Development plans that go before the City Commission in March call for various combinations of retail, a fast casual restaurant, office building, a hotel and a convenience/gas store | Check details
GROWTH: A series on preparing for population growth in Polk kicks off with a look at transportation and water challenges; the next installment will look at the need for new schools. A companion piece previews the upcoming statewide ballot issue to increase the homestead exemption, which is expected to pass and has local governments fretting about future revenues.
RAY LEWIS: The Kathleen High School grad and former Baltimore Ravens star linebacker was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. ALSO: ESPN coverage | The Capital Gazette in Anapolis rounds up reactions from columnists and teammates, and columnist Mike Preston calls Lewis the best middle linebacker ever.
Cameron Alley was airlifted home to a stay at Lakeland Regional Health after he fell 85 feet from an aerial cable Jan. 11 while working to restore power in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
The owners of BS Ranch & Farm, an east Lakeland recycling facility that’s been the subject of odor complaints, can avoid court by restoring five acres of wetlands, enclosing parts of its operation and changing waste-handling procedures, state regulators said in a letter. BS Ranch’s attorney thanked them but noted that they’re not aware of similar operations in Florida with enclosed compost processing.
Explorations V Children's Museum unveiled their new First Responders exhibit yesterday – complete with a visit from a real fire truck and some of Lakeland's very own first responders! Be sure to check out the new exhibit and follow them on Facebook where you can learn about their fun upcoming events! #lkld #visitcentralfl #ylakeland
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Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration has denied a license application for Oakbridge Health Care Center, part of the for-profit nursing-home chain Consulate Health. Consulate is appealing the denial, and will reportedly shut Oakbridge if the appeal fails.
Re-Cycled by Jarod Charzewski is the first of a dozen or so sculptures being installed by city parks workers on Lemon Street this month.
Sculptures, rotated annually, are chosen by a jury that includes representatives of the city of Lakeland, Polk Museum of Art and local artists.
Parks and rec plans to spend $3,500 to have tree consultant Joseph Samnik take a look at the aging oak at the foot of Success Avenue. A previous $1,100 study recommended removing the tree as a safety hazard, but many people have a sentimental attachment to it and would like the city to keep it in place.
Musical modes for multiple moods. That seems to be the theme this weekend. Scroll down for our music calendar. But first, some highlights:
TONIGHT: Paul Anka is “celebrating 60 years of hits his way” (according to the advance publicity) at the RP Funding Center, and former Relix magazine publisher Toni Brown is performing with friends at Hillcrest Coffee.
FRIDAY: The Hummingbirds (“Southern Charm – Detroit Grit”) alight at Frescos, and Red Door Lakeland kicks off two weekend residencies: Patty Kenoly on Friday nights and Sumner Curtis on Saturday nights.
SATURDAY: Quentin Darrington and Elizabeth Burton are among the Harrison School for the Arts grads returning for an alumni showcase. Heading downtown, the sounds will be more insistent as LkldLive recreates the sounds of New York punk club CBGB. And north of town, the Music Ranch showcases the blues rock of the Ellie Lee Band. More after the jump.
The outage affects some Frontier Communications Co. customers. Polk’s 911 center is operating, but officials suggest using cellphones to contact them.
DOYEL V. STARGEL: Republican incumbent Kelli Stargel is far ahead in fund-raising, but Democrats see an opportunity for challenger Bob Doyel, a retired judge, to unseat her in November. They’re banking on voter discontent over Trump and concern about the Legislature’s changes to public education.
LIFE SENTENCE: Michael Allen Gunn, 27, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the beating death of Robert Banks and sentenced to life in prison. Three others were charged in the 2016 Lakeland homicide.
Gabriel Jacobs, 19, is hospitalized in critical condition after being shot by 66-year-old Michael Ives after Ives warned him several times not to enter his home off New Jersey Avenue around 3 a.m. Sunday, police said.
ALSO: “The homeowner was well within his rights,” an LPD spokesman tells The Ledger. ”(Jacobs) was combative with the emergency personnel on the way to the hospital. If he lives, he will be charged at least with breaking into an occupied dwelling. We know he’s not leaving the hospital anytime soon.”
Students from Harrison School for the Arts debuted a musical about Publix Super Markets founder George Jenkins tonight at the annual meeting of the Greater Lakeland Chamber of Commerce.
If you’re one of the thousands going to Sun ‘n Fun for Pig Fest this weekend, check out the two music stages. The lineup includes Dan Signor, JC Anderson Band, Ed Wright, Rusty Wright Band, Kat & the Dawgs and Hwy 37 South. Fans of Americana and witty folk will want to check out Rebekah Pulley Duo at Hillcrest Coffee Saturday at 6:30; Jon Corneal and Friends open. As always, the full music calendar comes after the jump.
“How hard is it to play a frickin’ cop when you’ve been doing it for 30 years?” said Gary Gross, who appears briefly in “The Florida Project.” Willem DaFoe was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film, which was shot in Orlando. Gross, LPD’s public information officer, has a side gig advising movie and TV crews on portrayal of police and leasing law enforcement gear to them.
PARTY CRASH: Legislature candidate Ricky Shirah, a Democrat, says he thought a Republican debate was open to the public and was humiliated when some party officials tried to eject him |LkldNow video: Party leaders discuss Shirah’s presence at roughly the 3-minute mark.
CHAMBER LEADER: Banker Weymon Snuggs, who has led many non-profit efforts, says he’ll focus on workforce development as he takes over tonight as chairman of the Greater Lakeland Chamber of Commerce.
PIG IT UP: Up to 40,000 people are expected to slurp up the barbecue Friday and Saturday at the 22nd Lakeland Pig Fest at Sun ‘n Fun.
The city of Lakeland is looking for 10 minutes of your time. That’s about how long it takes to fill out the city’s annual survey of citizen values at lakelandvalues.com.
