Thursday, August 30, 2007

Santa Barbara Ranch In Real Estate Scam

Hector Hurtado Steals $140,000 From Prospective Ranch Buyers

LABELLE, FL. -- Circuit Judge Bruce Kyle has signed an order outlining a real estate scam perpetrated by Elizabeth Hurtado and  Hector Hurtado,  operating as Santa Barbara Ranch Corporation in Hendry county, against two men from New York.

According to a final judgment against the Hurtado couple filed in the Circuit Court, a scheme was commenced six years ago to obtain money from Lennard Bactawar and Clement Bactawar by the Hurtado couple. The Hurtados represented they would sell a 68 acre parcel of real estate known as the Santa Barbara Ranch to the Bactawars for $140,000.

The Santa Barbara Ranch on State Road 80 had been in the news before, as the site of a grisly murder in the 1990s, and the location of rumored drug dealing before that.

On August 13, 2001, the Bactawars gave $140,000 to Hector Hurtado  to purchase the ranch with a closing on the property to be the next day in Clewiston at Hurtado's "attorney's office." However, when the the buyers traveled to the Clewiston office on August 14, the Bactawars found there was no such address.

But Hurtado, with the assistance of Elisabeth Hurtado deposited the money into an account at First Bank on August 14 in Clewiston. The bank then issued cashiers a check for $38,000 payable to Benjamin Zaidenstat and $100,000 payable to Juan A. Sanchez Trust Account, both of which were cached and the bank paid the money out.

But when finding there was no attorney's office and no closing was likely to be held, the Bactawars went to Citibank Federal Savings the same day and stopped payment on the checks they had given to Hurtado, and Citibank then impounded the funds of the Bactawars, in case the check had been cashed already, which as it turns out had.

First Bank, now out $138,000, filed a suit against the Hurtados and Citibank to recover the fraudulently obtained money, while the Bactawars filed as intervenors in the suit since they were out $140,000.  The Hurtados filed a countersuit against all the parties.

After six years of in court and out or court arguments among the parties, the Hurtados failed to show up for trial, and failed to comply with court orders of pretrial requirements and discovery requests by the bank attorneys. 

The court gave a judgment in favor of First Bank for the $138,000 they lost in the scam plus costs and interest for a total of $209,413 which interest until paid of 11%. The Backtawars received a judgment in their favor for a total of $127,927 and 11% interest until paid.

No one has been paid, while the Hurtado's last known address was 24155 SW 167th Ave, Miami.

Sierra Club Says Reduce Excessive Runoff

Red Tide and Coastal Pollution Campaign
by Marti Daltry, Ft. Myers Sierra Club

Gardeners in Southwest Florida are busy tending their yards; trimming, weeding, and applying pesticides and fertilizer. However, our daily deluges wash grass clippings, pesticides and fertilizer into our water ways, canals and rivers providing the ideal food for all types of toxic and nuisance algae such as red tide, red drift algae and blue-green algae to grow. In addition, excess nutrient runoff from animal waste, seepage from over-burdened sewage and septic tank systems, agriculture and industrial runoff all create a nutrient-laden stew that peer-reviewed scientific research strongly suggests is responsible for the increased intensity and duration of some harmful algal blooms in Southwest Florida.

Recently the South Florida Water Management District board voted not to backpump any more polluted water into Lake Okeechobee; an action that was applauded by environmental groups across the state. The Sierra Club - Calusa Group, was among the thirty organizations and individuals who made public comments on this issue, and presented their opposition to this harmful practice.

The Sierra Club has launched a Red Tide and Coastal Pollution Campaign to help reduce excessive nutrient runoff in Southwest Florida. Public education is one component; teaching newcomers and long-term residents alike how to achieve a Florida Friendly Yard and incorporating water conservation techniques to existing yards.

Another crucial step is passing local fertilizer ordinances that protect our waterways by prohibiting fertilizing during the rainy season, using time-release or slow-release fertilizers that contain no phosphorus, requiring buffer zones between yard and water and training and certification in best management practices for lawn care professionals.

From an environmental perspective, from an economic perspective and from a health perspective, now is the time to be pro-active and take the necessary steps to reduce coastal pollution. This problem of red tide, red drift and blue-green algae is not a South Florida problem, nor is it a state problem; it is a global problem. Throughout our nation and the world, along the coasts or on inland lakes, our beaches are closed and our water resources are threatened by harmful algal blooms.

Our natural water resources; our river and its watershed, our beaches and the Gulf of Mexico are Southwest Florida's greatest natural treasures and should be protected for future generations to enjoy.

Glades County 11 P.M Juvenile Curfew Coming?

Teens To Be Home By 11

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- This week, Glades County Sheriff Stuart Whiddon gained the County Board of Commissioners' consensus to proceed with an ordinance to impose a county-wide 11 p.m. curfew on juveniles.

County Manager Wendell Taylor was directed to work with County Attorney on preparation of an ordinance.  Taylor reminded the board this new ordinance would have to be approved and adopted by the City of Moore Haven to be in effect.  Commissioner Russell Echols objected to the 11 p.m. time.  Lakeport resident James Brendel commended Sheriff Whiddon on his effort in "protecting the youth."

