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
CSX construction in downtown Lakeland leaves pedestrians stepping gingerly as they try to cross over debris. The word is that work is expected to be completed Friday, but no work was seen Wednesday morning or afternoon.
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
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).
SCHOOL BOARD: Ed Shoemaker announces his second run for the Polk School Board, touting his conservative credentials as he faces incumbent Billy Townsend.
FIRE INVESTIGATION: The outside team investigating a November fatal fire on Rockridge Road has concluded its local interviews and says it will complete a first draft in April.
CITRUS: New inductees to the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame include Tim Hurner, who ran FSC’s citrus horticulture program, and the late Richard Kinney, who headed Florida Citrus Packers when it was based in Lakeland.
SUV IN LAKE MORTON: The SUV was totaled, but the driver was uninjured — as were ducks, geese and swans — when a Ford Excursion was driven into Lake Morton early this morning. Police said the driver was speeding in his girlfriend’s vehicle after having an argument with her at a nearby bar, and he failed to stop at the end of Success Avenue.
TEACHER CHARGED: Christina Lee Dobbs, a drama teacher at Kathleen High School, was charged with leaving the scene of a crash after a woman in another vehicle was injured in a collision at Knights Station Road and Galloway Road Thursday evening.
A new partnership will allow Florida Polytechnic University to accept Fulbright scholars from Australia. It already has Fulbright agreements with Canada, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
The motorcyclist who died Wednesday after speeding, weaving in and out of traffic and colliding with three vehicles in front of Santa Fe High School has been identified as José Noé Aguilar Jr., 25, of Lakeland, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
The 3 p.m. crash closed U.S. 92 between Combee Road and Fish Hatchery Road for more than three hours. More
DINING: Restaurant critic Eric Pera is “conflicted” about Burgerim, a growing chain (with a new south Lakeland location) that gives diners lots of choices when ordering mini-burgers.
PUBLIX: John Attaway Jr. retires May 31 as senior VP, general counsel and secretary at Publix after 21 years there. His replacement: Merriann Metz, 43, who graduated from Stetson Law in 2002 and started at Publix in 2006.
VOTING: In an editorial, the Morning Paper supports a proposal to halve the number of polling places used for Lakeland’s city elections. (Most of the people responding on Facebook to our article felt differently.)
An asphalt alley just west of Florida Avenue in Dixieland would become a landscaped, brick-paved walkway accompanied by 48 one-bedroom apartments, under a concept envisioned by two developers and an architect.
Some “what-if” brainstorming led to a series of renderings showing a walkable connection between Cob & Pen and Dixieland Village. The pathway, designed for low vehicle traffic, would be shadowed on three of those four blocks with two-story apartment buildings. More
A fatal accident involving a motorcycle and three vehicles has East Memorial Boulevard shut down from Combee Road to Fish Hatchery Road until at least 7:30 p.m., the Polk Sheriff’s Department reports.
A westbound motorcyclist, whose identity has not been released yet, died after hitting the side of one vehicle, striking the rear of a truck and then going into the path of a third vehicle, the Sheriff’s Office said. No other injuries were reported.
A Magic/Swans spokesperson confirms that the team name will magically revert back after the March 22 game. She added that it’s exciting to see Magic fans’ passion for the team name in the Facebook comments.
Charges of causing a disturbance and resisting arrest have been dropped against the 11-year-old former Lawton Chiles Middle Academy student involved in a Pledge of Allegiance controversy, his attorney said, but a civil rights complaint he filed against the school remains active.
A collaboration to design LEDC’s Catapult 3.0 business incubator led to the merger of two large Lakeland architecture firms: The Lunz Group and WMB-ROI Inc. The firm, operating under the name The Lunz Group, is headed by Brad Lunz and now includes WMB-ROI’s Steve Boyington and Mike Murphey as shareholders. It has nine architects and 22 technical staff in five offices from Dunedin to Melbourne and is ranked by Tampa Bay Business Journal as the eighth largest architecture group in the bay area.
PLANE CRASH: Pilot John Hugh Shannon was likely disoriented when the overloaded Cessna he was flying crashed soon after taking off in dense fog in Bartow the morning of Dec. 24, 2017, killing him and four passengers, the NTSB reported.
SEU LAWSUIT: Southeastern University and two athletic employees were sued by a former cheerleader who said she did not receive adequate treatment after suffering concussions while performing routines.
Sarah Y. Dobson, 77, was killed in a head-on collision on State Road 60 south of Plant City on Tuesday after she lost control of her 2009 Nissan Sentra when trying to change lanes, the Florida Highway Patrol said. The driver of the other car was hospitalized with serious injuries, and her infant passenger was uninjured.
Lakeland Electric customers can thank a warm winter and dropping natural gas prices for a slight dip in their electric bill over the next three months. The utility’s fuel charge will drop from 3.875 cents per kilowatt hour to 3.750 cents for April, May and June. That’s a $1.25 decrease for the “typical” residential customer using 1,000 kWh of power.
The Florida Tropics seem to be on the comeback. After an enthralling away game in St. Louis that ended in defeat after overtime despite a Andre Braithwaite hat trick, the Tropics triumphed over Orlando in the fourth edition of the “Indoor War on I-4.”
The Tropics began the game Saturday night with a dismal 0-8 record on the road. After a quick goal from Ricardo Diegues in the first few minutes, the Tropics took control and never let up. The series between the Tropics and the Orlando Seawolves now stands tied at 2-2. More
THAI DOWNTOWN: The couple behind NaraDeva Thai near Mall of Millenia in Orlando are opening a second restaurant with the same name and menu in the long-vacant building on Main Street between Black & Brew and Linksters. | NaraDeva Thai website
SCHOOLS: A bill filed by Florida Sen. Kelli Stargel of Lakeland aims to make public school budgets easier to understand; some Polk School Board members are skeptical of it. (No link; it’s not online yet.)
BASKETBALL FINALS: Follow the Florida high school boys basketball tournament, being held this week at RP Funding Center, with a guide that The Morning Paper intends to keep updated with scores, schedules and stats.
Kelli Stargel, a Republican state senator from Lakeland, has filed a bill requiring consent from parents or guardians for minors seeking an abortion. The current law requires notification, but not consent.
“It’s been an exhausting week,” said the Rev. David McEntire, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Lakeland, speaking to his congregation during Sunday morning worship. “We’re kind of worn out.”
Like many of his fellow United Methodists, McEntire was left wondering about the future of his denomination in the wake of a strife-filled special international conference in St. Louis last week. To the surprise of many, more than 800 delegates from United Methodist churches in the United States and overseas rejected a proposal – the One Church Plan – that would have allowed gays and lesbians a wider role in the church.
Instead, in a close vote, an alternative plan – the Traditional Plan – was adopted that potentially will strengthen current rules that forbid “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from being ordained to any office and do not allow gays and lesbians to be married in its churches. More
TRAIN WARNINGS: New electronic signs to be activated this month will warn drivers on Florida Avenue of downtown trains in time to divert to alternate routes.
LPD PROMOTION: Sam Taylor, who started with the Lakeland Police Department 30 years ago, goes from captain to assistant chief in charge of Special Services. The article isn’t online yet, but much of the information is available in a city Facebook post.
It’s a time of jubilation for the Florida Southern College women’s basketball team. After an emphatic win over Barry on Feb. 23, the Mocs have clinched their second consecutive Sunshine State Conference regular season title. More
The meticulous process of moving a Confederate monument from Munn Park to Veterans Park is scheduled to start March 26, a Tuesday; the statue should be in place on its pedestal by April 4, with cleaning and pressure washing finished by April 17, city officials said.
ALSO IN THE MORNING PAPER:
BOYS, GIRLS CLUBS: Polk’s two and Boys and Girls Club organizations are have merged and fall under the leadership of new CEO Steve Giordano of Brandon.
STUCK TRUCK: The road under the rail overpass just north of Lake Beulah was blocked for more than two hours Friday morning by a truck that became lodged there. The concrete structure suffered no apparent damage.
CarMax, a nationwide retailer of late-model used cars with a no-haggle approach, may open its first Polk County dealership on a now-vacant lot on U.S. 98 just south of Interstate 4.
