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Archives for December 7, 2015

Drought in cities: Will people get tired of water-saving demands?

Dead lawns. Buckets in showers. Low-flow toilets.

In 2015, people in cities from Merced to Tulare made changes inside and outside their homes, some grudgingly to avoid a water penalty and some willingly out of a sense of civic duty.

For Fresnans such as Arlyn Presley, saving every drop matters. The retired teacher began collecting cold water in her shower this summer, and the bucket is still there this fall. It’s a small effort, she said, but water is too valuable to waste even a gallon.

“I just figure water’s like gold, like oil.”

Others – lots of others – have saved precious gallons, too.

Jim Pardini, a Fresno restaurateur, estimates his workers wash thousands of pieces of china, glassware and silverware a day. He can’t abide unattended running faucets and half-empty dishwasher loads.

“I’m like the water police around here,” he said.

The question facing cities is whether people will continue to make sacrifices and change habits to conserve water through this winter and beyond. Water conservation has to become the norm for California and the Valley, say environmental experts. Droughts are forecast to be more common than rare in coming years.

Drought is the new normal, said Mark Lubell, a University of California, Davis, professor of environmental science and policy.

“We know drought is coming, even if it rains three years in a row,” he said.

Gov. Jerry Brown has said Californians must not ease up on conservation, and a 25 percent water reduction mandate, imposed this year, will remain in effect through February.

I just figure water’s like gold, like oil.

Arlyn Presley of Fresno

Across the Valley during the blistering hot months of June through October, people conserved water. Cities reduced consumption between 12 percent and 40 percent from their 2013 water use to meet the governor’s statewide order to cut consumption.

Brown lawns popped up throughout the Valley. Trees and shrubs died. In Clovis, the city’s beloved Christmas tree, a coast redwood, fell victim to the drought.

But despite the sacrifices, cities found it difficult to meet conservation mandates. Some Valley towns, such as Clovis, had to cut water use by 36 percent to comply. Cities imposed penalties for watering on wrong days and wrong times; and Clovis also fined people for overwatering (penalties in four months totaled more than $763,000).

Only five Valley cities – Dinuba, Kingsburg, Madera, Merced and Selma – met their water-reduction goals.

Reaching water conservation mandates in the winter, when consumption normally dips, will be even harder than it was in summer, city officials know.

California needs people to buy in to water conservation over the long haul, but the weather could throw a monkey wrench into conservation. Meteorologists forecast a wet El Niño winter, a welcome respite from the past four parched years, but rainstorms won’t be enough to replenish the water supply, they say. Storms could, however, be sufficient to lull people into complacency about water consumption.

Lubell, co-director of the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior at UC Davis, has been watching conservation efforts. He’s more than slightly surprised by the successful conservation efforts, but it takes longer than one drought to transform a culture of water wasters into water savers. He said he suspects water conservation could be short-lived.

“If it rains a lot, people will not feel as pressured to reduce their water bill,” he said.

A new mindset

Fresno Realtor Jason Farris has seen a huge shift in the attitudes of home buyers that he doubts an El Niño will shake.

The drought has made it harder to sell homes with private wells that are on the outskirts of cities. Images of dried wells and people lugging bottled water into homes in places like East Porterville have not gone unnoticed by the home-buying public.

“We have a lot of buyers who will not consider properties unless they are hooked up to city services,” Farris said.

Plush, green backyards also are not a big selling point these days.

“We’re getting push-back from our buyers that they only want to buy homes from responsible people,” he said.

Buyers of newly built homes will have little choice but to accept less turf. The California Water Commission in July adopted water limits that eliminate grass from new office and commercial buildings, and reduce the amount used at new homes from one-third of the landscaped area to 25 percent.

Larry LeMay, vice president of operations at A-G Sod Farms, which has four farms in California including one in Fresno, has cut turf inventory by 50 percent and has laid off more than 100 workers. In October, three competitors in the state closed their doors, he said.

New homeowners who want a natural grass lawn are not planting fescue, a cool-season grass that has been a staple in the Valley. Instead, there has been a shift to drought-tolerant Bermuda grasses, he says. Two years ago, fescue was 70 percent to 80 percent of his Fresno sod sales; today, Bermuda grass is 80 percent.

