Tuesday, December 30, 2008
LABELLE, FL. -- According to Hendry County Sheriff Ronnie Lee, on December 28th Investigator Robert Archer located a stolen truck on Old Muse Road in Glades county that allegedly was involved in the theft of several bank automatic teller machines in Hendry county and other nearby Florida counties.
Sean Thomas Abbott allegedly was the driver of the truck involved, and another suspect, Jose Angel Lopez, were arrested and charged with auto theft.
As Deputies continued the investigation into the theft of several automatic teller machines, they obtained enough evidence to charge Angel Lopez and Juan J. Diaz with the theft of an ATM from the La Mexicana store located south of LaBelle on State Road 29. Lopez and Diaz were also charged with criminal mischief for the damage to the store when the AMT was stolen.
During the past few weeks several automatic teller machines have been stolen in Hendry and adjoining counties. A truck was stolen from the Kiwanis in LaBelle on December 27th and allegedly used in the theft of one or more automatic teller machines.
Sheriff Ronnie Lee praised the Hendry county investigators and deputies for "an outstanding job on this investigation" and said more arrests are forthcoming.
Monday, December 29, 2008
CLEWISTON, FL. -- Hendry and Glades county residents as well as all Floridians can now report animal fighting and be eligible for a reward of up to $5,000 by calling The Humane Society of the United States' animal fighting tip line at 877-TIP-HSUS (847-4787). The rural areas around Clewiston, Moore Haven, and LaBelle have been popular locations for illegal animal fighting for many years, and Florida is the location of many major dogfighting operations, according to authorities.
"Animal fighting is a cruel and criminal behavior often associated with gang activity and other violence," said Attorney General McCollum. "Now Floridians will have an easy, anonymous way to help make their neighborhoods safer and perhaps receive a substantial reward for their efforts."
Once tips are authenticated, investigators work with law enforcement agencies to inspect, arrest and prosecute animal fighters. Callers' identities are protected, and if a caller's tip leads to the arrest and prosecution of an animal fighter, the caller becomes eligible for a reward of up to $5,000 from The HSUS.
The HSUS animal fighting tip line was first established in the wake of the Michael Vick case so Georgia residents can easily report illegal animal fighting to authorities. Since its inception in January 2008, the Georgia tip line has received more than 1,000 calls, leading to seven raids and 11 arrests.
Last May, the Florida Attorney General announced The HSUS's $5,000 reward program to combat animal fighting in Florida and strongly supports this latest phase in the efforts to find and prosecute those involved in the crime. The HSUS estimates that Florida is one of the top three states in which major dogfighting operations exist.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
CLEWISTON,. FL -- A 57-year old Clewiston woman was discovered dead in a canal after in a crash this week in a Hendry county canal. The Florida Highway Patrol reports Betty Ramsaran was driving a 2004 Ford Taurus on County Road 833 1.5 miles south of County Road 835 when the vehicle left the road and went over a dike, landing in a small canal.
The vehicle landed on its roof with the driver trapped inside. The driver had been reported as missing by relatives on December 22. The vehicle was found by the Big Cypress Seminole Tribe Police Department's Air Unit.
The FPH report says Stacey Lynn McPherson, 25 of Moore Haven was a passenger, suffering serious injuries and was taken to the Hendry Regional Hospital.
Investigation continues on any alcohol or drug use by the driver.
LABELLE, FL. -- Prices for homes have shown record drops this year all over the country. More sales are now taking place in the $100,000 market than ever before records show. In the LaBelle area for the month of December there were seven homes sold for an average price of $97,286.
1) $127,000 on Bucknell SW Road
2) $117,000 on Crawford Street
3) $80,000 on Hardee Street (Port LaBelle)
4) $59,000 on Kumquat Circle (Port LaBelle)
5) $123,000 on Lady Lane (Port LaBelle)
6) $79,000 on Lady Lane (Port LaBelle)
7) $96,000 on S Balsam Circle (Port LaBelle)
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
LABELLE, FL. -- According to a new study from the Florida Legislature, in 2007, federal direct expenditures, or actual funding outlays or obligations of the federal government, to Florida totaled $147 billion or $8,059 per capita, based on the state�s 2007 population estimate of 18.3 million. Florida had the 4th largest expenditure of all states, unchanged from 2006. However, on a per capita basis, Florida ranked 29th among the states, down from 25th in 2006.
Florida 2nd Highest In Retirement And Veteran Benefits
Direct payments for individuals for retirement and disability constituted the largest category of federal direct expenditure. This category includes Social Security payments, federal retirement and disability payments, and veterans� benefits. Florida�s direct payments for retirement and disability totaled $55.6 billion, or $3,044 per capita, and accounted for 38% of the state�s total federal direct expenditures. Florida had the 2nd largest expenditure total of the fifty states, unchanged from 2006, and ranked 7th on a per capita basis, unchanged from 2006.
LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County, at 11.9 percent, has the highest unemployment rate in Florida in November, followed by Flagler County (11.1 percent); St. Lucie County (10.4 percent); Hernando County (10.2 percent); and Hamilton and Okeechobee counties (10.0 percent each). Hendry County�s high jobless rate is due mainly to seasonal slowness in agriculture and related industries with the other areas being impacted by construction and manufacturing declines.
In November 2008, Alachua and Liberty counties have the state�s lowest unemployment rates (4.9 percent), followed by Walton County (5.0 percent); Sumter County (5.1 percent); Leon County (5.2 percent); and Franklin County (5.3 percent).
Florida�s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for November 2008 is 7.3 percent. This represents 680,000 jobless out of a labor force of 9,311,000. The unemployment rate is 0.3 percentage point higher than the October rate of 7.0 percent and is up 2.9 percentage points from the November 2007 rate. Florida�s November 2008 unemployment rate is the highest since June 1993, which was also 7.3 percent. The state�s current unemployment rate is 0.6 percentage point higher than the national unemployment rate of 6.7 percent.
IMMOKALEE, FL. --A Florida Fish And Wildlife Commission officer has recovered the body of a missing fisherman on Lake Trafford, a lake on the northwest corner of Immokalee, Florida, according to the FWC public information coordinator for the south region Gabriella Ferraro.
The missing fisherman's body was recovered just after 8 a.m. this Wednesday and has been identified as 70 year old Foster Jackson of Ft. Myers. The body was found on the south end of Lake Trafford, a popular fishing area near Immokalee.
The Lee County medical examiner will perform an autopsy on the body to determine the cause of death.
CLEWISTON, FL. -- In an effort to honor our nation�s veterans while also making public conservation lands more accessible to all, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) constructed a waterfowl hunting and bird watching platform in the Everglades in Hendry County for the disabled and residents alike.
The platform itself is a large wooden boardwalk that can accommodate two wheelchairs. For hunting, the structure can be set up with camouflage netting and other tools of the sport. Two additional, higher platforms accomodate visitors for wildlife viewing at other times.
The SFWMD and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sponsored the first hunt on December 21, when several hunters lent their hunting permits to disabled veterans so they could enjoy the new platform located in Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) 5 in Hendry County. Bird watchers will also benefit from the increased access, says the SFWMD.
Everglades Stormwater Treatment Areas, which are planted with native vegetation, use �green technology� to reduce phosphorus levels in stormwater runoff. To date, the District has converted more than 52,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee to STAs. An additional 12,000 acres are now being designed as part of the District�s ongoing effort to improve Everglades water quality.
In addition to their role in improving Everglades water quality, the massive treatment wetlands have become a haven for South Florida wildlife, particularly wading birds and migratory waterfowl. Many of the STAs have been opened to the public for recreation such as hiking, biking and bird watching.
The District has long sponsored a hunting recreation program, and all of the District�s STAs are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The SFWMD took several steps to improve recreational opportunities throughout South Florida in 2008 including:
In October, outdoor enthusiasts gained another spot to enjoy a host of recreational activities with the opening of the 3,700-acre Chandler Slough in Okeechobee, an addition to the Kissimmee River Public Use Area.
In July 2008, the SFWMD outfitted Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) 1 West, located in central Palm Beach County, with a new parking area leading to a 200-foot viewing platform and gazebos overlooking the watery expanse. The three-mile trail along a section of the levee surrounding the 6,670-acre STA offers hikers, bicyclists, photographers and bird watchers vast views of nature and wildlife such as great blue herons and mottled ducks.
Also in July 2008, hikers, campers and horseback riders were given access to apply online for recreational use licenses for activities on more than a dozen sites managed by the District. The online application is at www.sfwmd.gov/sul .
