Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Port LaBelle Marina Gets Land Use Approvals

Future May Bring New Housing And Commercial Uses At Port LaBelle Marina

LABELLE, FL. -- Port LaBelle Marina, Inc. announced today that their application for land use change has been approved and finalized by settlement agreement between Glades County and the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA).

"After over three and one half years, we have finally reached a conclusion with the DCA," said Cliff Miller of WestGlades Consulting Service, agent for the owner. "Upon final execution of a settlement agreement between the County and the DCA, the land use classification for the 96 acres has changed from a designation of Agricultural/Open to Transitional," he continued.

This change in designation allows the Marina to have up to 7 units per acre of residential housing and over 100,000 sq. ft. of commercial footage permitting the partnership to market the property for future development.

The Port LaBelle Marina is located approximately 2.5 miles east of the City of LaBelle and is comprised of two basins of approximately 20 acres with 100 wet slips and seventy acres of surrounding acreage.

"It's been a long time coming,"said Walter Ferguson, president of the Marina, "but we're pleased to come to a settlement with the state. Unfortunately, we were unable to come to a conclusion prior to the current market downturn, but we believe this change will allow a developer with foresight and vision to produce a 'destination point' style development within Glades County and in close proximity to Hendry and eastern Lee counties," he added.

The marina currently has about 100 boat docks, with about half occupied. It adjoins the Port LaBelle Inn, lying on the Hendry-Glades county line. Motel improvements have been underway for several months including room renovations,  a new lighted tennis court, signage, and landscaping improvements by the new motel owner.

Brutal Attack Leads To Hendry Arrest

Two Teen Suspects In Brutal Hendry Beating

On March 22, 2209, Hendry County Sheriff Deputies met with Jose Rosado who reported that his stepson had been brutally beaten.

Other victims and witnesses reported that they had just left a party at a friends house and were walking home when they suddenly heard someone running up behind them as the they turned around to see who it was they were attacked. Rosado was hospitalized with severe injuries.

Investigator Fernando and Sgt. Perry Short spoke with victims who were able to identify 19 year old Benjamin Daley as one of the suspects and "Will", later identified as 15 year old William Thomas through photo line-ups.

On March 26, 2009 Investigator Hernandez located and arrested 15 year old William Thomas and charged him with Aggravated Battery and Aggravated Battery - Cause bodily harm or disability

The investigation continues in this case as Hendry County Sheriff's Investigators have information that this may have been an unprovoked racially motivated attack.

Photo Above: William Thomas

Hendry Deputies Stepping Up Traffic Enforcement

Unmarked Cars May Patrol State Road 80

LABELLE, FL.-- Lieutenant Susan Harrelle said this week that "Due to the increase of traffic, serious accidents and with the addition of the construction area between Clark Street and Birchwood Parkway, the Hendry County Sheriffs office is taking a pro-active approach to reducing the traffic crashes and risky driving behaviors of motorist in Hendry County."

Harrelle says since January 1, 2009, the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) has handled over 40 traffic crashes in Hendry County resulting in five fatalities, while Hendry County Deputies worked 104 crashes since January.  Thirty-three of these crashes occurred on State Road 80, the listed cause of these accidents range from speed to careless driving to failure to yield right of way

Sheriff Deputies will be utilizing unmarked vehicles to catch speeders; drivers should be reminded that if cited in a construction zone with workers present, fines are doubled.  Also, driving well below the speed limit causes frustration to drivers and poses a risk for others such as passing in a no passing zone, utilizing turn lanes as passing lanes, or under estimating the speed of an oncoming vehicle.  Slow drivers impede the normal safe flow of traffic, says Harrelle. 

Drivers exceeding the speed limit and those driving well below the posted speed may receive a written warning or traffic citation. 

"State Road 80 is a two-lane, major thorough way between the east coast and west coast and without traffic enforcement, could become a more deadly one," added Harrelle.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Be Careful Of Alligators!

Spring Is Alligator's Active Season

LABELLE, FL. -- Spring is when Florida's alligators start getting active, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is urging Floridians and visitors to be cautious when having fun in and around water.

Alligators abound in all 67 counties and have shared marshes, swamps, rivers and lakes with people for centuries.  But, because more individuals are seeking waterfront property and water-related activities increase during the warm months, people should be alert when they are in areas where alligators could be present.

(photo: Alligator in Port LaBelle yard)

State law prohibits the harassing of alligators, and it is against the law to feed them. 

The FWC recommends supervising children closely when they are playing in or around water.  There are other precautionary measures people should take to reduce potential conflicts with alligators, and they are available in the "Living with Alligators" brochure at MyFWC.com/gators.

The FWC annually receives more than 16,000 alligator-related complaints.  The agency removes about 8,500 alligators each year when the reptiles present potential danger to people or property.

