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  • Crash With Dump Truck Takes Life of Lake Wales Woman

    News Staff Reports|Updated May 22, 2024

    A traffic crash with a loaded dump truck took the life of a local woman Tuesday afternoon in an unincorporated area of Lake Wales. Polk deputies and Polk Fire Rescue responded to the emergency call around 2:30 p.m. from the rural intersection of Canal Road and Lake Mabel Loop Road. They found one person deceased at the scene. Minerva Cruz, 79, of Lake Wales, was the driver of a 2011 Silver Toyota Yaris that apparently entered the path of a 2020 Kenworth dump truck loaded with...

  • Crash With Injury Near McLaughlin School Reminder of Risks Everywhere

    News Staff Reports|Updated 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...

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

    News Staff Reports|Updated 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...

  • Volunteer Lake Alta Park Cleanup Results in Oil Spill

    News Staff Reports|Updated 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...

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

    News Staff Reports|Updated 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...

  • "High School Musical" Brought Out a Talented Cast at Lake Wales High School

    News Staff Reports|Updated May 3, 2024

    A large group of dedicated students at Lake Wales High School dedicated scores of their free hours and singing talents to three recent performances of "High School Musical." The play drew large audiences to their weekend performances, according to Emily Fournier, who helped direct and produce the play along with co-director Kimberlee Diallo. The two are dedicated educators at the local school. "We have been working on the play since December, meeting three days a week with a...

  • BizLinc, Florida Development Corp Financial Officer Arrested, Charged With Grand Theft, Fraud

    News Staff Report|Updated Apr 29, 2024
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    Charles Young, the chief financial officer of the BizLinc business incubator in Lake Wales, has been arrested at a residence in Lithia in Hillsborough County on an active Polk County warrant, Lake Wales News has confirmed through multiple sources. Available online information shows that Young has been charged with grand theft of $100,000 or more, and a second count of obtaining property by fraud, grand theft, $50,000. After his arrest on Saturday morning, he was transferred...

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

    News Staff Report|Updated 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....

  • Aggressive Driving Leaves Davenport Man Dead, Investigators Say

    News Staff Reports|Updated Apr 28, 2024

    Speed and reckless driving were the reported cause of a fatal crash that left a Davenport man dead and Scenic Highway blocked for several hours early Saturday. According to Polk Sheriff's investigators, 50-year-old Edgar Peneloza was driving a black 2005 Toyota Tundra southbound near Hickory Hammock Road in the Lake of the Hills community when his vehicle struck the rear end of a silver 2020 Honda Civic. The driver of the Civic, who was not identified by investigators, lost...

  • Annual Chamber Golf Scramble Fast Approaching

    News Staff Reports|Updated Apr 11, 2024

    The Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce is inviting golf enthusiasts and local business owners to get involved in their annual outing. The Chamber will host its 2024 Golf Scramble, on Friday, April 26 and feature raffles and a variety of prizes for the "top winners", according to Lori Beyer, Services & Events Coordinator at the Chamber. The tournament take place at the Lake Wales Country Club and offers area golfers an afternoon day of fellowship and some zany fun. The outing...

  • Frostproof Teacher Murdered by Her Own Son in Stabbing Attack

    News Staff Reports|Updated Apr 9, 2024

    UPDATED The horrifying murder of a second grade teacher has shocked residents of Frostproof and the surrounding area. Elvia Espinoza, who taught second grade at Ben Hill Griffin Elementary School in Frostproof, was stabbed to death by her own son after he returned home from college for a family gathering. Espinoza, 46, was attacked after opening the door to her home in the Sun Ray neighborhood her son, 21-year-old Emmanuel Espinoza, who had just arrived after driving from...

  • Holiday Trips Ended in Tragedy as Three Killed in Head-on Crash on SR 60 Near Indian Lake

    News Staff Reports|Updated Apr 8, 2024

    The dangerous two-lane stretch of SR 60 east between Indian Lake and Yeehaw Junction claimed three lives Saturday in a high-speed head-on crash. A child strapped into a car-seat was the only survivor of the impact, escaping with only minor injuries, according to officials. The crash took place about 9:30 p.m. just east of the intersection of CR 630. Investigators reported that Hannah Weiser, 22, of Winter Haven, was heading westbound and attempted to pass a slower vehicle....

  • One-Vote Margin as Alvarado-Williams Race Heads to Likely Recount, Possible Coin-Toss

    News Staff Reports|Updated Apr 5, 2024

    The startling result of the District 2 City Commission election as tabulated by the Supervisor of Elections is expected to result in a careful examination of a handful of rejected and provisional ballots that could tip the election, according to sources reached Tuesday night by Lake Wales News. The unofficial results left incumbent Daniel Williams leading challenger Brandon Alvarado by one vote, 939 to 938. A second challenger, Crystal Higbee, ran a distant third, gathering...

  • Gillespie Defeats Krueger After Hard Fought City Election

    News Staff Reports|Updated Apr 3, 2024

    Carol Gillespie has defeated incumbent City Commissioner Danny Krueger in the race for Seat 4. In an unofficial tally of all votes, Gillespie collected 1,325 votes to Kruegers' 983, or a winning total of 57.41 percent., In the second race for Seat 2, Daniel Williams collected an unofficial total of 939 votes, to Alvarado's 938 votes. The results are certain to trigger an automatic recount. A third candidate in the race, Crystal Higbee, won 347 votes, of 15.6%. There is no...

