Monday, February 28, 2011

Cleanup Begins In LaBelle's Barron Park

LABELLE, FL. -- After two days of Swamp Cabbage Festival 2011 activities in Barron Park, city workers began the tedious job of cleaning up trash and taking down over a hundred palm-frond clad booths around the riverfront park.

Ride operators were almost done with packing up the rides Monday morning, moving on to the next Spring carnival somewhere else in Florida.

Video-Cleanup at Barron Park Monday morning

Gas Prices Crazy High In LaBelle!

Gas Prices Climb As Retailers Take Advantage Of Mid-Eastern Revolution News?

LABELLE, FL. -- Average retail gasoline prices in Florida have risen 23.9 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.38 per gallon Sunday. This compares with the national average that has increased 17.0 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.34, according to gasoline price website

Including the change in gas prices in Florida during the past week, prices yesterday were 64.5 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 29.5 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has increased 25.3 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 64.9 cents per gallon higher than this day one year ago.

(Video - Shell Station Begins Selling Gas Again)

In LaBelle, prices were as high as $3.45 Monday morning. But some good news as the Shell station on West SR 80 in LaBelle finally opened their gas pumps two days ago. The pumps were installed months ago, and after six months of construction delays motorists can now buy gas at lower prices than all the other stations in the LaBelle area. Prices Monday were $3.29 for cash sales.

New Shell gas pumps in LaBelle, mean 10 cent savings per gallon for motorists. After being under construction for six long months, new pumps opened this week bringing an end to a very non-competitive gas pricing situation in the City of LaBelle where only one station was selling gas on the city's main highway.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hendry's Largest Festival Brings Out Crowds

Swamp Cabbage Festival In LaBelle - Saturday and Sunday

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry county's largest parade and festival started off the weekend big- time in LaBelle, Florida. Held the last full weekend of February each year, the Swamp Cabbage Festival is scheduled to attract large crowds to the downtown area, and in the park.

The Festival Parade traveled down Bridge Street (State Road 29) to Barron Park on the Caloosahatchee River at 10 a.m. Saturday. Festivities include music, dancers, and vendors packing the park, while thousands mill the streets of LaBelle.

(Click on video above to see Saturday's parade and festival. Click on Youtube logo for HD quality )

Tens of thousands of people visit LaBelle each year for the festival. The cabbage palm, the state tree of Florida, is cut down for making decorations from the palm fronds for parade floats and booths, and the heart of the palms is cut out to make "swamp cabbage."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lake Okeechobee Gets Thousands Of New Trees

Thousand Of Trees To Grace Lake O Region

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Taking advantage of dry conditions, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) will plant 6,000 pond apple, cypress and red maple trees to enhance wading bird habitat and restore ecosystems within Lake Okeechobee and Lake Istokpoga.

"Planting trees when water levels are low is a perfect example of turning the challenge of record dry conditions into a positive opportunity for restoration," said Ken Ammon, P.E., SFWMD Deputy Executive Director – Everglades Restoration and Capital Projects. "The trees will greatly benefit the lakes' ecosystems and attract wading birds, which are an indicator of restoration success, while also enhancing recreational opportunities."

As part of environmental restoration for South Florida, crews are adding to thousands of trees that the District has planted to benefit the environment and wildlife. Such efforts are also a significant investment in the region's economic health, as many of the restored areas serve as havens for recreational opportunities such as airboating, hunting and bird watching.

Following the driest October-through-December period since at least 1932, crews are set to start planting approximately 6-foot-tall pond apple trees along Ritta Island on the south end of Lake Okeechobee to enhance an existing native pond apple forest.

Pond apples can stand immense flooding, spending weeks at a time with their roots under water. They require rich organic soils for optimal growth while providing a resting location for wading birds such as endangered wood storks, endangered Everglades snail kites, egrets and herons. The trees can grow up to 30 feet tall and provide desirable habitat for raccoons, squirrels, birds and the endangered Okeechobee gourd. The deciduous pond apple produces an avocado-sized fruit that is sometimes called an alligator pear or alligator apple because of its rough skin.

Another planting will take place near Big Island in Lake Istokpoga, adding to the 800 trees the District planted during low water levels in 2007. An additional 600 cypress, red maple and pond apple trees will be planted on spoil islands and along the western shoreline of Lake Istokpoga.

Planting will also be done near the S-77 structure on the Caloosahatchee River by Moore Haven. The District will plant cypress trees, adding to previously planted trees in the area. Cypress trees, also capable of growing in standing water, provide desirable habitat for wading birds and the endangered snail kite.

The new tree planting effort is the latest of several similar projects across the District. Staff and volunteers previously planted more than 18,000 bald cypress, pond apple and red maple trees around Lake Okeechobee.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Mystery At LaBelle's Barron Library

Wi-fi Inoperable For A Month At LaBelle Library - No One's Talking

LABELLE, FL. -- Just why the wi-fi at the Barron Library has not been working for over a month is a mystery that no one seems to be able to discuss. Inquires by the Sunday Morning News are leading to dead air, so to speak.

