Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Parrish Reappointed To Edison College Board

LABELLE, FL. -- Governor Charlie Crist today announced the following reappointments to the District Board of Trustees, Edison College, including Randall Parrish of LaBelle. (Senate Confirmation Required)


William M. Houghton, Jr., 50, of Fort Myers, consultant with Globalnet Communications, reappointed for a term beginning February 22, 2007, and ending May 31, 2010.


Randall T. Parrish, Jr., 53, of LaBelle, optometrist with Family Eye Care, reappointed for a term beginning February 22, 2007, and ending May 31, 2008.


David Klein, 56, of Punta Gorda, eye surgeon, reappointed for a term beginning February 22, 2007, and ending May 31, 2010.


Enid S. Gorvine, 74, of Punta Gorda, retired, reappointed for a term beginning February 22, 2007, and ending May 31, 2010.

Mining Trucks May Affect Kirby-Thompson Road

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Glade county and perhaps Hendry county residents living in the area of Kirby-Thompson Road may be affected by a proposed mining operation application.


Last Chance Mine LLC has a sand mining operation application pending in Charlotte County that the Charlotte officials have required for them to obtain an agreement with Glades County concerning their only ingress/egress, which is via Glades County CR 720 and Kirby Thompson Road. The road will be the truck hauling route from the mine site for approximately nine years.

Mystery Company?

Last Chance Mine LLC, the name appearing in the Glades County Commissioners meeting agenda package, is not registered with the Secretary of State office as a legitimately registered company, according to the Florida Division of Corporations website.

The company has offered Glades county a damage bond of $121,895 and a $47,200 annual fee for roadway service life reduction to ensure Glades County receives compensation for any road damage or reduction of life to the roads. The mining operation claims an expected 25,000 truck loads per year.

What's The Company History?

A search of similar names with the Division of Corporations did come up with "Last Chance Pit, LLC" a newly formed company just two months ago by Port LaBelle home builder Dean "Deano" T. Daniels and partner Kelvin Townsend, showing mailing addresses for both in a new Port LaBelle house built by Daniels.

Daniels and Townsend were both officers of an apparently failed "Central Mining Aggregates LLC" that went out of business last summer after only 13 months in business. Daniels also owned Venture Home Builders, Inc. that coincidentally went out of business in January 2005 after 13 months in business. Another coincidence: Daniels owned "Deano's Home Builders, Inc." that went out of business in 2001...after 13 months.

Kelvin A. Townsend had an apparently failed business in LaBelle called Tropical Tiki Huts, Inc., as found on the Division of Corporation's site which shows Kelvin Townsend now owns J & K Quality Construction, Inc. in LaBelle.

More Review Needed Say Consultants

Aim Engineering, a consultant to Glades county, recommended that before a final decision is made on the company's request, the current conditions of the road be documented by core borings every half mile, and that FDOT should be requested to study the load rating of the Jacks Branch Bridge, as a recent inspection indicates the bridge is in a state of decline. The Commission has decided to review the project after the company procured the core boring testing. The matter has been tentatively set for reconsideration on the March 13 agenda of the Glades Commission.

Miller Couse Pleads Case For Hospital Money

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Miller Couse, appearing before the Glades County Commission this wee, as a member of Hendry Regional Medical Center Foundation provided an overview of services HRMC provides citizens of Glades County. Couse noted that 16% of the hospital’s patients have Glades County zip code addresses, and more that 17% of the indigent care costs were for Glades County citizens, with those costs to the hospital averaging more than a million dollars per year in 2005 and 2006.

He announced the hospital's plans to construct a new emergency room, surgery suite and laboratory at the hospital estimated to cost 4.7 million dollars, and establishing an Urgent Care center in LaBelle costing 2.7 million. He noted the LaBelle facility will provide more services for Glades county citizens living near LaBelle in the communities of Muse and Ortona just across the river. Glades Commission

Chairman Jones drew the consensus of the Board to plan to include discussions of providing funding to HRMC in the upcoming budget workshops, hoping to at least match the City of Moore Haven’s pledge of $150,000 over three years.

Lobbyist Praised By Glades Commission

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Dale Melita, Glades County’s lobbyist, reported to the Glades County Commissioners Monday night that due to reductions in sales tax revenue, state appropriations were cut and the House of Representatives is not funding local projects.

He said at the pleasure of the board he would continue his work in Tallahassee to acquire funding, that Glades County had always been able to receive more than its proportionate share, and that he thought funding for the Public Works Authority projects would still have a chance, as well as small county courthouse funds. The Board commended Mr. Melita for his many years of service successfully “bringing home” millions for Glades County, and recognized the need for continued lobbying especially with shortage of available revenue.

Melita works for Craig A Smith & Associates, a consulting firm.

Hendry County Looking For Building Official

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County has lost one more top official. Building and Zoning Director Ken Bennett left officially January 27 and the county is scrambling to find a replacement. Bennett reportedly left Hendry to take a position with another local area county. One Hendry building inspector has also left his office as well.


An advertisement on the website of the Building Officials Of Florida indicates the county will pay up to $72,000 yearly depending on experience for a new director. The county is up against competition from other counties looking for building officials, in some cases paying over $100,000 yearly. Other building positons also have simpler jobs such as plan reviewers and inspectors, but paying as much as Hendry county pays for a Building Director.


