Friday, October 27, 2006

Lake Okeechobee To Get High Tech Survey

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA -- Federal Emergency Management officials
announced this week that over concerns about the safety of Lake
Okeechobee's aging earth dike and what would happen should it fail, a
high tech survey will be taken before next summer to calculate flood
zones surrounding the nations second largest freshwater lake.

Official say that seven emergency planners will develop strategies to
deal with any future emergency caused by a failing dike. Gov. Jeb
Bush had asked for help after state-hired engineers called the
Herbert Hoover Dike a ``grave and imminent danger.''

New laser based aerial mapping, using a technique known as Light
Detection and Ranging or LiDar, will survey the lake area and enable
mappers to draw elevation maps of the lands surrounding the giant
lake, accurate to about 1 foot, and enable survey crews to finish
much quicker with more accurate results than older land based survey
crews could do.

Sheriff Raids Hendry County High Schools

Sweeps At Clewiston High and LaBelle High Reap Drugs and 9mm Gun

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA -- The Hendry County Sheriff�s Office working closely with the Hendry County School System and with police dogs provided by the Collier County Sheriff�s Office conducted sweeps at Clewiston and LaBelle High Schools on October 27th.  Found were a handgun and ammunition in an 18 year old Clewiston High student's vehicle and in LaBelle, narcotics paraphernalia and drugs in a 16 year old student's car.

According to Sheriff Ronnie Lee HCSO Investigators discovered a 9mm Ruger handgun under the front seat and a loaded 10 round magazine in the center console of a vehicle that was driven to Clewiston High School by Sergio Garcia age 18 of 300 Pine Lane, Clewiston. Garcia was arrested and charged with possession of a weapon on school grounds and booked into the Hendry County Jail with bond set at $3,500.00.

Also, on October 27th a vehicle search at the LaBelle High School parking lot resulted in the arrest of one 16 year juvenile for possession of marijuana and narcotics paraphernalia. Sheriff Lee stated that to keep our schools safe that future operations of this type would be conducted. The Sheriff also expressed his appreciation to the Hendry County School System, Members of the Hendry County Sheriff�s Office Criminal Investigations Division, The Hendry County Sheriff�s Office School Resource Officers and Sgt. John Poling, Sgt. Andrew Smith, Cpl. Chris Swarthout and Canines �Doyle� and �Branco� of the Collier County Sheriff�s Office for their participation in the 2 sweeps.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

In The Service

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Air Force Airman Gilberto M. Rodriguez 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 Mary Martinez, and grandson of Susie Martinez, both
of S. Bridge St., LaBelle, Fl. The airman is a 2005 graduate of
LaBelle High School.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Hendry County Sheriffs Office Busts 18th Grow House

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Following an investigation by the Criminal
Investigations Division of the Hendry County Sheriff's Office, the
18th Hendry County Grow House was put out of business. The house at
7050 Tide Circle in Port LaBelle is owned by residents of Dade County
and had new sophisticated marijuana growing equipment
installed, with privacy blinds tightly covering all windows. Sheriff Ronnie Lee advised that marijuana valued in
excess of $50,000.00 was seized along the equipment. Sheriff Lee also
stated that the investigation is continuing with arrests pending.

According to the Property Appraiser's records the new home was
purchased last month by Daniel L. Costa and Ania Costa of Miami Springs, who
are not married, for $173,000. The entire purchase price was financed
by a mortgage with nothing down, according to court records. The
house was one of the least expensive new homes in Port LaBelle. The
home is located less than a mile from the LaBelle Middle School, with
few other houses built yet on the street, leaving it fairly private. The Costas, while not identified as suspects by the Sheriff's office at this time, own a six-month old corporation in Hialeah called Quality Health Care Providers, Inc.

Clewiston Crash Takes Life

Victim Flies Across Two Lanes - Ends In Canal

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA  (October 23, 2006) -- A 2000 Ford SUV driven by Ingris Chalrez Medina, age 23 of 550 N. Hacienda Street in Clewiston, ended up in a canal, five miles west of Clewiston, killing the driver. FHP Trooper L. M. Smith Jr. said Medina was traveling west on US 27 Monday at 6:30 A.M. and for unknown reasons the vehicle crossed the median becoming airborne, traveling over both the eastbound lanes, and over the guardrail on the south side of US 27, entering a canal, coming to rest on its roof, submerged under water.

