Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Residents Evacuate Muse Homes

LABELLE, FL. -- A controlled burn in the Muse area got out of control this
afternoon and has turned into a major brush fire. Authorities have called
out fire units from LaBelle, Muse, Ortona, Moore Haven, and Alva to the
area of Sunset Trail and Silver Lake Rd. in northwest Glades county. At this
time three homes were reported in danger and occupants in homes in the area
of the fire have been asked to evacuate.

The National Weather Service had issued a warning today for Hendry and
Glades county because of the fire danger due to exceptionally low humidity
expected of about 35% and winds which could spread fires quickly. The
warning was issue for the hours between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Friday, February 24, 2006

LaBelle Homes Sales This Week

LABELLE, FL. -- From February 14 to February 21 there were 3 homes sold in
the LaBelle area for an average price of $196,333. $185,000 was the sale
price for a mobile home on Fort Center Ave. northwest of LaBelle, $204,000
for a home on Iris Circle in Port LaBelle and $200,000 for a home on North
Riverview in the city of LaBelle.

Festivals Coming Up

Here's what coming up around the area - festivals, fairs and the LaBelle Swamp Cabbage Festival this weekend:

• Feb. 22-26 – 14th Annual Antique Engine & Tractor Show @ Flywheel Park, Avon Park

• Feb. 24-26 – Swamp Cabbage Festival, LaBelle. 863-675-0125

• Feb. 25 – Chalo Nitka Big Fish Tournament, Moore Haven @ Alvin Ward Boat Ramp

• Feb. 25 – Arcadia Antiques Fair, Historic Downtown. 863-949-4033.

• Feb. 25-26 – 6th Annual Rotary LegendsChallenge Race, Avon Park

• March 1-5 – Pioneer Days, Zolfo Springs, Hwy. 17 & S.R. 64. 863-773-2161

• March 3-5 – Chalo Nitka Festival & Rodeo, Moore Haven. 863-946-0440

• March 3-4 – Okeechobee Main Street Top-of-the-Lake BBQ, Downtown Okeechobee. 863-357-MAIN.

• March 3-5 – Historic Sportscar Race at Sebring International Raceway. 863-655-1442

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Visit A Cemetery - Win An IPod

LABELLE, FL. -- Now that we have your attention...you really can win an IPod. Visit one of our newest websites including our latest Cemetery Tombstones and then register online at the webpage, you then can add a comment, photo, or rate your favorite cemetery photo and be eligible each day that you make a entry on one of our pages for an Apple IPod courtesy of the webserver company who will chose one winner each day.

Cemetery Tombstones shows photos and comments about some gravestones in our local cemeteries including the Fort Denaud in Hendry county, and the Ortona cemetery in Glades county. After registering you may upload your own photos of tombstones or cemeteries to memorialize your relatives and loved ones and provide a lasting memory online for everyone to see. Search photos by any keyword or list them in order of date, or even "favorite" photos.

Also be eligible for the daily drawing by posting to any of our other new websites:

South Florida Dating - post here to meet new friends for fun or relationshops

Best Book Library - post here your personal library and reviews, books wanted to read, books read already, and compare what others are reading

Hendry Area Restaurant Reviews - post and rate your favorite or not so favorite area eating places using maps from Yahoo!

Hendry-Glades Restaurant Reviews - same as above but slightly different format to post your area eating places and rate them

Each time you make an entry to any webpage you get an extra chance to win an IPod. Chance of winning will depend on the number of entries received.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Restaurant Reviews Online

Got a favorite eatery around Hendry/Glades county?

We have two new restaurant review webpages now online and need some of you to add restaurant reviews to the current listings. One review page uses Google maps while the second uses Yahoo! maps of the LaBelle area. Both sites ask you to register to be able to add a review and give a restaurant a rating of one to five stars. The webpage then averages all the reviews to come up with a star rating for each restaurant.

So all you restaurant patrons out there, please feel free to add your favorite or not so favorite eating place in the area and give it a rating. And let us know which website you like the best. Bon Appetite!

Hendry-Glades Eateries - (Area maps by Google)

Hendry Restaurants - (Area maps by Yahoo!)

Glades County Programs May Save Taxes

MOORE HAVEN, FL. (Feb. 22, 2006) -- Glades County's 19.94 square mile
Enterprise Zone, which includes the entire city limits of Moore Haven, as
well as portions of Palmdale, Muse, Lakeport, SR 80 and areas along US 27
was re-designated in January, making businesses and in some cases
residents eligible for tax incentives. Companies and residents building or
expanding properties within the enterprise zone are eligible for up to
$5,000 or $10,000 in refunds of sales tax paid on building materials.

