Saturday, September 29, 2007

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Local News In Spanish Language And 10 Others

Now Read The Sunday Morning News In Your Favorite Language

LABELLE, FL. -- A beta version of the Sunday Morning News blog is now available in Spanish and 10 other languages.  Microsoft is trying out a new online translation service that will allow webpages to be read in 11 different languages. Click on any of the links here to see it in Spanish.

Now read your local news in Spanish, or use the translations boxes on the page to choose which language you prefer. Save the page to your bookmarks if you want to come back to the Spanish version at any later time.

Friday, September 28, 2007

News Now Available In Government Offices

Southwest Florida Online - Accessible At Hendry County Offices

LABELLE, FL. -- Thanks to requests from employees at Hendry county government offices, the Sunday Morning News and Southwest Florida Online is available again on county government office computers. Employee can now keep up to date with local news and information that may affect their departments, as well as keep track of news releases of their departments when posted online with the Sunday Morning News.

Employees are often blocked from accessing some websites on county office computers, and we were on the list of blocked sites for some time. The county's Michael Miller said access to the Hendry county news and information pages was restored on September 26, including online access to hundreds of pages of local Hendry and Glades county news and information on Southwest Florida Online.

The Sunday Morning News and Southwest Florida Online went online over ten years ago, and was the first news and information source on the internet for Hendry and Glades county visitors and residents. The Sunday Morning News blog is Hendry/Glades county's only daily updated online news source. Archives of over 900 local news stories back to May 2004 are accessible at the Sunday Morning News blog.

Clewiston Woman Injured On Way To School

Port LaBelle's Dangerous Intersecton

LABELLE, FL. -- Keomi Williams, of Clewiston was reportedly injured when her tan Chevrolet Surburban overturned Thursday at 6 p.m. at the corner of Birchwood Parkway and Cowboy Way in Port LaBelle.

A second driver's condition is unknown at this time. A friend of the family at the crash scene said Williams was on her way to classes at the LaBelle High School, only a mile west of the accident scene.

A white Dodge Stratus apparently did not yield the right of way causing Williams to run into a ditch and overturn. The second car was substantially damaged in the crash. Williams' parents arrived at the scene shortly after the accident and were advised of her condition by Hendry county deputies. This intersection has been the scene of several recent serious crashes.

Is The Cooking Better Than The Spelling?

LABELLE, FL. -- Seen at the corner of State Road 80 and Birchwood Parkway in Port LaBelle this sign for seafood and "stake." Maine's Best Seafood apparently doesn't mind embarrassment, after a year of troubles with state restaurant inspectors failing the eatery in numerous health and safety categories. Until recently Maine's Best did not even have a license to operate a restaurant, and ignored inspector's orders to get one.

The sign is the subject of complaints to the Hendry Building and Zoning Department as it appears it was erected without a permit and is located on the median of Birchwood Parkway which appears to be county owned land and not private land.

The county building department which issues sign permits can't waive embarrassment either; complaints about this illegally placed sign go back to November 2006. The building officials say they are waiting on the county attorney for an opinion.

LaBelle Home Sales

LABELLE, FL. -- From August 14 to September 25, there were five homes sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $327,600. Prices of homes sold were:

1) $908,000 on Fort Denaud Road
2) $180,000 on Tide Circle
3) $120,000 on East Sunflower Circle
4) $300,000 on South Balsam Circle
5) $130,000 on West State Road 80

Thursday, September 27, 2007

In The Service

Indiantown Man Graduates From ROTC Course

INDIANTOWN, FL. -- Logan H. Falvo has graduated from the Army ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) Leader's Training Course at Fort Knox, Ky.
The four-week course is a leadership internship for cadets that can lead to the ultimate goal of becoming an Army officer.  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 Advanced ROTC Course at their college.
Cadets are observed and evaluated during classroom and field training exercises 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, decision making, and collective team cohesion.  The cadets receive training in fundamental military skills, rifle marksmanship, small arms tactics, weapons training, drill and ceremony, communications, combat water survival training, rappelling, land navigation and squad-level operations field training.
The cadet is a student at Florida State University, Tallahassee. He is the son of Orlando A. and Dianne T. Falvo of Hopwood Ave., Indiantown, Fla. Falvo is a 2004 graduate of Martin County High School, Stuart, Fla.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Commissioners Not Responsive?

