Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Obituaries - Jose Ramirez Jr., Maria Martinez

Jose R Ramirez, Jr, age 98, of LaBelle, passed away May 16, 2017 in LaBelle. He was born Apr. 8, 1919 in Puerto Rico, to Jose R and Juana (Gonzalez) Ramirez.

He is survived by his wife: Mary Marzan Ramirez, sons: Hector Ramierz and Irving Ramirez. Visitation was Friday from 2:30-4:30 p.m. at Akin-Davis Funeral Home, LaBelle, FL.

Maria De Las Mercedes Montejo Martinez, age 93, of LaBelle, passed away May 15, 2017 in LaBelle. Arrangements by Akin-Davis Funeral Home - LaBelle.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Walking The Tamiami Trail - Bob Kranich

Excerpts from A Walk Across Florida by Bob Kranich
I could see Monroe Station in the distance across the road on the south side. As I was approaching the drive and preparing to cross I saw that there was what appeared to be a Seminole Miccosukee Indian settlement back behind the trees and brush on my side.

There were a lot of different chickees of all sizes. In the 1920’s many of the Miccosukee Indians started living along the Tamiami trail. Because of this, they were able to get jobs helping to build the road.

I crossed over and walked into the wide dirt and gravel drive. On the right a road was entering the Tamiami Trail from the south. It was then that I realized that it was the intersection of the original Tamiami Trail which went through Monroe County, the Loop Road. 

I could see over on the far side of the cleared property lots and lots of swamp buggies. There were all kinds and sizes. I could see some tow cars, trucks and even some campers. There must have been at least 60 or more vehicles parked there.

I walked inside and came face to face with Mr. Dixie Webb himself! A legend in his own time. I really didn’t know just who I was talking to!

“Well look what we have here,” he said, “What are you doin’, and where did you come from?”

Hey, this guy looked like Buffalo Bill, with old cowboy-type hat, thick white hair down to his shoulders and a big white beard. He appeared to be 65 plus years, a real character.

“Just hiking from Georgia to Key West,” I said.

“ Well, glad to have you with us, young feller. Can I get you anything?”

“Thanks,” I said, “I’ll just look around.”

“If you don’t see it or we don’t have it, we’ll bring it in for you by alligator or dugout canoe,” he exclaimed.

I looked around. This sure was a wild place. They had all kinds of odds and ends, from a stuffed tusk-bearing, ferocious looking wild swamp hog to a sign stating:

OUR COFFEY WILL FREEZE YOU AWAKE

I bought a Pepsi and a moon pie, and then hollered good bye to a flamboyant man in an unorthodox place! He was already talking to a tourist couple that had just come in.

The entire place was a “Legend in its own time!

About the Author: After getting out of the Army Bob Kranich backpacked from the Georgia border to Key West in a 40 day adventure walk across Florida. His recently published book A Walk Across Florida is available from his website or Amazon.com

Friday, May 26, 2017

One In Ten Drivers Distracted - Use Florida's Phone Safe Zones



The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) expects more traffic on its highways this Memorial Day Weekend and with more people on the road, FDOT and GEICO are reminding motorists to avoid distractions behind-the-wheel. If motorists need to make a call or send a text, FDOT invites them to stop at one of 64 Rest Areas, Welcome Centers adebug_date": "nd Turnpike Service Plazas that have been designated as “Safe Phone Zones” sponsored by GEICO.

FDOT Assistant Secretary for Engineering and Operations Brian Blanchard said, “During high traffic holidays, like Memorial Day Weekend, when families are traveling long distances, it is especially important to remember to put the phone down and focus on the road. Since 2015, FDOT has worked with GEICO to provide Safe Phone Zones throughout the state. Our top priority is your safety and we encourage all motorists to use our Safe Phone Zone locations.”

Safe Phone Zones provide a place where drivers can safely and conveniently use their phones and other mobile devices for calling, texting, navigating and accessing mobile apps. Motorists are made aware of upcoming locations on the highway with signs in advance of each facility. The signs read: “Safe Phone Zones” and carry the GEICO logo.

"People are connected to their mobile devices today more than ever, and an unfortunate side effect of that is the rise in accidents attributed to distracted driving," said Ted Ward, GEICO vice president of marketing. "We believe Safe Phone Zones reflect GEICO's commitment to protecting drivers by offering them a safe place off the roadways where they can check emails, make calls and view texts. We are proud to expand our support of this sponsorship in 2017 to help make the highways safe for all drivers."

In 2013, Florida law banned the use of mobile devices while driving. More than 45,000 crashes were caused by distracted drivers in Florida in 2015. Safe Phone Zones are intended to help prevent distracted driving and save lives.

Map of Phone Safe Zone Locations

For more information on Safe Phone Zones and Distracted Driving in Florida, visit

Home Repair Grants Available

The SW Florida Regional Planning Council has scheduled USDA Home Repair Grant Program community outreach meetings in Clewiston, LaBelle, and Immokalee as follows. The purpose of the meetings will be to inform low-income residents and seniors age 62+ about a USDA grant program that can provide up to $7,500 for critical home repairs.

