Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Clewiston Seek Help From Tallahassee

Governor Crist Comments On Mayor And Commissioner's Visit

CLEWISTON, FL. --  Following a visit by Kevin McCarthy and Mli Chamness, Governor Crist said, "I appreciate Commissioner Kevin McCarthy and Mayor Mali Chamness for coming to Tallahassee and representing their communities.  As I mentioned in our meeting, this administration is committed to the people of Hendry County and the City of Clewiston as negotiations continue with U.S. Sugar Corporation.

"Jobs in the area are critical to the future of the region.  To compliment a sustainable agricultural industry moving forward, jobs must be maintained."

Joining Governor Crist, Commissioner McCarthy and Mayor Chamness was Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole.

Berry Pickers Killed In Crash

LABELLE, FL. -- Six men hired to pick palmetto berries were killed in a crash in their van in Glades county at State Road 78 and State Road 29, just north of LaBelle.

Identified are Jose Martin Saavedra, age 35 of Immokalee, the driver of a 1993 Chevrolet van.

Passengers were: Jose Martin Saavedra age 35, Lucas Reyes Flores age 21, Jose Marie Arellano age 68, Rigoberto Reyes Perez age 20, Sergio Saul Zalazer age 21, all of Immokalee.

The crash happened about 6:30 A.M. Monday. The wife of the driver advised FHP that the victims were en route to pick palmetto berries.

Workers are seasonally hired to pick red palmetto berries, most often on private property without landowner permission, especially around the vacant lots of Port LaBelle and Montura.

Dove Hunting Season Opens

LABELLE, FL. -- When Florida's first phase of the mourning dove season opens Saturday, Oct. 4, hunters will find an unexpected bonus -- an increase in the bag limit from 12 to 15 birds.

The daily bag limit is a combined bag limit and applies to both mourning doves and white-winged doves.

Prior to the 2008 hunting season, states had the option of going with a higher bag limit but fewer days of hunting. This year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said states could increase bag limits without giving up hunting days.

Florida's three-phase dove season runs 72 days. This year it's Oct. 4-27; Nov. 15-30; and Dec. 13 – Jan. 11, 2009. Hunting during the first phase is legal from noon to sunset. Hunting is allowed during the latter two phases from 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset. 

Kurt Hodges, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) assistant small game coordinator, said states within the service's Dove Eastern Management Unit are collecting many types of data to ensure dove populations remain unhindered by the bag limit increase.

"Some states are doing things a little differently, but here in Florida, we've been banding doves since 2003. We've banded approximately 6,000 birds during the summer months," Hodges said. "If hunters kill a banded bird, there's information on the band that tells them where to report the band information.

"Also, we're continuing with our 'call count surveys,' and the service will be asking randomly selected hunters to provide wings so they can be aged. The other significant source of data comes from the Harvest Information Program survey, which is a no-cost program, required for all migratory bird hunters."

Hodges said if trends show that dove numbers decline significantly in the future for any reason, there are built-in triggers in the data-collection system that will signal both state and federal wildlife managers that changes are needed.

The 2008-2009 migratory bird regulations for dove, snipe, woodcock, rail, moorhen, crow and early waterfowl seasons may be obtained by contacting the FWC's regional offices, or may be viewed online at MyFWC.com/hunting/pdf/2008-2009MigratoryBrochure.pdf.

In The Service - Sgt. Mike Dunning

BELLE GLADE, FL. -- Air Force Tech. Sgt. Micheal L. Dunning has arrived for duty at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, to serve as a member of Joint Task Force-Bravo (JTF-B).

The task force is comprised of almost 600 U.S. military members and more than 650 U.S. and Honduran civilians who work in six different area units: the Joint Staff, the Army Forces, Air Force Forces, Joint Security Forces, the Medical Element, and the 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment, a helicopter unit.

JTF-B units conduct military-to-military training, execute counter narco-trafficking operations, human trafficking deterrence, and engagement in civil affairs activities in conjunction with U.S. interagency partners.

