With this week’s cooler temps, this weekend is a good time to warm up to some live music. Some of Lakeland’s finest musicians will be playing at local venues. Check our updated music calendar for details: More
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The Lakeland Public Library on Lake Morton and the adjoining coffee shop reopened shortly after 11 a.m. today after being evacuated because of a bomb threat. A man who made threats after being asked to leave was taken into in custody and police searched the building “in an abundance of caution,” the Lakeland Police Department said. More
Florida Polytechnic University is seeing a 31% increase in freshman admissions applications over last year, and a 44% increase in out-of-state interest. Some see that as welcome news in the wake of a WalletHub report (here) that places Lakeland-Winter Haven at 93rd among the 100 largest metro areas in favorability to STEM professionals | RELATED: Ledger editorial about the WalletHub ranking.
Traffic counters were placed in 90+ locations south of downtown recently to gather data on traffic counts, travel times and vehicle types before the upcoming one-year test of the South Florida Avenue “road diet.” So the timing is good for an update on the Ariana-to-Lime Street narrowing of the roadway. Construction is expected to begin around May in prep for the one-year test scheduled to start around October.
- CITY: In his annual presentation to the City Commission, the head of the non-profit Lakeland Economic Development Council presented an ambitious list of goals for the city and an audacious series of suggestions for replacing city revenue without raising property taxes or utility fees. Potential revenue sources include a hospitality tax on food and beverages, conversion of Cleveland Heights Golf Course and development of city-owned property around Lake Mirror | View the presentation slides
- ABORTION: The bill by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, to require parental consent for teens wanting an abortion is heading to the Senate floor and likely passage by the full Legislature.
- DINING: In a five-star review, restaurant critic Eric Pera declares that downtown’s Nineteen61 “is without a doubt the most interesting, eclectic, vibrant, handsome restaurant Polk County has to offer.”
- SCHOOLS: Anticipating a large turnout of teachers who want to talk about public education funding, the Polk School Board is looking for a larger venue for its Jan. 28 meeting, Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said in a meeting in which board members accepted her apologies for the handling of a state email warning that teachers could be fired for missing school to attend a rally.
- GUNS: County commissioners declared Polk a Second Amendment sanctuary on Monday, three days after a majority said they were reluctant to do so. Commissioner Bill Braswell said the move was symbolic because state law prevents the county from passing firearms regulations.
- GOLF: The Barkley, Bean, Bryant and Friends golf tournament takes place at 1 p.m. Friday at YMCA Par 3 | Learn more
A bill by state Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, that would shield state lawmakers’ home addresses and family members’ income sources passed a committee 4-3 on a party-line vote. The law’s supporters offered no evidence why members of the Legislature need the same protections as judges and law enforcement officers, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Pastor H.B. Holmes spoke of bridging the digital divide at Lakeland’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast, disclosing he is using his background as a communications entrepreneur to bring free wifi to residents near his church, Word of Faith International on Skyview Drive. He also said he’s talking with the city of Lakeland about tapping into the city’s fiber network to expand free Internet to low-income residents.
Three months after naming Palmer Davis interim city attorney, city commissioners are poised to remove the “interim” from his title Tuesday. UPDATE: Commissioners voted unanimously to promote Davis to city attorney.
Davis’ interim appointment in October came with a 90-day evaluation period — for him to determine whether he liked the top job in the city legal department and for commissioners to decide whether they were comfortable with him there.
Mayor Bill Mutz reminded the rest of the board at a Friday work session that the three-month evaluation period is ending, and all commissioners and Davis agreed at the meeting that Davis is right for the job.
A contract for Davis’ employment will be up for a vote at Tuesday afternoon’s City Commission meeting. It calls for a salary of $165,000 a year plus a $5,400-a-year vehicle allowance.
Davis’ 2019 salary as an assistant city attorney was $136,432. A graduate of the University of Florida College of Law and a member of the Florida Bar since 1990, he has been on the Lakeland City Attorney’s staff for nearly two decades.
Davis, 55, was appointed interim city attorney last Oct. 18 following the abrupt resignation of former City Attorney Tim McCausland. McCausland had been arrested Oct. 9 on suspicion of “precursor acts facilitating prostitution.” He has pleaded not guilty.
After his resignation, commissioners discovered that McCausland had been serving without a formal contract. They resolved to draft one for McCausland’s successor based on the contract in place for City Manager Tony Delgado, the only other city employee who reports directly to the commission.
One of Davis’ first priorities: hiring a new assistant city attorney to fill his now-vacant position. In recent years, the City Attorney’s Office has been staffed by three full-time attorneys, but it’s been down to two — Davis and Assistant City Attorney Ramona Sirianni — since McCausland’s departure.
The city legal staff is supplemented by a handful of attorneys who are contracted for litigation and specialties such as labor negotiations. Davis said Friday he intends to keep that system in place, saying it is more efficient that hiring a fourth full-time attorney, especially since the need for outside counsel fluctuates month-to-month.
City Manager Delgado praised both Davis and Sirianni and said he will talk with Davis about ways to build the legal team’s capacity to handle day-to-day work surrounding collective bargaining agreements.
A memorial to Lakeland Police Officer Paul Dunn placed near the spot on Lakeland Highlands Road where he died in a motorcycle crash on Jan. 9 was vandalized early Sunday, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. It’s been put back together but a few signs are missing, neighbors said.