SFWMD Governing Board Member Michael Collins and SFWMD Everglades Recreation Program Manager Jerry Krenz talked about the project and the improved public access. Audio Interview
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
LABELLE, FL. -- Statistics released by the Florida Association of REALTORS® on November 2008 sales of existing homes indicate that home sales were up overall statewide and existing condominium sales were down overall statewide, but median prices overall still showing a downward trend especially in Lee county.
Existing home sales in Florida for November 2008 versus November 2007 were up 4% statewide with median sales prices down 27%, although some areas experienced significant differences. Existing home sales in Marco Island were up 79% with median sales price down 48% and home sales in Fort Myers were up 64% with median sales price down 53%, while existing home sales in Gainesville were down 41% with median sales price down 21%.
Existing condo sales in Florida for November 2008 were down 8% statewide compared to November 2007, with median prices down 30% statewide, although Ocala showed existing condo sales up 50% with median prices down 12%. Tallahassee showed condo sales down 86% with median sales prices down 27%, and Gainesville showed sales down 61% with median sales prices down 9% compared to November 2007.
Monday, December 22, 2008
IMMOKALEE, FL. -- Four defendants were sentenced Friday December 19 in federal district court in Fort Meyers, Fla., after pleading guilty to a scheme to enslave Mexican and Guatemalan nationals and compel their labor as farmworkers, the Justice Department announced.
Cesar and Geovanni Navarrete were each sentenced to 12 years in prison and held jointly and severally liable, along with other co-defendants, for $239,882.46 in restitution payable to the victims. Defendant Ismael Michael Navarrete was sentenced to 46 months in prison, and Defendant Villhina Navarrete was sentenced to time served. Both Ismael and Villhina were also joined in the order of restitution. All defendants will be removed from the United States following the completion of their sentences.
This case was investigated by agents from the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and investigators from the Collier County Sheriffs Department. Victim assistance was provided by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, and the Florida Freedom Partnership. This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Susan French and Adriana Vieco of the Justice Department�s Civil Rights Division and Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Molloy of the Middle District of Florida.
A total of six defendants have pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme. All defendants pleaded guilty to harboring undocumented foreign nationals for private financial gain and related felonies. Defendants Cesar Navarrete and Geovanni Navarrete also pleaded guilty to beating, threatening, restraining and locking workers in trucks to force them to work as agricultural laborers, in addition to other related crimes. According to documents filed in court, the defendants were accused of paying the workers minimal wages and driving them into debt, while simultaneously threatening physical harm if the workers left their employment before their debts had been repaid to the Navarrete family.
"These defendants used physical coercion and abuse to force the victims to work for their own financial benefit," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "This case further demonstrates the Justice Department�s committed to vigorously prosecuting all those who engage in human trafficking."
"This case shows that human slavery is not a thing of the past, but an ugly crime that still continues to afflict our communities," said A. Brian Albritton, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida. "We encourage those who learn of such mistreatment to report it to local, state or federal authorities."
The prosecution of human trafficking offenses is a top priority of the Justice Department. Since the enactment of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000, human trafficking prosecutions brought by the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorneys Offices have resulted in a 455 percent increase in defendants charged, and a 581 percent increase in convictions and guilty pleas as compared to the prior eight-year period. In Fiscal Year 2008, the Department filed a record number of both labor trafficking and sex trafficking cases.
CLEWISTON, FL. -- The Florida Lottery announced Sunday that two players matched all five winning numbers in the Saturday, December 20, FANTASY 5® drawing and will share a $270,569.24 top prize. One of the lucky winners bought a ticket in Clewiston. The winners will each receive $135,284.62.
The winning FANTASY 5 numbers were: 10 - 28 - 29 - 30 - 32. The winning tickets was sold at the following locations:
State Line Gift Shop - Quick Pick (Free Ticket)
11208 U.S. Highway 97
McDavid (Escambia County)
Tropical Village Market - Quick Pick
1450 E. Sugarland Highway
Clewiston (Hendry County)
These retailers will receive a bonus incentive of $500 for selling the top-prize winning tickets. More than 112,000 other FANTASY 5 players won cash prizes or a free Quick Pick ticket for matching two, three or four numbers.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
LABELLE, FL. -- The Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Hendry County Sheriff Ronnie Lee and the Hendry County Board of County Commissioners, alleging that the Hendry County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) is engaged in a pattern or practice of sex discrimination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The complaint alleges that HCSO discriminated against female officers by adopting and maintaining an unlawful policy that requires all pregnant employees to take light duty regardless of their ability to perform the essential functions of their jobs.
The complaint also alleges that HCSO discriminated against Tonya Shaw, a former deputy sheriff, by demoting her and reducing her pay when it learned that Ms. Shaw was pregnant, and by placing her on a mandatory light duty assignment without evaluating her ability to perform the essential functions of her job after she gave formal written notice of her pregnancy.
"Title VII protects pregnant women from employment discrimination," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Department is committed to vigorously enforcing all of the federal civil rights laws under its jurisdiction."
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, seeks an order enjoining HCSO from continuing to maintain its mandatory light duty policy for pregnant employees and requiring HCSO to adopt a policy regarding light duty that is lawful under Title VII. The complaint also seeks monetary damages and other relief for victims of sex discrimination by HCSO.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
BELLE GLADE, FL. -- Attorney General Bill McCollum has announced his office has filed a lawsuit against a auto dealership and its owner, alleging unfair and deceptive trade practices related to vehicle advertisements. The Attorney General's Economic Crimes Division has been investigating Plattner's Belle Glade Dealership and owner Doug Plattner since 2004 for numerous advertisements in which the price of the vehicle did not include dealer fees. Dealer's fees can be several hundred dollars.
In March 2005, Plattner's Belle Glade Dealership signed a settlement agreement stating it would disclose dealer fees in the price of its vehicles and refrain from any misleading advertisements. Additionally, it agreed that any future violations within four years of the settlement would result in penalties and sanctions against the dealership. Since the time of the settlement, Plattner's has run more than 100 advertisements which violate the settlement and Florida's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices statute.
The Attorney General's lawsuit has requested injunctive relief to prevent Plattner's from running any more misleading advertisements. The lawsuit also requests civil penalties under the statute of $10,000 per advertisement and reimbursement of attorneys' fees and costs.
Plattner also owns local automotive dealerships in LaBelle, , Clewiston, Ft. Myers, and Lehigh Acres, including LaBelle Chrysler Dodge Jeep and a General Motors dealership in Arcadia, Fl. In the past, all the Plattner dealerships had added "dealer fees" that were not disclosed up front to customers or disclosed in advertising. Currently, Plattner has been running TV ads promoting "no dealer fees."
CLEWISTON, FL. -- Robert Coker, senior vice president, public affairs at U.S. Sugar Corp responded to Tuesday's agreement to sell it's land holdings to the South Florida Water Management District and claims this is a sale to best serve company stockholders, but says the company is still open to better offers.
Coker says BMO Capital Markets, U.S. Sugar�s financial advisor, will begin a 60-day period to "shop" the Company and give other interested purchasers a chance to make a better offer. This includes the Lawrence Group, which has indicated an interest in the Company through correspondence and an aggressive media campaign but not yet made a legally binding offer.
"During the next 60 days, we will seek and consider any legitimate, bona fide offers and make sure that we have the best deal for our stockholders," Coker said.
Coker also said in a press release Tuesday, "This has been a time of uncertainty, but now that the agreement has been signed, it should provide a greater degree of certainty for our employees, our stockholders and our communities," Coker said. �We believe this deal serves the best strategic, long-term objectives of the Company and its stockholders."
"Some have criticized the transaction as not providing a sufficient return to U.S. Sugar stockholders while others have criticized the transaction as being too generous to U.S. Sugar stockholders. Without a doubt, we would not be doing this if we didn�t believe it was a fair deal for our stockholders,� Coker said. "In addition, this is a tremendous opportunity for our state and her people, and the government would not be doing this if they did not feel it was fair to them. This is a monumental opportunity to save the Everglades, and after many months of negotiations, we can now move forward."
Although the Company will continue to farm the land and operate its businesses for at least seven years as defined in the contract, Coker said U.S. Sugar intends to work quickly and diligently with state and federal interests to put together an economic transition plan for the local communities.
CLEWISTON, FL. -- After extensive deliberation, due diligence and public input, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board today voted 4 to 3 to accept a proposal to acquire more than 180,000 acres of agricultural land for Everglades restoration from the United States Sugar Corporation, contingent upon a specific amendment to the negotiated purchase and sale contract.
