Friday, March 28, 2008

Food Costs Rising Sharply

Costs Affecting Family Budgets

LABELLE, FL. -- The cost of food had gone up, yet again. Grocery costs have jumped 5.1% in 12 months, the latest in a string of increases. In fact, the nation is undergoing its worst grocery inflation since the early 1990s.

With a few exceptions, nearly every grocery category measured by the Labor Department, which compiles the official inflation numbers, has increased in the last year.

Milk is up 17%, as are dried beans, peas, and lentils. Cheese is up 15%, rice and pasta 13%, and bread 12%. No food product has gone up as much as eggs, jumping 25% since February 2007 and 62% in the last two years. If there is a silver lining in the food statistics it is that grocery prices did not increase as much in February (up 0.3% from the previous month) as they did in January (up 0.9%).

However, with farm prices remaining near record levels, food prices will likely not moderate in 2008. Instead, food inflation will likely be at least as high as in 2007, perhaps higher. Cereal and baking products will continue to increase because of steep prices for wheat; in fact, the price of cereal and bakery products increased 1.8% in February, the largest monthly gain since January 1975.

Economists say higher food costs are being caused by rising energy prices, a weak dollar that encourages exports of American crops and food products, and soaring prices for farm commodities like milk, corn, and wheat.

LaBelle Live Videocast Top Ranked

LABELLE, FL. -- Thanks to daily votes from Sunday Mornng News and Southwest Florida Online readers, the editor's live daily interactive videocast became the top ranked internet personal broadcast site in the world this week. Over 48,000 visits have been made to the live video broadcast feed since November 2006. LaBelle Live Videocast

Monday, March 24, 2008

Attempted Murder Arrest

Arrest After Bridge Street Stabbing

LABELLE, FL. -- On March 22, 2008 Hendry County Sheriff�s Deputies responded to 260 North Bridge Street in Labelle reference to a man sitting in a chair bleeding.

Upon arrival Deputies found a Hispanic male Jose Antonio Villareal bleeding from a laceration to the left side of his forehead. Paramedics transported Villarreal to Lee Memorial Hospital were he is in critical condition.

An investigation was initiated and the suspect Luis Orocko, age 23 was placed under arrest, charged with attempted felony murder. Orocko�s, bond was set at $200,000.

Sheriff Lee Meets With Crist

Hendry Sheriff Asks For Assistance

LABELLE, FL. -- On March 19, 2008 Hendry County Sheriff Ronnie Lee had the opportunity to meet with Florida Governor Charlie Crist at the Governors Office in Tallahassee.
During their meeting, Sheriff Lee discussed how law enforcement in Hendry County and other similar sized counties are being effected by budget constraints that county and city governments are presently facing. Sheriff Lee asked the Governor to looks for ways to help law enforcement deal with escalating fuel costs.

He also asked the Governor for possible assistance with state funds to help keep salaries of law enforcement in small counties at a level that will keep officers from leaving for larger counties or agencies with much higher salaries.

Another Hendry Drug House Busted

Flag Hole Home Raided

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Hendry County Sheriffs Deputies have destroyed another marijuana grow house. 
According to Sheriff Ronnie Lee, Narcotics Investigators obtained a search warrant for a house located at 1313 Shanon Lane off Flag Hole road in mid-Hendry county.  Investigators and Deputies executed the search warrant Thursday March 20 and located numerous marijuana plants inside the residence.

Like most of the other 35 marijuana grow houses located within Hendry County during the past three years, information obtained during the investigation indicates the owner lives on the east coast.  Sheriff Lee said "they should be getting the message by now that Hendry County is not the place to set up a marijuana grow operation." 

The owner has been identified, and an arrest is forthcoming says the Sheriff's office. Hendry county records reflect that the home is owned by Alejandro and Jennifer B. Lopez of 2900 SW 63 Avenue, Miami.

Allen Named To Glades School Board

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Governor Charlie Crist has announced the appointment of Jenness "Jenny" Allen to serve as a member of the School Board of Glades County.

Jenness H. Allen, 47, of Moore Haven, is the president of Allen's Repair Service and also currently works for Glades County Community Development. She will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Cathy Peeples who resigned on January 7, 2008. Allen's term will expire November 17, 2008.

Allen, a mother of two, has a daughter who graduated from the Glades County school system and a son who attends a Glades County public school. She has served her community in many ways during the past 20 years, most recently as the director of children's activities for the Ortona Community Association. Allen has been involved as a youth leader in Girl Scouts and summer youth recreation programs.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

In The Service

Clewiston Woman Graduates

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Army Pvt. Alberta L. Stephens 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 Bernice Payne of Virginia Ave., Clewiston, Fla. Stephens is a 1995 graduate of Clewiston High School.

Monday, March 17, 2008

One More Marijuana House Busted

Investigators Find Another One In LaBelle

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Sheriff's Deputies hit a fourth grow house in one week. According to Sheriff  Ronnie Lee, narcotic investigators executed a search warrant at 902 Patton Road. in Labelle on March 14 and located another marijuana growing operation within the residence.