To accommodate a car dealership, the 6.13-acre parcel at 3223 N. U.S. 98 would need to be rezoned from commercial highway use to planned unit development. Petitioner Vanessa Mesell, as Center Points Solutions, LLC, already has positive recommendations for that change from the Lakeland Planning and Zoning Board and from city staff. More
Should the city of Lakeland trim the number of polling places for municipal elections from 25 to 12? Mayor Bill Mutz says the cost-cutting idea makes sense in an age when a growing majority of voters cast ballots by mail. But Commissioner Justin Troller says plentiful polling places prompt participation. More
The Catapult business incubator will more than double its capacity when it moves this fall from a bank basement to a new building under construction (wall tiltup started this week) on Lake Mirror.
CLEVELAND HEIGHTS DINING: With his bosses closing their Bosko’s Clubhouse Grille at the city golf course, chef David Dunn will negotiate with the city to open a replacement. He was the only bidder to take over the food concessions there.
DUAL-LANGUAGE SCHOOL: Polk School Board members heard four proposals for charter schools, including Mi Escuela Montessori, which would offer classes in both English and Spanish for kindergarten-through-sixth-grade students at a facility in South Lakeland, Mulberry or Bartow.
TIMEOUT: The Morning Paper’s stand-alone Timeout entertainment section has gone away but many of its features are moving into the main paper, Assistant Managing Editor Allison Guinn writes. Her column urges readers to go online for extensive calendar listings, but as fate would have it, the column itself hasn’t been posted online yet.
PASSENGER RAIL: As Brightline plans to link Lakeland to Tampa, Orlando and Miami via highish-speed rail, Polk County leaders should support an expansion of Sunrail commuter trains to link Lakeland with Winter Haven, Haines City and points east, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto writes in a guest column.
The suspect in the Feb. 15 killing of 32-year-old Steven Schelmety at Artillery Motor Sports drove from Miami, shot nearly 30 rounds without leaving his pickup truck and drove back, Lakeland police say. The arrest of Juan Alejandro Vargas Diaz, 28, was announced today. No motive has been given. | Ledger coverage
Stumps remain from two towering Oriental sweetgum trees that city crews began removing today from the sidewalk along north Kentucky Avenue downtown. Roots were infiltrating water and sewer lines and buckling sidewalks near the fronts of Mitchell’s Coffee House and Lakeland CBD Wellness. The stumps will be removed in the next two weeks, making way for the planting of young, urban-friendly trees.
Publix Super Markets Inc. took top honors in the local advertising federation’s annual Addy Awards, winning best of show for a video promoting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The American Advertising Federation Polk County chapter held its ceremony Friday at the RP Funding Center. More
News Channel 8 stays in front of the Rockridge Road fatal fire story, reporting that a “post-incident analysis” by a Polk Fire Rescue battalion chief concludes that the responding crews should have forcefully entered the house and that inexperience played a role in the decisions.
ALSO: The report | Ledger coverage
DOWNTOWN TREES: By the time you read this, city crews will have probably finished work removing two towering Oriental sweetgum trees from the sidewalk near the fronts of Mitchell’s Coffee House and Lakeland CBD Wellness on north Kentucky Avenue. Roots were infiltrating water and sewer lines and buckling sidewalks. Young, urban-friendly trees will replace them.
ACHIEVEMENT ACADEMY: The Lakeland-based charter schools for children with developmental challenges have been given another year to find replacements for student bus services being cut by the Polk County School Board.
Internal tension and differences over management blew up at The Poor Porker last week, and its co-founder was dismissed — prompting an online hailstorm over the weekend.
Owners Wesley and Ashley Barnett say they want to ride out the storm and keep the business going. But they will move forward without Robyn Wilson, co-founder and primary creative talent behind the popular hangout. More
Instructor pilot James Wagner, 64, of Lakeland, died when a plane he was in crashed into a house in Winter Haven during simulated engine failure training, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. The trainee in the plane suffered minor injuries, as did a teen whose room was hit.
Pelican’s Snoballs, a New Orleans-style shaved ice chain, is setting up shop in the South Florida Avenue building across from Southgate that used to house Crumb & Get It. Site work includes fresh paint in the corporate colors outside and new drywall inside.
Crumb & Get It, a specialty bakery, closed Dec. 31 after three years at 2510 S. Florida Ave. The owners posted on Facebook in January that they were looking for somebody to buy the name, recipe, equipment and relocate the business.
- Flooding at an Eaglebrooke resident’s house has him at odds with the quasi-governmental board that oversees the upscale community.
- Walls are rising at the 428,092-square-foot Ruthven East Lakeland Industrial Park on north Combee Road.
- Florida Poly took top honors at a statewide “hackathon.”
- A 2-year-old boy is recovering after a fall at Lakeland Square sent him by helicopter to a children’s hospital.
- A Tampa man pleaded guilty in a July car-jacking and shooting that resulted in an LPD officer being hit in the face by a pellet near Kathleen Road and I-4.
FIRE INVESTIGATION: The agency hired by Polk County to assess its response to a fatal fire on Rockridge Road hasn’t done this kind of investigation before, but it says the four former fire chiefs investigating the case have years of experience analyzing firefighter performance.
LPD CRASH: No injuries were reported when a Lakeland Police cruiser hit the back of a car that stopped suddenly.
A 2,515-square-foot Starbucks is rising rapidly in the parking lot of Southgate Shopping Center. The developer has said the unfinished shell should be ready to hand over to the coffee company in April. These photos were taken at eye level from the sidewalk along South Florida Avenue a couple of evenings ago.
LkldNow posts showing these photos on Facebook and Instagram drew dozens of comments from people who either were saddened that the building blocks the view of the arch or gladdened that a larger Starbucks is replacing the crowded, parking-challenged one at Florida and Beacon.
Traveling musicians playing in Lakeland this weekend include lefty satirist Roy Zimmerman at the UU Church tonight, a homecoming by Lakeland-born country recording artist Hoyt Hughes to Wild Greg’s Saloon tonight, and Southwest Florida Americana singer-songwriter Ray Cerbone playing an Among Friends Music house concert on Saturday. On Friday: a Seattle Grunge Match at LkldLive with the Gary Love Band and Shane Lawlor emulating Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Keep scrolling for our updated live music calendar: More
A viewer named Susan asked WFLA’s “Road Rants” reporter to look into I-4 Exit 32, saying holes and cracks “give a bad impression of Lakeland.” The reporter found out that the intersection is part of a plan to repave I-4 between exits 32 and 38 in 2021.
911: In a guest column, former firefighter-EMT and dispatcher Dave Statter analyzes deficiencies in the 911 response during the call from Lorretta Pickard before her death in a fire on Rockridge Road. He offers life-saving responses that might have resulted if a better-funded 911 focused on improved training that prioritizes critical thinking over following a script | Statter also analyzes the Polk County case here and here.
ALSO: Polk County has hired the International Association of Fire Chief’s consulting firm to analyze Fire Rescue’s response to the fatal blaze.
- Project Prom benefits students in need
- Longest Table has filled up
- Ogle Corvettes at Winter Autofest this weekend
They honor longtime workers at Wish Farms’ strawberry operation.
The station looks into the work record of Polk Fire Rescue Captain James Williams, who was been put on a desk job as investigations proceed into firefighters’ response at a fatal housefire on Rockridge Road.
ALSO: Relatives of victim Lorretta Pickard addressed the Polk County commission Tuesday. News Chanel 8 shared video of their comments on Facebook Live.
State Attorney Brian Haas told The New York Times that his office has no plans to prosecute the Lawton Chiles Middle Academy sixth-grader who was charged with disrupting school activities after an argument escalated over his refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. But the article also notes that an attorney for the 11-year-old’s family said his mother is unwilling to agree to prosecutors’ offer to place him in a diversion program.
Separately, CNN reports that the child has transferred to a private school and that his family claims he never used the term racist. Police “interjected the word racist to mischaracterize the event,” the family’s attorney said.
The Polk County Fire Rescue captain at the center of several investigations into a fatal fire on Rockridge Road has been placed on administrative duty, News Channel 8 reports. This morning, the family of victim Lorretta Pickard is speaking at a County Commission meeting.
PLEDGE FLAP: A civil rights complaint will be filed with the U.S. Department of Education in the controversy that began with a teacher confronting a student over not standing for the Pledge Allegiance and escalated into an argument that led to a Lawton Chiles Middle School sixth-grader’s arrest for creating a disturbance.