People are willing to let their lawns go brown.

Cory Severson, Coarsegold landscaper

To adapt, his company also now supplies mulch and soil in a pod, a one-yard bag for flower beds to help retain moisture around plants, LeMay said.

Coarsegold landscaper Cory Severson sees the effects of water conservation every day on his job at Advanced Droughtscapes.

“People are willing to let their lawns go brown,” Severson said.

They’re also looking for alternatives to replace dead grass. Most are looking at the cheapest substitute, such as redwood bark chips, but some are making investments in new drought-tolerant yards.

“They want a landscape that is going to be there forever,” Severson said.

Jon Grace of Clovis let the grass in his front and back yards die.

“I’m just trying to be responsible,” he said recently while getting a haircut at the Clovis Barber Shop. (Barber Tim Adams listened with some amusement: Adams got a $25 penalty for missing his target water use at his storefront business this summer. The charge was ruled invalid when the city realized he had used less water than the city’s allowable usage.)

Grace said he never got a penalty, and replacing both lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping and drip irrigation guarantees he won’t.

He hired Severson to design his landscaping. A dry creek bed of rocks runs through the front yard. Plants, including drought-tolerant red roses, have survived on five minutes of watering once a week.

The landscaping wasn’t cheap, but Grace, 70, said: “If you’re going to do it, you have to pay to do it right.”

He took advantage of a state rebate that paid $2,000 of the $9,000 the landscaping cost. The remainder was financed with a HERO Program loan that allows him to make monthly payments and get a tax write-off. Plus, he noted, he no longer has to pay a gardener to mow the lawns.

Cities are encouraging people to take advantage of water-conservation rebates, but as of Nov. 17 only 150 in Fresno applied for the city’s lawn landscaping program, said Nora Laikam, water conservation supervisor.

Laikam isn’t sure why the rebate hasn’t caught on with homeowners.

“We had hoped that people right away would change out their lawns,” she said.

Those who have replaced grass for water-efficient plants are happy with the nearly maintenance-free yards, she said.

“They say, ‘Wow, if I’d known this before I would have done this a long time ago,’ ” Laikam chuckled, “that’s coming from the men, by the way.”

A changing landscape

People with brown, dead lawns and those who have drought-tolerant yards are turning to city parks for places to toss a ball or have a picnic.

Grace lives within about a block of a park, and he considered that when he tore out his lawns. He has a granddaughter, 5, and a grandson who is a teenager.

“There’s stuff there to play on,” he said.

Municipal parks, however, are changing. Cities are moving away from large turf areas, wherever possible.

“I envision new parks are going to have less sodded areas,” said Manuel Mollinedo, director in charge of Fresno parks. “There will be more shrub beds, areas devoted to more of a visual impact than anything else.”

Cities also are turning to recycled water to irrigate lawns, trees and plants.

Fresno has plans to convert Roeding Park to reclaimed water. Clovis uses recycled water at Pasa Tiempo, a park built five years ago in the southeast section of the city. The Clovis Unified School District has incorporated drought-tolerant landscaping into plans for Virginia Boris Elementary School that should open next year. The district also is developing a 10-year plan to reduce consumption that includes increasing the use of recycled water from the city.

The drought has been destructive to city landscapes. Clovis lost a lot of trees this summer to watering restrictions – 110 to 115 at last count, said Eric Aller, parks manager.

“Typically, we lose half a dozen to a dozen during a hot summer,” he said.

Most of the dead trees were water-thirsty coastal redwoods. They will be replaced with drought-friendly Valley oak, Chinese pistache and red oak, among others, Aller said.

Changes that cities are making in response to the drought are designed to be long-lasting, but what’s less clear is if people are making adjustments in their water use that they will continue for years.

Lubell isn’t certain that people who have been taking shorter showers or flushing toilets less often to conserve water won’t revert to previous ways.

And fines for using too much water are not enough motivation, he said.