The new person would be responsible for daily operations and management of 23 staff members involved in building permitting, inspections, contractor licensing, and code enforcement functions. The new Director will also perform some inspections and conduct plan review, prepare budget and monthly reports to the Planning and Development Director. A Building Code Administrator certification approved by the State of Florida is required. Good luck Hendry county.

Hendry County Loses One More Official

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County has lost one more top official.
Building and Zoning Director Ken Bennett left officially January 27
and the county is scrambling to find a replacement. Bennett
reportedly left Hendry to take a position with another local area
county. One Hendry building inspector has also left his office as well.

An advertisement on the website of the Building Officials Of Florida
indicates the county will pay up to $72,000 yearly depending on
experience for a new director. The county is up against competition
from other counties looking for building officials, in some case
paying over $100,000 yearly. Other building positons also have
simpler jobs such as plan reviewers and inspectors, but paying as
much as Hendry county pays for a Building Director.

The new person would be responsible for daily operations and
management of 23 staff members involved in building permitting,
inspections, contractor licensing, and code enforcement functions.
The new Director will also perform some inspections and conduct plan
review, prepare budget and monthly reports to the Planning and
Development Director. A Building Code Administrator certification
approved by the State of Florida is required. Good luck Hendry county.

Monday, February 26, 2007

LaBelle Man Charged In Burglary

LABELLE, FL. -- According to Sheriff Ronnie Lee, on February 25, 2007, Hendry County Sheriff's Deputies Donald Davis and Christian Buchhofeer, observed a 1996 Plymouth Caravan parked at the Prime Time Shell Station on State Road 80 in LaBelle. Since all lights were off, and the Station was not open for business, the Deputies inquired at to why the vehicle was parked there. 


Deputies observed several items in the back of the van and, after further investigation, determined the items to have been stolen. Two trucks parked at 400 5th Avenue in LaBelle and a truck parked at the LaBelle Motel had been burglarized and the items in the van were the items stolen out of these trucks. Deputies recovered a Echo Chain Saw, 5 gallon can of gasoline, Rotating Laser, four 12 pack of soda drinks, two cases of bottled water, and a bag of charcoal. 

Marshall Edwin Seitz, age 34 of 27500 North West Quail Run LaBelle , Florida, was arrested and charged with three counts of Burglary of a Conveyance and three counts of Larceny. Bond was set at $55,500.00.

Hendry Commission Meets On FPL Power Plant

FPL Wants Hendry Commission Approval


LABELLE, FL. -- The Hendry County Board of County Commissioners will hold a workshop on Tuesday February 27, 2007 at 4:00 p.m. at the Hendry County Courthouse, Commission Chambers, LaBelle, Florida, to discuss the electrical transmission lines proposed through Hendry county for the Glades county FPL Power Plant Project. The Hendry Commissioners have a resolution supporting the construction of the power plant in Glades county pending.


The plant is proposed for the west shore of Lake Okeechobee in Glades county and the transmission lines will travel south through the center of Hendry County west of the Hilliard Canal, along State Road 80, and south along county road 835 and near the Seminole Indian Reservation. There are several plans for the lines, and most probably will be revised as time goes on. The land area taken by the transmission lines runs from about half mile wide to one mile wide. according to FPL proposals.


So far, only Glades county commissioners have given their support. Lee county and St. Lucie county officals have voted against the coal-burning power plant proposal, objecting on environmental grounds. Neither Hendry county or Glades county have a county enviromnental department that would be qualified to comment on the power plant polution issues.


Rhonda Ruff, speaking on behalf of Save It Now, Glades!, Inc., said "We believe that any resolution in support of this project by either Hendry or Glades County, especially given the harsh warnings against it by Lee and St. Lucie Counties, is premature and irresponsible."


Because the issue is a "jobs and money" one, where large business interests, land owners, contractors and local businesses are expected to gain revenue in the short run, most observers say FPL will eventually gain approvals needed after some modifications of their plans to satisfy government officials.

FPL Power Plant Meeting At Hendry Commission

FPL Wants Hendry Commission Approval

LABELLE, FL. --  The Hendry County Board of County Commissioners will hold a workshop on Tuesday February 27, 2007 at 4:00 p.m. at the Hendry County Courthouse, Commission Chambers, LaBelle, Florida, to discuss the electrical transmission lines proposed through Hendry county for the Glades county FPL Power Plant Project. The Hendry Commissioners have a resolution supporting the construction of the power plant in Glades county pending.

The plant is proposed for the west shore of Lake Okeechobee in Glades county and the transmission lines will travel south through the center of Hendry County west of  the Hilliard Canal, along State Road 80, and south along county road 835 and near the Seminole Indian Reservation. There are several plans for the lines, and most probably will be revised as time goes on. The land area taken by the transmission lines runs from about half mile wide to one mile wide. according to FPL proposals.

So far, only Glades county commissioners have given their support. Lee county and St. Lucie county officals have voted against the coal-burning power plant proposal, objecting on environmental grounds. Neither Hendry county or Glades county have a county enviromnental department that would be qualified to comment on the power plant polution issues.

