A jury took just over an hour late Friday to recommend that Judge Jalal Harb sentence Cheyanne Jessie of Lakeland to death in the killing of her 6-year-old daughter and a life sentence in the killing of her father | ALSO: Ledger coverage
The new $80 million estimate to build a network that covers the area within the city limits cuts $30 million from a 2016 ballpark estimate prepared by Magellan Advisors, the city’s broadband consultant. The Colorado-based company was hired by the city this year to create a business plan for a proposed retail internet service. More
Sampling everything on the menu was a pivotal moment for Becky and Ryan Richmond, owners of the newly opened Teriyaki Madness at downtown’s NoBay Village. More
Sarasota-based The Business Observer profiles Lakeland’s BRIDGE Local and founder Chrissanne Long. The organization, whose goal is to connect entrepreneurs and promote their businesses, evolved from Lakeland Business Leaders and offers annual memberships from $150 to $500 a year.
It would be an understatement to say that Peelander-Yellow attracts attention. A headline in the Japan Times May 30 declared: “Peelander-Yellow makes a triumphant homecoming from outer space.” Now the punk rocker with an action-comic-book persona is kicking off his Yellow Nite Fever tour (and local art exhibition) Saturday at LkldLive in his only Florida stop. Art exhibition reception is 5 to 7; music starts at 8. Admission: a pay-what-you-want donation to the non-profit LkldLive.
Also coming to Lakeland this weekend — but only from Atlanta, not from outer space: Indie rockers Gringo Star debut their new album “Controlled Burn (Live in Atlanta)” at Hillcrest Coffee tonight at 7. A hometown critic praised the band’s “magic mix of garage rock grit and sunny pop haze.”
Keep scrolling for our updated live music calendar: More
CONVICTED: It took a jury just under three hours to find Cheyanne Jessie of Lakeland guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of her 6-year-old daughter and her 50-year-old father.
FIRE ENGINE: The Lakeland Fire Department is displaying its newest fire engine at a public ceremony at 9 a.m. Aug. 5 at Fire Station 5, 3101 Lakeland Highlands Road. It’s the city’s first clean cab engine, meaning it’s set up so that firefighters returning from an emergency are shielded from carcinogens that might have contaminated their gear.
DINING: Cuban Delight Cafe, 1039 E. County Road 540A, delighted restaurant reviewer Eric Pera, who awarded it four stars out of five for food | The eighth store in the Crafty Crab Seafood chain is planned for U.S. 98 N. and Sleepy Hill Road.
Facing financial challenges, Lakeland Regional Health has asked the city of Lakeland to forego planned rent increases through 2025. If city commissioners approve the request, it would mean a $48.6 million revenue reduction over the next few years for the city and a possible property tax increase for residents.
As the Florida Board of Education starts a meeting today at Polk State College’s Lakeland campus, parents are gathering outside to protest policies they say starve public schools and expand the power of state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. The board is scheduled to approve plans for an “external operator” to help struggling schools in Polk and five other counties | Rally information
An Irish pub anchors the new restaurant-catering service at Cleveland Heights Golf Course, and city officials are optimistic that their fourth private partner providing clubhouse cuisine will be their lucky charm. More
A 35-year-old Lake Wales bicyclist was killed during a pre-dawn ride on Galloway Road this morning after being hit by two vehicles, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Mitchell Johnson suffered head trauma and died shortly after arriving at Lakeland Regional Health, the Sheriff’s Department reported. More
Polk County Commissioners today unanimously approved a $200,000 settlement with the family of Loretta Pickard, who died in a house fire off Rockridge Road last November. Fallout from the fire led to changes in leadership and procedure at Polk County Fire Rescue.
CITY CHARTER: Lakeland’s November election ballot will include all recommendations made by a committee that reviewed the City Charter, city commissioners decided Monday. The ballot wording is scheduled to be decided Aug. 5. (VIDEO: View the discussion)
ELECTRIC RATES: Lakeland Electric’s projections show revenue rising but not enough to keep up with escalating labor and maintenance costs. So the utility plans a cost of service study next year that could lead to a rate increase, city commissioners were told Monday. (VIDEO: View the presentation and discussion)
FATALITY: John Stevens, 33, of Lakeland, was probably riding between 80 and 100 mph when his motorcycle slammed into a flatbed trailer crossing U.S. 92 at Fish Hatchery Road Monday morning, killing him, according to the Polk Sheriff’s Office.
Dressed in the uniform of an 1898 U.S. Army cavalry soldier, Richard Wilder came to today’s City Commission meeting with a simple request: Promote Lakeland tourism and pride by naming a park between Lake Wire and Florida Avenue after the Buffalo Soldiers who camped along the lake 121 years ago. More
Straughn Trout Architects, named to Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Fast 50 list of quickest-growing companies in the region, attributes its growth to its focus on the human dimension of architecture, managing principal Tim Hoeft tells the newspaper. The company’s $2.5 million in revenue and 12 employees places it at 30th largest architecture firm in the region, according to a TBBJ list that includes one other Lakeland firm, The Lunz Group, at No. 7.
Brian Burns, who is known as a fierce advocate for his employees, has announced he is leaving his job as publisher of The Ledger, a position he has held since January 2017. Burns, 45, says he plans to launch a digital publishing company in the Tampa Bay area and is developing a smartphone app that can capture print images and use them to deliver enhanced information.
The Fort Lauderdale-based developers of a planned 80-unit below-market-rate apartment complex on Parker Street has asked for a loan from the city to help cover increases in construction costs. The Lakeland Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board last week approved a loan of $162,000 loan, half the amount requested by Green Mills Group (website). A final decision on the loan request will come from the City Commission. Construction at Parker Street and Stella Avenue is scheduled to start in September.
Construction of Central Bark, a $350,000 dog park near the north shore of Lake Mirror, is scheduled to start in September. Private fund-raising for the city’s fourth dog park (see the others here) stalled, but “thanks to our city manager and city commission, we were able to move some money around and make this happen,” Parks and Red Director Bob Donahay tells Bay News 9’s Stephanie Claytor.
The Tampa developer that plans to develop 14 vacant acres east of the Lakeland Police Department headquarters into the Mirrorton apartment/townhouse community is considering asking the city for 60 more days before finalizing the $3.66 million land purchase. The Framework Group was first scheduled to close the deal by May but has the right to delay until September 21 and may seek 60 days beyond that, Lakeland Community Redevelopment Director Alis Drumgo said. The agency’s advisory board could either agree to an extension request or opt to seek a new developer.
Two streets bordering the Heritage Plaza Garage construction site downtown are currently closed, and a third will be blocked for nine weeks starting July 22, according to the city of Lakeland. In addition, 12 to 14 daily weekday deliveries of large pre-cast concrete panels are expected to further disrupt traffic for four months. More
After a 20-years-plus affiliation with Coldwell Banker Commercial, Lakeland-based brokerage Saunders Dantzler Ralston Real Estate has joined the SVN network. Also, the firm will merge with its affiliate, Saunders Real Estate; both were founded by Dean Saunders.
- Read The Ledger’s article, which lists individual school grades for the last five years.
- Check this database for detailed data on each Polk school.
- 2019 grades for Lakeland schools are listed after the jump: More
Scheduled to go into effect today: New electronic signs on Florida Avenue that will flash warnings when downtown rail crossing barriers are about to go down. Drivers can choose alternate routes or stay the course, according to a spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation, which funded the nearly $900,000 system, the first of its kind in the state.
FusionZONE, a company that provides digital marketing services to auto dealers, has moved its headquarters from southern California to the Citizens Bank & Trust Plaza on Lake Morton. The company (website) has added 20 positions in Lakeland and is recruiting customer service reps, graphic designers, and web developers, reports F&I and Showroom magazine.