Muse Community Objects To Proposed Truck Route

In other items on the meeting agenda, Muse Community Association President Joseph Richter presented the Chairman with the original documentation of the State Division of Forestry "Fire Wise Community" designation for the community of Muse. 

Richter also informed the commissioners he had recently traveled the 4.1 miles of Kirby Thompson Road in Glades County and counted 28 potholes, 25 side breaks and 23 cracks. Last Chance Pit, Inc. has asked the county to use the road for dump truck travel to a Charlotte county mine.  Richter said that adding 100 trucks a day traveling this road, would be extremely detrimental.  He stated the Muse Community Association�s unanimous position was in opposition to the Last Chance mining proposal to get permission from Glades county for road use, unless it was beneficial to Glades County and to Muse.

Last Chance Pit is a newly organized company by two Hendry county residents.  The two men have a history of starting companies and going out of business 13 months later. See Last Chance Pit story.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Immokalee Students Talk To Space Station

Students To Talk With Astronauts Tuesday

IMMOKALEE, FL. --  Students in Immokalee have a chance to speak directly with the NASA Astronaut and two Russian Cosmonauts currently on board the International Space Station on September 4.  The students will be taking part in a video downlink with the ISS at 10:40 am on Tuesday, September 4.  The exchange between the 7 and 8 grade students and the scientists on board the ISS will last about 20 minutes, and according to NASA, this may very well be one of the last educational downlink opportunities offered by the ISS.  Collier County�s two NASA explorer schools are among only 30 schools in the world to ever enjoy this unique experience.

Astronaut Clay Anderson and Cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Fyodor Yurchikhin will entertain questions posed by Immokalee and Pine Ridge students.  They will discuss operations on board the ISS, science experiments currently being conducted, and they�ll answer questions about what life is like in space.  Questions being composed by the students in advance, will be asked live by the students Tuesday morning.

Students attending the school district�s other schools, and anyone with basic cable TV service in Collier County or NASA TV on  satellite TV will be able to watch the satellite feed of the video downlink live at 10:40 am on Tuesday, September 4.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Port LaBelle Builder In Financial Trouble

First Class Builders, Inc. Facing Foreclosure

LABELLE, FL. -- One of many home builders in the Port LaBelle area with unsold inventory of homes and land is now facing foreclosure.  First Class Builders, Inc. is being sued by the First Florida Bank for non-payment on a mortgage on five Port LaBelle properties. One home and four vacant lots may be up for auction at court sale if the owner can't bring mortgage payments current.

The bank has filed suit against the builder and the company's owner Jason F. McLendon, according the Hendry county records. Also joined as defendants are Tanya R. McLendon, and several construction related companies who have recorded liens against First Class Builders. Named in the suit as additional defendants are Cemex Construction Materials, Causeway Lumber Company, Tropic Floor, Matt's Concrete, and a LaBelle company, The Paint Authority. 

Properties listed in the law suit include a new home at 2061 South Montana, and vacant lots at 3020 Lady Lane, 3037 Mignon, 6027 Kumquat, and 8045 Buttercup, all in Port LaBelle. The home has been advertised for sale at $199,900 with "owner motivated so make an offer."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

One In Four Teens - Illegal Tobacco Use

Florida Teen Smokers Steal - Make Illegal Purchases

LABELLE, FL. -- According to the Florida Department of Health, 14% of Hendry county high school students are smoking cigarettes and 7.6% of middle school students are cigarette smokers. 9.4% of middle school student smoked cigars and and 11.9% of high school students likewise. Most often the students are stealing or illegally buying in stores. Over half of all students intend at some time to become smokers.

But overall tobacco use, including all forms of tobacco use among Hendry County students, has much higher numbers with middle school student use at 14.3 percent in 2006. Overall tobacco use among Hendry County high school students was at 23.0 percent in 2006.

"Overall tobacco use" is defined as having used any form of tobacco, on one or more of the past 30 days. Any form of tobacco includes cigarettes, cigars, smokeless or chewing tobacco, and specialty tobacco such as pipe tobacco, Bidis (small brown cigarettes from India), or Kreteks more commonly known as �clove cigarettes.�

The report says "committed non-smokers" who have never smoked or intend to, are at 53.3% in middle school and 49.6% among high school students, meaning (and good news for tobacco manufacturers) that about half of all students intend to begin smoking or tobacco use sometime in the future.

So where are these kids getting their illegal smokes?

The school survey incredibly indicates that 17% of students report buying tobacco illegally in stores, while 18% said they (also illegal) gave money to someone to buy for them. Most teens, 27% say they "borrowed" them from someone else and 12% say someone "gave" them the tobacco. And also incredibly 12% say they stole from friends or relatives, and 1% admitted stealing from a store.

We suspect that the "borrowing" answer is probably overstated and the kids responding are hedging, and probably bought or stole them and were afraid to disclose it even on a confidential survey.

