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News Story
Updated: 07/16/2014 08:00:05AM

County judge to address relationship with bailiff

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A Polk County judge, accused last year of inappropriate behavior with a bailiff, has been given 20 days to respond to the allegations by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, according to paperwork posted Monday on the Florida Supreme Court website.

The commission advised Judge Susan Flood that a relationship she had with the bailiff created an appearance of impropriety and that probable cause exists for formal proceedings to be instituted.

“As a judge you exercise direction and control over your bailiff,” wrote Michael Schneider, commission general counsel. “The situation became such that some of your judicial colleagues approached you and expressed their concern over the level of friendship with someone over whom you exercised supervisory authority,” Schneider continued. In a 68-page report last September, 10th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Jerry Hill said Flood did not break the law and found no direct evidence Flood was sexually involved with the bailiff. However, Hill questioned Flood’s behavior.

Sponsorship applications for arts, culture and heritage funding being accepted

Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing announced a supplemental application process for fiscal year 2014-15 arts, cultural and heritage event sponsorships is now open (covering events taking place Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2015).

In addition to the original sponsorship application period, which was held in January, the Tourist Development Council has opened up a supplemental application period for new events that did not apply during the January call for applications. The new application period closes on Friday, Aug. 8, and all completed applications must be received at the PCTSM office, 2701 Lake Myrtle Park Road, Auburndale, FL 33823 by 4 p.m. that day — (applications must be in hand and not postmarked by that date). Any applications received after the deadline will be ineligible for consideration.

Free amplified phones available

Central Florida Speech and Hearing Center, 3020 Lakeland Highlands Road, Lakeland, will be distributing free amplified phones to Florida residents who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf/blind or speech impaired provided they meet requirements. The phones are loaned for as long as needed.

Distribution will take place at the following locations on the following dates/times:

• Friday, July 18

Lake Wales Library

290 Cypress Garden Ave.

10 a.m.-3 p.m.

• Monday, July 21

Winter Haven Public Library

325 Ave. A NW

10 a.m.-3 p.m.

• Monday, July 28

Haines City Public Library

111 N. 6th St.

10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Anyone who currently has an amplified phone from FTRI (Florida Telecommunications Relay Inc., a state-run agency) and is experiencing issues, may return it for a new one. For information, call 863-686-3189.

Price rises for Polk Parkway SunPass users

A little more change is now due from SunPass users using roads that take them such as the Polk Parkway.

A 1.5 percent increase was enacted because of a 2007 state law that allows SunPass and toll-by-plate rates to be adjusted every year based on changes in the consumer price index. The change will result in fees going up an extra penny or two at most toll plazas.

The cost of a trip the entire length of Florida’s Turnpike, 309 miles from Wildwood to Florida City, will grow from $19.75 to $20.07 for SunPass customers, Turnpike spokeswoman Sonyha Rodriguez-Miller said in an email. Cash rates, which are higher than those charged to SunPass users, are not going up at this time.

The law allows cash rates to go up, also based on the CPI, once every five years. The next cash rate change is set for 2017.

For motorists who are billed when a photo is taken of the vehicle’s license plate as it travels through a tolling location, toll-by-plate, the same Wildwood-to-Florida City trip is rising from $24.77 to $24.85.

The two increases are expected to generate between $8 million and $10 million a year. Toll revenues for fiscal year 2013 hit $755 million.

The turnpike system roads impacted by the change are the Seminole Expressway, the Southern Connector, the Beachline Expressway West, the Polk Parkway, the I-4 Connector, and the Daniel Webster Western Beltway Part C, in Central Florida; the Sawgrass Expressway in Southeast Florida; and the Veterans Expressway and the Suncoast Parkway north of Tampa. Florida Department of Transportation-owned toll roads seeing a similar increase are: Alligator Alley in South Florida, Pinellas Bayway and Sunshine Skyway.

Tax collector launches new website

The Tax Collector’s Office launched a significant website redesign last week.

www.Polktaxes.com website enables customers, partners and other visitors to find what they need with greater ease, the agency reports. For example, one feature of the redesigned site is the ability for visitors to have an optimal viewing experience regardless of the user’s device. By using a responsive Web design approach, the site adapts to the user’s environment such as the screen size on mobile phones, tablets, and desktop computer monitors. This provides easier reading and navigation with minimal resizing, panning or scrolling.

“We recognize that we live in an increasingly mobile world,” said Joe Tedder, Tax Collector for Polk County in a press release. “People are busy and we want our customers to be able to conduct their business with us in whichever environment fits their needs. If a customer is at lunch and they want to check our lobby wait times on their phone before visiting one of our service centers, we want that experience to be pleasant, quick and easy.”

The website format still offers all the online features and services that local motorists, business owners and property taxpayers have come to know. New items include improved search capabilities, easy to navigate dropdown menus, an expanded news feed view and the ability for online visitors to take a survey to let us know how they like doing business with our office online.

In addition to the updated design, the new website includes an exciting new feature related to tourist development taxes. Now, those seeking to submit tourist development tax returns and payments online can do so using an e-check, debit or credit card, creating a streamlined process for the customer and the Tax Collector’s Office.

Do you have the right stuff?

Get your application in today as the class is filling up fast.

Leadership Bartow was established in 1984 to enhance the civic participation of leaders within the Polk County Area.

Every two years, Leadership Bartow selects people in this area to participate in the two-year program oriented to developing leadership skills, fostering understanding of the major issues facing the Bartow area, improving the communications network among leaders of disparate backgrounds and interests and, most importantly, motivating them to contribute through voluntary participation in civic activities.

Since its inception, almost 400 individuals have completed the Leadership Bartow program, acquiring the skills, knowledge and passion necessary to participate fully in the life of our community. Leadership Bartow continues to be a vital part of the overall effort to ensure that the pool of talent from which the community can draw its future leaders continues to be renewed.

Leadership Bartow Class XVI is now being formed. The purpose of this program is to identify and educate potential, emerging and existing community leaders, to promote networking among the membership, to identify community needs and to promote and facilitate community projects and to provide a resource pool for the benefit of the community.

For the first time

For the first time, the annual Polk Emerging Leaders Awards will be a collaborative event of the three young professional groups in Polk County — Emerge Lakeland, Engage Bartow and the Winter Haven Young Professionals Group.

Ushering in a new era of collaboration and blurring the “east/west dividing line,” the awards have been established to annually recognize five young professionals between age 21-42 who have made significant contributions and commitment to the Polk County community.

To nominate an individual, email info@polkemergingleaders.org.

The event will be 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20 at the Bartow Civic Center, 2250 S. Floral Ave., Bartow.


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