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Friday December 19th 2014

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Another Hayward staged showdown on YMCA and CMP

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The stage is set for another melodramatic showdown. This one is on whether the YMCA will be allowed to lease a parcel at the Community Maritime Park for its new $10-million downtown facility.

Alas, as of this writing, no one is sure where Mayor Hayward stands on the lease or even if the Pensacola City Council should discuss it before the lease is presented to the Community Maritime Park Associates Board of Trustees.

In other words, today’s meeting could be a non-event.

Such melodrama has become the hallmark of Hayward’s third year in office. All of them could have been avoided with better communication and some forethought. The showdowns, which have occurred at rate of one month, have been duds.

Showdown #1: Penzone Appointment. With no fanfare or explanation, Mayor Hayward announced that his paid consultant for the pensions was his nominee for the county’s RESTORE advisory. When the city council balked, City Administrator Bill Reynolds called a special Committee of the Whole meeting within 12 hours—–thinking he could embarrass and intimidate the council to approve Penzone. The special COW showdown faltered when it was determined that there was no such thing. Later Hayward appointed Bentina Terry, which the council approved.

Showdown #2: Oliver Report. Hayward hires former County Administrator Randy Oliver to look at the finances of the CMPA. In an effort to force Blue Wahoos to renegotiate their contract, Hayward had Oliver meet with the editorial board of the daily newspaper, which posted the report in its Sunday edition. Three days later, the CMPA was to have big meeting with Wahoos to discuss the report. That showdown fell flat when it was determined that Hayward and the CMPA had no power to force a renegotiation and that city hadn’t looked at its side of the expenses.

That leaves Showdown #3. Hayward met with Quint Studer and other supporters of the Y over three months ago. He pledged to give them a lease for the Y to be built on Pensacola Bay at the maritime park. Unfortunately for the Y, Hayward has been trying to back out of his commitment ever since.

Hayward took over the development of the maritime park when he was sworn in. Some want to point to finger at CMPA chairman Collier Merrill on why there has been no commercial development at the park. It was Hayward who wanted to handle that and he has meet with developers, hoteliers and others over the past two years, failing to land any of them.

When Hayward made the commitment to Y, he didn’t assign anyone the task of negotiating the lease or even determining the proper process to follow…until the last two weeks.

He apparently won’t be at the COW meeting. He isn’t giving any recommendation. Instead, Reynolds created a new agenda category “Attorney Communications” for the proposed lease. And the lease has problems—the Y, Councilmen Charles Bare and Andy Terhaar have pointed out issues.

The Y is left standing alone, defending a lease that they didn’t create. Mayor Hayward will hide out.

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Notes: After failing to solicit any commercial developments to the maritime park for the past two years, Bare reports that Hayward has hired Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis to find them for the park.

Also, it should be noted that the CMP leases and property taxes were never intended to pay off the bonds on the park. There isn’t enough commercial land available on the property to do that. The maritime park was for public use and to be a magnet for other development within the CRA district.