Thursday, August 31, 2006

Glades Meets On Zoning, Farm Animals And More

By Donna Storter Long

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA (August 28, 2006)  -- One of two Glades County Commission public hearings this week drew input from participating citizens in the audience, and along with a code enforcement issue brought before the Board are true indications that Glades County is in transition as was so aptly stated by Commissioner Echols.

The first hearing passed with minimal attention other than the explanation that amendment to land development regulations is needed to protect residential areas from the blight of parked, stored and/or abandoned commercial vehicles.  A commercial vehicle by definition must be larger than one ton.

Spot Zoning Request Denied

The second hearing, continued from August 8, was the application for zoning change from Agriculture Residential (AR allows density of 1 unit per 5 acres) to Rural Family I (RF1 allows 1 unit per 1 acre) as requested by Lewis Hunter of 4555 Pollywog Drive SW near Muse.

His 4.72 acres property is 1 of 12 lots in High Pines Estates in southwest Glades County, and two adjoining landowners, Patricia Johnson and Leo Maness appeared and objected.  Other neighbors, James Reynolds and James & Penny Phillips, had written letters of objection noting the change would not just allow increased density, but could strain water tables and impact traffic into the subdivision which has no outlet road.

Mr. Lewis Hunter, the applicant, stated his intent was not to create a subdivision with increased density, but to utilize Glades County’s homestead ordinance to provide a single family home site for his son; his wife stated deed restrictions concerning splitting the lots expired in 2000, and that not all the neighbors were objecting.  Buckhead Ridge resident and Fire Chief Tom Vallee commented that even though he was  unfamiliar with the location of the property, he saw it as  an opportunity for needed growth.

 Recommendation for approval had been given by Glades County Development Board, formerly called Building Planning Zoning Board of Adjustment, noting the request was consistent with Glades County's future land use plan and land development regulations. The application was denied by 3-2 vote.   The Board's rejection was based on setting a precedent by spot zoning. Spot zoning is illegal but by reason of application, any change could be considered spot zoning if the change makes its use different from surrounding properties, which is often the case.

In Other Business

Hope Connections, recently appointed by the Area Agency on Aging to provide meals to seniors, was granted temporary use of the Doyle Conner Building for serving congregate meals. The kitchen and lobby of the Doyle Conner Building will be utilized weekdays for 3 months while they continue their search for a permanent facility to serve their 8-10 clients over age 65.  Commissioner Russell Echols noted that the Methodist Church had requested waiver of permit fees to construct a 10’x10’ concrete pad for a generator they were installing for their kitchen to serve in emergency situations.

Public Safety Director Bob Jones, in response to a contractors request for payment of invoices dated December 2004 and November 2005 for repairs to the Buckhead Ridge Volunteer Fire Department building, gained approval by the Board to notify contractor that invoices would be paid when inspections were completed and certificate of occupancy was provided.

Mr. Jones related the following history: Burtons, the licensed Contractor, obtained a permit for original construction of the roof overhang at Buckhead Ridge Fire Dept building; when it was destroyed by hurricane Jean in 2004, BHR Fire Chief Tom Vallee reported the damage and unsafe conditions to County Manager Jim Smith who authorized him to get it fixed because of danger of hanging metal debris in an area where school children congregated.  Vallee contacted Burtons who did the repair work for $2,860 without obtaining a permit thus it was not inspected before it was destroyed again by hurricane Wilma in October 2005. 

Again authorized by Chief Vallee he completed repairs for $4,226 without obtaining a permit and no inspection has been done.  The Board agreed with Mr. Jones assertation that the Board had in the past waived fees for permitting, but had never waived the requirement for permits.  The contractor is no longer licensed in Glades County and thus cannot now pull a permit.  Mrs. JoAnn Vallee noted that it would be a violation for that contractor to have a subcontractor now pull the permit.  The County has received FEMA and insurance compensation for the damages. The final vote 5-0 was to require permits, inspections and certificate of occupancy for approval to pay invoices.

Ortona Cemetery Project

Chairman K. S. “Butch” Jones requested Public Safety Director Bob Jones to report on the pavilion construction at Ortona Cemetery, of which Bob is Project Manager.  According to Bob the complete project through Phase II including landscaping, would not be completed for several months, probably in January.  He asked permission for County Manager Taylor to order the benches as it required about 4-6 weeks lead time.  No vote was taken as Commissioner Ward had objected to allowing this item as an amendment to the agenda and he questioned how much the project was going to totally cost.  Chairman Jones stated he would meet with Mr. Taylor and Bob Jones and work out the final cost estimates to complete the project.

 Donna Storter Long, who spearheaded the project in 2003, provided Chairman Jones with price quotes for benches made 100% from recycled materials noting that full payment for 100% recycled benches was authorized in the landfill’s recycling program grant.  She stated the original project was brought before the Board who asked her to get conceptual plans and costs and come back for approval of use of the one-cent tax money, which happened and is so noted in the official minutes record.  The initial figure (not including benches provided by the grant) for construction of the facility was $35,000.  However due to delays,  costs rose and the project was then divided into phases to keep the project costs below the $50,000 limit for bid requirements and Phase I construction of facility/sidewalks only was awarded to a contractor who later withdrew.                    

She said she had been told by Mr. Taylor that the pavilion would be available by November 11 for Veterans' Day services and she had conferred with Joe Flint (pavilion project committee member) and they felt that combining the pavilion dedication with the Veterans Service was preferable.  The current contract is for $72,000 but does not include benches.  Bob Jones later stated the facility itself, with benches, should be ready by Veterans Day, but the balance of Phase II would not. (Phase II includes landscaping, sprinkler system, underground utilities, and PA system.)

