Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Glades County Festivals Coming

Here's what's coming up in Glades County.

December 9 – Christmas on the Caloosahatchee, City Park - Moore Haven, 5 p.m. 863-946-0737.
January 14 – Honey Festival, Muse
January 21 – Catfish Festival, Buckhead Ridge
January 27-29 – Big “O” Birding & Arts/Crafts Festival, Moore Haven. Dr. Jerome Jackson, author of "In Search of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker" will give the keynote speech. Julie Brashears Wraithmell with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, will give a presentation on the fifth and final section of the Great Florida Birding Trail, opening next February. Linda White, Birds of Prey Center, lecturing on the Eagle Watch Program. "Kids are for the Birds," event for children in Tom Perry Memorial Park in the Moore Haven's historic riverfront district. There will also be numerous tours offered, which include, viewing eagle nesting sites at Brighton Seminole Reservation and a Sugarland Barn Owl tour. Art & Crafts and vendor booths. Contact Nita Choban @ 863-983-8619 or 863-227-1431 for booth information. For tour, lecture or dinner reservations, call Tracy Whirls @ 863-946-0300.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thanksgiving In The Mountains

John Hollingsworth Jr. Pioneeer Plantation Family Spends Thanksgiving in Mountains.

John Hollingsworth, Jr. spent a snowy holiday in the mountains with his family. Here John dons his LaBelle clothes while walking along the highway in Tennessee in the Smokey Mountains. John was traveling with his father and mother, John Sr. and Mary Hollingsworth. Mary, why didn't you make Jr. wear a coat?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Reception For Sen. Aronberg Slated

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- The Glades County Economic Development Council, Inc.,
Florida Heartland Rural Economic Development Initiative (FHREDI), Craig A.
Smith and Associates, the Honorable Joe Flint and others will host a
reception for District 27 State Senator Dave Aronberg Tuesday, Nov. 29
beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the clubhouse at Northlake Estates RV Park. The
public is invited to attend. For more information, contact Executive
Director Tracy Whirls at (863) 946-0300.

Glades Riverfront Plans At Luncheon

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- The Glades County Economic Development Council will
host their annual luncheon Friday, Dec. 2 at noon at the new Riverview
Restaurant, formerly the Branding Iron, at Glades Resort. The public is
invited to attend and hear the proposed plans for revitalizing the city of
Moore Haven's historic riverfront district.

The Glades County Economic Development Council took another step in
supporting the city's efforts to save the historic commercial district by
funding the establishment of a 501 c 3 to allow donations made to Main
Street Moore Haven to be tax deductible. The concensus of Main Street
consultants is that if the city, through the Main Street initiative, can
land two significant development projects on the riverfront, perhaps a
hotel/restaurant or a residential complex on vacant land north of US 27,
the next step should be to host a retail/marketing conference and invite
retailers/commercial prospects to tour the area.

Earlier this month, Traci Whirls, EDC Director joined historic preservation
architect Robert M. Feild, AIA, Principal of Feild Associates of Baltimore
in touring the historic commercial buildings along Avenue J, and met with
property owners, collecting square footage data, making preliminary
estimates as to costs of rehabilitation and brainstorming concerning
possible mixed use development, perhaps by incorporating commercial/retail
space downstairs and offices/apartments or other lodging upstairs. They
also discussed funding opportunities for the various buildings'
rehabilitation, including the potential use of historic preservation tax
credits, acquisition and development grant funds, and opportunities for
private investment. The two also met with Banana Bay Tours owner Fred
Trepper and John Capece of Southern Datastream, Inc. for some brainstorming
concerning the riverfront and design for dockage.

"I think our best opportunities are based on our waterfront location, as a
destination resort and gateway to 'gloriously natural Glades County,'" Ms.
Whirls said. "I think we can build a niche market, by recruiting lodging,
river/lake cruises, upscale dining and specialty shops."

