Saturday, March 31, 2007

What They Don't Tell You - Jury Pools

LABELLE, FL. -- About once a month the Hendry Clerk's Office summons about 450 citizens to appear for jury duty. About sixty actually show up. Although the official summons mailed to names drawn from county driver's license records requires an appearance, only about one person in seven actually appears at the Courthouse. This Friday only 20 persons showed from about 150 summoned by the Clerk.

The clerk's office says this is typical, and they have no explanation for why so few show up. They also indicate those absent are not contacted to find out a reason. Technically, anyone not showing up as requested could be called before the judge to explain and face possible sanctions. This is a very unlikely scenario as it turns out. Nothing is done to those who ignore the summons. Those not showing up for jury duty do face being called upon every few months to serve though. But presumably, those people who ignored the first summons ignore any others as well.

Once a possible juror shows up though, they are not recalled for another year. And most usually cases are settled at the last minute by the parties. The juror pool is then excused and sent home without having done anything except show up at the courthouse for an hour.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

School Teachers Eligible For Bonus Pay

LABELLE, FL. -– Governor Charlie Crist has signed Senate Bill 1226 that will create the Merit Award Program for public school teachers, providing five-percent to 10-percent performance bonuses to the state’s best educators.

"I applaud the Legislature for recognizing that teachers are the cornerstone to the academic success of Florida’s children and for investing in our schools and our children’s future," Governor Crist said. "While this legislation is a great first step toward rewarding teachers and providing them the incentive to remain in the classroom, I also encourage the Legislature to fully fund the program so that the top 25 percent of our teachers receive a full 10-percent bonus."

The legislation recognizes the important contributions that principals, librarians, reading and math coaches, guidance counselors, psychologists, and social workers make to school-wide student achievement by also rewarding them with performance bonuses. Charter schools can adopt the district’s plan or develop their own.

Salary bonuses will be based on a percentage of each district's average teacher salary. Eligibility is based on a formula that includes both student academic achievement and the principal's evaluation of teacher performance – at least 60 percent relating to student achievement based on a variety of tests, and up to 40 percent relating to teacher performance. For principals, the superintendent’s evaluation will be used.

"Florida’s school districts must compete with districts across the nation to attract the most qualified teachers," Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp said. "This bill gives Florida’s districts a powerful recruiting tool to attract and retain teachers."

With the signing of this bill, last year’s Special Teachers Are Rewarded (STAR) Program is repealed; however, districts that submit STAR plans to the State Board of Education before May 1, 2007, and whose plans are approved, are eligible for funding. In addition, funding is available for district programs that meet requirements for the new Merit Award Program and for locally-adopted district merit award plans. These districts will receive funding equal to their expenditures for merit bonuses in 2005-06.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

S.W.A.T. Team Arrests Man In Pioneer

LABELLE, FL. -- On March 25, 2007 at 8:54 p.m., Deputies Orlando Torres and Brett Daley, of the Hendry County Sheriff's Office, were dispatched to 4505 16th Street in Pioneer regarding a disturbance involving firearms. Deputies had responded to this location earlier in the day regarding a dispute between two neighbors. Investigation revealed that Steven Charles Conner age 35, had allegedly been firing a gun in the direction of an occupied residence.

While Deputies were interviewing a witness, they heard several gunshots coming from Conner's residence and striking trees within approximately 20 yards of where they were standing. Deputy Rick Perian arrived to assist and as he approached the area, several more shots were heard coming from Conner's residence. Sheriff Ronnie Lee arrived on the scene and several more shots were fired from Conner's residence. Sheriff Lee and the Deputies took cover in a ditch and
attempted to contact Conner by phone several times, however, no one would answer.

At approximately 11:30 p.m., after receiving no response from within the residence, Sheriff Lee requested assistance from Lee County. The Lee County Sheriff's Office S.W.A.T. team, along with a negotiator, arrived and after a short time was able to convince Conner to exit the house and surrender. Conner was arrested and charged with Improper Exhibit of a Firearm, Firing a Weapon Or Missile into A Dwelling, and Obstructing a Law Enforcement Officer.

Jail Prisoner Escapes - Turns Self In

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Fransisco G. Camejo, age 26 of 133 Bald Cypress Avenue Clewiston, Florida, was in custody Tuesday at the Hendry County Sheriff's Office at the Clewiston Sub-Station awaiting transport to the County Jail in LaBelle. At approximately 3:30 p.m. he requested to use the rest room and when allowed to exit the holding cell, he ran out the back door of the Sub-Station and fled.

