U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer James Ring has been away from Lakeland on active duty, but managed to slip back into town to surprise his daughters at a school dance they’ve always attended as a family. Keep scrolling for a video story by Ledger reporter Kimberly Moore or read her article here: More
- POLICE AND FIRE NEGOTIATORS remain at odds with the city of Lakeland over pay nearly five months after the last contracts expired.
- FLORIDA SOUTHERN College has dedicated the new Carol Jenkins Barnett Center for Early Childhood Learning and Health and the Lamar Louise Curry Education Building | ALSO: Bay News 9 coverage
- WINTER AUTOFEST continues through Sunday at Sun ’n Fun Expo Campus | Event website
Larry Durrence, a retired president of Polk Community College and former Lakeland city commissioner, died of cancer Thursday at age 80. More
The latest Hospital Compare ratings from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services again give Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center one star out of five, placing it among the bottom 5 percent of hospitals nationwide. More
Seven years after becoming principal of Harrison School for the Arts, Daryl Ward has left to join his predecessor, Craig Collins, at Southeastern University. Kevin LeVine, who has been Harrison’s assistant principal for seven years, is serving as interim principal and hopes to be appointed to the permanent job.
Former Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields, a registered Republican, has endorsed billionaire media mogul Mike Bloomberg, a Democrat, for president. He joins a growing list of prominent Florida Democrats endorsing the former New York City mayor, Florida Politics reports. “As a nation, we need someone in the White House who can bring class, decorum, and clear-headed thinking into our political discourse,” he said.
From Charlotte, N.C., Time Sawyer brings their rootsy folk/alt-country/rock blend to Swan Brewing on Saturday night. Also Saturday night, Koo Koo Kanga Roo will entertain kids and their parents at the Polk Theatre in a fund-raiser for local teachers. Keep scrolling for our updated live music calendar. More
The Florida House bill that would put Florida Polytechnic University under the control of the University of Florida faces more opposition as a House committee prepares to take it up next week. The bill would also merge Sarasota’s New College with Florida State College, and that was the focus of a column opposing the bill written by a bi-partisan group of Florida House members from Sarasota, Manatee and Pinellas counties | ALSO: The chair of the Central Florida Development Council argues against the change.
The George Jenkins High School hockey team went from a string of losses in previous years to winning their district this year. They credit the turn-around in part to having a local venue, the Lakeland Ice Arena, to call home.
The iconic 70-foot arch at Southgate Shopping Center lost its nighttime neon glow years ago, but newly installed LED lighting will simulate the look. No word yet on when it will get turned on, but it was tested recently and Babe’s Shoes & Apparel posted photos to Facebook.
A life-sized statue of baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb will be installed behind the main ticket office at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. The likeness of the 22-year Detroit Tigers slugger was a gift from the Ted Williams Museum & Hitters Hall of Fame at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, which is down-sizing.
An agreement between the Polk school district and the Polk Education Association gives teachers more planning time and removes some lesson plan templates. More
City commissioners are expected to approve an affordable housing plan Monday that encourages building homes on vacant city-owned lots and selling them to residents who have very-low to moderate incomes. More
The proposed design for Summit Consulting’s upcoming nine-story headquarters downtown drew positive comments from city commissioners Friday before the conversation diverted to a discussion about a future “highline” pedestrian walkway. More
Note to Lake Hollingsworth walkers and joggers: “There’s nothing to see here. Move along.” That was the gist of a pair of city of Lakeland Facebook posts (here and here) after a city resident’s post (here) warned of dangerous snakes nested along the lake near the roundabout. City lakes expert inspected the area in question and found only non-lethal Florida water snakes gathered in a tree to mate, but they conceded on that they can’t rule out other species being in the area. Yellow caution tape will mark the area until mating season ends.
Despite calls and emails in opposition, the Florida House Education Committee advanced a bill that would place Florida Polytechnic University under the wing of the University of Florida and make New College in Sarasota a satellite campus of Florida State University.
Have you heard about Lakeland Electric’s upcoming Customer Appreciation game? Lakeland Electric values its customers and loves being part of this community. To show appreciation, they are hosting a free Customer Appreciation Night at the Florida Tropics indoor soccer game on Saturday, Feb. 22, at 5:05 p.m. More
Deputies on Monday filed reckless driving charges against an 18-year-old and 17-year-old who they say were racing on Cherry Lane before they ran the stop sign at Lunn Road, crashing into a pickup truck and a tree. Nine people were hospitalized in the Christmas night crash.
Opposition is mounting to a surprise proposal to integrate Florida Polytechnic University into the University of Florida. The Lakeland-based STEM university’s president said he would attend today’s Florida House Education Committee meeting to oppose the bill, and Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, said she will press to keep Florida Poly “autonomous.” More
A Florida House bill (read it here) that is being heard Wednesday by the Education Committee would consolidate Florida Polytechnic University into the University of Florida and Sarasota’s New College into Florida State University. Rep. Randy Fine, a backer, said it’s a cost-cutting measure: “Unfortunately, degrees earned from Florida Poly and New College cost an order of magnitude more than they do at the other 10 universities” | ALSO: Florida Politics coverage
U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, a Dover Republican whose district includes most of Lakeland, is being investigated by the Florida Bar for campaign finance irregularities, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Spano concedes that campaign loans, also being investigated by the Federal Elections Commission, were probably a violation, but says they resulted from a mistake, not maliciousness. A campaign spokesman said the Florida Bar has not contacted Spano and accused The Times of “doing the work of the left.”
A 42-year-old Orlando land surveyor died around lunchtime Monday after he was struck by a pickup truck as he worked in the roadway on Lakeland Highlands Road near the Polk Parkway, according to Lakeland police. More
- HURRICANE RECOVERY: FEMA has awarded the city of Lakeland $2.4 million in one of 28 requests totaling $18.2 million in reimbursement for funds spent in recovering from Hurricane Irma 2 1/2 years ago.
- POLY: In the wake of scandals elsewhere involving foreign influence on academic research, Florida Polytechnic University has responded to federal and state inquiries that it is not aware of any staff members involved in Chinese-funded programs and that employees must disclose all research activities and any conflicts of interest.
With the Detroit Tigers setting up their 85th Spring Training in Lakeland, the focus this year will be on trying out new players as the team rebuilds.
An affordable housing program passed its first hurdle last week. On Feb. 17, the Lakeland City Commission will be asked to proceed with a project to offer roughly 80 city-owned lots for sale at 120% of assessed value to developers to build houses or apartments aimed at buyers and tenants whose family income is up to 120% of the city’s median. Non-utility impact fees would be waived once houses are sold to qualifying families.
A south Lakeland teen is being treated for possible rabies after an otter fought her family’s French bulldog, chased it into the house and bit the girl before her mother tackled it and threw it out the back door. Casina and Gwyn Ewert re-enact the scene for News Channel 8.
