Cameron Alley, a 39-year-old IBEW union lineman who had volunteered to help with power restoration efforts in Puerto Rico, suffered major injuries Wednesday. Suspended from a helicopter while working on transmission towers, he fell 80 feet, his fall broken by trees. Family members are desperate to have the father of five returned home.
The city of Lakeland’s contract for 18 red-light cameras expires this year and commissioners must decide whether to renew it. Police brass want to keep the cameras, saying they improve safety by changing driver behavior. During a workshop Friday, commissioners gave few clues how they would vote.
Avoid State Road 33 near University Boulevard (Florida Poly University area) and Combee Road. Those intersections are closed following a deputy-involved shooting. No deputies are injured, a suspect is in custody, and no other suspects are being sought, according to the Polk Sheriff’s Office. More info is coming.
The 18,800-square-foot Sharon and Jim France Admission Center at Florida Southern College fronts Lake Hollingsworth and combines elements of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture with the swooping red-clad atria of the college’s newest lakefront structures. Click the arrow on the right side of the photo for two more images.
Get ready for some eclectic music choices in Lakeland this weekend. Highlights include Dan Signor originals at Hillcrest Coffee and a folk operetta at LkldLive tonight, a three-day house music (and camping) festival at Maddox Ranch starting Friday, a bluesy MLK weekend jazz in the park show Friday and the moody Lulls in Traffic collaboration between Aaron Marsh and Ivan Ives at LkldLive on Saturday. More listings after the jump.
GRAD RATES: The newspaper’s front-page lead story trumpets that graduation rates in Polk public schools have risen 3.6 percentage points to 75.4 percent, exceeding a goal of 74 percent. On page 2B, we learn via the Tampa Bay Times that all four Bay Area counties (Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas) report rates over 80 percent. It sounds like a talking point economic developers will use when discussing why high-level execs at Lakeland companies choose to raise school-age children outside Polk in places like Fishhawk Ranch that boast A-rated schools.
SHORT TAKES: Michael Williams becomes Lakeland Fire Department‘s assistant chief of operations | Time Out previews the Lakeland Kiwanis Club’s Central Florida Rum and Food Experience scheduled for 3 to 7 Saturday at the RP Funding Center.
Polk County Judge Sharon M. Franklin said Donna Byrne, who was stopped along Combee Road on her way from Polk City to pick up some birthday spurs, will be allowed to visit her horse, Bo Duke, while she completes an alcohol dependence program, according to the Polk Sheriff’s Office.
Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 13, and games begin Feb. 22 with the annual FSC exhibition contest.
IT’S ALL LOCAL POLITICS: Today’s paper features a guide to topics expected in Florida’s 2018 legislative session with topics including sexual harassment, opioids, budget, education, racial symbols, and home rule.
LOCAL REPRESENTATIVES: Sen. Kelli Stargel introduced Senate Resolution 480. Though no money is attached to the resolution, it states there is a public-health crisis created by pornography and Representative Colleen Burton introduced a bill that requests $500,000 to provide incentives to dentists to work in rural communities.
NO REPRESENTATIVE: Meanwhile, about 161,000 citizens will be without a representative after Neil Combee resigned from House District 39. A new representative will be elected on May 1st.
THE CHILL IS GONE: The cold weather is moving on. So, no more “BRRRR” comments in the foreseeable future.
IT’S NOT A TROPICAL PARADISE: Before the last weather changes, one last photo essay of a business affected by the cold weather — a tropical fish farm.
TELL ME WHAT’S THE WORD: If a church were to be approved for a commercial corridor near the former Louie Mack’s Steakhouse, it could affect liquor sales in the area. The Planning Commission denied the application for the church and County Commissioners will hear an appeal on Tuesday.
THE POINT IS TO KNOW RETURN: Barry can tell you when the practice stopped, but the morning paper announced it “is returning to an old practice of reporting on completed internal investigations at the county’s largest police departments and the Polk County School District.” The first report touches on the reports for four teachers and two custodians.
RESIGNATION: In a December 15th letter, Lakeland City Councilman Justin Troller resigned from his position with the Polk County School District effective December 31, 2017.
BRR: On street activities for First Friday are canceled tonight. Downtown stores will remain open.
BRRRRR: Area strawberry growers and other outdoor businesses dealt as planned with the freezing temperatures of the past two days.
BRRRRRRR: Yesterday morning’s freezing temperatures led Lakeland Electric use to the highest level for a single event since a similar cold snap in 2010.
SHANNON PLANE CRASH: Though it may take up to two years for the full investigation, a preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board has looked into visibility issues and a “pop” heard on takeoff in the December 24th plane crash.
STILL TIME: Local health officials are reminding citizens there are still good reasons to get a flu vaccine this late in the flu season.
AT THE CHANGE ALL AROUND: Mayor Bill Mutz and three new Lakeland city commissioners were sworn in yesterday.
BRRRR: Polk County strawberry and citrus growers are prepared for the freezing temperatures.
BRRRRRRR: Polk County low temperatures will dip below freezing through Saturday, but no snow is forecast.
MOVING ON: Departing Lakeland Mayor Howard Wiggs looks back and forward as his term ends.
FIVE QUESTIONS FOR: Norm Small, Theatre Winter Haven’s producing director answers the expected five questions regarding his work in Polk County’s arts scene.
END OF THE YEAR SEWAGE SPILL: City of Lakeland workers had to clean up an estimated 500 gallon sewage spill in the alley behind 132 Kentucky South on Sunday morning. They found a clog of grease and rags.
AND A ONE AND A TWO: In December, 93 Polk County students were selected for the All-State Music Ensembles.
IN MEMORIAM: The morning paper looked back at several Polk County leaders who passed away in 2017.
PROCAP: The Polk County Sheriff’s Offices has instituted a policy of a “proactive community attack on problems” in some areas.
DON’T TEXT and DRIVE: The Florida Legislature is considering allowing officers to pull over drivers seen texting while driving.
DLP FIN: The Downtown Lakeland Partnership is shutting down February ninth. The organization’s board made the decision after discovering the group had lost their tax-exempt status and had failed to file corporate taxes for the last six years.
