Monday, January 30, 2006

Author At Ortona Libary

ORTONA, FL. -- Lee Gramling, a sixth-generation Floridian and author of
five "Cracker Westerns," will speak about his book, "Ninety-Mile Prairie,"
at noon to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 8 at the Ortona Library. Free
and open to the public, this presentation is last program of a project
called "Exploring Florida Through Literature," funded by a grant from the
Florida Humanities Council.

"I'm one of those great rarities in Florida nowadays," Gramling said, "a
native whose ancestors migrated here when this was still a wild untamed

Although one branch of his family settled in Levy County in the 1840s, it
wasn't until he lived out west that he decided to write frontier fiction
set in Florida. While he spent seven years in Oklahoma, he became an
admirer of the late Louis L'Amour. His books combine lively storytelling
with the historical background of Florida's wild and wooly past.

Gramling lives and writes in Gainesville, where he works for the Florida
Department of Children and Families.

For more information or to register for the reading/discussion program,
contact Fran Way at 675-7880 or For more information
about FHC grants, contact Susan Lockwood, Grants Director at (727) 553-3807
or email

Pharmacy Burglars Arrested

LABELLE, FL. (January 30, 2006) -- Responding to a Burglary Alarm at the
LaBelle J & J Pharmacy, quick action by Deputies of the Hendry County
Sheriff's Office resulted in the
arrest of Kenneth James Glisson age 21 of 2980 Quail Run Road in Hendry
County and Robert John Jordan age 19 of 2255 Fernwood Lane in Hendry
County. According to Sheriff Ronnie Lee the burglars gained entry to the
Pharmacy by breaking a window. Investigators of the Hendry County
Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigation Division recovered 1,051 7.5mg
Hyrocodone Pills, 525 10mg Hydrcodone Pills, 88 15mg Morphine Pills, 291
5mg Diazepam Pills and 1 Glass Pipe. Jordan, was charged with Burglary,
Larceny, Loitering, Drugs-Trafficking Hydrocodone Approximately 1,233.0
Grams, Drugs-Trafficking Morphine Approximately 14.0 Grams. Glisson was
charged with the same crimes plus Possession of Narcotic Equipment. Both
men were arrested and booked into the Hendry County Jail. Bond was set
at $200,000.00.

In The Service

LABELLE, FL. -- Army National Guard Sgt. Frederick J. Salonga is a member
of the 115th Area Support Group based in Roseville, Calif., who has
deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Members of the Army National Guard unit provide logistical support
throughout the Central Command's area of responsibility, and specifically
provide support to U.S. and coalition forces in functional areas such as
staging and onward movement, general supply, field services, and direct
maintenance support on an area basis. Additionally, the support group
provides customs inspections and mortuary affairs operations.
Salonga has served in the military for two years. He is the son of
Fedrico P. Salonga of Heritage Oaks Court, San Jose, Calif., and nephew of
Cheryl Passmore of Clay St., La Belle, Fla. The sergeant is a 1991 graduate
of Sem Yeto Continuation High School, Fairfield, Calif.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Free Health Fair Coming

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The Hendry/Glades Community Health Fair will be held on
Sunday, February
19, at the Clewiston Middle School 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Gates will
close at 3:00 pm. Last year there were over 500 people attending the
fair with 150 people taking advantage of medical exams. We had over 40
organizations set up with much needed educational materials and give
aways. Our goal is to continue to provide a full range of medical
services at no cost to the public. Medical
students as well as physician assistant, pharmacy, dentistry,
ophthalmology, physical and occupational therapy, audiology, and
nursing, local physicians, Nova Southeastern University Health
Profession faculty and local health care providers will be on hand.

Community physicians have volunteered their time to provide services and
supervise students. All medical students will be supervised by a
licensed practitioner. Screenings include blood pressure, glucose,
mammogram screening vouchers, bone density tests, eye/hearing exams, and
confidential HIV testing. Also additional
services such as body fat analysis, skin analyses for cancer risk and
skin type. Another exciting addition to this year's health fair will be
the presence of "Medicare Matters", trained staff will be on hand with
answers to questions about Medicare Part D. Participants will also be
able to sign on to a program with online access, or receive advice about
other methods for joining a plan. This is a valuable tool for our senior
and disabled citizens who are unable to access the internet to sort out
the various plans.