He turned himself in to the Broward County Sheriff's Office Thursday. He was being held for Violation of Probation for the offense of D.U.I. He is now being charged with Escape with no bond.

LaBelle Area Land For Sale - Lowest Prices


Private owner is selling four Hendry county lots at rock bottom prices. Convenient locations in Hendry county. Vacant lots includes three Port LaBelle quarter-acre lots and a half-acre lot south of LaBelle on State Road 29. Offers will be accepted at prices lower than any other comparable area lot.

Click on any marker on the map above to see details, and links to more information. Use the controls on the left side of the map to zoom or scroll map in any direction.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Man Arrested After Helicopter Chase

CLEWISTON, FL. -- At approximately 12:45 p.m., March 26, 2007, the Hendry County Sheriffs Office received a request from Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office for assistance.  A Palm Beach County Sheriff's Helicopter had followed a stolen vehicle into Hendry County to the 1100 block of the Harlem Gardens area.  The Helicopter pilot observed the driver abandon the vehicle and enter a mobile home on Virginia Avenue.  Shortly thereafter, the same person exited the dwelling, wearing a different shirt, and rode away on a bicycle.

Corporal Juan Soto, of the Hendry County Sheriff's Office, apprehended the suspect on Mississippi Avenue.  Further investigation by Corporal Soto revealed that the suspect had broken into the mobile home and stolen the shirt and bicycle.  According to Sheriff Ronnie Lee, Feloice Rivers, age 20 of 51 Bethune Street Belle Glade, Florida, was charged with Criminal Mischief, Burglary of a Dwelling, and First Degree Larceny.  Palm Beach County Deputies will also be filing charges for Fleeing to Elude and Grand Theft Auto. Rivers remains in the Hendry County Jail under a $23,500.00 bond.

Arrest Made During Church Robbery

LABELLE, FL. -- A church located at 300 Davis Street in LaBelle was burglarized shortly after 10:00 p.m. on March 25. Hendry County Deputies responded and observed a man inside the church retrieving money from behind the podium. Deputies Brett Daley and Orlando Torres entered the church and arrested 30-year-old Alejandro Hernandez. Sheriff Ronnie Lee said the Deputies retrieved $154.00 from Hernandez, which was returned to the church minister. Hernandez was charged with Burglary and Larceny. He remains in the county jail under $22,500.00 bond.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Free Dinner Invitation May Cost Thousands

Out-Of-State Company Offering Free Flora and Ella Dinners

LABELLE, FL. -- Area homeowners have received a postcard invitation to a free dinner at Flora and Ella's Restaurant in LaBelle with a statement "There's nothing to buy..." In a promise to reduce your utility bills up to 55% with "no gimmicks, no pressure" we suspect many will be enticed to call the toll-free number to RSVP. The clue to what's going on is this offer is open only "for homeowner couples and first time guests. Couples need to attend the dinner and demonstration together." This is a sales presentation.

We checked out the company providing this "free dinner" offer and checked with the Better Business Bureau. It's revealing. Utility Management Association, a limited liability corporation, is based in Tupelo, Mississippi where it started in 1978. The BBB opened a file on the business owned by Gary Light in October of 2003 after numerous consumer complaints. On November 17, 2006 the company's membership in the BBB was revoked by the BBB's Board of Directors due to unauthorized use of the BBB name and/or logo.

The company sells a product called "Utility Shield" which customers have described as a thin aluminum-type reflective sheeting that is installed over your attic insulation which the company claims will result in energy savings. The company also sells water heater insulation and water saving shower heads.

Consumers have reported that their utility bills have risen or remained the same since the Utility Shield product was installed. Notwithstanding a "guarantee" offered by the company, customers say they did not receive a copy of the guarantee when purchasing the product. The BBB has received complaints about the company's selling practices, advertising, service, repairs, and warranty issues. The company says the number of complaints is small compared to the number of units sold, but has refused to provide the total number of units sold.

The BBB says company representatives have given "unqualified claims that the product will decrease energy consumption in a home by 25% or more." The BBB was unable to substantiate any energy savings. At the time, the company was advertising on its postcards to prospects "We can reduce your monthly energy bills by 20-50% Guaranteed!" The BBB challenged the usage of promises of "guaranteed" energy savings. Now the company has been advertising "up to 55% guaranteed."

Ironically, the company told the BBB in response to the complaints against them that "it does not guarantee specific results, and that any incidents involving promises of specific savings occurred as a result of errors, or independent action by sales representatives." Energy experts say that any energy savings are highly dependent on many variables because all homes are unique, for instance most older homes have openings where heat or cold air can pass through regardless of what insulation or reflective materials might be installed in attics. Newer homes are generally constructed as energy efficient as possible already.

