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Polk building inspector signing violation sticker

Imagine this: It’s hurricane season and the storm clouds are rolling in. The wind is ramping up. Forecasters are calling for 80-mile per hour (or faster) gusts.

So, the question is, is your house safe? Will it hold up to the wind?

If you answered “yes,” do you know what’s making it safe? Who is ultimately responsible for keeping your home safe when extreme conditions arrive in Polk County?

“Safety is the biggest goal for our building inspectors,” said Polk County Building Official Ryan Wiggins. “We don’t really evacuate in Polk County, so we have to make sure that, when hurricanes hit, you can stay in your home without worrying that it will be blown away.”

Building inspector conducting a site inspection

How many building inspectors are there?

Wiggins manages a team of 32 inspectors, who perform 850 inspections per day. Think about that for a moment – 32 Polk County Building Division employees inspect 850 sites per day! That’s almost 27 inspections per person per day.

“Not only do our inspectors visit quite a few sites, they often drive more than 100 miles each day,” Wiggins said. “So, they have to hustle.”

What do building inspectors do?

Inspectors examine buildings to assess four elements: structural integrity, mechanical elements, electrical systems and plumbing work. They ensure that the work being done matches the building plans that were submitted to the county and state code. Depending on what’s being inspected, the walkthrough can take just 15 minutes or up to two hours.

Some inspectors review each of the four elements, and some focus on just one. They have all spent at least five years working on what they inspect, and, as they buzz through each work site, they identify any construction defects or issues that need to be addressed before the property is occupied. So, if framing is done incorrectly, or if a toilet leaks, the inspectors will issue a failing report. On new construction, this means buyers or renters cannot become occupants until the work is corrected.

Polk building inspector returning oven to its placePeople cannot move into a new house unless building inspectors deem it 100% safe, for today and for whenever dangerous weather hits Polk County. The inspectors are, in a sense, the final line of protection for the county’s residents.

“Because of their experience, our inspectors are not just telling builders what a code book says,” said Wiggins. “They’ve done it, too. They understand how hard the builders have worked on a project, and they know exactly why something failed and how to fix it.”

Polk County inspectors also conduct inspections in occupied homes, always with a resident and/or contractor present. If inspectors find an issue, occupants can remain in the residence while corrections are made unless the issue is life threatening.

The job doesn’t stop because of bad weatherPolk building inspector filling out paperwork on site

As the old U.S. Postal Service cliché goes, the inspectors are on the job rain or shine. Even in the heat of summer, they’re at construction sites, moving quickly from home to home. They are out post-hurricane, helping residents by doing damage assessments.

“As soon as the wind is below 45 miles per hour, we send out teams of two,” Wiggins said.

Polk County’s building inspectors view every residence in unincorporated Polk County after major weather events. The damage they see gets reported to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and their work helps the county secure disaster assistance.

Building inspectors and builders

Customer service is a point of emphasis for Polk’s building inspectors. They are encouraged to communicate and build relationships with builders and homeowners. The goal is to demonstrate to contractors that the inspectors are looking out for them, as well as future residents.

“The builders obviously have deadlines to meet,” Wiggins said, “so they’re working to get as much done as they can as quickly as possible. But things also have to be done safely. There’s no substitute for life safety. We strive to make sure the builders know we have their best interests in mind. That way, no one gets upset when something gets failed. The work simply gets corrected, and we’re all able to move on with our day.”

“What would happen if the county passed an inspection that should have not been passed and then a hurricane comes? The last thing anyone wants is for someone’s Polk building inspector with contractorhome to have a structural issue, especially if or when a hurricane comes. As a builder, contractor and building inspector, part of the reputation you want is knowing that, when homes are built in Polk County, they are built to a quality standard meeting Florida Building Code requirements. This is why we see our working relationship with the construction industry as a partnership that is good for the community,” said Wiggins.

Building Inspectors Help Keep Polk County Homes Safe

Legacies in Polk Government Leadership exhibit wall in Polk County History Center

The Board of County Commissioners Then…

The size and makeup of the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) has evolved since Polk County’s establishment in 1861. Did you know that the first ever BoCC only had four commissioners? William S. Harris, Isaac Waters, James Hamilton and Joseph Mizell were elected by residents in three voting districts: Fort Fraser, Fort Meade and Socrum. They convened at Mud Lake in the Lakeland Highlands area, which had been chosen by voters as the county seat in the same April 1861 election. The BoCC has since expanded in accordance to changes to the Florida Constitution in 1885, 1900 and 1944.

