Monday, January 31, 2011

Port LaBelle Ranchettes Award To Arndt

Ranchettes Citizen of the Year - Michael Arndt

LABELLE, FL.-- Congratulations to Port LaBelle Ranchettes resident Michael Arndt, who was recently honored as "Citizen of the Year" for 2010 at the Ranchettes Annual Meeting at the Port LaBelle Inn.

Michael is also a highly dedicated member of the Citizens on Patrol program. He is pictured with his award plaque at his family's home in the Ranchettes.

The Port LaBelle Ranchettes community is in Glades county.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

LaBelle Theatre Opens February 4th

Gone With The Wind Comedy In LaBelle

LABELLE, FL. -- The Firehouse Community Theatre proudly presents its fourth selection for the season Moonlight and Magnolias by Ron Hutchinson. Moonlight and Magnolias is presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York.

This adult slap-stick comedy takes place in 1939 Hollywood when movie producers were kings! This fictional account of the events surrounds the filming of "Gone With The Wind". Three weeks into production, the director quits and production is stopped. David O. Selznick locks script doctor Ben Hecht, the new director Victor Fleming and himself in his office to rewrite the screenplay! The play does use adult language.

Show dates and times are February 4th, 5th, 11th & 12th at 7:00pm and February 6th and 13th at 2:00pm. Tickets are $12.00 if ordered in advance or $14.00 at the door. To order tickets, please call our box office at (863) 675-3066 or email us at The Firehouse Community Theatre is located at 241 N. Bridge Street in downtown LaBelle.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Shopping Local - In Hendry-Glades

Patronize Your Local Merchants For Quality And Service

LABELLE, FL. -- Want to save time and know you will get quality service? Shop our local merchants, professionals, and trades people for the best in convenience and service.

Here's our recommendations from among the sponsors of the Sunday Morning News and Southwest Florida Online!

Gary Peters Computer Services, phone (863) 675-7925
Alden A. Rumfelt, Attorney At Law, phone (863) 673-0251
LaBelle Plumbing Corporation, phone (863) 675-1155
Pete's Tractor Service, phone (239) 728-6629
White's Furniture & Appliances, phone (863) 675-0717
Randy's Garage, Inc., phone (863) 675-1032, (863) 675-7603 (Tires)
Alvarez Tire Shop, phone (863) 946-1370
Phillip's AC And Heating Services, phone (863) 675-2878
Stratonet Internet Service, phone (888) 382-8503
--Your Business Name Should Be Here!--
Sunday Morning News Advertising - Since 1996: email, phone (863) 800-0010

See our sponsor's messages on the Southwest Florida Online News Page!

Please tell our sponsors you saw them here!

Hendry Deputy Honored With Luncheon

Ernie Ford - 47 Years In Law Enforcement

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden hosted a retirement luncheon for Hendry Deputy Ernie C. Ford, on Friday, January 28, 2011 at noon in the conference room at the Sheriff's office in LaBelle. The Sheriff took time with colleagues to remember Mr. Ford's long career and share time with him on the occasion of his retirement.

(Click on video to play)

Ernie is a long-time employee, 33 years, of the Hendry Sheriff's office and is retiring after beginning his career in 1964 as a full-time law enforcement officer. Mr. Ford also working in Corrections as well, serving under many Hendry Sheriffs.

For the last 13 years he has worked in criminal Investigations, serving throughout all of Hendry County.

Alternative Lifestyle Resort Coming To Clewiston?

"Gay Sex Camp" For Clewiston?

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Rumors have started in Clewiston regarding the purchase of the former Eckerd Youth Alternatives, Inc. land southeast of Clewiston. Some say the 269 acre parcel is to be used, as one anonymous email described it, as a "remote gay sex camp."

Hendry records indicate Bazu LLC, a Fort Lauderdale company, purchased the property by special warranty deed December 1st, 2010. Eckerd financed the purchase taking back a mortgage for $1,202,227.96 which includes and assignment of rents according to the 20-page document. Steven McCloud signed the mortgage on behalf of Bazu. The sale price is a reported $1,600,000.

(Photo: Headquarters Building At Camp)

The Hendry property appraiser says the property is worth $1,552,030 and zoned listed as A-2 for homes on 5 acres or more and recreational use. If so, and the purchase price was $1.6 million, it would appear this might not be such a financially stable business plan for Bazu LLC using the remote land as camping grounds.

Eckerd owned the out-of-the-way, rural 269 acre tract at 28280 Etumakee Way, off of County Road 835, 20 miles south of Clewiston since 1985, using it as a county approved non-profit home and residential treatment center for youthful offenders and behaviorally impaired youth with a capacity of 54. It closed several years ago.

According to the building officials many of the structures were built by the residents and it is yet unclear if permits were applied for or issued in the 80s and early 90s when many of the buildings were assessed by the Hendry Property Appraiser.

There are approximately 22 outbuildings including a store, a main office building with a commercial kitchen and dining room, a dormitory, a shop building with an attached duplex, a library an RO water system, and 6 campsites among other amenities.