Start and end times at 19 Polk public schools are being pushed back 15 minutes to accommodate bus transportation issues. Lakeland schools that are affected include Blake Academy, Dr. N.E. Roberts Elementary, Griffin Elementary, Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, R. Bruce Wagner Elementary, Sikes Elementary, Sleepy Hill Middle and Winston Academy.
Dixieland is becoming a music hub. Among this weekend’s music highlights: Hillcrest Coffee is hosting an acoustic showcase tonight featuring Luke Gard, Roses From Bones, and Tyler David. Union Hall founder Dan Signor is ringing in his birthday on Friday with a bash including food trucks, drinks, and live music from the jazz, funk, soul fusion band Leisure Chief from Orlando. Union Hall is also hosting a Summer of ’69 event Saturday in support of local charities Play It Forward Polk and Kiwanis Treehouse for Kids with auctions, raffles, and live music from Reverend Billy C. Wirtz, The Sofa Kings, and Jacksonville funk rock band Side Hustle. Stop in next door at The Pink Piano to catch Sarasotan Lesa Silvermore and her folk, indie pop set around the same time. Here’s our updated music calendar: More
The cavalry troops known as buffalo soldiers who camped on the shore of Lake Wire in 1898 are remembered by a historic marker on the Peachtree Street side of the lake. But buffalo soldier re-enactor Richard Wilder wants a more significant commemoration. On Monday, he will ask city commissioners to change the name of nearby Freedom Park — a grass field along Florida Avenue near Lawton Chiles Middle School — to Buffalo Soldiers Park. The buffalo soldiers were a U.S. Army horseback regiment made up of African-American soldiers who had served in western states.
ALSO: Bay News 9 coverage | Video: buffalo soldier re-enactment
HOSPITAL: The Morning Paper’s coverage of the planned leadership succession at Lakeland Regional Health (theirs | ours) is accompanied by a look at the organization’s plans to deal with increasing costs and declining revenues (previously covered here and here.) Current CEO Thompson and successor Drummond point to cost controls and physical expansion, potentially into east Polk or Hillsborough or at the hospital’s 100-acre parcel along U.S. 98 between Highland City and Bartow.
BUSES: New technology being introduced by the Citrus Connection will include a mobile payment app, a Smart Card upgrade that could save money for some passengers and a test of free on-bus wifi.
Elaine C. Thompson, who has been the chief executive at Lakeland Regional Health since 2010, is retiring at the end of next year and will be replaced by Danielle Drummond, currently the hospital’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. More
A 75-year-old pedestrian died after being hit by two cars while trying to cross U.S. 98 at Ritter Road in north Lakeland around 5:50 this morning, the Polk County Sheriff’s Department said. The victim was identified as Julio Ramos-Bueno of Lakeland. More
A fatal accident on I-4 near County Line Road Monday afternoon serves as a chilling reminder of the importance for drivers to move over a lane when passing emergency vehicles with lights flashing, a Florida DOT road ranger says. He was slightly injured, but the 72-year-old Apopka driver who rammed the back of his truck died and the driver’s wife suffered critical injuries.
On a recent, 98-degree afternoon, the lot shared by Lakeland Public Library and Polk Museum of Art was mostly full. Patrons wandered into the library. Black & Brew’s porch near the library entrance held people reading, studying, and just taking in a quiet moment. A small group sat at one of Red Door’s shaded patio tables. A runner passed by, headed toward Lake Morton. Cars made brief stops at Mr. Fish on East Palmetto Street and a little further down at the Stop N Shop convenience store, while a few people carefully folded laundry at Lake Morton Coin Laundry.
But two buildings along East Palmetto sit unfilled and largely ignored, except for the occasional wonderer of whether Marco’s Pizza is actually “coming soon” to the building at 719 E. Palmetto St. or whether anything actually operates out of the one at 801 E. Palmetto St. More
CANDIDATE FEE: Reporter Sara-Megan Walsh reveals a detail about the proposed changes to the City Charter that’s gotten little notice before: The filing fee to run for City Commission or mayor would increase from $25 to $250. The old fee was set 30 or 40 years ago and the higher one better reflects the city’s administrative costs, City Attorney Tim McCausland says. The proposed changes go to the voters in November.
The City Commission will be asked next week to change the name of Freedom Park to Buffalo Soldiers Park in honor of the all-black cavalry regiment who camped on Lake Wire in 1898. Freedom Park is the green space between Florida Avenue and Lake Wire near Lawton Chiles Middle Academy.
Three Sleepy Hill Middle School students — Ryder Walters, Michelle Berrios and Madison Dolyac — placed third nationally in the Team Engineering Challenge at the SkillsUSA Championships in Louisville, Ky.
When faced with an outage, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s going on?” Yet power outages are often a result of events beyond anyone’s control, including Lakeland Electric’s. Here are the top eight things that can cause power outages in Lakeland: More
The Lakeland Police Department announced this afternoon that officers on Tuesday arrested a 17-year-old teen on a felony second-degree arson charge in connection with one of the fires reported recently in the Dixieland and Lake Morton neighborhoods. More
The Poor Porker is alive and well again with a slew of upcoming shows. They’re kicking this weekend off with a free show from Warren McCullough, covering classics from the ’60s to the ’90s, this Friday and Bela Pierce, a well-executed, pop tour-de-force, on Saturday. Hillcrest Coffee will be hosting the timeless and soulful Lady Moonbeam and the downtempo, dark-wave electronica of Mirroribis on Friday. LkldLive has a stacked show of indie rockers Glass House Point, Pathos, Pathos (Orlando), Jenny Dee, and Fight Milk. Last but not least, Passerine will be performing Saturday night at Swan Brewing with their sincerely charming storytelling and Americana folk music. Keep scrolling for our updated music calendar: More
Prosecutors will not pursue felony charges against a Lakeland woman who was accused of entering her estranged husband’s home and taking two firearms before being arrested while trying to turn them over to Lakeland police.
Instead, Courtney Taylor Irby, 32, will be charged with misdemeanor trespass, State Attorney Brian Haas announced at a news conference today. She had originally been arrested by Lakeland police June 15 on two allegations of grand theft of a firearm and one allegation of armed burglary. More
State Attorney Brian Haas announces charges in the Irby case: Courtney Taylor Irby will be charged with misdemeanor trespass regarding entering her estranged husband’s apartment; Joseph Irby is charged with a felony, aggravated battery, in bumping her car with his. Check back for a full article.
WHAT: Red, White & Kaboom, a community festival with fireworks held yearly since 2004.
WHEN: Tonight, 6 to 9:15. Fireworks at 9.
WHERE: Frances Langford Promenade at Lake Mirror. (See detail map below)
ADMISSION: Free. Everyone is encouraged to bring a canned good for Volunteers in Service to the Elderly. More
WFLA reviewed records in the Joseph Irby-Taylor Irby divorce case, finding a first sign of trouble in a December 2018 text message from the husband saying he had toyed with suicide. Soon after, the wife filed for sole custody “in the children’s best interest.” Since then, both have filed papers in court saying they fear harm from the other. Joseph Irby’s lawyer told the TV station his client is not violent and termed the conflict an ugly custody battle. The case received national attention (examples) after Taylor Irby was arrested and jailed for six days when she went to the Lakeland Police Department to turn in weapons she took from her estranged husband’s apartment.
A fire that damaged a tall sliding board at Dobbins Park Saturday morning is the most recent of 16 vandalism fires reported to Lakeland police over the last few weeks. All have been in the early morning hours in Dixieland and neighborhoods near Lake Morton.