Neighbor Complains About 4H Animals

County Manager Wendell Taylor asked Community Development Director Larry Hilton to cover the issue of code enforcement complaint.  Hilton asked for the Board’s opinion concerning zoning ordinances because in years past 4H students had been allowed to have livestock on non-zoned properties, and he had recently received a complaint from a neighbor of some who had done that. Sandra Collins of Buckhead Ridge appealed to the Board to enforce zoning codes that prohibit farm animals in her neighborhood.  She said she appreciates 4H but her granddaughter suffers allergies and distressed breathing and her neighbor now has a horse for his son’s 4H project.  She complained their hayfield was not mowed for a long time and when it was mowed, it was very dusty, and she brought in an insect trap showing the many horseflies she had captured on her screens the last two days noting the health nuisance.

Linda Hale appeared stating she and her husband Roy put their son Marshall in 4H and bought the horse for therapy to help with his social and school problems due to his Attention Deficit Disorder; she said she is a registered nurse and she had not been informed of the girl’s allergies; she said their riding mower had been broken and they were unable to mow the field sooner, and that Tom Vallee had mowed it for them. 

Roy Hale, a sheriff's deputy, spoke and stated that he was approached with a suggestion that would make the allergies go away by August 28, but said he could not reveal who approached him nor the nature of the suggestion. He stated that he was doing this 4H project by the book and that equine therapy was recommended for his son.  He said the horse is a four months old Appaloosa filly and he was taking care of the animal as his son was not yet ready to handle the horse.

Another Buckhead Ridge resident Gerry Patent spoke and said she sells real estate and three things she was told when she started selling real estate in Buckhead ridge was 1) no barnyard animals 2) cannot live in campers and 3) can't have a business in the residential neighborhoods.  She said if the County is not going to enforce the rules then maybe she would get a flock of Alpacas and raise them.  She said the Okeechobee County 4H man told her "we don't dictate to the County" concerning allowing animals in residential areas; she said that 4H is a good organization but the area is zoned residential.

Mr. Carter stated he lives next to Mr. Hale and that on the 13th Mr. Hale pulled a gun on a neighbor, and had threatened other neighbors with a truck and that the Hale's lawn had not been mowed in a year.

The Board decided to have Mr. Hilton draft an ordinance for consideration and public hearing that would make some feasible provision for 4H animals without creating a neighborhood nuisance, but this code violation complaint is already in progress and must be dealt with properly.  Commissioner Echols noted his hesitancy to comment as most of his district is in the city of Moore Haven and the city has an ordinance that prohibits all farm animals.  Buckhead Ridge is not an incorporated city with ordinances thus all county zoning regulation ordinances are applicable there

County Attorney Richard Pringle was on conference call through out the meeting and had three items to mention.  1) He had sent Waste Management a letter concerning activating the interim hauling agreement and they had responded and met to discuss design of the transfer station and work out language of the agreement.  2) Mr. Pringle and Mr. Taylor had met with Florida Department of Environmental Protection concerning the permitting status of the landfill, and were talking with engineers to work thru the process.  3) Relative to the Zoning hearing mentioned above, he had looked at the County’s homestead ordinance 2003-2 and said he found some language may be inconsistent in that in one place it states the density requirements of land development regulations do not apply, and in another part says all zoning regulations do apply.  The Board approved having Mr. Hilton and Mr. Pringle look at it.  Commissioner Ward said the intent was never to exceed density but whatever was given to a child went towards the density.

Other attended business included:

1) Approved Manager Taylor's recommendation that the two Christmas holidays would be observed on Monday December 25 and Tuesday December 26.

2) Appointed Jeanette Peeples to the Glades County Library Board for five year term.

3) Approved including the position of Deputy County Manager for Community Development in the Senior Management Service Class of the Florida Retirement System while expressing approval of Mr. Hilton's job performance.

4) Accepted resealing bids presented by Doug Manke of the Road Department of which the county will pay $521,484 and the City of Moore Haven $105,784.

Mr. Taylor notified the Board of their scheduled joint meeting with the City of Moore Haven Council, and the Glades County District School Board to be held September 18, 2006 at 6PM at the school board meeting room.  He told the Board to begin considering how they will conduct business in December as the regular night meeting falls on December 25, the Christmas holiday.  He also said he would like to have the Board set a date for a workshop to work out a 5-10 year fiscal plan, and the Board gave assent.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hendry-Glades Prepares For Ernesto

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- A Local State of Emergency has been issued effective at 9:00 AM today for Hendry County. All Hendry County Government offices, Hendry County Schools, the City of LaBelle and the City of Clewiston and the Hendry County Health Department will be closed Wednesday, August 30, 2006, due to Tropical Storm Ernesto.The Emergency Operations Center will be fully activated at 5:00 PM today. Shelters and PSN shelters will open at 5:00 PM today. Primary shelters to open are Clewiston Middle School and LaBelle Middle School. The Pioneer Community Center will open at 5:00 PM as a comfort station. A voluntary evacuation notice is in effect for residents in low-lying flood prone areas. Anyone going to these shelters is asked to take their own three-day supply of food and other essentials. No pets are allowed in these shelters.

The Office of Emergency Management is continuing to monitor the storm. All Hendry County residents are urged to take due caution. The hurricane hotline has been activated. Residents may call 211 for additional information.