Peer pressure could be more effective than penalties, said Michelle L. Lute, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. While at Indiana University, Lute and two other researchers looked at what determines whether people choose to “flush or not flush” after urination. Toilets account for about 27 percent of indoor household water use. The researchers’ results were published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

The researchers found four reasons for hesitancy to not flush: disgust sensitivity, habitual nature of flushing, cleanliness norms and lack of pro-environmental motivation.

But the result of the research “suggests social norms are one of the most important drivers of water use,” Lute said.

She’s not a fan, however, of water shaming. Sites have popped up on the Internet where people can tattle on water-guzzling neighbors. People are more likely to respond to positive reinforcement than negative, Lute said, and change happens when people feel it’s something that is accessible and within their ability to do.

Grace said reaction to his xeriscape front yard has been positive, and several neighbors, including one next door, have since re-landscaped their yards.

Green lawns still dominate the Clovis neighborhood.

But Realtor Farris said there’s no turning back: People are taking out grass in backyards and putting in gardens with drip irrigation. They’re raising chickens where swing sets used to sit.

The drought “is changing how people live,” he said. “The landscape has changed for years to come.”

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Cohasset Yuletide House Tour is Thursday

Posted Dec. 7, 2015 at 9:18 AM


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Water, water everywhere in New Orleans. How can we manage it?: Robin Barnes

Robin Barnes is executive vice president and chief operating officer for Greater New Orleans Inc.

As we switch out hurricane season for our preferred seasons — the holidays and Mardi Gras — we can breathe a sigh of relief for another year that we have avoided major storm surges, wind damage and evacuation. Life is good!

But we often forget that rainfall creates a more insidious day-to-day inconvenience and significant business interruption year-round. In the past 12 months alone, nearly 70 inches of rain have fallen on our region.

The Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, which was greatly influenced by our strong collaboration with the Netherlands, has been much touted as a solution to stormwater and groundwater challenges. As a strategy for creating resilience by living with water, the plan has won numerous awards and served as a tool for educating residents and policy makers about the benefits of thoughtful water management. The effort is funded by the Louisiana Office of Community Development-Disaster Recovery Unit, administered by Greater New Orleans Inc. and led by Waggonner Ball.

Now, two years after its release, thanks to critical investments and leadership, we are seeing the plan begin to take form with a series of demonstration projects as well as community engagement. In commercial, recreational and residential neighborhoods in and outside of New Orleans, new technologies are being implemented and tested at different scales, allowing the public to see integrated water management in action, test strategies and measure success.

In Jefferson Parish, the Elmwood Business Association and Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission (JEDCO) are leading the adoption of a strategy to “green” the largely paved industrial park. The goal is to reduce business disruption due to frequent flooding and create value for the neighborhood and businesses.

The New Orleans Redevelopment Authority has partnered with the community and local landscape designers on six neighborhood-based rain gardens that are reducing street flooding and increasing quality of life from Gentilly to Algiers. The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans is investing in green infrastructure pilot programs. And larger scale water management projects are also under way at the City of New Orleans.

Avoiding costs of flooding and other damages are just the beginning: a host of economic benefits will be realized by implementing water management. These projects employ local firms that design, construct and maintain them. Those firms are contributing to a growing new industry sector — emerging environmental — which acknowledges that there are jobs to be created by addressing environmental challenges relating to energy, waste, and, especially, water.

Sixty-five percent of water management jobs do not require a college degree and can provide critically needed entry points to career pathways for low skilled workers and young people today and in the decades to come. It is essential that we take stock of the challenges still ahead and consider how to transform them into inclusive opportunities for economic growth.

Moreover, the expertise and experience that is honed at home, ensuring our own future, can then be exported to other communities, creating new revenues for the region and even more opportunity for local businesses. Just as the Dutch realize more than four percent of their GDP from water management, we strive to do the same — or better.

Implementation of the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan was recently identified as a key strategic action in the newly released Resilient NOLA strategy. And last week in Paris, Mayor Mitch Landrieu committed 10 percent of the city’s municipal budget to achieving resiliency goals. Bold policies, investments and leadership are critical to the future of our city and region. It looks as though we are well on our way.

