner, and left out many purchases by CHL itself, a major purchaser of lots. Of the 500 lots sold in the Village in 2005, the appraiser only used 144 in calculation of the assessed value. Stevens said that the group sales "most closely approximate the situation" of all the lots. "How much, I'm not sure," he said. Stevens additionally found that during the last six months of 2005 there was a downward trend in prices that the tax appraiser did not considered, and presumably he was inferring that they should have. The tax assessment value is mandated by law to be the property value as of January 1st of each year. Stevens also indicated the uncertainty of the available date of water lines completions would effect lot value.

Stevens said he may give consideration to CHL for a possible downward adjustment in their tax assessment value because they were not legally able to sell lots in Banyan Village in 2005. CHL is not registered with the Florida Department of Land Sales to be enabled to sell lots that do not have utility infrastructure like water lines. Registration with the state to sell such undeveloped lots is required of anyone selling 25 or more lots a year. Speaking for the tax appraiser's office, east coast attorney Jay Wood, objected to Steven's premise and said he would provide the Special Master with law cases why this type of deduction is not proper. The law allows a deduction if a government prevents a use or sale of land, but in this case it would seem CHL is only prevented from selling because they chose not to register with the State for this type of undeveloped land sales.

Decision Likely In January

In order to determine a new tax appraisal value, Stevens gave CHL and the appraiser's staff 10 days to exchange their sales data with what they considered relevant sales in the last six months of 2005, and then both were given until January 12 to send Stevens their critiques of the data and a written argument as to their opinion of correct value. Stevens said he would then adjust downward by 15% the numbers that he determines to be the correct price in order to account for "cost" of selling by a land owner. This deduction is standard by the tax appraiser to determine the tax assessed value, i.e. the tax appraised value is about 15% less than the median sales price in the neighborhood to be.

Stevens ruled also that he was not going to hear petitions filed late. The Florida Statutes mandate filing deadlines for petitions to the Value Adjustment Board, but this year because of over 1,000 petitions being filed, mainly by CHL, the Clerk of Court decided to publicize and allow late filings. Stevens said he would allow CHL's late petitions for good cause as they had been originally timely filed but were returned to them by the Clerk's office for minor filing errors, at which time they were corrected and re-filed.

A final decision by Special Master Stevens on any changes to CHL's Port LaBelle property valuations won't be made until after January 15. Then his recommendation will be forwarded to the Value Adjustment Board, composed of two county commissioners and a school board member, who will make the final decision at a public meeting on all petitions Stevens has heard during the last two weeks of hearings.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Port LaBelle's CHL Battles Tax Appraiser

LABELLE, FLORIDA (Dec. 13, 2006) -- Port LaBelle's major property
owner battled it out with the Hendry County Tax Appraiser this
morning at the Hendry courthouse. Charles F. Svirk, Jr., the
principal and owner of CHL Holdings, Inc. and CHL Home Builders, Inc.
is attempting, in two scheduled days of hearings to reduce the tax
appraisal values on the thousand plus parcels of Hendry county real
estate his two companies own. Svirk, the only shareholder in the two
land and home building companies, is easily spending tens of
thousands of dollars in attorney fees and real estate appraisals to
convince Special Master Dan Stevens that the Hendry tax appraisal
office wildly overvalued his properties, and thus increased the
property taxes due this year by as much as three times what they were
last year.

Svirk brought in a Sarasota attorney, a local real estate appraiser,
and several witnesses to help convince Attorney Stevens that the tax
appraiser made errors in her valuations of Port LaBelle lots this
year, and a mistake on Svirk's personal home on the Caloosahatchee
River. Deputy Tax Appraiser Cliff Wood, represented by attorney Jay
Wood, apparently agreed somewhat with Svirk's home valuation and they
agreed to reduce the home value from $340,000 down to $124,000
without hearing. But Svirk and Wood disagreed on the land value of
the two acre river front parcel, and after one and one-half hours of
evidence, Special Master Stevens said that the land portion should be
valued at $720,000 up from Svirk's claim that it should be worth
$669,000, but less that the tax office's value of $800,000. Svirk
said he bought the property for $250,000 four years ago. Svirk lives
in New Hampshire.

During the afternoon session Stevens will hear a continuation of
evidence on Port LaBelle Banyan Village lot valuation where Svirk's
company owns about 1300 lots. CHL claims that most of the buyers in
2005 did not realize that home building would be illegal because
there is no water lines there. Svirk claims that buyers were ill
informed and were paying tens of thousands of dollars for lots that
were unbuildable. He claims that he only paid an average of about
$6700 for his lots in 2005. Svirk said he was not able to sell any
lots in Banyon Village, however, because the Florida Division of Land
Sales prevent developers or land owners owning more than 25 lots,
like his company, from selling lots to the public where no water is available.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Rural County Futures Predicted In New Study

Glades and Hendry County Expected To Undergo Major Transformation

LABELLE, FLORIDA (Dec. 8, 2006) -- In a study by the University of Florida and the 1000 Friends of Florida, it is predicted that the Florida population and developed land will double over the next 50 years. The study asks what will Florida look like in 2060, when its population is projected to reach almost 36 million.The new study says roughly 7 million acres of additional land will be converted from rural to urban uses, including 2.7 million acres of existing agricultural lands and 2.7 million acres of native habitat.

More than two million acres within one mile of existing conservation lands will be converted to an urban use, which will complicate their management and isolate some conservation lands in a sea of urbanization. The counties projected to undergo the most dramatic transformation, in rank order, will be Glades, Hardee, DeSoto, Hendry, Osceola, Baker, Flagler and Santa Rosa.

The central Florida region will also experience "explosive" growth, with continuous urban development from Ocala to Sebring,
and St. Petersburg to Daytona Beach. Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties are expected to build out before 2060, causing an almost continuous band of urban development along the southwest Florida coast and population spillover into adjacent inland counties.

Southeast Florida will become mostly urbanized, with the exception of some agricultural lands north and south of
Lake Okeechobee. All vacant land in the Florida Keys is projected to be developed, including areas not necessarily accessible by automobile. Duval County is projected build out sometime after 2040, and by 2060 its population is anticipated to spill over into surrounding Nassau, Clay, St. Johns and Baker counties, forever changing their rural character. Only the Panhandle and Big Bend areas are projected to retain significant areas of open space, and this is only if current growth and development patterns continue.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Seminole Tribe Buys Hard Rock Cafes

Gambling Profits Help Tribe Make $965 Million Deal

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA -- The gambling operator Seminole Tribe of
Florida, with tribal reservations in both Hendry and Glades county,
have signed a contract to purchase the Hard Rock Cafe restaurant and
casino chain from a British gambling company.

The Rank Group says it is selling its 124 cafes, six hotels and two
casinos after an auction conducted by Merrill Lynch. Rank had posted
$70 million in profits last year on the properties. The Seminole
tribe bought the assets for $965 million, subject to Rank stockholder
approval in March.

The Tribe already operates two Hard Rock hotels in Tampa and
Hollywood, Fla, and have had many run ins with Florida officials
since 1979 when they opened the first tribal gambling operation in
the U.S., bingo games in Hollywood, Fla. The Tribe has attempted to
install full Las Vegas style gambling at their casinos for many
years, with officials objecting.

The Internal Revenue Service has also been targeting the tribe and
has been involved in litigation over the use of tax-free bonds used
by the Seminoles to build casinos.

$415 million in tax-free bonds were used for its casinos, which the
IRS said was illegal. Last year the tribe said it would issue $730
million in new bonds to pay off the original bonds and pay down other debt.

3,300 Seminole tribe members live around Florida.

The Old LaBelle

Commentary by Terry Hamilton-Wollin

Perhaps you never knew the 'old" LaBelle. That was surface-gentility made up of tough pioneer stock. These were folks who were willing to leave their homes and familiar things to try a new life in an unknown and very rugged environment.On surface the life was easy, a lovely tidal flow with folks ritualistically heading out to call on the ill and infirm. It was their duty.