Reports received by the Sunday Morning News says work has begun at the property, although building permits apparently have not been applied for or issued

Vitambi Springs Resort is a fictitious name owned by VSR Development Corp., formed on May 13, 2010 in Fort Lauderdale. VSR Development was set up the same day with Steven W. McCloud as president, Martin C. Ruddock, vice president/treasurer, and Antonio P. Barone, vice-president. The three also own Bazu LLC, the property owner of the site.

The three-man owners group set up websites for the Vitambi Springs Development Corporation advertising the "Vitambi Springs Resort" at

A pre-building permit application meeting was held with Hendry building officials in November 2009 concerning using this 269 acre site for 250 RV hookups with campground and cabins. On February 26, 2010, real estate broker Sherri Denning, real estate agent Julie Wilkins, and building permit applicants met with Hendry staff to discuss a variation of the use from the November meeting.

In October 2010 the group and Engineer Scott Morrisson met with zoning officials to propose 50 RV sites, and 30-40 cabins along with the existing primitive camp sites. The county gave them requirements for submitting paperwork but nothing has been received as of this date.

At this time, the property and nine main buildings located there, can be used for campers and RV use at the existing sites. Because the new owners have not applied for a use change to increase the camping spaces to 50 (or 250), they are currently allowed to only use the currently existing spaces which appear to be only six spaces for campers.

New Clewiston Park Opens

Bo Pelham Park Opens
CLEWISTON, FL. -- A dedication ceremony of the W. C. "Bo" Pelham, Jr. Park took place Friday, January 28, 2011. The new park at 900 Evercane Road on the east side of Clewiston honors the late Bo Pelham, a former Hendry county commissioner and Clewiston Fire Chief.
A family style picnic was served at the opening ceremonies, sponsored by the U.S. Sugar Corporation, the City of Clewiston, Ridgdill & Sons Construction, Quality Electric, and the Clewiston Fire Department.

Farm Disaster Funds Available In Hendry-Glades

Cold Weather Creates Natural Disaster Areas Throughout Florida

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced this week that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated 34 counties in Florida as primary natural disaster areas due to frosts and freezes during this winter season and drought over the last six months. The USDA has designated an additional 28 counties in Florida as contiguous natural disaster areas. 

As a result of this designation, farm operators in both primary counties and contiguous counties are eligible to be considered for assistance from the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), including emergency loans and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) Program.

Counties designated as primary natural disaster areas due to frosts and freezes during the period between November 5 and December 17, 2010, include Alachua, Bradford, Charlotte, Clay, Collier, De Soto, Dixie, Flagler, Gilchrist, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Indian River, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Martin, Miami-Dad, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, St. Johns and St. Lucie. Contiguous counties include Baker, Brevard, Broward, Citrus, Columbia, Duval, Hillsborough, Lafayette, Lake, Marion, Monroe, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Sumter, Suwannee, Taylor, Union and Volusia.

Farmers in these designated counties have eight months from today to apply for emergency loan assistance. FSA considers the extent of production losses, security available and repayment ability with each application. SURE Program applications for 2010 crop losses will be accepted in 2011, when the 2010 farm revenue data required by statute becomes available.

Record Number Of LaBelle Homes Sold

More Homes Appearing On "Sold" Lists

LABELLE, FL. -- In what appears to be yet another record sales period in the LaBelle real estate market, From 1/18/2011 to 1/25/2011, there were 17 homes sold for an average price of $62,824 from January 18 to January 24, 2011. If the trend continues Hendry county might be climbing out of the slow real estate market in coming months.

Prices are still a bargain, although many homes on the market are in need of repairs, including replacements of appliances and air conditioning units, which in many cases have been stolen from some of the newer homes. Investors are buying up some homes in hopes of a price increases in the near future.

1) $165,000 on 5th Ave
2) $36,000 on Bishop Cir
3) $125,000 on Caloosa Estates Dr
4) $30,000 on Cook Ave
5) $39,000 on Hampton Ave
6) $67,000 on Hardee St
7) $163,000 on Hidden Hammock Dr
8) $32,000 on Mohawk Ave
9) $43,000 on Ramrod Cir
10) $65,000 on River Run
11) $57,000 on Sandlewood Ln
12) $12,000 on Ute St
13) $67,000 on Villa Dr
14) $24,000 on E Sunflower Cir
15) $27,000 on E Sunflower Cir
16) $67,000 on N Tulip Rd
17) $49,000 on S Tulip Rd

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hendry Humane Society Shuts Down

"Temporary" Closing Of LaBelle Animal Shelter May Indicate Financial Problems

LABELLE, FL. -- The Caloosa Humane Society has announced the closing of it's animal shelter facility in LaBelle.