Latest campaign finance reports show that two Democratic candidates have more cash available than first-term Republican incumbent Ross Spano in the 2020 race for the U.S. House District 15 seat, which represents most of Lakeland: Adam Hattersley, D: $171,314; Alan Cohn, D: $85,313; Spano, R: $41,986.
An exhibition that the Polk Museum of Art’s director calls his institution’s biggest and most expensive will combine:
- Old (rarely seen 17th Century Dutch and Flemish paintings) with new (a Spotify playlist)
- Visual art with the performing arts of music and dance.
Florida Sen. Kelli Stargel’s bill requiring parents to consent to a minor’s abortion passed the Senate Thursday on a party-line vote and is headed to passage by the House and signature by the governor. The Lakeland Republican said she opted to have a baby as a teen when she found she was pregnant even though her mother suggested an abortion.
Lkld Live needs to be less a music venue than a home for creativity as it moves into maturity and its next act, said Nate Fleming, the nonprofit arts venue’s new executive director. More
Workers this morning put final touches on the Heritage Plaza Parking Garage as it opened to the public for the first time. The streets surrounding the garage — Kentucky Avenue, Orange Street and Tennessee Avenue — have been resurfaced and are again open to traffic. More
A City Commission review of plans for a downtown dog park turned into a discussion about parking in the fast-developing area north of Lake Mirror and what walkability means in an increasingly urbanized city core. More
Absent a clear vision for their broadband ambitions and eager to capitalize on recent prodding for information by communications technology companies, commissioners agreed Friday to issue an open-ended request for proposals to firms willing to create a partnership with the city. More
With its parent company declaring bankruptcy, Village Inn has closed about a quarter of its under-performing restaurants, including its location on Harden Road near the Polk Parkway. Most Village Inns in the Tampa Bay area remain open.
Winners tonight at Catapult’s 2nd Annual Lakeland Entrepreneur Awards were: More
Hans Lehman, now on the doorstep of becoming a Lakeland Police assistant chief, was conflicted 30 years ago during his last few years at Kathleen High School.
Lehman didn’t know what he wanted to do for his life’s work. Maybe it’s more accurate to say there were too many things he wanted to do: More
State Rep. Melony Bell, R-Fort Meade, tells News Channel 8 she “articulated it wrong” when she supported a term-limits bill by saying Polk County has a School Board member who should be removed from office. She acknowledges that she was referring to Billy Townsend but says he has done nothing that warrants being removed by the governor.
- TEACHERS: Scores of teachers and their supporters are attending today’s Polk School Board meeting (5 p.m., Bartow High School auditorium), and many are expected to speak in support of letting voters decide on a one-mil property tax for salaries | News Channel 8 coverage | Facebook event
- McCAUSLAND: A Hillsborough judge ruled that former Lakeland City Attorney Tim McCausland can enter an intervention program for people charged with a first misdemeanor, so his charge involving “precursor acts facilitating prostitution” may be dropped.
After 19 years of wear and tear, a historical marker commemorating the Buffalo Soldiers’ 1898 encampment on Lake Wire has been replaced with a replica. More
The Polk’s Sheriff’s Office is asking for help finding Malakia Askew, 17, wanted after somebody shot a handgun into a yard full of people on Norfolk Circle east of Lakeand and wounded one of them early Friday. He “should be considered armed and dangerous. He has been known to frequent the Griffin Avenue Apartments in north Lakeland,” PCSO said on Facebook. Anybody with information is asked to contact PCSO at 863-298-6200 or, for a reward, Heartland Crime Stoppers at Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS or www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com.
On his way to establishing a chain, Dwayne Johnson — known for Dwayne’s Place Diner in Christina Plaza — has brought his Ole’ Tampa Cuban sandwich shop brand into Lakeland, opening its third location at Alamo Plaza | Facebook
- TOWNSEND: Discussing a bill calling for term limits for school board members in Florida counties, state Rep. Melony Bell seemed to be talking about Billy Townsend when she said there’s a Polk School Board member “that most likely needs to be removed” from office for being disruptive “and the governor has not removed him.” When questioned by a Ledger reporter, she said she never mentioned Townsend by name and she supports term limits in general | YOUTUBE: Bell’s comments
- THINGS TO DO: “Fly Like a Girl” aviation documentary directed by Lakeland’s Kate McEntire Wiatt at the Polk Theatre at 7 | Central Florida Rum and Food Experience at RP Funding Center from 4 to 7.
Two things have remained constant for former NBA superstar Charles Barkley: his love for First Tee in Lakeland and futility at playing golf. More
Kay Llewellyn, who has been secretary to the principal at Dixieland Elementary School for 30 years, was named Polk County’s 2020 school-related employee of the year. More
- ROADS: Wabash Avenue will extend northward to Kathleen Road, taking pressure off Harden/Sykes Boulevards and Florida Avenue, now that the city has agreed to spend $380,050 for the last bit of land needed.
- PRESCHOOL: A couple planning to open a Montessori preschool is still looking for a suitable site, having decided to no longer pursue either the Deen House on Frank Lloyd Wright Way or a second location on Oak Drive across from the Southgate Publix entrance.
- RAIL: A delegation of local elected officials and economic development backers will travel to Miami in April to push for a Polk County stop when Brightline-Virgin Trains extends its express train service from Orlando to Tampa.
The Lakeland Public Library on Lake Morton and the adjoining coffee shop reopened shortly after 11 a.m. today after being evacuated because of a bomb threat. A man who made threats after being asked to leave was taken into in custody and police searched the building “in an abundance of caution,” the Lakeland Police Department said. More
Florida Polytechnic University is seeing a 31% increase in freshman admissions applications over last year, and a 44% increase in out-of-state interest. Some see that as welcome news in the wake of a WalletHub report (here) that places Lakeland-Winter Haven at 93rd among the 100 largest metro areas in favorability to STEM professionals | RELATED: Ledger editorial and an opinion column about the WalletHub ranking.
Traffic counters were placed in 90+ locations south of downtown recently (map of locations) to gather data on traffic counts, travel times and vehicle types before the upcoming one-year test of the South Florida Avenue “road diet.” So the timing is good for an update on the Ariana-to-Lime Street narrowing of the roadway. Construction is expected to begin around May in prep for the one-year test scheduled to start around October.
- CITY: In his annual presentation to the City Commission, the head of the non-profit Lakeland Economic Development Council presented an ambitious list of goals for the city and an audacious series of suggestions for replacing city revenue without raising property taxes or utility fees. Potential revenue sources include a hospitality tax on food and beverages, conversion of Cleveland Heights Golf Course and development of city-owned property around Lake Mirror | View the presentation slides
- ABORTION: The bill by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, to require parental consent for teens wanting an abortion is heading to the Senate floor and likely passage by the full Legislature.
