Sunday, May 31, 2009

Job Fair For Clewiston Goodwill Store

More Jobs Slated For Clewiston Store

CLEWISTON, Fl --  Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, Inc. will host two job fairs in Clewiston in order to recruit 20 employees for its new Retail & Donation Center.  The job fairs will be held at the Clewiston Inn on consecutive Fridays, June 12 and June 19.  Both job fairs will be from 9:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Goodwill will hire approximately 20 employees for its new Clewiston Town Center store, which is scheduled to open in late July.  Available positions will include shift supervisors, cashiers, merchandise processors, donation attendants, salvage coordinators, and forklift drivers.  Both full and part-time positions will be available at the new store. 

"We�re looking for employees that have a passion for others and believe in our mission," says Bryan Avery, Goodwill District Manager.  "Our ideal employee has the skill sets to provide excellent customer service, can compete in a dynamic and constantly changing environment, and want to grow with our organization." 

Goodwill anticipates interviewing between 150-200 retail applicants during these job fairs.  Avery adds, �We hope to find plenty of employees who are as excited about the new store opening as we are.�

Goodwill will also conduct interviews for two positions with the agency�s Career Development Services department.  A full-time Employment Specialist position is available.  Preference will be given to applicants who have a background in vocational training, have worked with people with disabilities, and who have familiarity with the employment market in the Hendry/Glades region.

In addition, Goodwill seeks a Master Mentor, who will recruit, train, and supervise mentors for approximately 50 youth in Hendry, Glades, and Lee counties.  The qualified candidate should have some experience with volunteer/mentoring programs, as well as experience working with at-risk youth.

Applicants for all positions are advised to bring a recent resume, along with any materials necessary to display their qualifications.  Participants should be prepared to fill out a paper job application and speak with an interviewer for approximately 20 minutes.

Qualified applicants may be asked to participate in a second interview, to be held between June 15-24.

Friday, May 29, 2009

In The Service - Kyle Wilkins

LABELLE, FL. -- Air Force Airman Kyle A. Wilkins graduated from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.

The airman completed an intensive, eight-week program that included training in military discipline and studies, Air Force core values, physical fitness, and basic warfare principles and skills.

Airmen who complete basic training earn four credits toward an associate in applied science degree through the Community College of the Air Force.

He is the son of Chassey Hicks of Belmont St., Labelle, Fla. Wilkins is a 2006 graduate of Labelle High School.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Former Hendry Deputy Charged With Embezzlement?

Officer Under Former Hendry Sheriff Ronnie Lee Under Scrutiny?

LABELLE, FL -- Sources have told the Sunday Morning News that a former Captain who was hired by and worked for former Hendry County Sheriff Ronnie Lee has been charged with embezzlement.

Reportedly a large amount of funds are alleged to have been taken from Hendry county jail accounts in LaBelle. Sources say charges have been filed with the State Attorney's Office for the 20th Judicial Circuit in LaBelle. The State Attorney's office would investigate and decide whether to proceed with a court case, after an investigation of the charges reportedly made by the Sheriff's office.

In The Service - B. J. Faustin

BELLE GLADE, FL. -- Army Reserve Pvt. Barnat J. Faustin has graduated from basic combat training at Fort Jackson, Columbia, S.C.

During the nine weeks of training, the soldier studied the Army mission, history, tradition and core values, physical fitness, and received instruction and practice in basic combat skills, military weapons, chemical warfare and bayonet training, drill and ceremony, marching, rifle marksmanship, armed and unarmed combat, map reading, field tactics, military courtesy, military justice system, basic first aid, foot marches, and field training exercises.

He is the son of Christina Faustin of S.W. Ninth St., Belle Glade, Fla., and brother of Walson Faustin of Botany Court, Orlando, Fla.

The private is a 2005 graduate of Glades Central Community High School, Belle Glade.

Planning Council Urges 4-Lane Hendry Roadway

Four Lanes From LaBelle To US 27 Important Issue Says Council

The Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council met on May 21st and voted to approve a resolution to four lane SR-80 from Port LaBelle at Birchwood Parkway east to the intersection of SR-27. The plan is already on record but is not scheduled for several years.

This resolution will be signed by the Chairman of the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council and sent to the Secretary of Transportation and the Secretary of the DEP. What effect the resolution may have on speeding up the process is undetermined. Four lanes are now under construction as earlier scheduled by the Florida DOT from Birchwood Parkway west to the canal on the east side of LaBelle.

Hendry County Commissioner Tris Chapman form Hendry County spoke in favor of the resolution and pointed to the 65 accidents and eight deaths at the intersection of SR-80 and SR-27 from 2004 through 2008. The foggy conditions this past winter and several multiple vehicle pile ups and head on collisions have this stretch as the #1 concern form a safety perspective, according to Florida Department of Transportation Secretary, District 1, Stanley Cann.

SR-80 is also a major evacuation route for Lee County in the event of a hurricane or other emergency. Dr Elkowitz, a Governor�s appointee to the SWFRPC from Glades County, also urged the Board to approve the resolution.

Hendry Glades Leadership Class Honors Graduates

Leadership Hendry Glades Counties Graduation Dinner

LABELLE, FL. -- The Leadership Hendry Glades Counties has honored it most recent graduates at a dinner. Elected officials, alumni of previous classes and sponsors attended the event. Janice Groves, LHGC President, introduced the graduating class members.