An announcement issued by the non-profit Society said in part, "The Board of Directors of the Caloosa Humane Society would like to announce some great changes coming for your local shelter for 2011!  We would like our supporters and future visitors to know we are temporarily closed to the public in order to make these changes.
"We are closed to the public due to restructuring of management and interior/exterior renovations. If you are interested in an animal at our shelter, you can contact one of our board members: Tricia Boone at 239-657-2306 or contact Doug Morgan at 863-637-0952 or 863-675-3381."

According to financial statements filed with the IRS, the shelter seems to have been spending more money than they take in over the years, due apparently to high staff and operating costs, while not enough public donations to cover costs. The non-profit organization shows a loss in the latest two IRS Form 990s on public record.

The LaBelle organization began 10 years ago, with a reported $1,000,000 endowment.

The Form 990 filed for 2008 showed a total revenue of $128,517 with expenses of $156,053 for a net loss of $27,536. In year 2009 the organization's filed statements showed $138,765 income and $148,623 for expenses, a net loss of $9,859.

For 2009, shown were 5 employees and 112 volunteers. The employees cost the Humane Society $72,093 compared to $67,233 the year before.

Hendry county has two other dog and cat animal shelters, both "no-kill shelters, one in Montura and one operating for many years in North LaBelle.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Army Parachutes Over Clewiston

Special Ops Sky Divers Stationed At Clewiston's Airglades Airport

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team, known as the Black Daggers, will be conducting their annual Winter Training Session until February 28th, 2011 in Clewiston, Florida at Hendry county's Airglades Airport.

The Black Daggers use the military variant of ram-air parachutes, which allows a free fall parachutist to jump with more than 100 pounds of additional equipment.  In addition to the extra weight, the jumper must also withstand high winds, frigid temperatures and low oxygen levels common at high altitude, requiring the jumper to be highly skilled.

The team of 11 Army personnel is comprised of volunteers from throughout the Army special operation forces community.  They have diverse backgrounds and represent various Army SOF elements including Rangers, Special Forces, support and signal, psychological operations and civil affairs. 

Their average age is 32 years and the average number of free fall jumps is 1,250.  As Army special operations global warriors, these Soldiers have deployed worldwide with their units and are defenders of the nation in the overseas contingency operations.

Hendry Half Million Dollar Growhouse Found

Tip Leads To Montura Ranch Arrest - 206 Pounds Of Marijuana

CLEWISTON, FL. -- On January 25, 2011 after receiving information of a possible marijuana grow house, Hendry County Deputies responded to the residence of 765 N. Quebrada Street. 

Upon arriving on scene Deputies met with the owner of the residents, 43 year old Carlos Gonzalez.  Upon approaching the property owner deputies could smell a strong odor of what they believed to be Marijuana.  Hendry County Narcotics Investigators were called and responded to the home and after speaking with the home owner they were given permission to enter the house.

Once inside deputies located 88 live marijuana plants, weighing approximately 206 pounds, with a street value of approximately $500,000 and additional miscellaneous drug paraphernalia.  

Carlos Gonzalez was taken into custody and charged with Possession of Marijuana over 20 grams, Possession of Marijuana with intent to sell, Trafficking in marijuana, Cultivation and/or Producing, Possession of a Controlled Substance without a prescription, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia and Resisting Arrest without Violence. 

The 1.25 acre $110,000 rural property was purchased last year by Xonxi 1, LLC, a corporation set up at that address by Raquel Lisboa, with tax bills going to a Miami Beach attorney, according to county and state records.

Gonzalez is currently being held on a $41,000 bond.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Moore Haven Crash Injures Two

Two Injured In Crash US 27 Crash

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Yenny Sifventes, 32 of Moore Haven was taken to Hendry Regional Medical Center with serious injuries after a 7 p.m. crash on US 27 and Glades County Road 720.

Sifventes' 2007 Chevy Tahoe was traveling southbound on US 27, with passenger Christopher Sifventes, 16, was in the left turn lane, attempting to turn left on County Road 720. Martha Sofia-Leyva, 50 of Kissimmee  was northbound on US 27 in the outside lane driving a 2011 Toyota Sienna, to the south of Sifventes. 

Sifventes failed to observe Leyva, and pulled out across the northbound lanes.  The front of her vehicle collided into the right side of the Toyota.  Both vehicles came to final rest in the east shoulder of US 27.

Leyva suffered no injuries, but passenger Rafael Leyva, 78 has critical injuries and was taken to Hendry Regional.

All parties were wearing seatbelts. Charges are pending against Sifventes.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hendry Sheriff Looking For Citizen Help

Two New Programs For Law Enforcement

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden is looking for a few good men and women.  Put your skills and abilities to work serving the community as an Auxiliary Deputy. 

If you are interested in law enforcement and want to stay in your current career this is the program for you.  The Hendry County Sheriff's Office Auxiliary Unit is a volunteer organization committed to the support of the operation of the Sheriff's Office.