Ladies played afternoon bridge, wearing their mother's pearls, and hoed the acre-or-so vegetable garden before the sun went down. Henry Goodno had a vision of a better life and made it his life's work to attract settlers to the untamed territory of LaBelle. And they came. They endured snakes, malaria, annual floods, tropical heat and loneliness, but they came and they stayed. The town grew, and grew civilized.

A part of that history was the cobbler, Joe Risley. From what I can tell, Joe came to LaBelle c 1910 from Tampa, and shortly his young son Joe Jr joined him. He lived in his shoe shop, and raised young Joe there. As the generations grew, so did the number of Joseph Roland Risleys: Joe Jr, then Joseph III "Pete" and finally Joseph IV "Jody." Joe Sr died in 1977 at approximately 85 years of age. 

Tragically, Joe IV, Jody, was killed in a car wreck in 2005.A few months later Joe Jr died at age 85 yrs. Then just this week, Joe III, Pete, died at the very young age of 63 yrs. His funeral is today. Joe Sr died before LaBelle began to change, and Jody was young enough that he never knew the way it used to be. But both Jr and III saw the unbelievable changes, the flight from a small town to larger cities, the influx of new residents. Everything changed.

And this week the last of 4 generations of pioneer LaBelle stock left us. There is no Joseph V to follow. That important piece of our history is finished. It is remarkable that the town could have changed so much in such a short, 4 generations actually, period of time. I can't help wondering whether there is anyone left to notice, or to care.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Two Teens Arrested In Home Buglaries

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA -- Sheriff Ronnie Lee said one adult and one
juvenile were arrested on December 4, 2006, and charged for their
involvement in the burglary of three homes, and the vandalizing of
four homes and vehicles all located in the Clewiston area. Robby Alan
Reyes, age 18 of 1145 Sherwood Avenue Clewiston, Florida was charged
with three counts of Burglary, two counts of Grand Theft, one Felony
Criminal Mischief and two counts of Misdemeanor Criminal Mischief. A
16-year-old juvenile of Clewiston, Florida was charged with one count
of Burglary and one count of Felony Criminal Mischief. According to
Sheriff's Investigator Tiffany Arnold, the vandalized properties
included spray painted obscenities and gang-like graffiti, including
several obscenities and slanderous phrases which, in gang
terminology, means to murder or kill.

LaBelle Women Find New Way To Holiday Shop

By Amy Ofenbeck

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- As the holidays approach, shoppers are frantically looking for that perfect gift. Two women from Labelle have found a great place to find nearly everything they're looking for. This holiday season,  Rose Maloney and Carole Haas, both from LaBelle,  have limited their families to just buying gifts from Goodwill, and spending no more than $10. Some of the things they've bought include three pairs of Victoria's Secret pajamas for $10, a unique vase for $5.99, slotted serving spoons, and many other great items.

"We know we'll find stuff we like and we can afford it," Rose says. She also explains that she rarely goes to department stores now, because she's had such great luck finding things at Goodwill. Rose is a book lover and says Goodwill stores often have a lot of great books. "It's becoming more acceptable to shop at Goodwill now." Rose and Carole will hit area Goodwill stores at least once a week and come away with some great bargains they know they would never find in regular stores.
Beginning this January, Rose and Carole will begin teaching an art class at the Alliance of the Arts in Ft Myers that involves Goodwill. The class will explain how to turn used furniture into art and the pieces will then be sold at art galleries around the area.
Goodwill is a non-profit employment service for the disabled. They also help with housing with the Hatton B Rogers complex for seniors and housing complexes for the disabled. They also have a Four Wheels For Work program that allows low income families to obtain reliable transportation. High School High Tech is another one of Goodwill's services that lets disabled students explore careers or pursue secondary training in a technical field.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Home Sales Slow In LaBelle Area

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- For the month of November, there were only eight
real esate properties sold in the LaBelle area for an average price
of $175,000. All but two were sales in Port LaBelle. Port LaBelle
home builders now have an excess of inventory with little being
sold. One builder in desperation has resorted to placing plastic
signs and "open house" banners illegally on street corners and on
trees throughout Port LaBelle.

1) $150,000 on Albany Road
2) $229,000 on Buttercup Circle (new home)
3) $185,000 on Fraser Avenue (city of LaBelle)
4) $188,000 on Rainbow Circle
5) $184,000 on NE Beechwood Circle
6) $165,000 on S Edgewater Circle
7) $189,000 on S Edgewater Circle
8) $110,000 on S Main Street (city of LaBelle)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Humane Society Cancels Event

Last Minute Decision Effects Funding, Say Bonnell

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- The Caloosa Humane Society has cancelled it's fundraising Bluegrass Fest. The festival's band's leader has been taken suddenly ill and hospitalized, according to Executive Director Susan Bonnell, so the event would not have any entertainment, Bonnell said in a press release late Thursday night.

The event was to be on Saturday, December 2nd in LaBelle at the Rodeo Grounds on State Road 29. Bonnell said, "This is the humane society's largest money making events so this was not an easy decision to cancel. The shelter will have to cut back on it's ability to take in homeless animals for adoption because of the loss of the probable earnings from this one fund raiser. This is a serious financial problem for this small shelter that serves both Glades and Hendry Counties."

The pet shelter has set a raffle of a hand crafted art "Santa Doll" on Saturday December 9 with tickets selling at $10.  Florida law says raffles are illegal unless certain rules are followed including a statement of rules in all advertisements and on the tickets, and printing on all  tickets that a payment is not required to obtain a ticket.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

"Dead" Property Owners Sell Land

Five Indicted For Land Fraud

FORT MYERS, FLORIDA -- The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, as a partner in the United States Secret Service Southwest Florida Financial Crimes Task Force, announces a Federal indictment of the following five people who are alleged to have been involved in a scheme to steal title to real properties in Charlotte, Collier and Lee Counties by way of mail fraud and wire fraud:

Howard Henry, 45, Miramar, Fla. is charged with one count mail fraud and three counts of wire fraud.
Sheila W. Henry, 48, Miramar, Fla. is charged with one count of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud.
Quitin Henry, 23, Tamarac, Fla. is charged with one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud.
Tysha Wiggins, 28, Miramar, Fla. is charged with one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud.
Omar Dalberry, 24, Miami, Fla. is charged with one count of mail fraud.

The five defendants are accused of fraudulently obtaining title to real property throughout Southwest Florida. The investigation began in November of 2004. According to the indictment, the group would research property using the internet to find existing property that had several years of property taxes unpaid. The group would then connect those properties to deceased persons and begin to fraudulently obtain the property. The group is accused of forging the names of the deceased owners on deeds in order to illegally obtain the properties and sell them. The indictment alleges the defendants have fraudulently obtained title to at least 18 real properties located in Collier, Lee and Charlotte Counties with a total market value of more than $576,000.

Mexican Restaurant Value Increases, But Not Property Taxes

Although Hendry Property Owners Got Hit Big This Year, Restaurant Escaped The Tax Increase

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- After three and one-half years since the previous sale, the restaurant property at 1100 South State Road 80 in LaBelle has changed hands and the new buyers have paid a record price, although the Hendry Tax Appraiser's office still values it at an extremely low number, well below recent sales prices, and even well below an April 2002 sales price.  The 1177 square foot "El Tejano" restaurant building on the west side of SR29 just south of Cowboy Way is only valued at $68,250 as of January 2006, by the Hendry Tax Appraiser. The appraiser's office sets the taxable values each year as of January 1.

But, the property was sold this week to Beleven Properties LLC For $165,000. The seller was Delacruz Properties, Inc.  Both companies are located in Lee county. Guadalupe and Mellissa Delacruz's company had paid $125,000 in March of 2004, so presumably the tax value set for the restaurant property should have been at least $125,000 this year, and possibly much more as property values in Hendry skyrocketed.  The property sold for $125,000 also way back in April, 2002.

