LEHIGH ACRES, FL. -- Brush fires continued overnight in Lee county in the
Lehigh Acres subdivision. The fires burned about 2000 acres, beginning
Saturday afternoon in a wide area from the Hendry/Lee county line westward
from about 4th Street on the south to 17th Street on the north and as far
west as Williams Road in Lehigh. About a dozen homes are said to be
destroyed with several dozen damaged by the flames. About 200 emergency
workers from agencies as far away as Okeechobee are helping Lee county
authorities. The high fire danger continues this afternoon in Lee, Hendry
and Collier counties with extremely dry ground and brush.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
LEHIGH ACRES, FL. -- Brush fires continued overnight in Lee county in the
Friday, April 28, 2006
CLEWISTON, FL. (April 26, 2006) -- The Florida Highway Patrol reports the
death of John Robert Hiatt, 58 of Winter Haven in a crash on County Road
835, 20 miles south of Clewiston. Driving a 2005 GMC pickup truck, he left
the roadway and drove through a shallow ditch, overturning, and was ejected
from the vehicle. The vehicle went into a canal. Hiatt was not wearing a
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Farm Bureau Warning Farmers About Worker Raids
LABELLE, FL. -- The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is
currently conducting audits and raids in Dade and Broward counties, and
some growers believe the investigations may spread to other counties as
well. This agency has the authority to investigate the possible
employment of undocumented workers, or to look for undocumented workers
within constitutional parameters (i.e. reasonable search considerations).
According to the Florida Farm Bureau ageent may come on to a grower's
property to conduct a search or check for I-9s on employees and may
conduct "Routine" Audits which require the inspecting agency to give three
days notice but Do not require a search warrant but the Employer is
required to provide a list of employees and social security numbers for up
to three years an the Agency is entitled to examine and copy I-9 forms
and copies of any attached documents used to complete the I-9 form.
If a "Raids" is made, it would required agents to produce a search warrant
but not require advance notice The Agency would be entitled to all
records and other property covered by the warrant.
The Farm Bureau is telling farmers that if immigration or Department of
Labor agents show up to a grower's office with a search warrant, the
grower should have a protocol already in place to alert senior management
and legal counsel. The warrant should be carefully reviewed for what
records are being requested, and remain mindful that criminal prosecution
for immigration law violations may result if seized records reflect
violation of IRCA's criminal statutes.
Farmers in South Florida are just coming into the spring season for sweet
corn, and water melon and there is a shortage of workers to bring the crops
in, says the Farm Bureau. Bureau officials are contacting the Commissioner
of Agriculture's office to inform him of what is going on and to ask for
his help. For more information on the immigration agency's activities, go
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Cow Wandered Along SR 80 For Hours
PORT LABELLE, FLORIDA (April 24, 2006) -- Hendry County's agricultural
deputy cited Colmer Taylor as a result of a cow that wandered off its
pasture in Glades county Monday evening and disrupted traffic on SR80 for
several hours. Taylor leases what used to be the Port LaBelle golf course's
back nine holes for grazing cattle. The cattle are eventually shipped out of
the area to feed lots where they are fattened for eventual slaughter. The 87
acres are in Glades county on the north side of State Road 80 a mile east of
At least four deputies were busy at the scene for hours in order to prevent
traffic from hitting the cow that crossed the main highway a dozen times.
Shortly after dark an agricultural deputy was able to get the cow back in
the pasture and repair the fence where the cow wandered through. Neighbors
on Springview Circle in Port Labelle's Laurel Oaks subdivision say there has
been a continuing problem with the vinyl fencing the property owner erected,
which is falling down making an easy route for cows to pass over. The cows
are pastured at the former golf course to allow an agricultural tax
exemption for the current property owner, saving significant dollars pending
a sale of the land for an eventual up scale housing development.
Monday, April 24, 2006
CONSUMERS STILL BUYING LARGE VEHICLES DESPITE RECORD GAS HIGHS
LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Despite the perception of rising gas prices, U.S.
consumers are still buying about the same proportion of new vehicles
equipped with eight-, six- or four-cylinder engines as they did in the
summer of 2005, according to the real-time retail transaction data from the
Power Information Network .