BRIGHTLINE: At an amiable meeting about high-speed rail that we previewed yesterday (here), Brightline veep Bob O’Malley sought to rein in city commissioners’ hopes that Lakeland will get a stop in the initial phase of Orlando-to-Tampa construction, but he said the company sees value in an eventual station in Polk.
- Not in the article but interesting: Justin Troller tried hard to liken a Lakeland stop to the Fort Lauderdale station included in Brightline’s inaugural Miami-to-West Palm Beach segment.
- Bay News 9 coverage
Policies always have personal consequences, and for Arden Mitchell of Lakeland, a longstanding policy of the United Methodist Church prevented her father from performing her wedding ceremony. When Mitchell married her wife in a religious ceremony in 2012 and then again in 2013 when the state of Florida made same-sex marriage legal, her father, the Rev. T. Glenn Bosley-Mitchell, a United Methodist pastor, couldn’t officiate without risking punishment.
The church’s Book of Discipline – which contains its beliefs and policies – states that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” It prohibits ministers, deacons and lay pastors from participating in same-sex weddings. The policy also declares that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” shall not be ordained as ministers and deacons.
Mitchell, 33, a lifelong Methodist and a member of Lakeland’s First United Methodist Church, calls it “unfortunate” that her father was unable to officiate at her wedding.
“It was not ideal,” says Mitchell, who is director of admissions at Florida Southern College. “My dad is very liberal and accepting and vocal about it. … Something needs to happen.”
Something may be about to happen. More
City commissioners need to push hard for a high-speed rail stop in Lakeland when they meet at 1 p.m. today with a representative of Brightline, the company planning an Orlando-to-Tampa train route, Commissioner Justin Troller says. More
Steven Schelmety, 32, was shot and killed at an auto repair shop around 11:30 p.m. Friday, according to Lakeland police. His wife told News Channel 8 he was sitting at his desk and she was nearby. A person police would not identify was wounded in the incident at Artillery Motor Sports, 3609 Century Blvd., in an industrial area across Drane Field Road from Lakeland’s airport. About 30 bullet holes were counted at the business’ entrance.
HOMELESS HELP: A Lakeland family is no longer homeless after receiving a Continuum of Care (COC) grant. The Homeless Coalition of Polk County oversees the COC grant and divides the $1.6 million between the Talbot House, the Agency for Community Treatment Services Inc. Tri-County Human Services Inc., and Wilson House.
HEALTH ALERT: After a third case of rabies was found this week, Polk County health officials are extending the rabies alert area into most of Lakeland. “The alert area roughly comprises a rectangle bordered by the Hillsborough County border on the west, West Socrum Loop Road on the north, Berkeley and Thornhill roads on the east and the Polk Parkway on the south.”
BIKELAKELANDERS: Bicyclists Dale Jacobs and Stuart McMartin completed their 600-mile charity bike ride from the Florida-Georgia line to Key West. The pair raised $21,000 for the Wogan S. Badcock unit of the Boys and Girls Club of Lakeland.
LAWLAKELANDER: Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice R. Fred Lewis joined Florida Southern College as its first Eminent Professor of Law and Letters. Lewis was a student athlete at the school in the mid-1960s.
The city of Lakeland will continue limited spraying to control invasive plants in lakes even as a temporary moratorium halts the bulk of herbicide use in Lakeland lakes, city commissioners were told this morning. More
The city of Lakeland is taking a close look at how much it spends to incentivize business growth and where the dollars come from, after an economic development group suggested changes.
Following a recent presentation by Steve Scruggs, president of the private, non-profit Lakeland Economic Development Council, city commissioners expressed willingness to consider a tactic different than the current incentive of paying cash rebates after the creation of high-paying, highly skilled jobs. More
- A Lawton Chiles Middle School sixth-grader refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
- A substitute teacher criticized him for his action and the argument escalated.
- School officials say the student made threats, and he was arrested on charges of disruption and resisting arrest.
- The student’s mother wants charges dropped.
- School district officials say the substitute teacher wasn’t aware that students can opt out of the pledge and she won’t be teaching at Polk schools any longer.
- Details at Bay News 9
KINDNESS: To combat bullying, Sleepy Hill Middle School Principal Kathryn Blackburn instituted “Kindness Day” at the school Thursday. The program found a variety of ways for the children to encourage kindness in each other and themselves.
FIRE: Coverage continued of the Lakeland file that claimed the life of Lorretta Pickard. A press conference with County Fire Chief Tony Stravino and Deputy County Manager Joe Halman was held Wednesday. | The Florida Fire Chiefs Association announced they will investigate whether Capt. James Williams properly handled the response to the Nov. 23 fire. | Polk County Fire Rescue released a series of photos from the fire.
Do big fluctuations in your monthly utility bill have you stressed out? Are you tired of guessing what your utility bill will be? Do you dread the summer months knowing your cooling costs are going up? If yes, then Lakeland Electric’s Average Billing Plan might be for you. More
SCHOOL BUS: To give Citrus Connection a chance to apply for state grants to serve two schools that serve profoundly disabled students, their board of directors asked Polk County Public Schools to wait until the 2020-2021 school year to eliminate school bus service to a dozen charter school campuses in the county. Citrus Connection Executive Director Tom Phillips also asked that some schools they serve start at a later time in order to utilize existing routes.
DOG SHOW: It’s “the best time you can have without a poop bag,” said Trent Rowe, the coordinator and vendor chair for this weekend’s Strawberry Cluster Dog Show at Lakeland Linder International Airport’s Sun ’n Fun area. Human admission is free, but it cost $5 to park a car. In addition to the usual dog show grooming competition, there will be retrieving, dock diving, hunting, and tests for handling stressful situations. (The dogs, not the handlers.) The show is Feb. 15 – 18, 8 a.m. to late afternoon each day.
Deputy County Administrator Joe Halman and Polk Fire Rescue Chief Tony Stravino defended their crews this morning in a news conference about the events surrounding the death of Loretta Pickard, 76, in a house fire on Rockridge Road. Here’s full video from their news conference:
More coverage: News Channel 8 | Fox 13 News followup | ABC Action News | Bay News 9 | The Ledger
LkldNow founder and editor Barry Friedman was awarded the first Cygnet Award of 2019 on Tuesday by the community improvement organization Lakeland Vision. The award recognizes businesses and community organizations whose mission or activities align with the strategic goals of Lakeland Vision.
Friedman was presented the award at the intermission of the Imperial Symphony Orchestra concert in the Youkey Theatre at the RP Funding Center. Announcing the award, Lakeland Vision board member Xuchitl Coso said Friedman deserved the award “for the positive difference he is making in the community.” More
FATAL FIRE: County commissioners want details about Polk County Fire Rescue’s response to a house fire on Rockridge Road that claimed the life of a 76-year-old disabled woman awaiting rescue. ALSO: Listen to audio and read a transcript of 28 minutes of radio communications or hear the 911 call.
CORRECTION: The morning paper published a corrected article about lead testing in Polk County schools. The paper noted: “The original version of this story incorrectly compiled information on Polk County Public Schools’ lead testing program. Initial results cleared 59 school sites — 35 sites have had their lead issues remediated, initial results for five other sites are not yet available and the district is awaiting follow-up results from the final 29 school sites, according to the district.” The article contains other corrections.
SPORTS: For the eighth season in a row, the Lakeland Christian girl’s soccer team will advance to the state Final Four tournament after winning the Class 1A, Region 3 final Tuesday night 3-0 against Boca Raton’s St. John Paul II. | Meanwhile, on Friday the Lakeland High School boy’s basketball team will face Bartow High in the Class 8A, District 7 boys basketball championship. The top-seeded Lakeland team defeated Winter Haven 72-50 in the semi-finals Tuesday night.
PAUL HUGHES: Norm Small, a noted Polk County theater director, admiringly profiles the career of Lakeland’s Paul Hughes, another noted Polk County theater director.
Supporters of LkldNow invested in community journalism to the tune of $27,012 in two months at the end of 2018 as the national NewsMatch campaign raised $7.6 million from individual donors and a coalition of major funders for nonprofit news organizations. More
LPD: The Lakeland Police Department purchased 16 new cruisers ahead of schedule to get the cars before prices rise. LPD officials also expect most manufacturers will move to SUVs only for their police vehicle options.
