Friday, January 30, 2009

State Officials To Tour Hendry/Glades

State Officials Will Spend Several Days Touring

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Officials with the Florida Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development will fly into Hendry County's Airglades airport Tuesday as the first stop on a multi-day trip to the area.  The first scheduled activity will be to tour the Airglades Industrial Park and privately owned Hilliard properties in the Clewiston area.

Created in 1996 by the Legislature, the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development (OTTED), within the Executive Office of the Governor, assists the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Legislature to formulate policies and strategies designed to provide economic opportunities for all Floridians.

OTTED provides executive direction and staff support to develop policies and advocate for economic diversification and improvements in Florida�s business climate and infrastructure. Economic development programs are implemented through public/private partnerships for which OTTED provides direct oversight.
Following the airport inspection, the group will tour with the South Florida Water Management District including a flyover of the communities of Clewiston and Moore Haven, areas targeted for use for Everglades Restoration, and over proposed Inland Port sites.  Hendry Commissioner Kevin McCarthy is expected to join with  OTTED members Dr. Dale Brill and Sherry Martin. 
Tuesday afternoon will be spent visiting local businesses followed by an open meeting at 6 p.m. with Clewiston and the Hendry County community at John Boy Auditorium.  Dr. Brill will lead a discussion followed by questions and concerns from the audience.

On Wednesday, meetings will be held with local representative and a tour of the Pahokee Marina, the Belle Glade hospital and land owned by the state next to the Belle Glade Industrial Park. An open public meeting will be at 2 p.m. in Moore Haven. In the evening Dr. Brill will address the Glades County Economic Development Council at it's annual dinner and meeting.

Thursday, the group will meet at the Clewiston Inn for breakfast and public meetings with "non-large scale" agriculture interests, including independent sugar cane and citrus growers.

Super Bowl 3D Ads - Coming At You Sunday!

Advertisements To "Pop Out" From TV Screens During Super Bowl

LABELLE, FL. --  Super Bowl viewers this year will for the first time see an all 3D commercial break premiering this year with advertisements from Dreamworks' new film "Monsters and Aliens" and Pepsi's SoBe LifeWater showing dancing lizards.

Sponsored by Intel Corporation, the ads will air at the end of the second quarter of the country's most watched football game.
Intel has distributed more than 125 million pairs of 3D glasses to grocery stores nationwide. Viewers can also call 1-800-646-2904 to obtain a pair of the special 3D glasses by mail, although they certainly won't show up in time for the broadcasts.

A full 3D episode of the series "Chuck" will follow the Super Bowl broadcast.

LaBelle's Live Daily Webcast Features 3D Too!

Inspired by the latest 3D movies and television broadcasts, Don Browne is incorporating live 3D live video in some portions of his daily broadcasts on This week Browne, a featured broadcaster/producer on the live webcam network, has been showing live scenes in 3D from LaBelle, Fl. along with his informal live daily broadcasting.

He's on the internet daily, where anyone using 3D glasses with red and cyan (blue-green) lenses can see the stereo 3D vision broadcasts at Free 3D glasses can by ordered through (self-addressed envelope and stamp required). The glasses necessary for the internet 3D broadcast are "standard" 3D lens colors and are different from the Super Bowl 3D glasses. The Super Bowl glasses will only work for the TV broadcasts, Browne says.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bird Count Finds Lots Of Feathered Friends

92,600 Birds Counted This Year

CLEWISTON, FL. --  An Everglades restoration project just south of Lake Okeechobee lived up to its reputation as a national bird-watching location as volunteers with the Hendry-Glades Audubon Society partnered with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to document 112 species and more than 92,600 birds during the 109th national Christmas Bird Count this January. Known as "citizen science," bird counts are vital to studies of the long-term health and status of bird populations.

More than 50 participants made the trip to Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) 5 in Hendry County for the day of bird watching. Of the diverse array of bird species sighted at the constructed wetland, American coots were by far the most abundant with 37,618 counted. Birders also took note of 31 snail kites, which are endemic to the Everglades area, and spotted some rarer species such as the short-tailed hawk and Cassin�s kingbird, a species more common in states west of Texas.
The bird count at STA 5 served as a prelude to another partnership year of Audubon/SFWMD birding tours that showcase wildlife and public access on lands managed in perpetuity by the District for Everglades restoration. The approximately 6,000-acre constructed wetland, just south of Clewiston, is today one of 489 sites on The Great Florida Birding Trail. Sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the sites are selected for their prolific bird watching or bird education opportunities.

Birding, a national pastime, is big business, with 48 million people observing birds both around the home and through vacation travel. A 2001 report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that nationwide birding generated $32 billion in retail sales and created 863,406 jobs.

Non-consumptive bird use (non-hunting activities) supported more than 19,000 jobs in Florida in 2006, and wildlife viewing activities generated more than $3 billion statewide that year, according to a state report. Second in the nation only to California, birding generates an estimated $477 million in retail sales in Florida every year.

