Lakeland resident Marion Dwight, 28, was injured when his BMW SUV collided with a trailer on I-4 near County Line Road around 4 a.m., the Florida Highway Patrol reports. More
- City commissioners unanimously approved a new schedule of impact fees on new construction despite a last-minute objection from builders about the portion derived from state roads.
- David Lee Martin, who founded Mister Fish in 1969 and was fond of the expressions “everything is beautiful,” “big bucks,” and “think fish,” died at age 82. Read his family-placed obituary.
In the next 90 days, Interim City Manager Tony Delgado should focus on communicating the awesomeness of Lakeland to residents, the importance of customer service to city employees and one-on-one with his bosses. He should also focus on increasing productivity and efficiency.
That was the consensus of city commissioners who filled out anonymous surveys in preparation for a priority-setting exercise led by Florida Southern College business professor Larry Ross on Monday. More
A resident’s request to move a 1910 monument to Confederate soldiers from the center of Munn Park to a historic museum received no support from the City Commission. Here is a recording of today’s 17-minute discussion, some key quotes and social media commentary: More
- The administration building at Kathleen High School was dedicated to the memory of Dr. Clint Wright, who made his biggest education impact on Kathleen schools.
- Jarvis Kendrick, who oversees nine MidFlorida Credit Union branches and has been honored for volunteerism, likes working in finance because it combines his talent with numbers with his interest in meeting new people.
- City Commissioner Philip Walker faces election challenges from A.J. Rodriguez and Ricky Shirah. Meanwhile, Justin Troller was re-elected without opposition, and newcomer Bill “Tiger” Read becomes a commissioner in January since nobody else qualified to run for the seat being vacated by Keith Merritt.
- Lois Searl, who leaves a legacy in volunteerism and as the first woman on the City Commission, has died at 92. News article | Obituary
- Watson Clinic’s 38,000-square-foot complex in the Lakeland Highlands opens Sept. 28, but you can get an advance look at an open house Wednesday.
- Django & Friends Dixieland Emporium provides space for a variety of artists to show and sell their works on Frank Lloyd Wright Way.
Challenged to find a way to balance the city budget without a .9 mill increase in property taxes, Mayor Howard Wiggs tonight proposed a plan that would combine a .5 mill hike with a partial fire fee. It didn’t pass muster. More
- As Tony Delgado begins his first real day on the job as interim city manager facing a contentious budget hearing (6 p.m. today at City Hall), reporter Christopher Guinn looks at his “customer service-centric” approach in a 2,200-word profile, and an editorial declares “he has the foresight to elevate Lakeland to new heights.”
- At Southeastern University, Thursday’s dedication of a choral rehearsal hall marks a new phase of an ambitious building boom that will include a larger arts and media facility, administration and athletic operations building, student activity center and a parking garage.
- Two young women who make a difference are profiled: Mandy Fulton was named a Polk Emerging Leader for her work as a United Way fund raiser and as a volunteer; Lakeland native Ashlee Wright thought she was going to be an attorney but joined the family business (parents Clint and Debra Wright were well-known educators) and founded New Beginnings High School.
- Polk County once had eight fire towers; there are four now, and only the one along U.S. 98 north of Lakeland seems sturdy enough to remain in use much longer, Suzie Schottelkotte reports.
- On Doug Thomas’ last day as city manager, a Ledger editorial reviews some accomplishments and blunders, and concludes he’s leaving Lakeland a better city than he found it when he came 12 years ago.
- Local magicians compare tricks and one-up each other in monthly meetings that rotate among Lakeland restaurants.
If I weren’t launching my favorite news site tonight, I’d be listening to the powerhouse vocals of the Sarah Mac Band and the honky-tonk Americana of Grant Peeples at an Among Friends concert at Lakeland Brewing. (They’re together in this video.) Other weekend highlights include “The Eagles: Greatest Hits” at The Lakeland Center’s Classic Albums Live series on Friday and the boogie and blues of Sean Chambers at the Music Ranch on Saturday night. See more music listings after the jump:
- Florida Poly President Randy Avent got a superlative performance review, a 3.5 percent raise to $398k and a $77k bonus.