PCFD: Relatives of a Lakeland woman who passed away in a November fire believe the Polk County Fire Department did not follow procedures and failed to save her. According to records, Loretta Pickard, 76, stayed on the phone 20 minutes while a 911 operator told her help was imminent. A News Channel 8 report alleged fire department records noted the home wasn’t engulfed in fames when firefighters arrived and they could have saved Pickard.
ALSO: Fox13 News provides a timeline.
The Lakeland Magic keep on rolling. After a small hiccup against the Stockton Kings, the Magic picked up three more wins last week with local tryout Jeremiah Hill netting a personal record 30 points against the Maine Red Claws. More
BASEBALL: The Detroit Tigers start their 83rd Spring Training in Lakeland on Wednesday. The first game is Feb. 22nd against Southeastern.
PANCAKES: The 61st Flipping for Charities Citrus Center Kiwanis Breakfast sold 4,000 $8 tickets and made over 12,000 pancakes yesterday.
Dispatchers told 76-year-old Loretta Pickard that help was on the way as smoke filled her home in unincorporated north Lakeland, but logs reflect no attempt by county firefighters to enter the home and rescue her before she died, News Channel 8 reports.
After the Brookings Institution ranked Lakeland third among cities where automation is likely to reduce jobs (US News article | chart), The Wall Street Journal came here for a closer look. (A subscription is required to read the full article.) The reporter zeroed in on Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, where automation enabled the company to consolidate five warehouses into the largest liquor-distribution facility in the world. Initially the plant brought more jobs to Lakeland, but automation threatens their longevity.
K9: The top 20 K-9 teams that competed in this week’s 2019 USPCA Region 1 Field Trials held a public demonstration at Lakeland High School’s practice field Thursday night.
FIRE 10: If commissioners approve the increase in the fall, homeowners in unincorporated Polk County will be assessed an additional $10 per year in fire fees just a year after a 5.5% property tax increase. The additional money from both increases is slated for a new fire station and additional firefighters.
A young entrepreneur who majored in business at Florida Southern College founded a sportswear company, and is pledging to donate 10 percent of profits — and 100 percent of profits on a line of T-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies costing $35 to $70 — to a non-profit he founded (link) to benefit children around the world.
Ross Spano, the newly elected Republican congressman representing much of Lakeland, is looking ahead to 2020, filing a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission. Complaints about loans to his 2018 campaign have been filed with that body.
Lakeland is blessed with a wide variety of establishments that offer healthy food choices. In this new series, we will be sampling examples from our health food stores, restaurants, grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and more. Our first stop is Anthony’s Health Hut and Restaurant at 5329 S. Florida Ave. in the Lakeland South Center. More
If you have one last big performance to give, you might as well perform something memorable.
The fiendishly difficult Saint-Saëns concerto, one of the French master’s best and most popular works, is one that she taught often during her 43 years as associate professor of music at Florida Southern College. But this is the first time she has ever performed it, and as the shoe is on the other foot, Fandrich has come to a realization. More
Detroit Free Press sportswriter Anthony Fenech recounts his week of outside-the-zone pitching and bonding with fellow baseball fanatics at Tigertown during Detroit Tigers fantasy camp.
An acoustic Friday, anyone? Singer-songwriter John Frinzi and original Coral Reefer Band member Roger Bartlett bring a Margaritaville vibe to Hillcrest Coffee at 7, and a half-dozen of Lakeland’s innovative and inventive acoustic musicians perform in a LkldLive showcase at 8. Check the full music calendar after the jump. More
After being sold to Blue Roc Premier for $50 million, the 352-unit Victoria Landing Apartments on Lakeland Hills Boulevard have been rebranded as The Park at Palazzo. The 12-year-old complex’ location near I-4 and access to Tampa and Orlando generated strong interest, the listing agent told Multi-Housing News.
A month after a hit-and-run driver left her in a ditch along Swindell Road, Elani Miller struggles with a walker every step she takes, but she still plans to graduate from New Beginnings High School with her class in May. Her mother pleads with the still-at-large driver to come forward.
READINGPALS: The United Way of Central Florida is looking for volunteers to give one hour a week reading to kindergarten students at Crystal Lake Elementary. Sixteen volunteers are needed immediately. Contact Sylvia Palmer at 863-648-1500, ext. 278, or email Sylvia.Palmer@uwcf.org
LEAD: Polk County Public Schools has completed lead testing all schools in the district. 88 schools have been cleared while 22 schools were retested after contaminated faucets or fountains were replaced. Sixteen schools are awaiting test results.
CHARITY: Shoppers at area Publix supermarkets donated $701,668 to the annual Food for All program. The money was distributed to 34 organizations in and around Polk County. Throughout all Publix locations, more than $4 million was donated between October 25th, 2018 and November 10th, 2018. (Link not yet available.)
GOW FIELDS was awarded the 2019 George Jenkins Award for community service from the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce. Fields spent 22 years as a Lakeland city commissioner and Mayor.
ONE MORE CHILD, a program for single mothers, unveiled its 21st rehabbed Florida home for a Lakeland mother. The program includes job-skills training and mentoring for a year. In addition, One More Child helps the mothers save for rent payments for a new apartment when they graduate.
FLORIDA SOUTHERN COLLEGE is presenting its annual Dr. John L. Spencer Symposium this Friday from 2 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. in the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel. The four symposium presentations are free and open to the public. Speakers include FSC graduates Rubens Petit Homme, a doctoral candidate at the University of Louisville, and Lauryn Wolfe Gazzia, a critical care pharmacist at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
A layoff claimed the job of The Ledger’s entertainment reporter, Paul Catala, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay reports. Catala confirmed it on Facebook. The article doesn’t address the fate of Time Out, the newspaper’s Thursday entertainment magazine that Catala wrote for. Readers will find out soon whether Time Out survived.
CATALYST: The City of Lakeland development staff presented economic development ideas to the City Commission. The focus was on asking the commission to consider investing in certain projects to jump start downtown development.
CHAMBER: The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce chairwoman, Michelle Ledford, was profiled in Tuesday’s paper of record. Ledford is a partner in Lakeland’s MADE branding agency.
For the third time in the 37 years they’ve lived there, Kenneth and Maxine Pirkle’s house at 927 E. Lowell Street near Lake Parker won the city of Lakeland’s residential beautification award. The commercial award for February went to Osprey Manor, apartments for independent senior living at 810 E. Bella Vista St. Owners Mainstay Healthcare started renovations after buying the building in April 2017. Both awards, given at today’s City Commission meeting, recognize structures whose exterior and landscaping enhance the community.
With a federal court challenge behind them, the Lakeland City Commission today directed City Manager Tony Delgado to proceed with plans to move a 109-year-old Confederate monument from the center of Munn Park downtown to its new home, a gentle slope overlooking Veterans Park and Lake Beulah. More
As he prepared for the 1,167-mile trek of equipment from Comerica Park in Detroit to Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium for Spring Training, Tigers Clubhouse ManagerJim Schmakel reflects on the changes he’s seen over 41 years with the team. The first of two trucks arrives in Lakeland on Wednesday. Pitchers and catchers work out for the first time Feb. 13, and the full team joins them Feb. 18.
Organizations that won awards in the 2019 Lakeland Martin Luther King Jr. Parade were recognized today at a meeting of the Lakeland City Commission. Awards were announced by Natalie Gallon, assistant parks superintendent, who said next year’s parade will be the last she helps coordinate because she will be retiring. More
As Draken International acquires Mirage F1M jets under its latest federal contract for military adversary flight training, supersonic flights will start taking off from Lakeland Linder Airport this spring. The flights won’t break the sound barrier until they’re well over the Gulf of Mexico, Bay News 9 reports. For background, check this article from The Drive that we linked to last summer.
Lakeland’s next assistant city manager will be a woman who currently works in the Tampa Bay area and has spent her professional career in Central Florida. That profile fits both remaining candidates after the other two finalists dropped out of consideration today. More
Reddit user snij_jon540 has launched a Lakeland sports roundup and plans to update it weekly. It includes results of pro arena sports and college teams and may expand to high school sports. In the first edition, snij_jon540 notes that injuries have plagued the Florida Tropics, the Lakeland Magic performed well on the west coast, and Florida Southern’s women’s basketball team remains undefeated.
