Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Death in US27 Crash


MOORE HAVEN, FL. (June 28, 2004) -- 43-year old Lavonne Seale of Clewiston
died of injuries after her vehicle was struck from behind on US 27 south of
SR720 by a Dodge truck driven by 50-year old Frank Ventimiglia of Ft.
Myers, who suffered only minor injuries. Charges are pending against
Ventimiglia.


Wildlife Arrests in Glades and Hendry

Glades County
On June 18, Officer Joe Simpson observed a vehicle parked on a county road
and thought the driver might be dropping someone off to hunt. The driver
allowed a search of the vehicle. Officer Simpson found a water bong lying
in plain view on the back seat. A subject also possessed a bag of cannabis
and was subsequently charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and
cannabis.

Hendry County
On June 20, Investigator Larry Ayers worked with Officer Tim Sweat along SR
29, targeting freshwater fishing violations. This detail resulted in three
resource citations and four warnings. They also arrested one subject who
had active arrest warrants originating from Texas.

Officers John Wilke and Joe Simpson were on patrol on C.R. 835 and observed
a vehicle parked next to a gate. They saw a cannabis "roach" lying in the
front seat and fresh footprints leading to the gate. They waited for the
subjects to return. When they arrived, the subjects admitted to being in
possession of the roach and produced another bag of cannabis. The two
subjects were charged with possession of cannabis and drug paraphernalia.


East Lee County Commission Meeting

by Rob Andrys - Alva
I attended the East Lee County Council and the Caloosahatchee Estates
project in the heart of Olga, right down the street from the Winn-Dixie on
the river. They're going to put as many homes as they can on 1/4 acre
lots.
As far as the political forum went an interesting question came out. When
asked about a bridge over the Caloosahatchee to service the growth on the
north side of the river in Hendry County the following was said:
Commissioner Ray Judea - Before he could support the issue of a bridge, he
said that first there must be a highway network for the bridge to connect
into. Highway 78 at its current size does not warrant a bridge that would
only bring congestion to this small road. He used the example of Estero
Island with only one arterial road running the length of the island with
numerous roads connecting into it. Naturally the traffic does not flow
well or can stop for a long time if an accident occurs anywhere along this
single access road.
Commissioner Albion - We don't have money for such a bridge and Hendry
County really doesn't have that amount of money, and with a wave of his
hand he dismissed the whole thing. He did say that a new sector plan was
being put together by Lee and Hendry Counties planning staff. That is to
say Vince's plan and some thing from Alva but we donít know anything about
it.
Just as a personal opinion, I don't understand why so much effort is being
spent on the bridge issue when a lot more energy should be spent looking
at how the south side of the river should be developed, the commercial
corridor that will expand there and of course the monster lakes at Berry
Groves and the huge developments that will surround those lakes. Those
are the real issues. The plain fact is that the north side of the river
will be developed by the first ones in the race, the road will slow to a
crawl and the rest of the land will have a harder time being developed
because the widening of highway 78 will take a minimum of 10 years.
Hendry County will have its hands full trying to build roads on the south
side of the river for the onslaught of new homes that will spring up there
soon.





Sunday, June 27, 2004

Caloosahatchee Bridge Meeting

Hendry County has scheduled a public information workshop regarding a
proposed bridge over the Caloosahatchee River to replace the Fort Denaud
Bridge in the future. The proposed project includes potential realignment
of CR 78 and possible widening up to the Glades County Line. There are
six possible alignments. The public information workshop will allow
interested persons the opportunity to express their views concerning
conceptual designs, social economic, and environmental effects of the
proposed improvements. The format of the meeting will be informal. Aerial
photographs, conceptual plans and project related information will be
available for public viewing. County representatives will be available
during the workshop to answer questions and discuss the project. Please
note that his is NOT a public hearing. A formal public hearing will be
held later in the study process in keeping with State requirements.
Persons with disabilities whom may need special accommodations at the
workshop under the American's Disability Act of 1990 should contact Mr.
Bill Davis at 863-675-5236 at least seven days before the workshop.
-William T. Maddox, Jr., Chairman Hendry County BOCC


National HIV Testing Day

For the 10th year, National HIV Testing is June 27th. This nationwide
campaign is held annually to encourage people to take an HIV test and to
assess their current or past risks for HIV infection. In the USA, 250,000
people don't know they are infected with HIV and might remain ignorant of
their status since symptoms don't appear for 10 years on average. During
this time, HIV is multiplying at the rate of 10 billion copies per day
within their body. These people are unknowingly infected and infectious.
With recent advancements, HIV can be medically managed as a chronic
disease. Hendry and Glades County Health Department will offer free HIV
testing from 8:30 am - 4:30 pm on Monday, June 28th. Knowing your status
could make a difference with your health and the health of your loved ones.
Get tested. Get treated.


Saturday, June 26, 2004


LABELLE, FL. -- A Saturday afternoon storm sent the Belmont Woods subdivision residents scurrying for cover as high winds swept through the neighborhood. On 6th Avenue one home had its new galvanized roof destroyed. Nearby homes suffered damage to century old oak trees and uprooted palm trees. See more on Sunday Morning News page.

Ugly Campaign Signs

Has anyone noticed that the campaign signs are poppin up all over the
place. I think that someone should tell the candidates that they should ask
if they can put a sign on their property,,I walked out one after noon and
found a Worley sign and a ronnie lee sign in my yard. They are gone now.
Shame on you for not asking. I guess you'll never learn. I wonder also if
Lucretia Strickland is going to do anything about some of those signs being
in the right of way. Maybe she should be replaced too.

-Name with held.


Monday, June 21, 2004


Hendry Sheriff Steve Worley just got himself a new Toy. Worley says the Toyota "eco" car will certainly save taxpayers money.

Hendry Sheriff Buys New Toy

LABELLE, FL -- With gasoline cost reaching $2.00 per gallon and the general
concern of the continuing rise of fuel costs, Sheriff Worley has joined the
ranks of many law enforcement agencies across the state in conducting a
cost analysis of the Toyota Prius. Law enforcement agencies in Florida
have been using the Toyota Prius since December 2001.
Sheriff Worley recently purchased a 2004 Toyota 'hybrid" Prius. The hybrid
vehicle is currently assigned to Deputy Sheriff Martin Meyer who is
assigned to the City Limits of LaBelle where most speeds do not exceed 45
mhp. Although the vehicle is not a pursuit vehicle, Deputy Meyer stated
that it has plenty of room and power. Although the car appears small from
the outside, on the inside there is plenty of headroom and legroom this is
due largely in part to the "tall car" design. Deputy Meyer states he gets
no less than 33 miles per gallon.
The Toyota Prius uses both traditional gasoline and electricity to move the
car. When the vehicle is idling or operating at a low speed, the engine
automatically shuts down and switches to battery power, the gasoline engine
will come on automatically while accelerating or after the vehicle has been
powered off the battery for an extended period of time, saving fuel and
eliminating emissions during that time.
Motor Trend magazine awarded the 2004 Toyota Prius Car of the Year and the
Sierra Club's first Environmental Engineering Award. Both award confirm
that the Prius has its place on both the U.S. roadways and in law
enforcement as well as the environmental benefits.
Sheriff Worley has determined that the Prius will provide added savings to
the taxpayers of Hendry County and will consider adding additional vehicles
of this type to our existing fleet.