Hendry County Commissioner, Tris Chapman, and LHGC Vice President served as the MC for the event. The group heard from the 20th Circuit Court Judge Christine Greider, who was introduced to the class by Hendry County Judge James Sloan. The Honorable Judge Greider spoke on her early days working in an office and the inspiration she received from a mentor who was instrumental in her becoming a judge.

Sponsors for the event included: Alico, Lykes Brothers, Southern Gardens, First Bank, Glades Electric Coop, Hendry Regional Medical Center, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Talkin� Monkeys, Gulf Citrus Growers, The Royal Foundation and Wilson Miller.

Members of the third graduating class are: Linda Anders, Alico; Doreen Backes, West Glades School; Fred Bosley, Retired; Edward Chiarelli, Hendry Regional Medical Center; Crystal Drake, Glades County School District; Tommy Edwards, Lykes Bros. Inc; Nora Fagin-Ned, Hendry County Supervisor of Elections Office; Sarah Hammock, First Bank; Judy Paskvan, Florida Health Department; Susan Kendrick, Southern Gardens; Susan Malcolm, Alico; Rudy Marquez, Southern Gardens; Kersten Maxson, Beef O�Brady�s; Patrick McElroy, Seminole Tribe; Paul McGehee, Glades Electric Cooperative; Sally McPherson, SFWMD; Matthew Soud, First Bank; Karson Turner, Quality Electric Contracting; Mark White, SFWMD and Teresa Wilson, Chicos FAS

The LHGC is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization interested in developing leaders in the Hendry and Glades county region. Sponsors are always welcome. If you wish to be considered for an upcoming class, applications are available. For more information call 239-860-8592 or write the Leadership Hendry & Glades Counties, P. O. Box 73, LaBelle, Florida 33975.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Two Arrests In Crime Against Senior Citizen

Daughter Arrested After Elderly Victim Found In Filth With Dozens Of Animals

LABELLE, FL. -- Penny Barrow Noel, 59 and Gregory Paul Swann, 22 of LaBelle were arrested on Tuesday, May 19, 2009 with Charges of Crimes against Person, and Neglect Of Elderly Disabled Adult.

(photo: Penny Noel)

A neighbor reported hearing cries from a woman inside a house nearby and Hendry Deputies were dispatched. While responding to cries for help from an elderly woman, Hendry County Deputies entered and were allegedly sickened by the living conditions in which the elderly woman was kept.

Hendry Deputy Larry Preece was the first to arrive at 100 N. Cypress Avenue, a luxurious oak draped neighborhood in East Labelle after receiving the call of a female yelling for help. Upon arrival deputies were able to find the victim yelling through her bathroom window telling deputies she was locked in her home alone.

Deputies first spoke with the victim's daughter, 59-year old Penny Barrow Noel, and were able to gain access into the home and deputies were appalled by what they found, according to a press release from the Hendry county Sheriff's office.

In the victim's residence deputies found numerous domestic animals, including dogs and cats, as well as exotic birds, ducks, a goose, and a rabbit kept in allegedly unclean pens along with six to eight rats roaming around freely. Inside the home the stench of urine and feces permeated the air, say investigators. There were no visible signs of food or water for any of the animals. Animal feces and urine were found throughout the house, tracked into the carpet, and onto the linoleum by both humans and animals.

The victim's room was littered with clothing and the bathroom area was soiled with feces on and around the toilet area. The counters in the kitchen had dirty dishes and uneaten food on them. Open garbage littered the floors; the victim herself was wearing soiled clothing.

Penny Noel told Sheriff's office personnel that she had been attempting to find placement for her mother at a facility without success, and that her mother suffered from other illnesses.

After the investigation Hendry Animal Control took the animals into custody, the victim was removed from the residence and taken into protective custody.

Sheriff's personnel also located two other individuals within the residence and later determined that Gregory Paul Swann, 22 years of age, did in fact live at the home and was a caregiver for the victim.

Both Noel and Swann were found to reside in the house and are co-care-providers for care to the victim and animals. They both failed to provide adequate living conditions in the home necessary for good health and which were in fact detrimental to the health of the victim and the animals, according to the Sheriff's department.

Noel and Swann were arrested and charged with one count each of Crimes against Person, Neglect Elderly disabled adult without great harm and one count each of Conservation - Animals cause cruel death and suffering. Both Swann and Noel have been released on $15,000 bond.

The victim's name was withheld for privacy but is reportedly the homeowner.

Panther Killed On Immokalee Road

7th Panther Killed This Year On Roads

IMMOKALEE, FL -- A young (approximately one and a half years old) male panther was collected by FWC Law enforcement personnel about 1:15 pm on Memorial Day, May 25, along Immokalee Road near Camp Keais Road. 

Cause of death was vehicle collision according to the FWC.  The carcass was transported to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission Naples Field Office where samples were collected. The body was placed in the freezer and it will be transported for necropsy today, May 26. 

After necropsy the hide and skeleton will be archived at the Florida Museum of Natural History.  The panther did not have a cowlick or kinked tail.  A transponder was not detected.  Only one testicle was descended.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Home Prices Way Down This Month

Lower Priced Homes Selling

LABELLE, FL. -- From 5/5/2009 to 5/19/2009, there were 6 homes sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $76,000. The trend continues as home buyers are seeking lower priced homes.