The survey, which launched today and remains online until Feb. 28, will be used in setting priorities as the city starts to prepare its 2018-19 budget. It is offered in English or Spanish.
As an incentive, the city is offering prizes for those who choose to leave their email address to be entered into a drawing. For more information, call 863-834-7926.
Shawn Sherrouse, assistant city manager in Lakeland, was one of the top choices for city manager in Plant City, but commissioners ultimately voted unanimously to promote Bill McDaniel, Plant City’s assistant city manager and a former police chief | See Ledger coverage
Until recently, the campaign for the Republican nomination to succeed Neil Combee in the Florida House of Representatives seemed a battle between two young women trying to outdo each other’s conservative credentials. It just turned personal with a mailer (image) from Jennifer Spath questioning Josie Tomkow‘s youth, temperament and residency.
Dave Tavlin, the 55-year-old owner of Crossroads Construction Co., is investing several million dollars to restore the Sandpiper Golf Course in North Lakeland and plans to add more homes to the 55+ community that surrounds it.
Lakeland Assistant City Manager Shawn Sherrouse, considered one of the top candidates to become city manager in Plant City, interviewed with city commissioners there Friday. He impressed some with his first-year fiscal plan but left one commissioner questioning his tactics.
JENKINS: Harrison Arts students debut a 30-minute musical about Publix founder George Jenkins at the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce annual meeting on Thursday.
MEMORIES: Family members fondly recall the full-speed-ahead life of David N. Bryan, who recently died two years after being hit by an impaired driver.
INCENTIVES: The Morning Paper’s editorial writer decries the practice of local governments offering ever larger incentives to lure companies, but concludes Lakeland needs to use them “to put skin in the game.”
The netting, expected to protect 95 percent of the seats at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, is among the thinnest and strongest available, the team says. It measures 1.2 millimeters, compared with the 2.16-millimeter netting previously used between the dugouts.
Lakeland’s Blue Steel Development, headed by Marcobay Construction President Howard Bayless, is about to start construction of a 520,000-square-foot speculative industrial building at 5300 Allen Breed Highway (map) next to Key Safety Systems. When completed, it will be the largest warehouse space available along the I-4 corridor since Pepsico leased a 605,000-square-foot spec building at Centerstate Logistics Park across I-4 from Florida Poly in October.
SCHOOL BOARD: This morning brings news that Hazel Sellers has decided against running for a fifth term on the Polk County School Board and has endorsed Scott Jones, 35, a Publix Super Markets store manager who lives in Mulberry. Other candidates for the seat Sellers is vacating include Kala Ivy Tedder, 18, a senior at George Jenkins High School’s academy of legal studies; and Sarah Fortney, a science teacher at Stambaugh Middle School.
POWER: Thursday’s low of 25 set a temperature record for the day and a near record on electricity consumption, with Lakeland Electric reporting its highest demand since a freeze in 2010.
It’s a weekend of musical celebration, starting with Friday night’s “Songbird” tribute to Fleetwood Mac at LkldLive. Local musicians will revive the Brit-American collaborative’s songs (mostly from the Buckingham-Nicks years, I’m told.) On Saturday, you can go for high culture at the ISO’s annual Night at the Opera (Gianni Schicchi) at Branscomb Auditorium (Ledger article) or you can help public school musicians who need instruments by attending Play It Forward 2018 at the Polk Theatre (Ledger article). Check more listings after the jump.
HEALTH: Polk lags the state and nation in residents’ access to health care in general and mental health care in particular, according to a recent assessment by Lakeland Regional Health.
TEACHERS: An impasse over teacher salaries appears to be ending as union members ratified a contract that includes raises of 2 to 3.5 percent.
LAKE: Plans to develop a massive private park west of downtown have prompted city officials to step up efforts to clean Lake Bonnet. Commissioners have authorized a $198k study needed to apply for grants to remove algae-fostering nutrients.
John Shiver of Lakeland has been found in Clermont and is safe, the Polk Sheriff’s Office reported this morning. The silver alert has been cancelled.
The central Lakeland neighborhood again has a permanent letter carrier after temps kept mis-delivering letters.
CHARTER: The new group of city commissioners agree with their predecessors that Lakeland voters should get a chance to vote on changes to the City Charter recommended by a review committee — but without two provisions involving Lakeland Electric and term limits. But they disagreed Tuesday with the timing of the vote; rather than holding an April special election costing $63k, they decided to wait until the next city election, which is set for November 2019.
INCENTIVES: The Lakeland Economic Development Council’s Steve Scruggs pressed city commissioners Tuesday for two new local incentives to lure businesses that pay average wages of at least $46k. (Scruggs also makes the case for the incentives on the LEDC blog.)
Lakeland Electric workers who traveled to Puerto Rico to help with power recovery after Hurricane Maria encountered chaos that left them sitting around far more than working, according to a newspaper review of records that contradict managers’ claims of productivity.
HIKING/BIRDING: Watch for a possible February soft opening of Se7en Wetlands, a 1,640-acre park with 8.5 miles of hiking trails south of Lakeland between Polk County’s Loyce Harp Park and Lakeland Highlands Scrub Preserve.
CITY CHARTER: It looks like it will be later than this spring before Lakeland voters get a chance to pass or reject proposed changes to the City Charter.
Cameron Alley, a 39-year-old IBEW union lineman who had volunteered to help with power restoration efforts in Puerto Rico, suffered major injuries Wednesday. Suspended from a helicopter while working on transmission towers, he fell 80 feet, his fall broken by trees. Family members are desperate to have the father of five returned home.
The city of Lakeland’s contract for 18 red-light cameras expires this year and commissioners must decide whether to renew it. Police brass want to keep the cameras, saying they improve safety by changing driver behavior. During a workshop Friday, commissioners gave few clues how they would vote.
Avoid State Road 33 near University Boulevard (Florida Poly University area) and Combee Road. Those intersections are closed following a deputy-involved shooting. No deputies are injured, a suspect is in custody, and no other suspects are being sought, according to the Polk Sheriff’s Office. More info is coming.
