At a ceremony starting now (8:30 a.m. Wednesday), Florida Polytechnic University breaks ground on a two-story, 85,000-square-foot Applied Research Center. It’s a short walk across a bridge from the landmark Innovation, Science, and Technology Building. Builder: Skanska USA | Architect: HOK
IRMA: The Morning Paper leads off with a pair of articles recalling the chaos created when Hurricane Irma tore through Lakeland two years ago this week. One is about a 70-year-old woman who is frustrated by a lack of assistance from FEMA and her insurance company in fixing her faulty wiring and leaky roof that date to Irma. The other one is about Irma, the mascot cat that has roamed Crowder Brothers Ace Hardware since the time of the hurricane.
SCHOOL FOOD WASTE: Prompted by a First United Methodist Church associate pastor and the founder of the Combee Connection Ministry, Polk public schools officials are pondering whether and how to set up food-sharing tables in school lunchrooms to divert fruit and packaged food that would otherwise be discarded to students in need.
BONNET SPRINGS SCULPTURE: On Sunday, Platform Art will unveil the design for a sculpture to be installed at the massive park scheduled to open in early 2021. “Sound Wall” was designed by All Saints Academy students Laura Prazdnicane and Lucy Zhang | Event info
FLORIDA POLY: The Lakeland-based state university has hired a new fundraiser: VP of Advancement Kathleen “Kathy” Bowman has been at Purdue University since 2011.
Democrat Alan Cohn of New Tampa is making another run for the Congressional seat that represents most of Lakeland. Cohn, a former TV reporter and news anchor, announced today he is seeking to replace first-term Republican Rep. Ross Spano of Dover. More
Unwholly Bikes, a nonprofit that turns used bicycle parts into working bikes for students in need, has scheduled a Saturday grand opening for its workshop at 925 E. Rose Street.
Anastasia Crumb-Guy, 36, died and Tysheana Marshall, 33, was being treated for wounds after they entered a home on Jewel Avenue Thursday afternoon, started a fight with the man and woman there and were shot by the woman, according to the Lakeland Police Department. It hasn’t been determined yet whether charges will be filed.
DORIAN: In a pair of front-page articles, Ledger reporters describe local efforts to get help to Hurricane Dorian victims in the Bahamas and talk with Southeastern University grad student Jody Whymns about riding out the storm with family in Nassau.
HOMICIDE: A woman was taken into custody after two other women were shot, one fatally, near Jewel Avenue and West 2nd Street in Lakeland, police report. Details remain sketchy. ABC Action News
DRUGS: Two George Jenkins High School students were arrested on charges that they brought Ecstasy and Xanax to school, mixed pills in a bottle and gave it to other students to drink. News Channel 8
A company working with the city of Lakeland is hoping to win a competitive grant to build a low-income housing complex on East Bella Vista Street just south of Tigertown. But first it had to get chosen by city commissioners against another company with considerable affordable-housing experience. More
Here are a couple of weekend highlights, followed by our updated music calendar: On Friday night, an American Cancer Society Concert/Fundraiser at Hillcrest Coffee features Lady Moonbeam, Jeremy Thrush of Laugh Tracks, and Space Panda. On Saturday, Rexartrefkin’s Rex Floyd is performing Pink Floyd classics at the Music Ranch. More
- LALtoday presents information on ways people in Lakeland can help Hurricane Dorian victims in the Bahamas and elsewhere.
- So does The Ledger.
- WFLA radio talks with Lakeland pilot Gary Coxe about his work with Angel Flight to ferry relief supplies from Lakeland Linder Airport to the Bahamas | Listen to the interview
- Sun ‘n Fun is collecting relief materials and flying them to the Bahamas, Fox 13 News reports.
- Drop off goods from 3 to 7 p.m. today and Friday at Linsters and Harbor Freight on U.S. 98 to be taken by boat to the Bahamas.
- Publix Super Market Charities is donating $250k to the American Red Cross and United Way for hurricane relief, according to a news release.
- RELATED: The Lakeland-based NOAA Hurricane Hunters took some reporters to view Dorian from aloft. Check reports from Tampa’s News Channel 8 and WUSF-FM.
Conn’s HomePlus, a retailer of bargain-focused home furnishings, announced today it is moving into Florida, planning up to 40 stores that will be served by a 413,000-square-foot Lakeland distribution center scheduled to open next year. More
Nicole Travis, the city of Lakeland’s community and economic development director, tells Tampa Bay Business Journal that she is motivated by her family: her mother’s success as a government minister in the Virgin Islands inspires her, as well as her desire to be a role model for her daughters. She also reveals the not-well-known info that she can play steel drums. Travis is one of the newspaper’s 2019 BusinessWoman of the Year honorees.
Update: Tuesday, 7:07 a.m.: With Hurricane Dorian’s track shifting away from the area, Polk County has downsized its emergency operations and is no longer planning to open shelters. Public schools are still closed Tuesday and Wednesday because of weather concerns, and other institutions will be closed in the early part of this week. Polk County is under tropical storm watch since winds are expected to reach into the eastern part of the county. Here’s our updated list:
The Morning Paper leads with a message to readers that today’s package is a two-fer: It includes Wednesday features and ads so that carriers won’t have to drive through the dangerous winds expected in parts of Polk Wednesday morning.
Lakeland news centers on Hurricane Dorian preparedness: The city of Lakeland is ready; the Salvation Army is ready; and Lakeland native Kennieth Brewer, 29, is now an ensign at the local NOAA air station helping with storm prep.
As Hurricane Dorian approaches Florida, the brewmasters at Swan Brewing replaced beer in one of their huge tanks with drinking water for people who might need it.
Some Polk County high school football games were switched to Thursday night because of weather concerns. Check game coverage in The Ledger. Lakeland scores:
- Lake Gibson 37, Kathleen 17
- Lake Region 56, Santa Fe Catholic 29
- George Jenkins 20, Fort Meade 6
If you’re looking for live music this weekend, here are some suggestions, followed by our updated music calendar:
- Someday Honey, powered by Kaleigh Baker’s fierce vocals, play Union Hall Friday at 8:30 Friday.
- Gary Love Band’s Tom Petty tribute at LkldLive on Friday is sold out, but tickets are available for a Sept. 14 reprise.
- Ladies of Rock, Vol. 5 at Johnny G’s Saturday at 8 features Red Calling, Villains and Virtues, Against My Will and The Dev.
The political arm of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Bill Read in his bid for re-election to the Northeast seat on the Lakeland City Commission. For now, he has one opponent — patient advocate Jiwa Farrell — although qualifying for office doesn’t close until Sept. 20. More
The State Attorney’s Office has dropped all criminal charges in the cases of Courtney Taylor Irby and Joseph Irby, which gained national prominence after Courtney Irby was arrested while turning in guns she said she took from her estranged husband for self-protection. The Irbys have agreed to participate in a pretrial intervention program. New evidence suggested Courtney Irby illegally placed tracking devices in her husband’s vehicle and that cellphone tracking data contradicted several of her statements, prosecutors said. Divorce and injunction legal proceedings are pending.
ALSO: Will this case stop other abuse victims from coming forward? News Channel 8 reports.
Coming soon to the Lakeland Public Library: improv class for adults, a music listening club in partnership with the Imperial Symphony Orchestra, and a talk by author Therese Anne Fowler, known for her novels about Zelda Fitzgerald and the Vanderbilts. And available now: free little library bookmarks. More
NOAA’s Air Operations Center at Lakeland Linder International Airport, home of the Hurricane Hunters, is getting two new aircraft: a modified Gulfstream G550 for use in storm forecasting and atmospheric research, and a Beechcraft King Air 350 CER turboprop for use in flood and water supply forecasts.
