Communication Builds Our Community

(59) stories found containing 'hilligoss'


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  • Gibson Proposes "Sergeant at Arms" to Monitor Public Comments at Lake Wales Commission Meetings

    Frank Butler|Updated May 31, 2024
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    A proposal by Lake Wales Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson would appoint at "sergeant at arms" to monitor comments made by the public during city commission meetings. During the commission's Wednesday agenda workshop Gibson cited what he called "personal attacks" that have "driven off good people" as his reasoning behind the proposal. The city has suffered the resignation of several officials during the past two years, but most have simply returned to work at the city as...

  • Free Downtown "Squeeze" Shuttle Service Off to a Fast Start

    Robert Connors|Updated May 24, 2024

    The newly-bricked and landscaped Park Avenue served as the backdrop for a recent ribbon cutting marking the official start of service by the new downtown shuttle known as The Squeeze. A happy crowd of citizens and officials representing Lake Wales Main Street, the Citrus Connection, the City of Lake Wales, and the Community Redevelopment agency shared the moment, celebrating the rapid changes coming to the city. The service is already earning great reviews from shoppers and lu...

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

    Frank Butler|Updated 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...

  • Young Accused of Defrauding Partners in City-Funded Business Incubator

    Robert Connors|Updated Apr 30, 2024

    An affidavit released by Lake Wales Police and the District State Attorney’s office Monday afternoon contains new details in the case that has resulted in the arrest of Charles Young, CEO of BizLinc, a city-funded business incubator in Lake Wales. Young was arrested on two felony counts by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputies at a Lithia residence on Saturday, to be transferred to Polk to face the charges. Young was a partner in Florida Development Corporation. FDC rec...

  • 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...

  • City Commission Votes Down Lake Alta High-Density Residential Project

    Robert Connors|Updated Apr 17, 2024

    A proposal that some city commissioners and staff saw as the best opportunity so far to implement the Lake Wales Envisioned plan died Tuesday night on a 3-2 vote. The concept of a 24-unit single-family community on a 1.46 acre parcel generated intense opposition from residents of the neighborhood, located around the 3.566 acre Lake Alta Park. Commissioners received a letter signed by two dozen of them asking that the proposal be denied, and multiple speakers had criticized the...

  • Complex Ballot Review Involved in Determining City Election Results After One-Vote Difference

    Robert Connors, Managing Editor|Updated Apr 5, 2024
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    A one-vote margin in a Lake Wales election between incumbent Commissioner Daniel Williams and challenger Brandon Alvarado has cast a bright light upon the processes required in the situation by city ordinance and Florida statutes that Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson called "unbelievably complicated." The three-way race for a new three-year term on the District 2 seat of the city commission ended Tuesday with Williams and Alvarado as the top two vote-getters collecting 939 and 938...

  • Recount to Happen Today in City Commission Election

    Robert Connors|Updated Apr 5, 2024

    Four voters who had provided incomplete information when voting on election day were able to "cure" their ballots through contact with the Supervisor of Elections ahead of Thursday's canvassing board meeting. Their effort has moved the needle in the District 2 city commission election between incumbent commissioner Daniel Williams and challenger Brandon Alvarado, but not enough to avoid a machine recount, which will take place today (Friday, April 5). The canvassing board,...

  • Incumbents Are No-Shows at Commission Election Forum

    Robert Connors, managing Editor|Updated Mar 6, 2024
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    Three challengers seeking two seat on the Lake Wales City Commission held the stage at a Monday evening candidates forum after both incumbents failed to show up for the 90-minute event. The election is four weeks away, slated for Tuesday, April 2. Carol Gillespie, seeking seat 4 on the five-person commission, along with Brandon Alvarado and Crystal Higbee, both seeking seat 2, shared their ideas and responded to questions from the audience at the forum sponsored by the...

  • A Free Press Serves as a Watchdog on Government and Politicians

    News Editorial Board|Updated Mar 1, 2024

    Government is complicated. Elected officials, even those responsible for leading a city such as Lake Wales with its billion-dollar budget, face a multitude of questions and issues. It is certainly not within the capacity of any one individual to have total awareness of every matter that must be decided. The role of the press as a watchdog over government is a long-established principle, one that has for nearly 250 years of American history served to keep politicians on the str...