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The 18,800-square-foot Sharon and Jim France Admission Center at Florida Southern College fronts Lake Hollingsworth and combines elements of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture with the swooping red-clad atria of the college’s newest lakefront structures. Click the arrow on the right side of the photo for two more images.
Get ready for some eclectic music choices in Lakeland this weekend. Highlights include Dan Signor originals at Hillcrest Coffee and a folk operetta at LkldLive tonight, a three-day house music (and camping) festival at Maddox Ranch starting Friday, a bluesy MLK weekend jazz in the park show Friday and the moody Lulls in Traffic collaboration between Aaron Marsh and Ivan Ives at LkldLive on Saturday. More listings after the jump.
GRAD RATES: The newspaper’s front-page lead story trumpets that graduation rates in Polk public schools have risen 3.6 percentage points to 75.4 percent, exceeding a goal of 74 percent. On page 2B, we learn via the Tampa Bay Times that all four Bay Area counties (Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas) report rates over 80 percent. It sounds like a talking point economic developers will use when discussing why high-level execs at Lakeland companies choose to raise school-age children outside Polk in places like Fishhawk Ranch that boast A-rated schools.
SHORT TAKES: Michael Williams becomes Lakeland Fire Department‘s assistant chief of operations | Time Out previews the Lakeland Kiwanis Club’s Central Florida Rum and Food Experience scheduled for 3 to 7 Saturday at the RP Funding Center.
Polk County Judge Sharon M. Franklin said Donna Byrne, who was stopped along Combee Road on her way from Polk City to pick up some birthday spurs, will be allowed to visit her horse, Bo Duke, while she completes an alcohol dependence program, according to the Polk Sheriff’s Office.
IT’S ALL LOCAL POLITICS: Today’s paper features a guide to topics expected in Florida’s 2018 legislative session with topics including sexual harassment, opioids, budget, education, racial symbols, and home rule.
LOCAL REPRESENTATIVES: Sen. Kelli Stargel introduced Senate Resolution 480. Though no money is attached to the resolution, it states there is a public-health crisis created by pornography and Representative Colleen Burton introduced a bill that requests $500,000 to provide incentives to dentists to work in rural communities.
NO REPRESENTATIVE: Meanwhile, about 161,000 citizens will be without a representative after Neil Combee resigned from House District 39. A new representative will be elected on May 1st.
THE CHILL IS GONE: The cold weather is moving on. So, no more “BRRRR” comments in the foreseeable future.
IT’S NOT A TROPICAL PARADISE: Before the last weather changes, one last photo essay of a business affected by the cold weather — a tropical fish farm.
TELL ME WHAT’S THE WORD: If a church were to be approved for a commercial corridor near the former Louie Mack’s Steakhouse, it could affect liquor sales in the area. The Planning Commission denied the application for the church and County Commissioners will hear an appeal on Tuesday.
THE POINT IS TO KNOW RETURN: Barry can tell you when the practice stopped, but the morning paper announced it “is returning to an old practice of reporting on completed internal investigations at the county’s largest police departments and the Polk County School District.” The first report touches on the reports for four teachers and two custodians.
RESIGNATION: In a December 15th letter, Lakeland City Councilman Justin Troller resigned from his position with the Polk County School District effective December 31, 2017.
BRR: On street activities for First Friday are canceled tonight. Downtown stores will remain open.
BRRRRR: Area strawberry growers and other outdoor businesses dealt as planned with the freezing temperatures of the past two days.
BRRRRRRR: Yesterday morning’s freezing temperatures led Lakeland Electric use to the highest level for a single event since a similar cold snap in 2010.
SHANNON PLANE CRASH: Though it may take up to two years for the full investigation, a preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board has looked into visibility issues and a “pop” heard on takeoff in the December 24th plane crash.
STILL TIME: Local health officials are reminding citizens there are still good reasons to get a flu vaccine this late in the flu season.
AT THE CHANGE ALL AROUND: Mayor Bill Mutz and three new Lakeland city commissioners were sworn in yesterday.
BRRRR: Polk County strawberry and citrus growers are prepared for the freezing temperatures.
BRRRRRRR: Polk County low temperatures will dip below freezing through Saturday, but no snow is forecast.
MOVING ON: Departing Lakeland Mayor Howard Wiggs looks back and forward as his term ends.
FIVE QUESTIONS FOR: Norm Small, Theatre Winter Haven’s producing director answers the expected five questions regarding his work in Polk County’s arts scene.
END OF THE YEAR SEWAGE SPILL: City of Lakeland workers had to clean up an estimated 500 gallon sewage spill in the alley behind 132 Kentucky South on Sunday morning. They found a clog of grease and rags.
AND A ONE AND A TWO: In December, 93 Polk County students were selected for the All-State Music Ensembles.
IN MEMORIAM: The morning paper looked back at several Polk County leaders who passed away in 2017.
PROCAP: The Polk County Sheriff’s Offices has instituted a policy of a “proactive community attack on problems” in some areas.
DON’T TEXT and DRIVE: The Florida Legislature is considering allowing officers to pull over drivers seen texting while driving.
DLP FIN: The Downtown Lakeland Partnership is shutting down February ninth. The organization’s board made the decision after discovering the group had lost their tax-exempt status and had failed to file corporate taxes for the last six years.
LOOKING BACK: Polk County suffered numerous brush fires in 2017.
THE TAP IS RUNNING DRY: After almost three years, the Lakeland Brewing Company is closing for good. Last call for Lakeland’s first independent microbrewery is January 8th.
DON’T DRIVE DRUNK: From 9 p.m. Friday until 3 a.m. Saturday, the Florida Highway Patrol will focus their efforts on finding drunk drivers on Polk Parkway, the Suncoast Parkway, and Veterans Expressway.