First, seven garbage and recycling containers were set ablaze on June 12, according to police spokeswoman Robin Tillet. Six more were set afire Friday morning. Also Friday morning, five lawn chairs were torched on a truck bed on Lake Morton Drive, and so was a construction dumpster at a work site on Florida Avenue at East Ridgewood Street. More
Lakelanders with busy schedules don’t have to look far to find a nearby center where they can get same-day health care. There are currently at least nine urgent care centers in Lakeland, including one, MedExpress, that hosted a grand opening earlier this month at 3700 U.S. 98 N. And Watson Clinic has announced it will break ground next month on an urgent care center at its Oakbridge location. More
THRIFT: The Lighthouse Thrift Store has opened a new, larger space in a shopping plaza at Edgewood Drive and U.S. 98 after the Lakeland Community Development Agency bought its Florida Avenue downtown location.
MARIJUANA: Two Watson Clinic physicians have joined the other 33 Polk County doctors certified to prescribe medical marijuana. They’ll prescribe only to existing clinic patients, a spokeswoman said.
Tampa Bay Business Journal features Lakeland-based AgAmerica Lending as one of its Fast50, a list of the fastest-growing private companies in the Tampa Bay area. In a QA, CEO Brian Philpot says the company’s staff has doubled in size over the last year as it plans to launch a western HQ in Boise, Idaho, and celebrates transitioning to the to the commercial agricultural mortgage Real Estate Investment Trust (mREIT) in the United States.
The internal doubts of a young woman coming to understand her roots and her place in the world inspired the external drama in a short film being shot in Lakeland today and Saturday.
Pamela Rodriguez, 22, was born in Puerto Rico but moved to Lakeland when she was very young, she said, but it didn’t take long to realize she was a little different than the majority of her peers. More
BusinessVoice Inc., the political action committee affiliated with the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, endorsed Carole Philipson for the open seat. Her equally-funded opponent in the five-way race, Chad McLeod, has been endorsed by Lakeland First, a PAC created by a smaller group of area business owners and executives. More
Urgency inflected a meeting of the city’s broadband task force Thursday, and though little new information emerged about the ongoing process to create an internet service business plan, the city’s consultant assured commissioners it was on schedule to meet the Aug.5 deadline. More
Reporting by Bay News 9’s Stephanie Claytor about how Polk fared in the Legislature includes a chart listing the local projects: how much money they got and which ones were vetoed by the governor.
PUBLIX: The Grove Park Publix reopened at 7 a.m. today in a rebuilt store that’s 5,000 square feet larger than its 1960s-era predecessor. At 10 a.m. doors open to the public for the first time on a Publix liquor store in the same plaza. In North Lakeland, the Plantation Square Publix on Socrum Loop Road will be similarly rebuilt; it closed last night and reopens sometime next year. Eric Pera reports.
DWAYNE’S PLACE: It was just over a month ago that the owner of Dwayne’s Place Diner and Grill railed on Facebook (here) against The Ledger’s methods of using restaurant health inspections as clickbait. He’s probably feeling friendlier toward The Morning Paper today following Eric Pera’s four-star review praising the South Lakeland restaurant’s Southern-style comfort food in general and its sloppy joes in particular.
HONEYCOMB / TWENTY SEVEN: The very busy Mr. Pera chats with Benjamin Vickers and Jenna O’Brien about their plans for a Bay Street storefront downtown that will house Vickers’ Honeycomb bakery and bistro and O’Brien’s Twenty Seven purveyor of paper goods, gifts and art.
Lakeland has been adding spaces to showcase local musical talent, but one that some may think is new has been around for awhile. Maddox Ranch, 2505 W. Bella Vista St., has hosted music festivals for more than 10 years, but it hasn’t featured Polk County talent until this February, when it began hosting the monthly Maddox Local Jam. More
Megan Towner, a guitarist and vocalist with local bands including adieux and dagger, has a new title: keeper of the LkldNow music calendar. She’s been around the music scene awhile, so when I asked her for help picking out highlights this weekend, she responded quickly, saying:
“John Frinzi apparently packs Garden Bistro out every Wednesday. Must be a pretty alluring acoustic set. Benjamin Neil from the indie rock band Rocket To Anywhere is driving up from West Palm Beach (to Frescos on Thursday). Garden Club at the Pink Piano (Friday) has a pretty killer pianist and harpist in the mix of a full alternative rock band. Straitjacket Smile is a metal band from Tampa (playing Ybor Live Saturday).”
Sounds good to me. I also want to throw in Red White and Kaboom on Wednesday evening at Lake Mirror since that will be the week’s best-attended event with live music. Like recent years, the pre-fireworks band will be pumping reggae riddims, but this year it’s with a religious twist. The City Saints say on Facebook: “We sing praises to the God who has given us new life, freedom, and forgiveness. It’s all about Jesus!” It’s a new world order at the city. Keep scrolling for the entire live music calendar. More
For the local business incubator, it means access to high-tech resources and potential opportunities for emerging businesses based at Catapult, according to Christina Graham, Catapult’s executive director. More
Along with reports by the BBC, NPR and the Washington Post, The New York Times covered issues surrounding the arrest of Courtney Taylor Irby by Lakeland police. She’s the woman who was charged with armed burglary and spent six days in jail after taking police the guns she removed from her estranged husband’s home when a judge ordered him not to carry them. Among others, reporter Nicholas Bogel Burroughs spoke with: More
Lakeland police tonight apprehended a 25-year-old man who escaped from a patrol car this morning after he was arrested and charged with burglary, police spokeswoman Robin Tillet said. The search for Brandon James Beverly started late morning and focused on the Dixieland and Lake Morton Neighborhoods. More
In neighborhoods near Lake Morton, houses with broad front porches, striking columns, latticed crawl spaces and jutting windows have settled into the Earth for more than 100 years, standing despite hurricanes, gnawing termites, technical advances and human desire for change.
Michael Maguire, a South Lake Morton neighborhood resident, wanted to recognize these old homes. He created the Lake Morton Century Homes project to identify these structures and is hosting a picnic celebration for the homeowners and neighborhood residents Thursday on the lawn of the Lakeland Public Library. More
SE7EN WETLANDS: The city of Lakeland is getting partial funding to design and build an education center at the Se7en Wetlands conservation area, courtesy of legislation that survived Gov. DeSantis’ veto pen. Two previous attempts for funding were vetoed by former Gov. Rick Scott.
PRINCIPALS: Several public schools in Lakeland are changing principals in the annual leadership shuffle: Doris A. Sanders Learning Center – Polly Bruno replaces Debra Peavey, who is retiring; Lakeland Highlands Middle – Edgar Santiago replaces Telay Kendrick; Lawton Chiles Middle Academy – Telay Kendrick replaces Brian Andrews, who goes to the Bartow IB school; Philip O’Brien Elementary – Charlie Huntley replacs Merri Crawford, who is retiring; Sleepy Hill Middle School – Wallace Selph replaces Kathryn Blackburn, who goes to Daniel Jenkins Academy in Haines City.
HTeaO, a quick-serve iced tea franchise with a Texas flair, has opened a location at 3920 S. Florida Ave. that is both its first Florida location and the first franchise out of 80 being developed in five states. Grand opening was Friday. More
EARLY LEARNING: Last week we linked to Ledger coverage of Katrina Lunsford’s ouster as chair of Polk’s Early Learning Coalition, which monitors spending on pre-K and VPK programs. Yesterday, Bay News 9 reported that Lunsford is questioning the timing; she says she had been looking into reports of improper documentation and missing required data on contracts.
INMATE DIES: Inmate Arthur Francis Gilmore, 84, of Lakeland, died early Sunday at a hospital in Sebring after falling near the top of some stairs at South Polk Jail Saturday night. Several investigations are underway. Gilmore was in jail on charges he violated probation on previous attempted child sexual battery convictions, WFLA reports.