Dunning is a deputy airfield manager with 14 years of military service. He is the son of Geraldine Massey of N.W. 12th Ave, South Bay, Fla., and Johnny J. Dunning of Belle Glade, Fla. The sergeant is a 1993 graduate of Glades Central Community High School, Belle Glade.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hendry Hospital Doctor Profiles

Online Profiles Of "Our Physicians" Show Surprises

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Hendry County's Regional Medical Center this week sent out an elaborate annual report for the 2007 year. Included among financial statements and other promotional materials were listings of "Our Physicians." Nearly all doctors listed on staff show conflicting profiles and information on the state of Florida's website, many not listed as on the staff at Hendry Regional. Only seven out of 28 doctors listed by the DOH checked out without any discrepancies.

Checking the Florida Department of Health records on the DOH website we found the following:  doctors shown living in another county, doctors on multiple hospital staffs, criminal convictions, and listings shown by DOH as not a staff member at Hendry Regional:

Prashant Barakoti, internal medicine: Barakoti had not verified his listing that shows a Brooklyn, NY address and a statement he does not practice in Florida.
Edward Becker, urology: Becker had two criminal convictions for driving under the influence and lives in Palm Beach county and is listed on the staff of six hospitals.
Leonard Carroll, general surgery: No record was found for this name on the DOH website
Hans Louis-Charles, internal medicine: has not verified his listing, shows a Miami address and no hospital affiliation
Fred Collins, dentistry: no record found for Collins
Jesse Eisenman, gastroenterology: On staff at five hospitals, not included as on staff at Hendry Regional, address in Palm Beach county.
James Forbes, chief of medical staff: Had disciplinary actions imposed on him by Department of Health, paid $1,000 in costs and completed "continuing education" as required by DOH.
Barbara Thomas-Jones, pathology: Not listed as on staff at Hendry Regional. Address in Palm Beach County
Marcos Kornstein, obstetrics: Profile not available at DOH "pending" confirmation. Address in Palm Beach County
Esther Levin, cardiology: Not listed as on staff at Hendry Regional. Address in Miami.
Juan Lopez, internal medicine: Not listed as on staff at Hendry Regional. Clewiston address.
Rafael Lopez, urology: Listed on staff at five hospitals. Address in Palm Beach County
Sonia Maddalena, emergency medicine: On staff at three hospitals. Address in Palm Beach County
Gaston Mendez, radiology: No record found under this name on DOH website
Udayashree Nune, family practice: Not shown as on staff at Hendry Regional. Pennsylvania address
Muthuswami Ramachandran, nephrology: On staff of six hospitals, address in Palm Beach County
Alberto Rengifo, emergency medicine: Not shown on staff of Hendry Regional. On staff of four hospitals, address in Palm Beach County
Cristina Pascal_Ricart, internal medicine: Has not verified her DOH profile, New York Address, not shown on staff of Hendry Regional
Denise Semashko, emergency room director: Not on staff at any Florida hospital according to DOH website shown as verified by Semashko
Freya Silverstein, nephrology: On staff at six hospitals. Address in Palm Beach County

http://ww2.doh.state.fl.us/irm00profiling/SEARCHFORM.ASP - Online Physician Profile Search

LaBelle Homes Sales

LABELLE, FL. -- From 8/26/2008 to 9/23/2008, there were 6 homes sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $81,167. The sales included:

1) $66,000 on Cowboy Circle
2) $142,000 on Fort Keis Avenue
3) Unknown price on Royal Circle
4) $145,000 on Springview Circle
5) $34,000 on Tide Circle
6) $100,000 on S Edgewater Circle

Friday, September 26, 2008

Florida Students Fairing Poorly In Science

FCAT - Most Children Score Below Grade Level

LABELLE, FL. -- Scores have improved a bit since the 2006 FCAT science test, but this year less than half of the state's public school students scored at or above grade level - 43% in fifth grade, 40% in eighth grade and 38% in 11th grade.

The department released FCAT Science Lessons Learned: 2003-2006 Data Analyses and Instructional Implications. The publication provides educators with detailed trend analyses of student performance on FCAT Science in Grades 5, 8, and 11. It includes summaries, observations, and statistical trends that provide a comprehensive study of student performance by grade.