Clewiston
Thursday, June 1st
6:00 PM to 7:30 PM
John Boy Senior Citizen Community Center
1200 S. WC Owens Avenue
Clewiston, FL 33440

LaBelle
Tuesday, June 6
6:00 PM to 7:30 PM
Dallas B. Townsend Agricultural Center
1085 Pratt Boulevard
LaBelle, FL 33935

Immokalee
Wednesday, May 31st
6:00 PM to 7:30 PM
Careersource Center
750 South 5th Street
Immokalee, FL 34142

What does this program do?

This program provides loans to very-low-income homeowners to repair, improve, or modernize their homes or provides grants to elderly very-low-income homeowners to remove health and safety hazards.

Who may apply for this program?

To qualify, you must:
• Be the homeowner and occupy the house
• Be unable to obtain affordable credit elsewhere
• Have a family income below 50 percent of the area median income
• For grants, be age 62 or older and not be able to repay a repair loan

How may funds be used?
• Loans may be used to repair, improve, or modernize homes or to remove health and safety hazards.
• Grants must be used to remove health and safety hazards.

How much money can I get?

• Maximum loan is $20,000.
• Maximum grant is $7,500.
• Loans and grants can be combined for up to $27,500 in assistance.

What are the terms of the loan or grant?

• Loans can be repaid over 20 years
• Loan interest rate is fixed at 1%.

A USDA representative will provide an overview of the 504 Home Repair Program, answer questions, and provide information on the application process.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

More Rain Needed To Alleviate Wildfires

OKEECHOBEE, FL. -- After much needed rainfall returned to our area, another drying trend is forecast. “We need multiple bouts of rainfall to alleviate the dry conditions, said Forest Area Supervisor Trevor Taylor, Florida Forest Service. “A constant steady rainfall is needed to quench the parched land and seep deep into the soil where the fire is still smoldering.”

The rainfall did help extinguish a few smaller wildfires, but the wildfires in thick vegetation or burning in muck had little effect on them. The Florida Forest Service, Okeechobee District has eight active wildfires that continue to produce heat and smoke.

The Florida Forest Service, Okeechobee District reminds everyone to enjoy this Memorial Day Weekend by using caution while enjoying the outdoors. “Often wildfires are accidental, caused by something as benign as hot charcoals being dumped into dry vegetation or the grill not being extinguished properly.” explains Taylor.

To keep you and your family safe while grilling, follow these general guidelines:
  • Only use charcoal and propane grills outside and away from structures.
  • Clear the ground around the barbecue of all dry vegetation and other flammable material.
  • Keep children and pets away from grills.
  • Make sure there are no overhanging tree limbs.  The heat from a barbecue can reach well above the grill's surface.
  • Never leave the grill unattended when cooking or while it contains residual heat.

Disposing of charcoal properly - Make sure charcoal is COLD:
  • Allow coals to burn out completely and let ashes cool at least 48 hours before disposing.
  • Dispose of cold ashes by wrapping in heavy-duty aluminum foil and placing in a non-combustible container. Be sure no other combustible materials are nearby.
  • If you must dispose of ashes before completely cooled, place them in heavy-duty foil and soak with water completely before disposing in a non-combustible container.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Nine Arrests In Alligator Farm Conspiracy

FWC uncovers major alligator violations in long-term covert investigation

On Wednesday, May 24, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers arrested nine suspects for violations of Florida’s laws pertaining to possession of American alligator, alligator egg harvesting, interstate transport of alligator eggs and hatchlings, falsifying official records, dealing in stolen property, conspiracy to commit racketeering, racketeering and other wildlife violations. These serious charges include first-, second- and third-degree felonies.
These charges are the result of a multiyear undercover operation initiated in 2015 by the FWC Division of Law Enforcement’s Investigations Section. FWC undercover officers managed to become part of the alligator farming community to gain information and evidence about poachers who were breaking the law in regard to the FWC’s public and private lands alligator egg harvesting program and alligator farming.
During the course of the investigation, FWC undercover officers documented numerous criminal violations, resulting in the arrest of nine individuals for 44 felony violations.
Investigators documented over 10,000 illegally harvested eggs during the course of the undercover operation.
“Many of these suspects were part of a criminal conspiracy,” said Maj. Grant Burton, head of the FWC’s Investigations Section. “Their crimes pose serious environmental and economic consequences. These suspects not only damage Florida’s valuable natural resources, they also harm law-abiding business owners by operating black markets that undermine the legal process.”
Wildlife conservation laws are in place to protect and manage Florida’s precious natural resources for legitimate use by the public. When people break those laws, they jeopardize the ability of the state to manage those resources for the future. If left unchecked, this valuable natural resource could have been severely damaged.
There are aspects of this investigation that are still ongoing, and the FWC expects more arrests to be forthcoming.
The public can help by reporting suspected violations to the FWC. To make a report, call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or text Tip@MyFWC.com.
The suspects and their charges are as follows:

Robert Kelly Albritton (DOB 01/21/1981) of Arcadia
  • One felony count of Racketeering.
  • One felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering.     
  • One felony count of Scheme to Defraud.
  • Fourteen felony counts of Unlawful Possession of Alligator Eggs/Alligators.
Robert Thomas Beasley (DOB 02/05/1979) of Arcadia
  • One felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering.
  • Six felony counts of Unlawful Possession of Alligator Eggs/Alligators.
David Wentworth Nellis (DOB 10/10/1943) of Punta Gorda
  • One felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering.
  • One felony count of Uttering a Forged Instrument.
  • One felony count of Unlawful Possession of Alligator Eggs.
Carl Wayne Pickle Jr. (DOB 12/22/1969) of Arcadia
  • One felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering.
  • Four felony counts of Unlawful Possession of Alligator Eggs/Alligators.
Wayne Andrew Nichols (DOB 07/15/1975) of Arcadia
  • Three felony counts of Unlawful Possession of Alligators.
  • One felony count of Unlawful Killing of White Ibis.
  • One first-degree misdemeanor count of Attempting to Take White Ibis.
Christopher Lee Briscall (DOB 01/28/1995) of Fort Denaud
  • One felony count of Unlawful Possession of Alligators.
  • One felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Dealing in Stolen Property.
Matthew Edward Evors (DOB 10/20/1992) of Cape Coral
  • One felony count of Unlawful Possession of Alligators.
  • One felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Dealing in Stolen Property.
Isaiah Joseph Romano (DOB 12/17/1994) of Fort Denaud
  • One felony count of Unlawful Possession of Alligators.
  • One felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Dealing in Stolen Property.
Jacob Oliver Bustin-Pitts (DOB 11/11/1993) of Fort Denaud
  • One felony count of Unlawful Possession of Alligators.
  • One felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Dealing in Stolen Property.

Kiwanis Presents 21 Scholarships

The Kiwanis Club of Labelle presented scholarships to Labelle High School Seniors on Monday, May 8, 2017 at Beef O’Brady’s.  A total of 21 graduating seniors were awarded scholarships totaling $15,000.  

The scholarships are awarded to any graduating student at Labelle High School that completes the application and attends the interview process by the Foundation committee.  The awards are based on GPA, application and essay, community service, interview, financial need and years of being a Key Club member.  

The Labelle Kiwanis Foundation has awarded between $15,000 and $27,000 to Labelle High School Students since 2008 based on funds available from net sales at the Kiwanis Thrift Store and number of students applying and have distributed over $202,000.00 in monies to our graduating students and students continuing their education or adults starting their education since 2008.  

The awards that are not collected by the seniors within four years of their award are disbursed to students that apply for our Adult Scholarship in the summer.  Donations and purchases at the Labelle Kiwanis Thrift Store is vital as these funds are given back to this community and most of all to our local youth.

The Dealer Fee - Earl Stewart On Cars

Dealing With The "Dealer Fee" 
by Earl Stewart

The infamous “Dealer Fee”. If you don’t know, it’s a hidden price increase on the car you purchase disguised to look like a federal, state, or local tax or fee. It’s 100% profit to the dealer. “Dealer Fee” is the most common name for this disguised profit, but it goes by many names such as doc fee, dealer prep fee, service fee, administrative fee, electronic filing fee, e-filing fee, tag agency fee, pre-delivery fee, etc. The names are only limited by car dealers’ imaginations. Almost all car dealers in Florida charge a Dealer Fee. The dealer fees range from around $700 to as high as $2,000!

This is the Florida law that is supposed to regulate the Dealer Fee: “The advertised price must include all fees or charges that the customer must pay excluding state and local taxes.” The law also requires that the Dealer Fee must be disclosed to the buyer as follows: “This charge represents costs and profits to the dealer for items such as inspecting, cleaning, and adjusting vehicles and preparing documents related to the sale.”

This law is very weak and almost never enforced. When enforced, it isn’t enforced by the letter of the law; it is done so as to “accommodate” the car dealers. The law is “weak” because it requires only that the dealer fee be included in the “advertised” price. The word “advertised” is narrowly interpreted to mean a specific car shown in a newspaper, TV, radio, or online ad, but, what about when you get a price on the phone, online, or from the salesman? You don’t find out about the Dealer Fee until you’re in the business office signing a bunch of papers. The dealers get around advertisements very easily by including a “number” in the fine print. This number is their stock number that designates one specific car. When you respond to the ad, this car is no longer available (sales people are usually not paid a commission for selling the “ad car). The advertisement might say “many more identical cars are available.” It’s true that identical cars are available for sale, but they are not available for sale at the sale price because they are not the advertised stock number car. If you buy one of those “exact same cars” you will pay from $700 to $2,000 more.

The reason I’m told that the law is rarely enforced is that the Florida Attorney General’s office is understaffed and too busy enforcing other Florida laws. I’m also told that Florida car buyers don’t file very many complaints against car dealers for violating the Dealer Fee law. I don’t believe that there can be too many other infractions of the law that take more money annually from consumers than dealer fees take from car buyers. Just one car dealer selling 1,000 cars a year and charging a $1,000 dealer fee is taking a $1 million annually from car buyers. Most car dealers in South Florida well a lot more than 1,000 cars annually and many charge more than $1,000 dealer fee. I believe that the reason more complaints aren’t filed on the dealer fee is because most car buyers don’t know that they are being duped. They either don’t notice the fee or assume it’s an official federal or state fee. Dealer often tell their customers that all dealers charge it and that it’s required by law.