The transaction, subject to financing and U.S. Sugar's concurrence with the revised contract condition, would provide water managers with the opportunity to store and treat water for the benefit of the Everglades's "River of Grass", Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and estuaries. The proposed purchase is the largest public land acquisition in Florida's history and the single most important action to protect the Everglades since the designation of Everglades National Park sixty years ago, say the Water Management District officials.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire land in the Everglades Agricultural Area for restoration. The immense environmental benefit of these lands and their value to Florida's unique Everglades ecosystem cannot be overstated," said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Eric Buermann. "Without losing sight of Governor Crist's bold vision for restoration, the Board has evaluated the details of the proposed acquisition and listened carefully to the input of Floridians, the Florida Legislature and local elected leaders. Amending the contract before us is an important step for delivering an agreement that not only meets South Florida's environmental needs but also better protects the interests of the taxpayers. This is good government and the public process at work. We are hopeful that U.S. Sugar will agree to this essential and necessary improvement to the contract and accept the Board's revision."
The District would take ownership of a minimum of 180,000 acres land and its improvements for a purchase price of $1.34 billion.
Under a separate agreement, U.S. Sugar would lease and manage the land for agricultural operation for seven years, avoiding more than $40 million in land management costs to the District over the life of the lease.
The lease arrangement would allow the release of the first 10,000 acres of property to the District at any time after the first year with appropriate notice. An additional 30,000 acres may be released in year six, on or after December 30, 2015. The lease agreement would also allow for the release of up to 3,000 acres in connection with land transfers to municipalities or other governmental entities. The company would retain ownership of its major assets, including a sugar mill, refinery, railroad and citrus processing plant.
Subject to court validation and suitable market conditions, the District would issue certificates of participation to fund the land acquisition. The parties must close on the purchase within 90 days of bond validation and no later than September 25, 2009.
To protect the agency's core mission in light of a fluctuating and challenging economic climate, the Governing Board strengthened financing conditions within the purchase and sale agreement offered by U.S. Sugar. Before closing, a newly proposed clause would allow the Governing Board to review the most current economic conditions – including interest rates and revenue streams – and verify the District's capacity to finance the purchase and accomplish its existing statutory mandates and legal obligations.
The District's extensive due diligence included multiple land appraisals, environmental assessments and engineering evaluations over more than 180,000 acres. The in-depth reports and data associated with the acquisition were presented to the Governing Board during a series of monthly public meetings and made available through the District's Web site at www.sfwmd.gov/riverofgrass as part of the public proceedings and deliberation.
The Everglades once covered almost 11,000 square miles of South Florida. Just a century ago, water flowed down the Kissimmee River into Lake Okeechobee, then south through the Everglades to the Florida Bay – the ultimate destination of the pure sheet flow. Because of efforts to drain the marshland for agriculture, development and flood control, the Everglades is today half the size it was a century ago.
The Everglades is home to more than sixty threatened and endangered species, including the Florida panther, American crocodile, snail kite and wood stork. The mix of salt and freshwater makes it the only place on Earth where alligators and crocodiles exist side by side.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
INDIANTOWN, FL. -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson has announced the arrest of a Martin County businessman for defrauding numerous customers who purchased rebuilt auto transmissions but never received them.
Investigators with Bronson's Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement made the arrest Monday evening following a two-month investigation triggered by complaints to the department's toll-free hotline.
The defendant, Edward J. Lukas, 50, of Indiantown, was charged with four counts of grand theft and three counts of credit card fraud, which are all third-degree felonies. Investigators claim that the man defrauded consumers through his website at http://www.transpowerfactory.com.
During the course of the probe, authorities located six victims throughout the country who claimed to have paid Lukas for rebuilt transmissions but never received them. The business refused to issue refunds after customers called to complain, and phone calls, voicemails and e-mails to the business went unanswered, investigators allege.
Lukas was booked into the Martin County Jail on $525,000 bond, but as a result of a violation of probation charge stemming from an unrelated 1999 arrest, he will not be released.
Consumers who want to check the complaint history of a business or a file a complaint against one can do so by visiting the Florida Consumer Services Division website at http://www.800helpfla.com or by calling 1-800-HELPFLA (1-800-435-7352).
Saturday, December 13, 2008
LABELLE , FL. -- Hendry county, Florida live video broadcaster, and Sunday Morning News publisher Don Browne was mentioned this week in an article in USA Today about live video webcasting.
Writing in USA TODAY, tech writer Jefferson Graham says live video broadcasts are "taking off" on numerous web sites. The article says you can find most anything being broadcast live, from a live video view of Christmas lights to an amateur Italian band rehearsing in a basement.
Graham says, "If those offerings on Ustream.tv don't grab you, there's always the Florida sunset from contributor Don Browne's patio on Justin.tv, or tech blogger Robert Scoble's video test of a new Nokia phone, streamed from his cellphone in Barcelona."
Justin.tv, less than two years old, had 11 million views on its hundreds of live video channels in the month of November. Although YouTube's pre-recorded video had 71 million views in November, Justin.tv has a lot of eyeballs watching everything from live sports to office cams. Don Browne's live video channel ( http://justin.tv/kq4ym) from LaBelle, Florida has had over 300,000 viewers.
The USA TODAY story: "Live video takes off on sites like Justin.tv and Ustream.tv" : http://www.usatoday.com/tech/webguide/hotsites/2008-12-09-live-video_N.htm
Friday, December 12, 2008
Governor Charlie Crist this week announced the creation of My ACCESS Account, a system that allows food stamp, temporary cash assistance and Medicaid applicants and recipients to check the status of their case online, 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
More Floridians are applying for and receiving public assistance than ever before. In November, 1.7 million people received food stamps; 91,000 people received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash benefits; and 1.8 million individuals received Medicaid.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reported that Florida has experienced the highest food stamp caseload increase in the nation, now 45% above the April 2007 level.
Individuals who wish to apply for assistance can call 1-866-76ACCES (1-866-762-2237). They can also apply online at www.myflorida.com/accessflorida, or visit one of the program�s 3,300 community partner sites. For more information about the Department of Children and Families� ACCESS Florida program, visit http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/ess/.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
LABELLE, FL. -- On December 9, 2008 Hendry County Sheriff's Office Narcotic Investigators executed a search warrant at 801 Suwanee Avenue in LaBelle.
Sheriff Ronnie Lee said Deputies located powder and crack cocaine within the residence. Charles Lamont Covington, age 27, and Tedaryl Ardell McKinnon, age 35, were both arrested and charged with Sale of Cocaine. McKinnon was also charged with Possession of Cocaine.
No bond has been set and both remain in the Hendry County jail.
LABELLE, FL. -- On December 6th, shortly after 9:00 a.m., the Hendry County Sheriff''s Office received a report of a stolen vehicle. A truck belonging to Everglades Farm Equipment in Immokalee, was parked at 2839 S.R. Road 80. The driver allegedly stopped at a yard sale and left the keys in the truck.
The driver, Adrian Sanchez, heard a door slam shut and turned to see the truck being driven away by a Hispanic male. A short time later, the manager of Everglades Farm Equipment saw the truck headed south on S.R. 29. He followed the truck to the Mexican convenient store in Felda where the suspect fled on foot behind the store.
The suspect was later apprehended by Deputy George Elver in a wooded area near Church Road. Daniel Hurtado, age 27 of Barbara Street in LaBelle, was arrested and charged with Larceny and Auto Theft.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
LABELLE, FL. -- Metatomix, Inc., a leading provider of semantic solutions to justice and public safety, financial services, manufacturing and life sciences organizations, this week announced that Lee County, Florida has implemented an Active Warrant Alert System to identify defendants appearing before the court who have open local, Florida, out-of-state or federal warrants, enabling court and law enforcement personnel to take appropriate action.
The Active Warrant Alert System is a computer software program that queries and delivers correlated results from 13 state and national data sources empowering criminal justice personnel with real-time information. These solutions were developed by Metatomix in cooperation with the Florida Office of State Courts Administrator. The company's other court software is currently in use in all 67 counties across the state, with over four million search queries processed each month.
Lee County is the first county in Florida to integrate the Active Warrant Alert System, which flags warrants for any subject appearing for court events such as arraignment, pretrial, bond, motion, case management or traffic hearings. The technology provides court officials with access to warrant information from sheriff's departments and attorney's offices across local, state and national information systems. Previously, bailiffs were required to log in to numerous computer systems to acquire information on a subject's criminal history as well as any local, Florida, out-of-state or federal warrants.
Within the first seven days of implementation in Lee County, the warrant detection system identified 141 warrants that led to 16 arrests.
"Metatomix's JIS solution will play a critical role in ensuring public safety in Lee County," said Chief Judge G. Keith Cary of the 20th Judicial Circuit in a press release from the company. " The project is the first of its kind and could be expanded to the four other counties within the 20th Judicial Circuit of Florida including Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades Counties.
The Glades commissioners at this week's meeting said Ms. Dobbins "has always been responsibly responsive to Glades County�s public health needs." It is expected that Dobbins will also be approved this week by the Hendry County Board of Commissioners as administrator of the Hendry Health Department. Dobbins will be the first non-physician to have ever headed the area's Health Department.