Hendry Sheriff Switches Programs

This school year, school resource officers and sheriffs office
administration were faced with a decision whether or not to continue the
DARE program. Challenged with the tremendous expense of continuing the
DARE program and the lack of available funds, Sheriff Worley turned to his
resource officers for possible alternatives.
In March 2004, a pilot program was launched, introducing S.T.A.N.D. that
has concluded with a great deal of positive feedback from teachers, school
administrators and students.
S.T.A.N.D. (Students Taking A New Direction) is a new program offering
fifth grade students an educational classroom approach to prevent drugs and
violence, nurturing a positive development of recognizing and resisting
many direct and subtle pressures that influence the use of alcohol,
tobacco, and drug use.
Along with the anti-drug message taught by officers, instructors also teach
communication skills, self-esteem, empathy, decision-making, and conflict
resolution. The program is a ten (10) week presentation that offers
flexibility and the ability to take full advantage of teachable moments.
Whereas, the DARE program is very structured, instructors must be state
certified, attending a two (2) week training program, and may only be
taught by another current certified instructor, this sometimes causes
difficulty and scheduling inconveniences if an instructor is unable to
attend class due to an unexpected conflict.
The S.T.A.N.D. program is taught by certified law enforcement officers as
well, however, if a scheduling conflict arises, such as illness, or
required court appearance, another officer can easily substitute. If
instructors find that a particular portion of the curriculum is not well
received then it may easily be disregarded and another put in its place.
School resource officer, Ty Marshall, is currently assigned the
responsibility of a 1998 Pontiac Trans-Am, seized from a local drug dealer;
the sporty new car is seen at various schools, STAND functions, and
community events. The flashy custom graphic design was created and done by
Big Lake Cruisers Car Club from Clewiston. Big Lake Cruisers has supported
the DARE program for many years and will now support STAND. Print to Fit,
shop owner, Shannon Woosly, was able to provide t-shirts for the program
for less than $1,500, compared to over $5,000 for D.A.R.E. t-shirts. The
Hendry County School Board offered to print and bind the books needed for
students at no cost, eliminating another approximate $1,000.


Hendry County Jobless Rate Double State Rate


LABELLE, FL. -- Unemployment figures released Friday by the Agency for
Workforce Innovation show Hendry County currently has the state's highest
jobless rate, 9.9 percent, followed by Glades County at 7.9 percent.
Lafayette County, in north Florida, continued for the fourth consecutive
month to hold the state's lowest jobless level, at 1.5 percent. Florida's
jobless rate dropped slightly in May from the month before to 4.5 percent,
just below the national rate. The rate was down considerably from the 5.3
percent mark in May 2003.

Ain't It True!

More great one from Claire - CHS Class of 1958

1. Now that food has replaced sex in my life, I can't even get into my own
pants.
2. I saw a woman wearing a sweat shirt with "Guess" on it. So I said
Implants?" She hit me.
3. I don't do drugs. I get the same effect just standing up fast.
4. I live in my own little world. But it's OK. They know me here.
5. If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport the terminal?
6. I don't approve of political jokes. I've seen too many of them get
elected.
7. I love being married. It's so great to find that one special person
you want to annoy for the rest of your life.
8. I am a nobody, and nobody is perfect; therefore, I am perfect.
9. Everyday I beat my own previous record for number of consecutive days
I have stayed alive.
10. How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50
for Miss America?
11. Isn't having a smoking section in a restaurant like having a peeing
section in a swimming pool?
12. Why is it that most nudists are people you don't want to see naked?
13. Snowmen fall from Heaven unassembled.
14. A good friend will come and bail you out of jail...but, a true friend
will be sitting next to you saying, "Damn...that was fun!"-
15. I signed up for an exercise class and was told to wear loose-fitting
clothing. If I HAD any loose-fitting clothing, I wouldn't have signed up in
the first place!
16. When I was young we used to go "skinny dipping," now I just "chunky
dunk."
17. The worst thing about accidents in the kitchen is eating them.
18. Don't argue with an idiot; people watching may not be able to tell
the difference.
19. Wouldn't it be nice if whenever we messed up our life we could simply
press 'Ctrl Alt Delete' and start all over?
20. Stress is when you wake up screaming and then you realize you haven't
fallen asleep yet.
21. My husband says I never listen to him (at least I think that's what
he said).
22. Why is it that our children can't read a Bible in school, but they
can in prison?
23. If raising children was going to be easy, it never would have started
with something called LABOR!
24. Wouldn't you know it...Brain cells come and brain cells go, but FAT
cells live forever.
25. Why do I have to swear on the Bible in court when the Ten
Commandments cannot be displayed in a federal building?


Father's Day - Jeb Bush

Statement By:
GOVERNOR JEB BUSH
Regarding Father's Day

TALLAHASSEE-"The joy of fatherhood is equaled only by the challenge of the
role. On Sunday, we'll have the opportunity to honor our fathers and thank
them for the love and support that shape our characters and guide our paths.


"This Father's Day, I encourage all Floridians to express their respect and
love for the special men in their lives who have nurtured and inspired them.
Fatherhood is defined by love as much as biology, and we celebrate all men
who assume this critical role and give so much of themselves to do it well."


Friday, June 18, 2004


What LaBelle construction and paving company sends dump trucks with faulty equipment down this street at 45 mph all day long?

Thursday, June 17, 2004

In The Service

Darryl J. Hall has joined the United States Army under the Delayed Entry
Program. The program gives young men and women the opportunity to delay
entering active duty for up to one year.
The enlistment gives the new soldier the option to learn a new skill,
travel and become eligible to receive as much as $50,000 toward a college
education. After completion of basic military training, soldiers receive
advanced individual training in their career job specialty prior to being
assigned to their first permanent duty station.
Hall, a 2004 graduate of Clewiston High School, Fla., will report to
Fort Jackson, Columbia, S.C., for active duty on June 29, 2004.
He is the son of Barbara Robinson of W. Aztec St., Clewiston, and
Darryl Hall of Westfield Drive, Montgomery, Ala.


Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Caregiver Assistance and Regional Education Program

The CARE Program
Caregiver Assistance and Regional Education Program
Hendry County
July 6th, 8th, 12th & 15th 2004. Attend all four sessions. Many different
topics will be discussed at each! 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm at:

Senior Connections of Southwest Florida
L.J. Nobles Senior Center
475 East Cowboy Way
LaBelle, FL

The CARE Program is designed to provide caregiving individuals and family
members FREE comprehensive education and pre-admission emergency respite
counseling. This program will enable caregivers to provide enhanced care
for their loved ones while at the same time allowing the caregiver to
better maintain his or her own emotional and physical health and
well-being. For information on how to sign up, obtain respite services, or
for any other reason, please call toll-free 1-866-231-0921.