The Florida Solar Energy Center has an extensive article on attic radiant heat barrier reflection systems for Florida homes and says any savings on energy bills will depend on the energy efficiency of your home now, bearing in mind that any possible savings on electric cooling costs may amount to about 10% as a roof is not the only location heat enters the home. The Center also points out that the cost of the reflective barrier including installation costs should be around $2 per foot to make it economically feasible to install a system like this. The aluminum reflecting type must be installed under the roof rafters and not on top of the attic insulation. The shiny side is installed facing down. If you pay too much, your payback time may be very long, stretching over many, many years.

In December 2006 the company signed an agreement with the BBB to cease use of the BBB name and other unauthorized statements in sales representations.

The bottom line: enjoy your "free" dinner but be very cautious about any claims made by this company's representatives.

Florida Solar Energy Center Report

Update May 2011: Due to the number of comments received to this 2007 story and in consultation with the company, it is requested readers make no comments here online however, please feel free to email the editor directly of your experiences and comments, so that any possible updates may be made to this story. - Editor

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Hendry-Glades Counties Not Too Healthy Says Report

Affordable Health Care Not Found Here?

LABELLE, FL. -- A new web site that compiles Florida county health statistics indicates that residents of Hendry and Glades county are among the most unhealthy people in Florida in most categories measured. Especially prevalent in a long list of health related problem areas where residents have much higher problems than statewide are diabetes, asthma, high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke, heart failure, cervical and prostate cancers, tuberculosis, clamydia, high teen birth rates, unintentional accident death, vehicle death, homicide, domestic violence, smoking and obesity. Over one-third of area individuals smoke, and a third are obese with a body mass index of more than 30. Eating healthy also appears as an indicator of problem health with more than 80% eating less than five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Although health statistics are not compiled each year by all counties, this site does give the latest numbers and is a good indication of the state of health in Hendry and Glades county. Some of the information from the Glades county page seems to indicate better numbers than Hendry county, but we suspect it is only because the small reportable numbers of health statistics in rural Glades county slewed the results to favor "healthier" appearing results. The Hendry-Glades Health Department, a state agency, does its best to provide many services to address some of the concerns noted in the health survey but has limited resources to deal with the complexity of the issues in the area. The Health Department does have several times a year free health screenings open to all area residents, one for women and one for men. Continuing services are available for pre-natal care, HIV-AIDS prevention and treatment, and other health screenings and prevention health areas.

Non-profit Family Health Centers, Inc operate dental and medical clinics here but are priced out of reach of many residents especially dental care. Service fees are hard to determine as rates are based on a somewhat "secret" sliding income scale. It appears that the maximum discount in the dental clinic is about 30% but even so matches other provider's fees in the area. Some clinic services are priced about the same or more than for-profit providers. Health Center's administrative offices have not returned several calls from the Sunday Morning News. Several for-profit professional dental and medical offices are also available in LaBelle and Clewiston, although getting a timely appointment is often a challenge. Professional services are more meager in Moore Haven.

Hendry and Glades county are among the poorest counties in Florida with the highest unemployment with about a quarter of the population living under the poverty level. Almost half of the population over 25 has no high school education and about one in twelve people are "linguistically isolated" referring to non-English speakers. 42% have no health insurance and only 54% have seen a dentist in the last year. Physicians are lacking, with only one-eighth the amount here per 100,000 residents compared to state-wide, one-quarter the amount of dentists, and one-third the amount of hospital beds compared to statewide numbers.

Full Hendry County Report Available Here

Full Glades County Report Available Here

Thursday, March 22, 2007

LaBelle Home Sales

LABELLE, FL. -- From March 6 to March 20, there were five homes sold
in the LaBelle area for an average price of $158,800. Two were in the
city of LaBelle, on 5th Avenue and South Davis Street, and the
remaining three in Port LaBelle's Eucalyptus Village and Country
Village's townhome section. The sales were:

1) $225,000 on 5th Ave
2) $115,000 on Rainbow Cir
3) $108,000 on Rockaway Ln
4) $159,000 on School Cir
5) $187,000 on S Davis St

Ave Maria University Provost Fired

Comments On Homosexuality In Unborn Babies The Cause Of Dismissal?

IMMOKALEE, FL. -- Joseph Fessio has been asked to step down Wednesday as provost of Ave Maria University and to leave the campus immediately. The 66-year old Catholic Jesuit priest, who once studied under the current Pope Benedict, has been involved in the University since its inception.

