Saturday, July 30, 2005

Two Dead In Crash

CLEWISTON, FL. (July 28, 2005) -- Two women from Immokalee are dead in an
accident on SR833 in South Hendry County Thursday afternoon about 4:30 p.m..
The FHP says 16-year old Megalina Rios was driving a 2003 Chevrolet and
crossed into to the path of a 2005 Chevrolet driven by Orquidia Littles, 34
of South Kennel Street, Montura. Littles suffered serious injuries and was
transported to Lee Memorial. A passenger in the Rios car , 18-year old
Karen Cypress of Immokalee, also died at the scene. No seat belts were
reported being used by any of the subjects. It was unknown whether alcohol
may have been involved in the case of driver Rios, according to Trooper Cpl.
E.J. Finneran

July LaBelle Real Estate Sales

LABELLE, FL. -- There were 13 homes sold in the LaBelle area this month for
an average price of $125,000. The highest priced home sold went for
$195,000 on 7th Avenue in the city of LaBelle while the lowest priced
transaction was $55,000 on Edison Avenue in the west section of LaBelle.
Port LaBelle homes went for prices between $85,000 and $124,000.

Friday, July 29, 2005

State Sues Real Estate Speculator

Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist this week sued a Singapore resident
for orchestrating an elaborate real estate scam affecting owners of Florida
real estate. The lawsuit accuses Todd Teal of filing fraudulent affidavits
that prevent landowners from selling to anyone but him.

The complaint alleges that Todd Teal, 61, who lives in Singapore, held a
mail drop box in Marco Island and used the Internet to identify land held
in Florida mostly by out-of-state owners. According to the lawsuit, Teal
would make offers to buy the property, hold the property under contract
until he found a buyer to purchase it at a higher price, and in the
meantime threaten the owner with lawsuits and fraudulent affidavits to
prevent the owner from escaping from the unfair transaction. The affidavits
filed by Teal claimed he had a valid contract, and he would threaten to
file a lawsuit to compel the property owner to sell him the property. As
long as the affidavits remained in the court clerk'ôs official record, the
landowner did not have clear title and was prevented from selling to any
other buyers.

These affidavits put a "úcloud" on the title to the property, giving Teal
an unlimited amount of time to arrange for another purchaser to buy the
property from him. If a property owner objected to Teal's legal tactics, he
threatened litigation. Investigators determined that Teal has bought and
sold hundreds of properties, turning more than a million dollars profit in
this manner.

According to the lawsuit, the title to more than 150 parcels of Florida
land has been illegally clouded by Teal's actions. Owners have also
suffered damages from lost opportunities to sell their land because of
Teal's fraudulent scheme. About one-third of the properties involved owners
who live in Florida.

Teal's actions as alleged violate the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade
Practices Act and also constitute the common law offense of slander of
title. The Attorney General seeks an order blocking Teal from buying
additional Florida land and erasing the fraudulent affidavits from official
county records. The lawsuit also seeks penalties of $10,000 for each of the
more than 150 violations under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade
Practices Act, or $15,000 for each violation against a person over 60 years
of age.

Investigators discovered that Teal is operating similar scams in Alabama,
Arizona, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and
Washington. To date, these other states do not appear to have taken action
against Teal.

A copy of the Attorney General’Äôs complaint is available at:
http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/MRAY-6EQPZ4/$file/TealComplaint+.pdf


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Self-Employed Health Insurance

LABELLE, FL. -- Self-employed Floridians in need of health insurance can
obtain it through an open enrollment period during the month of August,
Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher says.

The open enrollment period requires insurance companies and Health
Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) to offer applications for coverage to the
self-employed on a guaranteed-issue basis from August 1 to August 31 each
year, with a plan start date of October 1. The open enrollment period
enables individuals without health coverage to obtain insurance.
Additionally, it provides Floridians that currently have health coverage
the opportunity to switch to another insurance plan.

Small employers are eligible if they have just one employee who qualifies
for coverage, and if they did not go into business primarily for the
purpose of buying health insurance. A sole proprietor, independent
contractor or self-employed individual is considered a small employer only
if all of the conditions and criteria established in the law are met.