1) $150,000 on Hardee St
2) $90,000 on Kathryn St
3) $50,000 on Schooner Dr
4) $75,000 on State Road 29 S
5) $44,000 on S Edgewater Cir
6) $47,000 on S Edgewater Cir

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Arrest Made In Montura Burglaries

Jose Ortez Arrested In Thefts

CLEWISTON, FL. -- During this past week, Montura residents have been devastated by a rash of burglaries that have occurred. Hendry County Sheriff Whidden concerned with this activity, initiated a task force to concentrate on tracking down the thieves. In a matter of four days, one arrest has been made, property returned to owners and other arrests are pending.

After following up on witness statements, Investigators determined that Jose Ruben Ortez, 28 years of age, of 1850 Old 27, Foxbriar Trailer Park, Lot 61, Clewiston, Florida rented a U-Haul truck and used it to transport stolen property from homes he burglarized in the Montura area.

Acting on a tip, Investigators responded to a Mini-storage unit, located at 1801 Red Road in Clewiston to follow up on the information they had received from witnesses. They were able to speak with Ortez who was uncooperative with investigators, so a search warrant was obtained and executed for the storage unit. Once inside Deputies discovered three ATVs, furniture, a flat screen television, and other appliances.

Investigators then went back to the residence where they were able to search the home of Ortez. Upon approaching the home, one of the Investigators immediately recognized a dog that had been reported stolen from a residence in Montura, along with multiple flat screen tvs, laptops, video game systems, cds and dvds. luggage, ammunition, carmeras, and various other electronics.

While several of the victims from the Montura area have been able to identify many items that have been recovered, this series of burglaries still remains under investigation.

On May 19, 2009, Richard Odel Ortez, 25 years of age, of 1850 Old US 27, Foxbriar Trailer Park, Lot 64, was arrested and charged with two counts of Burglary, two counts of Grand Theft, two counts of Damage to Property $1,000 or more and three counts of Vehicle Theft.

Sheriff Whidden stated this kind of activity will not be tolerated and he contributes the overall success of this investigation to the cooperation of the community and Sheriff's Office.

"I cannot express the importance of community involvement. This is an outstanding example of how the community can act as the eyes and ears for the Sheriff's Office. Without the support of those willing to come forward, it makes our job much more difficult."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Airman Carlson Graduates

In The Service

LABELLE, FL. -- Air Force Airman Eric A. Carlson of LaBelle, graduated from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.
The airman completed an intensive, eight-week program that included training in military discipline and studies, Air Force core values, physical fitness, and basic warfare principles and skills.
Airmen who complete basic training earn four credits toward an associate in applied science degree through the Community College of the Air Force. He is the son of Dennis and Ruth Carlson of Labelle, Fla. Carlson is a 2007 graduate of Labelle High School.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rainy Season Starts!

National Weather Service Declares Start Of Rain Season

LABELLE, FL. -- As a result of the daily showers and thunderstorms over much of South Florida this week, as well as the expectation of additional rainfall during the next several days, The National Weather Service Miami Forecast Office has declared May 11 as the beginning of the 2009 rainy season. This is 9 days earlier than the median start date of May 20 (about one week later along the Gulf coast and the Lake Okeechobee region), and the earliest start to the rainy season since 2003.

The early start to the rainy season is quite welcome this year due to the extreme drought conditions being experienced over most of South Florida. The recently concluded dry season of 2008-2009 ranked as the second driest dry season on record for most South Florida locales, with only 1971 being drier.

Here are some rainfall totals and departures from normal (in inches) for the 2008-2009 dry season from November 1 to May 10:

SITE                         RAINFALL            DEPARTURE FROM Nov 1 ­ May 10    NORMAL

MIAMI INTL AIRPORT          4.66              -12.36
FORT LAUDERDALE INTL    4.74              -16.43
PALM BEACH INTL              6.79              -16.88
NAPLES REGIONAL            2.31              -10.40
IMMOKALEE                       2.95              -10.58
CLEWISTON                       2.38              -12.08
BELLE GLADE                    2.74              -12.39
MOORE HAVEN                  3.75              -11.94
MIAMI BEACH                     6.91              -9.15

The start of the South Florida rainy season is normally determined by a variety of factors, most notably the nearly daily presence of showers and thunderstorms on a diurnal cycle. This diurnal cycle typically consists of morning and early afternoon showers and thunderstorms over coastal and metro areas, followed by afternoon inland showers and thunderstorms, some which can become strong with frequent lightning, hail and gusty winds.

These afternoon showers and thunderstorms often move toward the metro areas of both the east and west coasts of South Florida. This pattern is caused by a warming and moistening of the lower and middle atmosphere as we approach the peak summer months, as well as a weakening of high pressure aloft which leads to greater atmospheric instability and promotes shower and thunderstorm development.

The showers and thunderstorms usually develop along the sea breeze which forms along both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, as well as a lake breeze from Lake Okeechobee.

An average of 35-45 inches of rain falls over South Florida during the rainy season. This represents about 70 percent of the yearly rainfall. The outlook for this rainy season calls for an increased likelihood of wetter than normal conditions for the period from June through October.

LaBelle Chrysler Dealer Awaits Word

Chrysler Bankruptcy Worries Dealers

LABELLE, FL. -- After filing for Bankruptcy in New York, Chrysler has proposed a list to the court to eliminate about one-quarter of it's current franchise dealerships. Owner of the LaBelle Dodge Chrysler Jeep dealership is worried, as two of his Florida dealerships are on the list slated to be closed within weeks if the court approves.

