Week of May 15, 2024

Slaton a Finalist for New Smyrna Beach Position, Gets High Marks From Treasure Island Commission in New Job Search

Robert Connors | May 18, 2024

Lake Wales City manager James is among a group of five finalists and two alternates that have been winnowed from a long list of candidates being considered for the city manager's job there following a Thursday evening special meeting of the beach town's city commission. The discussion among that city's board focused on the mechanisms that will be employed in interviewing the candidates, some of whom come from distant states and will fly in to inte4rviews. Discussion within...

Sheriff's Investigators Help Solve 52-Year-Old Murder

Scott Wilder | May 17, 2024

Polk County Sheriff's Office detectives have solved and closed a murder investigation that started 52 years ago in unincorporated Eloise. Detectives have identified the victim using advanced forensic genetic genealogy, and uncovered the two suspects responsible for the murder, both of whom are dead. On May 17, 1972, Polk deputies responded to a reported body found in a field just to the south of the canal between Lake Lulu and Lake Ship, and southeast of the US 17 overpass...

Community Open-House to Focus on Economic Development

Robert Connors | May 14, 2024

A community "open house" planned for Monday, May 20 will give area residents an opportunity to discuss key economic issues and and perceived opportunities that may help shape the future of Lake Wales. The five-hour "drop in" will be hosted by the Central Florida Regional Planning Council under a contract with the City of Lake Wales. Residents are invited to share their thoughts on the draft Economic Development Strategy and discuss the "identified goals, strategies, and next...

Work Begins on New ADS Manufacturing Plant

Robert Connors | May 14, 2024

Construction has begun on the long-planned Advanced Drainage System manufacturing plant in Lake Wales. Work preparing the nearly 100-acre site east of South 11th Street is currently employing more than a dozen earth-moving machines, as well as surveyors and other crew. Meanwhile, Duke Energy workers are installing upgraded electrical service along Hunt Brothers Road to the site. The plant will manufacture thin-walled, corrugated plastic pipe commonly used in drainage...

Crash With Injury Near McLaughlin School Reminder of Risks Everywhere

News Staff Reports | May 18, 2024

Failure to yield the right-of-way resulted in a crash with injuries on 4th Street at the edge of the McLaughlin Middle/High School campus recently. The incident happened at approximately 6 p.m. after the school zone had cleared for the day. The incident happened when a vehicle driven by a woman identified by Lake Wales Police as Laken Taylor Upchurch was driving westbound on Grove Avenue in a 2019 Ford Expedition and "slowed" for a stop sign before entering the path of a 2004...

The "Squeeze" Starts Service on Monday, Making Getting Around Downtown a Breeze

Robert Connors | May 9, 2024
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Lunch-hour diners and shoppers will find getting around downtown Lake Wales a breeze beginning Monday as the newest city service arrives in town. Described as "fast, frequent, and fun," The Squeeze will offer free transportation around the city's center, ranging between Central and Crystal Avenues between First Street and Market Street. The service will utilize new 8-passenger open-air "golf cart" style vehicles to shuttle guests to and from area businesses. The shuttles will...

Park Avenue Streetscape Project Advances, Only Tip of the Vast Connected Plan Effort

Robert Connors | May 6, 2024

A new Park Avenue is steadily emerging in downtown Lake Wales as work continues on the first phase of a multi-million dollar reimagining of the city's heart. The ongoing work is creating a shady pedestrian oasis in the heart of the city, replete with rows of spreading live oaks, new benches, lighting, wider sidewalks, and brick-paved streets and parking areas. The stretch of Park Avenue between First and Market streets is rapidly nearing completion, offering business owners...

Commissioner Carol Gillespie Joins Lake Wales City Board

Robert Connors | May 8, 2024

A brief swearing-in ceremony at the start of Tuesday's city commission meeting saw newly-elected Commissioner Carol Gillespie join the board. Gillespie, joined by her husband Gary Robillard, stood before the audience and repeated the oath as read by City Clerk Jennifer Nanek. Gillespie won seat 4 on the five-person commission by a wide margin over incumbent Danny Krueger. The swearing-in event was met with applause from an enthusiastic group of supporters. Speaking during...

Fire Destroys Rural Home Despite Efforts of Two Departments

Greg King | May 8, 2024

The City of Fort Meade Fire Department responded to a residential structure fire today along US 98 east on the outskirts of the city. Although the fire occurred outside of the city, Fort Meade units were the first on the scene, and had put water on the fire and established incident command by the time Polk County Fire Rescue units arrived. "I am really proud of my department. They responded quickly and were able to start battling the fire by the time county units arrived,"...

