UPDATE: If you’re going to Lakeland City Hall to meet with an individual, plan to arrive a few minutes early. New security measures that take effect April 30 will require visitors to sign in, receive a visitor pass and wait for an escort for individual meetings. No check-in or escort will be required to attend public meetings.
“It was not easy. I mean the lake had two to three feet of mud in it. He was dead weight,” said Jonathan Turbeville. The Lakeland Water Utilities worker was honored for heroism in going into Lake Parker to rescue a man struggling 30 feet from shore.
Neil Combee of Polk City, who recently resigned from the Florida House of Representatives to take a federal agriculture position, has announced he is running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Dennis Ross. Other announced candidates for the GOP nomination include Loretta Miller of Clermont, Danny Kushmer of Brandon, Ed Shoemaker of Lakeland and Florida Rep. Ross Spano of Dover.
Parking lots at parks and gyms are being hit more often by thieves, Sheriff Grady Judd says. It’s not enough to hide your stuff in your car because burglars know what to look for, he says, adding: “It’s got to be locked in the trunk and out of sight.”
NEW LVIM/NEW SCHOOL: In a deal that Barney Barnett called a “win-win,” Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine is planning to sell its current property at the former John Cox Elementary School to Academy Preparatory Center, a school for promising, disadvantaged youth, and apply the proceeds toward a larger, modern campus on the northwest side of Lake Wire.
FLEETWING: The lawyer for Fleetwing Corp. has been accused of stalling tactics in a breach-of-contract lawsuit filed against the company by its former president.
Jonathan Turbeville, a technician with Lakeland Water Utilities, was recognized for heroism at this morning’s City Commission meeting. After a city crew spotted a man struggling in Lake Parker on March 27, Turbeville ran into the lake and pulled the man out, according to city water chief Robert Connor, right, who presented the award. Recognizing that the man was suffering from hypothermia, Turbeville found warm clothes and assisted police and emergency medical responders, Connor said, adding, “His actions were prompt, decisive and selfless to help someone who was clearly in crisis.” #lkld #heroism
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ALSO: Ledger coverage
Sixty percent of Lakeland Electric’s residential customers are subsidizing the other 40 percent, a member of the city’s Utility Committee contends. Those 60 percent are the customers who live outside city limits, and Joe Childs, their one official representative on the 13-member committee, pushed unsuccessfully for a plan to bring more equity in billing when the committee met today.
Updating Thursday’s post about which local Republicans will be running for the local U.S. House seat now that incumbent Dennis Ross has announced he’s not seeing re-election: State Sen. Kelli Stargel of Lakeland and state Rep. Ben Albritton of Wauchula say they’re not running, but former state Rep. Neil Combee of Polk City hints on Facebook he might run.
SPRING TRAINING: The Detroit Tigers saw the biggest decline in attendance among Grapefruit League teams this year. Polk tourism officials attribute the drop to the vagaries of scheduling: The most-anticipated games were too early in the season for Michigan spring breakers to catch.
ALCOHOL SALES: County commissioners on Tuesday are expected to support a land-use change that would allow alcohol sales close to churches that choose to locate in a commercial zone. In one example, a business that moves into the vacant Louie Macks building on South Florida Avenue could serve booze even though Word-Up Ministries plans to build nearby.
FATALITY: Odlanyer Rodriguez, 21, of Lakeland, died Friday when his Suzuki motorcycle was struck by a Ford F350 on U.S. 98 near the Interstate 4 overpass.
International Aero Academy in Lakeland fills the need to quickly replace the diminishing number of professional pilots as retirements thin their ranks, Flying magazine reports.
The Business Observer catches up with Lea Williams, who took her Got Candy & More from a downtown Lakeland storefront to a food truck. Williams says she values the flexibility of being able to take her home-made products to the customer and focusing on labor and material instead of rent and utilities. Her first stop will be at Swan Brewing on April 22.
SCHOOL SAFETY: To comply with a law requiring armed safety personnel in all public schools, Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd proposed placing specialists in elementary schools who are neither educators nor sworn officers.
KICKING INCIDENT: Sheriff Judd weighs in on the widely circulated videos of Lakeland police officers using force to subdue a homeless man resisting arrest: “If you fight with police officers, they’re going to fight back. They’ve got to, and it’s not their choice to use force, it’s your choice by resisting.”
FLEETWING: The judge in the Fleetwing trial joked with the company’s lawyer during a break about the free-wheeling spending discussed during the trial. The lawyer then formally asked the judge to remove himself from the trial. His response: Not gonna do it.
Some music notes, followed — as usual — by the weekly calendar: Two original members of Heart (no, their names aren’t Wilson) play tribute to their former band’s hits at RP Funding tonight. Michael Allman, son of Gregg, returns to the Music Ranch Saturday. LkldLive, which is drawing crowds to its classic rock tribute shows, is stepping into grunge/metal Saturday with an Alice in Chains retrospective by the local band Kalus. And finally, we’re impressed that our calendar lists the hard-working Patty Kenoly four times in the next three days. Places and times below:
Dennis Ross’ surprise announcement that he’s not seeking re-election opens speculation about which Republicans will decide to seek their party’s nomination for the District 15 seat.
UPDATE: Lakeland police say their preliminary review of an incident of officers restraining and kicking a homeless man showed the officers “were justified in their response and acted within our Use Of Force policy.”
The Lakeland Police Department released its own description late last night and said the two officers’ use of force is under administrative review. A noon update today said the administrative review continues but that preliminary findings show the use fo force was justified.
Today’s update said: “Both officers used various physical tactics, including strikes to the upper torso, in an attempt to gain control of John Abbott and take him into custody. Abbott was not kicked in the head. As Officer West gave an audible warning that he was deploying his Tazer, Officer Anthony stepped back to ensure he would be clear of the Tazer effects. When the Tazer failed to stop Abbott, Abbott grabbed the device from Officer West. Officer Anthony then kicked Abbott in the upper torso in an effort to make Abbott to release the weapon.”
“When you try to take somebody into custody and they react violently, you need to take appropriate action,” Chief Larry Giddens told The Ledger today.
A police spokesman told The Ledger last night that what looked to some like a running kick to the head was really a kick to the suspect’s arm.
SCHOOL SECURITY: Polk’s schools superintendent proposes placing armed guards in schools as opposed to increasing the number of more costly sworn officers or deputizing school employees as “guardians.”