- DINING: In a five-star review, restaurant critic Eric Pera declares that downtown’s Nineteen61 “is without a doubt the most interesting, eclectic, vibrant, handsome restaurant Polk County has to offer.”
- SCHOOLS: Anticipating a large turnout of teachers who want to talk about public education funding, the Polk School Board is looking for a larger venue for its Jan. 28 meeting, Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said in a meeting in which board members accepted her apologies for the handling of a state email warning that teachers could be fired for missing school to attend a rally.
- GUNS: County commissioners declared Polk a Second Amendment sanctuary on Monday, three days after a majority said they were reluctant to do so. Commissioner Bill Braswell said the move was symbolic because state law prevents the county from passing firearms regulations.
- GOLF: The Barkley, Bean, Bryant and Friends golf tournament takes place at 1 p.m. Friday at YMCA Par 3 | Learn more
A bill by state Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, that would shield state lawmakers’ home addresses and family members’ income sources passed a committee 4-3 on a party-line vote. The law’s supporters offered no evidence why members of the Legislature need the same protections as judges and law enforcement officers, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Pastor H.B. Holmes spoke of bridging the digital divide at Lakeland’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast, disclosing he is using his background as a communications entrepreneur to bring free wifi to residents near his church, Word of Faith International on Skyview Drive. He also said he’s talking with the city of Lakeland about tapping into the city’s fiber network to expand free Internet to low-income residents.
A memorial to Lakeland Police Officer Paul Dunn placed near the spot on Lakeland Highlands Road where he died in a motorcycle crash on Jan. 9 was vandalized early Sunday, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. It’s been put back together but a few signs are missing, neighbors said.
Just weeks after celebrating his 109th birthday Jan. 2 at Lake Morton Plaza, Ike Newcomer died on Friday. He was believed to be among the 10 oldest men in the U.S. Newcomer, a native of Hershey, Pa., moved to Florida in 1952 and became a homebuilder, according to a recent Ledger feature. In younger days, he spent summers touring with an Airstream travel trailer, visiting all 49 states he could drive to and every Canadian province.| LPD Facebook post
In an effort to increase safety for students walking to Kathleen High Schools and others heading to public transportation, Polk officials are considering changes to Chestnut Road (map) between Memorial Boulevard and New Tampa Highway. The road would become one-way northbound separated by a concrete divider from a two-way multi-use path occupying the current southbound lane. People can learn more and give opinions at a public meeting Tuesday 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Trinity Life Church of God, 1942 W. Memorial Blvd. | Public notice
- BYRD APOLOGY: If she had it to do over again, Polk Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said in an email apology to her staff, she would have let teachers know why she forwarded a letter from a state lawyer and assured them they wouldn’t be fired for attending a statewide rally in Tallahassee on a school day | Byrd’s email
- ELECTIONS SUPERVISOR Lori Edwards has picked up opposition for her nonpartisan position. Debbie Hannifan, a Lakeland real estate agent, has filed to run in November’s election against the five-term incumbent.
- HOMELESS: Federal assistance to Polk County for homelessness programs remains at around $1.9 million, but more could be coming.
- THEATER: A three-school collaboration brings students from Lake Gibson high school and middle school to work on a Wendell Watson Elementary School musical being staged Sunday.
Orlando Health, which had a brief affiliation with Lakeland Regional Health that ended 15 months ago, has announced its intention to buy 80 acres in south Lakeland “for a potential future medical campus.” More
The fifth win by a candidate endorsed by a Lakeland-centered political action committee illustrates a new model for winning city campaigns: more focused, more professional and much more expensive. More
A long motorcade traveling South Florida Avenue on Thursday afternoon made a stop so that Vice President Mike Pence could get out at Reececliff Family Diner and enjoy some of its famous pie. Later, at a campaign rally in Kissimmee, he praised the work of LPD Officer Paul Dunn, who died a week earlier in a motorcycle accident on the way to work. See coverage in The Ledger and and keep scrolling for social media videos: More
On the eve of his funeral, well wishers have adorned Lakeland Police Officer Paul Dunn’s motorcycle with flowers and mementos. It’s being displayed at the fallen officer memorial in front of LPD headquarters on Massachusetts Avenue. Dunn, 50, died in an accident on Lakeland Highlands Road last Thursday. More
Because they were warned not to attend, Polk teachers were cheered when their buses arrived in Tallahassee for a rally supporting public education Monday. The 600+ on the buses plus several hundred more who carpooled made Polk’s probably the largest delegation at a statewide rally whose size was estimated at 4,500 by Tallahassee police.
- Coverage of Polk teachers in Tallahassee: The Ledger (YouTube video) | News Channel 8 | ABC Action News | Fox 13 News
- 500+ rallied for education in Munn Park after school: The Ledger | ABC Action News | LkldNow
- A look at the numbers: News Channel 8
Residents interested in learning more about the future of Lakeland Linder Airport will have a chance to ask questions and voice opinions at a public meeting Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the airport terminal. Topics addressed in the airport’s 20-year master plan include runway expansion, and the airport director encourages potential homeowners in fast-growing southwest Lakeland to “know what’s happening before they buy a home” | City of Lakeland news release
More than 500 people gathered in Munn Park at 4:30 p.m. today for a rally to support increased state funding for public education. After that, they walked to Florida Avenue to wave signs encouraging support from passing drivers. Speakers in the video, in order, are: More
Help(her), a new Lakeland business, helps small organizations and individuals needing assistance with a variety of tasks. They pair the client’s needs with a member of their team of background-checked women who work for $15 an hour | Help(her) website
- METHODISTS: As the United Methodist Church faces a potentially divisive split over LGBTQ issues, the pastor of Lakeland’s First United Methodist Church expressed hopes for unity Sunday and said his church’s “inclusive” approach will keep it aligned with the denomination.
- DISABILITIES: It will cost the city of Lakeland an estimated $45.5 million over 25 years to achieve compliance with American for Disabilities standards, city commissioners were told recently. Improvements will include adding sidewalk curb cuts and installing doors at city buildings that are easier to open.
Around 700 teachers and supporters boarded charter buses at the RP Funding Center early this morning to ride to Tallahassee for a rally in support of public education that’s expected to attract thousands.