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Don’t allow fallen leaves to stay on lawns, prune freeze damage: This week’s …

This week’s gardening tips: Certain shrubs, such as azaleas, nandinas and junipers, will develop a purplish or burgundy tint to their foliage during cold weather. This is natural and no cause for worry. They will turn green again in the spring.

As freezes occur, prune off freeze damage on gingers, philodendrons, cannas and other herbaceous tropicals. Place a 4- to 6-inch layer of mulch, such as pine straw, around the base of the plants now to protect the roots and rhizomes.

If you don’t garden as much in the winter and won’t be using tools until spring, store them properly. Clean tools thoroughly and coat the metal with a light film of oil to prevent rust. Drain the lawnmower gas tank and clean.

Do not allow a layer of fallen leaves to accumulate over the lawn for more than a few days or a week. The leaves block light from reaching the grass and can weaken it. Rake or remove the leaves weekly. Use the leaves for mulch or put them in your compost pile.


Love to read about gorgeous gardens? Sign up for the weekly|The Times-Picayune home and garden newsletter, and you’ll get gardening guru Dan Gill’s latest tips as well as stories about New Orleans area landscapes, planting guidance and more. It’s easy and free. Just click here. And while you’re at it, head over to the New Orleans Homes and Gardens page on Facebook.

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Former horticultural teacher strikes out on her own with garden design school

10:43 07 December 2015

Julia Srigley has launched a garden designing school based at Blickling Hall. Picture: Matthew Usher.


A former horticultural teacher at Easton and Otley College has struck out on her own and launched a garden design school from a historic country estate.

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Julia Srigley has launched a garden designing school based at Blickling Hall. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Julia Srigley, 56, taught at the college for 23 years before leaving in June and launching Broadacre Gardens School of Garden Design – teaching classes at the Blickling Estate.

Mrs Srigley, from North Elmham, near Dereham, said: “I wanted to offer a well-rounded garden design course that covers the essentials of design without constraints of exams and assessments.

“It’s fantastic being at Blickling. We can talk about the design concepts and then go out and see them in real life.”

After launching the Introduction to Garden Design course in September, Mrs Srigley has taken on four students, and hopes to build up to 10.

The design course is in partnership with her husband Matthew’s business, Broadacre Gardens.

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Hot wing pioneer bows out, puts Windsor up for sale – Scranton Times

JERMYN — Andy Whitiak returned from service in Vietnam looking for a path in life.

Within a few years, he and his brother Paul revolutionized the bar menu in Northeast Pennsylvania, introducing the hot wing at the Windsor Inn in Jermyn in 1977.

Now, 38 years and 100 million wings later, the landmark property, business and the secret recipe is for sale. Andy and his wife and partner, Sue, plan to retire once it’s sold. Paul, who deserves the bulk of the credit for the introduction of hot wings to the area, died in 2007.

PMJ, a Clarks Summit-based business broker, is listing the business. An asking price has not yet been established, said agent Daniel Haggerty.

Andy loves the business and hasn’t tired of it. This year, the 66-year-old found himself at several wakes of friends no more than 10 years older than he. People who didn’t have a chance to retire. He didn’t want to go out that way.

“The Windsor is successful. I’m healthy. I want to go out on top,” he said of his decision. “I don’t want to die on this floor.”

History takes flight

The Windsor didn’t set out to be a hot wing pioneer. When Paul joined Andy and Sue Sircable (her maiden name at the time) in late 1977, they were looking to add something unique to the menu. Paul saw a small report in a trade publication about Buffalo hot wings popularized by the Anchor Bar. He took a road trip to Buffalo, New York. He found the outstanding Anchor wings and dozens of others at every bar, pizza place and restaurant. Paul stayed for days, turning a day trip into a reconnaissance operation. Visiting every wing joint, he talked to staff, peered into kitchens, evaluated every wing. Identifying his favorites, he tried to deconstruct what he liked about them. He even Dumpster-dived, hoping to learn what ingredients his favorite joints used.

He returned to Jermyn with a pile of notes and list of potential ingredients. Andy was willing to try new ideas, but was skeptical. Wings, after all, were an undesirable part of the bird.