In January, February and March of 2006, nearly one-quarter of all new
vehicles purchased by consumers in the United States have been equipped
with eight-cylinder engines. In July, August and September of 2005, sales
rates of eight-cylinder vehicles were 28 percent, 23 percent and 24
Sales rates of six- and four-cylinder engine-vehicles have also been
constant. New cars and light trucks with six-cylinder engines have
accounted for 40 to 42 percent of all new-vehicle retail sales during the
past nine months, and products with four-cylinder engines have comprised
about 30 to 33 percent overall.
"So far, the perceived gas price increases have not had any discernable
impact on new-vehicle buying patterns, at least with regard to the size of
the engine," said Tom Libby, senior director of industry analysis at PIN.
"Gas prices are certainly becoming a popular dinner and water cooler
discussion topic, but consumers appear to be conditioned to prices at
current levels," said Jeff Schuster, executive director of global
forecasting at J.D. Power Automotive Forecasting. "We do not expect a
significant change in the kinds of vehicles consumers purchase as a result.
It is, and will be, all about choice for consumers. There are several
smaller vehicle options coming, as well as fresh products in the full-size
Additionally, the days-to-turn rate (the number of days a vehicle spends on
a dealership lot) has remained constant for each of the engine categories:
new vehicles with eight-cylinder engines have turned about every 68 to 74
days; six-cylinder vehicles every 61 to 68 days; and four-cylinder vehicles
every 39 to 49 days. Four-cylinder vehicles have consistently turned faster
than the overall industry average (59 to 65 days), while six-cylinder and
eight-cylinder vehicles have turned slower.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
LABELLE, FL. -- An environmental group has today named Southwest Florida's
Caloosahatchee River as one of America's "most endangered" ten rivers .
According to the group, releases of highly-polluted water from Lake
Okeechobee by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water
Management District threaten the health of the Caloosahatchee River, which
American Rivers listed today as America's #7 most endangered river for 2006.
The annual America's Most Endangered Rivers report highlights ten rivers
facing a major turning point in the coming year, where they say action by
citizens can make a huge difference for both community well-being and river
health. American Rivers is heading a media blitz today to publicize its
rivers report, with a press briefing at the National Press Club in
Washington this afternoon and appearances by spokespersons on news shows
Photo above: The Caloosahatchee River at the LaBelle bridge, an aerial photo by Don Browne.
American Rivers and its partners on the Caloosahatchee, the Caloosahatchee
River Citizens Association and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, today
called on the Corps and the SFWMD to develop and implement a proactive water
quality plan that includes specific pollution reduction targets aimed at the
source of the pollution. Drinking water for tens of thousands of people, a
world-renowned haven for birds and other wildlife, and the heart of a $2
billion local tourist economy, the Caloosahatchee is reeling from discharges
of millions of gallons of fertilizer and toxic laden water from Lake
Okeechobee into the river, says the group.
"The Corps has taken decades to turn the waters of South Florida into a
massive Rube Goldberg contraption, one that simply doesn't work," said
Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. "Now the bill has come due
and it's past time to get serious about fixing the complicated, widespread
problems along the Caloosahatchee."
According to American Rivers, successive severe hurricane seasons in recent
years have created dangerously high water levels in the lake, exacerbating
water quality problems in Lake Okeechobee by churning fertilizer-laden
sediments and re-suspending them into a trillion gallons of lake water.
Prompted by limits on storage volume, the SFWMD now regularly releases
polluted water - up to 69,500 gallons per second - from Lake Okeechobee into
the Caloosahatchee River. They say the water releases sacrifice the river's
water quality. The combination of re-suspended sediments and fertilizers
now flows regularly into the Caloosahatchee, and eventually reaches San
Carlos Bay. American Rivers claims that this leads to algal blooms that
deplete dissolved oxygen, block sunlight, clog boat intakes, and produce
fish-killing toxins and the toxins are also a threat to human health.