Seven Of Ten Hendry-Glades Commissioners Fail To Answer Mail

LABELLE, FL. -- Think your county commissioners are responsive to citizen questions or comments?  You might want to rethink that after reading what we found in a simple test of asking all ten Hendry and Glades county commission members a few simple questions.

On August 16, the Sunday Morning News sent email letters to all five Hendry county commission members at their advertised email addresses as listed on the official Hendry County website. We asked:

- with what methods you wish citizens to contact you (i.e. mail, email, phone, fax, through the clerk, etc)
- your preferred method of contact for citizen inquiries
- how often you pick up emails, letters, etc
- whether a citizen should expect a reply from you to their inquiry
- any statement you might want published about how citizens can contact you and/or what kind of items you might be able to help with or facilitate for a citizen or citizens group.

We explained we intend to do a story about "how to contact your elected officials."  One would expect at least a courtesy reply from all commissioners.  No such luck, however.

The Results - Most Commissioners Do Not Respond

Waiting until September 6, after not receiving anything from our August 16 request, the Hendry county administrator's office was contacted and it was explained by staff assistant Judith McElhaney that all emails to county commissioners actually go through assistant county manager Judy Kennington Korf who then forwards them to the commissioners.  McElhaney then kindly said we could send a second request to her and she would then forward the email to the commissioners.

Eleven days later, on September 17, a reply was received from Hendry Commission Chairman Kevin McCarthy.  The other four commissioners did not respond.

We tried the same experiment with the Glades County Commissioners, sending letters on September 13 by email to the published addresses on the Glades county website, or from sources given to us. 

Commissioner Donna Storter Long is the only commissioner in either county to immediately respond to all email messages, and even offered to get us the contact information for all the other Glades commissioners.

Four days later, on September 17 we received a reply via Mary Ann Dotson, Glades County Human Resource Director, from Glades Commission Chairman K.S. "Butch" Jones. Three other Glades commission members have not responded.

The answers from one Hendry and two Glades county commissioners: 

Donna Storter Long - Glades County, the only commissioner to respond timely, says she may be reached through any of the following: 863.675.8850-home phone, 863.673.2661-cell phone, 3345 Coffee Mill Hammock Rd SW, Moore Haven, FL 33471-8417,,  County email address,, personal email address.  (Editor's note:  Commissioner Long has responded to every email we have sent her, usually the same day, the clear winner in responsive government officials.)

Kevin McCarthy - Hendry County, says: "Email is my preferred means of contact, then I can be sure I have the question correct. I can also be reached by phone, although that will probably get you a voice mail. I will answer, or will have the appropriate County Staff answer, an email or a phone call depending on the appropriate action that needs to be taken. I pick up mail once a week, a read emails daily and I listen to voice mails daily, however due to the volume of work and correspondence it may be several days before you get an answer as is evidenced by this response."  Email:

Butch Jones - Glades County, say he prefers communication by mail, fax, email, phone - in that order. He says he picks up messages daily and each message should expect a reply from him.  Contact information: K. S. �Butch� Jones, 863.946.1616-home phone, 863.227.1390-cell phone, 655 Daniels Rd SE, Moore Haven, FL, Home mailing address, P. O. Box 63, Moore Haven, FL 33471-0063.  Email: (Through Mary Ann Dotson),

If any readers have found a way to contact and get a response from the remaining seven Glades and Hendry county commissioners let us know!  And send us your comments on your personal experiences reaching government officials. 