Ms. Whirls cautioned that revitalization isn't going to happen overnight.
"Our first step is to take stock of our assets, devise an action plan and
begin to calculate how much rehabilitating our historic commercial district
is going to cost. The next step will involve working with property owners,
potential property owners, city and county officials to finalize plans and
identify funding streams to make it happen."

Toward that end, the city of Moore Haven will hold a workshop Monday, Dec.
12 from 2-6 p.m. to begin envisioning what a new, revitalized Moore Haven
might look like. Business owners, prospective business owners, public
officials and residents are encouraged to attend.

Tickets for the luncheon, at the Riverview Restaurant, under new management
by Christopher, formerly of Christopher's in LaBelle, are $15. The menu
includes choice of beef or chicken buffet, soup, salad and drink. Tickets
are available at the EDC office, in the Doyle Conner Building, 900 SW US
27, Moore Haven. Phone (863) 946-0300 to reserve your ticket.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Neighborhood Eyesore Of The Week

This vacant lot at 1194 SR29 backs up on Luckey Street in LaBelle. Apparently these tires have been stored here for years, and neighbor Beatrice Salinas has not been able to get the trash removed and resorted to coming to the Hendry Commission meeting this week to complain. Commissioner Kevin McCarthy said he would check it out and visit the site with her. The one acre lot is owned by the Minors family who purchased it last year from Lucretia P. Strickland.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Commission Sends Oxbow Golf Course To Rec Board

Hendry Commissioners Pass Buck Back To Recreation Board

LABELLE, FL. -- At its November meeting, the Hendry County Commission voted to refer a request to fund a study for a county purchase of the old Oxbow Golf Course parcels in Port LaBelle back to the west Hendry county recreation board. Hundreds of local residents overflowed the commission chambers Thursday hoping to persuade the county to purchase hundreds of acres around the Port LaBelle Inn to convert the land back to a golf course to be run as a municipal course to attract tourism as well as for a recreational area for residents.

Spokesperson Scott Wegscheid (Wegsheid shown speaking to commissioners - photo above) spoke for the community group S.O.A.R. giving the commissioners an overview of the benefits to Hendry county to fund an economic feasibility study on re-opening the former 27-hole golf course for the benefit of Hendry county's citizens. Commissioner Bill Maddox made a motion to not pay for a study but the motion died for lack of a second from the remaining three commissioners. Although the citizen group had already been to the Hendry recreation board once before, the commissioners voted to refer the matter back to them.

Current land owners have contracts pending to sell to an out-of-area developer who plans to ask for a change to the current county comprehensive land plan to change the zoning from its current recrational/leisure designation to planned unit development to allow for high density residential use. The developers official request could come as soon as January when the state's Department of Community Affairs accepts applications for changes to the Hendry comprehensive land plan.

In other business, Southern Garden's Chip Chapman asked for relief from a $10,000 county building permit fee to repair some $5,000,000 in hurricane damage to its citrus processing building in mid-county south of SR80. Southern Gardens in a division of U.S. Sugar Corp. Commissioner Kevin McCarty from Clewiston tried to help by suggesting everyone damaged by the hurricane be granted reduced fees including U.S. Sugar. Clewiston's commissioner Janet Taylor was absent from the commission meeting, but Commissioners Pelham, Maddox, and Harris agreed that fees could not fairly be reduced for some but not all, while reducing fees across the board would not be feasible with so much widespread building damage in the county.