The federal government wants to lease a 100,000-square-foot facility in Central Florida to house undocumented migrant children, and Lakeland is in the southwest corner of a large swath of Central Florida where the site could be placed. (The area under consideration stretches nearly to Deltona and includes Orlando, Kissimmee and parts of Leesburg.) The General Services administrative is soliciting offers for sites, and the facility could open by November 2020.
LINKS: News Channel 8 coverage | GSA Solicitation | Map | Housing Plan | Earlier: Orlando Sentinel
Lakeland’s soon-to-open first ice arena will be new, but all of its tables, benches and bar tops harken to history; they are repurposed from the wooden lanes of the bowling alley that used to occupy the building on Memorial Boulevard near I-4. More
BROADBAND: A University of Pennsylvania professor who has studied municipal broadband says Lakeland city commissioners should ask tough, skeptical questions before deciding whether to launch a utility.
LINKS: Dr. Christopher Yoo’s study finds that most municipal broadband systems fail to make money, but the study has received ample criticism from organizations such as the Brookings Institution.
VOLUNTEERS: Tony and Melissa Lobozzo, who founded LoBo Ministries Inc., were named the Florida’s Volunteers of the Year for State Foster Care Agencies by the Florida Coalition for Children. Their agency is now finding ways to bring together siblings separated into different foster families | LoBo Ranch website
See Friday-night scores for Lakeland teams below and click here for Ledger coverage.
- Lakeland 45, Bradenton Manatee 0
- Cape Coral Oasis 17, Lakeland Christian 13
- Lake Wales 57, Kathleen 0
- George Jenkins 46, Lake Region 7
- Victory Christian 33, Frostproof 6
- Santa Fe Catholic 38, Four Corners 0
- Lake Gibson 41, Hernando 0
- Hudson 6, Tenoroc 0
- All Saints 49, Marco Island Academy 0
LPD: An internal investigation has determined that allegations of fraternization and unbecoming conduct between former Police Chief Larry Giddens and department attorney Donna Perry were unfounded. Investigators said nobody they interviewed knew of a personal relationship between the two before Giddens resigned Feb. 1. Perry insisted the investigation continue after she resigned in order to clear both their names, the 41-page investigation noted; neither she nor Giddens consented to an interview with investigators.
POT: A GrowHealthy medical marijuana dispensary is scheduled to open next week at the southwest corner of U.S. 98 and Griffin Road, not far from another dispensary.
A Lakeland High School math teacher was placed on administrative leave and under mental health examination after students reported he told them how he would combine bullets and bombs to kill up to 1,000 people if he were a school shooter. The teacher told a police officer he was joking.
COVERAGE: The Ledger | Fox 13 News
Leadership Lakeland, a Lakeland Chamber of Commerce program to develop community leaders, tonight introduced the 30 members of its 37th class. The members will devote one day each month for the next nine months to learning about different segments of community life, such as government, health care, education, economy, human services, criminal justice, art and media. More
LHS TEACHER: A Lakeland High School math teacher was removed from the classroom via a judge-issued risk protection order Wednesday after he “described hypothetical acts of violence against the school” following a lockdown drill on Friday, according to School Board officials. No specifics have been given about what he said, leaving a lot of questions raised in placed like this Facebook discussion.
LAKELAND ELECTRIC: Three employees of the city power utility assembled the software behind a new electronic disaster-response tool; crews in the field will get updated information on digital devices instead of relying on the paper maps and lists used during the 12 days power was out following Hurricane Irma in 2017.
SEU-TIGERS: Last year, Southeastern University replaced Florida Southern College as the school whose baseball team played the Detroit Tigers at the start of Spring Training. SEU and the Tigers announced Wednesday that they have extended the parternship for three years. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed | News release
INDOOR ART FESTIVAL: The third Fine Art at the Magnolia is scheduled for 10-5 Saturday and 10-4 Sunday at the Magnolia Building on Lake Mirror.
Facing funding reductions mandated by the Florida Legislature, Polk School Board members are looking at options to increase revenues. At a workshop Tuesday, they discussed timing of a referendum on increasing property taxes. In addition, county officials are considering a phased increase in impact fees on new construction over the next few years.
Top honorees tonight at Lakeland’s inaugural Athena Awards included Ana Wood (leadership award), Laura Lear (young professional) and Top Buttons (organization).
The Athena Awards, a collaboration between the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce and the Junior League of Greater Lakeland, recognize women leaders who have made significant accomplishments and enhanced the community. More
The colony of live bees, part of the nonprofit Bee Cause Project, is one of two in Florida schools. It teaches students at Combee Academy of Design and Engineering about the importance of bees to agriculture and food production.
A discussion of a possible city broadband utility might have the farthest-reaching implications, but plenty more happened during five meetings that occupied city commissioners and their top staff between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. today. Here are some highlights, as seen on social media: More
A 710,962-square-foot warehouse planned for property that was once part of the Lakeland Drag Strip could grow to more than 1 million square feet, as a result of City Commission action today. That would make it one of the five largest warehouses in Lakeland. More
The city of Lakeland is planning a series of public meetings on whether it should create a municipal internet service provider even as support on the commission remains limited. More
Chadd Scott, a Jacksonville sports radio programmer who writes about the intersection of arts and travel for Forbes, visited the new Impressionists exhibit at the Polk Museum of Art and was impressed. He writes in Forbes that the art on loan from an institution in Reading, Pa., “to a museum in an even smaller city, easily bypassed on Interstate 4 between Orlando and Tampa, serves as a great reminder of the wonderful artwork which can be found outside America’s mega-collection institutions. You shouldn’t have to live or travel in New York or Chicago to see the greatest art the world has ever produced. This show proves you don’t.”
CHURCH MURAL: A new church wanting to send a different message led to four large murals depicting biblical scenes being painted over when the building that once housed Saint David’s Episcopal Church became Redemption Church. Local artist Rick Olivo spent around two months more than a dozen years ago creating the 9-by-12-foot murals that resembled stained glass.
DOWNTOWN VALET: Free valet parking downtown will be extended through 2020. Use of the program picked up dramatically after construction of the Heritage Plaza Parking Garage blocked access to adjacent on-street parking.
With a 3-year growth rate of 284% and 2018 revenue of $29.2 million, AgAmerica Lending placed 1,457th on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in the US. Also from #lkld: Universal Painting Corp. (3,968) and GMF Steel Group (4,255). https://t.co/Zls3FW0brE pic.twitter.com/7KEtiBVLvS
— Lkld Now (@LkldNow) August 17, 2019
Hunt Brothers Construction has received a permit for the $3.5 million job to lay the foundation for Amazon Service Inc.’s $100 million air cargo facility at Lakeland Linder Airport, Tampa Bay Business Journal reports. The newspaper also reported this week (here) that Amazon is reported to be a top contender for a 1.078-million-square-foot warehouse being built near I-4 and Berkley Road in the Auburndale area.
With the help of Sheriff Grady Judd, crews for Elite Site Solutions and Arizona Holdings have begun demolishing dilapidated trailers to make way for new low-cost housing. Son-and-father developers Chad and Jim Myers plan to place rent-to-own homes along Arizona, Colorado and Idaho avenues in an area known as “The States” (south of Main Street and several blocks west of Combee Road) that had been a haven for criminals, Judd said.
ALSO: Ledger coverage | photo gallery | video: Judd interview
Danny Baggish, 35, of Lakeland, is readying for the darts-throwing world championship in London this December after defeating the defending North American champion in the US Darts Masters leg of the World Series last month | Background
TRANSFERRED TEACHERS: Twelve teachers at three Polk “turnaround schools,” including Philip O’Brien Elementary and Griffin Elementary in Lakeland, are being transferred involuntarily to other schools based on scores on a state assessment.
STARGEL & CORPORATIONS: State Sen. Kelli Stargel of Lakeland was a sponsor of a new tax break that is about to give more than $500 million to some of Florida’s biggest corporations.