The Attorney General also “accommodates” the dealers by not interpreting the law the way it was intended. For example, the law says that the dealer fee must be included in the advertised price. The Florida Senate has ruled that the law requires that the fee be “included” rather than “specifically delineated.” But the Attorney General allows car dealers to advertise car prices without including their dealer fee in the price if they mention their dealer fee in the fine print. They also allow car dealers to simply state in the fine print that they have a Dealer Fee but not even mention the amount. To me they are simply allowing the car dealers to break the law.

Lastly, the required disclosure of the Dealer Fee on the vehicle buyer’s order or invoice is confusing, misleading, and incorrect: “This charge represents costs and profits to the dealer for items such as inspecting, cleaning, and adjusting vehicles and preparing documents related to the sale.” It should not say “costs” because any cost that you pass along to the customer in the price of a product is pure profit. A dealer can pass along his utility bills, sales commissions and advertising if he wants to and call it a “dealer fee”. It should not say “inspecting, cleaning, and adjusting vehicles” because all car dealers are reimbursed by the manufacturer for “inspecting, cleaning, and adjusting vehicles”. 

So, what should you do when you are confronted by a car dealer with the “Dealer Fee”? Besides “LEAVE”, here are some suggestions that may help you:

  • Make it clear from the very beginning that all prices you discuss must be “out-the-door” prices. This way you don’t care if the dealer fee added up front because you will shop and compare their bottom line price with at least 3 competing car dealers. Ideally you should require that they include tax and tag in that price. If you don’t they might try to slip in something they call the “electronic filing fee” or “e filing fee” and trick you into believing that it’s part of the license tag and registration.
  • The dealer will often tell you that all car dealers charge Dealer Fees and that they are required by law to add the dealer fee on every car they sell. Simply tell them that you know this is not true and you can cite me and other car dealers like Mullinax Ford, OffLeaseOnly.com and Earl Stewart Toyota that do not charge a dealer fee. Print out a copy of this article, show it to them, and tell them that you know that there is no law that says he must charge you a dealer fee.
  • If you and the dealer understand that the out-the-door price is the price you will shop and compare with his competition, you don’t need to be concerned whether there is a dealer fee showing on the vehicle buyer’s order. To be competitive, the dealer can simply reduce the price by the amount of his Dealer Fee and the bottom line is what you are comparing.
  • Be aware that dealers usually do not pay their sales people a commission on the amount of their dealer fee. In fact, dealers often misinform their sales people just like they do their customers. The salesman who tells you that the all dealers charge Dealer Fees and that the law requires everyone pay a dealer fee may believe it. Sale people who understand that the Dealer Fee is simply profit to the dealer will be resentful of not being paid their 25% commission on it. A $1,000 dealer fee costs the salesman $250 in commission.
  • When you respond to an advertisement at a specific price for a specific model car, object when the dealer adds the dealer fee. Unfortunately, the law allows him the loophole of claiming that the ad car is a different stock number, but you might be able to shame him into taking off the dealer fee. If you raise a “big enough stink”, the dealer would be smart to take off the dealer fee than claim that technicality, especially if you were to advise the local TV station or newspaper.
I hope that these suggestions help you and I hope that you will file a complaint with the Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi. If enough consumers (who are also voters) let our elected officials know how they feel about the Dealer Fee, it will bring positive results.

Earl Stewart is a consumer advocate and owner of Earl Stewart Toyota in Lake Worth, Florida. He broadcasts a weekly two-hour radio show on Belle Glades's WSWN 900 AM, Tuesday and Sunday at 4 p.m.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Summer Fossil Camp At Museum

LaBelle Heritage Museum will sponsor Scott Perry's always popular one week Summer Fossil Camps again this July.  Perry attended school in LaBelle and became an amateur physical archeologist at an early age; he studied pre-human archeology as a student at FSU, and has continued to share his interest and knowledge of fossils abounding in the Caloosahatchee Valley for close to 20 years.  He has scheduled Monday through Friday fossil camps at LaBelle Heritage Museum, 360 North Bridge St. in LaBelle, for the last four Mondays in July -- the 10th, 17th, 24th and 3lst. 
 
The campers, ranging in age from 8 to 13 years-old, will learn about fossil identification and preservation during morning sessions at the museum starting at 8 a.m.  Later in the day, they will put what they learn in the morning sessions to practical use by going "out in the field" to known fossil sites on or near the Caloosahatchee River to see what they can discover.  Usually no more than 10 weekly campers will eat the bag lunches they have brought from home in the field; however, the museum has enrolled in the USDA sponsored Summer Feed Program and hopes to offer a nutritious breakfast at the first three one-week fossil camps.  (The last day of the 2017 Summer Feed Program is Friday, July 28, meaning it will not be available for the camp scheduled to begin on July 31.)  Fossil camp will provide water and healthy snacks along with sun-screen, fossil collecting bags and tools.
 
The tuition for each week is $150 with a limited number of full or partial scholarships available.  Campers will be provided with mandatory life vests, necessary whenever they are on or near water, if they do not have their own which should be brought daily.  They are also required to wear close-toed shoes, both in and out of the water, at all times.  Caps or sun visors are suggested for the daily "field exercises."  Parents are reminded the campers will probably be covered with mud and clay at the end of each session and are advised to cover vehicle seats with a tarp or other means of protection.
 