Gerber Groves Foreclosed

$5,200,00 Owed On Land But Not Paid

LABELLE, FL. -- The Hendry Circuit Court has issued a final judgment against large grove lands owner LaBelle One, Inc., a dissolved corporation owned by Larry Morris of Boca Raton. According to Judge Bruce Kyle, $5.2 million is owed to Chapman LLC and Adrian R. Chapman as trustee of the Chapman Palm Beach Groves.

The Gerber Groves acreage off Sears Road, south of the city of LaBelle, is scheduled to be sold at public auction October 10 at the Hendry county courthouse because of LaBelle One's failure to pay interest due on two mortgages against the land.

In Other Court Actions

Judge Kyle found in favor of plaintiff United Rentals, Inc., a North Carolina Corporation, against defendant Dennis Perkins of LaBelle, doing business as Perkins Construction. In a multi-count suit against Perkins, the judge found him owing United $140,703 and issued a Final Judgment against Perkins on September 17.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mike Lafferty Scrambles To Sell Oxbow Property

$1.6 Million Balloon Mortgage Payment Due November 20

LABELLE, FL. -- Michael J. Lafferty, of Naples and Phoenix is pulling out all the stops to sell his problem laden Port LaBelle former Oxbow Golf Course property.  Lafferty who just a few weeks ago turned over the Port LaBelle Inn, the 51 unit motel property with adjacent acreage, back to Richard Seibel after a balloon mortgage came due, and Lafferty was unwilling to pay it off as agreed.

Lafferty gave Seibel a "deed in lieu of foreclosure" after attempts to sell the hotel didn't work out.  Lafferty had numerous problems keeping the hotel and leased restaurant in line with state health and safety codes,  which have since been remedied, with the exception of an elevator permit which had expired sometime ago. Lafferty also had problems getting customers to rent rooms since the out of the way motel had little to attract customers with the former golf course now sporting hundreds of acres of weeds.

Lafferty is the owner of MJL Main Properties LLC, in which the land is titled.  He gave a $1.6 million mortgage in November 2005 to a partnership of trusts belonging to Danny and Deborah Perkins and John and Elizabeth Gee, all of LaBelle. The mortgage note covers 31 acres between State Road 80 and the Port LaBelle Inn, formerly golf course land. Perkins bought the land at auction after the golf course was split up and then sold to Lafferty taking back the mortgage.

Lafferty has hired Arizona auction company Holmes Larsen Auction Marketing in cooperation with Auction Services International, Inc., to try to sell the land, along with another 31 acre adjoining parcel by sealed bid due November 1. Advertising online by Larsen claims "prime land...mixed use...flexible zoning" for the land, which is actually not true according to LaBelle area real estate experts.  The land is currently designated on the Hendry County Comprehensive Plan as a "Regional Park,"  available for multi-county recreational use. The current zoning is for recreational/leisure use only. The land is about 50 yards south of the Hendry-Glades county line and contains portions of a small lake.

Controversy Over Land Use - County Planning Director's Woes

There has been community controversy over the use of the land since it's split-up from a championship 27-hole golf course to its current use as cow pastures and three-home sales model center. Some say the county has erred in permitting home builder Countty Home and Land to build three model homes on the "leisure, recreation" zoned land.  Recent soil surveys found higher than permissible levels of arsenic in the ground, attributed to weed killers used on the golf course for decades. Accordingly, any future residential use of the land, if it ever attains that zoning, would mean expensive methods may be required to get rid of the arsenic hazard in the soil.

Community residents also point out that the Hendry Commission made a resolution regarding the Port LaBelle development in 1974 that required the developer to provide a golf course as part of the 32,000 Port LaBelle development just beginning at the time. Restrictions on the use of the land were required in deeds, providing for the continuous use of this land as a golf course and  open space for the benefit of area residents and visitors. 

