Friday, February 27, 2009

Hendry Underground Grow House Discovered

Drug Bunker Found During Fire In Pioneer Plantation

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Sheriffs deputies were alerted to a possible underground bunker type grow house on Wednesday, February 18, at approximately 7:00 p.m.  While firefighters were attempting to put out the fires in the area of 2412 Christopher Lane in rural Pioneer Plantation in central Hendry county, they noticed a concrete stucco sided structure. 

When firefighters entered the structure they noticed a small cut-out trapdoor style door on the floor.  When the firefighters looked inside the trap door they observed multiple freshly cut bushels of a green herbal substance they believed to be marijuana plants hanging from the ceiling.

Sheriff Steve Whidden, who was already on scene observing the progress of the fire fighting, was immediately notified and responded to 2412 Christopher Lane.  When investigators arrived they were able to obtain a search warrant and entered the premises. 

The search of the underground grow structure revealed approximately 4.2 pounds of freshly cut marijuana stocks hanging in the concealed room under the floor of the building.  This marijuana had been brought in to dry and it was not believed to be grown there.

The 20-acre property at that address is listed as owned by Tatiana Pena of 20120 NW 66th Place, in Miami and on property records is shown as vacant land.

The marijuana was collected and placed in evidence; also collected were various small tools, a generator that was facilitating the electrical equipment and a portable AC unit. 

The grow house was equipped with thirteen electrical transformers, multiple breakers and timers, 15 light fixtures and 17 large grow lights.  It was obvious to investigators that the bunker was still being constructed.

The bunker style grow house is not common in South Florida, and there have been three reported bunker style grow houses in central and northern Florida.  This is the first known marijuana grow house in South Florida. 

Glades County Chalo Nitka Festival In 61st Year

Held at Chalo Nitka Park on 10th Street in Moore Haven

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- This year antique cars, baton twirlers and tae kwon do students will be featured in the 61st annual Chalo Nitka Festival Parade beginning at 10 am Saturday March 7. At 11:30, vendor booths will open at the Chalo Nitka grounds on 10th Street in Moore Haven where EZ Money, featuring Glades County musician Shannon McCrory will perform. 

The annual festival is held yearly on the the first Saturday in March. Admission to the fair grounds is $3. Children five and under get in free. Enjoy the midway and stick around for the rodeo and the dance Saturday night. For more information or for a parade entry form, phone 863-946-0440.

Fair website for more info:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

LaBelle Men Charged For Selling Oysters

Selling Without Licenses
More than 4,400 pounds of unrefrigerated oysters would have reached the mouths of Southwest Florida consumers were it not for the diligence of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers. 

In two seemingly unrelated incidents, FWC officers arrested three unlicensed people attempting to sell oysters that had not been stored in accordance with state health standards.  However, markings on the bags showed that oysters in both seizures originally came from the same shipment.

On Feb. 23, an FWC officer on patrol in Hendry County saw a man by the side of the road advertising Louisiana oysters for sale.  The officer found 14 bags of oysters in a cargo trailer without refrigeration or ice.  He charged William R. Kersey Jr. (DOB 02/01/1974) of 311 Clark St., LaBelle, with selling saltwater products without a retail license and with violating quality-control regulations.  The officer seized and destroyed approximately 1,100 pounds of oysters in that incident.       

On Feb. 24, an FWC officer conducting commercial fish house inspections on Estero Island in Lee County found two men and a juvenile attempting to sell oysters to a local fish house.  The officer discovered 41 bags of oysters without refrigeration or ice in the rear of a pickup and in an open trailer. 

Dean T. Daniels (DOB 08/03/1963) of 38 W. Carmack Dr., Chalmette, La., claimed that his refrigerated truck broke down while transporting the oysters from his fish house in Louisiana.  The officer charged Daniels and Jeremy Kennedy (DOB 02/02/1988) of 4003 Cascade Lane, LaBelle, with attempting to sell saltwater products without a wholesale dealer�s license and with quality-control violations.

Dean T. Daniels appears to be the same as a LaBelle home builder that has his home listed with the Hendry county property appraiser as homesteaded property at 7005 Rich Circle, Port LaBelle.

FWC officers and Florida Department of Agriculture agents routinely inspect licensed fish dealers in Florida to ensure that high standards for consumer products are met. The FWC reminds consumers never to purchase seafood from an unlicensed dealer.  Licenses must be posted in open view for consumers.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hendry Grow House Busted

Suspect Admits 25 Mature Marijuana Plants Are His

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Narcotics Investigators took out another Marijuana grow house on February 19, 2009 at 4377 Fort Simmons Road, located a few miles northwest of LaBelle.

The execution of a search warrant by members of the Hendry Sheriffs Office paid off, says Lt. Susan Harrelle. Investigators located growing marijuana behind the residence of 53-year old Pedro Linares. (photo left)

Investigators found a barn on the 5-acre parcel of land, with a sophisticated indoor marijuana growing operation, says Harrelle.

They found three large air conditions units, two air conditioner handlers, and twenty-seven 1000-watt grow lights with transformers, sophisticated electrical network and irrigation system, exhaust fans, and numerous other items that assisted in the cultivation of the marijuana.

Once inside investigators found 25 mature live growing marijuana plants standing about five to six feet in height with a street value of approximately $423,000.

Investigators spoke with Linares who admitted to being the owner and operator of the marijuana grows operation.