According to the FWC, if you encounter an alligator that poses a threat to you, your pets or your property, and the alligator is more than 4 feet long, call the FWC's toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (392-4286).  The telephone number is the primary contact for all alligator complaints and is available to customers 24 hours a day.

Alligators are an important part of Florida's heritage and play a valuable role in the ecosystems where they live.  For more information on alligator behavior, go to MyFWC.com/gators.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Helms Road Rollover In Port LaBelle

Crash On Little Used Port LaBelle Road Serious

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry Sheriff's Deputies and EMS personnel were dispatched to Helms Road in Port LaBelle Saturday about 6:30 p.m. for a rollover accident. Deputies on the scene immediately called for Florida Highway Patrol investigators for what may be a possible deadly crash.

The victim was driving a white 1995 Jeep and is believed to be the owner of the vehicle.

A landing zone was set up for a Lee county helicopter Medivac for the as yet unidentified driver to be flown to the hospital. Helms Road is a several mile long road at the southern boundary of Port LaBelle where speeding is prevalent on the long stretch of rural roadway east of State Road 29.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Snafu At Port LaBelle Utilities?

Letter Orders Homeowners To Install Expensive Equipment, But  Recalled Week Later

LABELLE, FL.-- Port LaBelle homeowners received a surprise and shocking letter in the mail last week ordering each house to install and test a backflow prevention assembly within "30 days of the date of this letter."

Many residents were in disbelief as the notice was read. While some residents took immediate action and called plumbers and purchased new equipment to install near their water meters to comply with the letter's order.

However, a week later, Roger Greer, long-time utilities director for Port LaBelle sent a new letter out to saying "please disregard the previous letter until this office receives... updated information."

The state of Florida Department of Environmental Protection and other states, for many decades have had rules to try to prevent the accidental backflow of chemicals or bacterial agents into the public water supply lines. In Florida the rules are listed under the Florida Administrative Code Rule 62-555-360.

The complex rules are recommendations on how to protect the public water lines and do require public water companies to file their "cross-connection" back flow prevention plan with the state.

The water back flow protection is especially  important on commercial establishments where public water lines are improperly connected near waste or chemical lines. Should the public water line pressure be reduced there is a possibility to have waste water or chemical back flow into the public water line. Protective backflow devices are thus required of certain commercial  operators between the main water line and the lines that may contaminate it.

In private homes a remote possibility of contamination comes from improperly plumbed water fixtures like toilets, and hose bibs. To prevent possible cross-contamination if water pressure drops, toilets must have an "air-gap" between the water fill tube and the water tank's water level. All toilets would have this unless someone accidentally installs the fill tube incorrectly.

Home garden water hoses also pose a potential problem if the hose is laying in contaminated liquid and might face the remote possibility of back siphoning if the public water pressure dropped. There are "anti-siphoning" devices that can be screwed on hose bibbs to prevent this. Garden sprinklers that are connected directly to the main water lines also could pose a danger and should have a protective device installed. Most area in-ground sprinkler systems, however are off a separate well and not connected to the public water line so would not pose any danger of backfeeding.

New building codes may now call for home water lines to be installed with back-flow prevention devices. There is no evidence according to water experts that there is any great danger of existing homes causing any backflow problems providing the plumbing system is operating as designed and the homeowner uses caution when installing equipment connected to the main water lines.

FAC Rules on water line "cross connections": http://suncitydave.info/DEP%20Rule%2062-555-360.pdf
DEP Information on backflow prevention: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/drinkingwater/bfp.htm
Consumer Pamphlets Online about backflow: http://www.nobackflow.com/pub-ed.htm
Letter from Southeast Florida Utilities Council on costs (about $500): http://www.sefluc.org/apps/news_sefluc_works_with_fdep_cross_connection_control_2008_08_25.pdf

What's That Smell In Clewiston?

EPA Reports Chemicals Released Into Air And Ground By US Sugar

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week released it's latest annual report on air and ground contaminants listing the tons of chemicals that are released yearly into the air and ground around Clewiston and Hendry County.

Photo: Smoke rises from sugar cane fields near Clewiston

Top of the list of chemicals reported by U.S.Sugar as reported to the EPA as released during a one year period is 69,303 pounds of atrazine into the ground and 57,246 pounds of hydrochloric acid into the air from the sugar company based in Clewiston.

Other chemicals released into the air in amounts of about 30,000 pounds for each chemical each year include benzine, formaldehyde, and naphthalene. Chemicals reported by U.S. Sugar as released into the ground around Clewiston include 48,067 pounds of ethoprop, 88,000 pounds of manganese compounds, 48,568 pounds of pendimethalin, and 49,277 pounds of zinc compounds.

