Saturday, October 30, 2010

LaBelle Restaurants Face More Safety Violations

Critical Food Safety Violations Noted At Two Well Known Restaurants

LABELLE, FL. -- Two of LaBelle's best known restaurants have received their latest state food safety inspections. Receiving inspections on October 22 were Flora and Ellas and on August 22, the Big V.

Flora and Ella's Restaurant on S.R. 80 is LaBelle's oldest restaurant, originally located on Bridge Street and now in a modern building west of downtown. The latest inspection found seven food safety violations including five "critical." Violations included food stored on the floor, storage of uncovered food, bare hand contact of food (a repeat violation), food preparation without washing hands, no chlorine in wash water.

At the Big V in downtown LaBelle, inspections showed five critical food safety violations. Found were undated food stored more than 24 hours, incorrect food temperatures, storage of uncovered food, food preparation without washing hands, using hand sink for food preparation.

Violation - Observations At Flora and Ella's
08A-28-1 Critical. Observed food stored on floor. Small box of food on floor in dry storage area next to ice machine . Corrected On Site.
08A-29-1 Critical. Observed uncovered food in holding unit/dry storage area. Uncovered chicken in reach-in cooler across from cook line
09-04-1 Critical. Observed bare hand contact of ready-to-eat food by employees and establishment has no approved Alternative Operating Procedure in effect. Employee touched cheese with bare hands. Corrected On Site. Repeat Violation.
10-06-1 In-use utensil not stored with handle above the top of potentially hazardous food and the container. scoop Handle in flour in clear bin by fryers .
12A-16-1 Critical. Observed employee engage in food preparation, handle clean equipment or utensils, or touch unwrapped single-service items, without washing hands. Observed employee change gloves without washing hands .
20A-09-1 Critical. Chlorine sanitizer not at proper minimum strength for manual ware washing. Chlorine sanitizer apprx 0ppm in sanitizer bucket .
26-02-1 Observed reuse of single-service articles. Egg flat trays reused to hold bacon.

- Observation at Big V
02-22-1 Critical. Ready-to-eat, potentially hazardous food prepared on site and held more than 24 hours with not properly date marked. No date marking on premises .
03B-03-1 Critical. Potentially hazardous food not held at 135 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Mashed potatoes at 128F on cook line and hot dog like foods at 110F. Corrected On Site. Heat turned up
08A-29-1 Critical. Observed uncovered food in holding unit/dry storage area. In reach-in coolers .
09-04-1 Critical. Observed bare hand contact of ready-to-eat food by employees and establishment has no approved Alternative Operating Procedure in effect. Observed employee assemble buns for burgers without washing hands and wearing gloves. Corrected On Site.
31-12-1 Critical. Observed hand wash sink used for purposes other than hand washing. Hand sink in back kitchen by back door used to clean potatoes .

April 2010 - Food Safety Inspection Ranking - LaBelle area restaurants:

Friday, October 29, 2010

13 LaBelle Homes Sold In 3 Weeks

Sales Picking Up In LaBelle Area?

LABELLE, FL. -- From 10/5/2010 to 10/26/2010, there were 13 homes sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $96,077. The sales included a majority not in the Port LaBelle area this month and more above $100,000 home, not typical of previous months.

1) $40,000 on Evans Rd
2) $100,000 on Fort Thompson Ave
3) $166,000 on Fort Thompson Ave
4) $75,000 on Hart Ct
5) $47,000 on Maywood Cir
6) $225,000 on Riverbend Dr
7) $15,000 on Sabal Palm Dr
8) $87,000 on E Double J Acres Rd
9) $28,000 on N Lakewood Rd
10) $41,000 on NE Beechwood Cir
11) $81,000 on S Balsam Cir
12) $59,000 on S Elm St
13) $285,000 on W State Road 80

Thursday, October 28, 2010

LaBelle's Harrison Joins Goodwill Board

HCED Chief Harrison Joins Goodwill

LABELLE, FL. -- Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, Inc. has announced that Roger Harrison of LaBelle has joined the organization's volunteer Board of Directors. Harrison is the President and CEO of the Hendry County Economic Development Council. 

Despite arriving Southwest Florida just this year, Harrison has already made a large volunteer commitment to the region.  He serves on the board of directors of the Southwest Florida Workforce Development Board, the Henry County Regional Medical Center Foundation, and is President-Elect of the Clewiston Rotary club.