"The Caloosahatchee is the lifeblood of all of Southwest Florida," said Mary
Rawl of the Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association. "The crisis point is
right now and we cannot continue to let the river be a disposal conduit of
last resort for Central and South Florida."
The report calls on the Corps to ensure that water discharges are managed to
dramatically reduce the devastating impacts to the Caloosahatchee as they
finalize a new discharge schedule by January 2007. At the same time, the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must ensure that any new water management
plan complies strictly with the Endangered Species Act, while the Corps and
SFWMD develop and implement a water quality plan that includes specific
pollution reduction targets that address pollution flowing into Lake
Okeechobee, as well as that flowing out of the lake into the Caloosahatchee.
It is expected that a legal battle will develop between the environmental
groups and the SWFWMD and its partner the Army Corp of Engineers, with local
governments split between the two sides. Coastal counties, Lee, Collier, and
Charlotte will want the water releases from Lake Okeechobee regulated
better, while inland counties like Hendry and Glades will fight for the
interests of it large agricultural landowning taxpayers, like U.S. Sugar and
"We have reached a pivotal time in the business of water management for Lake
Okeechobee," said Erick Lindblad of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation
Foundation. "The system of structures and the policies which guide their
use can no longer provide for the protection of the environment so crucial
to the economy of Central and South Florida."
"The problems of the Caloosahatchee River can be solved if federal, state,
and local regulators work together to obtain more surficial storage, treat
more water, and time releases to mimic natural water flow," said Andrew
McElwaine, President and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Other rivers named in this year's America's Most Endangered Rivers report
are: Pajaro River (Calif.), Upper Yellowstone River (Mont.), Willamette
River (Ore.), Salmon Trout River (Mich.), Shenandoah River (Va. & W. Va.),
Boise River (Idaho), Bristol Bay (Alaska), San Jacinto River (Tex.), Verde
LABELLE, FLORIDA -- As southwest Florida remains rainless and extemely dry,
residents have been cautioned to be mindful of the dangers of brush fires.
In southern Port LaBelle Tuesday afternoon a large brush fire erupted near
Eucalyptus and Hummingbird, allegedly after a motorist hauling a trailer
with a flat tire caused sparks to jump from the roadway to the dry grass
along the road. The driver was pulling the trailer as its metal rims dragged
the pavement. Deputies followed the scrapes in the road to find the
At about 8 p.m. fire fighters were alerted of another brush fire in the
woods next to the Mira Verde Apartments in eastern Port LaBelle. The brush
fire was under control within an hour.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Commentary by Don Browne
LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Controversy has been stirring the political waters
surrounding the Caloosahatchee River in Hendry and Glades county in recent
months. Enviromental groups and southwestern Florida local governments have
been voicing loud complaints about the quality of fresh water flowing from
canals in Hendry and Glades county into the river, which flows slowly
westward into the Gulf of Mexico, passing locks at Ortona and Alva. At the
receiving end of the complaints are the large agricultural interests in the
inland counties, primarily U.S. Sugar Corp, whose extensive sugarcane lands
drain ultimately into canals that in many cases flow to the Caloosahatchee
River and then to the Gulf.
Inland county governments have felt pressure to defend themselves and their
constituency over what they see as a large legal battle looming in the near
future. Hendry County's commissioners recently voted to approve a
committment to legal fees for any possible litigation. A legal battle
between the gulf counties and the inland counties would mean a huge amount
of revenue for law firms and engineering consultants. The consultants and
lawyers are lining up for the fight to come.
The American Rivers organization has published since 1986 an annual report
of what they call America's Endangered Rivers, this year due out on
Wednesday, April 19. American Rivers and "dozens of partners in the river
movement have released the America's Most Endangered Rivers report to
spotlight those rivers across the country facing critical and near-term
threats." they say. The report is not a list of the nation's "worst" or
most polluted rivers, but rather it highlights ten rivers confronted by
decisions in the coming year that could determine their future.
