Monday, October 31, 2005

No Halloween In Clewiston

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Although recovery is moving along and most of Clewiston
should have electric by Monday night and the boil water order has been
lifted, officials are afraid that debris along streets may cause hazardous
conditions, and have cancelled Halloween in the City.

Area schools in Hendry and Glades county are open today, except for
Clewiston. A health assessment team will be taking random surveys in Montura
and Pioneer. In LaBelle curfews have been lifted and the LaBelle Civic
Center remains open as a shelter.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Governor To Spend 2 Hours In Hendry Monday

Bush To Visit Hendry County

LABELLE, FL. -- Governor Jeb Bush will visit areas impacted by Hurricane
Wilma in South Florida joined by members of the State Emergency Response
Team spending about 15 minutes at the county Emergency Operations Centers
and possible 30 minutes at a local Baptist Church. He then goes to
Clewiston for 15 minutes at the Wal-Mart parking lot and then to the
Clewiston EOC.

The visits will take place at: 9:50 a.m. Monday, October 31, 2005 at the
Hendry County EOC at the LaBelle Sheriff's office. At 10:20 a.m.
at the First Baptist Church, 330 North Main Street and at 11:30 a.m.
at the Hendry County Disaster Recovery Center at the Wal-Mart Supercenter
in Clewiston. At 12:00 p.m. at the Clewiston EOC, 141 Central Avenue, in

The Governor and followers will then travel to Boca Raton.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

National Guard In Clewiston Today

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The Florida National Guard traveled to Clewiston's
hard-hit mobile home parks to distribute aid this afternoon. At Tropical,
Foxbrier, Twin Lakes and Hooker's Point in addition to water and ice, will
be a limited amounty of tarps and toys for the kids.

Curfews are in effect for all of Clewiston from 9PM to 6AM and Hendry County
from 6PM to 6AM. The curfew for Hendry County, west of 833, including
Pioneer, has been relaxed to 10 PM to allow residents to conduct legitimate
recovery efforts. On October 31, Halloween only, the curfew will be relaxed
to 11PM. Law enforcement will be monitoring the situation closely. Business
are open in LaBelle, but Clewiston's electric and water problems prevent
widespread openings.

Over 550 Hendry county homes are judged at this time as uninhabitable with
several hundred more that may be repairable. Most damage is in the eastern
portion of Hendry county. A boil water order is in effect for Clewiston.

All LaBelle area schools and School Board offices and departments are open
Monday, October 31. Clewiston schools are tentatively set to open Wednesday,
November 2nd. All Clewiston staff, faculty and department personnel must
report to work Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 31st , Nov. 1st. Power has been
restored to all school facilities. Major repairs are underway.

County government office will open Monday in LaBelle but remain closed in

Friday, October 28, 2005

Clewiston Harlem Home Devastated

CLEWISTON, FL. -- This home on Virginia Street in the Harlem community suffered total destruction from winds of Hurricane Wilma. All the other homes nearby were left almost undamaged.

The home, a rental property owned by an out of county owner, appeared to be a frame constructed home, unlike the typical concrete brick stucco homes elsewhere along Virginia Ave.

Eastern Hendry Attempts Recovery

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Recovery is slow in Clewiston, the hardest hit area of Hendry County. Except for a few businesses in the city, electric and water is not available for most area's residents, greatly inhibiting any attempts at home repairs and any sense of normalcy. In some areas around the Sherwood Subdivision of mobile homes southeast of the city, sewage is running on the streets from the overloaded sewers, while children play in the streets to the sounds of gas generators.

In the same Sherwood area most mobile homes suffered some damage to roofs and skirting while a few of the older ones seem to have completely imploded (photo above). The county has been placing an "X" on homes not habitable now numbering about 450 countywide.

Motorists have only one station on the east side of town and one a few files outside of town on the western side for gasoline. Be prepared to pay with cash.

At Clewiston's Airglades Airport giant hangar doors were torn from their mountings, damaging most aircraft stored inside. Even the county's brand new row of aircraft hangars lost many of it's doors. Both the Clewiston and LaBelle airport are now closed pending removal of debris from the hangar areas.

In the Harlem community outside Clewiston, and near the U.S. Sugar plant, a substantial number of homes suffered major damage or total devastation, and one church was missing part of it's roof. Harlem's housing mix constists of both conventional and mobile homes. One conventional home on Virginia Street was a total loss, one of very few conventional homes in the county to be completely destroyed.

At Pioneer Plantation, several miles west of Clewiston, electric has been restored to homes along Hendry Isles Blvd., while more outlying streets still await power crews. The entire Pioneer area has been flooded and many dirt roads in the area are still underwater. The Pioneer Volunteer Fire Department has water and ice, and even showers available at the fire station for area residents.

Need Help Contacting Relatives In Area?

Post Your Infomation Questions Here....

LABELLE, FL. -- We have received numerous emails from relatives and friends
of Hendry and Glades county residents seeking information about their
whereabouts and safety. We are authorizing this Sunday Morning News blog
section to allow those with internet access to post messages requesting
information about relatives and friends.

Please post a comment to this news item with your request. Understand that many
residents may have relocated or are without phone service and internet
service so any replies you receive may be third or fourth hand from someone who knows
some information yet still has internet service available to be able to post
a comment here.