MOTORCYCLE FATALITY: Polk deputies say speed may have been a factor when 33-year-old Travis Lester of Lakeland was thrown from his motorcycle and died after slamming into a parked SUV on Combee Road near Jungle Street Saturday evening, Bay News 9 reports.
VETOES: State budget vetoes by Gov. DeSantis include at least two Lakeland items: $500,000 for Florida Polytechnic University‘s master’s programs in computer science and engineering, and $200,000 for a family support services program at Florida Baptist Children’s Homes One More Child division.
HONORS: Harrell’s LLC Chairman/CEO Jack Harrell received the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Thunderbird District of the Greater Tampa Bay Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America | The Citrus Connection recognized paratransit driver Pedro Gonzalez for rescuing an unaccompanied 1-year-old child.
The case of a Lakeland woman who was arrested when she went to the Lakeland Police Department to turn in firearms she took from her estranged husband’s home has caught the attention of a state legislator. Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, D-Orlando, said she will ask State Attorney Brian Haas not to prosecute. More
CONGRESS: Andrew Learned, a Democrat running to unseat U.S. Rep. Ross Spano for the U.S. House seat representing most of Lakeland, says there’s nothing to a FloridaPolitics article. He says he has no plans to switch races and run instead for a Florida House seat, and the holder of that seat, Adam Hattersley, tells The Ledger he hasn’t decided whether to run for Congress.
BILLY HENDERSON: A celebration of life is planned for the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-in’s first executive director at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Aerospace Discovery Museum, 4175 Medulla Road. He died April 12 at age 89.
MOTORCYCLE EVENT: Wheels of Steel motorcycle show, benefitting the Early Learning Coalition, 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Saturday at the RP Funding Center. Tickets: $20 for adults, $5 for teens, children admitted free; free parking.
County Judge Robert Fegers granted Courtney Taylor Irby’s request for bail Thursday morning at the Bartow courthouse as more than two dozen of her supporters — family and friends, church members at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Lakeland and her pastor, Tim Rice — sat inside and outside the courtroom. More
You can’t say we’re not eclectic in Lakeland. Live music choices this weekend include:
- Country gospel from Jerry Jones at Lake Gibson Village tonight
- Rap of Seckond Chaynce at Wild Greg’s tonight
- Acoustic swing of the Gypsy Wind duo at Swan Brewing Saturday afternoon
- The monthly local indie music Maddox Jam showcase at Maddox Ranch Saturday
- A metal cavalcade at Johnny G’s Saturday night
- Mexican banda music at Florida Orange Saturday night
- Boomer nostalgia from the J3 Vocal Showband at Polk Theatre Sunday night.
Keep scrolling for the full live music calendar: More
“I didn’t know if I should stay in the car or run away. I was shocked. I was terrified,” Pablo del Valle said of seeing a bear as he arrived at work Monday morning at Ferrera Tooling, just west of Lakeland Linder Airport. The bear that del Valle and others reported seeing is thought to be the same juvenile recently spotted near Plant City and elsewhere in south Lakeland. Game officials urge people seeing bears to stay calm since the animal’s instinct is to flee.
ALSO: ABC Action News video
Reroute 2020, a new system of bus routes for Lakeland, will be implemented Oct. 1 after the plan was approved Wednesday by the board overseeing the Citrus Connection transit service. During a two-month test, response from riders was overwhelmingly positive, board members were told.
LEARN MORE: Proposal details | Promotional video | Video: Citrus Connection’s director describes the changes
A woman was arrested at the Lakeland Police Department headquarters after attempting to turn over guns belonging to her estranged husband while he awaited his release from jail on bail for a felony domestic violence charge. More
It would cost $8.9 million to pay for improvements recommended by consultants who analyzed Polk Fire Rescue’s response to a house fire that took the life of a 76-year-old woman on Rockridge Road, the agency’s new chief told county commissioners Tuesday. County Commission Chairman George Lindsey said the county can probably afford $3.5 million in improvements this year, with other changes having to wait.
Here’s a story that bears watching: Two bear sightings have been reported in south Lakeland this week, according to the Polk Sheriff’s Office, which got a call on Sunday about a bear spotted near Ewell Road. On Monday, someone reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that they saw a bear near Drane Field Road. More
Two substantive changes to the city charter are closer to making an appearance on the Nov. 5 ballot after the City Commission reversed its earlier decision to put them off to a later year.
In a 5-to-1 non-binding vote Monday, commissioners instructed City Attorney Tim McCausland to reintroduce the two charter amendments back to an ordinance that will put a number of changes to the city charter on the ballot. More
Deputies continue investigating the suspicious death of 22-year-old Kara Fay Hanvey of Sebring, whose body was found in the median on U.S. 92 (Memorial Boulevard) near Reynolds Road Sunday morning. Her friends built a roadside memorial today and recalled the mother of two as someone who would have called them if she were in trouble.
Democrats’ efforts to find a candidate to oppose newly elected U.S. Rep. Ross Spano in the Congressional seat that represents most of Lakeland are focused on Adam Hattersley, a state representative who won in a previously Republican East Hillsborough district last year. Hattersley’s campaign is only saying he’s looking at options, but FloridaPolitics reports a Democratic consultant says Andrew Learned of Dover, who already announced for the Congressional seat, is prepared to run for Hattersley’s state House seat once Hattersley declares for Congress.
PLAYGROUND: A neighborhood playground was built Saturday at Nuevo Comienzo Iglesia del Nazareno , a church near Southeastern University, under a partnership between Humana, CrossFit Lakeland, Dedicated Senior Medical Center and church members.
CHILDREN’S MUSEUM: Explorations V has unveiled plans for five galleries and hundreds of exhibits in its new home at Bonnet Springs Park scheduled to open in summer 2021 | Exterior rendering | Learn more | Bay News 9 report
DAD-DAUGHTER GRADS: Lakeland residents Fredrick “Roy” Sosa, 54, and his daughter, Tiffany Anderson, 34, received bachelor’s degrees in psychology together at St. Leo University.
UPDATE: A woman whose body was found in the median of U.S. 92 East near Reynolds Road has been identified as Kara Fay Hanvey, 22, of Sebring. Deputies responded after receiving a 911 call reporting an unresponsive woman around 6:40 a.m. today. More
While The Downtown Farmers Curb Market was in full swing and with an Amtrak train rolling by as a backdrop, Pride in the Park capped off Polk Pride 2019’s week of events Saturday at Munn Park and featured a drag show, food trucks and live music. More
City commissioners are asking for strategies to smooth traffic on New Jersey Road as Magnolia Montessori Academy plans a 54 percent jump in student population and Geneva Classical Academy prepares to move into its new campus nearby. More
Democrat Chris Cause of Davenport, who teaches history for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Regional Detention Center, has filed to run in November’s election for the District 39 Florida House seat now held by Josie Tomkow, R-Polk City. The largely rural district includes much of Polk just north and east of Lakeland city limits.
Behr, a Lakeland resident, was honored with Florida Grower magazine’s Citrus Achievement Award at the Florida Citrus Industry Annual Conference.
A recent City Commission decision to keep two controversial changes to Lakeland’s city charter off this fall’s election ballot could discourage citizens from participating on city boards, two commissioners said today. More
Dr. Grisselle Centeno, a Florida Polytechnic University professor of data science and business analytics, says she hopes her participation in a prestigious STEM leadership program will help her become an even better role model for young faculty and women students.
MidFlorida Credit Union’s pending merger and acquisition deals with two banks allows the Lakeland-based institution to spread its footprint into fast-growing portions of Northeast and Southwest Florida, the Business Observer reports. The credit union’s first bank purchases also signal a new growth strategy of becoming a non-bank bank, the weekly newspaper reports.