In Lakeland, a large crowd is expected at Munn Park at 4:30 today for a companion rally and march to support higher state funding for education. Speakers include Jennifer Sabin, an advocate of education reform. LkldNow plans to live-stream the rally on our Facebook page. More
With more than 1,000 Polk public school teachers expected to travel to Tallahassee Monday for a statewide rally in support of increased education funding, Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd held a hastily called news conference today to explain the plan to ensure classrooms are covered. Plans include classroom staffing by 650 substitute teachers, 450 administrators, and 30 sheriff’s deputies with college degrees. Keep scrolling for video from the news conference: More
Chad McLeod says the key to victory in his recent race for a Lakeland City Commission seat was one-on-one engagement with voters. He talked about lessons learned during the campaign in the 100th episode of the “PR and Politics” podcast he co-hosts with his brother and business partner, Joe McLeod. More
Funeral services for LPD Officer Paul Dunn, who died in a motorcycle accident on Thursday, are scheduled for noon Wednesday at Lakes Church, formerly First Baptist Church of the Mall. The public is invited, and the family encourages people to wear attire supporting the military or the UF Gators | ALSO: LPD Facebook post
Thursday was extremely busy on the police and criminal courts beat in Lakeland. In addition to the death of an LPD officer, these stories were reported:
- HOMICIDE: Deputies are searching for Celso Omar Sanchez Acosta, 29, in the shooting death of Henry Fernandez-Soto, 24; the two had a dispute involving a horse theft | ABC Action News
- CHILD DEATH: Kyle Reese, 26, faces aggravated child abuse charges in the death of a 2-month-old infant in his care | 10 News
- DUI FATALITY ARREST: Rodney Wimberly, 53, was charged with DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide in the April 2019 crash on Bartow Road that killed his girlfriend, Shannon Oglesby, 47 | Fox 13 News
- HIT-AND-RUN CONVICTION: A jury convicted William Hull, 36, of failing to remain at the scene of a crash with serious bodily injuries in a September 2017 incident that knocked an 11-year-old girl into a ditch near Lake Parker | The Ledger
- LPN ARREST: Tammy Konkol-Townsend of Lakeland was arrested on drug charges after a Ring camera caught images of her taking fentanyl and hydrocodone meant for a Good Shepherd Hospice patient, according to a Polk Sheriff’s arrest report. In addition, her licensed practical nurse and radiologic technician licenses have been placed on emergency restriction | The Miami Herald
Lighting that would allow after-dusk use of a city dog park planned near Lake Mirror was jeopardized when bids came in higher than the city had budgeted.
But the lighting and a few other amenities may be on the way after the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board voted today to add $100,000 to the $50,000 it had already committed to the project. More
Recommendations from Megan Towner, our music maven:
- Roses from Bones, Mugbrain, Blondino and Karissa Frampton 7 p.m. tonight at Hillcrest Coffee. Most of the acts are Tampa alternative rock going acoustic for tonight’s show.
- Black Velvet Band at Molly McHugh’s Irish Pub on Friday at 9 p.m. Irish folk songs and anthems, raucous and very engaging with the audience.
- Lesa Silvermore at The Pink Piano at 8 p.m. Saturday. Lesa is a high-energy indie/folk solo acoustic performer. Truly impressed last time I saw her play there.
Lakeland Police Officer Paul Dunn, 50, died this morning when he hit a concrete median and lost control of his department-issued motorcycle on Lakeland Highlands Road near Lake Miriam Drive, according to the Polk Sheriff’s Office. More
Lakeland police are seeking help locating two teens who were last seen leaving the Motel 6 on U.S. 98 near Interstate 4 on New Year’s Day. Haleigh Cole, 15, and Jorden Payne, 16, were visiting Jorden’s parents there; they left on foot, saying they were going to a store, but did not return.
Jorden was wearing a red Nike jacket and gray shorts, according to an LPD Facebook post. Haleigh was wearing denim overalls and a “Friends” T-shirt, her mother said on Facebook. Jorden has family in Valdosta, Ga., LPD said.
Anyone with information about the teens’ location is asked to contact Detective Charlene Ali at 863.834.8974 or Charlene.email@example.com.
- BULLYING: Lakelander Jaylen Arnold’s anti-bullying campaign is getting help from jet-setting model Daniela Braga, herself a bullying target during her gangly teen years.
- STARBUCKS: Lakeland’s newest Starbucks is coming to the Christina area this summer. It will front South Florida Avenue between Home Depot and Bob Evans.
- HIT-AND-RUN TRIAL: William Ray Hull did not stop his pickup the afternoon in 2017 he hit and injured an 11-year-old girl near Lake Parker because he thought he hit a rock or a piece of wood, his attorney said as his hit-and-run trial started | Background: 2017 coverage
A short followup on our Friday article about a young couple who wants to introduce electric scooter rentals to Lakeland, focused on downtown, Florida Southern College and routes between the two:
The couple, Jed Irvine and Latisha Forsberg, came to Monday’s City Commission meeting to answer commissioners’ questions about Leaf, the business they started in Duluth, Minn., last summer and they’d like to move to Florida during winters. More
- TROLLLER: In a farewell speech Monday lasting 39 minutes, Justin Troller reviewed his last 12 years as a city commissioner, which he said was marked by “being a vocal champion for issues that affect all Lakelanders, not just the privileged few.”
- RIP: Trent Rowe, 78, The Ledger’s witty (and sometimes lovably corny) food writer/restaurant reviewer/copy editor for 22 years.
Shells is on the verge of opening a seafood restaurant in south Lakeland, where steak is still the boss. The small Tampa-based chain will hold its Lakeland grand opening Jan. 15 at 5125 S. Florida Ave. The big building was most recently occupied by Manny’s Chophouse, which opened in Lakeland in 2013 and closed last May. More
You may have come to LkldNow on Sunday afternoon and the website looked a little strange. And there will be periods today when things look a little strange again. We’re working through some technical issues, and fixing them requires us to switch to different templates temporarily. Please bear with us. Our WordPress guru, Chuck Welch, says we’ll get these problems licked today.
Two houses a little over a mile apart near Lake Gibson High School were destroyed in separate fires Saturday morning. No people were injured, but two dogs died, according to Polk County Fire Rescue. The first fire was reported at 4:28 a.m. at 258 Padgett Place, and the other one was about an hour later at 7515 Socrum Loop Road N. MORE COVERAGE: 10 News
The Lakeland Police Department has been sued in federal court by a man seeking $150,000-plus in damages for an incident (summarized here), claiming officers used excessive force in shooting and injuring him at his apartment in 2015. Police said Wesley Cook refused to drop his handgun when they responded to a domestic disturbance call. Cook says in the lawsuit that physical force was unnecessary because he didn’t threaten anybody with the weapon.
The corner of Massachusetts and Parker got brightened up this week when artist Gillian Fazio painted a citrusy summerscape on the wall of The Yard on Mass facing Parker Street.
