Michael Dunn’s resignation, effective immediately, means Gov. Scott won’t have to take steps to remove him from the Lakeland City Commission less than a year after being elected. City commissioners on Friday will discuss next steps on appointing a replacement and holding a subsequent special election. Also today, Dunn had a second appearance before a judge — this time accompanied by his lawyer. Bond is still denied after he was charged Friday with second-degree murder in the death of a shoplifter at his store.
An audience of Morgan Creek Preserve homeowners cheered Monday afternoon when the Lakeland city attorney explained the significance of city commissioners’ tie vote: The developer may not proceed with a plan to move a scenic retention pond so eight more houses could be built.
A clash between the developer and residents of a gated community near Lakeland Linder Airport appears to be a straightforward case but it’s not: Morgan Creek Preserve homeowners want to stop Landstar Lakeland from moving a portion of a visually appealing stormwater retention pond to make room for eight houses.
Highlights of tonight’s Lakeland City Commission budget hearing:
- Commissioners unanimously approved a $612 million 2019 budget as recommended by their staff.
- They granted a small reduction in the property tax rate. Compared with the current rate, the 2019 rate of 5.4644 mills will save property owners a dime for every $1,000 of taxable property, or a $10 saving for somebody paying taxes on a $100,000 property.
- No funding was approved — for now — for a proposed $195,000 initiative to reduce homelessness that was recommended by a 23-member steering committee and championed by Mayor Bill Mutz. The vote was 4-3, with Commissioners Justin Troller and Phillip Walker joining Mutz in support of the homelessness plan.
- Commissioners are supplementing the city general fund with a $300,000 “infusion” from a reserve of about $2.5 million collected through red light camera fines. Under projections used by the city Finance Department, that infusion will allow the city to show a 45-day cash reserve in the 2021 budget, a figure administrators say is needed to continue high scores from bond-rating agencies.
When city commissioners changed their twice-a-month meeting time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., they said they hoped the late-in-the-day start would encourage more citizen participation. With only two meetings held at the new time, it’s too early to draw any conclusions, but so far nobody has taken advantage of the public speaking time near the end of the meeting.
It didn’t help that the audience participation part of the meeting came at 4:37 p.m. today and 5:03 p.m. two weeks ago — inopportune times for somebody who wants to come to the meeting after a typical 9-to-5 work day.
What goes up can also come down. You might remember that city commissioners raised the base rate for Lakeland Electric customers last month. On Tuesday, they reduced the fuel charge for October through December. Bottom line: The “typical” residential customer using 1,000 kWh a month will see a 50-cent reduction in the electric portion of their monthly utility bill.
Mayor Bill Mutz is convinced that four steps recommended by a local steering committee will significantly reduce homelessness in Lakeland. On Friday morning, he tried to convince his colleagues on the City Commission that the plan needs the city’s financial backing, but several of them questioned whether government should take the lead on the homeless issue.
Mark Farrington, hired by the city of Lakeland as human resources and civil service director in 2014 after his predecessor left under a cloud, is on paid administrative leave pending the results of an internal investigation, City Manager Tony Delgado acknowledged. It’s “mostly aimed at managerial responsibilities and managerial style, but I can’t go into detail on that with the investigation going on,” Delgado said.