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Thank you students from the Art Department at Lakeland Senior High School for their work in refurbishing two of our "Swansation" swans! The Art and Photo Club students did a fantastic job! A huge thank you to Regal Automotive for applying a durable UV clear coat to help protect the new paint from the elements.
Lakeland police are reviewing a Wednesday morning accident in which a young woman returning home from work died when her car was struck by another car whose driver ran a red light while apparently fleeing police, Fox 13 News’ Ken Suarez reports. (An officer “was unable to catch up to the car to conduct a traffic stop before it ran a red light and struck another vehicle in the Memorial Boulevard and Lakeshore Drive intersection,” LPD said Wednesday in a news release.) Suarez reports that key questions for victim Linel Vega-Ortiz’ family is whether police were chasing driver Cleon Truedell and whether the pursuit complied with department policy.
ALSO: The victim’s mother tells WFLA that police informed the family that an officer was chasing Truedell before the accident; the police department told the station Tuedell wasn’t being chased before he sped off from an attempted traffic stop.
Hollie Hepler of Lakeland was born without a uterus, but she fulfilled her dream of having a baby when her sister-in-law, PJ Willis of Gainesville, volunteered to help. In a procedure overseen by a Colorado fertility doctor, PJ carried the fetus created by uniting Hollie’s egg and her husband Joe’s sperm. The Heplers’ son, Jarrell Clayton Hepler, was born healthy last week, weighing 8 pounds, 9 ounces, ABC’s Good Morning America reported.
More than 20 reports from Lakeland have been made to the National UFO Reporting Center (view claims from Florida), and the most common ones involve orange orbs drifting across the night sky. LALtoday offers a possible explanation: Some of Draken International’s military aircraft flying out of Lakeland Linder carry orange-red navigation/identification lights.
DOWNTOWN: A proposal to develop apartments, retail and a garage on the Oak Street parking lot took a baby step forward Thursday. The city’s CRA Advisory Board voted to ask city commissioners to let their staff negotiate with Catalyst Asset Management of Tampa to buy the city-owned property. (No link yet; the story isn’t online. Here’s some background.)
MERIT SCHOLARS: Four newly announced National Merit Scholars from Polk include three Lakeland students who attend the International Baccalaureate School at Bartow High School — Erica C. Roberts, John M. Scott and Victoria Marie Vailoces — and a Harrison School for the Arts student, Katherine G. Achinger.
Some music highlights in Lakeland this weekend include Sirens 2, a showcase of local women musicians at The Pink Piano tonight, the hot-sauce-infused rocking blues of Bill “Sauce Boss” Wharton at Union Hall Friday, the back-to-the-roots country of Jeffry Allen and Band at Swan Brewing on Friday, country sister act Diamond Dixie at Swan Brewing Saturday and singer-songwriter Kimi Tortuga at Union Hall Saturday. Keep scrolling for our updated live music calendar: More
ELECTRICITY: Reduced capacity at one generator and scheduled maintenance at another mean Lakeland Electric will need to purchase power from other utilities this month to meet demands. Estimated cost is $1.2 million.
ALSO: WUSF coverage
BORN & BREAD: Jennifer Smurr talks with reporter Eric Pera about the passion for artisanal bread that drove her to found Born & Bread Bakehouse, which recently expanded its hours.
PARKING METERS: Parking pay stations in the Main Street Garage and two downtown lots (Munn Park, Kentucky near Mitchell’s) are being replaced. The new stations, similar to ones used in Tampa, require drivers to enter their license plate number.
ARIANA SIDEWALK: County commissioners have accepted federal funding for a 1.5-mile sidewalk to be built next year along Ariana Street between South Wabash Avenue and Lotus Avenue.
ELECTRIC BILL: The fuel charge on Lakeland Electric bills will be reduced by $1 per 1,000 kWh for three months starting next month, a result of coal savings associated with taking the McIntosh 3 plant offline for repairs.
SCHOOL SEGREGATION: The 50th anniversary of the end of officially racially segregated schools in Polk County will be marked by several events this week sponsored by the Washington Park/Rochelle High School Alumni Association.
A Talbot House Ministries affordable-housing program will get a big donation from the city: a dilapidated apartment building appraised at $160,000 and $50,000 toward repairs, the City Commission decided Monday. More
With the upgrades Lakeland Linder International Airport will make to accommodate Amazon’s planned jet cargo center, the instrument landing system will be among the best 30 to 35 in the country, Gene Conrad, airport director, said. More
As city commissioners begin considering allowing more students at a charter school on New Jersey Road, Commissioner Bill Read said constituents are starting to raise concerns about traffic levels on the road after another private school got permission to start classes nearby. More
City commissioners face a decision today on two different approaches in providing affordable housing: nominal rents and social services for low-wage workers through Talbot House or vouchers for veterans. More
On May 2, Florida Southern College announced that its provost, or chief academic officer, Dr. Kyle Fedler, would step down from that post to return to a teaching position in the college. Effective Saturday, he will be succeeded as provost and vice president of academic affairs by Dr. Brad Hollingshead, FSC’s dean of the College of Arts and Sciences since 2013. More
It looks like nearly $4.7 million of the city of Lakeland’s costs for airport improvements needed for the planned Amazon cargo facility will be covered by a state jobs-creation grant. The grant was initially awarded for a large maintenance hangar, but the state is allowing the city to redirect it to Amazon-related upgrades. | Documentation
The wetlands are slated to be cleared of invasive vegetation and three ponds built as part of a stormwater filtration system; it’s being created to reduce harmful nutrients, trash and sediments flowing into Lake Hunter, said Laurie Smith, manager of the city’s lakes and stormwater division. More
Constant traffic on two-lane West Pipkin Road between Florida Avenue and Harden Boulevard is already a burden, those who live there say; they are speaking with county commissioners today to seek relief in the face of new housing developments and large employers that will add more trips to the busy road.
RESTORATION: Historic preservation advocate Gregory Fancelli is restoring the large house next to the South Florida Avenue Church of Christ to its original 1920s look. The church will use the former mansion to house students from its Florida School of Preaching.
ALSO: View photos of the projects on Instagram
RESTAURANT: Dining critic Eric Pera bestows four stars (out of five) on Romeo’s Pizza and Pasta in the strip center at Kathleen and Griffin Roads, calling it a “a welcoming oasis of comfort food.”
Sarasota-based Ari and the Alibis blast their sultry fusion of jazz, rock, funk, soul, samba and blues at Union Hall Friday night. Based on their YouTube videos, the $15 cover is worth it. Other highlights this weekend, at least for people into tribute bands, include Tampa’s Absolute Queen at RP Funding Center tonight. Keep scrolling for the updated music calendar: More
Downtown Lakeland’s New York Avenue bicycle path is nearing completion. A few improvements are being made prior to the final inspection, which is expected to take place next month, Lakeland Public Works Director Heath Frederick said.