The University is saying Fessio was asked to step down as a result of "irreconcilable difference over administrative policies and practices." Father Fessio says he doesn't know why he was asked to leave and disputes any differences over administrative policies he may have had with University officials.

Fessio is the editor of Ignatius Press, an ultra conservative Catholic publishing house in San Francisco founded by Fessio in 1978. Ave Maria University is funded mainly by multi-millionaire Thomas S. Monaghan, the founder of Domino Pizza. Monaghan's vision is to create an ultra right-wing Catholic University.

This is not the first disagreement Fessio may have had with superiors. According to a story published in the California Daily News, in 2002 Fessio was moved from a position at the University of San Franciso's Saint Ignatius Institute which he founded, to the Santa Teresita Hospital in Duarte where he was assigned to work as a chaplain in what was reported as a "punitive" move ordered by his Jesuit superior. Prior to the move, Fessio founded the now defunct Campion College in San Francisco. His superior ordered him to cease all ties to the College and moved him to the hospital chaplaincy work.

Fessio's comments on homosexuality may have put him in hot water here after they were published on a Christian website this month and also in the California Catholic Daily where Fessio says there's a possibility that a biological basis for homosexuality may be found. He reportedly is saying that if a tendency to homosexuality is detected early in an unborn baby's life, there may be possible "treatments" found to change their sexual orientation. He said, "Same-sex activity is considered disordered...If there are ways of detecting diseases or disorders of children in the womb, and a way of treating them that respected the dignity of the child and mother, it would be a wonderful advancement of science." Most conservative Christian groups say homosexuality is a behavior "choice" and not a result of biology.

Most likely, this attitude might conflict with the views of University founder Monaghan. Some critics of the Monaghan administration say the religious teachings are akin to a religious cult, and that faculty members regret working there in fear of the volatile atmosphere under the heavy-handed rule of Monaghan.

For more information on Monaghan's conservative Catholicism: Tom Monaghan and Ave Maria University

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Your Insurance Being Cancelled?

Insurance Company Record Profits Are Set To Be Adjusted

LABELLE, FL.  -- Homeowners and all other property insurance buyers in Florida are finding surprises in their mailboxes this week as more and more insurance policies are being "non-renewed" or cancelled. Allstate began sending out thousands of notices locally amending their non-renewal dates.  At the end of last year, Allstate sent out notices notifying customers that their home insurance would not be renewed, but Florida lawmakers and the Governor changed that by putting a moratorium in effect that prevented insurance companies from such acts.

The new regulations say the companies had to file with the state by March 15 in order to have new rates in effect as of June 1 and to give customers 100 days notice of any non-renewal. Thus, the reason for Allstate and others now sending out their non-renewal notices to customers which gives an extension of coverage until about the end of June.

Florida's Financial Services Commission of the Office of Insurance Regulations put out this month a report outlining the recent insurance crisis and how the state is dealing with the issues to force the insurance companies to be more fair to customers in rating risk and insurance policy premium charges.

Companies Made Record Profits

According to the new report "the industry has engaged in a corporate strategy of reducing risk and raising premiums for residential property...This has allowed the industry to achieve record profits despite the recent hurricane activity." In 2004 the industry set a "record by netting an after tax profit of $40.5 billion. In 2005 even after major hurricanes, "the industry posted a profit of $48.8 billion -- a new record." In 2006 with no major hurricanes coupled with premium increases the industry set yet another profit record, "estimated to be $68.1 billion."  The report says this "equates to $524 for every man, woman and child living in the United States, or $1,574 per household." The loss ratio that companies paid out nationwide in claims from 1996 to 2006 was only 64.7% of the money collected in premiums. In Florida, the paid out rate was substantially the same, only 66.5%

Crisis Created By Insurance Companies

The report says the current insurance crisis in not a result of insufficient premiums or a collapsing marketplace but "has been created by the actions of the insurance companies which have coupled rate increases with reduced availability."

The report summarizes the amounts that companies must reduce rates for customers for the hurricane insurance coverage portion of Florida's insurance policies. Hurricane coverage is about 50% of the total premium in recent policies. The amounts vary from zip code to zip code, but generally the report found companies writing policies along the coast were overcharging and have mandated reductions as much as 53% in hurricane coverage premiums. Statewide the average is 24%. In Glades and Hendry county the reduction is about 21%.

The Commission found that "reinsurance" that U.S. companies bought from off-shore insurance companies was making up about 40% of the average policy premium and now the state has made new rules to make this cost become lower for insurance companies who are to pass the savings to customers. The state will offer companies "reinsurance" through the state at much lower costs. The new rate filings the companies had to make to the state this month must include the savings companies will make even if they do not purchase the insurance from the state.