LOOKING BACK: Polk County suffered numerous brush fires in 2017.
THE TAP IS RUNNING DRY: After almost three years, the Lakeland Brewing Company is closing for good. Last call for Lakeland’s first independent microbrewery is January 8th.
DON’T DRIVE DRUNK: From 9 p.m. Friday until 3 a.m. Saturday, the Florida Highway Patrol will focus their efforts on finding drunk drivers on Polk Parkway, the Suncoast Parkway, and Veterans Expressway.
RECYCLING STORY: A look back to the top local stories of 2017 includes the major changes and missteps in the Polk County recycling efforts.
ACA DEADLINE EXTENDED: Due to Hurricane Irma, Lakelanders have until Sunday to sign up for ACA medical coverage. Those interested must call and speak to a representative directly at 800-318-2596 (855-889-4325 for TTY users). The lines are open 24 hours a day until the deadline.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is offering a $3,000 reward for information about the Christmas Day homicide of Russell L. Jackson, 2422 E. Peachtree St., lot 11. According to a PCSO press release, anyone with information may call Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS or online at P3tips.com to submit an anonymous tip.
LOCAL LEADER PASSES: Larry Libertore died Monday night at age 78 after a brief illness. Libertore was a former real estate developer, county commissioner, state representative, and University of Florida quarterback.
PCSO CONDUCTING HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION: The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an investigation of an apparent homicide last night on Peachtree Street. PCSO has yet to identify the victim pending next-of-kin notification.
HURRICANE DROUGHT END: Irma ended a 12-year hurricane drought for Polk County when it hit on September 10th. Many area citizens are still recovering from the damage.
BARTOW PLANE CRASH: Lakeland attorney John Hugh Shannon and four others died yesterday when their plane crashed on take-off at Bartow Municipal Airport.
MONDAY PROFILE:Pulling himself off the streets with the help of others, Nick Cassista transitioned from the Lighthouse Ministries volunteer program to become the organizations logistics manager. He and his wife now spend Christmas each year helping Lakeland’s homeless.
ANNUAL LAST MINUTE SHOPPING: In what’s become a holiday tradition, many people wait until two days before Christmas to shop.
STABLE: Lakeland Electric’s financial health rating is stable at AA-.
DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE: Through January 2nd, AAA will take you and your car to a safe location within 10 miles.
LKLDNow bonus information: The Tow to Go number is: (855) 286-9246 and is active from now until 6 a.m. Tuesday January 2nd. You can’t make an appointment to use the service. Tow trucks may not be available in rural areas and can transport up to two people. Additional passengers will need to make other arrangements. For more information on the service, read the Tow to Go guidelines.
CLOSE TO HOME SCHOOL: The Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency is looking to the Polk County School Board to allow students in the Lincoln Square neighborhood to go next door to A-ranked Lincoln Avenue Academy.
THAT’S A LOT OF GREEN: The City Commission approved a contract extension with Republic Services that would raise recycling costs from $50 to $85 per ton for neighborhood replying. City officials recommended the extension without rebidding the contract would be the less expensive process. If Lakelanders have any changes to their solid waste collection bills, it won’t discussed until mid-2018.
THE WRIGHT WAY: Florida Southern University dedicated the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Sharon and Jim France Admission Center, an 19,800-square foot building overlooking Lake Hollingsworth. The building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright scholar Jeffrey Baker.
NEW DEVELOPMENT PLANNED: Former state senator J.D. Alexander heads a group proposing to build between 895 and 1,299 new homes in the South Lakeland area bounded by north of Ewell Road, south of West Pipkin Road and west of Yates Road. The company hopes to start construction in the spring and is looking for the city to help improve roads into the area.
AGAPE FOOD BANK CLOSES: After 30 years serving as Polk County’s largest nonprofit food pantry, Catholic Charities of Central Florida will cease operating the Agape Food Bank on December 31st. By summer 2018, the Catholic Diocese of Orlando plans to open two smaller farmers-market type centers in Lakeland and Lake Wales. Feeding Tampa Bay will take over supplying the approximately 140 community food pantries in Polk and Hardee counties.
IT WAS BUILT WITH MAGIC: Members of the Lakeland Magic helped construct a Habitat for Humanity home in Lake Alfred.
ANOTHER FATAL CRASH:Joshua Thomas Jackson, 33, died at the scene when his motorcycle hit a car at the intersection of Griffin Road and Providence Road.
UNDEFEATED: The Southeastern Women’s basketball team is 14-0 after a 87-61 win last night against St. Francis.
Yesterday’s City of Lakeland Planning and Zoning Board had a public hearing (video) on a proposal to reconstruct the Burger King at 3590 Harden Boulevard. The franchisee, Bravo Tampa LLC, expressed that the current building a need to improve the restaurant’s ability to handle drive through business. The company’s representative, Robin Kendell, explained that the restaurant was built at a time when the business was 50% drive-through and 50% walk-in sales. Kendell explained that the business has changed and two-thirds of the business is now drive-through. The company wants to reconstruct the building to decrease seating capacity, create double drive through lanes, and add a bypass lane. The Planning and Zoning Board approved the proposal.
12 FACES OF CHRISTMAS CONTINUED: The owner of Just Dance, Kevin Rios, founded Just Cares, a non-profit that recently completed a toy drive for children in Ceiba, Puerto Rico.
NORTH LAKELAND CRASH: A 27-year-old Lakeland man died and a 53-year-old Dade City man was injured in yesterday’s car crash on U.S. 98 North. The road was closed for a few hours due to heavy morning fog.
Gigabit Lakeland: The Lakeland City COmmission instructed staff to “put together a bid package to find a consultant” toward creating a test city-owned broadband service. “There are other cities in the country that are just doing it better than we are,” (Commissioner Don) Selvage said. “Here we are on a gold mine of 330 miles of fiber, and we can’t seem to make the next leap.”
Lakeland Volunteers: Pam DeNeve is one of the 12 Faces of Christmas for her volunteer work at Circle B Bar Reserve.
Business Park Expansion: The City Commission approved a 29 acre expansion of the business park next to the BridgeWater community on Highway 33. The remaining 87 acres of the former golf course is slated to become recreational land.