Frustrated that many vacant lots are used as illegal dumping grounds, city commissioners are pondering whether to raise fines for property owners, many of whom live out of state, who repeatedly violate lot-cleaning rules. The city pays to have the lots cleaned and mowed, and Commissioner Scott Franklin says the repeat offenders must consider the current fees and fines (typically $261 to $546) a cost of doing business | Latest list of violators
Is Lakeland ready for rental electric scooters? With one exception, city commissioners don’t think we’re there yet, but they’re willing to listen to a young couple who would like to bring 45 scooters here as a pilot project. More
There’s still time to enjoy live music before the two-week holiday period ends. A highlight this weekend comes Saturday when Uncle John’s Band, a favorite of Florida Deadheads, comes to the RP Funding Center to re-create the Grateful Dead’s famous May 1977 concert at the same venue when it was called the Lakeland Civic Center. Keep scrolling for our updated live music calendar. More
A collaboration with other pet-serving agencies and a program that sent 300 kittens to out-of-state homes helped preserve the lives of 1,500 animals, SPCA Florida says as it seeks to reverse Polk’s position as the county with Florida’s highest animal-kill rate.
News Channel 8 looks at the eight addresses in Lakeland where crimes are reported most often. The locations and explanations offered by LPD Assistant Chief Sam Taylor: Lakeland Regional Health (many victims end up there); five retail locations, including both Walmarts, Lakeland Square Mall, Circle K at Florida and 14th; and McDonald’s on Memorial Boulevard (shoplifting and parking lot accidents dominate); Lakewood Terrace Apartments on 14th Street; and Talbot House (homeless people are often victims and the organization “facilitates the reporting.”) Overall crime continues declining, Taylor says.
Several hundred people gathered at the Lake Mirror amphitheater Monday night for a candlelight vigil in memory of Rachael Ramsey, one of the victims of a Christmas Eve double murder-suicide at her house on Atlanta Avenue. Said her mother: “To know that there are so many people supporting us it is just very heartwarming.” | ALSO: WFLA talks with the grandmother now caring for the children of the other murder victim.
- HOUSING: With 228 affordable housing units now being built in Lakeland and 220 under permitting, Mayor Bill Mutz is convinced the city will more than meet its pledge to provide 500 units by 2024. The article catalogues current projects.
- LEGISLATION: State legislators representing Polk County are seeking $23 million next year for local projects. Lakeland-specific programs include $1 million sought by Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Colleen Burton to help build Lakeland Regional Health’s behavioral health center, $975,000 sought by Stargel for the One More Child faith-based anti-trafficking program, $2 million sought by Sen. Ben Albritton for an education center at the Se7en Wetlands nature preserve, and $950,000 sought by Stargel and Rep. Josie Tomkow for One More Child‘s single moms program.
- RIP: Charles W. “Chuck” Bovay, 91, former president of Lanier Upshaw and civic activist.
Friends and family of the two people gunned down in an Atlanta Avenue home on Christmas Eve have started GoFundMe accounts to help with funerals and the expenses of raising the two sets of young children who lost parents. More
Two years after 35-year-old Brian Klecha of Lakeland went missing, a $10,000 reward is being offered for information in the case of the Disney bus driver. Fox 13 talks with one of the roommates he had just moved in with before he disappeared.
A crash at Cherry Lane and Lunn Road in Medulla (map) sent nine people to the hospital, one of them critically injured. The accident involved two teen-driven vehicles traveling fast side-by-side down the two-lane Cherry Lane, deputies said. One failed to stop at the Lunn Road stop sign and was hit by a pickup truck, whose 41-year-old driver was later charged with DUI, deputies said. No charges have been filed yet against the teen drivers. Neighbors said cars frequently race down Cherry Lane.
Neighbors describe the three people who died in a Christmas Eve murder-suicide at the 3009 Atlanta Ave. house where police found four children after the shootings took place. Two of the children were daughters of Leighton Josephs, 30, who police say was the gunman, and victim Rachel Ramsey, 30. The other two, a boy and a girl, were the children of the other victim, 27-year-old Christopher Pine, a friend of Ramsey. ALSO: Bay News 9 coverage
Community organizations are reaching out to help the four children who were removed from a home on Atlanta Avenue where three adults died in a murder-suicide Christmas Eve. Police released the name of the gunman but not the other two victims; however, WFLA reports the identities after talking with relatives and the Medical Examiner’s Office.
Live music highlights this weekend include a Key West Christmas and a gathering of the tribes for a three-day outdoor festival complete with jam bands and some rockabilly. Expect a parrothead vibe at Swan Brewing Saturday night as several musicians associated with Jimmy Buffett and Margaritaville Radio perform. At Maddox Ranch, folks will be gathering Friday through Saturday for the eighth annual Hometeam New Years Rally with 19 bands, including Cope, The Applebutter Express, Honey Hounds, The Difference, Ajeva, and The Melody Trucks Band. Keep scrolling for our updated music calendar: More
- JENKINS INITIATIVE: A $253,000 gift from the George W. Jenkins Foundation will enable United Way and Feeding Tampa Bay to set up 16 food pantries in parts of Polk County where many families lack access to healthy food.
- MOUNT TABOR: After county commissioners declined 4-1 to waive $3,680 in permit fees for Mt. Tabor Baptist Church to rebuild its tornado-destroyed food pantry, local businesses are providing the funds. Commissioners said they didn’t want to set a precedent in waiving fees.
4 P.M. WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Three adults died of gunshot wounds in a murder-suicide before 5:30 p.m. Christmas Eve in a house on Atlanta Avenue near Edgewood Drive, and four children under age 10 were safely removed, Lakeland Police report. More
A 1:30 a.m. fire damaged a barber shop today at 105 W. Oak Drive, across the street from the Southgate Publix. Firefighters extinguished the blaze quickly, but there was smoke damage to a neighboring business. No injuries were reported.
Joe P. Ruthven, a civic leader, former mayor and pioneer of Lakeland’s now-burgeoning warehousing and distribution center industry, died Saturday at age 92. More
Joseph Clinton Mills, 58, of Lakeland, has been indicted by a grand jury on six charges, including first-degree murder, in the 1981 cold case homicide of Linda Slaten that was cracked by the use of genetic evidence. A judge ordered him held in jail without bail.
Curry Mango, an Indian restaurant with two tandoor ovens and seating for 130 indoors/40 on a patio, opened today at 6625 Florida Ave. Today’s lunch buffet is getting favorable reviews in the Lakeland Food Group on Facebook. The lunch buffet is $10 Tuesdays through Fridays and $12 on weekends. A full menu is available for dinner.
Mike Link, 57, is retiring from the Lakeland Police Department on Dec. 30, more than 34 years after starting as a weekend reserve officer and rising to the rank of assistant chief. He oversaw criminal investigations and started the department’s cold case homicide unit.