Monday, December 08, 2008
LABELLE, FL. -- Port LaBelle's only motel/hotel property has changed ownership for the fifth time in five years. One of Hendry county's best known motels is now owned by Ed J. Yasechko of Hubbard, Ohio. Yasechko's new company, Port LaBelle Inn LLC took over the three story building and five acres on September 30, and then purchased the adjoining three vacant acres on November 15.
The 1980s half-hundred room motel property was originally sold off at auction as part of the old 27 holf golf course in June 2003 by Double Eagle Limited Partnership to a partnership owned by Richard and Dottie Seibel of LaBelle for $715,000.
The Seibel's then sold it to Michael J. Lafferty of Arizona for $4,000,000, the Seibel's taking back a large mortgage to finance the sale. This sale was in November 2005.
After Lafferty had some difficulties with keeping the hotel afloat, letting maintenance lapse, while Maine's Best Restaruant's failed reportedly to pay any lease payment to Lafferty, the Seibels started to foreclose on Lafferty, and Lafferty agreed to deed the property back to them in August 2007. Lafferty still owns the acreage to the south of the motel along State Road 80, which has been in foreclosure since July.
After repairing the hotel rooms and bringing it up to presentable condition over the last two years, the Seibels put the property back on the market and sold it to Yasechko. Yasechko, an experieced real estate operator in Ohio had been in negotiations over the last several years to purchase the motel and felt the new sales price of $900,000 for the hotel and its eight acres was a good buy.
Friday, December 05, 2008
IMMOKALEE, FL. -- Two endangered Florida panthers, one each in Lee and Collier counties, met a sad fate in collisions with motor vehicles over the Thanksgiving holiday, and that has wildlife officials concerned.
On Nov. 26, at approximately 6:30 p.m., an otherwise healthy male panther met an untimely death on Alico Road near Devore Lane in Lee County. In Collier County, a female panther eventually died from injuries sustained at about 4:50 p.m. on Nov. 29 in a collision on Oil Well Road, one mile east of Camp Keis Road.
So far in 2008, 10 Florida panthers are known to have succumbed to collisions with motor vehicles. In 2007, 14 panthers were known to have died on state highways. Though the two panthers killed recently were not struck in posted panther speed zones, motorists are cautioned to be on the lookout for the large cats near wild areas near panther zones, especially near sundown. Panthers tend to be more active during the hours between dusk and dawn, when most automobile strikes occur.
To avoid collisions with roaming panthers, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission urges motorists to obey posted speed limits and remain on guard for panthers crossing roadways as daylight fades.
To help protect the large cats from increasing traffic threats, the FWC along with sheriff's deputies and the Florida Highway Patrol actively enforce panther speed zones in Lee and Collier counties. Panther speed zones are well-marked, with speed limits reduced at night to 45 mph.
Collier County has four panther speed zones: two on State Road 29 and two on U.S. 41, including the newly posted zone through Collier-Seminole State Park.
In Lee County, there are three panther speed zones: one each on Corkscrew Road, Daniels Road Extension and Alico Road.
Though Florida has experienced a significant increase in panther numbers, up from an estimated 30 animals 20 years ago to about 100 today, Darrell Land, FWC biologist and panther team leader, cautions that the species is far from recovered.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
ALVA, FL. -- Florida Governor Charlie Crist this week announced the reappointment of Rebecca A. Hamilton, 43, of Alva, as chief medical examiner for District 21 in Southwest Florida. Dr. Hamilton has been reappointed for a term beginning December 4, 2008, and ending July 1, 2011.
LABELLE, FL. -- From November 4 to December 2 there were 8 homes sold in the LaBelle Area for an average price of $140,750. The parcels sold include:
1) $60,000 on Bishop Circle - Port LaBelle
2) $165,000 on Dania Circle - Port LaBelle
3) $120,000 on Dolphin Circle - Port LaBelle
4) $43,000 on Favor Avenue - LaBelle
5) $173,000 on Green Circle - Port LaBelle
6) $140,000 on Hardee Street - LaBelle
7) $190,000 on Springview Circle - Port LaBelle
8) $235,000 on Trader Rd - Hendry County
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
LABELLE, FL. -- Attorney General Bill McCollum and Department of Elder Affairs Secretary E. Douglas Beach this week issued a consumer advisory urging senior citizens and their loved ones to think twice before taking advantage of so-called financial planning seminars or estate preservation workshops that use a "free lunch" to lure seniors to attend.
The Attorney General's Office has received complaints from seniors enticed to attend a free meal that actually turned out to be a high-pressure sales pitch for investments that may be entirely inappropriate for the individual based on his or her age and financial circumstance.
The invitations to the free meal often arrive via phone or mail and promise tips on earning great financial return with minimal risk, eliminating taxes or avoiding probate. After a high-pressure presentation, salespeople then try to schedule follow-up visits in the homes of those who attend so they can continue the pitch. In addition to losing money, consumers who complained to the Attorney General's Office reported being badgered by multiple unsolicited phone calls and frustrated by misrepresentation of the
AARP and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recommend that seniors do not purchase anything or open an account of any kind at a free-meal seminar. Seniors should also consider asking the following questions of any investment proposal:
- What are the risks of this investment?
- How much does it cost initially to purchase the investment?
- What, if any, additional or ongoing costs will I have to pay?
- How liquid is this investment? If I need to sell or cash in the
investment, how readily can I do so?
- Will my investment be tied up? If so, for how long?
- What happens if I decide to sell or cash in my investment? Are there
surrender charges or other fees?
- For what type of investor is this investment a good idea? For what
type of investor is this investment a bad idea?
- Is the investment registered? If so, with which regulator?
- Are those offering the investment opportunity willing to give
information to me in writing?
IMMOKALEE, FL. -- A Collier County ambulance collided at a red light with a unmarked Collier Sheriff's Ford SUV November 28 at 7:42 a.m. Because the ambulance driver was fulfilling her duties she was not charged, although at fault according to the Florida Highway Patrol investigation.
Kristopher Sutton, 34 of Naples was driving an unmarked Collier County Sheriff's Department vehicle, traveling north on Kings Way approaching the intersection of SR 84. Eva Weeks, 56 of Naples in a marked Collier County ambulance was traveling west on SR 84 approaching the intersection of Kings Way. The SUV when entering the intersection, struck the ambulance in the left rear axle. Sutton suffered minor injuries.
After being struck, the ambulance was knocked onto its right side, and continued to travel in a westerly direction on its side, struck a raised curb with its front and rotated in a counterclockwise direction and finally coming to final rest on its right side facing north on SR 84.
The ambulance had an EMS worker, Rebecca Wilson, 33 of LaBelle as a passenger and a patient, 70-year old Phyllis Robinson on board. The patient was being transported for medical reasons to a local hospital for treatment. Driver Wilson suffered minor injuries. Patient Robinson suffered critical injuries and passenger Wilson serious injuries. Sutton and Weeks were taken to Naples Community Hospital, and Wilson and Robinson to Lee Memorial Hospital.
Crash Investigator Sergeant Dwayne W. Cooper of the FHP explains, "It should be noted that both drivers stated that they had the green light. The witnesses have similar statements. Based on the totality of the crash investigation it is determined that vehicle 2 entered the intersection on a red light. Witnesses stated that they saw emergency lights but heard no sirens for vehicle 2. Even though the emergency lights were activated, vehicle 2's driver is required by Florida Statute to yield to vehicles that have legally entered an intersection and shall have the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highways. Furthermore, with no siren and the ambulance not stopping, vehicle 1's driver did not have much if any warning."
Monday, December 01, 2008
There's finally a chill and a certain festiveness in the air as most of us try to take time off from work to enjoy spending quality time with family and friends and reflect on the passing year. Children will be out of school on winter break soon, and while the holiday season's upon us, so are several traditional hunting opportunities.
The second phase of waterfowl and coot season comes in statewide Dec. 6 and runs through Jan. 25. In addition to the usual hunting license and permit requirements, duck hunters also must have a Florida waterfowl permit ($3) and a federal duck stamp ($15).
The daily bag limit on ducks is six, but you need to know your ducks before you pull the trigger, because there are different daily limits for each species. For instance, within the six-bird limit there can be only one black duck, one mottled duck, one fulvous whistling-duck and one pintail.
Only two of your six-bird limit can be redheads and three may be wood ducks. And you may have no more than four scoters and four mallards (of which only two can be female) in your bag. All other species of ducks can be taken up to the six-bird limit, except harlequin ducks, and canvasback season is closed.