BAND: Lakeland band leader and professor Roger Hewitt died last week at 87. Hewitt taught at Polk State College and led the Polk State College Jazz Band. He founded the Over 55 Show Band for local musicians in 1988 to bring area musicians together to play swing and jazz standards. The big band played regularly at Cypress Gardens and recorded an album. A memorial service will be held Thursday at 11 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church.
K9: The annual USPCA police K9 competition is this week at Lakeland Linder. Florida Police canines will compete in a series of skill tests each day starting at 9 a.m. In addition, there will be a public demonstration 6 p.m.Thursday at the Lakeland High School practice field. The full schedule is on Facebook.
The president of Lakeland’s NBA G-League team talked about work-home balance, boosting the careers of others and navigating a male-dominated industry.
IN WITH THE NEW: Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin is asking city staff to revamp the budget process. Traditionally, a workday is spent with each department explaining its long and short term goals. Commissioners are then asked which goals the departments should pursue. This year, Franklin wants the day to put more focus on the desires of the commissioners.
OUT WITH THE OLD: Citing a current lack of need, Lakeland City Commissioners will vote on repealing an ordinance put in place during the post-2008 housing crisis. With many homes in foreclosure, the city commission required banks and lending companies to register all homes they held and to ensure they kept up house and yard maintenance. Lakeland staff believe the problem is far less and the administrative costs are no longer justified.
FIRST: The Lakeland Dreadnaughts cheerleading squad took home their first state championship with a win of the FHSAA Class 2A Large Non-Tumbling division. The team finished second last year in the Medium division.
LAST: After close to 30 years working for Polk County, Jim Freeman is retiring in August. Freeman has been the county manager since October 2010, and was deputy manager for the seven years previous.
On a day when City Manager Tony Delgado announced he was promoting from within to fill the position of police chief, he revealed the names of four finalists — all from outside of Lakeland — for the No. 3 position in city administration: assistant city manager. More
Hear Ruben Garcia’s remarks after he was sworn in as Lakeland police chief in a brief ceremony at City Hall at 8 a.m. today. A more elaborate ceremony will follow in the next two to three weeks, City Manager Tony Delgado said.
REJECTED: Governor Ron DeSantis announced he was signing an executive order to remove “Common Core” standards from schools. He has not designated a new curriculum. Local officials expressed surprise and asked questions about how the order would affect Polk County schools.
RATIFIED: More than two years after forming a union, Florida Polytechnic University’s faculty ratified its first three-year contract 53-0.
Work along five miles of CSX railroad track next to Kathleen Road is expected to close 13 intersections and disrupt traffic next week. The work extends from 10th Street in Lakeland to 1st Street NW in Kathleen, with closures expected to last two to five days in each location. More
Hidden Gem Consignment Boutique, 3139 N. Galloway Road, is showing off its expansion Saturday. The store, opened by a domestic violence survivor and her mom, makes clothing and other goods available for free to other survivors, as ABC Action News reports | View a previous WFTS story about store founder Jessica Criswell.
Jazz comes to two locations in downtown Lakeland at 9 p.m. Friday. At Fresco’s, Swan City Jazz is being joined by active musician friends from LHS Band days and former jazz bands director Ron Wilder. Around the corner, Lakeland Loft has been strangely shy about publicizing their musical guests lately, but the Jazz Phools let their fans know they’ll be playing there. Keep scrolling for our updated live music calendar. More
SCHOOL: Polk County School Board members Lisa Miller and Billy Townsend have questioned the motive for a staff proposal to do away with buses for charter schools. Rob Davis, the district’s head of transportation, said the elimination of the service would save money and get some other students to school on time. Miller and Townsend asked if the effort was to eliminate the liability surrounding serving some of the most disabled students in the county.
HOME: A family using an oven as a heating source lost their mobile home in the 3000 block of 3015 Tenoroc Mine Road. Lakeland Fire Department officials noted there wasn’t a hydrant close to the home in the unincorporated area.
PLAY: “Detroit,” a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, will receive stage read performances at Lakeland Community Theatre on Feb. 6 and 7. The tale of two couples discussing modern economic issues in suburbia over a backyard barbecue features actors reading their parts.
In complaints filed with the Federal Elections Commission, Jan Barrow, president of the Democratic Women’s Club of Lakeland, alleges newly elected Republican U.S. Rep. Ross Spano and two of his associates violated election laws last year. Personal loans made to Spano by the two associates were converted to loans Spano made to his campaign, and that violated campaign limits, she alleges.
LEGISLATION: Lakeland’s city commissioners and Mayor Bill Mutz met with area legislators to discuss Lakeland’s requests for the 2019 legislative sessions. The gist: don’t take money away or ask the city to pay for new initiatives.
K-9: A Polk County Sheriff’s Officer shot dead a K-9 officer who was biting him. Master Deputy Scott Cronin was feeding a vacationing officer’s K-9 partner when the dog attacked. The reason for the attack was unknown. Cronin had surgery on his hand and is expected to return to the PCSO.
CONCERT: Julian Gargiulo, who calls himself “The Pianist With the Hair,” performs at 7:30 tonight at FSC’s Branscomb Auditorium.
The much-debated city saga of the fate of the 109-year-old Confederate monument in Munn Park continues to drag on: most recently, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by groups and individuals who want it to stay put.
City Attorney Tim McCausland said Tuesday afternoon he and City Manager Tony Delgado will brief city commissioners soon so that they can decide how and when to proceed..
In November, commissioners voted to move the statue by Jan. 31 using money the city draws in from the use of red-light cameras to pay for the monument to be relocated. Plans were to pay an estimated $225,000 to move it to Veteran’s Memorial Park and install security measures.
But the day after the final city vote, a group called Save Southern Heritage filed a federal lawsuit to stop the city from moving the monument. The group was joined by other individuals and some Confederacy-related organizations in suing Delgado and several commissioners.
CITYMAKER: Jenna Cherry, a 20-year-old Southeastern University senior, was recognized for her artistic contributions to Lakeland in the monthly award given by Mayor Bill Mutz, former Mayor Howard Wiggs and Linda Bagley-Wiggs.
BIKELAKELAND: Dichotomous Lakeland bicycling news as one bicyclist, Richard Joseph Arenda, was critically injured in an early morning collision while another, 70 year-old Dale Jacobs, is preparing for a 600-mile charity bike ride to benefit the Wogan S. Badcock unit of the Boys & Girls Club of Lakeland.
PROTEST: Hundreds of protesters marched from Salem’s Fresh Eats on Memorial Blvd. to the Lakeland Police Department to protest the December shooting of Michael Jerome Taylor. (Turnout estimates varied; WFLA pegged it at “more than 100.”)
WRESTLING: The Lake Gibson Braves wrestling team captured their second straight HSAA Class 2A Duals state championship yesterday in Kissimmee.
HOME: Former Lakeland Dreadnaughts Steve Pearce and Chris Sale returned “home” to Henley Field to help out at a baseball and softball clinic for about 100 area youths.
THRIVING: After surviving kidnapping by the terrorist group Boko Haram, Lydia Pogu was invited to attend Southeastern University. Three semesters in she is thriving at the school working on a legal studies major.
Lakeland Grand Apartments, a 268-unit Highland City apartment complex was announced yesterday. The site is 17 acres at the intersection of First Street S.E. and Clubhouse Road.
However, before Polk County officials will approve the complex, the developers are required to resurface and widen a stretch of Clubhouse Road. That work could begin in February and the apartment complex construction could begin in the spring.
The 2019 Dangerous By Design report was released yesterday, and Lakeland was listed as the fifth most dangerous American metro area for pedestrians during the years 2008 to 2017.
That didn’t come as a shock to Lakeland city planners and transportation officials as the metro area finished sixth in the 2016 report. Chuck Barmby, the city of Lakeland transportation & development review manager, said that when the 2016 report was released the state was “already in the process of doing safety audits, neighborhood mobility audits, and major intensive funding efforts that led toward investments in bike and ped infrastructure.” He added that the report helped focus the state toward getting those investments in place as quickly as possible.