LAKELANDERS: Maxine Weiss is one of the 12 Faces of Christmas got her volunteer work at the PACE Center for Girls. Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center’s Chief Operating Officer Danielle Drummond answered five questions. Women at Greater St. Paul Missionary Baptist Institutional Church spent the year making blankets for the homeless and those in nursing homes.
CORNERSTONE OF DOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION CLOSING: After nearly 30 years in business, Brooke Pottery is closing January 26th. The small boutique was started by Gloria Brooke in 1988 and purchased by Kay Morgan and Margaret Stephens nine years ago.
THE BEST OF TODAY’S PAPER: A special section honoring the best local student-athletes is the best local news you’ll find in today’s newspaper. (No link available.)
LOCALS IN THE NEWS: Volunteer Lois Rankin is one of the “12 Faces of Christmas.” | Columnist Tom Palmer writes about the volunteers who help Polk County’s environmental lands. (No link available) | Al and Thelma Penn are highlighted for their annual Christmas decorations.
GIGABIT LAKELAND: Commissioner Justin Troller promised to make one last effort to push for a Lakeland-owned gigabit service. The current city commission line up has one last meeting on December 18th.
NOT IN TODAY’S PAPER: Some may remember that Lakeland first pushed for gigabit service seven years ago in a last-minute effort to win the Google Connect competition. Area students made commercials, including this one from Tenoroc:
COFFEE GUZZLER: Evidently Lonnie Brown doesn’t believe in nevermore, as he is still writing a gadget column for the Ledger. This week he looks back, and forward, on the Where’s George website.
DREDGESOX TAKE ROOT: The shores of Lake Morton are improving after the installation of Dredgesox, material tubing filled with dirt and covered with grass, to shore up, well, the shore. The goal is to repair the shoreline damaged by time and Hurricane Irma.
DEBRIS PICKUP ENDS JAN 31: The last day of hurricane debris pickup will be January 31st. Gated communities still needing pickup must supply written permission to enter.
LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL TEAMS IN HOLIDAY TOURNAMENTS: The Lakeland Challenge, the Auburndale Christmas Shootout, and other high school basketball tournaments will feature local, Florida, and some out-of-state teams. You can find the full line up in today’s sports section.
(Barry Friedman is relaxing for the holidays. I’m taking over your favorite Lakeland news source. My first day and I’m late. I promise it will get better.)
FIRE CHIEF ANNOUNCED: City Manager Tony Delgado announced Doug Riley will take over for retiring Lakeland Fire Department Chief Gary Ballard. Riley, a 30-year veteran of the department, starts Saturday.
EXTENDED CONTRACT: The Citrus Connection board extended the contract for Executive Director Tom Phillips.
EAST LAKE MORTON: A Neighborhood Watch area is being organized by the Polk Museum of Art. It’ll cover the area bounded by East Palmetto Street, East Lime Street, Lake Morton Drive, and Michigan Avenue. For more information call Lakeland Police Department representative Gwen Stanislowski at 863-834-3974.
PEDESTRIAN KILLED: At approximately 12:30 pm on Thursday, Brenda Salyers, 60, was struck by an Amtrak train near US 92 E and Fairway Avenue.
I’m taking a break for a few weeks, but news curation will continue on LkldNow.com. Chuck Welch, who founded LakelandLocal.com and reported local news there for several years, will post Lakeland news links on LkldNow.com in my absence. Please continue visiting because a minute a day at LkldNow.com makes you smarter about Lakeland. Have a happy holiday. See you in January.
— Barry Friedman, Editor and Publisher, LkldNow
The train has departed, but Ingraham Avenue remains closed as cleanup continues. LPD says it will provide updates on Facebook.
BOLO: Deputies are asking the public to be on the lookout for Edner Dely, wanted in the armed robbery of a cab driver at a Sunoco station on West Memorial Boulevard. Dely, 25, described as 6-foot-5 and weighing 280 pounds, took off on foot after the Morning morning incident.
GOOD NEWS: A charity that provides Christmas toys for children in need learned today it will recover $27,000 stolen from its bank account.
The noise that shook your windows and rattled your walls around 2 p.m. Saturday was likely related two two F-15 fighters that were allowed to fly at supersonic speeds, a NORAD spokesman says.
Linda Bagley-Wiggs is helping Corey Stevens find funding for his invention that would allow smaller retailers to display 3D virtual reality models of their products online.
GRASSLANDS: Member-investors have bought Grasslands Golf and Country Club from Drummond Corp. and are promoting memberships to non-Grasslands residents.
TOYS FOR PUERTO RICO: The Just Cares charity organized by Just Dance’s Kevin Rios just wants to collect 1,000 toys to be carried by hand to children in Ceibo, Puerto Rico, whose families are struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
ISO SOLOISTS: The Imperial Symphony Orchestra’s holiday concert Tuesday features soprano Teresa Castillo and baritone Eric Lindsey.
Award winners in Thursday night’s 37th Annual Lakeland Christmas Parade, announced by the Junior League of Greater Lakeland:
• Judge’s Choice: Medulla Baptist Church
• Most Outstanding Band: Lake Gibson High School
• Most Original Float: True Plumbers & Builders
• Best Themed Float: Agnini Family Dental
• Best Youth/Education Float: Cub Scout Pack 106
• Best Professional Float: Samira Belly Dance
• Best Business Float: Party People Events
• Best Community Float: Central Florida Athletics
The Center for Public Integrity and the Associated Press published financial disclosure statements from state legislators nationwide as part of a project examining potential conflicts of interest. You can see Florida legislator disclosures here or scroll down to view the forms filed by those representing Lakeland.
The organization looked at markets with affordable housing expected to rise in value in livable communities with job growth.
DOWNTOWN: The merchants group that runs First Friday and the monthly Food Truck Rally lost its non-profit status six years ago, current board members recently learned. They’re working to correct the problems as they consider ways to reorganize and implement tighter controls.
MANSLAUGHTER: A 2-year-old infant was found suffocated in her mother’s bed last May after the 24-year-old mother came home intoxicated from a night at a strip club, the Lakeland Police Department said. Now she’s charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child.