The National Weather Service 12 noon advisory is as follows:





Sunday, August 27, 2006

HP Video Features Sunday Morning News Editor

The HP company's newest ad campaign promotes its new "get personal" theme for its various computer products using short videos, illustrating how computer features can be customized for each person's needs. In this 60-second HP ad, Sunday Morning News editor Don Browne is featured. We thought it would be funny to show our readers this.

At the HP website visitors can make their own videos as well. (Best viewed with high speed internet)

UPDATE: May 28, 2021 - The website where the video was located is no longer active.

Governor Bush Signs Emergency Order

National Guard Activated, Agencies Ready For Emergency

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Today Florida Governor Jeb Bush released an executive order declaring a state of emergency throughout the state because of Hurricane Ernesto. In wide sweeping language the Governor has setup government agencies for any perceived contingency. Included in the lengthy order are some interesting powers:

I hereby delegate to the State Coordinating Officer the following powers, which he shall exercise subject to the limitations of Section 252.33, Florida Statutes (2005), as needed to meet this emergency: 

The authority to seize and utilize any and all real or personal property as needed to meet this emergency, subject always to the duty of the State to compensate the owner; The authority to order evacuation, and the authority to direct the sequence of evacuation in which such evacuations shall be carried out, and the further authority to regulate the movement of persons and traffic to, from, or within the affected counties to the extent needed to cope with this emergency; The authority to regulate the return of the evacuees to their home communities. I hereby order the Adjutant General to activate the Florida National Guard for the duration of this emergency, and I hereby place the National Guard under the direction of the State Coordinating Officer for the duration of this emergency. 


Friday, August 25, 2006

Hendry Proposed Property Taxes Higher

Hendry Has Third Highest County Tax Rates, Huge Assessment Increases

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Because Hendry county commissioners and the
Hendry school board have historically levied one of the highest
property tax rates in Florida, Hendry property owners should not be
surprised when they open their mail this week to see the 2006 notice
of proposed property taxes with higher taxes proposed. Tax payers can
expect increases from 10% to 300% over last year if the proposed
budgets are all individually approved at September public hearings.
Public hearings begin September 5 at the school board in Clewiston,
then the county commission meets in Clewiston September 12, South
Florida Water Management District in West Palm Beach on September 13,
followed by the Hendry Glades Hospital board in Clewiston September 14.

Hendry county taxpayers on average pay about 2% ( or 20 mills)
of assessed property value each year to the local government and
school board. Local boards for recreation, fire, lighting, and
waste fees get another quarter percent or so of property value in
addition. Only Pinellas and St. Lucie county have a higher rate
according to a study of 38 south and central Florida citrus producing
counties by the University of Florida. Pinellas has a rate of 2.9%
while St. Lucie is at 2.1%. The lowest Florida property tax rate is
Collier county at 1.2%. Glades county, also at the highest tax rates
is at 1.9%, the fourth highest county property tax rate in the study.

A typical homeowner with a home market value of $150,000 and a
homestead exemption in Hendry can expect to pay about $1600 in
property taxes and an additional $375 to local boards and special
districts. This is about a 10% increase over last year. Even if tax
millage rates remain the same as last year, county government and
schools can expect windfall amounts of extra income due to the huge
property value tax assessment increases in the county over the year.
The county commission and school board, etc. get the tax on the
county's assessed property value which has increased far more than
the inflation rate.

A vacant lot owner in Port LaBelle gets hit hardest this year.
Property taxes in the 32,000 acre subdivision of mostly empty lots
skyrocketed from last year's $305 per lot to this year's proposed
$810, almost a three-fold increase. Lot owners also must pay an
additional $61 for fire, maintenance, and water control. Much of the
"value" increase is due to speculation by a few builders and
investors who last year purchased lots at prices averaging about
$32,000 per lot. The percentage of actual "users" of Port LaBelle
vacant lots in extremely small. Most all sales were by builders and
real estate agents hoping for a quick turnover. The property
appraiser's office picks up these sales prices from the court
recordings. Based on those sales, Hendry's property appraiser says
all vacant lots have thus appreciated about 1600% in two years and
tagged each lot with an assessed value of $32,000. Realistically, it
is unlikely that the average lot owner can sell a lot for that amount
as there are overwhelmingly more vacant lot owners than builders and
real estate agents with the capability to buy more than a small
number of lots from the 100,000 or so lots available.

What can property owners do about high taxes? The public meetings are
an opportunity to express their views although unless a significant
number of citizens show up, nothing typically will be done. The
county commission meetings are generally the best attended with a
hundred or so attending. The Hendry school board meetings have the
smallest number of taxpayers attending. Usually no one shows up.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Freedom Of Speech Threatened In Muse?

By Dr. Harris Friedman

Protest Against Commissioner Alvin Ward

On Thursday, August 17th, displaying a sign stating, "R.I.P. FREE SPEECH," while sitting alone in his truck during a rainstorm across the street from the Muse Multipurpose Building, Carlton DeLoach decided not to attend the Muse Community Association's political rally that night.  Joanne Aims, the Association's president had told him that, if he and his wife Mary attended the rally wearing t-shirts that stated, "Hey Alvin, our cow died, we don't need your bull," many politicians scheduled to attend the event would boycott it.  One of the Glades County Commissioners had delivered this unfortunate edict to President Aims, causing her great distress.  She and other volunteers in the Association had put in much effort in preparing for this event, such as in decorating the building and arranging for refreshments.  So President Aims told the DeLoachs what was threatened and they graciously decided not to attend, thus avoiding an unpleasant scene, but Carlton staged his silent and solitary protest outside in the rain.