Andy remembered his mom using wings, with necks and backs, for soup stock. The prepared hot wing had more flavor than it does meat, it seemed, and wings required effort to eat and were inherently messy.

People in Northeast Pennsylvania didn’t eat spicy foods back then, Andy noted. The spiciest thing on any menu was usually hot Italian sausage.

Nevertheless, with Andy at the mixing bowl, the brothers worked up scores of wing sauce trials, seeking to capture the best elements of Paul’s Buffalo favorites. They settled on one and put hot wings on the menu.

The Windsor had to give wings away as samples to build awareness. It didn’t take long. Their customers loved them and over the next few weeks, things happened fast. New faces flooded into the Windsor to try the wings. Other bars and restaurants attempted to imitate the Windsor wings. Hot wings had become a phenomenon.

“We had the recipe taped up in the kitchen, like it was just another thing to do,” Andy said. “I realized I had to take that down.”

In short time, the local source for chicken wings couldn’t keep up. The Whitiaks turned to Schiff’s Wholesale in Scranton to arrange for wing shipments from a poultry processor in upstate New York. Wings cost 14 to 17 cents per pound in 1977, and came frozen in 40-pound boxes.

Every week, the order was larger.

A representative from the poultry processor periodically visited the Windsor and issued a refund, hoping to retain the business. Back then, poultry processors hauled undesirable chicken parts, including wings, to a pet food makers for pennies a pound.

That same representative once brought a brick of cheddar cheese to the Windsor, saying cheese fries were getting big in Rochester, New York, and urged him to try it. Gravy fries were pretty common in the 1970s. Andy remains confident the Windsor also had the first cheese fries in the area.

Finding a place

Maybe the bar and restaurant business was inevitable for Andy. After returning from Vietnam in 1973, he took jobs outside, cutting down trees and doing landscaping. Only later, as more was known about the effects of war on veterans, did Andy realize he took those early gigs to avoid enclosed spaces. He never did well in school, but he took a few classes at the University of Scranton to see if he had the ability to concentrate and learn in a classroom. He did well and studied criminal justice at Penn State Worthington with the goal of counseling at-risk or delinquent children.

He met Sue and together they decided to embark on a business he knew and was comfortable in — the restaurant business. His family had operated Treet Ice Cream, an Eynon drive-in, and later Jean’s Lunch, in which his mother took the lead. The Windsor on North Washington Avenue in Jermyn, which had something of a notorious reputation back then, came up for sale, as if by fate. They bought and renovated it.

The “Second Best Wings” designation touted by the Windsor is more of a marketing ploy Paul cooked up. The Windsor won several wing competitions, twice earning the best wings in Pennsylvania designation when the competition was held in Hollidaysburg. Paul envisioned the Windsor’s wings as second only to Anchor’s in Buffalo. A directional sign on Route 6 used to say “World’s Best wings: 279 miles. World’s Second best wings ½ a mile.” In the early 90s, when people were just learning about the Internet, the Windsor bought the URL for, which they use today.

Now, only the Whitiak family has access to the recipe and only they make the sauce. Often it is adult daughter Ashley who still works at the business. The batches are bigger now: 75 gallons at a time instead of 4 quarts. The brothers’ mom Jean is still there too, often working as hostess.

Frozen wings are more expensive, about $2 per pound compared to 17 cents in 1977. And, there’s more competition. Andy tries them and evaluates them, calling it a best practice. The other proprietors see him coming, sure. But he sees them coming, too.

“I go to their places, they come to my place and we are always checking out each others’ menu,” he said. The original recipe with its 19 ingredients hasn’t changed.

A few years ago, the Windsor added different wing flavors, including garlic, Thai and sirracha ranch to keep up with curious palates. However, the original, which includes mild, hot and various hotter grades — remains the best seller. He’s surprised by the success of “boneless wings” and “wing nuts,” which are really breast meat. They, and many other menu items, are served with the original sauce, so Andy is happy to see them do well.

Jermyn landmark

Jermyn Mayor Bruce Smallacombe, who is involved in sports, politics, the Lion’s Club and building trades, said everywhere he goes people associate Jermyn with the Windsor.