Southern Gardens Citrus Processing Corp. in mid-Hendry county released 272,260 pounds of ethanol into the air as well as 12,620 pounds of ammonia.

EPA Report: http://www.epa.gov/cgi-bin/broker?zipcode=33440&submit2=Go&view=ZPFA&trilib=TRIQ0&sort=_VIEW_&sort_fmt=1&state=&city=&spc=&zipcode=12345&zipsrch=yes&chemical=_ALL_&industry=ALL&year=2007&tab_rpt=1&fld=TRIID&fld=RELLBY&fld=TSFDSP&_service=oiaa&_program=xp_tri.sasmacr.tristart.macro&ONDISPD=Y&ONDISPD=Y&OTHDISPD=Y

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fort Denaud Bridge Closing

Bridge Closed On Caloosahatchee River

LABELLE, FL. - The Ft Denaud Bridge will be closed to vehicles from April 6 to April 28, 2009. The closure is necessary to make repairs on the motor that operates the bridge.

Residents and visitors will have to use the SR 29 Bridge in LaBelle or the Bridge in Alva. Updates are also available on the County website at www.hendryfla.net . For additional information please call 863-675-5264.

Update: Progress is very slow and latest opening will not be until May 12.

FHP Looks For Hit-Run Driver

Ford With Special Paint Scheme Is Clue

LABELLE, FL. -- The Florida Highway Patrol is asking for help to solve a deadly hit and run from February 6, that killed pedestrian 47-year old Mirian Lopez at Cowboy Way and Lillian Street in LaBelle.

The vehicle looked for is a 2002 to 2008 Ford. There are only four types of special edition ford vehicles that use the maroon and light trim paint scheme which includes: The Eddie Bauer edition Expedition, The Eddie Bauer edition Explorer, The King Ranch F-250, and The King Ranch F-150.

The hit and run vehicle was described as a SUV; however it could have been a F-150 or F-250 with a topper on it.
If anyone has any information on a vehicle matching this description that has suffered any unexplained damage or knows of anyone that has had their vehicle in for repair for damage that looks to be consistent with a traffic crash please contact Cpl. Allen Williams at the Fort Myers FHP Station.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

FHP Looking For Information In Fatal Crash

Hendry Crash Leaves One Dead, Three In Hospital

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a fatal accident in Hendry County on County Road 845 and County Road 833 near Ocean Boy Farms. This is a single vehicle rollover crash involving a green 1998 Nissan van. There were a total of 6 people in the vehicle which crashed at 6:45 a.m Tuesday.

Manuel Gomez Santis, 26 of Clewiston was pronounced deceased on scene and three people were flown to area hospitals. The driver, described as a Hispanic male, wearing blue jeans and a grey shirt was observed walking from the crash scene and had right arm and face injuries. The FHP was trying to contact Rodolfo Nunez Velasco, 01/19/1980 as a person of interest in this case, who has been determined to be the driver.

If you have any information regarding this crash or the location of Mr. Velasco please contact the Florida Highway Patrol at 239-938-1800 or *FHP

The Nissan was southbound on CR-835. For an unknown reason it drifted off the roadway onto the westbound dirt and grass shoulder. The driver overcorrected and entered back onto the roadway and traveled across both lanes of CR-835. The vehicle entered the eastbound dirt/grass shoulder. The left rear struck a large utility pole, and overturned, coming to final rest on its roof facing northwest.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

New Wildlife Officers Graduate

New FWC Graduates Ready For Woods And Water Duty

LABELLE, FL. -- A new group of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) law enforcement officers will soon begin patrolling the woods and waters in South and Central Florida.

FWC recruits became officers after graduating Friday from the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy in Tallahassee. The recruits attended the academy for six months and received a wide array of training, which included accuracy with firearms, alligator handling, vessel operation, defensive tactics, all-terrain vehicle operation and BUI/DUI identification. They will spend an additional three months with a field-training officer.

The new graduates are assigned to counties throughout the state. Two of the officers come from different states. Officer Jarod Molnar is from Georgia and is assigned to Palm Beach County, and Officer Evan Laskowski is from Maryland and is assigned to Glades County.

The FWC's Division of Law Enforcement protects and manages 755 species of wildlife and more than 700 species of fish. The division patrols 34 million acres of public and private land, 8,200 miles of tidal shoreline, 3 million acres of lakes and 12,000 miles of rivers and streams. FWC officers are authorized to enforce all state laws and federal fisheries and wildlife laws.