A list of insurance companies offering coverage is posted on the Department
of Financial Services  website at
http://www.fldfs.com/Consumers/small_group_market_carrirers.htm. For
available benefits, go to
http://www.fldfs.com/companies/lh_fr/is_LHFR_Small_Emp_Benefit_Plan.htm.

Guaranteed-issue means insurers and HMOs must offer coverage without regard
to health status. Companies that write coverage for individuals are
required to offer only basic  or standard  plans.

With the passage of the Affordable Healthcare for Floridians Act last year,
coverage options for employers include health savings accounts (HSAs) and
health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). HSAs, which operate like
Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), allow people to save their own money
in a tax-free account for use on health related expenses. If the money is
not spent, it will roll over annually and continue to accumulate until the
policyholder is age 65 at which time the money can be used for any purpose.

These accounts will help Floridians pay for out-of-pocket health costs
with pre-tax dollars and empower them to make wise financial decisions
about their medical care,  said Gallagher, who co-chaired the Governor s
Task Force that suggested many of the new choices. These accounts will
not only help lower overall costs in the market, but they provide
Floridians seeking health care coverage another option. Additionally,
young, healthy individuals who so often choose to go without insurance will
be more inclined to purchase this type of coverage. The goal is to provide
all Floridians access to affordable health care. 

Self-employed Floridians who apply for coverage must show certain
documentation verifying that they are operating an active business,
including tax forms, license information and business receipts.

Upthegrove Completes Training

LABELLE, FL. -- Attorney General Charlie Crist this honored School Resource
Officers at the annual conference of the Florida Association of School
Resource Officers. Honored at the conference were eight law enforcement
officers who received the designation as School Resource Officer
Practitioners after completing training through the Attorney General's
Office including Auxiliary Deputy Edward Upthegrove of the Hendry County
Sheriff's Office.

Since 1988, the Florida Crime Prevention Training Institute, a unit of the
Attorney General's Office, has offered the designation of School Resource
Officer Practitioner. This designation is conferred to document an
individual's successful completion of a series of SRO training courses
offered by the institute. The officer must complete 130 hours of
juvenile-related courses from the institute or other authorized training
sources.

With the addition of the eight officers receiving the designation today, a
total of 201 School Resource Officers have been certified as practitioners.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Glades Gives Former County Manager $$

Internet Names Purchased From Cliff Miller

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Glades county, in what some observers say may be a type
of internet "blackmail" or possible official foolishness, is buying the
rights to three "Glades County" website domain names. Responding to the
announcement at the Glades Commission meeting that former County Manager
Cliff Miller had obtained rights to six internet domain websites using the
name "Glades County", Commissioner Echols stated he had conferred with
County Attorney Pringle and the only way to regain control of the domain
names was to pay Miller's asking price of $1,000 each. The Board moved to
purchase the rights for three of the domains as two of them were in use for
internet access and email.

Internet domain name experts point out that it may be illegal for someone
to sell domain names that are other business' trademarkes or names commonly
assocaiated with an existing business name. The legal principal may be
extended to governments in some cases they say. Some also wonder why
there's a need to purchase these "Glades County" names from Miller in the
first place, since there's already an existing Glades county website online
at MyGladesCounty.com. A Google search of "Glades County" brings up that
website, but nothing shows for Miller's supposed domain "Glades County"
domain names.

There may very well be a conflict of interest or ethical problem involved
if the former County Manager is profiting from the sale of "Glades County"
internet domain names to a county for which he was employed as a county
manager.

A search of internet domains shows Glades.com is owned by Glades
Pharmaceuticals in Miami. GladesCounty.com is owned by Total Concept, Inc.
of Cape Coral. Typing in "GladesCounty.com" takes you to
"Citiesofsouthwestflorida.com" which is directed to the Total Concept, Inc.
page highlighting coastal cities from Sarasota to Naples.

The domain names "GladesCountyOnline.com" "GladesNet.com" "MyGlades.com"
and "OfficialGlades.com" "OfficialGladesCounty.com" and numerous other
variations of the name are not not taken by andyone and still available if
the county wants them for $4.00 a year.