Law enforcement officials and the sons of the victim commented to reporters today about the arrest of Joseph Clinton Mills, 58, of Lakeland, in the 1981 murder of Linda Slaten, who was 31 at the time. The murder took place at her apartment off Brunnell Parkway. Scroll past the video for links to more news coverage and a shorter video of the two sons’ comments about the man who was arrested. More
After genetic evidence pointed to a likely killer in the 1981 murder of 31-year-old Linda Patterson Slaten in her Brunnell Parkway apartment, Lakeland police last week arrested Joseph Clinton Mills, 58, of 12013 Bailey Road, Lakeland. Mills, who had been football coach to one of Slaten’s sons, had been interviewed by police days after the homicide | ALSO: Ledger coverage
A bomb threat during a 200-person rally supporting impeachment of President Trump closed several downtown streets Tuesday night. No bomb was found, but closure of a parking lot where a suspicious vehicle was spotted forced dozens of people to seek alternative transportation home.
Several local experts this morning gave an overview of homelessness in Lakeland and what is happening at social service agencies and schools to address it. The session, sponsored by the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, was moderated by City Commissioner Sara Roberts McCarley. More
- PARKING LOT: Faced with opposition from residents and the Lake Morton Neighborhood Association, the Planning & Zoning Board voted 4-1 to deny a request to turn a house’s back yard into parking for Hubbell Eye Clinic in Dixieland.
- RECOVERY CENTER: Faced with a petition signed by 70 neighbors, Tri-County Human Services withdrew its request to turn a house at Carleton Street and and Hilltop Avenue into housing for women who have been through substance abuse rehabilitation.
Lanier Upshaw Inc., a 60-employee insurance agency founded in Lakeland in 1941, is being acquired by Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners, LLC, a subsidiary of BRP Group Inc., of Tampa, an insurance distribution firm, the companies announced today. More
Plans for affordable workforce apartments near Tigertown are a step closer. Developer Green Mills Group of Fort Lauderdale was selected for an $8 million state Community Development Block Grant for disaster recovery to build the 80-unit Parker Pointe building on East Bella Vista Street.
In its first year, the city’s rapid re-housing program found permanent housing for 114 Lakelanders who if not already homeless were on the verge of eviction, Mayor Bill Mutz said.
Now the city needs to sign off on paperwork to provide the promised $103,000 so the program administrator, Tri-County Human Services, qualifies for additional grant funding to continue the program for another year. More
As city officials entertain new proposals from companies interested in providing broadband services, they should use a formal “request for proposal” process to ensure the city’s needs are met, Commissioner Justin Troller said Friday. Public records requests by reporter Sara-Megan Walsh revealed that the companies the city is dealing with include Grain Management, which recently acquired Orlando’s Summit Broadband, and MetroNet of Evansville, Ind.
- GRIER: Retired LPD Deputy Chief Clarence Grier, 82, was found safe at a Wawa in St. Petersburg Friday night; a Silver Alert had been issued on Wednesday and a license-plate reader spotted his truck north of Ocala on Thursday.
- BYRD: Polk Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd was praised by several School Board members after giving a report on her recent trip to an education conference in California sponsored by charter school advocates. The trip and the fact that it was paid for by an interest group had drawn criticism earlier from board member Billy Townsend.
Though the primary is eight months away, the two Democrats who hope to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Ross Spano are already sniping at one another. Adam Cohn portrays Adam Hattersley as a politician who has done little but try to advance to higher office. Hattersley says that as a former TV reporter, all Cohn does is talk. Bay News 9’s Mitch Perry reports.
Dreams of more vibrant development to the west of downtown Lakeland got a boost today when city commissioners signaled they’d like to see a transportation hub built just north of the RP Funding Center in the next five to 10 years. More
- SUN ‘N FUN: The 46th Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo March 31 to April 5 will feature demonstrations by an Air Force stealth fighter team and the Air Force Thunderbirds.
- POLY: On the same day Florida Polytechnic University announced audacious goals for the next five years, faculty representatives said a recent poll reflecting a demoralized faculty might make those goals hard to attain.
- CHURCH: Once it was First Baptist Church. Then it was First Baptist Church at the Mall. Now that it has three campuses, there’s a new name: Lakes Church.
The Lakeland Police Department has issued a silver alert for retired Deputy Police Chief Clarence Grier. He was last seen around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday leaving a residence on west 8th Street. His 1998 Ford F-150 with tag #ID49LX was spotted north of Ocala early this morning. Grier, 82, suffers from dementia, according to his family. If you have any information on Mr. Grier’s whereabouts, please call 863.834.6900.
Our top live music recommendation this weekend: The musicians on “A Lakeland Christmas, Vol. 1” play their selections from the album and other favorites on Friday and Saturday at Union Hall, hosted/presented by the Vanguard Room. (Read Cary McMullen’s article about the album and hear it on Spotify.) More
- UTILITY: The city of Lakeland would lose access to the $30.9 million “dividend” from Lakeland Electric that funds things like public safety and parks, under a bill filed in the Florida Legislature that the city is planning to fight vigorously.
- POLY: Florida Polytechnic University has its eye on the label “University of Distinction” and the $2 million in state funds that goes with it. To get there, it’s embarking on a five-year quest to become ranked in the top 15 among about 200 engineering programs without doctoral degrees.
- WOMEN/ART: In a new exhibition at the Polk Museum of Art, painter Gabriela Gonzalez Dellosso pays tribute to Old Masters such as Anne Vallayer Coster, Clara Peeters, and Rachel Ruysch who were denied recognition in their times | Learn more
A battle is brewing among two Democrats wanting the party’s nod to run against Republican incumbent Ross Spano for the congressional seat that represents much of Lakeland. Alan Cohn and Adam Hattersley, both from the Hillsborough side of the district, are getting big-name endorsements — including former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham for Cohn and U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park for Hattersley.
GreenWise Market, Publix Super Markets’ updated entry in the natural/specialty foods niche, opens in Lakeland on Thursday, and LkldNow got an early look today. Get a preview via our video by visual journalist Reems Landreth. Brian West, media and community relations manager for Publix, led the guided tour: More
The Central Florida Aerospace Center for Excellence has announced the $4.5 million Project Skylab, which will add an 8,000-square-foot classroom facility with holographic theater to its 14-building campus at Sun ‘n Fun | Learn more
For the first time since the Miss Lakeland was revived three pageants ago, most of the winners have Lakeland backgrounds. Out of five 2020 winners — Misses Lakeland, Swan City, Polk County, Lakeland Teen and Polk County Teen — two claim Lakeland as home and a third lived here until recently and hopes to move back. More
- STARGEL: Reporter Gary White examines a bill by state Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, that would exempt legislators’ home addresses and other personal information from public disclosure.
- UTILITIES: An editorial argues for defeat of a bill that would prohibit the use of municipal utility revenues for non-utility operations. Locally, Lakeland Electric generates $30.9 million into the city budget. The bill’s passage would surely mean a property tax increase here, the editorial contends.
