City News Blog


This is the official blog of the City of Lakeland, Florida. Check back frequently to stay up to date with all that going on in our beautiful city!

LAKELAND, FL (February 24, 2011) - We are truly disappointed in Governor Rick Scott’s decision to return federal high speed rail funding before allowing us the opportunity to hear the valuable feedback needed to make a sound business decision from those that would operate and maintain the system.

We were counting on not only the vendor operators but other members in the private sector to deploy their innovation, technology and capital investments in our state to help us resolve our long term transportation challenges while reducing our current over-dependence on tax payer resources.

There has been a great deal of regional visioning and substantial research work through business and citizen led groups such as of the Central Florida Partnership and One Bay of the Tampa Bay Partnership.  They have engaged citizens and leaders from throughout 14 counties spanning across the "I-4 Corridor" and transportation concerns are salient through this collaborative research.

In order for us to remain competitive in the future, maintain a great quality of life, attract tourists and provide an environment where businesses can grow and prosper, Florida can’t continue doing what we have always done in our transportation infrastructure delivery.

It is time for a new way of thinking.  The United States is known as the innovators around the globe.  However, we are the only industrialized country in the world that does not have high speed rail.  This was our chance to showcase Florida with the technological advances in transportation with a public/private partnership that would assist the growth and development needs of our state. 

There were a number of key players that came together to address the Governor’s concerns regarding subsidies and ridership numbers. I think we sufficiently addressed the issues responsibly and in concert with the business community.  I would like to personally thank all those parties that swiftly teamed to save high speed rail in Florida including those at the State and Federal level.  The formation of the I-4 Super Region was evident when Tampa’s Mayor Pam Iorio, Orlando’s Mayor Buddy Dyer, Tampa City Attorney Chip Fletcher, special counsel to Orlando Bill Peebles and Lakeland’s team all came together proving that communities can bond for a common cause.  The group helped draft an agreement that would create an independent agency that would ultimately transfer all operational and ownership risks to the private firm that was the successful bidder for the high speed rail project.

Once again, we are disappointed and a number of people including FDOT factually met the issues raised by Governor Scott that would shift liability to the owner/operator of the system. The challenge of efficiently moving people and goods in our state is still there and we will need to continue working together toward a common goal in making Florida the best place to live, work and play. 

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.