Alcohol was apparently not a factor, and the body was transported to the Fort Myers Medical Examiner's Office.

LaBelle Home Sales Last Week

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- From October 10 to October 17 there were 8 homes
sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $182,500. More homes
were sold other than the usual in Port LaBelle this week. Details for
local homes sold:

1) $300,000 on Bee Branch Lakes Drive, west of LaBelle
2) $160,000 on Bishop Circle
3) $112,000 on Clipper Court in Country Oaks
4) $159,000 on Hardee Street in LaBelle
5) $195,000 on Hardee Street in LaBelle
6) $147,000 on East Sunflower Circle
7) $235,000 on North Oak Street in LaBelle
8) $152,000 on South Edgewater Circle

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Small Chance Of Getting Caught At Crime In Hendry?

Florida Department Of Law Enforcement Crime Report Released

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- According to the latest crime statistics for the period from January 2006 through June 2006 it would appear there's not a good chance wrong doers will get arrested for committing crimes in Hendry county. Of the 691 crimes reported during the six month period only 22.7% were "cleared" according to the latest county crime report.

While that is about the average clearance rate for all counties in Florida, some county Sheriffs apparently have better success rates like Washington County with 48%, Marion 45%, Holmes 55%, Franklin 64%, and Baker county 61%.

During the last six months in Hendry county there were reported 377 larcenies, 151 burglaries, 104 aggravated assaults 46 motor vehicle thefts, 28 robberies, 4 rapes, and 1 murder. Last year there were 882 crimes reported in the same period with about the same poor clearance record for that period's crimes.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Indian Hills To Hear FPL Plant Plans

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- The Indian Hills Community Association will meet
at 7 p.m. Wednesday, October 25 at the Volunteer Fire Department at
3890 Indian Hills Road, SW to hear representatives from Florida Power
and Light on the proposed Glades Power Plant Project. Senior Manager
Rachel Scott, and External Affairs Manager, Grover Whidden will be
presenting a power point presentation on the proposed FP&L Glades
County Power Plant Project.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rural Counties Get Grant Money

Glades Commissioner Butch Jones Thanks Bush

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA -- Governor Jeb Bush today awarded a $75,000 Rural Regional Development Grant to Florida�s Heartland Rural Economic Development Initiative, Inc. (FHREDI). The funds will be used to promote economic development efforts in south central Florida, as well as advance job creation, business retention and expansion, and economic initiatives.

"Through their strategic focus and hard work, Florida�s Heartland Rural Economic Development Initiative has proven to be an outstanding partner with the state, helping promote and increase viable economic programs and initiatives in Florida�s heartland region," said Governor Bush.  "I am pleased to provide this rural development grant to the organization to further its efforts to enhance that base."

FHREDI is a regional economic development organization serving the south central counties of DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands and Okeechobee, as well as the Immokalee community and the Glades Communities of Pahokee, Belle Glade, South Bay.  In 2001, Governor Bush designated this south central region of the State as one of three �Rural Areas of Critical Economic Concern.

"The support provided by the Governor and his Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development is critical to continuing the momentum in the Heartland of Florida," said K.S. (Butch) Jones, Glades City Commissioner and Chairman of FHREDI.   �We cannot express enough our appreciation to the Governor.  We are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.  Thank you!"

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Port LaBelle Man Busted In Glades

Remote Home Yields Almost Ready To Harvest Marijuana

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA -- Glades County Sheriff Stuart Whiddon said today that on Sunday, October 8 members of the Glades County Sheriff's Office conducted an investigation surrounding a marijuana "grow house" at 16050 March Lane, Port Labelle, in Glades County.

According to Detective Steve Harris, 32 mature five to six foot plants were seized as well as air conditioning units, fertilizers and various lights and cultivation equipment. The plants that were seized were almost ready for "harvest" and would yield approximately one to two pounds of excellent quality hydroponically grown marijuana for each plant with an estimated street value of $4000.00 per pound.

During the investigation which lead to the arrest of Jose Abel Marquez (DOB 7/20/71) it was discovered that Marquez was renting the home for what appeared to be the sole purpose of growing marijuana. The new home had a privacy fence around the back yard and was located in a remote area of Glades County's far eastern Port LaBelle section, about as far away from the Glades Sheriff's office as would be possible.