The three-block path between Lime and Main Streets is formally called a “bicycle track,” but it’s more of a connector that will take cyclists between a future trail along the west side of Lake Hunter and the planned over-the-railroad pedestrian bridge that will connect New York Avenue with Lake Wire. More
UPDATE: Eastbound traffic and one westbound lane has reopened on Memorial Blvd. between Ingraham and Lake Parker Avenues. A water main break in front of Church of the Mall caused a utility pole to fall into the road, @lakelandgov says. Repair crews are at the scene. #lkld
— Lkld Now (@LkldNow) May 29, 2019
Jiwa Farrell, 41, has filed to run against City Commissioner Bill Read, ensuring that there will be at least two races on the Nov. 5 city ballot. In the other race, five people are seeking to replace Justin Troller, who has reached term limits. Commissioner Phillip Walker has no opposition so far. More
BONNET SPRINGS: Over the next 6-7 weeks, earth movers will create two 45-foot “mountains” out of the flat former rail yard that will become part of Bonnet Springs Park as developers race toward an aggressive 2020 planned opening. They’ve applied for permits to create a 7-acre lagoon for boaters rather than opening the whole 80-acre Lake Bonnet to recreation.
VIDEO: View drone aerial footage of the earth-moving operations via the park’s Facebook page.
The Ledger continues reducing the size of its news operation, laying off five newsroom employees, including two of the three top editors, according to multiple sources; they said the move was a part of nationwide newsroom layoffs from parent company GateHouse Media. More
After three weekends of soft openings, musician Dan Signor’s Union Hall in Dixieland holds its grand opening Friday night with the Motown-inspired party sounds of The Black Honkeys. (Check the Clearwater showband’s videos.) Tickets may be hard to come by; the event’s ticket page says it’s sold out.
Traveling musicians playing Lakeland this weekend include Friction Farm, a husband-wife folk troubadour duo from Greenville, S.C., at an Among Friends Music house concert Saturday night, and the traditional Irish tunes of Dublin guitarist-singer Martin Healy at Hillcrest Music Saturday at 1 p.m.
Keep scrolling for our updated music calendar: More
AVENT: In a year when many Florida Poly faculty and staff are expected to get no raises, the university’s board granted President Randy Avent a 12 percent bonus, raising his base pay of $441,791 to around $494,800. Avent declined to accept the full 20 percent bonus he was eligible for or a 3.5 percent annual increase, citing a challenging budget year.
BEER: Downtown Lakeland’s Swan Brewing will be sending its creations to other venues. Several of its ales, lagers and stouts will be available on draft at restaurants and bars in Polk and Orange Counties under a newly signed distribution agreement with Sunshine State Distributing of Orlando.
MUSIC: Laura Davis’ “Polk Rising” series on local creatives continues with a look at Lady Moonbeam (Facebook), a musical trio that channels its soul heroes. Catch them at the Maddox Jam on Saturday and LkldLive on June 14.
Alex Rich, who came to Lakeland in 2014 to head Florida Southern College’s art history program and galleries, has been named executive director and chief curator of the Polk Museum Art. He succeeds Claire Orologas, who has announced her retirement after leading the museum since 2012, according to a news release issued today by Florida Southern College, which formed a partnership with the museum two years ago. More
Lakeland Electric wants to make customers aware of a variety of scams that frequently target utility customers. Lakeland Electric representatives will never call requesting payment or ask for your bank or credit card information over the phone. More
The building at 1109 E. Main St. that once housed the Kau Kau Koner nightspot and El Greco restaurant before that is being demolished. The property was purchased in January by Alternative Capital Holdings of Tampa for $88,000. This Facebook post by Merlin Amusements has prompted a lot of nostalgic memories from former patrons.
LALtoday shares a photo of a Lakeland-focused mural being painted on the side of a warehouse on Main Street near Ingraham Avenue. A depiction of Lake Mirror’s Frances Langford Promenade anchors the mural, a creation of artist A.H. Taylor, a Lakeland native known on social media as The Atlanta Illustrator. Sponsors include the Lakeland Community and Economic Development Department, Boring Business Systems and Rochelle School of the Arts. For a brief time, the warehouse was home to the KRaP Art youth creativity venue and this same wall featured a cartoony bunny mural. Learn more about the project via The Ledger and Bay News 9.
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ATTN: The Frances Langford Promenade is moving to a new location. Okay, we’re just kidding. But how cool is this new mural of the lakefront icon? 🎨 This community piece by artist, @theatlantaillustrator is a collaboration between @lkldced, @bbslakeland + students from @rochellesota and in true Lakeland fashion will include: @sunnfun_flyin planes, swans, oranges, butterflies + of course, the Frances Langford Promenade at Lake Mirror. 🍊#ProTip: Charge your phones for this new selfie location. 🤳
A post shared by LALtoday (@thelaltoday) on
CHARTER: Lakeland voters will be asked to decide on several proposed changes to the city charter in November, but the ballot will not include the two most controversial measures suggested by a charter committee a couple of years ago: making it easier to sell Lakeland Electric and tightening term limits for commissioners and the mayor.
CITY RETIREES: Lakeland commissioners on Monday upheld a pension board recommendation against granting an ad hoc raise to retired city workers.
- Harry Bopp, Lakeland’s first pediatric dentist, is retiring at 72
- Sarah Dukes McKay received an international Junior League honor
- Charles Mills won June’s Lakeland CityMaker Award for the youth training non-profit he founded
A 50-year lease agreement for Amazon Services Inc.‘s planned jet cargo operation at Lakeland Linder International Airport won the City Commission’s unanimous approval Monday afternoon, but not before commissioners fielded skeptical questions and asked a few of their own. More
Southeastern University’s president talks with The Business Observer about how SEU has grown enrollment 215 percent in eight years and expanded from 30 to 112 satellite campuses in four years. The key is a leadership style based on listening, he says: “Be other-oriented, people-centric. Try to understand where people are coming from. “What are their needs? How can I serve them? Center leadership on those around you.”
Lakeland Linder Airport’s director is talking with American Airlines about starting commercial service between here and Charlotte, N.C., as early as next year, The Ledger reports. Linder’s Gene Conrad says discussions have centered on the possibility of two to three flights a day on aircraft carrying 70 to 90 passengers as American expands its Charlotte hub.
Lakeland-Winter Haven has had the nation’s second-highest rate of new foreclosure filings among metro areas this year, according to a new analysis that finds the filings down from last year nationally but up significantly in Florida. More
A “minor collision” between two charter buses on Rockridge Road near Dean Still Road sent Pasco County students to hospitals in Lakeland and Bartow for treatment this morning. An announcement from Pepin Academies said 30 students were taken to hospitals and that no major injuries were reported. But the Florida Highway Patrol said just two students were hospitalized, the Tampa Bay Times noted. The students were on a field trip to Medieval Times in Kissimmee.
Amazon Services Inc. is the long-held-secret negotiator for an intermodal center on the northwest side of the airport, City Attorney Tim McCausland announced this morning during a City Commission study session. More
Our tour of Lakeland establishments that offer healthy food choices continues with a visit to the Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market, operating on Saturdays on Kentucky Avenue between the railroad tracks and Oak Street. More
PUBLIX HQ: The planned expansion of Publix Super Markets Lakeland headquarters will be larger and costlier than originally projected, so the company is seeking deeper economic development tax breaks.
MOUSEKETEER: Writer Gary White catches up with Lakeland-bred actress-comedian-singer Lindsey Alley as she prepares for this weekend’s 30th reunion of fellow Mouseketeers from “The All New Mickey Mouse Club.”
GIRLS INC.: Recipients of the organization’s annual “She Knows Where She’s Going” this year are Evelyn Berrazueta, former owner of The Live Oak restaurant and a current LPD employee; Anita Silwal, a Winter Haven senior planner who recently received a master’s degree from Florida Poly and worked for the city of Lakeland; and Albertha Whitley-Tabron, retired director of Lakeland’s Coleman-Bush Building.