A sign has been posted on the Barron Library door warning that there is no wi-fi available. The computer and wi-fi service are probably the most popular activities at the LaBelle library. But the librarian will only say they don't know why it's not working, and they have called the IT person in Clewiston, waiting for them to come and fix it.

Eric Tommerdahl, director of the Clewiston library says the IT person is someone from the City of Clewiston, but he refused to give any more details and said he would not give me a name of anyone to contact at the City but would tell them I inquired.

The mystery remains, an apparently tightly-held secret in the bowels of the Hendry library system and the City of Clewiston's IT department.


It appears that former Hendry Commissioner and current Utilities Director of the City of Clewiston Keven McCarthy is responsible for keeping the Barron Library wi-fi working.

McCarthy's IT person is Steven Hess, who described himself as "a one man shop" as the systems administrator of the City of Clewiston and network services technician at his Linkedin page profile.

Hess says in his profile that he's "looking for an opportunity to work within larger, more complex systems and working with (sic) within a team environment."

We don't yet know who's responsible for the delay in getting the Barron Library internet computer wi-fi working, McCarthy, Hess, or Library Administrator Tommerdahl. And we don't know why no one wants to talk about it.

Google's Chrome Cr-48 Notebook - The Future Now?

An Ultra Affordable Computer For Everyone?

Having been chosen as a Google "lab rat" for testing the new Google notebook computer, the Chrome Cr-48 I've been using has served well so far, as an auxiliary to my primary laptop. I've found it very handy for taking portable around town and even to the backyard for use from the lawn chair.

Click On Video Above (Testing the video capabilities of the Chrome notebook at the Hendry Courthouse in LaBelle, Florida.)

The black three and one-half pound rubber-covered notebook with it's 12 inch screen is the first "cloud" based personal computer, turning on in 15 seconds, and instantly if in the sleep mode. It syncs and updates with my other computers automatically and wirelessly each time it's used.

Programs and data are stored on the "cloud" and not stored on the computer, reached via Google's servers, where applications like Google Docs, Google Mail, and Google Voice store it all securely. Storing data on the "cloud," meaning other than on the computer itself, allows a very simple computer to access my programs and information without having a large hard drive and expensive processor on my computer.

The notebook uses an Intel Atom N455 processor operating at a speed of 1.66 Ghz, and has a 16 GB flash drive, plenty of storage since all one's data and programs are stored remotely on Google's (or other cloud cloud computing provider's) servers. Google, and others update programs on their servers, so no downloads are necessary to keep the computer up to date.

What this means is cloud computing devices like the Chrome Cr-48 can be built and sold at unbelievably low prices. Although Google will not be selling until this summer, my best guess is that they will be a few hundred dollars. And who knows, maybe almost free! The Google computers will be manufactured by Acer and Samsung.

Which brings up an interesting idea - a swappable computer. Because all of your individual settings and data between computers and data stored on the cloud are synched at all times, a lost or damaged Cr-48 computer is not an issue. Just open the lid on a new one, sign in, and your data and programs are just as you left them.

I did accidentally drop mine, with no damage fortunately, but if it were DOA , I'd still have all my data stored on Google's servers.

Interestingly, there's no screws on the Chrome computer case. It's not built to be opened for repair or adding anything. It's as if Google is saying, this computer will be so affordable you can just get a new one anytime, don't bother repairing or upgrading a Cr-48 cloud computer.

So, far it's working well for me...a lightweight notebook easy to carry anywhere, goes on and on for 7-8 hours, make videos stored on the "cloud," and no need to download security updates, program updates, or even have any concerns about losing data even it's ever stolen, damaged or lost.

To be continued....

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hendry Restaurant Food Safety - Dirty Kitchens!

Many Violations Found In Clewiston And LaBelle Restaurant Kitchens

LABELLE, FL. -- In a survey of 28 LaBelle and Clewiston restaurants, only one was found with no food safety violations after the most recent inspections by the Florida Division of Hotels and Restaurants. Wendy's in LaBelle came out with flying colors with a perfect food safety inspection (Wendy's in Clewiston had 10 violations), while all other LaBelle eateries were found with one or more "critical" food safety violations.

In our last full survey in April, 2010 Taco Bell/KFC was the only eatery with a perfect inspection record. This year 1 critical violation was found by inspectors there.

Last year, seven restaurants were found with no required state certified food managers on staff: Jones EZ Foods, Burger King, Beef O Brady's, Palateria Los Mayos, Popeye's, Hungry Howie's, and Olivia's. This year all restaurants inspected had properly certified managers. (Olivia's went out of business and the Port LaBelle Inn has started it's own restaurant but has no inspection yet

Last year two restaurants were given full inspections as the result of consumer complaints, Jones EZ Food and Log Cabin BBQ. This year only Fortune Cookie had a "full complaint" and is subject to it's eighth follow up inspection after two recurring violations were found. The Fortune Cookie, for many years, has had the worst food safety history in Hendry county of all restaurants surveyed.