What: 37th Lakeland Christmas Parade
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, beginning with fireworks over Lake Mirror
Where: Downtown Lakeland (see the map above)
Who: 90 floats, nine marching bands and an expected 30,000 spectators. Grand marshal: Georgann Carlton. Sponsor: Junior League of Greater Lakeland
Theme: A Night at the North Pole
Watch It Live: lakelandgov.net/TV or on Spectrum 643/FiOS 43.
Chairs: Sidewalks are clogged several days in advance although participants are asked to refrain from placing chairs until the evening before the parade. Did they comply this year? Check the video below, taken 32 hours before the parade was set to start:
Spath, a 34-year-old former prosecutor who lives in Bartow, is the second candidate to announce she’s running in the special election being held to fill the Florida House 39 seat being vacated by Neil Combee. The other candidate, 22-year-old Josie Tomkow of Lakeland, issued a news release this week (article) saying her campaign raised $50,000 last month.
Mike Drawdy competes with big-box competition through online shopping, innovative shipping and social media.
Add Lakeland to the list of cities where monuments to the Confederacy are being relocated following the racially motivated killings of nine people at a Charleston, S.C., church and the killing in Charlottesville, Va., of a woman protesting a white supremacy rally.
City commissioners capped a long and emotional meeting this afternoon with a 4-3 vote to relocate a monument erected in 1910 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to a location other than the center of Munn Park.
Daniel Leviten, who built a solo pediatrics practice into a seven-physician operation, is retiring at what a partner calls a “young” 67.
DIXIELAND DINING: Marcos Fernandez, owner and chef of Nineteen61, is opening a take-out restaurant focusing on Latin American specialties in the building at Dixieland Village once occupied by Fat Maggie’s and the short-lived Crane’s Crossing restaurant.
ADVISING LAKELAND ELECTRIC: The city’s Electric Utilities Advisory Committee has two vacancies. City commissioners decided Friday that one should represent residential customers inside city limits and one should represent the utility’s residential customers outside city limits.
When city commissioners consider the future of the Munn Park Confederate monument on Monday morning, they’re expecting lots of comments from residents. So today they set some special rules for the meeting:
- People who want to speak will be asked to place their name and address on a sign-in sheet.
- Speakers will be called in the order in which they signed up.
- Comments will be limited to three minutes per speaker, rather than the customary five minutes.
Lineman Joshua Lindsey was fired following an accusation that he was responsible for the theft of memorabilia from the San Juan airport just before utility crewman flew back from power restoration work in Puerto Rico. Lindsey says he will hire a lawyer because he has “been done wrong.”
Judge Jay Yancey’s prison sentence for former mental health counselor Anthony Conti, 72, was part of a plea agreement. Conti had pleaded no contest to two counts of sexual misconduct and six counts of attempted sexual misconduct by a psychotherapist.
Lakeland votes again Tuesday. This time there’s only one item on the ballot: a City Commission race. One contestant says he brings a needed small-business owner’s perspective to City Hall. The other says he offers management and budget experience he gained as president of several colleges.
Music highlights include tonight’s Jazz Orchestra Concert at Harrison School for the Arts and a seven-band “Rockin’ for Toys for Tots” Sunday 2-10 p.m. at Ybor Lounge Live. Bands include The Brimer Trio, Most Wanted, Sgt. Shredder, Power Surge, Velvet Jones, Cross Traxx and Almost D.S.P., a collaboration of Almost There and the Dan Signor Project. More listings after the jump:
POLITICS: John Hall has decided to stay put as a county commissioner rather than run for the Florida House seat being vacated by Neil Combee. He says he plans to support a candidate entering the race soon instead of Josie Tomkow, the only person who has qualified so far.
TRAUMA PREPAREDNESS: Lakeland Regional Health will start offering “Stop the Bleed” courses to the public in January. They typically have been geared to health and emergency workers.
Suspected “acid bombs” were found this morning on the east side of Lake Hollingsworth and at Common Grounds Park, the Lakeland Police Department reports. Nobody has been injured. Members of the Tampa Police bomb squad neutralized the Hollingsworth device with an air pistol, around 1 p.m., the Lakeland Fire Department said.
CHEMICAL SPILL: CSX says a faulty bearing caused a train derailment in north Lakeland that spilled a hazardous chemical and has closed a portion of Kathleen Road for two days.
REAL ESTATE: Local home sales are up sharply, spurred by low interest rates and prices drawing Tampa commuters. Against that backdrop, the Keller Williams franchises owned by Chris McLaughlin have exceeded $1 billion in sales for a second consecutive year.
$17 MILLION VERDICT: The mother and son of a man killed when his scooter was rear-ended by a drunk driver on Shepherd Road were awarded $17 million by a jury, although a lawyer conceded they’re unlikely to see much money from the jailed defendant.
The horse, Bo Duke, has been in the care of the Polk Sheriff’s Office since Nov. 2, when deputies charged Polk City resident Donna Byrne, 53, with DUI after she was seen weaving her steed alongside Combee Road.
The Ledger: Nearby residents were told they could leave their homes seven hours after the accident.
The rail giant closely guards details of chemical shipments, but says 6 percent of its carloads in Florida contains hazardous materials.
Greta Dupuy, 38, heads associate services at Publix Supermarkets and is next in line to chair the United Way of Central Florida.
Kathleen Road will likely be closed between Galloway Road and Spivey Road until evening as hazmat crews clean up the spill. Residents of Strickland Road are being asked shelter in place, turning off air conditioners and keeping windows closed.
GOSPEL INN: The Christian bookstore has seen sales halved since the rise of online competitors, but it’s stayed in business 46 years and owners Bill and Barbara Kelly, who are in their mid-70s, have no plans to retire.
RECYCLING: Recent changes in Polk County’s rules for curbside recycling have confused residents of unincorporated areas, columnist Tom Palmer writes.
LakelandMom lists neighborhoods in Lakeland, the rest of Polk County and Plant City known for holiday light displays, and throws in a driving route to see them.