Glades County Landfill On Agenda

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Glades County Commission Vice Chairman K. S. "Butch"
Jones chaired the Special Landfill Negotiation meeting with Chairman Bob
Giesler on line for a teleconference call. Jones read the memo from WCG's
representative Stan Keely presenting the evaluation of Glades County's
Ortona landfill at $9.5 million to $12.2 million based on estimated
remaining airspace utilized as a regional landfill for Class I household
waste being filled to capacity within 4 years.
The appraisal was prepared at the request of the Commission when Waste
Management responded to the County's counter-proposal for landfill
services which included WM purchasing the Ortona landfill for $10 million.
Waste Management's negotiating team leader David Green reflected
that WCG's evaluation was based on a higher volume and compaction
density than WM's engineers had determined was available or likely, and
also was based on taking in Class 1 waste stream at a $30-$35 rate per ton
much higher than is
currently the norm, and, though WCG's Mr. Keely acknowledged the
landfill's current deed restriction of prohibiting any out-of-county waste,
he did not take that in any accounting when in fact that restriction does
exist and the cost of the removing it is an unknown. He countered with the
offer of taking 180 days, working with the County and Lykes Bros to lift
the restriction, at the same time determining the actual waste stream
market, with guaranteeing the host fee to be no less than $3 per ton, which
would be approximately 20% of the revenue.
(More on the Landfill this weekend on the Sunday Morning News...Ed)


Monday, June 14, 2004

Citrus Mutual Elects Officers

LAKELAND, FL. -- On June 9, Florida Citrus Mutual's board of directors held
its 56th Annual Meeting in Lakeland. Marty McKenna of Sebring, McKenna &
Associates Citrus, Inc., was elected president of the association.
Vice-presidents elected for the 2004-05 season are: Steve Sorrells of
Arcadia representing the western area; Philip C. Gates, Jr., of Fort
Pierce, representing the eastern area; Squire Smith of Winter Haven
representing the northern area; and Ronnie Oakley, Jr. of Alva representing
the southern area. J.A. "Jay" Clark, III of Wauchula was re-elected as
secretary and Dennis Broadaway of Haines City was elected as
treasurer.
The board of directors re-elected Andrew W. LaVigne as executive vice
president/CEO, Jewel Letchworth as assistant secretary and Kevin Metheny as
assistant treasurer. Mutual's members elected the 21-member board of
directors on May 13, 2004. Each director serves a one-year term, with a
term limit of two years for the president.
Other members of the board include: Bob Barthle of San Antonio; Robert E.
Battaglia of Winter Park; Fran Becker of Arcadia; Raymond "Bo" Bentley of
Winter Haven; David Evans of Oviedo; Richard "Ric" Freeman of Winter
Garden; J. Emmett Evans, III of Vero Beach; P. Louis Haverlock of Balm;
Jack Nelson of Umatilla; J. Brantley Schirard, Jr. of Fort Pierce; Steve
Smith of LaBelle; Trey Smith of Vero Beach; Wade Timpner of LaBelle; and
Travis Wise of Sebring. Florida Citrus Mutual, founded in 1948, is the
state's largest citrus grower's organization with more than 11,000 members.


