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Downtown Lakeland has a new home for tastes from India and Pakistan. Cafe Roti has opened its new location at 116 S. Tennessee Ave. and introduced a new executive chef. Around the corner at 127 S. Kentucky Ave., a Lakeland couple announced they will open a Pita Pit franchise this fall. And the owners of Cafe Zuppina, 4417 S. Florida Ave., are opening a market next door to sell prepared Turkish foods popular at their restaurant.

Plan Offered To Reduce Homelessness

Lakeland can reduce its homeless population by adopting a housing-first approach, according to consultants who spent a year studying the issue here. Florida Housing Coalition suggested the city seek private help in paying the anticipated $710k three-year costs to implement their 25 recommendations. Mayor Bill Mutz proposed selecting top priorities from among the consultants’ ideas.

IKEA: NoAssemblyRequired

 

IKEA was lucky. Somebody already assembled the modern logistics facility near County Line Road that the furniture/home furnishings giant announced they’ll be leasing. IKEA plans to bring 200 jobs to the area when they move into 326,000 square feet of a spec warehouse in early 2019. The facility will supply nearby stores and should speed up delivery of items ordered online in Florida.

Schools Face Bus Driver Shortage

By the time local students returned to public schools in mid-August, the school district had found all of the armed guardians they were looking for but were way short on hiring bus drivers. By the second week of school, there were still 60 vacancies, and the  Polk School Board was pondering easing the requirement that drivers have a high school diploma or GED. 

Ray Lewis Conquers Lakeland

Ray Lewis lauded his hometown in a rousing speech when he was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame last month. “Lakeland turned me into an inspirer, a conqueror. There was nothing I couldn’t do!” he declared. Lakeland returned the favor and welcomed the ex-NFLer home to a celebrity-filled celebration at alma mater Kathleen High School Aug. 25.

Monument Move Sees Progress

The effort to move the Confederate monument out of Munn Park gained momentum last month as the move won the approval of the Historical Preservation Board and Mayor Bill Mutz stepped up efforts to get dollars from donors. When city commissioners approved the move to Veterans Park, they stipulated that tax dollars wouldn’t pay for the relocation.

As the end of August neared, the city still needed almost $180,000 to reach its donations goal.

City Setting Property Tax Rate Soon

Will you be paying more in property taxes next year? The City Commission will decide Lakeland’s portion of the tax bill after holding budget hearings at City Hall Sept. 6 and 20. They’ve already decided that they won’t raise the rate above this year’s $5.5644 for every $1,000 of taxable value. That will bring in 8 percent more revenue than last year because of rising property values. 

Sewage Spill Sparked Lake Parker Warning

Residents were asked not to fish or swim in Lake Parker last month after an accidental cut in a pressurized pipe dumped an estimated 260,000 of gallons of sewage into the west side of the lake near Valencia Street. City lakes managers said they don’t anticipate lingering environmental effects since vegetation kept the spill from spreading.

County Loosens Sunday Alcohol Sales Rules

Grocery and convenience stores in unincorporated Polk can now sell beer and wine on Sunday mornings. County commissioners on the prevailing side of a 3-2 vote said those merchants should have the same rules as competitors within Lakeland city limits. Unlike in Lakeland, alcohol sales will still not be allowed in restaurants in unincorporated Polk before noon on Sundays.

Expect a Slight Power Bill Increase

Look for a slight rise in your Lakeland Electric bill. City commissioners voted 5-2 to raise electric rates to cover rising costs to operate the utility. The typical homeowner will see an increase of $2.43 a month. Despite the increase, city officials like pointing out that Lakeland Electric rates are among the lowest in Florida. 

 

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