“I’m friends with the owners, and they are good neighbors and the Windsor is great to the community,” he said. Like many locals, he and his wife eat there once a week. He gets the spicy cheeseburger and Warsaw Wings (fried pierogies with wing sauce). His wife Patty sticks to the original wings.

PMJ’s Daniel Haggerty said the Windsor business and property stands out from a typical bar/restaurant hitting the market. The Windsor has near legendary status, a loyal customer base, a secret recipe, plenty of parking, a record of success and 10 rental units upstairs.

Andy doesn’t know what his post-Windsor life will be like.

He wakes up mulling over the bar menu, the staff and wings. He wonders, even fears, what it will be like not to have that focus. Since his brother died, he didn’t have a chance to take anything other than a weekend vacation. He and his wife would like to travel.

He knows he will miss the staff and customers.

Wing fans far and wide seek out the Windsor, as do veterans who know the Windsor is veteran-owned and that they will be treated well.

However, the core customers remain those who have been coming for generations — and now the grandchildren of his first customers, who enjoyed their first hot wing at the Windsor Inn.

However, Windsor was never just about the wings, Andy said.

“Being here so long and being successful is a testimony to our staff and our customers.”

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Southwest Florida Chamber Connections – The News

Bonita Springs

•The Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce will host their Annual Holiday Party on Thursday from 5-8 p.m. at The Colony Golf and Country Club, 4101 Pelican Colony Blvd., in Bonita Springs. This is the Chamber’s largest event of the year and will feature gourmet holiday appetizers, a cash bar, live music, and a gift raffle. Guests are asked to bring an unwrapped gift for a child age newborn to 17 years old to benefit the Bonita Springs Assistance Office. Tickets are $75. Raffle tickets are $25 in advance. Sponsorships start at $350 and are available for Chamber members. For information, visit or call 992-2943.

•The Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting for 6th Sense Dental to celebrate their grand opening. It is located at 28901 Trails Edge Blvd, Suite #103, in Bonita Springs. 6th Sense Dental is a general and cosmetic dental practice, operated by Dr. Victoria Rinando. Rinando previously practiced dentistry in the Chicagoland area for more than eight years before relocating her practice to Southwest Florida. It features a modern, state-of-the-art facility, offering nitrous oxide “laughing gas,” digital radiographs, television, and music in all treatment rooms to help ensure comfort for patients. For information, visit or call 913-6780.

Cape Coral

•The December General Membership Meeting for the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce at Duffy’s of Cape Coral, 627 Cape Coral Parkway W., on Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. The guest speakers will be Marni Sawicki, city mayor, and Dana Brunett, economic development director will address the state of the city. The cost is $22 for members with reservations, $23 for members without reservations and $25 for future members.For information, call 549-6900 ext 300.

•The December Business After Hours Networking Event will be held Thursday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at HR Block, 80 Hancock Bridge Pkwy., in Cape Coral. Bring plenty of business cards and be ready to network. Event is a free benefit to members of the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce. Non-Members are welcome to attend for a $25 fee.

•The Cape Coral Chamber will hold “The Secrets To Your Chamber Success Membership Orientation,” on Friday from 9:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. Learn how to make the most of your chamber membership from volunteer leaders and staff. Whether you are a new member or have been a member for years, join us for this free event to get information on existing and new services and programs the chamber offers. It will be held at Chester Street Resource Center, 4816 Chester St., in Cape Coral.


•Join us this month for our December luncheon on Dec. 15. Attorney David Gibbs III will be this month’s speaker. Gibbs has argued in front of the US Supreme Court on issues that are vital to our freedom and to Christian business owners. He will address current issues and challenges that face todays’ faith based business owners. In addition, WAY-FM will be collecting unwrapped toys for its annual Christmas toy drive. All attendees who bring a toy will be entered in a drawing for a concert ticket package to a future WAY-FM concert. The luncheon begins at 11:15 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m. at the Crown Plaza Hotel located near the Bell Tower. The cost is $22 for member in advance, $30 for non-members and members at the door. Register today online at or call 481-1411.

•The Christian Chamber of SWFL is growing. They are presently interviewing for a full-time executive director to lead the chamber and have a greater impact on our community. Interested applicants should call Jackie at 481-1411 for more information.