Hendry County Commissioners will be voting Tuesday September 25 at 5 p.m. on a proposed change to the Hendry Comprehensive Land Plan to likely permit high density condos, housing, and offices in this location. Vince Cautero, Hendry's recently hired planning chief, has apparently spear-headed the change, of which the plans were partly paid for by the out-of-area owners of the land, including Lafferty.  Cautero has been criticized by some, including Collier County Commissioner Frank Halas as the "darling of the developers," bending or ignoring rules to allow developers to get their wishes. Cautero recently resigned from his Collier county "development czar" job after allegedly not collecting $2.4 million in required impact fees from golf course developers, while his department employees were enjoying free rounds of golf at developer's golf courses.

With 750 petitioner's signatures in hand, large influential community group "Save Oxbow For Recreation" is armed to appear at the county commission chambers Tuesday night to express their wishes against any change to the county's comprehensive master plan for this property.

More Information Relating To This Story:

Larsen Auction - Ad For Port LaBelle Land

Vince Cautero Fails To Collect Millions In Developer Impact Fees?

Lafferty's Port LaBelle Land - Balloon Mortgage

Local Health Department Emergency Ready

Dr. Fernandez Applauds Local Health Professionals

LABELLE, Fl. -- Hendry and Glades County Health Department Director Neftali Fernandez, M.D., applauded the County Health Department staff for assisting with the public health preparedness efforts made during this year in order to protect all local residents in Hendry and Glades Counties against disasters. 

Every staff member of the Hendry and Glades Counties Health Departments receives training in preparedness functions, including National Incident Management System, Incident Command System courses 100, and 700. Thanks to John Gountas, Disaster Planning Consultant with the Hendry CHD all employees receive this training.

"I am most proud of our staff and leadership who understand our roles during emergencies of all types and have a strong desire to keep abreast of changes in the Public Health Preparedness arena," said Dr. Fernandez. 
Every day public health professionals answer the call to help our communities prepare for and respond to an increasing number of threats to our health, both large and small. A recent national report showed that over 90% of local health departments have instituted comprehensive emergency response plans, compared to just 20% six years ago.

Recent Training Sessions:
  • Participation in the SKYWARN training designed for a partnership between the National Weather Service and the Hendry and Glades Counties in order to help reduce the threat from severe weather with the assistance of volunteer "storm spotters" who relay reports of severe weather to the National Weather Service. 
  • Participation in the Preliminary Damage Assessment training which provided a basic format for conducting such assessments and the necessary information to be able to participate in Housing and Business Preliminary Damage Assessment operations.
  • Participation to the Hendry County Emergency services Council.
  • Participation in the Catastrophic Incident Planning County Workshops for the creation and addition of such an Annex to the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plans for the Counties of Hendry and Glades.
  • The establishment of a new Special Needs Shelter location at West Glades Elementary School, 2500 S County Rd 731 SW with a Planning Capacity of 75 potential clients.  Special Needs Shelters are defined as structures that have auxiliary power and are capable of providing safe refuge for people who require assistance with the management of a health condition or supervision of that condition by a health professional during the time of a disaster.
  • The Hendry/Glades County Health Department, Hendry Regional Medical Center, Hendry County Office of Emergency Management, Glades County Office of Emergency Management, Emergency Response Educators and Consultants, Inc., and several other key community partners from the Hendry and Glades Counties participation in a Pandemic Influenza Functional Exercise with a local Point of Dispensing (POD) activation on Monday, June 11, 2007.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

In The Service

LABELE, FL. -- Army National Guard Pvt. Martha E. Taylor has graduated from basic combat training at Fort Jackson, Columbia, S.C. During the nine weeks of training, the soldier studied the Army mission, history, tradition and core values, physical fitness, and received instruction and practice in basic combat skills, military weapons, chemical warfare and bayonet training, drill and ceremony, marching, rifle marksmanship, armed and unarmed combat, map reading, field tactics, military courtesy, military justice system, basic first aid, foot marches, and field training exercises. She is the daughter of Ralph Taylor of Felda, Fla., and Caroline Martin-Neel of Ivan Blvd., LaBelle, Fla.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Port LaBelle CDD Gets Lester Baird

Lester Baird To Manage Two Agencies

LABELLE, FL. -- Former County Manager Lester Baird has been hired by the Barron Water Control District as its new General Manager.  As part of the job, Baird will also manage the Port LaBelle Community Development District, sharing duties for each. Baird will be working at Barron's district office shared with the CDD offices on Dellwood Terrace in Port LaBelle.

