Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Buckle Seatbelt Or Face $98 Fines

New Seatbelt Law In Effect Now

LABELLE, FL. -- Buckle-up is the message Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden wants everyone to be aware of.  The new law amends the mandated use of seatbelts in motor vehicles, effective June 30, 2009 and allows for the primary enforcement of Florida�s Safety belt requirements. 

Since 1986 law enforcement has been able to ticket unbelted motorists, but only for stopping them for another traffic violation such as speeding, but not anymore, said Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden.

In Hendry County the fine is $98.  The seat belt laws require the adult front seat passenger and driver to be buckled up, as well as all children in the car.  The new law requires the driver to be responsible for his or herself and anyone under 18 years of age; if a passenger is 18 or older, regardless of where they are sitting, is not fastened in they will be the one to get the ticket. 

Saturday, June 27, 2009

This Week On TV

The big news this week on television of course was the death of Michael Jackson. Here's clips from this week's daytime TV programs.

Google Map Contest For Readers

The Great Google Map Contest For Sunday Morning News Viewers

LABELLE, FL. -- Readers who want a bit of a summer puzzle challenge and some fun, are welcome to enter the Sunday Morning News/Southwest Florida Online contest this week.

A series of clues are given and the reader must find the answers to each clue to spell out a phrase or name. The answers are 'letters' found on Google maps from locations all around the globe. Find the answer to a clue and it leads to a map location where a geographic area contains buildings or features spelling out the answer.

The prizes are modest, and will include a gift card and a feature story about the winner, and a chance to appear on LaBelle, Florida's live webcast.

The clue page is at: http://sites.google.com/site/donbrowne/contest

Good Luck to all!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Welfare Rolls Increasing

Ending Welfare - Not Anytime Soon

LABELLE, FL. -- Welfare rolls, which were slow to rise and actually fell in many states early in the recession, now are climbing across the country for the first time since President Bill Clinton signed legislation pledging "to end welfare as we know it" more than a decade ago.

Twenty-three of the 30 largest states, which account for more than 88% of the nation's total population, see welfare caseloads above year-ago levels, according to a survey conducted by The Wall Street Journal and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

As more people run out of unemployment compensation, many are turning to welfare as a stopgap. The biggest increases are in states with some of the worst jobless rates.

Oregon's count was up 27% in May from a year earlier; South Carolina's climbed 23% and California's 10% between March 2009 and March 2008. A few big states that had seen declining welfare caseloads just a few months ago now are seeing increases: New York is up 1.2%, Illinois 3% and Wisconsin 3.9%. Welfare rolls in a few big states, Michigan and New Jersey among them, still are declining.

In Florida, the increase was 14.2%.

Unemployment Climbs In Florida

Highest Since 1975

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for May 2009 was 10.2%. This represents 943,000 jobless out of a labor force of 9,232,000.

The unemployment rate is 0.5 percentage point higher than the revised April rate of 9.7% and is up 4.4 percentage points from the May 2008 rate. The state's current unemployment rate is 0.8 percentage point higher than the national unemployment rate of 9.4%.

The last time the unemployment rate was higher than May 2009 was October 1975 when it was 11.0%.

Florida's total nonagricultural employment in May 2009 is 7,389,100, representing a job loss of 417,500, or -5.3% compared to May 2008. This is steeper than the national rate of decline for May which is -3.9% over the year.

The May 2009 job loss continues the trend of annual declines that began in August 2007. The downturn started with declines in construction jobs, but has now spread to most all other major industries.

Only One Home In LaBelle Sold In 2 Weeks

Is This Slow Or What?

LABELLE, FL. -- From June 9 to June 23, a two week period, there was only 1 home sold in the LaBelle area for a price of $90,000.  The lucky and lonely home was on NW Eden Drive in Hendry county.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Collier Bear Returns To Palm Beach

Black Bear Sent To Ocala National Forest

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission successfully removed a black bear in Palm Beach County on Wednesday afternoon. The 300-pound bear has been spotted several times over the past three days in the Wellington area. The bear will be relocated to the Osceola National Forest in North Florida.