Harrison holds a Master of Public Administration degree from Georgia College and State University (Milledgeville, Ga.), and his Bachelor of Arts from Presbyterian College (Clinton, SC).  He is studying for a Doctorate in Public Administration from Valdosta (Ga.) State University with an anticipated graduation date of May 2012.

Secret Hendry Airglades "Buyer" Revealed

County Negotiates With Company President Having Many Business Failures?

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Florida Cargo Fresh Inc. has been named as the secret company a handful of county officials have been talking with, negotiating the sale of the multi-million dollar assets of one of Hendry county's two airports.

Florida Cargo Fresh, the reported buyer of Airglades Airport, has no track record having just been incorporated December 31, 2009 with amended articles of incorporation on February 8, 2010 and again on April 13, 2010 listing an address at 936 West Heron Circle, Winter Haven, Florida. 

Any sale or leasing of Airglades Airport is subject to approval by the Federal Aviation Administration after public comment.

The company's Winter Haven "corporate office" is the house, complete with backyard swimming pool, of President Fred Ford's wife. Ford is a man with numerous apparent recent and past business failures.

The three company officials listed by the Secretary of State are Frederick C, Ford, President, Walter S. Bethel, Secretary, and Charles W. Harrison, Jr., Vice-President/Treasurer.

The latest company filing shows an authorization to sell $100,000 of "penny" stock.

According to the Florida Secretary of State's office, 64-year old Frederick C. Ford's record show numerous recent and past business failings: 

-Vice-President and Treasurer of  Draper and Kramer of Florida, a real estate company based in Chicago, that went out of business May 10, 2010
-Director at Chicago company Draper and Kramer Investments Corp that went out of business May 10, 2010
-Owner of Daedalus Aviation Strategies LLC in Wauchula, Florida that went out of business September 14, 2007 after one year in business.
-Partner at First Florida Lauderdale Place, LTD based in Chicago that went out of business October 11, 2002
-Partner at D. K. Palm Beach Associates LTD, going out of business September 9, 2000 

He currently is the owner of Frederick C. Ford A.A.E., LLC of Winter Haven, Florida incorporated February 4, 2010 at his Winter Haven house and Vice-President/Treasurer currently at Chicago company D & K Agency Corporation, and Vice-President at Draper and Kramer, Inc in Chicago which apparently are real estate/insurance companies.

And numerous failed businesses are recorded for Frederick C. Ford before 2000.

Records also show a "Frederick Ford" with the following failed businesses:

-Amati Financial Group, Inc of Hallendale Beach, Fl went out of business September 24, 2010.
-Ford Security Systems, Inc. of Miramar, Fl. went out of business October 4, 2002

There are also many closed businesses under the name of "Fred Ford" residing in the Broward county area.

Corporate Secretary Walter Bethel shows an address of P.O. Box 512857, Punta Gorda, Florida and VP/Treasure Charles Harrison lists a Post Office Box address of Box 2016, Arcadia, Florida.

Bethel is an owner along with Harrison of Desoto Investment Group LLC in Arcadia, Florida, owner of WSB Holdings LLC in Arcadia, the owner of Ice Tek LLC in Arcadia, owner of Cold Cash Investments LLC in Arcadia, and was the owner of failed business Gulf Coast Icehouse Distributors LLC in Arcadia, closing September 25, 2009.

Harrison is Treasurer/Secretary of his father's company C.W. Harrison Inc. in Arcadia, Vice President along with his father at C And H Groves Inc. in Sarasota, and director along with his father in Bubba Air Inc in Arcadia.

Recent filings with the Secretary of State:

Florida Cargo Fresh Articles of Incorporation February 2010 -
Florida Cargo Fresh Articles of Incorporation April 2010 - 

Previous Sunday Morning News Stories:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

LaBelle And Moore Haven Reps Named To SW Planning Group

Moore Haven's Hall And LaBelle's Karau On SW Florida Planning Council

LABELLE, FL. -- Governor Charlie Crist this week announced the following reappointments and appointments to the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, including one person each from LaBelle and Moore Haven. Florida Senate confirmation is required.

Pat Carroll, 57, of Naples, Collier County School Board member, reappointed for a term beginning October 26, 2010, and ending October 1, 2011.

Mel Karau, 77, of Fort Denaud, retired, reappointed for a term beginning October 26, 2010, and ending June 23, 2012.

Felipe Colón, 29, of Sarasota, financial advisor, Wells Fargo Advisors, succeeding David Farley, appointed for a term beginning October 26, 2010, and ending October 1, 2012.