Florida law says 18 years old is the age to legally purchase tobacco. Tobacco retailers, including convenience stores, seem to be doing their job, checking IDs as required by law, but we wonder about that 17% who report they are able to buy in stores. Convenience stores' sell more cigarette and tobacco products than any other item, beer being second best seller. Convenience store sales of tobacco make up about 35% of their total sales items, beer about 11%. Maybe convenience stores should be renamed "Tobacco And Beer" stores?

Smokers Have More Friends?

Interestingly, the survey shows that only about one-quarter of all students thought that young smokers "were cool" or "fit in" but believed by two-thirds, was that young smokers have more friends.

About The Survey

In Hendry County, 443 middle school students and 405 high school students in 4 public schools completed the 2006 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey. The county level data and state level data are weighted to represent the entire population of Hendry County public middle and high school students. The data can be used by county health departments, school districts, and other community organizations and citizens to estimate the magnitude of youth tobacco use in Hendry County, as well as to compare tobacco use, attitudes, and related behaviors in Hendry County to those for Florida as a whole.

To see the 10-Page Teen Tobacco Report: Florida - Hendry County Teen Smoking Survey

LaBelle Men Injured In Crash

Tito Sauceda And Mark Maurice Taken To Hospital

LABELLE, FL. -- The Florida Highway Patrol reports a 2002 Chevrolet driven by Mark Thomas Maurice, 20 of 15320 State Road 80 left the highway while traveling south on I-75 at mile marker 139 and hit a sign pole.

Maurice suffered minor injuries, but passenger Tito Roel Sauceda, 22 of 387 Bryan Avenue in LaBelle has critical injuries. The crash happened about 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Both were taken to Lee Memorial Hospital. Charges are pending an investigation.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Airplane Lands Successfully In Field

Pilot Runs Out Of Gas?

LABELLE, FL. -- On August 23rd at about 1:30 p.m., the Hendry County Sheriff�s Office received a report that a plane crashed in the area of Collins Slough Road. 

Based on the information obtained at the scene, it appeared the plane ran out of gas.  The pilot, Ela Bansal, age 21 allegedly a citizen of Afghanistan, landed the plane in a field north of Collins Slough, which is located off Keri Road and southeast of the city of LaBelle. 

Sheriff Ronnie Lee said the pilot told Deputies at the scene that she was the only occupant of the plane and flew from Kemper Aviation which is located in Palm Beach County.  The pilot reportedly received minor cuts on her forehead.  She was transported to Hendry Regional Medical Center for treatment.  

Two Muse Sisters Arrested For Man's Murder

Hadassah Bakeev And Tabitha Labay Charged In Murder, Third Person Sought

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Two Muse woman are under arrest after allegedly hiring a third person to kill a man in exchange for an automobile. The three then buried the body near a Muse barn, say investigators.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Glades County Sheriff's Office announce the arrest of two Glades County residents for the murder of a missing Lee County man. Police have issued an arrest warrant for a third suspect in the homicide. FDLE special agents and Glades County Sheriff's investigators arrested Hadassah Bakeev (photo top), 31, the wife of the victim, and Tabitha Labay (photo bottom), 33, Hadassah's sister, at their home in Muse, Fla. late last night. They are both charged with one count of first-degree murder, premeditated.

Last week, FDLE special agents received information concerning a homicide that had occurred several years ago in the Muse area of Glades County. Agents followed up on the information and discovered the victim, Davronjon Bakeev, 29, was reported missing to the Lee County Sheriff's Office on Nov. 23, 2002. Witness statements led authorities to a home at 25440 Dixie Road in Muse. Agents and investigators along with FDLE crime scene analysts and Glades County Sheriff's Office crime scene searched the property. On Aug. 21, skeletal remains were found buried in a shallow grave near a barn located on the property. The remains are believed to be Davronjon Bakeev.

According to witness statements, agents believe Davronjon Bakeev, who was estranged from his wife at the time, traveled to Muse from Lee County to visit his children and speak with his wife. During that visit, Davronjon Bakeev was allegedly attacked and shot with a handgun by a third person. Agents believe Hadassah contracted with the person to kill Davronjon Bakeev in exchange for an automobile. The three then allegedly disposed of the body and the victim's car.

Hadassah Bakeev and Tabitha Labay were booked into the Glades County Jail. The investigation is ongoing and additional arrests are expected.

Update: August 28 -- The third suspect in the murder of Davronjon Bakeev in Glades County has been arrested in Salem, Ohio.

Members of the Salem Police Department, Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office, and the United States Marshal Service took Jessy Castelucci, 25, into custody around 5 p.m. last night as he was leaving his sister’s home in Salem.

Castelucci is charged with first degree murder, premeditated. Castelucci is in the Columbiana County, Ohio jail awaiting extradition back to Florida. Two FDLE special agents are in Salem to interview the suspect.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sugar Company To Produce Ethanol?