The DeLoachs had attended the Ortona Community Association's political rally two nights before, wearing t-shirts with that same message, and there was no incident.  The DeLoachs reported that they had sat quietly in the audience at that Ortona event and even had joked with Alvin Ward, Glades County Commissioner, about their t-shirts, though they never came out and said that it was Commissioner Ward to whom the t-shirts referred.  Carlton DeLoach simply stated, "There are lots of folks named Alvin."  So why did some local politician's threaten to boycott the Muse Community Association's event?

There Is Some History Here

A number of years ago, the newly elected leadership of the Muse Community Association began to criticize some of Commissioner Ward's actions.  When he attended Association meetings, many tough questions were asked of him and, after a few of these meetings, he simply stopped attending.  The Association made many overtures to get him to resume attending, since he represents Muse, but he refused.  He told me that he was shunning Muse because he did not need the support of the Muse Community Association in order to be re-elected and simply did not want to be subjected to criticism by attending the Association meetings.  Voters throughout the entire county vote for Glades County commissioners and Commissioner Ward further expressed his belief that he had sufficient county-wide support, despite his problems in his own district, which includes Muse.

I and others from the Muse Community Association continued to ask Commissioner Ward to attend the Association's meetings and he finally agreed to speak quarterly at the Muse Multipurpose Building, but only if this would not be under the auspices of the Association--and with the agreement that he would not be publicly criticized.  He arranged, as a government official, to speak one time at the Building during a night other than when the Association usually meets, as part of a Town Hall Meeting that he, not the Association, sponsored-and he agreed to return on another date in a few months.  No one criticized him at that Town Hall Meeting.  Unfortunately, Commissioner Ward did not follow-through with any additional Town Hall Meetings, breaking his promise.

No one enjoys being criticized, but a politician is a public figure who needs to represent his or her constituents-and there will always be those who disagree with something.  In addition, there have been many concerns voiced about Commissioner Ward that I believe legitimately warrant criticism, but I will not go into any details here on this.  Instead, I offer one overarching criticism that is perhaps most basic, namely a public figure needs to have the courage to openly face criticism.  I simply find it disgraceful that any politician might think he or she is above answering to the people that are represented.  In this recent political rally, that one local politician who claimed to be speaking for other politicians threatened to shun an event held for the people due to a few protest t-shirts sends the wrong message.  I hope that Commissioner Ward's shunning of the Muse Community Association does not have a ripple effect in which other local politicians now think they can be unaccountable to the people they represent.  And no matter how much a politician in a democratic society might try to avoid criticism, there is always a day of reckoning--namely Election Day, when the people's voice cannot be silenced.

Ortona Political Rally Well Attended

ORTONA, FLORIDA -- Ortona�s �Meet The Candidates� Political Rally was well attended, with opening remarks by Ortona Community Association Vice President Larry Luckey reflecting that the first rural Glades County community political rally was held in Ortona in 1980.

 Travis Dowhen, affectionately known as �Mayor of Turkey Creek, introduced the candidates which included the surprise appearance of three 20th Judicial Circuit candidates, Stephen Kolody for Group 28, Robert Geltner for Group 29, and Frank Mann Jr. for Group 30. All three candidates spoke briefly of their qualifications and desire to serve as Circuit Judge.  Geltner had the broadest range of legal experience, Kolody had the most Board Certifications specialties, and Mann�s greatest experience was with domestic law.

District 77 Representative Denise Grimsley (R) reported on her continued efforts and concern for education and health care issues for Floridians, and on her accomplishments for her first term of office, including $11,464,741 in appropriations for Glades County.  The Democrat opponent Zane Thomas reflected on his leadership role as a military officer, having recently retired after 25 years in the US Navy.  He stressed the need for responsible leadership in government, to serve the people and provide government by and for the people.

Three unopposed school board candidates, Janet Storey District 1, Mike Pressley District 4, and Patti Pearce District 5, thanked the Ortona voters for their support and urged them to participate in the school system programs as volunteers.

 Three candidates are vying for the District 2 Commission seat.  Incumbent Alvin Ward reflected on the dismal financial situation of Glades County two years ago compared to the brightened present due to increased property values producing more tax revenue; he noted that the last two years have been the brightest because of the hiring of two professionals, County Manager Wendell Traylor and Community Development Director Larry Hilton which improved the services of the County�s Development Department formerly known as Building-Planning-Zoning.  He noted this year his peers on the Board chose him as Vice Chairman, and he asked for the chance to continue as a Board member of the business of Glades County.  He has elected in 1996 to complete an unexpired term, was unopposed in 1998, and was reelected in 2002.

Republican contender Donna Storter Long, a native of Ortona, spoke of accelerated growth bringing a broader tax base that should then call for a reduced millage tax rate.  She offered several suggestions for improving the County government service to the people including enhancing the fire department funding, instituting a viable profitable recycling program, and holding county night meetings at Community Associations at least once a year, and including explanations of codes and application requests for public hearings; she  cited a need for the county to conclude projects that have lagged uncompleted for years, including the landfill issue, redistricting, and resolution of outstanding lawsuits.  Mrs. Storter-Long served an interim term as commissioner when appointed by Governor Bush in 2004.  She will face the winning Democrat contender in November.

Democrat opponent Fran Koebert, a retired paint chemist from Muse, stated his reason for running was to give the people a choice.  He cited his experience of developing a company from a small start with no money and being advised by his tax attorney to declare bankruptcy, which he declined stating bankruptcy in not in his vocabulary.  His success culminated after 40 years, when he finally sold it to the third offer of a large paint company.  He said that Glades County is a �diamond in the rough� and that a landfill would not economically benefit Glades County by creating jobs because not many youngsters aspire to be come sanitary engineers, or trash men.  He said he is not spending money campaigning, and needs the people to inform their friends and neighbors that they have a choice.