Once the certificate of occupancy is issued, the property owner can elect
to have the property reappraised. The property, which may have increased
in value from $18,000 to $40,000, with the new construction makes the
property owner eligible for up to $512.00 in refunds of the sales tax paid
on those materials.

In calculating the sales tax refund, the difference in the assessed value
before the rehabilitation or new construction and after is calculated by
97 percent of the state sales tax, using a state-prescribed formula. The
applications are available in the EDC office, which submits them to the
Department of Revenue.

As Glades County Superintendent Wayne Aldrich observed, with impact fees
expected to go into effect in March, which will add $8,000 to the cost of
new residential construction, the $5,000 per parcel refund should
encourage development within the enterprise zone. For commercial
properties, which may take up two lots, companies may be eligible for
$10,000 per lot.

Glades County Economic Development Council Executive Director and
Enterprise Zone coordinator Tracy Whirls notes also that properties rebuilt
on lots where substandard or hurricane damaged homes and businesses were
cited won't be subject to impact fees if the new or rehabilitated structure
is the same size as the original. In addition to the building materials
sales tax refund, businesses locating within the enterprise zone are
eligible for job creation tax credits, and refunds on sales tax paid on new
business equipment.

Also, businesses located in an enterprise zone can also qualify for the
jobs tax credit against either their corporate income tax or Florida sales
and use tax. The program provides a credit of 30 percent of wages paid to
new eligible employees who are residents ofa rural county, not just in
Glades County, but in neighboring Hendry, DeSoto, Hardee, Okeechobee and
Highlands County and Immokalee as well. If more than 20 percent of the
employees are residents of an enterprise zone, the credit is 45 percent.

Businesses may be eligible for sales tax refunds paid on the purchase of
business equipment. For more information on Glades County's enterprise
zone tax incentives, call Ms. Whirls at 946-0300, or email

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Real Estate Up Or Down?

Supply May Now Exceed Demand?

A survey of the Port LaBelle area in Hendry county may be some indication of where real estate is heading in the next few months or years. Whether prices will continue upward may depend on how developers and builders as well as land owners are able to cope with an increasing supply of new homes and vacant lots for sale in what may be a decreasing demand for real estate in both homes and land.

Professionals in the real estate business, brokers and salesmen, builders, and professional speculators have bought up a significant amount of Port LaBelle land over the last several years. Only three years ago, Country Homes and Land and its various corporate entities were bulk mailing to Port LaBelle lot owners offering to buy vacant land. The majority of land owners were out of state or out of county individuals who had paid $6000 or more for their quarter acre lots from the original developer General Development Co. or its successors after its bankrupcy. CHL was able to buy plenty of lots from those owners who had held their property for nearly 30 years and sold to CHL for only several hundreds of dollars. CHL also picked up hundreds of parcels from a bulk sale from the bank and companies that took over the property from General Development. CHL also took in a large inventory of lots as a result of tax deed certificates they held when property owners failed to pay property taxes.

The demand for lots began several years ago led first by CHL and then real estate brokers and salespeople from out of the area who sensed Hendry county might be a place to get in on the "ground floor" of a coming price appreciation trend.The brokers started to follow CHL's marketing tactic of mailing every lot owner asking to buy. As more and more real estate companies began buying the prices escalated dramatically until prices reached the mid-fifties for a Port LaBelle lot. Meanwhile, those out of area owners saw the upward price movement happening in just two years and began listing their lots with Hendry, Lee and Broward county brokers for sale in the 40s and 50s, thinking "now" was the time to cash out. Unfortunately everyone got the idea to sell at the same time so the market in Port LaBelle lots is saturated with sellers. The buyers for the last several years have been mainly limited to builders, and professional speculators. Only a few private individuals have purchased vacant lots.

Where the market for real estate in Hendry and Glades county is headed may depend greatly on how those real estate speculators and builders can weather any possible downturn in prices or sales volume.

See Port LaBelle - Real Estate info

See Southwest Florida Real Estate Brokers online

What's New On Local Websites?

Books, Dating Online, Restaurant Reviews

The Sunday Morning News and Southwest Florida Online has placed three new webpages online this week for your entertainment, information, and curiosity. Want to share your favorite books with others, or find a special person for yourself or friends, or rate your favorite restaurant? Try these new webpages:

Best Books Library allows you to rate and review your favorite books, catalog books you own or list those you want to read along with reviews from others to help you find a good book. Links take you to Amazon.com for more information or to make an online purchase.

South Florida Dating is where you can place information about yourself in order to meet others with similar interests who either live in our area or are planning to visit, or move here. If you have a photo you can upload it as well.

Hendry-Glades Eateries lets you add a favorite restaurant to a list of local establishments. You can also rate your best and worst eating places. A map online shows area streets for how to get to the restaurant.