The bottom line: customers should see some rate reductions in the hurricane coverage of insurance policies for any policy written beginning June 1.

For the complete document:  Financial Services Commission Report

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Port LaBelle Gets Citizens On Patrol Program

PORT LABELLE, FL. -- On Monday, March 19th, the Glades County Port LaBelle C.O.P. (Citizens On Patrol) Program began, with the purpose of enhancing the quality of life and safety of the residents of the Port LaBelle Ranchettes community.

Chief Deputy Dwayne Pottorff of the Glades County Sheriff's Department spoke to the 16 community residents who attended the informational session and the presentation and demonstration of the C.O.P. patrol car to the community.

Roger Saunders, a Ranchettes resident, was instrumental in implementing this program. His efforts and organization of the volunteer residents is greatly appreciated by the residents of the community. Mr. Saunders is the citizen captain of the program. Ken Fuller (of nearby Port LaBelle Unit 102) was named second-in-command. Don Munch Jr. (the current Ranchettes POA secretary), was named secretary of the new C.O.P. program.

The inaugural patrol was made later that evening by Roger Saunders, Bill Dunbar, and Don Munch Jr.

Residents of the Port LaBelle Ranchettes, Unit 102, and the Port LaBelle Villas and Condominiums are all encouraged to be a part of this important program, to help make our community safer. Please call Roger Saunders at 863-675-6288 if interested.

Pet Food Recall Confuses Many

LABELLE, FL. --  A major recall of pet foods has many confused, as nearly one hundred manufactures scramble to take pet food items off the shelves nationwide.  Fifty-one dog food brands and forty-two cat foods are being recalled by the Canadian firm called Menu Foods Income Fund. The products being recalled are "wet" foods ­ those that include soft food and gravy in cans and pouches.

Although officials are not exactly sure why the foods are killing pets and causing kidney failures in cats and dogs, they suspect it may be from contaminated wheat gluten used as a filler in the pet foods.  The recall includes product names from the most expensive to store brands, all who get their products from Menu Foods Income Fund.

Veterinarians say canned food, although more expensive than dry food, has no real advantage for pets. People do fall for the advertising however, and like canned food because it looks more like human food.  Vets actually recommend dry food for pets because the crunching and chewing strengthens and cleans pets' teeth.

For specific information about your pet's food brand see the Recall Web Site  or call 1-866-895-2708. Be warned that the website is fairly confusing and leads most users in circles and through many steps, referring them to the brand names' websites.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Early Tax Filers Not Getting Phone Refunds

LABELLE, FL. -- The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) is encouraging
taxpayers to take advantage of a one-time-only telephone tax refund. This tax season, most taxpayers will easily qualify for a standard telephone excise tax refund, ranging from $30 to $60. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reports
more than 30% of early filers in Florida have not requested the refund, including many people using tax preparers.

The federal government stopped collecting the long-distance excise tax last August after several federal court decisions ruled the tax does not apply to long-distance service as it is billed today. Federal officials authorized a one-time refund of the federal excise tax collected on service billed during the previous 41 months, stretching from the beginning of March 2003 to the end of July 2006. The tax continues to apply to local-only phone service.

To make the refund easier to figure, the federal government established a standard refund amount, based on personal exemptions, ranging from $30 to $60. If taxpayers have phone bills and other records, they can request the actual amount of excise tax paid. Taxpayers only have to fill out one line on their return, and they don't need to present proof to the IRS.

Why A Teacher Shortage?

Teachers Dissatisfied With Administration, Students, and Parents

Approximately 10% (14,700) of Florida's public school teachers left their positions last year, contributing to the state's teacher shortage. Teachers who responded to
a survey by the Florida Legislature's Office of Program Policy and Government Accountability say they left their positions for a variety of reasons.

Thirty percent left because they were dissatisfied with work conditions and another 11% wanted to pursue other career opportunities. The main sources of dissatisfaction leading to attrition were school governance, student behavior and parental support, and career opportunities.

Both current and former teachers expressed dissatisfaction with their compensation, and those with advanced degrees or earning lower salaries were most likely to leave. The program office says to address these factors, the Florida Legislature could expand and revise school leadership professional development initiatives, develop a career ladder system for teachers, and require additional behavior management education for teachers.

Hendry and Glades county, in most all years have a shortage of qualified teachers and are forced to hire teachers for classrooms assignments for which they are not licensed. The teachers are supposed to be hired temporarily and "agree" to take additional courses in order to qualify to teach the subject that is out of their area of expertise.