- Firefighters will get a heroic statue outside the downtown fire station in time for the Lakeland department’s 100th birthday.
- Texas Cattle Company gets 4 stars for food and service (3 for ambience).
If you do business in Lakeland, it looks like the annual fee for your city occupational license is going up — but in most cases only by a few dollars and you won’t see the higher fee for about a year. More
- Local businesses kicked in $1.8 million to help the Lakeland Economic Development Council attract and retain young professionals. LEDC plans to devote staff to local college outreach, internships and talent recruitment.
- Lakeland Electric bills will see a $1-per-1,000-kilowatt-hour decrease even as the utility steps up savings in a reserve fund meant to guard against future fuel-price volatility.
- Low-income military veterans can get help with home repairs through a program sponsored by Habitat for Humanity and Home Depot.
TIGERTOWN: Despite escalating costs, delays and concerns about project leadership detailed in a 2,800-word Ledger investigative piece, city officials insist the renovation of Joker Marchant Stadium will be finished on time
RESTAURANTS: Marcos Fernandez, former chief chef at the Lakeland Yacht & Country Club, is opening a gourmet restaurant on South Florida Avenue emphasizing upscale gastronomy. It replaces Butterfly Bistro, whose owner has taken a new job and plans to stage pop-up dinners around town.
- When the City Commission approved a .9-mill increase in property taxes last night, Don Selvage joined a five-member “supermajority.” But he made it clear he might not provide the needed fifth vote when the commission takes a final vote on the budget Sept. 15.
- Coffee aficionados are paying $5-7 a cup for the big taste of cold-brewed “nitro” coffee poured from a tap, the latest offering at local java spots like Concord, Mitchell’s and The Poor Porker. Mitchell’s Mitch Harvey likens the rich, thick brew to a pour of Guinness “without the need to get a ride home.”
Highlights this weekend include the jazzy Keenan Ellison Quartet at Fresco’s and the folky pop of Shevonne Philidor at Brew Hub, both Saturday night. This weekend also marks the opening of The Truth Factory, a youth-oriented club on Parker Street featuring Christian artists. My best bet for the coming week is Sarah Mac Band and Grant Peeples at an Among Friends Concert next Thursday at Lakeland Brewing. More listings after the jump. More
- A $10 million renovation of Lakeland Automall opened Tuesday. The business received a $150,000 city Community Redevelopment grant for revitalizing the West Memorial Boulevard gateway area.
- The owner of a nightclub that booked a rapper known for violence says he was shocked that Kevin Gates kicked a woman from the stage and knocked her unconscious. Video of the incident surfaced on tabloids and went viral.
Head bowed reverently, a seated figure cradles a folded triangle of a flag in upturned hands. That’s the image of sacrifice that student Cierra Grenier envisioned when she entered a sculpture contest honoring military veterans, police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders. More
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Pedestrians using the city’s new path around Cleveland Heights Golf Course will be shaded — eventually — as a result of work being done by city crews this week. Parks and Recreation staff started planting 68 bottlebrush, pine and crepe myrtle trees along Cleveland Heights Boulevard yesterday. The focus is on trees with shallow roots to avoid problems with underground utility and fiber optic lines, a supervisor said.
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If you're one of the Hollingsworth walkers who wondered about the contraption spurting water near the city parking lot, Lakeland lakes manager Curtis Porterfield explains the device pumps water out of a low-lying ditch along Buckingham Avenue and into the lake to prevent flooding.
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- Southeastern University’s record enrollment of 4,500 is almost halfway to its audacious goal of 10,000 students in five years.
- Citing a time crunch and frustration over budget decisions, City Commissioner Keith Merritt says he won’t seek re-election. His parting hope: a working wage for city commissioners so that more working-class people will be attracted to the job.