Fast becoming renowned as havens for birds and wildlife, Stormwater Treatment Areas are the water-cleaning workhorses of Everglades restoration, cleansing phosphorus from the water flowing into the remnant Everglades. Over the last 15 years, the District has constructed more that 45,000 acres of treatment wetlands to improve the quality of water entering the famed River of Grass.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hendry Deputy Dies In Accident At Home

Vehicle Crashes Through Gate

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Deputy Sgt. Michael Lee Horne died at his home Tuesday after a crash through a gate.

At approximately 6:00 am , January 27, 2009, Communications Personnel of the Hendry County Sheriffs Office received a call for assistance regarding a suspicious incident.

Upon the arrival of deputies it was discovered that Hendry County Sergeant Michael Lee Horne was returning to his home just prior to leaving his tour of duty. For unknown reasons Sgt. Horne's car proceeded through a locked gate and into the side of a small garage at his home. Upon the arrival of medical personnel they found Sgt. Horne unresponsive and began immediate resuscitation attempts without success.

Sgt. Horne was a ten-year veteran with the Hendry County Sheriffs Office beginning his career as a Corrections Officer in 1998. He later attended a cross over academy in 2001 and has served in the capacity of Patrol Officer and recently attaining the rank of Sergeant.

During his tenure with the Hendry County Sheriffs Office, Sgt. Horne was the recipient of many awards and numerous commendations. Aside from public recognition, Sgt. Horne has established many, many close friends and comrades. He leaves behind two daughters, ages 9 and 11.

The Florida Highway Patrol is currently conducting an investigation into the traffic crash.

Funeral Arragements:

Viewing – Open to Public
Friday – January 30, 2009
6:00pm – 9:00pm

Church of God
590 E. Hickpochee
(Next to Akin-Davis Funeral Home)
LaBelle, Fl 33935

Law Enforcement Memorial Service – Open to the Public
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
11:00AM – Commencing at 11:30am

LaBelle Civic Center
Pastor L. W. Howard – Officiating
(Located directly behind LaBelle City Hall)
481 W. Hickpochee
LaBelle, Florida

Burial to Follow at Ft. Denaud Cemetery

Monday, January 26, 2009

Funeral Home Investigated - Maggots On Bodies?

Emergency Action After Complaints Of Maggots - Odor From Bodies

TALLAHASSEE ­ Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced she has ordered a St. Petersburg funeral home, which has been the subject of complaints regarding inappropriate presentation of bodies, to immediately cease from providing any embalming and refrigeration services.

The department received complaints from members of two families claiming that they saw fly larvae, or maggots, on their deceased loved ones' bodies and that a foul odor emanated from the bodies during funerals.

Sink issued the emergency order last week against Morning Glory Funeral Chapel of St. Petersburg, located at 3301 5th Ave.  The emergency order is based on complaints from two families regarding funeral services last year. 

"Funeral homes should be comforting and assisting families, not adding to their suffering.  Instead, we have received complaints that are extremely disturbing," said CFO Sink.  "We have issued this emergency order to protect consumers while we continue to investigate and ensure quality services are provided."

CFO Sink oversees the Department of Financial Services, which licenses and regulates the funeral and cemetery industry through the Division of Cemetery, Funeral and Consumer Services. 

Consumers wishing to file a complaint about this or another funeral home should visit or call the CFO's consumer helpline at 1-877-My-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

LaBelle Auto Repair Shop Owner In Cocaine Bust

Undercover Cocaine Buy Puts LaBelle Businessman In Jail

LABELLE, FL. -- LaBelle auto repair shop owner Shradhanand Bhagwandin, 40 has been arrested by Lee County's Sheriffs Office of Special Investigations after an alleged agreement by Bhagwandin to buy a kilogram of cocaine from undercover deputies for $25,000.

Reportedly he was also willing to purchase two more kilograms in the next few weeks.

 Bhagwandin lives at 757 Bently Street in Lehigh Acres, Fl. and is charged with two 1st degree felony charges of cocaine traffic, and conspiracy to sell.

He is in the Lee county jail under the reversed and mis-spelled name Bhagwandand Shradhanand with bond set at a total of $75,000. His next court date is February 23.

Quaility 1 Auto Care, Inc. on the corner of Hardee Street and State Road 80 in downtown LaBelle is listed under the name Shardhanand Bhagwandin, according to the Florida Secretary of State's records.

The Hardee St. property is shown on Hendry property records, again names reversed as owned by Bhagwandin Shardhanand. He also owns 10 acres of land on F Road in LaBelle, purchased in 2006 for $140,000.

UPDATE: Bhagwandin plead nolo contendere and on November 7, 2009 he was given five years probation and ordered to do 150 hours community service for attempted trafficking of cocaine.

Three Arrests Made In Clewiston Shooting

Two Shot At Hendry Mobile Home Park

CLEWISTON, FL, -- Friday evening, January 23, 2009, at approximately 8:27 p.m. Hendry County Deputies were dispatched to 1050 Davidson Road, Lot 28, in Clewiston, Florida after receiving reports of shots being fired.