Taxpayer Dollars To Fund Ethanol Plants

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Local companies seem to be in line to get taxpayer funds to build ethanol plants around the Hendry and West Palm Beach county area.  The state legislature and governor are promoting ethanol as a way to ease reliance on oil based fuels and create jobs.  $20 million has been allocated to the University of Florida to partner with Florida companys to build a new plant, and talks are in progress with at least one area firm. 

The University is now negotiating with Florida Crystals in West Palm Beach for such an undertaking using sugar cane waste to produce the fuel. School officials also may enter talks with a Taylor County company to use wood waste if the deal with Florida Crystals doesn't pan out. Other Hendry agricultural companies are reportedly investigating how they might get their hands on taxpayer funds to produce ethanol from citrus pulp and other locally grown agricultural products.

Plant May Harm Environment?

Environmentalists have countered the hoopla over ethanol plants with claims that the plants could further harm the environment through pollution of the groundwater and soil around the plants.  A typical ethanol facility would require from 225,000 to  411,000 gallons of water daily, or about 3.5 to six gallons of water during the cooling and fermentation stages for each gallon of ethanol produced making it one of the largest users of a community's water supply. 

The extra water needed to grow the additional crops to be used for ethanol production may be a bigger worry, and hasn't been accounted for, as well as the cost factor, which makes ethanol fuel not as efficient to produce as petroleum based fuel.  

Southern Gardens Settles With Kristina Kulpa

Attorneys Recover More Than Clients In Tax Case?

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Southern Gardens Citrus Processing, Inc has settled with Hendry County Tax Appraiser Kristina Kupla after a year of court hearing and mediation talks. Southern Gardens had sued Kulpa, as county property appraiser, Peggy Hampton as county tax collector, and James Zingall as director of the state Department of Revenue over the valuation of taxable tangible personal property at the Hendry county citrus processing plant.

Observers say three out-of-area attorneys representing the parties probably earned more in fees than their clients recovered in any tax savings  in the lawsuit filed in the Hendry Circuit Court last year.

Attorneys Robert Kelley Jr. of Tampa, Gaylord Wood of Bunnell, Fl., and Mark Aliff of Tallahassee, attorneys for Southern Gardens, Kristina Kulpa, and the Department of Revenue respectively, filed a stipulated Final Judgment last week with the court mutually agreeing to lower the value on the Southern Gardens taxable personal property, and a refund any taxes paid in excess of the new amount due.

The original tax value was lowered from $75,202,550 as calculated by the Hendry tax appraiser's office to an agreed amount of $60,729,960. 

Hendry Tax Appraiser Kristina Kulpa's office has been on the defense for the last year over tax valuations, fighting over property appraisals of over a thousand Hendry real estate parcels, after owners disputed the higher property tax appraisals last year.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Teacher Discipline Reports Online

How To Find Sanctions Against Teachers' Licenses

LABELLE, FL. -- Parents can check state misconduct records of their children's teachers on a public website beginning this week. Last Tuesday, the State Board of Education unanimously approved that and several other changes - mostly technical - in teacher disciplinary procedures, but none will be as far-reaching as the website.

The information will be posted in the educator quality section of the Education Department's website. Searches can be done by teacher's name or by county. Information on teachers who have been accused of misconduct will include complaints, dispositions, and sanctions, if any, which can range from letters of reprimand to license revocations. Private school parents may have even more incentive to check out the website. Teachers who have lost their certificates cannot work in public schools, but they can be hired by private schools.

Department of Education Teacher Misconduct Search

Hendry Towing Burglarized

Brad McDonald Arrested

LABELLE, FL. -- During the early morning hours of August 16, 2007, Hendry Towing, located on Industrial Loop in LaBelle, was burglarized.  Several items, including a 4-wheel ATV were stolen.  The ATV was located a short distance from the Towing Company and was left there in anticipation the perpetrators would return.  According to Sheriff Ronnie Lee, they did return at approximately 8:15 p.m., and were arrested.  One adult, Bradley Emerson McDonald, age 29 of 1655 Case Road in LaBelle, and two juveniles were charged with committing the Burglary and Grand Theft.

Friday, August 17, 2007

LaBelle Home Sales

LABELLE, FL. -- In the last three weeks from July 24 to August 14 there were only five residential real estate properties sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $164,400. The properties sold were

1) $149,000 on Bishop Circle (Unit 4 Port LaBelle)
2) $380,000 on College Street (city of LaBelle)
3) $110,000 on Edison Ave (city of LaBelle)
4) $150,000 on Rockaway Lane (Unit 4 Port LaBelle)
5) $33,000 on Royal Circle (vacant lot Unit 9 Port LaBelle)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Glades To Encourage Trucks On Kirby Thompson Road?

Controversy Over Truck Route Through Hendry and Glades County

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- The Glade County Commissioners discussed  a proposal to allow a Hendry County company use of Glades roads to access a Charlotte county rock mine site.

The Board reviewed and discussed the 12-page draft proposal prepared by County Attorney Pringle for "Last Chance Mine" to provide a Roadway Service Life Reduction Fee to Glades County for the use of Kirby Thompson Road and CR720 west of Kirby Thompson Road in Glades County as a haul route from their mining site on the Charlotte-Glades County line as required by Charlotte County for issuance of the mining permit. (The mining site is wholly contained in Charlotte Co.)