RECYCLING STORY: A look back to the top local stories of 2017 includes the major changes and missteps in the Polk County recycling efforts.
ACA DEADLINE EXTENDED: Due to Hurricane Irma, Lakelanders have until Sunday to sign up for ACA medical coverage. Those interested must call and speak to a representative directly at 800-318-2596 (855-889-4325 for TTY users). The lines are open 24 hours a day until the deadline.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is offering a $3,000 reward for information about the Christmas Day homicide of Russell L. Jackson, 2422 E. Peachtree St., lot 11. According to a PCSO press release, anyone with information may call Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS or online at P3tips.com to submit an anonymous tip.
LOCAL LEADER PASSES: Larry Libertore died Monday night at age 78 after a brief illness. Libertore was a former real estate developer, county commissioner, state representative, and University of Florida quarterback.
PCSO CONDUCTING HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION: The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an investigation of an apparent homicide last night on Peachtree Street. PCSO has yet to identify the victim pending next-of-kin notification.
HURRICANE DROUGHT END: Irma ended a 12-year hurricane drought for Polk County when it hit on September 10th. Many area citizens are still recovering from the damage.
BARTOW PLANE CRASH: Lakeland attorney John Hugh Shannon and four others died yesterday when their plane crashed on take-off at Bartow Municipal Airport.
MONDAY PROFILE:Pulling himself off the streets with the help of others, Nick Cassista transitioned from the Lighthouse Ministries volunteer program to become the organizations logistics manager. He and his wife now spend Christmas each year helping Lakeland’s homeless.
ANNUAL LAST MINUTE SHOPPING: In what’s become a holiday tradition, many people wait until two days before Christmas to shop.
STABLE: Lakeland Electric’s financial health rating is stable at AA-.
DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE: Through January 2nd, AAA will take you and your car to a safe location within 10 miles.
LKLDNow bonus information: The Tow to Go number is: (855) 286-9246 and is active from now until 6 a.m. Tuesday January 2nd. You can’t make an appointment to use the service. Tow trucks may not be available in rural areas and can transport up to two people. Additional passengers will need to make other arrangements. For more information on the service, read the Tow to Go guidelines.
CLOSE TO HOME SCHOOL: The Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency is looking to the Polk County School Board to allow students in the Lincoln Square neighborhood to go next door to A-ranked Lincoln Avenue Academy.
THAT’S A LOT OF GREEN: The City Commission approved a contract extension with Republic Services that would raise recycling costs from $50 to $85 per ton for neighborhood replying. City officials recommended the extension without rebidding the contract would be the less expensive process. If Lakelanders have any changes to their solid waste collection bills, it won’t discussed until mid-2018.
THE WRIGHT WAY: Florida Southern University dedicated the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Sharon and Jim France Admission Center, an 19,800-square foot building overlooking Lake Hollingsworth. The building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright scholar Jeffrey Baker.
NEW DEVELOPMENT PLANNED: Former state senator J.D. Alexander heads a group proposing to build between 895 and 1,299 new homes in the South Lakeland area bounded by north of Ewell Road, south of West Pipkin Road and west of Yates Road. The company hopes to start construction in the spring and is looking for the city to help improve roads into the area.
AGAPE FOOD BANK CLOSES: After 30 years serving as Polk County’s largest nonprofit food pantry, Catholic Charities of Central Florida will cease operating the Agape Food Bank on December 31st. By summer 2018, the Catholic Diocese of Orlando plans to open two smaller farmers-market type centers in Lakeland and Lake Wales. Feeding Tampa Bay will take over supplying the approximately 140 community food pantries in Polk and Hardee counties.
IT WAS BUILT WITH MAGIC: Members of the Lakeland Magic helped construct a Habitat for Humanity home in Lake Alfred.
ANOTHER FATAL CRASH:Joshua Thomas Jackson, 33, died at the scene when his motorcycle hit a car at the intersection of Griffin Road and Providence Road.
UNDEFEATED: The Southeastern Women’s basketball team is 14-0 after a 87-61 win last night against St. Francis.
Yesterday’s City of Lakeland Planning and Zoning Board had a public hearing (video) on a proposal to reconstruct the Burger King at 3590 Harden Boulevard. The franchisee, Bravo Tampa LLC, expressed that the current building a need to improve the restaurant’s ability to handle drive through business. The company’s representative, Robin Kendell, explained that the restaurant was built at a time when the business was 50% drive-through and 50% walk-in sales. Kendell explained that the business has changed and two-thirds of the business is now drive-through. The company wants to reconstruct the building to decrease seating capacity, create double drive through lanes, and add a bypass lane. The Planning and Zoning Board approved the proposal.
12 FACES OF CHRISTMAS CONTINUED: The owner of Just Dance, Kevin Rios, founded Just Cares, a non-profit that recently completed a toy drive for children in Ceiba, Puerto Rico.
NORTH LAKELAND CRASH: A 27-year-old Lakeland man died and a 53-year-old Dade City man was injured in yesterday’s car crash on U.S. 98 North. The road was closed for a few hours due to heavy morning fog.
Gigabit Lakeland: The Lakeland City COmmission instructed staff to “put together a bid package to find a consultant” toward creating a test city-owned broadband service. “There are other cities in the country that are just doing it better than we are,” (Commissioner Don) Selvage said. “Here we are on a gold mine of 330 miles of fiber, and we can’t seem to make the next leap.”
Lakeland Volunteers: Pam DeNeve is one of the 12 Faces of Christmas for her volunteer work at Circle B Bar Reserve.
Business Park Expansion: The City Commission approved a 29 acre expansion of the business park next to the BridgeWater community on Highway 33. The remaining 87 acres of the former golf course is slated to become recreational land.
LAKELANDERS: Maxine Weiss is one of the 12 Faces of Christmas got her volunteer work at the PACE Center for Girls. Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center’s Chief Operating Officer Danielle Drummond answered five questions. Women at Greater St. Paul Missionary Baptist Institutional Church spent the year making blankets for the homeless and those in nursing homes.