FLEETWING: In the second day of trial in a lawsuit over back pay for a fired Fleetwing Corp. president, members of the family that ran the company described using company profits for lavish personal spending.
EMBEZZLEMENT: A woman accused of embezzling $200k from her husband’s company, Engineered Energy Equipment of Lakeland, was sentenced to 10 years probation under a plea deal. The now-estranged husband and others protested that the sentence was too light, but prosecutors said it’s unclear whether others were complicit in Julie Thompson Warren’s spending.
Despite record sales before the start of the annual Fly-In, the cancellation of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds’ appearances this weekend could dampen on-site sales. That left organizers working to find other air shows, and Sun ‘n Fun President John “Lites” Leenhouts told AVweb the Department of Defense may send a team including an F-16 Viper and an F-35 Lightning II.
William Dread will be accompanied by a 17-year-old student who befriended him (and found an apartment for him) on the honor flight leaving Lakeland Linder Airport Wednesday morning for a visit to Washington, D.C., with other veterans.
Michael Maguire analyzes spending in last year’s city of Lakeland elections in his blog, The City Zen Ship, and concludes that money didn’t always dictate the outcome. If money had been the deciding factor, he notes, Jorge Fonseca would have been in a runoff with Larry Durrence for the southwest seat on the City Commission instead of Michael Dunn. Instead, Dunn made it into the runoff and, with a supercharged fund-raising effort in the final sprint, was able to get elected.
David Ricketts claims he was unjustly fired three years ago.
Land clearing is expected to start in July on the project on the north side of Lakeland Linder Airport. The $13 million cost to prepare the site is being split between the city and the Florida Department of Transportation.
With a 4/20 opening, the microbrewery at Pine Street and Lake Wire Drive spreads the growing downtown entertainment district to the west side of Florida Avenue.
FACEBOOK: Get info on Swan Brewing’s grand opening and upcoming entertainment there
U.S. HOUSE: Andrew Learned leads in fund-raising among the five Democrats vying for their party’s nomination for the seat in Congress that represents most of Lakeland. He has collected $64k and says his next report will show him at more than $100k. Republican incumbent Dennis Ross has amassed $662 | View contributions
TRIATHLETE: Bob English, 79, has ambitious plans for Sunday: biking 56 miles, swimming 1.2 miles and running 13.1 miles. The Lakeland resident and former Polk County commissioner will be the oldest competitor in the Ironman 70.3 Florida | Event website
TWO OFFICERS: A circuit judge declined to issue a domestic violence injunction in a case involving a Lakeland Police detective and lieutenant.
POLICE BEAT: Michael Robert Guthridge, 31, died of gunshot wounds early Friday outside an apartment south of Crystal Lake | Willard Miller, 69, of Snowy Plover Drive in Lakeland, died when his three-wheeled mobility scooter suddenly accelerated across US 98 North near Thomas Road and was hit by a vehicle Friday evening.
FIRE ARREST: A 62-year-old man was charged with setting a fire that destroyed a north Lakeland house, displacing him and 11 other people. The article includes raw video of the fire, showing interactions between deputies and the man they arrested, and ends with a heart-wrenching quote from the daughter of the home-owner: “My mom gave Charles a place to live because he was living in the woods. She opened her doors to help homeless people and she is now homeless.”
NO DEBATE: Josie Tomkow, the 22-year-old Republican nominee for a Florida House seat, pulled out of the only debate scheduled prior to the May 1 election. Democratic opponent Ricky Shirah, 64, was disappointed: “Anybody that asks me to meet her, any time I will sit down and meet with her.”
NO THUNDERBIRDS: (UPDATE) The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds have cancelled their April 14-15 appearances at the Sun’n Fun Fly-In following the death of a pilot during a training flight, and Fly-In organizers are looking for another military aircraft demonstration.
PASSENGER FLIGHTS: The director of Lakeland Linder Airport is telling airlines that the 4,300 local residents who fly in and out of Orlando and Tampa daily proves that Lakeland is ready for passenger service. He and City Manager Tony Delgado are asking city commissioners to consider offering airlines a revenue guarantee as an incentive.
✓ Country: David Lee Murphy visits Wild Greg’s Saloon on 98 North for a WPCV listener appreciation concert.
✓ Classic rock: Remember The Eagles at a LkldLive tribute show tonight.
✓ Chamber: On Friday morning, the ISO’s chamber ensemble plays the penultimate concert in Midday Meditations’ 2017-18 season.
✓ Classics for Kids: The popular ISO Cookie Concert Saturday afternoon includes a petting zoo and a QA with piano prodigy Jacob Velazquez.
✓ New Orleans Brass/Party: The Dirty River Bourbon Show rocks LkldLive Sunday in a benefit for Play It Forward Polk.
DOWNTOWN PARKING: The city is collaborating with several large downtown employers to build a 730-space parking garage atop the surface lot east of Heritage Plaza. The city expects to pay roughly half the estimated $10M-$12M costs and get about 300 of the spaces in the garage north of Orange Street and east of Tennessee Avenue.
FLPOLYCON: A science fiction fest that started as a student-only event at Florida Poly in 2014 has opened to the public and is expected to attract 1,000 people Saturday.
MONUMENT MOVE: After the city manager recommended two places to relocate Lakeland’s Confederate monument and city commissioners heard from Southern heritage activists who want it to stay in Munn Park, The Ledger’s editorialist reiterates his position that the Veterans Park option provides “the most appropriate fit.“
PARK EXPANSION: Lake Crago Park off Lakeland Hills Boulevard, now home to a dog park and boat ramp, is getting a boating center for rentals, storage and instruction in using canoes and kayaks. Work scheduled to start Oct. 1 also includes six ballfields. The announcement was part of an update on several park initiatives given to city commissioners during a planning retreat.
RIP: Harold Lehman, 86, who owned Jimbo’s Pit Bar-B-Q since 1964, died Tuesday at his home of complications from kidney disease.
Deputies went into a burning house on Daughtery Road in north Lakeland to remove a man who refused their orders to come out after allegedly threatening a woman with a knife. Charles Wayne, 62, was charged with resisting arrest and is being questioned by the state fire marshal about the 11 a.m. fire. One of the deputies was hospitalized overnight for treatment of smoke inhalation after he went into the house again to rescue a puppy. None of the 12 occupants of the house were injured.