Information about the Summer Fossil Camps with a registration form is available by contacting LaBelle Heritage Museum and will also be available at Barron Library, please call (863) 674-0034 and leave your name and email address if you would like the forms emailed to you as a .pdf file. The museum does accept Visa, MasterCard, and Discover for the $150 registration fee.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Katherine Avery - Drinking In The Park Good For City?

Commissioners Turned Politician? Should Alcohol Be Permitted In Parks?
Something I never thought I would see in the City of LaBelle Florida, was our voted in City Commissioners turn Politician. 

Recently they made a decision that many in this city did not ever want to see come to pass, drinking in our city park when we have family events. 

I cannot tell you how sick my heart feels over this and as a resident of LaBelle and one who knows what drinking can do to families. Also, knowing the problems that can come to family events with drinking involved. 

I thought our City Commissioners cared about what the community really wanted but in this case I was so wrong. Politicians on the other hand care about what they think is best and who cares about what the people want. I felt this was something that I needed to share, because LaBelle has always had so many wonderful, caring events for people that it’s a shame to go down this path. 

I am a Pastor’s wife and have talked with ladies that face sad problems because of drink. Think about it, Do we really want this at our family events? Is This The LaBelle you now want? I don’t feel our Commissioners are really politicians, they just forgot we are here too, with a voice that counts and shares their burden of this city.
 
Submitted by Katherine E. Avery

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Tammy Perkins Speaks May 28 At LaBelle Assembly

Tammy Perkins to Speak at LaBelle Assembly of God
Sunday May 28, 2017, in the 9:45 Early Worship Service 

Tammy earned state of  Florida teachers certificate from Florida South Western State College . Her Friends and co-workers  describe her  as very kind hearted, Compassionate, loving person that loves God.  Perkins’ sermon title  will be: The New Life IN Christ Jesus.   

Tammy is one and half years into a three year degree in Tampa’s “River Bible Institute”.  Every Thursday evening you will find Tammy Perkins in Jail at the Hendry County Jail ministering to the spiritual needs of the women that reside there.  She enjoys sharing the good news that, Jesus saves on a personal, one on one level. 

Tammy, will be sharing at 9:45 a.m in LaBelle Assembly of God. Located at 139 Fraser Avenue across from the Edward A. Upthegrove Elementary School. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

John Dankanich Dies At 47

John P. Dankanich, Jr., age 47, of LaBelle, passed away May 14, 2017 at home.
He was born Apr. 21, 1970 in Charleroi, PA, to the late John P. Dankanich, Sr. and Patricia Dankanich. He was a worked in maintenance for the City.
He is survived by sons: John P. Dankanich III of LaBelle, FL and Thomas J. Dankanich of Fort Myers, FL, mother: Patricia Dankanich, brother: Thomas C. Dankanich of Sanford, FL, fiancé, Darri J Brightshue of LaBelle, FL; grandchild, Lila T. Dankanich; stepchildren, Ashley, Kristina, Wayne, Jr., Patricia Jo Brightshue & Kalynn. He was preceded in death by his Father, John P. Dankanich, Sr., also surived by 4 cousins and a Aunt. In PA.
A gathering of friends and family will be held Saturday, May 20, 2017 from 12:00 - 2:00 pm at Akin-Davis Funeral Home, LaBelle. A celebration of life will immediately follow the gathering at 4017 Bishop Circle, LaBelle, FL.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be sent to American Heart Association, P.O. Box 21475, St. Petersburg, FL 33742
Cremation arrangements by Akin-Davis Funeral Home - LaBelle.

Black Bear Cautions Issued In Florida

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds the public to be aware that bears are becoming more active this time of year. There are important things people can do over the next few months to reduce negative interactions with Florida’s largest land mammal.

“Now is the time to expect bears to show up looking for food,” said Dave Telesco, who directs the FWC’s Bear Management Program. “If they can’t find food in your neighborhood, they’ll move on.”

With temperatures increasing, bears are out of their winter dens and are moving around in search of food. June also marks the beginning of black bear mating season in Florida. This causes bears to be more active as they search for potential mates.

Female bears that gave birth to cubs that were only 12 ounces at the end of January are beginning to move around more with their young, which may now be 5 to 10 pounds. As the cubs continue to grow, the family unit will roam and can be more visible to people.

While black bears generally are not aggressive, they have injured people in Florida. Never intentionally approach any bear. When walking dogs in bear country, keep them close to you – preferably on a non-retractable leash – and be aware of your surroundings. Dogs can trigger defensive behaviors from bears, especially females with cubs.