(file photo of bear courtesy FWC)

The bear was identified as the same bear that was captured in Weston, Broward County, last month. The bear had been relocated to Picayune Strand State Forest in Collier County at that time.

FWC law enforcement officers and biologists spotted the bear Wednesday morning in shrubs alongside a canal and Southern Boulevard, across from Palms West Hospital. Staff monitored its location until David Hitzig, with Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter, arrived to tranquilize it. Hitzig often assists FWC with tranquilizing, as he is certified to administer the chemical immobilization drugs.

FWC decided to tranquilize the bear because it did not appear to be able to find its way out of the area safely. The bear had taken refuge in a small patch of shrubs between a canal and a busy roadway for more than 24 hours. The bear was tranquilized for its own safety and that of the motoring public.

''A bear that wanders into a suburban area likely will retreat and find its way out on its own if it doesn't find any no food attractants,'' said Dave Telesco, FWC's bear management coordinator. ''But this bear was in an area where we were concerned that it could not get out safely on its own.''

"This bear will be put into an area where there is more forested habitat and fewer people," Telesco said. ''We hope it will choose to settle down in the Osceola National Forest."

There are between 2,500 and 3,000 black bears in Florida, and even though they remain listed as a threatened species, it is not uncommon to see bears as development encroaches upon their habitat. When a bear does appear in residential areas, it is very important for residents to remove or secure anything that might attract animals, such as garbage cans, pet food, birdseed, outdoor grills and compost bins.

Residents can call an FWC regional office to report bear sightings or to ask questions about bears. To report a potential wildlife law violation, call the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

Fortune Cookie Restaurant Safety Report

LaBelle Chinese Restaurant - 9 Critical Food Violations, 6 Non-Critical

LABELLE, FL. -- The state of Florida's Division of Hotels and Restaurants is required to do periodic inspections of restaurants, hotels and motels each year, and publishes the results of each inspection online. The Sunday Morning News looked at the most recent health inspection of the Fortune Cookie restaurant on West Hickpoochee (State Road 80).

Wang Jian Gang owns the restaurant on the west side of LaBelle, recently moved from a store across from the Hendry courthouse, and doing business as Fortune Cookie.

A state health inspector observed the following at a June 8, 2009 inspection of the LaBelle restaurant

Routine - Food - 06/08/2009
Met Inspection Standards During This Visit
More information about inspections.
A summary of the violations found during the inspection are listed below. The department cites violations of Florida's sanitation and safety laws, which are based on the standards of U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Food Code. In general, critical violations are those that, if not corrected, are more likely to contribute directly to food contamination, illness or environmental damage.

Although we use the industry-standard term "critical", varying degrees of severity and potential risk to the public require inspectors to assess each situation in determining the appropriate action. In addition, while an establishment may have multiple violations, the inspectors' training and judgment formulate the overall result of the inspection to ensure the public health and safety.

While most establishments correct all violations in a timely manner (often during the inspection), the division's procedures are designed to compel compliance with all violations through follow-up visits, administration action or closure when necessary.