Hendry-Glades Recovery Slow

Somebody Forgot To Tell The Feds Hendry Was In Emergency

LABELLE, FL. -- Government offices are open today in Hendry county although
some damage was sustained to buildings. Schools are still closed in all
counties although the private school on Cowboy Way in LaBelle reportedly is
opening with classes to be held in new portable office trailers which
arrived this week.

Amid the confusion this week, someone at the local or state level, forgot to
apply to the Federal government for emergency status, so when food requests
were made by local officials in Hendry county, the request was denied by the
Feds. The snafu was worked out by Wednesday when food started arriving. The
Southern Baptist Convention is serving food in the Clewiston area without
the help of the Feds. Probably the best organized disaster relief
organization in the county. The Baptists are among the first to arrive when
disasters strike the Southest U.S.

Hendry county's only radio broadcast station, 99.5 FM, this morning went
heavy country music again and only broadcast about 2 minutes of hurricane
recovery information between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. A representative of the
Glades County Electric Cooperative reported on progress of electric repairs.
That's it, plus news of a coffee shop opened in Clewiston. Today's morning
broadcast was taking calls only for music requests. Lame. We have no idea
why the station is not broadcasting relief news and more information on what
areas are still without water and electric and phones. And since supplies
and gas are still in heavy demand, it would help to know what merchants are
open or closed in Hendry and Glades county. Glades Media owns the Clewiston
station as well as stations in Immokalee, Okeechobee, and West Palm Beach.
Shameful we say.

All cities are still under a boil water order except for Port LaBelle. Port
LaBelle recovered electric earlier this week and water has not been a
problem. Phones though have been in and out in Port LaBelle. And the
electric still goes off for a second each morning as it has for many months
in the entire LaBelle area.

Sources say about 450 mobile homesmostly in Clewiston, and nearly all
pre-1992 built, are not fit for habitation while 250 more have major damage
that may not be repairable. Citrus interests claim between 50 to 70 percent
of the citrus crops are "on the ground" although others say only the
grapefruit crop may be heavily damaged as the winds blew the heavier fruits
to the ground. The U.S. Sugar Corp. public relations person, Judy Sanchez
says the sugar cane has been blown to the ground, but didn't indicate if the
crop is actually destroyed or just blown over enough from the wind to make
it more costly to harvest with their machines.

Curfews remain in effect with a hodgepodge of different rules from city to
city and county to county. Dusk to dawn in Moore Haven, 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. in
Hendry county, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Clewiston. There have been reports
of looters and curfew violations. Violating the curfew is a $2,500.00 fine
or 5 days in jail by order of the Hendry County Judge. Residents should call
the Hendry County Hurricane Hotline at (863) 675-5392 or (863) 983-1585 for
the most current information from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM.

Food, water, and ice are distributed at John Boy in Clewiston and LaBelle
Municipal Airport. The Felda location has shifted to the Felda Community
Center. Pioneer and Montura were also distributing supplies. Donations are
being received and Hendry County residents would like to express their
sincere appreciation at the LaBelle Civic Center and possibly the LaBelle
Sheriff's office where other Florida Sheriff's have sent personel paid by
FEMA. Temporary housing is being arranged for the uncountable families
displaced by imploded older mobile homes.

Horticulture debris needs to be placed in the right of way by the roads. Be
careful not to obstruct normal traffic movement. Horticulture debris must be
separated from construction debris. Horticulture debris will not be
collected if it is mixed with other debris. Reportedly the debris will
start to be picked up next week. Some areas are receiving regular normal
garbage pickup.

Call 1-800 Blu Roof for tarp help and 1-800-621-FEMA for uninsured losses.
Expect a long time to complete the application procedure. Tarps are
reportedly in short supply.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Hendry Curfews Relaxed In Some Areas

Recovery Efforts Continue With Difficulty

LABELLE, FL. -- Curfews from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. remain in effect for all of
Clewiston and Hendry County. Reportedly the Hendry Sheriff's department is
allowing workers at businesses to work until 10 p.m. although this has not
been officially published anywhere. The curfew for Hendry County, west of
833, including Pioneer, has been relaxed to allow residents to conduct
legitimate recovery efforts, although what "relaxed" means has not been
defined. Pioneer Plantation and the surrounding areas in mid-Hendry county
were among the hardest hit, suffering flooding as well as the highest winds
in the County.

Shelters for "overnight accommodations only" are located at the LaBelle
Civic Center, 481 W. Hickpochee Ave., which is at State Rd 80 behind the
City Hall in LaBelle. Because of the extensive home damage in Montura and
Clewiston there are many homeless. The special needs shelter has been moved
to Lee county. Hendry County Schools will be closed for the rest of the
week, but Hendry government offices are open although the Clerk's office is
closed. The courts have been variously reported as either open or closed

Clewiston, the hardest hit Hendry area is still without electric and the
most part water. There are reportedly dozens of downed poles on CR835 which
will take time to repair and to get needed materials. Estimates are that it
may be three weeks before electric is restored. Glades Electric Coop said
most of its Glades county customers should be restored in about a week.
About half of Hendry and Glades county is still without power. Main business
areas are operating in area cities although important buildings like the
Hendry Health Department on Cowboy Way in LaBelle is still without power.

Water boil orders remain in effect for Moore Haven, Immokalee, Okeechobee,
and Clewiston.

Officials recommend everyone contact your insurance provider first, then
call the Federal Emergency Management Agency at 1-800-621 -3362 (FEMA). The
area's " IA" number is 1609. Generally, FEMA will help only to pay for
owner-occupied houses without insurance coverage, as well as help renters
with emergency funds. Call 1-888-Roof-Blu for roof help.