The "Last Chance Mine" owners were profiled in a February 27th Sunday Morning News story. The company is apparently a very newly formed company and one of the owners, Dean Daniels, has been the owner/operator of several failed real estate and mine related businesses operating out of Hendry county this year.

Objections By Hendry County Officials - May Be Last Chance For Company?

Glades Commissioner Donna Storter Long stated she had correspondence from Hendry County Planning and Engineering Departments who had met with Charlotte County officials, and they object to the use of Kirby Thompson Road extending into Hendry County and that Highway 78 in Hendry County  and Lee County is restricted to no through truck traffic; thus if Glades County approves use of its portion of  Kirby Thompson Road, the trucks would be subject to penalty for continuing on Kirby Thompson onto SR78  in Hendry County and would likely detour and use Glades County roads for egress.

County Attorney Pringle stated that truck traffic already used those Hendry County roadways hauling from the farms in the Muse area. 

Last Chance Pit LLC owners Dean Daniels and Kelvin Townsend stated they could not control the routes used by truckers hauling from their pit but were willing to pay for damages to specified roads that was attributable to their use.  Dean Daniels later in the meeting stated that they anticipated about 100 trucks per day and most of the material would be hauled to their own developments, making some wonder why he made the earlier statement that he could not control the truck routes.

When the issue was originally presented before the Glades BoCC February 26, 2007, Last Chance offered a damage bond of $121,895 and annual fee of $47,200.  The issue was tabled pending testing and assessment of the roads in questions, which was subsequently performed by Aim Engineering to establish a profile of the current condition of the road and bridge on the proposed route.

Commissioner Long stated that there is a weight restriction on Bee Branch Bridge which was due for replacement next year and she expressed concern that truckers will then take an easterly route through Muse on CR720, Firetower Road, Pollywog Crossover and Whidden Road (and Fernwood through Crescent Acres) to gain access to either SR 29 or SR 74.  The proposed agreement limited Last Chance�s liability to only Kirby Thompson and the west end of CR 720 as approved routes.

Commissioner Beck commented that as Muse continues development, a market for fill would exist but this proposal prohibited trucks from going into Muse.  Attorney Pringle stated he could provide language that allowed local deliveries.

Citing the conditions of the haul route over Bronson Road to Rigdill�s pit, Commissioner Echols stated the mine owners could control the truckers by refusing to allow them to haul from their pit and if the penalties were high enough, they would be motivated to force the truckers to comply. 

Commissioner Long stated that the mine operation may not have a contract with the haulers and would be selling fill and sand to customers who may provide their own haulers thus the mine could not control the trucker�s choice of routes.  She asked about the possibility of the mine creating its own roadway within Charlotte County to access SR 74 to the north.  Chairman Jones commented that would be preferable or perhaps another solution would be to assess tonnage or load rates to pay for road repairs since the proposal requires daily load reports.
Commissioner Long reminded the Board that Charlotte County, and not Glades County, would benefit from the ad valorem and property tax assessments on the mine and the county would be enduring the damages and abuse or use of our roads and even with the agreement, would bear the uncertainty of actual future costs and inconvenience.

The Board gave no consensus to the proposed agreement, and no quantities were suggested for the annual minimum payments, road damage bond amount or penalties for failure to control truckers� use of roadways. County Manager Taylor suggested that the bond amount be set high enough to protect the county so that it would encourage compliance.

County Attorney Pringle stated he had told company owner Daniels he hoped to complete the agreement by the end of August. 

More About the "Last Chance Mine" Owner

Glades Fire Chiefs Recognized By Commission

Glades Commission Meeting Approvals This Week

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- At the Tuesday morning meeting of the Glades Commission Chairman K. S. Butch Jones recognized Public Safety Director Jones and awarded him and then each Volunteer Fire Chief with a plaque of appreciation for outstanding service.  A standing ovation was given for Director Jones, District 1 Indian Hills Chief Ricky Constable, District 2 Ortona Chief Jimmy Summeralls and Muse Chief Jason Queen, District 3 Palmdale Chief Jeff Harrod and Lakeport Chief Lawhon, District 4 Moore Haven Chief John Biggs, and District 5 Buckhead Ridge Chief Tom Vallee. 

Commissioner Donna Storter  Long said, "Glades County is dependent on the services of these dedicated hardworking volunteers for all fire and rescue services for which they receive token compensation.  All have exemplified true spirit of community service, especially during the recent 18,000- acres fire in Glades County. The plaques can only begin to honor these men and their crews and show our deepest gratitude."

In Other Actions

In other action the board approved  a request for the Estates At Port LaBelle for an amendment to FLUM land use zoning requirements to allow changing 5.23 acres from Commercial to Residential and 7.24 acres from Agriculture to Residential.  Parcels are part of 252 acres already zoned as residential where the developer is proposing a subdivision to site 91 single family homes near Aspen Blvd. in Port LaBelle.