Deputies located 2 gunshot victims; one was airlifted to Lee Memorial Hospital and was listed in critical condition the other was treated at an area hospital in Clewiston, 

With the assistance and efforts by the Hendry County Sheriff's Office, Clewiston Police Department, Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and Officers with Florida Wildlife Commission, three individuals are currently under arrest:

        Ulisess Diaz  - 19 years of age from Belle Glade, Florida
         Charges:  2 counts of Aggravated Battery with a firearm - (2) counts

        Alfredo Hernandez  20 years of age from Belle Glade, Florida
         Charges:  2 counts - Principal in the First Degree for Aggravated Battery with a firearm 

Third person arrested Alexander Gonzalez  26 years of age, Belle Glade, Florida, was located by Palm Beach County Sheriffs Office, detained and arrested on charges of 2 counts of Aggravated Battery with a firearm.

Hendry-Glades FHP Traffic Checkpoints

FHP Checking Your Vehicle And License This Week

LaBelle, Fl. -- The Florida Highway Patrol will be conducting driver license and vehicle inspection checkpoints at the following locations in Hendry, Glades and Lee county during this week throuah January 31.

Lee County: Sunshine north of Lee Blvd
North River Road east of the Hendry County Line
South Road east of U.S. 41
Bell Blvd. north of State Road 82
Hart Drive north of State Road 78
Pine ridge & Kelly Road

Hendy County: Cowboy Way west of State Road 29
State Road 80 east of Labelle
County Road 78 west of State Road 29

Glades County: State Road 78 west of U.S. 27
State Road 29 & County Road 74
State Road 78 east of U.S. 27

Recognizing the danger presented to the public by defective vehicle equipment, troopers will concentrate their efforts on vehicles being operated with defects such as bad brakes, worn tires and defective lighting equipment. In addition, attention will be directed to drivers who would violate the driver license laws of Florida.

The Patrol has found these checkpoints to be an effective means of enforcing the equipment and driver license laws of Florida while ensuring the protection of all motorists.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hendry Prison Guard Arrested On Porn Charges

Child Pornography Allegedly Found By Son On Father's Computer

LABELLE, FL. -- Deputies have arrested a Hendry County corrections officer after an investigation determined that he had child pornography on his computer.  George Easterly, 49, a resident of Collier county was charged with 10 counts of possession of child pornography. Easterly has worked for several years at the Hendry County Prison, near the Collier county line.

Collier Sheriff reports give this account of what happened:

In early December Easterly asked his son to repair his computer. The son found images that appeared to be child pornography and reported it to the Collier County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies obtained a search warrant and removed Easterly's computer from his home December 7th. Subsequent forensics performed on the computer revealed ten images of children roughly between the ages of 10 and 17 in photographs depicting various sexual acts.

Easterly was arrested shortly before 4 p.m. Friday during a traffic stop in Golden Gate Estates in Collier County. Easterly�s address is confidential because he is a law enforcement officer.

Skywatch Friday - January 23

Sunset Over Port LaBelle, Florida
A common sight in Southwest Florida around the rural communities of Hendry County...a glorious sunset.
With the unpolluted skies in the countryside and vistas unemcumbered by high rises offices and apartment buildings, visitors to the LaBelle area often will be rewarded with relaxing views of red skies and gently swawing palm trees in early evenings.

Hendry Unemployment High Again

Florida Unemployment Highest In 17 Years

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida�s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for December 2008 is 8.1 percent with Hendry county in 4th place among counties with 10.5% of its workers still seeking jobs. The Florida statistics represent 752,000 jobless out of a labor force of 9,313,000. The Florida unemployment rate is 0.7 percentage point higher than the revised November rate of 7.4 percent and is up 3.6 percentage points from the December 2007 rate.

Hendry County, historically with the state's highest unemployed, had an unemployed rate of 10.5%, 2017 workers unemployed out of a work force of 17,188. Glades county had a rate of 7.7% with 380 unemployed in the county's 4543 person work force.

Hendry county came in behind Hernando and Hamilton county with each having 10.9% unemployment rates, and Flagler county with the state's highest rate at 11.7%.

Where's a Florida job mecca? Perhaps the Tallahassee or Gainesville area, where the state lowest unemployed rates were tallied of 5.7% and 5.3% respectively.

The state�s current unemployment rate is 0.9 percentage point higher than the national unemployment rate of 7.2 percent. Florida�s December 2008 unemployment rate is the highest since September 1992, when the rate was 8.9 percent. Prior to 1992, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Florida using current methodology peaked at 9.7 percent in January, February, and March of 1976. A different methodology was used to calculate unemployment rates prior to 1976; during that time, the rate reached a high of 11.9 percent in May 1975.