Violation Observation
02-22-1 Critical. Ready-to-eat, potentially hazardous food prepared on site and held more than 24 hours with not properly date marked. chicken Corrected On Site.
06-05-1 Critical. Observed potentially hazardous food thawed in standing water.
08A-26-1 Critical. Observed raw animal food stored over ready-to-eat food. vegetable reach-in cooler Corrected On Site.
08A-26-1 Critical. Observed raw animal food stored over ready-to-eat food. walk-in
08A-27-1 Critical. Observed raw animal food stored over cooked food. reach-in cooler Corrected On Site.
09-01-1 Critical. Observed improper use of bowl/plastic food container or other container with no handle used to dispense ready-to-eat food. sugar Corrected On Site.
10-07-1 Observed in-use utensil stored in standing water less than 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
21-12-1 Wet wiping cloth not stored in sanitizing solution between uses.
22-17-1 Critical. Observed soiled reach-in cooler gaskets.
22-19-1 Critical. Observed interior of microwave soiled.
22-20-1 Critical. Observed buildup of slime in the interior of ice machine. substance that easily wipes away with an alcohol swab
24-07-1 Cleaned and sanitized equipment, utensils, linens or single-service not properly stored. Buffet line plares not inverted or covered
24-10-1 Observed utensils stored in crevices between equipment.
25-02-1 Unwrapped single-service utensils not presented so that only the handles are touched.
51-11-1 Carbon dioxide/helium tanks not adequately secured.

-from State Inspection Report https://www.myfloridalicense.com/inspectionDetail.asp?InspVisitID=3582629&licid=3944493

Monday, June 22, 2009

Leadership Classes Enrolling In Hendry-Glades

Leadership Hendry Glades Counties Accepting Applications for Class of 2010
LABELLE, FL. -- Leadership Hendry Glades Counties (LHGC) is gearing up for the upcoming 2010 class sessions. Leadership Hendry & Glades Counties is a leadership program designed to prepare potential leaders to meet the challenges facing both Hendry & Glades Counties and to provide current leaders with a stimulating learning opportunity.

Participants explore critical issues and discover priceless resources through a series of seminars and related activities. Interaction with key decision makers, experts, community leaders and representatives of local government assist the participants in better understanding the forces that impact their business, community and daily lives.
Applications are currently being accepted from individuals that are representative of the area�s geographic, business and ethnic mix.  Criteria used for selection include the following: A sincere commitment, motivation and interest to serve in the community, participation in community activities, an interest in seeking key volunteer or leadership roles and an attendance commitment.
Upon acceptance into the program, participants will receive a schedule of seminar subjects and dates.  Participants are required to attend an orientation session on September 15, 2009.  Seminars will be held one day per month from September through May 2010.  Seminar settings vary, moving throughout Hendry & Glades Counties in order for the class to meet in locations appropriate to the issues being addressed.  A recognition and graduation dinner will be held in May 2010.
The LHGC is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization interested in developing leaders in the Hendry and Glades county region. Sponsors are always welcome. For an application for the Class of 2010 or for a brochure with seminar dates and more information, please call 239-860-8592 or write the Leadership Hendry & Glades Counties, P. O. Box 73, LaBelle, Florida 33975.

Hospice Receives Lakeport Donation

Hog Roast for Hope Hospice

LAKEPORT, FL. -- The owners, staff and patrons of Cheers N' Beers in Lakeport raised $5,678 at their 13th Annual Hog Roast for Hope on May 24. Lakeport is on the the northwest corner of Lake Okeechobee in Glades county.

�We are deeply grateful for the continuing support of the Lakeport area residents,� said Hope President and CEO Samira K. Beckwith. �With their help, we are able to care for everyone in need of our services, regardless of their ability to pay.�

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Birding With Hendry-Glades Audubon

Hendry-Glades Audubon Offers Free Birding Tours

CLEWISTON, FL -- An Everglades restoration project just south of Lake Okeechobee continues to live up to its reputation as a national bird-watching location.

June marks the beginning of another season of partnership between the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the Hendry-Glades Audubon, whose experts lead public birding tours at the District-managed Stormwater Treatment Area 5 (STA-5) in Hendry County. Most tours are guided by Audubon's Margaret England, who recently received the District's first Ambassador Award to recognize her community service and commitment to assist the District and provide increased access to public lands.

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

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

During the past 15 years, Stormwater Treatment Areas have proven to be the water-cleaning workhorses of Everglades restoration, utilizing plants to remove phosphorus from water flowing into the 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 the Everglades. Overall, Florida has invested more than $1.8 billion to improve Everglades water quality.