TRAFFIC FATALITIES: Delbert Kendall, 64, of Polk City, and Case Hurst, 40, of Winter Haven, died in a head-on collision on Main Street near Reynolds Road Wednesday evening, deputies report.
Dissent Craft Brewing, which runs a popular taproom in a St. Petersburg strip mall, is planning to expand to downtown Lakeland. If approved by the city, it would be the fourth in a cluster of bars on South Kentucky Avenue and potentially one of eight alcohol-only establishments downtown. More
One advantage to having an inter-generational music calendar team at LkldNow is that we can offer differing perspectives on local shows worth checking out. Megan the Millennial has been deeply involved with Lakeland’s alternative and indie scene. Barry the Boomer is a decades-long music fan with eclectic tastes. Here are our takes on what looks interesting this week, followed by the updated music calendar: More
The board that oversees the Citrus Connection is in a financial dispute with Polk County government that the transit system says could jeopardize its financial stability. The Lakeland Area Mass Transit District board is demanding that the county pay an overdue $382,000 bill within 15 days. County officials have withheld payment because they want the transit district to stop billing for its accrued pension liability under the state retirement system. While the head of the Citrus Connection says they’ll find a way to continue bus service to the county for now, the agency’s finance director says state and federal grants will be jeopardized without the matching funds.
CARLSON/CONGRESS: Lakeland lawyer Kristen Carlson, who ran for the U.S. House last year, has endorsed fellow Democrat Adam Hattersley of Riverview in his bid to unseat Rep. Ross Spano, the Republican who won the seat she was vying for.
CALL CENTER JOBS: Sykes Enterprises Inc. is expanding its Lakeland customer-service call center and hiring an unspecified number of employees thought to be several hundred. Applications can be made in person at 1144 Griffin Road or online here.
With a new website to track bus delays (here) and a new call center (863-534-7300), Polk public schools reported average transportation delays of 30 minutes on Monday, the first day of classes, compared with two hours last year. Bus driver vacancies stand at 25 compared with 70 at this time last year.
BROADBAND: If the city of Lakeland pushes ahead with plans for a broadband utility, it may face obstacles erected in a 2005 state law. But the city may be able to circumvent the obstacles because it obtained a state certificate to provide communication services in 1994.
ABORTION CLINIC: In the face of protesters hoping to deter potential patients at Lakeland’s only abortion clinic, supporters of abortion rights are volunteering to escort patients in and shield them from the protesters.
BONNET SPRINGS: In coming months, the promoters of Bonnet Springs Park will solicit bids from vendors to operate a fine-dining restaurant, catering at an events venue, a cafe and other food concessions.
Now that the story of the Lakeland couple who took their engagement photos at Publix has gone viral — Fox News picked it up yesterday — the Tampa Bay Times has gotten the story behind the pictures. Alexandra Darch and Dylan Smith were hoping for bucolic, sunset photos at Circle B Bar Reserve, but a rainstorm washed out those plans. Photographer Jennifer Goodlet suggested a backup plan — a late-evening shoot at Oakbridge Publix, where the couple met — and all are thrilled with the results.
“You just have to look at what has happened at the Lakeland Ledger to see how GateHouse runs its company.” So said FSU communications professor Jennifer Proffitt in a Tampa Bay Times article about the likely effects of the planned merger between Ledger owner GateHouse Media and Gannett.
After GateHouse purchases Gannett, 20 daily newspapers in Florida will fall under the same owner, and only five will remain in the hands of three other owners. Reporter Rick Danielson cites a reduction in Ledger news staff from 99 to 15 since 1999, resulting in “a newspaper where aggressive corporate cost-cutting has undermined the ability of reporters on the ground to report on the public’s business and to hold those in power to account.” Read more
The city of Lakeland had hoped to finish a project disrupting traffic on Cleveland Heights Boulevard before the start of classes Monday at nearby Carlton Palmore Elementary School. But officials said today that recent rains have delayed completion of the project by about two weeks. More
Visitors to Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market have nothing to worry about come the end of August — or beginning of September — when Honeycomb Bread Bakers opens its brick-and-mortar shop at 213 E. Bay Street.
Customers will still find the bakery at the markets on Saturdays, along with their favorite wild Maine blueberry muffins, cinnamon rolls and sourdough bread. Owner Benjamin Vickers said it was important to him that fervent market-goers continue to find him — he hopes to return to his spot in front of the State Office Building. And the location comes with advantages: More
Under the headline, “Is Lakeland Florida’s next hip food city? It sure seems like it,” Tampa Bay Times Food and Lifestyle Editor Michelle Stark takes a culinary tour of Lakeland.
Her tourguide was Maggie Leach, kitchen director at the Catapult small-biz incubator, so the tour leans heavily on Catapult friends and alumni. Featured eateries include soon-to-open spots such as The Joinery food hall, Yard on Mass food truck park and Honeycomb Bread Bakers downtown bistro. Established restaurants Stark visited established restaurants including Cafe Zuppina, Black & Brew and Born and Bread Bakehouse.
Also mentioned: The Poor Porker, Concord Coffee, Cob & Pen, Stuffed, No Guilt Baked Company, Cravory Cakes & Convections, A Cow Named Moo, and Patriot Coffee Roasters.
HOUSING: The first phase of the Lakeland Housing Authority’s Twin Lakes Estates at Lake Beulah, whose 100 affordable apartments for seniors were filled within 31 days, was shown to the public Tuesday. The second phase, open to applicants 18 and older, is expected to begin construction by the end of the year; applications will likely open next summer | Lakeland Housing Authority
CHARTER: Lakeland’s November election ballot will include three proposals to change the City Charter, including one that reduces the barriers to selling Lakeland Electric. City commissioners approved the ballot wording Monday | Preview the ballot language
DIGARC: To accommodate employee growth from 30 to 100 since 2009, education software makers DIGARC has moved into new offices at 3111 W. Pipkin Road and celebrates its grand opening from from 9 to 11 a.m. today | Company website
IRBY: A court hearing on the mutual motions for injunction by Joseph Irby and Courtney Taylor Irby, originally scheduled for last week, has been postponed until Oct. 25.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida is planning a housing development for its members on an 843-acre, rural tract northeast of Lakeland. Initially 50 single-family homes are planned for the acreage on the east side of Moore Road about a half-mile north of Old Polk City Road. More
Polk County public school bus drivers now have quick access to emergency services, thanks to a $6 million radio system installed on buses. In addition, parents have a new number to call with questions about school transportation: Call (863) 534-7300 weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Aug. 23.
U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, whose district includes most of Lakeland, told WFLA-TV’s “Politics on Your Side” he doesn’t believe climate change can be traced to “manmade activity.” He said, “What I’ve seen so far doesn’t prove to me that man has had the influence that some people [have] said it has had.”
In four meetings from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. today, city commissioners tackled a wide variety of topics, including budget cuts, municipal internet service, affordable housing and a lot more. Here are highlights, seen through posts on social media: More
The amendment to the hospital lease agreement removes the annual 2.75% increase in rent through fiscal year 2024, freezing the price at $14.4 million. The annual rent increases had been set under a 25-year agreement between the city and the hospital signed in 2015. More
The scope of a possible city-owned internet service provider became more focused Monday as the City Commission’s broadband committee set a goal to build a fiber optics network to cover all of Lakeland city limits. More
Principal Melissa Durrance has spent the summer coming up with ways to improve student performance at Griffin Elementary School, including a “sensory path” that incorporates learning into the simple act of walking down the hall. As a turnaround school, Griffin could close or become a charter school if the school doesn’t earn at least a C grade this year.