Matt Parziale became a firefighter in Brockton, Mass., in 2014, partly because the job would give him time to work on his golf game. He earned three All-American honors and an individual championship when he golfed at Southeastern University from 2006 to 2009. He qualified for the Masters by winning the U.S Mid-Amateur Championship last October.
ALSO: Parziale’s SEU coach and a roommate/teammate tell ESPN about his college days.
A 27-year-old man from Honduras was arrested in Miami and charged with several grand theft charges. The urn containing the ashes of retired Lakeland Police Officer Buddy Newsome was returned to his widow, also a retired LPD Officer.
The city has big plans for Lake Crago Park off Lakeland Hills Boulevard. Now there’s a dog park, restroom, boat ramp. Coming: 3 soccer fields, 3 baseball fields, outdoor center with canoe/kayak rental/storage. Park offers access to seven lakes. Groundbreaking: Oct. 1 #lkld pic.twitter.com/mC4Yll7sJR
— lkld now (@lkldnow) April 4, 2018
City commissioners are preparing for the 2019 fiscal year in a two-day planning retreat that ends today in the Hollingsworth Room of the RP Funding Center. (Agenda | Watch it live beginning at 8:15 a.m. | Download the staff presentations for Tuesday and today.)
Tuesday’s topics included the results of a citizen’s survey, efficiency, the local economy and downtown development. Today’s topics include quality of life, growth management and economic opportunity. Here are some of Tuesday’s highlights posted to social media:
DOWNTOWN: During the first day of a two-day City Commission planning retreat, the Lakeland Economic Development Council’s Steve Scruggs presented some ideas for how 10 surface lots in downtown Lakeland might be developed into residential and commercial uses. (See his slideshow). He’s been working with the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Authority’s Nicole Travis, who presents her downtown recommendations to commissioners Wednesday in the second day of their retreat | Watch the retreat live starting at 8:15 a.m.
DRUG HOUSES: LPD is boarding up an apartment at 1012 N. Texas Ave. and a home at 315 Emma St. today after a city board found them to be public nuisances because of drug activity.
DOG ATTACK: A 3-year-old Lakeland girl is recovering at Tampa General Hospital after being bitten by a dog outside her family’s house on Sunday afternoon.
MARIEL BOOK, DOCUMENTARY: Florida Southern College prof Jose Manuel Garcia, whose new oral history of the Mariel boatlift is getting national attention, will sign copies of the book at the Polk Museum of Art Thursday at 6 p.m. The documentary “Voices from Mariel,” which is based on his work, will screen at 7.
Lakeland Electric General Manager Joel Ivy said the city would get “more bang for the buck” with the used turbine and its $26 million installation cost over repairing McIntosh Unit 2 or buying power from other utilities for peak demand times. The vote was 5-2, with Commissioners Dunn and Troller dissenting.
A candy-and-sweets shop is leaving its brick-and-mortar home downtown for life on the road as a food truck. The storefront at 115 S. Kentucky Ave. where Got Candy and More has operated since 2011 will become home to a cake-decorate business, according to a news release issued today.
Changes planned for the intersection of Ingraham Avenue and Lake Hollingsworth Drive include a continuous-flow bike lane and elimination of one of the cross-walks across the lakeside roadway.
Deputies are asking the public’s help finding the person driving a white minivan who they say burglarized three homes in south Lakeland and took an urn containing the cremated remains of retired Lakeland Police Officer Buddy Newsome.
LPD HQ: City commissioners are being asked to award Miller Construction a $930k contract to renovate the interior of the Lakeland Police Department’s headquarters on Massachusetts Avenue. The space is being reconfigured to accommodate a workforce that has grown from 287 to 356 since the building opened in 1993. The project also calls for $530k in new equipment.
JUDD THREATENED?: Deputies say the president of Fleetwing Corp. threatened to shoot Sheriff Grady Judd as he was being taken into custody in connection with a domestic incident. The executive later told a deputy that he didn’t remember what he said because alcohol was involved but that he wouldn’t have said something like that even when drunk. His attorney said it’s all a misunderstanding.
Lakeland police are writing speeding tickets on South Florida Avenue in Dixieland this morning, and detectives with the Florida Bureau of Insurance Fraud are checking the stopped drivers for faked auto insurance cards. LPD public information officer Gary Gross explains in a Facebook livestream.
Brian Sutherland, who packed up his guitar and cello and moved with the lovely Holly Sutherland to Nashville, joins Dan Signor for three Florida dates, including a gig at Patio 850 tonight | Check a video of Dan and Brian from 2016.
Reporter Kimberly C. Moore chats with two business owners who graduated from the Downtown Farmers Curb Market to brick-and-mortar locations: Delta Ryan, whose Take Heart non-profit is opening a shop for fair-trade crafts on North Kentucky Avenue in the next few weeks, and Stacy Tabb, who co-owns Boondock Studios, which offers leather goods, artwork and art classes on Florida Avenue downtown. Other businesses with a physical location that started at the market: Swan Brewing, opening April 20 on Lake Wire, Born & Bread Bakehouse, 801 E. Main/The Poor Porker and Scout and Tag.
ALSO IN THE MORNING PAPER:
The 120 WestLake public housing apartments southwest of the RP Funding Center will be demolished to make way for the 320-unit Twin Lakes Estates. But first housing needs to be found for the remaining residents of the existing units.
Visitors to the new Dog Leg Woods on Cleveland Heights Boulevard said thieves broke into their vehicles and in some cases smashed windows. Police advise people to keep valuables out of plain sight.
ELSEWHERE: Lakeland police arrested a 15-year-old and are seeking another suspect in car burglaries that took place at Autumnwood Village Apartments, 1776 Harden Blvd. about 6 a.m. Sunday, The Ledger reports.
If interested, drop me an email at email@example.com and let me know what topics you’re interested in covering. Writing samples are always helpful.
NO FUNDS: Gov. Rick Scott has vetoed $800k that the city of Lakeland had anticipated to add boardwalks and other improvements at its soon-to-open Se7en Wetlands hiking, birding and conservation area | Grand-opening info
NO DIRECTOR: The city is still searching for a community development director to replace Jim Studiale, who retired in October. City Manager Tony Delgado has sought a new round of applicants in his quest to find a director with economic development experience.. So far, 64 of 136 applicants meet the minimum requirements.