Spanish Speakers Increasing

One-in-Five Speak Spanish in Four States

LABELLE, FL. -- Of the 20 largest metropolitan statistical areas, Miami and Los Angeles had the highest percentage of foreign-born (37.0% and 34.9%, respectively). With 49.1% of residents over the age of five speaking a language other than English at home, Miami ranks second among the 20 largest metro areas in this category.

Florida ranks fifth behind Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada, with 19% of residents who speak Spanish at home.


Record Visits To State Parks

Recreational Visits Up In Florida Parks

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida's state parks had a record-setting 20.7 million visitors in Fiscal Year 2007-08, a 6.2% increase from last year.

Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin welcomed the most visitors, with more than one million individuals served. South Florida parks also were popular among visitors, with Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne receiving more than 890,000 visitors and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo welcoming almost 880,000 visitors.

In addition, there were a record number of volunteer hours contributed with more than 6,000 park volunteers contributing an all-time high of almost 1.2 million hours of work to the state. Although Hendry and Glades county have no State Parks, Hendry county is home to the many wildlife and forest areas including Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest.

http://members.aol.com/browne/ecotour.html - Places To Visit In Hendry And Glades County Area

Friday, September 19, 2008

In The Service - Airman Franklin

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Air Force Airman Curtiesa D. Franklin 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 in applied science degree through the Community College of the Air Force.

Franklin is the daughter of Tina Graham and stepdaughter of Dana Barnes of Mississippi Ave., Clewiston, Fl. In 2007, the airman graduated from Clewiston High School.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Glades Police Dog Shot - Letter To Editor

The following anonymous letter was sent to the editor in response to a recent story in Glades County.:


Nero The Police Dog Shot By Neighbor Of Dog's Handler

On Tuesday, September 2nd, the community suffered a great loss. Glades County Police Service Dog, Nero, was shot and killed in Okeechobee County. The unfortunate incident was a result of negligence and inattention and could have been avoided.

Due to the dog's handler recently resigning from the Glades County Sheriffss Office after handling Nero for almost three years, he was being housed at another deputy's residence after a stint at the vet's office. The deputy housing Nero is an experienced Canine Handler and has been employed with the Seminole Police Department as such until his recent switch to begin working for the Glades County Sheriff's Office.

While the deputy was working, his minor daughter, without the supervision of a qualified handler or adult, was allowed to handle the six year old Belgian Malinios. The girl took the service dog outside lacking the judgment to have the dog on a leash. The Police Dog then began to chase a cat which ran back to their neighbor's house. As a direct result of this incompetence, the neighbors felt it necessary for them to protect their cat and shot K9 Nero, leaving him fatally wounded.

I can only hope that in today's world, with the dependence on liability, that the Glades County Sheriff's Office has learned its lesson. This avoidable incident has left several hearts broken and millions of tears shed, not to mention the loss that the community has suffered.

Canine Nero was funded by the Glades County Community through donations and fund raisers which took several thousands of dollars to purchase Nero and initiate the Canine program. It is amazing that an incident of this nature has not been made available to the public. After all, the public funded Nero and aside from his former handler was the biggest supporter of the dog and program.

With this being an election year, it is not unreasonable to think that this embarrassing incident is being swept under the rug like so many others to include the recent escape of two inmates from the Glades County Jail. How is a Police Service Dog being shot and killed because of complete negligence and two inmates escaping from a new state of the art facility after a lock was left unsecured not made available to the public? We have a right to know!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gas Price Gouging Complaints Rise

LABELLE, FL. -- As of 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Florida Attorney Generals Office has received more than 5,500 incoming calls and had referred 2,104 complaints about gasoline price-gouging to the Economic Crimes Division for review.

Three complaints were received from Hendry county. 2,104 complaints have been registered statewide.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Gas Price Cheating - Too High?

Officials Going After Gas Selling Offenders

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson has announced that he is issuing subpoenas for financial information from 16 major oil terminals in Florida in connection with an ongoing investigation of gasoline price spikes associated with Hurricane Ike.

