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1. Former city manager has next court date

The next court date in the case against ex-Marco Island City Manager Lee Niblock has been set for July 11.

While Niblock’s arraignment was slated for May 23, he filed a written plea of not guilty and a waiver of appearance through his attorney, Sawyer Smith, and was not present for the court proceedings.

Niblock is facing a misdemeanor charge of battery after he was accused of making inappropriate physical and verbal overtures toward Marco Island Academy Principal Melissa Scott on Jan. 31.

A separate battery charge surfaced against Niblock months later in Alachua County. The incident was reported to authorities after the Marco Island incident but it occurred the previous year during Niblock’s tenure as Alachua County manager.

Niblock has been ordered to appear at the July 11 pre-trial conference unless a judge approves his absence.

2. Brush fires reported 90 percent contained at Big Cyprus preserve

Large brush fires that scorched more than 82,400 acres in Big Cypress National Preserve and destroyed six structures were 90 percent contained, officials said.

The group of fires, known as the Avian Complex, includes the 62,404-acre Buzzard Fire, the 11,689-acre Flamingo Fire and the 8,366-acre Curlew Fire. A pair of 1-acre fires — the Vulture and Caracara — also are included in the group.

The Buzzard Fire was 85 percent contained; the Flamingo and Curlew fires were both 95 percent contained; and the Vulture and Caracara fires were both 100 percent contained, according to a news release from the Type 3 Incident Management Team.

The Buzzard Fire, about 2 miles north of U.S 41 East, was caused by lightning April 10.

The Flamingo Fire — north of Interstate 75 and east of State Road 29 — also was caused by lightning, May 1.

The Curlew Fire — south of Loop Road and U.S. 41 East — sparked May 2 and its cause is unknown. – Patrick Riley/Staff

3. MIFA names 2018 artist of the year

The Marco Island Foundation for the Arts recently announced that Gina Sisbarro-Penzo is the 2018 artist of the year.

Sisbarro-Penzo has directed and produced numbers of plays over the past 20 years through the Greater Marco YMCA, the Marco Players Theater, and her own Sisbarro Acting School/Studio which provides acting classes for elementary, middle school, high school students and adults.   

Sisbarro-Penzo is also the owner and operator of Marco Mystery and History, the only ghost tour that exists in Collier County.  The tour runs October through March. Sisbarro-Penzo plays the character, Martha Horror, and employs other actors for the tour.

Sisbarro-Penzo earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Leisure Services at East Stroudsburg University.

At their annual luncheon, the Marco Island Foundation for the Arts will honor Gina Sisbarro-Penzo as “Artist of the Year” along with five students who will be receiving scholarships.  The local students receiving scholarships include Logan Fischer, Brianna Monroe, Joseph Byrne, Brenda Perez and Anastasia Baran.

The public is invited to the event, 11:30 a.m., Saturday, June 16, at Wesley United Methodist Church.  Cost is $20/person. Reserve your ticket by sending a check made out to ‘MIFA’ to Carolyn Burger, 282 Sand Hill Street, Marco Island, FL 34145. Include your email address.

Information: 239-389-0280.

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