Chris Sexson talks with podcast host Bump Galletta about his road from punk rocker to magazine publisher and the principles that guide him and his publications: support of local business and a drive to show others how to live in the moment.
On the eve of fatherhood, Chase Wagner talks with podcast host Bump Galletta about the musical journey that led him from Seattle to Southeastern University to Grace City Church, where he’s creative team leader.
SCHOOL VOTE: In preparation for November’s referendum on a half-cent sales tax for school construction, the Morning Paper looks at public school building needs and high teacher turnover.
NEVER AGAIN: Students and supporters rally in Munn Park for an end to gun violence in schools. Said one 15-year-old speaker: “We are the generation that learned how to hide in closets and how to throw textbooks and how to gouge out eyes like grapes before we learned to multiply. … To us, it makes no sense that nothing significant has been done.” | Facebook gallery: Some of the signs
BUS DOLLARS: A decision by the City Commission involving transportation funding could lead to cuts in service along Lakeland Hills Boulevard, the director of the Citrus Connection says.
LINEMEN: Three Lakeland High School students won Platform Art’s competition to design a sculpture that will honor electric lineman on the Lake Mirror side of the Lakeland Electric building.
- Opera comes to Florida Southern Saturday as Mark Thomsen directs Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Gondoliers.”
- I don’t know much about Gurf Morlix (videos) except that he has an odd name, he’s produced and played on some of Americana’s finest, I’ve heard Lucinda utter his name, and he’s playing an Among Friends Music house concert Sunday night.
- The Munn Park Saints return to their namesake park at lunchtime Monday as a trio. Violinist Christine Collister has joined the group, formerly a guitar-mandolin duo. (Hey, Christine, if you’re playing folk/acoustic music instead of classical, do you become a fiddler?)
GOVERNOR: Rick Scott came to Lakeland Wednesday to support Florida Baptist Children’s Home’s One More Child anti-trafficking program (website), formerly called The Porch Light, and to praise legislators Kelli Stargel and Colleen Burton for their efforts to secure the program $200,000 in next year’s state budget — the same level as this year’s funding.
EARLY LEARNING CENTER: Former CEO Gilbert Rincon would resign his position May 1 while continuing to earn his salary as a consultant during a transition period and nearly $19k in severance, under a tentative agreement approved by the organization’s board Wednesday.
Florida’s recently passed “safe schools” budget calling for law enforcement agencies to hire a school resource officer for each public school doesn’t include enough money or recognize the difficulty of hiring and training sworn officers, Lakeland’s police chief and Polk’s sheriff say.
“The title timesup is really aprospos,” said Foley-Rothrock, whose organization’s annual fund-raiser is scheduled for March 31. “The time has come. Society is ready. It’s time for change. It’s long past due. The social pressure is building. It can’t be just about wearing black dresses and pins. How do we harness the energy? Now, what are we really going to do about it?”
Posted on social media by the Polk County School Board: “Please be advised that weather forecasts for this afternoon show stormy conditions and other possible severe weather could impact Polk County, as well as other surrounding counties. As a result, all afterschool activities and sporting events for Polk County Public Schools have been canceled for this afternoon.”
And a companion article at the same link: Ty Cobb may be the greatest Tiger ever, but fans hold special reverence for Al Kaline, the player whose name appears on the street entering Tigertown.
City commissioners said red-light cameras improve safety by changing driver behavior as they voted 6-1 to extend the city’s contract with camera provider American Traffic Solution of Arizona for five years. Commissioner Michael Dunn dissented. | The contract | Data map: yearly collisions at red-light camera intersections
RED-LIGHT CAMERAS: Lakeland’s police chief is asking city commissioners to renew the city’s contract for red-light cameras at key intersections, but one commissioner questions whether the cameras should remain and another seeks changes | The proposed contract | Background via The City Zen Ship
VETERAN HOUSING: Habitat for Humanity announced a plan to use donated land near Mulberry to build tiny houses where low-income military veterans could live rent-free.
PUBLIX CHIEF: The CEO of Publix Super Markets received a 28 percent increase in compensation to nearly $2.5 million in 2017, the first full year after he was promoted from president, according to SEC filings.
#TBT It's strawberry time! Lakeland's long history with this juicy fruit includes cultivation and transportation. Marketing with crate labels served to draw attention to not only the product but to the place as well. This label, featuring the beautiful Lake Mirror Promenade and Civic Center, helped to promote the City of Lakeland. . . . #Strawberries #throwbackthursday #cratelabels #lakemirror #promenade #vintageadvertisement #vintageart #vintage #retroart #florida #Lakeland #civiccenter #transportation #LakelandHistory #SpecialCollections #LakelandHistoryRoom
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When built in the 1920s, the Lake Mirror loggia and promenade were known as the Civic Center.
- Jazz on the Lawn at Southeastern University at 7:30 tonight features the school’s jazz ensemble and coincides with the SEU Forum leadership speaker event. Gather on the lawn near the new Buena Vida complex on the northern part of the campus.
- The U.S. Army’s Six-String Soldiers perform Americana, folk, bluegrass and Irish music with the Imperial Symphony Orchestra in a pops concert 8 p.m. Friday at the Lake Mirror Amphitheater.
- Ensembles from Polk public schools play from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Munn Park; the schedule highlights jazz.
- Hear acoustic music on the Kentucky Avenue side of Munn Park the next two Mondays from 11:39 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the March Music Munndays series. Next up: Patty Kenoly and Anisette Mayer. On March 26: Munn Park Saints come home.
WALKOUT: Reporter John Chambliss checks in on some of yesterday’s student walkouts at Polk schools to protest gun violence in solidarity with the students at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
SOCIAL JUSTICE: Mayor Bill Mutz pledged the city’s cooperation implementing the help-for-the-homeless goals of the Polk Ecumenical Action Coalition for Empowerment. Meanwhile, the organization asked its members to urge county commissioners to support its mental health goals and Police Chief Larry Giddens to place more more young first offenders in non-judicial diversion programs. Check video from the event here, here, here and here.
R.I.P: Dolores Brundidge, a Lakeland native who became the founding principal of Rochelle School of the Arts, has died at age 83. Read her family-placed obituary.
CIAO BELLA: Restaurant critic Eric Pera gives the family-owned pasta-and-pizza place on Socrum Loop Road 3 1/2 stars and heaps praise on the desserts and reasonable prices.