Glades County Studying Impact Fees

More Costs To Build?

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- At the Glades County Commission meeting Dr. Jim
Nicholas, University of Florida Professor, and Associate Director of
Environmental and Land Use Law Program has been hired to prepare a study
that will provide data
needed for adoption of impact fees to fund anticipated new growth
infrastructure in accordance with Florida Department of Community Affairs
and state legislative directives for infrastructure concurrency. Dr.
Nicholas emphasized the need to document the rationale for enacting the
user fees to define the impact fee structure's "what" and "why", as a
direct link between the service received and fee paid must be established.
Dr. Nicholas will be paid $12,500 which will cover studying, compiling and
reporting on the elements of Transportation and Public Safety which
includes Emergency Management, Law Enforcement, Emergency Medical, and Fire
Protection.

Of the thirty-two of Florida's sixty-seven counties which have adopted
impact fee ordinances, Osceola County collects the highest at $14,000 per
building permit issued for a single family home, with $1,250 being the
lowest for Wakulla County. Dr. Nicholas noted that because new growth
affects other aspects of county-provided infrastructure, impact fees could
also be imposed for Parks & Recreation, Library, Public Buildings, Water
and Wastewater Treatment Facilities.

The state legislature has already mandated that local governments will fund
education costs, and should a county fail to provide the necessary funding
of providing school concurrency with growth, the state will step in and
take over, not to fund, but to impose additional tax burdens on county
property owners. Impact fees for schools are usually the highest part of
the total fee charged. The cost of preparing the study of the public
schools element is expected to be
undertaken by the Glades County School District. Dr. Nicholas expects to
have the study completed in 90 days, and noted that the gathering of
numbers and information takes time, but crunching the information will go
rapidly.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Another Drug Arrest In Montura Ranches

CLEWISTON, FL. -- (July 19, 2005) -- Sheriff Ronnie Lee announces the
arrest of Juan Yanes of Montura Estates for Felony Possession of Marijuana
with intent to sell, Possession of Marijuana with intent to Distribute and
Possession of Narcotics Equipment for the Cultivation of Marijuana. The
arrest on July 19 was the result of an investigation conducted by members
of the Hendry County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Division.

During a search of Yane's residence at 725 South Shetland Street Montura
Estates, harvested marijuana was found drying along with a number of live
plants and narcotics paraphernalia for growing and cultivating marijuana.
Yanes was booked into the Hendry County Jail.This arrest and seizure
follows closely on the heels of a 63 million dollar drug bust in January of
2005 which is one of the biggest marijuana busts on record in the state of
Florida in the same area of the County and is a further statement of
Sheriff Lee's goal to drive illegal drugs from Hendry County.

Aggressive Bees In LaBelle

Aggressive bee DNA found in almost half local samples

LABELLE, FL. -- The Florida Department of Agriculture says that the more
aggressive African honeybee has entered Florida and department is
attempting to educate growers and the public of the hazards possible. The
Honey Bee Technical Council, established by Florida statute to study the
field of beekeeping and make recommendations on changes to laws, met July
13, 2005, to discuss the status of the bees in Florida. At this meeting,
the Department presented evidence of the continuing crossbreeding habits or
hybridization of the European and African bees in the Florida. AHB DNA was
detected in 40 of 93 samples taken from honey bee colonies in La Belle in
early May 2005.

Concerns related to the increase of AHBs involve safety issues and impacts
to managed honey bee colonies which Florida agriculture depends on. Unlike
EHBs, AHBs strongly defend their hives. If they feel threatened they will
attack and can deliver multiple stings (Europeans sting only once) and
pursue targets (people or animals) over long distances (up to one-quarter
mile).

While the AHBs are good pollinators and honey makers, they are extremely
difficult to manage. They swarm (leave the hive to reproduce) as many as
16 times per year, where EHBs swarm once or twice a year. It would be
extremely difficult for beekeepers to manage hives that are abandoned that
many times, and this frequent swarming behavior also results in the
spreading and dominating of the genetics for this particular insect. AHB
can take over more gentle European colonies, killing the queen and
installing their own AHB queen.