The Hendry tax appraiser's office didn't miss a beat in raising most everyone's property value this year.  Thousands of Port LaBelle lot owners saw their lot values jump in tax appraised value by a factor of more than three. Lots valued at $11,000 in 2005 are now hit with property taxes on a tax appraiser's value of $34,000 for 2006.  Not all property owners are taking the huge assessment increases without a fight though.

CHL, Inc., a local home builder and major Port LaBelle property owner has filed over 1000 petitions with the Value Adjustment Board this year, to try to convince the board that their assessments are set too high by the Hendry Tax Appraiser.  It will be an uphill battle though, as the Board members are comprised of two County Commissioners, and a School Board member, who obviously have a vested interest in keeping assessments and thus taxes as high as possible to run their respective government entities. In addition, the Florida Statutes are clear that a petitioner has to have overwhelming evidence that the tax assessment is too high, and not an easy task for anyone, especially CHL, Inc. who had a major hand in raising real estate prices over the last two years as they bought,sold and financed thousands of Port LaBelle quarter acre lots at higher and higher prices.

The Value Adjustment Board hearings begin next week at the Hendry Courthouse.

In The Service

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Army National Guard Pvt. Leonard B. Carey has
graduated from basic combat training at Fort Jackson, Columbia, S.C.
During the nine weeks of training, the soldier studied the Army
mission, history, tradition and core values, physical fitness, and
received instruction and practice in basic combat skills, military
weapons, chemical warfare and bayonet training, drill and ceremony,
marching, rifle marksmanship, armed and unarmed combat, map reading,
field tactics, military courtesy, military justice system, basic
first aid, foot marches, and field training exercises. He is the son
of Sonya Telfort of Orange St., La Belle, Fl. Carey is a 2006
graduate of La Belle High School.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Corps To Revisit Lake Plans After Public Complaints

Public Comments Cause Corp of Engineers To Reconsider

Clewiston, Florida -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
Jacksonville District is revising its draft Environmental Impact
Statement that supports the Lake Okeechobee Water Control Plan.
The original process drafted by the Corps anticipated adoption of a
new regulation schedule in January 2007. However, new
information and comments gathered during the public comment
period have resulted in changes that warrant development of a second
draft of the EIS.

This draft will be made available for
public review in March 2007. Based on this schedule, is
anticipated that implementation of the new regulation schedule will
begin in July 2007. A second public review and comment period
will begin in March and will be open for 45 days. The original
process drafted by the Corps anticipated adoption of a new
regulation schedule in January 2007. Following a
series of public meetings last September, Jacksonville District
Commander Col. Paul Grosskruger asked the interagency study team revisit the proposed draft regulation schedule and fine-tune
it to minimize impacts on the coastal estuaries.

"Public involvement is a very important part of our process, and we are listening to the public's concerns. In our
desire to deliver the overall most effective plan possible, we're
taking the additional time needed to address those concerns. The
public wants to see more water moving south. Of course, that's
what we all want to see, and what the Everglades restoration
program will ultimately provide," said Pete Milam, project
manager. "In the meantime,& we're moving water south,
though we are constrained by the amount of water can move
until water storage and treatment components start coming on line."

As Everglades projects come to
fruition, the Corps will use them to route more water
south. In the interim, the proposed plan provides for
higher level of safety to lake communities and improves Lake
Okeechobee environmental conditions by managing the lake at lower
elevations. Once the proposed regulation schedule is implemented
next summer, water managers will immediately begin developing a
new schedule that will take into account Comprehensive Everglades
Restoration Plan projects, inclunding Acceler8 project
components. This schedule is planned for early 2010

For further information on the Lake Okeechobee Regulation
Schedule Study and Environmental Impact Statement, visit
the Jacksonville District web site at href=""></
or call Susan Jackson, the Corporate Communication Office at 904-232-1953.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Local Ball Teams Play Championship Games In Miami

Three Teams On Schedule From Hendry and Palm Beach County

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA --  Three area football teams will be playing December 1st and 2nd at the Dolphin Stadium in Miami for their respective class championships.  Glades Day School will play North Florida Christian School for the Class 1A Championship. at 7 p.m. Friday night. On Saturday at 1 p.m. Pahokee High takes on Trinity Catholic for Class 2B.  The Class 2A game will feature Clewiston High vs. Bolles School at 7 p.m. Saturday.

A team "walk through" will take place Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the stadium for media photographs. A team dinner for players and coaches will be Thursday from 6  to 9 p.m. at the Oasis at Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise, Fl.

In The Service

Belle Glade Man Graduates From Basic Training

BELLE GLADE, FLORIDA -- Air Force Airman Christopher D. Mendoza has graduated from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. During the six weeks of training, the airman studied the Air Force mission, organization, and military customs and courtesies; performed drill and ceremony marches, and received physical training, rifle marksmanship, field training exercises, and special training in human relations.

In addition, airmen who complete basic training earn credits toward an associate degree through the Community College of the Air Force. He is the son of Ramon Mendoza and Ronie Posey of S.E. Fourth St., Belle Glade, Fl. Mendoza is a 2006 graduate of Glade Central Community High School, Belle Glade.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Another Drug Bust In Montura

Two Arrested With Narcotics Charges

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA (November 27, 2006) -- An investigation by the Criminal Investigations Division of the Hendry County Sheriff�s Office led to the issuing and service of a search warrant at a residence at 375 South Isora Street in Montura Ranch Estates in Central Hendry County.

According to Sheriff Ronnie Lee, Caridad Fernandez age 42 of 500 South San Pedro Street in Clewiston, and  Felix Rivero age 47 of the same address were apprehended at the at the scene. HCSO Investigators recovered a quantity of cocaine and  marijuana as well as prescription narcotics in un-labled bottles to include 500 mg Metformin, 100mg Toprol and zanax tablets of 0.5mg. Drug packaging paraphernalia and counter-balance scales were also recovered.

Caridad Fernandez was charged with; Operating a Drug House, Possession of Cocaine, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of a Narcotic without a prescription. Her bond was set at $12,500.00. Felix Rivero was charged with; Operating a Drug House, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Possession of Marijuana and Possession of a Narcotic without at prescription. His bond was set at $22,415.00. Both were booked into the Hendry County Jail.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Family History - Fun Hobby For Many

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Genealogy and searching for one's family history is becoming one of America's fastest growing hobbies for many, especially the "baby boom" generation. Family history search services and web sites have been mushrooming over the past several years as many people that grew up in the 1950s and 60s now are finding they have a great curiosity about their ancestors and long-lost relatives.

In past years, before the internet, searching for ancestors was a very difficult and almost impossible task...searches had to be done at libraries, court houses, and other government facilities to find all the old records, including census files, social security records, old land records, etc.

Now, through the internet and its vast free databases, almost anyone with an interest in family history and a little time can fairly easily locate those ancestors online, along with actual photos of U.S. census records for each ten years from 1860 to 1930.

Don Browne, editor of the Sunday Morning News has recently gotten the genealogy bug, and after several months of working the internet, now has about 14,000 names in his family history files online. His family came from Virginia to Ohio in the early 1800s. Now the family members have scattered to all corners of the United States from Washington D.C. to Alaska, to Florida.
The most common family names of his ancestors are: Adams, Bolin, Browne, Haybron, Jones, Johnson, Robinson, Smith, and Wooley. He has a web page online now where those interested in the easiest way to find their ancestor and relatives can get a quick start. Click this link to learn more about family history searches and how to make free family searches on the internet: How To Find Your Ancestors
Photo: Don Browne's great-great-great grandparents from Athens County, Ohio

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

In The Service

BELLE GLADE, FLORIDA -- Army Pvt. Tiffany D. Summerall has graduated
from basic combat training at Fort Jackson, Columbia, S.C. During
the nine weeks of training, the soldier studied the Army mission,
history, tradition and core values, physical fitness, and received
instruction and practice in basic combat skills, military weapons,
chemical warfare and bayonet training, drill and ceremony, marching,
rifle marksmanship, armed and unarmed combat, map reading, field
tactics, military courtesy, military justice system, basic first aid,
foot marches, and field training exercises.

