Friday, May 26, 2017

One In Ten Drivers Distracted - Use Florida's Phone Safe Zones

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) expects more traffic on its highways this Memorial Day Weekend and with more people on the road, FDOT and GEICO are reminding motorists to avoid distractions behind-the-wheel. If motorists need to make a call or send a text, FDOT invites them to stop at one of 64 Rest Areas, Welcome Centers adebug_date": "nd Turnpike Service Plazas that have been designated as “Safe Phone Zones” sponsored by GEICO.

FDOT Assistant Secretary for Engineering and Operations Brian Blanchard said, “During high traffic holidays, like Memorial Day Weekend, when families are traveling long distances, it is especially important to remember to put the phone down and focus on the road. Since 2015, FDOT has worked with GEICO to provide Safe Phone Zones throughout the state. Our top priority is your safety and we encourage all motorists to use our Safe Phone Zone locations.”

Safe Phone Zones provide a place where drivers can safely and conveniently use their phones and other mobile devices for calling, texting, navigating and accessing mobile apps. Motorists are made aware of upcoming locations on the highway with signs in advance of each facility. The signs read: “Safe Phone Zones” and carry the GEICO logo.

"People are connected to their mobile devices today more than ever, and an unfortunate side effect of that is the rise in accidents attributed to distracted driving," said Ted Ward, GEICO vice president of marketing. "We believe Safe Phone Zones reflect GEICO's commitment to protecting drivers by offering them a safe place off the roadways where they can check emails, make calls and view texts. We are proud to expand our support of this sponsorship in 2017 to help make the highways safe for all drivers."

In 2013, Florida law banned the use of mobile devices while driving. More than 45,000 crashes were caused by distracted drivers in Florida in 2015. Safe Phone Zones are intended to help prevent distracted driving and save lives.

Map of Phone Safe Zone Locations

For more information on Safe Phone Zones and Distracted Driving in Florida, visit

Home Repair Grants Available

The SW Florida Regional Planning Council has scheduled USDA Home Repair Grant Program community outreach meetings in Clewiston, LaBelle, and Immokalee as follows. The purpose of the meetings will be to inform low-income residents and seniors age 62+ about a USDA grant program that can provide up to $7,500 for critical home repairs.

Thursday, June 1st
6:00 PM to 7:30 PM
John Boy Senior Citizen Community Center
1200 S. WC Owens Avenue
Clewiston, FL 33440

Tuesday, June 6
6:00 PM to 7:30 PM
Dallas B. Townsend Agricultural Center
1085 Pratt Boulevard
LaBelle, FL 33935

Wednesday, May 31st
6:00 PM to 7:30 PM
Careersource Center
750 South 5th Street
Immokalee, FL 34142

What does this program do?

This program provides loans to very-low-income homeowners to repair, improve, or modernize their homes or provides grants to elderly very-low-income homeowners to remove health and safety hazards.

Who may apply for this program?

To qualify, you must:
• Be the homeowner and occupy the house
• Be unable to obtain affordable credit elsewhere
• Have a family income below 50 percent of the area median income
• For grants, be age 62 or older and not be able to repay a repair loan

How may funds be used?
• Loans may be used to repair, improve, or modernize homes or to remove health and safety hazards.
• Grants must be used to remove health and safety hazards.

How much money can I get?

• Maximum loan is $20,000.
• Maximum grant is $7,500.
• Loans and grants can be combined for up to $27,500 in assistance.

What are the terms of the loan or grant?

• Loans can be repaid over 20 years
• Loan interest rate is fixed at 1%.

A USDA representative will provide an overview of the 504 Home Repair Program, answer questions, and provide information on the application process.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

More Rain Needed To Alleviate Wildfires

OKEECHOBEE, FL. -- After much needed rainfall returned to our area, another drying trend is forecast. “We need multiple bouts of rainfall to alleviate the dry conditions, said Forest Area Supervisor Trevor Taylor, Florida Forest Service. “A constant steady rainfall is needed to quench the parched land and seep deep into the soil where the fire is still smoldering.”

The rainfall did help extinguish a few smaller wildfires, but the wildfires in thick vegetation or burning in muck had little effect on them. The Florida Forest Service, Okeechobee District has eight active wildfires that continue to produce heat and smoke.

The Florida Forest Service, Okeechobee District reminds everyone to enjoy this Memorial Day Weekend by using caution while enjoying the outdoors. “Often wildfires are accidental, caused by something as benign as hot charcoals being dumped into dry vegetation or the grill not being extinguished properly.” explains Taylor.

To keep you and your family safe while grilling, follow these general guidelines:
  • Only use charcoal and propane grills outside and away from structures.
  • Clear the ground around the barbecue of all dry vegetation and other flammable material.
  • Keep children and pets away from grills.
  • Make sure there are no overhanging tree limbs.  The heat from a barbecue can reach well above the grill's surface.
  • Never leave the grill unattended when cooking or while it contains residual heat.

