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

    Robert Connors|Updated 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...

  • 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...

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

    Scott Wilder|Updated 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|Updated 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|Updated 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...

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

    Robert Connors|Updated 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...

  • Fire Destroys Rural Home Despite Efforts of Two Departments

    Greg King|Updated 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,"...

  • Commissioner Carol Gillespie Joins Lake Wales City Board

    Robert Connors|Updated 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...

  • City Files For Final Judgement to Regain Walesbilt Hotel Title

    Robert Connors|Updated 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 th...

  • Baking Temperatures Expected This Week Before Relief Arrives

    Robert Connors|Updated 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....

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

    Robert Connors|Updated 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 an...

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • Slaton Seeking Manager's Job in New Smyrna Beach

    Robert Connors|Updated Apr 23, 2024

    Lake Wales City Manager James Slaton is on a short list of finalists under consideration to serve as city manager of New Smyrna Beach. Two Lake Wales city commissioners reached by Lake Wales News were unaware, and withheld comment. Slaton, 46, has managed the city for almost four years after the prior city manager, Ken Fields, was forced to resign by unhappy commissioners. Slaton was offered the job in October 2020 after having served as an interim manager for over five months...

  • Fort Meade Seeking New Logo, Image for City

    Special to the News|Updated Apr 23, 2024

    Fort Meade's traditional seal, a crest featuring a fort, citrus fruits and a horse-drawn street car may soon be a thing of the past. The Fort Meade city commission has created the "Mayor's Blue Ribbon Committee for New Signage and City Logo" to design new signage for the north and south entryways on Highway 17, along with a city logo. The new media assets are expected to be a part of the city's larger efforts to rebrand itself to attract more residents, businesses, and...

  • 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...

  • "Unity" Cookout Draws Crowd to Share With Current, Former City Officials

    Robert Connors|Updated Apr 15, 2024

    A community gathering drew a large group of current, future, and former city officials Sunday evening to initiate what some hope will become a new "unity" effort in Lake Wales, Current city commissioners Keith Thompson and Daniel Williams joined commissioner-elect Carol Gillespie, former commissioners Terrye Howell and Curtis Gibson, and former mayor Gene Fultz at the cookout at the city's B Street Center. The officials were greeted by several dozen citizens who enjoyed a...

  • Two More Large Tracts of Land Nominated for Preservation Near Lake Wales

    Robert Connors, Managing Editor|Updated Apr 8, 2024

    The vision of a "Big Green Network" of environmental lands flanking Lake Wales to the east and west moved a small step closer to reality this week as Polk County's environmental lands program addressed the possibility of acquiring a large tract of land just northeast of the city. The expanse of lands totaling 1,195 acres spanning Masterpiece Road and partially surrounding the former Masterpiece Gardens tourist attraction belong to corporations or individual members of the...

  • City's Trail Network to See Major Expansion

    Robert Connors, Managing Editor|Updated Apr 5, 2024

    The popular network of walking and biking trails weaving through Lake Wales is about to grow a great deal better, thanks to grants received by the city. New planned segments include the Ridge Scenic Highway Connector Trail that will connect the western end of the Lake Wales Trailway to the new Park Avenue Trail near Crystal Lake. It will run south along Third Street from a point just west of the Lake Wales Little Theatre, thereby also accessing the Lake Wailes Trail. That link...

  • 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...

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