EHB-managed colonies are placed within 20 feet of vegetable crops and
co-exist peacefully with farm workers. Because of their defensive nature,
AHB hives would need to be placed as far away from farm workers as 1,000
feet. The Department is working closely with the beekeeping industry to
address how pollination practices will need to be modified due to the
increase in AHBs.

The department says in case of an attack by a swarm of defensive honey
bees, 1) get away from the bees by going inside a building or car, or 2)
run in a zig-zag pattern until the bees disperse (usually no more than one
quarter of a mile). In all cases, report swarms of defensive bees to local
pest control companies, emergency responders or the state's toll-free
helpline number 1-888-397-1517.

Florida's beekeeping industry has grown tremendously over the years.
Florida beekeepers are consistently among the nation's leaders in honey
production with 17 million pounds produced each year. Honey is only part
of the story. For every dollar of honey produced in Florida, approximately
$150 is generated in honey-bee-pollination services that allow fruits,
vegetables, berries, nuts and other foods to form. Agri-economists
estimate that without honey bees, one-third of the food we eat would
disappear.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Randy Bengston Wins LaBelle Election


LABELLE, FL. -- Sherri Craichy, mayor of LaBelle for 12 years lost Tuesday's city mayoral election to Randy Bengston. Bengston, the county's EMS director,
advertised his campaign as "time for a change" and got his way, winning 477 votes to Craichy's 328 votes. Bengston has advocated hiring a city manager for the small municipality, while Craichy called herself a "full-time" mayor and denied there was a need to hire anyone else to run the city. Political observers say beating incumbent Mayor Craichy at the polls today was quite an achievement for first-time politician Bengston.


Joseph Robert Miller kept his city commission seat with 483 votes over challenger Richard Williams who received 279 votes. Supervisor of Elections Lucretia Strickland said 37% of the city of LaBelle's 2,185 registered voters voted, with the majority of voters taking advantage of early voting before the July 19 election day.


photo - Bengston at last month's candidate forum

Hendry County Arrests

LABELLE, FL. (July 19, 2005) -- Sheriff Ronnie Lee announced an
investigation of a stolen vehicle and
criminal mischief at the Barron Water Control District at 3293 Dellwood
Terrace in LaBelle has resulted in the arrest of John William Chezem
III on July 15. Chezem stole a 1996 Ford pickup truck and drove it to the
Pioneer
Plantation area where he became bogged in a ditch where he abandoned the
vehicle with the engine running and fled the area on foot. Chezem was
charged with Grand Theft Auto, Criminal Trespass, Criminal Mischief and
booked into the Hendry County Jail.

Beverly Marsha May of 1022 Woods Drive LaBelle has been arrested for
burglary of a residence. HCSO Investigators determined that May, knowing
the residents were away, entered the residence and burglarized it. May
stated that she stole the items and traded them for crack cocaine. May
was charged with Burglary of an Unoccupied Dwelling, Theft, Dealing in
Stolen Property and Grand Theft of a Firearm and booked into the Hendry
County Jail in July 15.

Sheriff Ronnie Lee reports that when Hendry County Sheriff's Office
Deputies stopped a vehicle on Cowboy Way on July 18 for illegal window tint
they
found much more than dark windows. The driver of the vehicle, Nelsoned
Martinez-Bocanegra age 22 was charged with Possession of Cocaine,
Possession of Cocaine with intent to sell and for operating a motor
vehicle without a valid drivers license, the passenger in the vehicle,
Jose Franco age 18 was charged with possession of Marijuana under 20
grams. Both men were arrested and booked into the Hendry County Jail.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Ave Maria Catholic University Under Fire

60-Foot Bleeding Jesus At New Church

LABELLE, FL. -- A story written by Don Browne for the Sunday Morning News and Southwest Florida Online website has been quoted in a story by writer Bill Berkowitz of Media Transparency.org. Berkowitz is critical of Domino
Pizza founder Tom Monaghan's plans to build a ultra conservative Catholic "Big Box Church" and private community at the Ave Maria University and townsite south of Immokalee.

Quoting from the Berkowitz story, "Pizza magnate is building homes in a Florida sanctuary for orthodox Catholics called Ave Maria, where there won't be any porn, condoms, or television smut.