City government reporter Christopher Guinn had two intresting reads today:
Tigertown: A combination of design changes and poor soil has ramped the cost of renovating Joker Marchant Stadium, and the City Commission will be asked to up its contribution to the now-$40.8 million project from $2.4 million to $6.2 million.
Cleveland Heights: Frescos Bistro and Bakery, the only bidder, has reached an agreement to take over the bar and restaurant at the Cleveland Heights Golf Course. The eatery’s owners propose a rent starting at $4,000 a month instead of the revenue-share deal the city has with the current concessionaire.
- Plans to renovate Joker Marchant Stadium will have to be redrawn since soil near the clubhouse won’t bear the weight of construction, Christopher Guinn reports. No word yet on how much will be added to the $2.4 million the city of Lakeland has pledged (out of a total cost of $37 million.)
- Free rent was part of the deal to lure the Miss Florida Pageant to The Lakeland Center for five years. The city is also offering free rent at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport for three years to host the Polk State College aerospace program.
- A new lawsuit against lawyer John Vreeland is being withdrawn because he agreed to resign from overseeing a trust. He denies the allegations in the suit and says it was filed “for purposes of public consumption and in a further attempt to damage my reputation.”
- FSC is getting all STEMmy as the school year begins with more science students enrolled. “People often think of us as primarily focused on humanities or business and education, but sciences are essentially our biggest program,” its provost said.
- Three congregations are moving into new digs around North Socrum Loop Road following a series of real estate transactions.
There’s an irony about My Office and More, a new business in the center of downtown Lakeland. The purpose of My Office and More is to offer emerging businesses big-office amenities without big-office costs. But the costs have been anything but small for Kate Lake, the 57-year-old entrepreneur who spent more than a year conceiving of a co-working space for Lakeland businesses and finding the right place for it. More
- The school year beginning today has Florida Poly students looking forward to new recreational equipment but not as excited about some students having to share dorm rooms.
- Lawyer John Vreeland can continue overseeing the Leland R. Bryan trust as litigation against him from Bryan’s sons proceeds, Judge Keith Spoto ruled.
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Instagram serves us lots of photos of sunsets and happy couples. A photo @kraplady posted at 1:11 a.m today reveals a different side of #lkld.
Lakeland is rich in the amount of ultra-high-speed fiber optics running underground, but poor in the amount of it that’s available to businesses and homes at an affordable price. More
- Florida Poly is buying its president a Grasslands home costing $975,000, a value in the top one-tenth of 1 percent in Polk County.
- Sheriff Judd knew a $500 reward would lead him to the wanted man who taunted him on Facebook. “I knew it’d be just a matter of time before people he thought were his friends would give him up,” Judd said. The story was picked up by at least two tabloids.
- A little dog named Toto was the first pet to get emergency treatment under a new agreement between the Lakeland Fire Department and the SPCA. See more photos.
Corrugated metal panels got the most attention this morning when downtown Lakeland leaders reviewed and approved updated design plans for NoBay, a residential-and-commercial development that will fill most of a block on the north end of downtown: More
For a late summer weekend, there’s a lot of live music in Lakeland the next few days. If I were going to be in town Saturday night, I’d be choosing between Naples-based The Honey Creepers (their ReverbNation profile describes them as Diana Ross meets Crosby Stills, Dame Shirley Bassey Meets Paul Simon) at an Among Friends house concert and the eclectic, always-fun Adrienne Richards at Tony’s Studio B. View the music calendar after the jump: More
- Lakeland Electric flipped the switch on its third solar farm, which could power up to 1,300 homes in the next year
- A Lakeland man taunted sheriff’s deputies from the Facebook post that says he’s wanted
- A $50,000 gift to Lighthouse Ministries in memory of a MidFlorida administrator will let the homeless shelter complete a community room.