The 605,412-square-foot facility was built last year in the CenterState Logistics Park on State Road 33 north of I-4 (map) as the area’s largest speculative warehouse. It is fully leased to a company that distributes Gatorade products. Seller: Brennan Investment Group and Greenfield Partners. Buyer: Griffin Capital Essential Asset REIT Inc. of Los Angeles.
Students claim administrators at McKeel Academy of Technology prevented students from holding a solidarity-with-Parkland rally at 10 a.m. today as other schools around the nation did and instead held a fire drill. School officials have not responded to requests for comment. ABC Action News reports students had been threatened with detention if they participated in a walkout and quotes students who speculate the fire alarm was created as a cover when administrators realized they had made a mistake and that a crowd outside the school would look good for the cameras on TV station helicopters in the area.
YOUTUBE: View the entire discussion at today’s School Board work session, starting at 1:20:50.
Steven G. Achinger, a nephrologist at Watson Clinic since 2009, has been named the organization’s managing partner. Achinger, 45, replaces Dr. Luis Saco, who resigned in December from the position that oversees management and business strategy for the 220-member physician group.
Bob Heist, 58, moves from executive editor of the Northwest Florida Daily News in Fort Walton Beach to editor of The Ledger. Both newspapers are part of the GateHouse chain. A journalist who has spent most of his career in sports departments (LinkedIn profile), Heist stood out among candidates because of his digital talents and “proven ability to build ‘newsrooms of the future’ ” Publisher Brian Burns said. He succeeds Lenore Devore, who resigned in January after nearly seven years as editor. The last time The Ledger hired a chief news executive from outside the newsroom was 1977, when Tim McGuire was hired away from the No. 2 spot at the Corpus Christi Caller Times. Subsequent chief editors (Will Corbin, Skip Perez and Devore) were promoted from within. Heist social media profiles: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
The Lakeland Fire Department put firefighter Peter Jason Martucci, 40, on paid administrative leave Monday. He was arrested by Pasco sheriff’s deputies Saturday night after a man claimed Martucci pointed a handgun at him during a road rage incident.
Susan Pourciau of the Tallahassee-based Florida Housing Coalition gave an update last week on the six months she’s spent in Lakeland and said the steering committee already includes Police Chief Larry Giddens and representatives from health care and philanthropic organizations.
A key paragraph: “Locating the store across the street from a traditional Publix is a bit of a head scratcher. But the new GreenWise location will operate mainly as a meal and quick-trip destination, holding wine and cheese tastings, and selling burrito bowls, Mediterranean pizza, sushi, smoked wings and craft beers. If it effectively complements the larger store, Publix could have an effective tool to expand customer penetration in existing markets, and to push into new ones, as well.”
CIRCLE B: Much of the popular Alligator Alley trail along the Lake Hancock shoreline at Polk County’s Circle B Bar nature reserve is still closed pending repairs of damage caused by Hurricane Irma.
HABITAT: A 39-year-old driver for Habitat for Humanity was gratified that he and his teen-age son get to move into the organization’s 25th local house.
OLIVO: Reporter Gary White catches up with Harrison Arts grad Karen Olivo, who remains pleased she left the glitter of Broadway and prime time TV for a life of domesticity, pottery and teaching drama in Madison, Wisc. — though she still travels to perform in high-visibility projects.
ALSO: Facebook photo gallery from City of Lakeland Parks & Recreation
LPD 1: No charges will be filed following a State Attorney’s Office investigation into allegations of domestic abuse involving two Lakeland Police Department officers.
LPD 2: Sgt. Terri Smith has filed a complaint with LPD alleging she has suffered from a hostile work environment because of her gender.
NRA/SCHOOLS: Junior ROTC programs in Polk County public schools received $33,000 from the National Rifle Association, according to an Associated Press article disclosing the NRA gave $7.3 million to hundreds of schools between 2010 and 2016. School Board member Billy Townsend said the air rifles purchased with the NRA funds served a legitimate educational purpose.
In a conversation with podcast host Bump Galletta, the head of Lakeland’s Community Redevelopment Agency talks about what motivates her (unsung projects that improve people’s lives), what frustrates her (politics, people who hide their criticisms) and what brings her joy (family and a collaborative staff).
GUNS/SCHOOLS: Both Lakeland-based state legislators voted for the gun/school safety bill that was sent to Gov. Scott this week, but expressed different levels of support. Sen. Kelli Stargel said she’s no fan of raising the age for buying guns from 18 to 21 or the three-day waiting period but also didn’t want to return home with no action taken. Fellow Republican Rep. Colleen Burton told reporters she had no reservations about supporting the bill.
CANADY: Lakeland native Charles Canady was selected by his peers to a two-year term as chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court.
AIRPORT: Kimberly C. Moore, the Morning Paper’s new City Hall reporter, gives an update on several improvements planned for Lakeland Linder Regional Airport and a renewed lease for Hallback’s Bar & Grill.
Nostalgia visits in many forms this weekend:
- LkldLive revives acoustic grunge Saturday night when it reprises last week’s sold-out “Nirvana: Unplugged and Revisited” show featuring the Gary Love Band. See photos and videos from last week’s show on Gary’s Facebook page.
- Lakeland Concert Band plays wistful memories of Ireland at their St. Patrick’s Day concert Sunday afternoon at Branscomb Auditorium.
- Marc Black revisits popular music of the 1950s and 60s in a sing-along house concert at Among Friends Music Sunday evening. For some flower power nostalgia, check out the 1967 single “Happy” from Marc’s band, The Blades of Grass; I’m hearing The Association, The Four Seasons and The Tremeloes; your mileage may vary.
RESIGNING: Gilbert Rincon has agreed to resign as CEO of Lakeland-based Early Learning Coalition of Polk County in the midst of an internal investigation into allegations including creating a toxic work environment.
News Channel 8 says it has heard from several parents who say Polk County schools ignore head lice issues. The one mom who went on camera says her son came home from Lakeland Highlands Middle School with lice three times. While the mother says the school told her they can do nothing about lice, school officials say they have no record of her calls and claim they require a doctor’s note or a head check for students returning after being sent home by the school.
In a YouTube message, Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd urges legislators to improve school superintendent in ways other than arming teachers: single-point-of-entry systems, metal detectors, fences and surveillance cameras.
— Spectrum Sports 360 (@SpecSports360) March 3, 2018
An arborist using high-tech tools to examine the Lovers Oak near Lake Morton revealed two findings about the endangered intertwined trees this morning: It’s three trees, not two, as popularly thought, and the trees are at least 150 years old.