Beatrice Salinas of 1103 Luckey Street in LaBelle complained to the commissioners about old vehicles and tires being stored in her residential neighborhood as well as dead limbs hanging in trees and in the power wires. She said she has called everyone at the county level, but nobody is doing anything. Commissioner Harris said he would personally come out to her home and check out the problem and "volunteered" Commissioner Bill Maddox to do the same. Maddox is Ms. Salinas commissioner.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

In The Service

BELLE GLADE, FL. -- Army Pvt. Santonio L. Larridice 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 Connie Lee of Roosevelt St., Belle Glade, Fl.
The private is a 2005 graduate of Glades Central High School, Belle Glade.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Ag Commissioner To Visit Area Monday

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida Department of Agriculture Commissioner Charles
Bronson will visit Southwest Florida Monday, November 21, to survey
agricultural damage caused by Hurricane Wilma. Joining Commissioner
Bronson will be USDA Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner, Congressman Mario
Diaz-Balart, Congressman Adam Putnam, and Congressman Mark Foley.

As arranged by the faculty at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and
Education Center and the UF/IFAS Hendry County Extension Office, the group
will tour two Immokalee-area farms, then travel to LaBelle, where they will
host a question-and-answer session from 2:00 - 3:00 PM with Southwest
Florida agricultural interests including citrus and vegetable growers as
well as cattle, sugarcane and ornamental producers at the UF/IFAS Hendry
County Cooperative Extension Service on Pratt Blvd, just off Cowboy Way.

The group will tour Immokalee area farms and have lunch at the Immokalee
airport earlier in the afternoon and depart from the LaBelle airport after
the LaBelle session.

What's The Oxbow Golf Course Future?

27 Holes Or Hundreds Of Condos?

PORT LABELLE, FL. (Nov. 16, 2005) -- A citizen's group calling themselves SOAR has banded together with over several hundred other Hendry and Glades county residents to ask the Hendry and Glades county commissioners to halt land developer's plans to rezone the Oxbow Golf Course at Port LaBelle to high density residential use.

SOAR, Save Oxbow As Recreation, spokespersons Jack Zorn, Scott Wegscheid, and Ken Downing say they would like the county commissions in both Hendry and Glades county to consider the feasibility of Hendry county purchasing the Oxbow golf course and running it as a municipal course. They say they have studies in hand that show the land would make a yearly profit for the county and keep the land as it is presently zoned as "leisure/recreation"
to benefit the citizens of both counties as well as encourage tourist to visit the two counties. The group says they have over seven hundred petitions asking to keep the land as is for recreational use.

The 27-hole championship golf course land, including the Port LaBelle hotel was subdivided into 27 tracts in March 2003 after its owner found a need for fast cash for his other business interests, and an auction company sold off the parcels to about a dozen different investors. The 27 parcels sold were sized from five acres to 228 acres with most being approimately 10 acres. Among the local buyers were investor Stan Freedman, real estate agent Terry Pearce, real estate development company CHL,and investor L. Miners. The Port LaBelle Inn hotel property, built in 1981 on 5 acres, was purchased by LaBelle RV park owner Richard Siebel.

Reportedly, Siebel and some other buyers have contracts to sell their properties to developers who now want to rezone the land. The purchase contracts are allegedly subject to the developer obtaining permission from the Hendry and Glades county commissioners to rezone the land from its current recreational use to high density residential. Such a rezoning would
also require permission from the State to modify the counties' Comprehensive Plan, which mandates how much land in each county is required for different uses, including recreational use.

The purchase prices at the 2003 auction ranged from about $800 per acre for the bid on the 228 acre tract which included 15 holes of the Arthur Hills and Patrick Grelak designed golf course, to $5800 per acre for 14 acres purchased by CHL. CHL has built model display homes on it's parcel. The reason the prices were so low at auction, were because of the zoning on the
parcel, which was mandated by the county for all the land to be used for recreation and leisure use, except for a hotel zoned on one 5-acre parcel.

The land has been zoned for recreational use for decades and the golf course was a profitable business for almost 20 years according to SOAR spokesperson Jack Zorn. He said he talked the golf pro who operated the golf course who told him that he ran up to 70,000 round of golf per year at one time at Port LaBelle.