Volunteers are needed to distribute amenities. Sign up at the LaBelle
Airport or one of the other water and ice locations. Call Rick Marquith at
239-340-9856 for more information.

The Clewiston radio station, FM 99.5 has been reporting much information
about Okeechobee and Palm Beach county where it owns other radio stations,
but news coverage for LaBelle and Hendry county has been lacking. Only three
days after the hurrican hit, the morning disc jockey announced programming
will get back to "normal" today with its usual country music format and even
a "Dial and Deal" call-in swap meet. Local news and information curiously
had taken a back seat to country music Thursday morning. We suspect the
radio management, for whatever reason has had some feedback from Clewiston
merchants and local industry that may have caused the change from news and
information back to a music format.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Hurricane Diary - Hendry and Glades County

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry and Glades county, as well as all of South Florida are in the recovery mode after the impact of Hurricane Wilma this week. In Hendry county, nearly half of all residents are without power as of Wednesday morning. The city of Clewiston is totally without power. Power in the downtown and Port LaBelle area north of State Road 80 was restored Tuesday. Throughout the area, extensive damage was done to older manufactured housing units built pre-1992, including failed wall systems and
roofs. Newer homes faired fairly well structurally except for roof damage
and skirting blown away. Conventional housing suffered primarily damage to
patios and aluminum structures and any light aluminum trim which was easily
blown away in the 100 mph winds. Hendry and Glades county homes are mostly
manufactured housing.

The most southern areas of Hendry county suffered the worst damage including
the Hooker's Point area in Clewiston, where most of the homes were older and
mostly manufactured homes. Also, southern Pioneer Plantation and Montura
Estate suffered badly, again the scene of older mobile homes. In Glades
county, northern area of Buckhead Ridge and Lakeport suffered badly, again
the scene of primarily manufactured housing.

The LaBelle airport had five aircraft hangar doors blown off their tracks,
damaging some of the aircraft inside. The airport is now being used for
hand-outs of water and ice during daylight hours. A curfew is being enforced
during the night in Hendry county, as well as most other counties and cities
affected. There were unconfirmed reports of looting in the city of

In other areas of South Florida, Broward county had 98 percent of its
electric service out Tuesday and Miami-Dade also suffered badly. In Glades
County and Okeechobee County residents were asked to boil water if water was
even available. The main street in Okeechobee recovered power Tuesday. Water
was shut off in the city of Okeechobee by city officials. In Clewiston, boil
water orders were also issued although most sections were without water
especially on the east side.

In Hendry county, water and ice and some food were being given out at the
John Boy Auditorium in Clewiston and at the airport and the rodeo ground in
LaBelle. Vehicle traffic Tuesday extended several miles down State Road 29
from north of the Caloosahatchee River Bridge to the airport for many hours
as residents attempted to reach the aid sites.

Two units of the Florida National Guard arrived early Wednesday morning. One
is stationed at the LaBelle airport and the other at the John Boy Auditorium
in Clewiston.

The Hendry Regional Hospital is closed except for the Emergency Room,
operating on generator power. Schools and government offices are closed in
Hendry county although LaBelle school staff have been asked to report to
work Wednesday morning.

Some stores are opening especially hardware and food stores, although
gasoline is either non-existent or hard to obtain. Wall-Mart in Clewiston
suffered badly and was not open although they were reportedly giving out
"breakfast" foods Tuesday.

Warning To Hurricane Victims

LABELLE, FL. -- Attorney General Charlie Crist adviseS Floridians
affected by Hurricane Wilma to use extra caution when hiring workers to
help clean up the damage caused by the storm. In particular, Crist warned
those who are victims of water damage and downed trees to be alert for
contractors who offer water removal or cleanup services for homes and

Consumers face the risk that services will be offered by those who are not
licensed, that clean-up services will be offered at unconscionably high
prices, or that so-called "contractors" will accept down payments but will
not do the
work at all. Crist said his office is prepared to investigate complaints of
alleged price gouging, and said citizens should call his Price Gouging
Hotline at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226) to file such complaints.

- Before signing a contract, check the payment terms and other
provisions carefully. Don't pay a contractor in advance.

- Do not pay cash to home repair contractors or tree removal

- Require home repair contractors to obtain all necessary government
licenses and permits, rather than leaving that burden on the

- Make sure contractors have proper occupational licenses as
required by state law.

- Work only with reputable, established businesses. Avoid
"contractors" who knock on your door offering to fix your roof or
windows. Try to obtain more than one estimate for the repair work.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Southwest Florida Readies For Hurricane Wilma

LABELLE, FL. (Oct. 23, 2005) -- Expecting a landfall of the eye of
Hurricane Wilma sometime Monday, residents from Sarasota to Key West are
making preparations for storm winds and rain. In Hendry and Glades county
emergency shelters are expected to open Sunday afternoon, while governent
office and schools have announced closing the first part of the week.
Garbage collections has been suspended for Monday and Tuesday.

Southwest Florida county officials seem to not be talking to one another as
what appears to be random times of bridge closings and curfews are being
announced hourly. Glades county announced curfews from dusk to dawn,
Collier county from 10 pm to 6 am, and Hendry county none. The Ft. Denaud
Bridge in Hendry county will close with winds above 25 mph, the Sanibel
Bridge in Lee county at 45 mph. Other bridges in Southwest Florida will
stop allowing traffic at other varioius wind speeds.