Rhonda Ruff, speaking on behalf of Save It Now, Glades!, Inc., said "We believe that any resolution in support of this project by either Hendry or Glades County, especially given the harsh warnings against it by Lee and St. Lucie Counties, is premature and irresponsible."

Because the issue is a "jobs and money" one, where large business interests, land owners, contractors and local businesses are expected to gain revenue in the short run, most observers say FPL will eventually gain approvals needed after some modifications of their plans to satisfy government officials.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Governor Visits Indiantown

INDIANTOWN, FL. -- Governor Charlie Crist today visited Warfield Elementary School to meet with students and teachers to discuss the benefits of reading coaches. The Governor toured the campus with Principal Loreen Francescani, a 2006 statewide principal of the year,
and visited with teachers currently utilizing reading coaches.

"I am thoroughly impressed with the teachers, students and administration at Warfield Elementary," said Governor Crist. "Schools like this are preparing Florida's children for
success in every aspect of life."

Governor Crist visited with Jeanne Tubb, a reading coach, and Gail Tomer, a writing and math coach. The Governor's proposed budget recommends $26 million to provide an additional 400 reading coaches throughout the state to help teachers more effectively improve the
reading skills of struggling students. Currently, Florida's 2,100 reading coaches help educators learn the most comprehensive and effective research-based practices for teaching reading.

"The students at Warfield are so excited about reading," said Governor Crist. "During lunch two kindergarten students showed me the buttons they received for reading 50 books each. The impact a reading coach can have on a school is truly astounding."

Warfield Elementary School is located in Indiantown, Florida, and has a 95 percent minority population. During the 2005-06 school year, 96 percent of the school's students received free or reduced lunch. Warfield received a "D" grade for the 2001-02 school year. By the 2003-04 school year, Warfield was awarded an "A" grade. The school has maintained an "A" grade for the past two years with students making significant gains in reading, writing and math skills.

Local Firms Get Huge Government Give-Away

$5 Million Awarded To Local Companies


LABELLE, FL. -- Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp this week joined Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Chares H. Bronson and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Michael W. Sole to announce the recipients of Florida’s renewable energy technologies grants. Included in the eight grants were two from Hendry county who both received the maximum grant allowed, $2.5 million. The companies will put an additional $34.3 million into the two local projects.


The Renewable Energy Technologies Grant Program recipients for 2007 in Hendry County were:


Citrus Energy LLC, “Fuel Ethanol Production from Citrus Waste Biomass” ($2.5 million): "Based in Clewiston," according to a press release from the State of Florida, the company will supposedly construct a four-million-gallon-per-year ethanol bio-refinery to use citrus waste to produce ethanol reportedly co-located with Southern Gardens citrus processing plant west of Clewiston. Southern Gardens ( a subsidiary of U.S. Sugar) will design and operate the plant. This project will when completed transform citrus waste, in what the press release says is "an abundant agricultural residual, into a clean, affordable and locally-produced biofuel." Citrus Energy, a new company was incorporated in Boca Raton in June 2006 by David A. Stewart and his wife Lesley A. Stewart of Boca Raton, Fl. The Stewart's have six children.


The company, under the state grant money program, is claiming to bring $7.5 million of their own money to the project. It would appear from released information that Stewart may be planning on more government inducements to help get funds and incentives for the company.


The new firm's website says they have former Florida House of Representative, Florida Senator, consultant and attorney Ron Silver onboard. Also noted are direct marketing and internet based marketer Aaron Hollander, and lawyer Ronald L. Book, president of a law firm "considered one of the premier lobbying firms in the state...with experience in the appropriations process."


David Stewart's biography says he has three patents pending: Ethanol Production From Citrus Processing Waste; Method And Apparatus For Vacuum Cooling Of High Solids Slurries; and Method And System Of Treating Citrus Waste To Remove Peel Oil Components. It also says he built a pilot scale plant on USDA premises to process 1,000 gallon batches of citrus waste and then built a demonstration scale plant at a Citrus Processor’s premises which processed 10,000 gallon batches of citrus waste.


Alico Inc., “Commercial Ethanol Production from Biomass” ($2.5 million): The project will use biomass products to co-produce ethanol and electricity at a savings for consumers. The facility will produce ethanol for blending with gasoline at less than one-third of the current national average retail cost of gasoline, and can deliver “green” electricity at a cost of five to eight cents per kilowatt hour. Alico is a many decades old company with wide interests in real estate, agriculture, and land holdings based in LaBelle.


Alico is pledging under the grant program to use $26.8 million of their money for the project. Alico says they will build a 7.7 million gallons per year ethanol plant using technology from Bioengineering Resources, Inc. of Fayetteville, Arkansas who builds modular ethanol facilities.


Through the 2006 Florida Energy Act, the Florida Legislature appropriated $15 million for renewable energy technologies grants to stimulate capital investment in the state and promote and enhance the statewide utilization of renewable energy technologies, including ethanol and bioenergy.


The funding was awarded to eight organizations with at least $5 million to support bioenergy projects and $10 million for projects that generate or utilize other renewable energy resources, including hydrogen, biomass and solar energy.


“This is a major step forward in Florida’s effort to establish a meaningful renewable energy industry,” Commissioner Bronson said. “We hope to build on this first step with the help and support of our industry, our colleagues at DEP, the legislature and Governor Crist.”