To keep bears away from your home and neighborhood, follow these simple tips:
  • Secure household garbage in a sturdy shed, garage or a wildlife-resistant container.
  • Put household garbage out on morning of pickup rather than the night before.
  • Secure commercial garbage in bear-resistant dumpsters.
  • Protect gardens, beehives, compost and livestock with electric fencing.
  • Encourage your homeowners association or local government to institute bylaws or ordinances to require trash be kept secure from bears.
  • Feed pets indoors or bring in dishes after feeding.
  • Clean grills and store them in a secure place.
  • Remove wildlife feeders or make them bear-resistant.
  • Pick ripe fruit from trees and remove fallen fruit from the ground.
It is illegal in Florida to intentionally feed bears or leave out food or garbage that will attract bears and cause human-bear conflicts.
As bears increase their movements this time of year, they also increase the number of roads they cross. For the safety of yourself and bears, remember to slow down when driving, particularly on rural highways at dawn or dusk. Watch for road signs identifying bear crossing areas. Each year in Florida, an average of 240 Florida bears are killed after being hit by vehicles.

Having conflicts with bears? Call one of the FWC’s five regional offices. Go to MyFWC.com/Contact, and click on “Contact Regional offices to find the phone number for your region. If you feel threatened by a bear or want to report someone who is either harming bears or intentionally feeding them, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Ligia And Kallitha Silva Die In Hendry Canal Crash

LABELLE, FL. -- Ligia Silva, 43 of LaBelle was traveling west on Sears Road five miles east of State Road 29 in a 2002 Ford Explorer Wednesday at 6:26 a.m. when she lost control and traveled off the roadway to the right, causing the SUV to overturn into a canal, the vehicle coming to final rest on its roof in the canal.

Silva and passenger Kallitha Silva, 14 died in the crash, said the FHP. Passenger Deborah Silva, 12 suffered minor injuries.

The crash remains under investigation.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Food Bag Program Sign Ups This Week

LABELLE, FL. -- Applications for free monthly food bags are taking place in Hendry and Glades County this week and next week.  30 pounds of canned food, milk and cheese are available monthly for seniors living in the two rural counties. The program is being cut back in coastal Lee, Charlotte and Collier county in favor of seniors living in more rural low income counties.

Starting in July, food will be available for an additional 800 people in Hendry and 300 in Glades county. Hope Health Centers with help from United Way will hand out the food bags each month in Hendry and Glades. If the quota of new clients is not met in those two counties the money not used for the program will be offered in other rural areas around the state.

To qualify for the free food program residents must live in Hendry or Glades counties, be 60 or older and have a gross income at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

Bring these items;
A photo ID (for example – driver’s license, state-issued ID, passport)
If photo ID does not list current address, you must also provide documentation of current address (for example, a lease or phone bill)

Enrollment dates:

LaBelle
May 16, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Nobles Senior Center, 475 East Cowboy Way

Moore Haven
May 18 & 25, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Hope Connections, 501 1st St.

Clewiston
May 23 & May 30
Hope Connections, 1200 South W.C. Owen Ave.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Tools For Caregivers Workshop June 1

The Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida has recently partnered with Florida State University’s Geriatrics Department to implement the Powerful Tools for Caregivers workshops in Southwest Florida and the first workshop is to be held in Labelle beginning June 1 at the L.J. Nobles Senior Center on Cowboy Way in LaBelle.

The 6-week workshop will be held at Hope Connections on Thursdays, at 12:30 pm. The workshop is free to the public; however, preregistration is required by calling the Senior Helpline 1-866-413-5337

Mother's Day - Bill Neville

Commentary by T. W. Bill Neville

Having had the privilege of being born into a "State" of "INFANCY" on the day that always follows Labor Day and, the first day of school's start, i throw myself on the mercy and judgement of you, the "real" Supreme Court of all "things" concerning Mothers.

For the record, I was blessed from that first "spank" with a Mother that "made" me what I am today. When I was "blessed" with the acceptance of my marriage proposal, I was twice "blessed" by being "Mothered" not only by a devoted wife and Mother, but also a "SAINTED" Mother in law who was also my "best" friend. Contingent, but not necessarily relevant was that my birth date of September 6, 1928 was a "tad" ahead of President Franklin D. Roosevelt stating that December 07, 1941 was "A day that would go down in history as a day of INFAMY."

I was 13 at that time and, I always wondered why it had taken that long for FDR to make the distinction between my birth date and the Japanese attack on Perl harbor. After all, they only "missed" my birth date by 13 years and "one" day.

On an even more peculiar note is that I can't keep from associating the Smother's brother's with Mother's Day. I guess it is that during their comedy act they constantly made references to their Mother during their "smug", trite approach to the obscure, mannerlistic, manipulation of the "Maternal Honor" code?

Having lived with this realization, I want make it perfectly clear that by virtue of this article that If it was not for these three Mother's, I would and could "NEVER" have amounted to anything. My MOTHER for birthing & raising me. My MOTHER in Law for birthing, raising and enabling our marriage. My Sainted WIFE, and MOTHER of sixty six years, delivering our 5 sons. They, in turn brought into the Family, EIGHT beautiful "Mothers" of our ELEVEN Grands and SIX Great Grands. Long may these, and ALL Mothers, continue to be the "birthers" of ALL "Heaven" bound families.

AMEN!--and--GOD BLESS! ALL Mothers "AD INFINITUM!"

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Hiking Along The Tamiami Trail - Bob Kranich

Excerpts From A Walk Across Florida
I continued my hike long the Tamiami Trail. In the next couple of miles I counted 30 moccasins in and on the side of the canal along the north side of the road. There weren’t any gators, but these snakes were big, about the size of a man’s arm, short and fat. Some were sunning themselves on rocks and sticks and some were swimming on top of the thick weeds.