Florida's Condemned Likely To Die Naturally

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida's condemned inmates are almost as likely to die in
prison from natural causes as they are to be executed. Thirty-four inmates have been executed since 1993, and 29 have died in prison, mostly from natural causes,according to a new report by the Sarasota Herald Tribune newspaper. Prison officials were unable to provide detailed statistics before 1993.

If the current average of two executions a year continues, it will take about 187
years to execute the 374 men and women currently on death row in Florida. By comparison, Texas averaged two executions a month in 2006 and has executed six inmates so far this year.

Some legal experts said the number of Florida prisoners awaiting execution points to flaws in the state's system. Florida is the only one of the nation's 38 death penalty states that doesn't require a jury to unanimously agree on a death sentence. Judges make the final sentencing determination, but are required to give great weight to a jury's wishes. Since a simple majority vote of a jury is all that's needed for a death sentence, experts say it may be too easy for a convicted person to end up on death row instead of serving a life sentence.

Florida's lethal injection process just underwent scrutiny after a botched execution last year, also contributing somewhat to a backup in executions.

What In The GoogleMap Is This?

LABELLE, FL. -- For you fans of Google maps: Here's an interesting new development that Google has made a possibility on their well-known Google map pages. Not yet available for the entire globe or even an entire continent yet, but here's a link to an extreme close-up that is possible for Google's mappers to place on the internet for all to see.

Although most people think of the Google maps as "satellite" photos, in fact they are really aerial photographs made by aircraft flying overhead at several thousand feet or so. The lower you fly the aircraft the better quality the Google maps are. In the case of the link here, the aircraft was flying about 500 feet above the ground. 

What do you think is in this photo, and where was it taken?  Look for a Google plane flying low above your house sometime soon?

Mystery Google Map Photo

Local Festivals And Fairs

LABELLE, FL. -- Here's a listing of area festivals in our area you may want to visit:

• March 17 – 55th Annual Mobile 1 - 12 Hours of Sebring Auto Race,
Sebring International Raceway. 863-655-1442

• March 17 – Glades Festival of Afro Arts. Barbara Spence @ 863-966-0100

• March 17-24 - Hendry County Fair - Clewiston

• March 23-24 – Avon Park 28th Annual Springtime on the Mall. 863-453-3350

• March 24 – Arcadia Antique Fair

• March 24 – Sebring Bikefest, Downtown Sebring on the Circle, 4 pm-9 pm

• March 23-24 – Highlands County Quilt Guild Quilt Show, Ag Civic Center

• March 31 – Orchid Society Show, Sebring Ag Civic Center

• March 30-April 1 – Hendry & Glades Big O Birding Festival, birding
tours, lectures, arts and crafts, etc.

• 4-H Horse Show, Sebring Ag Civic Center. Call for more information,

Friday, March 16, 2007

Judge Sloan To Speak To Christian Men

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Judge James Sloan will be the special speaker at this month's "The Gathering of Christian Men" on Monday March 19th at 7 p.m. at the Townsend Agricultural Center in LaBelle.

Mr. Sloan is a long-time local member of the judiciary and a lay minister for the United Methodist Church in LaBelle. Sloan serves the local community in many ways including directing LaBelle youth sports activities. He has been a member of the bar for 25 1/2 years and a judge for almost 15. He is a native Floridian, married to Kathy (25 years this September) and has 3 children. His church membership is with Carlson Memorial United Methodist Church where He currently serves as the Chairman of the Administrative Board.

His topic for the meeting will be "When Good Men Do Nothing."

The Community Christian Mens group meets at the Dallas Townsend building agricultural center off Cowboy way. A dinner is provided by Freedom Fellowship for all that attend. And a free will offering will be received. Every man is welcome to attend this community gathering. Contact Dave Alexander 1-239-340-1575 for more information.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Child Abuse Arrest Made In Clewiston

CLEWISTON, FL. -- A Clewiston man has been charged with various criminal charges including child abuse. On Saturday, March 10, 2007, the Hendry County Sheriff's Office was notified of a possible child abuse involving a two month old infant that was being treated for injuries at the Hendry Regional Hospital.

Hendry County Sheriff's Investigator Tiffany Arnold conducted an investigation and determined the baby had multiple injuries including scratches on his face, bruising on the top of his head, a bruised lip, and a broken arm. Due to the severity of the injuries, the baby was transported to Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers.