In late March, at the first annual Boston Catholic Men's Conference held at Boston College High School, Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza who has become a major league conservative philanthropist, was feeling the spirit. He triumphantly told the enthusiastic crowd of more than 2,000 men (including over 80 priests) in attendance that construction of Ave Maria University -- the first Catholic university built in 40 years -- was moving forward.

According to published reports (by Don Browne of the Sunday Morning News), "the $240 million first phase of the campus plans to be centered around the 'Oratory of Ave Maria,' a 60,000 square-foot church with aluminum and glass arches, and will include the nation's largest crucifix in stained glass with a 60 foot high bleeding Jesus. Officials say the church would be the largest fixed-seating Catholic church in the nation, with room for 3,333 to 3,500 worshipers "

See the complete Berkowitz story at Big Box Church

The Southwest Florida Online article on Ave Maria University and Tom Monaghan is at Ave Maria University

LaBelle School Violating Gambling Laws?

Does school have money to buy the car?

LABELLE, FL. -- In an effort to raise $50,000 by selling lottery tickets,
LaBelle's Upthegrove Elementary School may very well be violating Florida's
Gambling Statutes bigtime. The elementary school, named for the late Ed
Upthegrove, past superintendent of schools, has been selling $100 tickets
for a chance to win a 2005 Mustang vehicle. The car is to be sold to the
school at the dealer's cost if enough tickets can be sold to cover the cost,
according to Tom Conner, Hendry Superintendent of Schools. A good deal for
Langford Ford who gets nine months of free advertising as the school
advertises the drawing and Langford Ford's Mustang, while local merchants
including McDonalds and local banks put up banners and display the Mustang
on their property enticing hopeful winners.

Tom Conner says he believed the elementary school was doing everything
appropriately when contacted Friday by the Sunday Morning News. Conner says
Upthegrove Elementary has been selling tickets for about six months and is
doing the drawing on its own. He added that the school board is not
responsible for the automobile contest. When asked what would happen if
enough tickets couldn't be sold to pay for the car, he said that contingency
had come up in planning meetings, and the plan was to give the ticket
holders back their money. When advised by the Sunday Morning News that the
law says that may be illegal, Conner said the school might have enough
funds in its account to pay for the car, but wasn't sure.

Florida Statute 849.0935 lays out the law for non-profit organizations
wanting to raise money by drawings. The law says it is illegal "to condition
the drawing on a minimum number of tickets having been disbursed to
contributors or on a minimum amount of contributions having been received"
or "to fail to award all prizes offered" or "to cancel a drawing." It is a
violation "to condition the acquisition or giveaway of any prize upon the
receipt of voluntary donations or contributions."

The law also provides that anyone selling tickets and the organizer must
disclose the rules concerning the operation and conduct of the drawing in
all advertisements and on the tickets, and disclose where the funds are
coming from to purchase the prizes. The Florida Statutes also say that no
purchase or contribution is necessary to obtain a ticket. Conner said it
would be a disaster to call off the car give-away at this point and he would
have the school board attorney take a look at the situation later this month
when he comes to LaBelle for the next board meeting.

Mr. Gann, principal of Upthegrove Elementary was not available for comment
Friday, as schools were on a four-day week schedule.

LaBelle Secretary Arrested For Fraud

Allegedly steals more than $160,000 from Colony Helicopter

LABELLE, FL. --(July 13, 2005) -- State Attorney Steve Russell charged
Glenda Selph, 50 with
Organized Scheme to Defraud and Criminal Use of Personal Identification
Information. Both
charges are 1st Degree Felonies and punishable by up to 30-years each in
prison.
Selph, a bookkeeper at Colony Helicopter in Labelle, was originally arrested
by the Hendry
County Sheriff's Office in April on a 3rd Degree Felony for allegedly making
an unauthorized
payment to her own credit card account using a business check from her
employer. This
payment was in the amount of $4,200.00. In May, the case was turned over to
the State
Attorney's Economic Crime Unit for further investigation.