According to Scott Wegscheid, a local land developer and the golf coach at LaBelle High School, the Hendry County Economic Development Agency, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Hendry Tourist office all are in agreement to support keeping the land for recreational use. All cite the probability of increasing tourist income to the counties as well as a probable profit to
the county if Hendry operated the golf course as a municipal course. The Women's LPGA in a past season held a qualifier tournament at the Oxbow Golf Course. SOAR spokepersons cite this as one example of the uniqueness of the course and the vistor dollars that golf brought to western Hendry county. Fund-raising Tournaments also supported local community sports activities according to Wegscheid.

The Hendry commission has scheduled the SOAR group on its meeting agenda Thursday Nov. 17 at 5 p.m. at the Hendry commmission chambers in LaBelle at the Courthouse. A Glades county zoning board will hear comment on rezoning of the golf course land at a 7 p.m. meeting at the Glades courthouse also on Thursday Nov. 17.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Glades County Gets Prosecutor

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- (Nov. 10, 2005) -- State Attorney Steve Russell
announced today that Glades County now has its own fulltime prosecutor.
Thanks to the Glades County Commission and the Glades County Sheriff's
Department, offices have been provided within the Sheriff's Office for an
Assistant State Attorney and in the courthouse for an administrative
assistant. There will no longer be a commute from LaBelle to prosecute
cases. "This is a continuation of the long-range expansion plan for Hendry
and Glades," says Russell. "It started last spring when we expanded the
Hendry County office and added an additional prosecutor to the staff to
keep up with the growing caseload." Russell says, "We will continue to add
more prosecutors, paralegals and support staff as resources permit."

Assistant State Attorney Christopher Klink is in charge of the new office
and works with his Administrative Assistant Tina Thigpen. Christopher
began with the State Attorney's Office in 2003 working in the Naples
Office. He transferred to Hendry County in the spring of 2005 to make a
smooth transition as the head of the Glades Office. "Chris knows the area
and the people," says Russell. "By having an office in Glades County, law
enforcement will be able to receive timely information regarding the law
and will be able to receive immediate legal assistance in making arrests."
So far this year, nearly one thousand cases have originated out of Glades

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Wildlife Habitat Program Offers Assistance

Financial And Technical Assistance For Restoration Of Wildlife Habitats

LABELLE, FL. (Nov. 9, 2005) -- State Conservationist Niles Glasgow with
USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service announces December 15 as the
cutoff date for the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. WHIP offers
financial and technical assistance to install structural and management
practices on eligible non-federal lands to address restoration of declining
habitats of South Florida. Conservation treatment activities approved
under WHIP are carried out in accordance to a conservation plan that is
developed with the landowner or manager.

Priorities for WHIP include habitat restoration on declining habitats of
South Florida: South Florida Rockland (Pine Rockland/Everglades
Flatwoods and Tropical Hardwood Hammock), Scrubby Flatwoods, and Dry
Prairie. Final ranking will be based on the presence of declining habitats,
management for declining species (including bobwhite quail), and removal
of exotic, invasive species (including Old World climbing fern,
Brazilian pepper, Tropical soda apple, Melaleuca, Cogon Grass and Downy
rose myrtle).

Sign-up will occur in the following counties ONLY: Polk, Osceola,
Brevard, Highlands, Miami-Dade, Collier, Hendry, Martin, Broward,
Glades, Okeechobee, St. Lucie, Indian River, Monroe, and Palm Beach.
Workshops will be held in LaBelle on December 7th at 6:30 pm; and
Kissimmee on December 8th at 6:30 pm to inform landowners of program
participation. For additional details on the WHIP program, specific
eligibility requirements to participate and further information on
scheduled workshops, contact the LaBelle Field Office, 1085 Pratt Blvd.,
phone 863-674-5700.