Interpreters will be on hand as well as Lake
Okeechobee Rural Health Network (LORHN) to assist with the prescription
assistance program. Participants will also be able to receive guidance
and referrals for follow up visits. There will be a bounce
house for the kids as well as a clown and face painting. Door prizes
will be given away all day and all participants will receive a BBQ lunch
- ALL FREE OF CHARGE. For additional information, contact 983-1123

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Commissioner Bronson Coming To LaBelle

LABELLE, FL -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner
Charles H. Bronson will participate in and speak at the "Gulf Citrus Best
Management Practices Kickoff Event" in Hendry County on February 1.

The focus of the event is to unveil and distribute the Florida Department
of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Best Management Practices (BMP)
manual for citrus growers in Southwest Florida. The manual reflects nearly
two years of work by citrus growers, environmental groups, as well as
officials from state and federal agencies, and calls for a series of
environmentally friendly agricultural practices designed to improve water
quality in the region.

When used by producers, the BMPs will improve water quality for citrus
operations in Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties. The
effort is of special significance for the Caloosahatchee River, which is an
important nursery and fishery for many species, and is an estuarine system
of national significance.

The event, which will take place at the A. Duda & Sons Facilities about six
miles south of LaBelle in Hendry County, will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Arrest In Port LaBelle Burglary

LABELLE, FL. -- Jose Luis LaBo,y age 33 has been arrested for burglary of a
residence at 4057 E. Sunflower Circle in Port LaBelle. Sheriff Ronnie Lee
reported that LaBoy entered the residence through a window at approximately
on January 15, 2006. When one of the residents awoke and spotted him he
fled the scene. The subsequent investigation by the Hendry County
Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigation Division led investigators to
LaBoy. LaBoy was charged with Burglary Of An Occupied Dwelling and booked
into the Hendry County Jail. Bond was set at $15,000.00 by Judge James

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Ag Organizational Meeting Called

IMMOKALEE, FL. -- A Hurricane Wilma relief organizational meeting will be
held on Tuesday, January 24 at the Immokalee Community Center at 321 1st
Street N, Immokalee beginning at 1:30PM. Agricultural interests in
Southwest Florida were seriously impacted by Hurricane Wilma this past
October. The meeting is hoped to bring together all area interests in
gaining help from the various governmental offices who have largely
neglected ag interests since last year's major storms.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Clewiston Man Goes Back To 1800s

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Ever want to travel back in time and live how folks might have over 200 years ago? Bob Harper (photo: Bob Harper, in center) lived this past week like they did in early America, and lived as a Native American did centuries ago .

Harper, in everyday modern life is an FAA certified aircraft and helicopter mechanic, but this week played the part of a Cherokee living in a village of teepees near the small town of Homestead, Florida, just south of Bartow in
central Florida.

Bob spent the week at the "Alafia River Rendezvous," an annual event chronicling American life in past centuries. The Alafia River Rendezvous is a pre-1840 living history encampment where annually participants/reenactors set up and live in camps portraying and demonstrating life skills of various Early American cultures; British, Irish, Scottish, Spanish and Native

Over 1000 lodges were set up housing well over 1600 people. Traders Row hosted over a hundred traders selling everything from kettle corn to tents to firearms and knives, to beads and sarsaparilla to skins and period clothing of all sorts.

Historically, a "Rendezvous" was a pre-determined place and time set for Fur Trappers to meet up with Fur Traders. This kept the Fur Trapper from having to come all the way back to civilization to cash in their Beaver Plews and other furs they had collected. Usually the Trappers or Mountain Men would spend 11 months of the year in the mountains trapping beaver. The fur was made into the felt for the Top Hats that became popular in the 1790's.

To the Fur Trapper, "rendezvous" was like our present day state fairs. It was a great time to socialize with other Trappers and to find out what is going on back home. They would bring their furs and trade them for necessities they would need for the upcoming year.