A plan by the city’s staff will reduce the pressure to raise the property tax rate if a request for rent relief by Lakeland Regional Health is granted, but it won’t be pain-free, City Manager Tony Delgado said. More
Lyric Ross, who plays the role of “Deja” on NBC’s “This Is Us” will be in Lakeland Saturday at 10 a.m. for a meet-and-greet event at One More Child, a division of Florida Baptist Children’s Homes. More
Take a downtown building that’s been largely vacant for more than a year. Add a bar and fill it with arcade games. What do you get? The Rec Room, a bar+arcade planned for the building at Massachusetts Avenue and Cedar Street that housed a Firestone tire store for many years and LkldTV more recently.
The Rec Room is being planned by a group that includes the trio that operates the Cob & Pen craft beer bar in Dixieland. The trio is also planning another venture: Good Thyme, a fast-casual takeout restaurant mixing healthy options and comfort food in the Dixieland Village spot that has held several eateries, including D’Lucas. More on that later. More
Musicians from Tampa, St. Pete, Sarasota and Orlando seem to be discovering new audiences in Lakeland. Or maybe it’s that the people who book shows at local venues are looking to neighboring cities for acts we don’t hear too often. Either way, here’s a look at some of the bands and solo artists coming here this weekend from nearby locales, followed by our updated music calendar: More
HOMELESS: As city commissioners prepare for a vote that could de-fund part of Lakeland’s homeless initiative, reporter Sara-Megan Walsh talks with one of the two caseworkers who help find housing, jobs and services for homeless individuals and families. Of the 176 cases they’ve worked with this year, only five remain without housing, she reports.
DINING: Under new ownership and having moved to Lake Miriam Plaza, Palace Italian Restaurant in south Lakeland “remains a solid choice for moderately priced, every-day Italian,” reviewer Eric Pera writes. In his three-star review, he notes new owner Daniele Mazzella, a sommelier, has assembled a budget-friendly wine list.
Giveaways at this year’s Summerpalooza event (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the RP Funding Center; sponsor: New Beginnings High School) will include free shoes provided by the Blended Family Foundation, established by Tony and Lisa Kirk to honor the memory of their son Kalen.
LEARN MORE: Summerpalooza | Blended Family Foundation | Ledger preview
Adam Hattersley, a Navy veteran and 41-year-old Democrat who flipped a previously GOP Florida House district last year as a political newcomer, announced today he is running to challenge Republican Ross Spano for the Congressional seat that represents most of Lakeland. “National Democratic organizations see a rising star in Hattersley,” a Riverview resident, The Tampa Bay Times reported.
MORE COVERAGE: Florida Politics | The Ledger
Paul Lewis Hughes, who influenced at least two generations of actors in Lakeland as the multi-decade artistic director of Pied Piper Players/Lakeland Community Theatre and through 32 years as a teacher, died Saturday night at age 63. More
AP CLASSES: Polk County’s public high schools are offering fewer advanced placement math and science courses now than five years ago, education writer Kimberly Moore reports. The superintendent of schools and one School Board member attribute the drop to increased student interest in dual-enrollment courses for college credit. AP math and science courses at schools attended by Lakeland students, 2014 vs. 2019:
- Bartow IB – 7, 0
- George Jenkins – 7, 6
- Kathleen – 5, 5
- Lake Gibson – 2, 4
- Lakeland – 6, 6
- McKeel Academy – 7, 6
- Tenoroc – 2, 1
FLORIDA HOUSE: Greg Williams, department chair for graphic arts and design at Keiser University, has filed to run as a Democrat for the Florida House seat held by Colleen Burton, a Lakeland Republican. Williams, 58, said he will step back from his leadership role in the Lakeland Loves organization known for distributing “Hate Has No Home Here” signs.
Lakeland police are happy to get home surveillance video to help solve crimes, Lakeland Police Department Chief Ruben Garcia said, but the department can’t and won’t endorse a particular brand of camera.
LPD was identified in a Vice article as one of many departments throughout the country that has signed an agreement with Amazon-owned Ring Inc., a manufacturer of doorbell cameras and other home automation and surveillance devices. More
Sewer repairs will disrupt a block of Cleveland Heights Boulevard and a short segment of the Three Parks Trail starting Friday and lasting up to a week, the city of Lakeland announced. The two northbound lanes will be closed to traffic for a block south of Carlton Street, with the southbound lanes handling traffic in both directions. More
James Kerr, a 34-year-old professional poker player from Winter Haven, is bringing a biscuit-centered, breakfast-and-brunch restaurant to the Dixieland spot that housed Nineteen61 until it moved downtown recently. He tells The Ledger he’s hoping for a September opening for “Biscuits and Benedits,” which is modeled after the Denver Biscuit Company and aims for a “Southern-modern, farmhouse vibe.”
RED LIGHTS: The city of Lakeland is testing whether it can reduce accidents at four key intersections by increasing the amount of time lights on all four sides stay red when sensors detect a driver is about to run a red light | ALSO: 10News coverage
IRBY: Courtney Taylor Irby cried and told a police dispatcher she was “really, really scared” while her estranged husband was following her car closely and tried to stop her as she drove through Bartow June 14, according to a 911 tape | WFLA: Hear a brief excerpt
Academy Prep Center of Lakeland, a new private middle school that emphasizes academic rigor and offers scholarships for low-income students, is rushing to finish construction at the corner of Memorial and Lakeland Hills Boulevards. Classes may start in the new gym if remodeling of the old John Cox Elementary School has not been completed when school begins in about three weeks, the headmaster says | School website
A jury took just over an hour late Friday to recommend that Judge Jalal Harb sentence Cheyanne Jessie of Lakeland to death in the killing of her 6-year-old daughter and a life sentence in the killing of her father | ALSO: Ledger coverage
The new $80 million estimate to build a network that covers the area within the city limits cuts $30 million from a 2016 ballpark estimate prepared by Magellan Advisors, the city’s broadband consultant. The Colorado-based company was hired by the city this year to create a business plan for a proposed retail internet service. More
Sampling everything on the menu was a pivotal moment for Becky and Ryan Richmond, owners of the newly opened Teriyaki Madness at downtown’s NoBay Village. More
Sarasota-based The Business Observer profiles Lakeland’s BRIDGE Local and founder Chrissanne Long. The organization, whose goal is to connect entrepreneurs and promote their businesses, evolved from Lakeland Business Leaders and offers annual memberships from $150 to $500 a year.
It would be an understatement to say that Peelander-Yellow attracts attention. A headline in the Japan Times May 30 declared: “Peelander-Yellow makes a triumphant homecoming from outer space.” Now the punk rocker with an action-comic-book persona is kicking off his Yellow Nite Fever tour (and local art exhibition) Saturday at LkldLive in his only Florida stop. Art exhibition reception is 5 to 7; music starts at 8. Admission: a pay-what-you-want donation to the non-profit LkldLive.
Also coming to Lakeland this weekend — but only from Atlanta, not from outer space: Indie rockers Gringo Star debut their new album “Controlled Burn (Live in Atlanta)” at Hillcrest Coffee tonight at 7. A hometown critic praised the band’s “magic mix of garage rock grit and sunny pop haze.”
Keep scrolling for our updated live music calendar: More
CONVICTED: It took a jury just under three hours to find Cheyanne Jessie of Lakeland guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of her 6-year-old daughter and her 50-year-old father.
FIRE ENGINE: The Lakeland Fire Department is displaying its newest fire engine at a public ceremony at 9 a.m. Aug. 5 at Fire Station 5, 3101 Lakeland Highlands Road. It’s the city’s first clean cab engine, meaning it’s set up so that firefighters returning from an emergency are shielded from carcinogens that might have contaminated their gear.
DINING: Cuban Delight Cafe, 1039 E. County Road 540A, delighted restaurant reviewer Eric Pera, who awarded it four stars out of five for food | The eighth store in the Crafty Crab Seafood chain is planned for U.S. 98 N. and Sleepy Hill Road.
Facing financial challenges, Lakeland Regional Health has asked the city of Lakeland to forego planned rent increases through 2025. If city commissioners approve the request, it would mean a $48.6 million revenue reduction over the next few years for the city and a possible property tax increase for residents.