Florida�s total nonagricultural employment in December 2008 is 7,784,200, representing a job loss of 255,200, or 3.2 percent compared to December 2007. This is slower than the national rate for December which is 1.9 percent. The December 2008 rate of job loss continues the trend of over-the-year declines that began in September 2007, primarily due to declines in construction.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Home Sales In LaBelle Area

Seven Homes Sold In Four Weeks

LABELLE, FL. -- From 12/23/2008 to 1/20/2009, there were seven homes sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $117,571. The prices were as follows:

1) $78,000 on Albany Rd
2) $60,000 on Clipper Cir
3) $40,000 on Creek Ave
4) $360,000 on Fort Denaud Rd
5) $60,000 on Rainbow Cir
6) $140,000 on Royal Cir
7) $85,000 on S Balsam Cir

Be Aware Of Tax Scams Says Attorney General

Watch Out For Tax Preparer And Charity Scams

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum has issued a consumer advisory warning Floridians to be on the lookout for tax-related scams. Complaints about fraudulent tax preparers are reported to the Attorney Generals Office each year, as are issues with identity theft and fraudulent charities. The Attorney General also advised consumers to ask about service fees up front and avoid tax preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than anyone else.

To avoid being scammed by a non-legitimate tax preparer, consumers should get the credentials of the tax preparer and ask if he or she belongs to a state board or bar association which requires continuing education. Only attorneys, certified public accountants and enrolled agents can represent taxpayers before the IRS in any matter including audits, collections and appeals.

One of the more common scams associated with tax season is "phishing," which occurs when individuals pose as Internal Revenue Service (IRS)  or other government or banking representatives and send consumers e-mails seeking personal information allegedly for the purpose of processing refunds. The emails are usually created to look official and may include subject lines that read "Refund Notice" or similarly misleading phrases.

Another scheme which often surfaces during tax season is the creation of fraudulent charities which email consumers seeking contributions they claim can be written off as tax-deductible. Florida law requires charities to register with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and provide financial information about income and expenditures. Consumers have the right to ask for an organization's financial report and its federal tax identification number which is necessary to claim contributions as tax deductions.

Consumers may file complaints about tax-related scams and any other types of fraud by calling the Attorney General's fraud hotline, 1-866-966-7226, or by filing a complaint online at:

Hendry County Members Reappointed To Citrus Commission

Clewiston And LaBelle Represented On Citrus Commission

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Florida Governor Charlie Crist has announced the following reappointments to the Florida Citrus Commission including Virginia S. Pena of Clewiston and Steve Smith of LaBelle.

Benny W. Albritton Jr., 40, of Wauchula, co-owner of Hardee Citrus Management, reappointed for a term beginning January 22, 2009, and ending May 31, 2011. He will represent district two as a grower member.

Virginia S. Pena, 46, of Clewiston, controller with Southern Gardens Citrus Processing, reappointed for a term beginning January 22, 2009, and ending May 31, 2011. She will represent district four as a processor member.

Steven M. Smith, 47, of LaBelle, senior vice president of Alico Inc., reappointed for a term beginning January 22, 2009, and ending May 31, 2011. He will represent district four as a grower member.

George H. Streetman, 62, of Vero Beach, president of Hogan and Sons Inc., reappointed for a term beginning January 22, 2009, and ending May 31, 2011. He will represent district three as a shipper member.

Want To Be A Star?

Come to LaBelle's Theater Audition

LABELLE, FL. -- LaBelle's Firehouse Players will be holding auditions at the Firehouse Cultural Center, 241 North Bridge, for the last two productions of the 2008/2009 season on Tuesday, January 27, at 6:30 p.m.

Director Joe Thomas is searching for Lady Bracknell, a lady of a certain age who is concerned about social status, and for Jack Worthing, a young man around town who learns The Importance of Being Earnest in the Oscar Wilde trivial comedy for serious people. The Importance of Being Earnest is the local theater group's March production.

Director Terri Lazar wants actors for the three one-act comedies that close the season in April. Anton Chekov's The Boor calls for one female and two males in speaking roles plus several walk-ons with no lines. Neil Simon's Visitor from Forest Hills features the parents of the bride with small parts for the young bride and her groom. Rounding out Terri's three comedies is When Shakespeare's Ladies Meet (with Apologies to the Bard) featuring six of Shakespeare�s most famous heroines.

So, come out Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and read for a part. The acting bug may bite and you could be LaBelle's next matinee idol! For information, call Terri Lazar at 863-675-2392 or Joe Thomas at 863-612-0413.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Hendry Democratic Chairman

Joe Thomas - New Democratic Chair For Hendry County

LABELLE, FL.-- Joe Thomas of LaBelle was elected Chairman of the Hendry County Democratic Executive Committee at the local arm of the Florida Democratic Party's  organizational meeting on December 1 following the November 4 Presidential Election.  This marked Thomas�s return to Hendry County Democratic politics after a twelve-year absence.