Pedro Linares was then placed under arrest and charged with trafficking in marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, cultivation of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. He is currently being held on $130,000 bond.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Crist Goes To Bat For Florida Baseball

Governor Launches Spring Training Season

ST. PETERSBURG – Governor Charlie Crist, continuing his commitment to strengthening Florida's economy, will applaud Major and Minor League baseball's economic contributions to the Sunshine State when he launches the 2009 spring training baseball season this evening by hosting the Governor's Baseball Dinner in St. Petersburg.

The event, restored in 2008 by Governor Crist after more than a decade, will honor Florida's two Major League Baseball clubs, 14 other Major League clubs who train in Florida, and the 29 Minor League clubs who play throughout the spring and summer.  More than 200 representatives from these clubs will join with 500 fans and sponsors at St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays.

"These baseball teams are a major part of Florida's economy, and a major part of our $36-billion-year sports industry," said Governor Crist. "Spring training alone generates more than $450 million a year in Florida. During historic economic times like what we now face, it is more important than ever that we support and build on successful industries like baseball."

Featured at the dinner will be seven members of the Baseball Hall of Fame: Wade Boggs of Tampa, who played for the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays; former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Robin Roberts; Al Kaline, longtime right fielder for the Detroit Tigers; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski; Tony Perez, who played for the Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies; Mike Schmidt, third baseman for the Phillies; and Phil Niekro, who spent most of his 24-year career with the Atlanta Braves.

The dinner will also feature a salute to Hall of Famer Hank Aaron. The longtime player for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves made history nearly 35 years ago when he hit his record 715th home run on April 8, 1974, beating the home-run record long held by Babe Ruth.

Veteran Houston Astros broadcaster Milo Hamilton, a member of the broadcasters' wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame, will serve as the event's Master of Ceremonies.  He will interview Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Philadelphia Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel about the 2008 World Series. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig will offer remarks about baseball and its more than century-long history in Florida. Commissioner Selig will join Governor Crist in presenting a check to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the official charity of Major League Baseball.

The Grapefruit League, the term used to describe Florida spring training games, generates more than $450 million for the Florida economy each year, according to a survey originally published in 2000 and updated in 2005.  In 2008, more than 1.6 million baseball fans attended a spring training game in Florida, while another 1.4 million attended Minor League games during the spring and summer of 2008.

On Wednesday, Governor Crist will throw out the ceremonial first pitch in the 2009 Spring Training opener between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee.

Glades To Cite Washington Park Owners

Residents Dumping Litter On 33 Vacant Lots, 24 Homes In Dilapidated Condition

MOORE HAVEN, FL. --  At Monday's Glades County Commission meeting, Community Development Director Hilton discussed the recent code enforcement efforts in Washington Park. Washington Park is a housing development on the north side of the City of Moore Haven, established in 1917 with 133 homes, 2 apartment houses, 5 churches, 1 school and 1 store. 

Code enforcement identified an apartment house and 24 homes in dilapidated condition, abandoned and unoccupied.  33 lots without structures are littered with garbage and overgrown with weeds, some with abandoned vehicles, said Hilton.  
Hilton explained that all non-compliant property owners had received written notice of the code violations and some had responded and are scheduling methods to achieve compliance.  Officials say enforcement effort would be expensive for the county and could create hostility from the owners who may be assessed fines and penalties by County Judge Lundy if their case went to court.

Commissioner Jones said the county had paid for cleanup and debris removal from Washington Park three times since he became commissioner in 1992, including providing a John Deere tractor and bush hog that disappeared after one year.  He said the clean up efforts were not maintained by the citizens of Washington Park, and he did not know the answer to the situation.

The Board discussed the procedures that may be involved with non-compliance, and the cost to the county for cleanup, noting that efforts had been made in other areas, notably Crescent Acres and Commissioner Giesler mentioned the success of the white-goods pickup in Buckhead Ridge.  

Commissioner Giesler urged Mr. Hilton to �just do it� and his sentiment was echoed by Commissioner Storter.  The consensus of the Board was for Mr. Hilton to proceed with code enforcement efforts as prescribed by County ordinance. 

Full report of this effort, including photos and maps, can be found at, click on BOCC agenda, then click on the pdf for Agenda item 4.

Awards To Glades Citizens

Awards At Glades Commission Meeting

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Reverend Thom Street, pastor of First United Methodist Church of Moore Haven, was presented a plaque of appreciation Monday for his volunteer services to Glades County Emergency Management, and in recognition of his recent honor as Florida�s Volunteer of the Year a recent convention of  Florida Emergency Preparedness Association. 

Pastor Thom has not only volunteered services as a ham radio operator, but has taught classes in the County and now 5 of our 7 Glades county communities have ham operators that could provide backup communications for Emergency Management.

Glades County Emergency Management�s LaTosha Reiss was presented a plaque acknowledging her recent achievement of obtaining Associate Emergency Manager Certification upon completion of  50 hours of EM training.  LaTosha has served Glades County well and her dedicated service was noted by the commissioners for her help in the storm events last year.

Groundbreaking - New LaBelle Housing

New Apartments For LaBelle

LABELLE, FL. -- On Friday, February 20, Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida broke ground on "Palmetto Ranch," a 14-unit apartment complex for people with developmental disabilities. The housing complex will be located near the intersection of James Singleton Place and State Road 80 in western LaBelle.

