City News Blog


The latest happenings in your city government.

In a news conference earlier today (February 16th) Governor Rick Scott announced that he was rejecting federal funding for Florida high speed rail.   In his prepared statement Scott said he was making good on campaign promises reducing the size and scope of government.  He listed three main economic realities as the reason for rejecting the federal funding.

First – capital cost overruns from the project could put Florida taxpayers on the hook for an additional $3 billion.

Second – ridership and revenue projections are historically overly optimistic and would likely result in ongoing subsidies that state taxpayers would have to incur. (From $300 million - $575 million over 10 years). The state subsidizes Tri-Rail $34.6 million a year while passenger revenues covers only $10.4 million of the $64 million annual operating budget.

Finally – if the project becomes too costly for taxpayers and is shut down, the state would have to return the $2.4 billion in federal funds to D.C.

Mayor Gow Fields reacted with a statement of disappointment.  He said, “I really believe we would have a better economic case after we went through the request for proposal and got to hear from the private sector that would be operating the system.” He added, “Making a decision before then is a true disappointment but high speed rail is not dead forever.” 

Fields said that HSR does have a chance in Florida because we need to grow smartly and provide for the people and businesses in this state.  “Someone else in the country is going to show how high speed rail will work in their community and I guess then we will strongly consider it in Florida,” Fields said.

LAKELAND, FL (February 22, 2011) – Make the City of Lakeland Parks & Recreation Indoor Triathlon your first indoor triathlon. This fun challenge is perfect for everyone – from seasoned triathletes to first-timers. Race a 20-minute swim, 20-minute bike and a 20-minute run in the controlled environment of the Kelly Recreation and Gandy Pool Complexes.  The Indoor Triathlon will be held on Saturday, March 12th, with check-in at 8:00 am at the Kelly Recreation Complex.  

You set your own pace. Performance is measured by distance covered in each of the three legs. The more distance you cover, the higher your score.

All participants will receive a City of Lakeland Indoor Triathlon T-shirt and a medal. All ages are welcome, but minors must have parental consent at time of registration. Deadline for registration is March 7, 2011. Entry fee is only $20.00 Full details and registration forms can be found at For more information contact the Kelly Recreation Complex at 863-834-3283.

At the City Commission meeting held February 21st the commission approved a right-of-way purchase at 801 W. 2nd Street. This purchase was necessary for the North Lincoln Sidewalk Improvement project which is now anticipated to begin in August 2011.

The City also made available warehouse space at the airport for Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC) for the implementation of Lakeland Electric’s Smart Grid Initiative.

The Commission also approved: The annexation into the city of property at 1130 East Rose St. off-street parking and storm water retention for property at 125 E. Prado Place.

Also approved was zoning for the North Village project that includes a Walgreens at Harden Blvd. and Town Center Dr. at Lakeside Village.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has allocated$1,303,139 to Lakeland, for the purpose of stabilizing neighborhoods and eliminating blight over the next three years. The City of Lakeland has identified three neighborhoods of greatest need: Lake Beulah, Webster Park and Parker Street.

The selection of the White Challis Redevelopment Co., LLC (“White Challis”) to provide residential development of the Bay Street Parking Lot was approved. The project is a three story mixed use building with retail/office and residential studios on the ground floor; and residential lofts on the second and third floors and will front Kentucky Avenue and Bay Street.

Also approved was a resolution implementing a voluntary energy efficiency and renewable energy program; providing financing to residential property owners located in Lakeland Electric’s service territory seeking to install energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements on their residences.  Any financing provided pursuant to this program shall be set at a minimum amount of $500 and a maximum amount of $5,000 at zero interest for qualified Lakeland Electric customers.

The City Manager was authorized to submit funding applications to the Polk Transportation Planning Organization for the Central Lakeland transit signal prioritization study, for Bartow Rd. and Kathleen Rd. access management improvement projects.

The Commission also approved a service agreement with Federal Engineering, Inc. for the evaluation of the City’s radio communications needs. The existing 800MHz radio system, needs replacing, due to the obsolescence of equipment. This radio system serves the needs for Police, Fire, Lakeland Electric and many other Departments.

Upon recommendation of the Utility Committee the City Commission approved an Agreement with Burns & McDonnell to Conduct a Rate Study for Lakeland Electric with a total cost of $125,000.

Also approved was a task authorization with TJR Technical Services, Inc. for McIntosh Unit #2 technical direction, outage coordination and bid reviews, during April 2011 outage.

The City Commission also voted to allow the City attorney to enter into talks with Tampa, Orlando and other interested parties as to formulation of a private entity to coordinate the implementation of the High Speed Rail project.

The Lakeland City Commission voted in a unanimous decision to give City Attorney Tim McCausland the approval to work with other agencies in creating the legal framework for an independent agency to oversee the future development of high speed rail.

McCausland will be working with Cities of Tampa and Orlando and their legal teams in creating an independent agency that would manage future development of the proposed high speed rail project.  This independent oversight group would insulate taxpayers from any financial risk and divert the $2.4 billion in federal funding to a new entity such as a regional planning group.

McCausland said, “The idea is to have a plan that would allow private sector input from vendor operators and place any liability for the project on them.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has created a Friday, Feb. 25th deadline to devise an alternative plan to create the Orlando-to-Tampa line after the announcement from Gov. Scott that  he would not accept the federal funding for any high speed rail project in Florida.

In response to the Governor's announcement, the City of Tampa, the City of Orlando, and the City of Lakeland have helped "craft" the language for an Independent Regional Agency. The Central Florida Super Region continues to explore a "shared solution" when it comes to High Speed Rail for Florida.

Letter to Senator Nelson and Representative Castor regarding indepenent agency. 02-18-2011 HSR Ltr to Sen Nelson and Rep Castor pdf.pdf