Fort Myers

•The Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce will hold their monthly Business Before Breakfast networking event on Thursday from 7:30-8:30 a.m. at Fifth Third Bank – Summerlin Financial Center, 1701 Boy Scout Dr., in Fort Myers. Enjoy light refreshments while networking, meeting potential new clients and exchanging ideas. Be sure to bring plenty of business cards. This networking event is free for all chamber members and future chamber members. The “Member of the Month” will be randomly drawn from Chamber member’s business cards submitted at this event. This is a free event but we are asking for members to RSVP by calling 332- 3624 or online at

•The Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce welcomed the following new members who joined in November: Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners, Culver’s of Fort Myers – Six Mile Cypress Pkwy, Gulf Coast Town Center, Matthews Landscaping, Inc., Planet Fitness and The Starr Team Realtors – John R. Wood Island Real Estate.

Fort Myers Beach

•Join the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce for a buffet lunch at Charley’s Boathouse Grill. Come and network and meet new members on Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The guest speakers this month are Dennis Wallenta from TPI Hospitality and Tina Matte from Gravina, Smith, Matte and Arnold Marketing and Public Relations. They will be talking about development plans for the recently purchased Helmerich Plaza. The cost is $20 for members.

•This month’s Business After Hours will be held at the Pink Shell on Dec. 17 from 5:30-7 p.m. Join us as we celebrate the holidays at the Pink Shell Beach Resort and Marina. There’ll be great complimentary appetizers, a cash bar, raffles and 50/50. The event is free for members and $15 for guests.

North Fort Myers

•The North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce will hold its Christmas Party and Volunteer Recognition on Thursday from 6-9 p.m. at Herons Glen, 2250 Avenida Del Vera, in North Fort Myers. Call the chamber office to RSVP, 997-9111.

•Recent North Fort Myers chamber renewals include Del Tura Golf and Country Club, Dr. Piper Center, Lehrs Economy Tackle, Kevin Cloutier, Dr. Terry Tucker, Regions Bank and Kelly Air. New members include: Pak-n-Ship of SWFL and 4 Words Foundation.

Sanibel Captiva Islands

•The Sanibel Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce recently hosted the Second Annual Island Trolley Tour for the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau. On Nov. 17, a group of 40 volunteers were taken on an interactive journey of all things new and exciting on the Islands. These volunteers staff the VCB’s information desks at Fort Myers International Airport and act as guides for area visitors. The day began at Adventures In Paradise where Evelyn and Noah Stewart presented their daily boat cruises and tours. They then boarded two open-air trolleys and crossed the causeway to the chamber’s visitor center. Ric Base, chamber president, greeted the volunteers. The Dunes Golf Tennis Club showcased their newly renovated facilities and at Bailey’s Center they enjoyed a Zebra Treats with a Twist. Richard Johnson, Bailey’s Center co-owner, gave a short talk about the center and added some island histor, and Billy Kirkland, owner of Billy’s Rentals, spoke about his new location at the Bailey Center. From there the group traveled to the “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and CROW where the volunteers received information to help visitors understand their significance. Chris Davison, general manager of the Island Inn, greeted the group at the inn and took them on a tour which included lodging options, Traditions on the Beach, and a group photo. The Blue Coyote Supper Club provided a lunch for the group. Lunch was followed by a visit to Sanibel Island Golf Club and Casa Ybel Resort, who shared their history, lodging and dining information. Island Vacations greeted the group and owner Fran Peters explained how the vacation rental business serves the traveler and answered questions from the group. The group then stopped over at the Sanibel Lighthouse where the drivers explained the history of the lighthouse along with anecdotal stories about the early years of the facility and how it helped shape the island. The final stop was at Matzaluna Italian Kitchen where Mark Blust, vice president of operations, offered the volunteers samples of wood-fired pizzas and briefed them about their craft beer selection.