Rural Counties Area Of Economic Concern

MOORE HAVEN, Fl. (Feb. 20, 3006) -- Governor Jeb Bush this week announced
the re-designation of the south central region, which includes the counties
of DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands and Okeechobee, the cities of
Pahokee, Belle Glade, and South Bay and the community of Immokalee, as a
Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern.

An area designated a Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern
receives priority attention from state agencies to ensure communities
receive the technical assistance and other resources needed to further
economic development initiatives and local projects. The Rural Area of
Critical Economic Concern initiative also allows the Governor, through his
Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI), more flexibility in applying
or waiving criteria requirements, local match or similar provisions
considered by economic development incentives programs. Local governments
and regional organizations work closely with REDI, a multi-agency
initiative, to identify and pursue economic development opportunities. The
Governor's Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development provides
additional assistance to rural communities to solve problems affecting
their fiscal, economic or community viability.

"Everyone in the region is very appreciative of the re-designation as a
Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern," said K.S. "Butch" Jones, Glades
County Commissioner and Chairman of Florida's Heartland REDI, Inc. "The
people of this region have struggled to catch up to the state in economic
development. We are hard working and good people, but our lack of
infrastructure and the pressures on agriculture, along with two devastating
hurricane years have created challenges that could bend even the strongest
economies. We look forward to becoming a region with high-skill, high-wage
jobs and this designation will assist in that process. "
The Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern designation lasts five years.
An evaluation at the end of the five years results in a recommendation by
REDI as to whether the designation should be continued. Three areas have
continued their designation since 1999. In addition to the south central
Florida region, areas in northwest and north central Florida have also
received the designation.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

22-Year Old Arrested On Child Sex Charges

LABELLE, FL. (Feb. 17, 2006) -- Hendry County Sheriff Ronnie Lee reports
the arrest of Mitzi Ann Holland age 22 of 4016 North Edgewater in Port
LaBelle. Acting on a complaint from the mother of a minor, Hendry County
Office Criminal Investigators determined that Holland allegedly had sex
with a 14 year old on three different occasions at the suspect's home.
Holland was
charged with Lewd and Lascivious Battery and booked into the Hendry
County Jail with a $25,000.00 bond

Lots Of LaBelle Home Sales

LABELLE, FL. (Feb. 19, 2006) -- There were 17 real estate sales in the
LaBelle area from January 24th to February 14th for an average price of
$156,000. The highest priced home went for $256,00 on Riverbend Ave. while
the lowest price was $112,000 for a home on Schooner Drive. Port LaBelle
lots were showing prices from $36,000 to 58,000.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Traffic Stop Finds Cocaine

CLEWISTON, FL. (Feb 14, 2006) -- A traffic stop for speeding on Lewis
Boulevard at approximately 8:54 pm
on February 13, 2006 resulted in the arrest of 26 year old Laart Ronjik
Gary of 929 Arkansas Avenue Clewiston. According to Sheriff Ronnie Lee,
when Hendry County Sheriff's Office Road Patrol Deputies stopped Gary
for excessive speed and asked him to step out of his brown in color
Oldsmobile they noticed a bulging object under his sweat shirt. When
asked if he had any weapons on him he replied yes, at which time he was
placed In handcuffs and a silver 380 caliber pistol was removed from his

An inventory was made on Gary's vehicle resulting in the
discovery of approximately 26 grams of cocaine. Gary was charged with
Possession of Cocaine with intent to sell and Carrying a Concealed
Firearm and booked and booked into the Hendry County Jail with a bond
set at $18,500.00.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

LaBelle Burglary Suspect Arrested

LABELLE, FL. -- Feb. 13, 2006) -- An investigation by the Hendry County
Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Division has led to the arrest of
Jaime Lee Gibson age 45 of 922 Nobles Road LaBelle. According to Sheriff
Ronnie Lee, Gibson was identified as the person responsible for a burglary
of a residence 928 Nobles Road. Investigators were able to recover the
stolen property and
return it to the owner. Gibson was charged with Burglary of an
Unoccupied Dwelling and Dealing in stolen property and booked into the
Hendry County Jail.

Traffic Stops Net Drugs

CLEWISTON, FL. (February 13, 2006) -- When Deputies from the Hendry County
Sheriff's Office Road Patrol Division stopped a white in color Oldsmobile
for running a stop sign they issued more than a traffic ticket. Sheriff
Ronnie Lee
reports that while the driver was guilty of a traffic infraction, his
passenger, 23 year old Larry Wayne Summers had a much more serious
charge. Summers was found to be in constructive possession of more than
75 pieces of crack cocaine. The traffic stop was made near the
intersection of Sonora and Francisco within 1000 feet of Clewiston High
School leading to a charge of cocaine possession with intent to sell
within 1000 feet of a school facility. Summers was arrested and booked
into the Hendry County Sheriff's Jail.

