April Local News

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New Resources Guide Residents to Dining Options, Helping Others

Other than this item, we’re not going to focus on coronavirus news. For one, things are changing daily and hourly. Also, there’s still been a lot of other things happening in Lakeland. But we did want to share a couple of resources. First: restaurants. The Lakeland Food Group on Facebook has assembled a list of take-out and delivery options at locally owned restaurants. Find it at bit.ly/lkldrestaurants. If you’re able to help others, a good way is through the United Community Relief Fund, a collaboration of United Way of Central Florida and GiveWell Community Foundation at unitedcommunityrelief.org.

Kimmy Gabriela Keeps Lkld Watching ‘American Idol’

George Jenkins High School senior Kimmy Gabriela is developing a national fan base from her show-stopping singing on “American Idol.” The head of her fan club might be celebrity judge Katy Perry, who gave the 17-year-old Lakeland native a standing ovation and twice declared her “Top 10” material. Fans will know for sure by the time this magazine comes out, but it looks like Kimmy will still be in the running after the pre-recorded ABC show goes on a coronavirus-induced hiatus after the March 31 airing. If you need a lift, do an online search for: Kimmy Gabriela American Idol video.

End of an Era: Nathan’s Closing After 78 Years

Nathan’s Men’s Store, which maintained a thriving downtown presence years after other retailers fled to malls, is shutting its doors. The closing is prompted by the retirement of proprietor Harris Estroff, who was born a year after his parents, Nathan and Mildred Estroff, opened the shop 78 years ago. Before the final closing, Nathan’s will complete an everything-must-go sale. Estroff is mum on whether he will sell or lease the landmark Main Street building across from Munn Park — and even holds out the possibility that he may choose to come out of retirement.

Spano Has Challengers, Including a Republican From Lakeland

There’s been somebody from Polk County in Congress from the 1970s until last year. That’s when Republican Ross Spano of Dover took office after being elected to succeed Dennis Ross, a Lakeland Republican who had retired after 10 years in the U.S. House. Now Spano has a Republican challenger from Lakeland, as well as two Democratic hopefuls from East Hillsborough. The Republican is Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin, who said he wouldn’t be surprised if others join the primary race. The Democrats are Alan Cohn, a TV reporter/anchor, and Adam Hattersley, a state House member who unseated a Republican in 2018.

NOAA Expanding Its Aircraft Center At Lakeland Linder

Plans are in the works to expand the home of the NOAA Hurricane Hunters at Lakeland Linder International Airport to accommodate two new aircraft and 50 to 75 more employees. A contract for the $13 million expansion is being prepared for the City Commission’s consideration in an upcoming meeting. The project would enlarge the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Aircraft Operations Center at Linder from 106,000 square feet to 150,000 square feet. NOAA’s massive hangar in Lakeland houses its fleet of nine aircraft, including the three that are used for hurricane missions — the two most famous of them named Kermit and Miss Piggy.

Opera Star Renee Fleming Coming to Lakeland

Opera star Renée Fleming will sing at a New Year’s Eve gala at Branscomb Auditorium to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Lakeland Opera. Fleming’s program has not been finalized, but it will include both operatic arias and contemporary song, according to Amy Wiggins, executive director of the Imperial Symphony Orchestra. Fleming, a 61-year-old lyric soprano, has won four Grammy awards and received the National Medal of Arts. In addition to opera, she has performed in Broadway productions and recorded songs for major films. The ISO’s Lakeland Opera brings opera professionals to Lakeland each year for a performance with local musicians and workshops for students.

Construction Starts At the Massive Bonnet Springs Park

They’ve been making mountains — OK, tall hills — for months on the 180-acre site of the future Bonnet Springs Park west of downtown. Now they’ve begun constructing buildings for the park expected to open in late 2021 west of Kathleen Road and north of George Jenkins Boulevard. Nick Barnett, representing the nonprofit organization behind the park, spoke of the barriers that have been overcome during a groundbreaking ceremony last month: “To take a site like this, a brownfield and create a world-class park — it was simply too many challenges to count.”

Though Targeted, Florida Poly Survived Legislature Intact

You couldn’t blame the Florida Polytechnic University phoenix mascot for looking over its shoulder. A Florida House subcommittee declared hunting season on the Lakeland-based school and Sarasota’s New College, the youngest and newest of Florida’s 12 state universities. A powerful legislator wanted to fold the two schools into larger universities, citing higher costs to the state for each degree conferred. Both schools emerged intact at the end of the legislative session. But their leaders and supporters are left wondering if they’ll look like targets again when legislators reconvene next year.

New Solutions Sought as More Swans Hit

People started suggesting solutions after three swans fell victim to cars near lakes Morton and Mirror in recent weeks. Speed limits were already lowered to 20 mph around Lake Mirror Drive in the fall of 2018 after a previous spate of bird deaths. Now the city says it may place speed tables on the roadway. Some neighborhood residents are pushing to close the distractingly scenic roadway to vehicle traffic. And others suggest Lakeland’s signature birds would be less likely to venture into the street if people wouldn’t feed them near the curb — or even from cars and across the street, as sometimes happens.

Tracy Moore Recognized for Lineman Safety Work

Tracy Moore, the widow of a Lakeland Electric lineman who died in a work-related accident in 2002, started a foundation devoted to helping lineworker families through crises and educating about safety. Her efforts made her a WFLA Remarkable Women finalist. Moore said Highline Hero Foundation is a labor of love born out of extreme heartache after the death of Marc Moore: “I want to do my part in honoring our lineworkers nationwide while also expressing the importance of their safety so that I do my part in making sure no other family is forced to experience the true darkness of losing one of these highline heroes.”

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