- Lakeland and Polk could be without a resident representing us in Congress, under a plan being pushed by the Florida Senate.
- The Lakeland Yacht & Country Club, where the elite meet to eat, has a new board after many members defected over a proposed $10,000 assessment
- Where the not-so-elite eat, Agape Food Bank is expanding capacity thanks to corporate donations.
If all goes according to plan, the City of Lakeland will be dedicating a short seawall near the Lake Hollingsworth parking lot a year from now. More
- Harry’s Restaurant on Main Street — the breakfast-and-lunch spot at Ingraham, not the N’awlins place downtown — has closed again; the owner of the property said it’s a sign of the hard times facing businesses east of downtown.
- Jim Birkhold, the longtime clerk of the 2nd DCA who died in a car crash, is remembered as a compassionate advocate and good listener who liked helping others.
- In a hasty compromise, four Lakeland city commissioners directed their staff to prepare a budget based on a .9 mill increase in property taxes; the other three hope the final figure is lower.
When Tony Delgado was appointed interim city manager today, he made it clear he doesn’t intend to be a placeholder. While acknowledging he is indebted to departing City Manager Doug Thomas, whom he called his mentor, Delgado told city commissioners he intends to take an activist role and won’t merely “hold the rudder.” More
- In a surprise announcement, City Manager Doug Thomas says he’s leaving his job in one month to join a consulting firm.
- In education, Southeastern University is opening a $6 million building for natural and health sciences, while Florida Southern College announces a $1 million endowment to provide scholarships for business students in need.
- And in philanthropy, United Way of Central Florida kicks off its $9 million campaign with the hashtag #GameChangers.
Classic Albums Live is hoping for a whole lotta love Friday at 8 when it presents “Led Zeppelin 2” at The Lakeland Center. For those who haven’t been before, these concerts feature professional musicians playing favorite albums note-for-note. You can count on some other Led Zeppelin hits, too. Tickets are $27 and $36. Other live music in Lakeland this weekend is listed below: More
As members grieve over the death of a 16-year-old pastor’s daughter, Oasis Community Church is giving teen members a chance to express themselves tonight through a teen service. More
Lakeland City Commissioner Justin Troller has asked his Facebook fans to comment respectfully on the current debate about whether the city should raise property taxes or invoke a fire fee that would spread funding to more residents. The conversation has been interesting — and civil. See the discussion after the jump or go directly to his post. More
When old bikes spray-painted orange started showing up around Lakeland over the weekend, residents took notice — and many weren’t happy. Some Facebook users hailed them as clever viral marketing, but others felt the painted bikes recall — in a disrespectful way — white “ghost bikes” that memorialize bicycle fatalities. More
Fans of locally grown produce in Lakeland will get to try another weekly farmers market starting next Wednesday. Dixie Twilight Market will operate from 4 p.m. until sundown Wednesdays in the parking lot behind Dixieland Village. More
In Lakeland, the revolution might not be televised, but it will play out in social media. There’s a push to replace the city’s council-manager form of government with a strong mayor system, and the people promoting it are using Facebook as a listening post to get feedback before they even offer a formal proposal. More
People have been wondering about gray postcards showing up around town with a fancy script P on them. The faint letters give a date of 3.14.15 and the URL patriotlakeland.com. Go to the site and you find out “It’s coming. It’s about craft” and you can sign up to get updates. What kind of craft? More
Detroit Free Press travel writer Ellen Creager invented a motto for downtown Lakeland when she wrote about our city as a “small mecca of cool” as the 2004 Spring Training season approached.
The frustrations of an elderly woman who feels confined to her house by neighborhood crime has sparked new attention to homeless people by city officials. More
WFLA’s Holly Bounds talk with residents of Patten Heights Street who were upset when large parts of an 80-year-old Oak were cut to make room for the moving of a Tudor house in September. A lawyer for the man who moved the house said they offered to replace the tree and more, but the homeowner wasn’t satisfied.