LaBelle Mayor Paul Puletti was joined by members of Goodwill's senior management staff and board of directors as they ceremonially turned the dirt on the project. The actual site construction was already underway, and workers continued to lay foundation and build stem-walls as the ceremonial groundbreaking took place nearby.

Also in attendance at the groundbreaking were City Commissioner Hilda Zimmerly, Hendry County Housing Authority Commissioner Sherri Denning, officers of the LaBelle Kiwanis, and even neighborhood residents. "It's wonderful to see so much support from the community," said Kirsten O'Donnell, Goodwill's Director of Public Relations.

When completed, Palmetto Ranch will be Goodwill's thirteenth housing complex in Southwest Florida, and first in Henry County. Goodwill will also build a "phase two" for Palmetto Ranch, which will provide 14 more HUD-approved units specially designed to accommodate people with physical disabilities. Raymond Holland, Chairman of Goodwill's Board of Directors, explains the need for the housing complex. "There is a shortage of desirable services for Hendry County�s most vulnerable citizens," says Holland. "Soon, affordable housing for the disabled will be a reality in Hendry County."

Each of Goodwill's barrier-free housing communities has an on-site community room, laundry room and picnic/patio area. Accessible apartments are constructed with conveniences like assistance railings, widened doorways, roll-in showers, and lowered sinks, countertops, and mirrors.

Plans for the LaBelle site also include a new retail store, which will be accessible from State Road 80. Revenue from Goodwill's 23 Southwest Florida stores helps to support the organization�s programs and services, which include housing. Retail sales provide approximately 86% of the funding required for Goodwill�s services.

The new LaBelle site is part of a concerted effort by Goodwill to expand its mission in Hendry County.

Photo (L-R): Rick Evanchyk, Goodwill Vice President of Administrative Services; Sherri Denning, Hendry County Housing Authority Commissioner; Jean Devereaux, Goodwill Board of Directors; Paul Puletti, LaBelle Mayor; Raymond Holland, Chairman of Goodwill Board of Directors; Tom Feurig, Goodwill President/CEO.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wildfire Warning For Hendry County

Wildfire Season Whirling Toward Southwest Florida

By Mike Weston, Florida Divison of Forestry

It should come as no surprise that wildfire season is running toward us with each windy, dry day.  The recent cold weather and freezes combined with ongoing dry conditions have created wildfire conditions that are worse than average for this time of year. 

Currently, the drought index, commonly called KBDI (Keetch Byram Drought Index measures the deficit of soil moisture deficient in the top eight inches of soil from 0 to 800 with higher number meaning drier conditions), for Lee County is 564, Collier is 665, and Hendry is 708. 

Everywhere in southwest Florida is affected and dry.  The long range forecast is for the dry conditions to persist until June, meaning wildfire experts expect the dry conditions to worsen beyond what we saw last year, especially because of the frost and cold weather this winter.  The combination has now created conditions that are very favorable to wildfires growing large and spreading fast.

Be a part of the solution!  The recent 475 acre wildfire in Hendry County shows that residents and business owners need to hurry along actions to make sure they have 30 feet of defensible space around their home or place of business, at a minimum, that will deter a fire from burning right up to and into your house or other property. 

Clean dry leaves off of roofs and out of bushes near houses and buildings, keep your lawn well trimmed and follow watering restrictions, and make sure that your address can easily be found from the road with reflective lettering that is at least 4 inches tall. 

The Florida Division of Forestry is working to mitigate dangerous wildland fuel conditions through mechanical means and prescribed burning, but since January 1st, the Division of Forestry in Lee, Collier, and Hendry counties has responded to over 41 fires that have burned over 660 acres.  This is more than a square mile of land already burned. 

Most all are caused by people that thought the fire would not get away.  We need the residents of southwest Florida to use extreme caution when they are around anything that is hot or can create a flame.  Numerous fires have broken out due to the careless disposal of hot grill ashes, careless burning of yard trash, and improper construction of campfires.  Remember, before you burn, call your local fire district or the Division of Forestry office for instructions, cautions, and permissions.

The safest wildfire is one that is prevented.  As Smokey Bear says, �Only You Can Prevent Wildfires!� 

For more information on how to be Firewise, to create defensible space, or to learn about burn laws go to

Driver Dead In Glades Canal Crash

Speeding Car Lands In Canal

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- A Sunday afternoon crash leaves 42-year old Larry L. Walker of Mayo, Florida dead on Glades County Road 720, west of Griffin Road SE after landing in a canal.

According to the FHP, Walker, driving a 1996 Mercury, not wearing a seatbelt, was traveling westbound on CR-720 at 64 miles per hour in a posted 45 mile per hour zone. The vehicle entered a curve to the left and veered onto the north (right) shoulder. Walker over corrected and lost control.

The vehicle veered back onto the roadway and rotated counter clockwise, veered onto the south (left) shoulder and overturned into a water filled canal.

The car came to final rest facing southeast on its roof in the canal. Walker was pronounced deceased at 5:56 p.m. by Paramedic J. Biggs of Glades County EMS.

The crash was investigated by FHP Trooper J. Lander and Corporal A. Williams.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

LaBelle Swamp Cabbage Festival Opens

Parade Opens Festivities In Hendry County Saturday

LABELLE, FL. -- The annual LaBelle Swamp Cabbage Festival is underway after Saturday's huge parade brought thousands of spectators to Main Street LaBelle.