Auxiliary Deputies are required to complete the same hiring process as full-time Deputies.  Once appointed by the Sheriff you will have to complete the Auxiliary Training Academy.  Classes will run approximately 3 months, meeting two nights a week and Saturdays.  The cost of the academy is $500.00.  Those that complete the class and pass the state exam will be reimbursed.  Applications must be received by February 4, 2011 in participate in the upcoming Auxiliary academy.

If you are interested in participating in the upcoming training academy in Hendry County please contact Sgt. Bruce Slade at 863-674-5600 or 863-805-5000.

Free Volunteers In Public Safety Program

The restructuring of the Hendry County Sheriff's Office Volunteers in Public Safety (VIPS) is one of the newest opportunities for citizens to volunteer with Hendry County Sheriff's Deputies.  As members of the VIPS, you will have an opportunity to serve side by side with our deputies and perform a variety of services for our citizens and visitors to Hendry County.  Some of these responsibilities may include seizing and transporting found property, directing traffic at special events or around disabled vehicles, conducting vacation home checks and much more.

Sheriff Whidden invites you to consider becoming a member of our VIPS team. Our volunteers provide a valuable level of service and support to the community as well as to Sheriff's Office members. Your desire to volunteer your time to help others is an excellent example of being a good neighbor, and contributes to our overall mission of leading the way for a safer Hendry County.

The VIPS program is coordinated through the Sheriff's Community Relations Division.  If you are interested in applying please contact Lt. Susan Harrelle at (863) 674-5604 or via e-mail at  Applicants must be 18 years of age, pass a background, possess a valid Florida Driver's license, and complete at least four hours of the training program and comply will all program policies and procedures. Once the application is complete and returned, a background check will be conducted and approved applicants will be scheduled to attend the upcoming VIPS academy and it's FREE

Volunteers will receive individual training for their work assignments as well as occasional training with other volunteers in a group.  Classes are scheduled February 12, from 9:00 – 2:00pm at the Dallas Townsend Center, located on Pratt Blvd., in Labelle.

Hendry Funding Low Income Electric Bills

Electric Bill Crisis Assistance
LABELLE, FL. -- The Hendry County Social Services Department is the recipient and distributor of the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds for electrical bills.

LIHEAP can provide Crisis Assistance up to $600 for one time electric bill payment assistance. A crisis is defined by loss of income, household emergency, medical emergency, car repair, death or an extremely elevated electrical bill due to heating or cooling.

Applicants must provide proof of the Crisis and household income must be under 150% of poverty as follows: 1 member-$16,245, 2 members-$21,855, 3 members-$27,855, 4 members- $33,075, add $5,610 for each additional member. The applicant must also reside in Hendry County.

Please call (863) 983-1469 in Clewiston or (863) 675-5356 in LaBelle between 8 AM to 2 PM Monday thru Friday for more information.

LaBelle's Pet Festival - Seeking Good Homes

Pets And Animals For Adoption Featured In LaBelle

LABELLE, FL. -- LaBelle's community of animal lovers came together Saturday, January 22nd for the Pet Fest in Barron Park along the Caloosahatchee River.

(Click above to see video)

The day started with the Blessing of the Animals, followed by a pet parade around the park, music, food, and entertainment. The Showtime Cloggers from LaBelle demonstrated their dancing skills on stage while animal rescue groups showed displays around the park.

Friends of Animal Rescue, helping LaBelle's no-kill animal shelter, were looking for families to foster care or adopt their many cats and dogs. The shelter also needs volunteer help at the facility, located just north of the LaBelle bridge.

The Talking Monkeys Project needs donations to help take care of abandoned monkeys, S.E.A.L. Exotic Animal Foundation from Charlotte County takes care of abandoned wild animals, and Caloosa Humane Society brought along some of their animals needing homes.

-Video by Don Browne

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Glades Health Department Grand Opening

Glades Health Department Opens New Building

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- A $5 million Health Clinic facility opens November 21 in Moore Haven. The dedication will take place at 11 a.m. with a reception and tours for the public.

At 18,000 square feet, the new building is three times larger than the old facility on State Road 27 in downtown Moore Haven.  The structure offers multiple exam rooms, educational classrooms and dental offices with room for six dentist chairs.  The facility also has a a community room for local meetings.

The staff desks and medical filing cabinets are in secure glass-walled rooms and the waiting rooms are equipped with play stations for children and comfortable seating for adults.

The new facility will now make the Health Department more accessible as well as provide a modern resource for Health Department staff and the public. The clinic is located north of the intersection of State Road 27 and State Road 78 at 1021 Health Park Drive in Moore Haven.

Looking physically much like the Hendry County Health Department building in LaBelle, the new building has been constructed to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification criteria.  The building will be the first LEED certified building in Glades County.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hendry Marijuana Operation Busted

980 Plants "For Personal Use" Recovered In LaBelle

LABELLE, FL. -- On Tuesday morning, January 18, 2011 at approximately 11:15 am, while assisting State agents with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Deputies discovered what appeared to be a marijuana grow operation at 290 G Road, in LaBelle, Florida.