Russell says, "The concern of the
owner of Colony Helicopter, Robert Smith, was that his loss would be much
greater than that
reflected in this single transaction." So far, the investigation by the
State Attorney's office has
revealed that Selph allegedly stole more than $160,000.00 from January 2000
through April
2004. Russell says, "There is still information not received that may
establish an additional loss
to Mr. Smith."
Selph turned herself in at the Hendry County Jail Wednesday on the new
charges and posted a
$100,000 bond.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Gulley Leaving Senior Connections

LABELLE, FL. -- Millard Wagnon, president of the Senior Connections of SW
FL, Inc. Board of Trustees, announced today the resignation of Sue Gulley,
executive director, to be effective beginning in August. Gulley is
relocating with her husband to her home state of Indiana after living in
Southwest Florida for twenty-four years. "It is an understatement to say
she will be missed by all of us," says Wagnon, who added that the national
search for a new executive director will be started immediately. Ms.
Gulley, who served the agency and the community for nearly sixteen years,
stated the move will allow her to pursue new challenges and fulfill some
lifelong dreams. But, she says, "It will be tough to leave this agency and
the people I've met here, which have meant so much over to me over the
years."

Margery Cunningham will serve as interim director until a new executive
director is selected. Senior Connections of SW FL, Inc., a United Way
partner agency, offers a wide array of supportive services to elders in
Collier, Glades and Hendry Counties.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Florida Power and Light Reports Services Out

LABELLE, FL. -- As Hurricane Dennis passes well offshore of the west coast
of Florida, south Florida's predominant electric power provider, Florida
Power and Light says hundreds of thousands of its customers have had their
electric service affected. In Miami-Dade county 196,600 homes and
businesses lost power overnigh and at 9 a.m. this morning, 109,000 were
still dark. Surprisingly, Broward county, well away from the center of the
storm, had 119,800 customers lose power and by this morning, 45,600 had
power restored. In Hendry county, 1300 customers lost power and only 300
remained out this morning, while in Glades county 300 homes lost power and
100 were still out this morning.

Florida Power and Light has had many critics over the years about poor
service and numerous power outages even on non-stormy days. See
FPL Makes Customers Furious for more FPL customer complaints. 352,400 customers overall in Florida have lost power so far
since yesterday and only about half have had their power restored as of this
morning at 9 a.m.

Southwest Florida Braces For Winds and Water

LABELLE, FL. -- As Hurricane Dennis moves northwest of Key West this morning
on it's way into the Gulf of Mexico, residents of southwest Florida closely
watch the storm as strong winds and heavy rains enter the area. At Key West,
wind gusts were recorded at the airport at 72 mph with sustained winds of 50
mph. Monroe county is in a local state of emergency and no fire or rescue
services from Key West through Marathon are available. Three emergency
shelters are open in the lower keys but have no supplies. Rainfall in the
lower keys is expected to be between four to eight inches today.

In Hendry and Glades county, residents are under a flood and tornado watch
as is all of South Florida. In the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades City
areas, tides are expected to be four to six feet above mean sea level this
morning as the storm passes by, causing some roads to be flooded including
State Route 29 in the area of Chokoloskee Island south of Everglades City.

Friday, July 08, 2005

LaBelle Property Sales

LaBelle, Fl. -- Last week property in the LaBelle area sold for an average
price of $217,875. The highest price was for a home on County Road 78 for
$453,000 and the lowest at $69,000 on Hardee Street in the city of LaBelle.
Two Port LaBelle homes sold at $100,000 and $113,000.

Hurricane Price Gouging Hotline

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Commissioner Charles H. Bronson is extending the hours of operation of the
Department's price-gouging hotline, keeping it activated throughout the
weekend.

The hotline was activated on Thursday immediately after Governor Jeb Bush
declared a state of emergency. Florida law prohibits charging excessive or
exorbitant prices for essential items (such as gas, shelter, food, water,
generators, batteries and lumber) once a state of emergency has been
declared. Price increases that can be attributed to increased costs to the
retailer are allowed.

When price gouging can be verified, people and businesses can be fined up
to $1,000 per violation, up to a maximum fine of $25,000 a day.

In the first 24 hours of the price-gouging hotline activation, the
Department has received more than 160 calls. This includes price-gouging
complaints and some requests for information.