Lakeland’s first baby black-necked swan in years went missing Wednesday night, hours after being placed in a holding pen on the southern shore of Lake Morton. While the city parks director lamented, “It’s very disappointing that someone would do this,” police said they’ve found no evidence of a crime and suggested a predatory animal could be the culprit.
Visit Central Florida offers a video tour of the newest sculptures along Lakeland’s Lemon Street Promenade. Yeah, the video is more promotional than newsy, but this outdoor art is hard to photograph and they did a great job.
The music scene in Lakeland keeps growing. Our calendar, below, lists 44 chances to hear live music between today and Sunday. And we know we don’t list everything. If you know of Lakeland venues or musicians we’re not listing, please let us know. We want to continue improving our live music calendar. Thanks. Now here are the shows: More
HIGHLAND CITY DINER: A team that ran Florida Presbyterian Homes’ dining operation is the “firepower behind (a) not-so-humble café” in a strip center that restaurant critic Eric Pera calls “a local diner willing to step outside of the box. Who goes to the bother of baking fresh challah these days, in these parts?” He gives Highland City Diner 3 1/2 stars for food, service and ambience | Menu
D’LUCAS TAKING FLIGHT: Marcos Fernandez, the chef behind Dixieland’s upscale Nineteen61, is taking his D’Lucas fast-casual concept to Lakeland Linder Airport and expanding the menu, but not until this fall at the earliest. First he’s moving Nineteen61 downtown to the former home of Posto 9 this summer.
SCHOOL FUNDING: Polk’s school district will be getting a $225+ increase in per-pupil funding next year — from roughly $7,205 to $7,431.
DUNN JUDGE: Circuit Judge Donald Jacobsen has rotated back to the criminal division and will preside over the second-degree murder case of former City Commissioner Michael Dunn. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for July 12.
After a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine’s new $4.5 million home today, visitors touring the building took out their smartphones and aimed their cameras upward toward a 20-foot-high mural dominating two walls in the lobby and also at two murals displaying the organization’s vision statement. More
Two bicycling events this week focus on safe driving/biking and two-wheel commuting:
- The annual Ride of Silence, held to remember cyclists hurt or killed on public roadways, starts at 6 p.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church and includes two slow laps around Lake Hollingsworth.
- Friday is National Bike to Work Day. At a recent meeting, City Commissioner Scott Franklin challenged his colleagues to cycle to the city’s agenda study session Friday morning. (We hope they don’t all try to use the tiny bike rack by the main entrance to City Hall.)
Here’s our video from last year’s Ride of Silence. One big change since then: The bicycle stop sign at Lake Hollingsworth Drive and Ingraham Avenue has been replaced by a concrete-separated bike lane where cyclists need stop only when pedestrians are crossing.
ARTS: After last year’s deep cuts, funding is improved for arts organizations under the budget passed by the Florida Legislature. Now local supporters wait to see if their appropriations are vetoed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
TEACHER: Lake Gibson Middle School’s Mary Harn is named Florida substitute teacher of the year by Kelly Educational Staffing.
WAREHOUSE: Rezoning to place a warehouse on current agriculture land west of Lakeland Linder Airport passed a Polk County Commission hurdle, but still needs approval from the state and a final signoff from the county. The 56 acres line Hamilton Road across from a Lakeland Electric solar farm.
VIRAL: There’s a darker tale behind last week’s viral video of a man standing through his Cadillac’s sunroof arms spread-eagled while driving on I-4 in Lakeland. As FHP troopers stopped him, the 70-year-old man was served by Polk deputies with a warrant charging him with domestic abuse | WFLA coverage
Sergio Perez, 17, credits the rigor of jointly working on a high school diploma at Lakeland Collegiate High School and an associate’s degree at Polk State College for his acceptance to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He’s the first in his family to go to college.
A Polk public schools bus attendant, Juanita Tappin, 43, of Lakeland, has been charged with three counts of child abuse and three counts of abused on a disabled adult. The arrest came after a special needs child reported she had been struck en route to Doris A. Sanders Learning Center.
The team behind the Yard on Mass food truck park and taproom broke ground this afternoon in a brief ceremony. The venue at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Parker Street is expected to open this fall. Supported in part by the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency, Yard on Mass joins neighbors like Haus 820 as part of the city’s efforts to revitalize the neighborhood’s commercial strip.
FOOD TRUCK PARK: Two organizers of The Yard on Mass, which breaks ground at 3:30 today, talk about plans for their “communal yard party,” including a partnership with Swan Brewing and a taproom with a variety of Central Florida brews and premixed craft cocktails.
MAYFAIRE: Lakeland’s premiere outdoor art show again rings Lake Morton this Mother’s Day weekend.
UTILITY WORKERS: After an impasse, city commissioners approved a new contract for 270 unionized Lakeland Electric workers that has other city employees and retirees hoping for better deals.
Alice Koehler, whose career has focused on Lakeland non-profits since she returned here after two years in the Peace Corps, has been chosen as the next president and CEO of Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine. More
GARAGE: Signaling their intent to build a parking garage behind Lakeland Police headquarters, city commissioners have agreed to budget $15k for a consultant to help design it.
WABASH: Road construction to extend North Wabash Avenue to Kathleen Road could begin this fall as the city nears acquiring the last piece of property needed for the one-mile extension, the city public works director says.
A man suspected in a Dixieland shooting that sent a 23-year-old woman to the hospital Monday evening turned himself in to authorities this morning after his photo was posted on social media, Lakeland police said. Trayvion Arrington, 18, has been arrested on a charge of aggravated battery with a firearm, according to spokesman Gary Gross. More
Lakeland city commissioners and their top staff spent the better part of eight hours today previewing potential new projects for 2020. Commissioners liked most of what they saw but rejected a few projects and trimmed others. Here are some highlights as seen by posts on Twitter: More
Polk Fire Rescue Chief Tony Stravino, 62, said today he plans to retire in the next 30 days. The announcement came a day after the release of an investigative report that criticized the department’s handling of a November fire that resulted in the death of a disabled, 76-year-old woman.
A 23-year-old woman was shot in the chest in Dixieland around 7:09 p.m. Monday in a possible armed robbery, @LakelandPD says. Woman was taken to LRH. No condition released. No name or address or info on victim released. Suspect is being sought. https://t.co/iwhQVSj5zC #lkld
— Lkld Now (@LkldNow) May 7, 2019
A man identified as Bruce Wayne Johnson, 59, was in critical condition after being hit from behind by a dark-colored SUV Monday night on Main Street near Lake Bonny, Lakeland police report. They ask that anyone with info call Officer Tyler Anderson at (863) 834-2553.
POWER PLANT: Lakeland Electric’s coal-burning McIntosh Unit 3, disabled since February but expected to come back online May 22, will be shut down by fall 2024, the utility said Monday. The city’s Utility Committee will be tasked with deciding how to replace the lost capacity.
FATAL FIRE FOLLOWUP: An outside agency reviewing Polk Fire Rescue’s response to a November fatal fire on Rockridge Road praised the 911 operator who handled the call but found deficiencies with the on-scene team’s communication and the agency’s training and leadership development.
ALSO: WFLA coverage | The report
“I think they share universal, humanist themes, such as triumph and tragedy, and they do it in such a large way,” he said days before conducting a Lakeland concert fusing the music of Coldplay and Beethoven. More
Saying Lakeland “provides one of the greatest concentrations of strong, active Florida Baptist churches in the state,” the Panhandle-based Baptist College of Florida has announced it plans a second campus in Lakeland. No exact location has been determined, the Dothan Eagle reports.