Hendry County Sheriff's Narcotics Division was notified and responded to the residence of 45 year old Darenda Susan Deras at 290 G Road where they observed numerous marijuana plants. Investigators seized 980 live marijuana plants ranging in size from 3 inches to 3 feet in height.

Suspect, Deranda Susan Deras admitted to investigators that she was tending the plants for her own personal use. Deras was then taken into custody and charged with Cultivation of Marijuana and Possession of Marijuana over 20 grams. She was released from Hendry County Sheriff's Office on a $7,000.00 bond.

The property, according to Hendry records, appears to be a rented parcel just off State Road 29 South owned by the estate of Juanita Pequeno.

In addition to the arrest of Deras, 46 year old Tammy Louise Ragan was arrested and charged with Obstruction. She was later released with a court date of February 14, 2011.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Parade Opens LaBelle's MLK Blvd.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day In Hendry

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry county and the city of LaBelle celebrated the third Monday of January 2011, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, with a parade and ribbon cutting to celebrate not only the MLK holiday, but the opening of the newly revamped MLK Boulevard in LaBelle.

The city street has been in bad shape for many years, and finally adequate sidewalks along the west side of the street, drainage culverts, and a vehicle turning lane have been completed on the nearly one-mile long road running from State Road 80 on the north of LaBelle to Cowboy Way on the south side.

Marchers, organized by community leader Nora Fagin, proudly walked and sang along the new road beginning at Cowboy Way all the way to Miller Avenue, and ended at Alton "Kid" Jones Park in the Fordson-Sunset Park neighborhood, where refreshments by Jonesez BBQ and many musical performances were scheduled for the celebration.

Officials in attendance for the parade and day in the park included Mayor Paul Puletti, cutting the ribbon for the street opening, Sheriff Steve Whidden, Chief Deputy Kevin Nelson, Tax Appraiser Phil Pelletier, and Rev. Bill Maddox, Jr.

-Video by Don Browne

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Flying At LaBelle's Airport

What Are The Fastest Vehicles In LaBelle?

LABELLE, FL. -- On a sunny afternoon, LaBelle sees more than the usual amount of small aircraft flying over head. At the intersection of Cowboy Way and State Road 29 one can see aircraft overhead landing or taking off at speeds of 90 mph or more, making LaBelle's aircraft the "fastest things in LaBelle."

(Please click on video above to play it.)

The LaBelle Municipal Airport is home to dozens of aircraft of all sizes, used for both business and personal service.

In small town LaBelle, many might be surprised to know that the fastest transportation available is travel by general aviation. Small aircraft can easily travel from point to point at least twice at fast as automobiles, making general aircraft a faster way to travel several hundred miles or more in a few hours.

Even though aircraft fuel costs at least a dollar a gallon more than auto fuel, aircraft travel at 120 mph or higher, allowing pilots and passengers to get to the destination quickly.

Vernon Conly Air Service operates an aircraft repair and maintenance facility on the west side of the airport, keeping aircraft serviced and inspected according to FAA regulations.

Across the field, Tom Vaughn, Jr. is the airport manager, making sure the LaBelle general aviation airport operates efficiently, giving a hand to local and visiting pilots and their passengers when needed.

Flight lessons have been given at the airport for many years by LaBelle resident Charles Kirkpatrick, leading many students to gain an FAA pilot's license.

-Video by Don Browne

Friday, January 14, 2011

Clewiston 7th Grader Wins College Scholarship

$15,000 Scholarship Won By Micaela Lowman

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Micaela Lowman of Clewiston has been awarded one of three Governor's Recognition Scholarships by Superintendent Richard Murphy at a recent Hendry County School Board Meeting.

Micaela, a seventh grader at Clewiston Middle School, received a 4-Year Florida College Plan scholarship provided by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.

Valued at approximately $15,000, the Florida Prepaid scholarship covers four years of tuition and local fees at a Florida College of Micaela's choosing. The Governor's Recognition Scholarship initiative began in 2006, using private donations, with the goal of providing a college scholarship to at least one child in each county in the state. It is granted annually to middle school students who compose outstanding essays on the legacy of a past Florida governor. 

This year, seventh and eighth grade students in select counties were challenged with the prompt: "Choose one former governor of Florida and describe his most significant impact on the Sunshine State and your life today."

Micaela writes about Governor Lawton Chiles and his impact on class sizes in the state's education system. She notes that although the initiative was controversial, it has "made it easier for [her] to get one-on-one help on a particular subject from [her] teachers."

Micaela credits the Governor for creating an environment in which there are fewer distractions to divert attention away from students trying to learn. She says, "If he were alive today, I would say 'thank you' for recognizing the importance of restricting class sizes and seeing through all the criticism to what really matters – the youth of the State of Florida."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

LaBelle's Bella View Restaurant Owner Evicted

Port LaBelle Restaurant Lasts Only Three Months

LABELLE, FL. -- The Bella View Restaurant inside the Port LaBelle Inn has been "evicted," according to the hotel management. This is not the first time the hotel property owner has had to evict a restaurant tenant.