As the Florida Board of Education starts a meeting today at Polk State College’s Lakeland campus, parents are gathering outside to protest policies they say starve public schools and expand the power of state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. The board is scheduled to approve plans for an “external operator” to help struggling schools in Polk and five other counties | Rally information
An Irish pub anchors the new restaurant-catering service at Cleveland Heights Golf Course, and city officials are optimistic that their fourth private partner providing clubhouse cuisine will be their lucky charm. More
A 35-year-old Lake Wales bicyclist was killed during a pre-dawn ride on Galloway Road this morning after being hit by two vehicles, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Mitchell Johnson suffered head trauma and died shortly after arriving at Lakeland Regional Health, the Sheriff’s Department reported. More
Polk County Commissioners today unanimously approved a $200,000 settlement with the family of Loretta Pickard, who died in a house fire off Rockridge Road last November. Fallout from the fire led to changes in leadership and procedure at Polk County Fire Rescue.
CITY CHARTER: Lakeland’s November election ballot will include all recommendations made by a committee that reviewed the City Charter, city commissioners decided Monday. The ballot wording is scheduled to be decided Aug. 5. (VIDEO: View the discussion)
ELECTRIC RATES: Lakeland Electric’s projections show revenue rising but not enough to keep up with escalating labor and maintenance costs. So the utility plans a cost of service study next year that could lead to a rate increase, city commissioners were told Monday. (VIDEO: View the presentation and discussion)
FATALITY: John Stevens, 33, of Lakeland, was probably riding between 80 and 100 mph when his motorcycle slammed into a flatbed trailer crossing U.S. 92 at Fish Hatchery Road Monday morning, killing him, according to the Polk Sheriff’s Office.
Dressed in the uniform of an 1898 U.S. Army cavalry soldier, Richard Wilder came to today’s City Commission meeting with a simple request: Promote Lakeland tourism and pride by naming a park between Lake Wire and Florida Avenue after the Buffalo Soldiers who camped along the lake 121 years ago. More
Straughn Trout Architects, named to Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Fast 50 list of quickest-growing companies in the region, attributes its growth to its focus on the human dimension of architecture, managing principal Tim Hoeft tells the newspaper. The company’s $2.5 million in revenue and 12 employees places it at 30th largest architecture firm in the region, according to a TBBJ list that includes one other Lakeland firm, The Lunz Group, at No. 7.
Brian Burns, who is known as a fierce advocate for his employees, has announced he is leaving his job as publisher of The Ledger, a position he has held since January 2017. Burns, 45, says he plans to launch a digital publishing company in the Tampa Bay area and is developing a smartphone app that can capture print images and use them to deliver enhanced information.
The Fort Lauderdale-based developers of a planned 80-unit below-market-rate apartment complex on Parker Street has asked for a loan from the city to help cover increases in construction costs. The Lakeland Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board last week approved a loan of $162,000 loan, half the amount requested by Green Mills Group (website). A final decision on the loan request will come from the City Commission. Construction at Parker Street and Stella Avenue is scheduled to start in September.
Construction of Central Bark, a $350,000 dog park near the north shore of Lake Mirror, is scheduled to start in September. Private fund-raising for the city’s fourth dog park (see the others here) stalled, but “thanks to our city manager and city commission, we were able to move some money around and make this happen,” Parks and Red Director Bob Donahay tells Bay News 9’s Stephanie Claytor.
The Tampa developer that plans to develop 14 vacant acres east of the Lakeland Police Department headquarters into the Mirrorton apartment/townhouse community is considering asking the city for 60 more days before finalizing the $3.66 million land purchase. The Framework Group was first scheduled to close the deal by May but has the right to delay until September 21 and may seek 60 days beyond that, Lakeland Community Redevelopment Director Alis Drumgo said. The agency’s advisory board could either agree to an extension request or opt to seek a new developer.
Two streets bordering the Heritage Plaza Garage construction site downtown are currently closed, and a third will be blocked for nine weeks starting July 22, according to the city of Lakeland. In addition, 12 to 14 daily weekday deliveries of large pre-cast concrete panels are expected to further disrupt traffic for four months. More
After a 20-years-plus affiliation with Coldwell Banker Commercial, Lakeland-based brokerage Saunders Dantzler Ralston Real Estate has joined the SVN network. Also, the firm will merge with its affiliate, Saunders Real Estate; both were founded by Dean Saunders.
Scheduled to go into effect today: New electronic signs on Florida Avenue that will flash warnings when downtown rail crossing barriers are about to go down. Drivers can choose alternate routes or stay the course, according to a spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation, which funded the nearly $900,000 system, the first of its kind in the state.
FusionZONE, a company that provides digital marketing services to auto dealers, has moved its headquarters from southern California to the Citizens Bank & Trust Plaza on Lake Morton. The company (website) has added 20 positions in Lakeland and is recruiting customer service reps, graphic designers, and web developers, reports F&I and Showroom magazine.
Start and end times at 19 Polk public schools are being pushed back 15 minutes to accommodate bus transportation issues. Lakeland schools that are affected include Blake Academy, Dr. N.E. Roberts Elementary, Griffin Elementary, Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, R. Bruce Wagner Elementary, Sikes Elementary, Sleepy Hill Middle and Winston Academy.
Dixieland is becoming a music hub. Among this weekend’s music highlights: Hillcrest Coffee is hosting an acoustic showcase tonight featuring Luke Gard, Roses From Bones, and Tyler David. Union Hall founder Dan Signor is ringing in his birthday on Friday with a bash including food trucks, drinks, and live music from the jazz, funk, soul fusion band Leisure Chief from Orlando. Union Hall is also hosting a Summer of ’69 event Saturday in support of local charities Play It Forward Polk and Kiwanis Treehouse for Kids with auctions, raffles, and live music from Reverend Billy C. Wirtz, The Sofa Kings, and Jacksonville funk rock band Side Hustle. Stop in next door at The Pink Piano to catch Sarasotan Lesa Silvermore and her folk, indie pop set around the same time. Here’s our updated music calendar: More
The cavalry troops known as buffalo soldiers who camped on the shore of Lake Wire in 1898 are remembered by a historic marker on the Peachtree Street side of the lake. But buffalo soldier re-enactor Richard Wilder wants a more significant commemoration. On Monday, he will ask city commissioners to change the name of nearby Freedom Park — a grass field along Florida Avenue near Lawton Chiles Middle School — to Buffalo Soldiers Park. The buffalo soldiers were a U.S. Army horseback regiment made up of African-American soldiers who had served in western states.
ALSO: Bay News 9 coverage | Video: buffalo soldier re-enactment
HOSPITAL: The Morning Paper’s coverage of the planned leadership succession at Lakeland Regional Health (theirs | ours) is accompanied by a look at the organization’s plans to deal with increasing costs and declining revenues (previously covered here and here.) Current CEO Thompson and successor Drummond point to cost controls and physical expansion, potentially into east Polk or Hillsborough or at the hospital’s 100-acre parcel along U.S. 98 between Highland City and Bartow.
BUSES: New technology being introduced by the Citrus Connection will include a mobile payment app, a Smart Card upgrade that could save money for some passengers and a test of free on-bus wifi.
Elaine C. Thompson, who has been the chief executive at Lakeland Regional Health since 2010, is retiring at the end of next year and will be replaced by Danielle Drummond, currently the hospital’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. More
A 75-year-old pedestrian died after being hit by two cars while trying to cross U.S. 98 at Ritter Road in north Lakeland around 5:50 this morning, the Polk County Sheriff’s Department said. The victim was identified as Julio Ramos-Bueno of Lakeland. More
A fatal accident on I-4 near County Line Road Monday afternoon serves as a chilling reminder of the importance for drivers to move over a lane when passing emergency vehicles with lights flashing, a Florida DOT road ranger says. He was slightly injured, but the 72-year-old Apopka driver who rammed the back of his truck died and the driver’s wife suffered critical injuries.