This year McDonald's in Clewiston had the worst inspection record with 15 violations, 11 being "critical."

Last year, Don's Restaurant had a food safety inspector note: "Observed presence of insects, rodents, or other pests on tables close to front door." This year the pest problem had been solved, but they still had seven violations compared to four last year.

The LaBelle and Clewiston, Florida restaurant list below includes the name, date of last inspection and number of violations found by inspectors.

Taco Bell 12/10/2010 1 critical violation
Little Caesar's 2/25/2011 2 total, 1 critical *updated
El Tarasco Mexican 1/5/2011 6 total, 5 critical
Chalkboard Deli 4/25/2011 2 critical *updated
Riverbend Motorcoach Resort 3/8/2011 2 critical *updated
Jones EZ Food 2/9/2011 6 total, 4 critical
Rodeo Grill 2/23/2011 9 critical (incl. slime in ice machine) *updated
Flora And Ella 2/23/2011 4 critical *updated
McDonald's LaBelle 2/25/2011 5 total, 4 critical *updated
Burger King 9/27/2010 1 total
Burger King Clewiston 1/5/2011 6 total, 5 critical
Wendy's 3/4/2011 4 critical incl. slime in ice machine *updated
Wendy's Clewiston 1/3/2011 10 total, 6 critical
McDonald's Clewiston 2/2/2011 15 total 11 critical
Contreas 3/23/2010 3 critical
Beef O Brady's 2/9/2011 2 critical
Beef O Brady's Clewiston 2/2/11 8 total, 7 critical
Subway 1/5/2011 2 critical
Subway Clewiston 2/11/2011 1 total
Don's Restaurant 2/23/2011 8 total, 7 critical *updated
Hungry Howie's 3/8/2011 3 critical incl. slime in ice machine *updated
Popeye's 2/9/2011 5 total, 2 critical
Popeye's Clewiston 12/10/2010 4 total, 2 critical
PALATERIA LOS MAYAS 1/13/2011 1 total
Port LaBelle Inn 5/13/2011 3 critical incl. metal shavings and crusted material on can opener *updated

Log Cabin BBQ 1/5/2011 3 total, 2 critical
Forrey Grill 2/9/2011 6 critical
Big V 3/8/2011 9 total, 8 critical *updated
The Chalkboard Deli (new) 2/23/11 1 critical *updated
Fortune Cookie 2/25/2011 11 critical (include a "full complaint" and 2 recurring violations-9 follow up inspections have been required here in last year and one-half) *updated

*Updates: As of 3/23/11, nine LaBelle restaurants had been reinspected and the new violations are noted above. The Fortune Cookie retains it's historical standing of many years as having Hendry county's poorest food safety record, with the most number of violations. 4/25/11, Chalkboard Deli inspection 2 critical including food not date marked and raw meat stored near other foods. 5/13/2011, Port LaBelle Inn (Oxbow Grill) inspected for 1st time since hotel took it over, 3 critical items including handwashing and can opener issues.

Economic Impacts Of Ag In Hendry-Glades

17,625 Agricultural Jobs In Hendry County

LABELLE, FL. -- The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) reports each year on the economic impacts of agricultural and related industries for each Florida county.

Agriculture in Hendry county, according to the latest reports generates 17,625 job or 78% of the county's employment, bring $1.3 billion in revenues, 66% of the gross regional revenues.

Hendry county funded $302,425 of the Hendry Agricultural Extension Office budget, while the State contributed $440,193, and Federal funds added $95,121.

Gene McAvoy, County Extension Director reports that 131 volunteers worked 9,613 hours for a dollar value for hours worked of $200,431.

The main focus of the Extension Office in Hendry is on commercial vegetable growing, citrus, livestock production, sugarcane growing, agronomy, and 4-H youth development, says McAvoy.

Glades County

Glades Extension Director Michael Jensen reports his county produced 1,175 agricultural jobs and contributing 33% of Glades' gross regional product income. The State funds $116,652 of the Glades Extension Office budget, Glades county funded $45,844, and Federal funds were $19,024.

25 volunteers provided 1,727 hours of work valued at $36,008.

The focus of the Glades Extension office is developing and improving life skills and interpersonal relationships, livestock programs, small farm livestock production, and beef and forage programs.

Best Nature Places - C.R.E.W. Marsh In Collier County

Explore SW Florida's Wilderness Areas

IMMOKALEE, FL. -- Tour the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed - a scenic wildlife and ecology park for vacationers and residents near Immokalee, Florida.

Click on video above for a tour of the park

C.R.E.W. has dozens of geocaches (hidden containers located by GPS) hidden in South Florida's largest intact watershed. There are 5,000 acres in the CREW Marsh to explore on miles of trails and a primitive campsite.