The Port LaBelle CDD last year paid $50,000 a year to Barron Water Control District for the use of the shared manager. The CDD is expected to move this year's contribution down to $38,000.  Baird's salary this year paid by Barron Water Control District for the shared two jobs is reportedly about $85,000 plus substantial benefits.

The two governmental agencies have wide ranging duties over vast land areas from the eastern city of LaBelle limits to mid-Hendry county including all of Port LaBelle in Hendry and Glades county.  The Port LaBelle CDD takes care of all road maintenance of the 125 miles of private roads and thousands of acres of grass cutting operations throughout the mostly vacant lands of 32,000 acres of Port LaBelle. The Port LaBelle CDD  has jurisdiction of all Port LaBelle subdivision units in Hendry and Glades county except units 4 and 5 which have their own property owners associations.

The Barron Water Control District takes care of maintenance of all the canals and water control structures in the district, sharing some jobs and equipment with Port LaBelle CDD.

Since leaving the Hendry County Manager's office Baird had applied for several city manager jobs including those for the cities of Brooksville, Key West, and Treasure Island, all in Florida. This new job should be a good fit for both Baird and the Barron and Port LaBelle districts, as his years of local governmental experience here should make for a quick transition to his new duties.

Baird's first job in government was as a Building Inspector Trainee for the City of St. Louis, Missouri.  Mr. Baird earned his undergraduate degree in Business from Thomas Edison State University in Trenton, New Jersey and a Masters of Public Administration graduate degree from Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida. Mr. Baird resides with his wife, Patti, in LaBelle, Florida and has three grown sons and a stepson that reside in the West Palm Beach, Florida, St. Louis, Missouri, and Washington, DC areas.

Retiring manager Ralph Nicholson spent about 20 years with Barron Water Control District and will be on hand for the final budget completion duties this month, after which Baird will move into the job.

Previous Baird News Story - Brooksville

Previous Baird News Story - Key West 1

Previous Baird News Story - Key West 2

Fees Increasing For Money Losing Recycling

Fees For Recycling Added To Tax Bills

LABELLE, FL. -- Operating from county waste fees collected on every county real estate parcel, and an additional fee new this year, The Hendry County recycling centers in LaBelle and Clewiston will be adding curbside pickup of recycling items in the future. The county loses money every year handling the recycling of bottles, plastic and paper items, and all other materials that are brought to the county for recycling, but has convinced the county commission to expand the money losing operation.

Just how much money the county loses is unknown or at least not being accounted for.  Calls to the county special districts office that handles the recycling operation left the question of how much money is spent or income received from sales of recycled items   unanswered.

Juan Gaure, district supervisor of the recycle centers says most people don't know that the large dumpsters around the county are brought to the recycling center where the items are sorted by hand.  Plastic bottle caps from plastic and glass bottles are all  removed by hand before they are sorted and sold to out of area recycling companies. Gaure says green glass bottles, which typically contained bottle water, are actually worthless and are a money loser for the county.  It costs much more to collect, sort and ship green glass than what they can be sold for.  There is an over supply of green colored glass worldwide, and no market for anyone to sell it at a high enough price to make it profitable to recycle. Even so, the public sends tons of green glass to recycling centers yearly.

Fee Sneaks Into Tax Bills

To encourage more recycling, even at a probable high cost to taxpayers, the Hendry Special Districts office has asked the county commission for a vote this month to add an extra $38 per household on real estate taxes for on-street pickup of materials for recycling. The hidden extra fee is listed as a "commercial dumpster" charge on the proposed non-ad valorem tax letter sent to property owners last week with the proposed tax bills.  Terri Cross, manager of the county's special districts office says the fee will pay for weekly street pickup at curbside of "recycle" items as well as for twice a year large debris trash pickups.