Joe Samnik of Palm Harbor, who was hired by the city of Lakeland to inspect Lovers Oak, said it will be at least 30 days before he will finish analyzing the data he and his team are collecting this week and can advise the city on the future of the trees.
The city agreed to pay Samnik $3,300 for his work using infrared photography and other tools to assess the tree’s health. City officials had planned to remove the tree after one of its limb fell on a car passing underneath on Success Avenue. Outcry from residents who want to save the landmark oaks led to another expert opinion.
Also: Ledger coverage
Affordable housing is the likely option for houses and apartments on North Vermont Avenue that the city of Lakeland obtained after owners racked up thousands of dollars in code violations and unpaid fines. A look inside shows heaps of trash and used needles.
CHAMBER: A change in its legal status will make the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce eligible for grants aimed at attracting, retaining and training workers at local companies, the chamber’s director told city commissioners Monday.
ELECTRIC RATES: City commissioners approved a fuel-charge change that will increase power bills by $2 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours starting April 1.
La Imperial Bakery opened today at 830 E. Main Street under a bright yellow sign that marks the eastern approach to downtown Lakeland. Mayor Bill Mutz welcomed Executive Chef James Lazaros and Administrator Aida Lazaros during a ribbon-cutting ceremony this afternoon. The cafe/bakery is open 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. The menu features breakfast items, fritters, sandwiches and entrees.
Florida Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, said during floor debate Saturday: “When we say ‘thoughts and prayers,’ it’s frowned upon. And I take real offense at that because thoughts and prayers are really the only thing that’s gonna stop the evil from within the individual who is taking up their arms to do this kind of a massacre.” Read more on The Buzz, a Tampa Bay Times blog.
When a bus carrying the Nova High School girls basketball team pulled up for the state championship game at the RP Funding Center Saturday night, head coach Jason Hively said he was stunned when he saw somebody carrying a “big rifle” in the parking lot. A gun show was being held at the venue at the same time as the FHSAA finals. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Whatever your feeling is on the Second Amendment, I don’t think the two mesh here,” said Hively, whose school sits in the same county as the Parkland high school where a gunman killed 17 people last month.
The program has provided 132 hours of arms and law enforcement training to eight Southeastern University faculty members, who carry concealed weapons on campus. It has gotten national attention as proposals to arm more teachers are being debated following the Parkland school shootings.
The company’s hangar at Lakeland Linder Airport houses roughly 100 refurbished fighter jets used to simulate enemy aircraft in training exercises for U.S. military. The founder of Warbird News talks with retired Air Force Maj.Gen. H.D. “Jake” Polumbo, who heads business development for Draken, and he shares his photographs of Draken’s jets.
Joe Tedder takes to Facebook to discuss delays at the Tax Collector’s Office on Massachusetts Avenue in Lakeland:
- The underlying cause – more volume vs. a business model that restricts hiring.
- What’s being done – an anticipated employee lot will free up customer spaces; a new appointment-only system for driver licenses will reduce waits.
- What customers can do – use online and mail options when possible; ask legislators to share more of the fees with tax collectors.
PUBLIX: Sales were up at Publix Super Markets last year, and so is the stock price. Here are some numbers released Thursday: yearly sales up 13.1 percent over 2016 to $34.6 billion .. stock price up 12.3 percent to $41.40 … same store sales up 1.7 percent for the year and 3.2 percent for the quarter … fourth-quarter sales down 2.1 percent to $8.9 billion, but the company notes sales would have been up 5 percent if not compared with an extra week in 2016.
SCHOOL BOARD: The race for the seat being vacated by Hazel Sellers has a fifth candidate: Justin Martin, 35, dean of academies and acceleration at Bartow High School, its IB program and Summerlin Academy.
SENTENCED: Dustin Halstead, 25, of Lakeland, was sentenced to 11 years in state prison after being found guilty in a post-midnight hit-and-run accident that killed a road construction worker. The prosecutor said he had been bar-hopping that night.
Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for long-distance musical journeys this weekend. Destinations include:
- London, Berlin, New York and outer space when local musicians pay tribute to David Bowie at tonight’s Starman concert at LkldLive. One question: Who will wear Alladin Sane’s makeup?
- The Emerald Isle when the telegenic lasses of Celtic Woman kicks off their North American tour at the RP Funding Center tonight. | Watch videos.
- Nineteenth Century Vienna with a detour to 1990s Oxfordshire on Friday when Steve Hackman conducts the Imperial Symphony Orchestra in his composition “Brahms v. Radiohead,” which folds songs from “OK Computer” into Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 | Read two preview articles and see a previous performance.
- Seattle via a New York Studio when The Gary Love Band recreates Nirvana‘s 1993 MTV Unplugged performance song-by-song at LkldLive on Saturday | Read a preview article.
Restaurant critic Eric Pera praises the charcuterie skills at the new barbecue-and whiskey spot in downtown’s Federal Building. (My take as a vegetarian: I was pleasantly surprised that there were several non-meat items but underwhelmed nevertheless.)
On Bump Galletta’s “Low Down With…” podcast, Mayor Bill Mutz discusses his faith, his large family, why he ran for mayor, the job ahead and why Lakeland needs to plan for autonomous vehicles.
DETECTIVE: Lakeland Police Lt. Brent Addison was placed on paid administrative leave today after Polk Sheriff’s investigators submitted an affidavit about its investigation into a domestic incident involving the detective. State Attorney Brian Haas declined to provide details about the affidavit filed with his office, but said a decision about how to proceed with the case will be made within two weeks.
FIRST FRIDAY: The organizers of the monthly downtown event are trying to get visitors to go farther north on Kentucky Avenue while also giving free exposure to local artisans.
DOG PARK: Lakeland’s second dog park opens March 10 in a shady corner off the golf course along Cleveland Heights Boulevard.
So it’s no surprise that he’s open to a fusion of rock and classical music and that he’s excited about Friday’s Imperial Symphony Orchestra concert merging the complex melodies of Radiohead’s “OK Computer” with Johannes Brahms’ First Symphony.
KHS: Kathleen High School was awarded a $4.4 million grant to help its efforts to improve performance as a turnaround school. Among other things, the grant will pay for staff training, tuition for faculty pursuing advanced degrees, academic and career counseling and perhaps salary enhancements.