A pair of duos in Dixieland Saturday night sound interesting. At 6:30, Hillcrest Coffee hosts Rebecca Ryals, who sings about growing up on a south Florida cattle farm, with John Bois, bassist with the Australian folk-rock group The Dingoes. Jon Corneal and his band also play. A few blocks south at 8 p.m., The Pink Piano showcases Tampa harpist Seth Lynn and Lakeland pianist Erik Maleki.
Check more listings after the jump:
Feeding Tampa Bay will discuss the transition at a town hall meeting next Thursday at 8:30 a.m. at the Church at the Mall in Lakeland. Catholic Charities, which operated Agape Food Bank, said it is shifting its feed-the-poor focus to mission markets providing fresh produce.
Sandy Toledo, who founded the Lakeland charity 48 years ago, said on Facebook (link) the thieves used her Social Security number to access the account and that she is working with Bank of America’s fraud department “but it does not look good.”
Douglas Park will be built on 18 acres on Carpenters Way donated to the city by Lake Gibson Village | City manager’s recommendation
Workers from Florida municipal utilities are coming home as the Montana company coordinating power restoration efforts halted work, saying it needs assurance it will be paid by Puerto Rico’s power company.
Representatives of two churches, the NAACP and other organizations asked the City Commission today to relocate the Confederate monument away from the center of Munn Park. (Ledger coverage) Here are tweets about their requests:
“We hope to be through by Christmas,” County Manager Jim Freeman said regarding the crews picking up hurricane debris. Much of the uncollected limbs and yard trash is in unincorporated Northeast Lakeland and Davenport.
FitLife Foods (website), a Tampa company that prepares healthy heat-and-eat meals at a facility on County Line Road (map), now offers delivery to Lakeland residences. The packaged meals are also available at 15 retail outlets in the Tampa Bay, Sarasota, Orlando and Palm Beach areas, but none in Polk.
The resolution keeps the current Confederate monument in place but asks city staff to draft a plan to allow other monuments celebrating ethnic groups that settled here.
Commissioners are expecting a large turnout Dec. 4 from citizens who want to comment about the future of the Confederate monument in the center of the park.
As a result of today’s discussion, the city attorney will revise the proposed resolution above to say that a master plan could include additional monuments in parts of downtown outside of Munn Park.
Read Ledger coverage. Check tweets from today’s meeting after the jump.
A customs/border control office that opened Thursday will let Lakeland Linder Airport receive overseas flights with up to 20 passengers. Officials hope to begin accepting international freight next.
As consultants, the couple uses design theory to help organizations grow. They met 14 years ago as students at Southeastern University.
SCHOOL BOARD: Tim Harris says he won’t seek re-election to the Polk School Board, prompting a second candidate to announce for the seat Harris has held for three terms. David Byrd, a 64-year-old retiree who worked in the school system as a high school teacher and teacher resource specialist for more than 35 years, joins Lisa Miller, also a former teacher, in the race.
TEACHERS: Most teachers can expect raises between 2 and 3.5 percent, under a complicated formula hammered out by the Polk school district and the teachers’ union, officials said. Part of the $10 million needed for the raises will come by returning to a practice of paying maintenance workers out of the capital fund instead of the general fund.
COLLEGIATE GAMING: Competitive intercollegiate computer gaming, complete with tryouts, uniforms and spectators, is coming to Florida Southern College, a move that perplexes The Ledger’s editorial writer.
LPD EXONERATION: A complaint about three Lakeland Police employees involving an intimate relationship between two of them and possible drug use found that no policies were violated.
City Manager Tony Delgado gave an update on city activities and took citizen questions in the post-Irma, post-election edition of his quarterly Tony Talks.
ALSO: View Ledger coverage
POWER PLANT: Lakeland Electric is negotiating to buy a used generator in Auburndale that would be moved to its McIntosh site and eventually replace the Unit 2 generator, currently off-line for repair.
TEACHERS CONTRACT: The Polk school district and the union representing teachers reached an agreement on raises. If teachers ratify the contract, they’ll see bigger paychecks in February.
Local experts discussed jobs, education, health care. language and transportation needs for residents of Puerto Rico who are moving to Central Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The panel on Monday at Southeastern University was moderated by Ana Rivera, president and CEO of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Polk County. (Ledger coverage)
Apologies for some camera problems around the 42-minute and 58-minute marks. I was dealing with battery issues.
Senior lineman from Lakeland Electric working to help restore Puerto Rico’s power grid are paid $63 an hour, but the contractor who hired the Lakeland workers is billing the Puerto Rican public power company $319 an hour. Puerto Rico’s deal with contractor Whitefish Energy Holdings of Montana “has served as a cautionary note about the potential for soaring costs that are common after disasters,” The New York Times reports.
The second issue of Lakeland Haven magazine suggests some local merchants and craftspeople offering gift items with a local twist.
Lakeland Magic, 105, Canton Charge 100
REP. ROSS: U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross hasn’t held an open town hall meeting since he faced busloads of hecklers February in what a political science professor calls an ambush. Instead, he has hosted conference calls to hear from constituents, prompting some voters to ask just who gets invited.
MUSIC/DANCE: Tuesday’s Imperial Symphony Orchestra concert will spotlight a collaboration in which Florida Dance Theatre performs new choreography telling the story of “Tom Sawyer” set to Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.”
CRIME BEAT: A Lakeland man faces charges of exploiting a disabled person (The version currently online is less detailed than the print article) | A school bus driver was arrested on child abuse charges involving a special-needs child.
BASKETBALL: Lakeland Magic, 105, Canton Charge 100
Lakeland Linder-based Draken International, which helps train military pilots, bought 22 22 Mirage F1M and F1B jets that were used primarily by the Spanish Air Force.
“Running Down a Dream: A Live Tribute to Tom Petty” was presented to a sold-out audience at LkldLive Thursday night. Musicians on “American Girl” included Craig Morby, vocals, Shane Lawlor, acoustic guitar and backing vocals, David Brimer, lead guitar, Derrick Dietrich, bass, and Marcus McCants, drums. See the full concert after the jump.
Newly available electronic glasses allow Britny Belskis, 27, to see details that were unavailable before.