On a recent, 98-degree afternoon, the lot shared by Lakeland Public Library and Polk Museum of Art was mostly full. Patrons wandered into the library. Black & Brew’s porch near the library entrance held people reading, studying, and just taking in a quiet moment. A small group sat at one of Red Door’s shaded patio tables. A runner passed by, headed toward Lake Morton. Cars made brief stops at Mr. Fish on East Palmetto Street and a little further down at the Stop N Shop convenience store, while a few people carefully folded laundry at Lake Morton Coin Laundry.
But two buildings along East Palmetto sit unfilled and largely ignored, except for the occasional wonderer of whether Marco’s Pizza is actually “coming soon” to the building at 719 E. Palmetto St. or whether anything actually operates out of the one at 801 E. Palmetto St. More
CANDIDATE FEE: Reporter Sara-Megan Walsh reveals a detail about the proposed changes to the City Charter that’s gotten little notice before: The filing fee to run for City Commission or mayor would increase from $25 to $250. The old fee was set 30 or 40 years ago and the higher one better reflects the city’s administrative costs, City Attorney Tim McCausland says. The proposed changes go to the voters in November.
The City Commission will be asked next week to change the name of Freedom Park to Buffalo Soldiers Park in honor of the all-black cavalry regiment who camped on Lake Wire in 1898. Freedom Park is the green space between Florida Avenue and Lake Wire near Lawton Chiles Middle Academy.
Three Sleepy Hill Middle School students — Ryder Walters, Michelle Berrios and Madison Dolyac — placed third nationally in the Team Engineering Challenge at the SkillsUSA Championships in Louisville, Ky.
When faced with an outage, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s going on?” Yet power outages are often a result of events beyond anyone’s control, including Lakeland Electric’s. Here are the top eight things that can cause power outages in Lakeland: More
The Lakeland Police Department announced this afternoon that officers on Tuesday arrested a 17-year-old teen on a felony second-degree arson charge in connection with one of the fires reported recently in the Dixieland and Lake Morton neighborhoods. More
The Poor Porker is alive and well again with a slew of upcoming shows. They’re kicking this weekend off with a free show from Warren McCullough, covering classics from the ’60s to the ’90s, this Friday and Bela Pierce, a well-executed, pop tour-de-force, on Saturday. Hillcrest Coffee will be hosting the timeless and soulful Lady Moonbeam and the downtempo, dark-wave electronica of Mirroribis on Friday. LkldLive has a stacked show of indie rockers Glass House Point, Pathos, Pathos (Orlando), Jenny Dee, and Fight Milk. Last but not least, Passerine will be performing Saturday night at Swan Brewing with their sincerely charming storytelling and Americana folk music. Keep scrolling for our updated music calendar: More
Prosecutors will not pursue felony charges against a Lakeland woman who was accused of entering her estranged husband’s home and taking two firearms before being arrested while trying to turn them over to Lakeland police.
Instead, Courtney Taylor Irby, 32, will be charged with misdemeanor trespass, State Attorney Brian Haas announced at a news conference today. She had originally been arrested by Lakeland police June 15 on two allegations of grand theft of a firearm and one allegation of armed burglary. More
State Attorney Brian Haas announces charges in the Irby case: Courtney Taylor Irby will be charged with misdemeanor trespass regarding entering her estranged husband’s apartment; Joseph Irby is charged with a felony, aggravated battery, in bumping her car with his. Check back for a full article.
WHAT: Red, White & Kaboom, a community festival with fireworks held yearly since 2004.
WHEN: Tonight, 6 to 9:15. Fireworks at 9.
WHERE: Frances Langford Promenade at Lake Mirror. (See detail map below)
ADMISSION: Free. Everyone is encouraged to bring a canned good for Volunteers in Service to the Elderly. More
WFLA reviewed records in the Joseph Irby-Taylor Irby divorce case, finding a first sign of trouble in a December 2018 text message from the husband saying he had toyed with suicide. Soon after, the wife filed for sole custody “in the children’s best interest.” Since then, both have filed papers in court saying they fear harm from the other. Joseph Irby’s lawyer told the TV station his client is not violent and termed the conflict an ugly custody battle. The case received national attention (examples) after Taylor Irby was arrested and jailed for six days when she went to the Lakeland Police Department to turn in weapons she took from her estranged husband’s apartment.
A fire that damaged a tall sliding board at Dobbins Park Saturday morning is the most recent of 16 vandalism fires reported to Lakeland police over the last few weeks. All have been in the early morning hours in Dixieland and neighborhoods near Lake Morton.
First, seven garbage and recycling containers were set ablaze on June 12, according to police spokeswoman Robin Tillet. Six more were set afire Friday morning. Also Friday morning, five lawn chairs were torched on a truck bed on Lake Morton Drive, and so was a construction dumpster at a work site on Florida Avenue at East Ridgewood Street. More
Lakelanders with busy schedules don’t have to look far to find a nearby center where they can get same-day health care. There are currently at least nine urgent care centers in Lakeland, including one, MedExpress, that hosted a grand opening earlier this month at 3700 U.S. 98 N. And Watson Clinic has announced it will break ground next month on an urgent care center at its Oakbridge location. More
THRIFT: The Lighthouse Thrift Store has opened a new, larger space in a shopping plaza at Edgewood Drive and U.S. 98 after the Lakeland Community Development Agency bought its Florida Avenue downtown location.
MARIJUANA: Two Watson Clinic physicians have joined the other 33 Polk County doctors certified to prescribe medical marijuana. They’ll prescribe only to existing clinic patients, a spokeswoman said.
Tampa Bay Business Journal features Lakeland-based AgAmerica Lending as one of its Fast50, a list of the fastest-growing private companies in the Tampa Bay area. In a QA, CEO Brian Philpot says the company’s staff has doubled in size over the last year as it plans to launch a western HQ in Boise, Idaho, and celebrates transitioning to the to the commercial agricultural mortgage Real Estate Investment Trust (mREIT) in the United States.
The internal doubts of a young woman coming to understand her roots and her place in the world inspired the external drama in a short film being shot in Lakeland today and Saturday.
Pamela Rodriguez, 22, was born in Puerto Rico but moved to Lakeland when she was very young, she said, but it didn’t take long to realize she was a little different than the majority of her peers. More
BusinessVoice Inc., the political action committee affiliated with the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, endorsed Carole Philipson for the open seat. Her equally-funded opponent in the five-way race, Chad McLeod, has been endorsed by Lakeland First, a PAC created by a smaller group of area business owners and executives. More
Urgency inflected a meeting of the city’s broadband task force Thursday, and though little new information emerged about the ongoing process to create an internet service business plan, the city’s consultant assured commissioners it was on schedule to meet the Aug.5 deadline. More
Reporting by Bay News 9’s Stephanie Claytor about how Polk fared in the Legislature includes a chart listing the local projects: how much money they got and which ones were vetoed by the governor.
PUBLIX: The Grove Park Publix reopened at 7 a.m. today in a rebuilt store that’s 5,000 square feet larger than its 1960s-era predecessor. At 10 a.m. doors open to the public for the first time on a Publix liquor store in the same plaza. In North Lakeland, the Plantation Square Publix on Socrum Loop Road will be similarly rebuilt; it closed last night and reopens sometime next year. Eric Pera reports.
DWAYNE’S PLACE: It was just over a month ago that the owner of Dwayne’s Place Diner and Grill railed on Facebook (here) against The Ledger’s methods of using restaurant health inspections as clickbait. He’s probably feeling friendlier toward The Morning Paper today following Eric Pera’s four-star review praising the South Lakeland restaurant’s Southern-style comfort food in general and its sloppy joes in particular.
