Saturday, February 26, 2005


Aerial photo of LaBelle, Fl at the Caloosahatchee River Bridge and site of the annual February Swamp Cabbage Festival. The LaBelle Airport Closes Sunday night for runway extension. See story below.


Photo by Don Browne

LaBelle Municipal Airport Closes

LABELLE, FL. -- The LaBelle Municipal Airport, just two miles south of
downtown LaBelle, will be closing for two months as crews prepare the
groundwork for an expansion of the runway and taxiways. Better Roads, Inc.,
the contractor for the project, has already delayed the work which was
originally scheduled to close the airport a month ago. The current runway
will be lengthened from 3400 feet to about a mile long in order to attract
heavier aircraft including private jets. Alico, Inc., a local land company,
will most likely be flying more of their executives in and out of LaBelle
once the extended runway is open. The local airport brings large benefits to
the local economy as visitors and businessmen use the airport daily and
patronize local businesses.


The airport has two new rows of aircraft hangars which just opened recently
and has seen a new company move into a portable trailer next to the main
office, with flight instruction and aircraft repairs available soon. LaBelle
Municipal has also seen numerous "ultralight" aircraft move on site after
leaving a Glades county airport northwest of LaBelle, which has experienced
some flying accidents and problems with zoning complaints from neighbors.
The LaBelle airport will officially close for two months starting at
midnight this Sunday night.


See LaBelle Airport for more airport information.

Swamp Cabbage Festival Fun

LABELLE, FL. -- The annual Swamp Cabbage Festival in once again bringing
tens of thousands of visitors to rural Hendry county. The annual parade took
off Saturday morning down LaBelle's Bridge Street to Barron Park.
Festivities continue through Sunday with free music and entertainment.


Sunday's schedule includes a Community Church Service at 9 a.m. and Soloist
LaSheba Travis; singing at 10 a.m. with the Eastside Baptist Youth Choir,
followed by Soloist Carolyn Ford. Southern Gospel with Dillon Thomas at
11:30 and lots more music throughout the afternoon until 5 p.m. Master of
Ceremonies for the park events is Mickey Foster.


See Swamp Cabbage
Festival
for more Festival event info and photos.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Groups Team Up For Seniors

LABELLE, FL. -- Since 1995, two great service organizations in LaBelle have
made a difference in the lives of many older residents in the area. Sue
Gulley, Executive Director of Senior Connections, and Debra Woodford,
President of the Kiwanis Club of LaBelle, announced Tuesday that the two
groups will once again work together to address emergency needs among the
elderly in the LaBelle area. A $5,000 grant from the Kiwanis Club to Senior
Connections will continue the work begun last year to provide a safety net
for senior citizens who find themselves in need of emergency or temporary
assistance due to special circumstances.


The agency's "Good Samaritan" program is meant to help elders whose
situations require immediate assistance, without the customary waiting
period experienced by enrollees into federal or state-funded programs. In
2004, elders were helped with meals, utilities payments, home repairs, and
other emergency needs, all made possible by the Kiwanis grant.


Says Gulley, "We have a long-standing partnership with the Kiwanis Club of
LaBelle that has made significant impact on the needs of seniors less
fortunate in our community. The Club is to be commended for its community
outreach to the elderly."


Senior Connections, a United Way partner agency, provides services to
those in need through a variety of different programs and funding sources
so that no one who needs help goes without. Anyone, including the elder,
can make a referral to Senior Connections for help. Just call 675-1446 in
LaBelle for more information on these or other programs offered at the
agency.

UFO Sighting In Ft. Myers

LABELLE, FL. -- According to the National UFO Reporting Service an
unidentified flying object was reported at high altitude moving northwest
over Ft. Myers Wednesday at about 5:30 p.m. According to the report, the
object was shaped like a circle and the sighting lasted two minutes. Within
two hours other UFOs were reported being seen by observers over Royal Palm
Beach, Fl. near West Palm Beach, and then Tavares, Fl. in the center of the
state.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Winn-Dixie 59 Cent Sale

LaBelle, Fl. -- The day after Winn Dixie Stores' bankruptcy filing, stock
traders sold down the stock to 59 cents in morning trading, losing 60
percent from the closing price the day before. Six years ago the stock was
selling for $40 a share. Analysts look for not much hope that one of the
nation's largest grocery chains will be able to pull out of their situation.
If any pullout is forthcoming, it will be a situation where only the most
profitable stores will remain open.


