We want to know what we think we all ought to know, so we occasionally ask the people who do.

Who needs a ride?

Charles Barmby, the City's Business Development & Transportation Manager fills in the blanks for this long-term economic development project

When? In other words, given all "green lights", when would the project be fulfilled?

The project team is currently evaluating transit improvements for the near term and longer-term future. The near-term improvements focus on operational improvements to the Gold Line that are intended to be implemented in the next five years, assuming funding can be identified to support these improvements. The longer-term capital improvements (improved station amenities and dedicated transit lanes on the northern segment of the alignment) have a proposed horizon of 15-25 years and would also need to identify capital funding. FDOT and the City of Lakeland are evaluating the feasibility of the proposed improvements as well as potential funding sources.

Who benefits directly? Riders? Commerce on the route? Developers? The City's tax base?

The intent is to benefit a variety of stakeholders in the Lakeland community including existing transit riders, future riders, businesses and employees, and existing drivers in the corridor.

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US 98 Bus Rapid Transit Feasibility Study - Survey

Riders and businesses would benefit from the improved access and travel times that the project could bring. Drivers could also benefit from reductions in congestion with people switching from the car to the bus. We hope that developers and business owners alike will see the benefits of improved transit and mobility options in the corridor. With more development, the city could also assume to capture some additional revenues, however, that is not the primary intent of the project. The study does address the extent to which new development activity already projected to occur in Lakeland would need to be focused along the corridor, to achieve a level of activity that could warrant high capacity transit service in the future, and to help guide City policy priorities.

 

What does it look like? A bus? A train? (I see the "US 98 Bus" reference, but is it short for "Business", or is it truly a bus?)

Both near term and longer-term transit in the US 98 corridor is envisioned to be a bus. However, the corridor connects several potential plans for the high-speed rail (I-4 corridor) and commuter rail (to Downtown Lakeland). The near-term buses would be the same as those operating in the corridor today. The longer-term vision is to have a fleet of specially branded electric buses in the US 98 corridor between the Lakeland Square Mall area and downtown Lakeland (or the future intermodal facility).

The "Where?" is pretty clear as to its geography, and the "Why?" is laid out at a high level, but can more specifics be added in terms of its impact at ground level?

Impacts of the project will be evaluated further as project elements are defined in more detail. General project benefits and the “why” answer will be included in the final plan and documentation.

 

So, How? Taxes? Fees? Investors? Bonds? City vs. State share of the funding?

Potential operating and capital funding sources are being evaluated. However, at this time, no specific suite of funding has been identified. This will require further work by the City, Lakeland Area Mass Transit District (LAMTD), and other stakeholders.

 

And last on my list today: What political influences and influencers are most likely to play a role?

The study is intended to provide the context for policy decision-making regarding the corridor. Successful high capacity transit service results from an intentional and sustained commitment from many partners, including the City. This study will ideally inform those discussions going forward.

South Florida Avenue Road Diet 

Chuck Barmby

Business Development & Transportation Manager

Community & Economic Development

City of Lakeland

Can you tell us when (if) you will start counting cars on (and off) South Florida Avenue again?

FDOT’s counts collected back in January and February provide a data base line for future analysis and the current plan is for the City (CED, Traffic Operations and LPD) to work with FDOT to conduct volume and speed counts on the surrounding street network on an as-needed basis to address specific concerns that are raised during the test period (expected to formally begin on October 1st).  

 

For Florida Avenue and surrounding State Highways, Traffic Operations has the ability to evaluate travel time in real-time and is doing that on a 24/7 basis.  

 

The next big step in the testing of the Florida Avenue corridor will begin with the start of school on August 24th and we expect comments and questions to come up in the days immediately following the start of the fall semester.

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READ MORE HERE  - History of the project
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Lake Morton

During my regular morning rounds I recently noticed two installations like this: one at Orange Park Avenue and one on the opposite side of the lake at Kentucky Avenue.

Soooo ...

I sent the photo and the question to Heath Frederick, the City's Public Works Director, hoping to get the story. And, in spite of the fact that this was a Saturday, the email exchange here shows what I think of as a typical timely and informative response from our city officials.

The presentation was made to the City Commission at their regular meeting on March 2nd.

Heath Frederick, Public Works Director, City of Lakeland, 863.834.6040, Heath.frederick@lakelandgov.net

Saturday, June 27

 

8:55 AM

Heath, 

Good morning! Just wondering if this is in your realm. 