Lakeland’s MidFlorida Credit Union has announced plans to merge with Ocala’s Community Bank & Trust of Florida and the Florida assets of First American Bank of Iowa by the end of the year. The MidFlorida-Community merger would create a combined entity with $4 billion in assets and $3 billion in loans, with 1,100 employees and 63 full-service branches, according to a news release.
ALSO: Business Observer coverage
DOWNTOWN: A company affiliated with investor Gregory Fancelli has presented plans for a mixed-use development on Massachusetts Avenue just north of the recently demolished Greyhound bus station. Lakeland’s CRA advisory board is asking the City Commission to allow staff to negotiate with FURC1 LLC for sale of the 0.4-acre site the city bought for $560k in 2006. The proposed facade would resemble the 1913 Hotel Thelma, which stood downtown from 1913 to 1962.
CONGRESS: Democrat Andrew Learned of Dover has announced his second run for the District 15 U.S. House seat that includes most of Lakeland. He said he plans to emphasize his military service and highlight questions about Republican incumbent Ross Spano’s 2018 campaign finances.
HOME BUILDER: Lakeland’s Highland Homes has been sold to Clayton Properties Group of Maryville, Tenn. Co-founder Joel Adams plans to stay on, while the other co-founder — his dad, Bob Adams — plans to retire.
UPDATE: A Lakeland couple that was subject of a silver alert this week has been found safe in Ohio, Lakeland police say.
Broadway Real Estate Services brought its top executives, a lawyer, architect and a court reporter to an advisory board’s meeting today to make a simple request: Hear from us before recommending who should have a shot at developing the Oak Street parking lot just north of Broadway’s NoBay complex.
The show of force was prompted by a recommendation that the city negotiate with Tampa-based Catalyst Asset Management Inc., the only other company that responded to a request for qualifications for developing the site comprising a full downtown block. More
When Rose Rosenkranz first visited Auschwitz, the former Nazi extermination camp where as many as 1 million Jews were murdered, she said she heard the voice of her grandmother, who was among those who died there along with her two young children.
“She said, ‘Speak for me and my two babies. I no longer have a voice. You must be my voice.’” More
Music for many moods in Lakeland this weekend: redneck hip-hop from recording artist Bubba Sparxxx at Wild Greg’s Saloon, acoustic energy of Sarasota’s Passarine at Hillcrest Coffee, sophisticated syncopation of “West Side Story” at an ISO concert and the art-rock bombast of Rex Floyd‘s tribute to Pink Floyd at Swan Brewing. Keep scrolling for more on these and other local shows: More
BUS 4G: The Citrus Connection is moving ahead with plans to put wifi and electronics charging stations in its buses and implement a pay-as-you-go app as it tries to reverse ridership declines.
DINING: Restaurant critic Eric Pera praises the “crunchy tostones as big as hubcaps” at West Caribbean Cuban Restaurant on Combee Road, which he awards 3 1/2 stars (out of five) for food and four for service.
FEM CIGARS: Pera also catches up with Lashes and Ashes, a group of women who unite once a month over leisurely smokes at Cigar Life in a South Florida Avenue strip mall.
THEATER: Rogue Stage is bringing four one-person shows from the Orlando International Fringe Festival to LkldLive May 17 and 23.
This is a story about how Kathy Wallen met Andy and Ashley McEntire six years ago and how the resulting friendship blossomed into a new organization that aims to share stories of good works to an international audience. More
That process, established more than 45 years ago, has protected the market for Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, ensuring it is the only general hospital in the community. More
A Lakeland financial technology company is seeking $60,000 in state, county and city incentives to stay here, expand its operation and hire 20 new employees at an average salary of $51,309. The company, whose name isn’t being disclosed by economic development officials, says it is also looking at two overseas sites, Tampa Bay Business Journal reports.
MUNN PARK: During an all-day, outdoor forum, Lakelanders offer ideas about what should go in the center of the downtown park.
VOTING: The state legislators representing Lakeland all support bills that would require convicted felons who have served their time to pay restitution (in the case of the Senate) and add to that fines and fees (in the House) before registering to vote.
We’re reposting this article since the work starts Wednesday: Kentucky Avenue will close between Orange Street and Lemon Street starting May 1 for construction of the five-story Heritage Plaza parking garage, the city of Lakeland has announced. The closure is expected to last until the end of 2019. More
In recent years, major orchestras have found it popular – and lucrative – to perform concert versions of hit Broadway musicals. In these performances, there are no costumes, staging or dancing but simply singers standing with the orchestra on stage, singing through the score.
The recent centennial birth year of composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) has given occasion for orchestras to perform a concert version of his most successful and beloved work, “West Side Story,” on which he collaborated with lyricist Stephen Sondheim. The Imperial Symphony Orchestra has enthusiastically jumped on the bandwagon, and in its final concert of the 2018-2019 season, the orchestra will perform a concert version of “West Side Story” featuring singers from Polk County. More
The city of Lakeland tallied the cost of moving the Confederate monument from Munn Park to Veterans Park at about $185,000, which was about $40,000 less than anticipated. The largest part went to the Tampa moving contractor, whose $165k payment was $15k higher than the original estimate because they ended up engineering and constructing a new base for the monument.
POLY: Florida Poly should reinstate two employees, according to a state hearing officer, who said the university’s moves have a chilling effect on legal union activity.
A full house is anticipated at the RP Funding Center’s George Jenkins Arena next Thursday when 650-plus students participate in Polk State College’s 6:30 p.m. commencement ceremony. The students have claimed their allotment of six tickets each and no more are available, the college said in a news release. The ceremony will be live-streamed.
Larry Giddens, who recently retired as Lakeland police chief, has withdrawn his application to become head of security at Florida Southern College, a college official confirms. (We’re not sure what to make of the rest of the article, but it illuminates that divisiveness never left LPD.)
Medulla Elementary School parents and grandparents got sympathetic responses from Polk School Board members Thursday when they complained that children are being bullied and nothing is being done to stop it. The school’s administrators didn’t address the board, but a teacher and para-educator said the faculty is caring and would never let bullying go unchallenged.
ALSO: Fox 13 News coverage
Northern Tool + Equipment, which opened its first Lakeland store at 845 Lakeland Park Center Drive recently, is holding a grand-opening Saturday.
A new bridge planned over I-4 just west of Kathleen Road would accommodate the express rail service proposed to run in the interstate median, Tampa Bay Business Journal reports. Like newer bridges over I-4, the updated CSX railroad bridge would accommodate both trains in the median and future expansion of I-4 traffic lanes. Virgin Trains USA, formerly called Brightline, is preparing a Tampa-Orlando express route that it says will eventually include a stop in Polk County.
Live music hereabouts runs the gamut from the redneck rap of The Lacs at Wild Greg’s Saloon tonight to reflective piano at Midday Meditations (St. Joseph’s Church) on Friday to the blues and soul of St. Pete’s Betty Fox Band at La La Land Friday night. Keep scrolling for the whole live music calendar. More
SCHOOLS: Hours after the Florida Senate approved a bill allowing public school teachers to carry guns in the classroom, Polk Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said it won’t be happening here. “The sheriff has not come to me asking to arm any teachers,” she said, adding Polk’s 150 public schools will continue using armed guardians or school resource officers.