Tonight’s Tom Petty tribute at LkldLive has sold out, but there’s plenty of other music highlights this weekend:
- The guitar concert at Harrison School for the Arts tonight features sounds from Bach to Led Zeppelin.
- Hear Jazza-Nova, Patty Kenoly, Fount, Brian Sutherland, and Bully For You Saturday at The Big Event at Lake Mirror.
- Glass House Point rocks LkldLive Saturday night. Brightside and Babyblu open.
- ’90s house/club hitmakers C+C Music Factory has re-formed and plays Masons Live Saturday night.
The story about a woman arrested for DUI while riding her horse on Combee Road made national news. An attorney who agreed to take her case pro bono told News Channel 8 he’ll argue that DUI doesn’t apply to a person riding an animal instead of operating a machine.
After Officer Julio Perez flew to Puerto Rico to make sure his parents were OK, he helped other families connect with loved ones on the island,
Lakeland voters today swept three political newcomers into office while decisively defeating a measure that would have changed the form of city government to a strong-mayor format.
When Bill Mutz — who won 72 percent of the vote in a four-man race — becomes mayor in January, it will be under the current system, in which the mayor serves as chair of the City Commission and represents the city in ceremonial functions. The appointed city manager will remain the city’s chief executive.
In one of the biggest surprises of the evening, Stephanie Madden unseated incumbent Jim Malless without a runoff in a five-way race. Insurance executive Scott Franklin outpolled civic volunteer Sandy Toledo for Southeast District seat. Larry Durrence and Michael Dunn face off in a Dec. 5 runoff for the Southwest District seat.
|Strong Mayor Charter Amendment|
|Patrick Shawn Jones||1,214||8.97%|
|*||Dunn and Durrence are in a runoff Dec. 5|
|Commission: At Large|
|Kathy Barsotti Smith||961||7.08%|
In the wake of the shooting at a church in Sutherland, Texas, that left 26 dead, Lakeland churches are increasing security, Fox 13’s Ken Suarez reports. Among other things they are self-patrolling their grounds, adding cameras and taking advantage of Polk County Sheriff’s Office services, such as security assessments and active-shooter training.
Meanwhile News Channel 8’s Corey Davis talks with a Lakeland pastor who was shot in the head while praying in his church six years ago. Pastor William Boss asks: How many massacres will it take before lawmakers change gun laws?
Sheriff Grady Judd’s solution? He says everyone who can legally arm themselves should do so.
Amazon received county incentives to build distribution facilities in Lakeland and Davenport. The tech giant hasn’t provided as many jobs as promised and some of its incentives should be docked, County Commissioner Melony Bell says. Commissioner George Lindsey tells Fox 13 that some $11-an-hour jobs are better for Polk than no jobs.
Registered voters in Lakeland go to the polls today to select a new mayor, vote in three City Commission races and decide whether to change the form of government to strong mayor. Polls close at 7 p.m. Read on to find out what’s on the ballot, where to vote, how to do last-minute research and where to get results tonight.
POWER POLE DISPUTE: Lakeland Electric leaders say it’s cheaper and more efficient to hire an outside company rather than new employees to get caught up on replacing power poles. But a labor union says the city is opening itself to a $2.6 million legal judgment if it goes ahead. City commissioners Monday delayed a decision on contracting with Pike Electric (view the contract) in order to see if their attorney can get from 80 percent to 100 percent sure they’re on solid legal ground.
IRMA FLOODING: Property owners along Pineville Lane northwest of Lakeland (map) are still tearing out wallboard with black mold after homes were flooded when Winston Creek swelled during Hurricane Irma.
Florida Rep. Neil Combee, a Republican, said he will ask Gov. Scott to call a special election for his District 39 seat, which includes northern Polk County and parts of Osceola County. He was recently named state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE: The total raised to promote candidates and issues on this week’s Lakeland ballot has topped $1 million, with the largest sums raised by the committees for and against a strong mayor. (Gregory Fancelli has contributed $579,000 to the strong mayor effort, according to a compilation of finance reports.) | Research campaign funding and spending here
MAYOR CANDIDATE: James Green, a 22-year-old Florida Southern senior, is running for mayor on a platform centered on a plan to replace property taxes with a one-time fee on new developments.
SHOOTING VICTIM: The family of a man who was shot and killed by Lakeland police when he threatened them with a shotgun Thursday night said an empty whiskey bottle tells them he was probably drunk. Jerry Roach, 71, became confrontational when drunk, and his depression was deepened by the recent sixth anniversary of the death of his wife of 42 years, family members said.
MAYOR CANDIDATE: Christopher Diaz, a 33-year-old former law enforcement officer and current entrepreneur, is running for mayor as a voice of a new generation who will prioritize public safety and says North Lakeland can lead the city’s growth.
HOSPITAL: Lakeland Regional Health received a safety rating of A in the most recent scorecard from Leapfrog group in which other Polk hospitals got grades of C, D and F | Lakeland Regional report | What the scorecard measures
Four of the five candidates for the at-large seat on the Lakeland City Commission answered questions at a forum Thursday at Florida Southern College. The forum was sponsored by Pi Sigma Alpha (ΠΣΑ), the National Political Science Honor Society. Candidate Stephanie Madden did not participate, telling organizers she had previous campaign commitments.
First things first. Check out the calendar at the bottom of this post. There are more live music choices in Lakeland this weekend than I’ve seen before. Some highlights:
- The really big show in town this week is the return of Lynyrd Skynyrd to the RP Funding Center on Saturday. Their last gig here was 40 years ago, just two days before three band members died in a plane crash. This is one concert where you can shout “Free Bird” without irony.
- Art + Music at the Polk Museum of Art Friday night features Thoth, Patty Kenoly, Jason Baker, Conner Lockhart and Paul Catala.
- Art Crawl in Munn Park Saturday showcases musicians from noon to 3 p.m.: Patty Kenoly, Lauren Mullenax, Emilie Weiss and Brett Blondell, and Jess Kostella.
- Folkies might want to check Tampa Bay favorite Rebekah Pulley with Robert Pastore at an Among Friends Music house concert Saturday night.