According to the organization, "Recognizing that the threats facing the
listed rivers are seldom unique, each report includes a special chapter that
explores a broader issue suggested by the rivers on the list that year. In
recent years, we have examined the consequences to rivers of energy
development, sewage pollution and overdevelopment." The group says "This
report is more than a warning: it offers solutions and identifies those who
have the power to save the river. "
American Rivers says it "solicits nominations from hundreds of river groups,
conservation organizations, outdoor enthusiasts, and concerned citizens. Our
staff and scientific advisors review the nominations for the following
criteria: the magnitude of the threat to the river, a major decision point
in the coming year, and
the regional and national significance of the river." One victory claimed
from last years list was the Susquehanna River. They say "On the day in
2005 we named this river the most endangered in the country, Maryland backed
away from weakening water quality standards. Governor Ehrlich and the
Maryland Department of the Environment dropped plans to designate the river
as a "limited use" river, which would have excused public officials from any
kind of river restoration projects.
We suspect that because of the growing amount of public comment and
controversy over our local Caloosahatchee River and the problems west coast
governments are perceiving about Gulf water quality, this southwest Florida
river system may well be mentioned in this week's Endangered River report.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
LABELLE, FL. -- From April 6 to April 11, there were 3 homes sold in the
LaBelle area for an average price of $413,333, much higher than the normal
average price because of a home selling for nearly a million dollars this
week. A home on A Road sold for $130,000, $999,000 was the selling price
for an estate home on County Road 78 on the river, and a home on Palm Lane
in LaBelle sold for $120,000.
Friday, April 14, 2006
LABELLE, FL. -- Today is Good Friday, a holy day celebrated by Christians on
the Friday before Easter or Pascha. It commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus
at Calvary. Special prayer services are often held on this day with readings
from the Gospel accounts of the events leading up to the crucifixion.
Mainstream Christian churches view Christ's crucifixion as a voluntary and
vicarious act, and one by which, along with resurrection on the third day,
death itself was conquered.
In many historically Christian countries such as England, Australia and New
Zealand, the day is observed as a public holiday. Most shops are closed for
the day and advertising from television and radio is withdrawn to some
degree. Ireland, a predominantly Catholic country, prohibits the sale of
alcohol on Good Friday. Almost all pubs and many restaurants in Ireland
close for the duration of the day. Eastern Orthodox Christians eat as little
as possible on this day while the Roman Catholic Church observes fasting and
abstinence for this day.
In Canada, Good Friday is a federal holiday as part of a 4-day weekend with
Easter Monday. Government offices (at all levels) and public sector
businesses are closed, along with most private sector businesses (except in
In the United States, the Constitutional prohibition on establishment of
religion does not allow Good Friday to be established as a federal holiday,
although many states observe it as a state holiday. U.S. governments are
also constitutionally prevented from forcing most private businesses to open
or close on any particular day, so the stock markets are usually closed on
Good Friday along with many other businesses - but most businesses are open
on Good Friday. Schools, including public schools, usually close on Good
Friday because so many children's families observe the holiday that there
would be no point for them to be open. The postal service operates, and
banks regulated by the federal government are not allowed to close. State
and local offices are closed in areas where it is a state holiday.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
And now via Odeo, here's an additional way to subscribe or listen to the Sunday Morning News podcasts of each news story: My Odeo Channel (odeo/d87402a66d8d432d)
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Stan and Haney moved from afternoon drive to mornings after Beasley Broadcasting fired Joe Scott after ratings dropped drastically for the erratically funny Joe Scott Show. Scott replaced the Howard Stern Show and had many run-ins with management over the years. Afternoon drive is now voice tracked by Kim Kelly operating out of the Beasley's KKLZ station in Las Angeles.