"It's important that people know that even before the storm gets very close
to Florida, the emergency is in effect and therefore price-gouging laws are
activated," Bronson said. "I urge people to contact us if they believe any
person or business may be taking advantage of this serious situation for
personal profit."

The price-gouging hotline will be staffed on Saturday and Sunday during the
day and citizens will also be able to leave voice mails if they call in the
evening. Every complaint is investigated by the Department. Citizens are
asked to call 1-800-HELPFLA (1-800-435-7352) with any reports of
price-gouging.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

LaBelle Crash Results In Death

LaBelle, Fl. (July 7, 2005) -- A vehicle crash at the intersection of State
Road 80 and County Road 78A (Fort Denaud Road) has reportedly left one dead
of injuries. The accident was reported to the Florida Highway Patrol at 1:52
p.m. Thursday afternoon. A medical helicopter was called in from Fort Myers
to fly an injury victim to Lee Memorial Hospital. Further details and names
are pending an investigation by the FHP.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

4th of July - A Time To Drink?

The Deadliest Holiday In America

The Fourth of July is the nation's deadliest three-day holiday weekend for
drunk driving. More than one-half of American adults have a close family
member who has or has had alcoholism. Approximately 14 million Americans,
about 7.4 percent of the adult population, meet the diagnostic criteria for
alcohol abuse or alcoholism.

Alcohol is the fourth leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 24,
underage drinking costs Americans nearly $53 billion. In the United States,
the average age that kids begin to drink at is 12-years-old. More than 40
percent of individuals who start drinking before the age of 13 will develop
alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.

The gap between alcohol use by boys and girls has closed. Among ninth
graders, girls consume alcohol and binge drink at rates almost equal to
boys. A study of fifth- and sixth-grade students found that those who
demonstrated an awareness of beer ads also held more favorable beliefs
about drinking and intended to drink more frequently when they grew up.

Men who consume more than two alcoholic drinks per day are at increased
risk for cancer, accidents, and violence. Long-term, heavy alcohol use is
the leading cause of illness and death from liver disease in the U.S.
Alcohol is implicated in more than 100,000 deaths annually.

Recent advertising expenditures in the United States for beer, wine, and
liquor combined ($1.4 billion) totaled about 20 times the amount spent on
milk ads ($70.5 million). A total of $910.4 million was spent on beer ads,
$135.2 million on wine ads, and $377 million on liquor ads.

Early drug and alcohol education is vital for our children; they are the
future of this country. If drinking is delayed until age 21, a child's risk
of serious alcohol problems is decreased by 70 percent. To request drug
education personnel to come to your school or group, go to
www.DrugAddictionHelpLine.com.

-A guest editorial

Vegetable Proposals Sought

LABELLE, FL. -- The Southwest Florida Vegetable Research Investment Fund is
seeking research proposals from qualified agricultural research
institutions, consultants, and other organizations. The Southwest Florida
Vegetable Research Investment Fund is a member funded group composed of
growers and industry partners involved in vegetable production in
Southwest Florida.

The committee will consider other worthwhile project proposals in areas of
vegetable production. Topics of interest could include, use of cover
crops in vegetable production systems, bacterial leaf spot control on
pepper and tomato, frost/freeze protection, powdery mildew control in
pepper and downy mildew control in cucumber and other cucurbits.

Projects should be production oriented and practical in nature and have
immediate application to the commercial vegetable industry in southwest
Florida. Preference will be awarded to on-farm studies. In addition to
cash awards, grower members are willing to participate in on-farm studies
and are willing to contribute in-kind contributions including land, labor
and materials to successful applicants.

Since it's formation in 2000, the SW Florida Vegetable Research Investment
Fund has awarded 15 grants with cash awards ranging $5000 and $15,000
dollars.

Proposals should be submitted to the SW Florida Vegetable Research
Investment Fund, c/o Hendry County Extension Office, PO Box 68, LaBelle,
Florida 33975 no later than July 15, 2005 or via email to
gmcavoy@ifas.ufl.edu

Recent LaBelle Property Sales

LABELLE, FL. -- During the last week of June, there were 8 properties sold
in the LaBelle area for an average price of $69,250. The lowest priced home
was on
Euclid Avenue and sold for $65,000 while the highest priced home was on
Palmdale Avenue and went for $145,000. A vacant lot in Port LaBelle on
East Briarwood Circle sold for $45,000.