The CREW Marsh Hiking Trails are open to the public from sunrise to sunset every day. Trail maps are available at the trailhead located at 4600 Corkscrew Rd., 2 miles south of State Rd. 82 or 18 miles east of exit 123 off I-75

Sunday, February 20, 2011

LaBelle Heritage Museum Buys Historic Building

New Headquarters Building On Bridge Street In LaBelle

LABELLE, FL. --The LaBelle Heritage Museum closed on the purchase of the 1911 William H. Poole building at 360 North Bridge Street on the 14th of February, 2011.  Over the years the Hendy county building has served not only as the Poole store and residence but also as a church, the O'Ferrell "Honey House," and, more recently, the office of LaBelle Real Estate Company prior to former Mayor of LaBelle Sharon Craichy's illness and death.  

According to Museum president Joe Thomas, the building will be remodeled to fit the needs of LaBelle Heritage Museum -- housing museum exhibits on the first floor and using the second floor for office space and research purposes.  The property is large enough that plans are to move the H. A. Rider home and office building and set them up as  "snapshots in time" -- a home representative of the seond quarter of the 20th century and a small town lawyer's office.  

The rotary steam turbine that Edward Christopher Warren, an associate of the renowned Niola Tesla, designed and installed in the Herreshoff yacht Navette, built for J. P. Morgan in 1901, after he purchased it in 1938 will also be moved at the same time the Rider structures are.

"360 North Bridge Street is more visible and accessible than the museum's current location," said Thomas. "And also has the advantage of being in one of the few areas in LaBelle where people walk because they want to walk.  More people will see the LaBelle Heritage Museum as they stroll by and, hopefully, will become museum visitors if the museum can increase the hours it is open," Thomas added.

For the time being, however, LaBelle Heritage Museum will remain at 150 South Lee Street. Still needed are Friends of the LaBelle Heritage Museum to volunteer to serve as docents on Thursday and Friday afternoons.  Please contact the Museum if you are willing to volunteer to become a docent.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Port LaBelle Gets Return Of SR80 Turn Lane

LABELLE, FL-- After many community complaints, and letter writing by area citizens, the Florida Department of Transportation has decided to return a right turn lane at Collingswood Blvd., after the new State Road 80 four-lane project removed it.

Here's the response from the DOT to a letter from the City of LaBelle's Ron Zimmerly.

Dear Mr. Zimmerly:

I am writing in response to your email requesting the department to replace the eastbound right turn lane at the intersection of SR 80 and Collingswood Blvd. You were concerned about safety at the intersection because of the absence of the right turn lane. Be assured safety along the state highway system is the top priority of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).

The current design for the widening of SR 80 from a two lane undivided to four lane divided roadway did not include the right turn lane. The review performed during the design process considered the number of turning vehicles currently making a right turn at the intersection did not meet the threshold for installation of a right turn lane.

I asked my staff to review the location again and determine if we can accommodate your request. Our review found that there is potential for traffic growth at the intersection and the location will benefit from an exclusive right turn lane. As such, we will install the eastbound right turn lane at the intersection. I have asked my staff to start the design process to add the right turn lane.

The current widening project is scheduled to be complete in the next two weeks. As such, we will have to issue a new contract to install the turn lane. I anticipate the design to be completed in the next four weeks and a contractor to be working at the location in three to four months.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or Mr. Edward J. Gonzalez, P.E., Director of Transportation Operations at (863) 519-2202.

Stanley M. Cann, P.E.

District One Secretary

Florida Department of Transportation

(863) 519-2201, Fax (863) 534-7265

And the letter by Mr. Zimmerly

As the President of Port LaBelle POA Unit 4, I would like to share our concern regarding the lack of an eastbound deceleration and turning lane at Collinswood Parkway on SR 80 E near the City of LaBelle. The eastbound turn onto Collinswood Parkway has been made more dangerous than prior to the completion of the 4 lane highway. I can not believe a left turn/decel lane was installed at this intersection without replacing the previously existing decel/right turn lane. I believe the eastbound right decel/turn lane onto Collinwood Parkway was part of a Master Development Order that General Development Corp was required to install for approval of the DRI for Port LaBelle. The Port LaBelle POA Unit 4 Homeowners Association adopted a resolution at our monthly board meeting last evening, February 10, 2011. A copy of the resolution is attached urging immediate attention. There has already been one accident since the decel/turn lane was removed.

In addition, the City of LaBelle adopted a similar resolution at their regularly scheduled city commission meeting last evening, February 10, 2011. A copy of that resolution will be provided as soon as it is available from the Deputy Clerk's Office. Your expeditious attention to this matter is greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Ron Zimmerly, President of Port LaBelle POA Unit 4.