Saturday, June 12, 2004

LaBelle Talks Expanded Water District

by Donna Storter
LABELLE, FL. -- At Thursday's public meeting, the LaBelle City Council
discussed a water and waste water service distict ordinance that
establishes an expanded zone of influence allowing the cityh to control
utility expansion outside the incorporated city limits up to a radius of
five miles.
LaBelle resident (and former County Commissioner) Cecil Akin voiced
objection to the City taking on utility services five miles away when they
have not provided full utility service for all citizens within the
existing city limits in LaBelle including his funeral home business on
East Hicpoochee Ave. Mayor Craichy stated the lines were not being
forced in on anyone, the ordinance was putting in place provision for
future development. Lyoid Fussell, resident of Hendry County on Case
Road, south of the city limits of LaBelle, expressed concern that most of
the residents in his area would not be able to afford the assessment to
tie in.
Steve Ramunni, assistant to Hendry County's attorney, stated that it
seemed legally premature for LaBelle to take this action as Hendry County
is working on a comp plan amendment that includes the areas designated in
this ordinance, and mentioned there was a possibility of overlapping
areas. Hendry County Commissioner Darrel Harris admonished the
Council that in remembrance of the LaBelle/County problem when LaBelle
annexed the Paul property, he felt the County should have been included in
the planning and discussion of the ordinance, and further stated it was a
break down in communication. He questioned the boundary extending five
miles, and he questioned would the ordinance make usage of LaBelle
utilities within the five mile area mandatory, or just available.
Mayor Craichy stated the ordinance was part of the City's planning process
and that consideration was given to the County's utility plant in Port
LaBelle with it's capability for expansion to serve areas south of Port
LaBelle, and further stated that the City planning meetings were well
advertised and the County did not participate prior to the adoption of the
ordinance.
Bobbie LaBelleine, resident of Hendry County on Evans Road, south of
limits of LaBelle, stated she would not be able to use LaBelle's water as
it is not drinkable now, that even the council meeting was providing
bottled water at the back table. Mayor Craichy first explained bottled
water on the refreshment table was for convenience, not because LaBelle
water was not safe to drink. She explained the LaBelle has been in the
utility business since the 1920s, and in anticipation of the rapidly
approaching phenomenal growth, LaBelle chose this exercise in planning for
the future not aiming at residents on septic tanks with water wells, nor
attempting to force anyone onto the system. The city's attorney said
that it would not be cost effective to run pipes to existing residences
five miles away. The provision was to capture all in the area as regard
to eventual development, so that utility construction and management would
not be dependent upon private developers but control by government
entity. He stated that communication with the County should have
happened, but was not required in accordance with the Florida Statutes.
He stated that the ordinance is legal and proper. Councilman Puletti
questioned why not rescind, confer with the County, then perhaps reach an
agreeable boundary of three miles from the west limits of LaBelle. The
city attorney stated it is common to do inter-local agreements to define
"territory" of service which could be done now without going to the
trouble of rescinding the ordinance, then starting the process again to
adopt. Puletti stated that the dialogue with the County did not
happen, and the LaBelle council voted without knowing of County's
objection to the designated areas of service , until after adoption and
publication. The attorney elaborated that municipalities cannot (by
this ordinance) claim territory and not provide service; he stated cities
have an advantage over private utility providers in that loans are
available with tax-exempt interest, cities don't pay income tax or ad
valorem tax, and have no investors waiting for dividends; cities have
capital available at lower rates thru RUD with interest 3% under
prevailing bond rates which are now 4.9%, thus the city could borrow at
less than 2%. Should the City be unable to provide the services, it would
have to grant the right to developers to go elsewhere for service
provision.
Cecil Akin urged rescission, allowing it to go back to discussion between
the City and County. Utility Director Boyle stated a new plant with
more customers would lower rates. Hendry County Commissioner McCarthy
stated that utility services five miles out from city limits should
involve the County, should be a regional plant. He objected to LaBelle
taking the first five miles from city limits, leaving the further three
miles (to Lee County line) for the County. The attorney reminded that
inter-local agreements could be implemented for feasibility. McCarthy
stated that this (the ordinance) was taxation without representation,
and that if utilities outside limits of LaBelle are affected, then a
lawsuit would be following. Florida law allows municipalities to assess
20% surcharge for out of city utilities.
Mayor Craichy injected that LaBelle in trying to plan for future can
legally do what the ordinance provides, that the intent is to have
government control of water and sewer services, that the city has
drawn a footprint of boundary areas, and the County can state what they
want, reminding them the Port LaBelle utility has to run lines to Goodno,
and if private land developers get utility control then the City would end
up like the County did taking on the Port LaBelle district. She stated
that after months of planning meetings that were advertised, she would not
vote for rescinding the ordinance now. McCarthy stated this was
legislation now, not planning, and that the ordinance would have to be
changed to change the boundaries.
Akin again requested the council to rescind the ordinance and then discuss
with County before re-adopting, stating that without the dialogue there
will be lawsuits. Ramunni stated that legal specialists in Tallahassee
have give exact opposite interpretation of the Chapter 180 rules, that
the City had ignored "special acts". He said to avoid lawsuit with the
County, the ordinance should be rescinded and a time frame set for
dialogue with the County. Mayor Craichy interjected that LaBelle is
already providing utility services outside city limits on Cowboy Way,
Parkwood Estates, and Fort Denaud Road, with no record of inter-local
agreements found. She asked counsel for input. Attorney Luckey
suggested Counsel for City and County set up 30-day workshop and while
doing so could prepare set-aside waiver that would not prejudice the
County, and if after 30 days there is an impasse, then the ordinance would
stand as adopted, subject to lawsuit then. He recommended advertising in
all three local papers. The council voted unanimously to take this
action.
In other matters, the Council granted special exception request of Louise
Kennington for setback variance to allow compliance with City's tree
ordinance. Council granted special exception request of Jennifer Sabella
to operate a coffee shop business on Fort Thompson Avenue without
requiring 1 parking space per hundred square feet of office, citing
availability of 17 parallel parking spaces using both sides of Fort
Thompson. Council granted special exception request of Lyoid Fussell to
allow marine equipment fabrication business in his building on JayCee
Lions Drive with the condition that no boat storage would be allowed on
the property beyond one day required for installation of parts.
Council received no objection in final public hearing to adopt Historic
Preservation ordinance 2004-08. At request of Janice Groves president
of Firehouse Cultural Center, Council appointed Jo Holmes to serve on
FCC's board of directors. New LaBelle resident Victor Beason appeared
requesting permit to operate a business from his home, stating he runs an
inspection service performing his service away from his home, no traffic
would be involved as he would only have an area designated as office, and
had obtained County occupation license. Discussion followed concerning
that workshop sessions of the Code Review Board had addressed the
home-office issue, but had not made recommendation for official action.
Council agreed to not cite Mr. Beason for currently using his home-office
for his business and would inform him when formal action would be
necessary for permit application after Code Review Board action. Notice
was given of upcoming application for four parcels to be annexed into the
city including property on Live Oak Lane, 1180 Hwy 80 West, Fort Denaud
Road, and South Captain Hendry Drive for approximately 21 acres. Hearings
will be separate for each parcel though application was signed by same
individual.
Jerron Hull of AIM Engineering noted the plan for the Lyons parking was to
straighten out the radius, and mentioned he had received a request from
Johnson Engineering and had checked out the Fort Thompson property.
Mike Boyle reporting on the sewer line expansion project stated that the
Notice To Proceed was signed on the 16th, and should start Phase II and
"turn dirt" on July 6th starting on Martin Street by Ace Hardware. In
response to citizen inquiry, he stated that because there was an existing
lift station on Martin, it would be possible to quickly tie into the new
lines for residents on that street, subject to DEP's inspection and
approval. He also confirmed that LaBelle would be providing a contractor
who could/would do multiple tie-ins and individuals could either pay
direct or allow costs to accrue on assessment. On the CDBG grant for
Kenny Wallace, the re-designs and revisions have been sent to DCA and next
week it should be allowed to go out for bid.
Dave Lyons showed the design work-up of the signage for the James
Singleton homage. Citizen Carolyn Ford appeared requesting information
on zoning along Martin Luther King in Sunset Park. She was invited to
attend the Thursday Code Review Board meetings as input is being sought
for Sunset Park to follow-up with plans of James Singleton.


Friday, June 11, 2004

Statement by Jeb Bush

TALLAHASSEE, Fl. -- "Today America says goodbye to one of the world's great
leaders, a man with the power to change the world for the better and the
servant's heart required for this tremendous task.

"Ronald Reagan represented the strength, the optimism, and the compassion of
Americans and the nation we proudly call our own. His legacy extends beyond
a foreign policy that toppled tyranny and a domestic policy that redefined
economics and spurred unprecedented prosperity. He will be remembered for
restoring our national pride and reminding us of all that we are meant to
be. He will be revered for a faith in freedom strong enough to illuminate
the darkest corners of the world and light the way to liberty for millions.

"He looked for the best in us, and never failed to find it."


Glades Commissioner Resigns

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Franklin Delano Simmons, 67, of Moore Haven, resigned
his Glades county commission seat in a letter to Gov. Jeb Bush dated
Wednesday, according to the governor's office. He has served as a county
commissioner since November 1990.
Simmons was arrested Thursday on seven counts surrounding his alleged
unlicensed building contractor activities, including one remodeling job done
for retired County judge Kirby Sullivan's house. Judge Sullivan reportedly
paid Simmons $14,613.16 for the work late last year. Law enforcement
investigators have been investigating complaints of unlicensed contractors
in Glades county for nearly a year.


Ave Maria University Criticized

IMMOKALEE, Fl. -- Under criticism by students and parents at the Ave Maria College in Michigan which is slated to be closed down while Tom Monaghan's new Ave Maria "University" builds its proposed campus south of Immokalee, school officials wrote an "open letter" to a parents group.

Joseph Fessio, S.J., a Jesuit priest and Chancellor of Ave Maria University and Nicholas J. Healy, Jr., President, of Ave Maria University wrote to  parents about the criticism being received:

"And AMU is by now no mere dream. By this fall there should be 300 undergraduate students, four masters level programs, and a new doctoral program in theology. Outstanding faculty have been recruited from Boston College, Duke, Notre Dame and Princeton. At least seven priests will be in residence and serving as faculty, in chaplaincy or in the Pre-Theologate. 

A new "center for discernment" for women considering a vocation to the religious life will be operated by four sisters of a new order from Spain. In short, there is much reality to AMU, and much more promise."

The group concerned about promises of college accreditation said "AMU has no accreditation whatsoever. Only last month AMU withdrew its application for accreditation through the Southern Association of Schools," and claims that Fessio and Healy's promises are hollow since the students will not graduate from an accredited university.

The Ave Maria parents group responded with allegations that Domino "Pizza King" Tom Monaghan has not kept promises in the past: "In 2002 Chairman of the Board Tom Monaghan wrote a note to the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) promising to give "a minimum of $25 million" for the support of Ave Maria College, through the next four years. 