Brennan Investment Group is going for a second large spec warehouse near the I-4/Polk Parkway Intersection north of Florida Polytechnic University. The Chicago developer recently closed on a 165-acre purchase from Ruthven I-4 LLC to the north and west of that interchange, Tampa Bay Business Journal reports. More
The Medulla Elementary School float, featuring elves and carrying the theme of thanking business partners, won the Judge’s Choice Award at Thursday night’s Lakeland Christmas Parade. Sponsored by the Junior League of Greater Lakeland, the parade theme was “The Joy of Giving.” Here is a list of award winners: More
Former state Rep. Beverly Burnsed Spencer, who represented a Lakeland district, died Nov. 28 in Tallahassee. She was 78. She spent 35 years working for the state as a teacher, state legislator, assistant secretary of state and university vice president. More
If you’re looking for a low-key alternative to tonight’s Christmas parade, check out Joe Gavin‘s mesmerizing guitar work full of loops and harmonics at Hillcrest Coffee at 7. Also at Hillcrest on Saturday night, acclaimed singer-songwriter Rebekah Pulley joins country rock pioneer and house staple Jon Corneal. Keep scrolling for the rest of our live music calendar. More
Officer Ken Foley, 57, was found unresponsive in his patrol car parked outside the Hampton Inn on Socrum Loop Road on Wednesday night and taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, Lakeland Police say. Detectives said the 29-year LPD employee suffered a medical episode.
VIDEO: Chief Ruben Garcia remembers Foley in a news conference.
- HOUSING: The former West Lake Apartments on Lake Beulah continue their transformation into Twin Lakes Estates as construction begins on a second phase, which will bring 132 units of affordable housing for families and individuals.
- THEATRE: Lakeland Community Theatre presents “Miracle on 34th Street, The Musical” Friday through Dec. 15. (No article link yet, but here are links to dates, times and tickets and a radio interview with the cast.)
- FOODIE 1: Lakeland’s GreenWise Market, Publix’ updated excursion into the organic/natural/food event niche, opens Dec. 12 at 7 a.m. at 4717 S. Florida Ave. (No link yet.)
- FOODIE 2: Chef Marcos Fernandez’ Nineteen61 and its nuevo Latino cuisine has earned a Florida Trend Golden Spoon award for a second year in a row. (No link yet but here’s a list of all winners.)
- POLITICS: Neil Combee, who has had a two-year dispute with county commissioners, has filed to try to re-join the commission, seeking the seat of fellow Republican John Hall, who is planning to run for re-election. ALSO: Bay News 9 | Florida Politics
- POT: Lakeland is getting two more medical marijuana dispensaries, bringing the total to six. AltMed Florida’s MÜV Medical Cannabis Dispensary has opened downtown at 224 N. Florida Ave. Fluent Cannabis Care says it will open soon at 4825 U.S. 98 N.
Did you know that by rounding up your utility bill to the nearest dollar that you can change the lives of those in our community?
There are many low-income seniors and disabled customers that struggle to pay their electric bill. Lakeland Electric has partnered with Catholic Charities of Central Florida to offer a program that assists those who are less fortunate. More
- AIRPORT: County commissioners signaled their intention to pledge $1 million toward a “backstop” fund that would guarantee a major airline first-year profits after initiating daily service at Lakeland Linder Airport.
- RIP: Cattle rancher Al Belotto, 94, whose pasture on Lake Hancock was transformed into the county’s Circle B Bar nature preserve.
- THINGS TO DO: Holiday Walkabout downtown 6-9 tonight | Historian Canter Brown discusses rail baron Henry Plant Wednesday at 6 at FSC.
Justin Troller, who has devoted much of his final year as a city commissioner pushing for a broadband utility, came away from his next-to-last meeting today with a bigger win than he was angling for. His fellow commissioners rejected his motion to hold a public referendum on an internet utility, but went along with a more far-reaching plan to start a process aimed at making a decision on broadband as early as March. More
A project to move a Lakeland-based company and its 500 employees to a new downtown tower on Lake Mirror won approval today from the City Commission, which agreed to trade the city-owned land for a 30 year nights-and-weekends lease of 150 parking spots. More
FATAL SHOOTING: In what he called a “classic suicide by cop,” Sheriff Grady Judd said Kenneth Layton, 60, despondent over the recent death of his wife, died Friday after summoning a deputy to his north Lakeland home and then raising a gun at him, forcing the deputy to shoot him in the chest. ALSO: Tampa Bay Times | ABC Action News
SHOPPING: For Small Business Saturday, the Morning Paper mentions a few of the many local businesses offering deals today.
PREP FOOTBALL: Victory Christian advances to the state 2A title game, to be held Thursday in Tallahassee by defeating Jacksonville University Christian 20-7 | Lakeland Christian‘s title dreams fall in a 42-10 defeat to Tallahassee Florida High. ALSO: Tallahassee Democrat coverage
It’s a good week to be thankful for live music. Central Florida acts dominate at local venues — other than Georgia’s Rehab, a Southern hip-hop/country/rock band, coming to Union Hall Friday. Elsewhere, Moonquakes, a side project of indie rockers Glass House Point, plays Swan Brewing on Friday. Classic rock dominates at LkldLive on Saturday with a double tribute: Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” by Rex Floyd and The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” by Rich Mistretta. Our updated music calendar follows: More
Access Church (website) partnered with RIP Medical Debt (website) to pay off $1.62 million in unpaid medical bills for local people living below 50% of the federal poverty level.
LEARN MORE: RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit organization, buys bundled medical debt for pennies on the dollar and then forgives it | USA Today
A deal to build a nine-story office building on city-owned land on the northwest shore of Lake Mirror is headed to city commissioners Monday for discussion and an expected approval. More
- Summary: Firefighters have substantially reduced a fire at a mulch plant, according to Polk Fire Rescue.
- Where: Lasso Lane just north of the Polk Parkway and east of Reynolds Road
- How long: 225 hours. The call came in at 11 a.m. on Nov. 16.
- How much: More than 12 million gallons of water used.
- Caution: Smoke may hinder visibility on nearby roads, including the Polk Parkway east of U.S. 98. More
People living near Lakeland Linder Airport can expect noise from fighter jets just a little longer. Draken International, whose pilots fly as enemy combatants in military training exercises, has until Sunday to finish testing its newly revamped Mirage F1 fighters. After that, the airport’s main runway closes for an upgrade for 90 days, a closure unexpected to halt flights other than Draken’s.
ALSO: The Aviationist analyzes the jets’ new look.
Showing surveillance video to back up his point, Sheriff Grady Judd said that the Gainesville man who was shot and killed while picking up his toddler son from a Ewell Road house on Thursday was the aggressor and the man who shot him was defending his home from somebody who had trespassed and battered him.