Doug Plattner's Winter Park Dodge and Tarpon Springs Dodge is on the list to stop selling new cars by early June if the court approves. The court motions claims that the list includes dealerships that are not selling enough new cars. Most all of the dealerships on the list are not full line Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep stores. Chrysler, for many years, has been attempting to eliminate single line car stores. Now it has it's best chance to do that, getting rid of single line stores selling only one of the Chrysler line that includes Jeep and Dodge.

Plattner also faces problems down the road as General Motors wants to close about half it's franchise stores. Plattner owns a GM dealership in Arcadia, Florida. Plattner has also faced financing problems as the Florida Community Bank has forced a modification of existing loan terms to increase the bank's security interest in Plattner's dealerships. Plattner has borrowed $5,3 million from the bank, including $3.2 million for the Winter Park Dodge store. Plattner has been sued in several lawsuits by former employees and a newspaper for non-payment of Plattner ads.

Chrysler also wants to eliminate dealerships that sell more used cars than new, which seems to be the case with Plattner's stores. Plattner buys thousands of used cars at auctions yearly for a few thousand dollars and sends them to his Florida stores marking them up as much as double what he pays.

Don Intoccia, former finance manager at LaBelle Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, and at Plattner's Arcadia GM store, and now general manager of Plattner's Winter Park Dodge, told a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel that Chrysler is favoring stores that currently stock Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep products "under one roof."

Intoccia told the Orlando paper "we will continue to serve our customers selling pre-owned vehicles, because that's where the market is, anyway."

Plattner's web page says, "Why waste money on a new vehicle when you can save $10,000-$25,000 and buy certified pre-owned, and get a better warranty than most new vehicles?"

The only other Southwest Florida dealership on the list proposed to close is Bob Taylor Jeep in Naples

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Panther Killed On State Road 29

Eighth Florida Panther Found  Dead This Year

LABELLE, FL. -- A young male panther approximately 2 years was discovered and collected by Big Cypress National Preserve personnel about 6:30 Thursday morning along SR29 in the south bound lane about 4 miles south of I-75.  Cause of death was vehicle collision. 

Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission biologist Mark Lotz of the Naples FWC office said in a report that the carcass was transported to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission's Naples Field Office where samples were collected. The body was placed in the freezer and it will be transported for necropsy at a later date. 

The report adds that after necropsy the hide and skeleton will be archived at the Florida Museum of Natural History.  The panther had a cowlick but no kinked tail.  A transponder was not detected.  Both testicles were descended.

This is the 8th panther found dead so far this calendar year. Three have been in Hendry county, Three in Collier county, and two in Lee county.

Three Kids Start 2200 Acre Fire Says State

Two Houses Destroyed - Kids Charged With Felony

INDIANTOWN, FL. -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson Wednesday announced the arrests of three juveniles responsible for setting a fire in Indiantown on Mother's Day.
Three juveniles ages 7, 8 and 10, whose names were not released, were charged with Intentional Burning of Lands, a third-degree felony.  All three subjects were released to their parents. Names were not released although state law does allow for the release of underage suspects' names who are being charged as adults.

According to Bronson's Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement, the juveniles allegedly started the fire in a wooded area near Palm Beach Road and 173rd St SW in Indiantown on May 10th by striking matches and throwing them into the grass and palmettos.  The fire known as the Indian Trail fire has burned approximately 2,200 acres causing the destruction of two occupied structures and an undetermined amount of damage to other property. 

Bronson's Division of Forestry and the Martin County Fire Department are still battling the blaze.
Bronson thanked the Martin County Sheriff's Office, Martin County Fire Rescue, and Martin County Fire Marshal for their assistance with the investigation.

U.S. Sugar Corp Purchase-Leaseback Approved

Good Deal For U.S. Sugar - Taxpayers To Buy 73,000 Acres With Option On 107,000 Later

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board Wednesday approved a revised strategy to acquire huge swathes of land from the United States Sugar Corporation for Everglades restoration. The Board had sought ways to address current economic challenges while preserving the environmental vision of this historic purchase. The amended agreement, approved last week by U.S. Sugar's Board of Directors, provides for the initial purchase of approximately 73,000 acres of strategically located land south of Lake Okeechobee, with options to purchase another 107,000 acres when economic and financial conditions improve.

Under the approved agreement, which is subject to financing, the District would initially invest approximately $536 million for 73,000 acres of agricultural land, that would be $7342 per acre for what is basically low lying sugar cane land filled with drainage canals and old citrus groves. U.S. Sugar does not want the citrus groves but will lease back the sugarcane land at $150 per acre for seven years with an option for 20 more years, a meager 2% return on the taxpayers purchase of the cane lands.

It may cost taxpayers at least $11 million a year to manage the citrus grove land.

At nearly 112 square miles, the acreage represents a land mass nearly twice the size of Orlando and is the largest single acquisition of land in the District's history. The District also has options to purchase the remaining 107,000 acres from U.S. Sugar during the next 10 years, including an exclusive 3-year option to purchase the remaining property at a fixed price of $7,400 an acre.

