- As Tony Delgado begins his first real day on the job as interim city manager facing a contentious budget hearing (6 p.m. today at City Hall), reporter Christopher Guinn looks at his “customer service-centric” approach in a 2,200-word profile, and an editorial declares “he has the foresight to elevate Lakeland to new heights.”
- At Southeastern University, Thursday’s dedication of a choral rehearsal hall marks a new phase of an ambitious building boom that will include a larger arts and media facility, administration and athletic operations building, student activity center and a parking garage.
- Two young women who make a difference are profiled: Mandy Fulton was named a Polk Emerging Leader for her work as a United Way fund raiser and as a volunteer; Lakeland native Ashlee Wright thought she was going to be an attorney but joined the family business (parents Clint and Debra Wright were well-known educators) and founded New Beginnings High School.
- Polk County once had eight fire towers; there are four now, and only the one along U.S. 98 north of Lakeland seems sturdy enough to remain in use much longer, Suzie Schottelkotte reports.
- On Doug Thomas’ last day as city manager, a Ledger editorial reviews some accomplishments and blunders, and concludes he’s leaving Lakeland a better city than he found it when he came 12 years ago.
- Local magicians compare tricks and one-up each other in monthly meetings that rotate among Lakeland restaurants.
- Florida Poly President Randy Avent got a superlative performance review, a 3.5 percent raise to $398k and a $77k bonus.
- Firefighters will get a heroic statue outside the downtown fire station in time for the Lakeland department’s 100th birthday.
- Texas Cattle Company gets 4 stars for food and service (3 for ambience).
- Local businesses kicked in $1.8 million to help the Lakeland Economic Development Council attract and retain young professionals. LEDC plans to devote staff to local college outreach, internships and talent recruitment.
- Lakeland Electric bills will see a $1-per-1,000-kilowatt-hour decrease even as the utility steps up savings in a reserve fund meant to guard against future fuel-price volatility.
- Low-income military veterans can get help with home repairs through a program sponsored by Habitat for Humanity and Home Depot.
TIGERTOWN: Despite escalating costs, delays and concerns about project leadership detailed in a 2,800-word Ledger investigative piece, city officials insist the renovation of Joker Marchant Stadium will be finished on time
RESTAURANTS: Marcos Fernandez, former chief chef at the Lakeland Yacht & Country Club, is opening a gourmet restaurant on South Florida Avenue emphasizing upscale gastronomy. It replaces Butterfly Bistro, whose owner has taken a new job and plans to stage pop-up dinners around town.
- When the City Commission approved a .9-mill increase in property taxes last night, Don Selvage joined a five-member “supermajority.” But he made it clear he might not provide the needed fifth vote when the commission takes a final vote on the budget Sept. 15.
- Coffee aficionados are paying $5-7 a cup for the big taste of cold-brewed “nitro” coffee poured from a tap, the latest offering at local java spots like Concord, Mitchell’s and The Poor Porker. Mitchell’s Mitch Harvey likens the rich, thick brew to a pour of Guinness “without the need to get a ride home.”
- A $10 million renovation of Lakeland Automall opened Tuesday. The business received a $150,000 city Community Redevelopment grant for revitalizing the West Memorial Boulevard gateway area.
- The owner of a nightclub that booked a rapper known for violence says he was shocked that Kevin Gates kicked a woman from the stage and knocked her unconscious. Video of the incident surfaced on tabloids and went viral.
- Southeastern University’s record enrollment of 4,500 is almost halfway to its audacious goal of 10,000 students in five years.
- Citing a time crunch and frustration over budget decisions, City Commissioner Keith Merritt says he won’t seek re-election. His parting hope: a working wage for city commissioners so that more working-class people will be attracted to the job.
City government reporter Christopher Guinn had two intresting reads today:
Tigertown: A combination of design changes and poor soil has ramped the cost of renovating Joker Marchant Stadium, and the City Commission will be asked to up its contribution to the now-$40.8 million project from $2.4 million to $6.2 million.
Cleveland Heights: Frescos Bistro and Bakery, the only bidder, has reached an agreement to take over the bar and restaurant at the Cleveland Heights Golf Course. The eatery’s owners propose a rent starting at $4,000 a month instead of the revenue-share deal the city has with the current concessionaire.