Ron Zimmerly, Finance Director
City of LaBele

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hendry Bird Count This Weekend

Join the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the Hendry-Glades Audubon Society and thousands of avian enthusiasts
across the nation for the 14th annual Great Backyard Bird Count.

Each year, "citizen scientists" submit checklists to help researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., and the National
Audubon Society study and protect birds.

Florida has ranked first among participating states and provinces in reporting the most birds. Clewiston, just south of Lake Okeechobee, was among the top 10 localities in reporting the greatest number of individual birds in 2008, 2009 and 2010. During the 2010 count, participants turned in more than 97,300 checklists online, observed 603 species and 11.2 million individual bids in the overall count.

While anyone can join the count from their own backyard or park, the SFWMD and Hendry-Glades Audubon will take birders on three separate days to an Everglades Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) in Hendry County that has become nationally known as a bird watching spot. STAs are the water-cleaning workhorses of Everglades restoration. They have also become renowned havens for wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

The gate at STA-5 is located on Blumberg Road in Hendry County, 12 miles south of the intersection of Blumberg and County Road 835. Blumberg Road ends at the gate after 10 miles of asphalt and 2 miles of dirt.

Contact Margaret England of Hendry-Glades Audubon. (863) 517-02021 email:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ag Grants Available To Florida Farmers & Nonprofits

Tallahassee, Fla. – Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced today that up to $4.3 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be awarded to nonprofits, producers, academic institutions and government agencies, among others, to fund projects that will enhance the competitiveness of Florida's specialty crops. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is now accepting applications for funding.


The 2011 Florida Specialty Crop Block Grant Program will accept applications for projects pertaining to the following issues:


·         Increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops;

  • Improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems;
  • Assisting all entities in the specialty crop distribution chain in developing "Good Agricultural Practices," "Good Handling Practices," "Good Manufacturing Practices" and in cost-share arrangements for funding audits of such systems for small farmers, packers and processors;
  • Investing in specialty crop research, including research to focus on conservation and environmental outcomes;
  • Enhancing food safety;
  • Developing new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops;
  • Pest and disease control; and
  • Development of organic and sustainable production practices.

Major considerations also include the overall economic or research benefit to the Florida specialty crop industry and whether the project makes good business sense, has a high likelihood of success and the expected benefits align with the proposed budget.

Specialty crops include fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, horticulture and nursery crops. Funded projects must be completed within 24 months.

The deadline to apply for a Specialty Crop Block Grant is April 8. Grant applications will be reviewed by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, along with members of an external review committee representative of Florida's specialty crop industry. With USDA approval, funded projects are anticipated to begin by December 2011. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Immokalee's Lake Trafford Restoration Complete

IMMOKALEE, FL -- In a significant step to improve water quality in Southwest Florida and protect an economic resource, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and its partners recently marked the completion of the effort to restore Lake Trafford.

Lake Trafford is a shallow, 1,600-acre lake, marking the headwaters of the Corkscrew Swamp and the Imperial and Cocohatchee River watersheds, along with the Camp Keais Strand and Panther Preserve watershed that drains into the Ten Thousand Islands. Lake Trafford is the largest lake south of Lake Okeechobee in South Florida, serving as an important ecotourism resource for recreational boating and fishing.

With an investment of approximately $21.4 million, the District achieved a host of restoration goals, including:

  • Removing 3 feet of muck from the lake bottom during 2004 - 2007
  • Removing 2 feet of muck from the near shore areas during 2009 - 2010
  • Restoring native fisheries
  • Developing a Watershed Protection Plan to reduce nutrients

Restoration of Lake Trafford will not end with the completion of dredging. Other plans to maintain the health of the lake include:

Re-establishing native submerged aquatic vegetation, such as Vallisneria, through littoral plantings
Monitoring the long-term health of the lake using water quality parameters (dissolved oxygen), environmental indicators and the recovery of native fish communities
Promoting additional studies to develop best management practices to control nutrient runoff and minimize growth of invasive aquatic vegetation

At one time, the lake was sand bottomed. However, nutrient runoff in the watershed resulted in a shift from native aquatic vegetation to dense mats of hydrilla, an invasive exotic plant. The hydrilla has been controlled using herbicides, however, dead plant material accumulated on the bottom of the lake, releasing nutrients, triggering algal blooms and impacting prime habitat for native fish species.

The District began the first phase of dredging Lake Trafford in 2004, with a focus on its center, completing the project two years later. A second muck-removal effort began in November 2006 for the near shore area and, after being placed on hold because of drought conditions in 2007, was completed recently.

Monday, February 14, 2011

LaBelle Tenants Claim AIDS Discrimination

Landlord Tries To Get New Lease - Tenants Refuse And Sue

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry county property owner Debra Jean Thornburg has been sued by tenants Todd Amidon and William A. Hanes over a dispute about repairs made to a rental house at 610 South Riverview in LaBelle, rent owed, and claims by the tenants that they have been discriminated against when Amidon's medical condition of AIDS was discovered by the landlord.