GUN LEGISLATION: Reporters Gary White and John Chambless contacted at least a dozen lawmakers and candidates with Polk ties to get their perspectives on legislation prompted by the Parkland killings. Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Colleen Burton, the two Republican legislators whose districts take in much of Lakeland, generally support current GOP initiatives: an age limit of 21 to buy long guns, a three-day waiting period for gun purchases, mandating at least one armed officer in each school, but no bans on specific weapons.
MAGNET SCHOOL: Polk schools Superintendent Jaqueline Byrd says she is finalizing a response to the Lakeland City Commission’s request that a certain number of kindergarten seats at Lincoln Avenue Academy go to nearby residents. The city is attracting new homeowners into the redeveloping neighborhood near the school by offering good deals on starter houses, and wants to make it easier for some of the new homeowners to get their children into the highly sought school. Byrd told The Ledger she and her staff are “working to develop a plan that will address” that concern.
LOVERS OAK: March 5 is the date a highly regarded arborist will use high-tech tools to look inside the several-centuries-old double oak at the Lake Morton foot of Success Avenue and determine whether it lives or dies. The tree had been scheduled to come down in August but was spared when city crews were diverted by preparations for Hurricane Irma, which the oak survived.
EDUCATION/HEALTH: Florida Southern College broke ground at the northwest corner of Frank Lloyd Way and Jefferson Avenue for the Carol Jenkins Barnett Center for Early Childhood Learning and Health.
BASKETBALL: The state girls high school championship series returns to the RP Funding Center this week.
Lakeland police are appealing to the public to help identify a suspect in the Jan. 22 homicide of Roderick Childs, 55, in his apartment at 929 Gilmore Ave. The suspect is described as “a light-skinned black male, approximately 6-foot, 130 pounds, with twist/dreads, and is approximately 25-30 years of age.” Anyone with info is asked to contact please contact Detective Tim McDonald at 834-8955 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz and Polk County Commission Chairman Todd Dantzler updated members of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce on the state of the city and county this morning. This video starts a few minutes into Mutz’ presentation. Check after the jump for the intro and the beginning of Mutz’ talk. Unfortunately, a few minutes were lost because of technical problems.
Jen Pawol, 41, called balls and strikes behind home plate at Joker Marchant Stadium on Thursday as the Detroit Tigers defeated Florida Southern College 6-1. She hopes to be the first woman to ump a regular-season MLB game.
ALSO: Detroit News coverage
ARMING TEACHERS: After arming faculty at Southeastern University to protect against assailants, Polk Sheriff Grady Judd says he plans to meet with the superintendent of Polk public schools and the presidents of Polk State College and Florida Southern College to discuss similar programs.
SUV IN LAKE: A Ford Edge ended up in Lake Hollingsworth Wednesday after the driver said he apparently hit the accelerator rather than the brake when approaching the roundabout.
Major League Baseball is relaxing a rule that requires teams to send all players on the road during Spring Training for the next week or so, but MLive reports that managers sometimes keep veteran players home during out-of-town games.
After News Channel 8 traffic reporter Leslee Lacey clocked several drivers exceeding the speed limit in a construction zone, Lakeland police cited 11 speeders in two hours.
Eclectic sounds are coming to Lakeland from musicians visiting from out of town. The 527-year-old Staatskapelle Weimar, traveling the U.S. from Germany, brings an all-Brahms program to Branscomb Auditorium Saturday night. On Sunday, Nashville acoustic guitar master Billy Kemp brings his intricate picking to the Lakeland Public Library for a free performance. Check more listings after the jump.
SOLAR: An organization called Florida Solar is trying to establish a solar power cooperative in Polk County that would make it easier for residents to get good deals on home solar installations. Solar advocates addressing the League of Women Voters on Wednesday urged supporters to lobby the city of Lakeland to remove its solar demand charge since that removes some of the financial benefits of a solar installation.
TEACHER: Polk’s Teacher of the Year is Michelle Dinwiddie, who urges her 10th-grade language arts students at Lake Gibson High School to display good character through “a tucked-in shirt, a kind word, a diligent heart and a capable attitude.”
When you go see a movie at the Cinemark Lakeland Square after today, remember to leave your large bag at home. A new policy at Cinemark theaters nationwide starting Thursday bans bags larger than 12″ by 12″ by 6″.
Lakeland City Manager Tony Delgado gave updates on projects such as the soon-to-open Dog Leg Park along the Cleveland Heights Golf Course and the Se7en Wetlands nature area, as well as the Mirrorton development north of Lake Mirror this morning at his third quarterly “Tony Talks.” He also answered citizen questions.
DOWNTOWN: City Commissioner Justin Troller questioned LDDA Director Julie Townsend about whether her agency still serves its original purpose at Monday’s commission meeting. He proposed that downtown property owners vote to determine whether they still want to be taxed to fund the agency, reports new City Hall reporter Kimberly C. Moore, a veteran journalist who grew up in Lakeland. (Too bad some copy editor’s print headline reads, “Commission questions LDDA’s function.” It was just one commissioner. Big difference.)
EXPANSION: International Game Technology, which prints lottery tickets, will be able to expand its workforce of 250 by 20 percent in the next four years as the result of a $15 million, 45,000-square-foot addition near I-4 that was dedicated Tuesday.
INCENTIVES: An unnamed pharmaceutical company thinking about moving into a Lakeland facility will be eligible for $450,000 in state, county and city incentives as a result of City Commission and County Commission action this week.
SCHOOL BOARD: LaTrice Moore, a 38-year-old business professor at Polk State College who lives in Mulberry, is running for the Polk School Board seat being vacated by Hazel Sellers. Other declared candidates for the seat include Sarah Fortney, Scott Jones and Kala Ivy Tedder.
COMEDY: Swan City Improv performs the first Friday night of every month at LkldLive, a downtown performance venue.
Republican voters in a district that’s mostly north and east of Lakeland city limits selected Josie Tomkow, a 22-year-old recent University of Florida graduate, as their candidate for Florida House of Representatives District 39. She amassed 64 percent of the vote in her race against Jennifer Spath, a 34-year-old former prosecutor, outpolling her 4,314 votes to 2,471. Tomkow faces Democrat Ricky Shirah, 64, in a May 1 special election.