City Files For Final Judgement to Regain Walesbilt Hotel Title

Robert Connors | May 8, 2024

Attorneys representing the City of Lake Wales have filed a motion for final judgement in their two-year pursuit of a lawsuit against Dixie Walesbilt LLC. The motion seeks to dismiss all counts in the suit beyond the two already decided in favor of the city. The two counts already decided by the court concluded that Dixie Walesbilt principal Ray Brown had committed "fraud in the inducement" to trick the city into assigning the title to his firm. The city had granted title to...

Baking Temperatures Expected This Week Before Relief Arrives

Robert Connors | May 6, 2024

Scorching temperatures are expected to bake the Ridge area this week before increasing clouds bring growing rain chances to the area early next week. Floridians acclimated to warmth may still be shocked to encounter temperatures rising into the 90s to near 100° this week under sunny skies. Long-range models are showing that relief could come with more cloud cover beginning as soon as Sunday. The baking temperatures are adding to the stress of gardens, lawns, and even trees....

Young Released on $50,000 Bond on Fraud and Grand Theft Charges

Frank Butler | May 1, 2024

Lake Wales business incubator CFO Charles Young Jr. was released Friday from Polk County Jail after posting bond on two first-degree felony charges. Young was arrested last Saturday morning at a residence in Lithia in Hillsborough County following an investigation of a complaint filed last year by his business partners. Young was a partner in Florida Development Corp LLC, which entered into a $1.2 million no-recourse contract with the City of Lake Wales in 2022 for the...

Volunteer Lake Alta Park Cleanup Results in Oil Spill

News Staff Reports | May 4, 2024

A recent volunteer effort to clean trash, tires and debris from the tiny Lake Alta Park resulted in the recovery of a huge mound of garbage, but the spilling of gallons of used motor oil, apparently by a city crew. Resident Alex Clemons has lived on nearby Wiltshire Avenue his entire life and has conducted cleanups a half-dozen times. "I grew up in that park," Clemons said. "I've seen all kinds of wildlife there. There's a gopher tortoise burrow about a hundred feet away from...

Ten-Week Closure and Detours Anticipated for H.L. Smith Road

News Staff Report | Apr 29, 2024

Development of new roads and utilities will be behind a lengthy disruption to traffic in an area between Dundee and Lake Wales, according to county officials. Starting Wednesday, May1, installation of a water main for a new subdivision and related road reconstruction will close H.L. Smith Road just north of the Lake Mabel Loop Road intersection for 10 weeks. Traffic will be briefly detoured along Lake Swan Road or Lake Mabel Loop Road to Lake Trask Road to bypass work zone....

Voters May Consider Run-Off Elections if Lake Wales Commission Approves Charter Referendum

News Staff Reports | May 3, 2024

After perhaps the closest election in Lake Wales City Commission history, the city's governing board seems poised to propose a change to the Lake Wales Municipal Charter that will provide for run-off elections beginning in 2026. If approved by the commission, the charter change requires voter approval and will appear on the April 1, 2025, ballot along with the election for mayor. The change is under consideration after two three-way races in the most recent cycles left both a...

  • GUEST EDITORIAL: Florida Lawmakers Want to Weaken State's Ethics Laws, Only Ron DeSantis Can Stop Them

    Jason Garcia, Seeking Rents | Apr 28, 2024

    Last fall, the state agency that investigates potentially corrupt Florida politicians urged lawmakers in Tallahassee to strengthen the state's ethics laws. The Florida Commission on Ethics wanted to tighten conflict-of-interest rules. It proposed legal protections for whistleblowers who reveal wrongdoing. It suggested garnishing the salaries of guilty public officials who refuse to pay their fines. Florida lawmakers ignored all three of those ideas. They decided to weaken the...

Substitute School Crossing Guards Sought

Special to the News | May 14, 2024

The safety of children walking to and from area schools is the subject of an appeal for substitute crossing guards to fill in when demand arises. School Crossing Guard services are funded by the Polk County Board of County Commissioners. The vital program provides adult crossing guards at selected hazardous school crossings to ensure the safety of elementary school children walking to and from school. According to the Polk County Sheriff's Office, substitute school crossing...

  • Panera Bread Latest Chain to Confirm Lake Wales Location Plans

    Robert Connors | May 8, 2024

    A new Panera Bread restaurant is expected to rise soon on a vacant parcel adjacent to the Aldi grocery on US 27 north in Lake Wales. City officials have revealed that they have conducted a pre-construction meeting with the developer, and construction should begin within weeks. Panera is the latest in a wave of chain restaurants finding sites on the fast-growing corridor near Eagle Ridge Mall. Panera Bread, based in St. Louis, MO, offers a bakery-café style restaurant that...