This is the third indoor marijuana grow operation that has been discovered in Glades County within the last six months. Sheriff Whiddon encourages the citizens of Glades County to contact his office confidentially at (863)946-1600, for any tips or information.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Rainy Season Comes To An Early End

By Gene McAvoy, Agricultural Extension Director, LaBelle

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- According to the National Weather Service the 2006 rainy season in South Florida, which began on May 25, came to an end last week on October 6. This is 10 days earlier than the median ending date of October 16. This year`s rainy season lasted a total of 135 days, 18 days less than the average duration of 153 days.

This year`s rainy season was characterized by large variability in area precipitation totals. Miami international airport received 47.21 inches of rain during the wet season period, which is over five inches above the normal wet season value of 42.16 inches. On the other hand, Palm Beach International Airport only received 27.88 Inches of rain, well below the normal amount. Fort Lauderdale/ Hollywood International Airport was in the middle with 36.83 inches.

Overall, south Florida received below normal rainfall during the wet season. Besides Miami International Airport, the exception to this was over western sections of Collier County, which received quite a bit of rain throughout the summer. Naples regional airport received 43.20 inches for the entire rainy season.

With the exception of tropical storm Ernesto that brought large amounts of rain to the western and interior portions of south Florida at the end of august, few significant weather systems affected the area this summer. Therefore, the area’s rainfall this wet season depended largely on small-scale effects such as sea breezes, which can increase the variability of rainfall even over short distances.

The end of the rainy season is determined primarily by the first time the dew point drops below 70 degrees for about three consecutive days. This typically coincides with the first minimum temperature reading below 70 degrees since spring, and a corresponding sharp decrease in the frequency of the daily rainfall patterns, which characterize the rainy season. This year’s end to the rainy season was not accompanied by a significant drop in temperature. However, stronger fronts typically begin arriving in South Florida during the middle to latter part of October.

 It should be noted that it is not uncommon to have periods of rain lasting a day or so during the dry season as cold fronts approach South Florida.  However, these wet episodes are typically transient and only serve to provide occasional relief to the dry weather pattern normally observed between the months of November and April.

 With the return of el Niño this coming winter, precipitation this dry season may end up being above normal. This will depend on the strength of the upcoming el Niño, which is still somewhat uncertain.  During a moderate to strong el Niño, South Florida typically receives more winter rain than normal due to an increase in the frequency of low-pressure areas over the Gulf of Mexico and Florida, which can even produce severe weather outbreaks.

Six LaBelle Homes Sold At Lower Prices

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- From October 3 to October 10, there were 6 homes
sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $193,333 a decrease
from recent weeks. Those sales included the following:

1) $225,000 on Cherry Lane
2) $200,000 on Dania Circle
3) $155,000 on Martin Street
4) $240,000 on Penny Circle (new construction)
5) $185,000 on School Circle in Port LaBelle
6) $155,000 on North Edgewater Circle in Port LaBelle

Drug Agents March Into Pot House

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Local law enforcement agencies are investigating
a local drug ring after an alleged marijuana drug house was raided
earlier this week. Details are being withheld as an investigation
continues by several agencies. Agents raided a local home and sources
say other arrests may be pending. The raided home has been sealed as
evidence and the electric lines to the house cut off.

Drug enforcement agencies note that a typical "grow house" sometimes
can be easily spotted as illegal activities are underway, by signs
of unusual activity at the home, "residents" with out-of-area
vehicle tags, and window and yards protected by privacy screens.
Power companies also note unusually high amount of electric being
consumed at such drug growing homes for the special lighting and
irrigation equipment needed in a sealed window and doored house.

Garbage Fees On Glades Taxpayers' Minds

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA --  At a standing room only meeting of the Glades Commission Tuesday night, Buckhead Ridge residents addressed concerns about the 100% increase of garbage hauling rates billed by Waste Management for the 4th quarter of 2006.  Commissioner Giesler commented that most of the BHR folks were retired on fixed income; he said it was not mandatory to use Waste Management and they could hire anyone to haul off garbage and that there were three vendors there to offer their services.

Geisler introduced the representative from Florida Recycling first who gave a brief history of his business and when pressed offered these prices: $65.90 per home per quarter for weekly (once per week) regardless of the number of cans, and commercial rates at $73 per month for a 2 cubic yard dumpster picked up weekly (once per week).