CORNERSTONE OF DOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION CLOSING: After nearly 30 years in business, Brooke Pottery is closing January 26th. The small boutique was started by Gloria Brooke in 1988 and purchased by Kay Morgan and Margaret Stephens nine years ago.
THE BEST OF TODAY’S PAPER: A special section honoring the best local student-athletes is the best local news you’ll find in today’s newspaper. (No link available.)
LOCALS IN THE NEWS: Volunteer Lois Rankin is one of the “12 Faces of Christmas.” | Columnist Tom Palmer writes about the volunteers who help Polk County’s environmental lands. (No link available) | Al and Thelma Penn are highlighted for their annual Christmas decorations.
GIGABIT LAKELAND: Commissioner Justin Troller promised to make one last effort to push for a Lakeland-owned gigabit service. The current city commission line up has one last meeting on December 18th.
NOT IN TODAY’S PAPER: Some may remember that Lakeland first pushed for gigabit service seven years ago in a last-minute effort to win the Google Connect competition. Area students made commercials, including this one from Tenoroc:
COFFEE GUZZLER: Evidently Lonnie Brown doesn’t believe in nevermore, as he is still writing a gadget column for the Ledger. This week he looks back, and forward, on the Where’s George website.
DREDGESOX TAKE ROOT: The shores of Lake Morton are improving after the installation of Dredgesox, material tubing filled with dirt and covered with grass, to shore up, well, the shore. The goal is to repair the shoreline damaged by time and Hurricane Irma.
DEBRIS PICKUP ENDS JAN 31: The last day of hurricane debris pickup will be January 31st. Gated communities still needing pickup must supply written permission to enter.
LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL TEAMS IN HOLIDAY TOURNAMENTS: The Lakeland Challenge, the Auburndale Christmas Shootout, and other high school basketball tournaments will feature local, Florida, and some out-of-state teams. You can find the full line up in today’s sports section.
(Barry Friedman is relaxing for the holidays. I’m taking over your favorite Lakeland news source. My first day and I’m late. I promise it will get better.)
FIRE CHIEF ANNOUNCED: City Manager Tony Delgado announced Doug Riley will take over for retiring Lakeland Fire Department Chief Gary Ballard. Riley, a 30-year veteran of the department, starts Saturday.
EXTENDED CONTRACT: The Citrus Connection board extended the contract for Executive Director Tom Phillips.
EAST LAKE MORTON: A Neighborhood Watch area is being organized by the Polk Museum of Art. It’ll cover the area bounded by East Palmetto Street, East Lime Street, Lake Morton Drive, and Michigan Avenue. For more information call Lakeland Police Department representative Gwen Stanislowski at 863-834-3974.
PEDESTRIAN KILLED: At approximately 12:30 pm on Thursday, Brenda Salyers, 60, was struck by an Amtrak train near US 92 E and Fairway Avenue.
I’m taking a break for a few weeks, but news curation will continue on LkldNow.com. Chuck Welch, who founded LakelandLocal.com and reported local news there for several years, will post Lakeland news links on LkldNow.com in my absence. Please continue visiting because a minute a day at LkldNow.com makes you smarter about Lakeland. Have a happy holiday. See you in January.
— Barry Friedman, Editor and Publisher, LkldNow
The train has departed, but Ingraham Avenue remains closed as cleanup continues. LPD says it will provide updates on Facebook.
A tractor-trailer was bisected by a CSX train on Ingraham Avenue between Oak and Oleander (near Colorado Boxed Beef) around midnight after the big rig got stuck on the tracks. The train did not derail. The truck driver was uninjured. https://t.co/VgvjeL9Eiq pic.twitter.com/Wpga4YLce3
— lkld now (@lkldnow) December 13, 2017
BOLO: Deputies are asking the public to be on the lookout for Edner Dely, wanted in the armed robbery of a cab driver at a Sunoco station on West Memorial Boulevard. Dely, 25, described as 6-foot-5 and weighing 280 pounds, took off on foot after the Morning morning incident.
GOOD NEWS: A charity that provides Christmas toys for children in need learned today it will recover $27,000 stolen from its bank account.
Linda Bagley-Wiggs is helping Corey Stevens find funding for his invention that would allow smaller retailers to display 3D virtual reality models of their products online.
GRASSLANDS: Member-investors have bought Grasslands Golf and Country Club from Drummond Corp. and are promoting memberships to non-Grasslands residents.
TOYS FOR PUERTO RICO: The Just Cares charity organized by Just Dance’s Kevin Rios just wants to collect 1,000 toys to be carried by hand to children in Ceibo, Puerto Rico, whose families are struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
ISO SOLOISTS: The Imperial Symphony Orchestra’s holiday concert Tuesday features soprano Teresa Castillo and baritone Eric Lindsey.
Award winners in Thursday night’s 37th Annual Lakeland Christmas Parade, announced by the Junior League of Greater Lakeland:
• Judge’s Choice: Medulla Baptist Church
• Most Outstanding Band: Lake Gibson High School
• Most Original Float: True Plumbers & Builders
• Best Themed Float: Agnini Family Dental
• Best Youth/Education Float: Cub Scout Pack 106
• Best Professional Float: Samira Belly Dance
• Best Business Float: Party People Events
• Best Community Float: Central Florida Athletics
The Center for Public Integrity and the Associated Press published financial disclosure statements from state legislators nationwide as part of a project examining potential conflicts of interest. You can see Florida legislator disclosures here or scroll down to view the forms filed by those representing Lakeland.
DOWNTOWN: The merchants group that runs First Friday and the monthly Food Truck Rally lost its non-profit status six years ago, current board members recently learned. They’re working to correct the problems as they consider ways to reorganize and implement tighter controls.