This year, the daily bag limit on scaup has changed, and you may take only one through Jan. 5; then you can take two from Jan. 6 until waterfowl season ends Jan. 25. The daily limit on coots is 15, and there's a five-bird limit on mergansers, only two of which may be hooded.
When hunting waterfowl, hunters may use only non-toxic shotgun shells. In fact, it's illegal for hunters even to possess lead shot when waterfowl hunting. Only iron (steel), bismuth-tin and various tungsten-alloys are permissible.
For something different, try woodcock hunting. Woodcock season runs Dec. 20 – Jan. 18. Woodcocks are excellent game birds because they hold well for pointing bird dogs and provide a challenging shot when flushed. The daily bag limit is three.
The third phase of mourning and white-winged dove season opens Dec. 13 and runs through Jan. 11. The daily bag limit's been increased this year to 15 birds.
From November on, shooting hours for all migratory birds are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. You must get a no-cost migratory bird permit where you purchase your hunting license before you hunt any of these birds, though.
The only firearm you're allowed to hunt migratory game birds with is a shotgun, no larger than 10-gauge. Shotguns must be plugged to a three-shell capacity (magazine and chamber combined). Bows also are legal.
Retrievers and bird dogs can be useful in hunting migratory game birds. Artificial decoys, as well as manual or mouth-operated bird calls, also are legal and essential gear for duck hunters.
You may hunt migratory game birds over an agricultural field, as long as the crop's been planted by regular agricultural methods. However, don't even think about "sweetening" the field by scattering agricultural products over it – or anywhere near it – or you could wind up in serious trouble. It doesn't matter if you aren't the one who scattered the bait. If you knew or should've known that such bait was present, you're accountable under the law.
Some other things you can't do while hunting migratory game birds include using rifles, pistols, crossbows, traps, snares, nets, sinkboxes, swivel guns, punt guns, battery guns, machine guns, fish hooks, poisons, drugs, explosive substances, live decoys, recorded bird calls or sounds or electrically amplified bird-call imitations. Shooting from a moving automobile or boat and herding or driving birds with vehicles or vessels also are against the law.
Bobcat and otter hunting season is Dec. 1 – March 1, and there's no daily bag or season limit on either species.
Like foxes, bobcats may be chased year-round with dogs, but possessing firearms during the closed season between March 2 and Nov. 30 is prohibited. On a few wildlife management areas, bobcats and otters may not be taken, so please consult the specific area brochure before you hunt.
Whether upland bird hunting with friends and family, shooting ducks on the pond with your favorite lab or taking that big bobcat as he slips up behind an unsuspecting fawn, December has the hunting opportunities you're looking for.
Here's wishing you happy holidays and a successful hunting season. If you can, remember to introduce someone new to our great sport. As always, have fun, hunt safely and ethically, and we'll see you in the woods!
Sunday, November 30, 2008
LABELLE, FL. -- A crash between a 2000 Chevrolet SUV and a 2006 Harley Davidson motorcycle took the life of a two LaBelle residents riding on the motorcycle about 3:25 p.m. Saturday November 29.
Maximo Gomez Cortez, 25 of LaBelle was traveling south on SR29 in the northbound lane approaching G Road, in the direct path Ronald L. Wright on the motorcycle that was traveling north on SR29 in the northbound lane, just north of G Road.
The front of the SUV struck the front of the motorcycle, in a head on type collision. The motorcycle was pushed southbound in the northbound lane on SR29. Wright and passenger Robyn Marie Wright, 51 were both ejected from the motorcycle.
An investigation is pending on alcohol use by Cortez. Cortez suffered minor injuries and was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
IMMOKALEE, FL. -- A crash on State Road 29 one mile south of State Road 82 left one Immokalee man dead Friday night about 8:20 p.m.
47-year old Baldomero Arreguin-Enriquez and passenger Oziel Carbajal, 22, both of Immokalee were traveling in a 1991 International tow truck south on State Road 29 in the southbound lane south of the intersection of State Road 82. The truck became disabled and was improperly parked facing south and straddling the southbound lane and unpaved west shoulder when the driver exited the vehicle and walked south towards Immokalee to get assistance while leaving his passenger to stay with the vehicle.
A 2000 Ford dump truck, driven by a 71 year old man was traveling south on State Road 29 in the southbound lane and approaching the tow truck as vehicle # 2�s driver failed to recognize and react to the tow truck. The resulting impact caused both vehicles to travel in a southwesterly direction while rotating clockwise.
The dump truck was carrying a silver 1999 Pontiac Firebird on it�s slide bed and the impact caused the vehicle to fall onto the unpaved west shoulder. The tow truck came to final rest facing in a southwesterly direction on the unpaved west shoulder embedded in trees and shrubbery southwest of the initial point of impact. The dump truck came to final rest facing southwest in the unpaved west shoulder east of vehicle # 1. The dump truck driver was pronounced deceased at the scene.
Identification of the dump truck driver is pending notification of kin. Traffic on State Road 29 was shut down to allow for investigation and clean up for three hours.
Friday, November 28, 2008
CLEWISTON, FL. -- Florida Highway Patrol Corporal Jeff Rongish is looking for anyone with information regarding a traffic crash on County Road 833 in Hendry County on November 22 at 5:17 a.m.
Michele T. Alvarado, 28 of Clewiston, driving a 2007 Chrysler SUV was northbound on County Road 833 as a 1996 Ford Pickup was southbound on County 833, driven by an unnamed person (pending notifications).
Alvarado crossed the centerline of the roadway and entered the southbound lane. The second vehicle swerved to avoid colliding with Alvarado, the front of Alvarado's vehicle struck the front of the second vehicle in the southbound lane. Impact from the collision forced Alvarado back into the northbound lane. The second driver was killed.
The Florida Highway Patrol is asking for any witnesses to the crash or anybody having other information regarding this crash to please contact Corporal Jeff Rongish at 239-278-7100 ext. 327.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
LABELLE, FL. -- A news story in the Cordele Dispatch in Georgia says Hendry County Sheriff Ronnie Lee is selling his 2007 Dodge Charger police cruiser to a Vienna, Georgia Police Department to keep Sheriff-Elect Steve Whidden from getting it. The issue came to light according to the story when the Vienna Mayor questioned the purchase at a city council meeting Monday.
According to the story Vienna Police Chief Jamey Reed bought the vehicle without notifying the Mayor. According to the story "Reed said a sheriff in Hendry County, Fla. had lost his bid for re-election and had a black 2007 Dodge Charger he did not want the new sheriff to get."
The Vienna Mayor was disappointed that he wasn't notified of the deal made by the Vienna Police Chief.
"Reed said the total price for the Charger was $18,950. He informed council that he had a quote, also from Brannen, on a new Crown Victoria like the ones currently in use by the department. The quote for the Crown Victoria was $28,285. The purchase of the Charger saves taxpayers almost $10,000 and payment for the vehicle is not due until January 2009 when it was originally approved for, Reed said."
The cruiser is already fully equipped with lights, siren, and radio and had been traded to Brannen Motor Company in Unadilla, according to the story. Although it is unknown from where the Dodge Charger police vehicle was purchased originally, Sheriff Lee's son Ronnie Jr. worked for a local LaBelle Dodge dealer. Nearly all of the other Hendry Sheriff's department vehicles are Fords.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
LABELLE, FL. -- In America's secondary schools, low-income students and students of color are about twice as likely as other students to be enrolled in core academic classes taught by out-of-field teachers. Out-of-field teachers are those who possess neither certification in the subject they have been assigned to teach nor an academic major in that subject.
A new report by the Education Trust ( Edtrust.org) shows that in middle and high school mathematics, 4 in 10 classes in high-poverty schools are taught by an out-of-field teacher, compared with 16.9% in schools serving the fewest low-income students. In schools with high percentages of African-American and Latino students, nearly one-third of mathematics classes are taught by out-of-field teachers, compared with 15.5% in schools with relatively few minority students.
While out-of-field teaching is particularly acute in mathematics and in high-poverty and high-minority schools, the problem is pervasive. Nationwide, more than 17% of all core academic courses (English, math, social studies, and science) in grades 7-12 are taught by an out-of-field teacher. In the middle grades alone, the rate jumps to 40%.
LABELLE, FL. -- From January through June 2008 there were approximately 89,000 deaths in Florida. Of those, 4,055 individuals were found to have died with one or more of the drugs in their bodies.
The latest report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Medical Examiners Commission 2008 Interim Report of Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons shows the three most frequently occurring drugs found in decedents were ethyl alcohol (1,923), all benzodiazepines (1,469), and cocaine (955).
The drugs that caused the most deaths were oxycodone, all benzodiazepines (with alprazolam accounting for the majority of the deaths), cocaine, methadone, ethyl alcohol, hydrocodone, and morphine. The three drugs that were the most lethal, meaning more than 50% of the deaths were caused by the drug when the drug was found, were heroin (91.5%), methadone (75%), and oxycodone (60%).
