The board that oversees the Citrus Connection is in a financial dispute with Polk County government that the transit system says could jeopardize its financial stability. The Lakeland Area Mass Transit District board is demanding that the county pay an overdue $382,000 bill within 15 days. County officials have withheld payment because they want the transit district to stop billing for its accrued pension liability under the state retirement system. While the head of the Citrus Connection says they’ll find a way to continue bus service to the county for now, the agency’s finance director says state and federal grants will be jeopardized without the matching funds.
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CARLSON/CONGRESS: Lakeland lawyer Kristen Carlson, who ran for the U.S. House last year, has endorsed fellow Democrat Adam Hattersley of Riverview in his bid to unseat Rep. Ross Spano, the Republican who won the seat she was vying for.
CALL CENTER JOBS: Sykes Enterprises Inc. is expanding its Lakeland customer-service call center and hiring an unspecified number of employees thought to be several hundred. Applications can be made in person at 1144 Griffin Road or online here.
With a new website to track bus delays (here) and a new call center (863-534-7300), Polk public schools reported average transportation delays of 30 minutes on Monday, the first day of classes, compared with two hours last year. Bus driver vacancies stand at 25 compared with 70 at this time last year.
BROADBAND: If the city of Lakeland pushes ahead with plans for a broadband utility, it may face obstacles erected in a 2005 state law. But the city may be able to circumvent the obstacles because it obtained a state certificate to provide communication services in 1994.
ABORTION CLINIC: In the face of protesters hoping to deter potential patients at Lakeland’s only abortion clinic, supporters of abortion rights are volunteering to escort patients in and shield them from the protesters.
BONNET SPRINGS: In coming months, the promoters of Bonnet Springs Park will solicit bids from vendors to operate a fine-dining restaurant, catering at an events venue, a cafe and other food concessions.
Now that the story of the Lakeland couple who took their engagement photos at Publix has gone viral — Fox News picked it up yesterday — the Tampa Bay Times has gotten the story behind the pictures. Alexandra Darch and Dylan Smith were hoping for bucolic, sunset photos at Circle B Bar Reserve, but a rainstorm washed out those plans. Photographer Jennifer Goodlet suggested a backup plan — a late-evening shoot at Oakbridge Publix, where the couple met — and all are thrilled with the results.
“You just have to look at what has happened at the Lakeland Ledger to see how GateHouse runs its company.” So said FSU communications professor Jennifer Proffitt in a Tampa Bay Times article about the likely effects of the planned merger between Ledger owner GateHouse Media and Gannett.
After GateHouse purchases Gannett, 20 daily newspapers in Florida will fall under the same owner, and only five will remain in the hands of three other owners. Reporter Rick Danielson cites a reduction in Ledger news staff from 99 to 15 since 1999, resulting in “a newspaper where aggressive corporate cost-cutting has undermined the ability of reporters on the ground to report on the public’s business and to hold those in power to account.” Read more
The city of Lakeland had hoped to finish a project disrupting traffic on Cleveland Heights Boulevard before the start of classes Monday at nearby Carlton Palmore Elementary School. But officials said today that recent rains have delayed completion of the project by about two weeks. More
Under the headline, “Is Lakeland Florida’s next hip food city? It sure seems like it,” Tampa Bay Times Food and Lifestyle Editor Michelle Stark takes a culinary tour of Lakeland.
Her tourguide was Maggie Leach, kitchen director at the Catapult small-biz incubator, so the tour leans heavily on Catapult friends and alumni. Featured eateries include soon-to-open spots such as The Joinery food hall, Yard on Mass food truck park and Honeycomb Bread Bakers downtown bistro. Established restaurants Stark visited established restaurants including Cafe Zuppina, Black & Brew and Born and Bread Bakehouse.
Also mentioned: The Poor Porker, Concord Coffee, Cob & Pen, Stuffed, No Guilt Baked Company, Cravory Cakes & Convections, A Cow Named Moo, and Patriot Coffee Roasters.
HOUSING: The first phase of the Lakeland Housing Authority’s Twin Lakes Estates at Lake Beulah, whose 100 affordable apartments for seniors were filled within 31 days, was shown to the public Tuesday. The second phase, open to applicants 18 and older, is expected to begin construction by the end of the year; applications will likely open next summer | Lakeland Housing Authority
CHARTER: Lakeland’s November election ballot will include three proposals to change the City Charter, including one that reduces the barriers to selling Lakeland Electric. City commissioners approved the ballot wording Monday | Preview the ballot language
DIGARC: To accommodate employee growth from 30 to 100 since 2009, education software makers DIGARC has moved into new offices at 3111 W. Pipkin Road and celebrates its grand opening from from 9 to 11 a.m. today | Company website
IRBY: A court hearing on the mutual motions for injunction by Joseph Irby and Courtney Taylor Irby, originally scheduled for last week, has been postponed until Oct. 25.