Winn-Dixie faces stiff competition from Wal Mart and Publix. Because these
two chains are not within 25 miles of LaBelle, perhaps the local store will
survive. No word yet on which stores will be closed statewide and when,
although a warehouse has been closed in the Sarasota area and it's food
manufacturing plants will be the first to go. The first step is apparently
for Winn-Dixie to try to renegotiate exisiting leases with their landlords.

Bonita Bay Plans LaBelle Development

LABELLE, FL. -- The Bonita Bay Group plans to develop 4,700 acres just
south of LaBelle along State Road 29 with a potential 15,000 homes along
with stores, a public park and a trade school campus. The property, now
under contract with the Bob Paul Family is now a citrus grove. The Paul
family had donated a parcel of land for the Educational Center of Southwest
Florida several years ago.


The company says it will be three to five years before ground is broken and
the project would take 30 years to complete. An amendment to the
comprehensive plan of Hendry County will be required since the land is now
zoned agricultural. The largest land subdivision in Hendry county still is
Port LaBelle with 36,000 acres of quarter to half acre lots, and was
originally platted in the 1960s. The majoritiy of Port LaBelle is still
vacant lots owned by mostly out of state owners. Hendry county has a current
population of about 39,000.

Winn-Dixie May Bite The Dust

LABELLE, FL. -- The 90-year old Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., based in
Jacksonville has filed for Chapter 11 Bankrupcy protection as vendors
tighten terms for the money-losing grocery chain. The stores in Southwest
Florida are third in market share after giant Wal Mart and Publix. Their
stock has fallen from near $4.30 a share last fall to about $1.50 today. The
Company is taking steps to substantially reduce its lease obligations on
previously closed stores through the Bankrupcy Court.


A press release from the company says, "Following the recent announcement of
Winn-Dixie's second quarter financial results, in which the Company reported
increased losses and reduced liquidity, coupled with subsequent credit
downgrades from the major debt rating agencies, Winn-Dixie experienced a
tightening of trade credit from some of its vendors, which further reduced
its cash availability. No final decisions regarding any additional store
closings or market departures, beyond those previously announced by the
Company, have been made at this time. The Company will announce any such
decisions at a later date."


In LaBelle at the store on Main Street, shoppers may have noticed higher
prices lately and less waiting at checkout lines. The in-store bank closed
up several months back. Whether the LaBelle store will remain open depends
on future decisions of profitability outlooks for the store and the outcome
of the Bankrupcy filings. The LaBelle property is leased by Winn-Dixie from
the Chester Dix LaBelle Corp. of Jacksonville who purchased the property for
$3.1 million in 1996 and on the tax rolls by the county property assessor
now at $4 million.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Swamp Cabbage Festival This Week

LABELLE, FL. -- Another huge local festival begins this week. Probably the
area's largest festival and parade, the annual Swamp Cabbage Festival
arrives this week in LaBelle. The LaBelle Swamp Cabbage Festival, an annual
success as some 25,000 or more people flood the streets of LaBelle for it's
annual parade, with park festivities along the banks of the Caloosahatchee
River. The festival is always held the last full weekend of February. For an
overview of the activities go to Southwest Florida Online's href="http://members.aol.com/browne/scf.html">Swamp Cabbage Festival
page.



An artists rendering of a new Ave Maria University campus building. The new school and town to be built near Immokalee is now in the planning stages pending county and state approvals.