RELATED: Sheriff Grady Judd has criticized school districts that decline to arm teachers, saying they are removing a valuable tool to protect children, Fox 13 News reports.
FILM: Check out a showcase of some of Florida Southern College’s best short student films at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Polk Museum of Art.
COUPLE: Before Benny Glass and Jessie Lane opened their Glassroots community farm in Lakeland, they learned about agriculture through a program that offers room and board to people willing to help out at organic farms.
MUSIC: Laura Davis profiles rock musician Michael Ridgway in a new weekly feature called Polk Rising.
TREES: Lakeland park crews are busy replacing two kinds of trees – palms that succumb to a disease carried by tiny planthopper insects and the Oriental sweetgums downtown that snarl underground utilities and buckle sidewalks.
BANK: Prime Meridian Bank (website) has opened a Lakeland branch, its first outside its Tallahassee base. Its location at at 3340 S. Florida Ave. was home to the former Community Southern Bank, which was founded in 2006 by Michael Micallef Jr., who leads Prime Meridian’s Polk operations.
SOLAR: The head of Polk’s nonprofit solar cooperative says Lakeland Electric’s demand charge is inhibiting Lakelanders from switching to solar. In an op-ed column, Rick Garrity disputes the need for a demand charge, saying net metering produces benefits for the utility.
PUBLIC RECORDS: Reporter Gary White delves into a Florida phenomenon – local governments, including the city of Lakeland, have pulled hundreds of thousands of documents from their websites in response to letters from two litigious men who want to ensure the records are accessible to the visually impaired.
DOWNTOWN: As the city of Lakeland plans for next year, the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority presses three initiatives:
- Hang overhead string lights above some key shopping/entertainment blocks.
- Reduce the number of street signs while making them more informative and attractive.
- Create parklets, removable platforms that could be place over on-street parking to create outdoor seating for restaurants during certain parts of the day. (Here’s a more complete definition.)
As Dan Signor sipped on a latte and talked about his plans to open a hip new music venue in Dixieland, it was easy to get caught up in his enthusiasm.
The rock ‘n roll musician has entertained in Florida for years, but now he’s setting up a permanent location in Lakeland called Union Hall at 1023 S. Florida Ave., formerly the site of Truly Nolan. More
Lakeland’s two biggest architectural firms didn’t consider themselves rivals because they had different specialties; so when the Lunz Group and WMB-ROI merged recently, it was looked at as a pooling of resources into a company with a footprint across the I-4 corridor.
- Reporter Sara-Megan Walsh writes about plans to transform a portion of the public library on Lake Morton into a history and culture center.
- She also profiles artist Josh “Bump” Galletta as Lakeland’s newest CityMaker.
- Gary White explains the neighborhood markers that have been showing up atop street signs since 2017.
- The family of Mayor Bill Mutz remembers patriarch O.U. “Oz” Mutz, a multiple corporate president who died Thursday at age 91.
The Yard on Mass food-truck park and beer hall easily jumped a hurdle this morning on its way to an expected May 9 groundbreaking and fall opening.
Two churches near the site at North Massachusetts Avenue and Parker Street sent no representatives to object, so the Lakeland Board of Adjustments and Appeals quickly approved an alcohol variance at a special meeting. More
It looks like a good weekend for musical comedy, a Swan Brewing birthday and good ol’ Southern Rock. Some of the music highlights:
- Tague Zachary, a Chicagoan with a guitar and a refined funny bone, brings his show (directed by Swan City Improv‘s Nate Fleming) to LkldLive Friday.
- Swan Brewing celebrates its first anniversary with the Deadhead sounds of Uncle John’s Band Friday night, Pensacola’s aptly named Spearman Brewers Saturday afternoon and the guitar/mandolin/violin interweavings of the Munn Park Saints Saturday night.
- Music Ranch continues to preserve Southern Rock with Second Shot out of Jacksonville and guitar slinger Jimmy Sexton Saturday night.
Keep scrolling for our updated music calendar: More
MUNN PARK: City commissioners are feeling no rush to put something new in the center of Munn Park even as downtown promoters press ahead with plans for a public meeting (info) on whether a carousel or something else should go there.
DINING: The original Uncle Nick’s deli is still serving solid sandwiches and Italian-American fare at Old 37 and Shepherd Road, even as two satellite locations have closed, writes restaurant critic Eric Pera, who dished out 3 1/2 stars out of 5 for food and 3 for service.
Lakeland resident Alice Hunt, who co-founded Hunt Construction with her husband Chuck, was elected chair of the Florida Polytechnic University Foundation Board of Directors. Jack Harrell III, senior vice president at Harrell’s LLC in Lakeland, replaces her as vice chair.
City commissioners and their senior staff spent the first day of a two-day retreat today looking at plans for the future. Among the stories that emerged:
CAROUSEL: As downtown development honcho Julie Townsend pondered what should go into the now-vacant middle of Munn Park, the idea that swirled in her head was a carousel to draw more families downtown. (In the instant-analysis feedback loop of Facebook, residents threw out many other ideas.) ALSO: LDDA explains the case for a carousel.
POWER PLANT: It’s probably time to close the 37-year-old, coal-fired McIntosh Unit 3 power plant and replace the lost power with a new natural gas plant and an expansion of solar, Lakeland Electric chief Joel Ivy said.
EMERGENCY COORDINATOR: In response to lessons learned during Hurricane Irma, city administrators are budgeting for an emergency operations manager to coordinate disaster response.
Latin fusion restaurant Nineteen61 is planning to move from Dixieland to downtown, owner Marcos Fernandez tells The Ledger. He and two new business partners plan to expand the menu as they move into the first floor of the former home of Posto 9 on Main Street across from Munn Park.
Shannon Oglesby, the 47-year-old manager of Web Pro Realty, died Sunday night when the Jeep she was riding in crashed into a utility pole on U.S. 98 across from the entrance to Oak Hill Cemetery. Rodney Wimberly, 52, who was driving the Jeep Wrangler, was in critical condition Monday morning. Deputies said it appeared the Jeep was racing a sports bike when it went out of control, and they hope to find the person riding on the motorcycle.
Facebook tribute | GoFundMe
During a one-year test of a “road diet” reducing Florida Avenue in Dixieland from five lanes to three, an unprecedented collection of data will supplement community feedback in determining how the project affects safety, travel time, economic impact and effects on nearby roads. Eleven sensors along the corridor are already collecting speed and travel-time data, and traffic counters will be installed at each intersection.
A Lakeland mom tells WFLA she’s angry she can’t retrieve family treasures from their burned-out apartment. She says she was under duress the night of the fire when managers at Arbor Glen Apartments encouraged her to sign a release form. Management says safety concerns prohibit former residents from entering the 24 units that burned March 11.
People receiving emailed links to an online survey about high-speed Internet have raised questions about whether it’s legitimate, City Manager Tony Delgado says. He confirms that the survey is authorized; it was sent randomly to 38,000 Lakeland residents by a consultant hired to create a business plan for a possible city broadband service.
Tampa Bay Business Journal is featuring Core Wealth Advisors as one of the region’s coolest office spaces. The space on the top floor of the Regions Bank Building, 124 S. Florida Ave., combines a large open area with getaway rooms and a gym. It was designed by The Lunz Group and built by Strickland Construction.
DINING: Curry Mango, a 160-seat restaurant being built on Florida Avenue just north of Shepherd Road, will offer dishes of coastal southern India, where owner Anthony Mankidiyan grew up, as well as the more familiar foods of northern India and some southern U.S. favorites with an Asian twist.