MAYOR CANDIDATE: Patrick Shawn Jones is a tarot card reader, heavy metal DJ, hospital technician, champion of bus commuters and candidate for mayor. Reporter Christopher Guinn profiles Jones in what we presume is a series of features about the four candidates for mayor on Tuesday’s ballot.
INMATE DEATH: In 2006, Shamirah Johnson was a 4.0 high school graduate lauded for volunteer work and winning an essay contest. On Tuesday, she was a repeat visitor to the Polk County Jail who died as an inmate at LRMC after being arrested for violation of probation involving drug charges.
RESTAURANTS: A comment from an unnamed city officials in a Ledger story (here) brought expectations that a Pollo Tropical restaurant would come to Lakeland. It turns out that won’t be happening, but three other chain restaurants are planned for a strip along South Florida Avenue at Poppell Drive (map): Fuzzy’s Taco Shop (web), Jason’s Deli (web) and Mission BBQ (web).
TEACHERS: A year-old impasse over teacher raises faces another delay. School Board members decided Monday to wait until Nov. 14 to settle the issue so that their staff can assess the financial impact of making the proposed 2 percent raises retroactive to the 2016-17 school year.
PARK: The city park that houses Common Ground playground and the Beerman Family Tennis Center has been renamed from Edgewood Park to Publix Charities Park to recognize a $1 million donation from the charity.
SCHOOLS: Local officials question the vagueness of a law that could lead to the closure of six “turnaround” schools in Polk, including two in Lakeland: Kathleen Middle and Griffin Elementary.
DREAMER: Sayra Lozano was quiet about her immigration status when she entered Southeastern University, but became an outspoken advocate when Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) became endangered | Podcast
AD DIRECTOR: Ron Moates, the new advertising director at The Ledger, worked his way up after starting as a billing clerk 25 years ago. Personal note: Congratulations, Ron; it’s great to see a nice guy prevail.
COMMISSION RACE: Candidate Stephanie Madden seeks to differentiate herself from incumbent Jim Malless in a campaign mailer for a City Commission race that includes three other candidates.
YACHT CLUB: Construction begins Tuesday on a new Lakeland Yacht and Country Club building that’s three-quarters the size of the building it replaces on Lake Hollingsworth. A $3 million bank loan secured Friday supplements $3.2 million raised from club members.
THINGS TO DO:
It’s a good weekend to hear local acts. Take Saturday night. You can hear Jon Corneal and John Frinzi at Hillcrest Coffee, Dean Johanesen at Brew Hub, Todd Edmonds at Masons Live, Philip Booth Music at Frescos, Brimer Trio at The Pink Piano, 22N and Pickup Artist at Ybor Live, Chris Clarke Trio at Lakeland Loft or Dan Signor Project at Molly McHugh’s. See more listings after the jump.
CANDIDATES for City Commission offered ideas for improving Northwest Lakeland at an NAACP-sponsored forum Tuesday night.
RAISES FOR TEACHERS, paraeducators and support staff will be considered by the Polk School Board Monday at a 5 p.m. public hearing at the Jim Miles Center. A special magistrate recommended 2 percent raises; the teacher’s union is agreeable, though it’s less than the 3.4 percent they requested.
Transportation setbacks have delayed shipments of donated items bound for Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico as well as the departure of 20 Lakeland Electric employees who will help restore the island’s power infrastructure.
ALSO: Puerto Ricans relocating to Central Florida face challenges, News Channel 8 reports.
Gregory Fancelli, who is financing the effort to change Lakeland’s city government to a strong-mayor system, has been outspoken in his emails to city officials — and those emails are finding their way into the strong-mayor debate.
The area around the Bulloch Family Ranch on Tom Costine Road is still flooded weeks after Hurricane Irma, a situation exacerbated by poor county maintenance of culverts, the ranch owners say.
TWO LOCAL GROUPS, the Polk County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Polk County and United City, are collaborating to collect goods and raise money to help Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico | Donate
POLK SCHOOLS are taking in students fleeing Hurricane Maria’s destruction, and the Citrus Connection is offering transit passes for new arrivals from the islands, but extra funding is uncertain.
LAKELAND ELECTRIC is sending 20 workers and 10 vehicles to help the effort to restore electricity to Puerto Rico.
Brandon Trenaz Mills, 24, of Opa Locka, was struck and killed by a vehicle while walking along the road, possibly in the bicycle lane, near 2000 U.S. 92 early this morning.
Author Trent Saunders recounts stories he’s heard about smuggling onto Central Florida ranches in the 1980s. Sheriff Grady Judd vouches for the stories, saying he remembers staking out some of the deals when he was a deputy.
Consider the guitar. It takes many forms, and its six strings can be played in myriad ways. For example, this weekend you can hear:
- The lilt of the classical style as Midday Meditations starts its 2017-18 season Friday morning with artist Samuel Ortiz.
- The thrash of metal at “The Story of an Undead World,” a seasonal rock opera at LkldLive Friday night.
- The wail of mainstream rock as Saliva and seven other bands play Rocktoberfest 2017 at Masons Live on Saturday.
‘Food for Florida’ registration at the RP Funding Center drew people from several counties between Saturday and today.
Dramatic video: An LPD officer making a DUI stop at Florida Avenue and Main Street on Sunday was grazed by the rear-view mirror of a passing driver who was later charged with DUI and leaving the scene of an accident. Remember: Move over when you see flashing lights.
CITY COMMISSIONERS were busy Monday. Among other things they:
- Sold 10+ downtown acres for $3.7 million to Framework Group LLC, which plans to build 306 rental apartments and townhouses | Staff presentation
- Donated about $94,000 worth of property and rights of way to the developers of the massive Bonnet Springs Park planned for property west of downtown.
- Awarded raises of 4 percent each to City Manager Tony Delgado and City Attorney Tim McCausland after giving them favorable performance reviews.
- Applauded as Mayor Howard Wiggs named Ana Rivera winner of the October CityMakers Award | Also: CityMakers website profiles Rivera.