Sheriff Ronnie Lee said the father, Edwardo Luis Casas, age 30 of 1239 Hookers Point Road Clewiston, has been charged with Aggravated Child Abuse,Domestic Violence, and Violation of Probation. Casas remains inthe Hendry County jail with no bond.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Welfare State Growing In Florida?

LABELLE, FL. -- The welfare state is bigger than ever despite a decade of policies designed to wean poor people from public aid. According to a recent story in the Tallahassee Democrat, the number of families receiving cash benefits from welfare has plummeted since the government imposed time limits on the payments a decade ago. But other programs for the poor, including Medicaid, food stamps and disability benefits, are bursting with new enrollees.

The result: nearly one in six people rely on some form of public assistance, a larger share than at any time since the government started measuring two decades ago. Critics of the welfare overhaul say the numbers offer fresh evidence that few former recipients have become self-sufficient, even though millions have moved from welfare to work. They say the vast majority have been forced into low-paying jobs without benefits and few opportunities to advance.

Proponents of the changes in welfare say programs that once discouraged work now offer support to people in low-paying jobs. They point to expanded eligibility rules for food stamps and Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor, that enable people to keep getting benefits even after they start working.

In rural counties like Hendry and Glades, despite the government programs available for public assistance, getting any employment at all is still an obstacle for many. Hendry and Glades county, traditionally have the highest unemployment rates in Florida, usually about three times higher than the Florida average.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

50 Years In Prison For Sex Offender

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- A former Glades County resident will spend the next 50 years in federal prison without any chance of parole.

Michael Tyler was sentenced this week after earlier pleading guilty to having sex with his adopted son and videotaping it. Last October he entered a plea agreement with federal prosecutors for three of six pornography charges. Secret Service agents raided Tyler's Glades county home and found CDs with hundreds of pictures of underage boys engaged is sex and pornographic movies.

Help Measure Light Pollution

LABELLE, FL. -- Join thousands of other students, families and citizen-scientists hunting for stars during March 8 - 21, 2007. Take part in this international event to observe the nighttime sky and learn more about light pollution around the world.

A team of astronomers and environmental scientists wants you to count some stars this month as part of the GLOBE at Night project, an effort to gauge the extent of light pollution worldwide. The task is simple: determine how many of Orion's stars can be seen on clear, moonless evenings from your home or observing site, then report your findings to project's website.

Areas around Hendry and Glades county are rather low in light pollution. Areas in Port LaBelle and rural areas outside the street light and park light polluted areas of Moore Haven, LaBelle, and Clewiston have traditionally been great areas for amateur star-gazers to see what most city dwellers never see...millions and millions of stars overhead on clear sky nights. Take a look at the links below to enter your observations and see a satellite map of just how much night light pollution there is in South Florida by area.

Conceived by staffers at the National Optical Astronomy Observatories in Tucson, Arizona, this ambitious endeavor is managed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and Colorado State University. GLOBE stands for Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, a program to involve primary-and secondary-school students in scientific activities worldwide.

Globe At Night Webpage

Launch ArcExplorer Web Map

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Upgrading Computer To Vista?

Federal Agencies Banning Upgrade

LABELLE, FL. -- Thinking about an upgrade to your computer using the new Microsoft Vista operating system?  Citing concerns about system compatibility and costs to upgrade, the federal Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration have banned any upgrades to its government owned computers. The agencies' computer users are also banned from upgrading to Office 2007 and Internet Explorer 7.

The agencies have put an indefinite moratorium on upgrades because "there appears to be no compelling technical or business case for upgrading," according to the Department of Transportation's chief information officer Daniel Mintz.  The government is concerned with compatibility with software, and upgrade costs. The two agencies have 60,000 desktop computers.

Experts say that if you are considering the upgrade purchase you make sure all hardware is Vista-compatible, when possible purchase it pre-installed by buying a new computer, verify that all your needed applications work in Vista, check that you have all Vista-compatible drivers for hardware components, and expect to need lots of support for the transition.

Our advice: If your current computer is running well, and your application software is serving you adequately, stick with what you have. You will save hours in learning new programs, and save hundreds of dollars.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Insurance Being Canceled?

Allstate Insurance Cancellations Affecting Thousands

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Allstate Insurance's subsidiaries have cancelled tens of thousands of homeowner insurance policies in Florida, including a lot of Hendry and Glades county residents. Agents are now attempting to substitute a new company to replace Allstate, a company called Royal Palm. Many homeowners are being surprised to find the new policy premium cost is now three to four times what Allstate policies were last year.