She is the daughter of Diane Gary of S.W. Avenue C, Belle Glade,
Fla., and niece of Elaine Howard of Colleraine Ave., Tavares,
Fl. Summerall is a 2004 graduate of Glade Central Community High
School, Belle Glade.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Holiday Food - Safety Tips

Enjoy Your Thanksgiving But Take Care With These Cooking Tips

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson is urging consumers to follow food safety measures during the upcoming holiday season.  More than 76 million people are sickened by food-borne illnesses every year in the United States, resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations and more than 5,000 fatalities.  Many food- borne illnesses are preventable if consumers take steps to protect themselves and their families.

      -- Thaw the turkey in the refrigerator, not the counter. Room temperatures promote bacteria growth. Allow one day of defrosting for each five pounds of turkey weight.
     -- Cook the stuffing separate from the turkey.  Stuffing put in an uncooked turkey is susceptible to bacteria growth.

     -- Cook to the proper temperatures.  A whole turkey should reach an internal temperature of 180 degrees F.  The stuffing in a turkey should reach a temperature of 165 F degrees.  Cooking a turkey at less than 325 degrees F is unsafe because it allows the bird and stuffing to remain in the danger zone for bacterial growth for too long.

     -- Don't interrupt the cooking process.  Interrupting the cooking process promotes bacteria growth.
     -- Slice the turkey before refrigerating.  Whole turkeys do not store safely in the refrigerator.  Put the slices into shallow containers, cover and refrigerate.

     -- Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.

     -- Be careful with holiday buffets.  Servings should be kept small and replenished often -- directly from the stove or refrigerator.  The longer food is kept out, especially beyond two hours, the higher the risk of food poisoning.

      -- Carefully store leftovers.  To speed up the cooling process, put leftovers into shallow, covered containers and keep refrigerator temperature at 40 degrees F or below.  Perishable foods left at room temperature for longer than two hours are susceptible to bacterial growth.

      -- Thoroughly wash hands, cutting boards and utensils before and after contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.

     -- Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood apart from foods that won't be cooked.

Blight Reported In Immokalee Tomato Fields

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Hendry County Agricultural Agent Gene McAvoy has
sent a letter to area farmers warning that Glades Crop Care has
reported a confirmed finding of late blight on tomatos in the
Immokalee area. The infection is in a fairly large planting which
has multiple infections widely scattered throughout the
field. Numerous infected plants are present with symptoms ranging
from single lesions to several hotspots throughout the field where
plants display multiple late blight lesions. McAvoy says the disease
can easily devastate a tomato or potato field within a few weeks if
it is not properly controlled.

Since the disease can spread so rapidly, growers are being warned to
scout their fields thoroughly each day, especially when cool and wet
conditions conducive to disease development prevails. Since late
blight symptoms may be confused with symptoms of other diseases,
McAvoy gave farmers several diagnostic pointers to help growers
distinguish between the late blight and other diseases.

Numerous fungicide products are registered for late blight
control. Protectants, as the name implies, protect foliage from
infection by spores. Protectant chemicals must be well distributed
over the leaf surface and must be applied before spores land on
leaves. They are ineffective against established infections.

In Florida, it has been observed that seldom does a widespread late
blight epidemic occur on tomatoes in the Manatee-Ruskin area unless
the disease was present in the Immokalee area and/or Dade
County. Since late blight has been confirmed on tomato in Immokalee,
growers in other areas are being advised to adhere to a preventative
spray program. Growers are advised to be aware of the presence of the
disease in SW Florida and should be alert for the appearance of
symptoms in their fields as well as be sure to apply protective
fungicides to help prevent possible infections. No other disease
will find an unprotected field as rapidly as late blight.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

AOL - Improved Features... And FREE

AOL Finally Gets Their Act Together For Some Great Free Stuff

Special Consumer Report by Don Browne

LABELLE, FLORIDA - I've used the AOL services almost from the beginning, when dial-up internet service was the only choice back in the 1980s. For example, I've posted all our Southwest Florida Online and Sunday Morning News pages using AOL for over ten years. But that's all I used them for. I have several other internet providers for email and browsing online.

The AOL services had been the butt of many jokes for decades, and probably deservedly so. The customer service was awful, the online interface was clunky and hard to navigate, and on and on.

But in recent months, AOL has been taking a 180 degree turn and now has their act together. AOL has become a totally free service for anyone now. And the scope of information they provide is overwhelmingly good. AOL found that they were losing customers by the millions with their previous subscription plans that were actually more expensive than all other internet providers. Now, they've reversed course and are giving away all their online service including free e-mail names, free radio and music stations online, and more than ample news and information pages, all freely accessible to all.

Their are still some glitches...

Last month, I found my monthly bill had been overcharged about $30. I didn't look forward to making that dreaded phone call to "customer service" at AOL. After what seemed like and eternity of waiting and pushing button one, button two, ad nauseum, finally got to a live person, who had that now all too familiar southeast Asian accent but an American name "Fred", who claimed I had overused my allowed minutes last month. After much argument, Fred allowed me a full credit for the extra charges. Ok, so all's well.

Well, not exactly. This month I received a letter saying I had cancelled my subscription account and now had one of the new free accounts. This was mysterious as I had not cancelled my account.

So back to the phone to figure out what was going on. After more buttom pushing, finally got to the live person (this time without any foreign accent)and they tell me that they don't exactly know how my account got cancelled and into the free account. When questioned further, they could not answer fully what I was giving up in taking on the free account. It seemed like I was to receive the same service as before but.. I could no longer call for assistance or use AOL's service to log onto the internet. That was OK since I had several other internet service providers all along anyway. Because AOL customer service has been awful, I'm not going to miss it.

A Thumbs UP

So, the bottom line....I give AOL's new free services a big thumbs up. I've only mentioned the tip of the iceberg as far as what they now offer for free. Take a look at all of their now free services by going to Free AOL and try the music service for some great choices in AOL's 200 radio stations and XM's Radio's 20 more...all for free.

Monday, November 13, 2006

New Branch Bank Manager Named

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA - The Seacoast National Bank has named Letitia
"Tishy" Swagler as the new branch manager for its branch located on
Berner Road in Clewiston. Mrs. Swagler has a banking background of
mortgage lending and banking compliance at the Yardville National
Bank in Hamilton Square, New Jersey. Mrs. Swagler is married to John
F. Swangler.

Belle Glade Couple Gives $1 Million

BELLE GLADE, FLORIDA -- Stetson University, in Deland, Florida, owns
extensive art collection by Modernist painter Oscar Bluemner
(1867-1938) and soon will have a permanent gallery on the Stetson
campus ­ thanks to the generosity of longtime Stetson trustee and
alumna Dolly Hand and her husband, Homer Hand.

The Hands are donating a $1 million lead gift for an art center to be
built between Sampson Hall, home of the university's Art Department,
and the duPont-Ball Library on campus. The university is applying for
grants to raise additional funding needed for construction of the new facility.

The Hands live in Belle Glade, where they own and operate Hand
Enterprises, the management company for their land holdings. They are
active in civic affairs in the Belle Glade/Okeechobee area, and both
are former members of the Palm Beach Community College Board of
Trustees. They have received numerous awards, including the Champion
of Higher Independent Education in Florida (CHIEF) Award from the
Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida in 1996.

Dolly Hand is a 1949 graduate of Stetson's College of Law, which was
located on the DeLand campus until the mid-1950s and is now based in
St. Petersburg. She was the only woman in her class and, at age 20,
was the youngest student ever to complete the law program. Mrs. Hand
has served on the Stetson University Board of Trustees since 1994.
The couple provided permanent funding for the Homer and Dolly Hand
Award for Excellence in Faculty Research, which is given annually to
recognize Stetson faculty members involved in significant research.
They also give to Stetson for student scholarships each year.