Also approved was a bid for widening and resurfacing a portion of CR720/731 in Muse, awarded to low bidder Better Roads, Inc. for $1,764,026.05.  Others bids included AJAX @ $2,103,918.27 and Fla. Highway Products for $2,590,101.11.  County Manager Taylor said he would request of DOT that the $527,391.15 SCOP funds remaining on the table be used for enhancing the approach to West Glades School where there is currently no turn lane.

Economic Development Council Executive Director Tracy Whirls requested the Board appoint a planning �team� to begin the process of establishing a Tourist Development Council in Glades County.  The Board appointed Commissioner Paul Beck and approved appointments of David Dannenhauer, Dave Ferguson, Bob Joyner, Bill Redman, Patty Register, Nita Shirley and Bret Whidden.

Citing the need to discuss settlement issues of pending litigation, County Attorney Pringle received the Board�s agreement to convene in executive session August 21 at 1 PM.  He will provide the legal stenographer and advertising.  Issues to be discussed include two cases relative to FPL power park and land development regulations process, Glades County RV Park Owners Association and Coba Beasley, and the Federal case filed on behalf of Billy Thompson and Patricia Brown.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Red Cross Partners With McDonalds

Steve Nisbet Donates $1,223 To Red Cross

LABELLE, FL. -- The Glades Area Branch of the American Red Cross joined Hendry County Emergency Management and the Fire Departments in LaBelle, Clewiston and Western Palm Beach County to hand out preparedness information bags at Nisbet Enterprise, Inc. owned McDonald�s locations this week. 

Information bags were stuffed with brochures including a checklist of supplies that should be included in a disaster supply kit, how to purify water in the event of water contamination and tips on preparing a family disaster plan. Nearly 600 bags we handed out over the course of three days at three different McDonald�s locations in Belle Glade, Clewiston and LaBelle. 

Debbie McDuffie, Glades Area Red Cross Manager said "Partnering with Nisbet Enterprises has allowed us the opportunity to provide the community of Belle Glade, Clewiston and LaBelle with timely hurricane preparedness information."

In addition to allowing the Red Cross to hand-out information to customers, Nisbet Enterprises also donated 5% of net proceeds for the day from the three restraurants to the Red Cross, a total of $1,223.  The money raised will go to help the Glades Area in the event of a hurricane or other disaster.

Steve Nisbet, Sr., Owner of Nisbet Enterprises said "It is always wonderful to give back to the community, the information the Red Cross provides is critical and we are glad to be able to help."

Monday, August 13, 2007

Montura Man Arrested On Cocaine Charges

Ignacio Alverez - Possession of Cocaine

CLEWISTON, FL. -- On August 10th, 2007, members of the Hendry County Sheriff�s Office executed a search warrant at 415 South Sendero Street in Montura Estates.  Sheriff Ronnie Lee said Deputies located a quantity of cocaine, numerous small bags used for the packaging of cocaine, electronic weight scales, and $2,464 in U. S. Currency within the premises. Ignacio Alverez, age 54, was arrested and charged with Operating a Drug House, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Possession of Cocaine, and Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Sell.  

Friday, August 10, 2007

SFWMD Objects To Hendry Master Plan Change

Water Managers Say County's Plans Insufficient

LABELLE, FL. -- The South Florida Water Management District Governors Thursday approved a resolution objecting to a proposed comprehensive zoning master plan amendment on 18,150 acres in northwestern Hendry as requested by Hendry County.

Hendry County is proposing to amend its Comprehensive Plan with the state's Department of Community Affairs in Tallahassee by creating new designations on its Future Land Use Map for the "West Hendry Area." The maximum development potential of these amendments could accommodate a population of approximately 104,500 people and allow over 71 million square feet of industrial, commercial, and office space in the West Hendry Area, according to the SFWMD, in excess of what the county claims in a filing with the DCA in June.

Prior county community development plans called for only modest population gains in Hendry county, going from about 40,000 currently to about 50,000 people by year 2020. SFWMD is objecting to the proposed amendment on the grounds that it may adversely impact the Everglades Restoration efforts and does not adequately address water supply impacts, nor give proper documentation of the county's premises.

Sloppy County Documentation Cited By SFWMD 

The land use changes are not accompanied by either the necessary data and analysis, or the needed water supply source and capital infrastructure changes to the Capital Improvements Element, the 5-year Capital Improvements Schedule and other elements of the comprehensive plan (e.g. Infrastructure and Conservation Elements), says the SFWMD.
The SFWMD says Hendry's proposed changes significantly under-estimate the water supply demands and infrastructure needed to accommodate the county's proposed land uses. The county's amendments identify traditional, rather than alternative, sources as future water supply sources, inconsistent with the District�s Lower West Coast Water Supply Plan Update, says the SFWMD. They say that the county has not documented accurately the possible population growth and water needs for the area, nor provided accurate legal descriptions of the land parcels involved in the proposal.

The land use changes appear to include changes to approximately 1,956 acres of SFWMD District owned lands adjacent to and associated with the C-43 Reservoir which may adversely impact the Everglades Restoration efforts. The District specifically objected to these changes and recommended Thursday that District-owned lands not be included in the land use amendment.

