CRIME: Police Chief Larry Giddens credits community involvement for a 31 percent decrease in violent crime in Lakeland between 2014 and 2014. There were no gang-related shootings last year, compared with 18 in 2014, LPD says.
POLITICS: In the GOP primary race for the Florida House District 39 seat, Josie Tomkow has raised $119,905 from a combination of local sources and statewide political action committees, and Jennifer Spath has raised $27,325, all from local sources.
PIPELINE: A test of a natural gas pipeline will close some roads between Polk City and Kathleen in the wee hours of March 12. A similar test will be conducted April 3 from Kathleen to Buddy Rogers Way in Hillsborough County.
City government collaborates with a faith-based organization and a religion-centered university on a neighborhood cleanup project around Westside Park.
POLITICS: Two former colleagues on the Polk County Commission are exchanging heated political allegations centered around the Republican primary for Florida House District 39. Commissioner George Lindsey charges that Neil Combee, now a federal ag official, violated the Hatch Act by soliciting campaign contributions for Josie Tomkow. Combee denies it and attempted to link the support of Lindsey and other commissioners for Jennifer Spath with their opposition to attempts to increase the homestead exemption.
FSC ADDITION: The first softball game played at Florida Southern College’s Chris Belotto Field on Friday marked the opening of the school’s Barnett Athletic Complex.
LINEMEN SUSPENDED: Two Lakeland Electric linemen were temporarily suspended after they admitted they took and then returned items at the San Juan Airport before leaving Puerto Rico when local crews went to restore power after Hurricane Maria. Another lineman who was fired for a similar offense has filed a grievance. City officials said the two suspended linemen were treated less harshly because they admitted guilt.
JUDD: Polk County’s sheriff, a Lakeland native, will have a chance to face even more TV cameras (Check his Fox & Friends interview from Tuesday) now that he’s been elected president of the Major County Sheriffs of America for 2018-19.
LEDGER CHANGES: In a letter to readers, Publisher Brian Burns explains that changes in the print edition that started Tuesday are intended to spotlight local news coverage. (Great idea to share that info with readers, Ledger friends.)
Plans are emerging for Mirrorton, the newly unveiled name for a high-end rental development planned for the vacant 10-acre site north of Lake Mirror and east of Lakeland Police headquarters. The company developing 305 multi-story apartments and townhouses there has released two drawings showing their vision for the community’s design. (Check the renderings after the jump.)
The Polk School Board is being asked by Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd to approve Educational Directions (website) of Louisville to run six turnaround schools, including two in greater Lakeland: Kathleen Middle and Griffin Elementary. The company previously worked with Duval County, Byrd’s previous district, where the Florida Times-Union reported results were mixed.
The battle of unflattering political postcards persists in the Republican primary for Florida House District 39. In public appearances, both young candidates come off as poised peddlers of their conservative credentials. But mailers last month portrayed one candidate as an immature partier who lives outside the district. A new set of mailers depicts the other candidate, a former prosecutor, as a Hillary-loving liberal who’s soft on crime.
The building on Main Street near Florida Avenue has been vacant in recent years (see recent photos). Lohr, 83, bought it in 1967 and says a resurgence in downtown investment makes this the right time to restore his building, which downtown history experts say was built around 1925.
Lakeland police and Highway Patrol troopers stopped more than 150 people. Most got warnings, while a dozen received citations. The focus was on pedestrian safety in the high-accident corridor of Memorial Boulevard east of Florida Avenue.