The Polk County History Center has unveiled a new exhibit exploring the establishment of the Polk County Government. “Legacies in Polk Government Leadership” honors the men and women in county government whose service marked a turning point in the county’s history. The inaugural inductees included the county’s first female commissioner and the county’s first Black commissioner. Their legacies were recognized on March 28, 2024, in a special ceremony at the Polk County History Center.

Brenda Taylor (1943-2024)

Brenda Taylor, District 1 commissioner, sitting at her desk in her officeThe first honoree inducted into the “Legacies in Polk Government Leadership” exhibit was Brenda Taylor, the first woman to be elected to the Polk County BoCC. Did she have any political experience? No. Her professional experience included working as an office manager for a large department store chain and as a secretary and account ant for her husband’s firm, Taylor Engineering and Surveying in Lakeland.

Taylor was the last candidate to submit her application to enter the commission race that year. The only campaign financial contribution that she reported was the $1608 she had paid out of her own pocket to satisfy the qualifying fee.

In September 1976, she beat incumbent District 1 Commissioner Floyd Woods, earning 21,918 votes to his 16,269 votes.

During her eight years as commissioner, Taylor focused on economic development and improved the quality of life in the county. Her impact included the implementation of an animal control ordinance, which upgraded the Animal Control Department. She was also involved in shortening the process for zoning cases and building relationships which led to the donation of Christina Park to the county.

Brenda Taylor posing next to her 1968 Jaguar XKE sports car, Tampa Tribune photo by Larry AlspaughTaylor said she “didn’t go into office making big promises. I offered (voters) my full-time service. I said that I would serve with honesty and integrity, and I’ve given them what they asked for.”

After her time on the commission, Taylor continued to serve Polk County as a part-time employee, supporting the development of road projects by negotiating with property owners for right-of-way . In 1985, she was hired by the first director of the Economic Development Council of Polk County, now the Central Florida Development Council. For 21 years, she successfully built relationships with businesses and employers to attract them to Polk County.

Taylor passed away in January 2024. Read the full story of her successes in Polk County, including her early years, her time on the commission and her retirement, as told through photos and historical newspaper articles, by visiting the Polk County History Center’s digital archive.

Charles Richardson

Charles Richardson Sr. (1949-2003)

Charles Richardson Sr., the first Black Polk County resident to be elected to the BoCC, was also honored on March 28 and inducted into the “Legacies in Polk Government Leadership” exhibit.

But Richardson’s impact on Polk County began before his historic election to the BoCC.

Before he was a county commissioner, Richardson served on the City of Winter Haven commission. He only entered the race for city commissioner after Ann Darby, the first Black woman elected to serve, stepped down and encouraged Richardson to take an interest. She wanted to see representation from the African American community in local government.

Richardson was also the first director of the Talent Search Program established at at Polk Community College (now Polk State College) in 1998. As the director, Richardson helped economically disadvantaged high school students discover opportunities to improve their lives through college education.

When it came time to run for county commissioner, he did so on a platform of growth management and education. In September 2002, he defeated incumbent Commissioner Bruce Parker to win the District 4 seat, earning 53% of the vote.

Richardson was known among his fellow commissioners as a bridge-builder and always prioritized the quality of life of his residents.

Unfortunately, Richardson was not able to complete his four-year term on the county commission. He passed away from cancer in October 2003, only 11 months into his term. Upon his death, Richardson’s sister, Gloria Washington, told the Orlando Sentinel, “He opened avenues for people of all backgrounds.”

Learn more about Richardson Sr.’s life and accomplishments, as well as his early years as one of the first students to transfer to the Summerlin Institute upon desegregation of the public schools in 1965, at the Polk County History Center’s digital archive.

Charles Richardson campaigning for district four county commissioner

Want to nominate a Polk County legacy?

Like Richardson and Taylor, there are many other individuals who have had an impact in Polk County Government. The Polk County History Center wants to celebrate those legacies.

Recognitions to “Legacies in Polk Government Leadership” happen through nomination from the public with approval by the Polk County Historical Commission.

To begin the process of nominating a legacy honoree, contact the Polk County History Center at (863) 534-4386.

Legacies in Polk Government Leadership

group of people gathered watching white, bright fireworks in the night sky

Tradition and Safety

Fireworks are an American tradition, used to commemorate several national holidays. For instance, Independence Day firework displays date back to the United States’ first birthday on July 4, 1777. Nevertheless, fireworks are much older than the United States and even the discovery of the Americas. Their creation dates back more than 2,000 years with their origin beginning in China.

