State champs return home
Six Winter Haven area athletes returned home as state champions after winning their weight classes at the 2018 Florida Police Athletic League Boxing Championships in Palatka. Zee Zamora Jr., 12 of Winter Haven won his fourth state championship in a row and Auburndale resident Devine Erazo, 13, won his second straight championship. Rufino Cabrera, 10 of Davenport, Abdin Lopez, 11 of Kissimmee, Brandon Moore, 24 of Winter Haven, and Juan Diego, 14 of Polk County all won their first state championships.
Celebrating 100th Birthday
Essie Nelson Helper-Morgan was joined by family and friends at the Hilton Gardens Inn in Lakeland to celebrate her 100th birthday. Two hundred people were in attendance including 3 of her children, 31 grandchildren, 60 great grandchildren and 24 great, great grandchildren. Mrs. Helper-Morgan began her teaching career at a one-room school house in Nichols, FL. She later taught at Union Academy in Bartow and J.R. Lee Junior High in Mulberry.
Nucor may start hiring in 6-8 months
Polk County Commissioners unanimously voted to approve $2.25M in tax incentives earlier this year to convince Nucor Florida to build their facility in Polk County. Nucor Florida stated they had plans to hire 250 people at an average wage of $66K per year. The land where the mill is to be built is still an orange grove the permit process has yet to be completed. The $240M steel mill will be on US 27 at the Polk/Highlands county line.
The City of Lake Wales can buy the Burns Avenue YMCA for about $545,000, but negotiations are still ongoing about operations if that transaction is complete. The yearly operating budget for the facility is approximately $1.3M. The city is proposing an annual investment of around $136,000, $75,000 of which would be used to offer city residents a reduction in a Y membership of up to 50 percent of the full cost. The city has already put $836,000 in this year’s budget for a YMCA purchase.
Winter Haven is the fastest growing municipality in the county with a growth rate of 4.1 percent. Even if that rate slows to 3 percent, by 2030 Winter Haven will be a city of 60,000 residents. Every month, 141 people either move to or are born in Winter Haven according to City of Winter Haven Growth Management Director Merle Bishop. As of September, there have been $240M in new construction in residential and commercial construction combined.
Eagle Ridge Mall bomber back in jail
Patrick Joseph Collins, Auburndale, made national news in January for planting multiple fake bombs at the mall. Collins is back behind bars for trying to steal a shirt and cap. Collins came up with his share of $30K bond after his January arrest and was out walking free around the county until he didn’t show up for a court hearing in September and a bench warrant was out out for his arrest. Collins forfeited his share of bond after the Lakeland PD charged him with stealing $85 worth of merchandise from a Bealls store.
Thank you for your service
Polk County Board of County Commissioners Chairman and Winter Haven resident Todd Dantzler led his last county commission meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 6 after eight years of service. Dantzler’s last full day was Nov. 19. He will be replaced by Martha Santiago who won her county commission seat on election night. Dantzler was joined by his brothers Rick and Brad who have also served Polk County in the FL Senate and as Winter Haven Mayor respectively. Clara Nell Dantzler, their mother, was also present.
Welcome Dr. Falconetti
The Polk County Board of Commissioners named Nov. 15, 2018 as Angela Garcia Falconetti Inauguration Day. Dr. Falconetti was inaugurated as the fifth Polk State College president. She assumed the role in July of 2017. “I am thrilled to work together in moving our institution forward into a successful future for our students, faculty, staff and greater community,” Dr. Falconetti said.
Mansion tours could happen
If all goes as planned, the nearly century-old mansion on Mann Road, the Wonder House, will start offering tours to small groups. Drew Davis and Krislin Kreis bought the house in 2015 for $162,000 and have put more than $100,000 into fixing the house that has been abandoned twice. Davis told his neighbors that the house has suffered severe water damage the main part of it has to be completely restored. Davis and Kreis have interest in hosting wedding ceremonies at the Wonder House, however with no receptions.
New PCSO processing center
County commissioners voted to approve the first $40K in costs to a proposed 33,180 square foot, $6.89M Polk County Sheriff Office processing center to be built at the North Central Landfill complex sometime over the next two years. The existing facility no longer meets the needs of the PCSO. The $40K is being spent on pre-construction management being done by Rodda Construction. Rodda staff are being paid to organize the bidding process instead of county staff doing the job.