Next was Charlie Green of Tri-County Waste & Recycling who offered the rate of $55 per weekly pickup of two 30-gal containers.

Jeff Sabin of Waste Management, noting the twenty-year relationship between Glades County and WM, stated the increase was a shock as rates had not changed in twelve years and when WM requested an increase in 1995 the County denied it.  He further noted that WM had continued to pay the franchise fee (estimated $50k per year) to Glades County after the verbal extension of the franchise contract had expired and had continued to abide by terms of the expired contract in as far as performance bond and insurance requirements were concerned. 

He said in August 2006 he had discussed with County Manager Wendell Taylor and County Attorney Richard Pringle the need to reconsider the franchise contract because WM was anticipating the need to increase their pickup rates especially with the high fuel rates at that time.  He read into the record the letter he had sent to Taylor  concerning those issues, noting he never received a response.  Taylor responded that he had brought the matter to the attention of the Board at the July 24 meeting and no action was taken.

After one and a half hours discussion including public input, the Board directed Taylor and Pringle to commence work on an ordinance for county wide mandatory garbage collection and simultaneously prepare an RFP (request for proposal) for vendors.  The public was informed that currently there is no garbage collection franchise contract in effect and citizens can contract with any hauler they choose until the mandatory collection ordinance is adopted and effective, or they can handle their own disposal.  A workshop is scheduled for discussion of this proposed ordinance and citizens were informed that the public hearings would be advertised.  The goal is to implement mandatory collection January 1, 2007 if possible.

Among other business at the lenghty meeting, Bob Jones� request was approved to purchase materials for underground electrical service to the Ortona cemetery pavilion from the restroom facility, materials for supplying water to the pavilion (including pipes for sprinkler system) and materials for installing benches, and sidewalk.  He suggested a barrier between the boundary roads and the lot (until parking lot and other sidewalks are completed) to keep traffic on the roads and not parking near the facility.  He stated the benches have been ordered and are being funded from the landfill recycling grant but the other funds would need to come from the one-cent money.

Jones also was given approval to provide flu shot vaccine for county employees for $13 each and the EMS staff would administer.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Clewiston Man Arrested For Dealing In Stolen Goods

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA -- An undercover operation by the Criminal Investigations Division of the Hendry County Sheriff�s Office has led to the arrest of a Clewiston man in connection with dealing in stolen property.. According to Sheriff Ronnie Lee, Investigators conducting the undercover operation purchased stolen property that lead to the arrest of Elisha James Robinson age 24 of 942 Georgia Avenue Clewiston, Florida. During the investigation Robinson was found in possession of stolen property. Robinson was charged with Extortion,Dealing in Stolen Property and Interception of Electronic Communication while in the Commission of a Felony. Robinson was also in Violation of Probation and was booked into the Hendry County Jail without bond.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Gates D'Alessandro and Woodyard Refuse To Remove Signs

Fort Myers Real Estate Company's Signs Clutter Countryside

LABELLE, FLORIDA --  Hendry county residents have been complaining lately about the tremendous amount real estate company billboards that are now littering the thoroughfares of this rural county. With the recent boom in land sales in Southwest Florida, "for sale" signs have abounded on nearly every street in this farm and ranch county.  What has been a quiet secret in the real estate industry is that some of the largest advertising signs from the biggest real estate companies are actually illegal, and have now become permanent free advertising locations for the brokers willing to disregard local zoning laws.

Take the large Fort Myers real estate company of Gates, D'Alessandro and Woodyard, for example. They were the brokers in the $4 million sale of the Port LaBelle Inn and adjoining acreage properties almost a year ago.  While the transaction took place in November of 2005, the company apparently has no plans to take down their four oversized double-billboard "For Sale" advertisements, two along Birchwood Parkway in Port LaBelle across from a residential neighborhood and two along State Road 80 east of LaBelle.

Susan Galbraith, Chief Operating Officer said "We do it all the time," when asked why her "for sale" billboards were still up when the properties had been sold long ago. She said she has many similar billboard signs up in Lee county and didn't see any problem. When told that her signs were apparently violating Hendry county zoning ordinances, she asked to be provided with a copy.  Hendry county only allows "for sale" signs at the property being sold and cites various restrictions as to size, depending on if the property is residential or commercial. The Gates, D'Alessandro and Woodyard billboards appears to violate the local ordinances not only because the properties are not for sale any longer, but the four double-sized signs are way in excess of size of signs allowed without a permit being pulled from Hendry County Zoning and Building.