Cheers, Michael 

9:36 AM

To be honest I have no idea what that is but I will find out and let you know shortly.  

Thanks, 

11:35 AM

Found out what it is, a temporary stormwater auto sampler for Lake Morton study.  They will be removed in a few months. Exactly what it does I am not sure but plan to do more studying. We are doing a study on Lake Morton to see what steps we can take to improve the water quality.  

Employee Attrition

As the FY2020 budget was being finalized, City Manager Tony Delgado indicated that he would allow natural attrition to reduce the city's employee population  -  when and where it was appropriate  -  as a measure to reduce costs and/or reallocate funding. As the first quarter closed we asked how it was working.

 

Can you update the employee population and compensation data compared to the October 1 numbers?

Michael Brossart, City of Lakeland Finance Director

You can see the increases and decreases by department.  I would note that the General Fund netted 1 new fulltime position and decreased by 3 part-time positions.  Citywide we went up 4 fulltime and down 6 part-time positions.  The payroll numbers will not show a decrease as over 50% of the employees were eligible (but must earn a qualiying review) 2.5% merit (Step) increase and all employees received a 2% cost of living increase.  The increase in positions were driven by things such as:

 

Amazon coming into the Airport and the requirement for [evening] staffing 

Stormwater ... as a way to maintain the lakeshores after the State, County and FWC determined that they could no longer provide that service

Water and Wastewater as a result of increased maintenance requirements

Much of the position changes in the General Fund were movement between divisions (I.e. Parks & Rec transferred a position to Finance).  The net new position in the General Fund was an Emergency Operations Manager for the City. The cost for this position will be borne by all departments of the City and not just the General Fund. 

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Page G-20 of the FY’20 annual budget.

South Florida Avenue Road Diet 

We deduce that the freshly installed devices on South Florida Avenue and the Lake Morton neighborhood are part of the process to determine how traffic will re-direct during the road diet's test period. Yes?

Chuck Barmby

Transportation and Development Review Manager for the City of Lakeland

You are correct that the traffic counters are being used to collect baseline data from which to determine traffic changes related to the upcoming South Florida Avenue Road-Diet Test. 

 

[The Florida Department of Transportation] is funding these counts at approximately 90 locations on the east and west sides of Florida Avenue from Beacon Road to Downtown. The counters are collecting vehicle volumes, speeds and classifications (cars, trucks, etc.).

 

The City’s Traffic Operations Division has also funded the installation of “Bluetooth” devices on signals on the Florida Avenue, Sikes Boulevard and Bartow Road corridors, which are already producing real-time information regarding travel times and delays on Florida Avenue within the Dixieland and Downtown areas.

READ MORE HERE

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Conditional Use Permits

Is it possible to adapt or amend the rules regarding neighbor notifications for conditional use permits? The current voluntary notification, with a range of 250, feet has proven unhelpful and inadequate. I propose that in the case of a designated historic district that the notice be provided to the entire neighborhood, which is impacted by all economic development activity anywhere in it, and that it be mandatory. A message to the formal association should be sufficient.

Tony Delgado, City Manager

As a courtesy not required by Florida law, we currently mail out notification letters to all property owners located within 500 feet for any zoning/land use applications and 250 feet for any CUP applications. This has been standard practice for the department since at least the 1990s. If a request is likely to be controversial, we always try to include any active neighborhood associations that we are aware of in the mailing list.  

Historically, we have not mailed out letters to every property owner in a neighborhood due to practical concerns pertaining to staff time and printing/postage costs. While the 250’ notification radius for CUP applications is somewhat arbitrary, if increased we would need to apply to all property owners, not just those located in the historic districts, as a matter of equity. To account for the additional costs incurred, we would also likely need to increase the fees for such applications.   

Proposed 20-002; approving a conditional use to allow for the construction of a garage apartment on property located at 829 Pennsylvania Avenue (1st reading 01-06-2020) 

WHEREAS, an application has been filed by Alton Masters, for a conditional use to allow the construction of a garage apartment on property located at 829 Pennsylvania Avenue, as more particularly described on Attachment “A” and graphically depicted on Attachments “B,” “C,” and “D,” attached hereto; and

WHEREAS, on December 17, 2019, the Planning and Zoning Board held a public hearing on the request of the applicant to have such conditional use granted; and

WHEREAS, the Planning and Zoning Board approved the application on December 17, 2019, and recommended to the City Commission that the conditional use be granted;

READ MORE HERE