The subpoenas are scheduled to be hand delivered to the terminals on Tuesday, and they are seeking records to determine whether any of them illegally increased the wholesale prices that  were passed on to retail gas stations and ultimately their customers.  The subpoenas call for the records to be provided to Bronson's office in seven days.

"It's critical that we go to the source," Bronson said.  "A number of gas stations are claiming that they are only passing on increases that they have had to pay, so it is vital to examine where these price increases originated." 

Under state law, it is unlawful to charge excessive prices for essential items -- including gasoline, water, ice, lumber, batteries and shelter -- following the declaration of a state of emergency unless the increases in the amount charged are attributable to additional costs incurred by those supplying the items.

Individuals or businesses found to have engaged in price-gouging face fines up to $1,000 per violation, or up to a maximum fine of $25,000 a day.

Meanwhile, more than 2,300 price-gouging calls were received by Bronson's office during the last three days, and the volume of calls remains heavy.

Consumers who have been the victims of price-gouging or have witnessed such activity are encouraged to call Bronson's toll-free hotline at 1-800-HELPFLA (1-800-435-7352).

FEMA Disaster Relief For Glades County

Mahoney Gets Assistance For Glades

Moore Haven, Fl – Following a visit with FEMA officials to inspect 77 homes damaged by Tropical Storm Fay, along with a letter to Governor Charlie Crist, Congressman Tim Mahoney announced  that Glades County has now qualified for FEMA's Individual and Households Assistance Program (IHP). Although Glades County sustained serious damage in Tropical Storm Fay, FEMA had not included the county in its Individual and Households Assistance (IHP) disaster relief program.

"Tropical Storm Fay seriously damaged the homes and businesses in Glades County, particularly in Moore Haven, and my constituents continue to suffer from Fay's effects," said Congressman Mahoney. "I am pleased that we are able to secure this critical disaster relief funding to help our residents and business owners to recover from the storm."

FEMA's Individual and Households Assistance Program (IHP)
provides storm victims with funding to help with: rent or temporary housing, home repair or reconstruction, and other expenses (e.g. clothing, household items). To learn about FEMA's Individual and Household Assistance Program, click here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Commissioner Storter Responds To Story

Commissioner Says Glades Sheriff Not Responsible For Catching Thief

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- A news story appeared this week in community newspapers regarding a theft of items from Glades Commissioner Donna Storter Long in March 2007.

The Sunday Morning News did not print the story. Over the years we have noticed the Glades Sheriff's office does not provide news releases to news media. Mrs. Storter alleges that Sheriff Whiddon made special efforts to get this story of the conviction of the thief to local print newspapers.  Mrs. Storter replies:

Dear Editor:

Re headlines: Man pleads guilty in County Commissioner�s theft

First off, would this have made headlines if it did not involve a county commissioner or another elected official? How often do we read of the sentencing of other Glades County criminals when the victim is not a public official? Was this a political ploy? 

One newspaper editor informed me that [Glades Sheriff] Whiddon's office submitted it to them--it was not solicited by the newspapers.  Whiddon knows my husband has made a campaign contribution to (and is supporting) Tony Wilson for Sheriff of Glades County.

I am the victim and the one whose efforts led to the arrest of Ronald Tracy Williams, who, by the way, did NOT plead guilty to the crime.

We had arrived home after a week�s vacation on  March 24, 2007 about 9:30 pm.  When I realized our home had been invaded and articles were missing, I called 9-1-1 and Deputy Crosswell who is assigned to my Ortona �zone�, arrived within 10 minutes.  He examined the perimeter of my home, found no evidence of any disturbance that would indicate a forced entry and he created the offense report.

Investigator-deputy Terrence. Deese was called and arrived within an hour or so.  He attempted to lift fingerprints from my computer cover and said he found the diamond-shaped imprints of a rubber kitchen-type glove.  He too looked around the premises and took no more fingerprints. 

During the burglary of our home the perp removed firearms, electronic computer equipment and other personal items, some discovered missing later when I began carefully examining and searching my office.