Aerial fireworks first appeared around the year 1200 thanks to the use of gunpowder as a propellent. But the colorful displays associated with modern firework displays began in the 1830s when specific metals were added to the mixture, creating the reactions needed to produce colored explosions other than simply the typical orange.

orange, bright, colorful fireworks

These beautiful displays of shapes, colors and designs still wow spectators and provide entertainment for the masses every year. Innovations have made them bigger, better and safer especially over the last 200 years. These innovations, along with better and faster production methods, make them more available to not just professionals but to the public.

group of friends gathered around using sparklers

 

The increase in commercial availability means that it is much easier to participate in or view fireworks displays of all sizes, from small backyard family shows to city-sponsored events. No matter the changes in safety standard, they are still very dangerous objects, especially when they are mishandled, or when proper precautions are not followed. So, the only safe way to enjoy fireworks is watching professional displays because in the hands of an average person they can be extremely dangerous with the potential for severe injury, fire or death.

Health and Safety Risks

Each year, fireworks cause thousands of injuries and burns with the majority to the extremities and head. Children are especially susceptible to firework injuries as individuals under 15 years old make up one third of victims. Children ages 10-14 have the highest rate of injury of any group.

man with bandage on bleeding hand

Many people think of fireworks as the high flying and explosive displays seen on television or hosted by local government or private business; however, not all fireworks are explosive, as sparklers cause about a quarter of fireworks injuries. Handheld fireworks may seem safe compared to more explosive items, but they burn at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit which can cause third-degree burns. Glowsticks are a safe alternative to sparklers, as they are colorful and longer lasting than individual sparklers. Another potential alternative is silly string, as it is safe and encourages playful interactions.

Fireworks also pose a risk of starting avoidable fires as approximately 20,000 fireworks-related fires occur annually. These can range from structure fires that could fully engulf a home to brush fires that can quickly spread and threaten a lot of lives and property depending upon the weather conditions.

Public Safety Concerns

Additional medical and fire calls from fireworks put a strain on the public safety sector during the summer months. The uptick in calls mean crews are working a higher volume of calls that are of a higher severity. This puts them at a higher risk of injury or death as they work to stop the spread of a fire or help a victim of a fireworks-related injury.

If you are looking to safely enjoy fireworks this upcoming holiday season, Polk County has many professionals displays. You can make a day of it attending the many activities offered during the various events from concerts to baseball games before enjoying the main event, the fireworks display.

Polk County Firework Displays

Saturday, June 29

City of Eagle Lake – Patriotic Celebration | Eagle Lake Park | 5-9:30 p.m.

Wednesday, July 3

City of Lakeland – Red, White and Kaboom | Frances Langford Promenade | 6-9 p.m.

City of Winter Haven – Rock N’ Freedom Fest | Dr. Martin Luther King Park | 6-9 p.m.

Thursday, July 4

LEGOLAND® Florida Resort – Red, White & BOOM! | Legoland | 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

City of Bartow – Fourth of July Celebration | Mosaic Park | 2:30-9:30 p.m.

City of Davenport – Fourth of July Celebration | Lewis Mathews Sports Complex | 3-9:45 p.m.

City of Lake Wales – Rockin’ the Ridge | Lake Wailes Park | 3-10 p.m.

Haines City – Thunder on the Ridge | Lake Eva Park | 4-9:30 p.m.

Lakeland Flying Tigers – Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular | Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium | 5-9 p.m.

Town of Dundee – Fourth of July Fireworks Display | Dundee Community Center | 5-9:30 p.m.

City of Auburndale – Fourth of July Fireworks Display | Lake Ariana | 9-10 p.m.

For a full list and details: Fourth of July Events in Central Florida 2024

 

Fireworks: Ways to Stay Safe and Enjoy the Show

Family reviewing hurricane emergency plan for Polk County, Florida

Polk County hurricane flags blowing in the wind during storm

Hurricane season is beginning in Florida. Whether you’re new to Central Florida or a seasoned Floridian, it’s crucial to be prepared for this hurricane season.

Now more than ever Polk County is home to people who have never experienced a hurricane. But you’ve come to the right place for information! We can help you learn everything you need to know to prepare for hurricane season in Florida from sandbags to shelters.

“Preparation is the key when it comes to hurricane season,” said Paul Womble, director of Polk County’s Emergency Management Division. “The season runs from June through November, although hurricanes can happen outside of that timeframe, and experts are predicting a very active season. That’s not a reason to panic, though. It’s a reason to prepare.”