Highlights of the amended acquisition

The District would take ownership of approximately 73,000 acres of land and its improvements for a purchase price of $536 million, including 33,000 acres of citrus lands and 40,000 acres of sugarcane lands. At slightly less than appraised value, the revised purchase reduces the immediate public investment by 60 percent, or $800 million, and annual debt service payments by an estimated $65 million.
U.S. Sugar would lease back the 40,000 acres of sugarcane lands from the District at $150 per acre for 7 years, with provisions to extend up to 20 years. The lease would generate a minimum of $40 million.
U.S. Sugar would be required to pay all property taxes and assessments, control the land for exotic and invasive plants and implement Best Management Practices to prevent pollution.

The District may terminate portions of the lease and begin using the acreage for restoration under a "takedown" schedule, including all of the citrus lands with twelve months' notice, and 10,000 acres of sugarcane lands with two years' notice within the first 10 years.

Should the District exercise the purchase option, all property would be available for approved and funded restoration projects. The amended agreements allow for the continued operation of the U.S. Sugar Corporation's mill and refinery, keeping 1,700 direct jobs for at least another decade and sustaining regional agriculture.

Today's action by the District's Governing Board is the culmination of close to a year's work since Governor Charlie Crist first announced on June 24, 2008, that the District would begin negotiations with the U.S. Sugar Corporation to acquire vast tracts of land south of Lake Okeechobee for Everglades restoration. After extensive deliberation, due diligence and public input, the District's Governing Board voted on December 16, 2008, to accept a proposal to acquire more than 180,000 acres of land for $1.34 billion, contingent upon financing and affordability.

In light of changing economic conditions, the Governing Board added a clause to the December contract to allow for review of the most current financial conditions ­ including interest rates and revenue streams ­ before closing to verify the District's capacity to finance the purchase and still meet its existing statutory and legal obligations. With continued economic uncertainty, the two parties on April 1, 2009, agreed to work on a revised framework that would allow for the completion of the transaction in affordable steps despite the economic downturn.

Under the revised contracts, closing on the 73,000 acres would take place in 2010, within 90 days after court validation of the bonds to finance the acquisition. In the coming months, the District will continue with its ongoing public planning process to determine viable configurations for constructing a managed system of water storage and treatment to support this ecosystem restoration effort.

Benefits from the acquisition according to the Water Management District and the Governor's office would include:

Increases in water storage to reduce harmful freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee to Florida's coastal rivers and estuaries.
Improvements in the delivery of cleaner water to the Everglades.
Preventing tons of phosphorus from entering the Everglades.
Reducing the need for "back-pumping" water into Lake Okeechobee.
Sustainability of agriculture and green energy production.
Managing Lake Okeechobee within a more desirable ecological range.

Not to mention a big chunk of change in U.S. Sugar Corp's pocket, huge fee to attorneys and consultants with a miniscule $150 per acre lease to U.S. Sugar to continue sugar cane farming for up to 20 years, subsidized by the taxpayers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Glades Commission Gets Tough On Owner

$23,000 In Fines Unpaid By Property Owner Sanford

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Glades County Community Development Director Larry Hilton explained to County Commissioners Tuesday morning that Code Enforcement investigated the complaint of an overgrown lot at 1055 Riverside Drive in Moore Haven, owned by Jeffery Sanford which has been determined by County Court to be in non-compliance with county ordinance 96-1 and court-ordered to be in compliance, with subsequently court imposed fines of $250 per day. 

According to Public Safety Director Bob Jones the vegetative overgrowth potentially imposes a severe fire hazard due to  dead material has created excess fuel, which if ignited could endanger structures  and homes of adjoining property owners, some of whom were in attendance.

According to County Attorney Pringle, county ordinances 96-1 and 2001-4 include provisions for the county to clean up the property and file a lien on the property for the unpaid fines, now over $23,000, associated court costs, and the clean up costs.  He said when the property is cleaned, accrual of daily fines will abate. 

At the meeting, County Manager Wendell Taylor provided two proposals for cleaning the lot and after much discussion, the Board moved to have the lot cleaned and file lien against the title.

Commissioner Donna Storter stated that one proposal, costing $4,500 for lot clearing would place the clean-up debris in burnable piles, while the other at $5,000  would clear all vegetation including downed trees, and haul off and dispose of all debris.  Because it may not be safe to burn the debris on site as well as creating smoke pollution, Commissioner Storter recommended the debris be hauled off for disposal.  The Board moved to allow Mr. Taylor to negotiate the clean up.

Students Recognized By Glades Commission

24 Honored For High Scholastic Achievement

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Of the 67 seniors graduating Moore Haven High School in 2009, 24 earned "honor" status for high scholastic achievement and were recognized Tuesday with a certificate of congratulations and commendation from the Glades County Board of County Commissioners. 

Honor Students include Valedictorian Aaron Spero, Salutatorian Shelbi Brown,  Jose Acosta, Amparo Aguiar, Raymond Allen, Tiffany Avalos, Sarah Buonpastore (in absentia), Fernando Cisneros, Jessica Echols, Seth Garvey, Janet Gonzalez, Benjamin Hernandez, Kayla Langdale,  Susan Mathis, Tiara Perkins, Macy Randolph, Lindsey Ringstaff, Elizabeth Rivera, Miranda Robinson, Samuel Sanchez, Yesenia Sangabriel, Ashanti Shepherd, Jessica Stafford,  Vivian Velasquez. 