With the exception of a sports segment with Dave Moulton, Stan and Haney are consistently funny and entertaining all morning, in what is now the only place in local Southwest Florida radio for listeners to hear something purposely laughable. The show's recurring bits include Stan's audio grab bag, Haney's take on the news, and the antics of Dave the Waterman, the show's stunt guy. Stan is modern radio's Jean Shepherd, while Haney's voice is a funny take on news legend Walter Cronkite. Tune in, you will like them.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Saturday, April 22 marks the 36th observation of the
Earth Day, which is an international celebration involving people in over
180 nations. LaBelle's Earth Day started six years ago with Earth Day in
the Park under the leadership of Tina Noel. You are hereby invited to the
6th annual LaBelle Earth Day in Barron Park from noon to 4 p.m. Community
groups, schools, churches, agencies, businesses and individuals are invited
to bring displays to show what the community does for the earth. Also we
invite nominations from the community, of organizations, businesses,
families and individuals, as Stewards of the Environment and the Earth. For
more information please call Lois at 863-675-3940
Monday, April 10, 2006
LABELLE, FL. (April 10, 2006) -- With the huge popularity of the iPod and other MP3 portable music and audio players now on the market, Southwest Florida Online and the Sunday Morning News has added the capability to download the latest area news to portable audio players. Apple has just recently announced a billion songs have been downloded from their iTunes.com website. And now millions of portable mp3 player and iPod owners are downloading audio tracks of news and entertainment daily from web podcasts. MP3 portable players can now be purchased for as little at $99.00
A podcast of the last seven Sunday Morning News stories can easily be downloaded to your player by subscribing to the Talkr.com audio service by clicking on the icon on the left side of the page labeled "Talkr" which then subscribes you to automatically download the audio news into your iTunes program or other podcast client program. The news stories will automatically load into your portable mp3 player for playing back the audio news stories at your convenience.
To test this audible news, even if you don't own a portable mp3 player yet, just click on this link to hear one of the latest Sunday Morning News stories about Latest Home Prices In LaBelle or hear any or all of the last seven news stories: Audio News Page Link.
We hope you enjoy this new feature and that it might save you some time each week in watching what's happening around the area with the convenience of your portable audio player.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
LABELLE, FL. -- From 2/21/2006 to 4/4/2006, there were 18 properties sold
in the LaBelle area for an average price of $152,944. The highest sales
price came in on a home on Riverbend Drive at $515,000. Homes were selling
in Port LaBelle from $95,000 for a two bedroom home to $147,000 for a three
bedroom with garage. A three bedroom home on North Edgewater sold for
$135,000. In new homes, one sold for $187,000 on South Obisbo Circle in
Port LaBelle. Country Village 2-bedroom homes in Port LaBelle went from
$95,000 to $120,000.
Friday, April 07, 2006
LABELLE, FL. -- If you are looking for something new to do, here's some area
festivals to visit:
. April 8 - Arcadia Flea Market, Historic Downtown. 863-494-4033
. April 8 - Black Gold Jubilee, Belle Glade. 863-996-2745
. April 22 - Sugar Festival, Clewiston. 863-983-7979 (see
. April 29 - Arcadia Antiques Fair, Historic Downtown. 863-949-4033.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
LABELLE, FL. -- Governor Jeb Bush and First Lady Columba Bush today joined
the Governor's State Leadership Commission for Reducing Underage Drinking
to announce new initiatives to reduce youth alcohol use in Florida. The
initiatives are based on the recommendations in the 2004 Changing Alcohol
Norms report published by the Florida Office of Drug Control.
"Unfortunately, alcohol and binge drinking remain the two highest forms of
substance abuse by youth in Florida and across the nation," said Governor
Bush. In January, Governor Bush created the Governor's State Leadership
Commission for Reducing Underage Drinking, comprised of state agency heads,
to increase education and awareness on the dangers associated with underage
drinking, increase training and enforcement efforts among law enforcement
officials and conduct in-depth research and analysis on emerging issues and
trends associated with underage drinking.
Among the agencies Governor Bush charged with addressing this issue are the
Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Department of Business and
Professional Regulation - Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco,
Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Department of
Education, Department of Health, Department of Children and Families,
Department of Juvenile Justice and the Agency for Workforce Innovation.