See eight local bands in two nights at LkldLive: Tonight’s show is billed as “an eclectic evening of art from Lakeland’s independent rock and hip hop music and fine arts” and features 48 States Away, Pryderawk, Sharron and DePrime. Friday at 8, Heavy Hitter “presents a night of sonic envelopment” with Mr.Handsome, House of I, Lady Moonbeam and Space Panda.
If tried-and-true classic rock is more your thing, there’s Classic Albums Live reviving Led Zeppelin’s debut album at RP Funding Center Friday.
On Saturday, Play It Again Polk, a nonprofit that provides instruments to students in need, presents the Sofa Kings “and special guests” at Fresco’s Speakeasy. And here’s our entire updated live music calendar: More
There’s been a lot of Facebook discussion lately (a sample) about The Morning Paper’s method of presenting restaurant health inspection information, so we wanted to point out an alternative presentation.
As Lakeland police continue investing a Memorial Boulevard crash that killed two people, including a woman returning home from work, they released video taken from the dashboard of an officer who was following the driver who caused the accident.
Meghan DeLong of Lakeland has been a crusade to spread information about furniture hazards ever since her two-year-old son, Conner, died after a dresser fell on him in 2017. She started a foundation, Conner’s Legacy (website) and last month sued two furniture industry organizations, CBS Miami reports. Her ask: $50 million in damages the she would use to lobby Congress on par with the furniture industry, her Miami lawyer tells House Beautiful.
Home Depot is planning an 800,000-square-foot distribution center just west of County Line Road. The city of Plant City is offering a seven-year exemption from property taxes for the facility at Wiggins and Rice Roads that is expected to employ 150 initially and possibly up to 350 eventually. “This is a win for all of Tampa Bay,” Mayor Rick Lott told Fox 13 News. “I truly believe what we do in Plant City helps Lakeland. What Lakeland does helps Plant City and so forth throughout Hillsborough County.”
ALSO: Tampa Bay Business Journal
CHICK-FIL-A: Restaurant franchisee Scott Brickhouse has rebuilt and expanded his South Florida Avenue location, adding mobile ordering, kiosks and additional drive-through lanes so that the 5,300-square-foot site can handle 350 customers per hour vs. 200 before. The updated operation opens Wednesday at 6 a.m.
FIRE: A lightning strike Monday ignited a fire that caused structural damage to the Lake Morton Historic District home of city planner Matt Lyons and family on Pennsylvania Avenue. People and pets were evacuated safely but the family is searching for a cat that ran away in the confusion.
S. FLORIDA AVE.: Be prepared for delays on South Florida Avenue around Palmetto and Walnut streets the week of June 23. The middle three (of five) lanes will be closed to repair sewer lines and manholes.
AIRPORT NOISE: Starting Wednesday, Draken International will test F-1 Mirage engines two to three times a week for eight weeks at its Lakeland Linder Airport facility. Each test will last about an hour and a half, with jet engine noise levels higher than normal, airport officials say. Tests will take place between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Fifty years after their school’s final graduation, students who attended Rochelle High School in its final years gathered to reminisce, philosophize on discipline and the decline in respect among students and recall the first years of school integration in Lakeland.
ALSO: Check Kimberly Moore’s video reporting on YouTube; no Ledger subscription needed.
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Thank you students from the Art Department at Lakeland Senior High School for their work in refurbishing two of our "Swansation" swans! The Art and Photo Club students did a fantastic job! A huge thank you to Regal Automotive for applying a durable UV clear coat to help protect the new paint from the elements.
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Lakeland police are reviewing a Wednesday morning accident in which a young woman returning home from work died when her car was struck by another car whose driver ran a red light while apparently fleeing police, Fox 13 News’ Ken Suarez reports. (An officer “was unable to catch up to the car to conduct a traffic stop before it ran a red light and struck another vehicle in the Memorial Boulevard and Lakeshore Drive intersection,” LPD said Wednesday in a news release.) Suarez reports that key questions for victim Linel Vega-Ortiz’ family is whether police were chasing driver Cleon Truedell and whether the pursuit complied with department policy.
ALSO: The victim’s mother tells WFLA that police informed the family that an officer was chasing Truedell before the accident; the police department told the station Tuedell wasn’t being chased before he sped off from an attempted traffic stop.
Hollie Hepler of Lakeland was born without a uterus, but she fulfilled her dream of having a baby when her sister-in-law, PJ Willis of Gainesville, volunteered to help. In a procedure overseen by a Colorado fertility doctor, PJ carried the fetus created by uniting Hollie’s egg and her husband Joe’s sperm. The Heplers’ son, Jarrell Clayton Hepler, was born healthy last week, weighing 8 pounds, 9 ounces, ABC’s Good Morning America reported.
More than 20 reports from Lakeland have been made to the National UFO Reporting Center (view claims from Florida), and the most common ones involve orange orbs drifting across the night sky. LALtoday offers a possible explanation: Some of Draken International’s military aircraft flying out of Lakeland Linder carry orange-red navigation/identification lights.
DOWNTOWN: A proposal to develop apartments, retail and a garage on the Oak Street parking lot took a baby step forward Thursday. The city’s CRA Advisory Board voted to ask city commissioners to let their staff negotiate with Catalyst Asset Management of Tampa to buy the city-owned property. (No link yet; the story isn’t online. Here’s some background.)
MERIT SCHOLARS: Four newly announced National Merit Scholars from Polk include three Lakeland students who attend the International Baccalaureate School at Bartow High School — Erica C. Roberts, John M. Scott and Victoria Marie Vailoces — and a Harrison School for the Arts student, Katherine G. Achinger.
Some music highlights in Lakeland this weekend include Sirens 2, a showcase of local women musicians at The Pink Piano tonight, the hot-sauce-infused rocking blues of Bill “Sauce Boss” Wharton at Union Hall Friday, the back-to-the-roots country of Jeffry Allen and Band at Swan Brewing on Friday, country sister act Diamond Dixie at Swan Brewing Saturday and singer-songwriter Kimi Tortuga at Union Hall Saturday. Keep scrolling for our updated live music calendar: More
ELECTRICITY: Reduced capacity at one generator and scheduled maintenance at another mean Lakeland Electric will need to purchase power from other utilities this month to meet demands. Estimated cost is $1.2 million.
ALSO: WUSF coverage
BORN & BREAD: Jennifer Smurr talks with reporter Eric Pera about the passion for artisanal bread that drove her to found Born & Bread Bakehouse, which recently expanded its hours.
PARKING METERS: Parking pay stations in the Main Street Garage and two downtown lots (Munn Park, Kentucky near Mitchell’s) are being replaced. The new stations, similar to ones used in Tampa, require drivers to enter their license plate number.
ARIANA SIDEWALK: County commissioners have accepted federal funding for a 1.5-mile sidewalk to be built next year along Ariana Street between South Wabash Avenue and Lotus Avenue.
ELECTRIC BILL: The fuel charge on Lakeland Electric bills will be reduced by $1 per 1,000 kWh for three months starting next month, a result of coal savings associated with taking the McIntosh 3 plant offline for repairs.
SCHOOL SEGREGATION: The 50th anniversary of the end of officially racially segregated schools in Polk County will be marked by several events this week sponsored by the Washington Park/Rochelle High School Alumni Association.