The SFWMD says it intends to "Strengthen the linkage between land use and water supply planning through review of local comprehensive plans" and "implement recommendations of water supply plans" when counties make changes in zoning master plans at the state level. The Board of Governors say "the support of other agencies and local governments for implementation of Acceler8 and water supply planning may erode over time" and that by formally objecting to the county�s Comprehensive Plan amendment, as they did at the Thursday meeting, the District preserves its point of entry in the state administrative process, for further comments and objections to the county plans to change its master plan.

South Florida Water Management Plan Objections (7 pages)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Ag Commissioner Worried About Drought Effects

Lake Okeechobee Ranchers And Farmers Affected By Low Water

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson says consumers will see food prices increase and the state face serious economic consequences if the prolonged drought in southeast Florida continues.  Total statewide economic losses have already topped an estimated $100 million this year, and are expected to surpass $1 billion over the next two years if the current situation is not altered.

"Some agricultural industries like cattle, citrus and sugar won't feel the worst of their financial pains until 2008 and 2009," Bronson said.

While the normal summer rains have eased the severity of urban water shortages throughout the state, many Floridians are unaware that agricultural producers around Lake Okeechobee are facing ongoing water shortages and storage dilemmas that will continue well into next year and beyond. 

In addition to providing a backup drinking water supply for the densely populated communities of South Florida and a critical supplemental water supply for the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee stores irrigation water for some 700,000 acres of agriculture -- considered by some as the most productive farm land in the world.

"Agriculture around the lake is facing a dire situation," Bronson said.  "If there's any hope of avoiding a financial meltdown, it's absolutely essential that the State, the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers do everything possible to increase water levels in Lake Okeechobee."

Even with the increasing rainfall in recent weeks, Bronson believes that state agencies must find a way to put more storage water back into the lake.  Florida's "dry season" starts in November and most agricultural producers do not feel that there is sufficient water to get them through the critical period until next spring.

And without ample water, the state's valuable winter vegetable production, citrus crop and sugar production are in peril, according to Bronson.

Many South Florida farmers have been under water restrictions since November 2006 and some are now questioning the viability of even planting a fall crop.

"This is a tough situation," Bronson said. "Think about it; would you invest hundreds-of-thousands of dollars planting crops with the prospects of having an insufficient water supply to keep them alive?" 

Bronson stressed that agriculture losses will no doubt also show up in lost tax revenues, unemployment and higher food prices.

"It's not just about farm profitability; it affects everyone who eats and relies on the economy," he said.

Gabriel Chavez Arrested For Homicide

Cocaine Found At Scene

LABELLE, FL. -- On August 3, 2007, Hendry County Sheriff�s Criminal Investigator, Fernando Herrera, arrested Gabriel Chavez, age 37 of 881 Nobles road Labelle. Chavez was arrested on a warrant out of Lee County for Attempted Homicide 2nd Degree. 

At the time of his arrest, Chavez was in possession of 12 Baggies of powder cocaine.  Sheriff Ronnie Lee said Chavez was also charged with Fugitive From Justice, Possession of Cocaine, and Possession of Cocaine With Intent to Sell. Chavez is being held without bond awaiting extradition to Lee County.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Governor Celebrates Free Drugs

CAPE CORAL, FL. -- Governor Charlie Crist today applauded Publix Supermarkets for launching a free prescription drug program. Secretary Andrew Agwunobi, of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and Charlie Jenkins Jr., chief executive officer of Publix Supermarkets, joined Governor Crist for the announcement at the Midpoint Center Publix in Cape Coral.

Seven popular antibiotics will be available at no charge for people with valid prescriptions. The free antibiotics are available to customers regardless of their heath care coverage and are provided in up to two-week supplies. Publix estimates that the antibiotics account for almost 50 percent of generic, pediatric prescriptions filled at the supermarkets’ pharmacies.

The prescription antibiotics available under the program include:

· Amoxicillin
· Cephalexin
· Sulfamethoxazole/Trimethoprim (SMZ-TMP)
· Ciprofloxacin (excluding ciprofloxacin XR)
· Penicillin VK
· Ampicillin
· Erythromycin (excluding Ery-Tab)

LaBelle Set For New Park?

Paul Puletti Leading The Way For New Recreational Park

LABELLE, FL. -- The city of LaBelle has set its sights on the possibility of a new park. The city entered a lease with the South Florida Water Management district for hundreds of acres on the north side of the Caloosahatchee River, just east of the LaBelle bridge. This lease was issued April 30, 1991 and pretty much forgotten by city officials until this year. 

