Sidewalk Dining Expanding in Downtown Lkld
Look for more tables with large umbrellas on downtown Lakeland sidewalks later this year. Two initiatives will let restaurants expand their outdoor seating. City crews will be enlarging the sidewalk on Main Street across from Munn Park and adding new landscaping and road buffers. The six feet of additional sidewalk will eliminate 11 on-street parking spaces. Also, Fresco’s Southern Kitchen and Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille are getting grants to add “parklets,” movable platforms letting them replace two parking spaces each with tables.
FSC Eyes St. Joseph Academy Building for Graduate Nursing Program
Classrooms that were once filled with elementary-age children may soon be occupied by nurses going back to school for advanced training. Florida Southern College is under contract to buy the large building on Frank Lloyd Wright Way that once housed St. Joseph Academy. The classrooms would be reconfigured for the college’s graduate nursing program, which would have around 150 students at first but space for up to 400 eventually. City commissioners decide later this month whether to approve a needed land-use change.
State Grant Will Assist Cleanup Of Lake Bonnet
The people developing the massive Bonnet Springs Park west of downtown Lakeland knew that one of their challenges would be cleaning up Lake Bonnet for recreational use. But once they started the project, they realized the lake’s pollution was even worse than they suspected. So they were relieved when Gov. Ron DeSantis came to town to announce the city of Lakeland is receiving a $42.9 million grant to improve the lake’s filtration and drainage systems and dredge sediment from the bottom. The work is also expected to prevent downstream flooding that has plagued the mobile home park on the west side of the lake.
Musick Elected to Short-Term Seat on City Commission
Roofing contractor Mike Musick was elected to the Lakeland City Commission last month, but he will soon be on the campaign trail again if he wants to keep the job. The election was for a short-term seat; it is for the eight months left in the term of Scott Franklin, who resigned to run for Congress. An election for a four-year term will be held in November. So far, the only candidate who has pulled papers to run is Shandale Terrell, who lost the May runoff to Musick by 147 votes after having come in first in the April general election. Also on the November ballot: the races for mayor and two other commission seats.
City Considering Options for Police Body Cams
The move to equip Lakeland police officers with body cameras took a step forward last month when city commissioners said they will continue exploring their options. Commissioners heard from the police chief of Kissimmee and a lieutenant from Cape Coral, who said officers in those two cities now consider body cams essential equipment after initially being skeptical. Commissioners are looking at four options from staying with just the current car dashboard cameras (four-year replacement cost: $1.2 million) to implementing a new system with new body and dashboard cameras (four-year cost: $4.4 million).New Shuttle Service
Will Circulate Through The Downtown Area
Another article on this page mentioned plans to remove several on-street parking places in downtown Lakeland. There are a few remedies for those taking their cars downtown, including public parking in the new Heritage Garage. Another remedy is The Squeeze, a shuttle service planned for the downtown area starting late summer or early fall. Two eight-passenger golf carts operated by the Citrus Connection will circulate on weekdays during lunchtime and on Friday and Saturday evenings. Passes will be available on a phone app: $2 for a day; $3 for a week; $9 for a month.
New Union Contract Grants Raises to LPD Officers
In a move expected to improve recruitment and retention of police officers, Lakeland commissioners approved a union contract that increases starting pay, grants delayed raises, and reduces the time it takes to achieve the highest salary. The agreement between the city and the Fraternal Order of Police applies to officers, sergeants, and lieutenants. The new minimum salary for police officers will be $52,842, City Manager Shawn Sherrouse said. More than half the officers had been making less than $50,000, according to the union board president.
Amazon Plans Massive Expansion At Linder Airport
Amazon is planning a nine-figure expansion of its air cargo facility at Lakeland Linder Airport that is expected to increase daily flights to 36 in 2022 and 44 by 2027. The e-commerce giant plans to lease an additional 63 acres west of its current 47 acres and add 464,000 square feet to the existing 223,000-square-foot sorting center that opened last July. “Amazon puts us on the map whether it’s for [future] commercial air service or [maintenance, repair, and overhaul] — people are paying attention,” airport Director Gene Conrad said.
School Board Picks Florida Native as New Superintendent
After a nationwide search, Polk School Board members selected Frederick Heid, a Florida native, to lead the school system. The 50-year-old new superintendent of schools returns to Florida from Algonquin, Ill., where he had been the superintendent. The USF grad had previously served as a teacher in Sarasota, principal in Orange County, and administrator in Jacksonville. Board members said Heid impressed employees at all levels from bus drivers to classroom teachers and administrators.
Pinellas Chosen Over Lakeland as Home for State Appeals Court
Lakeland has long been home to Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal, but that distinction is fading. First, the court vacated its mold-plagued Lakeland headquarters for a temporary home in Tampa. And recently, The Florida Legislature approved a bill prioritizing Pinellas as the site of a new $50 million facility. Still, Lakeland could see an eventual benefit. After Pinellas was selected, House Speaker Chris Sprowls said that was just a first step, and “Senator (Kelli) Stargel has always been a staunch advocate for Polk County, and her long-term vision for addressing the juridical needs of the area will be realized.”