Escambia County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh says the county was ready to pull the plug on the proposed commercial park for Outlying Field 8 (OLF-8) until it received a letter from the U.S. Navy last week.
To obtain OLF-8, the Escambia Board of County Commissioners has been working on a land swap with the Navy. The plan was for the county to develop a 640-acre site in Santa Rosa County into a helicopter training field nearly identical to OLF 8. Once complete, the site would be traded for OLF-8.
However, the development costs have escalated, putting the swap in jeopardy.
“It got to a point where we were losing patience and really,” Bergosh said last week on “Pensacola Speaks.” “Frankly, it looked like the project could die. We could not keep up with the cost overrun.”
The commissioners asked Congressman Matt Gaetz to intervene and explain to the Navy that Escambia County could afford to build such an elaborate field.
“So, he went, to his credit, to D.C., and we got a nice letter from the Navy saying okay we’re willing to make the following concessions,” Bergosh said. “In speaking with Administrator Jack Brown, it could be as much as between one and two million dollars, which will really help us out.”
The possible development of OLF-8 was a campaign issue when Bergosh won the District 1 seat last year. Voters were concerned about the construction in the Beulah area and the stress on area’s infrastructure. Bergosh said he assured the residents of two things.
“Number one, I told them people have seen the value of this project. It was ranked number one the Restore Act Committee. People that are experts in various fields looked through all the different projects and they ranked it number one as the next economic development project,” he said.
“Number two, I tried to reassure them in that we’re looking to get high-tech manufacturing, light manufacturing and assembly jobs. There’s not going to be smokestacks, no grinding and crushing machines, no foul odors,” said Bergosh.
“And we’re going to put a very strict master plan in place so there will be some enhancements that will benefit the community, perhaps a walking track all the way around it. You know, perhaps some facilities retail that might benefit the community as well as the commerce park.”
He added, “But, more importantly, the construction is going to be strictly, strictly based upon this master plan, which is going to say look, no metal buildings, no temporary PEDs, no loading docks visible.”