When asked how much recycling is costing the county and taxpayers and how much income is generated from the recycled paper, plastic, metal, and glass collected, sorted, and then sold by the county, she had no answer.  Cross said she has not calculated this but would find out for the Sunday Morning News when asked for profit or loss cost.  After two weeks no response has been received from the accounting request.

Guare  says the county makes much more money from cardboard and paper products than from plastic materials, and encourages households to bring all paper and glass items to the collection bins. Gaure also recommends citizens place recycle items in the bins located around the county, and use the recycle centers only for toxic items, such as paint, batteries and electronics.

Not accepted for recycling are Styrofoam, plastic grocery bags, and envelopes with plastic windows. Also do not deposit pottery, dishes, or other ceramic glassware.

And how much is the county losing on its recycling program? The issue is still unresolved as two staff members say they don't have the numbers available and would have to research it. Presumably, the county commissioners do not know the answer either, notwithstanding their votes to go ahead with additional recycling for Hendry county and bill the taxpayers for the costs.

Hendry County Recycling Webpage - lists of items county can recycle and hours of operation of two recycling centers.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Glades Commissioners Tuesday Meeting

$10,000 Given To Form Multi-County Coalition

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Glades County Commissioners are seeking and have come up with a possible solution to getting Federal aid dollars for transportation including MPOs (Metropolitan Planning Organization), TPOs (Transportation Planning Organization) and RTPOs (Rural Transportation Planning Organization) that normally have requirements of a 50,000 urbanized population that can not be met by Glades County. 

A presentation before FHREDI August 20 drew the interest of rural heartland counties which may be willing to join Glades in forming a multi-county planning organization.  The Board moved to contribute $10,000 to a trust fund to begin the process of organizing a TPO to include Highlands, Okeechobee, Hardee, Hendry, and part of DeSoto with a total population area of 245,162 including 11 cities with total urbanized 54,986 population. 

Commissioner Donna Storter Long commented that this organization can assure our rural counties a "seat at the table" in negotiating for Federal transportation dollars where presently the county has no voice.

Last Chance Rock Mine Gets Chance For Roadway Agreement

After lengthy discussion the Board approved a contract with Last Chance Pit LLC for use of ingress and egress from a Charlotte County mine on Glades County roads including conditions of: initial non-refundable $32,000 payment to Glades County; 35 cents for each cubic yard of material generated by Last Chance's operation, paid monthly in arrears (with proportionate increases if/when Last Chance's selling price increases from $4 per cu yd.)

Additional conditions include: every trip ticket for each truck will be construed to have 18 cu yd per load;  50 ft of asphalt pavement and 250 ft of coarse gravel road surface at the connection of CR720 and the operations property; hours of operation limited between 7:30 AM and 4:30 PM Monday through Friday; haul routes for truck traffic generated by Last Chance restricted to CR 720 west of Kirby Thompson Road and Kirby Thompson Road south, except for local deliveries to Glades County addresses; Last Chance to pay costs of preparing and negotiating the agreement  (including county attorney fees) .

Dean Daniels, co-owner of the company, projected the operation to remove material from 150 acres a depth of 32 feet will take 8-10 years.  (150 acres 32 feet deep is the equivalent of 7,744,000 cubic yard not including fluff factor.  At 35 cents per c.f., that would equate $2,710,400 to Glades County, according to one commissioner's calculations.)

Discussion covered price per cubic yard to provide revenue to offset any road or bridge maintenance or repair costs attributable to the mining truck traffic, with concern for traffic control of trucks utilizing CR 720 eastward.  Glades County has previously adopted ordinances restricting weight limits on Sealey Road, CR 74, Timber Bridge on River Road.