Video - Click Above to play

One of Hendry county's largest annual events, the Saturday morning parade is always a crowd pleaser for residents and visitors alike. The hour-long parade down two-mile long Main Street brought smiles to the kids and parents watching as marching bands, floats and clowns marched through the streets of this rural town.

The parade ended at Barron Park along the Caloosahatchee river front where the week-end festival's events take place. The Festival closes Sunday after dozens of musicians perform, and thousands of visitors take their fill of festival foods.

Swamp Cabbage Festival Schedule

Friday, February 20, 2009

Gunshots Kill Three Victims

LaBelle Shooting Friday Night

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Deputies were busy Friday night as three persons were shot at 963 Citrus Street in LaBelle.

The incident occurred about 8:15 p.m. and investigators are now rounding up witnesses and determining the suspect.

Gilberto Fernandez, 44, of Labelle, and Madai Rodriguez, 32, of Lehigh Acres were found dead according to Lt. Susan Harrelle.
Maria Perez, 26, of Lehigh Acres, was airlifted to Lee Memorial Hospital and later died on Sunday.

Details are unknown at this time as the investigation continues, but Fernandez may have been the shooter. The single-wide 1981 mobile home is owned by Gilberto and Anita Fernandez who purchased it in 2000.

Photo: location of shooting at Citrus Street mobile home

Clewiston Eagle's Nest In Danger

Complaints Registered About Land Clearing At Eagle Nest Site

CLEWISTON, FL. --Local residents have registered concerns about land clearing near an eagle's nest on land believed to belong to U.S. Sugar in Clewiston. It is illegal to disturb nesting sites of eagles.

Margaret England, secretary of the Hendry-Glades Audubon Society says she received a call Monday about land clearing within 50 feet of an active eagle's nest with two eaglets on a site located on old highway US27, east of State Road 835 in Clewiston. England has received photographs of a tall Australian Pine showing the nest at the top.

It has been reported the land is being cleared for a trailer park but that the land is zoned for agricultural use. Hendry county zoning officials and Florida Fish And Wildlife have been notified and are investigating.

LaBelle Home Sales Expanding At Lower Prices

Sales May Be Increasing In LaBelle?

LABELLE, FL. -- While real estate prices have declined greatly in the last several years in Hendry county, home sales have been expanding especially in smaller homes priced under $100,000. Recent price surveys show the average house is now selling for about half of what was selling a year ago in Southwest Florida.

In the LaBelle area from 1/20/2009 to 2/17/2009, there were 11 homes sold in zip code 33935 for an average price of $44,909. Homes sold were in the Port LaBelle subdivisions, except for two in the city ( Maddox and Davis) and one in the county (Shell Ln.)

The properties sold and prices recorded were at the following street addresses:

1) $59,000 on Abel Ct
2) $44,000 on Bishop Cir
3) Unknown price on Maddox St
4) $49,000 on Schooner Dr
5) $44,000 on Shell Ln
6) $35,000 on Showboat Plz
7) $77,000 on Steamboat Cir
8) $37,000 on Tide Cir
9) $45,000 on S Davis St
10) $65,000 on W Briarwood Cir
11) $39,000 on W Sunflower Cir

Seven Arrested For Shooting Protected Birds

Ibis, Blue Heron, Cormorants Shot Dead By Hunters

IMMOKAKEE, FL. -- Simply by being in the right place at the right time Tuesday evening, officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) were able to arrest a group of people suspected of shooting and killing protected birds.

Officer Dan Stermen was on routine patrol of Curcie Grade and County Road 92 in Collier County, when he heard gunfire coming from the direction of a bird rookery.  As he got closer, he observed birds flying erratically and some falling from the sky.  Stermen called for backup and waited near some cars that were parked on a peninsula leading to a lake.  The area is marked "no trespassing."

Three men returned to their car in a boat.  Officers saw firearms in the boat.  Zachary J. Mato (DOB 8/16/86) and Cullen M. Shaughnessy (DOB 8/5/86), both of Marco Island, and Joseph W. Gursky (DOB 3/25/86) of Hillsdale, N.Y., were charged with felony trespass with a firearm and booked into Collier County Jail.

Four other people on the island were on foot and were ferried back to land.  Keith G. Lisa (DOB 3/1/77) of North Bergen, N.J., Alexander B. Wilhelm (DOB 9/14/84) of Annapolis, Md., Mark L. McClure (DOB 12/15/85) of Osprey, Fla. and Stephanie M. Meads (DOB 7/11/85) of Naples, were charged with misdemeanor trespassing and booked into the jail.

Officers collected 21 dead birds at the scene.  The birds had been shot.  Some of the birds are classified as "species of special concern," which means they are protected under state law.  Some of the protected birds found at the scene included white ibis and blue heron. 

Some of the other birds found shot to death included tree swallows and cormorants.  These birds are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty act.

"In my 27 years as an officer, I�ve never seen people deliberately shoot and kill birds and just leave them for dead," said FWC Lt. Wayne Maahs.  "This is truly a heinous act."  

Additional charges are pending.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Swamp Cabbage Festival Opens

LABELLE, FL. -- The LaBelle Swamp Cabbage Festival in Hendry county Florida is an annual Southwest Florida event with some 25,000 people flooding the streets of LaBelle for it's annual parade and Barron Park festivities along the banks of the Caloosahatchee River. The festival is always held the last full weekend of February in LaBelle, Florida, the county seat of Hendry county.