I expressed my suspicion of Tracy Williams because of his prior reputation and record and because years before I had given his disabled sister a key to our home so she could feed my cats when we were away from home occasionally overnight.   Sometimes she returned the key, and sometimes she did not.  She was not feeding our cats while we were gone in March 2007.  But I did not have the spare key that I had given her because she had not returned it the last time she fed my cats.

On Monday March 26, I contacted Transunion and Experian and requested that a Fraud Alert be placed in my and my husband�s consumer credit files to prevent the possibility of identity theft because  I was not sure exactly what private documents and information were compromised in the invasion my home. That action was the ultimate reason the thief was caught.]

He attempted to use my husband�s Discover Credit card and in fact successfully used it at the Citgo convenience store in LaBelle (in Hendry County not Glades) by using the card reader at the gas pump and punching in our zip code he well knew it-he is the son of our neighbor.  No ID was required so the fraud alert did not kick in.

However, he proceeded to Wal-Mart in Lehigh Acres (Lee County) and he was unable to use the card; Discover called us, I called the Glades S.O., and after about two weeks, Wal-Mart provided a copy of their video that incriminated Tracy Williams. 

The video showed when Tracy Williams arrived in the parking lot, when he entered the store, when he attempted to use my husband�s credit card, and when he left the store. 

He was subsequently arrested a couple of weeks later.  The clothing he was wearing in the Wal-Mart video was found in his home.  Also, evidence identified from another theft in our neighborhood was found in his home, but, the investigator did not confiscate those items even though they were identified by the other victim.

Because the charges for burglarizing our home were not filed in a timely manner, he was released with no bail, after a very short incarceration. About 4 months later,  while he was out awaiting trial for burglarizing our home, he was arrested for another burglary in Ortona, along with his partner in crime, Julius �Gopher� Wright.

Tracy did not plead guilty to the burglary of my home.  His lawyer �bargained� for him using his testimony against Wright as leverage.  He pled �no contest� to grand theft and �no contest� to credit card fraud.  His penalty was finishing up a total of 364 incarceration days for both crimes (he is out of jail and at large now), he agreed to pay restitution for the amount our insurance did not cover, four years probation, and he cannot come on our property.

No doubt he quickly and easily sold the items he stole from us including (among other things) two pistols,  computer hardware (and software) and electronic devices.  I assure you the street value was much higher than the restitution he has agreed to pay.

People, be warned.  You must be proactive in guarding your home and your identity.  For the rest of our lives my husband and I will be paying LifeLock to keep a fraud alert and monitor on our credit information. Until you have been burglarized and robbed, you cannot realize how vulnerable you are and how violated you feel. 

After the offense report was filed, nothing was done to identify (much less apprehend) the perpetrator of this crime against us and our home; we did not hear from the Sheriff�s Office again until I called them about the Discover card fraud. You may have received, as I had, the email going around about filing a fraud alert.  I assure you, it is effective.

The fraud alert I filed is the only reason Tracy was caught. Nobody "tracked him down".  Wal-Mart provided the evidence.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Man Barricades Self In LaBelle Home

Elderly Man Holds Up In Home

LABELLE, FL. -- The Hendry Sheriff's office was in negotiations with John Waldrop Temple, 79 to give himself up after being at a standoff all afternoon with armed deputies surrounding the Laurel Oaks home in which he resides.

Deputies with rifles and other arms had surrounded all sides of the home in Port LaBelle for over fours hours. Sheriff Ronnie Lee was on the scene and leading negotiations with the man to end the standoff peacefully, after deputies and a minister failed to get Temple to leave a bedroom in the home. Neighborhood traffic was being routed around the scene, while an EMS truck stood by at a safe distance of a half-mile away.

The incident started when Temple allegedly would not allow a vehicle to pass him eastbound on State Road 80. Both vehicles stopped and Temple allegedly pointed a pistol at the other man and told him not to get out of the car. Temple left and went home.

Sheriff Ronnie Lee gave the "all clear" to the Laurel Oaks neighborhood surrounding 4502 Springview Circle about 6 p.m. as the situation defused after Temple was taken into custody and charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Temple has had a prior arrest for domestic violence, although charges were dropped by the State Attorney's Office.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why Men Cheat...

