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Bradenton Fire Chief Mark Souders dies

Bradenton, Florida -- Mark Souders, fire chief for the City of Bradenton, died suddenly Wednesday morning. 

A spokeswoman for Bradenton said the cause of death was undetermined at this time.  Souders passed away at 9:16am.  He was 55 years old.

Chief Souders was appointed head of the City of Bradenton Fire Department in 1997, after working for 20 years with the Cedar Hammock Fire Department.  He retired from that agency as Deputy Fire Chief.

Souders was a long-time resident of Bradenton--moving to the city in 1968 with his family from New Mexico. 

He had a Masters degree in Business Administration from the University of Sarasota and participated in the Executive Fire Officers program through the National Fire Academy--earning the designation of Chief Fire Officer. 

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Researchers to study cold weather and local citrus crops

Researchers to study cold weather and local citrus crops

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (AP) -- Federal officials will conduct a special survey to determine how this season's cold weather has affected Florida's citrus crop.

According to a news release from the United States Department of Agriculture, researchers will cut oranges and grapefruit to record the extent of freeze damage. They will also assess leaf damage and administer maturity tests to determine internal juice quality from groves throughout the citrus growing region.

The survey is scheduled for release Jan. 18.

The citrus industry in Florida generates some $9.3 billion in economic activity.


Sergeant suspended over "Obama Prayer"

Sergeant suspended over "Obama Prayer"

Palmetto, Florida - Something called "The Obama Prayer" has landed a Manatee County corrections sergeant in hot water. According to an internal affairs report, Sergeant Matthew Neu highlighted a verse in a bible that reads, "Let his days be few - and let another take his office."

Sgt. Neu's co-workers at the Manatee County Central Jail facility in Palmetto say it's a well known fact that Neu is not a fan of President Barack Obama.

Many of them explained that in a 16-page internal affairs report, saying he made that clear in casual conversation before. But one of his co-workers, Sergeant Martha Nash, told investigators he went too far recently. She says what he admitted to doing was shocking.

Manatee School Choice enrollment opens this month

Bradenton, Florida - School districts across the Bay area have begun the school choice application period.

Manatee High School officials and school officials from Nolan Middle School sent out this press release today on its open house:

Manatee High School is pleased to announce that its Annual MHS Showcase & Open House will be on Wednesday 1/12/2011 from 6:30p - 8:30p.

The School Choice enrollment period for the School District of Manatee County opens on Tuesday 1/18/2011. Manatee County eighth grade students and their families will have many options to consider when choosing the High School they wish to attend.

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MCSO offers safe disposal of unused prescription meds

MCSO offers safe disposal of unused prescription meds

BRADENTON, Florida -- The Manatee County Sheriff's Office begins it's Citizen Medication Collection Program today which offers people a safe disposal location for their unused prescription medications.

The drop off location is located at the front desk of the Sheriff's Office at 600 US Hwy 301 Blvd. W., Bradenton, and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Signs will be posted to assist people with the disposal procedures. Medications should be placed into a supplied plastic bag and then placed in the drop box. No liquids will be accepted.

Anyone with questions on the program can call MSO at 941-747-3011, ext. 2278.

Falling bullet injures Fla. man on New Year's Eve

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) -- Authorities say a Manatee County man was apparently injured by some celebratory New Year's Eve gunfire.

The sheriff's office says 36-year-old Robert Benafield of Bradenton was in his backyard just before midnight Friday when he felt a pain on his right side near his hip.

When he got inside, he realized he had been shot.

Deputies say a bullet entered about two inches above Benafield's hip and traveled down about five inches.

Benafield told deputies that he had heard gunfire as part of a New Year's celebration.

The sheriff's office said Saturday that Benafield was treated at a hospital and released.

Teens give family home extreme makeover

Bradenton, Florida - Weeks turn into days and, now, hours for Manatee High School's Key Club and volunteers to finish their extreme makeover of a single mother's home. Club members call the project the "Extreme Keyover."

It's New Year's Eve and the home's unveiling is set for 5 p.m. Dozens of teens work on touching up walls, caulking, installing carpet and grouting.

Photo Gallery: Extreme Home Makeover

"It's overwhelming but we've got to keep working," says Kara Inglis, 16, 11th grader at Manatee High School and a Key Club member. She's in charge of finishing up the bathroom, touching up paint and cleaning up.