What the company apparently does once a real estate property is sold, is to place a "sold" sign on the for sale sign and then leave the billboard there indefinitely. A good trick for some free advertising space even though it violates local laws and make for unwelcome visual pollution, residents say. Galbraith, nor anyone from the firm responded to two written inquiries from the Sunday Morning News asking when the signs would be taken down.

Local Non-Profit Get Grant

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA -- C.R.E.W., Inc. has been awarded a $208,000
grant by the State of Florida's Department of Financial Services to
administer the My Safe Florida Home hurricane mitigation program
designed to help fortify low-income Hendry and Glades County homes.
The Volunteer Florida Foundation, which manages the Florida Hurricane
Relief Fund and the My Safe Florida Home program for low-income
homeowners, chose C.R.E.W., Inc to provide hurricane mitigation
grants to homeowners who earn no more than 80 percent of the Annual
Median Income. In Hendry and Glades counties, 80% of the AMI for a
family of four is $31,000. Homes to receive mitigation services must
be site-built, single-family homes with insurance coverage under
$500,000 and have a homestead exemption.

C.R.E.W., Inc seeks to serve 100 homeowners, who will receive free
home inspections to determine what improvements can be made to
strengthen their homes against hurricanes. Following the inspections,
homeowners will receive assistance to make recommended improvements.
As part of this non-profit initiative, C.R.E.W., Inc will leverage
donations of labor through volunteers, contractor services, cash and
building materials.

Homeowners who qualify can receive funds to complete mitigation
upgrades such as: improving the strength of roof deck attachments,
creating a secondary water barrier to prevent water intrusion,
improving the survivability of roof covering, bracing gable-ended
roof framing, reinforcing roof-to-wall connections, upgrading
exterior wall openings, such as hurricane shutters, and upgrading
exterior doors, such as garage doors.

To apply for the program in (Hendry or Glades Counties), call (863-983-2390).

Friday, October 06, 2006

Homes Sales In LaBelle Area

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- From September 26 to October 3, there were 11
homes sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $189,182. The
sales were in the following neighborhoods:

1) $252,000 on Helms Road
2) $218,000 on Jamestown Road
3) $204,000 on Kathryn Street
4) $225,000 on Littlefield Road
5) $194,000 on Palpano Circle
6) $185,000 on Rainbow Circle
7) $173,000 on Tide Circle
8) $153,000 on Wilson Avenue
9) $66,000 on North Edgewater Circle
10) $231,000 on NE Beechwood Circle
11) $180,000 on West Palomar Circle

Fire Prevention Week Ahead

LABELLE, FLORIDA - Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services
Commissioner Charles H. Bronson today announced that October 8th -
14th is National Fire Prevention Week - a time for citizens to think
about fire safety at home, at work and also when enjoying the
outdoors. "Florida's wildfire season lasts all year," Bronson said.
"Wildfires can occur during any month if rainfall is below normal."

In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge declared the second week in
October to be National Fire Prevention Week in remembrance of
Americans who died in two tragic fire disasters that ironically
occurred on the same day - October 9th, 1871. One was the Great
Chicago Fire, which destroyed 17,450 buildings, left more than
100,000 people homeless and resulted in almost 300 fatalities. The
second and lesser known Peshtigo Fire was the most disastrous
wildfire in North American history. Extreme drought conditions
throughout the Midwest at that time along with land clearing and
careless burning practices resulted in many small wildfires which
grew into a huge conflagration. Between 1,200 and 2,400 people died
in and around the small community of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, and 1.5
million acres burned throughout northeastern Wisconsin and upper Michigan.

These two fire disasters were unnecessary tragedies that changed the
way our nation responds to both structural fires and wildfires, but
perhaps more importantly, prompted a renewed national campaign for
fire prevention. Bronson urged all Floridians to follow local burning
rules and regulations for all types of outdoor burning and to never
leave a fire unattended.

"Citizens can contact the local office of the Florida Division of
Forestry or their local fire department for information on how to
burn yard waste safely and legally in their area," Bronson said.
Since January 1st, 4,300 wildfires have burned 206,859 acres
throughout Florida. More than 3,967 threatened structures were saved
as a result of action by wildland firefighters.