The team planning a 180-acre private park west of downtown Lakeland today unveiled their design for the site combining recreation, trails, nature appreciation and culture (including an amphitheater seating 7,500) as they embark on efforts to attract donors. Keep scrolling to see a slideshow about the master plan and a video of this morning’s “reveal” meeting. A second public meeting is being held at 4 p.m. today at First United Methodist Church.
CRIME: Police Chief Larry Giddens credits community involvement for a 31 percent decrease in violent crime in Lakeland between 2014 and 2017. 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.
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.
POLICE DISPUTE: A 2 1/2-month LPD internal investigation that included allegations of domestic violence between two officers ended with no discipline for either because investigators could not determine which of the former fiancees was lying.
SCHOOL TRANSITIONS: Any of the six Polk public schools slated to be turned over to a private contractor can avoid that fate if they receive a C letter grade (or better) this spring, Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said. The six “persistently low-performing” schools include two in the Lakeland area: Kathleen Middle and Griffin Elementary | Video of Byrd’s news conference
Lakeland Fire Department says don’t be worried about the smoke you’re smelling and haze you might be driving through. It’s the result of Florida Forest Service controlled burns around State Road 33 and also in Highland City. The Fire Department is working no structure fires this afternoon, spokeswoman Janel Vasallo says.
LkldLive, an eclectic performance venue that recently celebrated its first birthday, is repeating a Valentine’s gift to Lakeland Saturday night. Its Swingtime Valentine Revue features romantic songs of 1938 performed by local singers and jazz instrumentalists. (Check video from another LkldLive swingtime show.) Other weekend highlights include:
- Folk and acoustic tonight from Carrie Elkin & Danny Schmidt (videos) at an Among Friends Music house concert.
- Classic rock with Rain – A Tribute to The Beatles (videos) tonight at the RP Funding Center.
- Electric blues Saturday night from Sean Chambers (videos) at The Music Ranch.
Clearwater-based Gulf Coast Jewish Family And Community Services (website) plans to close its Lakeland office on U.S. 98 South by the end of March and discontinue services involving more than 500 foster children, WFLA reports. The move pressures the other three case-management agencies in Polk to absorb the large caseload.
PRIVATIZING SCHOOLS: Two Lakeland-area public schools — Kathleen Middle and Griffin Elementary — are among six “persistently low-performing” schools in Polk that will be privatized under a law passed by the Florida Legislature last year. Three so-far anonymous companies have placed bids to run the schools.
NOT SO YUM: A former cook for a Lakeland restaurant was sentenced to seven years in prison for lacing the Yum Yum sauce with poison, reportedly to protest working conditions.
SLEUTH: After a Lakeland homeowner was victimized by a pool contractor, she contacted others who had work done by his company. Her work led to the arrest of John Lee Johnson, 58, the owner of Tropic Pools of Central Florida Inc., on theft and fraud charges.
Development plans that go before the City Commission in March call for various combinations of retail, a fast casual restaurant, office building, a hotel and a convenience/gas store | Check details
GROWTH: A series on preparing for population growth in Polk kicks off with a look at transportation and water challenges; the next installment will look at the need for new schools. A companion piece previews the upcoming statewide ballot issue to increase the homestead exemption, which is expected to pass and has local governments fretting about future revenues.
RAY LEWIS: The Kathleen High School grad and former Baltimore Ravens star linebacker was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. ALSO: ESPN coverage | The Capital Gazette in Anapolis rounds up reactions from columnists and teammates, and columnist Mike Preston calls Lewis the best middle linebacker ever.
Cameron Alley was airlifted home to a stay at Lakeland Regional Health after he fell 85 feet from an aerial cable Jan. 11 while working to restore power in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
The owners of BS Ranch & Farm, an east Lakeland recycling facility that’s been the subject of odor complaints, can avoid court by restoring five acres of wetlands, enclosing parts of its operation and changing waste-handling procedures, state regulators said in a letter. BS Ranch’s attorney thanked them but noted that they’re not aware of similar operations in Florida with enclosed compost processing.
Explorations V Children's Museum unveiled their new First Responders exhibit yesterday – complete with a visit from a real fire truck and some of Lakeland's very own first responders! Be sure to check out the new exhibit and follow them on Facebook where you can learn about their fun upcoming events! #lkld #visitcentralfl #ylakeland
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Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration has denied a license application for Oakbridge Health Care Center, part of the for-profit nursing-home chain Consulate Health. Consulate is appealing the denial, and will reportedly shut Oakbridge if the appeal fails.
Re-Cycled by Jarod Charzewski is the first of a dozen or so sculptures being installed by city parks workers on Lemon Street this month.
Sculptures, rotated annually, are chosen by a jury that includes representatives of the city of Lakeland, Polk Museum of Art and local artists.
Parks and rec plans to spend $3,500 to have tree consultant Joseph Samnik take a look at the aging oak at the foot of Success Avenue. A previous $1,100 study recommended removing the tree as a safety hazard, but many people have a sentimental attachment to it and would like the city to keep it in place.
Musical modes for multiple moods. That seems to be the theme this weekend. Scroll down for our music calendar. But first, some highlights:
TONIGHT: Paul Anka is “celebrating 60 years of hits his way” (according to the advance publicity) at the RP Funding Center, and former Relix magazine publisher Toni Brown is performing with friends at Hillcrest Coffee.
FRIDAY: The Hummingbirds (“Southern Charm – Detroit Grit”) alight at Frescos, and Red Door Lakeland kicks off two weekend residencies: Patty Kenoly on Friday nights and Sumner Curtis on Saturday nights.
SATURDAY: Quentin Darrington and Elizabeth Burton are among the Harrison School for the Arts grads returning for an alumni showcase. Heading downtown, the sounds will be more insistent as LkldLive recreates the sounds of New York punk club CBGB. And north of town, the Music Ranch showcases the blues rock of the Ellie Lee Band. More after the jump.
The outage affects some Frontier Communications Co. customers. Polk’s 911 center is operating, but officials suggest using cellphones to contact them.
DOYEL V. STARGEL: Republican incumbent Kelli Stargel is far ahead in fund-raising, but Democrats see an opportunity for challenger Bob Doyel, a retired judge, to unseat her in November. They’re banking on voter discontent over Trump and concern about the Legislature’s changes to public education.
LIFE SENTENCE: Michael Allen Gunn, 27, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the beating death of Robert Banks and sentenced to life in prison. Three others were charged in the 2016 Lakeland homicide.