It was on this basis that NCA gave AMC provisional accreditation. In short, Mr. Monaghan promised at least $25 million - in written documents, without equivocation- in order to get accreditation. Parent, faculty and staff have relied on this promise. Parents, faculty, and staff merely want that promise and similar promises to be kept."

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Glades Commissioner Simmons Arrested

67- year old Frankin Simmons, a long time Glades County Commissioner has
been arrested on three felony charges of worker's compensation fraud, and
three felony charges under Florida's unemployment law and a misdemeanor
count of construction fraud. State investigators say Simmons employed three
workers to construct a Glades County home but did not have a contractor's
license. As part of a ten-month joint agency investigation involving
unlicensed and uninsured contractors operating in Glades County, Fla., a
warrant was issued for Simmons arrest. Simmons turned himself in to FDLE
special agents at approximately 11:30 this morning at the Glades County
Sheriff's Office. Agents say that Simmons, who is a Glades County
Commissioner, has been operating as a contractor in Glades County without a
state issued contractor's license. Simmons was operating a construction
business he called Simmons Construction.


Franklin Delano Simmons, Glades County Commissioner Franklin Simmons has been arrested by FDLE special agents on 7 charges after allegedly operating as a contractor without a license in Glades county.

Grapefruit Crop Forecast UP

LAKELAND, Fl. -- Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture
increased its grapefruit crop forecast for the 2003-2004 season by 300,000
boxes, to 40.8 million boxes. The colored varieties were increased by 400,000
boxes to 24.9 million boxes, while the white varieties decreased by 100,000
boxes to 15,900 million boxes.
The orange crop remains at 245 million boxes. Other varieties remaining the
same are: Valencias at 119 million boxes; Early and Midseason, 126 million
boxes; Navels, 4.3 million boxes; tangerines, 6.5 million boxes; Temples, 1.4
million boxes; and Tangelos, 1.4 million boxes.
Officials report the harvesting of white grapefruit varieties are 98 percent
complete with row count surveys for colored grapefruit varieties indicating
harvesting is slightly behind at 96 percent.
The yield for frozen concentrated orange juice (FCOJ) was increased to 1.56
gallons per 90-pound box of oranges.


Monday, June 07, 2004

Ephedra Still Being Found

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner
Charles H. Bronson today announced that his department has issued stop-sale
orders for dietary supplements containing ephedra at more than 182 food
establishments throughout the state since a federal ban on ephedra went
into effect April 12.

The banned dietary supplements have been found in convenience stores,
grocery stores, health food stores, and a warehouse in Fort Lauderdale, and
were discovered by department inspectors during the course of routine
inspections that they conduct to ensure that stores are maintained in a
sanitary condition. The total number of packages of the banned substances
that have been the subject of stop-sale orders run into the thousands,
Bronson said.

"We continue to find these dangerous products nearly two months after they
have been banned," Bronson said. "Merchants need to make sure that they
dispose of these products as they constitute a significant health risk to
consumers."

A stop-sale order prohibits stores from selling an item, and they have the
option of either destroying the item or returning it to its manufacturer.

When the ban was first announced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) last December, Bronson asked food establishments in Florida to
voluntarily pull the products from store shelves while the rule making
process was under way. Inspectors visited more than 15,000 stores in that
effort. Now that the prohibition against selling dietary supplements
containing ephedra is in effect, Bronson's inspectors are assisting the FDA
in enforcing the ban.

Bronson wrote to the FDA more than a year ago, advocating a nationwide ban
on such products on grounds that those products had been linked to more
than 100 deaths nationwide and thousands of injuries.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services initially took
action against ephedra products in 1996 following the death of a teenager
who died while visiting Florida during spring break. At that time,
stop-sale orders were issued on all ephedra dietary supplements containing
more than 25 milligrams of ephedrine alkaloids per dose.


Flags At Half-Staff

Effective immediately and until July 5, 2004, all flags on state property
shall be flown at half-staff in honor of Ronald Reagan the 40th President of
the United States of America who died Saturday, June 5, 2004.

On June 6, 2004, President George W. Bush issued a Proclamation directing
the flag of the United States be displayed at half-staff at the White House
and all buildings, grounds, and Naval vessels of the United States for a
period of 30 days from the day of the death of President Ronald Reagan.

The Governor, Jeb Bush,in accordance with the Proclamation issued by
President George W. Bush dated June 6, 2004 and 36 U.S.C.§175(m), has asked
state and all
local governments to join him in honor of President Reagan by lowering their
U.S. and state flags.


Sunday, June 06, 2004


Mystery Photo Quiz - Who is this man? Hint: he has political connections and some controversy has surrounded this man who is not generally found in the news. Post your comments and guesses!

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Home Invasions in Immokalee/LaBelle

The Hendry County Sheriffs office has been investigating a rash of home
invasion robberies occurring in the Immokalee and LaBelle areas.

Investigation reveals it appears that the robbers target migrant workers.
The crimes are typically committed on weekends. Victims report that the
robbers knock on the front door, upon answering the door, the subject will
ask for someone in Spanish, then will push the victim back into the
residence and force their way into the home. The subjects then make their
way through the residence and gather any other occupants, assembling them
in one common location. The robbers then take money from the victims and
other personal belongings threatening them with unknown type handguns. In
several instances, the victims have been beaten and some hospitalized for
their injuries.

Joint investigations between Hendry County Investigators and Collier County
Investigators have revealed that those wanted are identified as 26 year
old, Alfredo Sonny Gomez, 24 year old Javier Martinez, 21 year old Ruben
Garza, 19 year old Jose Rojas VillaGomez, 23 year old Jaime Navarette, 17
year old Ismael Navarette, 20 year old Jose Navarette.

Law enforcement officials warn that the suspects should be considered armed
and dangerous. If they are seen it is advised that they not be approached
and that local law enforcement be notified immediately.

On May 14, 2004, the subjects were featured on Fugitive Friday on NBC-20,
as a result Ruben Garza turned himself into sheriff authorities that
evening.

This crime was also featured on Crimestoppers airing on five separate
networks and as a result law enforcement authorities have received several
tips from viewers which have resulted in three additional arrests, the most
recent in North Carolina.
Investigators are still looking for:

19 year old Jose Rojas Villagomez, 17 year old Ismael Navarette, and 20
year old Jose Navarette.

If anyone has any information that could help deputies find these
individuals please contact either Hendry County Sheriffs Office at 674-4060
or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477).