Mario Morejon was arrested and charged with: Possession of paraphernalia. Possession of Felony Paraphernalia. Possession of Marijuana over 20 grams, Possession of Marijuana with intent to sell, Cultivation and/or producing Marijuana, and Operating a Drug House. Bond was set at $17,000.

The secluded property just east of State Road 29 in North LaBelle is owned by Andres Jimenez who according to the county records uses that address as his current mailing address. The property was ;purchased last year for $210,000

Numerous marijuana plants, along with all of the equipment used for cultivation of marijuana, were seized. 

Three Pioneer Burglary Suspects Arrested

Pioneer Burglary Ring Busted?

LABELLE, FL. --  Hendry County Sheriff's Investigators Lt. Joe Lee and Investigator Aaron Angell have recovered numerous items that had been reported stolen from the Pioneer Plantation Area, of Hendry County.

James Michael Gronberg age 22, has been charged with Burglary and Grand theft. Bond has been set at $35,000. Shelton Ray Dunlap (in photo) age 29, charged with Burglary and Grand theft. No bond was set. Dwayne Lee Morgan age 20, charged with  2 counts Burglary, 2 counts Grand theft, and 1 count Criminal mischief. Bond has been set at $ 61,000.

Sheriff Ronnie Lee said the owners have identified the property recovered and more arrests are pending.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Slow Real Estate Sales In LaBelle

LABELLE, FL. -- From February 19 to March 13, there were only two homes sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $135,500. A home sold for $91,000 on High Court in Port LaBelle, and another went for $180,000 on South Missouri Street in LaBelle.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Lake Levels Low Despite Rains

Lake Okeechobee Still Needs More Water

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Meteorologists at the South Florida Water Management District  report that the region received above-average rainfall last month for the first time since October 2007.  Water managers successfully captured and stored much of that rain, improving regional groundwater and surface water levels in advance of the anticipated height of the dry season in March and April.
Despite the rainfall reprieve, the District's 16-county region is still experiencing a multi-year rainfall deficit of more than 20 inches. The SFWMD continues to encourage aggressive water conservation to stretch and protect public water supplies until wet season rains return to replenish those resources and help pull the region out of water shortage.

South Florida's dry season begins in November and ends with the start of the wet season, typically in May. The season's driest months are usually March and April, when increased sunlight normally leads to increased water loss through evapotranspiration rates and more rapid declines in surface water elevations.

At 10.16 feet above sea level Wednesday, Lake Okeechobee remains more than four feet below its historical average – and nearly a half-foot below previous historic lows – for this time of year. Water levels in the lake have been setting new record daily lows for more than nine months. Lake Okeechobee is the source of water for 500,000 acres of farmland in the Everglades Agricultural Area and serves as a primary backup supply to more than five million South Floridians.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Two Arrested In Shooting

Attempted Murder Charges On Two Teens

CLEWISTON, FL. -- On March 7th Hendry County Sheriff's Deputies responded to 1804 Matthew Loop, Clewiston in the Tower Lakes Subdivision for a complaint of gun shots fired in the area. Deputies made contact with citizens who gave officers information as to the direction of travel and the description of suspects and vehicle.

The suspects allegedly fled the area after an argument, firing several shots. Bullets struck a mobile home and the fender and hood area of a parked vehicle. The Clewiston Police Department assisted and located a vehicle matching the description of the suspect's vehicle. Officers located a 9 mm firearm inside the vehicle. Deputies also located 9 mm shell casing at the scene.

Based on information, and evidence obtained during the investigation suspects Miguel Villa (photo above left) age 19, and Jose Antonio Chapa (photo above right) age 16, were arrested and charged with attempted felony murder, carrying prohibited weapon, Improper exhibit of firearm, discharging  a firearm in public, direct discharge of firearm from a vehicle, missile into a dwelling, altered Identification on weapon showing a removed serial aumber, two counts damage property criminal mischief and possession of marijuana over 20 grams.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Glades Hunters Get Gobbler

Howard Family Gets A Wild Turkey

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Matt, Stephen, and Lonnie Howard braved the wind and rain on Saturday to bad a wild turkey.  "Matt had videoed the birds a couple of days before and had their pattern figured out," said Lonnie Howard. 

Lonnie's father Matt set up a decoy out in the slough and the hunters hid along the tree line.  Matt did he "did some sweet calling, they gobbled, and two birds pitched out and sailed all the way across the slough and landed right in front of us. "  The bird had a 9 and one-quarter inch beard. (Photo: Lonnie Howard and son Stephen.)

Moore Haven Man Graduates

Linda Steward's Son Finishes Basic Training

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Air Force Airman Steven N. Steward 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 Linda Steward of Martin Blvd., Moore Haven, Fla., and brother of Tim Norris of Silver Hills Drive, Senatobia, Miss. Steward is a 2007 graduate of Senatobia High School.