Early Sunday morning announcements by the National Weather Service call for
the center of Wilma to cross the Florida coast "somewhere in Collier
county" early Monday morning, but cautions not to concentrate on the exact
forecast of the center "because the error inherent 24 hours awy from
landfall can be as mush as 70 miles north or south which includes all of
Collier county and mainland Monroe countys. The Center says Lake Okeechobee
can possibly expect a storm tide of 18 to 20 feet above mean sea level
Monday morning, or 3 to 5 feet above current levels on the south side from
Fisheating Creek to Belle Glade.
Probabilities posted by the Center say south Florida has a 70 to 80 percent
chance of tropical storm conditions, and a 40 to 55 percent chance of winds
in excess of 58 mph. The chance of winds in excess of 74 mph is from 10 to
15 percent.

Madatory evacuations for low lying lands in Lee county and Cape Coral and
the barrier islands, voluntary evacuations in Hendry and Glades county of
low lying land and mobile homes.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Six Arrested In Clewiston

CLEWISTON, FL. -- (October 20, 2005) -- An ongoing narcotics investigation
by the Criminal Investigations Division of the Hendry County Sheriff's
Office has
resulted in the arrests of six individuals from the Clewiston area of
Hendry County on various drug related charges. According to Sheriff
Ronnie Lee, the following individuals were arrested and booked into the
Hendry County Jail. Harrison Downs age 25 of 206 S.Lopez Street
Clewiston was charged with, Sale of Marijuana, Felony Driving While
License Suspended or Revoked, Carrying a Concealed Firearm, Possession
of Marijuana under 20grams and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.
Sylvester Ross age 41 of 938 Virginia Avenue Clewiston was charged with,
Sale of Cocaine, Possession of Cocaine and Possession of Drug
Paraphernalia. William Louis Clark age 48 of 1825 Thirteenth Street
Clewiston was charged with Sale of Marijuana. Chuck Cornelius Gilkes age
25 of Mississippi Avenue Clewiston was charged with, Sale of Cocaine and
Sale of Marijuana. Timothy Thomas age 23 of 1224 Harlem Academy
Clewiston was charged with, Sale of Cocaine and Sale of Marijuana. Jemel
Demarkious Mcbride age 22 of 1204 Mississippi Avenue Clewiston was
charged with, Sale of Cocaine.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

More Drugs Arrests In LaBelle

LABELLE, FL. -- An undercover operation by members of the Hendry County
Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Division has led to the arrest of
33 year old Kizer James Pontoon of 805 Manatee Avenue, LaBelle, Florida.
Ronnie Lee reported that a quantity of marijuana, crack cocaine, drug
paraphernalia and crack cocaine packaging material was recovered. Pontoon
was arrested and booked into the Hendry County Jail.

In an unrelated case, Hendry County Sheriff's Office Investigators serving
a search warrant at 364 Hardee Street in Hendry County arrested 19 year old
Jose Luis Betancourt, Jr., for possession of marijuana, possession of
marijuana with intent to sell and for possession of narcotics
paraphernalia. He was booked into the Hendry County Jail.

Free Birding Tour This Saturday

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Through a partnership with Hendry-Glades Audubon, the
South Florida Water Management District will offer to the public escorted
tours at Stormwater STA-5 south of Clewiston in eastern Hendry County.
The first trip is scheduled Saturday, October 22, at STA-5 from 8:30
a.m. to noon, and subsequent tours are scheduled regularly through April

The stormwater treatment areas, owned and operated by the South
Florida Water Management District, are vast, constructed wetlands that
use vegetation to naturally cleanse excess nutrients from water before
it enters the Everglades. These remote, shallow-water marshes attract
many species of nesting wading birds, migratory and other water fowl
such as great blue herons, wood storks, snowy egrets, great egrets and
roseate spoonbills.

Tours are open to anyone, but participants must register to reserve a space
on the trips. To carpool from LaBelle for the first tour meets at the
LaBelle Winn Dixie October 22 at 7 a.m. To sign up for the STA-5 Birding
Tour: Send an e-mail to Margaret England at with
your name and contact information, the date you want to go, and the number
in your party. You may also leave a message at (863) 674-0695 or (863)

Monday, October 17, 2005

LaBelle Airport Scene Of Deadly Accident

LABELLE, FL. (Oct. 16, 2005) -- The LaBelle Municipal Airport was the scene
of a deadly aircraft accident Sunday afternoon. A female student pilot from
the Fort Pierce, Fl. area, as yet officially unidentified by authorities,
was practicing cross-country flying and "touch and go landings" at the
LaBelle airport when observers speculate that she may have attempted to
depart the runway in the rented Cessna 172 single-engine aircraft with flaps
still fully extended at too high an angle of attack, stalling the aircraft
wings and causing the aircraft to spin downward into the ground after losing
aerodynamic lift from the wings.

The four seat aircraft hit the ground at probably a speed in excess of 60
miles per hours headfirst, collapsing the front of the aircraft immediately
on impact causing the engine to move into the cabin several feet. A witness
was painting an empty fuel tank only a hundred yards away from the impact
site just feet from the west side and midway down runway 32 at the LaBelle

Monday morning, an official from the National Transportation Safety Board
arrived and began the accident investigation process. The NTSB is the
official government agency charged with all aircraft accident
investigations. The LaBelle Fire Department helped to saw the fuselage in
half in preparation for the government's inspection of the aircraft,
instruments, and engine. An official probable cause report will not be
available for many months, although a summary report of the facts of the
accident will be available within a few weeks.