The targeted grant program is designed to advance the already growing establishment of renewable energy technologies in the state, including hydrogen, biomass, solar energy, geothermal energy, wind energy, ocean energy, waste heat and hydroelectric power. The eight grant recipients were selected from among 183 grant proposals seeking nearly $215 million in grant funding and providing more than $505 million in cost share for renewable energy projects.


Grant proposals were evaluated by the state based on a number of different criterion, including cost share percentage, economic development potential, energy efficiency and how the project fosters public awareness of renewable energy technologies. Grants were awarded at a maximum of $2.5 million per project, and eligible applicants included Florida municipalities and county governments, established for-profit companies licensed to do business in Florida, universities and colleges in the state, utilities located and operating within Florida, not-for-profit organizations and state agencies.

Gentlemen...Start Your Lawnmower!

LABELLE, Fl. ­ "Ladies and Gentlemen… Start Your Lawn Mowers" will be heard at the Swamp Cabbage Festival's Invitational Lawn Mower Races in LaBelle on Saturday, February 24 at 1:00 PM. Proceeds from the event will go to Healthy Start of Southwest Florida's mission to prevent premature births and infant deaths.

This year's race will feature everything from stock lawn mowers to home-made, souped-up machines with races for speed as well as endurance. Lawn mowers are built according to established guidelines and safety rules within a variety of mower classes. Anyone can race from 7 to 70, with special races for ladies, seniors and kids ages 7-11 and 12-16.

The Lawn Mower Races are part of the annual Swamp Cabbage Festival, which has been a yearly highlight in Southwest Florida's event calendar since 1965. Other entertainment at the Festival includes a 5K run, parade, arts & crafts, a rodeo Saturday night, a fishing tournament on Sunday and food featuring many dishes with hearts of palm. Admission is $3, children under 12 free.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Commissioner McCarthy Urges Better Planning

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Commissioner Kevin McCarthy spoke at the Port LaBelle Laurel Oaks Property Owners Association annual meeting Monday night in LaBelle, urging more cautious city and county zoning and land planning.

McCarthy told the property owners at their meeting at the 1st Baptist Church in LaBelle "We're not doing a good job of planning," referring to the county commission's recent approvals of rezoning and special exemptions from code of Hendry county land parcels.

A large section of Felda, south of LaBelle has been rezoned for industrial use, but State Road 29's two lane highway may be insufficient for the extra demands, McCarthy pointed out, as one example of not looking at the bigger picture in zoning actions.

Other projects McCarthy named as worrisome, include a two story industrial building in Clewiston near Robbie's Restaurant that is what many call an eyesore in the midst of a residential development, and cited a four-story Hampton Inn motel recently approved across from Walgreen's in Clewiston that will be the first building exceeding the normal two-story height limitation for buildings in Hendry county.

In Southern Hendry county, McCarthy says a large parcel of the Daniels Ranch property is in development stage for a large residential "new town." In Port LaBelle, the former Oxbow Golf Course acreage is under review by Florida's state planning agency for proposed condos, apartments, and homes, while immediately east of the parcel, State Road 80 is off and on for four-laning of the highway to the east, suffering from funding troubles which may cause a delay in completion of the full project scheduled to run from Port LaBelle all the way to U.S. 27 in mid-county.

McCarthy says he's concerned about all the special exemptions from existing zoning codes given to developers that come before the zoning and planning board and the county and city commissions. McCarthy worries that the county's infrastructure is not fully ready for all the proposed development, saying "It's our roads, and I think we have to worry about it."

CHL Home Builders is constructing two more model homes on State Road 80 east of LaBelle, although McCarthy says the land being built on has high arsenic levels in the soil, and the homes there will never be allowed to be sold to a homeowner, but will eventually have to be razed. McCarthy said the home builder wanted to put more homes there but was allowed only one per five acres.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Seven Arrested In Hendry County

Drugs, Jewelry, And Electronics


LABELLE, FL. -- According to Hendry County Sheriff Ronnie, a burglary that occurred on January 24, 2007, at 1245 Sherwood Avenue in Clewiston, has resulted in the arrest of three juveniles and one adult. Approximately $3,500.00 worth of jewelry and electronic equipment that was stolen from the residence has been recovered by Hendry County Deputies. The three juveniles were released to their parents and the adult, Oscar Daniel Villalobos, age 19 of Moore Haven, Florida, posted bond and was released. The names of the three juveniles has not been released.



In a separate case, three men have been arrested as a result of an undercover operation directed at the sale of illegal drugs in and around business where alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed in the Clewiston and LaBelle areas. Sheriff Ronnie Lee said Scott Neal Hull, age 32 of 41 Frazier Street LaBelle, was charged with three counts of Sale of Cocaine, Chris Marroquin, of 1104 Lillian Street LaBelle, was charged with two counts of Sale of Cocaine, and Peter McAndrew Shepherd, age 42 of 480 Avenue South Moore Haven, Florida, was charged with Possession of Cocaine With Intent to Sell, Possession of Cocaine, Possession of a Legend Drug Without a Prescription, and three counts of Possession of Schedule II Hallucinogen Drugs (Oxycontin, Methadone, and Valium).