Some of the things a Trapper would need are: coffee, sugar, whiskey, pemmican, jerky, lead, blackpowder, traps, clothing, blankets, horses, mules, and Foofuraw. When the trading was over it was time for fun. There was singing, dancing, horse races, foot races, target shooting, knife throwing, gambling, whiskey drinking and yarn telling.

Bob Harper, part Cherokee, has been attending these events for many years and owns his own teepees and authentic gear to portray how Native Americans lived in past centuries. Bob say in past years he's even brought along his grandchildren to take part in the event. One ceremony Bob enjoys is the drumming and chanting. A group of men sit in a circle around a large drum
and chant while hitting the drum in a steady beat with accented notes, while women around the circle chant along and others dance to the drum.

But come Monday, Bob intends to return back to the 21st century and his home in mid-Hendry county, and return to his job maintaining helicopters.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Growth Issues Huge For Hendry County

LABELLE, FL. -- "Growth issues are huge for Hendry county," so says Hendry
county commissioner Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy, an engineer and Clewiston's
Utilities Director was at the Laurel Oaks Property Owners Association's
annual meeting Thursday night. He is probably the only county commissioner
in Florida with a politically jerry-mandered district that is about one-half
mile wide by 30 miles long, stretching from Clewiston to Port LaBelle.

McCarthy answered questions from the residents of the up-scale community in
Port LaBelle's Laurel Oaks subdivision, where out-of-town developers have
bought most of the vacant land surrounding Laurel Oaks. What used to be a
27- hole golf course around the subdivision is now open land whose various
new owners are counting on a change in zoning through Tallahassee and Hendry
County to allow high-density residential and commercial use on the now
rolling hills , lakes, mature palms, fruit, and oak trees.

McCarthy, born and raised in Clewiston said he doesn't want to see 250,000
people living in Hendry county which now has less than 40,000 population,
but thinks big growth is going to be unstoppable. Local LaBelle residents
have formed an action group to try to get the county to purchase the former
golf course land and return it back to a public golf and recreation area.
McCarthy says the Clewiston golf course is subsidized by the city of
Clewiston by about $300,000 a year. LaBelle's two other county commissioners
Bill Maddox and Darrell Harris have seemed against, or at least lukewarm to
the idea of a county owned golf facility, even though golf industry experts
say it would likely be a money-maker for the county as well as a draw for
tourist dollars.

Jack Zorn, an organizer of the group promoting the golf and recreation plan,
said that the developer's plans for high density use on the acreage west and
north of Laurel Oaks would overwhelm the infrastructure of the rural area,
bring the possibility of 3500 people living within one square mile, in
contrast to the city of LaBelle's current four square miles where only about
4200 people now live. Zorn, formerly in agricultural chemical sales, was
also concerned about any possible adverse environmental effects of turning
up the ground of the former golf course where turf chemicals were applied
for 20 years. Some observers say there is a possibility that the rezoning of
the current recreational use and agriculural use may be denied at the state
level for reasons of the county's master plan, for which the state requires
so many acres of land to be available and zoned for recreation.

The out-of-town new owner of the Port LaBelle Inn, sitting just west of
Laurel Oaks has claimed that he would like to expand his current 50 rooms to
170 rooms with a new restaurant. Whether that will happen is a matter of
conjecture since traditionally, new business owners tend to have high hopes
for their new purchase, and the "expansion publicity" helps to gain
investors and bank loans. The owner put down about $1 million and financed
$3 million with the previous owner.

McCarthy lays some of the blame on some local growth problems with previous
building permits issued by former Building Director Easton Burchard, who he
says may have not always used proper procedures in issuing new construction
permits. Questions have arisen over the use of agriculture land owed by CHL,
Inc. in building three model display homes on SR80 west of Birchwood Blvd.
and how those building permits were issued. CHL now has, after the fact,
asked the local planning agency and county commissioners for a "special
exception" for its already built model homes and wants to build three more.
Also cited as examples of poor building department calls were several
businesses issued permits to operate out of mobile homes in the Clewiston
area. Easton Burchard retired recently after many years as chief building
official in Hendry county.