The aircraft was leased to a Ft. Pierce flight school by Christiansen
Aviation in Wilmington, Del. Owner William Christiansen said the company is
based in Tulsa, Okla. Representatives of the company flew in Sunday
afternoon to LaBelle, and again Monday morning.

According to government records there have been five fatalities in the
LaBelle area in aircraft since 2001. In June of 2001, a pilot flying an
unregistered ultralight craft illegally died along with a passenger. It is
illegal to carry passengers in unregistered aircraft. The cause, according
to the NTSB was "The inadvertent stall/spin by the pilot resulting in an
uncontrolled descent and impact with the ground.

In March 2004, another ultralight aircraft crashed with a fatality to the
pilot and passenger when the pilot overstressed the aircraft in an abrupt
pull up causing the right wing to detach. In April 2004 yet another
ultralight aircraft crashed and killed the pilot. The NTSB says old and
contaminated auto gas in the Rotax brand engine had turned to a "gel-like
consistancy" causing the engine to stop.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

LaBelle Home Sales

LABELLE, FL. -- During the first week of October there were 6 properties
sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $99,667. All were in Port
LaBelle, the highest priced at $120,000 for a home on Sena Lane and
$168,000 for a home on South Edgweater Circle. An investor bought a lot on
North Obisbo Circle for $42,000 and a second vacant lot went for $44,000 on
Jamestown Road.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

State Goes After Pesticide Applicators

IMMOKALEE, FL. -- Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer
Services Charles H. Bronson is taking legal action and levying fines
against a Plant City, Florida, based agriculture company for numerous
violations of state and federal pesticide laws, one farm where violations
were allegedly involved is in Immokalee.

Bronson has filed two Administrative Complaints against Ag-Mart Produce,
Inc., and four employees alleging 88 separate counts of pesticide use
violations on two different farms. The most serious counts involve
violations of "pre-harvest intervals" and "restricted entry intervals."
Pesticide labels state how soon after a pesticide application a crop can be
harvested as well as how soon it is safe for workers to enter a field.
Ag-Mart is accused of harvesting crops anywhere from one day to five days
after pesticide applications despite a seven-day waiting period indicated
on the label. The farms involved are located in Immokalee and Jennings,
Florida. Although the investigation found evidence of harvesting before
the waiting period expired, no illegal pesticide residues were identified
on food crops in routine sampling from these farms.

The Department launched an investigation in March 2005 in conjunction with
an investigation by the Collier County Health Department and the Florida
Department of Health into the cause of three cases of birth defects in
children born to mothers who worked for Ag-Mart. The Department has never
received an official complaint about pesticide violations in this case and
agencies learned of the birth defects in news reports. The investigation
into the birth defects is the responsibility of the Collier County Health
Department and the Florida Department of Health; the Florida Department of
Agriculture and Consumer Services focuses on pesticide rules and
regulations. Bronson's Department uncovered extensive violations of
pesticide laws. However, the Department was unable to identify any
instances of illness resulting from any of the pesticide use violations.

The employees involved are licensed pesticide applicators employed by
Ag-Mart. They are Warrick Birdwell, Charles Lambert, Justin Oelmann and
Josh Cantu. Florida law says licensed applicators are responsible for the
pesticide use activities and actions of individuals under their

The investigation also uncovered violations of the Worker Protection
Standard which require pesticide applicators to wear certain protective
equipment. In one instance, a worker did not wear protective eyewear while
mixing an herbicide.

Bronson is seeking $111,200 in fines against Ag-Mart, Inc. The company has
21 days to request a hearing if it decides to contest the findings.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

In The Service

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Air Force Airman Angela J. Kelley has graduated from
basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.
During the training, students received instruction in drill and ceremonies,
weapons, map reading, tactics, military courtesy, military justice,
physical training, first aid, and Army history and traditions. She is the
daughter of Janel and Joseph Kelley of Lakeview Ave., Clewiston, Fla.
Kelley is a 2004 graduate of Clewiston High School.

Bush Plans Lake Okeechobee Spending

LAKE OKEECHOBEE, FL. -- - Governor Jeb Bush, joined by Agriculture
Commissioner Charles Bronson, Senator Ken Pruitt and Representative Joe
Negron on the shores of Lake Okeechobee, Monday unveiled a comprehensive
plan to accelerate restoration and recovery of the largest freshwater lake
in the southeast. Under the $200 million recovery plan, the State is
expanding water storage areas, constructing treatment marshes and
expediting environmental management initiatives to enhance the ecological
health of the lake and downstream coastal estuaries. Governor Bush will
ask the Florida Legislature to provide a second installment of $25 million
in next year's budget, building on an initial investment of $30 million
this year - $25 million in growth management funding from the Department of
Environmental Protection and $5 million from the Department of Agriculture
and Consumer Services.

"Lake Okeechobee is the gateway to America s Everglades. Restoring this
dynamic system is critical to the long-term economic and environmental
health of South Florida," said Governor Bush. "This comprehensive,
common-sense plan will reduce pollution and better manage the flow of water
while meeting our flood control and water supply responsibilities."