MANSLAUGHTER: A 2-year-old infant was found suffocated in her mother’s bed last May after the 24-year-old mother came home intoxicated from a night at a strip club, the Lakeland Police Department said. Now she’s charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child.
What: 37th Lakeland Christmas Parade
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, beginning with fireworks over Lake Mirror
Where: Downtown Lakeland (see the map above)
Who: 90 floats, nine marching bands and an expected 30,000 spectators. Grand marshal: Georgann Carlton. Sponsor: Junior League of Greater Lakeland
Theme: A Night at the North Pole
Watch It Live: lakelandgov.net/TV or on Spectrum 643/FiOS 43.
Chairs: Sidewalks are clogged several days in advance although participants are asked to refrain from placing chairs until the evening before the parade. Did they comply this year? Check the video below, taken 32 hours before the parade was set to start:
Spath, a 34-year-old former prosecutor who lives in Bartow, is the second candidate to announce she’s running in the special election being held to fill the Florida House 39 seat being vacated by Neil Combee. The other candidate, 22-year-old Josie Tomkow of Lakeland, issued a news release this week (article) saying her campaign raised $50,000 last month.
Add Lakeland to the list of cities where monuments to the Confederacy are being relocated following the racially motivated killings of nine people at a Charleston, S.C., church and the killing in Charlottesville, Va., of a woman protesting a white supremacy rally.
City commissioners capped a long and emotional meeting this afternoon with a 4-3 vote to relocate a monument erected in 1910 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to a location other than the center of Munn Park.
Daniel Leviten, who built a solo pediatrics practice into a seven-physician operation, is retiring at what a partner calls a “young” 67.
DIXIELAND DINING: Marcos Fernandez, owner and chef of Nineteen61, is opening a take-out restaurant focusing on Latin American specialties in the building at Dixieland Village once occupied by Fat Maggie’s and the short-lived Crane’s Crossing restaurant.
ADVISING LAKELAND ELECTRIC: The city’s Electric Utilities Advisory Committee has two vacancies. City commissioners decided Friday that one should represent residential customers inside city limits and one should represent the utility’s residential customers outside city limits.
When city commissioners consider the future of the Munn Park Confederate monument on Monday morning, they’re expecting lots of comments from residents. So today they set some special rules for the meeting:
- People who want to speak will be asked to place their name and address on a sign-in sheet.
- Speakers will be called in the order in which they signed up.
- Comments will be limited to three minutes per speaker, rather than the customary five minutes.
Lineman Joshua Lindsey was fired following an accusation that he was responsible for the theft of memorabilia from the San Juan airport just before utility crewman flew back from power restoration work in Puerto Rico. Lindsey says he will hire a lawyer because he has “been done wrong.”
Judge Jay Yancey’s prison sentence for former mental health counselor Anthony Conti, 72, was part of a plea agreement. Conti had pleaded no contest to two counts of sexual misconduct and six counts of attempted sexual misconduct by a psychotherapist.
Lakeland votes again Tuesday. This time there’s only one item on the ballot: a City Commission race. One contestant says he brings a needed small-business owner’s perspective to City Hall. The other says he offers management and budget experience he gained as president of several colleges.
Music highlights include tonight’s Jazz Orchestra Concert at Harrison School for the Arts and a seven-band “Rockin’ for Toys for Tots” Sunday 2-10 p.m. at Ybor Lounge Live. Bands include The Brimer Trio, Most Wanted, Sgt. Shredder, Power Surge, Velvet Jones, Cross Traxx and Almost D.S.P., a collaboration of Almost There and the Dan Signor Project. More listings after the jump:
POLITICS: John Hall has decided to stay put as a county commissioner rather than run for the Florida House seat being vacated by Neil Combee. He says he plans to support a candidate entering the race soon instead of Josie Tomkow, the only person who has qualified so far.
TRAUMA PREPAREDNESS: Lakeland Regional Health will start offering “Stop the Bleed” courses to the public in January. They typically have been geared to health and emergency workers.
Suspected “acid bombs” were found this morning on the east side of Lake Hollingsworth and at Common Grounds Park, the Lakeland Police Department reports. Nobody has been injured. Members of the Tampa Police bomb squad neutralized the Hollingsworth device with an air pistol, around 1 p.m., the Lakeland Fire Department said.
CHEMICAL SPILL: CSX says a faulty bearing caused a train derailment in north Lakeland that spilled a hazardous chemical and has closed a portion of Kathleen Road for two days.
REAL ESTATE: Local home sales are up sharply, spurred by low interest rates and prices drawing Tampa commuters. Against that backdrop, the Keller Williams franchises owned by Chris McLaughlin have exceeded $1 billion in sales for a second consecutive year.
$17 MILLION VERDICT: The mother and son of a man killed when his scooter was rear-ended by a drunk driver on Shepherd Road were awarded $17 million by a jury, although a lawyer conceded they’re unlikely to see much money from the jailed defendant.
— Andrea Lyon 🎞 (@andrealyonTV) November 28, 2017
BRAND NEW VIDEO: A closer look at the derailed train in #Lakeland – This vantage point coming from a neighbor's backyard looking out at Kathleen Road. This scene is only about a football field from their homes. @abcactionnews pic.twitter.com/2y5hMmQ4OR
— Andrea Lyon 🎞 (@andrealyonTV) November 28, 2017
The Ledger: Nearby residents were told they could leave their homes seven hours after the accident.
The rail giant closely guards details of chemical shipments, but says 6 percent of its carloads in Florida contains hazardous materials.
Greta Dupuy, 38, heads associate services at Publix Supermarkets and is next in line to chair the United Way of Central Florida.
Kathleen Road will likely be closed between Galloway Road and Spivey Road until evening as hazmat crews clean up the spill. Residents of Strickland Road are being asked shelter in place, turning off air conditioners and keeping windows closed.