Barmby noted that the state studied the city from Memorial Boulevard north to Interstate 4 and recommended projects out of that study. He added that in 2016 city staff walked Memorial Boulevard, Kathleen Road, Lakeland Hills Boulevard, and U.S. 98 to look at the streets from the view of the pedestrian.
Hobson Strain: Former Polk County Tax Collector Hobson Strain died Jan. 22 at the age of 86. Strain was in office from 1964 to 1994 and oversaw many technological advancements in the tax collector’s office.
New Life Outreach Ministry: To finish a fund drive started in 2004, the New Life Outreach Ministry is selling off donated antiques and collectibles to raise $104,000 needed to finish renovations.
VALLEYVIEW: Ten students from Valleyview Elementary spent Thursday morning at Lakeland Regional learning about and using some of the latest in surgical technology. Hospital and school staff promoted the effort to teach the children that a love of electronics can lead to a career in the medical field.
The developers of two three-story apartment buildings planned for Lakeland’s Garden District are focusing on a specific market segment: people who want a one-bedroom apartment within an easy walk to downtown. More
Phillips will perform selections from his forthcoming “Night/Dances” album at 8 tonight at Revival cocktail lounge. The performance is a fund-raiser for the release and international distribution of the album, a collection of dances and nocturnes composed for him. Donations can be made here.
McArthur returns to the Polk Theatre for his third show there Saturday at 8 to release his first full-length album, “Ever Green, Ever Rain.” (Listen to it here | Also, view videos from his September 2016 Polk Theatre concert with ISO musicians here and here.) McArthur fronts a full band Saturday. Opening are singer-songwriters Kit Allen Wiley (aka Hannah Dobson) and Van Plating (aka Rachel Plating). Keep scrolling for the full music calendar. More
In a new report from Smart Growth America, the Lakeland-Winter Haven metro area landed as the fifth most dangerous metro area for walking in the United States. It was a move up from the 2016 report that listed Lakeland-Winter Haven as sixth. More
DENNIS ROSS: The recently retired congressman will join the GrayRobinson law firm’s Lakeland office and work in its Government Affairs and Lobbying Practice. The move will not affect his plans to direct Southeastern University’s American Center for Political Leadership.
DYNAMO: Lakelander Brogan Paul acts, dances, cheers, and has modeled for Gap Kids and New York Fashion Week. The 11 year-old has Down Syndrome and proudly self-advocates during her busy life. Her parents strive to help her try whatever interests her.
DEBUT: Local singer-songwriter Michael McArthur will debut his new album “Ever Green, Ever Rain” Saturday at the Polk Theater with a six-piece band. Lakeland singer-songwriters Van Plating and Kit Allen Wiley will open the show at 8 pm.
DEFUNCT: Bosko’s Clubhouse Grill is closing at the Cleveland Golf Course. It’s the third restaurant in recent years to attempt to make a go at the golf course and close.
In order to help each other through issues of stress, depression, and suicidal thoughts Lakeland Fire Department first responders are receiving training by the Florida Firefighters Safety & Health Collaborative. Due to their shared experiences, peer support is often the first step for those coping with job-related issues.
MEET-UP: The Lakeland Women’s Collective held a Women’s March Meet-Up to discuss ways to improve the community and promote causes vital to women.
SCHOOLS: Griffin Elementary and four other area schools are working to improve their school grade under Educational Directions, a Louisville, Kentucky-based school manager.
VALOR: Tom Butler, 100, received a Quilt of Valor as thanks for his service during World War II at the Colonnades Club House in Lakeland.
CIRCLE-B: Jeff Spence, Polk County’s retired director of parks and natural resources, recently reminded members of the Sierra Club Ancient Islands Group what it took to create the 1,267-acre Circle B Bar Reserve almost 20 years ago.
SPORTS: The Lakeland Dreadnaughts won their second girls weightlifting title in four years with an additional five individual champions taking home trophies. | A free baseball and softball clinic set for 9 a.m. Saturday the 26th at Henley Field will feature former Lakeland High School players Chris Sale and Steve Pearce. The clinic will be run by Florida Southern College’s baseball and softball coaching staffs.
ECLIPSE: A lunar eclipse starts around 10:30 Sunday night. Totality starts at 11:41 and will last 62 minutes. The next Northern Hemisphere lunar eclipse won’t be until May 2021.
Jon and Sarah Bucklew’s planned artisan food hall in the old Lakeland Brewing building faced some delays, but construction is proceeding. They’re still not ready to reveal which food vendors and brewer will be there.
AIRPORT: The Lakeland City Commission is expected to approve the renovation of the terminal apron at Lakeland Linder on Tuesday. The projected cost of approximately $2.5 million will be mostly covered by a Federal Aviation Administration grant.
RENOVATIONS: Staff at the RP Funding Center celebrated $14.2 million in renovations yesterday. The work was completed without the building ever having to close.
READING: Polk County Early Learning Coalition’s Polk Heroes program brings community leaders into preschools to promote the importance of reading. Books read are given to the students so they can have their own small library at home.
MONDAY: Local non-emergency office and services will be closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. However, trash pickup will be unaffected in Lakeland.
Lakeland city commissioners got updates this morning on a range of subjects, from a march planned for next weekend to protest police activities to the latest on the searches for a new police chief and new assistant city manager. More
A lawsuit is slowing, but not halting, preparations to move Lakeland’s Confederate monument from Munn Park to Veterans Park, City Attorney Tim McCausland told city commissioners this morning. More
The shutdown affects a senior complex being constructed by the Lakeland Housing Authority and plans for other re-construction at the West Lake community near Lake Beulah.
UNITED WAY: After a three month search, the board of the United Way of Central Florida (UWCF) chose Christina Criser Jackson as the next president and CEO of the organization. Criser Jackson is currently serving as the UWCF vice president of Resource Development and will take over the new position April 1st.
MAKERSPACE: A pilot program in the Lakeland PACE Center for Girls will introduce the makerspace concept into PACE’s curriculum. The Gibson-Barnett Center for Collaboration will serve as a model for the Florida alternative schools for girls in grades six through 12 who are at risk of a number of social issues. | Facebook photo gallery by Jeff Lakeland
7ELEVEN: Lots of people have been wondering about the site clearing at Memorial and Massachusetts, site of a former Marathon gas station. Plans call for a 4,650-square-foot 7Eleven with eight gas pumps, city records show. (No link yet, but here’s a city of Lakeland Instagram post about it.)
BS RANCH: A lawsuit by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection seeks big fines from the BS Ranch recycling facility in east Lakeland, claiming it’s causing odor problems.
The public parking lot on Lake Hollingsworth next to the Lakeland Yacht and Country Club will be closed next Tuesday and Wednesday while city crews resurface it. Parking is available near Common Ground Park, the city says in a blog post.
Rumours have it that there will be a Fleetwood Mac tribute band at the Polk Theatre tonight and some mighty fine bluegrass at LkldLive Friday. Keep scrolling for our live music calendar. More
REGISTRATION: Polk County Democrats and the Polk County chapter of the League of Women Voters are helping those with felony records, who have completed all terms of their sentences, register to vote at various events this month.
EDUCATION: Without leaving school, some teachers and administrators at Kathleen High School are working toward master’s degrees. The school received a $4.4 million grant to bring University of South Florida educators to the Kathleen campus to teach staff in place. Eligible Kathleen staff receive tuition reimbursement and are expected to complete their degrees by August.
BREAKING: City crews are on the scene of a suspected water main break at the corner of Lake Morton Drive and Palmetto Street between the Wilsonian Apartments and the Florida Southern College garden apartments. They’re digging to determine the cause and stop it, city spokesman Kevin Cook said. Police have blocked nearby streets to keep traffic away. “Water crews need to locate the appropriate valves to isolate and shut off the water upstream and downstream of the leak, then de-water the site before they will get a visual of the pipe,” Cook said at 6:30 p.m.
THURSDAY MORNING UPDATE FROM THE CITY: “At this time, we don’t know exactly how many homes/business are affected nor an ETA of the repair. If you live in the area, please check back to lakelandgov.net/boilwater throughout the day where updates will be posted if/when they become available.”