Voters will have two referenda choices on the September 5 ballot, and Tracy Whirls, Executive Director of Glades County Economic Development Council explained the need for approval of the item that would allow the County to grant tax abatements to new or expanding businesses creating new jobs in Glades County.  The tax abatement will not be automatic, but by application to the Board of Commissioners who will determine the merits and range of tax relief.    This measure is to restore the former tax abatement ordinance that had been allowed to expire.

 District 4 Commissioner Russell Echols, unopposed for his next term, told the voters the purpose of the second referendum.  Glades County currently has a one-cent discretionary surtax which means all taxable sales in Glades County produce 7 percent revenue-six to the state and one to the County.  The uses of the revenue are limited to capital improvement projects and purchase of land for county use.  This tax has been in effect since 1992 but will expire in December unless approved by the electorate.  He cited that funds from that revenue were used to purchase the property to site a new Ortona Community Center, and $100,000 of the current balance is reserved for construction when the state allocates funding for the rest.

Tenant Charged With Theft Of Appliances

LABELLE, FLORIDA  (Aug. 21, 2006) -- When Hendry County Sheriff's Office Deputy Michael Horne responded to a theft complaint from Petra Esquivel, his investigation not only led to the recovery of the articles stolen from her, but a cache of stolen appliances from Lee County as well. Ms. Esquivel suspected that a former tenant, Eusebio Lezama Zuniga age 27 had stolen 3 wall air conditioning units and a propane tank with fuel in it from a mobile home she was renting to him. Sheriff Ronnie Lee stated that Deputy Horne discovered that Zuniga was now residing at 1171 Amanda Street in LaBelle.

The 3 air conditioners and the propane tank were recovered  at that location and information developed there led Deputies and HCSO Criminal Investigators to 440 Clay Street in LaBelle  where Zuniga had previously lived. At 440 Clay Street they discovered  seven major appliances stolen from houses under construction in the Lehigh Acres and Cape Coral sections of Lee County. Zuniga was arrested and charged with Burglary of an Occupied Dwelling and Grand Theft. He was booked into the Hendry County Jail with bond set at $15,000.00.

Monday, August 21, 2006

South Bay Man Critical After Cycle Crash

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA -- Judson Abrams, 24 of South Bay is reported in
critical condition at Lee Memorial Hospital after a noontime crash on
State Road 78, three miles west of U.S. 27 Sunday. FHP Trooper J.N.
Paikai said Abrams lost control of his 2005 Suzuki motorcycle and
left the roadway, ejecting him into a ditch.

Update: Abrams died at Lee Memorial August 25 at 3:50 p.m. from injuries sustained in the crash.

Director At Belle Glade EDGE Fired

Belle Glade, Florida -- According to a news release the board of
directors at the Belle Glade EDGE Center, a business incubator, have
terminated the executive director Crystal Womack on August 17, 2006.
The Center provides assistance to small business owners and
prospective business people, operating through various governmental
grants. Any one who needs assistance should contact Elizabeth Cayson
at 561-512-6350

Editor note: The EDGE Center said on August 28 that Chrystal Womack had been terminated on August 10, not August 17 as their previous statement said.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Are You Among The Wealthy?

Depends On Your Age, Study Says

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- You don't need as much money to be considered
well off as you did a few years ago, at least if you are young.
According to a study by the VIP Forum, a 20-something is in the top
25% wealth category with a net worth of only $30,000. That's down
from $37,800 only three years earlier.

However, the wealth gap between young and older Americans is growing,
according to the VIP Forum, a Washington-based group that researches
wealth and wealth management practices. The older wealthy are pulling
far ahead, and proportionately much more net worth is needed to
arrive at the top wealth categories the older you are. If you are 50
to 59 years old, you'll need a net worth of at least $188,000 to be
in the top half of households that age. You'll need three times that,
$570,000, to be in the top 25%. And you'll need $9.6 million to be in
the top 1%. The basic data come from a Federal Reserve survey done
every three years, the Survey of Consumer Finances.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Parker Charged In Triple Murder

31-Year Old Mississippi Woman Charged

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA -- The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Clewiston Police Department have charged Ruby Yolanda Parker, 31, of Poplarville, Miss. with three counts felony capital murder.

During the night Parker admitted her involvement in the murders. The male suspect, who killed himself shortly after the crime is Richard Harry
Harker 35, of Hawthorne, Florida. He was reportedly a business associate of the Clewiston victim, Joey Whitaker. According to the Florida Secretary of State, Richard H. Harker started a company last year incorporated as Harker and Associates of Florida, LLC with offices in small town Hawthorne, Florida. Joey Whitaker was the head of Big Lake Cruisers, Inc. in Clewiston since 1986. Records show that Nestor Ramos of Clewiston is the Vice President, and Linda S. Pelham is Secretary/Treasurer of the local corporation.

Harker served nearly ten years in prison in Florida for second degree murder. He was released in 2002 and spent time in Desoto Correctional Instutute in Arcadia, serving time for a second degree murder 16 years ago.

Autopsies will be conducted today by the Medical Examiner's Office to determine a cause of death, according to Larry Long for the Fort Myers office of the FDLE.

Three Murders In Clewiston Investigated

Male Suspect In Triple Murder Kills Self

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA -- The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Clewiston Police Department are investigating the deaths of three Clewiston residents. At approximately 11:30 a.m. Tuesday the Clewiston Police Department received a 911 call that three people were found dead at 231 West Avendia Del Rio in Clewiston. 