What is Hurricane Preparation?

OK, let’s talk about hurricane preparation. Here are some things you can do to be ready:

  • Make sure you have enough supplies for your household, including medications and pet food, in an emergency “go bag.” View a video about assembling a disaster supply kit here, and you can access a hurricane shopping list here.
  • If someone in your household has a disability, identify if you need extra assistance in case of an emergency. For example, you may need assistance if you use medical supplies that require electricity. If necessary, reach out to officials by calling (863) 298-7027. You also can get more information by visiting Special Needs Emergency Management.
  • Make sure your insurance policies and personal documents, e.g., driver licenses, are up-to-date. Make a list of your digital documents and save them on a USB drive or external hard drive. This will be useful during and after a tropical storm or hurricane. This list will help you start recovering quickly and efficiently if a disaster damages your home or important documents.
  • Review your hurricane emergency plan with your family. Visit https://www.floridadisaster.org/planprepare/ for detailed planning information.
  • Sign up for Polk County emergency warnings by visiting alertpolk.com.

People walking through a flooded area in Polk County, Florida, dragging a boat after a hurricane.

But Polk County isn’t Near the Water!

We need to address a common Central Florida misconception. Contrary to popular belief, Polk County is not safe from hurricane damage simply because we are located inland. The dangers of hurricanes do not come just from coastal storm surges.

According to the National Weather Service, “flooding is the second-leading cause of fatalities from landfalling tropical cyclones.” Winds, meanwhile, can cause signs, roofing materials and other heavy debris to become flying missiles. The National Hurricane Center warns of the different hurricane hazards including heavy rainfall & inland flooding, high winds and tornadoes.

In 2004, three hurricanes – Charley, Jeanne and Francis – battered Polk County. Thanks to extreme rain, flooding and wind, 15 residents died and the storms caused an estimated $1.2 billion in damage to Polk County.

To reiterate, we are not safe just because we’re not in a coastal area. We don’t necessarily have to evacuate – Polk County typically takes a “shelter in place” approach unless officials advise otherwise – but we need to take preparation seriously. In particular, residents living in mobile homes or manufactured homes should pay close attention to updates from officials.

Hurricane Evacuation and Hurricane Shelters in Polk County

If you already have a seven-day survival kit put together, and you have a disaster plan in place, here are Polk County’s recommended hurricane evacuation options.

  • Remain in your residence in an emergency, if possible.
  • Evacuate to the home of friends or relatives.
  • Evacuate the area. Leave 48-72 hours before the storm is expected to hit.
  • Evacuate to a hotel/motel. Make arrangements early, as rooms will fill up.
  • Evacuate to a public shelter. Visit a Publix Super Market to obtain a Polk County Public Shelter Map or find a public shelter online.

Not all public shelters are automatically activated for each emergency. They are opened as needed and are not pre-assigned by geographic area. Have your seven-day survival kit ready to take with you. Weapons and alcoholic beverages are not allowed in any public shelter.

During an emergency, please monitor Polk County’s website, social media and Polk County Government Television, as well as other local television and radio stations, for open shelter information.

It’s important to include pets in your family’s emergency plans. If you need to evacuate, your pets need to evacuate, too. Pets that are left behind are likely to end up lost, injured or worse. Visit the FAQs section at Polk County Emergency Management for more information.

What Do You Need to Know About Special Needs Shelters?Polk County special needs shelter for hurricanes and other emergencies

A special needs shelter is an emergency facility capable of providing special medical or nursing care which does not necessitate an acute care hospital setting. Eligible persons desiring special needs sheltering should preregister with Emergency Management. Although special needs shelters provide more care than a general shelter, they do not provide the level of care found in a medical facility.

Visit https://www.polk-county.net/public-safety/emergency-management/special-needs/ for more information on special needs shelters.

For more information on prepping for disasters, visit https://www.polk-county.net/public-safety/emergency-management/ or go to Polk County Emergency Management’s social media accounts:

Let’s Get Ready for Hurricane Season in Florida

Person with backpack sprayer spraying for mosquitos.

Mosquitoes are near the top of the list of annoying things. They make it hard to enjoy outdoor activities, especially from dusk till dawn, when they’re the most active. And, as summer arrives, this is when we want to be outside. It’s a time for cookouts and hangouts.