At each Stormwater Treatment Area, water levels are managed at an optimal depth for water quality improvements, which also creates an attractive habitat for wading birds. The District has taken steps to ensure the public has access at these sites for spectacular wildlife viewing as well as duck hunting, enhanced at STA-5 by construction of a waterfowl watching/hunting platform for disabled veterans and residents alike.

The District is committed to increasing recreational access to District lands, while continuing to manage them effectively to meet its environmental restoration, water supply, water quality and flood control missions. For more information on recreational opportunities, please visit www.sfwmd.gov/recreation. For more information on Florida bird watching, visit the Great Florida Birding Trail.

To sign up for the STA-5 Birding Tour: Send an e-mail to Margaret England, at sta5birding@embarqmail.com with your name, contact information, including an emergency cell number for the tour day, the date you want to go and the number in your party. You may also leave a message at (863) 674-0695 or (863) 517-0202.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Three Hendry County Grow Houses Busted

Two Arrests In Port LaBelle Drug Grow Operations In Hendry County

LABELLE, FL. -- On Thursday June 11, 2009 Hendry County law enforcement personnel participated in a coordinated statewide law enforcement effort, Operation Eagle Claw, aimed at dismantling suspected hydroponic marijuana grow laboratories throughout the State of Florida.

The Hendry County Sheriff's Office served three separate search warrants, confiscating approximately 320 pounds of marijuana, 178 plants, two firearms, and two arrests with additional arrests anticipated. The street value of the confiscated marijuana is estimated at approximately $1,344,000. All three locations were completely dismantled by law enforcement personnel.

Hendry County deputies searched the residence of 6049 Acorn Circle, in Port LaBelle and confiscated 65 marijuana plants from the indoor marijuana grow house. The new house is owned by CHL Home Builders, Inc. of LaBelle, according to property records.

Neighborhood observers says there are several other suspicious new homes in the area in addition to the ones busted by the HCSO. A typical ploy by marijuana growers is to try to disguise the illegal activities inside an otherwise unoccupied home by putting cheap lawn chairs out on the porch or in the front yard, an old car in the driveway, and often placing children's toys outside as well.

A home at 5005 Pike Lane in Port LaBelle, off Eucalyptus Circle, was searched and 58 plants were confiscated, netting 172.8 pounds of marijuana. The home is owned by CHL Home Builders Inc. also, according to property records.

Deputies arrested 59 year old Roberto Sierra, and 45 year old Rosa Suarez Vazquez. Both parties were charged with Producing Marijuana, Trafficking Marijuana in excess of 25 lbs. or 300 plants or more, and Possession and/or use of Narcotic Equipment, Bond was set at $76,000 each. Both Sierra and Suarez were released on bond the next day on June 12, 2009.

A building located at 6115 Cuba Trail, LaBelle, a remote 40 acre rural agricultural orange grove property north of Sears Road was also the subject of a search warrant. Investigators discovered a sophisticated indoor marijuana cultivation lab nestled deep within the orange grove, 56 plants and approximately 93 pounds of marijuana were seized from the facility. Investigators also seized 2 rifles from the residence believed to be linked to the marijuana grow operation and under the control of Jaime N. Perle of LaBelle and Fort Lauderdale.

The property was purchased by Perle for $935,000 in 2007 and now assessed for $213,000. The property has the benefit of an agricultural exemption for property tax reduction from the Hendry Property Appraisers Office.

Lt. Susan Harrelle says there are still ongoing investigations, and additional arrest are anticipated. Statewide, Operation Eagle Claw snagged 6,828 marijuana plants, 45 firearms, and the arrests of 142 people working at 120 grow houses.

Hendry Sheriff Steve Whidden said his intention is to hit growers where it hurts, in the wallet, not only going after the small time dealers, but the large scale distributors as well.

