POLK SENIORS GETTING MORE VACCINE OPTIONS
For many seniors in Polk and their family members, finding a COVID-19 vaccine has been top of mind in recent weeks. When February began, the main places for residents 65 and older to sign up for a vaccine were with the Polk health department or counterparts in nearby counties. By the end of the month, they could sign up for vaccines at local Publix, Walmart, and Sam’s Club pharmacies. For those able to travel a county or so away, mass vaccination centers are scheduled to open on March 3 in Tampa and Orlando. To register for the new mass vaccination sites, go to myvaccine.fl.gov.
ARTIST TRANSFORMS MUNN PARK OAK WITH PINK WRAPPING
People celebrating Valentines Day in downtown Lakeland may have thought the pink wrapping on a sprawling oak tree in Munn Park was just for them. But the timing was purely incidental. The Lakeland Downtown Development Authority had contacted artist David Collins in November about adding public art to the park. He did some research and discovered that nylon ripcord fabric allows trees to breathe. So he ordered 300 yards of fuchsia fabric. It was mid-February before city parks crews could help him wrap the tree, so that’s when it was done. The art installation is expected to stay in place for six months.
MAIN LIBRARY ADJUSTS SERVICES DURING CONSTRUCTION
Access to Lakeland’s main library on Lake Mirror will be limited for the next eight months or so. Construction crews are reconfiguring part of the library to accommodate a new Lakeland History and Culture Center. The center will spotlight the diverse ethnic groups that have contributed to Lakeland’s development. The children’s room will still be available. So will Black & Brew Coffee House & Bistro. The best way to access the library’s collection will be to order online or by phone and pick up items at the library’s temporary entrance facing the parking lot.
TIGERS ADJUST SPRING TRAINING FOR A COVID SEASON
The roar of the crowd will be a bit muted this month at Detroit Tigers Spring Training games. Seating in the stands at Joker Marchant Stadium has been reduced from more than 8,000 to 2,000 as a coronavirus precaution. Likewise, fewer people will be allowed on the outfield berm and in suites. Interactions between fans and players have been restricted, so no autographs, please. And Major League Baseball adjusted schedules last month so that a majority of games will be played against nearby teams. For the Tigers, that means 23 out of 29 Florida games will be played against the Phillies, Yankees, and Blue Jays, all of whom practice in Hillsborough or Pinellas.
WATCH FOR NEW MURALS ON S. FLORIDA AVE.
South Florida Avenue is about to get a lot more colorful in Dixieland and downtown. Lakeland’s Community Redevelopment Authority has money for murals, and they are looking for artists to paint them and businesses to host them. The agency has catalogued 75 blank building canvasses between George Jenkins Boulevard and Lenox Street, the area eligible for Art Infusion Grants. At least one project is already underway. Artist Kate Hall of Lakeland is adorning a 100-foot wall alongside Low County Vintage with a colorful depiction of crape myrtle blossoms. Learn more at lakelandcra.net/artinfusion.
FOUR CANDIDATES RUNNING IN APRIL CITY ELECTION
It’s election time again. Voters in Lakeland will choose between four candidates on April 6 to fill a temporary vacancy on the City Commission. The seat representing southeast Lakeland was vacated when former Commissioner Scott Franklin became a member of Congress. The winner will serve until the end of the year and will be able to run as an incumbent when an election for a full four-year term is held this November. Candidates are: Steve Frankenberger, 56, manager of the photography department Publix at Super Markets; Mike Musick, 49, owner of Musick Construction and Roofing; Ken Post, 55, whose career has focused on building management for nonprofits; and Shandale Terrell, 46, a special-needs educator for Polk County Public Schools.
DEAL NEAR ON VACANT LAND NEAR BONNET SPRINGS PARK
The owners of the reclaimed acreage near downtown Lakeland that once held Florida Tile say they are close to selling the property. The undisclosed buyer wants to build a multi-use development there. They haven’t said precisely what will go there, but look for offices, retail, multi-family dwellings, and perhaps a hotel. Proceeds from the sale will fund maintenance for the 168-acre Bonnet Springs Park, being developed next door. Lake Wire Development Co., which will be selling most of the property, is a subsidiary of the nonprofit organization overseeing the development of the park.
POUNCEY TWINS STICK TOGETHER AS THEY EXIT THE NFL
“As I write this farewell speech, I cry and I laugh that twin boys from Lakeland, Florida that grew up in poverty made it this far in life both living out NFL dreams.” That was the message from Pittsburg Steelers All-Pro offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey when he and twin brother Mike Pouncey announced they were retiring from the NFL at age 31. Both brothers played for the Lakeland High Dreadnaughts and the University of Florida before launching their pro football careers. “We wanted to make it cool to be offensive linemen and we accomplished it,” Mike wrote in his farewell message.
CITY OMITS CRIME HISTORY FROM JOB FORMS
The city of Lakeland has joined many other employers around the U.S. who have “banned the box” on employment applications. The box is the one that asks applicants whether they have been convicted of a criminal offense. Information about criminal history will still be discovered during background checks, but not until after the applicant has been interviewed for the job and shown that he or she is a qualified candidate, city officials say. “There are pros and cons to Ban the Box initiatives but we believe the pros far outweigh the cons,” City Manager Shawn Sherrouse said. “We will increase our pool of applicants, provide a second chance for qualified individuals and open our job market to those that made a mistake but paid their dues to society.”
GOSPEL INC. GETS GRANT FOR COVID HOUSING
Brian Seeley, the founder of the nonprofit Gospel Inc. has long dreamed of a tiny-house community where chronically homeless people could live and be trained for employment. A recent grant of $1 million awarded to Gospel Inc. might be a step toward achieving that dream. The organization used the grant to buy a fixer-upper mobile home park at Lake Parker Avenue and Lemon Street to provide housing for people experiencing homelessness who have been diagnosed with or at risk of contracting COVID-19. The property has 37 mobile homes and cottages, and Seeley plans to increase the size to 54 units. “This village is a first step and first phase towards what we as a community could potentially provide for many more people experiencing homelessness that need a loving, purpose-filled place to call home,” Seeley said.