Michael Grant, 61, of Port Charlotte, president, Grant Medical Transportation, succeeding Alan LeBeau Sr., appointed for a term beginning October 26, 2010, and ending October 1, 2012.

Shannon Hall, 69, of Moore Haven, retired, succeeding Edward Elkowitz, appointed for a term beginning October 26, 2010, and ending October 1, 2012. 

LaBelle's Rodeo Grill Sued - More Critical Food Safety Items

Landlord Seeking Eviction - Inspectors Find 7 Critical Food Safety Issues

LABELLE, FL. -- The Rodeo Grill LLC in LaBelle received it's latest state food safety inspection on October 22nd. The inspection revealed seven critical food safety issues and one non-critical, compared to nine critical items found in an August inspection.

The establishment has gone through several management changes in recent years. Ralph E. Von Frantzius of LaBelle is the current corporation owner.

Frantzius is being sued by landlord Gradeur Oaks, LLC to evict him for alleged non-payment of rents. Frantzius was ordered by the court on October 20 to deposit rent into the court registry to avoid a default judgment against him leading to an eviction.

Among the recent food safety violations were improper storage of food, encrusted material on slicer and can opener, and slime on soda dispensing nozzles in the bar.

The State's List Of Critical Safety Items Found:

08A-28-1  Critical. Observed food stored on floor. Cut washed container on plant foods on floor in walk-in cooler
08A-29-1  Critical. Observed uncovered food in holding unit/dry storage area. Chicken in standing reach-in cooler across from fryers . Repeat Violation.
22-19-1  Critical. Observed interior of microwave soiled. (microwave across from pizza oven)
22-22-1  Critical. Observed encrusted material on can opener.
22-23-1  Critical. Observed encrusted, soiled material on slicer.
22-24-1  Critical. Observed buildup of slime on soda dispensing nozzles. (In bar)
23-05-1  Observed residue build-up on nonfood-contact surface. (On microwave handle.)
41B-01-1  Critical. Observed sanitizing solution exceeding the maximum concentration allowed. Sanitizer bucket quaternary ammonium at over 400ppm

Monday, October 25, 2010

In The Service - Hector Velasquez

Velasquez Graduates From Basic Training

LABELLE, FL. -- Army Pvt. Hector I. Velasquez has graduated from basic infantry training at Fort Benning, Columbus, Ga.
During the nine weeks of training, the soldier received training in drill and ceremonies, weapons, map reading, tactics, military courtesy, military justice, physical fitness, first aid, and Army history, core values and traditions.  Additional training included development of basic combat skills and battlefield operations and tactics, and experiencing use of various weapons and weapons defenses available to the infantry crewman.
He is the son of Lucila and stepson of Jorge Velasco of Mohawk Ave., Labelle, Fla. Velasquez is a 2010 graduate of Labelle High School.

Critical Food Safety At Port LaBelle Bella View

Naples Man New Port LaBelle Restaurant Operator - Food Inspector Notes 2 Critical Items

LABELLE, FL. -- The Bella View Restaurant at the Port LaBelle Inn received it's first official food safety inspection October 19 and two critical food safety issues were found.

The state inspector observed encrusted material on can opener, a "critical" violation, one "that, if not corrected, are more likely to contribute directly to food contamination, illness or environmental damage," according to the inspection report.

The second critical violation was the identity of food misrepresented on the menu. "Florida" grouper was listed on menu, but the only grouper on the premises was not Florida grouper. The restaurant reportedly corrected that violation and new menus were being printed during the inspection.

The Bella View Restaurant at the Port LaBelle Inn in northern Hendry county will attempt to bring a successful operation to the location after many prior owners and restaurant operators failed over the years, not finding enough customers to make the place profitable.

There had also been a history of critical food safety issues over the years, according to state inspection reports, and a failure of all but one operator to have a restaurant license.

Ladislav Stranavsky, of Naples is the new owner and filed to do business as the "Bellaview Restaurant" on September 29 with the Florida Secretary of State office. The restaurant is inside the Port LaBelle Inn, leasing the space from the motel.

Stranavsky's last recorded business venture was Yummy CCG, a limited liability corporation in Bonita Springs that began operation in June of 2008 and went out of business 12 months later.

He also has been operating a website called for several years.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Avoid Extra Hendry Waste Fee Charges

Grace Period for Yard Waste Pickups

LABELLE, FL. -- The bulk yard waste pick-ups in Hendry county are in line for some changes, making for more efficient use of employees and helping to create nicer looking neighborhoods. A grace period has been extended to allow workers to pick up yard waste without charge.