Marroquin was released after posting $20,000.00 bond. Hull posted a $30,000 bond and was released. Shepherd remains in the Hendry County Jail under a $35,500 bond.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Florida To Encourage Nuclear Power

Will FPL Switch To Nuclear Power Generation In Glades?

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- The Florida Public Service Commission has adopted new rules this week to encourage the construction of additional nuclear-powered electric generation within the state. The rules are designed to spur investment in Florida's energy future and promote the development of nuclear power as a viable energy source.  Florida Power and Light, despite many environmental objections from area residents, is moving forward with its plans to construct a mega-kilowatt coal fired power plant on the west shore of Lake Okeechobee near Lakeport.

Although nuclear plants are costly to construct, they are typically the least expensive type of power plant to operate. The proposed rules would permit investor-owned electric utilities to request partial recovery of the planning and construction costs of a nuclear power plant prior to commercial operation of the plant, as directed by state statute. Early recovery should reduce risks and encourage financial investment in nuclear power plants by allowing prudent costs to be recouped as they are incurred, says the Public Service Commission.  Phasing in cost recovery will mitigate the "rate shock" associated with recovering all the capital costs at the time a plant begins operating. Increased use of nuclear power lessens the impact on customers of storm disruptions to fossil fuel supplies, ensuring greater energy security for Florida, according to a press release from the PSC.

Friday, February 16, 2007

LaBelle Real Estate Sales

LABELLE, FL. -- In the first two weeks of February, there were five
homes sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $187,000.

1) $140,000 on 2nd Avenue (city of LaBelle)
2) $100,000 on Clark Street (city of LaBelle)
3) $235,000 on Miccosukee Trail
4) $410,000 on Oak Haven Drive (Port LaBelle)
5) $50,000 on West Sunflower Circle (Port LaBelle Unit 4)



Advertisement



For Sale - Port LaBelle Banyan Village - Water lines now being installed. Two lots: Olympia Circle Unit 12, and Morning Lane Unit 10. Newest of Port LaBelle neighborhoods only 8 miles east of LaBelle. $15,999 per lot. Email

Scare Over Peanut Butter

PEANUT BUTTER MAY BE CONTAMINATED

ConAgra is recalling all Peter Pan and Wal-Mart brand Great Value peanut butter beginning with product code 2111 that already was distributed due to risk of contamination with Salmonella Tennessee (a bacterium that causes foodborne illness). The company also is
destroying all affected products in their possession. The company
will cease production until the exact cause of contamination can be identified and eliminated. ConAgra will advise consumers to destroy any Peter Pan and Great Value brand peanut butter beginning with
product code 2111 in their possession. Consumers who have questions should contact ConAgra at 866-344-6970.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Moore Haven Students Competing At Fair

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- High school students from Moore Haven High School will be competing with eight over schools from around the state for the state championship of "LifeSmarts ... the Ultimate Consumer Challenge," on February 19 at the Florida State Fair in Tampa.

This is the 11th year for LifeSmarts in Florida. The preliminary competition for students in grades 9-12 was held nationwide using the Internet. The Florida online competition, which ended January 12, involved more than 48 coaches and more than 1,400 students competing
to be among Florida's finalists. The state finals will match the nine Florida teams that excelled during the Internet competition.

LifeSmarts is an innovative competition that tests students on their knowledge of personal financial management, health and safety, the environment, technology and telecommunications, and consumer rights
and responsibilities. The program is designed to encourage students to think seriously about important consumer issues through a challenging, game-show format.

"High school students spend billions of dollars each year, but studies show that many lack knowledge about consumer issues," Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson said. "Through the LifeSmarts program, students learn how to obtain answers to practical problems, like buying a car and insurance, or understanding credit card interest rates. These are important skills that will last a lifetime." The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the state sponsor of LifeSmarts.

"I encourage everyone to come out to the Florida State Fair to support the bright young people who will be competing in the state championship," Bronson said. "The fast-paced competition is not only fun to watch, it is also educational. Those in the audience will find themselves learning a few things about consumer issues as well."

The state finals in the LifeSmarts competition will begin at 10 a.m. on Monday, February 19, in the Club Pavilion at the Florida State Fair in Tampa.

Last year's state champion, Marathon High School from Marathon, represented Florida at the national competition held in Philadelphia. The team competed against 31 other state winning teams from across the United States during the three-day national competition. This year's national finals will be held April 21-24 at Disney World in Orlando.

In The Service


By Dona Fair


LABELLE, FL. -- When we think of weather we normally think of local meteorologists demonstrating their latest and greatest Doppler or NEXRAD radar to help us decide whether or not to go for that weekend picnic. But for the son of a LaBelle man, forecasting the weather literally has a global impact, affecting everything from special forces operations in combat, to launching space shuttle missions to keeping service members and their families stationed overseas abreast of the local and regional weather.




Air Force Master Sgt. Louis D. Pell, son of Clinton Pell of Ida Court, in Port LaBelle's Laurel Oaks, is a weather forecaster with the U.S. Air Force Weather Agency, at Offutt Air Force Base, in Omaha, Neb., a team of more than 800 men and women who have become the premier agency for Department of Defense climatology forecasting.