Hendry County's Swamp Cabbage Festival is an annual event begun in 1965 by the LaBelle Jaycees. The City of LaBelle, and Port LaBelle community and all of Hendry County extend a warm welcome to all our many visitors to this annual event. The festival honors the delicacy gourmets call the "Heart of Palm," the meat of the cabbage palm tree. The cabbage palm is also called the Sabal Palm, the state tree of Florida.

More photos, last year's parade video, and festival schedules: Swamp Cabbage Festival

Photo: The Swamp Cabbage Festival at Barron Park in LaBelle, Florida

Friday, February 13, 2009

Congressman Rooney Explains Vote

Voices Regret Over Economic Stimulus Bill

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), representing portions of Hendry and Glades county released the following statement regarding the vote on the Democrat Stimulus bill:

"Americans are struggling and help is needed to restart the economy. The Democrat majority claims that it is their plan or nothing, which is simply not true.  The plan I support would have provided real tax relief to working families and small business owners while kick starting the economy by creating twice as many jobs at half the price of the Democratic plan.

I cannot support the Democrats' expensive stimulus bill that levees our economic future on the backs of our children while spending billions on projects that will do little to stimulate the economy. This bill doesn't provide enough tax relief for the people of the 16th District and doesn't do nearly enough to help with the record number of home foreclosures, job losses, and take-home pay.

We didn't receive the bill from the majority party until late Thursday night, fewer than 24 hours before being asked to vote on the measure.  Where is the transparency my Democrat colleagues promised the American people?  The majority locked the Republicans out of all deliberations.  I sincerely hope in the future we will work together to find real solutions, that is what people expect from their Congress and they did not get it today." 

TV To Go Digital Next Week

Local Broadcasters To Shut Off Analog TV

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson this week reminded citizens that they could be without television reception as early as next week as a result of the conversion of the broadcast industry from analog airwaves to digital.

While the federal government recently delayed the deadline for the switch until June 12, some television stations plan to convert their broadcasting format on February 17, which had been the original deadline.

What it means is that consumers with older television sets that lack a digital tuner (sometimes called a digital receiver) and rely on "rabbit ears" or a rooftop antenna will lose their signal.  Those with cable or satellite hookups will not be affected.

Viewers without satellite or cable may also find a separate antenna may need to be mounted on a roof top to receive the much weaker digital signals.

To avoid any interruption of service, consumers can do one of three things:
-- Purchase a digital-to-analog converter box that plugs into your existing television.
-- Subscribe to a cable, satellite or telecommunications service provider.
-- Purchase a television set with a built-in digital tuner.

For more information on the digital television transition, visit or call 1-888-CALL-FCC.  For information about receiving $40 coupons toward the purchase of a converter box, visit or call 1-888-DTC-2009.

Consumers can also call Bronson's Consumer Services Division at 1-800-HELPFLA (1-800-435-7352) for information about consumer issues in general or to be directed to the best resource for assistance.

LaBelle Play - March Opening

Oscar Wilde Play Opens March 5

LABELLE FL. -- Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest opens at the LaBelle Firehouse Cultural Center, 241 N. Bridge St., on Thursday evening, March 5, at 8:00 p.m. and runs through Sunday, March 15.

Special cameo appearances will be made at each performance by Southwest Florida luminaries Edison State College Vice President Dr. Robert Beeson, Lee County Commissioner Brian Bigelow, LaBelle optometrist and Edison State College Trustee Dr. Randall Parrish, Hendry County School Superintendant Rick Murphy and others.

Performance times are 7:00 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays with a 2:00 p.m. matinee on Sundays. The Firehouse Players offer a special Thursday only $7.00 student admission with ID and advance reservation. Tickets are $14.00 at the door and $12.00 with advance reservations, call (863) 675-3066.

Photo: Travis Dowhen and Erica Zimmerly rehearse a scene

Thursday, February 12, 2009

In The Service - Pvt. Teresa Ruiz

Graduates From Basic Training

BELLE GLADE, FL. -- Army Pvt. Teresa D. Ruiz 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 Lus Aboytes of N.E. 29th St., and nephew of Guillermo Aboytes of N.E. 30th St., both of Belle Glade, Fla.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Apartment Housing For LaBelle

14 Unit Phase One For Palmetto Ranch Apartments

LABELLE, FL. -- On Friday, February 20 at 9:30 a.m., Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida will hold a ceremonial ground breaking for Palmetto Ranch, a 14-unit apartment complex in LaBelle for people with developmental disabilities.

Palmetto Ranch will be Goodwill's thirteenth housing complex in Southwest Florida, and first in Henry County. At the completion of the two-phase project, Palmetto Ranch will provide 28 HUD-approved units specially designed to accommodate people with physical disabilities.

Each of Goodwill's barrier-free housing communities has an on-site community room, laundry room and picnic/patio area. Accessible apartments are constructed with conveniences like assistance railings, widened doorways, roll-in showers, and lowered sinks, countertops, and mirrors.

"This is hugely important to LaBelle and the whole area," says Hendry County Housing Authority Commissioner Sherri Denning, who is also a member of Goodwill's Board of Directors. "There aren't very many accessible units for people with disabilities in our area, especially ones that are close to town and are suitable for families to live in."

Goodwill's housing division, Southwest Florida GWI Housing, provides barrier-free housing for persons with physical disabilities providing the opportunity for affordable, convenient, independent living to enhance the overall quality of life.

Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida has received funding for Phase II in excess of $2 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). On Friday, January 23, 2009, HUD Miami Field Office Director Armando Fana presented a ceremonial check for $2,057,300 to Goodwill Vice President of Administration Rick Evanchyk and Goodwill Housing Committee Chair Jean Devereaux.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Kidnapping In Hendry County

25-Year Old Man Arrested For Kidnapping Woman

LABELLE, FL. -- The Hendry County Sheriff's Office reports that on January 31, 2009 at approximately 2:07 a.m., Deputy Nathan Kirk of the Hendry County Sheriff's Office conducted a traffic stop on a white Dodge Mini van with a Delaware temporary tag after witnessing the vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed through a red traffic light. 

When stopping the vehicle Deputy Kirk reported that the driver, later identified as 25 year old, Armando Hernandez, exited the his vehicle and it was at this point that Deputy Kirk noticed a Hispanic female exited the front passenger side of the vehicle and ran to the Deputy. 

It was learned through the assistance of a translator that Olivia Aburto-Espina had been taken against her will.  She explained through the interpreter that she had been calling for a taxi when the white Dodge Mini Van approached her in the parking lot. 

She had tried to escape Hernandez but he was able to force her into the van pushing down onto the floor board and punched her in the back of the head.  Aburto-Espino stated she remained there until the vehicle had been stopped by law enforcement. 

Armando Hernandez was then taken into custody, transported to the Hendry County Jail, and charged with Kidnapping-False Imprisonment, Damage Proper-Criminal Mischief, Petit Larceny, and Battery.  Hernandez is currently being held on $152,000 bond.

Governor To Join Obama In Fort Myers

Crist To Meet With Obama In Town Hall Meeting Tuesday

LABELLE, FL. -- The White House announced today that Florida Governor Charlie Crist will introduce President Barack Obama at a town hall meeting in Fort Myers to discuss the urgent need for a plan to help American families cope with the severe economic downturn and lay the foundation for our long term recovery.

"I look forward to traveling to Ft. Myers tomorrow to talk to Floridians about how we get our nation's economy back on track. Gov. Crist and I have seen firsthand the toll that this economic crisis has taken on the American people, and we agree that we can't allow politics to get in the way of urgent relief for the millions of families and small businesses that need it," said President Barack Obama.

"Florida has taken prudent steps to cut taxes for our people and balance our budget in these increasingly difficult times. Any attempts at federal stimulus must prioritize job creation and targeted tax relief for small business owners. I am eager to welcome President Obama to the Sunshine State as he continues to work hard to reignite the US economy," said Florida Governor Charlie Crist.

Crist Visits The State Fair Today

Governor Charlie Crist today visited the Florida State Fair and applauded the event's importance to Florida's economy statewide.  According to an economic impact study conducted by the University of South Florida Center for Economic Development in 2006, the Florida State Fair Authority creates 1,267 jobs statewide and has an economic impact of $171.4 million in sales and over $43.3 million in wages. Organized under the leadership of Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson, the 2009 Florida State Fair opened Thursday, February 5, and runs through Monday, February 16. Later today, as part of his ongoing focus on strengthening Florida's economy, Governor Crist will visit the Workforce Central Florida center in Orlando.

"I commend Commissioner Bronson for his leadership in showcasing at the Florida State Fair all that Florida has to offer – our climate, our agriculture and our quality of life," Governor Crist said.  "Floridians are some of the most innovative entrepreunuers in our country, and I am committed to increasing our capacity for economic growth and higher-paying jobs for our people.

The Florida State Fair is a Sunshine State tradition in its 105th year. In 1975, the Florida Legislature created the Florida State Fair Authority and designated the annual event in Tampa as the official Florida State Fair. In 1995, the Florida State Legislature put the fairgrounds and the Florida State Fair Authority under the administration of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The Florida State Fair Authority oversees the fair and the fairgrounds buildings and programs throughout the year.

While addressing the Florida State Fair Governor's Luncheon, Governor Crist spoke of his support for the federal stimulus package and plans to discuss the impact to Florida with President Barack Obama in Fort Myers tomorrow.

"I continue to work with my colleagues and members of our Congressional delegation to ensure Florida receives our fair share," Governor Crist said. "We want Florida to be positioned to use the money quickly in ways that jumpstart our economy."

Death In Clewiston Crash

One Dead - Many Injured In Hendry Crash

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Roeri Marrero, 32 from Clewiston died in a Monday morning crash near midnight on US 27.  43-year old passenger Carmen Vazquez suffered serious injuries.

Her 2003 Ford SUV was traveling west in the inside lane on US-27 just east of County Road 835. Vehicle 2, a 2009 Toyota was traveling west in the outside lane on US-27 just east of County Road 835. The right side portion of Vehicle 1 and the left side portion of Vehicle 2 struck in a sideswipe type collision.

The Toyota was driven by Dipankar Biswas, 34 of India, and passenger Pampa Biswas, 28 also of India

After impact, Vehicle 1 traveled southwest into the median, striking multiple traffic control signs. Vehicle 1 rotated counter clockwise and began to overturn. Vehicle 2 traveled northwest onto the north shoulder and began to rotate counter clockwise. Vehicle 1 came to final rest in the eastbound lanes facing southeast in the inside and outside lane. Vehicle 2 came to final rest facing southeast on the north shoulder.

All the occupants in Vehicle 1 were ejected from the Vehicle and transported to the hospital prior to FHP arrival. Driver 1 was pronounced deceased at the hospital.