Spectrum News Florida is hosting a town hall at 7 p. m. tonight in the RP Funding Center to examine the effect Hurricane Michael had on Florida’s panhandle and what could happen if the Polk County area suffered a similar fate. Spectrum has invited lawmakers, storm victims, emergency personnel, and meteorologists to discuss the devastation, subsequent recovery efforts, and lessons learned.
Free tickets are available for area citizens who would like to participate. Doors will open at 5:30 p. m. with everyone seated by 6:45 p.m. and light refreshments will be provided. Spectrum will air the town hall live, and will replay it at 7 p.m. on January 19th.
FLORIDA SOUTHERN COLLEGE: Pete Meyer is retiring as Florida Southern’s Director of Athletics. After 20 years at FSC, Meyer is moving to Indiana to start a private venture with his wife, Julie.
LONE PINE: Originally scheduled for Summer 2018, the 42nd annual Polk County Amateur Championship is finally being held this weekend at Lone Palm Golf Club with two divisions: Open and Over-55.
TIME TRAVEL: Just Write! Lakeland will perform former Davenport playwright Vincent Scarsella’s “Practical Time Travel” Jan. 18 to Jan. 20 in the Stage Room, 310 E. Lemon St., Lakeland. The Lakeland-based nonprofit critiques and stages submitted scripts.
COLD: It’s going to be cold this weekend, but not as cold as when it snowed in Polk County 42 years ago this week.
Sara Roberts McCarley was elected to a nearly-three-year-term on the Lakeland City Commission, capturing 74.2 percent of the vote in today’s three-candidate special election.
She will represent southwest Lakeland on the seven-member board, serving out the term that was vacated when former Commissioner Michael Dunn resigned in October. More
While the Hospital Corporation of America sees an opportunity to hop into the local health-care market by building Polk County’s first free-standing emergency room, some residents say the planned site on South Florida Avenue signals danger for their quiet neighborhood. More
Candidates are Patrick Shawn Jones, Sara Roberts McCarley and Bill Watts. Review election coverage here.
Some polling locations have been moved for this election as the City Commission decided to consolidate 25 precincts into 12 locations.
The symbolic struggle between light and darkness is employed by numerous world religions, as well as in Freemasonry – a society to which the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791) belonged. So it’s fitting that in his last opera, “The Magic Flute,” he brings this struggle to life in a fantastical story that has charmed audiences for centuries.
This week, the Imperial Symphony Orchestra’s annual production of a Night at the Opera, a fundraising gala, will feature “The Magic Flute.” Polk County audiences may see and hear for themselves how the hero Tamino overcomes the temptations of the evil Queen of the Night and emerges on the side of right. More
NEW SCHOOL: A new tuition-free, private middle middle, is set to open this summer at what was once the Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine Building at the corner of Lakeland Hills and Memorial boulevards. Academy Prep of Lakeland is open to students who qualify for free or reduced lunch and who pass the admissions test. The $17,500 annual tuition is paid through private scholarships and a “Step Up For Students” scholarship. Academy Prep has campuses in Tampa and St. Petersburg.
NEW PAINT: The mural on the intersection of Main Street and North Ingraham Avenue received a new coat of paint on Sunday.
NEW COMMISSIONER: The election for a new city commissioner to replace Michael Dunn is set for Tuesday. The three candidates vying for the position gave their views on a range of topics.
(Note: Click for LkldNow election coverage.)
PARADE: The 41st Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King parade was held Saturday. There were 121 parade entries this year, with awards presented at the Feb. 4 Lakeland City Commission meeting.
VISION: Last year, Lakeland city commissioners asked Community and Economic Development Director Nicole Travis for a new vision for the city’s downtown. Travis felt the current plan was good, but needed a different way to promote it. Along with area architects and developers, city staff developed a visual presentation of some of the goals in the plan. ALSO: View the city’s downtown visualization
ELECTION: The three candidates for the Lakeland City Commission give their thoughts about the city’s broadband initiative, Bonnet Springs Park, lake cleanup, and other issues.
(Note: Click for LkldNow election coverage.)
TUMBLING: The Lakeland Dreadnaught cheerleaders will leap into the state finals after capturing the Large Non-Tumbling division title.
SPRAWLING: The second of three Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency sponsored murals nears completion at the corner of South Florida Ave. and Cresap Street. The artist, Timothy Haas, has numerous murals in the Lakeland area.
ARRESTED: Winfred “Carl” Stocks, Jr., a Florida Polytechnic University police officer, was arrested on charges that he sexually assaulted, harassed and stalked a family member.
DEVELOPMENT: The three candidates for the Lakeland City Commission addressed development and growth in a short article.
(Note: Click for more LkldNow election coverage.)
The family of Michael Taylor, the teen who was shot and killed by police officers Dec. 26 while attempting to flee in a car the police believed to be stolen, said they plan to sue the Lakeland Police Department. At a news conference Thursday, Michael’s mother asked that an officer be charged with murder.
ALSO: Taylor’s mother claims the bullet wounds were in the rear and side of her son’s body, Bay News 9 reports.
FWIW, it appears the news conference was staged for TV cameras only. The local newspaper was not invited; neither was LkldNow.
SMOKING: Thursday saw the start of the lawsuit brought by the family of Robert McCain Sr. against cigarette maker R.J. Reynolds. McCain smoked over 50 years before dying in 2007 at 67. His family is seeking compensation from the Reynolds company.
ROUNDTABLE: The Polk County School Board held its first roundtable discussion this week. The public was invited to come discuss school issues in a relaxed setting with those board members who attended.
WRESTLING: Thursday, Tenoroc won the school’s first-ever district wrestling championship. Along with runner-up McKeel Academy, the team will advance to the first round of the regional tournament against District 10 champion Zephyrhills Christian and runner-up Tampa Prep. The matches will be at Tenoroc Thursday at 7 pm.
Before you vote on Tuesday, make sure you check the location of your polling place. Voting locations have changed for many who will be voting in Tuesday’s special election for Lakeland city commissioner. And for quite a few voters, postcards that arrived in the mail last week contained incorrect locations.
BUS SERVICE: Citrus Connection Executive Director Tom Phillips briefed the agency’s board of directors that the federal government shutdown could affect bus service. Phillips noted that approximately 50 percent of the local bus agency’s funding comes from federal sources and the first of two rounds of cuts would likely come February 14th.
CITY HALL: Brian Rewis was named the assistant director for the Community and Economic Development Department.
POLK COUNTY: Lakelander Billy Townsend became the first candidate to file for a 2020 county wide election. Townsend said he wanted to make it clear he intends to seek a second term on the Polk County School Board.
WASHINGTON, D.C.: One More Child President and CEO Jerry Haag and Executive Director of Anti-Trafficking Christa Hicks were at the White House Wednesday to witness the signing of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2017. Dedicated to fighting human sex trafficking, One More Child is a nonprofit division of Lakeland-based Florida Baptist Children’s Homes.
BARTOW: Lakeland’s Melissa Gravitt’s first day as a Circuit Judge was delayed because the state said it had not received her paperwork. The former prosecutor refiled the forms Wednesday and the state is processing the paperwork.
SCHOOLS: The Polk County School Board discussed the need to eliminate bus service for charter schools and students who live within two miles of their school. The issue is not one the board needs to vote on, but administration officials were looking for feedback.
RUM: For the fifth year, the Kiwanis Club of Lakeland is hosting the Central Florida Rum and Food Experience fundraiser. More than 30 restaurants and bars will join with 24 rum vendors at the RP Funding Center on January 12th.
Local music highlights this weekend include two Friday night events: Jazz in the Park at Simpson Park as part of Lakeland’s MLK Day observances and a tribute showdown between The Beatles and Creedence Clearwater Revival (Is that even a fair fight?) at LkldLive. Keep scrolling for the full music calendar. More
DENIED: Polk County Commissioners voted 4-1 to deny an application to build a 1.4 million-square-foot warehouse complex on Pace Road near Florida Polytechnic University. The commissioners seemed swayed by the argument that the warehouse complex would hinder FPU hopes of a research center adjacent to the university.
INTOXICATED: Christobal Lopez, the homeless man fatally shot by former Lakeland City Commissioner Michael Dunn in October, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.33 — more than four times the legal level for driving. His autopsy also revealed two bullets punctured his lungs and pierced his heart. Lopez was shot once in the left side of his torso and once in the middle of his back. He died at the scene.