The graduates and the counties they are assigned to are as follows:

Michael Davis – Okeechobee

Jordan Hilliard – DeSoto

Evan Laskowski – Glades

Jarod Molnar – Palm Beach

Henry Rockwell – Hendry

Jamie Young – Palm Beach

Friday, March 20, 2009

Home Sales Down Again In LaBelle

Sales Slow From Last Month

LABELLE, FL. -- From February 17  to to March 17 there were only five homes sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $80 400.  The average sale price has been steadily declining as buyers opt for less expensive homes. Sales were in the Port LaBelle subdivision with three smaller sized homes, and two mobile homes in northwestern Hendry county.

The recorded sales were:

1) $69,000 on Fort Center Avenue
2) $55,000 on Fort Simmons Avenue
3) $100,000 on March Lane
4) $87,000 on Tide Circle
5) $91,000 on Warm SW Court

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Peoples Trust Insurance Co. Stopped

Received Your Latest "Discount" Insurance Ad In the Mail?

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty today announced that the Office of Insurance Regulation (Office) and People's Trust Insurance Co. (People's Trust) have entered into a Consent Order that requires People's Trust to stop writing new policies until it complies with provisions of the order.

People's Trust, heavily advertising it's "discount" home owner's policies by direct mail, will not be able to sell new policies until it meets the conditions of the order, but it still must continue to service existing customers and claims. It's latest ad doesn't quote prices like previous ads but does still claim lower prices than other companies. Not too hard to do since the comparison companies have some of the highest rates in Florida to begin with.

As the result of the Office's comprehensive investigation of People's Trust, the Office found, among other things, that People's Trust: failed to obtain inspection reports to confirm replacement cost values and/or insurability; failed to obtain proof of protective devices; failed to comply with various practices related to claims submission, investigation and payment; and failed to comply with its approved business plan, by writing more policies than allowed – an issue that could have created exposure beyond the company's claims-paying ability.

"I appreciate the new concept that People's Trust has introduced to the sale of property insurance in Florida," said Commissioner McCarty. "The company has expressed some ideas that, if implemented, would address some of the most difficult issues in the property insurance market. However, insurance companies are required by law to meet certain standards. The Consent Order is intended to bring the company into compliance with those legal standards."

The Consent Order requires People's Trust to, within 30 days: pay an administrative penalty of $150,000 and $5,000 in costs; deposit $500,000 with the Bureau of Collateral Management; and provide the Office with a certification that required corrective measures have been implemented in compliance with the order.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink today released the following statement in response to the Office of Insurance Regulation’s (OIR) Consent Order with People’s Trust Insurance Company:

"The Office of Insurance Regulation’s Consent Order with People's Trust Insurance Company shows that People’s Trust committed numerous violations of the laws designed to protect Florida’s insurance consumers. These violations confirm my concerns about People's Trust MGA’s use of unlicensed agents to advise consumers on insurance matters. I am deeply troubled by these violations, and commend Commissioner McCarty for taking action.

"It is my responsibility to make sure Floridians are getting the best advice and making informed decisions on insurance products by dealing with properly licensed insurance agents. My office will continue to work to ensure that People's Trust Managing General Agent is prevented from using unlicensed agents to sell insurance products."

The Consent Order also requires People's Trust to use licensed agents and customer service representatives in compliance with the Insurance Code when soliciting and transacting insurance business and to provide proof of adequate reinsurance to the Office.

The Office's investigation of People's Trust began in December, and an onsite examination was conducted from Feb. 1 through Feb. 20.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Two Hendry County Banks On Troubled List

Latest Report Gives Local Banks "Zero Star" Rating

LABELLE, FL. -- The latest report of bank ratings by Coral Gables based Bauer Financial says the Florida Community Bank is on their troubled bank list and has given the Immokalee based bank a no-star rating, the lowest rating possible. Joining the zero star local troubled bank club is Clewiston's Olde Cypress Community Bank. Both banks have branches in Hendry County.

At the other end of the scale among the 310 Florida banks rated, the Bank of Belle Glade received a five-star rating. The Busey Bank in Fort Myers received two stars. The Commerce Bank of Southwest Florida in Ft. Myers received no stars.

Clewiston's First Bank earned three stars from Bauer and Seacoast National Bank, based in Stuart had two stars. Seacoast had received $50,000,000 in December from the Treasury Department in the government's troubled assets relief program (TARP).

Alligator Poachers Arrested In Glades County

Wildlife Officers Take Down Three Poachers

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) arrested three people in an alligator poaching case last week in Glades County.

While on routine patrol, Officer Scott Van Buren and Lt. Pam Steelman observed a pickup truck pulled halfway off County Road 731, which is south of Rainey Slough.  There, they observed a man in a canal along the road retrieving an alligator.  A woman was in the bed of the truck, and a 17-year-old male stood next to the truck. 

(Photo: Upon inspecting the truck, officers found three loaded rifles, four pieces of fresh alligator meat and two live hatchling alligators.)