Family Caregiver Support

Are you a caring for a loved one 60 years of age or older? You are welcome
to attend the Family Caregiver Support Group. Support groups are held each
month. The next group will take place June 16, 2004 at 5 p.m. at the L.J.
Nobles Senior Center (LaBelle), June 23, 2004 at 5 p.m. at the Clewiston
Senior and June 30, 2004 at 5 p.m. at the Moore Haven Senior Center. For
additional information contact Barbara Marshall at (863)675-1446.
You can make someone feel better today.
How? You can share your time and talents. Provide compassionate care
through friendly visits to others who are lonely. Offer help with errands,
such as grocery shopping, or assistance with everyday chores such as yard
work. Bring joy and respite to family members caring for their frail loved
ones. Call Barbara, at FAITH IN ACTION, (863) 675-1446, to make a
difference in someoneís life through volunteering.
Volunteer Training at a new time!
The next FAITH IN ACTION in LaBelle volunteer training will be held on June
29, 2004 at the L. J. Nobles Senior Center in LaBelle from 6 p.m. For
information please call Barbara at (863)675-1446.
Relative Caregivers Group
Relatives caring for a minor child are invited to a support group created
with "you", the caregiver, in mind. Please join us and meet other
caregivers and share information and ideas; Learn new techniques to deal
with stress; Gain knowledge of caregiving issues and community resources;
Listen to guest speakers and professionals in caregiving fields. Group will
be held on June 24, 2004 at 6 p.m. at the RCMA Krome Center, 551 West
Cowboy Way in LaBelle. Call Barbara at (863) 675-1446 for details or
information. Child care and refreshments provided by RCMA.


Friday, June 04, 2004

Growers Discuss Low-Carb Effect on OJ

By Donna Storter

The Gulf Citrus Growers Association 18th Annual Meeting was held June 2 at
Sanibel Harbour Resort. Approximately 175 growers, sponsors and associates
were in attendance enjoying the luncheon provided by Citrus Industry
Magazine and Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. Following the luncheon and
election of slate of directors and officers, GCGA Executive Director Ron
Hamil presented original citrus artwork to the following four resigning
directors and noted their dedication to GCGA.: Hugh English, serving from
inception in 1985, George Austin, serving from 1987, Bernard Lester,
serving since 1989 and Tom Jones, serving from 1994. All were lauded with
appreciation for their tireless efforts promoting the citrus industry in
southwest Florida through this trade association.
Andy Taylor, Chairman of Florida Citrus Commission, named two key
challenges facing the citrus industry: 1) maintaining the tariff on
imported orange juice and 2) maintaining (and increasing) the domestic
demand for Florida orange juice. He boasted that GCGA's own George
Austin is chairing the committee overseeing the efforts to preserve the 70
year old tariff. Addressing the second challenge, he noted that the
bleak issue of current diminished sales are related to the current "low
carb" diet that has negatively affected many sectors of the food industry
Along with record crop production, the supply far exceeds the demand. But
according to Mr. Taylor, on the positive side, the low carb focus on
health issues reveals the vast majority surveyed are concerned for
nutrition and health food issues overall, and OJ is the most nutritiously
dense natural beverage available. He then introduced keynote speaker Dr.
Dan Gunter, Executive Director of Florida Department of Citrus who
optimistically expressed the opinion that the current "low carb" diet was
only a short-term fad, whereas the nutritional awareness issues coinciding
with it was expected to become a trend, much longer lasting with
significant impact on health-conscience consumers, thus a return increase
in sales of orange juice, especially the fresh, not-from-concentrate that
had recently become popular. He cited studies that showed weight
control is more apt to be maintained in individuals who consumed 1/4 to
1/5 of daily calories at breakfast, further noting that most orange juice
was consumed before 10 a.m.
In marketing studies aimed at determining the cause of declining sales as
well as solutions to the industry's downturn, he displayed graphs of
respondents whose orange juice consumption habits were: 16% drank orange
juice every day 10% drank orange juice most of the time on a daily basis
10% drank orange juice about half the time on a daily basis 37% drank
orange juice occasionally 27% never drank orange juice He noted that
marketing was more successful in increasing consumption rather than
initiating consumption, thus the FDOC marketing strategy now was aimed at
the 10% and 37% users.
A video of the current orange juice campaign advertisement was shown, the
one where a man is attempting to concoct a nutritional cocktail in his
blender by adding liver, bananas, and a fish, then showing a 90-calorie
glass of orange juice that contained as much nutrition.
Marketing tests have shown that 85% of viewers understand the content of
the commercial, including the references to nutrients, and most will pay
attention to the commercial and watch all of it because they are revolted
by the concoction and want to see if he will actually drink it. He
concluded that it was the responsibility of the citrus growers to grow the
product, and the responsibility of the Department of Citrus to grow the
market demand for it. His final statement was positive, that there is no
substitute for orange juice.


Citrus Growers Give Awards, Discuss Low-Carb Diets

Contributed by Donna Storter

The Gulf Citrus Growers Association 18th Annual Meeting was held June 2 at
Sanibel Harbour Resort with approximately 175 growers, sponsors and
associates in attendance enjoying the luncheon provided by Citrus
Industry Magazine and Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. Following the
luncheon and election of slate of directors and officers, GCGA Executive
Director Ron Hamil presented original citrus artwork to the following four
resigning directors and noted their dedication to GCGA.: Hugh English,
serving from inception in 1985, George Austin, serving from 1987, Bernard
Lester, serving since 1989 and Tom Jones, serving from 1994. All were
lauded with appreciation for their tireless efforts promoting the citrus
industry in southwest Florida through this trade association.
Andy Taylor, Chairman of Florida Citrus Commission, named two key
challenges facing the citrus industry: 1) maintaining the tariff on
imported orange juice and 2) maintaining (and increasing) the domestic
demand for Florida orange juice. He boasted that GCGA's own George
Austin is chairing the committee overseeing the efforts to preserve the 70
year old tariff. Addressing the second challenge, he noted that the
bleak issue of current diminished sales are related to the current "low
carb" diet that has negatively affected many sectors of the food industry
Along with record crop production, the supply far exceeds the demand. But
according to Mr. Taylor, on the positive side, the low carb focus on
health issues reveals the vast majority surveyed are concerned for
nutrition and health food issues overall, and OJ is the most nutritiously
dense natural beverage available.
He then introduced keynote speaker Dr. Dan Gunter, Executive Director of
Florida Department of Citrus who optimistically expressed the opinion that
the current "low carb" diet was only a short-term fad, whereas the
nutritional awareness issues coinciding with it was expected to become a
trend, much longer lasting with significant impact on health-conscience
consumers, thus a return increase in sales of orange juice, especially the
fresh, not-from-concentrate that had recently become popular.
He cited studies that showed weight control is more apt to be maintained
in individuals who consumed 1/4 to 1/5 of daily calories at breakfast,
further noting that most orange juice was consumed before 10 a.m. In
marketing studies aimed at determining the cause of declining sales as
well as solutions to the industry's downturn, he displayed graphs of
respondents whose orange juice consumption habits were: 16% drank orange
juice every day 10% drank orange juice most of the time on a daily basis
10% drank orange juice about half the time on a daily basis 37% drank
orange juice occasionally 27% never drank orange juice He noted that
marketing was more successful in increasing consumption rather than
initiating consumption, thus the FDOC marketing strategy now was aimed at
the 10% and 37% users.
A video of the current orange juice campaign advertisement was shown, the
one where a man is attempting to concoct a nutritional cocktail in his
blender by adding liver, bananas, and a fish, then showing a 90-calorie
glass of orange juice that contained as much nutrition. Marketing
tests have shown that 85% of viewers understand the content of the
commercial, including the references to nutrients, and most will pay
attention to the commercial and watch all of it because they are revolted
by the concoction and want to see if he will actually drink it.
He concluded that it was the responsibility of the citrus growers to grow
the product, and the responsibility of the Department of Citrus to grow
the market demand for it. His final statement was positive, that there is
no substitute for orange juice.