Amidon disclosed to a reporter for the Caloosa Belle that he had AIDS, as reported in a story published last week, but ironically is suing Thornburg in part, because she may have found out about his disease when he applied for federal financial assistance for AIDS victims through the Hendry Health Department last October.

Reportedly, Amidon said that across the top of a form to be signed by a landlord are the letters "HOPWA" which he claims would alert his landlord, a health department employee, to his health condition.

Trace Pfluge of LaBelle Tropic Realty, according to the two, asked them to sign a new lease on December 22, but they refused.

On December 31, owner Thornburg sent a certified letter and delivered a notice posted on the house notifying the duo that she was not going to renew their oral lease and they were asked to move by January 15th. Amidon and Hanes had an oral agreement since August for $200 per month to be deducted from the $450 monthly rent if they would make repairs to the house.

The two claim in their answer to an eviction suit filed that they paid "rent for month on January 15th" and are current and no payment is due until February 15th.

They also claim, and filed suit against Thornburg in a separate action, that they repaired and wanted credit for fixing a broken hose spigot for $290 at $75 an hour, $796 for painting a porch at $30 an hour, cleaning the house for $1025 at $30 an hour, laying carpet for $75 at $30 an hour, and tiling a bathroom for $2335 @ $30 an hour.

Amidon says he filed against the landlord in a discrimination complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations on December 30th as well.

William A. Hanes - No Stranger To The Court System

35-year old Hanes, a part of two law suits with landlord Thornburg, also is suing LaBelle resident David Snow for $2499.95 in Hendry small claims court. Hanes claims loss of use, damages, and theft of a 1984 Buick by Snow in August of 2009. Hanes brought suit against Snow in December of 2010. A trial is set for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 16th in LaBelle.

Hanes also will be in court at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, February 15th on a case against him by the State of Florida for insurance fraud. Hanes was arrested June 15, 2009. Hanes admitted to fraudulently receiving $15,349.29 from State Farm Insurance in 2008. A 3rd degree felony, Hanes agreed to pay restitution to State Farm and $645.37 to Florida's Financial Fraud Division, and court costs and fees of about $500, payable at no less than $400 a month.

If Hanes kept his end of the March 26, 2010 contract in the court's Pre-Trial Diversion Program, the case would be dismissed. Hanes, however is charged now with not completing the program. Included in the agreement were drug and alcohol testing and treatment, and community service.

He'll be before the Circuit Judge Tuesday afternoon in a case management hearing. The landlord/tenant case will be settled at a court hearing on February 28th at 9 a.m.


February 28 - Judge Sloan continued the case, allowing the landlord to file an amended case, after she could not produce a signed notice of non-renewal of lease delivered to the tenants. Attorney Jim Luckey was hired by the landlord to represent her in court. The judge told the tenants only two weeks notice would be required of a landlord under an oral lease. It would appear the two tenants will gain about another month at the property.

February 16 - Hanes won an award of about $2500 from defendant Snow. Snow had sold Hane's car believing it belonged to someone else and was abandoned in his yard.

February 15 - Hanes' case against him by the State of Florida was continued for another case management hearing March 31.

Clewiston Woman Arrested On Theft-Fraud Charges

Woman Alleged To Have Stolen From Senior's Bank Account

LABELLE, FL. -- After an extensive investigation Hendry County Sheriff's Sgt. Shawn Reed arrested 31-year old Lasheka Lavette Mitchell of Clewiston, Florida on charges of Theft, Exploitation of the Elderly, and several charges of Fraud. 

An 86 year-old victim contacted the Hendry County Sheriff's Office after noticing a number of charges to his bank account.  It was later determined that Lasheka Mitchell had accessed the victim's bank account and had made unauthorized purchases.  It was discovered that Mitchell would purchase items and then request an additional amount of cash be returned to her. 

On February 10, 2011, Lasheka Mitchell was arrested on charges of Grand Theft, Exploitation of Elderly, and numerous counts of Fraud.  Mitchell is currently being held in the Hendy County Jail on $27,000 bond.

Sgt. Kosh Returning To Home Base

Kosh Finishes Tour In Mid-East

Hendry County native, Air Force Master Sgt. Aaron C. Kosh is returning to the U.S. after a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom, respectively.
The soldier's return to Joint Base Dix-McGuire-Lakehurst, N.J., for debriefing, evaluations and out-processing procedures before returning to their regularly assigned Army Reserve or National Guard units.
Kosh is an explosive ordnance disposal  sergeant assigned to the 633d Air Base Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.  The master sergeant has served in the military for 20 years.
He is the son of Michael and Rhonda Kosh of Belmont St., La Belle, Fla.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Google's Cr-48 "Cloud" Computer - The Future?

How A Computer From Google May Change My Internet Life

It was a sunny Friday afternoon. I spotted a medium-sized brown box on my doorstep.