As recently as August 14, 2001 the commissioners adopted an ordinance restricting truck traffic on a portion of CR 720 which prohibits any dump truck, tandem trailer dump truck, semi tractor, and semi tractor and semi trailer combination, loaded or unloaded from operating/driving upon CR 720 (Loblolly Bay) between Summerall Road and Silver Lake Road. 

Although this ordinance has not been revoked or amended and is still enforceable including truck traffic from this mine over that portion of CR720.  Exemptions to this truck ordinance include school buses, garbage trucks, emergency vehicles, and county owned vehicles or those authorized trucks engaged in highway maintenance, and wreckers towing motor vehicles. Agriculturally related truck traffic is not exempt.

Penalties can be applied but Glades County Sheriff's Office allegedly does not have the trained manpower or scales for weight determinations to monitor such traffic for enforcement.

Public Hearing On Zoning Issues

At the public hearing section of Tuesdays Commission meeting the following items were on the agenda:

Case Number RZ07-07 – Estates at Port LaBelle. Approved rezoning changing 5.23 acres from Commercial to Residential and 7.24 acres from Agriculture to Residential. 

Pre-Plat of The Estates at Port LaBelle.  Approved. Parcels are part of 252 acres; subdivision proposed to site 91 single family homes near Aspen Blvd in Port LaBelle

Moorings at Buckhead. Granted pre-plat approval for 20 Townhouse structures on 19.8 acres on Linda Drive in Buckhead Ridge noting density and utility service factors wills require formation of a Condominium.

Indian Cove Estates. Granted pre-plat approval for 34 single-family home lots on 17.32 acres on Linda Drive in Buckhead Ridge.  Concern was noted that this subdivision and the Moorings Townhouse property (item 5 above) are adjacent and wastewater/sewer treatment provision for such densities should be carefully considered.

Case Number RZ07-04 and COMP07-02SS Application withdrawn and Case Number RZ07-16 Tabled until November 26, 2007

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Clewiston Fight Results In One Dead

Guadalupe Gonzales Arrested On Murder Charges

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The Clewiston Police Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announce the arrest of Guadalupe Gonzales, 51, of Clewiston, Fla. for the murdering one man and critically injuring the man�s brother. Gonzales is charged with one count of second-degree murder and one count of attempted felony murder.

Wednesday night the Clewiston Police Department responded to a fight at the Everglades Mobile Home Park in Clewiston. When police arrived on the scene, witnesses told them two men had been shot and the victims had been taken to a local hospital by friends. Officers located the first victim, Jorge Rico, 21, deceased at the Hendry Regional Hospital. The second victim, Juan Rico, 22, was flown to Lee Memorial Hospital in Lee County.

According to witness statements, a fight began between two males at the mobile home park around 7:30 p.m. A large group gathered and several other fights occurred. During the altercation Gonzales allegedly retrieved a weapon and shot both brothers.  Gonzales was booked into the Hendry County Jail. The investigation is ongoing.

FDLE provided crime scene and investigative assistance to the Clewiston Police Department.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Port LaBelle Motel Avoids Foreclosure

Michael Lafferty Gives Hotel Back To Richard Seibel

LABELLE, FL. -- In order to avoid a court foreclosure against the Port LaBelle Inn, Port LaBelle Resorts, LLC owned by Michael John Lafferty, gave a deed for the hotel property and adjoining land back to Richard and Mary "Dottie" Seibel operating as J & D Of LaBelle, LLP.

The deed filed August 20 in Hendry County was a "Deed In Lieu Of Foreclosure" meaning Lafferty was presumably delinquent in mortgage payments to Siebel, and to avoid a foreclosure fight in court, gave Seibel a deed to avoid the courts.

Lafferty Development, LLC., a new company operated by Michael John Lafferty of Naples and Arizona took over the Port LaBelle Inn December 1, 2005 from Richard and Mary "Dottie" Seibel with hopes to expand the 50-room operation which sits on 5.4 acres along State Road 80 east of the city of LaBelle, and sell off the adjoining land to developers for high density development.