Ave Maria College Parents Fed Up

An open letter by Dr. Edward Peters, a Canon Law Professor who has taught
for three years at Tom Monaghan's Ave Maria College in Michigan. He is with
the Ave Maria Insitute for Pastoral Theology and along with other Ave Maria
parents is concerned about what they categorize as a pattern of
mismanagement and disregard for human dignity in Ave Maria's various
operations. Monaghan is trying to build a new Ave Maria campus near the
small town of Immokalee, Florida and calling it Ave Mara University. The
campus is temporarily operating in Naples in a former retirement home.

Statement by Dr. Peters:

Three years ago, I came to work for the Institute for Pastoral Theology, one
of several projects in the Ave Maria system (itself funded, of course, by
Tom Monaghan) for which numerous accomplished professionals were being
recruited. At that time, these undertakings included, besides my graduate
theological institute, a law school, one (then two) regional liberal arts
colleges, a pair of radio stations, a newspaper, a network of elementary
schools, and a new convent, to name just some. We who committed to these
efforts did so with clear understandings from Ave Maria leadership about
where we fit in the overall operation, what our responsibilities were, what
administrative direction we should plan on, the organizational support we
could expect, and so on. Upon arrival in our new homes and works, we threw
ourselves into these important projects with ability and enthusiasm. By any
measure, each of these Ave Maria efforts achieved manifest, and sometimes
even stunning, results. In short, the dollars provided by Monaghan were
enabling the talent provided by us to make a real difference in the world.

Increasingly, however, it has become clear that Tom Monaghan regards Ave
Maria, not as a kind of public trust with obligations in justice to the
community, nor even as a cooperative effort between one man blessed with
money and many people blessed with skills, but rather as his personal domain
which he can effectively treat however he wants, whenever he wants. He seems
to consider himself the sole contributor to the Ave Maria project, and
therefore acts as though he should be sole decision-maker.

This is very wrong in two ways.

1. Even if it's true that Monaghan is the sole financial contributor to Ave
Maria, it is not true that his are therefore the only contributions being
made to these efforts. People, not dollars, do the real work at Ave Maria.
Monaghan has contributed a significant percentage of his money to Ave Maria,
but many, many talented people have contributed a significant percentage of
their lives to it. It is imperative that their innumerable gifts of self be
given recognition alongside Monaghan's measurable gifts of money, and that
the ideas and desires of those who work for Ave Maria be given as much
respect as the ideas and desires of those who fund it.

2. If Monaghan has, in fact, given money to various Ave Maria projects, that
means those resources are no longer his to do with as he pleases, but
rather, they become the responsibility of various boards and administrators
to expend justly. While any board that receives the majority of its funds
from a dominant donor might feel some pressure to comply with the
preferences of that donor, they must not allow themselves to be relegated to
the role of yes men, simply ratifying every wish or whim of the major giver.
Charitable work is not about control, it's about service. Philanthropy is
not about getting acclaim, it's about proclaiming the dignity and worth of
the projects and people one supports. If Monaghan has made commitments to
Ave Maria, his boards and advisors are bound to hold him to his word; if
they, in turn, have made commitments to programs within Ave Maria, they must
honor them.

There is, unfortunately, as I suggested above, ample evidence that very many
commitments, expressed and implied, are not being honored within Ave Maria.
In witness whereof, incredible as it might be, consider that each of the
once-vibrant major operations listed above has, in less than three years,
either been abandoned by Monaghan (and since disappeared) or is in turmoil,
if not crisis, as a result of his preemptory announcement that he's now
pursuing different plans. Moreover, those who work for (not to mention the
populations served by) these efforts have been given a clear message: if
they don't like it, they can leave, or shift for themselves when he leaves,
as the case may be. But while a man with control of hundreds of millions of
dollars might do whatever he wants, most of us who, with families or other
dependents, pulled up stakes and moved hundreds or even thousands of miles
to work here simply can't.

So far, neither Tom Monaghan's governing boards nor his inner circle,
notably President Nicholas Healy and Chancellor Joseph Fessio, SJ, seem
willing or able to resist the relentless, even reckless, pursuit of whatever
constitutes the latest version of the Monaghan vision, despite the serious
suffering that such vacillations and abrupt reversals impose on the very
people who came here in good faith to serve, and regardless of the
destruction being wrought on their accomplishments. The personal talent,
training, and years that have gone into building up these fine works on
behalf of Ave Maria apparently count for nothing. Ironically, the very
legacy that was being built up with Monaghan's help is now being torn down
at his will. It is a tragic and scandalous waste of the human and financial
resources given by God.

Aside: I know of no one in the Michigan-based operations of Ave Maria who
wants to see the proposed Florida project fail. But it is a travesty to gut
numerous thriving operations in one place to feed a fledgling one in
another. If indeed it turns out that, like the man who set out to build
before figuring the cost (Lk 14: 28-30), Tom Monaghan has insufficient
resources to fund both, then the proper response is to humbly admit the
mistake before others come and laugh, to relinquish the direction of the
Florida idea to others-being content, therefore, to be just one among many
who would make contributions to it-and return to honor the commitments made
in the community wherein he has spent his life and within which he can still
point to many accomplishments. That, obviously, is a decision Monaghan would
have to make for himself, and it would not be an easy one. Whatever else is
happening here, he has my prayers on that.

Personally, though, and notwithstanding the unprofessional treatment I have
frequently experienced at the hands of Ave Maria leadership, I had hoped
that I would quietly continue to work in what's left of my graduate program
and to manage on what's left of my salary while I earnestly seek employment
elsewhere. But suddenly there has arisen a move to transfer what remains of
the Ave Maria College in Michigan to an entirely different school, and that
move threatens not just me, but more importantly, my son.

A bright and very involved student at Ave Maria College for three years, my
son was repeatedly assured that he could graduate from a fully functional
AMC, and not from the some legal fiction thrown together by Ave Maria
leadership with their penchant for institutional shell games. That discovery
was what led to my statement. Simply put: the forbearance with which I have
tolerated contempt for my rights and dignity will not be shown to those who
disregard my children's. I will fight any attempt to abandon the Ave Maria
College that was offered to me and my family and which we accepted in return
for my hard work. That clearly being understood, I still hope and pray that
Monaghan and his staff will cancel this plan and honor the promises made to
my son and to the other students and families of Ave Maria College.

But more fundamentally than that: While the damage already done to certain
Ave Maria projects is irreparable, several others still survive here.
Irrespective of whether Tom Monaghan returns to Michigan or pursues other
projects, I believe that, if freed from the undeserved and useless anxieties
imposed on them, the remaining original Ave Maria projects can rise above
the traumas of the last few years and resume with even greater vigor their
very important services to Church and world. Moreover, I believe that they
will, if they are once again treated by Tom Monaghan with the same deep
respect and spirit of mutual cooperation that they have always shown to him.