  • Climate Change Driving "Scary" Hurricane Season Predictions

    News Staff Report|Updated Apr 1, 2024

    If forecasters are correct, Floridians should expect and prepare for a very active and threatening hurricane season for 2024. Reports from private forecasters are already sounding alarms about the sharply-elevated water temperatures in the waters of the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico. That heat, released as steamy air, is condensed and cooled in the heart of hurricanes, falling as torrential rain and creating the lowered pressure that drives the intensity of the...

  • Allegations Lead to Firing of Lake Wales Police Chief

    News Staff Reports|Updated Mar 31, 2024

    UPDATE: Only days after this story was published, the decision was reversed, resulting in a second story which can be read here. Issues of nepotism, favoritism, and a lack of transparency are apparently behind the future replacement of Lake Wales Police Chief Chris Velasquez, who was informed Monday of a three-day suspension and eventual replacement by City Manager James Slaton. The action follows a complaint filed by the Poor and Minority Justice Association early this year a...

  • Only Two of Five Candidates Show for Final Election Forum

    News Staff Report|Updated Mar 30, 2024
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    With an election only three days away, three of five candidates seeking to occupy seats on the Lake Wales City Commission skipped a last chance to meet and hear from voters. Both incumbents skipped the chance to interact with voters, just as they had a March 4 forum hosted at the Lake Wales Woman's Club theatre. At an outdoor forum hosted in perfect weather at the B Street Center in the city's Northwest Neighborhood, only Carol Gillespie, seeking Seat 4. and Brandon Alvarado,...

  • Reinstatement of Police Chief Velasquez Brings Angry Response from Commissioner Williams

    News Staff Report|Updated Mar 27, 2024

    The surprise reinstatement of suspended Lake Wales Police Chief Chris Velasquez by City Manager James Slaton at the start of Tuesday's city commission meeting brought a fiery response from City Commissioner Daniel Williams, who held his thoughts through the entire meeting but launched into his angry comments hours later during a commissioner comment period. Slaton had announced the suspension of Velasquez only days earlier after a complaint filed by a local civil rights advoca...

  • Olmsted Day Festival Offers Fun For the Family in Lake Wailes Park March 23

    News Staff Reports|Updated Mar 18, 2024

    A day of free fun for the entire family is offered in Lake Wailes Park on Saturday, March 23 as the annual Olmsted Day event takes place. The event is the Lake Wales observance of Arbor Day and takes place in the shade of the historic Olmsted Oaks in the park. Entertainment, exhibits, games, musical performances, and food trucks form part of the attraction, along with vendors offering live plants and trees and a wide range of other products. Special exhibits will be offered...

  • Sebring Man Charged With Armed Robbery After Lake Wales Bank Heist

    News Staff Reports|Updated Mar 15, 2024

    A Sebring man who decided to make an "unauthorized withdrawal" from the Bank of America in Lake Wales is in jail and charged with armed robbery. Dennis T. Davis, 42, reportedly walked into the Bank of America at 11 a.m. Tuesday and approached a teller indicating he had a firearm in his jacket pocket, which he pointed at the teller. After demanding and receiving cash, Davis fled on foot westbound from the bank at 1100 SR 60 East in Lake Wales with an undisclosed amount of...

  • Federal Rental Assistance Ends in Polk, Expected to Impact Struggling Families

    Jeff Foley and News Staff|Updated Mar 15, 2024

    The end of the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program means that lots of Polk County families have lost a lifeline that has allowed them to remain housed through the difficult times of the pandemic. Unfortunately, the huge demand for housing locally and across Florida has driven home prices sharply higher, leaving many of those struggling families facing bleak choices. Since it's July 2021 launch, Polk County's Emergency Rental Assistance Program helped more than 5,000...

  • Yarnell, Cohassett, Hillcrest Among Streets to Be Paved in Coming Days

    News Staff Reports|Updated Mar 12, 2024

    As part of the city's ongoing effort to resurface streets in the city, contractors will begin paving operations on four city streets this week. Crews will begin resurfacing portions of the select roadways starting February 27 as part of the pavement management program. The five-year program is funded at a level of $500,000 annually, but was suspended for one of the years of the program. Yarnell Avenue, Frontage Road, Cohasset Avenue and Hillcrest Drive are included in this rou...

  • Two Forums Offer Voters Insight into City Election Choices

    News Staff Reports|Updated Feb 29, 2024

    Voters will have two chances next week to see and hear incumbents and candidates for seats on the Lake Wales City Commission air their views and positions on a wide variety of topics during two candidate forums. Events are planned for both Monday and Wednesday evenings, March 4 and March 6, giving registered voters within city limits extra opportunity to become informed. Five candidates will vie for two seats on the commission in the April 2 vote. Although candidates must...

  • Lake Wales Crash at 137 MPH Leads to Death, Manslaughter Charges

    News Staff Reports|Updated Feb 28, 2024

    A Lake Wales woman is in custody after a horrific accident on Saturday morning resulted in the death of a passenger in her vehicle. After what police described as "a very active and ongoing traffic homicide investigation," the Lake Wales Police Department obtained an arrest warrant for Jeanette Gonzalez of Lake Wales for DUI Manslaughter. The crash took place on U.S. Highway 27, in front of Weikert Ford, where officers found 38-year-old Eliecer Padilla of Lake Wales deceased...

  • "Edwards Twins" Musical Impersonators to Perform at Ramon Theatre

    News Staff Reports|Updated Feb 27, 2024

    A truly unique performance is coming to Frostproof's historic Ramon Theatre in March as the famed musical impersonators Anthony and Eddie Edwards perform their live musical repertoire. Described as "Las Vegas' number one impersonators of all time," the show will be reminiscent of the Variety shows from the 70's & 80's, featuring a rapid-fire series of performances. The Edwards Twins have been recognized by NBC Today, The Boston Globe and USA Today, among others, for their...

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