The Bella View Restaurant, owned by Ladislav Stranavsky of Naples and operated by his son Mario filed to do business as the "Bellaview Restaurant" on September 29, 2010 with the Florida Secretary of State office. The restaurant, located inside the Port LaBelle Inn, leased 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.

A food safety inspection showed two critical violations on their first inspection October 19th. Stranavsky failed to renew his restaurant license December 1st, but kept operating until about Monday of this week.

Rumors had spread a week ago that the Bella View might be closed for the "month of January." A receptionist at the hotel hinted there might be some troubles brewing, but as late as Monday January 10, the hotel manager said the restaurant was "not closing."

Troubles have plagued the motel's restaurant for years. Previous hotel owner Michael Lafferty of Naples, Fl and Arizona leased the restaurant room to Fort Myers' Maine's Best Seafood. Maine's Best reportedly never made any rent payments to Lafferty during their year at the Port LaBelle Inn. Lafferty then went under foreclosure, previous owner Richard and Mary ''Dotty" Seibel to taking the property back.

The Seibels sold to the current owner Ed J. Yasechko of Hubbard, Ohio, a truck stop operator.  Yasechko operated "Olivia's" restaurant a few months before leasing it to Food Masters in March, 2010. Food Masters operated truck stops in the Mid-West.

Throughout the history of the restaurants at the Port LaBelle Inn it apparently never has had a restaurant license or certified restaurant manager, and had been cited repeatedly by the state, until Food Masters took over. The Food Master's chef, however was found to be working under an expired food manager license.

Next Yascechko leased to Stranavsky, who lasted the shortest time of all as the restaurant operator, only three months.

The Port LaBelle Inn manager says the restaurant is supposed to open again Tuesday January 18, operated by the hotel again. The state will have to inspect, license and approve the change of ownership. The liquor license is owned by Stranavsky and would have to be switched as well presumably.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cold Weather Again In Hendry-Glades

Two More Nights Of Freezing Weather Possible

LABELLE, FL. -- The Hendry County Emergency Operations Center has issued the following advisory:

Special cold weather shelters will not be opened unless absolutely necessary. If you know of someone that needs cold weather sheltering please contact the Emergency Management Office at 863-674-5400 between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm, and shelter arrangements can be made.

We're still looking at the likelihood of a freeze for areas west and southwest of Lake Okeechobee, primarily across Glades, Hendry and large parts of interior Collier County well away from the coast.

This event will not be as cold as the events in December; nevertheless it will get cold enough for at least a light freeze in most of the areas indicated. Farther east and south, it gets a lot more marginal as far as a freeze is concerned, and present indications are that it will stay above freezing over the majority of western Palm Beach County.

A complicating issue is the forecast of high clouds spreading across the area late today and tonight which could have an impact in keeping temperatures a few degrees warmer than what it could be. Also, frost will not be a major factor tonight due to winds and dry air.
Watches and Warnings

A Freeze Warning is in effect from 2 AM to 9 AM Thursday for Glades, Hendry and Inland Collier. Low temperatures are forecast to fall to the 26-31 range over Glades and Hendry counties, with coldest readings over western sections of those counties (Palmdale-Labelle and vicinity).

The duration of freezing temperatures around 4 hours. Present indications are that temperatures should not drop below 26, and in fact could end up being a tad warmer. Therefore, current reflected lows may be on the conservative (cool) side.

Bedbugs Under Control In Hendry-Glades Motels

One Area Bedbug Case Found Last Summer

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation conducts motel and hotel inspections on every licensed establishment though the year, and reports on violations, including any bedbugs found.

Fortunately, only one case has been found in Hendry and Glades county, and the report was from June, according to state inspection reports.

The Plaza Travel Inn on East Sugarland Highway in Clewiston was warned on June 24, 2010 of bed bugs in room 110. The vermin were taken care of by a pest control company.

The state says no establishments are closed because of bed bugs, but once discovered by an inspector, the room cannot be rented until the bed bugs are gone. The department conducts follow-up inspections within 14 days of the initial reports.

Women's Farm Course In Hendry

Empowering Farm And Ranch Women

LABELLE, FL. - Annie�s Project, a program developed to empower farm and ranch women to become agriculture entrepreneurs, will be offered again this year in Hendry county at LaBelle's Agricultural Extension Office.

First introduced in Florida in 2010, the program is designed to help agricultural women learn entrepreneurial skills to improve their farm operation. In addition, Annie�s Project helps women find new ways to balance family, community and professional demands, and teaches management and decision-making within the complex, dynamic world of agriculture.

Sessions combine lecture, discussion, individual and small group activities and software training. Risk management topics include: Social style (interpersonal skills), women and money, farm and family finances, farm and ranch financial analysis, computer programs designed for farm business record keeping, crop and livestock marketing, and farm business planning and farm estate planning.