Is Your Man Cheating On You And Why?

The Truth About Cheating by M. Gary Neuman

In The Truth About Cheating, M. Gary Neuman explores why men stray and what you can do to prevent it. He says 1 in 3 men cheat on their women.

Between now and 10 p.m. Friday, September 12, 2008, you can download a free copy of this book from Oprah Winfrey's webpage.


Driver License Changes Oct. 1

License Fees Up And Renewals More Frequent

LABELLE, FL. -- The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is announcing changes that will impact Florida drivers and Department customers beginning Oct. 1, 2008.  One of the principal changes will be the identification required for driver licenses.  Details are as follows:
  • Customers must present proof of social security number (for example, social security card or any of the following documents showing your social security number: tax return, W-2 form, property tax statement, pay check, DD-214,  school record). 
  • All passports, permanent resident cards and employment authorization cards presented as proof of identification or legal presence must be valid.  Expired documents will not be accepted.
  • The department will no longer accept driver licenses or identification cards issued by other states as primary identification.
  • A person will be allowed to elect the school option to avoid points five times in a 10-year period instead of five times in a lifetime.
  • Commercial Driver License holders who receive a Driving Under the Influence conviction on or after Oct. 1, 2008, even while driving a personal vehicle, will be disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle for one year for the first offense, and permanently disqualified for the second offense.  These penalties are based on convictions dates and not offense dates. 
"Upcoming changes are a result of recent statutory requirements and department efforts to increase security," said Director of the Division of Driver Licenses Sandra Lambert.  "We anticipate the benefits of enhanced identity protection will far outweigh the inconvenience of providing additional proof of identification." 

In addition to identification requirements, license fees and the length of time for which certain identification cards and motor vehicle licenses are valid are changing.
  • Florida Class E driver licenses will be valid for eight years except for customers 80 and older.
  • Commercial Driver Licenses for Class A, B, or C driver licenses will be valid for eight years except for customers 80 and older.  Licenses with a hazardous materials endorsement will be valid for  four years.
  • All licenses for customers 80 and older will be valid for six years.
  • Identification cards for children five through 14 years of age will be valid for four years.  Identification cards for customers 15 and older will be valid for eight years.
*For details on Florida�s driver license classes, visit http://www.flhsmv.gov/ddl/dlclass.html.
Fee Changes:                          Originals           Renewals
  • Class E                          $27                $20
  • CDL:                              $67                $67
  • ID Cards:                       $10                $10
  • Replacement Class E      $10                Not applicable
  • All Endorsements            $7                  $7

Poll - A Black American President?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Nisbet Joins Parents In Family Business

"Ketchup In His Veins" Says McDonald's Steve Nisbet

LABELLE, FL. -- McDonald's owners are made, not born into the business. Steve Nisbet, Jr., who says he has "ketchup in his veins", just completed the demanding McDonald's Ownership Training program that qualifies him as an owner-operator. He joins his mother Debra and CEO father Steve, Sr. as a partner in Nisbet Enterprises, owner of the McDonald's restaurants in Belle Glade, LaBelle and Clewiston.

"My father has been with McDonald's since before I was born, and a McDonald's owner for 22 years,"said Steve, Jr. "I grew up around McDonald's and saw my dad working hard and getting rewarded for what he put into the business. I knew early on I would be in the business some day."

Steve, Jr., 32, is supervisor of restaurant operations and his wife, Amanda, is supervisor of the back office. His sister, Shelly Carnevalino, is general manager of one of their McDonald's and her husband Anthony is the company training manager and in charge of equipment and maintenance.

Steve, Jr. was recently certified as a McDonald's franchisee through a unique, but rigorous program offered to family members of owner/operators. Applicants must complete a customized curriculum that combines hands-on work at crew and management levels, academic courses at Hamburger University and credit for life experience. Hamburger University trains about 5,000 students a year in restaurant operations and management with college credit-level courses. The series of week-long courses took him two and a half years to complete at his own pace.

"McDonald's is very aware that we have families and a life outside of the business," Steve, Jr. said. "With two children, active community involvement, and the business, it takes some juggling of responsibilities."