In April, Rhonda Haag and Fred Davis (formerly of SFWMD)  came to the LaBelle City Commission meeting to terminate the lease because the city had  not developed a park on the site, that was required under the terms of the 1991 lease.  The City was given a year extension. If the City didn't provide SFWMD with a plan, then the lease could be terminated.
There is a coalition of groups with interest in preserving the area as public land on the Caloosahatchee, as it remains one of the few undeveloped areas along the river. The east side of the land adjoins the Riverbend subdivision while the western end meets the Belle Hatchee Marina. A strip along the river is for Corps of Engineers access.
The City has purchased an easement for the private road leading to the entrance to the land, and at the July City Commission meeting city attorney Owen Luckey mentioned that it would take at least 90 days to complete the legal work for the easements to allow access to the property.  The city commission will take up the issue again at its August 14 meeting with Paul Puletti leading the movement to save the land for LaBelle residents' recreational use.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

FPL Seeks Refund Of Power Plant Costs

FPL Asks Customers To Pay $435 Million Planning Costs

MOORE HAVEN, FL. --  Florida Power and Light is asking the Florida Public Service Commission to allow it to recover $35 million by tacking on the cost to customer bills. FPL claims it spent the money on costs associated with planning for the Glades power plant west of Moore Haven. The plan was shot down by the Public Service Commission June 5 after complaints about harm to the Everglades were voiced.

FPL is under a current agreement with the PSC to not raise rates until 2010, so if the request were granted, customers would be seeing a rate increase to pay the $35 million to FPL.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Clewiston Drugs Found

Arrest Of Keven Alicia

CLEWISTON, FL. -- On Wednesday August 1st, Members of the Hendry County Sheriff�s Office and the Clewiston Police Department executed a search warrant at 550 South Lopez Street, Apartment # 17, in Clewiston. 

Officers located a quantity of Marijuana, Cocaine, and Drug Paraphernalia within the residence, which resulted in the arrest of 28-year-old Kevin Lee Alicia.  Alicia was charged with Felony Child Neglect, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Possession of Marijuana and Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Sell. 

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Recalled Castleberry Food Calls For Caution

Items Still On Grocer Shelves

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson is urging retail outlets to recheck their shelves for food products recalled by Castleberry's Food Company several weeks ago.  He has also put a link to the list of recalled products on the Department's web site.
Bronson's reminder comes as the Food and Drug Administration and United States Department of Agriculture indicate the recall has been less than effective as reports show recalled products are still on store shelves.  The canned products may be contaminated with botulinum toxin which could cause botulism, which poses a life-threatening hazard.  Castleberry's has released a letter to the public reiterating the urgency of complying with the recall and providing detailed instructions for the handling and disposal of the affected products.  Products found in the home should be returned to the retailer or double-bagged and placed in the trash.  These products should not be opened.
"I'm concerned that we are still finding Castleberry's products on store shelves nearly two weeks after the recall was first announced," Bronson said. 
Inspectors with Bronson's Division of Food Safety continue intense efforts to assist federal regulators in searching for and removing from stores shelves food products recalled by the company.  The recall has been expanded several times.  Department inspectors indicate the compliance rate is approximately 80 percent, and the biggest problem is with smaller, independent grocery and convenience stores that have not gotten word of the recall.  Many flea markets, green markets and food banks also carry food items and Bronson is urging consumers to be on the lookout as many people flock to the markets on the weekend.
Consumers and store owners are urged to go to the Department's web site at and look under Hot Topics for the link to the recalled products.  People with questions can also contact the Division of Food Safety at (850) 245-5520.
Meanwhile, on another topic, the Food and Drug Administration has also announced the recall of Lakeside Foods Inc. French Style Green Beans because some cans may have been under-processed and some cans may have leaked.  While no illnesses have been reported these cans have the potential to be contaminated with harmful organisms including Clostridium botulinum.  No botulinum toxin has been found in any cans tested to date, however, the company continues to test out of an abundance of caution.  Florida is one of the states in which the product was distributed.  For a complete listing of code and label information on impacted products, log onto or call 1-800-466-3834 ext 4090.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Health Insurance Open Enrollment Month

Self-Employed And Small Business Insurance Available This Month

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink is urging self-employed Floridians to remember that August is open enrollment month for single-group employers to get health insurance or switch plans on a guaranteed-issue basis, meaning insurers and Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) must offer coverage without regard to health status.  The open enrollment period begins today and continues through August 31, 2007. 

"Our small employers are the backbone of this state and I want to make sure they take advantage of this once-a-year opportunity to get health coverage," said CFO Sink.  "There is no other time of year that coverage is guaranteed for the self-employed, so they should act now to get insurance or review their current policy."

The open enrollment period requires insurance companies and HMOs to offer applications for coverage to the self-employed on a guaranteed-issue basis from August 1 to August 31 each year, with a plan start date of October 1.  Companies that write coverage for small groups are required to offer Basic or Standard plans to the self-employed.

A sole proprietor, independent contractor or self-employed individual can apply for coverage if all of the conditions and criteria established in the law are met, and certain documentation verifying the operation of an active business is provided, including tax forms, license information and business receipts, per Florida Statutes 627.6699(3)(u).

A list of insurance companies offering coverage is posted on the Department of Financial Services' website at To learn more about plan options, visit

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

Consumers may contact the department's toll-free consumer helpline at 1-800-342-2762 or log on to to request a free Health Insurance Guide or Small Business Owners' Insurance guide.