BUSES: A plan to simplify bus routes in Lakeland and extend hours earlier in the morning and later in the evening will be tested for 60 days starting Thursday.
FLORIDA AVE.: A reporter talking to people attending public info session about the upcoming test of a Florida Avenue “road diet” in Dixieland sensed cautious optimism as well as concern over traffic spilling into neighborhood streets.
Diners gazing out the large picture windows at the rear of the the Grasslands Clubhouse would be forgiven if they can’t imagine the manicured golf course in front of them and lakeside houses off to the right were once the site of a phosphate plant and a small mining community called San Gully.
The community was built just over a century ago by the Lakeland Phosphate Co., and its residents mined the land until 1945 under a succession of owners. More
Rosa Rosenkranz, a child survivor of the Holocaust, will speak at Temple Emanuel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day observance May 1 at 7 p.m.
After her 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe caught fire in the garage of her Lakeland home, Kym Borden wants to know why the federal government waited to start investigating reports of fires in certain Hyundai and Kia models.
The number of DUI deaths has increased here in recent years, according to a new report that ranks Lakeland as second in drunken-driving fatalities among Florida’s larger cities. More
The Morning Paper got an advance look at a proposed new Citrus Connection route and scheduling plan to be released today that will make bus service available earlier in the morning and later in the evening on weekdays. The goal is to accommodate more riders going to and from work, but mid-day riders might find buses run less frequently.
An awkward five-way intersection at the north end of Lake Beulah would become a roundabout with four access points, under a plan being floated by city officials. Members of the public will have a chance to learn more and comment on the proposal at two public meetings scheduled for later this month. More
The Lakeland Police Department issued a plea Monday night for help locating Jimmie Fulse, 67, who went missing from his home at 1216 ½ E. Parker St. and may be in the Grove Park/Bartow Road area. He was last seen wearing a red shirt, black pants with a red stripe, and gray shoes. He is 5-foot-4 and weighs about 130 pounds. If you have any information, please call 863.834.6900.
CANDIDATES: Add towing business owner Ricky Shirah to the list of candidates hoping to replace departing City Commissioner Justin Troller. As we reported earlier, the other three who have submitted papers for the position are retired hospital executive Carole Philipson, entrepreneur Pablo Sologaistoa and educator Shandale Terrell. So far, incumbents Bill Read and Phillip Walker have received no opponents for the November election.
FREEDOM RIDERS: Two Freedom Riders and a USF history professor will discuss the role of the students who risked their lives to challenge legal segregation in the South in the 1960s during a panel discussion at the Polk Museum of Art Wednesday at 6. Their talks and the screening of a PBS documentary mark a museum exhibit by artist Charles Edward Williams inspired by the Freedom Riders.
VIDEO STAR: Chris Adcock, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Lakeland Montessori Middle School, has 142,000 subscribers on his personality-driven ChrisCredible YouTube channel devoted to videogames | View his YouTube channel. (If you’re in a quiet place, you might want to turn the volume down first.)
SUN ‘N FUN: Lakeland’s premier aviation event is getting a new name. The Sun ’n Fun International Fly-In and Expo will become Sun ’n Fun Aerospace Expo starting with next year’s event, scheduled for March 31 to April 5.
Lakeland Electric’s Customer Appreciation Baseball Game with the Flying Tigers is April 27. Come out and enjoy a free game on us. To get into the game, present your Lakeland Electric utility bill and you will receive four (4) complimentary tickets. More
Sunshine Growers sold its 32-acre nursery just west of the Carillon Lakes neighborhood (map) to Surterra Wellness for $3.3 million in February. It will be Lakeland’s first state-licensed facility for growing medical marijuana.
Just days after he broke his arm in a game, 26-year-old Salt Lake Stallions linebacker Gionni Paul — a Kathleen High graduate — found himself jobless and on his own for medical bills when the eight-team Alliance of American Football abruptly folded.
After six months, Donna Perry, 38, is leaving her $105,000-a-year job as Lakeland Police Department attorney, signing a $17,296 severance package that includes salary through the end of May and a $900 car allowance. “This is voluntary and one of convenience of both parties,” City Manager Tony Delgado told The Ledger. “It’s not a result of any misconduct at this point.”
Our tour of Lakeland establishments that offer healthy food choices continues with a visit to Cafe Roti, an Indian-Pakistani restaurant at 116 S. Tennessee Ave.
Dr. Saqib B. Khan, founder and owner of Café Roti, opened his restaurant in 2003 at first in North Lakeland near Lakeland Regional Health hospital. The critical care, pain medicine, and anesthesiology practicing physician is passionate about food, particularly Indian-Pakistani cuisine. More
ROCKRIDGE FIRE: The husband of the woman who died in a November fire on Rockridge Road has warned Polk County and the Sheriff’s Office he intends to sue them, claiming a 911 operator failed to respond completely.
ABORTION PROTESTS: Activists explain why they’re picketing the Lakeland Women’s Health Center for 40 days from a sidewalk beside busy South Florida Avenue.
At least one of the 40-foot mounds at Bonnet Springs Park will be made with soil from the former CSX railyard that has gone through a cleaning process. The hills will create a dramatic view of downtown to the east and accentuate the slope down to Lake Bonnet to the west.
TURKISH COFFEE: The new coffee bar from the owners of Cafe Zuppina specializes in Turkish coffee and also serves pastries and gelato.
R.I.P.: Kelly Norton, who died Tuesday at age 80, was president and CEO of Florida Tile.
At a rousing faith-based rally Tuesday night, four Lakeland city commissioners pledged to reach a goal of adding 500 housing units for families with homeless children by 2023. Mayor Bill Mutz and commissioners Stephanie Madden, Justin Troller and Phillip Walker drew cheers for their pledges from the approximately 1,400 participants at the 19th annual Nehemiah Action rally of the Polk Ecumenical Action Council for Empowerment, or PEACE, at Resurrection Catholic Church in Lakeland. More
SCHOOL SAFETY: City commissioners approved the document LkldNow reported about here that, among other things, authorizes the hiring of four new school safety officers. The city is paying the full costs for the rest of the school year and negotiating with the School Board, who they hope will pay 75 percent in future years.
R.I.P.: Jack Pridgen, who died in Great Falls, Va., at age 87, was a Lakeland native who went to Washington with U.S. Sen. Lawton Chiles and served as his press secretary for 18 years.
Amid hints that increased funding for the arts may lie in the future, the Lakeland City Commission today unanimously approved a resolution increasing the number of organizations represented on the Mayor’s Council for the Arts. The resolution added three educational institutions – Harrison School for the Arts, Florida Southern College and Southeastern University – to the list of art and art-related organizations entitled to a seat on the council. More
With construction of its Florida Poly-area oval track to test autonomous vehicles nearly complete, Florida Turnpike Enterprise is looking at next steps: hire a contractor to operate SunTrax by summer, start building the infield in August, and attract major companies to test driverless vehicles there by 2021.
PUBLIC RECORDS: City commissioners are expected to learn more today about efforts to restore several thousand documents removed from the city website. The PDF documents were removed after the city heard from litigious “ADA crusaders,” the city attorney said. Officials are working to make them readable by computers used by the visually disabled.
BIG BLINKY: Architect Michael Furr has designed a 100-foot-long, interactive jungle gym for Bonnet Springs Park in the shape of an alligator and named for Blinky (aka One-Eyed Joe), who lived in Lake Mirror for years.