There is a misconception that every dark-colored snake one sees in the water is a poisonous moccasin. Not the case. There are more harmless water snakes than moccasins. An adult Cottonmouth Moccasin on average is between 20-48 inches long. Its body is very fat, and it has a short thick tail. Its head is distinctly broad and triangular shaped and much broader than the neck. Its pupil is vertical. Water snakes have a slender body, a long thin tail, a narrow head, and no neck, although a water snake can flatten its head out to look threatening, which will give it a triangular look.

Keep in mind that Cottonmouth bites can be very dangerous. They use a hemotoxic venom like copperheads and most rattlesnakes, which prevents the body’s blood supply from coagulating and therefore a victim may experience a large blood loss. Bleeding may be from every opening of the body. There is extreme pain and possible permanent tissue and muscle damage or even loss of limb. The good news, if there is any, is that at least half of all venomous snake bites turn out to be “dry bites.” This is a bite that doesn’t have any venom in it. It is possible that they may save their venom for something they want to eat. Just remember that even non-poisonous snakes can bite, so it is best to leave snakes alone…..

It was about 9 miles along the Trail to Monroe Station. Monroe Station opened in 1928. It was originally one of six stations built by Baron Collier every 10 to 12 miles along the most desolate part of the trail. They were to provide safety, comfort, supplies, gas, repairs and even a telephone. Collier planned these stations with husband-and-wife teams in mind. The wife pumped gas and took care of the commercial area, and the husband every hour would ride his Harley Davidson motorcycle the 5 to 6 miles each way from the station looking for motorists who needed help.

About the Author: After getting out of the Army Bob Kranich backpacked from the Georgia border to Key West in a 40 day adventure walk across Florida. His recently published book A Walk Across Florida is available from his website or Amazon.com

Thursday, May 11, 2017

"Tricky" Ad Brings Car And Truck Buyers To Walmart Tent Sale

LABELLE, FL. -- Walmart in LaBelle is hosting a six-day automobile tent sale event in their parking lot this week. Local residents received a card in the mail this week which induced many car and truck shoppers to visit Walmart in hopes of getting a deal on a used car, or at the least winning one of the "prizes" promised by the mailing if the card's lucky number matches prizes ranging from thousands of dollars down to a $5 Walmart gift card.

Maus Nissan of Crystal River garnered permission from the LaBelle city council to hold a week long used car sale in the Walmart parking lot this week and shoppers visiting the car sale found lots of used cars without posted prices, hovering salesmen, and a visible lack of notification about who is selling the cars. One salesman wasn't entirely clear in explaining who was running the sale, saying the company was out of Crystal River and they had dealerships all over Florida.

The city says Maus Nissan was the dealer given permission to sell cars this week at Walmart, although several names were given to the city during the application for the special event permission. David Maus owns Maus Nissan and several dealerships, including stores in Crystal River, Sanford, and New Port Richey.

The mailing to local residents turned out to be misleading unless you took time to read the fine print which disclaimed any realistically good chance of winning a big prize or getting great deal on a car. The numbers printed on each card may lead some to believe they've already won a big prize, but the only way of knowing what you've won is to match the number with those at the tent sale, which in virtually all cases will be a $5 gift card win.

So, be prepared to only get a $5 gift card if you visit for your prize. And if you want to buy a vehicle, be prepared for an $899 additional dealer fee above the price of the vehicle which is not posted. None of the hundreds of cars had prices posted on them, so be prepared for some negotiation on the car and any trade in.

The so-called "Cash For Clunkers" event alleges to give customers a $2,752.41 "down payment assistance" check as well as "guaranteed 100% Credit Approval!" All this is actually meaningless because prices are negotiable when buying as well as trading in. If you have bad credit and want "guaranteed" credit approval, you'll be expected to place a significant down payment or get a co-signer with good credit, and sometimes be switched to a vehicle where they can get a lender to approve a loan for that particular car. 

The sales person I talked to did not have a business card and although evasive about who was the dealership selling cars, let me go in a few minutes after I told him I bought a car a few months ago and wasn't interested in another one at this time.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Pickett Family Tax Prep Companies Sued

Three related return preparers in South Florida prepare false tax returns for their customers, according to a new civil lawsuit filed by the Justice Department. The suit filed in the Southern District of Florida asks the court to permanently bar Fred Pickett Jr. and his children, Jalisa Steele and Fred Pickett III, from owning, operating, or franchising a tax return preparation business and preparing tax returns for others. 

According to the complaint, Pickett Jr., Steele, and Pickett III, all of Belle Glade, Florida, operate a tax return preparation business with several stores in South Florida under the names of Five Star Tax Services, Five Star Financial, and Millenium [sic] Tax Professionals. According to the complaint, the business has prepared over 8,000 returns since 2011 from the store locations in Belle Glade, Clewiston, Moore Haven, and La Belle, Florida.