Workshops will be held in 9 other counties in addition to Hendry county: Marion, Lake, Suwannee/Columbia, Hernando, Manatee, Hendry, Nassau, Gadsden, Brevard and Miami-Dade. The program runs for six consecutive, three-hour sessions.

Registration is limited to 20 participants per site so early registration is encouraged. Funding for this project is provided by the Southern Region Risk Management Education Center and USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Registration for the course is $40 and includes software, books, refreshments and materials. For more details and registration information, please contact the Extension Office in one of the participating counties.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

28 Sheriff's Citizens Academy Grads

New Trainees Set To Help Hendry County Law Enforcement

CLEWISTON, FL. -- On Saturday, January 9, 2011, Sheriff Steve Whidden conducted the graduation of the 2nd Sheriff's Citizens Academy.  Twenty-eight participants who dedicated their time over a ten week period, gathered at the Hendry County Gun Range where they were recognized for their commitment.

Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden stated, "This is the kind of open communication between the Sheriff�s Office and the community that I want to continue to establish in Hendry County."  Sherriff Whidden told everyone who participated to not "be a stranger.  You are part of our organizational family."

The Hendry County Sheriff's Office will be hosting another Citizen's Academy in February.  If you would like to know more about it or are interested in attending the next class, please contact Lt. Susan Harrelle at 863-674-5604 or

Man Dies In Hendry Farm Accident

Farm Tractor Hits Power Line

CLEWISTON, FL. -- On January 10, 2011, at approximately 2:20 pm, Hendry County Deputies responded to the area of Blumberg Road off of County Road 835 after receiving a report of an accident involving a tractor and pull behind sprayer. A 25 year old workers was found dead.

When arriving on scene Deputies discovered both the tractor and spray rig burning.  It appeared that the spray rig had come into contact with a power line causing it to catch on fire.

After fire personnel arrived on scene and were able to extinguish the flames, the farm equipment was removed from the scene.  It was at this time that emergency personnel on scene were able to locate the tractor operator. 

The driver of the tractor was identified as 25 year old, Sainer Robledo Garcia of Lake Harbor, Florida.  The cause of death at this time is unknown.

Monday, January 10, 2011

LaBelle's Morris Medical Center Complaint

Medical Center Owner Has Complaint Filed After Criminal Conviction

LABELLE, FL. -- LaBelle's recently opened Morris Medical Center on South Main Street is owned by Dareld Ray Morris II, D.O. and Kelly Morris.  Recent filings indicate Dr. Morris has had a complaint filed against him before the Board of Osteopathic Medicine by the Florida Department of Health.

The Department says Morris plead nolo contendere and was found guilty of leaving the scene of a vehicular crash and failed to notify the Board of the criminal offense as required by Florida law.

Morris has a criminal complaint history going back to 1982 when he was charged with misdemeanor assault in Texas. According to Florida Department of Health professional records, in 2005 he was charged with resisting an officer, failing to sign a summons, and reckless driving.

The LaBelle office is apparently part of the Doctor's main operation in Fort Myers on Cleveland Avenue. The Morris Medical Center advertises medical weight loss, anti-aging wellness, and pain management as part of their services, on it's website saying clients can lose "up to 5-10 pounds this week and up to 20 pounds this month."

DOH Complaint:

Hendry-Glades Sheriff's Academy Graduates

Two Port LaBelle Citizen Academy Graduates

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry Sheriff Steve Whidden congratulates Sheriff's Citizens Academy graduates who are now on duty in Glades county patrolling with the Glades Citizens on Patrol program.

From left to right are Hendry Steve Whidden, Ken Fuller, Roger Saunders, co-captains of the Port LaBelle, Glades County Citizens on Patrol Program and Hendry Lt. Susan Harrelle. 

Don Munch Jr., Secretary of the Port LaBelle C.O.P. (Citizens on Patrol) for Glades County said, "Thank you to the Hendry County and Glades County Sheriff's offices for all their support of citizen patrol programs!"

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Owen Luckey Sr. Dies At 89

Owen L. Luckey, Sr. died January 5, 2011 at the age of 89. He was a fifth generation Floridian and a genuine Florida Cracker.

He was a combat engineer in World War II and participated in the invasion of France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. He was decorated during the Battle of the Bulge.

He was born Feb. 1, 1921 in LaBelle, the son of the late Stafford Owen and Susie Irene Luckey.

Survivors include his wife: Alfreda (Knighton) Luckey, one son: Owen L. (Kathleen) Luckey, Jr., two daughters: Dianne (Jack) Jackman and Regina Johnson, grandchildren: Tammy Jackman, Cecil Jackman, James O. Luckey, Jennifer Pierce and Mary Pringle,. He was preceded in death by his son, James Alfred Luckey who was killed in action in the Vietnam War.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday, January 11, 2011, 10:00 a.m. at Crossroads Baptist Church, 10721 Palm Beach Blvd, Fort Myers with Rev. James Daniels officiating. Interment will follow at Fort Myers Cemetery, Fort Myers. Visitation will be Monday from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Akin-Davis Funeral Home, Fort Myers.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

LaBelle Veterans Park Monument Dedication

New Monument Dedicated In LaBelle Park

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County and veterans from all over the area celebrated a new monument at the LaBelle Veterans Park Saturday January 8th.