The 2004 hurricane season generated unprecedented rainfall, dumping
up to 13 million gallons of water each minute into Lake Okeechobee at its
peak. The 730-square-mile lake rose by more than five and a half feet in
less than three months -- from just over 12 feet in early August to more
than 18 feet by mid-October. The high winds, heavy rainfall and recent warm
weather contributed to murky waters, poor water quality and a decline in
the health of the lake. In addition, regulated freshwater discharges
needed to lower lake levels and prevent flooding have impacted the health
of the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries downstream.

Together with Florida's Lake Okeechobee Protection Plan and the $8 billion
Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, this proposal fast tracks
construction projects during the next four years. Water managers will
construct the 4,000-acre Taylor Creek reservoir ahead of schedule and build
an additional 3,500 acres of stormwater treatment area to capture and clean
water flowing into the lake. Slated for completion by 2009, the
construction projects will provide 48,000-acre feet of additional water
storage, reduce harmful discharges to coastal estuaries and prevent up to
75 metric tons of phosphorus from flowing into the lake each year.

As a part of the plan, State agencies are raising standards and expediting
environmental requirements to reduce nutrient loading and better address
land use. Improved farming practices, strengthened permitting criteria for
new development, growth management incentives and nutrient limits for the
lake and its tributaries will reduce pollution and improve water quality.
The State will also begin implementing a new lake regulation schedule with
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to lower water levels and reduce
freshwater discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries to
improve current conditions.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Free Birding Tours Coming

Tours In Hendry Or West Palm Beach

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Through a partnership with Pine Jog Environmental Education
Center in West Palm Beach and Audubon Society of Hendry-Glades, the
South Florida Water Management District will offer to the public
escorted birding tours at Stormwater Treatment Areas 1 West in central
Palm Beach County and STA-5 in eastern Hendry County. The first trip is
scheduled Saturday, Sept. 17, at STA-1 West from 8:30 a.m. to noon, and
subsequent tours are scheduled regularly through April 2006 at both
STAs. Expert birders from Audubon Society of Hendry-Glades will conduct
the tours at STA-5; Pine Jog will conduct the tours at STA-1 West.

The stormwater treatment areas, owned and operated by the South Florida
Water Management District, are vast, constructed wetlands that use
vegetation to naturally cleanse excess nutrients from water before it
enters the Everglades. These remote, shallow-water marshes attract many
species of nesting wading birds, migratory and other water fowl such as
great blue herons, wood storks, snowy egrets, great egrets and roseate

Tours are open to anyone, but participants must register to reserve a space
on the trips. To sign up for the STA-1 West Birding Tour: Call Annie
McElhatton at Pine Jog (561) 686-6600 with your name and contact
information, the date you want to go, and the number in your party. To sign
up for the STA-5
Birding Tour: Send an e-mail to Margaret England, at with your name and contact information, the date
you want to go, and the number in your party. You may also leave a message
at (863) 674-0695 or (863) 517-0202.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Six LaBelle Home Sales

LABELLE, FL. -- In the last two weeks of September there were six LaBelle
area residential property sales recorded. An average sale price of $108,500
was had, including a mobile home on A Road for $39,000 as the lowest priced
parcel and a home on Case Road for $240,000 as the highest priced.

In The Service

Two Clewiston Men Graduate From Training

Army Reserve Pvt. Brian A. Rhodes has graduated from basic combat training
at Fort Jackson, Columbia, S.C. During the nine weeks of training, the
soldier studied the Army mission, history, tradition and core values,
physical fitness, and received instruction and practice in basic combat
skills, military weapons, chemical warfare and bayonet training, drill and
ceremony, marching, rifle marksmanship, armed and unarmed combat, map
reading, field tactics, military courtesy, military justice system, basic
first aid, foot marches, and field training exercises. He is the son of
Debra J. and Glenn A. Rhodes of W. El Paso Ave., Clewiston, Fla. Rhodes is
a 2005 graduate of Clewiston High School.

Army Pvt. Kenneth J. Bellew has graduated from basic combat training at
Fort Jackson, Columbia, S.C. During the nine weeks of training, the soldier
studied the Army mission, history, tradition and core values, physical
fitness, and received instruction and practice in basic combat skills,
military weapons, chemical warfare and bayonet training, drill and
ceremony, marching, rifle marksmanship, armed and unarmed combat, map
reading, field tactics, military courtesy, military justice system, basic
first aid, foot marches, and field training exercises. He is the son of
Teresa G. Carr, and Ken Bellew, both of Clewiston, Fla.

Scam Artists May Sell Flood-Damaged Cars

LABELLE, FL. -- Tom Gallagher, Florida's chief financial officer, today
cautioned consumers and auto dealers to beware of buying used vehicles
that may have originated from areas flooded by Hurricane Katrina, and
potentially Hurricane Rita. Officials estimate that 350,000 vehicles were
flooded in New Orleans alone from Hurricane Katrina, and up to 500,000
vehicles could have sustained flood damage throughout Louisiana,
Mississippi and Alabama from this storm. Many of these vehicles are
shipped to other states, including Florida, through car wholesalers.

The Florida Department of Financial Services has partnered with
to give consumers and auto dealers the ability to check vehicle
identification numbers (VIN) of cars previously registered in
FEMA-declared flood-disaster areas. The Car Check: Check out a Vehicle's
History link is now available at The search is available to
Floridians at no charge. The VIN number is found on the inside of the
driver's door or the lower left inside of the windshield.