In order to avoid confusion and inform residents about yard waste regulations as outlined in the Hendry County Code of Ordinances, pickup for existing, non-compliant, yard waste will be conducted October 25th through November 5th at no charge.

Yard waste pickup rules for unincorporated Hendry County residents will be strictly enforced after each area's grace period collection date as indicated below:

Port LaBelle Area                                  October 25 and 26
LaBelle Rural Area                                 October 27, 28 and 29
Clewiston - Harlem Area                   November 1 and 2
Clewiston- Hookers Point Area                         November 3 and 4
Clewiston Rural Areas                                  November 5

All future yard waste pickups must adhere to the regulations as follows:

1.      Placed within 6 feet of roadside curb in front of your residence
2.      All loose materials such as grass or leave must be bagged or in cans weighing 40 pounds or less
3.      Limbs and branches no longer than 4 feet and 4 inches in diameter must be bundled and tied or placed in cans weighing 40        pounds or less
4.      Vacant lot piles will not be collected

Alternate options for special pickups and non-compliant yard waste collection is offered. Please contact Waste Services Inc. at (863)675-2481 for information.

The Hendry County Special Districts office is available to help with compliance questions. Our phone number is (863) 675-5252 Monday through Friday 8 am to 5 pm.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Millionaire Loses LaBelle Marina Property Fight

Glades County Value Adjustment Board Says "No" To Walter Ferguson

MOORE HAVEN, FL. --  Appearing before the five member Glades County Value Adjustment Board Thursday morning, Port LaBelle Marina owner Walter Ferguson argued for re-statement of an agricultural exemption that would save him thousands of dollars in Glades property taxes.

Unfortunately for Ferguson, his arguments about why he didn't have cattle on the land for almost a year, didn't fly. The Board denied his appeal, not making Ferguson a happy man. The Board found that he didn't follow the law requiring continual agricultural use of land to qualify for the liberal property tax savings allowed by the state.

Multi-millionaire Walter R. Ferguson,  owner of the Port LaBelle Marina was trying his best to keep 30 acres surrounding the south and east sides the Port LaBelle Marina classified as agricultural for pasturing cattle, even though the property did not have a fence enclosing the property and no cattle on it for much of last year and most of 2010.

In the Spring of 2009, the company put up a fence around the property, bordered by the Caloosahatchee River on the north and Oxbox Drive on the south. A lease was drawn up with a cattle owner, and Ferguson submitted an application to Larry Luckey, Glades County Property appraiser to lower the land's property assessments, and thereby it's property taxes by using the acreage as a cattle pasture.

Cattle were placed on the land and Luckey approved the agricultural classification for 2009, lowering the property taxes by tens of thousands of dollars in 2009. From records it appears the marina property value was lowered from $2,310,321 to $1,431,183.

But shortly thereafter, the Corps of Engineers determined Ferguson had illegally placed barbed wire fences on property owned by the Army Corps of Engineers along about one-quarter of a mile along the river front. The fence was installed about 50 feet inside the Corps property line. The Corps told Ferguson to remove the fence, as he was trespassing.

The fence along the river front was removed around June of 2009. The cattle taken away.

Ferguson was notified by letter April 6th by Glades County Property Appraiser Larry Luckey, that Ferguson was no longer entitled to an agriculture classification because there had been no cattle or complete fencing on the property since about June of 2009.

Ferguson delayed until May 2010 in erecting a new fence along the river, now installed about 50 feet south from where it had been illegally placed before. 

Ferguson argued before the Board that he had failed to follow up with the fence contractor to install a new fence after the original fence was taken down, but that he should have been given more time by Luckey to install a new one. The testimony before the Board showed the fence was down for about a year, Ferguson having plenty of time to install the fence and get cattle on the land.

Although a bit late, as cattle were supposed to be on the acreage on January 1st to qualify, Ferguson told the Board he was planning to get cattle on the land "today."

Referring to a Sunday Morning News article May 3, 2010 Ferguson thought was critical of him, he admitted to the Board "I was trespassing," referring to the fence being installed along the Corp of Engineers river front property, but explained he "was not guilty of fraud."

It wasn't clear if the denial of fraud was in reference to his installation of the fence on Corps of Engineers property, or for failing to notify the Property Appraiser's office he didn't have cattle on the land for almost a year. Property owners are required to make notification each year by March 1 if the land use changes.