Port LaBelle Land Gets Ag Exemption

Exemption For Old Golf Course Land Denied By Glades County Originally

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- After originally denying an agricultural tax exemption for 131 acres of former golf course land in Glades County, the Value Adjustment Board, after a lenghty hearing, reverses Glades Tax Assessor Larry Luckey denial of the exemption and allowed the huge tax break for the land owners.

The acreage laying on the Hendry and Glades county line was purchased at auction several years ago and is now owned by LaBelle Cattle Company LLC who petitioned for an agricultural exemption that would knock about 95% of the property taxes off the tax bill for 2006. Tax Assessor Larry Luckey denied the application because he says the golf course land had been platted and subdivided for single family homes since the 1970s, and the cattle grazing had only taken effect in the last several years, claiming the cattle were only an incidental use to the land, which most likely will be sold in individual lots in the future.

Attorney Steve Hartzell presented evidence before the board that court cases say that it is irrelevant whether a parcel of land is subdivided and platted to be granted an agricultural exemption. The owners have used the former golf course for grazing several dozen cows for the last several years, leasing the land to Comer Taylor for only $2000 a year, evidence presented showed. The land owner also spent scores of thousands of dollars on fencing for the acreage, leading Larry Luckey to argue that the land, although used for agricultural use, would not recover any profit for many many years.

The board members unanimously agreed to grant the petitioners motion to allow the agricultural exemption.

In the other dozen petitions before the board, most all were either withdrawn by the owners or denied by the board because the owners did not give enough evidence of incorrect land values compared to the Tax Assessor's valuation. Several agricultural exemptions were approved though, because the petitioners showed good cause why they missed the deadline for applying for the exemption.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Karau Named To Regional Planning Council

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Governor Jeb Bush this week named Mel Karau to
the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council. Karau, 73 is retired
and lives in the Fort Danaud area of Hendry county. He replaces
Janice Groves and begins his term November 6, ending Octover 1, 2009.
Others appointed by the Governor are: Frank Weikel, 75, of Punta
Gorda, retired, reappointed for a term beginning November 6, 2006 and
ending October 1, 2009; Rory Dubin, 41, of Sarasota, commercial
realtor, Waterford Real Estate Services, Inc., succeeding Alan Maio,
appointed for a term beginning November 6, 2006 and ending October 1,
2009. All appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Pedestrian Robbed And Beaten

Three Arrested In LaBelle Robbery

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- When Pedro Quiroz was offered a ride home for $5.00 he didn’t realize that he would become the victim of an armed robbery. In a report by Sheriff Ronnie Lee Mr. Quiroz was walking home along SR 29 north of the bridge when he noticed a small green car that he thought belonged to a friend of his, he waved and the car stopped. Mr. Quiroz noticed it was not his friend but, the Hispanic female driver asked him if he wanted a ride. When he replied yes, the driver told him she would drive him home for $5.00.

When Mr. Quiroz entered the car he noticed 2 other passengers one of which he knew as Victor and the other passenger was a white male. As the car neared Thigpen Rd. the driver stopped and the white male pulled Mr. Quiroz from the vehicle. Once outside the car the man known as Victor pointed a small semi-automatic handgun at him and then hit him in the head with a beer bottle and knocked him to the ground. While on the ground one of the men went through his pockets and stole his wallet and $250.00 cash.

The subsequent investigation by the Hendry County Sheriff's Criminal Investigations division has led to the arrest of; Maria Kelly Delacruz age 26 of 2020 Wellington Ave. Alva, Florida and Wayne Bubba Oconner age 32 of LaBelle, Florida. Both Delacruz and Oconner were charged with; Aggravated Assault, Aggravated Battery With A Deadly Weapon, Robbery With A Weapon, and Robbery. They were booked into the Hendry County Jail with bond set at $75,000.00 each.

The third suspect Victor Roa age 29 of 783 Martin Luther King Blvd in LaBelle was arrested and charged with Aggravated Assault, Aggravated Battery, Kidnapping and Robbery with a weapon. Roa was booked in the Hendry County Jail with bond set at $100,000.00.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Port LaBelle Water Meters Go Hi-Tech

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Port LaBelle residents will be seeing technicians replacing water meters over the coming months for thousands of existing meters. New electronic meters are being installed to replace the twenty-year old models now recording water useage.

The new meters will send electronic digital radio signals to a meter reader's receiving device to automatically record the water useage. Installed with lithuim batteries that supposedly will last for a decade or more, the new meters allow a Port LaBelle Utility System employee to merely drive by each home to automatically record the water use each month.

There's no offical word whether Port LaBelle customers will end up paying more for their water because of the added cost of the new meters, but residents have for years complained about their historically high water and sewer rates in Port LaBelle. Years ago, the county purchased the water company from the original Port LaBelle developer with promises of lower rates. However, customer costs have only gone up over the years.

Margaret Pass Loses Port LaBelle Election

Port LaBelle Candidate Under Fire In Miami Criminal Case

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- While official election results are pending the Hendry Supervisor of Elections' certification, in one of two Hendry county general election seats for the Port LaBelle Community Development District, Margaret Rose Pass apparently lost her bid for a board seat to Scott Wegscheid. Wegscheid is a long-time member of the district's board.

Pass, who co-owns a home in the Port LaBelle Ranchettes on Birchwood Parkway in Glades county, is the long-time Director of Building and Zoning in Coral Gables, Florida. Or at least was the director until a scandal broke in mid-September. She was suspended from her duties after the arrest of her administrative assistant on charges of corruption and fraud in the wealthy exclusive city-suburb of Miami.

Her assistant, Jorge Reyes was arrested in connection with allegations of time-sheet scams, fraud, and drug related charges according to news reports from Miami. The suspension of Pass followed an anonymous letter that accused both Pass and Reyes of a list of possible felony charges and alleged nepotism from both in the 80-person Coral Gables building and zoning department.

Nothwithstanding her current problems in Miami, Pass, who doesn't keep her feelings hidden, at a recent Glades county commission meeting argued that the Glades county manager should be fired after his past criminal conviction came to light. According to a news report. Pass told the county commissioners, "I'd like to see him fired, and if you don't, I'm going to check in to each and every one of you."

A second Port LaBelle Community Development District seat was won by Suzanne Gee of the Port LaBelle Ranchettes. Gee won over J. Michael Jordan, a longtime member of the Development District board.

Thirty-Five Percent Voter Turnout In Hendry

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- In Hendry county yesterday, 5,508 voters went to polling places from Clewiston to LaBelle. There are 15,670 registered voters in Hendry county.

Hendry voters picked Bill Nelson (D) for the U.S. Senate along with the rest of Florida. but chose the former Republican candidate Mark Foley for the 16th Congressional District, disagreeing with the remainder of the district from Stuart to Charlotte County. who elected Tim Mahoney (D) who resides in the rural community of Venus in Highland County.

Hendry citizens voted Republican for all the remaining candidates, and said "yes" to all the state amendment issues, and approved all District and Supreme Court Judges. Of the total votes cast in this General Election, about 1000 or 20% were made by "early" votes before election day.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Long Wins Glades Commission Seat

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA -- The winner of the Glades County Commission
seat is Donna Storter Long. Long took 51% of the vote over Democratic
candidate Alvin Ward. The final count was Long 1189 votes to Ward's
1159 votes in the 13 Glades county precincts. The commission seat is
for Glades County's 2nd District.

Glades Commission Candidates Push For Votes

Political Sign 'Pollution' Offends Some

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA -- On election day, with only a few remaining hours to go, Glades county commission candidates are hoping to get the attention of those voters who have not cast their votes yet. At the Muse Community Center in western Glades county, hundreds of signs for the two Glades County Commission candidates as well as signs for state and federal offices were posted on the grounds of the voting place as well as on the public right of way just outside the Community Center's fence.

Voters will be choosing seat holders of 18 offices up for election today in Glades county, and as well for six proposed state law amendments on the 2006 ballot. Republican Donna Storter Long and Democrat Alvin Ward, the only local politicians looking for votes today, are running for Glades County Commission for District 2.