"I create computer-based training for the weather career field. I write and record audio tracks for computer-based training on weather equipment and forecast techniques, used by the weather warfighters," said Pell, who graduated in 1981 from Urbana Senior High School, Ill.




Because of the agency's global operations, they house one of the largest data operations centers in the world. The Air Force Weather Agency has three major missions that are as diverse as the Air Force itself.




The American Forces Network Weather Center is just one of those operations that provides 11 separate weather broadcasts, forecasting weather for close to 120 cities, 400 daily forecasts that reach 2.5 million viewers by way of direct satellite and the Pentagon Channel. The weather specialists also affect operations in space, where technicians monitor our solar system for solar interference or atmospheric disturbances that can wreak havoc with satellite and radio communications.




But even more important, the Weather Agency forecasts also affect the combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, giving ground commanders vital forecasting information. Combat weather specialists accompany combat teams to keep up-to-date on by-the-minute changes to weather conditions. The information produced by the Weather Agency team is used not only to inform, but in some cases, to save lives as well.




"Our work enables the weather warfighter to obtain valuable training on equipment or techniques for which they might not be familiar, prior to and during deployments. It also allows non-deployed weather folks to access the same information, allowing for a standardized, higher level of knowledge," he said.




"I started working in the weather career field back in 1986, when we analyzed and colored paper charts that depicted the atmosphere. Now, computer terminals have replaced the paper charts, and increasingly sophisticated forecast models have and will continue to improve the reliability and accuracy of weather forecast," said Pell.




Pell and his weather teammates may not tell you whether or not you'll need an umbrella for this weekend's outing, but they do make sure our space missions go off without a hitch and can help save the lives of our men and women put in harms way around the globe.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Six Hour Stand-Off With Deputies In LaBelle

LaBelle Man Barricades Self In House

LABELLE, FL. -- Deputies from Collier and Glades county assisted the Hendry county Sheriff's office in arresting a LaBelle man after a six-hour stand-off. At approximately 8:20 p.m., Thursday night, the Hendry County Sheriff's Deputies responded to 4575 South State Road 29 regarding a disturbance. The caller told Hendry dispatchers that a man was armed with a firearm.

When Deputies arrived on the scene they discovered that Debra Hernandez, age 18, and Tami Rose Jackson, age 41, both residents of this address just south of the City of LaBelle, were the victims of assault and battery. Information obtained at the scene indicated the suspect, Joseph William Castelucci, age 45 who also lives at this address, fired a gun at Hernandez and struck Jackson, either with his fist or some unknown object. Castelucci, who reportedly was intoxicated, was barricaded inside the house and was in the possession of a firearm.

After approximately six hours, Deputies entered the house and arrested Castelucci . He was charged with Aggravated Assault with A Deadly Weapon and Battery. Sheriff Ronnie Lee said Deputies from Collier and Glades Counties responded to the scene and assisted the Hendry County Sheriff's Office with the apprehension of Castelucci. Castelucci remains in the Hendry County Jail awaiting first appearance before the County Judge.

LaBelle Business Burglaries Solved

LABELLE, FL. -- The Hendry County Sheriff's Department has made two arrests in connection with a large series of business burglaries in the City of LaBelle. During the past few weeks the Big V Restaurant, Taxi Lobo, Caloosa Belle, Jackson River Furniture Store and the LaBelle Counseling Center have all been burglarized. According to Sheriff Ronnie Lee, both the Road Patrol and Criminal Investigations Division have worked long hours towards solving these crimes and on Wednesday, these efforts paid off.

Two men were arrested and booked into the County Jail charged with committing the burglaries. Bubba Wayne O'Connor, age 33 of 820 Tropicana Street in LaBelle was charged with burglarizing the Big V Restaurant, Taxi Lobo, and the Caloosa Belle. Kevin C. Critean, age 34 of 169 Oklahoma Avenue in LaBelle, was charged with committing the burglaries at the Jackson River Furniture Store and the LaBelle Counseling Center. Bond was set at $27,500 on O'Connor and $42,000 on Critean.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

New Problem With Property Assessments



LABELLE, FL. -- What takes three Hendry county commissioners, two Hendry school board members, the Circuit Court Clerk and her assistant, County Tax Appraiser and her assistants, the county attorney, the tax appraiser's attorney, and a couple of dozen property owners?






The Hendry county Value Adjustment Board had an abbreviated first meeting today, attended by a majority of the county's government officials, but cut short by a last minute objection by Hendry Tax Appraiser Kristina Kulpa. The Board meets every year to hear tax payer petitions for lowering property tax appraisals made by Kulpa's office. This year over 1000 petitions were filed, while in most years the petitions can be counted on two hands.




Photo: School Board Member Sally Berg, Tax Appraiser Cliff Wood, Attorney Wood, and Mr. and Mrs. Godette.




This year CHL Holdings, Inc. filed about 1000 petitions to fight higher property assessments on their holdings of Port LaBelle lots. Today was to be the day the Value Adjustment Board, comprised of three county commissioners and two school board members were to determine whether Special Master Dan Stevens' recommendations made last month were to be approved, or not. Stevens, an attorney, and formerly the Hendry county attorney, has heard petitioner's arguments for several years as the "Special Master" for the Hendry county Value Adjustment Board. His final reports, just recently filed, recommended a lowering of the tax assessments on nearly all the petitions filed, finding that Kulpa's office "threw out" and didn't county many sales transactions last year, causing what Stevens said are tax assessments that are higher than they should be.