Gallagher said that the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor
Vehicles will also be unveiling a system to allow Floridians to verify if
a used car was deemed totaled by hurricane flooding. That service is
expected to go online in the coming weeks and will also be available

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Glades County Going Into Land Speculation?

By Donna Storter

The Glades County Board of Commissioner held a Special Meeting last week
called to discuss possibly purchasing 72.5 acres on SR 78 and US 27 for a
site for a future correctional facility/offices and a commercial
development park. Currently an option for purchasing this land is held by
Glades Correctional Development Corporation (GCDC) which has been in
deliberations and negotiations for several years to build a facility to
house immigration detainees, informally known as "the INS project".

GCDC is a non-profit Florida corporation whose goal is to construct the
facility and contract with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement
(ICE) formerly known as INS, to provide institutional housing for
immigrants detained by ICE, and to also within the construction complex
provide a new jail facility for Glades County. If the County purchases the
property for approximately $770,000, the County can lease about 22 acres to
GCDC and possibly receive more in lease
income than the County is currently receiving from ad valorem taxes on
the property as it is currently in agriculture use. The other 50 acres
will be a prime location for commercial or maybe light industrial
development, as the needed infrastructure is available, being water,
sewer and major highway artery access.

The GCDC Board of Directors, Alvin Ward, Chairman, Bobby Flanagan and Nita
Shirley Members, gave their united concrete support of the concept, noting
that Peter Swan, bonding agent for Bergen Capital who will provide the
means for funding the construction, has endorsed the concept of GCDC
leasing the site from
the County, anticipating it will enhance the attraction for bond
purchasers. Commissioner Bob Giesler noted that the proposition of the
County purchasing the property had been an earlier consideration of GCDC
but circumstances at that time were not conducive to its fulfillment.
Glades County electorate approved the project by referendum ballot
several years ago knowing that the County will not be liable for the
operation of the detention center and its contract with ICE, while at
the same time utilizing an opportunity to lessen the County's liability
for the current jail facility which is in disrepair and cannot meet
State corrections inspection standards. Also expressing support for this
purchase was the Glades County Economic Development Council whose Board
of Directors unanimous vote of endorsement was expressed in Executive
Director Tracy Whirls' letter read by Commissioner Russell Echols.

No vote was taken, but the consensus of the four commissioners in
attendance was unanimous in voicing support. This will be an agenda item
at the Commissioners meeting next Tuesday October 11 9 a.m.

Glades Commissioners Consider Sports Complex

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- The Glades County Board of Commissioners last week
heard an appeal proposing the County provide $399,324 funding to upgrade
and improve the sports complex jointly owned by the City of Moore Haven and
Glades County School Board. District 3 Commissioner Russell Echols,
claiming it to be probably the most extensive recreation project taken on
by the county in quite some time, and citing dramatic increase in athletic
participation asked the Board to use one cent sales tax revenue to fund the
project providing a new (fourth) ball field on School Board property,
renovating the existing (3) ball fields with new sod, putting in a press
box and concession stand, and upgrading the lighting.

This sports complex serves the School's Athletic Department as well as city
and club sponsored sports activities, and will be divided with two
entrances so that
admission can be gained separately when multiple events are scheduled.

Echols stated, "It's major, but it's an investment in our children and
I'm asking this, not just for my district, but we have people who
participate in the organized sports in every one of your districts."
Chief Financial Clerk Brenda Choban confirmed that currently approximately
$1million remains uncommitted in that revenue account. The 1% Local
Government Infrastructure Surtax, passed by referendum in 1991, will expire
in 2007.

Glades 911 Addresses! What's Wrong?

By Donna Storter

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Glades County Commissioners again tabled action
on resolving the county's ongoing street addressing problem. Earlier
this year Commissioner Paul Beck was assigned the task of chairing a
committee to work on the problem and after several months of weekly
meetings, no action is taken and his reports and recommendations to the
Board have been largely been ignored. Glades County is mandated by the
State of Florida to fill this position that monitors and controls the
addressing data that enters the E911 system, and currently that position is
vacant. The data entering the E911 system is programmed to identify the
location of callers requesting public safety services when "911" is dialed
for emergency response.

However, Sprint has reported that some addresses are not correct, and
those may be rejected in the system. The Property Appraiser, the Tax
Collector, Jury Pools, Voting Registration, Code Enforcement, Land Use,
Census Count, etc. also need your correct address. Physical/street
addresses (numbers and quadrant, etc) have previously been assigned by
Glades County personnel who do not have access to the same training and
addressing computer software as the E911 Coordinator. When Sprint
detects an error, the E911 Coordinator is notified and is responsible
for resolving the error. Thus two employees (in separate buildings) have
been working with the E911 assignment though unfortunately, not always
as a team.

January 2005, the Board of Commissioners received four sealed bids
between $60,000 and $90,000 for resolution of the street address
system's problem; the bids were not reviewed until requested by the E911
Coordinator in May 2005. Commissioner Beck was then asked to chair a
committee to examine all the E911 street addressing issues and make
recommendation to the Board of needed action. He determined that
information from the audit and existing computer software are adequate
to resolve the problems if utilized by the properly trained personnel.
Commissioner Beck's latest recommendation, stated in the form of a
motion at last Monday's meeting was: "I would make the motion that we
hire a full time person, the 911 Coordinator who would also be in charge
of addressing. That would be the motion." Chief Financial Clerk Brenda
Choban stated there is $22,000 in the E911 budget for personal services
and the General Fund has budgeted $33,000 for transfer to 911. The
motion died for lack of a second. Though only approximately 11% of the
addresses need corrective action, it will take months to implement all
the necessary changes, whether it is signage, duplication of street
names, inconsistency of sequential numbering, or updating the
Geographical Information System (GIS) maps. The Commissioners expressed
concerns that after the corrective measures are in place, the position
would not continue to require full time services. The Board tabled the
item and will request the presence of Property Appraiser Larry Luckey
who had previously indicated that he would consider working with the
County with this issue once the errors and inaccuracies were resolved.
The Commissioners are well informed of the liability issues, and plan to
resolve this matter at their October 11 meeting.

