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Tuesday October 21st 2014

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Airport, ECAT, YMCA … ‘Civility’

city councilThe new director of the Pensacola International Airport spoke last night about the city enterprise’s financial outlook and how it might be improved.

“We’re gonna run our airport like a business,” Greg Donovan told the Pensacola City Council, “and there are some decisive decisions that have to be made.”

Standard & Poor recently downgraded the airport’s revenue bond rating from stable to negative. The financial service cited below-average liquidity and debt service coverage, a high debt burden and competition.

Donovan, fresh on the job, told the council that the airport’s budget would be dropping $1.8 million. When asked how such cuts could be made, the director described the new  numbers as a “more accurate budget,” a budget that reflects “actual vs. forecasts.”

In order to reduce the budget, the airport director plans to reduce service contracts, find procedural efficiencies and cross-utilize staff.

“But at the same time, it’s not just about cutting expenses,” Donovan said, “it’s about raising revenues.”

Efforts toward that end will include reworking arrangements with current tenants—charging them for utilities—exploring additional food and beverage options and increasing parking-lot rates.

Also during tonight’s council meeting, the board formalized it’s decision to dedicate the city’s portion of a 4-cent gas tax—recently levied by the Escamiba County Commission—to fund mass transit, via approving an interlocal with the county.

Earlier, during Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, council approved the interlocal only after stressing to Interim County Administrator George Touart that the city would like to have an additional seat at the Mass Transit Advisory Committee’s table. Councilman Charles Bare raised concerns Thursday about the likelihood of that seat materializing once the interlocal was approved.

“I’m just concerned we’re going to pass this, and there’s no inclination for them to do it,” Bare said.charles bare megan pratt

The council approved the gas-tax interlocal 8-1, with Bare dissenting.

The council also decided to hold off on approving a mid-year supplemental budget resolution. Councilwoman Sherri Myers complained that Chief Financial Officer Dick Barker had not initially been specific enough in detailing the budgetary math, and requested more time to review the numbers. Bare said he considered Barker’s vagueness an “insult.”

City Administrator Bill Reynolds assured council that he would provide as specific information as desired. Councilman Brian Spencer suggested a one or two sentence description of the various budgetary changes—“what is cause and effect in terms of these reductions that we are being asked to pass.”

bill reynoldsThe city council also formalized their motions to have President P.C. Wu approach the YMCA about reentering negotiations for a spot at the Community Maritime Park, and named themselves as the audit committee that will select an auditor to conduct the city’s annual financial audit. Bare and Myers were on the losing side of each of those 7-2 votes.

In other business, Spencer—who heads up the council when it sits as the Community Redevelopment Agency—informed the board that he had not scheduled a CRA meeting because he hoped to approach Hixardt Technologies—to discuss the company’s proposed two-year extension on a land-for-jobs deal—before the board met again. Council Vice President Jewel Cannada-Wynn also requested that a proposed policy from the city administration on how to best deal with the selling of public property be placed on the council’s next COW agenda.

Also at yesterday’s city council meeting, President Wu went back and forth with a member of the public about why City Attorney Jim Messer could not be referred to as a “pathological liar.”

“To accuse somebody of lying is a very, very serious charge,” Wu said. “—I will not permit it in the future.”

The citizen was referring specifically to statements made by Messer over the course of the city council’s YMCA-conversations. Wu told the man that he wouldn’t tolerate the charge of “liar,” and that he should instead say, “in my opinion they made me feel something was inaccurate.”

Councilwoman Myers later argued that the citizen did, in fact, have the right to say whatever he chose, due to First Amendment protections. Wu countered that he had the authority as council president to call for “civility.”