The 2005 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey has recently reported that
alcohol use among middle and high school students has declined by 10
percent since 2000. Efforts to reduce binge drinking have achieved greater
success with statewide reductions of 19 percent among middle and high
school students. While the numbers show a downward trend, alcohol remains
the most frequently abused substance by youth in Florida.
Monday, April 03, 2006
LABELLE, FL. -- According to a recent report by Jupiter Research, companies
offering e-mail as a customer service are doing a poor job at responding to
inquiries. 39% took three days or longer to reply, or didn't respond at all,
according to the report. Unfortunately for those companies, customers tend
to take their business elsewhere when an e-mail inquiry is ignored. 85% of
online consumers say they would be less likely to buy from that merchant
online, and 55% say they would be less likely to buy from the merchant even
offline. Ignored e-mails will drive up company costs as well, the report
says, since customers will phone a company service rep after ignored online
In Hendry and Glades county we've noticed this lack of online customer
service as well from nearly all local companies that display email addresses
in advertising. Particularly bad, are real estate brokers. We can't recall
ever receiving a prompt reply to an email inquiry from a real estate agent
even as they display their e-mail address proudly in advertising online and
offline, and on "for sale" signs.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Glades County, the City of Moore Haven, and Glades
County School Board, Glades County Economic Development Council, Inc., and
community leaders are encouraging residents from around Glades County to
participate in the third and final visioning workshop, Monday, April 3
from 6-9 p.m. at the American Legion Hall, River Road, Moore Haven.
Priorities developed during the "Creating the County We Want" visioning
process, funded by a grant to Florida 's Heartland Rural Economic
Development Initiative, (FHREDI), from the Florida Department of Community
Affairs, will be used by Glades County, the cities in Glades County and
regional agencies in their planning and decision-making.
After a short review of the county's demographics at the first meeting,
which showed that Glades County ranks among the lowest in the state in
terms of average income, median wage and other factors, residents quickly
agreed that economic development is needed to improve the quality of life
and provide higher paying jobs for current residents, and new jobs so
local children can afford to stay in the county, as well as increasing the
tax base to fund essential services for current residents and their
Residents also expressed their concerns on a variety of other topics.
Planning and zoning: Attendees expressed support for development that is
compact, clustered around existing population centers, economically
diverse and mixed and urged county officials to put a master plan in place
and address zoning changes ahead of development pressure. They advocated
for a consolidated master water and sewer plan for the whole
Affordable housing: In earlier sessions, residents agreed that the lack
of quality, affordable housing is a major obstacle to attracting public
service workers and new businesses that need housing for their workers.
The County has pledged to consider including provisions in the
comprehensive plan, currently being updated, to allow higher density
housing in existing communities and to require affordable housing as a
part of large developments. Officials on both the state and local level
have agreed to encourage and support private and non-profit groups in
developing affordable housing.
Transportation enhancements: In previous sessions, residents agreed that
US 27, SR 80 and 78 and county/city roads will need improvements to handle
current and anticipated growth, and expressed a desire for sidewalks and
bike paths as well as public transportation for children, seniors and
others who do not have cars. It was noted that the Florida Department of
Transportation works with local governments to develop five-year work
plans for improvements funded by Federal, and State funds and recently
completed a Master Transportation Plan for the six Heartland Counties,
Natural resources preservation plan: In prior sessions, residents
expressed concern that development is reducing the amount and quality of
natural areas that Glades County residents value for their conservation
and recreation benefits and called for the highest value areas to be
identified and protected.
Access to health care: Residents were quick to note that Glades County
does not have a hospital or any doctors, nurses or pharmacies. The
County Health Department facilities are recognized as aging and inadequate
and emergency medical services are limited.
Education choices: At prior sessions, residents called for more
vocational education opportunities for local children, while emphasizing
the desirability of remaining a small school district, with small classes.
ORTONA, FL. -- The Ortona Community Association will hold its annual
children's egg hunt at Larry Luckey Indian Mound Park on Hwy 78 in Glades
County, Sunday, April 9 at 1:00 p.m. There will be prizes for winners in
different age categories. Kids and their parents will be treated to
refreshments following the hunt. All are welcome.