GOSPEL INN: The Christian bookstore has seen sales halved since the rise of online competitors, but it’s stayed in business 46 years and owners Bill and Barbara Kelly, who are in their mid-70s, have no plans to retire.
RECYCLING: Recent changes in Polk County’s rules for curbside recycling have confused residents of unincorporated areas, columnist Tom Palmer writes.
LakelandMom lists neighborhoods in Lakeland, the rest of Polk County and Plant City known for holiday light displays, and throws in a driving route to see them.
A pair of duos in Dixieland Saturday night sound interesting. At 6:30, Hillcrest Coffee hosts Rebecca Ryals, who sings about growing up on a south Florida cattle farm, with John Bois, bassist with the Australian folk-rock group The Dingoes. Jon Corneal and his band also play. A few blocks south at 8 p.m., The Pink Piano showcases Tampa harpist Seth Lynn and Lakeland pianist Erik Maleki.
Check more listings after the jump:
Feeding Tampa Bay will discuss the transition at a town hall meeting next Thursday at 8:30 a.m. at the Church at the Mall in Lakeland. Catholic Charities, which operated Agape Food Bank, said it is shifting its feed-the-poor focus to mission markets providing fresh produce.
Geo. L. Gaines Jewelers on Tennessee Avenue, which has been owned the same family for 82 years, is being sold to Realtor Dean Saunders and his wife, Gina, who will be managing the store, @LakelandDDA announces. #lkld pic.twitter.com/GrlbU5IYtG
— lkld now (@lkldnow) November 21, 2017
Gary W. Ballard, 60, retires as Lakeland’s fire chief Dec. 15 after starting with @LakelandFD 40 years ago as a firefighter. He became fire chief in 2010. His successor, to be announced in early December, will be one of two assistant chiefs: Rick Hartzog or Doug Riley. #lkld pic.twitter.com/qwqUrenq00
— lkld now (@lkldnow) November 21, 2017
Chief Ballard’s biography on the city website.
Sandy Toledo, who founded the Lakeland charity 48 years ago, said on Facebook (link) the thieves used her Social Security number to access the account and that she is working with Bank of America’s fraud department “but it does not look good.”
Douglas Park will be built on 18 acres on Carpenters Way donated to the city by Lake Gibson Village | City manager’s recommendation
Workers from Florida municipal utilities are coming home as the Montana company coordinating power restoration efforts halted work, saying it needs assurance it will be paid by Puerto Rico’s power company.
Representatives of two churches, the NAACP and other organizations asked the City Commission today to relocate the Confederate monument away from the center of Munn Park. (Ledger coverage) Here are tweets about their requests:
“We hope to be through by Christmas,” County Manager Jim Freeman said regarding the crews picking up hurricane debris. Much of the uncollected limbs and yard trash is in unincorporated Northeast Lakeland and Davenport.
FitLife Foods (website), a Tampa company that prepares healthy heat-and-eat meals at a facility on County Line Road (map), now offers delivery to Lakeland residences. The packaged meals are also available at 15 retail outlets in the Tampa Bay, Sarasota, Orlando and Palm Beach areas, but none in Polk.
City Commission is discussing a draft resolution on Munn Park monuments. After today, the resolution will be revised by the city attorney, and commission will vote on it Dec. 4. #lkld pic.twitter.com/Kwb7u8nKA6
— lkld now (@lkldnow) November 17, 2017
The resolution keeps the current Confederate monument in place but asks city staff to draft a plan to allow other monuments celebrating ethnic groups that settled here.
Commissioners are expecting a large turnout Dec. 4 from citizens who want to comment about the future of the Confederate monument in the center of the park.
As a result of today’s discussion, the city attorney will revise the proposed resolution above to say that a master plan could include additional monuments in parts of downtown outside of Munn Park.
Read Ledger coverage. Check tweets from today’s meeting after the jump.
A customs/border control office that opened Thursday will let Lakeland Linder Airport receive overseas flights with up to 20 passengers. Officials hope to begin accepting international freight next.
SCHOOL BOARD: Tim Harris says he won’t seek re-election to the Polk School Board, prompting a second candidate to announce for the seat Harris has held for three terms. David Byrd, a 64-year-old retiree who worked in the school system as a high school teacher and teacher resource specialist for more than 35 years, joins Lisa Miller, also a former teacher, in the race.
TEACHERS: Most teachers can expect raises between 2 and 3.5 percent, under a complicated formula hammered out by the Polk school district and the teachers’ union, officials said. Part of the $10 million needed for the raises will come by returning to a practice of paying maintenance workers out of the capital fund instead of the general fund.
COLLEGIATE GAMING: Competitive intercollegiate computer gaming, complete with tryouts, uniforms and spectators, is coming to Florida Southern College, a move that perplexes The Ledger’s editorial writer.
LPD EXONERATION: A complaint about three Lakeland Police employees involving an intimate relationship between two of them and possible drug use found that no policies were violated.
City Manager Tony Delgado gave an update on city activities and took citizen questions in the post-Irma, post-election edition of his quarterly Tony Talks.
ALSO: View Ledger coverage
POWER PLANT: Lakeland Electric is negotiating to buy a used generator in Auburndale that would be moved to its McIntosh site and eventually replace the Unit 2 generator, currently off-line for repair.
TEACHERS CONTRACT: The Polk school district and the union representing teachers reached an agreement on raises. If teachers ratify the contract, they’ll see bigger paychecks in February.
Local experts discussed jobs, education, health care. language and transportation needs for residents of Puerto Rico who are moving to Central Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The panel on Monday at Southeastern University was moderated by Ana Rivera, president and CEO of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Polk County. (Ledger coverage)
Apologies for some camera problems around the 42-minute and 58-minute marks. I was dealing with battery issues.
Senior lineman from Lakeland Electric working to help restore Puerto Rico’s power grid are paid $63 an hour, but the contractor who hired the Lakeland workers is billing the Puerto Rican public power company $319 an hour. Puerto Rico’s deal with contractor Whitefish Energy Holdings of Montana “has served as a cautionary note about the potential for soaring costs that are common after disasters,” The New York Times reports.