The purchase included acreage zoned agricultural/leisure that was formerly part of the Port LaBelle Oxbow golf course. Surrounding property owners are now attempting to rezone the former golf course to allow high density development including condos, offices, and apartments. The land is listed in the 1999 Hendry Comprehensive Land Plan as a Regional Park, but the county's planning director says since the 2005 sale of the land, the county is now out of compliance with the county's land use regulations filed with the state's Department of Community Affairs. Community groups are trying to convince officials that they want recreational land use to remain, and not allow high density residential use here.

Lafferty bought the property under various partnership arrangements including Port LaBelle Resorts, LLC and MJL Main Properties, an Arizona company. Lafferty also created Fl East 31, LLC, another limited liabilitycorporation the same day in November 2005 as Lafferty Development, and formed No Paltalones W Division, LLC with Ft. Myers partner Samir Cabrera in October, 2005. Cabrera is a Ft. Myers real estate agent who has listed the property for sale with no success for the last several years.

The December 2005 $4 million hotel and land deal included a $3 million mortgage back to the Seibel's partnership, J and D of LaBelle LPC along with a 34-page security agreement covering collateral pledged, including the hotel's furnishings. Reportedly a very large ballon payment of the mortgage was due last month. The mortgage would have been the subject of a foreclosure suit if Lafferty fell behind in payments. Presumably, the Seibels were abel to see little if any of the $3,000,000, other than nominal interest payments, promised two years earlier by Lafferty on the mortgage note.

The Seibles sold their scenic Aqua Isles of LaBelle RV Park along the Caloosahatchee River in LaBelle last month for a reported $10,050,000, paying off a 2003 mortage in the amount of $3,000,000 and now can concentrate their efforts to the motel property at Port LaBelle.

Lafferty, through his MJL Main Properties LLC, has another balloon $1,610,000 mortgage due on November 20 on another adjoining 32 acre parcel of land next to the motel. The November 2005 mortgage calls for monthly interest payments to Danny and Deborah Perkins and John and Elizabeth Gee, as trustees for their respective family trusts.

Hotel and Restaurant Poorly Run, But Now Gets Cleaned Up

The motel property and restaurant have been the subject of numerous state health and safety citations and violations that were ignored by Lafferty and his managers through many state inspections. Customer complaints ranged from poor maintenance to no night clerk on site after 10 p.m..

New owner Seibel has been cleaning up the property including mowing the three-foot high weeds that had overgrown the property in recent years, and making sure state hotel safety and health standards are being kept. Siebel is now attempting to rent the motel rooms by the month as well as for nightly stays to up the motel's income stream.

Since there was little to attract overnight stays to the Port LaBelle motel -- no golf course, deteriorated tennis courts and unkempt grounds, the previous owner had catered to clientel including motorclycle clubs, tractor-trailer drivers, and construction workers.

More Stories Related To Port LaBelle Motel:

Maines Best Restaurant Flounders

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Commissioner Kevin McCarthy To Meet

LABELLE, FL. -- A meeting with county residents by Kevin McCarthy from the Hendry county commissioners office is scheduled for Wednesday September 5th at 7:00 P.M. at the Church of the Good Shepherd at 1098 Collingswood Parkway in Port LaBelle.

Commissioner McCarthy is expected to answer some questions about the county's plans on the county's revision of the Hendry County comprehensive plan, and re-zoning issues that will affect Hendry county for decades.

In The Service

BELLE GLADE, FL. -- Air Force Airman Archey Forteza has graduated from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. During the six weeks of training, the airman studied the Air Force mission, organization, and military customs and courtesies; performed drill and ceremony marches, and received physical training, rifle marksmanship, field training exercises, and special training in human relations.

In addition, airmen who complete basic training earn credits toward an associate degree through the Community College of the Air Force. He is the son of Adelaida Bequer of N.E. 24th St., Belle Glade, Fla. Forteza is a 2005 graduate of Glades Central High School, Belle Glade.