When police arrived they found two females and one male dead inside the home. Detectives reported seeing no visible signs of trauma to any of the bodies. 

The victims have been identified as Joey Glenn Whitaker, 52, Carolyn Cox Whitaker, 53, and Myrtle Lee Cox, 80. The Whitakers had lived in the spacious 2900' square foot home since 1989.

Photo: Murder Suspect Richard Harry Harker, 35 of Hawthorne, Florida.

According to Larry Long of the Fort Myers office of the FDLE, while investigating the murders, agents learned that one of the victim's vehicles was missing from the home. Information was revealed that placed the stolen vehicle in the Big Cypress Indian Reservation. At approximately 5:15 p.m., FDLE special agents and Seminole Police responded and spotted the stolen vehicle and pursuit began. Police say a male suspect was driving with a female passenger.

The slow moving pursuit ended in the south section of the reservation when the male suspect rammed two Seminole Police cruisers. As police demanded the suspect exit the vehicle, Harker committed suicide with a single gun shot to the head. The female suspect, Ruby Yolanda Parker, 31, (photo left) of Poplarville, MS. was taken into custody and is being interviewed by agents.

The motive for the shooting appears to be robbery and it is believed that the victims knew at least one of their attackers.

Update: 2/6/2012 - The trial of Ruby Yolanda Parker has been postponed several times. The last trial date was set for January 30, 2011.  The state is seeking the death penalty for three 1st degree murder charges. Also filed is a charge of home invasion robbery. Parker is now 36 years old and has been in Hendry county jail since her August 16, 2006 arrest.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ashlie Turner - Graduate Of ROTC Course

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Ashlie K. Turner has graduated from the Army ROTC
(Reserve Officer Training Corps) Leader's Training Course at Fort
Knox, Ky. The 28-day course is a leadership internship for cadets who
are normally between their sophomore and junior college
years. College students experience and examine the Army without
incurring an obligation to serve in the Army or ROTC, and are
eligible to receive two-year college scholarship offers and attend
the ROTC Advanced Course at their college.

The Army observes and evaluates cadets to determine their officer
potential in leadership abilities and skills. The cadets are trained
to have a sound understanding of traditional leadership values during
the challenging, motivating "hands-on" training. The training
develops well-disciplined, highly motivated, physically conditioned
students, and helps improve the cadets' self-confidence, initiative,
leadership potential, and collective team cohesion. The cadets
receive training in fundamental military skills, rifle marksmanship,
small arms tactics, weapons training, drill and ceremonies,
communications, and squad-level operations field training.

The cadet is a student at Marion Military Institute, Ala. She is the
daughter of Kenneth L. Turner of Evans Road, and Jackie L. Nesbitt,
both of La Belle, Florida. Turner is a 2006 graduate of La Belle High School.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Residents Complain Over 4-Wheelers

Illegal Driving Of 4-Wheelers Rampant In Hendry-Glades

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Sunshine Acres in LaBelle has an ongoing problem with 4-wheelers running amok all over the streets in the area, residents say. Although running unlicensed vehicles like these on any street or greenbelt area is illegal under Florida law, many areas of Hendry county are plagued with the sounds of these off-road vehicles and the damage they do to the grounds they run over.

In LaBelle, a retail store has opened in recent months selling the 4-wheelers. The Florida law only allows driving such unlicensed vehicles on private property, with the permission of the property owner. Thus, there are not a lot of places one can legally drive these.

One local Sunshine Acres resident says "These people are just having a field day over here destroying the road side ditches that the county road and bridge just spent good taxpayer dollars on to clean and reshape for better drainage." Wanting to remain anonymous he says the Sheriff's office hasn't been any help in controlling the vehicles use on public roads. He says, "They destroy people's driveways, and when you call the sheriff's department about them they (the dispatchers) just blow you off. They will take your number and tell you that a deputy will call you back and they never do."

Port LaBelle for years had a similar problem due to their extensive system of greenbelts behind many homes. People were driving everything from 4-wheelers to swamp buggies through resident's backyards. After hundreds of calls to the Sheriff's office and posting of warning signs at the Port LaBelle entrances, the problems has gone away, although an occasional 4-wheeler is still seen in the area.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Real Estate Sales In LaBelle

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- From 8/1/2006 to 8/8/2006, there were 9 homes
sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $154,333.

1) $85,000 on Albany Rd.
2) $140,000 on Albany Rd.
3) $140,000 on Bishop Cir.
4) $78,000 on Edison Ave.
5) $179,000 on Tide Cir.
6) $250,000 on Windswept Cir.
7) $174,000 on S. Edgewater Cir.
8) $218,000 on S. Montana Cir.
9) $125,000 on W. Palomar Cir.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Nursing Homes In Hendry - Good and Bad?