I did not remember having ordering anything on eBay or Amazon in recent weeks, and I knew Christmas and my birthday were long gone.

I'm a writer and local news publisher, and having written reviews and commentaries on things technical, and not, for decades, I receive items for review from time to time courtesy of companies seeking promotion or at least a kind review of new products.

But, in this box, I sensed was something entirely different this time.

Wondering just what might be inside this five-pound mystery box, I grabbed my x-acto knife and began cutting the taped enclosure in earnest.

Inside, a box decorated in a sort of modern graphic somewhere between a Rube Golberg schematic and a Salvador Dali print, a mouse prominently included.

And inside, a sleek, black 3.5 pound Google Chrome Cr-48 notebook computer, along with power cord, a colorful vinyl decal sheet, two printed instruction sheets, and a small business-sized card from Intel, the only promotional piece inside.

The new computer, compliments of Google, Inc. of Mountainview, California, is now my new "cloud" notebook, to use as I please, to discover what may be the future of computing.

to be continued...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

February Festivals In Hendry County

What To See In February!

LABELLE, FL. -- February is probably the biggest month of the year to visit Hendry county and attend one of it's many festivals and fairs.

Beginning Sunday, February 13th is the 8th Annual LaBelle Youth Livestock and Agricultural Show at the LaBelle Rodeo Grounds. Exhibitors are youth from the 4-H Clubs and FFA programs in Hendry county.

Shown this year will be 69 hogs, 12 steers, goats, cattle, poultry, ducks, and rabbits. Dinners will be held during the week, and a final dinner and market animal sale will be held on Friday, February 18th.

(Please Click on video above to see kids in action!)

Here's what's going on in LaBelle and Clewiston for the remainder of February 2011:

-Swamp Cabbage Queen and Princess Pageant - LaBelle High School (Feb. 12)

-LaBelle Youth Livestock & Ag Fair - LaBelle Rodeo Grounds (Feb. 13-18)

-Hendry County Fair And Livestock Show - Clewiston, Fl (Feb. 18-26)

-Swamp Cabbage Festival - LaBelle, Fl (Feb. 24-27)

-L.O.S.T. (Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail) 118-Mile Endurance Run (Feb. 26-27)

Our Local Advertisers Extend A Welcome All Our Visitors This Month!

  • Gary Peters Computer Services, email and website, phone (863) 675-7925

Alden A. Rumfelt, Attorney At Law, email, phone (863) 673-0251

  • LaBelle Plumbing Corporation, phone (863) 675-1155
  • Pete's Tractor Service, email, and website, phone (239) 728-6629
  • White's Furniture & Appliances, phone (863) 675-0717
  • Randy's Garage, Inc., phone (863) 675-1032, (863) 675-7603 (Tires)
  • Alvarez Tire Shop, phone (863) 946-1370
  • Phillip's AC And Heating Services, phone (863) 675-2878
  • Stratonet Internet Service, website, phone (888) 382-8503

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Semi Rolls Over On Hendry Highway

Truck Spills Fertilizer Load On State Road 80.

CLEWISTON, FL. -- A semi pulling a trailer filled with 22 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer rolled over while traveling southbound from US 27 (State Road 25) merging westbound onto State Road 80. 

Driver, Kelvin Randall Clark, 35 of South Bay was attempting to negotiate a right hand curve onto State Road 80 about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. 

For unknown reasons he failed to maintain control of his vehicle and overturned the vehicle onto its left side and spilled its load across the eastbound lane. It came to final rest partially in the grassy median and westbound lane on its left side, facing west.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Fort Myers Artfest 2011 This Weekend

One Of Southwest Florida's Largest Free Art Festivals

FORT MYERS, FL. -- The River District is hosting the 2011 Artfest along the harbor and waterfront in downtown Ft. Myers this weekend.

Hundreds of artists and food vendors led color to the city streets Saturday. Restaurants in the business district were pleased to see the large crowds show up, patronizing their establishments after a few hours of looking over the exhibits. 

The Festival continues Sunday.

(Click on video to play.)

LaBelle Park - Chicago Of The South?

Hall City: Glades Ghost Town - A Land Boom Gone Wrong

LABELLE, FL. -- Advertised by a Chicago minister in the early 1900s, LaBelle Park, and a subdivision called "Hall City" was to be a paradise for Northerners who were persuaded to part with cash, ultimately purchasing thousands of real estate lots in a section of land north of LaBelle.

Glades County Property Appraiser Larry Luckey, a local historian entertained an audience at the Thursday, February 3rd meeting of the Labelle Heritage Museum, talking about the former "boom" town and now "ghost" town of Hall City.

(Click on video to see Larry Luckey reading from 1900s land sales brochure )

Luckey read from a brochure promoting land sales in the 1900s of a remote section of land off current State Road 29. Luckey pointed out all the false claims in the sales brochure, fine land for farming, a port for boats, "Hall University", and a lack of mosquitoes and other pests, among other exaggerations and outright lies.