GRAND THEFT AUTO: Two teenagers, 16-year-old Dominic Provenzano of 2700 block of Highlands Creek Drive in Lakeland and 15-year-old Shain Gilkey of 5500 block of Third St. S.E. in Lakeland, were charged with felony grand theft of a motor vehicle, burglary of a conveyance, and petty theft when Provenzano was arrested getting in a stolen 2016 Dodge Charger. According to the Lakeland Police Department, Gilkey was “cooperative and confessed” that the two were involved when three cars were burglarized and one car was stolen near Highland City.
HIT AND RUN DRIVER SOUGHT: Police are looking for the driver of a “a 1999-2006 dark-colored GMC Yukon or a 1999-2006 dark-colored Chevrolet or Tahoe” that left the scene of an accident Tuesday morning. The SUV stuck and injured Elani Miller, 17, of Lakeland as she walked on Swindell Road, just east of Pineville Lane. Anyone with information about the incident is urged to contact the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 863-298-6200 or anonymously at Heartland Crime Stoppers 800-226-TIPS (8477) or www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com.
Two of the three candidates for Lakeland City Commission — Patrick Shawn Jones and Bill Watts — participated in a moderated debate tonight at LkldLive. Check the video below. The first few minutes are missing because of technical issues, but we’ll be adding a separate video of that potion soon. Tuesday is Election Day in the special election to fill the three years left in the Southwest District seat on the commission vacated by Michael Dunn.
All three candidates in next Tuesday’s special election for Lakeland City Commission — Patrick Shawn Jones, Sara Roberts McCarley and Bill Watts — spoke and answered questions tonight at a meeting of the Dixieland Historic Neighborhood Association at Hillcrest Coffee. To our knowledge, it is the one open-to-the-public event during the shortened campaign season where all three candidates appeared. (Read Ledger coverage of the forum.) Here is video captured for LkldNow by David Dickey:
The dollars from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund will go toward constructing hangars as Lakeland Linder Airport seeks to expand cargo operations and maintenance, repair and overhaul capacity. The repair hangars could lead to 400 new jobs, airport officials say.
A Jan. 19-20 event at the RP Funding Center is bringing dozens of sci fi, comic and fantasy exhibitors, artists and actors to Lakeland (See a list | Facebook page). On a personal note, I was unfazed when I saw that the voice of Space Ghost would be there; after all, I stood in line with him at Publix last week. But when I realized Deanna Troi would be there …
GARDEN DISTRICT: City Commissioners voted 7-0 to increase Garden District maximum building heights to 60′ (save south of Lime Street) and assign Lakeland Downtown Development Authority building guidelines to new construction taller than 40 feet.
READ TRAINING: A free training for adult literacy volunteer tutors will be held January 18th from 9:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. at the main Lakeland Public Library on Lake Morton. Sponsored by READ Lakeland, Inc. the training is free and no experience is needed.
SOLAR POWER: Members of the Polk County Rooftop Solar Cooperative met with the Lakeland Utility Committee Monday to express their concerns with Lakeland Electric’s home solar-power policies.
When we reported Saturday that a Starbucks is being built in the Southgate Shopping Center parking lot, a lot of people asked whether the entrance and exit locations at Southgate would change. The short answer: Not anytime soon.
The shopping center entrances will remain on Oak Drive and Pablo Street, and Starbucks will not have a traffic entry or exit on Florida Avenue, according to city transportation planner Chuck Barmby. More
Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens, 55, announced today he is leaving the police department on Feb. 1 after 34 years and is accepting an undisclosed employment opportunity. Here is a news release from the city of Lakeland followed by Giddens’ resignation letter to City Manager Tony Delgado: More
Two forums scheduled for Tuesday evening will let Lakeland voters meet and hear from candidates running in the Jan. 15 special election to fill the Southwest District seat on the Lakeland City Commission.
All three candidates have agreed to speak at the Dixieland Historic Neighborhood Association’s 6:30 meeting at Hillcrest Coffee, 119 Hillcrest St., organizers say. Two of the candidates say they will speak at a forum at LkldLive, 202 N. Massachusetts Ave. Doors for that event open at 7 p.m., and the forum is expected to start at 7:30. More
MAILED BALLOTS: Voters have returned about 3,000 of the approximately 18,000 ballots that were mailed to Lakeland voters for the January 15th City Commissioner race. Walk-in early voting begins today at the Polk Supervisor of Election offices in Bartow and Winter Haven. City Clerk Kelly Koos noted that typically half of the populace is voting by mail and half in person. Patrick Shawn Jones, Sara Roberts McCarley, and William Watts are vying for the Southwest seat on the city commission. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, a runoff election will be held February 12th.
ARRESTED: Police charged Brein Basarich, 31, of Lakeland with written threats to kill, do bodily injury or conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism. Basarich posted on Tumblr under the user name “taking lives” about alleged urges to commit homicide, “I had a vision…of a very public place, only one way in and one way out. Preferably a bar/club on a busy night. 2019 has a lot in store if my plans go according!” Basarich was employed at Plant City’s Showgirls Men’s Club.
LAKELAND LINDER: Lakeland firefighters will train with live fires Jan. 7th through the 12th at Lakeland Linder International Airport. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day Lakelanders may see smoke, but the fire department has the situation under control.
POLK COUNTY: County commissioners will vote Tuesday on a measure to repeal a 2013 county ordinance that banned panhandling. The move comes after a series of court decisions could lead to a lawsuit against the county.
SPECIAL ED: Recently elected to the Polk County School Board, Lisa Miller looks to change procedures for placing special education students. Miller would like to see the school system train educators and administrators about best practices.
BAXTER TROUTMAN: The former state representative was arrested on charges of aggravated and domestic battery following an argument with his wife, a former School Board candidate, over her desire to purchase a home in her own name.
LAKELAND LOBBYIST: The city of Lakeland’s longtime lobbyist to the Florida Legislature, David Shepp, briefed city commissioners on the layout of the new Florida House of Representatives and which initiatives he expects them to introduce in the coming year.
Fencing placed in front of Lakeland’s favorite arch at Southgate Shopping Center marks the construction site of a new Starbucks coffee shop. The company plans to close the nearby store at Florida Avenue and Beacon Road. The construction zone next to Five Guys displaces roughly 100 parking spots. The building will occupy 2,515 square feet, according to a city permit. More
PRE-DIVERSION: The Lakeland Police Department will implement a State Attorney’s Office program that will give officers the option to cite some first-time misdemeanor offenders and send them to a pre-arrest diversion program instead of jail. Officers will have discretion who to cite, and offenders must acknowledge they committed the crime. Those who complete the course will not go to jail or be listed on court dockets.
GARDEN DISTRICT: Monday the City Commission will vote on an ordinance that would raise the maximum height for buildings in the historic portion of the Garden District to 60 feet. The ordinance would give the city’s Historic Preservation Board oversight on all new construction in the district while developers would follow Lakeland Downtown Development Authority building standards.
Compass Blending LLC, a food manufacturer that launched last year and hired 34 employees, plans to add 10 workers and move from a 3,100-square-foot building near Lakeland Linder Airport to a 10,000-square-foot facility, Tampa Business Journal reports. The article doesn’t mention the location of the new facility.
LINKS: Compass Blending | Founder Angelia Fontes | News Release
GARDEN DISTRICT: On Monday, the Lakeland City Commission will once again address building height and Historic Preservation Board oversight in the city’s Garden District.
DOWNTOWN PARKING: On Monday, the city of Lakeland is installing new parking signs, yet again, in an effort to explain downtown parking laws. The city is using the opportunity to lower the cost for additional parking in some areas.
SPECIAL PATROLS: From December 24th through January 1st, the Lakeland Police Department held special patrols from 9am to 4am each day. The unit arrested 33 and confiscated 13 weapons in downtown and along Memorial Boulevard.
City Commissioner Stephanie Madden is partial to The Bean, a coconut-and-coffee-flavored blonde ale brewed by Swan Brewing Company and served at its beer garden on Lake Wire. She is even more a fan of what the craft brewery and taproom has done for an out-of-the-way corner of downtown Lakeland.
“I have been a big fan of Swan Brewing, and they really were trailblazers. I think they have done a lot for that area. I’m so excited when I see folks parked all along the lake, enjoying that beautiful scene,” she said.