Since January 2009, the Hendry County Sheriff's Office has dismantled 7 residences and arrested 7 different individuals allegedly involved in growing marijuana.

Southeastern Lake Okeechobee Project Funded

Eco Islands Proposed Off Pahokee

The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board has approved funds to assist the City of Pahokee in reopening part of the Okeechobee Waterway, restoring more than 100 acres of Lake Okeechobee's shoreline habitat, enhancing storm protection and stimulating the economy in the Glades region with eco-tourism opportunities.

The District Governing Board voted to invest $3 million to install 90,000 cubic yards of riprap ­ large rocks ­ to protect 10,000 linear feet of the lake's southeastern shore. The work is among the first steps necessary to begin dredging to restore a portion of the Okeechobee Waterway, a 154-mile marine route connecting Florida's east and west coasts via Lake Okeechobee. According to the Florida Inland Navigation District, the Okeechobee Waterway provides for $55 million per year (1999 dollars) in National Economic Impact.

Route 2, known as the 'Rim Route,' connecting Clewiston to Port Mayaca, has been subject to navigation restrictions because of shoaling caused by Hurricane Wilma filling the channel with sediment and debris in 2005. The District's support of the initial riprap work lays the foundation for building an upland shelf along the eastern shore that would facilitate a more gradual shoreline, enhance storm protection and create wildlife habitat areas. The riprap project, which has already received the necessary state and federal permits, also provides storage capacity to sequester more than 300,000 cubic yards of dredged material.

Once dredging is complete, the City of Pahokee plans to construct a series of eco-islands, providing for economic benefits by creating construction jobs and eco-tourism and recreational opportunities.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Seminole Indian Reservations Get More Gambling Games

Governor Signs Gambling Bill

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Governor Charlie Crist has signed Florida Senate Bill 788, relating to gaming, which outlines the Legislature�s parameters for a 15-year compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that will maximize funding for K-12 public schools. Addditional gambling games will be allowed at Seminole Reservations including Glades county at Brighton, Big Cypress in Hendry county, and the Immokalee Casino in Collier county.

The legislation authorizes the Governor to negotiate a compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida by August 31, 2009.  In exchange for significant sharing of profits, the agreement will give the tribe the right to operate certain games in the seven facilities on tribal lands. The Legislature must ratify the agreement, which will create revenue for the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund.

The compact will guarantee a minimum payment of $150 million annually under the parameters outlined in the legislation. In addition, the Tribe is required to make revenue sharing payments to the State of Florida based on the following annual amounts:

12 percent of profits up to $2.5 billion.
15 percent of profits between $2.5 billion and $3 billion.
20 percent of profits between $3 billion and $4 billion.
22.5 percent of profits between $4 billion and 4.5 billion.
25 percent of any profits above $4.5 billion.

The agreement also requires the Seminole Tribe of Florida to develop a compulsive gambling prevention program; submit records to an independent annual financial audit; and maintain a legal process for compensating individuals for injuries caused to patrons.  The tribe will also limit admission to patrons age 21 and older. 

Indian gaming casinos on Indian reservations fall under federal jurisdiction.  The compact is required for the Seminole Tribe to offer �Class III gaming,� which includes including baccarat, chemin de fer, and blackjack. Class III games will be limited to tribal reservations only.  Governor Crist commented that the federal government is likely to allow the tribe to operate Class III gaming, even if the state and tribe do not come to an agreement for profit sharing or oversight.

Have You Got The Conficker Virus?

Check Your Computer For This Virus

LABELLE, FL. -- Conficker, also known as Downup, Downandup, Conflicker, and Kido, is a computer worm that surfaced November 21st, 2008 with Conficker.A and targets the Microsoft Windows operating system. The worm exploits a known vulnerability (MS08-067) in the Windows Server service used by Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, and Windows 7 Beta.

Microsoft and others have worked hard to eradicate the virus through security update patch programs and removal tool updates so it is unlikely that you may have the computer virus Conficker, but it doesn't hurt to check your computer anyway.