But Kulpa's office at the last minute, filed an objection to Stevens' lowered value recommendations, saying she didn't believe Stevens was qualified to judge property values. Kulpa's office wants someone else to determine property values, and indicates that Stevens made incorrect decisions during the hearings he held with taxpayers last month.






The Board heard Kulpa's argument, through her attorney, and voted this morning to continue the hearings at a later date, pending a legal opinion by the State of Florida Department of Revenue attorneys. The Department of Revenue has jurisdiction over tax collection matters and makes rules determining who is qualified to serve as "Special Master", or what the law now calls a "Special Magistrate."





The few tax payers who were heard this morning included Mrs. Phyllis Godette and her husband(pictured above) who complained that the taxes on their land on the river have skyrocketed. and that factor, plus last years's storms prevented them from building a home on the property, and say they are now locked into taxes many times higher than the previous year. They purchased the Caloosa Estates lot in April 2002 for $94,500 and now the tax appraiser says its worth $320,000. Unfortunately, deputy Tax Appraiser Cliff Wood said there is no remedy for the Godettes or other such taxpayers, as there is no maximum tax assessment limit on land unless it comes under a Homestead Exemption for which the assessment can't rise more than 3% a year.


Interestingly, ten lots on Caloosa Estates Drive, a few lots north of the Godettes but on the west side of the street, are only valued by the Hendry tax appraiser at from $13,000 to $16,900. These lots are located at the street addresses from 420 to 610 Caloosa Estates Drive. Daniel Pellicier of the Property Appraiser's office says the lower value on the tax rolls for those ten lots is probably because they are built from "spoil" dirt from the canal behind them. Presumably, the lots may have special drainage or building requirements for any homes places on them. Caloosa Estates Drive is one of the premier addresses in Hendry county - lots being either river front property or riverview property.






Charles Svirk, owner of CHL Holdings, Inc. complained to the Board that he had spent $83,000 in attorney and property appraisals to come before Dan Stevens to argue that his lots were over assessed. Svirk wondered aloud if he would have to spend a similar amount to argue his case again if a new Special Magistrate were to be hired by the Value Adjustment Board.







It seems Kristina Kulpa's office is playing "hard ball" this year to get every bit of property assessment at any cost. The amounts in property valuations the parties are arguing about would seem to cover in additional property taxes, what the government officials are spending on attorneys and staff time. The only people gaining anything in this Value Adjustment Board/Property Appraiser's office stafu seems to be the attorneys, at several hundred of dollars per hour plus travel expenses. Tax Appraiser attorney Wood comes from Broward county, Attorney Stevens came from Tallahassee. It would seems that it may be a bit longer for tax payers to find out at what price their Hendry real estate should really be valued.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Rodeo Festival Returns To Brighton Seminole Reservation


MOORE HAVEN, FL. - The Brighton Field Days Festival and Rodeo will once again return to the Brighton Seminole Reservation this February 17th and 18th. Tens of thousands of visiters return annually to the Field Days festival to enjoy the combination of Native American cultural exhibits and wild western rodeo exitement.


The Indian Festival will be held be held at the Brighton Seminole Reservation; a combination of modern covered arenas and an authentic, turn of the century Seminole village offering Native American art, crafts and food. Entertainment will include Native American Dancers, alligator wrestlers, Seminole Tribal clothing exhibitions, a snake and reptile show, country cloggers, carnival rides and a fair midway.


The $100,000 PRCA Championship Rodeo will be the centerpiece of the Field Days Festival. Top professional bronc riders, bulldoggers, barrel racers, ropers, and bull riders from across North America will compete for a share of the prize money. Western entertainer Johnny U will open the show with a horseback performance of western singing and storytelling and National Finals rodeo announcer Roger Mooney will call the action.


Other activities at the festival will include the Seminole tribal clothing contests and exhibitions, pole peeling, sack racing, turtle racing, men's archery contests, women's skillet throwing contest and a baby contest.


Gates will open Saturday, February 17th at 9 AM, and Sunday, the 18th at 11 AM. Rodeo performance times will be 8 PM Saturday, 3 PM Sunday. Rodeo tickets are $15 at the gate, and include festival admission. Admittance to the festival only is $5. The Brighton Seminole Reservation is located west of Okeechobee between Highway 70 and 78 on 721.

Monday, February 05, 2007

In The Service


LABELLE, FL. - Air Force Airman Fernando Galvez 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 Carlos Galvez and Anisia Novoa of Santa Fe N., LaBelle, Fl. Galvez is a 2004 graduate of LaBelle High School.

Free Eye Care For Seniors

LABELLE, FL. -- By age 65, one in three Americans has some form of vision-impairing eye disease. Most do not know it because there are often no warning symptoms or they assume that poor sight is a natural part of growing older. By detecting and treating eye disease early through annual, dilated eye exams, seniors can preserve their sight. 