Thomas, a Florida native, has called LaBelle home ever since August 14, 1951 when he joined his parents Milt and Frankye Thomas, who had moved to LaBelle earlier that summer.  Joe graduated from LaBelle High School in 1958 and attended the University of Florida where he received both his BA and MAT majoring in history.

Thomas returned to LaBelle in the fall of 1967 and became active with the LaBelle Jaycees where he held almost every local office as well as 15th District Vice President and first Region 11 Director.  He was Swamp Cabbage Festival Chairman on three different occasions.  The Jaycees honored his service to the community by naming him Jaycees International Senator 22985.  Joe was also active in the LaBelle Art League as well as with the Calusa Valley Historical Society.

Joe Thomas became involved with the Hendry County Democratic Executive Committee following the 1968 Presidential Election and held the offices of Precinct Committeeman, Vice Chairman, Chairman and State Committeeman over the next 28 years.

Work took Thomas away from LaBelle from 1997 to 2005 when he retired and returned to the home he continued to maintain in LaBelle.  History had always been his first love; so, he quickly accepted an offer to teach at Edison College in Fort Myers when he was approached in the fall of 2006,  Joe Thomas is an adjunct professor at Edison State College where he teaches History of World Civilizations and United States History.

Thomas said he looks forward to working with Carol Griggs, current Hendry County DEC Vice Chair and immediate Past Chair as well as with R. Mitchell and Mary Thomas, the State Democratic Committee members for Hendry County, the other officers and precinct committee members in building an even stronger Democratic Party in Hendry County.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Obama And The Presidential Oath Of Office

Will Barack Obama Say "So Help Me God?"

The Oath of Office of the President of the United States is actually written into the U.S. Constitution, except for one commonly heard phrase "So Help Me God," routinely added at the end of the oath by each President.

Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution says the President must "Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.'"

It is uncertain how many Presidents used a Bible or added the words "So help me God" at the end of the oath, as neither is required by law.

The phrase "So Help Me God" has been added by Presidents customarily, but for how far back no one knows, as there are no tape recordings of all the Presidential Inaugurations, of course. It is believed by some historians that President Abraham Lincoln may have been the first to have added the phrase in 1865 as a personal prayer.

Other Oath of Office facts:

Franklin Pierce was the first president to use the word affirm rather than swear. Theodore Roosevelt did not use a Bible when taking the oath in 1901. Eisenhower, Truman, and Nixon swore the oath on two Bibles. John Quincy Adams swore on a book of law. Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in on a Roman Catholic missal while aboard Air Force One.

Washington kissed the Bible after taking the Oath, as some later Presidents did, but modern Presidents have not, except for Harry Truman, who bent and kissed the Bible upon taking the oath at his first and second inauguration

The Founding Fathers took some time to word the Oath of Office and mandate its use by all future Presidents. As Representative Jack Brooks explains in an article about the Constitution, "The genius of the Founding Fathers is reflected in the intricate set of checks and balances the Constitution builds into our system of government. By preventing any one of the three branches from acquiring dominance over the others, these structural and procedural safeguards have preserved a fundamental, albeit not always neat, separation of powers.

Moreover, although developed over two centuries ago, they continue to perform this essential function despite the dramatic societal, technological, economic, and political changes in the United States over the past two centuries."

It is expected that President-Elect Obama will also continue the tradition of adding the phrase and using a Bible, although he is not obligated to do so under the Constitution.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Glades County Gets $1.5M Landfill Payment

Waste Management Makes Payment To County

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Waste Management's Jeff Sabin presented a check for $1,500,000 to Glades County Commissoners as agreed upon receipt of the permits from Florida's Department of Environmental Protection for the vertical expansion of the landfill on State Road 78, north of Moore Haven.

Sabin expressed the company's appreciation for working with Glades County over 20 years and with the current landfill project, along with operation of the transfer station at Ortona Landfill, and closure of the Ortona Landfill.

But easy come easy go, as the Commissioners at Tuesday morning's meeting approved of large payments to other companies for services rendered and planned for future expenses.

Payments approved this week:

$250,110.00 to Wright Construction Group
$28,000.00 to Craig A. Smith & Associates
$3,000.00 loan to the Glades Tourist Development Agency to make a web site

The commisson approved 5-0 to have County Attorney Pringle prepare Resolution to amend the budget for receipt of the $1,500,000 payment from Waste Management, and approve disbursement of a portion of the funding to pay off the $800,000 loan for the Industrial Park property. Approved 5-1 to immediately purchase a pumper fire truck for Muse Fire Department up to $155,000, with funds coming from contingency budget.

Also approved by a 5-0 vote, the $132,089 contract with Craig A. Smith & Associates for professional consultant engineering services for the Pearce Canal maintenance and dredging project which is expected to be completed by September 30, 2009. CAS will assist in the competitive selection (bidding) process in hiring a dredging contractor to perform the project work. It is anticipated that the bid for dredging will be awarded on or before March 23, 2009 and actual dredging to begin upon bid acceptance.