Edward N. Peters, JD, JCD
Professor of Canon Law
Institute for Pastoral Theology

It's Friday!

Well, it's finally Friday. Seems like a strange week what with a holiday Monday, but the weekends back! Looks like the rain finally has appeared for Inland Florida. We've been getting the normal summer afternoon thunderstorms to green that grass in the front yard. We'll be preparing the Sunday Morning News this weekend and hope for some time relaxing and catching up on odd and ends around the house. Thanks to all for your comments and suggestions on the stories on the Southwest Florida Online blog!

-Don

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Watermelon Crops At Risk

Watermelon Vine Decline and Fruit Rot - Update
by
Pam Roberts, Rosa M. Muchovej, Gene McAvoy and Phyllis Gilreath

This spring, Southwest Florida watermelon growers have been hammered by a
disorder currently being called watermelon vine decline. The problem was
first seen in the spring of 2003 in southwest Florida and fall of 2003 in
west central Florida, when a number of growers reported problems with
watermelon vine collapsing as the crop approached harvest or soon after
first harvest. Initial symptoms appear as a slight yellowing or weak area
in the field, followed by wilting of the vines, scorched and brown leaves,
defoliation, and rapid mature vine collapse. In most cases progression of
symptoms is quite rapid with a week to 10 days between the onset of symptoms
and destruction of an entire field. In a high proportion of affected
fields harvested fruit displayed a greasy necrosis (brown) on the interior
portion of the rind that rendered the fruit non-marketable. In almost all
cases fruit quality was greatly reduced.

It is estimated of that approximately 60% of the watermelon acreage in the
Immokalee area was affected this spring with losses ranging from 30% to near
total depending on the field. Estimates of losses to growers range from
$25 million dollars to over $50 million dollars.

The disease is particularly vicious in that it manifests itself after
growers have made their maximum investment in bringing the crop to maturity.
In cases where fruit necrosis is present the disease is even more
devastating as a grower loses additional money in the form of harvest and
transport cost to market as well in addition to loss of confidence of the
buyers who have had to turn back loads.

Under the leadership of Dr. Pam Roberts Pathologist at UF/IFAS-SWFREC, in
Immokalee, investigations on the disease and its occurrence are under way
thanks to an emergency grant from the Assistant Vice-President and the Deans
of IFAS. With grant funds Dr. Roberts has recruited three plant
pathologists who are worldwide-recognized specialists in melon declines and
other disorders to help look into the problem.

Since the disease first appeared in 2003 numerous samples and field visits
have been made. To date, results obtained so far are inconclusive but
indicate that there are nutritional deficiencies in most fields tested, for
both plant tissue and soil nutrients. The most frequent soil deficiencies
on the samples we collected are K and S, with some fields having B, Mn and
Fe deficiencies as well. A number of the tissue samples were deficient in K
and S most frequently, but some showed deficiencies of N, P, Mg, Cu, and Mn.

Although nutrient deficiencies have been detected, it is believed that they
simply may have contributed to weakening the plants, thus increasing
susceptibility to disease and allowing for some pathogenic organism to
invade the plant.

There seems to be no consistency regarding soil moisture as it varies from
very wet (> 20%) to very low (< 3%) in the various sampled fields. It does
appear that wetter areas are affected first, but then the decline spreads
over drier areas of the field.

Microorganisms including fungi and bacteria were isolated from symptomatic
tissue. The predominant fungus recovered was Fusarium spp.; however,
Rhizoctonia and Pythium spp. and additional isolates were recovered using
selective and semi-selective culture media for commonly occurring root
pathogenic fungi and bacteria. Further isolations are now being made from
special media. Symptomatic fruit tissue is also being tested for recovery
of pathogens. Isolates and bacterial cultures are being maintained for
pathogenicity screening in the next few months. The ability to cause
similar symptoms by planting in soil from infested fields will be
investigated in greenhouse studies.

Samples are also being examined for transmissible agents by electron
microscopy and recovery of double-stranded RNA and indicator plant
inoculations for further investigation of viruses/viroids, especially those
that could be transmitted by insects. Screening of plant tissue for known
viruses by serological testing has not yielded any viruses other than those
commonly found in watermelon fields in South Florida.

In summary, considerable effort and resources are being directed towards
finding the cause of the problem and avoiding it in the future. However to
date all studies are inconclusive, and no firm conclusions can be made.
Recently the Florida Watermelon Association offered to contribute additional
funds to help identify the causal agent and possible remedies.


LaBelle's "FREEDOM DAY"

It's National Freedom Day. The purpose of this holiday is to promote good
feelings, harmony, and equal opportunity among all citizens and to remember
that the United States is a nation dedicated to the ideal of freedom.

Major Richard Robert Wright Sr., a former slave, fought to have a day when
freedom for all Americans is celebrated. When Wright got his freedom, he
went on to become a successful businessman and community leader in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Major Wright chose February 1 as National
Freedom Day because it was the day in 1865 that President Lincoln signed
the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Do you know what the 13th Amendment
did?

This amendment, an important change to our written law, outlawed slavery in
the United States. Wright gathered national and local leaders together to
write a bill declaring February 1 "National Freedom Day" and President
Harry Truman signed the bill in 1948 making it official.

I feel that the idiots at the LaBelle airport need to know when and
what the REAL FREEDOM DAY stands for and then watch how quick they change
the name of it. Even our County Commissioners don't know, obviously,
especially when they give $5,000 of our tax money to an idiot to conduct
the mess that was at the airport this weekend, it certainly appeared to be
a Biker Rally and not a celebration of what Freedom Day really is.
Nothing like holding it in the heat of the day and then spreading it so far
out that half the people couldn't get to the food and drinks. We had to
assist a couple of the older people out of the ditch that they had to cross
to get to drinks. County Commissioners gave the idiots $5,000 yet they
still charged $60 per booth for the people to have a booth, plus they had a
donation bucket for some plants that were given to them.
Just where does all the money go and where is the money they made last
year? Considering that the County gave them money, their books should be
open for inspection and a report made back to the County Commissioners in
the Sunshine!! Must be nice to use taxpayers money, county employees and
state equipment to make money for ones self and not have to give anything
back, oh well, CROONISM and the waste of taxpayers money once again is
alive and well in Hendry County.
-A TAXPAYER TIRED OF SEEING OUR TAX DOLLARS WASTED ONCE AGAIN, Jocko


Famous Last Words

This will be a short meeting
You can put it together yourself in five minutes
One slice of pizza won't blow my diet
You'll housebreak him in no time at all
They'll feel terrific once you break them in
We've been in business for 30 years, we're not going anywhere
When it sez "empty" there's always a gallon or two left
If you knew anything at all, you wouldn't be a Traffic Cop
You can make it -- that truck isn't coming all that fast
That's not poison oak
I don't burn, I tan
Take off your clothes, the doctor will be right with you
Your table will be ready in 5 minutes
Of course they're mushrooms, toadstools come to a point
No trouble at all, don't give it a second thought
We service what we sell
Believe me, nobody's dressing up

-Thanks to JTH