A Talbot House Ministries affordable-housing program will get a big donation from the city: a dilapidated apartment building appraised at $160,000 and $50,000 toward repairs, the City Commission decided Monday. More
With the upgrades Lakeland Linder International Airport will make to accommodate Amazon’s planned jet cargo center, the instrument landing system will be among the best 30 to 35 in the country, Gene Conrad, airport director, said. More
As city commissioners begin considering allowing more students at a charter school on New Jersey Road, Commissioner Bill Read said constituents are starting to raise concerns about traffic levels on the road after another private school got permission to start classes nearby. More
City commissioners face a decision today on two different approaches in providing affordable housing: nominal rents and social services for low-wage workers through Talbot House or vouchers for veterans. More
On May 2, Florida Southern College announced that its provost, or chief academic officer, Dr. Kyle Fedler, would step down from that post to return to a teaching position in the college. Effective Saturday, he will be succeeded as provost and vice president of academic affairs by Dr. Brad Hollingshead, FSC’s dean of the College of Arts and Sciences since 2013. More
It looks like nearly $4.7 million of the city of Lakeland’s costs for airport improvements needed for the planned Amazon cargo facility will be covered by a state jobs-creation grant. The grant was initially awarded for a large maintenance hangar, but the state is allowing the city to redirect it to Amazon-related upgrades. | Documentation
The wetlands are slated to be cleared of invasive vegetation and three ponds built as part of a stormwater filtration system; it’s being created to reduce harmful nutrients, trash and sediments flowing into Lake Hunter, said Laurie Smith, manager of the city’s lakes and stormwater division. More
Constant traffic on two-lane West Pipkin Road between Florida Avenue and Harden Boulevard is already a burden, those who live there say; they are speaking with county commissioners today to seek relief in the face of new housing developments and large employers that will add more trips to the busy road.
RESTORATION: Historic preservation advocate Gregory Fancelli is restoring the large house next to the South Florida Avenue Church of Christ to its original 1920s look. The church will use the former mansion to house students from its Florida School of Preaching.
ALSO: View photos of the projects on Instagram
RESTAURANT: Dining critic Eric Pera bestows four stars (out of five) on Romeo’s Pizza and Pasta in the strip center at Kathleen and Griffin Roads, calling it a “a welcoming oasis of comfort food.”
Sarasota-based Ari and the Alibis blast their sultry fusion of jazz, rock, funk, soul, samba and blues at Union Hall Friday night. Based on their YouTube videos, the $15 cover is worth it. Other highlights this weekend, at least for people into tribute bands, include Tampa’s Absolute Queen at RP Funding Center tonight. Keep scrolling for the updated music calendar: More
Downtown Lakeland’s New York Avenue bicycle path is nearing completion. A few improvements are being made prior to the final inspection, which is expected to take place next month, Lakeland Public Works Director Heath Frederick said.
The three-block path between Lime and Main Streets is formally called a “bicycle track,” but it’s more of a connector that will take cyclists between a future trail along the west side of Lake Hunter and the planned over-the-railroad pedestrian bridge that will connect New York Avenue with Lake Wire. More
UPDATE: Eastbound traffic and one westbound lane has reopened on Memorial Blvd. between Ingraham and Lake Parker Avenues. A water main break in front of Church of the Mall caused a utility pole to fall into the road, @lakelandgov says. Repair crews are at the scene. #lkld
— Lkld Now (@LkldNow) May 29, 2019
Jiwa Farrell, 41, has filed to run against City Commissioner Bill Read, ensuring that there will be at least two races on the Nov. 5 city ballot. In the other race, five people are seeking to replace Justin Troller, who has reached term limits. Commissioner Phillip Walker has no opposition so far. More
BONNET SPRINGS: Over the next 6-7 weeks, earth movers will create two 45-foot “mountains” out of the flat former rail yard that will become part of Bonnet Springs Park as developers race toward an aggressive 2020 planned opening. They’ve applied for permits to create a 7-acre lagoon for boaters rather than opening the whole 80-acre Lake Bonnet to recreation.
VIDEO: View drone aerial footage of the earth-moving operations via the park’s Facebook page.
The Ledger continues reducing the size of its news operation, laying off five newsroom employees, including two of the three top editors, according to multiple sources; they said the move was a part of nationwide newsroom layoffs from parent company GateHouse Media. More
After three weekends of soft openings, musician Dan Signor’s Union Hall in Dixieland holds its grand opening Friday night with the Motown-inspired party sounds of The Black Honkeys. (Check the Clearwater showband’s videos.) Tickets may be hard to come by; the event’s ticket page says it’s sold out.
Traveling musicians playing Lakeland this weekend include Friction Farm, a husband-wife folk troubadour duo from Greenville, S.C., at an Among Friends Music house concert Saturday night, and the traditional Irish tunes of Dublin guitarist-singer Martin Healy at Hillcrest Music Saturday at 1 p.m.
Keep scrolling for our updated music calendar: More
AVENT: In a year when many Florida Poly faculty and staff are expected to get no raises, the university’s board granted President Randy Avent a 12 percent bonus, raising his base pay of $441,791 to around $494,800. Avent declined to accept the full 20 percent bonus he was eligible for or a 3.5 percent annual increase, citing a challenging budget year.
BEER: Downtown Lakeland’s Swan Brewing will be sending its creations to other venues. Several of its ales, lagers and stouts will be available on draft at restaurants and bars in Polk and Orange Counties under a newly signed distribution agreement with Sunshine State Distributing of Orlando.
MUSIC: Laura Davis’ “Polk Rising” series on local creatives continues with a look at Lady Moonbeam (Facebook), a musical trio that channels its soul heroes. Catch them at the Maddox Jam on Saturday and LkldLive on June 14.
Alex Rich, who came to Lakeland in 2014 to head Florida Southern College’s art history program and galleries, has been named executive director and chief curator of the Polk Museum Art. He succeeds Claire Orologas, who has announced her retirement after leading the museum since 2012, according to a news release issued today by Florida Southern College, which formed a partnership with the museum two years ago. More
Lakeland Electric wants to make customers aware of a variety of scams that frequently target utility customers. Lakeland Electric representatives will never call requesting payment or ask for your bank or credit card information over the phone. More
The building at 1109 E. Main St. that once housed the Kau Kau Koner nightspot and El Greco restaurant before that is being demolished. The property was purchased in January by Alternative Capital Holdings of Tampa for $88,000. This Facebook post by Merlin Amusements has prompted a lot of nostalgic memories from former patrons.
LALtoday shares a photo of a Lakeland-focused mural being painted on the side of a warehouse on Main Street near Ingraham Avenue. A depiction of Lake Mirror’s Frances Langford Promenade anchors the mural, a creation of artist A.H. Taylor, a Lakeland native known on social media as The Atlanta Illustrator. Sponsors include the Lakeland Community and Economic Development Department, Boring Business Systems and Rochelle School of the Arts. For a brief time, the warehouse was home to the KRaP Art youth creativity venue and this same wall featured a cartoony bunny mural. Learn more about the project via The Ledger and Bay News 9.
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ATTN: The Frances Langford Promenade is moving to a new location. Okay, we’re just kidding. But how cool is this new mural of the lakefront icon? 🎨 This community piece by artist, @theatlantaillustrator is a collaboration between @lkldced, @bbslakeland + students from @rochellesota and in true Lakeland fashion will include: @sunnfun_flyin planes, swans, oranges, butterflies + of course, the Frances Langford Promenade at Lake Mirror. 🍊#ProTip: Charge your phones for this new selfie location. 🤳
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CHARTER: Lakeland voters will be asked to decide on several proposed changes to the city charter in November, but the ballot will not include the two most controversial measures suggested by a charter committee a couple of years ago: making it easier to sell Lakeland Electric and tightening term limits for commissioners and the mayor.
CITY RETIREES: Lakeland commissioners on Monday upheld a pension board recommendation against granting an ad hoc raise to retired city workers.
- Harry Bopp, Lakeland’s first pediatric dentist, is retiring at 72
- Sarah Dukes McKay received an international Junior League honor
- Charles Mills won June’s Lakeland CityMaker Award for the youth training non-profit he founded
A 50-year lease agreement for Amazon Services Inc.‘s planned jet cargo operation at Lakeland Linder International Airport won the City Commission’s unanimous approval Monday afternoon, but not before commissioners fielded skeptical questions and asked a few of their own. More
Southeastern University’s president talks with The Business Observer about how SEU has grown enrollment 215 percent in eight years and expanded from 30 to 112 satellite campuses in four years. The key is a leadership style based on listening, he says: “Be other-oriented, people-centric. Try to understand where people are coming from. “What are their needs? How can I serve them? Center leadership on those around you.”