HONEYCOMB / TWENTY SEVEN: The very busy Mr. Pera chats with Benjamin Vickers and Jenna O’Brien about their plans for a Bay Street storefront downtown that will house Vickers’ Honeycomb bakery and bistro and O’Brien’s Twenty Seven purveyor of paper goods, gifts and art.
Lakeland has been adding spaces to showcase local musical talent, but one that some may think is new has been around for awhile. Maddox Ranch, 2505 W. Bella Vista St., has hosted music festivals for more than 10 years, but it hasn’t featured Polk County talent until this February, when it began hosting the monthly Maddox Local Jam. More
Megan Towner, a guitarist and vocalist with local bands including adieux and dagger, has a new title: keeper of the LkldNow music calendar. She’s been around the music scene awhile, so when I asked her for help picking out highlights this weekend, she responded quickly, saying:
“John Frinzi apparently packs Garden Bistro out every Wednesday. Must be a pretty alluring acoustic set. Benjamin Neil from the indie rock band Rocket To Anywhere is driving up from West Palm Beach (to Frescos on Thursday). Garden Club at the Pink Piano (Friday) has a pretty killer pianist and harpist in the mix of a full alternative rock band. Straitjacket Smile is a metal band from Tampa (playing Ybor Live Saturday).”
Sounds good to me. I also want to throw in Red White and Kaboom on Wednesday evening at Lake Mirror since that will be the week’s best-attended event with live music. Like recent years, the pre-fireworks band will be pumping reggae riddims, but this year it’s with a religious twist. The City Saints say on Facebook: “We sing praises to the God who has given us new life, freedom, and forgiveness. It’s all about Jesus!” It’s a new world order at the city. Keep scrolling for the entire live music calendar. More
For the local business incubator, it means access to high-tech resources and potential opportunities for emerging businesses based at Catapult, according to Christina Graham, Catapult’s executive director. More
Along with reports by the BBC, NPR and the Washington Post, The New York Times covered issues surrounding the arrest of Courtney Taylor Irby by Lakeland police. She’s the woman who was charged with armed burglary and spent six days in jail after taking police the guns she removed from her estranged husband’s home when a judge ordered him not to carry them. Among others, reporter Nicholas Bogel Burroughs spoke with: More
Lakeland police tonight apprehended a 25-year-old man who escaped from a patrol car this morning after he was arrested and charged with burglary, police spokeswoman Robin Tillet said. The search for Brandon James Beverly started late morning and focused on the Dixieland and Lake Morton Neighborhoods. More
In neighborhoods near Lake Morton, houses with broad front porches, striking columns, latticed crawl spaces and jutting windows have settled into the Earth for more than 100 years, standing despite hurricanes, gnawing termites, technical advances and human desire for change.
Michael Maguire, a South Lake Morton neighborhood resident, wanted to recognize these old homes. He created the Lake Morton Century Homes project to identify these structures and is hosting a picnic celebration for the homeowners and neighborhood residents Thursday on the lawn of the Lakeland Public Library. More
SE7EN WETLANDS: The city of Lakeland is getting partial funding to design and build an education center at the Se7en Wetlands conservation area, courtesy of legislation that survived Gov. DeSantis’ veto pen. Two previous attempts for funding were vetoed by former Gov. Rick Scott.
PRINCIPALS: Several public schools in Lakeland are changing principals in the annual leadership shuffle: Doris A. Sanders Learning Center – Polly Bruno replaces Debra Peavey, who is retiring; Lakeland Highlands Middle – Edgar Santiago replaces Telay Kendrick; Lawton Chiles Middle Academy – Telay Kendrick replaces Brian Andrews, who goes to the Bartow IB school; Philip O’Brien Elementary – Charlie Huntley replacs Merri Crawford, who is retiring; Sleepy Hill Middle School – Wallace Selph replaces Kathryn Blackburn, who goes to Daniel Jenkins Academy in Haines City.
HTeaO, a quick-serve iced tea franchise with a Texas flair, has opened a location at 3920 S. Florida Ave. that is both its first Florida location and the first franchise out of 80 being developed in five states. Grand opening was Friday. More
EARLY LEARNING: Last week we linked to Ledger coverage of Katrina Lunsford’s ouster as chair of Polk’s Early Learning Coalition, which monitors spending on pre-K and VPK programs. Yesterday, Bay News 9 reported that Lunsford is questioning the timing; she says she had been looking into reports of improper documentation and missing required data on contracts.
INMATE DIES: Inmate Arthur Francis Gilmore, 84, of Lakeland, died early Sunday at a hospital in Sebring after falling near the top of some stairs at South Polk Jail Saturday night. Several investigations are underway. Gilmore was in jail on charges he violated probation on previous attempted child sexual battery convictions, WFLA reports.
MOTORCYCLE FATALITY: Polk deputies say speed may have been a factor when 33-year-old Travis Lester of Lakeland was thrown from his motorcycle and died after slamming into a parked SUV on Combee Road near Jungle Street Saturday evening, Bay News 9 reports.
VETOES: State budget vetoes by Gov. DeSantis include at least two Lakeland items: $500,000 for Florida Polytechnic University‘s master’s programs in computer science and engineering, and $200,000 for a family support services program at Florida Baptist Children’s Homes One More Child division.
HONORS: Harrell’s LLC Chairman/CEO Jack Harrell received the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Thunderbird District of the Greater Tampa Bay Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America | The Citrus Connection recognized paratransit driver Pedro Gonzalez for rescuing an unaccompanied 1-year-old child.
The case of a Lakeland woman who was arrested when she went to the Lakeland Police Department to turn in firearms she took from her estranged husband’s home has caught the attention of a state legislator. Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, D-Orlando, said she will ask State Attorney Brian Haas not to prosecute. More
CONGRESS: Andrew Learned, a Democrat running to unseat U.S. Rep. Ross Spano for the U.S. House seat representing most of Lakeland, says there’s nothing to a FloridaPolitics article. He says he has no plans to switch races and run instead for a Florida House seat, and the holder of that seat, Adam Hattersley, tells The Ledger he hasn’t decided whether to run for Congress.
BILLY HENDERSON: A celebration of life is planned for the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-in’s first executive director at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Aerospace Discovery Museum, 4175 Medulla Road. He died April 12 at age 89.
MOTORCYCLE EVENT: Wheels of Steel motorcycle show, benefitting the Early Learning Coalition, 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Saturday at the RP Funding Center. Tickets: $20 for adults, $5 for teens, children admitted free; free parking.
County Judge Robert Fegers granted Courtney Taylor Irby’s request for bail Thursday morning at the Bartow courthouse as more than two dozen of her supporters — family and friends, church members at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Lakeland and her pastor, Tim Rice — sat inside and outside the courtroom. More
You can’t say we’re not eclectic in Lakeland. Live music choices this weekend include:
- Country gospel from Jerry Jones at Lake Gibson Village tonight
- Rap of Seckond Chaynce at Wild Greg’s tonight
- Acoustic swing of the Gypsy Wind duo at Swan Brewing Saturday afternoon
- The monthly local indie music Maddox Jam showcase at Maddox Ranch Saturday
- A metal cavalcade at Johnny G’s Saturday night
- Mexican banda music at Florida Orange Saturday night
- Boomer nostalgia from the J3 Vocal Showband at Polk Theatre Sunday night.
Keep scrolling for the full live music calendar: More
“I didn’t know if I should stay in the car or run away. I was shocked. I was terrified,” Pablo del Valle said of seeing a bear as he arrived at work Monday morning at Ferrera Tooling, just west of Lakeland Linder Airport. The bear that del Valle and others reported seeing is thought to be the same juvenile recently spotted near Plant City and elsewhere in south Lakeland. Game officials urge people seeing bears to stay calm since the animal’s instinct is to flee.