Faced with the sudden closure of a popular retail outlet following a bankruptcy court ruling, mall owners VC Capital Group are taking over the business and re-opening it. They hope to get things running as soon as next Friday in time for post-Thanksgiving crowds.
If there was any question about Mayor Bill Mutz’s position on whether Lakeland should build a fiber-to-the-home internet utility, an event Friday touted as a significant announcement about Lakeland’s gigabit ambitions should settle it. More
What is it about South Florida Avenue that’s attracting bakery cafes? We’re not sure. And we surely don’t mind.
Fleur Bistro opened this month at 4525 S. Florida Ave. It offers scratch pastries, exotic teas, specialty coffee and wines. Just a block a way, Cafe Zuppina opened The Market earlier this year and then enhanced it with an upscale coffee shop. More
LOW-INCOME HOUSING: Following a successful and ongoing fund-raising campaign, Talbot House Ministries has closed on 16 formerly city-owned studio apartments on Vermont Avenue just south of Massachusetts Boulevard that it will rehab for inexpensive housing for low-income people, including the disabled and veterans.
DOMESTIC FATALITY: In a story scant on details with the Sheriff’s Office invoking victim-protecting Marsy’s Law, a man was shot and killed Thursday afternoon while attempting to pick up his son, nearly 2, from the home of his ex-wife in the area of Lunn Road and Ewell Road. The alleged shooter was the ex-wife’s boyfriend and the victim’s mother witnessed the shooting, the Sheriff’s Office said.
ALSO: Fox 13 News coverage includes video of Sheriff Judd’s news conference.
LHS FOOTBALL: For the Lakeland Dreadnaughts, the road to a hoped-for eighth 7A state football championship leads tonight to their first-ever playoffs faceoff with powerhouse Armwood just down I-4 in Seffner.
Dozens of well-wishers turned out today for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at The Yard On Mass, a family-friendly food truck park and beer garden that opens Friday at the northwest corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Parker Street.
View video of the seven-minute ceremony after the jump: More
The option to build an office building just north of the entrance to Lakeside Village has been a market dud, but apartments on the Harden Boulevard tract could do the trick, a representative for the Drummond Company told the city’s Planning and Zoning Board Tuesday. More
EDUCATION: School Board member Billy Townsend takes issue with Polk’s school superintendent attending a San Diego conference at the expense of Lakeland Leads, which its director describes as “a nonpartisan, nonprofit economic development think tank.” Townsend says both the conference and the local partnership push ideas harmful to a strong public education system.
MORE: Townsend’s four blog posts | Lakeland Leads incorporation
SMOKE ON THE HIGHWAY: Law enforcement officials warn of low visibility on the Polk Parkway east of U.S. 98 because of a lingering fire at a nearby mulch operation.
AIRPORT: A $8.5 million federal grant is helping fortify the main runway at Lakeland Linder Airport.
FOOD TRUCK PARK: Yard on Mass, an airy beer hall and food truck park that bills itself as “the backyard party your neighbors won’t complain about” opens Friday at Massachusetts Avenue and Parker Street.
For several years, the city of Lakeland has asked people not to put up chairs until the day of the annual Christmas Parade, but the presence of early chairs has grown. This year, officials say they’ll remove chairs that show up along the parade route before Dec. 5, the day of the parade | News release
Three children inside a home day care and a driver were injured around 5 p.m. today when the elderly driver pushed the wrong button in her car and crashed into a house near Seventh Street, the Lakeland Fire Department reports. Identities have not been released; all four were reported in stable condition.
ALSO: In south Lakeland, a pickup truck that apparently missed a curve on Handley Boulevard early Saturday plowed through a yard and damaged three parked vehicles, pushing one of them into the laundry room. Fox 13 reports.
Even though two city boards have rejected their plans, Thomas and Madison Brawner say they are pressing on with their proposal to turn the 107-year-old Deen House into Alta Schoolhouse, a preschool. More
Lakeland Regional Health is hoping to move quickly on a new behavioral health facility just south of the main hospital campus, expanding and centralizing services it says are integral to the mental health of the community. More
City commissioners today approved changes — mostly increases — in impact fees assessed on new construction. The purpose of impact fees is to pay the costs for new roads, parks and public safety associated with new development.
But in most cases, the impact fees approved today fall short of the levels that a city consultant said would be necessary to pay for that new infrastructure. How far short? City staff estimates it’s up to $5.1 million over the next five years for transportation, parks and cultural facilities that either won’t be built or will have to depend on other funding sources. More
The evolution of food trucks from simple commissaries to rolling kitchens serving gourmet morsels has promoted the city to consider changes regulating their waste disposal. More
MARIJUANA: Lakeland’s fourth medical marijuana dispensary is opening a block south of the Larry Jackson Public Library. Trulieve Cannabis Corp.’s facility at 1644 N. Florida Ave will be about a mile and a half from two other dispensaries just south of Interstate 4.
MIRRORTON: Framework Group of Tampa, a developer planning to build 305 apartments and rental townhouses north of Lake Mirror, is the new owner of 14.5 acres the city assembled starting in 2004. The $3.66 million sale closed Friday. Groundbreaking on the Mirrorton complex is expected within 30 days, and construction should take up to two years.
MUSEUM: “Spirits: Ritual and Ceremonial African and Oceanic Art,” a new exhibit at the Polk Museum of Art, showcases works collected by Alan and Linda Rich of Lakeland during ophthalmologic mission trips.
ALSO: Video | Museum’s exhibit page | Article: Art Goes Global
The owners of a downtown spa say they’d like to move their operation to the Deen House in the Lake Morton neighborhood if plans to use the 107-year-old mansion for a preschool fall through. More
After breaking the story about Wildwood Antiques Mall closing abruptly amid a bankruptcy ruling, WFLA’s Victoria Price checked records; she discovered that registered owner Manny Pesco has had previous legal difficulties including disciplinary action in 2014 by the state board of auctioneers.
Several hundred Florida Southern College supporters and alumni were on hand today when the college dedicated its new Jean and Sal Campisi Sr. Academic Center for Physical Therapy on Florida Avenue in Dixieland. Here’s video of the ceremony:
Twenty-four students enrolled in the college’s new Doctor of Physical Therapy program when it launched this semester. The college is seeking accreditation for a 36-student program. More
To the musical question — Do we really need another Christmas album? – Matt Wilbur has a ready answer.
“If the Christmas season stresses you out, you don’t need another Christmas album. But if you love Christmas, you can never have enough. There’s always one more Christmas decoration, one more Christmas album to have,” he said. More
The sudden closing of the Wildwood Antique Mall off U.S. 98 just north of I-4 has left hundreds of vendors wondering if or when they’ll get access to their goods again. They learned via email on Wednesday night that the mall was closing immediately following a ruling earlier that day in federal bankruptcy court.