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Thursday April 24th 2014

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Council’s 1st COW

The Pensacola City Council will hold its first meeting today since seating four new members. It’s a full agenda, with topics including the new library tax, the Gulf Breeze-Pensacola natural gas dispute and the matter of council obtaining outside legal council.

It’s a Gas

Earlier this year, the city of Pensacola entered into conflict-resolution talks with the city of Gulf Breeze in an effort to work out differences stemming from the latter municipality’s decision to provide natural gas to Pensacola Beach. Gulf Breeze laid pipes and began servicing the beach, which Pensacola had declined to do despite its franchise rights to the entirety of Escambia County.

The issue became an attorney-slugfest and featured a disastrous three-way meeting between Pensacola, Gulf Breeze and Escambia. Eventually, it was turned over to a third-party mediator.

The council will today consider approving an agreement that transfers Pensacola’s franchise for the beach to Gulf Breeze for $470,000. Both cities, as well as the county, have apparently agreed to the deal.

Another Attorney

On past occasions, members of council have expressed concerns that City Attorney Jim Messer could not be expected to serve the council due to his service to the mayor, who’s administration is at times at odds with council. Messer has expressed the same several times.

To that end, council has begun exploring the possibility of getting its own legal representation.  Today, the council will discuss the methods for soliciting outside legal services—it entails a selection committee.

Library Tax

The council will also discuss the proposed Municipal Service Taxing Unit to fund the West Florida Public Library System. On Nov. 15, the council adopted an ordinance on the first reading to levy a MSTU inside the city limits in conjunction with Escambia County doing the same in the unincorporated areas.

The second reading is set for Dec. 13. While the original ordinance stated that the MSTU would be for five years, the second reading will see that length extended to 10 years in order to be consistent with the county.

The city council meets immediately following the Community Redevelopment Agency, at 3:15 p.m. at Pensacola City Hall.