Additional Vehicle 1 passengers:

Lynette Concepcion, 11 years old, Clewiston Florida, with serious injuries and transported to Delray Regional

Yonel Concepcion, 18 years old, Clewiston Florida, with serious injuries, and transported to Delray Regional

Calos Marrero, 5 years old, Clewiston Florida, with serious injuries, and transported to St Mary Hospital

Sunday, February 08, 2009

What's The Future Of Our Children?

Letter To The Editor - 50 People Let Go By Hendry Schools

Dear Editor;

We are writing this letter jointly to share our concern about the future of Hendry County's children.  As you and the community well know, Hendry County School District is laying off more than 50 people who work directly with students.  This was a heart-wrenching decision that the school board and superintendent made; they fully realize not only the impact on the children's lives, but on the fragile economic state of this county too. 

These people have dedicated themselves to helping students achieve academic success and better futures for themselves.  Not only will the instruction and individual support be gone from these children's lives, but also the personal relationships that have formed.  Our young people at all ages are vulnerable; they are feeling the stress and strain of the economic uncertainty in their personal lives.  Now that uncertainty has entered their classrooms.  Hendry County's children should spend their school hours learning new skills, developing personal goals, forming friendships, and having fun. They should not have to wonder who will be there for them in the future.  For many young people today, school is the most stable, consistent thing in their lives; that stability has been ruptured. 

Economics and financial problems are considered adult problems, but the problems are being thrust onto our children by the harsh decisions that have to be made.  We adults are supposed to protect and fight for our young people, our future.  Educators alone cannot do this, parents alone cannot do this; it must be the entire community lifting its united voice to tell our elected officials at both state and national level to protect our children.  Tell them to protect our children by protecting their educations, by protecting the stability of their classrooms. 

The Governor has made the comment that he has not seen the protestors fighting the cuts to education.  The educators are protesting, but they are doing what they do best first­educating children.  Please help us in this fight to protect our children.


Debbie Steelman, President, Hendry Educational Support Personnel Association

Tina R. Noel, President, Hendry County Education Association

Homicide Suspect Arrested In Clewiston

18-Year Old Holding Knife When Deputies Arrive

CLEWISTON, FL. -- In the early morning hours of February 8, 2009, deputies were called to respond to the area of 585 N. Cabbage Palm Street, Clewiston, Florida, regarding a stabbing that had just taken place.

Upon the arrival of deputies, 18 year old Damon Leon Pewo was found sitting on the arm of the couch inside the residence holding a large stainless steel knife in his hand. He was ordered by Deputies to release the weapon and he complied.

Pewo's mother, Angela Tiger stated that she and 39 year old victim, Gary Don Warden had been sleeping in their room when she was suddenly awakened by the sudden jolting of the bed. She turned to find her son Pewo on top of Warden. She was able to remove Pewo from the bedroom and keep him out until law enforcement arrived.

Once Pewo had been restrained, deputies went to check on Warden where he was found unresponsive lying on the bed.

Medical personnel arrived on scene and after all resuscitative efforts to revive the victim had been exhausted he was pronounced dead. Investigators are stilling trying to determine the motive for the killing. Pewo was then arrested and charged with Homicide-Willful Killing

Update Jan. 21, 2013. Numerous motions and examinations of Pewo have been completed for incompetency to stand trial. As of January 18, 2013 witness lists have been filed and a subpoena for trial issued.  

Update: In September 2013 he was found guilty and sentenced to 26 years in prison. He appealed. In July 2020 he filed another appeal of a denied motion for post conviction relief.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Farms Becoming More Diverse

Farm Numbers Increase Says Census

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The number of farms in the United States has grown 4% and the operators of those farms have become more diverse in the past five years.

The 2007 Census counted 2,204,792 farms in the United States, a net increase of 75,810 farms. Nearly 300,000 new farms have begun operation since the last census in 2002. Compared to all farms nationwide, these new farms tend to have more diversified production, fewer acres, lower sales and younger operators who also work off-farm.

In the past five years, U.S. farm operators have become more demographically diverse. The 2007 Census counted nearly 30% more women as principal farm operators. The count of Hispanic operators grew by 10%, and the counts of American Indian, Asian and Black farm operators increased as well.

Florida's $7.8 billion in total farm sales in 2007 were dominated by crops, from citrus and vegetables to nursery and greenhouse production, with a combined value of $6.2 billion. Livestock, poultry and related products contributed more than $1.5 billion to the total.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Florida Highway Patrol Check Points

Traffic Stops Possible In Hendry, Glades and Lee

The Florida Highway Patrol will be conducting driver license and vehicle inspection checkpoints at the following locations during the month of Februarv 2009.

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.

Hendry County Fair Opens Tonight

Annual 8-Day County Fair Opens In Clewiston

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The Hendry County Fair and Livestock Show opens Friday night in Clewiston. An event celebrating small county agriculture in rural Hendry county.

Held yearly, this year in February, in America's Sweetest Town, Clewiston. Clewiston is Hendry county's largest municipality, and is proud to host the annual event. Enjoy the parade, livestock show, beauty pageants, exhibits, and midway entertainment this year.

In 2009 the Hendry Fair begins on Friday February 6 running for 9 days.