The officers found three butchered alligator carcasses near the canal.

Three people -- Joshua J. Todd, DOB 10/12/90, of Alva; Natalee M. Grant, DOB 1/13/91, of Lehigh Acres; and a juvenile -- were charged with seven misdemeanor counts of taking and possessing American alligators.  All three were booked into the Glades County jail.

"We hope this case sends a strong message to would-be wildlife poachers," Lt. Steelman said.  "We will find you and hold you accountable for criminal acts."       

Monday, March 16, 2009

New Commissioner For Okeechobee

Replacement Named For Late Marvin Wherrell

OKEECHOBEE, FL. -- Governor Charlie Crist today announced the appointment of Joey Hoover to serve on the Okeechobee County Board of Commissioners. Hoover will fill the vacancy created by the passing of Marvin Wherrell.

Joseph A. Hoover, 48, of Okeechobee, is the owner of Classic Asphalt Sealing & Striping Inc. Hoover is also currently a member of the Okeechobee County Planning and Zoning Board, Okeechobee County Affordable Housing Board, Okeechobee Main Street Economic Restructuring Organization, and a charter member of the Okeechobee County Fair Association. 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Margaret England Honored As Audubon Volunteer

Margaret England Shares Her Passion For Nature

LABELLE, FL. -- Everglades restoration lands are public lands, and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has increasingly opened these properties for public recreation when compatible with their restoration purpose. Bird-watching is a prime example of low-impact public use, and thanks to Margaret England of LaBelle, few locations are more popular for bird-watching activities than Stormwater Treatment Area 5 (STA-5), a water-cleansing wetland in eastern Hendry County.

Since 2005, the LaBelle resident has shared her avian expertise as a volunteer birding tour leader at STA-5, showcasing wildlife and recreation access to lands managed by the District for Everglades restoration. On Thursday, the SFWMD Governing Board recognized England's dedicated community service with the District's first Ambassador Award.

"Margaret England's willingness to share her passion and knowledge of birds has enhanced public understanding of Everglades wildlife, which is vital to successful conservation efforts," said SFWMD Governing Board member Charles Dauray. "Her volunteer spirit and community service are as special as the Everglades itself."

The Ambassador Award was created to honor those who foster the public missions of the SFWMD, such as Everglades's restoration. England, a library media specialist at LaBelle Elementary School and secretary of the Hendry-Glades Audubon, was chosen as the inaugural award recipient from among a number of worthy candidates. The award was presented in Clewiston at the March Governing Board meeting, as part of the District's celebration of its 60th year managing and protecting water resources of the region.

While England fittingly personifies the title of "ambassador" in the partnership between the SFWMD and the Hendry-Glades Audubon, she is also a contributor to the science of environmental restoration. England and 50 volunteers recently documented 112 species ­ numbering more than 92,600 birds ­ during the 109th national Christmas Bird Count at STA-5. Known as "citizen science," bird counts are vital to studies of the long-term health and status of bird populations.

In her job as media specialist at LaBelle Elementary, England shares her knowledge and love for the environment with students and their parents.  She recently received a grant to purchase a 3-D watershed model for the school that she uses to teach about stormwater management and wetland protection.

England also serves as a vice-president for the Caloosahatchee River Citizen's Association "Riverwatch" and is a certified Florida Master Naturalist, which enhances her tour-guiding knowledge at STA-5.

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.

A Florida-based study showed that non-consumptive bird use (i.e., non-hunting activities) supported more than 19,000 jobs in Florida in 2006, and all wildlife viewing activities generated more than $3 billion statewide that year, according to a state report. Birding specifically generates an estimated $477 million in retail sales in Florida every year, second in the nation only to California.

Florida Unemployment Hits Record High

Highest Unemployment Since 1992

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January 2009 was 8.6%. This represents 800,000 jobless out of a labor force of 9,256,000. The unemployment rate is 1.0 percentage point higher than the revised December rate of 7.6% and is up 3.6 percentage points from the January 2008 rate.

The state's current unemployment rate is 1.0 percentage point higher than the national unemployment rate of 7.6%. The January 2009 unemployment rate is the highest since September 1992, when the rate was 8.9%. Prior to 1992, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Florida using the current methodology peaked at 9.7% in January, February, and March 1976.

Hendry county had a rate of 10.7% and Glades county 7.8%. Liberty county has the state's lowest rate of 5.5%

More Construction Dollars In South Hendry

Water Management's Multi-Million Dollar Project Expands

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board has approved an 8,800-acre expansion of treatment wetlands in southeastern Hendry County to further improve water quality flowing into the Florida Everglades. The construction of �Compartment C� will connect two existing Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) in the Everglades Agricultural Area and more than double water treatment capability at the site.