Pioneer Burglars Arrested

LABELLE, FL. (Nov. 8, 2005) -- When Oscar Villanueva returned to his home
at 2250 Panama Avenue in Pioneer Plantation on October 23rd. at
6:10 pm he discovered Matthew Gronberg age 21 hiding in a closet. Mr.
Villanueva called 911 to report the intruder. Hendry County Sheriff's
Office responded and placed Gronberg in custody. Sheriff Ronnie Lee
stated that as a result of the follow-up investigation, Bronberg also
confessed to a previous burgulary at 2250 Panama Avenue as well a
burgulary on October 20, 2005 at 2231 Panama that involved the theft of
musical instruments and firearms that were sold/traded for crack
cocaine. The investigation also revealed that Omer Rotelli age 21 was an
accomplice in the burgulary at 2231 Panama.

Gronberg was charged with
two counts of Burgulary of a Dwelling, one count of Burgulary of an
Occupied Dwelling, one count of Grand Theft of a Firearm and one count
of Dealing in Stolen Property. Rotelli was charged with Armed
Burglulary, Dealing Stolen Property and Grand Theft of Firearms. Both
men were booked into the Hendry County Jail.

Another Drug Youth Arrested

LABELLE, FL. (Nov. 6, 2005) -- Hendry County Sheriff's Office Investigators
have arrested James Pender age 19 for possession of marijuana. According to
Sheriff Ronnie Lee. Pender was arrested during the serving of a search
warrant by the Hendry
County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Division at 506 Martin
Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in LaBelle. Pender was booked into the Hendry
County Jail.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Real Estate Sales Slow After Hurricane

LABELLE, FL. -- In the last three weeks of October, there were only 2 homes
sold the LaBelle area for an average price of $250,000. A home sold for
$90,000 on Robb Rd. and a $410,000 sale on West Cowboy Way in LaBelle.

Bush To Visit Pahokee and Belle Glade

PAHOKEE, FL. -- Governor Jeb Bush will visit schools in South Florida
impacted by Hurricane Wilma on Monday. The Governor will be joined by
school officials, educators and students. The visits will take place at:
8:35 a.m. at Gove Elementary School, 900 SE Avenue G, Belle Glade and at
9:35 a.m. at the Pahokee Elementary School, 560 E. Main PL., Pahokee.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Free Birding Tour

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry-Glades Audubon and the South Florida Water
Management District will offer to the public escorted birding tours at
Stormwater Treatment Area 5 (STA-5) south of Clewiston in eastern Hendry
County. The first trip is
scheduled Saturday, November 12 at STA-5 from 8:30 a.m. to noon and
subsequent tours are scheduled regularly through April 2006.

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-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)

State Business Loans Available

LABELLE, FL. -- Governor Jeb Bush this week activated Florida's Small
Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program to provide emergency, short-term
loans to businesses in counties severely impacted by Hurricane Wilma.
Applications will be available Friday in Broward, Collier, Glades, Hendry,
Lee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Palm Beach counties and the Glades
communities of Belle Glade, Pahokee, and South Bay. The Governor has
allocated $20 million from General Revenue to fund the Bridge Loan Program.
The appropriation is made through a budget amendment pursuant to the
Governor's emergency declaration.

The state's emergency bridge loan program is designed to provide a source
of expedient cash flow to businesses physically damaged during a major
catastrophe, enabling them to quickly begin repairs and replace destroyed
inventory. These short-term loans are intended to bridge the gap between
the time a major catastrophe hits and when a business has secured other
resources, such as profits from revived a business, payment of insurance
claims or secured longer-term loans.

Short-term loans of up to $25,000 will be available to owners of small
businesses (less than 100 employees) in those counties most impacted by
Hurricane Wilma. The interest-free loans come in terms of 90-day or
180-day maturities. To be eligible, a business owner must have been
operational for one full year prior to Hurricane Wilma (October 24) and
have verifiable, physical damage to their business. The time from
application through closing of loans is as little as 72 hours.