Deaths caused by methadone and cocaine declined by 10.7% and 10.2%, respectively, compared to the last six months of 2007. In addition, deaths caused by ethyl alcohol, fentanyl, and propoxyphene declined. With heroin continuing to be the most lethal drug named in this report, occurrences increased by 34% and deaths caused by heroin also increased by 41.3% over the last half of 2007.
Monday, November 24, 2008
LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Property Appraiser Kristina A. Kulpa has filed suit with the Circuit Court, demanding a new election. Kulpa lost the election to Phillip Pelletier in the November 4 general election by 5 votes, and again on a recount by five votes. The election results were certified by Supervisor of Elections Lucretia Strickland on November 14, after the recount.
Kulpa, through her Boca Raton, Florida law firm Hodgson Russ L.L.P. filed a lawsuit at 9:11 a.m. Monday morning, the last day under state law to file. Kulpa, a Republican, claims "improper assistance to dozens of voters at the Clewiston Supervisor of Elections early voting station which illegally influenced the voters' choice for candidates."
She also claims that convicted felons may have voted in the election, and that poll workers failed to require "dozens of voters" to sign an affidavit or cast provisional votes when their information did not match info on the election office master file. Kulpa claims that "potentially hundreds of illegal votes were cast."
Kulpa filed the lawsuit against The Hendry County Canvassing Board, Lucretia Strickland, and Phillip Pelletier. Hendry county Judge Jim Sloan is the chairman of the three member Canvassing Board. She has demanded a trial by jury and a court order that the "election be set aside" and a new election be held, and demands court costs be awarded to her.
The law firm Hodgson Russ L.L.P. ,a large firm with over 200 attorneys in eight offices from Toronto, Canada to Palm Beach County ran into some difficulty this year and agreed to pay $50,000 to the New York Attorney General's Office in response to a statewide investigation over it's improper employment arrangements with school districts and various Boards of Cooperative Educational Services.
An investigation found Hodgson Russ classified it's lawyers for the schools as employees, instead of independent contractors, so that they could be eligible for state pension funds. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said "This is chronic widespread corruption and fraud," and "It's death by a thousand cuts and in the end taxpayers bleed millions of dollars." The firm without admitting any wrongdoing ceased the practice and paid the settlement amount.
MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers are investigating what appears to be a hunting accident, which claimed the life of a Broward County teenager. Seth D. Edge, 15, of West Park, died from a single gunshot wound to the head shortly before 7 a.m. Saturday.
The victim was duck hunting with his father and brothers on Lake Okeechobee in Glades County when his 13-year-old brother attempted to set his gun down. Witnesses said the gun fell and discharged, fatally injuring Seth, who was pronounced dead at the scene. No charges have been filed.
The Glades County Sheriff�s Office was among the first responders and assisted in the investigation.
In Florida, children 15 years and younger may hunt without a hunting license, as long as they are supervised by an adult. Children under 16 may hunt with a gun lawfully but must be under adult supervision at all times.
The FWC regularly schedules hunting safety classes in all Florida counties. "We encourage all hunters, especially children to take the course,� said FWC regional hunter safety administrator Lynne Hawk. "The course is free and satisfies the hunter education requirements of all other states and Canadian provinces that require hunter safety certification."
Everyone born on or after June 1, 1975, must pass an approved hunter safety course to be eligible to purchase a Florida hunting license.
CLEWISTON, FL. -- While unprecedented solicitations for charitable donations occur in Hendry and Glades county this holiday season, Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson is reminding consumers to check on the legitimacy of charities that seek donations and find out how registered charities spend their money.
Hendry and Glades county residents and visitors are bombarded this time of year with solicitations for donations for just about any cause imaginable, from helping families with medical issues to raising funds for community groups. Most of these fund raisers, while perhaps being sincere, are unregistered, with no way for the public to know just what happens to the money, and at worst, a bogus charity.
A sampling of fund raising pleas listed in local newspapers shows nearly all the organizations and individuals are not registered with the state, and are illegally raising funds without any accounting for their activities. A properly registered charity will have a registration number from the Florida Dept. of Consumer Services, in addition to a non-profit tax number.
"Unfortunately, as the number of charitable organizations grows, so does the number of con artists posing as legitimate charities to take people's money," Bronson said. "I'm afraid the bad economy will likely result in even more instances of bogus charities trying to take advantage of people's kindness."
Charities are launching their busiest time of the year, the holiday months of November and December. Many collect about half their annual donations in the short time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, leaving donors at risk when giving to unregistered charitable organizations.
Charities that do business in Florida, with the exception of schools and churches are required to register with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services each year and provide financial information about income and expenses. There are more than 13,000 charitable organizations currently registered with the state, a number that increases every year.
Consumers can find out if a charity is registered by calling the department's consumer helpline at 1-800-HELPFLA (1-800-435-7352) or 1-800-FLAYUDA for Spanish, or by logging on to http://www.800helpfla.com. They can also check the complaint history of an organization.
However, even if a charity is properly registered, consumers should find out more about how a charity operates. The department does not endorse any charity, even those properly registered. But it does provide a breakdown of how much charities spend on fundraising, administrative costs such as salaries and operating expenses and how much actually goes to the program services.
"The department doesn't have any authority over how these organizations spend their money," Bronson said. "But we can provide that information to consumers so they can make educated decisions about whether they think a charity is operating prudently. If an organization spends a small percentage on services, consumers may want to think twice about donating."
The department also provides the names of professional solicitors and consultant who are working on behalf of a charitable organization.
Bronson provided the following tips to consider when deciding whether to donate to an organization:
-- Don't judge an organization based on an impressive-sounding name. Find out what it actually does.
-- Be wary of emotional appeals and organizations that have only vague plans for spending the funds they collect.
-- Never give cash. Write a check payable only to an organization, not an individual.
-- Be wary of organizations that offer to send a ""unner" to pick up your donation. Reputable charities are willing to wait for your contribution.
-- You have the right to ask for an organization's financial report and its federal tax identification number, the latter of which you'll need to claim your contribution as a tax deduction.
-- Ask the organization to send you written information about its activities.
-- If an organization is not registered, contact the department.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
CLEWISTON, FL. - A Hendry County crash Saturday morning at 4:52 a.m. left Keith Allen Linderman, 24 of Moore Haven dead. His 2005 Ford pickup was westbound on US 27 and traveled onto the north shoulder, as he attempted to recover by steering to the left. This action caused the vehicle to rotate counter-clockwise and travel back into the westbound lanes, sliding across the
westbound lanes traveling toward the southwest, and then entered the median and overturned.
Linderman was ejected and came to rest in the eastbound lanes of US 27. The vehicle continued to overturn as it traveled across the eastbound lanes and came to rest facing southeast on the paved shoulder with its right front wheel on top of the guardrail that is located on the south shoulder. He was not wearing a seatbelt and investigation continues on alcohol use.
A second vehicle was eastbound and struck the truck. The second vehicle continued eastbound and did not remain on scene.
There is currently no information regarding this vehicle or driver. If anyone has any information on this crash please contact the Florida Highway Patrol at 239-938-1800.
CLEWISTON, FL. -- A crash at 5:25 a.m. Saturday left one dead and one in serious condition after a head on crash. Michele T. Alvarado, 28 of Clewiston, driving a 2007 Chrysler SUV was northbound on County Road 833 as a 1996 Ford Pickup was southbound on County 833, driven by an unnamed person (pending notifications).
Alvarado crossed the centerline of the roadway and entered the southbound lane. The second vehicle swerved to avoid colliding with Alvarado, the front of Alvarado's vehicle struck the front of the second vehicle in the southbound lane. Impact from the collision forced Alvarado back into the northbound lane.
The second vehicle was propelled back onto the west grassy shoulder, as Alvarado's vehicle overturned several times before coming to final rest in the northbound lane. The second vehicle came to final rest on southbound grassy shoulder of County 833. Alvarado was transported to Lee Memorial Hospital and is in stable condition.
The second driver was killed upon impact in the collision. Seatbelts were not in use in either vehicle. It is unknown at this time whether alcohol was a factor. Investigation is pending.
Friday, November 21, 2008
LABELLE, FL. -- Farmers are worried that a change in federal environmental rules may bring added regulations to farms The Environmental Protection Agency issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking public comment on whether it is appropriate to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from automobiles under the Clean Air Act.
In order to regulate automobile emissions, the EPA would first have to make a finding that all greenhouse gases endanger public health and safety and should be classified as a pollutant. If that finding is made, all GHGs including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide would have to be regulated under the Clean Air Act, then possibly creating regulations of other sectors including agriculture.