New state insurance rules voted on by the legislature are politician's attempts to help keep insurance rates down...but be careful, as your agent is most likely not going to bend over backwards to explain anything to you. Their goal in most cases, is to sell you the most insurance they can, at the highest rates allowed.

One new rule you're not going to hear from them is that Allstate or any other company can not cancel your policy until they file appropriate papers with the State Insurance Commissioner. Allstate has not yet filed, although one agent claims they are to file next week. After the company files they have agreed to give all customers written notice that the policy will expire in 100 days. Agent we have spoken to don't tell customers this, they are just selling newer policies to customers. Although Allstate has already told customers they will be cancelled in mid-April and agents are telling customers this, it isn't true. Allstate and other must continue the policies until after the new notice is given.

Because of the new rules enacted in late January, homeowners have been asking "How much will my insurance premiums go down?" after the Florida legislature passed new insurance rules. With much hoopla and bravado, the Governor and state politicians raved on how great the new law would be to save Floridians money on home insurance.

Unfortunately, the politicians are not telling the whole story. Chances are the average homeowner will not save any money on insurance. The new law basically allows homeowners to elect higher deductibles and to waive windstorm coverage. However, for those who wish to increase their risk while saving a few dollars, many hoops have to be passed, including getting permission from your mortgage company.

Other reasons for why any immediate savings are not going to happen are included in the 176 pages of new rules as published by the state legislature. The lawyers, legislators, and lobbyists who had a hand in writing this, included a dizzying display of differing dates as to when the many parts of the new laws go into effect, March 1, April 1, August 1, etc. It will take many months for industry lawyers to figure out exactly what is supposed to happen in respect to the new regulations for insurance companies.

In summary, don't expect to save any money on your home insurance unless you are willing, and have permission from your mortgage company, to take on more risk in the form of higher deductibles or eliminating windstorm damage coverage. And don't let your agent tell you your insurance is not being renewed unless your company has actually filed with the state and gives you 100 days notice. Once again citizens flim-flammed by the insurance industry and politicians?

Real Estate Sales In LaBelle

LABELLE, FL.-- In the last two weeks of February, there were 12 homes
sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $244,000. The sales were:

1) $105,000 on 2nd Ave
2) $139,000 on El Rio Grande Dr
3) $300,000 on Fort Simmons Ave
4) $67,000 on Iris Cir
5) $425,000 on Ivan Blvd
6) $235,000 on Marsh Cir
7) $223,000 on Pinetree Cir
8) $127,000 on Riverbend Dr
9) $515,000 on Shell Ln
10) $150,000 on N Edgewater Cir
11) $425,000 on N Main St
12) $217,000 on W Briarwood Cir

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Area Festivals Coming Up

LABELLE, FL. -- Here's a listing of area festivals in our area you
may want to visit:

• Feb. 28-March 4 – Pioneer Days, Zolfo Springs

• March 2-3 – Chalo Nitka Ranch Rodeo, Moore Haven

• March 3 – Hardee Farmer's Market, Wauchula

• March 3 – Hardee Flea Market, Bowling Green

• March 2-4 – Chalo Nitka Festival, Glades County

• March 2-3 – Main Street Top-Of-The-Lake BBQ, Downtown Okeechobee.

• March 9-11 – Arcadia's All Florida Championship Rodeo

• March 9-18 – Okeechobee County Fair, Okeechobee County Agri-Civic
Center. 863-763-3959 or 800-871-4403

• March 10-11 – Okeechobee Speckled Perch Festival/Parade/PRCA Rodeo.

• March 10 – Arcadia Collectibles' Market

• March 10 – The Sebring Cruise, Downtown Sebring on the Circle, 6 pm-?

• March 10 – Highlands Antique Fair, Poor Richard's Antique Mall, Lake Placid

• March 14-17 – 55th Annual Mobile 1 - 12 Hours of Sebring Auto Race,
Sebring International Raceway. 863-655-1442

• March 16 – Music in the Park, Wauchula

• March 17 – Glades Festival of Afro Arts. Barbara Spence @ 863-966-0100

• March 23-24 – Avon Park 28th Annual Springtime on the Mall. 863-453-3350

• March 24 – Arcadia Antique Fair

• March 24 – Sebring Bikefest, Downtown Sebring on the Circle, 4 pm-9 pm

• March 23-24 – Highlands County Quilt Guild Quilt Show, Ag Civic Center

• March 31 – Orchid Society Show, Sebring Ag Civic Center

• March 30-April 1 – Hendry & Glades Big O Birding Festival, birding
tours, lectures, arts and crafts, etc.

• 4-H Horse Show, Sebring Ag Civic Center. Call for more information,