Consumer Magazine Rates Local Nursing Homes

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- According to a recent report by Consumer Reports
on nursing homes around the country, two local facilities have been
noted in their ratings. LaBelle's Oakbrook of LaBelle, a
non-profit has been rated as one to consider for good quality care.
On the other hand, Clewiston's Grace Health Care, a for profit
corporation has been listed as one to avoid. The magazine rates
nursing homes as ones that are likely to provide quality care and
those who are likely to provide lower quality care based on state
inspection history. A full listing of Florida nursing homes is at:

Hendry Regional Hospital Lowest Cost Care In Area

Got Health Insurance? You May Need It

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- A recent study reveals that patients at the
Hendry Regional Hospital in Clewiston can expect to get medical care
at significantly less cost than other hospitals in the South Florida
region. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration says that
an average stay at most hospitals is four days. At Hendry Regional
that will cost the patient about $12,550. While at Charlotte Regional
in Punta Gorda a stay would cost $30,536. Other hospital cost
surveys show Lee Memorial at $19,178 and Lehigh Regional at $28,416
for the average stay. A survey of the costs at all hospitals within
50 miles of LaBelle is at

Political Rally In Glades Next Week

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA - Local and state candidates will be on hand to
speak and answer questions at Ortona Augest 15 at 6:30 p.m. The
primary is September 5th and includes two important items that will
be explained at the rally: one referendum is the one-cent sales tax
and the other is tax abatement for economic development. Refreshments
will be served. No rally is scheduled yet in Moore Haven however
Muse is hosting one August 17 and Buckhead Ridge August 31.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ahh! Snow Cones!

Remember the local drive-in movie theaters? Here's one of the intermission advertisements from around 1960. (Best seen with high speed internet connection.)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Montura Arson Suspects Arrested

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA (August 8, 2006) -- An investigation of a
suspicious fire by the Hendry County Sheriff's Office Criminal
Investigations Division has led to the arrest of two Montura
residents. According to Sheriff Ronnie Lee, Criminal Investigator
Tiffany Arnold responded to a call at 860 Romero Street in Montura.
Upon arrival She made contact with persons known to live in the
burning mobile home. During the interviews with the residents of the
mobile home information was revealed that the fire was not accidental.

Further investigation revealed that Rollin Lee LaFollette age 19 of
860 North Romero Street in Montura and Paula Elizabeth Ferrer age 23
of 435 North Datil Street in Montura had intentionally planned to
burn the mobile home. LaFollette and Ferrer were both arrested for
arson and booked into the Hendry County Jail. Bond for Ferrer was set
at $103,500 and $130,000 for LaFollette.

4H Dinner Raises Camp Funds

By Donna Storter Long

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA -- The annual 4H fundraiser dinner was held Saturday night August 5 at the Doyle Conner Building which was decorated in the theme �The Magic of the Orient.�  Over 300 in attendance, mostly young adults-many former 4H participants and all the cream of the crop of Glades County, enjoyed a steak dinner, followed by the excitement of the lottery drawing for cash prizes, and a dance.

Ms. Shelley Humphries' efforts this year helped send 45 kids to Camp Cloverleaf and according to University of Florida IFAS 4-H Coordinator Lane Jamison, Glades County excelled over other Florida counties in attendance at camp.

The list of famous 4H alumni includes Faith Hill, Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, Pat Nixon, Dolly Parton, Johnny Carson, and Johnny Cash, just to name a few. Locally our distinguished 4H citizen, an alumnus of Moore Haven High School, and participant as a youth in Glades County 4H, is Ms. Humphries, who honors the pledge and works very hard to fulfill the motto. 4-H parents, please be sure to show your appreciation to Shelley, because your children will become better citizens because of her efforts.

Traffic Safety Goal Of Glades Group

Public Is Invited To MonthlySafety Meetings

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA -- Every month, a group of local concerned citizens and officials meet and their goal is your safety in traffic. The Glades County Community Traffic Safety Team (CTST), headed by Chairman Dave McGee (Vice-Mayor of Moore Haven) meets on the first Thursday at 10 AM in the Moore Haven Library conference room along with representatives of Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the public is welcome.

Deputy Jeff Hill represents the office of Sheriff Whiddon, Road Sup’t Avant Brown represents Glades County, and Scott Bass leads the Glades County School Board’s traffic safety. Of particular concern is the safety of our children at school crossings. In the near future an exciting program being developed by the Team will kick off an incentive program for students…watch the report of next month’s meeting.

At the latest public meeting, Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sergeant and Team Vice-Chair/Secretary Kim Hill reported on expected receipt of $66,000 grant funding that will focus on alcohol related traffic issues with youth. She noted the program may be able to fund the S.I.D.N.E. (simulated driving impairment equipment) which has proven to be an excellent teaching tool. S.I.D.N.E. is a computerized battery-powered go cart for student drivers to teach them the effects of alcohol and drug impairment. Multi levels of “impairment” are programmed into the go-cart controls which cause delayed and erratic response and students learn first hand the results of a vehicle operating “under the influence”. Safety equipment is provided and the go-cart is at all times controlled by the computer operator.

Other issues discussed at the meeting were school bus safety, especially on SR78 west which has many sand trucks traveling the roads in early morning. Scott Bass has met with sand mine staff and felt the problem had been adequately addressed and bus drivers would be exercising extra caution in those areas.

The Team heard Ortona resident Donna Storter Long concerning the traffic hazard of the impaired view of SR 78 when approaching from Ortona Road when vehicles park on the state road right-of-way between the convenience store and the pavement. Debra Stallings, CTST program coordinator for FDOT and “Click It or Ticket” program coordinator Mr. Addison agreed to review the situation and possibly have delineation markers installed.

-contributed by Donna Storter Long

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Colony Helicopter Closes Shop

Million Dollars In Equipment Inventory Available

LABELLE, FLORIDA (August 5, 2006) -- After many years in agricultural
crop dusting services, Colony Helicopter put up all its equipment and
helicopters for sale at auction Saturday morning. Owner Bob Smith
says he's retiring and hired Bruce Scott Auctions to get rid of
mountains of old parts, and four helicopters. Several dozen
prospective buyers appeared at the Port LaBelle company's
headquarters early morning to look over the stuff available, and make
ready for the bidding to begin at 10 a.m.