Apparently, Ferguson was not too happy with his perceived treatment by Glades Property Appraiser Luckey, and exclaimed to Luckey after Luckey's presentation that "Part of what you said is true!" Luckey responded saying "All of what I said is true," before the chairman quieted the two down.

Previous stories on Walter Ferguson's Port LaBelle Marina: - May 2010 - March 2009

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hendry Pioneer Descendent Speaking At Museum

Great Great Grandson Of Captain Hendry At Museum

LABELLE, FL. -- Cape Coral attorney Hank Hendry will be the program speaker for the November 4 meeting of the LaBelle Heritage Museum at 7 o�clock in the commission chambers of LaBelle City Hall, Highway 80 West. 

Hendry�s topic is the Battle of Fort Myers, the southernmost conflict in the American Civil War.  Hendry is a  great great grandson of LaBelle's founder Captain Francis Asbury Hendry as well as being a Southwest Florida History buff. 

A  short business  meeting will follow the program.  Visitors to LaBelle Heritage Museum meetings at LaBelle City Hall should enter directly into the commission chambers at the rear of City Hall; the front door will not be open.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hendry's Airglades Airport Up For Sale

FAA Accepts Hendry Application To Privatize Airport - Secrecy In Details

LABELLE, FL. --  The Federal Aviation Administration has officially accepted the preliminary application for Hendry County, Florida's AirGlades Airport to participate in the Airport Privatization Pilot Program (APPP). Under secret negotiations, the county is negotiating the sale of the large central Hendry county airport and land to a private company.

The negotiation details and the name of the parties involved are not being provided to the public.

Hendry County submitted its preliminary application August 31, 2010. A Hendry County Delegation visited FAA headquarters in Washington, D.C., Monday, October 18, 2010, where they received formal notification of FAA's acceptance of Hendry County's preliminary application. Hendry County will now begin preparing the final application for approval by the FAA.

"As I wrap up 8 years serving the citizens of Hendry County, I am proud to know that AirGlades has a tremendous future ahead of it," said Hendry County Commissioner Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy was the commissioner representative to the delegation visiting FAA's headquarters. "Not only does this enhance aeronautical capacity for the region, but it also represents a significant step forward in the development potential of AirGlades as an economic driver," said an enthusiastic McCarthy. 

Congress established FAA's Airport Privatization Pilot Program to explore privatization as a means of generating access to various sources of private capital for airport improvement and development. Private companies may own, manage, lease and develop public airports.

The Act authorized FAA to permit up to five public airport sponsors to sell or lease an airport and to exempt the sponsor from certain federal requirements that could otherwise make privatization impractical. The airport owner or lease holder would be exempt from repayment of federal grants, return of property acquired with federal assistance, and the use of proceeds from the airport's sale or lease to be used exclusively for airport purposes. The pilot program began in September 1997.

On September 14, 2006, the City of Chicago submitted a preliminary application for Chicago Midway International Airport, a large hub airport. The pilot program can only include one large hub airport, so applications for other large hub airports will be placed on a standby list.

As of October 19, 2010, there are five active applications in the program.
  • Chicago Midway International Airport
  • Gwinnett County Briscoe Field
  • Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
  • Luís Muñoz Marín International Airport
  • Hendry County Airglades Airport
FAA Fact Sheet On Hendry's Application To Privatize Airport:
FAA Airport Privatization Program

LaBelle's Easton Burchard Dies

Former LaBelle City Commissioner

LABELLE, FL. -- Ernest Easton Burchard, age 70, of LaBelle died Saturday, October 16, 2010 in Lehigh Acres.

Easton was a Deacon at Caloosa Baptist Church of LaBelle as well as a City Commissioner of LaBelle for over 20 years. He worked throughout Southwest Florida as a General Contractor (Burchard the Builders), and spent the last decade of his career with Hendry County Building and Zoning.

Easton was also the Director of the Hendry County Area Housing Commission and was a member of LaBelle Masonic Lodge #379. He was veteran of the United States Air Force. 

Burchard was born Oct. 27, 1939 in Fort Myers, the son of the late Robert Everette Burchard Sr. and the late Ella Margaret (Forrey) Burchard.

Easton is survived by his wife of 52 years, Ramona and his loving family, son: Paul (Cathy), daughter: Sonja, two brothers: Bobby and Billy, granddaughters, Corine (Mark), Julie (Adam), Amy (James) and Danna (James). He was also a loving grandpa to nine great-grandchildren.