Unfortunately, though, mosquitoes are more than annoying. They can be deadly.polk county scientist looking at water sample

Though they are small, mosquito bites pack a powerful punch. Have you ever heard of West Nile virus? How about malaria, Zika virus, Chikungunya virus or Dengue? Mosquitoes can carry them, and one bite from an infected mosquito can lead to debilitating disease and even death for a human or animal.

Fortunately, Polk County’s Mosquito Control Program has been protecting public health since 1958, monitoring and managing the county’s mosquito population. The program uses science to benefit Polk County’s residents, utilizing sophisticated techniques to stay on top of what’s happening with our mosquito population and to reduce public threats.

“We keep what happens in less developed countries, where thousands of people die each year due to mosquito-borne diseases, from occurring in Polk County,” said Jackson Mosley, Ph.D., manager of the Mosquito Control Program. “We are a strong line of defense.”

Thanks a Lot, Polk County Water!

There’s a lot of water in Polk County. Anybody who boats or fishes appreciates our 500 lakes and wetlands. Guess who else appreciates all the county’s water? Yep, the mosquitoes!

Even more than the lakes and wetlands, however, the mosquitoes like our ditches and ponds. In lakes, fish eat mosquito larvae. Predators are absent in smaller, temporary bodies of water, though, allowing the mosquito population to go unchecked.

The Methods for “Mosquito Control” are Larviciding and Adulticiding

mosquito control helicopter spraying over area“In an ideal world, we would simply stop mosquitoes from breeding,” said Mosley. “But that’s not possible. First, mosquitoes play an important role in the food chain. Many predators eat them. Second, human development provides mosquitoes with perfect larval habitats. They can literally use anything that holds water to make a home.”

Since stopping mosquitoes from breeding is out of the question, Mosquito Control utilizes larviciding and adulticiding. OK, so what exactly do those two words mean?

Larviciding

Larviciding takes place when a Mosquito Control employee applies mosquito larvae-specific bacteria or growth regulator into a ditch or pond to control the immature stages of mosquitoes or to prevent larvae from becoming adult mosquitoes.

Adulticiding

Adulticiding is another form of treatment, and it is typically the last effort to control mosquitoes. Often performed by vehicle or helicopter, adulticide treatments can have minimal effects on other insects when properly applied. Adulticiding is done at night when adult mosquitoes are most active and when most non-target insects, like bees, dragonflies, and butterflies, are not as active.

It’s important to note that there’s an exact science to everything Mosquito Control does. For example, there is no larviciding or adulticiding schedule. Instead, these techniques are used only when research shows that they are needed and will be effective.

Additionally, Mosquito Control always uses techniques that present the least amount of harm to creatures other than mosquitoes. They take a strategic approach. For example:

  • If they use a chemical spray, Mosquito Control rotates the chemicals used so mosquitoes do not build up a resistance.
  • When Mosquito Control is planning to spray, they alert the beekeeping community so that honeybees, who play an important pollination role in society, can be protected.

How Else Are Mosquitoes Controlled?

“We use an integrated approach,” said Mosley, who oversees Mosquito Control’s 16 employees and seasonal workers. “We don’t reach for the chemical gun immediately. Instead, we do everything, from surveillance to treatments to resistance testing and public outreach.”Mosquitos under microscope.

In 2023, Mosquito Control deployed more than 3,600 traps in Polk County, capturing hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes. The mosquito specific traps are placed near populated areas on a weekly basis, and these traps are baited with dried ice that emits carbon dioxide as it melts to mimic human breath. This attracts mosquitoes.

The trapped mosquitoes are taken to a lab and placed under a microscope. They are each counted and identified by species.

“The monitoring and identification process is so important,” Mosley said. “Determining what species are in the county alerts us to what potential diseases we need to be aware of. That will drive our treatment approach and help us react quickly to possible threats.”

Polk County also has a sentinel chicken program. There are eight county-owned chicken coups throughout Polk, each with multiple chickens that are tested each week for virus activity. This allows Mosquito Control to identify potential diseases being carried by mosquitoes.

For fellow animal lovers, know that the chickens have good lives. They are not harmed, they eat well and are well cared for, and they also get to enjoy retirement after working for a period of time.

Are Mosquitoes Truly Evil?

Mosquito under microscopeMosley said that, while he understands why most people despise mosquitoes, they are not evil creatures. Instead, they typically become hijacked by viruses when they bite an infected host during blood feeding.

“They get nothing from infecting us,” Mosley said. “That’s not their goal.”

And there’s even a so-called “good” mosquito, Mosley added. Its larvae preys on other mosquito larvae and the adults do not need blood, so they do not bite people or animals.