Southwest Florida

•Five members of the Southwest Florida Legislative Delegation will be the guest speakers for a luncheon with regional business leaders on Dec. 17 in Fort Myers. Legislators will discuss the upcoming general session and take questions from the audience. Former State Representative and Chamber Board member Trudi Williams, will moderate the session. Florida Senators Lizbeth Benacquisto and Garrett Richter will participate. House members attending include: Matt Caldwell, Dane Eagle, Heather Fitzenhagen, Matt Hudson, Kathleen Passidomo, and Ray Rodriques. The luncheon will be held at the City Pier Building, 1300 Hendry St., in Fort Myers. Registration for the luncheon begins at 11:30; event program runs from noon to 1:30 pm. Cost is $40 per person. A limited number of “corporate tables” are available. Advanced reservations are required and may be made by calling 433-4111 or online at

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Knox County Courthouse maintenance funds dwindling – Galesburg Register

GALESBURG — The Knox County Building Committee is running out of funds to continue maintaining the county Courthouse, and needs to find a new source of revenue.

Co-chairman of the committee Greg Bacon, D-Dist. 2, said some ideas have been suggested, but nothing so far has come to fruition.

Ideas include a $1 increase in cost per ton for dumping at the Knox County Landfill. Also, Bacon said the committee has considered trying to secure the money to be generated from selling land to the incoming Love’s Truck Stop in Knoxville, about $750,000.

“We’ve talked about putting that in the Building Committee because once we put that in the general fund it’s swallowed up, it’s gone and it will go to stuff and we’ll never make the cutbacks we should make,” Bacon said. “It will be another can kicked for the next year down the road and nothing will get done.”

For that same reason Bacon said the committee has tried to separate from the regular county budget, using money from the $4 million Build America Bond, public safety money and other sources.

To finish everything, it will take approximately another $2.5 million, Bacon said. The committee has already put about $2 million into the Courthouse since it formed eight years ago.

Much of that has come from the $4 million Build America Bond taken out in 2010, helping rework the electrical system and other projects in the Courthouse.

Bacon said without the committee putting in the work it’s done the building might have crumbled by now.

“When I first got on the board it was like nobody had done anything for 30 or 40 years,” Bacon said. “They would budget things like work on the roof and then something would come up and it would go out of the budget.”

Sheriff Dave Clague, who oversees the day-to-day maintenance of the Courthouse, said at first the committee had trouble following through on plans to fix up the building, but things have changed since.

“Now at least they’re following through with proactive plans,” Clague said. “They’ve made a substantial change for the better, but there’s still, I think, a long ways to go.”

Clague said the electrical system inside the building needs to be redone and he would like to see a new parking lot built to separate those who work in the building from citizens coming to the courthouse. Also, he suggested renovating the basement to add new office space and working on the landscaping near the monuments outside the Courthouse.

Currently, the committee is working on remodeling the fire escape, though so far initial estimates have come in over budget.

“Right now I think their major focus, and it needs to be, is the fire escape,” Clague said. “I think that’s going to be a costly endeavor but it needs to be done.”

Bacon said when the fire escape project is completed, it will use up much of what’s left of the committee’s money. It can use some public safety funds, but those are also used for buying squad cars and maintaining the jail.

But with all the issues, maintaining the current building was the cheaper option. One alternative was the former Shopko building, which would have cost between $12 million and 14 million.

Besides with the price, the county decided it would rather keep the Courthouse downtown.

Another suggestion was to build a new Courthouse on the same block as the jail; that plan came with a $30 million price tag.

“That new Courthouse there was $30 million and that kind of kicked that can to the curb real quick,” Bacon said.

At the time Clague wanted a new building, citing safety for the public as his main reason. He thinks the county has “outgrown,” the Courthouse.

“I wanted the new building, only in the fact that I’ve been in a federal court where the actual inmate had no contact with anybody,” Clague said. “There’s a side door that’s adjoined to a holding cell and he or she is brought in as opposed to being walked through the crowd. So security was a primary reason.”

But until the county finds new revenue for the building committee, it could be difficult to make decisions on the current courthouse, let alone a new one. Still, the committee has put in a lot of time and money into the old courthouse.

“We’ve spent quite a little money on it in the past eight years, more money than has been spent on it in the last 40 years, so I hope the public wants that,” Bacon said.

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