Glades Deputy Sues Okeechobee Police

MOORE HAVEN, FL. ( Feb. 20, 2004) -- Glades County Sheriff's Office sergeant
Ron Baker has filed a federal lawsuit against the Okeechobee City Police
Department alleging character defamation and harassment surrounding his
employment there. Baker worked for the city from 1997 through May 2002 when
he thought he had quit. Baker allegedly decided to quit the force to join
the Army Reserves and reportedly received resistance from the chief of
police and superiors about his proposed resignation. Later he changed his
mind but found what he claims was harassment.


"I was told that if I didn't resign, I would be fired for something petty
and then I would never be able to get a job anywhere," he said. "If I did
resign, then I would get a good reference. They told me that the chief just
wanted me gone," Baker reportedly said. He claims after quitting on what he
thought were good terms, and seeking employment elsewhere, he ran into
rejection from prospective employers and allegedly was then asked by the Ft.
Pierce Police Department why he was "fired" and why he was under
investigation. It was indicated he might have filed false affidavits at
Okeechobee while working there. Baker claims he was not fired and never
falsified affidavits although a court case was dismissed in a drug case
where Baker had pulled over a suspect with a taillight out and allegedly
discovered drugs. The judge reportedly found cause to suppress the evidence
and the case was dismissed.


Ave Maria U Gets Support

IMMOKALEE, FL. -- The Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council is now
supporting Ave Maria University's application to build a new university and
town near Immokalee. The University, is a new Catholic institution founded
by Domino Pizza founder Tom Monaghan. Collier county commissioners will have
a public hearing in June to consider final approval of the plans. The
landowner, Barron Collier Cos. will be giving up development rights in some
of the natural areas in exchange for building credits for environmentally
less sensitive lands.


Glades County representative Edward Elkowitz asked that Collier County and
Ave Maria pay for the road widening of State Route 29 because those visiting
Ave Maria from the east coast will take SR29 to get to the area. "This
doesn't only affect Collier County. It affects Glades, Hardy," Elkowitz
said. "We're talking a whole lot of area." Ave Maria is be built two miles
north of Oil Well Road and one mile west of Camp Keais Road.


The development plan proposes that Ave Maria eventually will have 11,000
residential units and will have 1,000 moderate-income, owner-occupied
housing units, 700 low-income units, and 200 very low-income units. A
28-acre site near the town of Ave Maria is to be given to Habitat for
Humanity of Collier County for 150 owner-occupied affordable housing units.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Home prices rising at record rates. LaBelle average home sold for $139,000 in 2004. Last year 165 homes sold in the LaBelle area.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

LaBelle Real Estate Sets Record

LABELLE, FL. -- Real estate sales in the LaBelle area set record highs in
both sales volume and prices in 2004. $1.66 million in homes sales volume
was recorded with 165 sales. In the Clewiston, area 119 homes sold in 2004.
The average LaBelle home sales price in 2004 was $139,000. The year before
(2003) LaBelle home sales totaled $1.3 million with 122 sales at an average
price of $108,000. The average home sale price in 2004 was nearly 29% higher
than 2003, with sales volume up 35% in 2004. In 2002 only 104 homes in the
LaBelle area were recorded at an average price of $87,250.


November 2004 saw the most homes sales of any one month at 24 homes in
LaBelle. So far, in 2005, seven homes were sold in January at an average
price of $89,000 and one sale in February at $149,000. In the Clewiston
area, 14 homes sold in January 2005 at an average price of $116,000.
Clewiston's record sales month was June 2004 with 22 homes sold.

Monthly Real Estate sales statistics reports are available from the
Sunday Morning News by subscription


Friday, February 04, 2005

In The Service

Air Force Airman Jeffery M. Singleton Jr. has graduated from basic military
training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.
During the six weeks of training, the airman studied the Air Force
mission, organization, and military customs and courtesies; performed drill
and ceremony marches, and received physical training, rifle marksmanship,
field training exercises, and special training in human relations.
In addition, airmen who complete basic training earn credits toward an
associate degree through the Community College of the Air Force.
He is the son of Barbara and Jeffery Singleton of W. Alverdez Ave.,
Clewiston, Fla.
Singleton is a 2004 graduate of Clewiston High School.