Steve said he enjoys following the lead of his father as a community leader with a commitment to helping the community as a sponsor of school activities and sports teams, organizations and events. One of his favorite activities is heading the fundraising rodeo benefiting the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Florida that will be held this year on October 4 in LaBelle, Hendry County. The second annual event features rodeo events including Barrel Racing, Pro Bull Riding and Youth events, along with live music and a Ronald McDonald show.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Body Found In River

Boater Missing On Caloosahatchee River

LABELLE, FL. -- The Fort Myers News-Press has reported the body of what is believed to be a 72-year-old boater, was found Tuesday afternoon near Alva. Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Hendry County deputies were searching for the missing fisherman after reports of a missing person were filed by family.

According to the news report, Doyle Ware of LaBelle was reported to be snook fishing in the spillway in the Caloosahatchee River just east of the Lee County line, west of LaBelle.

The press reports say Ware's capsized boat was recovered. Family members reported Ware missing on Monday. Ware lived in a modest mobile home at 110 Hand Avenue in LaBelle, according to county records.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Preparations For Hurricane Ike Underway

Record Rains A Concern

LABELLE, FL. -- Already awash in rainfall from tropical storms Fay and Hanna, the South Florida Water Management District is bracing for potential impacts from Hurricane Ike.

The threat of high winds and, more significantly, heavy rainfall is of serious concern for the entire 16-county district already saturated with the deluge from back-to-back tropical storms. Tropical Storm Fay alone dropped about a month's worth of rain in just six days.

In response, canals in strategic areas have been lowered. Several pump stations are operating or on standby. Water control structures on the east coast are releasing water to tide to make room for more storm water. Emergency mangers are monitoring the weather 24-hours a day. The SFWMD is also coordinating with local governments, which operate flood control systems for many of their residents, and with state and federal authorities.

"So far this storm season, the District's system has prevented mass flooding where possible and held up very well," said George Horne, SFWMD Deputy Executive Director of Operations and Maintenance. "We are still very concerned about the potential for heavy rainfall from Hurricane Ike and we will do everything possible to prepare and protect the public."

Just a month ago, the District was emerging from a record drought, which saw the driest back-to-back calendar years on record in 2006 and 2007, based on records dating back to 1932. A combined rainfall deficit of more than 20 inches was seen. This left the District with worries about the water supply but in a good position to handle potentially heavy rainfall heading into the 2008 storm season.

Tropical Storm Fay began impacting South Florida on August 18. In just six days from August 18 to August 23, Fay dropped an average of 7.5 inches of rain across the district, with as much as 15 inches in spots. Approximately 1.5 inches is normal during a six day period.

District meteorologists noted the following approximate rainfall average totals:

• 8 inches in the Lake Okeechobee Basin
• 8.5 inches in the Kissimmee Basin
• 10 inches in Martin/St. Lucie counties
• 6.5 inches in Palm Beach

Water Conservation Areas and Storm Water Treatment areas filled. The rainfall swelled August's total to an average of 12.69 inches district wide. The 30-year average for that month is 7.54 inches. The massive amount of rain created a deluge of stormwater runoff. The runoff alone sent water to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries even before the U.S. Army Corps began releasing water from Lake Okeechobee to protect the Herbert Hoover Dike and residents surrounding the lake.

The Corps took action after the lake rose more than two feet in a single week for the first time in recorded history, based on records dating back to 1931. With only a small respite, Tropical Storm Hanna quickly became a threat. While the storm spared South Florida a direct hit, rainfall was significant. Hanna dropped approximately 1 inch of rain district wide on September 4 and 5, and as much as 6 inches in some areas.

With Hurricane Ike and Tropical Storm Josephine following closely behind, South Florida residents should already be prepared and monitor conditions closely.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Animal Movement Regs Suspended

Animal Owner Tips For Hurricane Preparations

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson is temporarily suspending intrastate animal movement requirements due to the large number of animals in harm's way as Hurricane Ike approaches. 