Friday, July 01, 2005

State Attorney Office In LaBelle Expanded

LABELLE, FL. (June 30, 2005)-- State Attorney Steve Russell had an
opportunity Thursday to thank those who made funding for the expansion of
the Hendry/Glades County State Attorney's Office possible. Russell hosted
an open house at the recently expanded facility on Cowboy Way in LaBelle,
where county commissioners, city council members, school board members, law
enforcement, judges, government staff and the public toured the facility
and had an opportunity to enjoy many home-cooked foods provided by the
Hendry County staff.

As part of the county's a five-year improvement plan, the Hendry County
Commission provided the funds for the 4,000 square foot addition. The
original building was constructed in 1991 when the population of Hendry
County was approximately 25,000 residents. Now, in 2004, the population
has grown to over 37,000 people. Russell says, "Hendry and Glades counties
have the same priority as Charlotte, Collier and Lee counties, and we will
continue to provide the prosecutors and staff required to keep the citizens
safe." To maintain the Hendry and Glades County pristine lifestyle, Russell
recently added an additional prosecutor to the staff to keep up with the
growing caseload. There are now six assistant state attorneys assigned to
the office. Russell says, "We will continue to add more prosecutors,
paralegals and support staff as part of the long-range expansion plan."

For the first time, staff members have their own offices, along with a
conference room, filing rooms and investigative division. As an added
bonus, the windows and roof are hurricane resistant and can withstand
120-mile per hour hurricane winds. The original building also received
hurricane resistant revisions to the roof to insure the safety of the tens
of thousands of documents housed in the Hendry County office.

Forestry Division To Assist Landowners

LABELLE, FL. -- The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer
Services, Division of
Forestry announces that it will hold a sign-up for enrollment in the
Forest Land Recovery Program (FLRP) from July 22 through October 21.
This program, authorized under the 2005 Military Construction
Appropriations and Emergency Hurricane Supplemental Appropriations Act,
is available to non-industrial private forest landowners on a 75-25 cost
share basis. Eligible practices include, but are not limited to: site
preparation, tree planting, and debris removal activities. Landowners
who own at least 10 acres but no more that 5,000 acres of land in
Florida and who have a practice plan will be eligible to receive funding
assistance under FLRP. A maximum of $25,000 will be available for each
qualifying landowner as reimbursement for incurred expenses for approved
practices. A total of $6,000,000.00 will be available to forest
landowners statewide. Almost half of the state's 14 million acres of
forestland is owned by private non-industrial forest landowners. After
the hurricane season of 2004, many of these landowners are in need of
financial assistance to help restore their forestlands. Landowners can
obtain application forms from their local Division of Forestry office
and from other cooperating agencies. The Division of Forestry's
foresters will provide technical assistance to landowners and will be
the local contact person for participating landowners. For more
information in Lee, Collier, and Hendry counties contact Senior Forester
Michael Weston at (239) 690-3500 ext. 118, or contact Randy Hill,
Conservation Programs Manager, in Tallahassee at (850) 414-9907.

Hendry Sergeant Completes Training

Hendry County Sheriff Sergeant James Wright has completed 210 hours of
training conducted
by the Department of Homeland Security. The advanced training will
benefit Hendry County Citizens during times of natural or human caused
disasters. Through this training Sgt. Wright will be able to share these
skills with other members of the HCSO enabling them to be better
prepared to assist the citizens of Hendry County during different types
disasters or emergencies.

-from a press release by the HCSO

Fort Denaud Bridge


Aerial photo of Fort Denaud just a few miles west of LaBelle, Fl. on the Caloosahatchee River. This scenic river location has one of the few remaining swing bridges left in Florida. The Fort Denaud Bridge "swings" open to allow boat traffic to pass down the river. Fort Denaud was the location of an early 19th century Army encampment.

Photo by Don Browne