The Seniors EyeCare Program (SEP) helps to ensure that all eligible seniors have access to medical eye care and promotes annual, dilated eye exams. SEP raises awareness about age-related eye disease, including cataracts, provides free eye care educational materials and facilitates access to eye care. 

People eligible for a referral through the program receive a comprehensive, medical eye exam and up to one year of care­at no out-of-pocket cost­for any disease diagnosed during the initial exam. Volunteer ophthalmologists accept Medicare and/or other insurance reimbursement as payment in full.

Cataracts are a leading cause of vision loss among adults 55 and older. In fact, more than half the people over age 65 have some degree of cataract development. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people 50 years of age and over. About 1.7 million Americans over age 65 have been diagnosed with AMD. About one to two percent have severe vision loss.

The Seniors EyeCare Program is designed for people who:
  • Are US citizens or legal residents
  • Are age 65 and older
  • Have not seen an ophthalmologist in three or more years
  • Do not belong to an HMO or the VA

To determine if you, a family member or friend qualify for a SEP referral call 800.222.EYES (3937) toll-free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Great Backyard Bird Count


Hendry-Glades Audubon Taking Part

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- What mid-winter activity is fun, easy, free, and helps bird conservation? What can parents and teachers do with children that connects them to a whole new world of natural wonders? This February, the tenth annual Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, will give everyone a chance to discover the birds in their neighborhood and "Count for the Record."

During February 16–19, 2007, people of all ages, from beginners to experts, are invited to join this event which spans all of the United States and Canada. Participants can take part wherever they are – at home, in schoolyards, at local parks or wildlife refuges. Observers simply count the highest number of each species they see during a 15 minute or more  outing or a sitting  , and enter their tally on the Great Backyard Bird Count web site at www.birdsource.org/gbbc , send results to Hendry-Glades Audubon at  sta5birding@earthlink.net  or mail tally to Hendry-Glades Audubon c/o 380 Riverview Drive, LaBelle, FL 33935. 

Saturday, February 03, 2007

LaBelle Real Estate Sales

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- In the last week of January there were five homes
and one vacant lot sold in in the LaBelle area for an average price
of $178,833.

1) $179,000 on County Road 78
2) $167,000 on Hercules Rd (Port LaBelle)
3) $260,000 on Park Dr
4) $35,000 on Rolling Cir (vacant lot in Port LaBelle)
5) $182,000 on N Oak St
6) $250,000 on S Balsam Cir (Port LaBelle)

Glades Group Protests FPL Coal Plant




"Save It Now, Glades" Joins Miami Protest


MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA -- "Save It Now, Glades" joined other environmental groups this week protesting at the "Coaltrans Americas" 2007 annual international coal industry convention in Miami, Florida. The Coaltrans convention, at Key Biscayne's Ritz-Carlton resort, brought business leaders and government officials from the energy, utilities, banking, transportation, and insurance sectors together to find ways to promote the coal industry.



The Glades group. alarmed over the proposed FPL Power Plant proposal for Glades County, had some difficulty with Miami officials in getting permission to stage their protest. Rhonda Roff, president of "Save It Now, Glades" said "It took us two hours and many calls to lawyers, then finally the Miami Herald before they allowed us on the street. They insisted we get an event permit, and even though we know our constitutional rights, some of the protesters decided to accept the permit from the Village of Key Biscayne. They waived the $125 fee and the 20 day waiting period. How nice of them."


Scott Perry, a Glades county resident told a Miami reporter, "The pressure needs to be on FPL [Florida Power & Light]." Perry says pollution from Lake Okeechobee turns the Caloosahatchee River into an "opaque pea soup every spring," and FPL's proposed coal power plant along the west shore of Lake Okeechobee would make the Everglades a toxic wasteland.




The purpose of the Coaltrans "International Networking Event for the North & South American Coal Markets" event was to promote coal development throughout the Western Hemisphere. "Save It Now, Glades" members walked the streets with signs to urge investors to pursue clean energy development instead of coal; demanding that coal producers immediately cease environmental destruction including "mountain-top removal" coal-mining and global warming pollution; and highlighted what they say is the urgent crisis of human rights abuses and violent exploitation committed by the coal industry on rural and indigenous communities, and mineworkers, throughout the Americas. Coal is mined in the Appalachian region of the U.S. as well as in South American countries, taking advantage of low wage workers.



The environmental coalition says major coal industry decision-makers and representatives attending the "Coaltrans Americas" convention are responsible for human rights violations against coalfield communities and mineworkers, as well as high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution leading to an epidemic of children suffering asthma, and massive expanses of irreplaceable land destroyed by mining.


Photo courtesty Rhonda Roff and Save It Now, Glades.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Senior Surfers Choose Web

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- According to a British insurance company survey,
retired people prefer browsing the Internet over more typical hobbies
like gardening and travel. Seniors said they are at the computer an
average of six hours a week mostly doing research and emailing
friends and relatives.

According to the survey, forty-one percent listed surfing the
Internet among their favorite pastimes, slightly ahead of the second
choices, gardening and home improvements (both 39 percent), and
travel and walking (28 percent). The top Internet activity was
emailing (84 percent) and looking for information (83 percent).
Sixty-six percent regularly contact their children via the Internet,
while forty percent email grandchildren.