  • Multiple Questions Raised About $1.2 Million City-Funded Incubator

    News Research Staff|Updated Feb 29, 2024
    1

    A "business incubator" operating under a three-year, $1.2 million contract approved by the Lake Wales City Commission appears to be operating in violation of several laws, a five-month-long LakeWalesNews.net investigation has determined. Among questionable practices identified within a web of interconnected businesses are business activity lacking county and city occupational permits, apparent violations of Florida's registered agent law, plagiarism, faked testimonials, and a...

  • Business Incubator Officers Invited to Defend Operations After Critical Report

    Robert Connors, Managing Editor|Updated Feb 22, 2024

    Business owners lined up at the beginning of the Lake Wales City Commission meeting Tuesday evening to explain to commissioners the various ways they are working to enhance the Lake Wales economy and the Northwest Neighborhood. They joined Florida Development Corp, Inc. COO Derrick Blue and CEO Frank Cornier after a special presentation period was added to the commission agenda. FDC operates the BizLINC business incubator under a $1.2 million contract with the City of Lake...

  • Some Local Officials Resigning Over New Disclosure Requirements

    Tom Paulson and Robert Connors|Updated Dec 28, 2023

    A new financial disclosure requirement that has caused hundreds of municipal officials across the state to resign their offices is also having impacts in the Lake Wales area. The state law, which takes effect January 1, requires every elected official in cities, towns, and villages across the state to complete a comprehensive disclosure of income and assets that many consider draconian. The form will replace the simpler, and less invasive, Form 1 previously required. The...

  • Lake Wales Envisioned Adopted by City Commission

    Robert Connors, Managing Editor|Updated Oct 23, 2023

    In a major step toward addressing the challenge presented by an enormous wave of growth, the Lake Wales city commission voted to adopt a resolution in support of the Lake Wales Envisioned plan. Facing development proposals that would readily triple the population of the city, the board had agreed to fund the planning study in January, leading to months of effort by planners, residents, and city staff. The project included numerous public meetings, open workshops, webinars,...

  • City Commission Rejects Development on 2-2 Vote

    Robert Connors, Managing Editor|Updated Sep 20, 2023

    A proposal to construct 64 single-family homes on 19.1 acres of land on the north side of Lake Wales was denied in a 2-2 vote in the Lake Wales City Commission. The development proposal for the tract fronting North Scenic Highway had been recommended for denial by the city's Planning and Zoning board, as well as by planning staff at the newly-renamed Growth Management Division. The site lies just south of the vast Tampa Electric solar energy project. The plan for the...

  • Lake Wales Likely to Assume Operations of Recreation Center After Departure of YMCA Group

    Robert Connors, Managing Editor|Updated Aug 28, 2023

    Citizens accustomed to using the Lake Wales YMCA facility can breathe a bit easier after Lake Wales City Manager James Slaton announced plans for the city to assume operations of the facility at 1001 Burns Avenue, which will become the city's "Family Recreation Center." "We're running out of time if we're going to keep the doors open," Slaton sold commissioners. "Our goal is to create a fresh, modern space for families to engage in health and wellness activities," Slaton...

  • Large Lake Wales Development Rejected for Failure to Meet City Aspirations

    Robert Connors, Managing Editor|Updated Jun 29, 2023
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    Two large residential developments proposed by the same developer recently met with very different responses from the Lake Wales city commission. After unanimously approving a 930-lot single-family subdivision known as the Grove at Orchard Hills, the commission's 3-2 vote rejected a neighboring 300-unit project brought by the same developer. David Waronker of Celebration has been the developer of record for several large subdivision projects in Lake Wales, including the expans...