Approved 5-0 to advertise request for bids for a pavilion and bathhouse for Washington Park. Building Engineering Plans have been approved by the County Building Department. Bids will be due February 3, to be awarded February 10. Commissioner Donna Storter noted the BoCC had previously approved in June up to $140,000 from the one-cent discretionary sales tax money for this project.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Seacoast Bank Receives $50M Bailout

U.S. Treasury Buys Preferred Stock In Seacoast Bank Corp.

LABELLE, FL. -- Stuart, Florida based Seacoast Banking Corporation of Florida has received $50,000,000 from the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Financial Stability through the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The bank has a local branch in downtown LaBelle.

According to the Treasury's latest Transactions Report for the period ending December 31, 2008, the Treasury's Capital Purchase Program bought $50 million of the banks Preferred Stock with Warrants. The intention of the program is to help banks with more than normal bad assets and loans to continue lending for business and home loans.

The $50 million transaction took place December 19, 2008 according to Treasury records. The Treasury program falls under the Emergency Economic Stabilization  Act.

The largest Federal "buy-in" amounts went to JP Morgan Chase & Co. for $25 billion and the same amount to Citigroup, Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co., all back in October 2008.

Struggling Veterans Eligible For New Help

Hendry County Veteran's Office Here To Help

LABELLE, FL. -- For veterans struggling financially due to a job loss or decreased income, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers an assortment of programs that can relieve the costs of health care or provide care at no cost.

Hendry County's Public Information Officer Ron Zimmerly said this week that veterans whose previous income was ruled too high for VA health care may be able to enter the VA system based upon a hardship if their current year�s income is projected to fall below federal income thresholds due to a job loss, separation from service or some other financial setback. Veterans determined eligible due to hardship can avoid co-pays applied to higher-income veterans. Qualifying veterans may be eligible for enrollment and receive health care at no cost.

Also eligible for no-cost VA care are most veterans who recently returned from a combat zone. They are entitled to five years of free VA care. The five-year �clock� begins with their discharge from the military, not their departure from the combat zone.

Each VA medical center across the country has an enrollment coordinator available to provide veterans information about these programs. Veteran�s may contact VA�s Health Benefits Service Center at 1-877-222 VETS (8387) or visit the VA health eligibility website at For Hendry-Glades county's VA office call 863-675-5250 in LaBelle or 863-983-1491 in Clewiston.

Hendry Sheriff Whidden At Clewiston Ceremony

Pulic Invitation To Swearing Of Hendry County Deputies

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Newly elected Sheriff Steve Whidden is extending an invitation to the residents and visitors of Hendry County to attend the traditional ceremonial swearing in of all members of the Hendry County Sheriffs Office.

All law enforcement members of the Hendry County Sheriff's Department will attend the ceremony to be sworn in by Sheriff Whidden as Deputy Sheriffs.
The swearing in ceremony will take place on Friday, January 16, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. at the New Harvest Church located at 380 Holiday Isle, Clewiston, Florida.

Florida's Gambling Take

Florida Lottery: Worst Bet For Gamblers

LABELLE, FL. -- According to a tally by the St. Petersburg Times this week. Florida Lottery players have the worst odds of all Florida's legal gambling games, while the state and the gambling room owners have 100% odds of winning.

Floridians bet $4.2 billion on lottery games in the last year, but pay-outs only amounted to $2.1 billion, only 50% of the amounts bet. The state of Florida, however had a sure thing, winning $2.1 billion.

Slot machines are the way to go if you want to lose the minimum possible. $3 billion was bet at the three Miami and Broward county parimutuel tracks. Pay-outs were $2.767 billion to the gamblers, or 91.5% of the amounts bet. The state got their cut totalling $123 million. The payouts on card rooms at the parimutuels were not available, but the house take was $91 million from $1 billion bet. The state got $9.1 million.

Horse and dog racing brings betters about 77% of the amounts bet, while the state collects it's sure thing of $22.4 million from the tracks.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Highway Patrol Checkpoints This Week

Hendry, Glades And Lee County Safety Checks

LABELLE, FL. -- The Florida Highway Patrol will be conducting driver license and vehicle inspection checkpoints
at the following locations during the week through January 16.

Lee County: Sunshine north of Lee Blvd. and North River Road east of the Hendry County Line, South Road east of U.S. 41
Hendy County: Cowboy Way west of State Road 29
Glades County: State Road 78 west of U.S. 27

Recognizing the danger presented to the public by defective vehicle equipment, troopers will concentrate their efforts on vehicles being operated with defects such as bad brakes, worn tires and defective lighting equipment. In addition, attention will be directed to drivers who would violate the driver license laws of Florida. The Patrol has found these checkpoints to be an effective means of enforcing the equipment and driver license laws of Florida while ensuring the protection of all motorists.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Foreclosure Help Free Saturday

Record Housing Issues Bring State Officials To Rescue

LABELLE, FL. -- Nearly 150 homeowners have pre-registered for Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink's free Florida Housing Help Workshop being held this Saturday January 10th in Cape Coral to help area homeowners struggling with foreclosure.