ALSO: ABC Action News video
Reroute 2020, a new system of bus routes for Lakeland, will be implemented Oct. 1 after the plan was approved Wednesday by the board overseeing the Citrus Connection transit service. During a two-month test, response from riders was overwhelmingly positive, board members were told.
LEARN MORE: Proposal details | Promotional video | Video: Citrus Connection’s director describes the changes
A woman was arrested at the Lakeland Police Department headquarters after attempting to turn over guns belonging to her estranged husband while he awaited his release from jail on bail for a felony domestic violence charge. More
It would cost $8.9 million to pay for improvements recommended by consultants who analyzed Polk Fire Rescue’s response to a house fire that took the life of a 76-year-old woman on Rockridge Road, the agency’s new chief told county commissioners Tuesday. County Commission Chairman George Lindsey said the county can probably afford $3.5 million in improvements this year, with other changes having to wait.
Here’s a story that bears watching: Two bear sightings have been reported in south Lakeland this week, according to the Polk Sheriff’s Office, which got a call on Sunday about a bear spotted near Ewell Road. On Monday, someone reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that they saw a bear near Drane Field Road. More
Two substantive changes to the city charter are closer to making an appearance on the Nov. 5 ballot after the City Commission reversed its earlier decision to put them off to a later year.
In a 5-to-1 non-binding vote Monday, commissioners instructed City Attorney Tim McCausland to reintroduce the two charter amendments back to an ordinance that will put a number of changes to the city charter on the ballot. More
Deputies continue investigating the suspicious death of 22-year-old Kara Fay Hanvey of Sebring, whose body was found in the median on U.S. 92 (Memorial Boulevard) near Reynolds Road Sunday morning. Her friends built a roadside memorial today and recalled the mother of two as someone who would have called them if she were in trouble.
Democrats’ efforts to find a candidate to oppose newly elected U.S. Rep. Ross Spano in the Congressional seat that represents most of Lakeland are focused on Adam Hattersley, a state representative who won in a previously Republican East Hillsborough district last year. Hattersley’s campaign is only saying he’s looking at options, but FloridaPolitics reports a Democratic consultant says Andrew Learned of Dover, who already announced for the Congressional seat, is prepared to run for Hattersley’s state House seat once Hattersley declares for Congress.
PLAYGROUND: A neighborhood playground was built Saturday at Nuevo Comienzo Iglesia del Nazareno , a church near Southeastern University, under a partnership between Humana, CrossFit Lakeland, Dedicated Senior Medical Center and church members.
CHILDREN’S MUSEUM: Explorations V has unveiled plans for five galleries and hundreds of exhibits in its new home at Bonnet Springs Park scheduled to open in summer 2021 | Exterior rendering | Learn more | Bay News 9 report
DAD-DAUGHTER GRADS: Lakeland residents Fredrick “Roy” Sosa, 54, and his daughter, Tiffany Anderson, 34, received bachelor’s degrees in psychology together at St. Leo University.
UPDATE: A woman whose body was found in the median of U.S. 92 East near Reynolds Road has been identified as Kara Fay Hanvey, 22, of Sebring. Deputies responded after receiving a 911 call reporting an unresponsive woman around 6:40 a.m. today. More
While The Downtown Farmers Curb Market was in full swing and with an Amtrak train rolling by as a backdrop, Pride in the Park capped off Polk Pride 2019’s week of events Saturday at Munn Park and featured a drag show, food trucks and live music. More
City commissioners are asking for strategies to smooth traffic on New Jersey Road as Magnolia Montessori Academy plans a 54 percent jump in student population and Geneva Classical Academy prepares to move into its new campus nearby. More
Democrat Chris Cause of Davenport, who teaches history for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Regional Detention Center, has filed to run in November’s election for the District 39 Florida House seat now held by Josie Tomkow, R-Polk City. The largely rural district includes much of Polk just north and east of Lakeland city limits.
Behr, a Lakeland resident, was honored with Florida Grower magazine’s Citrus Achievement Award at the Florida Citrus Industry Annual Conference.
A recent City Commission decision to keep two controversial changes to Lakeland’s city charter off this fall’s election ballot could discourage citizens from participating on city boards, two commissioners said today. More
Dr. Grisselle Centeno, a Florida Polytechnic University professor of data science and business analytics, says she hopes her participation in a prestigious STEM leadership program will help her become an even better role model for young faculty and women students.
MidFlorida Credit Union’s pending merger and acquisition deals with two banks allows the Lakeland-based institution to spread its footprint into fast-growing portions of Northeast and Southwest Florida, the Business Observer reports. The credit union’s first bank purchases also signal a new growth strategy of becoming a non-bank bank, the weekly newspaper reports.
See eight local bands in two nights at LkldLive: Tonight’s show is billed as “an eclectic evening of art from Lakeland’s independent rock and hip hop music and fine arts” and features 48 States Away, Pryderawk, Sharron and DePrime. Friday at 8, Heavy Hitter “presents a night of sonic envelopment” with Mr.Handsome, House of I, Lady Moonbeam and Space Panda.
If tried-and-true classic rock is more your thing, there’s Classic Albums Live reviving Led Zeppelin’s debut album at RP Funding Center Friday.
On Saturday, Play It Again Polk, a nonprofit that provides instruments to students in need, presents the Sofa Kings “and special guests” at Fresco’s Speakeasy. And here’s our entire updated live music calendar: More
There’s been a lot of Facebook discussion lately (a sample) about The Morning Paper’s method of presenting restaurant health inspection information, so we wanted to point out an alternative presentation.
As Lakeland police continue investing a Memorial Boulevard crash that killed two people, including a woman returning home from work, they released video taken from the dashboard of an officer who was following the driver who caused the accident.
Meghan DeLong of Lakeland has been a crusade to spread information about furniture hazards ever since her two-year-old son, Conner, died after a dresser fell on him in 2017. She started a foundation, Conner’s Legacy (website) and last month sued two furniture industry organizations, CBS Miami reports. Her ask: $50 million in damages the she would use to lobby Congress on par with the furniture industry, her Miami lawyer tells House Beautiful.
Home Depot is planning an 800,000-square-foot distribution center just west of County Line Road. The city of Plant City is offering a seven-year exemption from property taxes for the facility at Wiggins and Rice Roads that is expected to employ 150 initially and possibly up to 350 eventually. “This is a win for all of Tampa Bay,” Mayor Rick Lott told Fox 13 News. “I truly believe what we do in Plant City helps Lakeland. What Lakeland does helps Plant City and so forth throughout Hillsborough County.”
ALSO: Tampa Bay Business Journal
CHICK-FIL-A: Restaurant franchisee Scott Brickhouse has rebuilt and expanded his South Florida Avenue location, adding mobile ordering, kiosks and additional drive-through lanes so that the 5,300-square-foot site can handle 350 customers per hour vs. 200 before. The updated operation opens Wednesday at 6 a.m.
FIRE: A lightning strike Monday ignited a fire that caused structural damage to the Lake Morton Historic District home of city planner Matt Lyons and family on Pennsylvania Avenue. People and pets were evacuated safely but the family is searching for a cat that ran away in the confusion.
S. FLORIDA AVE.: Be prepared for delays on South Florida Avenue around Palmetto and Walnut streets the week of June 23. The middle three (of five) lanes will be closed to repair sewer lines and manholes.
AIRPORT NOISE: Starting Wednesday, Draken International will test F-1 Mirage engines two to three times a week for eight weeks at its Lakeland Linder Airport facility. Each test will last about an hour and a half, with jet engine noise levels higher than normal, airport officials say. Tests will take place between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Fifty years after their school’s final graduation, students who attended Rochelle High School in its final years gathered to reminisce, philosophize on discipline and the decline in respect among students and recall the first years of school integration in Lakeland.
ALSO: Check Kimberly Moore’s video reporting on YouTube; no Ledger subscription needed.