The project is located north of the Big Cypress Indian Reservation in south Hendry county. Stormwater Treatment Areas are the water-cleaning workhorses of Everglades restoration, naturally using plants to remove phosphorus from water flowing into the Everglades.

With design and permitting for the $47.5-million project complete, Harry Pepper & Associates can now begin work. The Florida-based firm was selected in a state-regulated bidding process. As part of the contract, certified businesses in the District�s Small Business Enterprise (SBE) program will receive 25 percent of the work, totaling more than $12 million.

Additionally, 20 percent of the labor as well as 5 percent of sub-contracting dollars will go directly to vendors in western Palm Beach County. Several firms from the Glades area have already been sub-contracted to participate in the multi-year construction effort.

Construction of Compartment C expands on earlier District projects to build, operate, expand and enhance six Stormwater Treatment Areas south of Lake Okeechobee. These wetlands are components of the Long-Term Plan for Achieving Water Quality Goals, a legislatively approved blueprint to improve water quality in the Everglades.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

In The Service - Major Angela Gates Beck

Deployment To Iraq Pending For Moore Haven Officer

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Army Maj. Angela Gates Beck has been mobilized and activated at Fort McCoy, Sparta, Wis., for deployment overseas to a forward operating base in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The soldier is a member of the 111th Multi- Functional Medical Battalion, San Antonio, Texas.

She is the daughter of Andy S. Gates of Riverside Drive S.W., Moore Haven, Fla., and Debbie K. Gates of Whispering Shores Drive, Fort Pierre, S.D. Her husband, Roger, is the son of Ken R. and Marilyn J. Beck of River Road, Pierre, S.D.
Operation Iraqi Freedom is the official name given to military operations involving members of the U.S. armed forces and coalition forces participating in efforts to free and secure Iraq.  Mission objectives focus on force protection, peacekeeping, stabilization, security and counter-insurgency operations as the Iraqi transitional governing bodies assume full sovereign powers to govern the peoples of Iraq.
Members from all branches of the U.S. military and multinational forces are also assisting in rebuilding Iraq's economic and governmental infrastructure, and training and preparing Iraqi military and security forces to assume full authority and responsibility in defending and preserving Iraq's sovereignty and independence as a democracy.
Maj. Gates Beck is a medical reformation systems officer with 17 years of military service. The Major graduated in 1987 from T. F. Riggs High School, Pierre, and received a bachelor's degree in 1992 from the University of Tampa, Fla.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

John Capece To Speak At Meeting

Dr. Capece Speaking On U.S. Sugar Buyout Alternatives

Dr. John Capece, a resident of Port LaBelle will be the  featured speaker for the Thursday, March 19th Southwest Florida Watershed Council Meeting in Ft. Myers.

As an agricultural engineer, Dr. Capece has many years of experience designing and monitoring agricultural systems and some very interesting ideas about sustainable agricultural development. Don�t miss this insightful and informative presentation starting at 2:00, March 19.

Dr. Capece has titled the program, Farming Systems Alternatives for the EAA and the U.S. Sugar Buyout. The meeting is open to the public.
Meeting location: Visitor and Convention Bureau in Ft. Myers at 12800 University Drive ( the 6-story building in the southeast corner of the intersection of Summerlin & College Parkway in Suite 325 on the 3rd floor.

Map: http://www.mapquest.com/maps?city=Fort+Myers&state=FL&address=12800+University+Drive

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hendry Benefits From SFWMD Works

Hendry County Environment Improvements Underway

CLEWISTON, FL. -- In an ongoing effort to improve Everglades water quality, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is renovating Stormwater Treatment Area 5 (STA-5) in Hendry County to enhance its water-cleansing capabilities. The renovation will smooth contours on the wetland bottom, reducing areas where water depths have prevented wetland plants ­ vital to STA performance ­ from growing in abundance.

"Stormwater Treatment Areas have proven to be our best tool for cleaning Everglades-bound water, yet we continually find ways to make them better," said SFWMD Governing Board Chair Eric Buermann. "With renovations in STA-5, we will learn even more about optimizing treatment performance, benefiting not only America's Everglades but all restoration activities."

Stormwater Treatment Areas are designed so that water flows slowly and uniformly through wetlands abundant with phosphorus-hungry vegetation. A closer look at field data collected in STA-5, including detailed contour maps of the wetland bottom, revealed an area in the northwest section that was much deeper than the rest of the STA. This phenomenon caused some water to bypass the shallow, more heavily vegetated sections of the STA and therefore receive less treatment.

The dry weather of early 2009 presented an opportunity to refine the bottom contours by moving soil from nearby higher areas to the deeper areas. Filling these sections of STA-5 will allow more vegetation to take root, enhancing the treatment characteristics of the STA.