The free workshop, to be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Cape Coral City Hall Complex located at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd, Cape Coral, offers one-on-one meetings with lenders and HUD-certified counselors as well as job and financial counselors.  Counseling services will also be available for small business owners facing financial challenges.

"I deeply regret that there is a need for this workshop, but I am proud of the response we have received from lenders and counselors willing to work together to provide alternatives and hands-on assistance," said CFO Sink. "Recent reports show that the Fort Myers-Cape Coral area leads the nation in foreclosures – as many as one in 59 homes in the area are in foreclosure. We must turn those numbers around."

Sink oversees the Department of Financial Services, which is producing the workshop on behalf of the CFO's Financial Action Team (FACT).  Sink created the FACT Team last year to ensure Floridians get all of the federal benefits they may be entitled to under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA). 

Pre-registration is encouraged for those wanting to meet individually with a lender or counselor.  To register, call the CFO's toll-free consumer helpline at 1-877-My-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236).

In addition to private meetings with lenders and counselors, the workshop will offer free seminars throughout the day on a variety of programs on subjects including what to expect when meeting with a housing counselor, why and how to create a family financial plan, local services available to homeowners, affordable housing opportunities, foreclosure prevention measures and legal options, short sales and real estate options, and how to avoid foreclosure scams.  Speakers represent a variety of non-profit agencies.

The FACT Team members represent a broad coalition of financial and housing stakeholders and are continuing to study ways to help Floridians through the foreclosure crisis.  For more information on the Florida Housing Help Workshop and the FACT Team, please visit

Glades Fisheating Creek - Back In Time

Discovering Glades County's Historical Past

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will celebrate the opening of a new interpretive trail in Glades county at the historical Fort Center at Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area on Saturday, January 10.

Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about the colorful and fascinating people and animals that have lived along picturesque Fisheating Creek through the centuries.

Biologists and archeologists will take visitors on an interpretive hay ride to discover the history of the area. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about edible plants and the mysteries of the swallowtail kite. Identifying animal tracks and practicing archery skills will all be a part of the day. Interesting hands-on exhibits and intriguing presentations will be provided for a fun and educational experience for the whole family.

The free event takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fisheating Creek field office, north of Moore Haven, just off County Road 78. Food and drink will be available for purchase.

For more information or to reserve a spot on an early morning birding tour, call Liz Sparks at 850-922-6160.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Florida Health Insurance Program Begins

Two Companies Will Provide Health Coverage For Henry And Glades

LABELLE, FL. -- Governor Charlie Crist has announced that six health insurance providers are ready to begin enrolling Florida consumers in the Cover Florida Health Care Access Program. Two insurance companies will write policies for Hendry and Glades county. The state has selected the companies based on bids and the government will not subsidize the coverage. Blue Cross has the lowest monthly premiums, lowest coverage and highest deductible
United Health Care has a higher premium, higher coverage limits and lower deductibles

The Governor said, "Today is a day many uninsured Floridians have been waiting for. Affordable access to health care is a reality, and I encourage every Florida family and business owner who has been waiting for affordable health insurance options to visit and review the available Cover Florida plans.

"I am grateful to the six insurance carriers who have developed these affordable health insurance options for Floridians.  I strongly encourage all six companies to make every effort as quickly as possible to provide accurate information to Floridians wanting to purchase Cover Florida plans."

Interested individuals are encouraged to discuss their health care options directly with each available insurer, says Crist. The web site has been updated to include contact information for each insurance provider.  Each company will begin providing information to interested consumers via toll-free phone numbers, and two providers have information available online.

Boynton Man Dead In Glades Crash

One Motorcyclist Dead. Two Injured At Buckhead Ridge

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- A crash Sunday afternoon at Buckhead Drive and State Road 78 East in Glades county left a 66-year old Boynton Beach, Florida man dead and his 64-year old wife seriously injured.

William M. Dodson died when he and passenger Patricia A. Dodson were traveling east on SR78. Norma L. Risner, 42 of Okeechobee, driving a 2003 Ford was entering the westbound left turn lane on SR78 at Buckhead Drive and failed to yield, striking the 2002 Harley Davidson motorcycle on which the Dodson's were riding.

The motorcycle overturned and came to rest in the median separating SR78 and Buckhead Drive. Risner suffered minor injuries and was taken to Raulerson Hospital in Okeechobee, while Patricia Dodson was taken to St. Mary's Hospital.

Bubba Raw Radio - For Boys Only

By Don Browne

Lame Name Dropping At Its Finest - Bubba Returns To Boring Radio

LABELLE, FL. -- A mishmash of not funny talk radio aimed at young males, with Tampa based brash raspy-throated Bubba The Love Sponge (trademark!) and lame sidekicks, Spice, Brent, Manson and Ned. After a long stint on Sirius satellite afternoon radio, Bubba returns to add terrestial radio to his arsenal with never-ending talk about his musician friends, wrestling buddies, racing buddies, continuous sports-celebrity name dropping, appealing I would think only to 17 to 25 year old guys.