Lakeland Linder Airport’s director is talking with American Airlines about starting commercial service between here and Charlotte, N.C., as early as next year, The Ledger reports. Linder’s Gene Conrad says discussions have centered on the possibility of two to three flights a day on aircraft carrying 70 to 90 passengers as American expands its Charlotte hub.
Lakeland-Winter Haven has had the nation’s second-highest rate of new foreclosure filings among metro areas this year, according to a new analysis that finds the filings down from last year nationally but up significantly in Florida. More
A “minor collision” between two charter buses on Rockridge Road near Dean Still Road sent Pasco County students to hospitals in Lakeland and Bartow for treatment this morning. An announcement from Pepin Academies said 30 students were taken to hospitals and that no major injuries were reported. But the Florida Highway Patrol said just two students were hospitalized, the Tampa Bay Times noted. The students were on a field trip to Medieval Times in Kissimmee.
Amazon Services Inc. is the long-held-secret negotiator for an intermodal center on the northwest side of the airport, City Attorney Tim McCausland announced this morning during a City Commission study session. More
Our tour of Lakeland establishments that offer healthy food choices continues with a visit to the Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market, operating on Saturdays on Kentucky Avenue between the railroad tracks and Oak Street. More
PUBLIX HQ: The planned expansion of Publix Super Markets Lakeland headquarters will be larger and costlier than originally projected, so the company is seeking deeper economic development tax breaks.
MOUSEKETEER: Writer Gary White catches up with Lakeland-bred actress-comedian-singer Lindsey Alley as she prepares for this weekend’s 30th reunion of fellow Mouseketeers from “The All New Mickey Mouse Club.”
GIRLS INC.: Recipients of the organization’s annual “She Knows Where She’s Going” this year are Evelyn Berrazueta, former owner of The Live Oak restaurant and a current LPD employee; Anita Silwal, a Winter Haven senior planner who recently received a master’s degree from Florida Poly and worked for the city of Lakeland; and Albertha Whitley-Tabron, retired director of Lakeland’s Coleman-Bush Building.
Lakeland’s first baby black-necked swan in years went missing Wednesday night, hours after being placed in a holding pen on the southern shore of Lake Morton. While the city parks director lamented, “It’s very disappointing that someone would do this,” police said they’ve found no evidence of a crime and suggested a predatory animal could be the culprit.
Visit Central Florida offers a video tour of the newest sculptures along Lakeland’s Lemon Street Promenade. Yeah, the video is more promotional than newsy, but this outdoor art is hard to photograph and they did a great job.
The music scene in Lakeland keeps growing. Our calendar, below, lists 44 chances to hear live music between today and Sunday. And we know we don’t list everything. If you know of Lakeland venues or musicians we’re not listing, please let us know. We want to continue improving our live music calendar. Thanks. Now here are the shows: More
HIGHLAND CITY DINER: A team that ran Florida Presbyterian Homes’ dining operation is the “firepower behind (a) not-so-humble café” in a strip center that restaurant critic Eric Pera calls “a local diner willing to step outside of the box. Who goes to the bother of baking fresh challah these days, in these parts?” He gives Highland City Diner 3 1/2 stars for food, service and ambience | Menu
D’LUCAS TAKING FLIGHT: Marcos Fernandez, the chef behind Dixieland’s upscale Nineteen61, is taking his D’Lucas fast-casual concept to Lakeland Linder Airport and expanding the menu, but not until this fall at the earliest. First he’s moving Nineteen61 downtown to the former home of Posto 9 this summer.
SCHOOL FUNDING: Polk’s school district will be getting a $225+ increase in per-pupil funding next year — from roughly $7,205 to $7,431.
DUNN JUDGE: Circuit Judge Donald Jacobsen has rotated back to the criminal division and will preside over the second-degree murder case of former City Commissioner Michael Dunn. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for July 12.
After a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine’s new $4.5 million home today, visitors touring the building took out their smartphones and aimed their cameras upward toward a 20-foot-high mural dominating two walls in the lobby and also at two murals displaying the organization’s vision statement. More
Two bicycling events this week focus on safe driving/biking and two-wheel commuting:
- The annual Ride of Silence, held to remember cyclists hurt or killed on public roadways, starts at 6 p.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church and includes two slow laps around Lake Hollingsworth.
- Friday is National Bike to Work Day. At a recent meeting, City Commissioner Scott Franklin challenged his colleagues to cycle to the city’s agenda study session Friday morning. (We hope they don’t all try to use the tiny bike rack by the main entrance to City Hall.)
Here’s our video from last year’s Ride of Silence. One big change since then: The bicycle stop sign at Lake Hollingsworth Drive and Ingraham Avenue has been replaced by a concrete-separated bike lane where cyclists need stop only when pedestrians are crossing.
ARTS: After last year’s deep cuts, funding is improved for arts organizations under the budget passed by the Florida Legislature. Now local supporters wait to see if their appropriations are vetoed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
TEACHER: Lake Gibson Middle School’s Mary Harn is named Florida substitute teacher of the year by Kelly Educational Staffing.
WAREHOUSE: Rezoning to place a warehouse on current agriculture land west of Lakeland Linder Airport passed a Polk County Commission hurdle, but still needs approval from the state and a final signoff from the county. The 56 acres line Hamilton Road across from a Lakeland Electric solar farm.
VIRAL: There’s a darker tale behind last week’s viral video of a man standing through his Cadillac’s sunroof arms spread-eagled while driving on I-4 in Lakeland. As FHP troopers stopped him, the 70-year-old man was served by Polk deputies with a warrant charging him with domestic abuse | WFLA coverage
Sergio Perez, 17, credits the rigor of jointly working on a high school diploma at Lakeland Collegiate High School and an associate’s degree at Polk State College for his acceptance to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He’s the first in his family to go to college.
A Polk public schools bus attendant, Juanita Tappin, 43, of Lakeland, has been charged with three counts of child abuse and three counts of abused on a disabled adult. The arrest came after a special needs child reported she had been struck en route to Doris A. Sanders Learning Center.
The team behind the Yard on Mass food truck park and taproom broke ground this afternoon in a brief ceremony. The venue at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Parker Street is expected to open this fall. Supported in part by the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency, Yard on Mass joins neighbors like Haus 820 as part of the city’s efforts to revitalize the neighborhood’s commercial strip.
FOOD TRUCK PARK: Two organizers of The Yard on Mass, which breaks ground at 3:30 today, talk about plans for their “communal yard party,” including a partnership with Swan Brewing and a taproom with a variety of Central Florida brews and premixed craft cocktails.
MAYFAIRE: Lakeland’s premiere outdoor art show again rings Lake Morton this Mother’s Day weekend.
UTILITY WORKERS: After an impasse, city commissioners approved a new contract for 270 unionized Lakeland Electric workers that has other city employees and retirees hoping for better deals.
Alice Koehler, whose career has focused on Lakeland non-profits since she returned here after two years in the Peace Corps, has been chosen as the next president and CEO of Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine. More
GARAGE: Signaling their intent to build a parking garage behind Lakeland Police headquarters, city commissioners have agreed to budget $15k for a consultant to help design it.
WABASH: Road construction to extend North Wabash Avenue to Kathleen Road could begin this fall as the city nears acquiring the last piece of property needed for the one-mile extension, the city public works director says.