Only a small percentage of the company's equipment assets actually
sold. The successful bidders ended up with mostly scrap metal parts
originally designed for helicopters, a 10 year old truck and car,
mowers, miscellaneous tanks and trailers, and the most expensive
item, sold at over $20,000, a turbine engine. A two-year old tractor
was not sold, as the auctioneer said a bid for more than $30,000
would be needed and none were forthcoming. The four helicopters,
none could legally be flown, one without rotor blades, and one
without an engine, were being auctioned off at minimum bids starting
around $120,000 each, or a bulk bid of three-quarters of a million
dollars was offered. There were no takers at those prices.

Bob Smith and Colony Helicopter got hit hard last year with
the passage of several hurricanes, and about the same time
discovered a long-time bookkeeper employee was allegedly helping
herself to the company checkbook, and arrested by the Hendry County
Sheriff's Department.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Zoning Ordinance Changes On Glades Commission Agenda

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA -- Lots of zoning amendment changes or use ordinances are being requested this week in Glades county.  A public hearing of the following requests will be before the Glades Commission Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the Glades County Courthouse.

A. Consider adopting an ordinance amending the Glades County Comprehensive Plan, Ordinance No. 91-1, as requested by James R. and Melody Sanders, Application No. COMP06-05 (Hilton)

B. Consider adopting an ordinance amending the Glades County Comprehensive Plan, Ordinance No. 91-1, as requested by Dopplerdave, Inc. / David Roberts, Application COMP 06-06 (Hilton)

C. Consider adopting an ordinance amending the Glades County Comprehensive Plan, Ordinance No. 91-1, as requested by James R. Kilpatrick, Application COMP 06-07 (Hilton)

D. Consider adopting ordinance amending the Glades County Comprehensive Plan, Ordinance No. 91-1, as requested by Smiley and Rebecca Hendry, Application COMP 06-08 (Hilton)

E. Consider adopting Ordinance amending the Glades County Land Development Regulations; Adding a new section to the Land Development Regulations regulating the parking and storage of commercial vehicles in residential areas; Amending Ordinance 2003-13 to revise the table of minimum standards for principal permitted uses in order to increase setbacks on certain collector and arterial roads, and to allow certain exceptions to height limits and revise lot coverage requirements; Amending Ordinance 2003-11, Definitions. (Hilton)

F. Consider adopting ordinance approving a change in zoning classification from Open Use Agriculture to Residential Single Family as requested by Robert Saporiti, Case No. R06-03 (Hilton)

G. Consider adopting ordinance approving a change in zoning classification from Residential General to ID-1 Zoning District as requested by Frank Pearce, Case No. R06-06. (Hilton) (Continued from July 11, 2006)

H. Consider adopting ordinance approving a change in zoning classification from Agriculture Residential to Residential General as requested by Louis Hunter, Case No. R06-07. (Hilton) (Continued from July 11, 2006)

I. Consider adopting ordinance approving a change in zoning classification from Agriculture Residential to Residential General as requested by J. S. Click, Case No. R06-08. (Hilton) (Continued from July 11, 2006)

J. Consider adopting ordinance approving a change in zoning classification from Open Use Agriculture to Agriculture Residential as requested by James Rodney and Melody Sanders, Case No. R06-09 (Hilton)

K. Consider adopting ordinance approving a change in zoning classification from Open Use Agriculture to Residential Single Family as requested by Doppler-Dave, Inc., Case No. R06-10 (Hilton)

L. Consider adopting ordinance approving a change in zoning classification from Open Use Agriculture to Residential General as requested by James R. Kilpatrick, Case No. R06-11 (Hilton)

M. Consider adopting ordinance approving a change in zoning classification from Commercial General to Residential Single Family as requested by John J. and Julia A. Clark, Case No. R06-12 (Hilton)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Home Sales In Port LaBelle

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- There were 8 real estate properties sold in the
LaBelle and Port LaBelle area from July 11 to July 25 for an average
price of $176,875. The sales were as follows: $425,000 on Ivan Blvd,
in North LaBelle, $32,000 on Rainbow Circle, $185,000 on School
Circle, $230,000 on Springview Circle in Laurel Oaks, $165,000 on N.
Edgewater Circle, $150,000 on S. Edgewater Circle, $189,000 on S.
Edgewater Circle, and $39,000 on W. Palomar Circle. New home sales
have come to an abrupt stop in recent weeks due to the home buyer's
perceived difference in pricing between existing homes and new models.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hendry Schools Get Tech Grant

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- The Technological Research and Development Authority (TRDA) and Hendry County Public Schools has been awarded a grant totaling $861,000 for the 2006-07 school year to enhance technology in all agricultural-related classrooms in Hendry County schools.

The grant, awarded by the Florida Department of Education, will be used to provide new equipment at Clewiston and LaBelle high schools, including laptop computers, digital cameras, weather-monitoring devices, digital microscopes and GPS/GIS mapping systems.

Hendry Country is a rural, agricultural community in which many students pursue careers in the agricultural industry. These new resources will play a vital role in school projects involving agricultural research, data collection, experiments and testing.  The TRDA Endeavour Academy partnered with Hendry County schools in requesting the grant and was one of 11 organizations to receive funding out of 43 applicants.

Launched in 1987, the TRDA is an agency of the state of Florida that leverages federal, state and private resources to develop and implement technology-based programs in four target areas:  education, business incubation, energy and technology transfer.  Since its inception, the TRDA has leveraged tens of millions of dollars in funding to support its education and economic development programs.  By infusing new technology into businesses and schools, the TRDA helps to strengthen the economy and education throughout the state and nation.