A Celebration of Life will be held Wed. October 20, 2010, 11:00 am at Caloosa Baptist Church, 137 Church Way, LaBelle with Dr. Les Morgan officiating. Interment will follow in Fort Denaud Cemetery, LaBelle.

Visitation will be from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Akin-Davis Funeral Home, LaBelle. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Caloosa Baptist Church Building Fund.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hendry's Susan English - December Trial

Trial Date Set For LaBelle Ex-Jail Captain Grand Larceny

LABELLE, FL. -- Former Hendry County Deputy and administrator of the Hendry jail, Susan Russe Sibbald English appeared before Circuit Judge Christine Greider Thursday morning and asked for a delay in setting a trial date. The judge set a trial for the period between December 6 and the 15th.

Appearing with her attorney Amira Dajani Fox, the judge was told that possibly two more depositions of witnesses might be needed including the deposition of former Hendry Sheriff Ronnie Lee, English's former boss.

English is charged with Grand Theft over $100,000 and Falsifying a public document by a public servant. English is said to have cashed checks from the Hendry County Jail canteen account, taking over $120,000 between March 2006 and October 2008.

At a previous hearing the Judge refused to accept English's proposed plea deal, for which English agreed with prosecutors to serve 23 months in prison, and be on probation for 20 years. English also asked the judge to delay sentencing until after the holidays. The judge denied that request as well.

English proposed to pay back $120,343.35 to the Hendry Sheriff's department over a period of 20 years at $500 a month.

The December trial is expected to take four to five days, English's attorney Fox told the Judge. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for November 19th.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Farm Workers Asking For Penny More

LABELLE, FL. -- The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is aiming for a penny a pound increase to be paid to harvesters. Here's a new video the CIW has released:

Florida Harvesters Get More Benefits

Tomato Grower Signs New Agreement On Social Responsibility

Immokalee, FL
-- Pacific Tomato Growers, one of the country's oldest and largest tomato producers, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), the Florida-based farmworker organization spearheading the Campaign for Fair Food, have signed an innovative agreement that sets new standards for social responsibility and accountability in Florida's tomato industry.

The agreement represents a significant step forward in the CIW's decade-long campaign for labor reforms in Florida's tomato industry. Not only is it the first formal agreement between the CIW and a major tomato grower, but the new accord establishes several practical systems designed to implement cooperatively the key principles of the Code of Conduct at the heart of the Campaign for Fair Food. Those principles include a joint -- and, when need be, external -- complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a worker-to-worker education process aimed at insuring that farmworkers themselves are active participants in the social responsibility efforts.

The agreement also provides for third-party auditing of both the systems needed to implement the Code and payment of the "penny-per-pound," the price premium designed to raise farmworker wages that is part of the CIW's agreements with nine major retail food companies, including sector leaders McDonald's, Whole Foods, and Compass Group.

"Pacific Tomato Growers (PTG) believes that it is time to speak out publicly about working conditions in agriculture. We along with many other responsible agricultural firms work daily to provide safe and fair working conditions, yet continued abuses within the industry demand that we speak out," said Jon Esformes, Operating Partner, on behalf of the Board of Directors, PTG, Palmetto, FL.

"Our two families, as owners of PTG, believe now is the time to ask other similarly responsible agricultural companies to join in the effort to bring positive change to our industry for the benefit of farm employees. It is an absolute that farmworkers must have the same protections as people working in the white collar world," explained Esformes.

"This breakthrough is a testament to the leadership at Pacific Tomato Growers, who truly came to the talks that led to today's announcement with an open heart, " said Lucas Benitez of the CIW. "Without that spirit of partnership, it wouldn't have been possible to even talk about the kind of changes contemplated in this agreement, much less hammer out the concrete systems necessary to make those changes real and sustainable."

"As we turn the page on this new chapter in Florida agricultural history, however, I do want to make one thing crystal clear," Benitez added. "We are not today claiming that we have achieved the changes sought by the Campaign for Fair Food. Rather, we are announcing that we have forged a plan of action that gives us a realistic chance to bring about those changes. This plan is designed precisely to address those unsustainable workplace conditions that have plagued Florida agriculture for so long, so that we can eliminate them and build a stronger foundation for the industry in the future. In other words, today, Pacific and the CIW are embarking together on a road toward real social responsibility. And if that road leads us where we think it will, it will be a model for generations of farmworkers -- and farmers -- to come."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Florida Buys U.S. Sugar Land In Hendry/Palm Beach

17,900 Hendry County Acres Purchased By State

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The South Florida Water Management District closed on the purchase of land from the United States Sugar Corporation, providing 26,800 acres of property south of Lake Okeechobee for Everglades restoration.  The $194 million acquisition places 42 square miles of agricultural land into public ownership for the construction of water quality improvement projects. 