The suspension applies only to animals fleeing the affected areas.  Georgia and Alabama officials are also waiving their states' interstate requirements for Florida livestock being evacuated from potential impact areas of the storm.  Bronson is also urging people to plan now for their animals in the event they become in the path of Hurricane Ike or other storms.  Evacuations have already been ordered in some areas of Florida.

People transporting livestock must continue to stop at the Florida agricultural interdiction stations.  If the transporter doesn't have proper paperwork, a movement document will be issued at the station.  The movement document must be carried as the animals are moved into Georgia or Alabama and for return back into Florida. 

Bronson says citizens should not wait until the last minute to think about how they are going to deal with pets and other animals during an evacuation or in a power outage.  People should not leave their pets behind when they evacuate because the animals can easily be injured, lost or killed.  Owners should find out now if local boarding facilities or veterinary offices can shelter their animals in an emergency.  They should also contact hotels outside their immediate area to determine which allow animals and whether there are any size restrictions.

Bronson's Division of Animal Industry website http://www.doacs.state.fl.us/ai (click on "Emergency Management") provides information about some pet-friendly hotels, pet-friendly emergency shelters, and extensive emergency preparedness information for owners of large and small animals who may be impacted by a disaster.  If a family plans to go to a public shelter, they should check with county officials on the location of the nearest pet friendly shelter.


-- Keep ID tags and vaccinations up to date.
-- When evacuating, bring proper identification and health papers with you.
-- Prepare a pet evacuation kit, including food and water for one week, a manual can opener, medications, medical/vaccination records, a pet carrier, and bedding. If evacuated, properly secure animals in the vehicle.
-- If you plan to board a pet, make written arrangements in advance.
-- Contact hotels and motels along your evacuation route to check policies on accepting pets and keep the list handy.


-- Keep vaccinations and other health requirements up to date.
-- If possible, make arrangements in advance for evacuation of horses.  Know where you can take your horses for shelter along your evacuation route.
-- Make sure your horse trailer is "ready to go" or other transport arrangements are prepared well in advance.
-- Carry your vaccination record, Coggins test and health papers with you as well as handling equipment.
-- Have a point of destination before departure and be sure to evacuate as soon as possible to avoid traffic delays.  


-- Reinforce your barn, and outbuildings with hurricane straps and other measures.
-- Open gates or remove fencing so that animals may move to high ground in a flood and to low-lying areas during high winds.
-- Install a hand pump and obtain enough large containers to water your animals for at least a week.
 -- Identify alternate water and power sources. A generator with a safely stored supply of fuel may be essential, especially if you have electrical equipment necessary to the well being of your animals.
-- Secure or remove anything that could become blowing debris.

State Employee Pay Falls Behind

Employee Pay Raises Lower Than Inflation Rate

LABELLE, FL. -- Salaries for state government professionals increased 2.4% from 2007 to 2008. This increase, which was the average across the 45 occupations surveyed, was less than the 4% inflation rate for the time period surveyed, and significantly less than the previous year's average increase of 5.7%.

It also was lower than the increase in overall state spending for Fiscal Year 2008, estimated at 5.1% by the National Association of State Budget Officers. For the ninth consecutive year, an AFT study shows that the salaries of most state-employed professionals trail those of their private sector peers. This year, private sector salaries exceed state employee salaries in 20 of the 24 job classifications in which comparisons were made.

Disaster Status Sought By Counties

36 Counties With Significant Storm Damage

LABELLE, FL. -- A disaster declaration from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is being sought for 36 Florida counties that suffered crop damage from Tropical Storm Fay.

Damage was caused by excessive rainfall, flooding, high winds, lightning, and multiple tornadoes. Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson wants Governor Crist to request that the U.S. Department of Agriculture declare the counties a disaster.

The counties meet the threshold of at least 30% agricultural losses as required by the federal Farm Service Agency. Once the disaster declaration is made, producers in the 36 counties will be able to apply for various types of disaster relief such as loans.

The dollar amount of the damage to citrus, vegetables, nurseries, cotton, hay, and other crops as well as to pasture land is still being tallied, but it is significant and will be in the tens of millions to hundreds of millions.