THE POLK SCHOOL BOARD had a lot of Lakeland action, too:
- Nearly 9,000 employees came to Joker Marchant Stadium for a motivational event that was mandatory for teachers on a day without students | Fox 13 coverage
- Employees entering the Tigertown event passed about 15 protesters expressing displeasure with Tenoroc High School Principal Jason Looney, who has been subject of two sexual harassment investigations that both concluded there was insufficient evidence to proceed.
- Justin Troller, who is a city commissioner, reported on Facebook (here) that he’s been reinstated as a school district employee, but Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said his new job, which hasn’t been announced yet, would not involve working with students.
Many returned today after being turned away Saturday from Irma temporary food stamp registration at the RP Funding Center.
BROADBAND: City Commissioner Justin Troller pushes to expand Lakeland’s extensive fiber optic network into a utility offering fast, affordable Internet to residents and businesses. The first step, he says, is a test project in areas just north and east of downtown.
CIVICS: Alarmed that most students no longer understand how government works, Florida Southern College and All Saints Academy are combining forces to revive civics education, Bruce Anderson writes in his weekly politics column.
ROWBOTHAM: Radio exec Art Rowbotham calls “miraculous” a procedure that suppresses the effects of Parkinson’s disease that he’s experienced.
Crowds snaked up to the RP Funding Center this morning before registration opened at 7 a.m. Also: Check a short video of the line taken after daybreak. Find out if you’re eligible and how to apply here.
Registration takes place daily 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Wednesday. Applicants are asked to come on a day corresponding to the first letter in their last name:
- People with last names A-F should show up 10/14
- People with last names G-J should show up 10/15
- People with last names K-O should show up 10/16
- People with last names P-Z should show up 10/17
- A make-up day will be held 10/18
MAYOR CANDIDATES: Reporter Chris Guinn looks at the four men running for mayor; the winner will find out the day he’s elected whether he’ll be a “weak” ceremonial mayor or a “strong” mayor overseeing the city’s administrative apparatus.
MAYOR QA: The candidates answer questions. Asked how they’ll vote on the strong mayor initiative on the Nov. 7 ballot, candidates James Green and Patrick Shawn Jones say they’ll vote for it, and Bill Mutz says he’s voting against. Christopher Diaz doesn’t say.
DEBRIS: For some residents of unincorporated Polk County, it could be two more months before yard debris from Hurricane Irma is picked up. An online map (here) gives a rough idea where crews are working.
Lakeland: City officials expect the first round of debris removal to be completed by the end of October.
SCHOOL BOARD: Developments surrounding an investigation into the principal of Tenoroc High School have prompted School Board member Billy Townsend to call for the resignation of his colleague Tim Harris.
LAND DEALS: City commissioners will be asked to rule on two land deals Monday: a request to donate parcels valued at $94k for the privately funded Bonnet Springs Park and a $1.65 million sale of 15 acres at Lakeland Linder Airport for Geico expansion. (A third, highly visible land deal on Monday’s agenda involves 10 acres north of Lake Mirror.)
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: The nine Lakeland physicians on the state’s list of doctors qualified to treat patients with medical marijuana (see the list here) work in small practices. Large employers of doctors, such as Watson Clinic and Lakeland Regional Health, have no employees on the list.
Florida Hospital has disclosed it plans to build a free-standing emergency room on 104 acres it recently purchased for $14.5 million just west of Florida Polytechnic University.
Violins or fiddles? Take your pick Saturday night. One concert in downtown Lakeland spotlights a soprano and show tunes. Another one four blocks away showcases twangs and bluegrass.
TRAFFIC INFLUX: Local agencies are preparing for heavy traffic to the RP Funding Center Saturday through Oct. 18 as people come to register for Irma food assistance.
CANDIDATES: The four candidates for the City Commission’s Southwest seat give their views on issues.
WINN-DIXIE: The Winn-Dixie stores at U.S. 92 and Combee and on Ariana Street will become Harveys Supermarkets next month.
HEADLINES: A house fire claimed the life of a 78-year-old man, but six family members escaped | An eight-year prison sentence is expected after Anthony Conti pleaded no contest to charges he molested women clients of his mental health therapy practice.
FOOD FOR FLORIDA: Certain families affected by Hurricane Irma (see if you qualify) will be able to apply for temporary food assistance . First, pre-register online here, then show up for an interview Saturday through Oct. 18 at the RP Funding Center’s Sikes Hall | Learn more
CANDIDATES: The race for the Southeast district seat on the City Commission gives voters a choice between business/military experience (Scott Franklin) and civic/volunteer experience (Sandy Toledo) | ALSO: Both candidates respond to questions
COGGINS: A DCF investigation concluded that Randy Coggins, who has been in the news because of troubles with the Monarch School he runs, swindled an elderly couple out of $25k, but no charges were filed, The Ledger reports.
BROADWAY TUNES: Soprano Elizabeth Burton fronts the Imperial Symphony Orchestra Saturday at the Polk Theatre as the orchestra kicks off its 2017-18 season with a “Broadway Through the Years” concert.
Both sides of Lakeland’s strong mayor issue were explored Tuesday evening at a forum at New Bethel AME Church. The forum was sponsored by the local chapters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and Deta Sigma Theta Fraternity. Moderator was Sylvia Blackmon-Roberts.
City commissioners heard howls of protest last week when they were about to vote on a contract to sell 10 vacant acres near the LPD headquarters to a private developer. Most of the complaints weren’t as much about the terms of sale or the developer’s intentions as much as a perception that the deal was being rushed through before members of the public had a chance to understand the plans and comment on them.
The Florida Tarpons’ move from Estero represents the third try in 12 years to make indoor football work in Lakeland.
JARVIS KENDRICK: The former credit union vice president and civic volunteer was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading no contest to leaving the scene of a crash involving a fatality.
TENOROC PRINCIPAL: Sexual harassment claims against Jason Looney were “not substantiated” by a School District investigation that leaves open questions about his management style.
RELATED: School Board member Billy Townsend responds that two investigations involving Looney reveal a “comprehensive, catastrophic leadership failure” by the School District.
COAL: Lakeland Electric is continuing its plans to reduce reliance on coal despite Trump Administration plans to loosen restrictions on the fuel. (No link; the article isn’t online yet.)