FLORIDA POLY: About 40 local officials interested in developing a high-tech research park near Florida Polytechnic University will travel to Raleigh, N.C., next month to visit Centennial Campus at North Carolina State University, which houses 76 corporate, government and non-profit tenants.
SCIENCE FAIR: Lakeland winners in the just-concluded state science fair included students from Lakeland Christian School, Lakeland Highlands Middle School and Resurrection Catholic School.
SPORTS HALL: New inductees in the Polk County Sports Hall of Fame include two Lakelanders: NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek and former MLB pitcher Alan Mills. They are among six who will be inducted June 11.
Heather Tyler, 28, of Winter Haven, was arrested Friday in what Sheriff Grady Judd called the “cold-blooded” killing of Joseph Wayne Witherington, 21, of Lakeland, in an orange grove near Alturas. Tyler told deputies she shot him in the back of his head with a 9mm handgun Wednesday after he continued driving erratically after she asked him to quit, WKMG ClickOrlando reported.
ALSO: News Channel 8 | The Ledger
The National Transportation Board ruled out mechanical failure in the Winter Haven seaplane crash last month that took the life of Lakeland flight instructor James Wagner. The flight crew could not restart the plane’s left engine after simulating engine failure, the NTSB says in a preliminary report | ALSO: Ledger coverage
MONUMENT: Even as Lakeland’s Confederate monument is being re-assembled in Veterans Park (see our article from yesterday), a lawsuit seeking its restoration to Munn Park has been reinstated by federal judges in Atlanta.
MURDERED: Joseph Wayne Witherington, a Lakeland man whose body was discovered in a remote orange grove, is remembered by friends as a happy and outgoing 21-year-old who enjoyed performing as a drag queen. At least one friend doesn’t agree with social media speculation that the murder was a hate crime.
MEMORIALIZED: Seventy-three years after the promenade around Lake Mirror was dedicated to Frances Langford, fan Chuck Welch has launched a website about the entertainer and the promenade | flpromenade.com
The city of Lakeland plans to hire four more school resource officers to ensure someone is providing security against the possibility of a gunman while the officer usually assigned to the school is investigating a crime on campus or is out sick or on vacation.
The city is negotiating with the Polk School Board to pay 75 percent of the officers’ salaries next year, but one city commissioner said he’s afraid the city will end up paying the full amount of what should be a school district obligation. Another commissioner complained this is just another obligation pushed by the state Legislature without providing any funding. More
Workers in Munn Park got two surprises as they removed the Confederate monument that’s being reconstructed in Veterans Park:
- It wasn’t held together nearly as well as they thought it would be. “They were surprised that with hurricanes (during the last 109 years), the monument made it through,” City Manager Tony Delgado said.
- A 34-year-old time capsule that was thought to be lost was found. It will be reburied in Munn Park, this time with a marker, so people will know where to find it when it’s due to be opened in 2085. More
Ten new sculptures have been placed on the Lemon Street Promenade between Florida and Massachusetts Avenues and will stay there the rest of the year. Now you can vote for your favorite in the Facebook post below. Each photo includes a description from the artist. Click on any photo to start. Learn more about the art on Lemon Street and the Florida Outdoor Sculpture Competition.
By December, residents of Lakeland’s historic neighborhoods (map) are expected to have a visual guide to inform their decisions on exterior renovations. A $50k state grant is funding a revamp of the city’s historic district design code that will include more illustrations, such as acceptable replacement windows and doors.
With the Democratic Party pledging to put more support behind its candidate for Florida’s District 15 seat in 2020, Kristen Carlson and Andrew Learned both say they are considering another shot at the seat that was won by Republican Ross Spano of Dover last November.
The body of Joseph Wayne Witherington, 21, of Lakeland, was found this morning in an orange grove off Mud Lake Road in Alturas by grove caretakers, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office reports. Murder is suspected.
“Preliminary investigation reveals that Witherington was killed and left in the grove by an unknown suspect or suspects,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. His body was found at 7:45 a.m. The nearest cross street is 80 Foot Road. More
LPD: Police Department attorney Donna Perry has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of an internal investigation that also involves former Chief Larry Giddens. Most of the article involves the newspaper’s difficulties obtaining records of city-related phone calls and texts on her cellphone.
POT: The Lakeland Curaleaf store has sold its first smokable medical marijuana; the statewide company is one of two approved for such sales since passage of a law last week allowing the sales.
Christian Lomenzo, 22, beat out thousands of players around the world. His secret power? Lots of practice: “If I am into the game and just grinding it, I am just playing until I am wiped out, tired.”
In an interview by Modern Healthcare Editor Aurora Aguilar, Lakeland Regional Health CEO Elaine Thompson celebrated gains made in emergency, women’s and children’s services, and described how the hospital will respond to a one-star (out of five) rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
TAPESTRY DOWN: Artist Aaron Corbitt’s tapestry at 401 S. Florida Ave. depicted his own battles with psychological demons, but some people complained because they intrerpreted it as satanic. As a result, Corbitt removed the artwork and apologized in a Facebook post that’s been shared 302 times.
SOUTH FLORIDA AVENUE: Learn about the one-year test of a Florida Avenue “road diet” through Dixieland in a Florida Department of Transportation open house scheduled for the Lake Parker Room of the RP Funding Center on April 9 from 4 to 7 p.m. | Planning documents
FSC ATHLETICS: Drew Howard, 34, is named Florida Southern College’s athletic director, replacing Pete Meyer, who retired in February.
Crews started dismantling the Confederate monument in Munn Park this morning as city officials, news crews and a sparse crowd gathered to watch. A crane lifted the statue of a Confederate soldier off its supporting plinth around 10 a.m.
After the jump, view photos and a video from the moments when the soldier was lifted away from the column that has supported it since 1910: More
SCHOOL SIDEWALK: The city of Lakeland agreed to fund $150k of the $800k needed for nearly a mile of sidewalk proposed for Chestnut Road (map) after the heavily walked route to Kathleen High School was determined to be one of Polk’s top school-area paving priorities.
MIRRORTON: There’s been a delay in closing the deal to sell 14.5 acres of vacant city-owned land to the Tampa company planning a multi-family development north of Lake Mirror. Both sides had hoped to finalize the sale this month; now Lakeland CRA leaders hope they can close by the end of June.
FLEETWING: In a lawsuit, SunTrust Bank says Fleetwing Corp. owes it $2.02 million on a 2009 loan; the transport company’s attorney says a deal being worked out with another bank that will end the lawsuit.
PRIVATE SCHOOLS: In response to an incident at an Auburndale school, a Polk School Board member and state legislators are proposing more oversight for private schools that receive tax funds through scholarship and voucher programs.
CITYMAKER: Melissa Conord-Morrow, whose parent-serving non-profit The Nest supplements her Celebrate Birth midwifery business, was named March CityMaker by the LoveLakeland organization.
LINKS: LoveLakeland article | The Nest | Celebrate Birth
Railroad work is nearing completion downtown. In this noontime video, CSX workers are applying asphalt after placing rubber bumpers on rails on the crossings at Kentucky and Massachusetts Avenues. Drivers should be able to cross the tracks by Thursday morning, city spokesman Kevin Cook said. Work at Tennessee Avenue will take a bit longer.