The Bubba show, after a listen to its first hour and a half, is like a monster truck loaded with advertising banners, hawking stuff that would only appeal only to young males. Who would be listening to this radio other than a few guys on their way to work? I don't think the unemployed, probably a more likely target audience, would be up at 6 a.m.

Sponsors' ads may be the most exciting part of the four-hour broadcast, loud announcers behind rock music, hocking Lookers "exotic erotic, possibly psychotic" Men's Club in Ft. Myers, auto detailing, an auto repair shop, the monster truck show at the Lee Civic Center, credit counseling, transforming "debt into wealth" hucksters, and curiously Edison Mall and Applebee's Restaurant.

I can imagine this show survives only as long as advertisers can be hoodwinked into buying spots on it. When the advertisers find out they've been had, I would guess they will pull out sooner than later.

The crude language is toned down from Bubba's unabridged Sirius satellite radio show in order to meet FCC requirements for traditional radio wave broadcasting, but even so an occasional "ass wipe" "fag" and other somewhat narrowly offensive language is heard., his semi-porn wrestling, hot-gal photo web site;, and the Bubba online store, were mentioned, making me wonder what's with having so many different web sites. Heard this morning were name drops of Bubba's son Brent, wrestler Hulk Hogan, race driver Tony Stewart, Bubba's football star friends, Bubba's other wrestler friends, and a very bad commentary about the weekend's Palestinian Gaza strip invasion by Israel, comparing it of course to Bubba's favorite topic, a wrestling match.

Radio listeners looking for entertaining talk, and not finding it here, can still listen to the afternoon Stan and Haney Show at 2 p.m. on Ft. Myers' K-Rock 96.1 or Miami's (by way of Toronto, Canada) Neil Rogers Show mornings on the internet or on WQAM 560 at 10 a.m..

Where's Bubba: Miami. Beasely Broadcast Group Fort Myers 96.1, Tampa, Orlando, and Richmond, Va.

Friday, January 02, 2009

No Movie Theaters In LaBelle?

No Problem - Watch Movies Free On The Internet!

LABELLE, FL. -- There are no movie theaters in the county seat of Hendry county, and no theaters in Glades county either. The closest theaters are in Fort Myers, at least a 45 minute drive from LaBelle. So what to do? Watch the movie on the internet is the solution for many people now.

The internet has seen a large expansion recently of sites showing 1st run current hit movies broadcast continuously on websites like And all are free to watch by anyone. Anyone can watch the latest movies on the internet including latest releases, old classics free. So what's the catch you might ask?

Most all of the current movies you see streaming on the internet are from illegal video taping of the legitimate movie by a video camera at a movie theater. You will even sometimes see shadows of people walking in front of the camera.

Generally, the video quality may be mediocre to poor, and the sound quality may be excellent to poor, but the movies are at least watchable on the small screen of a computer. But by watching these "free" movies, you are probably encouraging illegal copying and broadcasting of films without permission of the copyright owners. And lots of people are doing it. There are usually about 400 people watching one of these numerous movie channels at any time of the day, many more people watching than would be in an actual theater showing.

It is illegal for anyone to broadcast copyrighted material to the public without permission of the copyright owner, in this case the movie studios or production companies are the owners of the movies and videos. You can be sure that none of the live broadcasters at these websites have permission to broadcast these movies.

But, nonetheless, one particular web site owner ( allows the live broadcasts unless the copyright owner notifies them that they are in violation of their copyright. This almost never happens apparently as these channels have been broadcasting movies continously for many months, with several hundred viewers at any one time.

Here's where to find out more about the illegal movie sites:
Watch 1st Run Movies

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Got A Question For Local Officials/Businesses?

Ask Your Questions - Make Comments Online!

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry and Glades County will be starting off the new year with newly elected officials in many offices serving the residents and visitors of LaBelle, Clewiston, and Moore Haven in rural Florida.

Beginning new terms in office this month are Steve Whidden, Sheriff of Hendry county; Phil Pelletier, Hendry Property Appraiser; Rich Murphy, Hendry Superintendent of Schools; and Jeniffer Daniels-Derleth, Port LaBelle Community Development District Supervisor.

In the past, the Sunday Morning News has noticed that local elected officials for the most part ignore communications to them, and it's a rare official who actually responds to a query by any resident.

The Sunday Morning News thus begins this year with a permanent community web page where anyone can ask questions or make comments to local officials or business owners online. The questions and comments are posted by the community and then are ranked by readers by checking each question for importance.

Categories to which questions have been asked so far include: Sheriff's Office, County Commissioners, Property Appraiser, Community Complaints, Questions to County Officials

Take a look, ask a question, make comments, add new topics, and make your voice heard! - Click to ask your questions, make comments, and add new topics