Alvin Ward's supporters, the Glades Democratic Party, placed a large canopy festooned with balloons outside the fence of the community center on public right of way with dozens of Democrat candidate signs. Workers, when asked about the legality of placing political signs on public property say that's the way its always done in Glades county and no one enforces any sign laws here.

And inside the gate, on the county-owned grounds of the Muse Community Association where voters strolled in and out of the polling place all day, Donna Storter Long's signs were prominently displayed in great numbers near the front entrance to the polling place. Storter-Long had been asked earlier in the campaign about complaints about her signs and opponent Ward's illegally placed political signs scattered on roadways throughout the county. Long said she had instructed her workers to not place them on public land of rights-of-way. But in the exuberance of campaigning, workers apparently didn't heed the instruction, as signs are found all over the county on public land, most usually at the corners of busy intersections and along the fronts of schools and other public places. Long said because her signs inside the grounds at the Muse Community Center were on county property they were allowed there.

Notwithstandig that a Glades county commissioner is a Florida constitutional officer sworn to uphold all the laws of Florida while being paid $24,756 yearly, both Glades commission candidates apparently don't intend to uphold "all" the laws in Florida if a few hundred political signs get in the way.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Career Day For Law Enforcement Jobs

FORT MYERS, FLORIDA -- Incoming choppers, exploding bombs, and boats armed with machine guns are just a few of the public safety tools that Edison College students will see next week. The college is hosting a Public Safety Career Fair on Wednesday, November 8 on the Fort Myers campus. 

Representatives from more than a dozen local agencies will be on hand to talk with students about career options in public safety fields. For many years, Edison has offered two-year degrees in criminal justice, crime scene technology and paralegal services, plus certifications for paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and firefighters.

Last August, Edison offered the first classes in its first four-year degree, a bachelor�s of applied science in public safety management. The new baccalaureate degree puts Edison students at the forefront of a national trend to require bachelor�s degrees for public safety professionals instead of certifications or associate�s degrees. The new degree allows local public safety professionals to advance their careers without leaving the area.

In addition to career opportunities, students can also learn how to enroll in Edison�s public safety programs. The career fair runs from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. with live demonstrations scheduled to begin at approximately 1:15 p.m.

The event is being held in conjunction with the monthly luncheon of the Chamber of Southwest Florida, which will feature a panel discussion on public safety, crime prevention, and disaster preparedness. The panel includes three local sheriffs, the Lee County public safety director, Dr. John Dunaway, and others. Dunaway is lead faculty member for Edison�s bachelor degree in Public Safety Management.

For more information, please call Beverly Fox, district communications coordinator at Edison College, at (239) 985-3489 or email To register for the chamber luncheon, call (239) 278-4001

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Democratic Candidate Mahoney Comes To LaBelle

Sen. Bob Graham And Tim Mahoney To Tour Nature Park

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Democratic Candidate for Congress, Tim Mahoney, and former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham visit LaBelle Friday, November 3 to meet voters and tour water quality projects in Hendry and Glades County.

Tim Mahoney is running for the seat formerly held by Republican Mark Foley. The Republican candidate also seeking to represent Florida's 16th Congressional district is Joe Negron. After the traditional pie and coffee stop at Flora & Ella's Restaurant, Mahoney and Graham will tour the LaBelle Nature Park, just north of the restaurant and adjacent to the historic Hendry House. The park is the site of a planned Caloosahatchee River oxbow restoration and natural resources education center. The pie and coffee reception at Flora & Ella's Restaurant on Hwy 80 in LaBelle is open to the public.

The LaBelle Nature Park is managed by the City of LaBelle and supported by groups including Rotary International, Kiwanis International, the Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association- Riverwatch, Boy Scouts, and the LaBelle-Hendry Recreation Board. LaBelle Mayor and Riverwatch member, Randy Bengston, a strong advocate for the park project, will provide a tour of the park. Bill Maddox, Hendry County Commissioner, and Ron Zimmerly, Hendry County director for special projects, will explain plans for the proposed oxbow restoration.

After a discussion of the park and oxbow projects, Riverwatch members will take the opportunity to raise some of the larger issues of regional water management and water quality with the candidate. The 16th district includes several major water bodies - the Caloosahatchee River, Fisheating Creek, Lake Okeechobee, Kissimmee River, and St. Lucie River. Of primary mportance to Riverwatch is developing a proper south Florida water management system and leadership that will protect Lake Okeechobee, rivers, wetlands, coastal estuaries, and marine shorelines.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Lake Okeechobee To Get High Tech Survey

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA -- Federal Emergency Management officials
announced this week that over concerns about the safety of Lake
Okeechobee's aging earth dike and what would happen should it fail, a
high tech survey will be taken before next summer to calculate flood
zones surrounding the nations second largest freshwater lake.

Official say that seven emergency planners will develop strategies to
deal with any future emergency caused by a failing dike. Gov. Jeb
Bush had asked for help after state-hired engineers called the
Herbert Hoover Dike a ``grave and imminent danger.''

New laser based aerial mapping, using a technique known as Light
Detection and Ranging or LiDar, will survey the lake area and enable
mappers to draw elevation maps of the lands surrounding the giant
lake, accurate to about 1 foot, and enable survey crews to finish
much quicker with more accurate results than older land based survey
crews could do.

Sheriff Raids Hendry County High Schools

Sweeps At Clewiston High and LaBelle High Reap Drugs and 9mm Gun

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA -- The Hendry County Sheriff�s Office working closely with the Hendry County School System and with police dogs provided by the Collier County Sheriff�s Office conducted sweeps at Clewiston and LaBelle High Schools on October 27th.  Found were a handgun and ammunition in an 18 year old Clewiston High student's vehicle and in LaBelle, narcotics paraphernalia and drugs in a 16 year old student's car.

According to Sheriff Ronnie Lee HCSO Investigators discovered a 9mm Ruger handgun under the front seat and a loaded 10 round magazine in the center console of a vehicle that was driven to Clewiston High School by Sergio Garcia age 18 of 300 Pine Lane, Clewiston. Garcia was arrested and charged with possession of a weapon on school grounds and booked into the Hendry County Jail with bond set at $3,500.00.

Also, on October 27th a vehicle search at the LaBelle High School parking lot resulted in the arrest of one 16 year juvenile for possession of marijuana and narcotics paraphernalia. Sheriff Lee stated that to keep our schools safe that future operations of this type would be conducted. The Sheriff also expressed his appreciation to the Hendry County School System, Members of the Hendry County Sheriff�s Office Criminal Investigations Division, The Hendry County Sheriff�s Office School Resource Officers and Sgt. John Poling, Sgt. Andrew Smith, Cpl. Chris Swarthout and Canines �Doyle� and �Branco� of the Collier County Sheriff�s Office for their participation in the 2 sweeps.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

In The Service

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Air Force Airman Gilberto M. Rodriguez has
graduated from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base,
San Antonio, Texas. During the six weeks of training, the airman
studied the Air Force mission, organization, and military customs and
courtesies; performed drill and ceremony marches, and received
physical training, rifle marksmanship, field training exercises, and
special training in human relations.

In addition, airmen who complete basic training earn credits toward
an associate degree through the Community College of the Air Force.
He is the son of Mary Martinez, and grandson of Susie Martinez, both
of S. Bridge St., LaBelle, Fl. The airman is a 2005 graduate of
LaBelle High School.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Hendry County Sheriffs Office Busts 18th Grow House

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Following an investigation by the Criminal
Investigations Division of the Hendry County Sheriff's Office, the
18th Hendry County Grow House was put out of business. The house at
7050 Tide Circle in Port LaBelle is owned by residents of Dade County
and had new sophisticated marijuana growing equipment
installed, with privacy blinds tightly covering all windows. Sheriff Ronnie Lee advised that marijuana valued in
excess of $50,000.00 was seized along the equipment. Sheriff Lee also
stated that the investigation is continuing with arrests pending.