The complaint alleges that by repeatedly underreporting tax liabilities and claiming bogus refunds on behalf of their customers, the defendants have caused the United States to lose substantial tax revenue. According to the complaint, the defendants misreport income, deductions, and credits on their customers’ tax returns by:

Fabricating businesses and business-related profits or losses;
Manipulating, maximizing, or falsely claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC);
Claiming false education credits;
Claiming spurious fuel tax credits;
Fabricating retirement account contributions and deductions; and
Failing to provide customers with complete copies of their tax returns.

One of the alleged examples of such conduct involves a married couple whose tax returns were prepared by Pickett Jr. According to the complaint, unbeknownst to the couple, Pickett Jr. reported a fake equipment business on their joint 2013 and 2014 tax returns, with combined losses that exceeded $90,000. These bogus losses, along with other retirement account-related fabrications, caused the couple to receive significantly inflated refunds each year, according to the complaint.

The complaint further alleges that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audited 55 tax returns prepared by the defendants. The IRS determined that each of these 55 tax returns resulted in a deficiency with an average tax deficiency of $5,891 per return and a total revenue loss of $323,986, according to the complaint.

Return preparer fraud is one of the IRS's Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2017 and taxpayers seeking a return preparer should remain vigilant. The IRS has some tips on their website for choosing a tax preparer and has launched a free directory of federal tax preparers.

In the past decade, the Tax Division has obtained injunctions against hundreds of unscrupulous tax preparers. Information about these cases is available on the Justice Department’s website. An alphabetical listing of persons enjoined from preparing returns and promoting tax schemes can be found on this page. If you believe that one of the enjoined persons or businesses may be violating an injunction, please contact the Tax Division with details.

Muse Wildfire Contained

Glades County Public Safety and Florida Forest Service responded to a wildfire May 10, 2017 at 11:30 am in the Muse Community off Kirby Thompson and Jack Branch Lane.

One unoccupied home, a shed and a pole barn were all saved by the quick response of county and state firefighters. The wildfire was contained at 2:44 pm.

This is the forth wildfire in Glades County for the month of May. County and State Firefighters have responded to 38 wildfires in Glades County since January 2017. The number one cause is equipment.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Virginia West Dies At 89

Virginia M West nee Phillips, 89 recently of Ortona born March 14, 1928 in Ohio, Illinois died May 7, 2017 in Fort Myers, Florida.

Married to Norman E. West on September 11, 1948 after a courtship at Illinois State University. They shared 69 happy years.

Virginia was the proud parent of four sons who survive her, Phillip (Susan), Kevin (Tammy), Marc (Patricia), and Eric (Dawn). Virginia was beloved by five grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

For many years Virginia taught in the elementary schools of Bensenville, Illinois. With her children grown she and Norman moved to Ortona, where for many years they enjoyed life on the water.

No services are planned. Friends and family may remember Virginia with a contribution to the charity of their choice.

Arrangements by Akin-Davis Funeral Home - LaBelle.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Billy Flatwoods Murphy Headlines Museum Dinner

Billy Murphy, known to his FaceBook following as "Flatwoods Billy," will headline LaBelle Heritage Museum's Annual Potluck Covered Dish Installation of Officers on Friday, June 2, at Dallas B Townsend Agricultural Center, 1085 Pratt Boulevard. 

The doors will open at 5 o'clock to receive covered dishes which may include fried chicken, salads, casseroles and desserts to feed at least 8 people. The museum will be furnishing succulent roast pork, paper goods, and beverages. The free event is open but does require a ticket for admission.

Advance reservations will be required from museum members and supporters planning to attend this event as the maximum occupancy of the hall is 120. To make advance reservations go to www.labelleheritagemuseum.org . Once you are on the website, you will see "GET TICKETS HERE" immediately under JUNE 2nd and text describing the event. 

 This will take you to the Eventbrite site to make your reservations. If you have problems making reservations, please call (863)674-0034 for assistance. Reservations will be held until 6:15 p.m., 15 minutes after serving begins, before unclaimed seats are made available to the public.

Living With Panthers - Jayne Johnson At Audubon

Hendry-Glades Audubon is hosting 2 events on Monday May 15, at the Hendry County Extension Dallas Townsend Building located at 1085 Pratt Boulevard in LaBelle. At 6:30pm everyone is invited to the Annual HGAS Pot Luck Dinner and election of officers. If you plan to attend the dinner please bring a side dish or dessert to share. Tea, lemonade, and table service will be provided. 

 At 7pm an informative program “Living with Panthers” will be presented by Jayne Johnston, Panther Outreach Specialist, focusing on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

FWC created her role as a public safety measure since panther recovery is such a remarkable success story. With an increase in their population and the human population, FWC wants to ensure the safety of humans and panthers by spreading the word on what can be done to minimize interactions between the two. 

Jayne will include historical and biological information about panthers, their former and current range, impacts to their populations past present and future, and how to keep safe on the roads where most panthers are killed. She will also include very briefly information about interagency, public, and private partnerships and citizen science opportunities. 

 Jayne was born in NJ, but grew up in Florida since she was one and a half years old. She graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and is a certified interpretive guide with the National Association on interpretation. She has an interest in birds and involved in her spare time volunteering with Audubon. She is focused on informal environmental education through public outreach, guided hikes, and afterschool programs.