A man suspected in a Dixieland shooting that sent a 23-year-old woman to the hospital Monday evening turned himself in to authorities this morning after his photo was posted on social media, Lakeland police said. Trayvion Arrington, 18, has been arrested on a charge of aggravated battery with a firearm, according to spokesman Gary Gross. More
Lakeland city commissioners and their top staff spent the better part of eight hours today previewing potential new projects for 2020. Commissioners liked most of what they saw but rejected a few projects and trimmed others. Here are some highlights as seen by posts on Twitter: More
Polk Fire Rescue Chief Tony Stravino, 62, said today he plans to retire in the next 30 days. The announcement came a day after the release of an investigative report that criticized the department’s handling of a November fire that resulted in the death of a disabled, 76-year-old woman.
A 23-year-old woman was shot in the chest in Dixieland around 7:09 p.m. Monday in a possible armed robbery, @LakelandPD says. Woman was taken to LRH. No condition released. No name or address or info on victim released. Suspect is being sought. https://t.co/iwhQVSj5zC #lkld
— Lkld Now (@LkldNow) May 7, 2019
A man identified as Bruce Wayne Johnson, 59, was in critical condition after being hit from behind by a dark-colored SUV Monday night on Main Street near Lake Bonny, Lakeland police report. They ask that anyone with info call Officer Tyler Anderson at (863) 834-2553.
POWER PLANT: Lakeland Electric’s coal-burning McIntosh Unit 3, disabled since February but expected to come back online May 22, will be shut down by fall 2024, the utility said Monday. The city’s Utility Committee will be tasked with deciding how to replace the lost capacity.
FATAL FIRE FOLLOWUP: An outside agency reviewing Polk Fire Rescue’s response to a November fatal fire on Rockridge Road praised the 911 operator who handled the call but found deficiencies with the on-scene team’s communication and the agency’s training and leadership development.
ALSO: WFLA coverage | The report
“I think they share universal, humanist themes, such as triumph and tragedy, and they do it in such a large way,” he said days before conducting a Lakeland concert fusing the music of Coldplay and Beethoven. More
Saying Lakeland “provides one of the greatest concentrations of strong, active Florida Baptist churches in the state,” the Panhandle-based Baptist College of Florida has announced it plans a second campus in Lakeland. No exact location has been determined, the Dothan Eagle reports.
Lakeland’s MidFlorida Credit Union has announced plans to merge with Ocala’s Community Bank & Trust of Florida and the Florida assets of First American Bank of Iowa by the end of the year. The MidFlorida-Community merger would create a combined entity with $4 billion in assets and $3 billion in loans, with 1,100 employees and 63 full-service branches, according to a news release.
ALSO: Business Observer coverage
DOWNTOWN: A company affiliated with investor Gregory Fancelli has presented plans for a mixed-use development on Massachusetts Avenue just north of the recently demolished Greyhound bus station. Lakeland’s CRA advisory board is asking the City Commission to allow staff to negotiate with FURC1 LLC for sale of the 0.4-acre site the city bought for $560k in 2006. The proposed facade would resemble the 1913 Hotel Thelma, which stood downtown from 1913 to 1962.
CONGRESS: Democrat Andrew Learned of Dover has announced his second run for the District 15 U.S. House seat that includes most of Lakeland. He said he plans to emphasize his military service and highlight questions about Republican incumbent Ross Spano’s 2018 campaign finances.
HOME BUILDER: Lakeland’s Highland Homes has been sold to Clayton Properties Group of Maryville, Tenn. Co-founder Joel Adams plans to stay on, while the other co-founder — his dad, Bob Adams — plans to retire.
UPDATE: A Lakeland couple that was subject of a silver alert this week has been found safe in Ohio, Lakeland police say.
Broadway Real Estate Services brought its top executives, a lawyer, architect and a court reporter to an advisory board’s meeting today to make a simple request: Hear from us before recommending who should have a shot at developing the Oak Street parking lot just north of Broadway’s NoBay complex.
The show of force was prompted by a recommendation that the city negotiate with Tampa-based Catalyst Asset Management Inc., the only other company that responded to a request for qualifications for developing the site comprising a full downtown block. More
When Rose Rosenkranz first visited Auschwitz, the former Nazi extermination camp where as many as 1 million Jews were murdered, she said she heard the voice of her grandmother, who was among those who died there along with her two young children.
“She said, ‘Speak for me and my two babies. I no longer have a voice. You must be my voice.’” More
Music for many moods in Lakeland this weekend: redneck hip-hop from recording artist Bubba Sparxxx at Wild Greg’s Saloon, acoustic energy of Sarasota’s Passarine at Hillcrest Coffee, sophisticated syncopation of “West Side Story” at an ISO concert and the art-rock bombast of Rex Floyd‘s tribute to Pink Floyd at Swan Brewing. Keep scrolling for more on these and other local shows: More
BUS 4G: The Citrus Connection is moving ahead with plans to put wifi and electronics charging stations in its buses and implement a pay-as-you-go app as it tries to reverse ridership declines.
DINING: Restaurant critic Eric Pera praises the “crunchy tostones as big as hubcaps” at West Caribbean Cuban Restaurant on Combee Road, which he awards 3 1/2 stars (out of five) for food and four for service.
FEM CIGARS: Pera also catches up with Lashes and Ashes, a group of women who unite once a month over leisurely smokes at Cigar Life in a South Florida Avenue strip mall.
THEATER: Rogue Stage is bringing four one-person shows from the Orlando International Fringe Festival to LkldLive May 17 and 23.
This is a story about how Kathy Wallen met Andy and Ashley McEntire six years ago and how the resulting friendship blossomed into a new organization that aims to share stories of good works to an international audience. More
That process, established more than 45 years ago, has protected the market for Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, ensuring it is the only general hospital in the community. More
A Lakeland financial technology company is seeking $60,000 in state, county and city incentives to stay here, expand its operation and hire 20 new employees at an average salary of $51,309. The company, whose name isn’t being disclosed by economic development officials, says it is also looking at two overseas sites, Tampa Bay Business Journal reports.
MUNN PARK: During an all-day, outdoor forum, Lakelanders offer ideas about what should go in the center of the downtown park.
VOTING: The state legislators representing Lakeland all support bills that would require convicted felons who have served their time to pay restitution (in the case of the Senate) and add to that fines and fees (in the House) before registering to vote.
We’re reposting this article since the work starts Wednesday: Kentucky Avenue will close between Orange Street and Lemon Street starting May 1 for construction of the five-story Heritage Plaza parking garage, the city of Lakeland has announced. The closure is expected to last until the end of 2019. More
In recent years, major orchestras have found it popular – and lucrative – to perform concert versions of hit Broadway musicals. In these performances, there are no costumes, staging or dancing but simply singers standing with the orchestra on stage, singing through the score.
The recent centennial birth year of composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) has given occasion for orchestras to perform a concert version of his most successful and beloved work, “West Side Story,” on which he collaborated with lyricist Stephen Sondheim. The Imperial Symphony Orchestra has enthusiastically jumped on the bandwagon, and in its final concert of the 2018-2019 season, the orchestra will perform a concert version of “West Side Story” featuring singers from Polk County. More
The city of Lakeland tallied the cost of moving the Confederate monument from Munn Park to Veterans Park at about $185,000, which was about $40,000 less than anticipated. The largest part went to the Tampa moving contractor, whose $165k payment was $15k higher than the original estimate because they ended up engineering and constructing a new base for the monument.
POLY: Florida Poly should reinstate two employees, according to a state hearing officer, who said the university’s moves have a chilling effect on legal union activity.
A full house is anticipated at the RP Funding Center’s George Jenkins Arena next Thursday when 650-plus students participate in Polk State College’s 6:30 p.m. commencement ceremony. The students have claimed their allotment of six tickets each and no more are available, the college said in a news release. The ceremony will be live-streamed.