Disposing of charcoal properly - Make sure charcoal is COLD:
  • Allow coals to burn out completely and let ashes cool at least 48 hours before disposing.
  • Dispose of cold ashes by wrapping in heavy-duty aluminum foil and placing in a non-combustible container. Be sure no other combustible materials are nearby.
  • If you must dispose of ashes before completely cooled, place them in heavy-duty foil and soak with water completely before disposing in a non-combustible container.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Nine Arrests In Alligator Farm Conspiracy

FWC uncovers major alligator violations in long-term covert investigation

On Wednesday, May 24, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers arrested nine suspects for violations of Florida’s laws pertaining to possession of American alligator, alligator egg harvesting, interstate transport of alligator eggs and hatchlings, falsifying official records, dealing in stolen property, conspiracy to commit racketeering, racketeering and other wildlife violations. These serious charges include first-, second- and third-degree felonies.
These charges are the result of a multiyear undercover operation initiated in 2015 by the FWC Division of Law Enforcement’s Investigations Section. FWC undercover officers managed to become part of the alligator farming community to gain information and evidence about poachers who were breaking the law in regard to the FWC’s public and private lands alligator egg harvesting program and alligator farming.
During the course of the investigation, FWC undercover officers documented numerous criminal violations, resulting in the arrest of nine individuals for 44 felony violations.
Investigators documented over 10,000 illegally harvested eggs during the course of the undercover operation.
“Many of these suspects were part of a criminal conspiracy,” said Maj. Grant Burton, head of the FWC’s Investigations Section. “Their crimes pose serious environmental and economic consequences. These suspects not only damage Florida’s valuable natural resources, they also harm law-abiding business owners by operating black markets that undermine the legal process.”
Wildlife conservation laws are in place to protect and manage Florida’s precious natural resources for legitimate use by the public. When people break those laws, they jeopardize the ability of the state to manage those resources for the future. If left unchecked, this valuable natural resource could have been severely damaged.
There are aspects of this investigation that are still ongoing, and the FWC expects more arrests to be forthcoming.
The public can help by reporting suspected violations to the FWC. To make a report, call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or text
The suspects and their charges are as follows:

Robert Kelly Albritton (DOB 01/21/1981) of Arcadia
  • One felony count of Racketeering.
  • One felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering.     
  • One felony count of Scheme to Defraud.
  • Fourteen felony counts of Unlawful Possession of Alligator Eggs/Alligators.
Robert Thomas Beasley (DOB 02/05/1979) of Arcadia
  • One felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering.
  • Six felony counts of Unlawful Possession of Alligator Eggs/Alligators.
David Wentworth Nellis (DOB 10/10/1943) of Punta Gorda
  • One felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering.
  • One felony count of Uttering a Forged Instrument.
  • One felony count of Unlawful Possession of Alligator Eggs.
Carl Wayne Pickle Jr. (DOB 12/22/1969) of Arcadia
  • One felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering.
  • Four felony counts of Unlawful Possession of Alligator Eggs/Alligators.
Wayne Andrew Nichols (DOB 07/15/1975) of Arcadia
  • Three felony counts of Unlawful Possession of Alligators.
  • One felony count of Unlawful Killing of White Ibis.
  • One first-degree misdemeanor count of Attempting to Take White Ibis.
Christopher Lee Briscall (DOB 01/28/1995) of Fort Denaud
  • One felony count of Unlawful Possession of Alligators.
  • One felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Dealing in Stolen Property.
Matthew Edward Evors (DOB 10/20/1992) of Cape Coral
  • One felony count of Unlawful Possession of Alligators.
  • One felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Dealing in Stolen Property.
Isaiah Joseph Romano (DOB 12/17/1994) of Fort Denaud
  • One felony count of Unlawful Possession of Alligators.
  • One felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Dealing in Stolen Property.
Jacob Oliver Bustin-Pitts (DOB 11/11/1993) of Fort Denaud
  • One felony count of Unlawful Possession of Alligators.
  • One felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Dealing in Stolen Property.

Kiwanis Presents 21 Scholarships

The Kiwanis Club of Labelle presented scholarships to Labelle High School Seniors on Monday, May 8, 2017 at Beef O’Brady’s.  A total of 21 graduating seniors were awarded scholarships totaling $15,000.  

The scholarships are awarded to any graduating student at Labelle High School that completes the application and attends the interview process by the Foundation committee.  The awards are based on GPA, application and essay, community service, interview, financial need and years of being a Key Club member.  

The Labelle Kiwanis Foundation has awarded between $15,000 and $27,000 to Labelle High School Students since 2008 based on funds available from net sales at the Kiwanis Thrift Store and number of students applying and have distributed over $202,000.00 in monies to our graduating students and students continuing their education or adults starting their education since 2008.  

The awards that are not collected by the seniors within four years of their award are disbursed to students that apply for our Adult Scholarship in the summer.  Donations and purchases at the Labelle Kiwanis Thrift Store is vital as these funds are given back to this community and most of all to our local youth.