Glades County Moving Forward On Development

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- At last week's Glades County Commissioners meeting
discussions of several projects being planned for Glades County were
outlined. County Manager Wendell Taylor, in his presentation proposing
reorganizing the
County's Building, Planning, Zoning, Code Enforcement and possibly E911
under a newly forming "Community Development Department" stated, "We
need to lean forward." His proposal was prefaced with, "On the horizon
is coming opportunity. It's already arrived in some places but it's
really going to get a lot of activity in the future, in the very very
near future. And I think if Glades County is going to put itself in the
position where we're going to be able to take advantage of that, then we
need to hurry up and get ourselves reorganized in the way that we deal
with community development."
He further elaborated, "I think the people of Glades County have been
disadvantaged a long time and I think it's time for us to step up, and I
want to be a part of helping. Now, the Planning and Zoning commission can't
do it, I can't do it, the Building Department and all those offices over
there can't do it, and you can't do it. But together we can, working as a
team, make it happen.
He advised, "There's a number of things we can get done sooner rather than
later. A lot of this is going to have to go through Tallahassee, and get
approved. I want a complete review of all regulations that governs the
use of land, our Master Plan, the way we do subdivisions, the way we do
everything that we do. I want to lead forward, and I want to get your
commitment tonight that we need to do it."
Commissioner Bob Giesler immediately voiced his approval and support,
humorously injecting, "As long as my county manager agrees with you, it's
fine." Commissioner Ward concurred elaborating that it was "a breath of
fresh air", further telling Taylor that "under your leadership I expect to
move forward, and
I am tired of people coming back at me and saying they hear nothing but
negative responses out of that office. You can't do it, you can't do it,
you can't do it, you cannot run business that way. That is the only
'can't' that we need to have. We need to move forward with developers
coming to this county, what can we do to help you settle here, and get
the edge on some of these other counties. I welcome it, you've got my
support one hundred percent. If you need to clean house on that and
start over again, you've got my support one hundred percent." Mr. Taylor
interjected, "If it comes to that, we will. Clean house I mean."
Chairman Jones stated, "I think the Commission supports you
unanimously." Mr. Taylor responded, "Thank you very much and we'll go
out, and I'll be asking for help."
A professional review to provide an updated version of Glades County's 1982
Land Development Regulations (LDRs) is currently underway by the
professional planning staff of Johnson Engineering, Inc. and is being paid
for by Lykes Bros. The proposed revised updates will come in public
hearings before the County's planning agency Building, Planning, Zoning
Board of Adjustments, and also then be reviewed, edited and approved by the
Board of County Commissioners for adoption by county ordinance.

New Funds For Citrus Canker Program

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner
Charles H. Bronson today commended President George W. Bush and United
States Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns for securing nearly
$54 million in emergency funding for the state's Citrus Canker Eradication
Program (CCEP). The funding will enable the Department and the USDA to
move forward with an expedited eradication program. Hendry County has the
greatest numbers of citrus trees in Florida.

"This additional funding is critical to moving forward with a more
aggressive tree removal program in commercial citrus groves," Bronson said.
"I am extremely appreciative of not only the financial resources but also
the fact that it sends a clear message that the federal government is 100
percent behind this eradication effort."

The devastating spread of citrus canker resulting from the unprecedented
2004 hurricane season as well as several storms during the 2005 season
prompted the Citrus Canker Eradication Program to launch a more aggressive,
expedited eradication plan. Prior to the 2004 storms, all known infected
and exposed commercial trees -- approximately 15,000 acres -- had been
removed. The hurricanes spread the disease to dozens of commercial groves,
impacting an additional 60,000 acres. The cooperative eradication effort
called for a massive "sentinel survey" of all commercial citrus, including
in areas not known to have canker to determine exactly where the disease is
located. While infected trees are removed within days of discovery, the
infusion of more funds enables the Department to step up removal of exposed
citrus trees in commercial growing areas.

"The good news is that the number of new infection in groves continues to
decline and I believe that indicates we are getting ahead of the disease,"
Bronson said. "The fact that we are involved in such an aggressive
eradication program has prevented the closing of shipments of Florida
citrus to other markets and helped to limit the exposure areas to less than
6 percent of the commercial citrus trees in Florida and I am very
appreciative of our federal partners for their help."

Citrus canker is a serious bacteria disease that causes premature fruit and
leaf drop, scars the fruit and makes the trees susceptible to other
diseases. There is no known cure and scientific research conducted in
Florida shows that removal of infected trees and those located within 1,900
feet, considered exposed, is the only successful method of eradication.

The emergency funds will enable the accelerated tree removal program to
continue and program officials anticipate that all known infected and
exposed commercial citrus trees will be out by the end of November, barring
any significant weather event.