Nevertheless, most female mosquitoes do indeed bite people and, even if they’re not carrying disease, that’s reason enough to dislike them. So, what can you do to minimize the bites?

 

 

You Can Be Part of the Solution

In addition to applying a repellant such as DEET to your skin, Mosley says you can practice something he calls “source reduction.”

“Eliminate containers that hold water,” Mosley said. “Whether it’s a tire, a flowerpot, a toy or a birdbath, get rid of it, or drain and cover it. When they’re wet, these things are great places for mosquitoes to have their eggs in and produce more mosquitoes.”

Visit https://www.polk-county.net/services/mosquito-control/ for more information.

 

Mosquito Control Protects Polk County

Mobile phone battery explodes and burns due to overheat. Danger, exploded mobile phone battery

Lithium-ion batteries power our lives, but improper disposal creates fire hazards we must avoid through responsible recycling.

We are surrounded by lithium-ion batteries. The laptop at your desk, the tablet your kid uses, the brand-new e-bike your husband just bought and the smartphone in your hands … they all use lithium-ion batteries. And why not? Lithium-ion batteries are affordable, reusable and accessible. But that convenience comes at a cost.

Where Did Lithium-Ion Batteries Come From?Crushed Lithium Ion Battery

In the 1970s, the United States was facing an oil shortage. Stanley Whittingham, an English chemist who worked for Exxon, wanted to create a rechargeable battery. The goal was to decrease the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. His early experiments failed because the batteries caught fire, so Exxon stopped supporting his efforts.

But that was not the end. In the 1980s, John B. Goodenough and Akira Yoshino built upon Whittingham’s research, developing the lithium-ion battery by 1990. This was such a landmark achievement that the three scientists won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2019.

What is a Lithium-Ion Battery?

Simply put, a lithium-ion battery is a type of rechargeable battery that uses lithium ions for storing and releasing electrical energy. Unlike traditional disposable batteries, lithium-ion batteries can be recharged hundreds or thousands of times by passing an electrical current through them.

Once consumers saw the benefits of this new technology, production and sales of lithium-ion batteries dramatically increased. Now, these batteries are the most popular power source for electronics. With the launch of electric vehicles in 2008, the demand for lithium-ion batteries skyrocketed and continues growing.

Handle with Caution: Are Lithium-Ion Batteries Safe?

As a consumer, it is your responsibility to know the risks and handle products containing lithium-ion batteries safely. Lithium-ion batteries have become indispensable in our daily lives. However, if they are damaged, overheated or improperly handled, this can cause potential lithium-ion battery fires or explosions.

electric scooter lithium ion battery fire

The flammable electrolyte solution inside lithium-ion batteries can ignite if the battery short-circuits due to physical damage like puncturing the metal casing. Exposing the batteries to excessive heat can also trigger thermal runaway—an uncontrolled rise in temperature leading to catastrophic failure of the battery.

Overcharging your cell phone poses a fire hazard as well, which is why you should never leave your phone charging once the battery is full. This can lead to severe fires that are difficult to extinguish, reaching temperatures of more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. And if there is a fire in your home, make sure you alert first responders to any potential hazards.

Manufacturers bear the responsibility of ensuring their batteries are up to standard. We’ve seen what happens when products with faulty batteries hit the market. Electric cars catching fire. Cell phones and vape pens exploding.

While we, as consumers, have little power over the manufacturers, the government is growing aware of the dangers posed by improperly manufactured lithium-ion batteries. In May, the Setting Consumer Standards for Lithium-Ion Batteries Act was introduced to Congress in an effort to tighten the safety standards for rechargeable batteries.

This will help ensure that the products you purchase, such as e-bikes, scooters, vape devices and even your electric toothbrush will not pose hazards to you while you use them.

How to Dispose of Lithium-Ion Batteries

So, what happens when lithium-ion batteries no longer hold a charge or the electronic devices stop working? What do you do with those batteries and devices?

Never throw lithium-ion batteries or devices with them in the regular trash. It is important to dispose of them properly. When your garbage is collected and compacted by the collection truck, a discarded lithium-ion battery or electronic device powered by one can catch fire, putting the sanitation workers in serious danger. The hazard escalates further once those batteries end up in the landfill. Everything at the landfill gets compacted and crushed by heavy vehicles – and a crushed lithium-ion battery will burst into flames.

The Polk County North Central Landfill has already experienced numerous battery fires caused by lithium-ion cells being crushed. Luckily, the fires were put out before causing major damage, but there is always a risk of a massive, uncontrollable blaze if batteries are not disposed of properly.