A Familiar Story To Hendry County Residents

Residential Marijuana Grow Houses Now Big Business

LABELLE, FL. --  Attorney General Bill McCollum and Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric L. Bradshaw today announced that charges have been filed against 29 Miami-Dade County individuals for conspiring to traffic cannabis and their involvement in a criminal enterprise. The individuals were involved in a drug trafficking ring which operated and maintained 25 marijuana grow houses throughout Palm Beach County and one in Miami-Dade County.

"Marijuana is not just a gateway drug anymore. It is highly potent and increasingly addictive, and these marijuana grow houses are the basis for dangerous criminal activity," said Attorney General McCollum. "The rings who supervise multiple houses and cultivate marijuana for profit are criminal enterprises, and we will target them as such."

Authorities determined that ringleader Miguel Fernandez masterminded the purchase and conversions of at least 26 houses to use as marijuana grow houses. He used straw buyers to make the actual purchase, then recruited others, often recent immigrants, to act as caretakers for the cannabis plants. When the plants were ready for harvest, Fernandez and his lieutenants would package the cannabis and transport it to Miami-Dade County, where he would sell it for eventual delivery to New York. The year-long investigation resulted in the seizure of over $7 million worth
 of cannabis, an AK-47 assault rifle, a MAC-10 submachine gun, a pump-action shotgun and numerous handguns, including one with the serial number filed off that was found buried in the backyard of Fernandez's Miami residence.

Fernandez was taken into custody in late February by narcotics agents with the Palm Beach County SheriffSs Office and Florida Highway Patrol troopers. Fernandez was arrested as he was leaving one of his Palm Beach County grow houses. The investigation was conducted by narcotics agents with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office with assistance from the Attorney General's Office of Statewide Prosecution, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Miami-Dade County Police Department and Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer's Office with cooperation
and funding provided by the South Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program.

Miguel Fernandez faces life in prison if convicted of the charges against him. Arrest warrants have been issued for Fernandez's three drug lieutenants and 25 additional criminal associates who will remain unidentified at this time. Each individual is facing up to 30 years in prison with a three-year minimum mandatory sentence.

Friday, March 07, 2008

March Festivals And Fairs

LABELLE, FL. -- Here's a listing of nearby festivals and fairs within a short distance from Hendry and Glades county:

• March 8 – Saturday Night Cruise Car Show on the Circle, Downtown Sebring, 6 pm

• March 8-9 – Speckled Perch Festival/Parade/PRCA Rodeo, Okeechobee. 863-763-6464

• March 8-17 – Okeechobee County Fair, Okeechobee County Agri-Civic Center. 863-763-3959 or 800-871-4403

• March 9 – Ride the Racetrack, Sebring International Raceway 863-385-8448

• March 7-9 – Arcadia's All Florida Championship Rodeo

• March 13 – Taste of the Race, Downtown Sebring

• March 12-15 – 56th Annual Mobile 1-12 Hours of Sebring Auto Race, Sebring International Raceway 863-655-1442

• March 15 – Glades Festival of Afro Arts, Belle Glade 561-996-2745

• March 21 – Music in the Park, at Heritage Park, Wauchula

• March 21-22 – 29th Annual Springtime on the Mall, Avon Park. 863-453-3350

• March 22 – Antique Fair, Downtown Arcadia

• March 27 – Gallery Walk, Downtown Sebring, 5-8 pm

• March 28-30 – Orchid Society Show, Sebring, Ag Civic Center

Monday, March 03, 2008

$1.8 Million For Hendry Canal Dredging

Water Management District Spending Big Bucks For STA-5 Maintenance

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District approved $1.8 million in funding for maintenance dredging at Stormwater Treatment Area 5 in Hendry County. By removing excess sediments, the effort will enhance water quality and overall performance of the constructed treatment wetland, which contains nearly 6,200 acres of treatment area to remove phosphorus and other nutrients from water before it enters the famed Everglades.
STA-5, one of six treatment wetlands across the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee, was built to improve the quality, timing and distribution of water entering the northwest portion of the remnant Everglades known as Water Conservation Area 3A. From May 2006 through April 2007 , the natural treatment facility successfully retained 8.8 metric tons of phosphorus. Together with best farming practices, the District�s 52,000 acres of STAs have prevented more than 2,700 metric tons of phosphorus from entering the Everglades since 1994.
The maintenance work involves dredging two miles of the L-3 Borrow Canal and 4.2 miles of spreader canals. The dredged material will be disposed of within STA-5 in an area adjacent to the L-3 Levee, but outside of the STA�s treatment cells.
Throughout the Everglades Agricultural Area, water quality improvements are being achieved through a commitment by the State of Florida and the South Florida Water Management District, which have invested $1.8 billion for this effort. Another $250 million is committed to improving Lake Okeechobee and the Northern Everglades, which will further enhance water quality throughout the entire Everglades ecosystem.
In addition to the role of STAs in water quality improvements, treatment wetlands also offer unique recreational opportunities for residents and tourists alike. The wetlands particularly at STA-5 provide ideal habitat for migratory waterfowl and are often ranked among the best waterfowl hunting sites in the nation. STA-5 also is ideal for bird watching, with seasonal tours provided by the Hendry-Glades Audubon Society.