The 11 a.m. ceremony included a color guard from the American Legion motorcycle riders from Lehigh Acres, members of LaBelle's American Legion Post 130, and local dignitaries.

Speakers and those in attendance included Joe Thomas, president of the LaBelle Heritage Museum, Steve Williams of the DAV Chapter 144, and R. P. Middleton of VFW 10100. Also in attendance LaBelle Mayor Paul Puletti, Hendry School Board member Pat Langford, and former Hendry Commissioner Bill Maddox, Jr.,

20 memorial bricks were placed in honor of local veterans.

-Video by Don Browne

Friday, January 07, 2011

Hunter Safety Course In Glades

Hunter And Gun Safety At Free Classes

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will host a free hunter safety course on January 15th in Glades County.   

Students will learn about hunting laws, safe gun handling and hunter ethics and responsibility, among other topics, before taking the final test.  The course also includes live-firing instruction on a shooting range.

This class will be held at the Glades County Sheriff's Office Shooting Range on Gun Club Road (north of city barn), 3 miles north of U.S. 27 on State Road 78, 6 miles south of Lakeport, on the west side of Moore Haven (between Moore Haven and Lakeport). The class is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Space is limited and reservations are required. Participants can make reservations at or by calling 561-625-5122.

Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975, must pass an approved hunter safety course before purchasing a Florida hunting license. Parents or legal guardians must accompany children under 16 years of age to all classes. To participate in the live-fire exercises, children under 18 years old must present a parental release form signed by a parent or legal guardian.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

18 LaBelle Homes Sold!

Record Number Of Real Estate Closings

LABELLE, FL -- In what may be a record number of monthly sales in recent month's history, from 12/7/2010 to 1/4/2011, there were 18 homes sold in the LaBelle area, for an average price of $52,389.

Homes are now selling at what used to be late 1990s area prices in many cases.

The homes sold included:

1) $44,000 on B Rd
2) $10,000 on Barbara St
3) $29,000 on Clipper Ter (Port LaBelle)
4) $65,000 on F Rd
5) $30,000 on Fort Center Ave
6) $88,000 on Free Ln
7) $244,000 on Harbor Dr
8) $50,000 on Jamestown Rd
9) $25,000 on Kell Mill Blvd
10) Unknown price on Maywood Cir, Port LaBelle
11) $92,000 on Nobles Rd
12) $17,000 on Rainbow Cir (Port LaBelle)
13) $12,000 on Ute St
14) $57,000 on Windswept Cir (Port LaBelle)
15) $30,000 on N Double J Acres Rd
16) $36,000 on N Edgewater Cir (Port LaBelle)
17) $54,000 on NE Beechwood Cir (Port LaBelle)
18) $60,000 on S Hickory St

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Discovering LaBelle, Florida

Visiting Hendry County - A Video Tour

LABELLE, FL. -- You know it's pleasant weather time when January's morning fog rolls over the giant oaks and palm trees of Southwest Florida and inland Hendry and Glades county.

The warm ground combined with the cool morning air often brings a bit of fog overnight in the "City of Oaks," LaBelle, Florida. As the sun comes up the fog burns off, leaving pleasant 70s temperature for residents and visitors alike to enjoy.

-Video by Don Browne

Monday, January 03, 2011

Who's In Trouble? Expired Hendry Licenses

Hendry Restaurants And Hotels Fail To Renew Licenses

LABELLE, FL. -- It's 2011, and a sign of the times in today's worrying economy may be the number of local restaurants and hotels failing to renew their establishment's business hotel and restaurant licenses.

In a check with the Florida Department of Professional Regulation there were a surprising number of well-known businesses who are shown with expired licenses. All business licenses listed below expired on 12/1/2010 or earlier.

License fees are charged on number of restaurant seats. A late charge and fine are imposed when an inspector visits.

Big Lake Hotels (The Clewiston Inn)
Bella View Restaurant (The Port LaBelle Inn)
Cafeteria El Rancho (Clewiston)
Cely's Canteen (Clewiston-Montura)
Chapala Enterprise (LaBelle)
Dixie Fried Chicken (Clewiston)
Florida Cafeteria (Clewiston)
Fortune Cookie (LaBelle)
Hungry Howie's Pizza (Clewiston)
Lover's Rock Cafe (Clewiston-Harlem)
Mi Corazoncito Night Club (Clewiston)
Mi Ranchito Alegre (LaBelle)
Nuttin Fancy Cafe LLC (417 W. Hickpochee, (closed), see comment below)
RJ's Gator Bail Pub (LaBelle-Pioneer)
Sonny's Real Pit BBQ (Clewiston)
Taqueria Sun Julian (LaBelle)
Varela's Restaurant (Clewiston)