Use this website page by the Conficker Working Group to check your computer:


Thursday, June 11, 2009

New Plants At Lake Trafford

50,000 Bulrush Plants Around Lake

IMMOKALEE, FL. -- Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission just finished planting approximately 50,000 bulrush plants in Lake Trafford at Immokalee. The plants could help accelerate restoration efforts on Lake Trafford, the largest lake south of Lake Okeechobee. The lake is an important resource for boating, fishing and wildlife-viewing opportunities, says the FWC.

Bulrush creates a highly desirable fish and wildlife habitat. Such marsh plants effectively reduce wave energy in the shallow area of the lake. This will allow for future planting and/or establishment of other beneficial submerged plants. Bulrush can grow up to 10 feet tall in shallow water.

'Once established, the plants should help concentrate fish and provide excellent angling opportunities,' said FWC freshwater fisheries biologist Barron Moody. 'But cooperation from the pubic is needed for the plants to thrive.'

On Friday, June 12, FWC biologists will post signs around the recently planted area to restrict access. The FWC requests that boaters operate with caution in these shallows until the plants have an opportunity to become well-established, which could take four to six months.

Over the past few years, the lake has been the focus of a multimillion-dollar, multi-agency restoration project. So far, participants have dredged the lake of 4 million cubic yards of muck that, in the past, has triggered algal blooms and fish kills. To date, the FWC has contributed $3 million for dredging Lake Trafford. Dredging could be complete by 2011.

Once dredging is complete and the emergent species, such as bulrush, become established, the FWC has prepared a long-term management plan to re-establish other varieties of submerged and emergent native aquatic vegetation in Lake Trafford. These future plantings will help to increase fish and wildlife habitat, providing for additional fishing, wildlife-viewing and tourism opportunities.

Poker Players' Winnings Seized

Online Poker Players' Winnings Frozen

Federal prosecutors have asked four American banks to freeze tens of millions of dollars in payments owed to people who play poker online through offshore gambling sites.

$33 million in online poker winnings to 27,000 players at four offshore poker sites, are being halted at the request of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Citibank, Wells Fargo and two smaller banks have frozen the gambling payouts of two companies that process checks for the poker sites. Prosecutors said the funds seized �constitute property involved in money laundering transactions and illegal gambling offenses.�

Offshore poker sites online make money by taking a small part of each poker pot, and hire U.S. companies to issue checks to winning poker players.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

At The Glades County Commission

Aviation Community Approved In Muse

MOORE HAVEN, FL.-- Based on Community Development Staff report and recommendation of the Glades County Planning Commission, the Glades County Commissioners Tuesday morning approved a Planned Development on Fernwood Lane near Muse with density of 34 units.

Sundance Farms Air Park LLC will provide private aviation facilities on 68 acres with a security gate house added to the master concept plan.

Rene Murdock and Trish Adams accepted the County�s plaque of appreciation in honor of Community Rehabilitation Ecumenical Workforce [CREW] receiving the Humanitarian Award for Outstanding Service at the recent Governor�s Hurricane Conference.

The Commissioners granted authorization for the Muse Community Association to begin improvements on the County-owned park property behind the Muse Firehouse.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

$15,000 Reward To Find Panther Killer

Panther Shot Near Henry Correctional

LABELLE, FL. -- A reward of up to $15,200 is being offered by a diverse group of organizations for information that leads to an arrest and/or a conviction in the shooting death of a Florida panther.

The panther was found on April 21, 2009 near the Hendry Correctional Institute on private property bordering the Big Cypress National Preserve, in Hendry County, Fla.  The panther is believed to have been shot within a week prior to its discovery.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) special agents and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) investigators are jointly investigating the case.