Mrs. Laura Ahern was also recognized by the Glades Commission for her recent designation of �Teacher of the Year�.

Elkowitz Reappointed To Regional Planning Council

Governor Charlie Crist today announced the following reappointments and appointments to the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, including Dr. Edward Elkowitz of LaBelle, Florida.

Elkowitz is a retired osteopath and was appointed in 2007 by Crist. He's a member of the conservation groups Save Our Creeks and Caloosahatchee Riverwatch. He also headed the Glades County "Crist for Governor" campaign and is a Republican party county committeeman.

·       Edward Elkowitz, 74, of La Belle, retired physician, reappointed for a term beginning May 13, 2009, and ending October 1, 2009.

·       Laura "Laurie" Holquist, 47, of Fort Myers, president, ALLETE Properties Inc., reappointed for a term beginning May 13, 2009, and ending October 1, 2010.

·       George Mazzarantani, 48, of Sarasota, self-employed attorney, reappointed for a term beginning May 13, 2009, and ending October 1, 2010.

·       Andrea Messina, 44, of Englewood, member of the Charlotte County School Board, reappointed for a term beginning May 13, 2009, and ending October 1, 2010.

·       Robert "Bob" Mulhere, 54, of Marco Island, senior vice president, RWA Inc., appointed for a term beginning May 13, 2009, and ending October 1, 2011.

·       Tammie Nemecek, 40, of Naples, chief executive officer and president, Collier County Development Council, appointed for a term beginning May 13, 2009, and ending at the pleasure of the Governor.

·       Paul Pass, 55, of Bonita Springs, village manager, Bonita Bay Group, succeeding James Green, appointed for a term beginning May 13, 2009, and ending October 1, 2010.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Fort Denaud Bridge Reopens

Delayed But Open For Traffic - But LaBelle Bridge Now Under Night Repairs

LABELLE, FL. -- The Ft. Denaud Bridge is open as of 5:30 pm Friday, May 8, 2009. Repairs, although delayed from original opening date, have been completed.

Photo: Historic Fort Denaud Swing Bridge

Seacoast, Inc., will be doing the following work on the LaBelle Bridge on State Road 29 in Hendry County, which will cause delays to vehicle traffic at night:

The work including shimming the drawbridge locks and live load shoes and will occur on the bridge, at SR29 over the Caloosahatchee River in LaBelle, 0.5 miles north of SR80, at night between 9:00 PM and 6:00 AM on Tuesday, May 12, 2009 and Wednesday, May 13, 2009 and Thursday, May 14, 2009. (Bridge telephone number: 863-674-4663)

The operations on the LaBelle Bridge will work like this: When the first car rolls up to the closing gates, a timer will run for 20 minutes; at that point the operation will stop and traffic will be permitted to pass. All local emergency response teams will be notified.

If emergency vehicles need to pass, they will call the drawbridge and advise bridge tender as soon as possible. The recommended alternate route for vehicles is US27. Variable Message Boards will be in place in advance of work, to advise motorists of the delays.

Homes Sales Report For LaBelle

LABELLE, FL. -- From March 17 to May 5, there were eight homes reported sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $111,125.

1) $140,000 on Buttercup Cir
2) $237,000 on Caloosa Estates Ct
3) $50,000 on Citrus St
4) $145,000 on Inglewood Cir
5) $116,000 on Murray Rd
6) $88,000 on Orange Ave
7) $68,000 on Palpano Cir
8) $45,000 on S Edgewater Cir

Updated Florida Swine Flu Cases

More Confirmed Cases As Lab Backlog Pared Down

LABELLE, FL. -- All four Department of Health laboratories have received testing supplies from the Centers for Disease Control and now can test samples to confirm H1N1 Swine Flu. This testing capability allows the Department to expedite results as we no  longer need to send probable cases to CDC laboratories.

Florida has 23 confirmed cases in the following counties:  one in Alachua, Clay,  Indian River, Okechobee, Orange, Seminole, and Pinellas; two in Dade, three in Lee , five in  Broward, and six in Hillsborough. The nearest cases to Hendry and Glades county are in Okeechobee and Broward county.

The increase in confirmed cases is primarily due to the cleaning of a CDC testing backlog of samples from probable cases previously submitted.

New confirmed cases are:   

:  an 18 year-old male, a 21 year-old male, a 22 year-old male, a 19 year-old female, a 12 year-old male, and a 24 year-old female; Clay:  a 15 year-old female; Okeechobee:  a 27 year-old female; Indian River:  a 15 year-old male; Alachua:  a 19 year-old female; Seminole:  an 18 year-old male; Pinellas:  a 25 year-old male; Dade:  a 13 year-old female; a 47 year-old male; Broward: an 11 year-old female, a 22 year-old female, a 3 year-old female, a 26 year-old female

We have 18 probables in the following counties:  Manatee, Okaloosa, Palm Beach,  Lake, Duval, Collier, Pinellas, and Marion have one probable case each.   Lee and Sarasota has two.  Broward and Dade has three. 

CDC no longer recommends that communities with a laboratory confirmed case of influenza A H1N1 consider adopting school dismissal or childcare closure measures.

 A public health emergency was declared by the State Surgeon General.