REP. ROSS: U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross hasn’t held an open town hall meeting since he faced busloads of hecklers February in what a political science professor calls an ambush. Instead, he has hosted conference calls to hear from constituents, prompting some voters to ask just who gets invited.
MUSIC/DANCE: Tuesday’s Imperial Symphony Orchestra concert will spotlight a collaboration in which Florida Dance Theatre performs new choreography telling the story of “Tom Sawyer” set to Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.”
CRIME BEAT: A Lakeland man faces charges of exploiting a disabled person (The version currently online is less detailed than the print article) | A school bus driver was arrested on child abuse charges involving a special-needs child.
BASKETBALL: Lakeland Magic, 105, Canton Charge 100
Lakeland Linder-based Draken International, which helps train military pilots, bought 22 22 Mirage F1M and F1B jets that were used primarily by the Spanish Air Force.
“Running Down a Dream: A Live Tribute to Tom Petty” was presented to a sold-out audience at LkldLive Thursday night. Musicians on “American Girl” included Craig Morby, vocals, Shane Lawlor, acoustic guitar and backing vocals, David Brimer, lead guitar, Derrick Dietrich, bass, and Marcus McCants, drums. See the full concert after the jump.
Newly available electronic glasses allow Britny Belskis, 27, to see details that were unavailable before.
Tonight’s Tom Petty tribute at LkldLive has sold out, but there’s plenty of other music highlights this weekend:
- The guitar concert at Harrison School for the Arts tonight features sounds from Bach to Led Zeppelin.
- Hear Jazza-Nova, Patty Kenoly, Fount, Brian Sutherland, and Bully For You Saturday at The Big Event at Lake Mirror.
- Glass House Point rocks LkldLive Saturday night. Brightside and Babyblu open.
- ’90s house/club hitmakers C+C Music Factory has re-formed and plays Masons Live Saturday night.
The story about a woman arrested for DUI while riding her horse on Combee Road made national news. An attorney who agreed to take her case pro bono told News Channel 8 he’ll argue that DUI doesn’t apply to a person riding an animal instead of operating a machine.
Lakeland voters today swept three political newcomers into office while decisively defeating a measure that would have changed the form of city government to a strong-mayor format.
When Bill Mutz — who won 72 percent of the vote in a four-man race — becomes mayor in January, it will be under the current system, in which the mayor serves as chair of the City Commission and represents the city in ceremonial functions. The appointed city manager will remain the city’s chief executive.
In one of the biggest surprises of the evening, Stephanie Madden unseated incumbent Jim Malless without a runoff in a five-way race. Insurance executive Scott Franklin outpolled civic volunteer Sandy Toledo for Southeast District seat. Larry Durrence and Michael Dunn face off in a Dec. 5 runoff for the Southwest District seat.
— lkld now (@lkldnow) November 8, 2017
|Strong Mayor Charter Amendment|
|Patrick Shawn Jones||1,214||8.97%|
|*||Dunn and Durrence are in a runoff Dec. 5|
|Commission: At Large|
|Kathy Barsotti Smith||961||7.08%|
In the wake of the shooting at a church in Sutherland, Texas, that left 26 dead, Lakeland churches are increasing security, Fox 13’s Ken Suarez reports. Among other things they are self-patrolling their grounds, adding cameras and taking advantage of Polk County Sheriff’s Office services, such as security assessments and active-shooter training.
Meanwhile News Channel 8’s Corey Davis talks with a Lakeland pastor who was shot in the head while praying in his church six years ago. Pastor William Boss asks: How many massacres will it take before lawmakers change gun laws?
Sheriff Grady Judd’s solution? He says everyone who can legally arm themselves should do so.
Amazon received county incentives to build distribution facilities in Lakeland and Davenport. The tech giant hasn’t provided as many jobs as promised and some of its incentives should be docked, County Commissioner Melony Bell says. Commissioner George Lindsey tells Fox 13 that some $11-an-hour jobs are better for Polk than no jobs.
Registered voters in Lakeland go to the polls today to select a new mayor, vote in three City Commission races and decide whether to change the form of government to strong mayor. Polls close at 7 p.m. Read on to find out what’s on the ballot, where to vote, how to do last-minute research and where to get results tonight.
POWER POLE DISPUTE: Lakeland Electric leaders say it’s cheaper and more efficient to hire an outside company rather than new employees to get caught up on replacing power poles. But a labor union says the city is opening itself to a $2.6 million legal judgment if it goes ahead. City commissioners Monday delayed a decision on contracting with Pike Electric (view the contract) in order to see if their attorney can get from 80 percent to 100 percent sure they’re on solid legal ground.
IRMA FLOODING: Property owners along Pineville Lane northwest of Lakeland (map) are still tearing out wallboard with black mold after homes were flooded when Winston Creek swelled during Hurricane Irma.
Florida Rep. Neil Combee, a Republican, said he will ask Gov. Scott to call a special election for his District 39 seat, which includes northern Polk County and parts of Osceola County. He was recently named state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE: The total raised to promote candidates and issues on this week’s Lakeland ballot has topped $1 million, with the largest sums raised by the committees for and against a strong mayor. (Gregory Fancelli has contributed $579,000 to the strong mayor effort, according to a compilation of finance reports.) | Research campaign funding and spending here
MAYOR CANDIDATE: James Green, a 22-year-old Florida Southern senior, is running for mayor on a platform centered on a plan to replace property taxes with a one-time fee on new developments.
SHOOTING VICTIM: The family of a man who was shot and killed by Lakeland police when he threatened them with a shotgun Thursday night said an empty whiskey bottle tells them he was probably drunk. Jerry Roach, 71, became confrontational when drunk, and his depression was deepened by the recent sixth anniversary of the death of his wife of 42 years, family members said.