Across the street from the hotel, the Miami owners are now building 100 new
boat slips around the two lagoons and there are possible plans for 480 condo
units along the river, said Zorn. The building permits were set to expire
which may explain part of the decision to go with such a large project now
nothwithstanding only one access road into the marina and hotel complex
from SR80. The owners have had for several years and currently have the
property for sale and probably also hope that the additional boat slips may
help sell the marina property. They also are trying to sell the office
building at the corner of Birchwood and SR80 which has been vacant for many

Building is coming to Hendry county. It's just a question of when, and the
questions of how responsible will local government be in reacting to
developers' wishes for quick decisions.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Local Recreation Board Listens To Residents

LABELLE, FL. -- The Hendry-LaBelle Recreation Board met this Tuesday for its monthly meeting, listening to residents and their hopes to get board approval for their various projects. The board is made up of local politicians including LaBelle City Commissioners Dave Lyons and Bob Miller, Hendry School Board member Patrick Langford, and Hendry County Commissioners Darrell Harris and Bill Maddox, Jr.

Margaret England gave an overview of the LaBelle Nature Park project for which her group hopes to eventually get funding for an educational building, canoe trails with a boardwalk, and a cleanup of the waterway on the east of the property. (photo: Margaret England speaking, Pat Murphy, Dave Lyons, Bob Miller, Darrell Harris)

Tony Tolar asked and was granted the board's approval to raise funds for local youth sports by selling fresh fruits and vegetables on an internet webpage where orders would be taken online for later delivery as crops are picked. Tolar said a few thousand dollars might be raised for the youth sports park. Tolar is in the vegetable business.

The matter of Port LaBelle residents hoping for a recommendation to fund a study to determine if the county could purchase the Oxbox Golf Course and run it as a public facility seems to be a dead issue as neither the board of the County Commission seems enthused about the idea. The issue was sent back to the recreation board by the County Commission at their last meeting. The board tabled the issue this time. Bill Maddox said he thought it was a little too late to attempt to purchase the property and wasn't inclined to fund a study to see if it could be profitable for the county and it's residents to have a public golf course.

A lawyer and landscape architect from the Bonita Bay Group showed off a proposed drawing for a sport park behind the current Christian School on Cowboy Way. They also suggested that if the county could wait about four more years, Bonita Bay would be interested in negotiating a reduction of impact fees for building sports facilities in their proposed housing development on south State Road 29. The board members accepted an invitation to visit a YMCA facility being developed by Bonita Bay in the Collier County.

Local real estate businessman and head of the Florida Sod Growers Cooperative Fred Burson offered his help to develop new ball fields for the board, pending the hoped sale of the current land and sports fields at Davis Pratt Park in west LaBelle. Burson had been active in Little League sports for 30 years he said and helped develop Lee county's Buckingham Sports Park.

The next meeting is scheduled for February 21 at 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

FPL Promises To Make Port LaBelle Repairs

LABELLE, FL. (Jan. 17, 2006) -- After months and in some cases, years of
consumer complaints about poor maintenance of Florida Power and Light lines
and equipment in the Port LaBelle area, Hugh Hackney, engineer in charge,
visited Port LaBelle this week and said crews have discovered faulty
equipment in a transformer cabinet on Birchwood Parkway that he say was
causing abnormal amounts of electrical outages in the area.

Hackney said the $25,000 plus repair should be commenced Monday January 23 and
that power in the area may be out for about six hours that day as the equipment is
changed, and power lines are disconnected during the repairs. FPL will
notify affected customers by phone when the power is expected to be out.

LaBelle area FPL customers have encountered abnormal amounts of electrical
outages which FPL customer service representatives blamed on everything
from birds on the lines to squirrels in the equipment, but not resolving
the problems of eight to twenty electrical outages per month in the entire
western Hendry county area. In recent weeks consumers have filed complaints
to FPL and the Public Service Commission.