  • Yeoman's Celebrates 111 Years in Lake Wales

    Robert Connors | May 6, 2024

    The oldest business in Lake Wales is celebrating yet another significant date. On May 15 the venerable Yeoman's Feed and Seed marks its 111th year and its first year under the ownership of John and Chuck Elam, who purchased it from Richard Jahna. The company has remained in continuous business in Lake Wales since 1913. The Orange Avenue operation is receiving high marks from area residents for the many improvements the brothers have brought to the operation. The business...

  • McLaughlin Campus "Forest" Dedicated to Memory of Alex Wheeler

    News Staff Reports | May 10, 2024

    A celebration of life for a beloved community leader was combined with a celebration of new life recently as the staff of McLaughlin Middle/High School joined volunteers from Lake Wales Heritage to mark the dedication of 40 trees planted on the Lake Wales school campus. The trees were a gift from Lake Wales Heritage and its supporters in honor of the late Lee A. (Alex) Wheeler, who served as treasurer for the non-profit organization. Wheeler, who died in 2020, was also a...

Polk Region Population at Higher Risk of Deadly Stroke

Special to the News | May 21, 2024

Stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States, including Florida, with an even higher risk in Polk, Hardee and Highlands Counties. Florida Health Department data shows in 2022, Highlands County had an age-adjusted stroke death rate of about 64 per 100,000 people, compared to Florida's overall rate of 47.6. Similarly, Polk County had a stroke death rate of around 54 per 100,000 people, also higher than the state average. Hardee County had the highest age-adjusted...

  • William Robert Simpkins, 1947-2024

    News Obituary Service | May 19, 2024

    William Robert Simpkins, age 76, passed away on Saturday, May 11, 2024, at his home in Bartow, FL after a long courageous battle with Parkinson's Disease. He was born on November 8, 1947, in Millville, NJ to parents Janice and William. He graduated from Vineland High School in 1966 and completed his education at Warner University in Lake Wales, FL where he graduated in 2001 with a bachelor's degree. He served in the U.S. Naval Reserved from 1965-1967. He worked in law...

  • Linda Gale Fielder, 1965-2024

    News Obituary Service | May 7, 2024

    Linda Gale Fielder, age 59, of Zolfo Springs passed away Sunday, May 5, 2024. She was born April 23, 1965 in Avon Park, FL to Richard & Margaret Rhoden. Linda Gale was a Paraeducator for Alturas Elementary School. She was a member of Crewsville Bethel Baptist Church in Zolfo Springs. She was preceded in death by her father Richard Rhoden, brother Larry Rhoden and father in law Lowell Fielder. Linda Gale is survived by her husband of 36 years Brian Fielder of Zolfo Springs,...

  • Dean Burbank, 1944-2024

    News Obituary Services | May 7, 2024

    Dean Burbank, age 80, passed away April 30, 2024, at Bartow Regional Medical Center. He was born on April 30, 1944, in Pleasantville, IA to the late Russel Merton Burbank & Mary Evelyn Burbank. He graduated from Pleasantville High School in 1962, St. Bernard College in 1967 with a BA in Mathematics and University of Alabama in 1979 with a MS in Applied Mathematics. He was a United States Air Force Veteran serving as a B52 Navigator Bombardier in Vietnam. He received the...

  • Martha Ann Lewis, 1963-2024

    News Obituary Services | May 9, 2024

    Martha Ann Lewis, age 61, of Babson Park, FL, died Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at the Forsythe Hospice House in Auburndale, FL. She is survived by her children, Terrance Mosley, Brian Mosley and Jarvis Mosley of Babson Park, FL. Sisters; Christine Barnes and Gladys Tucker of Lake Wales, FL. Brother; Clifford Lewis of Babson Park, FL. Nine grandchildren and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends. Visitation with family and friends will take place on Saturday, May 11,...

  • Toni Kronyak Le Lievre, 1966-2024

    News Obituary Service | May 5, 2024

    Toni Kronyak Le Lievre of Freeport passed away Thursday, May 2, 2024 at HCA Florida Hospital in Gainesville. She was born September 20, 1966 in Miami; she moved to Freeport from Lake Wales 27 years ago. Toni was the owner and operator a floor covering company. She was a free spirit with a crazy and goofy personality. She enjoyed bartering and going to the bay to go mullet fishing. Toni loved her dogs, Tootsie and Speckles. Toni was preceded in death by her father, Nicholas...