Swan City Improv founder Nate Fleming will serve up comedy and nuggets of Lakeland history to customers of his new Lkld Food Tours who pay $49 for a 2 1/2-hour walking tour that includes samples from five downtown eateries. The article didn’t name the restaurants, but Instagram posts identify them as MOJO Federal, Frescos, Black & Brew, Palace Pizza and Cafe Roti.
Here’s our roundup of news from Monday’s City Commission meeting, starting with a short video of a wheelchair challenge conducted just before the meeting and also including action on city elections, a new CarMax, Watson Clinic rezoning, rail consternation and more.
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Mobility challenge: Six Lakeland city commissioners and an LPD captain got a first-hand look at the challenges facing people with mobility disabilities this afternoon. Participants said they learned it’s a more difficult physical ordeal than they imagined, and they praised the improvements made around town under the city’s accessibility coordinator. The seven participants traveled via wheelchairs to City Hall from the parking garage across Iowa Street. It required crossing the street, going up an incline and around a corner, up a ramp, through the main doors, backing into an elevator and up to the third floor. #lkld
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Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium beat out Clearwater’s Spectrum Field as best spring training stadium in Florida in bracketed voting conducted by BallparkDigest.com.
The CSX work to replace rails in downtown Lakeland didn’t finish today, as the rail company told city officials, and the new word is that the crossings at Massachusetts, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri Avenues will remain closed until at least Tuesday.
The city of Lakeland expects to be able to repave the crossings on Tuesday, meaning vehicles should be able to cross again on Wednesday.
In a speech heavy on positivity and spunk, former astronaut Mae Jemison told Florida Southern College students that as a youngster, she knew she was going to go into space even though no woman or person of color had become an astronaut yet. More
A plan to reduce the number of polling places for November’s city elections appears doomed. The proposal got no support from city commissioners today in informal discussions before they take a formal vote on Monday. More
CAT: An emotional Facebook post about a euthanized cat prompted a Ledger article about how the SPCA learned from an incident in which the agency didn’t maintain its normal four-day hold and euthanized the frail, elderly feline.
CAPTAIN: In his resignation letter, former Polk Fire Rescue Captain James Williams blamed the media for distorting facts for ratings and said he never jeopardized anybody’s life.
Coming up Saturday: a new monthly music series, a roving troubadour and Willie Nelson’s cowpunk granddaughter:
Maddox Ranch, the outdoor venue near I-4 and Kathleen Road that usually hosts jam band and EDM camp-a-thons, is starting a monthly series of one-day mini-festivals featuring local musicians. Eight of the 10 performers at Saturday’s kickoff are from Lakeland, according to organizer Britt Mathis, who performs as Space Panda. Gates open at noon; music starts at 3 and lasts until midnight or whenever.
Swan Brewing on Saturday night hosts the Raelyn Nelson Band, which “mixes old country and dirty garage rock,” according to Rolling Stone Country. Sounds like she has some of grandpa Willie’s rebel spirit.
Keep scrolling for our updated live music calendar: More
FSC are double basketball champs. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams won Sunshine State Conference championships.
The men’s team had just advanced past Saint Leo after a buzzer-beater layup, and they then went on to get the semi-final win over Lynn University and finally defeated Nova Southeastern for the title. The women’s team likewise advanced past both Barry and Nova Southeastern before defeating Eckerd 61-60 for the title. More
Southbound Florida Avenue lanes are closed south of the Polk Parkway because of a water main break at Doris Drive, the Lakeland Police Department reports.
It will be at least 9 p.m. tonight before the road re-opens, according to an LPD tweet.
At 1:45 p.m., Google Maps showed traffic congested past the Polk Parkway to WalMart, and by 2:25 it was backed up nearly to Edgewood Drive. More
Railroad work blocking downtown crossings at Massachusetts, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri Avenues is expected to be completed by Friday, the city of Lakeland says in a new Facebook post. City crews will follow up by adding new asphalt over the weekend so that regular traffic can resume on Monday.
The replacing of CSX rails downtown has snarled roadways this week as north-south traffic has been forced to Florida Avenue, creating a bottleneck. Those who can bypass downtown via U.S. 98 or Sykes Boulevard are urged to do so. More
DOWNTOWN TRAFFIC: CSX work has closed several downtown rail crossings, forcing north-south traffic into a bottleneck on Florida Avenue. As often happens, railroad officials weren’t available to answer questions about how long the work will take.
FIRE: The cause of a fire at Arbor Glen Apartments in north Lakeland that left several dozen residents scrambling to find new homes was a screw or nail that had pierced an electric wire, degrading it enough to cause ignition, Lakeland fire officials said.
SOUTHEASTERN: After a strong third quarter, the SEU women’s basketball team succumbed to Concordia University 67-59 in the NAIA Division II championship game.
Providing affordable, dependable and sustainable power is Lakeland Electric’s mission. In an ongoing effort to strengthen our power system, Lakeland Electric will be inspecting wood power poles beginning March 18.
The inspections will last approximately four months. Any deficient poles identified will be repaired or replaced at a later date. More
The resignation of Capt. James Williams “is the result of an internal investigation after the employee was alleged to have posted photos and/or videos taken during emergency response incidents to his personal social media accounts,” a county spokesman said.
Larcenies in Lakeland dropped by 500 between 2017 and 2018, by far the biggest dip in a new report showing crime down by 550 incidents here last year. However, homicides are up from 1 to 8, robberies are up from 89 to 106, and assaults are up from 144 to 200, according to stats released today. More
The railroad tracks are closed at Ingraham Ave., Massachusetts Ave, Kentucky Ave, Tennessee Ave, and Missouri Ave. in Downtown Lakeland for maintenance by CSX for an unknown period of time. Please use South Florida Ave. or HWY 98 when traveling from north to south. pic.twitter.com/AgcPDTZ5Xw
— Downtown Lakeland (@DowntownLkld) March 12, 2019
Kimberly Houtz, 54, (Facebook) emerged from the water in distress within five minutes after starting a dive off St. Pete Beach on Saturday morning, witnesses said. She was attended to by the crew of an Eckerd College rescue boat and paramedics, but died at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg Hospital that afternoon.
ALSO: Tampa Bay Reporter coverage
Adding to the growing number of rentals downtown, Broadway Realty Services wants to turn a city-owned block just north of its NoBay project (photo) from 125 parking spaces into 100 apartments. The company wanted a quick sales process, but the Community Redevelopment Agency advisory board opted for the lengthier procedure of seeking qualifications from all interested buyers.
After somebody from West Elm saw Bump Galletta’s display at a pop-up market, the home decor retailer offered to sell caps, shirts and coffee mugs with the Lakeland artist’s fanciful drawings at all eight of its Florida stores.
Our tour of Lakeland establishments that offer healthy food choices continues with Red Door Lakeland.
Unique and charming, the Red Door restaurant, 733 E. Palmetto St., is situated in the Lake Morton historic district across from the public library and the Polk Museum of Art. Tastefully decorated, the restaurant boasts a spacious and inviting covered porch and a patio in addition to its indoor dining room. More
What’s going to be built on the gravel parking lot between Lake Mirror and Massachusetts Avenue? Ledger reporter/editor Allison Guinn attempts to peer behind the misty gauze of persistent chatter about negotiations for the future of the city-owned “million-dollar parcel” that once housed a fire station. Nobody is going on the record, but the narrative that emerges centers on talks between the LEDC and city manager’s office for a high-rise office building anchored by Summit Holdings. The negotiations are also said to involve a parking garage on the property across Massachusetts Avenue that now holds the Terrace Hotel’s surface lot (map).