Another traffic stop by a member of the Hendry County Sheriff's Office Road
Patrol Division led to the arrest of 2 people on drug charges as Deputies
stopped a gold in color Chevy S-10 pickup truck driven by Amanda Denise
Hutchinson age 22 of 8016 N. Carey Rd. in Lithia Florida accompanied by
James G. Hutchinson age 25 8013 N.Carey Rd in Lithia Florida for running a
red traffic signal at the intersection of U.S.Highway 27 and Berner Road in
Clewiston at
approximately 12:33am on January 28, 2006. Actions by the 2 occupants
prompted Deputies being assisted by the Clewiston Police Department to
ask for permission to search the vehicle. Both Hutchinson's were charged
with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of
drug paraphernalia and booked into the Hendry County Jail.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Florida Power And Light Fixes LaBelle Problems?

LABELLE, FL. -- Residents in the Port LaBelle area sighed relief after Florida Power and Light admitted they had faulty equipment providing electricity to the rural area east of the city of LaBelle, replacing a large electrical switching unit on Birchwood Parkway near the Laurel Oaks subdivision. After months, and in some cases years of abnormal amounts of electrical outages, customer complaints made to the Florida Public Sevice Commission apparently got FPL's attention in January. In less than two weeks, FPL's Ft. Myers engineer visited the area and ordered new equipment installed.

Residents of Laurel Oaks and the Port LaBelle Ranchettes were experiencing outages as much as twenty time a month. FPL's resaponse to customer complaints ranged from "that's the way the system is designed" to "there are birds on the lines." Since the equipment replacement the northern Port LaBelle residents have had no outages.

Although two Port LaBelle areas are seemingly back to normal electric service, there may be other areas still with abnormal outage problems. If you are an FPL customer in Hendry or Glades county experiencing abnormal amounts of outages as evidenced by your clocks flashing or computers going down and having to be reset more than once a month please send an email to us. More information on how to get complaints to the Public Sevice Commission are at: FPL service complaints.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Estero Ex-Fire Chief To "Volunteer" In Hendry County?

LABELLE, FL. (February 10, 2006) -- After unexpectedly quitting a high
paying job in December as Estero Fire District's fire chief, Dennis
Merrifield is apparently heading to Hendry county. An item on the February
14th Hendry Commission agenda says Hendry's Emergency Services chief Randy
Bengston will be asking to bring onboard Merrifield as a "volunteer Planning
and Special Projects chief." Merrifield turned down an Estero pay package of
$106,500, heading a department with an $8.6 million budget. We suspect some
deal is pending that will pay Merrifield for his services to Hendry county
after a short "volunteer" duty. Hendry county has highly paid "consultants"
galore who do just about everything for the county from seeking grants to
serving as county attorney and land planning. 42 year old Merrifield left
Estero with a $125,670 severance package and $87,925 in accrued personal
time and retirement benefits.

In The Service

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Army Pvt. Kenneth J. Bellew has graduated from the
Light-wheeled Vehicle Mechanic Advanced Individual Training (AIT) course at
Fort Jackson, Columbia, S.C.
The course is designed to train soldiers to perform maintenance,
troubleshoot, and repair wheeled vehicles and related mechanical
components, which include internal combustion engines and power trains,
spark- and compression-ignition engines, wheel-hub assemblies,
hydraulic-power brakes, suspension and steering systems, and learned to
operate a wheeled vehicle crane, hoist, and winch assembly.
He is the son of Kenneth J. Bellew of N. Datil St., and Teresa Carr of
N. Hacienda, both of Clewiston, Fla.
The private is a 2004 graduate of Clewiston High School.

Citrus Growers May Get Canker $$

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner
Charles H. Bronson today applauded U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary
Mike Johanns and the Bush Administration's decision to make an additional
$100 million available to compensate Florida citrus growers who have lost
trees to citrus canker.

The funds come on top of $200 million that USDA made available in December
to compensate growers for losses from the bacterial disease that afflicts

"I want to express my gratitude to Secretary Johanns for responding to the
needs of our growers who have been hit hard by this devastating disease,"
Bronson said. "Since USDA announced in January that eradication of canker
was no longer possible, Florida citrus growers are understandably anxious
to know the procedures they will have to implement to sustain citrus
production. While I know there are more questions than answers right now,
I have given the Secretary Johanns my personal commitment to make all
resources of the Department available to USDA so that this information can
be provided to our growers as quickly as possible. I am sure that the
Secretary's announcement will provide many in our citrus community with
some much needed relief and reassurance."

Bronson reiterated his commitment to homeowners who have lost citrus trees
to canker, saying he will seek funding from the Florida Legislature this
spring to reimburse homeowners whose trees have been destroyed.