District crews are handling the renovation at substantial cost savings compared to contracting the work. In 32 days, the crews moved nearly 170,000 cubic yards, or 8,500 truckloads, of soil in STA-5.

Since it began operation in 1999, the 8,000-acre STA-5 wetland has a multi-year record of removing nearly 60 percent of in-flowing total phosphorus. The District team in charge of improving Everglades water quality expects STA-5 can now achieve closer to an 80-percent removal rate, which is on par with other STAs.

Stormwater Treatment Areas are the water-cleansing workhorses of Everglades restoration, utilizing plants to reduce phosphorus levels in water flowing into the remnant Everglades. Since 1994, six STAs ­ with a combined area of more than 52,000 acres ­ have retained more than 1,000 metric tons of total phosphorus that would have otherwise entered into the Everglades. Overall, Florida has invested more than $1.8 billion to improve water quality in the Everglades and has made significant and well-documented progress.

The District will continue collecting data from STA-5 and other treatment wetlands to advance the science and utilize the lessons learned to better restore and revive the Everglades.

Glades County Employee - 30 Years Service

Sandra Brown Receives Award From Joe Flint

Moore Haven, Fl. -- Glades County Clerk of Court Joe Flint presented Senior Deputy Clerk Sandra Brown with a plaque acknowledging with appreciation her 30 years of service to Glades County in the Clerk�s Office at Tuesday's Glades Commission meeting. 

Mr. Flint noted that Ms. Brown never said, "It can�t be done." Flint said Sandra has remarkable ability to retain the history of the county's business, in that "if it happened," she can recall it, and also, "she doesn�t forget it". 

"She has always been an exemplary employee who diligently performs her work with professionalism,"  he added. The Glades Board and the audience gave Ms. Brown a standing ovation at the end of the presentation.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Alcohol Related Crash Leaves One Dead

LaBelle Crash Injures Two Seriously, Kills One

LABELLE, FL. -- A fatal crash at 9:25 p.m. Saturday night was the result of two possible drunk drivers according to the Florida Highway Patrol accident report. Juan Carlos Martinez-Rafael, age 22 was dead after a head on collision on County Road 78  at Brittany Lane west of LaBelle. He was a passenger in a 1995 Chevrolet van driven  by 31 year old Arturo Loaesa Lagunas.

Fortino Martinez-Ramirez, 27 was driving a 1995 Ford SUV westbound on CR78 and crashed head on with the second vehicle in the eastbound lane. Both drivers suffered serious injuries and were taken to Lee Memorial Hospital. Neither driver or the passenger were wearing seat belts. All men were from LaBelle.

DUI charges are pending

Friday, March 06, 2009

Turkey Hunting Opens In Glades

No Quota Hunting For Spring Turkey

LABELLE, FL. -- If you weren't lucky enough to get drawn for a special-opportunity or spring turkey quota permit, don't fret; there are numerous wildlife management areas (WMAs) nearby in Collier and Glades county that don't require them.  Over a half million acres of land are available for sportsmen and women in nearby management areas and parks.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) offers 37 public hunting areas statewide where hunters need only to "walk on" to hunt spring turkeys.

These hunts are made possible through the FWC's partnerships with the state's Division of Forestry, Florida's water management districts, the U.S. Forest Service, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the National Park Service and Department of Defense, who contribute their lands to the state's public-hunting system.

Hunters need only a hunting license ($17 for residents, $46.50 for a nonresident 10-day license), management area permit ($26.50) and turkey permit ($5 for residents, $100 for nonresidents) to spring turkey hunt on the following areas.  These licenses and permits are available for purchase at county tax collectors' offices and at most retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing supplies. Also, hunters can purchase them with a credit card by calling 888-486-8356 or online at www.wildlifelicense.com.

The spring turkey season runs March 7 – April 12 in the South Hunting Zone and March 21 – April 26 in the Central and Northwest zones, unless otherwise noted below.  Shooting hours during spring turkey season on WMAs are one-half hour before sunrise to 1 p.m.

Osceola turkeys inhabit these areas in Collier, Palm Beach and Glades:

Big Cypress WMA - 565,848 acres in Collier, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.  Season runs March 7 - April 12.  Camping allowed.

J.W. Corbett WMA - 60,288 acres in Palm Beach County.  Season runs March 7 - April 12, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays only.  Camping allowed.