Where to Recycle Lithium-Ion Batteries

How do you responsibly recycle your old batteries and electronics? There are a couple of options. Visit www.call2recycle.org to find businesses near you that will take your items.

In Polk County, you can also take your items to the Household Hazardous Waste facility, located at 5 Environmental Loop S. in Winter Haven. They are open on Friday from 8 a.m. to noon, and on Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized technology and have become a vital part of our lives. While they have come a long way from Whittingham’s original experiments, the danger of batteries catching fire still exists.

Handle your electronic devices with caution. Recycle them with care. For your safety and ours.

Sources: Lithium Ion Battery – History – Advancing Materials (thermofisher.com)

 

Lithium-Ion Batteries: The Power and the Peril

Person on tablet

Staying connected to your government is essential. That’s why Polk County has several ways for you to connect.

Newsletters

Get the latest county news delivered directly to your inbox each month. Click here to subscribe to news from the Polk County History Center or Polk County Parks and Recreation. You can also sign up for mailing lists only for Polk County Utilities or Polk County Waste and Recycling customers. You also don’t want to miss The Back Porch, Polk County’s general interest newsletter, rounding up highlights from the BoCC each month.

FYI Polk AppFYI Polk

Did you know that you can text your county government? Whether you have a question about waste and recycling, need to report a pesky pothole or would like to request a change to your utilities service, FYI Polk, the county’s virtual assistant, is here for you. Text “Hello” to (888) 299-POLK (7655) to start a chat, and while you’re there, sign up for text alerts so you can be the first to know when there’s a service disruption, pothole or boil water notice in your area. You can manage your notification preferences so that you only receive information that is relevant to you. You can opt out at any time. Standard messaging rates apply.

You can also access FYI Polk in the lower, right-hand corner of your screen as you browse our website. The online chat feature is now available in 71 languages.

Alert Polk LogoAlert Polk

When severe weather threatens Polk County, Alert Polk is your key to staying informed. Register for Alert Polk to receive hurricane communication updates and more.

 
 

Watch BoCC Meetings Live

If you can’t make it to the County Administration Building but don’t want to miss the action in the boardroom, watch BoCC meetings live here. Polk Government Television, or PGTV, livestreams board meeting and agenda reviews and offers a 24/7 cablecast online and on Spectrum 644, Comcast 5 and Frontier 20. Visit the calendar to find the next BoCC meeting or agenda review.

Social Media

Lastly, connect with the county through social media for the latest and most up-to-date news.

Stay Connected with Polk County

Large water pump and water drilling located in Lake Wales

April is Water Conservation Month, which makes it a good time to talk about Polk County’s water forecast and the Polk Regional Water Cooperative (PRWC). The PRWC, formed in 2016, is made up of Polk County and 15 municipal governments. Its goal is to plan, develop and provide a high-quality potable water supply for the residents of Polk County. Primarily, the PRWC is working to develop alternative water sources.

Why is Florida Water Conservation Important?

sunrise at Circle B Bar Reserve in Polk County, Florida

Florida water conservation is important for the future of Polk County. You might ask why we need alternative water sources. After all, it seems like there’s plenty of water to go around. It’s always easy to get a drink of water, right?

Polk County is the fastest growing county in the U.S. Around 82 people are moving here every day. By 2045, the county may need an extra 32 million gallons a day of “alternative” water sources to keep up with demand.

The Upper Floridan Aquifer currently provides the majority of water to Polk County, Florida. However, it is in danger of being overused. In addition to water shortages for residents, this can have adverse impacts to lakes, wetlands and natural systems.

What is the Polk Regional Water Cooperative?

The Polk Regional Water Cooperative (PRWC) is a non-profit, special district of the State of Florida. It has been tasked with ensuring Polk County residents have access to clean, safe water for decades to come.

Recently, the PRWC shared with the Board of County Commissioners that two of its projects are on track to provide the county with an additional 24 million gallons of water per day by 2045. These projects include the Southeast Wellfield and the West Polk Wellfield.

How will the PRWC secure more clean, safe water from the Floridan Aquifer?

drilling operation for Polk County water in Lake Wales

The PRWC’s water production projects involve extracting usable, safe water by tapping the Lower Floridan Aquifer. This requires digging significantly deeper into the earth than the county has traditionally had to do. The drills at these sites go down to depths of 2,000 feet below the earth’s surface. This is much deeper than the several hundred feet needed for the Upper Floridan Aquifer.