Hall City was designed as a "temperance" town, no alcohol was to be allowed, and only white "Christians" were to live there, no foreigners, according to the sales brochures.

According to ghost town historian Mike Woodfin, the area of what is now western Glades county, just a mile east of State Road 29, was home to many who bought land there, but the Great Depression halted the growth of the town. "Hall City was developed in the early 1900's by a preacher from Chicago, Dr. George F. Hall. In the early years Hall City boasted as many as 100 residents but by the 1920's the development had been abandoned."

Luckey said in recent years he had relatives of original lot owners, having inherited the lots, calling his office to inquire about the Hall City lots. Luckey explained that there was no access to the land because it is now surrounded by land owned by Lykes Brothers, and although there are still a few private owners, still paying a few dollars a year in real estate taxes, most of the lots were sold off for taxes years ago, and Lykes Brothers now owns most of the remaining lots. along with the thousands of acres surrounding the ghost town.

Luckey said there is still some evidence of the city in the form of curbs and sidewalks, but not much else remains. A railroad was built in the early 1900s and the old right of way still passes through the area continuing on south through Hendry county near Goodno, all the way to Sears Road. The railroad right of way in Hendry now is owned by Hendry County, and leased to an adjoining property owner. Lykes owns the right of way in Glades.

Luckey concluded his presentation by donating a copy of 1910 Hall City promotional material to LaBelle Heritage Museum.  

Seminole historian and educator Willie Johns will be the speaker at the March 3 meeting of LaBelle Heritage Museum at which time the voting members will decide whether or not to suspend the by-laws limiting officers to two successive one-year terms for the April election of officers. 

The LaBelle Heritage Museum holds programs on the first Thursday of each month, September through April, at 7 p.m. at LaBelle City Hall. A short business meeting is held after the presentations and refreshments are served.


Friday, February 04, 2011

Hendry Tobacco-Drug Free Coalition Meets

Helping Make Hendry Tobacco-Drug Free

LABELLE, FL. -- The Henry County Tobacco-Free Partnership invites the public to a meeting on Tuesday February 15th at 4 p.m. at the Carlson Memorial United Methodist Church, 310 Campbell Street, LaBelle.

Discussion well include the most recent Student Social Norms Survey results from the schools, receive updates on the tobacco issue from the local and state level and discuss program strategies for the upcoming program year. For more information please contact Valarie James at 863-674-4041 ext 128.
The Drug Free Hendry County Coalition meeting is immediately after, starting at 5 p.m. We will be having a local parent tell a personal story about the battle with prescription drug abuse in her family and how they are overcoming the addiction now. For more information please call Bianca Ross at 863-674-4041 ext. 143

Thursday, February 03, 2011

LaBelle's Firehouse Theater Opens

Comedy Theater In LaBelle - Lots Of Fun!

LABELLE, FL. -- The Firehouse Community Theatre presents its fourth selection for the season Moonlight and Magnolias by Ron Hutchinson. The comedy is presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York.

(Click on video above to see scenes from Thursday night's dress rehearsal)

This adult slap-stick comedy takes place in 1939 Hollywood when movie producers were kings. This fictional account of the events surrounds the filming of "Gone With The Wind." Three weeks into production, the director quits and production is stopped. David O. Selznick locks script doctor Ben Hecht, the new director Victor Fleming and himself in his office to rewrite the screenplay. (The play uses adult language.)

Show dates: February 4th, 5th, 11th & 12th at 7:00 pm and February 6th and 13th at 2:00 pm. Call the box office at (863) 675-3066 or email 241 N. Bridge Street in downtown LaBelle.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

LaBelle's Flora & Ella's Restaurant Closing?

Landmark Restaurant Doomed As Bonita Bay Decides Not To Renew Lease

LABELLE, FL. -- The owner of the building housing landmark LaBelle restaurant and meeting place Flora and Ella's has decided not to renew the lease for the historic, popular restaurant known for it's mountain-high merengue pies.

(click on video for exterior views of Flora and Ella's)

Owned and operated for many years by Alan and Irene Trask, the couple sold the property at 550 West Hickpoochee Avenue in January 2005 to Fred J. Burson, Trustee. Burson a local real estate broker and investor leased it to the Bonita Bay Group.

Bonita Bay, a large real estate development company saw a downturn in sales in recent years with the collapse in the real estate market.

The restaurant was managed for the last several years by Debbie Klemmer, a relative of the original founders, Ella and Flora Burchard. Bonita Bay reportedly wants to get out of the restaurant business and the property owner is looking for someone to lease the property.

The lease runs out March 31, 2011.

The sales price of the property in 2005 was $1,260,300. The Hendry property appraiser says the parcel is worth $834,000 on the 2010 valuation. Hendry real estate taxes were $18,622 last year.