  • Fitzgerald Denied Return to Commission Due to Move Outside District

    Robert Connors, Managing Editor|Updated May 25, 2023

    Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include citation of a written opinion from City Attorney Chuck Galloway to city commissioners, released to the press today. April 17 - In a surprise twist, former city commissioner Kris Fitzgerald has been denied a return to her open seat on the Lake Wales City Commission despite her sudden reinstatement by Governor Ron DeSantis last week. Lake Wales City Attorney Chuck Galloway read a statement at the opening of Tuesday night's...

  • New Community Garden to Green Up Local "Food Desert"

    Special to the News|Updated Apr 6, 2023

    An effort to green a "food desert" in the Northwest Neighborhood of Lake Wales will begin next week with the creation of a community garden on a city-owned lot on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The Northwest Neighborhood, which long featured a small community grocery store, now has no market for fresh foods within a mile and a half. Members of the community are scheduled to join officials celebrate the groundbreaking of The Grove Community Garden at 315 Dr. MLK Blvd....

  • City Commission Gives Attorney "Unsatisfactory" Marks in Annual Review

    Robert Connors, Managing Editor|Updated Apr 1, 2023

    It was a very unhappy group of Lake Wales City Commissioners who spent more than 45 minutes discussing their generally dismal evaluations of City Attorney Chuck Galloway Wednesday. At their regular workshop meeting the commission discussed the notes they had turned in as part of an annual performance review. Galloway received a total of eight "unsatisfactory" scores from four commissioners who completed their evaluations. Commissioner Daniel Williams had not yet submitted his,...

  • "Unhappy Hour" Planned by Women's Group to Mark Gender Pay Inequality

    News Staff Reports|Updated Mar 27, 2023

    The American Association of University Women Lake Wales Branch is inviting the public to gather with them on Friday, March 31st to conduct an "Unhappy Hour" marking the disparity between wages earned by men and women in the workforce. March 14 is Equal Pay Day 2023, a day that symbolizes the full year and two and a half months of the new year in which women must work to earn what men were paid the previous year. "Since March 31st is the last day of Women’s History Month, a m...

  • "State of the City" Good, Mayor Hilligoss Reports

    Robert Connors, Managing Editor|Updated Mar 25, 2023

    An upbeat assessment of activities during the past year and a positive look toward the future was offered by Lake Wales Mayor Jack Hilligoss at the annual "State of the City" luncheon sponsored by the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce Friday. The event drew some seventy area residents to the Performing Arts Center at The Vanguard School. In a speach running about 25 minutes Hilligoss cited the implementation of a "180" utility city area, which "establishes the footprint" of...

  • Commission Candidate Forum Brought Few Surprises

    Robert Connors, Managing Editor|Updated Mar 21, 2023

    Four city commission candidates facing an April 4 election shared a stage at the Lake Wales Womans Club Auditorium Tuesday evening to compare their positions on a variety of topics raised by audience questions. Few major differences were apparent on subjects ranging from public transportation to electric car chargers. The candidates responded to five questions submitted in advance by the two organizations, followed by others submitted by the audience. Surprisingly, none of the...

  • Governor DeSantis' Delayed Reinstatement of Suspended Commissioner Kris Fitzgerald Raised at City Commission Meeting

    Robert Connors, Managing Editor|Updated Mar 4, 2023

    The expected reinstatement of suspended City Commissioner Kris Fitzgerald was raised again by Commissioner Terrye Howell, who questioned the lack of action from Governor Ron DeSantis at the most recent meeting of the commission. DeSantis suspended Fitzgerald in June of 2021 after she was charged with two felonies. Fitzgerald was acquitted by a jury trial in October. Florida statutes call for the governor to end her suspension "forthwith" upon her exoneration of the charges....

  • Lake Wales City Commission Tightens Rules on Public Speaking During Meetings

    Robert Connors, Managing Editor|Updated Jan 13, 2023
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    New requirements will be faced by those wishing to speak during the public access portion of Lake Wales City Commission meetings following action taken Tuesday. On a 3-2 vote the commission approved a resolution providing for a registration form to be completed by each speaker prior to the meeting containing their personal information and the purpose and topic of their statement. Commission chambers were filled during the meeting with several forced to watch a television feed...

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