BEACON HILL HOUSE: An historic house may be saved from moving after preservationist Gregory Fancelli contacted the South Florida Avenue Church of Christ elders and offered to repair the house on their property. “It will take a while to determine what needs to be done and how and when it will be accomplished,” (church elder John) McShane said by email.
LAKELAND MAN: Sunday night the Florida Highway Patrol charged Stephen W. McCullough of Brookridge Trail with DUI manslaughter after his car rear-ended Gloria Daniel, 40, of Plant City.
LAKELAND PRESERVATIONISTS: David and Jean Bunch were honored for their work preserving Lakeland’s history when they named as December’s CityMakers. The award is presented by the current Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz, former mayor Howard Wiggs, and businesswoman Linda Bagley-Wiggs. ““They are both individuals who have really sacrificially always worked in the background for the city relentlessly for decades. They are kind of markers of great traditions and healthy habits for life,” Mutz said.”
AMENDMENT 4: The daily newspaper took a look at plans to implement Amendment 4. The measure restored the voting rights for some 1.4 million people convicted of felonies. The paper quoted Polk County Supervisor Lori Edwards: “Edwards, a Democrat, expressed frustration over Matthews’ statements. “We came to the conference looking for direction from the state Division of Elections,” Edwards told The News Service of Florida. “As you know, the secretary of state reminds us that he’s the chief elections official. And they didn’t help. They didn’t give any direction to us. And they wouldn’t give us a timeline of when they will.”
KEEPING AN EYE ON POLY: Lakeland City Commissioner Stephanie Madden noted that land around Florida Polytechnic is being developed and wants the city to pay attention. Though the current project is in unincorporated Polk County, Auburndale has come out against it.
In the months since the Lakeland City Commission began talking about increasing the height limit on multi-family buildings in the historic Lake Morton neighborhood’s Garden District, developer Baylis Consulting put together plans for a 54-foot-tall, 40-unit apartment building.
But the developer cannot start construction of the contemporary-style building until city commissioners decide whether to amend an ordinance that would raise the building height limit from 40 feet to 60 feet.
ROAD DIET: Friday the county commissioners learned about the Florida Avenue road diet that is still on the table. In Dixieland during the 2019 test, low concrete curbing and planters will be installed to give an approximation of the conditions for pedestrians in the event the diet is made permanent.
UWCF FINALISTS:The United Way of Central Florida announced they had three finalists for the position of president and CEO: Greta Dupuy, manager of associate services for Publix, Christina Criser Jackson, vice president of resource development at UWCF, and Doug Eberhart, formerly CEO of United Way programs in Kentucky and South Carolina.
The city still has plans for a food truck park in Midtown, however after a seven-month delay another company has stepped in to help develop the project on a half-acre, city-owned site at the northwest corner of North Massachusetts Avenue and East Parker Street.
The concept is to provide food trucks, craft beer and public events – at least 12 a year – in a family-friendly, backyard-style setting that includes an indoor-outdoor performance venue and a 2,500-square-foot building with restrooms and a bar.
While there is space for four food trucks, the company expect to have one or two onsite daily, Alis Drumgo, CRA interim manager, told city commissioners when they gathered Friday morning for committee meetings and an agenda study session.
SCHOOL BUS REDUCTION: More than 1,500 students would be affected as the Polk County School District proposed doing away with bus service for all charter schools and for many students who live within two miles of their schools.
POLK STATE UNION: Adjunct professors at Polk State College filed to establish a union with peers at six other Florida colleges.
COMPLAINT DISMISSED: A complaint to the Florida Commission on Ethics against Polk County School Board member Billy Townsend was dismissed this week “for lack of legal sufficiency.”
WEST PIPKIN ROAD CLOSED THIS MORNING: West Pipkin Road at the rail crossing will be closed 8:30 am to 11:30am on Friday.
As many of you know, my family has experienced a devastating tragedy. We are profoundly thankful for the support we’ve felt from the Lakeland community via personal messages and response to a fund to build a memorial tribute to my late granddaughter. I’ll be away from LkldNow for the next few weeks, but I’m fortunate that Chuck Welch, founder of Lakeland’s first independent news website, will be filling in, assisted by some of our freelancers. Reader support is helping us carry on despite my absence and will help us continue to grow so that in the future we won’t be as dependent on one person.
— Barry Friedman, Editor and Publisher
JUVENILE CRIME DOWN IN POLK COUNTY: Florida Department of Juvenile Justice crime data indicates that youth offenses seem to be trending downward. For fiscal year 2018, Polk County saw 22 percent less juvenile crime than in 2017. Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens noted that an “alternatives to arrest” program for youth who commit first-time misdemeanors (excluding sex offenses and those involving firearms) appears to be working.
IN THE GARDEN DISTRICT: Lakeland City Commissioners will consider an ordinance to bump the maximum height for buildings in the Garden District from 40′ to 60′. The ordinance would have to pass to allow a proposed four-story apartment building near the intersection of Indiana Avenue and Lime Street.
LKLDNOW NOTE: As ordinance 18-064 currently reads, the the maximum height change would go into effect only for a sub-section of the Garden District in the areas shaded below:
IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS: The Panara family home in south Lakeland is festooned with figures of Santa Claus, nutcrackers, and Christmas villages. It takes the family about a month to unpack and place all the items. “Panara said that family members are usually more eager to help put it out than box it up.”
SLEEPY HILL: A Polk County Circuit Court judge issued a restraining order against a Sleepy Hill Middle School student who beat another student. The aggressor was also transferred to another school.
LIMITED SEATING: To prevent fire code violations, the RP Funding Center will limit tickets to May 2019 high school graduation ceremonies. Each school will have approximately 3500 tickets. The center will also limit most ceremony start times to either 2 pm or 8 pm.
CITY OF LAKELAND: Mindi Fitch, the City’s former parks department fiscal operations manager, has petitioned the court to overturn her dismissal. The city’s Civil Service Board had upheld a decision to let Fitch go after $117,000 was found missing.
IKEA: DHL Supply Chain is renting 320,000 square feet of Lakeland warehouse space for an IKEA e-commerce fulfillment center. The company hopes to employ about 200 and start operations in the spring.
Cary Carreno, a longtime advisor and financial backer of newly elected U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, isn’t on Spano’s staff, so his role in firing a campaign treasurer and interviewing prospective staffers is raising concerns on Capitol Hill, Politico’s Marc Caputo reports. Campaign finance irregularities have led to calls that Spano not be seated in Congress, but Caputo reports there is little chance of that happening because the election has been certified by state officials.
- In south Lakeland, a small freestanding emergency room on Florida Avenue planned by HCA.
- In northeast Lakeland, a slightly larger freestanding emergency room just west of Florida Polytechnic University planned by Adventist.
- North of downtown, Lakeland Regional Health’s massive emergency department with its pediatric ER and a trauma center.
LAKELAND REGIONAL: In a report that spans roughly two full pages, business writer Kevin Bouffard examines the quickly dissolved partnership between Lakeland Regional Health and Orlando Health. The picture that emerges involves a clash of cultures and lines of authority, as well as disagreements over whether a merging of IT and supply chain could achieve savings.
WATSON CLINIC: More than 200 people reported stomach ailments after a clinic holiday luncheon Wednesday, prompting a Polk County Health Department investigation of a possible food-borne illness outbreak.
Lakeland High School’s football team proved the naysayers wrong Friday night when they ended a 15-0 season by rolling over nationally seventh-ranked St. Thomas Aquinas 33-20 for their seventh state championship, all under the tutelage of 43-year coach Bill Castle.
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