Highlights of the acquisition include:

-Acquisition of 17,900 citrus acres in Hendry County to improve water quality in the C-139 Basin, where phosphorus loads have been historically high. This parcel, just west of thousands of acres of existing constructed wetlands, can be used for additional water storage and treatment facilities that would improve the quality of water flowing into the Everglades.

-Purchase of 8,900 acres of sugarcane land in Palm Beach County to benefit the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge by expanding existing Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) and increasing water quality treatment for the S-5A Basin, just southeast of Lake Okeechobee.

The agreement contains options to purchase another 153,000 acres for up to 10 years should future economic conditions allow. The options to acquire additional lands, which provide further opportunities to benefit the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, include:

An exclusive 3-year option to purchase either a specifically identified 46,800 acres or the entire 153,000 acres at a fixed price of $7,400 per acre. U.S. Sugar could sell the option property to a third party but must retain the District�s option.

After the exclusive option period, a subsequent 2-year, non-exclusive option to purchase the approximately 46,800 acres at Fair Market Value. U.S. Sugar could sell all or a part of the option property, but subject to a Right of First Refusal by the District.

A subsequent 7-year, non-exclusive option to purchase the remaining acres at Fair Market Value. U.S. Sugar could sell all or a part of the option property, but subject to a Right of First Refusal by the District.

In identifying the 26,800 acres for this acquisition, the District evaluated science and engineering factors as well as its existing requirements and mandates, all of which drive the agency�s restoration and water quality improvement efforts. This acquisition, together with additional lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area already in public ownership, gives the District access to more than 40,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee needed for water quality and restoration project construction. 

Today�s closing is the culmination of more than two years of work since the District began negotiations with the U.S. Sugar Corporation in June 2008 to acquire land south of Lake Okeechobee for Everglades restoration. This downsized acquisition recognizes changes in economic conditions over the last two years, which have resulted in a decline in District property tax revenues by nearly $150 million, or 30 percent, since 2008, although the tax revenues are even or above years before the historic highs of the mid 2000 years.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Streaker Attempts $1 Million Prize At Obama Rally

Want To Prank The President For $1 Million?

Juan James Rodriguez, age 24, was arrested while appearing naked at an Obama fund-raising rally in Philadelphia Sunday, attempting to win a million dollar prize offered by eccentric billionaire Alki David.

David, son of a Turkish Coca-Cola bottling company owner, is offering the prize for any prankster who appears naked within eyesight and earshot of the U.S. President, with written on his chest while chanting the name of the website six times and being videotaped.

Glen Zolar and Joey "Boots" Bassolino, are co-conspirators in the prank, hoping to share in the reward, if paid. Zolar is a continuing character on David's prank website. Zolar said in a webcast Sunday evening that he facilitated the streaking prank, while Bassolino was the video photographer. In a later webcast Zolar claims Rodriquez started running towards the President and came within 20 feet of the Commander-In-Chief of the U.S.

Bassolino was said to be at an internet hotspot Sunday uploading the video to David. Zolar said his hotmail email account had been "shut down by the Feds Sunday evening." Streaker Rodriquez, known online as "KingVamp," is Puerto Rican and Triniadian, according to a webcast he made October 3rd, explaining what he was going to do.

Rodriquez said in the 5 minute audio webcast a week before the prank, he was paying $25,000 to his co-conspirators, and claimed he would be investing the $1 million dollar prize after paying at most 38% in income tax, and going to Las Vegas to gamble.

He said he trusted David would not back out of the deal in paying the $1 million. Rodiquez said he didn't want to show his face on the webcast before the prank, but his picture would be in the news soon. He'll be "laughing to the bank" after the streaking he said.

Rodiquez said he was planning to follow Obama and "find out where he's going to be at next and just keep doing it until it happens."

David, allegedly the 40th wealthiest person in England, has warned prospective pranksters to do the stunt where "it is legal." David has paid out thousands of dollars to followers of his website for such pranks as tatooing the website name on their bodies and other stunts, often pranks that are not always exactly legal.

David reportedly told the Weekly Standard, a conservative newspaper and blog, he plans to pay up "when I see the video and it's confirmed." Followers of his lightly viewed youth oriented website, infamous for bullying talk, some gay bashing, and rapid fire obscenities by webcasters, have complained in the past that David sometimes changes the rules of the contests mid-stream, discontinues the contests abrubtly, or finds a technical reason not to pay all pranksters.