The agriculture industry believes that once an endangerment finding is made, Title V of the Clean Air Act requires that any entity with the potential to emit more than 100 tons per year of a regulated pollutant must obtain a permit in order to continue to operate.
Farmers speculate that the vast majority of livestock operations would easily meet the 100 ton threshold and fall under regulation. According to ag industry spoke persons, the USDA has stated that any operation with more than 25 dairy cows, or 50 beef cattle would have to obtain permits. According to USDA statistics, this would cover about 99 percent of dairy production and over 90 percent of beef production in the United States.
The industry believes greenhouse gas regulation under the Clean Air Act would not only adversely impact livestock producers but all farmers. Crop production emits nitrous oxide from fertilizer and methane from rice production, and fields that emit 100 tons
of carbon would also be subject to permitting requirements as well.
Any Florida farm with 500 acres of corn, 250 acres of soybeans, 350 acres of potatoes or only 35 acres of rice would be forced to obtain Clean Air Act permits they say, as well as emissions from farm machinery and energy used in production might also be
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Broward County Teen Suicide Live On Internet TV
A Broward county youth apparently committed suicide Wednesday while broadcasting a live video cast on Justin.tv, according to news reports. Abraham K. Biggs allegedly committed suicide while viewers of his live webcasting channel on Justin.tv and chat forum users on bodybuilding.com watched.
Biggs was said to have overdosed on pills while on camera, but reportedly was alive for hours until the Broward county Sheriff's department was notified. According to a news reports on newteevee.com "The video kept running until police and EMTs broke Biggs' door down and blocked the camera's view."
Biggs' live broadcasting screen name and channel on Justin.tv was called "feels_like_ecstacy" and the channel has now been taken down, including any archives of the event.
Newteevee.com reports that "Justin.tv has already come under fire for another problem with live broadcasts copyright infringement. The Premier League is reportedly threatening legal action against the site over unauthorized broadcasts of soccer games."
http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-150666 - The apparent suicide
http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=206599326&blogID=448635738&Mytoken=27111661-1B4C-4ECD-8D5BDF4EEAC56FF1273775561 - Victim's Last MySpace Blog And Viewer Comments
http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/showthread.php?referrerid=103730&t=1641934 - a note allegedly left and live screen shots of emergency personnel at scene
http://www.myspace.com/forgettingthepastagain - My Space page gives possible clues from "CandyMan" Abraham Biggs
http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.ListAll&friendID=206599326 - Blog Entry A Goodbye Message?
During the nine weeks of training, the soldier received training in drill and ceremonies, weapons, map reading, tactics, military courtesy, military justice, physical fitness, first aid, and Army history, core values and traditions. Additional training included development of basic combat skills and battlefield operations and tactics, and experiencing use of various weapons and weapons defenses available to the infantry crewman.
He is the son of Randell Hubbard, and Lori Brinker of Laramie Court, both of Labelle, Fla. The private is a 2008 graduate of Labelle High School.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Turner, Taylor, Chapman Ready To Govern Hendry
LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Judge James "Jim" Sloan installed three County Commissioners into office at 11:00 am Tuesday morning. Commissioner Janet B. Taylor was sworn in for a fifth term, one of the longest terms of service of any Hendry commissioner.
Commissioner Tris Chapman and Commissioner Karson Turner were sworn in for their first terms. The three were recently elected or re-elected by a majority of voters in their respective districts. Commissioner Taylor serves District 1, Commissioner Chapman District 3 and Commissioner Turner District 5. The two new commissioners, Turner and Chapman, will be participating in their first official board meeting on December 9, 2008 in LaBelle at 5:00 pm at the county courthouse.
Photo: Tris Chapman, Janet Taylor, Karson Turner
CLEWISTON, FL. -- As a part of its ongoing efforts to share information and promote transparency regarding the acquisition of land from the U.S. Sugar Corporation for Everglades restoration, the South Florida Water Management District has updated its web site with documents associated with the agency�s due diligence.
The following documents, along with presentations about the due diligence results received so far, are available at www.sfwmd.gov/riverofgrass:
Anderson & Carr, Inc., draft appraisal of real estate & other assets;
Gillott Services, Inc., draft appraisal of real estate & other assets;
Sewell, Valentich, Tillis & Associates land only appraisal;
Anderson & Carr, Inc., land only appraisal;
Technical reviews of the appraisals;
Duff and Phelps, LLC, Letter Regarding the Fairness Opinion;
Executive Summary of the Draft PSI Environmental Due Diligence Report.
Together with appraisals, environmental assessments, engineering assessments and survey and title work, the Board has requested a "fairness opinion" on the proposed acquisition. Typically rendered by an investment bank in association with corporate mergers and acquisitions, a �fairness opinion� is an independent report on the value of an acquisition with regard to price and is designed to guide the purchase of an ongoing business. A fairness opinion is not an appraisal and is one component of due diligence, says the SFWMD.
A full-day public Governing Board workshop is scheduled for December 2, 2008, to continue reviewing and discussing due diligence results, documents and information associated with the transaction. Presentations will be web-cast at www.sfwmd.gov.
LABELLE, FL. -- Statistics released by the Florida Association of REALTORS® on Third Quarter 2008 sales of existing homes indicate that sales were up overall statewide, with median prices down overall, while sales of existing condominiums were down overall statewide but varied widely according to region.
Existing home sales in Florida for Third Quarter 2008 versus Q3 2007 were up 5% statewide, with median sales prices down 20%, although some areas experienced significant differences. Existing home sales in Fort Myers were up 73%, with median sales prices down 39%, while home sales in Gainesville were down 33% with median sales prices down only 11%.
Existing condo sales in Florida for the Third Quarter 2008 were down 2% statewide compared to Q3 2007, with median prices down 18% statewide. Fort Myers showed existing condo sales up 38% with median prices down 17%, while Tallahassee showed condo sales down 76% with median sales prices up 16% compared to Q3 2007.
-courtesy The Goulding Agency, Chipley, Fl.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
CLEWISTON, FL. -- A single vehicle crash east of Clewiston has resulted in one death. Gerald William Robinson, 61 of Lantana was driving a 2007 Volkwagen Beetle eastbound on U.S. 27 in the eastbound lane, 1/2 mile east of Clewiston at a high rate of speed, entered a curve east of the city and drove off of the north side of the roadway and onto the grass shoulder.
According the the Florida Highway Patrol report, the front of the vehicle collided with four signs and rotated counter-clockwise, and overturned three times. Robinson was pronounced deceased at the scene at about 11:50 P.M. Monday night.
W.T. "Bill" Neville
Mr. Neville was born in Logansport, Indiana and was very active in business and community activities, President of the local Jaycees, and spent 4 years in the Indiana National Guard during the Korean war as a First Seargent. At age 30, he moved family, wife & 3 sons with one more on the way, to Buffalo where he lived for one year before accepting a plastics field sales position in Chicago where his fifth son was born. After opening up new sales territories from Chicago to the west coast, he accepted the regional sales manager position for the western half of the U. S. He retired from that position after 40 years in 1993, and built a home in Labelle, Fl.. "I've always enjoyed 'wordsmithing' and story telling, particularly when I feel that my words might either motivate or alleviate any of the many challenges that we each accept every day of our lives just by being here."
Donald K. Browne
Mr. Browne grew up in Columbus, Ohio and graduated from Ohio State University. He was a professional musician in Ohio for many years and taught as well in the New Albany School system and the Columbus Public Schools. Don moved to Florida in the 1970s and lived in Central Florida for a year before moving to Miami where he continued teaching, writing, and making plans to get out of the "big" city. He moved to rural LaBelle, Florida, the county seat of Hendry county in the 1990s . There he began the Sunday Morning News and Southwest Florida Online, the first local news published on the internet in South Florida. In Hendry county, Don wrote and edited a local print newspaper and served at two local radio stations as news director and on air personality.
Mrs. England has been a LaBelle resident for many years and one of the leading conservationists and community leaders in the Southwest Florida area. She has been instrumental in local parks promotion and leads the way to the creation of new recreational spaces in Hendry and Glades county. She writes widely on nature and conservation subjects. She is a media specialist with the Hendry County Schools.
The Honorable Donna Storter Long
Ms. Storter-Long is a long time Glades County resident, living in the Ortona community. She is active in community events, and promoting rural Glades county development. She is from a pioneering Florida ranching family, and a Glades County Commissioner. Ms Long provides commentary and news about Glades county on a regular basis.
The Sunday Morning News also acknowledges the many other news contributors who provide recurring news tips, stories and commentary.
Monday, November 17, 2008
The program allows students between their junior and senior year of high school to attend national guard or reserve weekend drills while still in school and pursue a military career specialty after they graduate from high school.