Webpage: Hendry County Fair

The Hendry County Fair Events --


  • 6:00 p.m - Opening
  • 11: p.m. - Close For Day

  • 2:00 p.m. - Fair Parade through Clewiston
  • 3:00 p.m. - Fair opens
  • 7:30 p.m. - Miss Hendry County Pageant
  • 11:00 p.m. - Fair Closes for day

  • 6:00 p.m. - Fair Opens
  • 11:00 p.m. - Fair Closes for day

  • 6:00 p.m. - Fair Opens
  • 7:30 p.m. - Jr. Miss Hendry County Pageant and Entertainment
  • 11:00 p.m. - Fair Closes

  • 6:00 p.m. - Fair Opens
  • 7:00 p.m. - Livestock Show and Entertainment
  • 8:00 p.m. - Little Mr. and Miss Todler
  • 11:00 p.m. - Fair Closes for day

  • 6:00 p.m. - Fair Opens
  • 7:00 p.m. - Hog Show and Entertainment
  • 11:00 p.m. - Fair Closes for day

  • 6:00 p.m. - Fair Opens
  • 11:00 p.m. - Fair Closes for day

  • 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. - Livestock Buyer's Dinner
  • 6:00 p.m. - Fair Opens
  • 7:00 p.m. - Livestock Auction
  • 11:00 p.m. - Exhibition Building Closes - "Midnight Madness" on Midway
  • 2:00 a.m - Fair Closes for day

  • 3:00 p.m. - Fair Opens
  • 7:00 p.m. - Bull Bash Bonanza
  • 11:00 p.m. - Fair Closes

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Belle Glade Soldier Graduates

Pvt. Tristan Earle - At Fort Jackson, S.C.

BELLE GLADE, FL. -- Army Pvt. Tristan M. Earle 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.
Earle is the son of Patricia Earle of Davis Drive, Belle Glade, Fla.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Hendry's Last English Radio Gone

WAFC-FM Radio Switches To Spanish Language

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Since 1980 Robbie Castellanos and Jim Johnson have been running Hendry and Glades county's radio stations, head-quartered in Clewiston. Florida. Broadcasting country music in English on their FM station and in Spanish on the AM station, WAFC FM is now all Spanish, simulcasting it's AM programming "Radio Fiesta."

Photo: Robbie Castellanos, CEO Glades Media Group

The Glades Media Group, owners of the original stations in Clewiston, now operate seven radio stations in South Florida, "providing advertisers with a coast-to-coast platform," according to their advertising.

The Spanish stations have over the years provided Castallanos and Johnson with their profit center. With declining radio listeners nationwide, and most likely in our local area as well, and the growing numbers of Latinos, it looks like WAFC will cater to the Spanish listener.

From the Glades Media Group website, a pitch to advertisers, "Now that the Hispanic population has officially overtaken black Americans as the nation's largest minority group, the Glades Media Group is in the perfect position to help you reach them. The Hispanic population has grown almost four times faster than the rest of the country..."

Robbie Castellanos, CEO of Glades Media Company, announced that radio station WAFC-FM / 99.5 has changed programming format from Contemporary Country to Regional Mexican; the format changed took place February 1. He explained that the national economic recession coupled with the local uncertainties associated with the sale of USSC to South Florida Water Management has seriously stifled local economic growth.

Castellanos, said “Advertising is our revenue stream and right now advertising everywhere, in all media, is in recession but none any worse than here in the Glades,” he said.

Glades Media Company has owned and operated WAFC-FM since 1980; during the entire 28 years it has featured country music and many other very popular community programs.

Castellanos says, "It has been our greatest pleasure to have served the Glades area for all these years. I know we have many loyal listeners who are deeply disappointed; I can only hope that they will understand the circumstances surrounding the change. "

Castellanos went on to explain, "Every day the news is the same, thousands of good people laid off from work—that has not happened to our companies, we haven’t laid off anyone and we don’t want to start. I need every one of my employees to maintain our successful position. "

He explained that Glades Media also owns two other country music stations in Okeechobee, WOKC 1570 and FM 100.9. Glades Media Company’s primary business though is in Hispanic broadcasting where they own and operate six stations broadcasting a variety of Hispanic programming.

"That portion of our business is fine with only a reasonable decline in business, we believe the move of WAFC-FM 99.5 to a Regional Mexican format can only help our station group to prosper during these uncertain economic times."

WAFC-FM To Move To Palm Beach County

"The current economic conditions have prompted this immediate change, but change was already scheduled on the horizon. Plans were in place for WAFC-FM to be moved to Palm Beach Gardens to become that community’s first FM radio station. The Federal Communications Commission approved the city of license change more than a year ago but tower location issues delayed the move. Once the final move is complete, WAFC-FM / 99.5 would become a Hispanic station intended to strengthen Glades’ market influence into the Latin community in the West Palm Beach where they already operate two Hispanic stations," explains Castellanos

For right now, 99.5 FM will primarily simulcast (rebroadcast) the programming of Glades’ local Regional Mexican station WAFC-AM, Radio Fiesta 590 which has been a Spanish station since 1989. Castellanos added, “590 has been one of our most successful stations for 20 years, this change will only make it more popular”.

Glades Media Co. has recently been granted by the FCC a FM translator frequency; the new station broadcasting on 100.5 FM signed-on January 26, 2009. FM 100.5 will also simulcast the programming of WAFC-AM, Radio Fiesta – 590; its broadcast service area covers Moore Haven to Canal Point and all the communities on the south lake shore. Once WAFC-FM / 99.5 is moved to Palm Beach Gardens the lake area’s Hispanic communities will be served by both WAFC-AM at 590 and by FM 100.5.