See Complaints to FPL and the Public Service Commission if you have complaints about FPL's
service and how you may take your complaint to the Florida Public Service
Commission if FPL does not resolve your problem in a timely way.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Drug Arrests In LaBelle This Week

LABELLE, FL. -- (January 13, 2006) A traffic stop on Martin Luther King
Boulevard led to
the arrests of two men on narcotics charges. Sheriff Ronnie Lee stated
that during an on the scene investigation following the traffic stop an
excess of 8 grams of cocaine, narcotics packaging, narcotics
paraphernalia and $784.00 dollars were discovered. Julio Mendoza Garcia
age 35, and Gabriel Calderon Simental age 26, were arrested and charged
with possession of cocaine with intent to sell and possession of
narcotics paraphernalia. Simental was also charged with operating a
motor vehicle without a valid drivers license. Both men were booked into
the Hendry County Jail.

Sheriff Ronnie Lee reports that following the service of a search
warrant at 808 Manatee Avenue in LaBelle. Billy Smith, Jr. age 34 was
arrested for possession of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of
narcotics paraphernalia, trafficking in a controlled substance and for
possession of a firearm by convicted felon. The Hendry County Sheriff's
Office Criminal Investigation Division seized $2,100.00 U.S. currency,
151 pieces of rock cocaine, 1 semi-automatic pistol and a quantity of
other drugs. Smith was booked into the Hendry County Jail.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Citrus Canker Eradication Not Possible?

What Does This Mean For Local Growers?

LABELLE, FL. (Jan. 11, 2005) -- Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and
Consumer Services Charles H. Bronson has received word from top U.S.
Department of Agriculture officials that they no longer believe that it is
possible to eradicate citrus canker. USDA's position was formally
communicated in a letter from Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner. Officials
said based on USDA's scientific analysis of the potential spread of the
disease from the unprecedented 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, a new
management plan must be devised. Hendry county is one of the top citrus
producing counties in Florida.

The USDA officials say the program needs to undertake a new approach that
focuses on maintaining bacteria levels low enough to sustain citrus
production and protect citrus groves that have not been infested with
canker. In the meantime, USDA states that it will no longer fund tree
removal that is done with eradication as the goal. The federal agency, in
conjunction with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer
Services, intends to develop a response plan with scientific, industry and
public input that will limit further tree removal and implement management
practices that will accomplish the goals of controlling and suppressing
canker infestations.

"I am committed to working with our federal partner, the scientific
community and growers on steps to ensure the continued sustainability of
this industry, so critical to the economic well being of our state, as well
as protecting the thousands of residential trees that have not yet been
impacted by citrus canker," Bronson said. "I will make all resources
available to determine where we go to secure the future of the citrus

The change comes after a review of scientific research that indicates
Hurricane Wilma may have spread the disease to the point where an estimated
168,000 to 220,000 aces of commercial citrus could be infected and exposed
to canker. This is in addition to the more than 80,000 acres of commercial
citrus that was affected by the 2004 hurricanes. The USDA also indicates
that growers have said they cannot survive the loss of more than 25 percent
of the state's citrus acreage and that federal costs to implement the
1,900-foot tree removal would cost significantly more than the annual $36
million federal appropriation as well as hundreds of millions of dollars
more in compensation payments to growers. The USDA has provided a
significant portion of the funding for the Citrus Canker Eradication
Program and all of the grower compensation since its inception in 1995.

"Unfortunately, everything the scientists predicted has come true," Bronson
said. "The legal delays and unprecedented hurricanes enabled the bacteria
to leapfrog significantly beyond the 1,900-foot cutting zone that science
showed was necessary to prevent spread under normal weather conditions."

In addition, Bronson pledged to continue his efforts to convince the
Legislature and USDA to provide compensation for homeowners and growers who
have already had trees removed. He will be requesting additional funding
for homeowners during the 2006 legislative session and will be working with
USDA to secure money for growers who are currently on a waiting list for
federal compensation dollars.