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 Maria Chavarria of N. State Route 715, Belle Glade, Fla., and sister of Maria Chavarria of Tampa, Fla. Chavarria is currently a student at Glades Central High School, Belle Glade.
LaBelle, Fl -- Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp announces significant reductions in cigarette smoking and binge drinking among Florida's middle school and high school students since 2000, as reported by the 2008 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey.
But, in contrast to the significant reductions being made each year, the 2008 survey confirms the continuing trend of prescription drug abuse and highlights the need for future prevention efforts. The Florida Office of Drug Control, state agencies, law enforcement, substance abuse prevention coalitions, schools and community stakeholders have partnered to reduce substance abuse across the state.
According to the survey, which has been administered every year since 2000, drug use among Florida's middle and high school students is down in 10 of 11 areas consistently measured over the history of the survey. From 2007 to 2008, among middle and high school students, past 30-day use of alcohol and binge drinking declined significantly. Long-term trends documented from 2000 to 2008 include:
Ø Cigarette smoking is cut in half: The past 30-day use of cigarettes among middle and high schoolers is at 9 percent, down from 18 percent in 2000.
Ø Binge drinking declines by 4 percentage points since 2000: Binge drinking, defined as having five or more drinks in a row sometime during the previous two weeks, currently stands at 15 percent, down from 19 percent in 2000.
Ø Use of any illegal drug other than marijuana continues to decline: The percent of students who report using any illegal drug other than marijuana has declined by 24 percent since 2000 and now stands at a historically low 6.6 percent.
Ø Early initiation continues to decline: Research confirms that if our youth make it to adulthood without experimenting with drugs, they are far less likely to start using later in life. The 2008 survey documents an important decline in the percentage of high school students who first used alcohol (by 8.6 percentage points), tobacco (by 19.5 percentage points), and marijuana (by 6.7 percentage points) before the age of 14.
Ø New question on over-the-counter drugs: For the first time, middle schoolers were asked about their use of over-the-counter drugs such as cold and cough medications in order to get high. The lifetime prevalence rate of over-the-counter drug abuse (4.9 percent) is higher than the rate for any illegal drug except marijuana.
Ø Prescription drugs emerging as a dangerous source of abuse: 4.5 percent of high school seniors report abusing prescription pain relievers in the past 30 days, and 3.8 percent report abusing prescription depressants more than any other illegal drug (excluding marijuana). Results from the 2002 survey (the first time this question was asked) were nearly identical, indicating a continuing trend in prescription drug abuse.
"While drug use is down overall, parents need to be acutely alert to the dangers posed by legally accessible substance like inhalants, alcohol, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter medications. Parents need to do their part to keep young people safe by restricting the availability of these substances within their homes and by closely monitoring their children's activities," Office of Drug Control Bill Janes said.
Florida's Drug Control Strategy acknowledges that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to ensuring that children, families, and communities are healthy and safe. Florida's diverse communities must prioritize their needs and select the most effective strategies that will be used to tackle their unique profile of substance abuse problems. The continued support of community anti-drug coalitions is vital to prevention efforts throughout the state.
Florida's youth survey measures youth substance use annually across the state, and in alternate years, in each county. The 2008 edition included 91,471 valid returns from sixth through 12th graders in 66 of Florida's 67 counties. (Sarasota County is not included among the counties surveyed because it chose to administer an internal survey that is not comparable to the Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey.) The full report is available online at www.dcf.state.fl.us/mentalhealth/publications/fysas/.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
The Governor's announcement from Miami was delayed a day after his state aircraft had mechanical difficulties Tuesday and made a diverted landing at Sarasota. "A land purchase creates unprecedented possibilities for the River of Grass and for our environment," said Governor Crist, standing outside the Miami home of the late author and Everglades advocate Marjory Stoneman Douglass in Coconut Grove. "Many people, including the late Mrs. Douglass, have looked forward to this day. Today, we are closer than ever to making their dreams a reality and giving this wonderful gift of restoration to the Everglades, to the people of Florida, and to our country."
The 180,000 acres, one of the largest environmental land acquisitions in our nation's history, will in theory allow the South Florida Water Management District needed wetlands to protect Florida's coastal estuaries to preserve the Everglades. Governor Crist first announced in June plans to begin negotiations at the 2008 Serve to Preserve Florida Summit on Global Climate in Miami.
The wetlands area roughly the size of New York City -- will be used to reestablish a part of the historic connection between Lake Okeechobee and the fabled River of Grass through a managed system of storage and treatment.
The Water Management District says acquiring the enormous expanse of land offers water managers the opportunity and flexibility to store and clean water on a scale never before contemplated. Water managers expect that dedicating significantly more land in the Everglades Agricultural Area to restoration will build upon and enhance the 30-year state-federal Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the State of Florida's Northern Everglades program to restore and protect Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and their respective estuaries.
U.S. Sugar will presumably come out well, sell virtually all its Florida land to the state. About 1700 workers will be directly affected, but their future is still up in the air pending future negotiations on what will happen to the mills and processing plants in the Clewiston area.
"We look forward to continuing to work with the Governor and the District in the cooperative spirit with which we have begun," said Robert Buker, president and CEO of U.S. Sugar. "We are happy to help the state of Florida restore one of her most precious treasures."
Joining Governor Crist and Robert Buker at the Marjory Stoneman Douglass House were Eric Buermann, Chairman of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board; and Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole. Also in attendance were elected officials and environmental advocates.
The Governor's office says the benefits from the land acquisition include:
· Huge increases in the availability of water storage, significantly reducing the potential for harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to Florida's coastal rivers and estuaries when lake levels are high.
· The ability to deliver cleaner water to the Everglades during dry times and greater water storage to protect the natural system during wet years.
· Preventing thousands of tons of phosphorus from entering the Everglades every year.
· Forever eliminating the need for "back-pumping" water into Lake Okeechobee from the Everglades Agricultural Area to augment the water supply needs. The District's Governing Board this year voted not to back-pump into the lake during the ongoing water shortage to protect water quality.
· Additional water storage alternatives, relieving some pressures on the Herbert Hoover Dike while the federal government undertakes repairs.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The 1998 Chrysler was traveling northbound on US-27 (SR-25) in the inside lane just North of CR-17. The left side tires traveled off the roadway and into the median. McGuire over corrected and lost control, rotated clockwise and veered across the roadway onto the East (right) shoulder.
The left side of the vehicle collided with a barbed wire fence, overturned several times and McGuire was ejected. No seatbelt was in use. The vehicle came to final rest facing northeast in the cow pasture. The driver came to final rest north of the vehicle.
She was transported to Lee Memorial Hospital with serious Injuries. Medical staff collected a medical blood sample and determined that her blood alcohol level was in excess of 0.08 grams per 100 milliliters.
MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- The Glades County Commission Board approved a Planned Development Zoning District of Muse Village Lakes of 471 acres for 7L Muse, LLC located on the southern boundary of Muse Village Planning Area. Just north of the Hendry-Glades County line, the property borders SR29 on the east, CR731 on the west, Pollywog Crossover on the north and Whisper Creek on the south.
The proposed land use includes 186.1 acres residential, 53.5 acres wetlands, 66.8 acres upland natural open space, 72.9 acres lakes, 54.0 acres other open space and recreational, and 38.1 acres for other amenities and roads/sidewalks.
The total number of dwelling units will not exceed 625 with neighborhood types including traditional low density 60.6 acres with maximum of 151 dwelling units, neighborhood medium density 45.4 acres with maximum of 181 dwelling units, village high density 30.9 acres with maximum of 247 dwelling units and Multifamily Residential 49.2 acres with maximum of 295 dwelling units.
The main entrance will be from SR29 into the recreational/civic amenity and neighborhood market area, with a secondary entrance from Pollywog Crossover. No entrance is planned from CR 731. Public input included Charles Banky, owner of an out parcel on CR731, expressing concern of the close proximity of home development perimeters near his property line.
The Traditional house types on larger parcels will be on the perimeters with vegetative buffering depicted for boundaries of existing outparcels of residential homes. Featuring clustered development, with preservation of natural setting with walkability via sidewalks and natural pathways to recreational and civic amenities, the area will be served by Silver Lake Utilities, and the northwest border is by the West Glades School on CR731 and Pollywog Crossover.
Rain barrels to collect rainwater from roofs is included in all home designs along with watering holes to provide miniature reservoirs for water conservation and to minimize drainage and storm water runoff needs.
Designed for Lykes Bros by Wilson-Miller, this master planned rural village development envisions a prototype community that confirms traditional neighborhoods with sustainable homes built for energy and water conservation, to include integrated connectivity of natural areas with active and passive recreation opportunities, and generates shared value and pride.