According to the Property Appraiser's records the new home was
purchased last month by Daniel L. Costa and Ania Costa of Miami Springs, who
are not married, for $173,000. The entire purchase price was financed
by a mortgage with nothing down, according to court records. The
house was one of the least expensive new homes in Port LaBelle. The
home is located less than a mile from the LaBelle Middle School, with
few other houses built yet on the street, leaving it fairly private. The Costas, while not identified as suspects by the Sheriff's office at this time, own a six-month old corporation in Hialeah called Quality Health Care Providers, Inc.

Clewiston Crash Takes Life

Victim Flies Across Two Lanes - Ends In Canal

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA  (October 23, 2006) -- A 2000 Ford SUV driven by Ingris Chalrez Medina, age 23 of 550 N. Hacienda Street in Clewiston, ended up in a canal, five miles west of Clewiston, killing the driver. FHP Trooper L. M. Smith Jr. said Medina was traveling west on US 27 Monday at 6:30 A.M. and for unknown reasons the vehicle crossed the median becoming airborne, traveling over both the eastbound lanes, and over the guardrail on the south side of US 27, entering a canal, coming to rest on its roof, submerged under water.

Alcohol was apparently not a factor, and the body was transported to the Fort Myers Medical Examiner's Office.

LaBelle Home Sales Last Week

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- From October 10 to October 17 there were 8 homes
sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $182,500. More homes
were sold other than the usual in Port LaBelle this week. Details for
local homes sold:

1) $300,000 on Bee Branch Lakes Drive, west of LaBelle
2) $160,000 on Bishop Circle
3) $112,000 on Clipper Court in Country Oaks
4) $159,000 on Hardee Street in LaBelle
5) $195,000 on Hardee Street in LaBelle
6) $147,000 on East Sunflower Circle
7) $235,000 on North Oak Street in LaBelle
8) $152,000 on South Edgewater Circle

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Small Chance Of Getting Caught At Crime In Hendry?

Florida Department Of Law Enforcement Crime Report Released

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- According to the latest crime statistics for the period from January 2006 through June 2006 it would appear there's not a good chance wrong doers will get arrested for committing crimes in Hendry county. Of the 691 crimes reported during the six month period only 22.7% were "cleared" according to the latest county crime report.

While that is about the average clearance rate for all counties in Florida, some county Sheriffs apparently have better success rates like Washington County with 48%, Marion 45%, Holmes 55%, Franklin 64%, and Baker county 61%.

During the last six months in Hendry county there were reported 377 larcenies, 151 burglaries, 104 aggravated assaults 46 motor vehicle thefts, 28 robberies, 4 rapes, and 1 murder. Last year there were 882 crimes reported in the same period with about the same poor clearance record for that period's crimes.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Indian Hills To Hear FPL Plant Plans

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- The Indian Hills Community Association will meet
at 7 p.m. Wednesday, October 25 at the Volunteer Fire Department at
3890 Indian Hills Road, SW to hear representatives from Florida Power
and Light on the proposed Glades Power Plant Project. Senior Manager
Rachel Scott, and External Affairs Manager, Grover Whidden will be
presenting a power point presentation on the proposed FP&L Glades
County Power Plant Project.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rural Counties Get Grant Money

Glades Commissioner Butch Jones Thanks Bush

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA -- Governor Jeb Bush today awarded a $75,000 Rural Regional Development Grant to Florida�s Heartland Rural Economic Development Initiative, Inc. (FHREDI). The funds will be used to promote economic development efforts in south central Florida, as well as advance job creation, business retention and expansion, and economic initiatives.

"Through their strategic focus and hard work, Florida�s Heartland Rural Economic Development Initiative has proven to be an outstanding partner with the state, helping promote and increase viable economic programs and initiatives in Florida�s heartland region," said Governor Bush.  "I am pleased to provide this rural development grant to the organization to further its efforts to enhance that base."

FHREDI is a regional economic development organization serving the south central counties of DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands and Okeechobee, as well as the Immokalee community and the Glades Communities of Pahokee, Belle Glade, South Bay.  In 2001, Governor Bush designated this south central region of the State as one of three �Rural Areas of Critical Economic Concern.

"The support provided by the Governor and his Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development is critical to continuing the momentum in the Heartland of Florida," said K.S. (Butch) Jones, Glades City Commissioner and Chairman of FHREDI.   �We cannot express enough our appreciation to the Governor.  We are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.  Thank you!"

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Port LaBelle Man Busted In Glades

Remote Home Yields Almost Ready To Harvest Marijuana

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA -- Glades County Sheriff Stuart Whiddon said today that on Sunday, October 8 members of the Glades County Sheriff's Office conducted an investigation surrounding a marijuana "grow house" at 16050 March Lane, Port Labelle, in Glades County.

According to Detective Steve Harris, 32 mature five to six foot plants were seized as well as air conditioning units, fertilizers and various lights and cultivation equipment. The plants that were seized were almost ready for "harvest" and would yield approximately one to two pounds of excellent quality hydroponically grown marijuana for each plant with an estimated street value of $4000.00 per pound.

During the investigation which lead to the arrest of Jose Abel Marquez (DOB 7/20/71) it was discovered that Marquez was renting the home for what appeared to be the sole purpose of growing marijuana. The new home had a privacy fence around the back yard and was located in a remote area of Glades County's far eastern Port LaBelle section, about as far away from the Glades Sheriff's office as would be possible.

This is the third indoor marijuana grow operation that has been discovered in Glades County within the last six months. Sheriff Whiddon encourages the citizens of Glades County to contact his office confidentially at (863)946-1600, for any tips or information.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Rainy Season Comes To An Early End

By Gene McAvoy, Agricultural Extension Director, LaBelle

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- According to the National Weather Service the 2006 rainy season in South Florida, which began on May 25, came to an end last week on October 6. This is 10 days earlier than the median ending date of October 16. This year`s rainy season lasted a total of 135 days, 18 days less than the average duration of 153 days.

This year`s rainy season was characterized by large variability in area precipitation totals. Miami international airport received 47.21 inches of rain during the wet season period, which is over five inches above the normal wet season value of 42.16 inches. On the other hand, Palm Beach International Airport only received 27.88 Inches of rain, well below the normal amount. Fort Lauderdale/ Hollywood International Airport was in the middle with 36.83 inches.

Overall, south Florida received below normal rainfall during the wet season. Besides Miami International Airport, the exception to this was over western sections of Collier County, which received quite a bit of rain throughout the summer. Naples regional airport received 43.20 inches for the entire rainy season.

With the exception of tropical storm Ernesto that brought large amounts of rain to the western and interior portions of south Florida at the end of august, few significant weather systems affected the area this summer. Therefore, the area’s rainfall this wet season depended largely on small-scale effects such as sea breezes, which can increase the variability of rainfall even over short distances.

The end of the rainy season is determined primarily by the first time the dew point drops below 70 degrees for about three consecutive days. This typically coincides with the first minimum temperature reading below 70 degrees since spring, and a corresponding sharp decrease in the frequency of the daily rainfall patterns, which characterize the rainy season. This year’s end to the rainy season was not accompanied by a significant drop in temperature. However, stronger fronts typically begin arriving in South Florida during the middle to latter part of October.

 It should be noted that it is not uncommon to have periods of rain lasting a day or so during the dry season as cold fronts approach South Florida.  However, these wet episodes are typically transient and only serve to provide occasional relief to the dry weather pattern normally observed between the months of November and April.

 With the return of el Niño this coming winter, precipitation this dry season may end up being above normal. This will depend on the strength of the upcoming el Niño, which is still somewhat uncertain.  During a moderate to strong el Niño, South Florida typically receives more winter rain than normal due to an increase in the frequency of low-pressure areas over the Gulf of Mexico and Florida, which can even produce severe weather outbreaks.