David is the defendant in a law suit filed earlier this month by CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, and Disney for alleged copyright violations for internet broadcasting of shows owned by the plaintiffs without their permission. The U.S. District Court for Southern New York is being asked for an injunction and damages against David's company, Inc.

Video Story with audio of the Obama streaker Rodriquez' plan to go nude:

Streakers Photo Gallery - Nudity At Sports Events from Australia's Daily Telegraph:

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Illegal Berry Pickers Threaten Wildlife

Six Immokalee Men Arrested For Picking Palmetto Berries

LABELLE, FL. -- Saw palmetto berries are critical to the survival of many native wildlife species, but none more so than the threatened Florida black bear. But before the bears and other wildlife can take full advantage of the fall crop, some people, seeking easy profit, illegally harvest the berries from wildlife management areas and private property. Unaware of the berries' source, drug companies pay high prices for the berries, which they use in making medicines.

While some state agencies issue permits for picking saw palmetto berries on lands they manage, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission generally forbids the practice on its lands, because of the critical relationship of berries to wildlife. Chassahowitzka WMA, in Hernando County, has been hit particularly hard by berry poachers this year, which concerns Chassahowitzka manager Chad Allison.

"Trespassing berry poachers are proving to be a detriment to bears and occasionally gopher tortoises," Allison said. "They are also an annoying distraction for hunters. Poachers cut down fences and leave behind litter. We also have found gopher tortoises hidden in the bottom of bags full of ill-gotten berries."

FWC canine officer Joe Wolff and officers Damon Pulaski and Luke Davenport are among those who have ratcheted up their patrols on Chassahowitzka WMA to stem the increasing tide of illegal activity related to palmetto berry picking.

On Oct. 4, Pulaski received information that a pickup truck had entered Chassahowitzka WMA and was attempting to exit without properly checking in or out and not paying the required daily-use fees. Pulaski called Davenport, Wolff and the Hernando County Sheriff's Office to assist. FWC officers and deputies stopped the suspect vehicle on Indigo Road before it left the WMA. In the vehicle were six men, along with 5,000 pounds of illegally picked palmetto berries in the truck bed.

The six men, all from Immokalee, were arrested and booked into the Hernando County Jail for illegal entry into the WMA and possession of palmetto berries.  Each charge is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500 and/or 60 days in jail.

Arrested were:
  • Jose Santos Lopez (DOB 04/04/84);
  • Arturo Velazquez Barcenas (DOB 09/20/61);
  • Pedro Aguilar Bodinez (DOB 10/12/77);
  • Jose L. Ayala-Mejia (DOB 03/30/70);
  • Rolando Domingo Aguilar (DOB 05/10/92); and
  • Melvin Alvarado Nazar (DOB 01/28/72).

Another arrest occurred on Sept. 30, when Pulaski received a Wildlife Alert Hotline tip about four men who had entered Chassahowitzka WMA illegally.  Pulaski searched and found a 200-pound sack of palmetto berries and a bucket, but no sign of the berry pickers who had illegally entered. Wolff and Davenport joined in the search, and with the expert help of canine Mojo, tracked down Sarvelio Perez (DOB 01/20/87), address unknown.  Perez was arrested and booked into the Hernando County Jail, charged with illegal entry into Chassahowitzka WMA and possession of saw palmetto berries.

The Wildlife Alert Hotline, 888-404-3922, is a 24-hour, toll-free number that residents can call to report illegal fish and wildlife activities. Complainants can remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward. For more information on the Wildlife Alert Program, visit or call the nearest FWC regional office.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Hendry's OK Slough State Forest Day

Free Activities For The Family

LABELLE, FL. -- Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest in Hendry county celebrates Forest Awareness Month on Saturday, October 9 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Activities scheduled for both adults and kids:

• Learn about wildland firefighting and see some of the equipment used
• See some of the invasive exotic plants on the forest
• Learn about some of the endangered plants found on the forest.
• Geocaching course
• Tree drawing
• CFA station
• Old time forestry equipment
• Guided tours of the forest by van

OK Slough State Forest Field Office, 6265 CR 832 Felda, FL 863-612-0776. Directions from Fort Myers take 80 east through Labelle to SR 29, go south to CR 832, turn east, will be approximately 4 miles down on the south side of the road, look for the fire tower, or take 82 east to SR 29, go north to CR 832.