There are only about 100 Florida panthers left in the world. The Florida panther is protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA), which currently lists the species as "endangered." This means the Florida panther is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.  The ESA makes it unlawful for a person to take a listed animal without a permit.
Take is defined as ''to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect or attempt to engage in any such conduct."  If convicted criminally, the federal penalty is up to one year of imprisonment, $100,000 fine per individual or $200,000 per organization.  In addition, State of Florida Statute 372.0725 makes it a third degree felony to kill or wound any species designated as endangered or threatened.  The state penalty is up to five years in jail and/or up to a $5,000 fine.

 Anyone with information regarding this case should call the USFWS�s Office of Law Enforcement, in Fort Myers, Florida at (239) 561-8144.  Those wishing to stay anonymous should call the FWC�s Wildlife Alert Line at 1-888-404-3922.

The USFWS contributed $5,000 to the reward fund and the FWC contributed $1,000.  Other contributors to date are:

The Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust; The Bergeron Family of Companies;
The Florida Wildlife Federation; Defenders of Wildlife; The Everglades Coordinating Council; The Florida Airboat Association;  and
Big Cypress Sportsmen�s Alliance.

In The Service - Marvin Hayes

Army Pvt. Marvin D. Hayes 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.

Hayes is the son of Angela McKinnon of N. Main St., Belle Glade, Fla.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Will Your Kids Graduate From College?

Diplomas and Dropouts: Which Colleges Actually Graduate Their Students (and Which Don't)

Few colleges actually graduate a majority of their students according to a new study by the American Enterprise Institute. In the fall of 2001, nearly 1.2 million freshmen began college at a four-year institution of higher education somewhere in the United States.

Six years after the first class of the new millennium left for college, many of those same students were absent from commencement ceremonies and would never stroll across the graduation stage, not because they had already finished by the spring of 2007 but because they were still struggling to earn enough credits, or they had dropped out of college altogether, or they had transferred and were lost according to the way we count graduation rates.

The south had the distinction of housing institutions with some of the lowest graduation rates. At the noncompetitive level, none of the five institutions with the lowest graduation rates in the region surpass 20%. At the less competitive level, schools like South University in Georgia and Edward Waters College in Florida graduate well under 15% of their students.

In Southwest Florida, FGCU had a graduation rate of 35% with tuition at $7656 yearly. Hodges University in Fort Myers came in at 35% also, but tuition is $10,238. Florida State graduated 69%, tuition at $3355, and the University of Florida had the best graduation rate of 81% with tuition at $3257.

Overall, of the seventy-eight schools in the south classified as noncompetitive or less competitive, only six (less than 8%) have graduation rates higher than 50%. In contrast, not one of the twenty-nine schools rated highly competitive or most competitive failed to graduate half of their first-time students. Florida had a state graduation rate average of 48.0%, with a low of 9% at Edward Waters College to a high of 81% at the University of Florida.

For a complete listing of all college graduation rates and tuition rates by state:


LaBelle Community Christian School Property Sold

Edison State To Take Over Buildings At Christian School

LABELLE, FL. -- Edison State College Board of Trustees this week unanimously approved the purchase of a 19 acre site in LaBelle. The buildings and acreage being purchased is the LaBelle Community Christian School just off of Cowboy Way.

The new center expands Edison State�s service to students in Hendry and Glades counties.

Nearly 10 years ago Edison State College began offering college level courses in the LaBelle High School.  Since that time the community has asked for a broader variety of classes and services than the current facility can provide. 

The new facility will allow a tutoring center, a technology lab and more courses offered at a broader range of times, say officials of the College.

"We are looking positively to the future of Community Christian School and Eagles� Nest Preschool," said Shelton Gwaltney, Community Christian School Administrator. The school on Cowboy Way in LaBelle was built in 1994. "The sale of our current property to Edison State College gives us a new beginning.''

The $1.1 million dollar purchase will be financed through a gift given to the Edison State College Foundation.  Edison State plans to begin offering classes in the new center this fall. The current Hendry/Glades Center serves approximately 500 students each semester.