Six LaBelle Homes Sold At Lower Prices

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- From October 3 to October 10, there were 6 homes
sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $193,333 a decrease
from recent weeks. Those sales included the following:

1) $225,000 on Cherry Lane
2) $200,000 on Dania Circle
3) $155,000 on Martin Street
4) $240,000 on Penny Circle (new construction)
5) $185,000 on School Circle in Port LaBelle
6) $155,000 on North Edgewater Circle in Port LaBelle

Drug Agents March Into Pot House

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Local law enforcement agencies are investigating
a local drug ring after an alleged marijuana drug house was raided
earlier this week. Details are being withheld as an investigation
continues by several agencies. Agents raided a local home and sources
say other arrests may be pending. The raided home has been sealed as
evidence and the electric lines to the house cut off.

Drug enforcement agencies note that a typical "grow house" sometimes
can be easily spotted as illegal activities are underway, by signs
of unusual activity at the home, "residents" with out-of-area
vehicle tags, and window and yards protected by privacy screens.
Power companies also note unusually high amount of electric being
consumed at such drug growing homes for the special lighting and
irrigation equipment needed in a sealed window and doored house.

Garbage Fees On Glades Taxpayers' Minds

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA --  At a standing room only meeting of the Glades Commission Tuesday night, Buckhead Ridge residents addressed concerns about the 100% increase of garbage hauling rates billed by Waste Management for the 4th quarter of 2006.  Commissioner Giesler commented that most of the BHR folks were retired on fixed income; he said it was not mandatory to use Waste Management and they could hire anyone to haul off garbage and that there were three vendors there to offer their services.

Geisler introduced the representative from Florida Recycling first who gave a brief history of his business and when pressed offered these prices: $65.90 per home per quarter for weekly (once per week) regardless of the number of cans, and commercial rates at $73 per month for a 2 cubic yard dumpster picked up weekly (once per week).

Next was Charlie Green of Tri-County Waste & Recycling who offered the rate of $55 per weekly pickup of two 30-gal containers.

Jeff Sabin of Waste Management, noting the twenty-year relationship between Glades County and WM, stated the increase was a shock as rates had not changed in twelve years and when WM requested an increase in 1995 the County denied it.  He further noted that WM had continued to pay the franchise fee (estimated $50k per year) to Glades County after the verbal extension of the franchise contract had expired and had continued to abide by terms of the expired contract in as far as performance bond and insurance requirements were concerned. 

He said in August 2006 he had discussed with County Manager Wendell Taylor and County Attorney Richard Pringle the need to reconsider the franchise contract because WM was anticipating the need to increase their pickup rates especially with the high fuel rates at that time.  He read into the record the letter he had sent to Taylor  concerning those issues, noting he never received a response.  Taylor responded that he had brought the matter to the attention of the Board at the July 24 meeting and no action was taken.

After one and a half hours discussion including public input, the Board directed Taylor and Pringle to commence work on an ordinance for county wide mandatory garbage collection and simultaneously prepare an RFP (request for proposal) for vendors.  The public was informed that currently there is no garbage collection franchise contract in effect and citizens can contract with any hauler they choose until the mandatory collection ordinance is adopted and effective, or they can handle their own disposal.  A workshop is scheduled for discussion of this proposed ordinance and citizens were informed that the public hearings would be advertised.  The goal is to implement mandatory collection January 1, 2007 if possible.

Among other business at the lenghty meeting, Bob Jones� request was approved to purchase materials for underground electrical service to the Ortona cemetery pavilion from the restroom facility, materials for supplying water to the pavilion (including pipes for sprinkler system) and materials for installing benches, and sidewalk.  He suggested a barrier between the boundary roads and the lot (until parking lot and other sidewalks are completed) to keep traffic on the roads and not parking near the facility.  He stated the benches have been ordered and are being funded from the landfill recycling grant but the other funds would need to come from the one-cent money.

Jones also was given approval to provide flu shot vaccine for county employees for $13 each and the EMS staff would administer.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Clewiston Man Arrested For Dealing In Stolen Goods

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA -- An undercover operation by the Criminal Investigations Division of the Hendry County Sheriff�s Office has led to the arrest of a Clewiston man in connection with dealing in stolen property.. According to Sheriff Ronnie Lee, Investigators conducting the undercover operation purchased stolen property that lead to the arrest of Elisha James Robinson age 24 of 942 Georgia Avenue Clewiston, Florida. During the investigation Robinson was found in possession of stolen property. Robinson was charged with Extortion,Dealing in Stolen Property and Interception of Electronic Communication while in the Commission of a Felony. Robinson was also in Violation of Probation and was booked into the Hendry County Jail without bond.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Gates D'Alessandro and Woodyard Refuse To Remove Signs

Fort Myers Real Estate Company's Signs Clutter Countryside

LABELLE, FLORIDA --  Hendry county residents have been complaining lately about the tremendous amount real estate company billboards that are now littering the thoroughfares of this rural county. With the recent boom in land sales in Southwest Florida, "for sale" signs have abounded on nearly every street in this farm and ranch county.  What has been a quiet secret in the real estate industry is that some of the largest advertising signs from the biggest real estate companies are actually illegal, and have now become permanent free advertising locations for the brokers willing to disregard local zoning laws.

Take the large Fort Myers real estate company of Gates, D'Alessandro and Woodyard, for example. They were the brokers in the $4 million sale of the Port LaBelle Inn and adjoining acreage properties almost a year ago.  While the transaction took place in November of 2005, the company apparently has no plans to take down their four oversized double-billboard "For Sale" advertisements, two along Birchwood Parkway in Port LaBelle across from a residential neighborhood and two along State Road 80 east of LaBelle.

Susan Galbraith, Chief Operating Officer said "We do it all the time," when asked why her "for sale" billboards were still up when the properties had been sold long ago. She said she has many similar billboard signs up in Lee county and didn't see any problem. When told that her signs were apparently violating Hendry county zoning ordinances, she asked to be provided with a copy.  Hendry county only allows "for sale" signs at the property being sold and cites various restrictions as to size, depending on if the property is residential or commercial. The Gates, D'Alessandro and Woodyard billboards appears to violate the local ordinances not only because the properties are not for sale any longer, but the four double-sized signs are way in excess of size of signs allowed without a permit being pulled from Hendry County Zoning and Building.

What the company apparently does once a real estate property is sold, is to place a "sold" sign on the for sale sign and then leave the billboard there indefinitely. A good trick for some free advertising space even though it violates local laws and make for unwelcome visual pollution, residents say. Galbraith, nor anyone from the firm responded to two written inquiries from the Sunday Morning News asking when the signs would be taken down.

Local Non-Profit Get Grant

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA -- C.R.E.W., Inc. has been awarded a $208,000
grant by the State of Florida's Department of Financial Services to
administer the My Safe Florida Home hurricane mitigation program
designed to help fortify low-income Hendry and Glades County homes.
The Volunteer Florida Foundation, which manages the Florida Hurricane
Relief Fund and the My Safe Florida Home program for low-income
homeowners, chose C.R.E.W., Inc to provide hurricane mitigation
grants to homeowners who earn no more than 80 percent of the Annual
Median Income. In Hendry and Glades counties, 80% of the AMI for a
family of four is $31,000. Homes to receive mitigation services must
be site-built, single-family homes with insurance coverage under
$500,000 and have a homestead exemption.

C.R.E.W., Inc seeks to serve 100 homeowners, who will receive free
home inspections to determine what improvements can be made to
strengthen their homes against hurricanes. Following the inspections,
homeowners will receive assistance to make recommended improvements.
As part of this non-profit initiative, C.R.E.W., Inc will leverage
donations of labor through volunteers, contractor services, cash and
building materials.

Homeowners who qualify can receive funds to complete mitigation
upgrades such as: improving the strength of roof deck attachments,
creating a secondary water barrier to prevent water intrusion,
improving the survivability of roof covering, bracing gable-ended
roof framing, reinforcing roof-to-wall connections, upgrading
exterior wall openings, such as hurricane shutters, and upgrading
exterior doors, such as garage doors.

To apply for the program in (Hendry or Glades Counties), call (863-983-2390).