 A toll free information line has been established to address an increasing number of calls from the public requesting Swine    Flu information. The number is 1-800-342-3557 and it is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

One Dead In Hendry Crash

Lehigh Man Dead - LaBelle Man Minor Injuries

LABELLE, FL. -- James W. Withrow, 46, of Lehigh Acres, was driving a 2006 Ford Mustang eastbound on State Road 80 Wednesday near Everhigh Acres Boulevard, when he crossed the centerline of the roadway and collided with a Ford Crown Victoria heading west, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Withrow died on the scene. He was not wearing a seatbelt.

The 2007 Ford Crown Victoria was driven by Dionicio D. Rodriquez, 51 of LaBelle. Rodriguez was taken to Hendry Region Medical Center in Clewiston with minor injuries. Rodriquez was wearing a seatbelt.

Withrow�s Mustang ended up on a grassy shoulder of the road while the Ford ended up on the opposite side of the road. An investigation is pending on alcohol use by Withrow.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Dry Weather Means Fires Likely

Conditions for Wildfires Should Spark Concern in Residents

By Mike Weston, Senior Forester, Division of Forestry

Saying it�s dry outside should not be a surprise for spring in southwest Florida.  However, as spring wildfire season transitions into the summer wildfire season, conditions by all forecasts are expected to keep southwest Florida in the bull�s eye for severe fire conditions until the rainy season starts in mid to late June.  For some perspective, Collier county is currently the driest county in the state according to KBDI measurements (measures soil moisture from 0-800 with 0 indicating extremely wet conditions and 800 indicating near desert conditions) at 728, with Hendry County right alongside at #2 driest with a KBDI reading of 716.  Lee County has received a tiny bit more rain and is at 629 on the KBDI.  By any measure, this is extremely dry, and much more than past years with very active fire seasons.

So far in 2009, the Division of Forestry has responded to 125 fires that have burned 2,100 acres.  Adding in numerous small wildfires that fire rescue districts and departments have responded to, and the large wildfire on federal lands surrounding Alligator Alley in Collier County, and the number of fires is closer to 250 or 300.  This means that on average there have been two wildfires per day in our area since January 1.  The number one cause of acres burned has been people burning landscape debris (yard trash) without consulting with their local fire rescue district or the Division of Forestry. 

All residents in southwest Florida need to practice extreme caution any time they are using something that can produce a flame or spark.  Only together can we work to make this fire season as safe as possible.  Go ahead and finish any work to complete the 30 feet of defensible space around your house.  Mow tall dried grass if possible and trim out dead plant material.  On rural lands, make sure firelines are clean and recently disced.  Fires, once started, can move extremely fast, leaving little time to prepare for the onslaught of flames.  Preparation must be done in advance.

The biggest wildcard this fire season, as with every fire season, will be the amount and specific strike locations of lightning as our thunderstorms return to the area.  Mother nature will provide a spark, so everyone needs to have defensible space or managed natural areas and forest land surrounding them to keep safe from wildfires.

For more information go to Firewise homes are safer homes.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Clewiston Baptist Pastor Dies

Brian Hamrick Dies Of Surgery Complications

CLEWISTON -- Brian Hamrick, pastor of First Baptist Church in Clewiston, died April 24 in Fort Myers after complications from surgery. He was 32.

The Florida Baptist Witness says Hamrick had served in Clewiston three years, and was elected by the Florida Baptist Convention in 2008 to serve on the Committee on Nominations. A graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, he previously served as pastor of Fairfields Baptist Church in Burgess, Va.

He is survived by his wife, Katherine and their preschool sons, Nathan and Luke.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Smoke And Fog Driving Tips

How To Drive Safely In Smoke And Fog

LABELLE, FL. -- Due to frequent smoke and fog conditions on Florida roads, the Florida Highway Patrol has issued some drivers' tips. Below are some tips for driving in fog/ smoke.

DRIVE WITH LIGHTS on low beam. High beams will only be reflected back off the fog and actually impair visibility even more. Your lights help other drivers see your vehicle, so be sure they all work. Keep your windshield and headlights clean, to reduce the glare and increase visibility.

SLOW DOWN - and watch your speedometer - before you enter a patch of fog. Be sure that you can stop within the distance that you can see. Fog creates a visual illusion of slow motion when you may actually be speeding. Speed is a major factor in fog-related crashes.

WATCH OUT for slow-moving and parked vehicles. Listen for traffic you cannot see. Open your window a little, to hear better.

REDUCE THE DISTRACTIONS in your vehicle. Turn off the radio and cell phone. Your full attention is required.

USE WIPERS AND DEFROSTERS liberally for maximum visibility. Sometimes it is difficult to determine if poor visibility is due to fog or moisture on the windshield.

USE THE RIGHT EDGE of the road or painted road markings as a guide.

BE PATIENT. Avoid passing and/or changing lanes.

SIGNAL TURNS well in advance and brake early as you approach a stop.

DO NOT STOP on a freeway or heavily traveled road. You could become the first link in a chain-reaction collision. If you must pull off the road, signal (people tend to follow tail lights when driving in fog), then carefully pull off as far as possible. After pulling off the road, turn on your hazard flashers(hazard lights should only be used when you pull over to show that you are parked on the side of the road). Move away from the vehicle.

Flu Update - Monday

Five In Florida Confirmed With Swine Flu

LABELLE, FL. -- The Florida Department of Health reports Florida has five confirmed flu cases; two in Lee , one in Broward, one in Orange County , and one in Pinellas.