For an application or more information on the program, please contact the
Governor's Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development at (850)
487-2568, or the local economic development office in counties most
severely impacted by Hurricane Wilma: Glades, Okeechobee, and the Glades
communities of Belle Glade, Pahokee, South Bay contact Lynn Topel at (800)
620-3602. Hendry County contact Janice Groves at (863) 675-6007

Check Wonders Of The Night Sky

IMMOKALEE, FL. -- Check out the beauty of the sky from a dark site. If the
weather is clear, you'll see lots of stars and perhaps a few stray meteors
as well. Several telescopes will be available for even closer looks at
celestial objects. This event will take place at the CREW Management
Center, approximately 12 miles east of I-75 on Corkscrew Road (County
Road 850).

Look for a large sign with a waterdrop logo on it on the right side. From
SR 82, go south and west approximately 6.5 miles and turn left at the
waterdrop logo sign. Drive about 1.5 miles on the gravel driveway to the
big brown house. Bring plenty of bug repellant, drinks and something
comfortable to sit or lay upon. This event is free, but will be cancelled
if the sky is cloudy. Reserve your space by calling 275-3435 before 4 pm on
Friday November 4th. If you need more specific directions, call 657-2253

Closer To Normal In Hendry

Schools Open, Clewiston Airport Closed

LABELLE, FL. -- Moving closer to normalcy, Hendry county schools are open today, although Central Elementary is holding classes at the Eastside/Westside Elementary School in a fairly complex schedule of classes. Most businesses are open for business in the area.

The LaBelle Airport has opened for air traffic after being closed for a week after hosting the dozens of trucks bringing in water and ice. But the Airglades Airport west of Clewiston remains closed. Dozens of aircraft are temporarily stuck there while the county clears debris. Many hangars were damaged including newly constructed ones, and extensively damaged were the hangars housing the U.S. Sugar Corp. executive aircraft.

(photo: Hangar damage at the Airglades Airport)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Special Unemployment Benefits Available

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Florida's Agency for Workforce Innovation, announced this week that individuals who have lost jobs or businesses as a result of
Hurricane Wilma may be entitled to Disaster Unemployment Assistance
benefits. On October 24, 2005, President George W. Bush, in response to a
request from Governor Jeb Bush, declared a major disaster for Broward,
Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach, and
St. Lucie counties, clearing the way for use of federal funds to provide
assistance to individuals affected by the disaster.

Although many workers will be covered by the state's regular unemployment
compensation program, those not covered may apply for Disaster Unemployment
Assistance (DUA). This is a federally funded program, which assists
individuals who become unemployed as a direct result of a declared disaster
and who do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits. The program also
covers self-employed individuals, owners of farms and ranches, farm and
ranch workers, as well as fishers and others who are not normally covered
by state unemployment compensation.

Applicants must file for disaster benefits within 30 days of the date of
public notification. Therefore, DUA applications must be filed no later
than November 28, 2005. To be eligible for either the regular state
unemployment compensation program or DUA, the applicant must be a legal
resident. To be eligible for DUA benefits, an individual must have
exhausted all entitlement to any regular state unemployment benefits and
must have been working in or residing in a county for which the disaster
has been officially declared. DUA benefits are available to unemployed
individuals for up to 26 weeks from the date of the disaster declaration.
The 26-weeks assistance period for Hurricane Wilma ends April 29, 2006.

Federal regulations provide that the unemployment of an individual is
caused by a disaster if the individual: (1) becomes unemployed as a direct
result of the disaster; or (2) is unable to reach the place of employment
as a direct result of the disaster; or (3) was scheduled to begin work and
does not have a job or is unable to reach the job as a direct result of the
disaster; or (4) has become the major support for a household because the
head of the household has died as a direct result of the disaster; or (5)
cannot work because of an injury caused directly by the disaster.

Applications for DUA may be filed by Internet at the following web site
address: (indicate on the
application that it is a disaster related unemployment claim). Telephone
applications may be filed by calling 1-800-204-2418. Hours of operation
are 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM EST, Monday through Friday.