As a result of the USDA decision, the Florida Legislature will have to
revisit the laws that guide the Citrus Canker Eradication Program, notably
the requirement that the Department remove infected citrus trees and those
exposed because they are located within 1,900 feet.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Four Vandals Arrested

LABELLE, FL. -- (January 9, 2006) -- Hendry County Sheriff's Office School
Resource Officers have arrested 4 juveniles for trespassing and burglary at
the Hendry County School Bus Barn in LaBelle. According to Sheriff Ronnie
Lee, the
4 juveniles cut the fence at the bus barn to gain entry to the property
then broke into approximately 13 school buses and removed the fire
extinguishers discharging them on the ground and throwing the empty
extinguishers into a nearby canal. The 4 juveniles subsequently returned
to the bus barn compound through the cut in the fence and entered
approximately 19 more buses removing the fire extinguishers and
discharging them and throwing the empty extinguishers into the same
canal as they did the previous ones. Damage to the fence and the fire
extinguishers was approximately $1,800.00. The 4 juveniles were charged
with Burglary to a Conveyance,Theft of Fire Exinguishers,Tresspass on
School Grounds and Criminal Mischief and turned over to the Division of
Juvenile Justice.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Arrests Made In Montura Thefts

CLEWISTON, FL. (January 9, 2006) -- Hendry County Sheriff's Deputy Juan
Soto responded to a report of a burglary at 555 North Cabbage Palm Street
in Montura on January 8, 2006. The residence had been entered and several
DVD movies,
a CD player and jewelry were stolen. A shed located on the premises had
also been entered and a ATV was missing. Sheriff Ronnie Lee said Deputy
Soto conducted the investigation and recovered missing jewelry, DVD
movies, a CD player with headphones and a fishing rod. He also located
the ATV which was in a canal about three hundred feet north of the
victims residence. Christopher Lee Miles age 19 of 565 Cabbage Palm in
Montura and two Juveniles were charged with burglary and vehicle theft.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Larry Luckey Joins Nature Walk

Ortona, Fl. -- Saturday morning several dozen area residents and visitors were lead on a nature walk at Ortona's Indian Mound Park by Larry Luckey, Sr., local historian and Glades property appraiser. Joining Luckey, for whom the park is named, were Archaeologist John Beriault and storyteller and Humanities Scholar Carol Mahler taking turns speaking about the park's features and history on a "Literary Nature Walk" sponsored by the Ortona Community Libary under a grant from the Florida Humanities Council under the National Endowment for the Humanities. (photo: Larry Luckey speaking to the visitors at the park)

Also working on the project were naturalist Richard Workman and Turkey Creek residents Fran and Bob Way. Ms. Mahler will be leading a reading and discussion program on Florida literature and local history at the Ortona library at noon for the next four Wednesdays as part of the project. Contact Fran Way for registration at 675-7880 or

Friday, January 06, 2006

New Hiking At CREW Trails

IMMOKALEE, FL. -- January 14th Saturday Morning Guided Hike - The CREW Land
& Water Trust will host a hike on the 2nd Saturday of each month for all
ages from 9:00 a.m.  noon. The hike is free, although donations to
support the Trust's preservation efforts are appreciated. Reservations
(239-657-2253) are helpful but not required. Hikers are encouraged to bring
a beverage and wear old shoes.

January 17th Tuesday Morning Guided Hike  Guided hikes will be offered
the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month for all ages from 9:00 a.m.til noon.
January 14th Saturday Full-Moon Hike Come out and experience the
night-time sights and sounds on a guided hike at the CREW Marsh Hiking
Trails. Reservations are required. For more information, call 239-657-2253.

Daily/Ongoing  The CREW Marsh Hiking Trails are open to the public from
sunrise to sunset everyday. Self-guided brochures are available at the
trailhead located at 4600 Corkscrew Road, 2 miles sought of State Road 82
or 18 miles east of exit 123 off I-75. For more information, call

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year 2006

We wish all our loyal readers of the Sunday Morning News and Southwest Florida Online a happy new year and wish all a prosperous and healthy 2006.

Unlike most all other media we won't bore you with uninteresting stories and year end wrap-ups of the 2005 news. You can however, easily search by keyword for any stories in the past on the search function or just browse past stories in the archives found at the left.

-Don Browne, editor

LaBelle, Fl.