Dr. Patricia Land will continue to serve as the President of both the new center in LaBelle and as the President of Edison State�s Charlotte Campus.

Visit A Wildlife Trail This Weekend

Hit The Florida Wildlife Trails

Do you want to venture into unfamiliar territory Saturday to chance seeing something new? Then try Florida�s wildlife management areas, which are underexplored troves of trail-laced waterways, woods, marshes and scrub.

Besides footpaths, they have overlooks, where visitors can glimpse wildlife; and there are boat launches, so people can paddle the many creeks, rivers and lakes throughout the 5.8 million, mostly undeveloped, acres of wildlife management areas (WMAs) and wildlife and environmental areas (WEAs).

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) manages these habitats that wildlife call home.

The Great Florida Birding Trail offers another unique approach to wildlife viewing.

Saturday is National Trails Day, so named by the American Hiking Association. While some people will take to more traditional park trails, the management areas and birding trail are often off the beaten path, thereby promising wilder experiences.

Deep in the southern section of the state is Fisheating Creek, a place that draws rave reviews from paddlers taking to the water trail. This Lake Okeechobee tributary is home to alligators, not houses. Swallowtail kites fly over the tree-lined banks. Paddlers will like the cool shade too.

The best place to hike there is off State Road 78, south of Lakeport. Canoe and kayak rentals are available at the FWC campground, off U.S. 27 in Palmdale. The water level is good after the recent rains.

Check out the stops along the Great Florida Birding Trail. Babcock-Webb WMA in Charlotte County still has plenty of red-cockaded woodpeckers and purple gallinules (marsh birds). This is one of the WMAs with horse trails.

Check out one of the other 489 Great Florida Birding Trail sites if you want to stay close to home. Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas County is a good place in the summer. Abundant trails lead away from the swimming beaches and picnic grounds to a variety of trails, paved and not. Summer is a good time to watch beach-nesting birds, but remember to watch your step for eggs, and do not disturb birds nesting in the dunes.

For more information on these and other sites, go to MyFWC.com/Recreation. Pick your wildlife trail adventure. Happy trails.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Home Owners Getting A Tax Break?

New Law Eliminates Presumption Florida's County Property Appraisers Are Correct

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida Governor Charlie Crist today signed legislation that will help to protect Florida homeowners and property owners who challenge county property appraisers. House Bill 521, relating to ad valorem assessment, implements fairness for property owners who challenge property appraisers' value assessment of the property. Representative Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Senator Mike Fasano sponsored the legislation.

''Today, we are putting fairness back on the side of Florida homeowners and those who own property in the Sunshine State,' said Governor Crist.  'This good bill increases the likelihood that a taxpayer will succeed in challenging a value assessment established by a property appraiser.'

Governor Crist says he remains committed to lowering property taxes and protecting Florida homeowners. This bill makes it easier for Floridians to challenge property appraisers' valuation of their properties and also helps to ensure a more fair valuation.

Previously, Florida law left the burden of proof to the taxpayer and presumed an appraiser�s assessment was correct. This legislation provides that taxpayers who can present evidence that is more convincing than the property appraiser�s assessment will be entitled to a revised assessment.  Over the next five years, Florida homeowners and owners of business, rental or second-home properties are expected to save more than $2.1 billion due to the change in law. 

Governor Crist was joined at the bill signing by John Sebree of the Florida Association of Realtors, Mark Wilson of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, David Daniel of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Jose Gonzalez of Associated Industries of Florida, and John McDonald of the Florida Association of Property Tax Professionals.

This legislation builds upon Governor Crist�s ongoing efforts to reduce the property tax burden on Floridians. In 2007, Governor Crist signed landmark legislation rolling back all property taxes to at least the previous year�s levels. That same year, the Governor promoted Amendment 1 which promised to save Floridian�s an estimated $9 billion over five years.