Kissimmee River Public Use Area - 23,433 acres in Glades, Highlands, Okeechobee, Osceola and Polk counties.  Area is split between Central and South hunting zones.  When hunting the South Zone, the season runs March 7 - April 12. For camping information only, call the South Florida Water Management District at 800-250-4200, ext. 3019.  Management area permit not required.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

People's Trust Using Unlicensed Agents In Hendry

Insurance Commissioner Goes After New Company For Blatant Violations

LAVBELLE, FL. -- Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink is taking legal action to prevent People's Trust Insurance�s Managing General Agent (MGA) from using unlicensed agents to sell its homeowners insurance.  The action follows an investigation by CFO Sink�s Department of Financial Services showing that People�s Trust MGA, LLC is using some unlicensed agents to sell homeowners' insurance in Hendry County and other Florida counties.

CFO Sink issued an Order to Show Cause to the Managing General Agent for People�s Trust Homeowner�s Insurance, charging that the Boca Raton-based People�s Trust MGA LLC faces suspension or revocation of its license if the allegations are upheld.  CFO Sink said the investigation revealed that People�s Trust MGA has allowed unlicensed agents to transact insurance, committing numerous violations of the Florida Insurance Code.

People's Trust Insurance Company has been sending regular mailers to Hendry county property owners advertising "save as much as 70% on your homeowners insurance premiums."  A closer reading of the fine print shows that it would be rare to actually get that much savings,  says one homeowner. And each new mailing appears with more fine print added compared to the preceding mailings.

"It is my responsibility to make sure Floridians are getting the best advice for protecting their families and homes by properly licensed agents," said CFO Sink. "People�s Trust MGA is violating the people�s trust by illegally allowing unlicensed agents to sell insurance in our state."

CFO Sink also called on Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty to look into the business practices of People�s Trust Homeowners Insurance because of its MGA�s use of unlicensed agents to sell insurance coverage.  Insurance Commissioner McCarty has primary responsibility for regulation, compliance and enforcement of statutes related to licensed insurers and the monitoring of insurer market conduct.

"I hope that Commissioner McCarty will join me in my work to protect Floridians and take action regarding this blatant violation," CFO Sink continued.

The Department�s investigation is ongoing.  Any consumer who believes they bought coverage from an unlicensed individual is asked to contact the Department via the CFO�s website, MyFloridaCFO.com, or call CFO Sink�s consumer helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO.  Florida law specifies that people who buy insurance from unlicensed agents continue to have valid coverage.

Farm Worker Drivers Cited On SR29

Unsafe Vehicles And Unlicensed Drivers Caught

IMMOKALEE, FL -- The Florida Highway Patrol conducted an enforcement action on State Road 29 between LaBelle and Immokalee Wednesday afternoon. The FHP dispatched 11 troopers after a tip was received about unsafe migrant farm worker transportation in the rural area of Collier county.

Six vehicles were stopped for various violations and inspections were conducted on the vehicles. The FHP says they found in a box truck carrying nine passengers with no seats and very little ventilation. Another driver was cited for driving without a license. The information obtained about the migrant transport action was sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture which regulates migrant transportation.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Hunter Safety Course In Hendry

Free Hunter Course At Sheriff Shooting Range

LABELLE, FL. -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will host a free hunter safety course March 28 in Hendry County. Students must take the online part of the course before attending on Saturday.

Students will learn about hunting laws, safe gun handling and wildlife identification before taking the final test.  The course also includes live-firing instruction on a shooting range.

The free safety course will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Hendry County Sheriff's Office Shooting Range, between Clewiston and LaBelle, 0.7 miles down Witt Road off of SR 80, 9 miles west of U.S. 27. Take the first road east of the Pioneer Shell Gas Station.

Space is limited and reservations are required. To make reservations, go online to the Hunter Safety area of MyFWC.com or call 561-625-5122.  A statewide schedule of hunter safety classes is available there also.          

Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975 must pass this course or another approved hunter safety course before purchasing a Florida hunting license. Parents or legal guardians must accompany children under 16 years of age to all classes. To participate in the live-fire exercises, children under 18 years old must present a parental release form signed by a parent or legal guardian.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Immokalee Workers To Protest At Capitol

Farm Workers To Deliver Petitions To Governor

IMMOKALEE, FL.-- Members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers will travel to the Old Capitol steps in Tallahassee this March 9th to stage a creative protest designed to bring the reality of human rights violations in Florida's fields to the governor's doorstep.

According to a press release from the organization of workers, the CIW and allies will re-enact the facts of a recently prosecuted brutal slavery operation in a "popular theater" presentation "so Governor Crist can no longer turn his back on the crimes against human rights in this state's fields." 

The farmworker delegation will also deliver petition signatures gathered from the community of Immokalee and across the country to the governor's office calling on Governor Crist to take a stand against slavery and to meet with the CIW.

The workers will join religious leaders, students, human rights activists and community leaders from across the country to protest treatment of farm workers and bring attention to the subject of human slavery in Florida.