The second Lee County confirmation is a 7 year old male who attends Spring Creek Elementary School. The Pinellas County confirmed case is 24 year old male.

Alachua, Lee, Charlotte, Indian River, Okeechobee, and Clay have one probable case each. Palm Beach has two probable cases and Miami Dade has three. Hillsborough County has five probable cases.

A public health emergency was declared by the State Surgeon General.

A toll free information line has been established to address an increasing number of calls from the public requesting Swine Flu information. The number is 1-800-342-3557 and it is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m

From The National Archives - The 1918 Flu Pandemic

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Florida Declares Health Emergency

Health Department Issues Emergency Notice


As a consequence of confirmed cases of Swine Influenza A (swH1N1) in Broward and Lee Counties, the potential for the disease to further spread throughout the State of Florida, and after consultation with Governor Charlie Crist and public health officials within the Department of Health, I, Ana M. Viamonte Ros, M.D., MPH, State Surgeon General, pursuant to the authority vested in me under section 381.00315(1)(b), Florida Statutes, do hereby determine that a public health emergency exists in the State of Florida involving swH1N1 that has the potential to result in substantial injury or harm to the public health.

In order to protect the public health, I hereby suspend the pharmaceutical pedigree requirements under section 499.01212(1), Florida Statutes, as applicable to the wholesale distribution of the prescriptions drugs Tamiflu and Relenza needed to cope with this emergency.

In accordance with section 381.00315(1)(b), Florida Statutes, this Declaration shall remain in effect for sixty days unless amended, rescinded, or renewed with the concurrence of the Governor

Florida now has two CDC laboratory confirmed cases of Swine Flu in Florida.

· Lee County: 11-year-old male who attends Spring Creek Elementary School.

· Broward County: 17-year-old female who attends Hallandale High School.

Decisions regarding school closures will be made by local superintendents.

Orange, Pinellas, Palm Beach, Indian River, Miami Dade, Okeechobee have probable cases, which are awaiting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) laboratory confirmation.

A toll free information line has been established to address an increasing number of calls from the public requesting H1N1 flu information. The number is 1-800-342-3557 and it is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m

Governor Charlie Crist has directed State Surgeon General Dr. Ana Viamonte Ros to declare a public health emergency that will allow the State Surgeon General to take any action necessary to protect the public health (Florida Statutes, 381.00315).

There are currently no school closures in the state of Florida. States with school closures include: AL, CA, CT, IL, MN, NY, OH, SC, TX, and WA. An estimated 298 schools within these states are closed due to confirmed and probably cases of H1N1. The closures impact 172,264 students and 10,877 teachers. An additional 30 schools in three states (CT, NY and TX) closed for precautionary measures only.

The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.

Current Situation

Samples are being received by Florida Department of Health Laboratories for analysis from physicians and hospitals across the state.

The Department of Health continues enhanced surveillance and outreach to physicians, hospitals and other health care professionals. The surveillance system, consisting of sentinel physicians reporting influenza activity, DOH laboratories receiving specimens from physicians and hospitals and our ability to monitor emergency room cases and over- the-counter drug sales is fully operational. We have activated our response plan and are ready to respond to any cases of swine flu if it should occur.

Department of Health continues its enhanced surveillance with a network of Sentinel Physician Providers. These providers send selected samples of laboratory specimens to state laboratories for testing if they have patients with influenza like illness (ILI). These physicians also continue to report weekly ILI cases to the Department of Health.

Anti-virals have been pre-positioned to areas of potential need. We have one half million individual courses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 109 confirmed cases of novel influenza in the United States, with one death in a twenty-three month old.

The World Health Organization (WHO) alert level remains at Phase 5. The declaration of a Phase 5 is a strong signal that the pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.

Participation in Centers for Disease Control and other national conference calls will continue.


The State Surgeon General provided these recommendations:

-People with respiratory illness should stay home from work or school to avoid
spreading infections, including influenza, to others in the community.

-Avoid close contact with people who are coughing or otherwise appear ill.
-Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
-Wash hands frequently to lessen the spread of respiratory illness.

-People experiencing cough, fever and fatigue, possibly along with diarrhea and
vomiting, should contact their physician.

If you think you have influenza, please call your health care provider and discuss
whether you need to be seen in their office, emergency department or stay home.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Clewiston Teacher Patrick - Summer Travels

Gwendolyn Patrick To National Laboratory For Six Weeks

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Gwendolyn Patrick, a teacher at Clewiston Middle School, has been selected to participate in a six-week summer Research Experience for Teachers Program at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida. 

The program provides school teachers in grades K-12 with the opportunity to participate in real-world scientific research­and to learn how to teach the sciences. This year, 14 teachers are taking part in the program, which runs from June 8 to July 17, 2009.  Teachers will be living and working in Tallahassee for the six-week period.

Teachers will work alongside some of the finest scientists, magnet designers and engineers in the world, and will present their work in a poster session held at the end of the program.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, this six-week summer residential program for U.S. citizens gives K-12 teachers from across the country the chance to participate in real-world science and cutting-edge magnetic field research. Through weekly seminars, discussion groups, professional development and technology workshops, teachers develop strategies and resources to translate the experience into material for their classrooms.

Each teacher accepted by the program receives a stipend, classroom materials and, if necessary, travel support and housing. Teachers are expected to return to their jobs as leaders in service education, implementing science research in their classrooms.

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