By the time the projects are completed in 2029, design and construction is expected to cost about $650 million. A large portion of the funding is coming from state and federal grants. Drawing and treating water from the Lower Floridan Aquifer is complicated. This process will ultimately lead to higher costs for customers.

 
 
 

Here’s how you can conserve water for Water Conservation Month and beyond

Do your part to help with these three ways to conserve water.

Visit Polk County Utilities Programs and Rebates to learn how you can save money by reducing your water consumption.

 

Preparing For Polk County’s Water Needs

Polk County TAG Member with binoculars scouting land

Polk County Technical Assessment Group (TAG) posing for photo on trail with trucksMembers of Polk County’s Technical Assessment Group (TAG) recently spent about 12 hours trekking through thousands of acres of land in Lake Wales, Fort Meade and Poinciana. They were exploring properties that Polk County could potentially acquire through the Environmental Lands Program, so they climbed hills, bushwacked on overgrown trails, examined plants and bugs, and took notes and photos.

How does the acquisition process work?
If a landowner expresses an interest in negotiating with Polk County and TAG deems the land a good fit, there are two acquisition options. Both of the following scenarios depend on the seller’s desires:

1. Polk County could pursue an outright purchase.
2. Polk County could buy a conservation easement, allowing the owner to continue using the land but restricting any intense, future development.

What is the Technical Assessment Group?
TAG is made up of volunteers with wildlife, water resources, natural communities, plant identification and forestry backgrounds. As a group of technical experts, TAG’s members rate properties on water resources, natural communities and landscape, plants and animals, human value and management potential.

Polk County Technical Assessment Group Members reading documents in camping chairsHow are properties rated, and what happens next?
For example, they count the number of bird species at each site, they look for invasive plants and they consider how the land fits into the wildlife corridor.

At the end of the day, each TAG member grades the land according to very specific guidelines. Polk County’s Conservation Land Acquisition Selection Advisory Committee then reviews the findings and makes a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners. The Board decides whether or not to pursue acquisition.

Where does the money for acquisitions come from?
Polk County voters approved a ballot referendum in 2022 that created a property tax to fund land conservation for 20 years.

A similar program, which concluded in 2015, led to the acquisition of the Circle B Bar Reserve. Formerly a cattle ranch, the county and the Southwest Florida Water Management District purchased and restored its wetlands. It is now a world-renowned bird-watching site.

The Work Behind the Scenes to Protect Polk County’s Natural Assets

Polk County parenting classes

Parenting classes offer valuable insights, practical strategies and a supportive community. The experience of becoming a parent is an incredible adventure, with happiness, obstacles and opportunities for personal development. As parents, we strive to provide the best possible environment for our children to thrive. Parenting classes can help you navigate this rewarding yet sometimes daunting role of being a parent.

What are Parenting Classes?

infant laying on a playmat

Parenting classes offered by Healthy Families Polk cover a range of topics. Whether you’re a new parent or simply want to be a better parent, you will find applicable insights that benefit your family. These parenting classes provide valuable tools for your parenting journey, including positive parenting techniques, communication skills, building confidence and more.

How can Parenting Classes help?

Parenting classes can help you develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to navigate the triumphs and challenges of parenthood. Parenting programs and free parenting classes in Polk County, FL are available through Healthy Families Polk to eligible families.

Learning Best Practices

In parenting workshops, you’ll discover evidence-based practices that promote healthy child development. You will gain practical tools to create a loving and supportive home environment. Remember, even seasoned parents can benefit from a refreshing course to learn new skills!

A Safe Space to Ask Questions

Parenting classes offer a judgment-free zone where you can ask questions openly. Trained facilitators and fellow parents share their experiences, providing valuable insights.

Connecting with Other Parents

Parenting classes are an opportunity to connect with other parents facing similar challenges. Participating in classes enables you to gain insights from other parents who relate to your experiences, and you’ll have the opportunity to tap into the wealth of their combined experience and wisdom. This can be a valuable source of support, advice and shared experiences.

Polk County parenting classesBoosting Confidence

Parenting can feel overwhelming at times. Classes can help you feel more confident in your abilities. As you learn and practice new skills, your confidence grows. You’ll feel better equipped to handle challenging situations, make informed decisions and foster a positive parent-child relationship.

Learn more and connect with Healthy Families Polk by visiting

www.polk-county.net/services/healthy-families.

The Importance of Parenting Classes: Nurturing Stronger Families

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