Third Best City For Jobs
Wallet Hub ranked Pensacola the third best Florida city for finding a job, trailing only Sarasota and Jacksonville Beach. Pensacola ranked #10 in Job Market and #19 in Socioeconomic Environment, which gave our area total weighted score of 59.78 and nudged us ahead of Wesley Chapel, whose total score was 59.64.
John Sunday House Loses
Judge Gary Bergosh ruled in favor of the developers seeking to demolish the John Sunday House. The City of Pensacola’s Architectural Review Board would no longer be allowed to table applications. Mayor Ashton Hayward immediately issued demolition permit. Six months later no permits have been pulled to build anything on the site.
Saving King Charles
PETA gave its Compassionate Police Department Award to the Pensacola Police Department after officers rushed to save a puppy, King Charles, who was crying in distress from inside parked car in 100-degree heat.
Kudos for Myers
The Center for Independent Living presented Pensacola Councilwoman Sherri Myers with Joe Oldmixon Award for her lifetime of service to people with disabilities.
Declining School System
The Escambia County School District dropped from a B to a C grade for the 2015-16 school year, according to the Florida Department of Education. The district’s total score, 543, placed it in the bottom 15 school districts in the state. Okaloosa was an A district, total score 696, and Santa Rosa is a B district, total score 673.
Palafox Historic District Listed
Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced that Pensacola’s Palafox Historic District was recently listed on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.
The State Attorney’s Office announced that Escambia Commissioner Grover Robinson had been cleared of any Sunshine violation for his telephone call to Gulf Breeze Mayor Matt Dannheisser regarding the new Pensacola Bay Bridge.
The Chief of Naval Training selected Melanie Nichols as its Civilian of the Quarter. Last year, City Administrator Eric Olson, Mayor Ashton Hayward and his supporters tried to get Nichols fired when the president of the North Hill Preservation Association questioned construction of a radio tower in the Long Hollow Conservation District.
Bay Bridge Contractor and Design Chosen
The Florida Department of Transportation has selected Skanska USA Civil Southeast, with its bid of $398.5 million, as the contractor for the Pensacola Bay Bridge replacement. The Bay Bridge replacement is the largest construction project ever for Pensacola.
Jail Site Chosen
After more than two years of haggling about where to rebuild a jail destroyed by flooding in April 2014, the Escambia County Commission unanimously agreed to pay $4.5 million for about 14 acres of property on the corner of Fairfield and Pace that’s owned by McDonald Shopping Center, LLC.
Council Pay Increased
The Pensacola City Council passed, 6-1, an ordinance that increased the members’ annual salaries to $21,500. Council President Charles Bare was the lone dissenting vote. Councilman Andy Terhaar was absent.
State SRO Of The Year
Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Florida Association of School Resource Officers yesterday named the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office Senior Deputy Ronald Gill the 2016 School Resource Officer of the Year. Deputy Gill is a 14-year veteran of the office and currently serves as the Ernest Ward Middle School resource officer.
Gas Tax Allocation
The Escambia Board of County Commissioners approved two interlocal agreements regarding the local option gas tax. The first agreement allocated to the City of Pensacola nearly 7 percent, $590,000 per year, according to a state formula based on the transportation expenditures in city’s audited financial reports. In a separate agreement, the board agreed to allocate an additional 8.6 percent out of the county’s share if the city agreed to pave the streets on the west side of the city as listed in an attachment given to the BCC.
Mayor Ashton Hayward notified the Board of County Commissioners that he was appealing the Local Option Gas Tax issue to Gov. Rick Scott. Later City Attorney Lysia Bowling would tell City Council it was her decision to appeal.
Turnover Plagues Mayor’s Office
Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward initially refused to release to Inweekly a complete list of the employees who have worked in his office since Oct. 1, 2011. Only after the newspaper filed an official complaint with the State Attorney’s Office did his Sunshine Center release the information. The information revealed the positions in his office turned over three to five times since January 2011.
More Parking Needed
The West Florida Regional Planning Council presented its downtown parking study to the Pensacola City Council on Monday. The $30,000 study was commissioned by Mayor Ashton Hayward as part of his goals for 2016. The study revealed the need for additional parking solutions, particularly in the Palafox Commercial Core (1,989 space estimated deficient in the future) and West End zones (1,557 estimated deficient in the future). The City Council awaits Mayor Hayward’s parking plan.
Suicide in County Building
Foul play is not suspected in the death of a man whose body was found this afternoon inside a building on South Palafox Street. Police were dispatched to the old Escambia County Courthouse, 223 S. Palafox St., around 2:25 after receiving a call that at
City Must Pay Legal Bills
Circuit Court Judge Scott Duncan issued an order in the dispute between Seville Harbour and the City of Pensacola finding that Seville Harbour, who leases Pitts Slip from the City, is entitled to recover its attorney’s fees from the City.
State Attorney Bill Eddins announced today that four members of the Citizens Advisory Task Force, an advisory board to the Town of Century City Council, have been charged with noncriminal violations of the Florida Government in Sunshine Law. Alfonzie Cottrell, Helen Mincy, Sylvia Godwin, and Robert Mitchell have charged for having a public meeting that was not properly advertised.
Where Did Mike Hill Live
The Escambia County Property Appraiser issued this morning a statement granting a homestead exemption for 6080 Forest Green Road in the Marcus Pointe subdivision to Greta Hill, wife of State Rep. Mike Hill.
The University of West Florida has surpassed 13,000 in enrollment for the first time in the institution’s history, reaching 13,030 students for the Fall 2016 semester
Former Pensacola Fire Chief Matt Schmitt has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Mayor Ashton Hayward, City Administrator Eric Olson, Chief Human Resources Officer Ed Sisson, and the City of Pensacola. Hayward, Olson and Sisson are being sued individually and in their official capacities.
City Administrator Eric Olson said at last week’s budget workshops that the City Council was to drop ‘Deepflex’ from its vocabulary. The promised 200 jobs at the Port of Pensacola aren’t coming.
Through a public request, Inweekly discovered former City Administrator Colleen Castille and COO Tamara Fountain were given hefty payouts when they left the mayor’s employment. Each time Mayor Ashton Hayward changed his senior leadership the cost to taxpayers climbed.
Quality of Life
The Pensacola Young Professionals released on today their 2016 Quality of Life Survey. The news for Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward wasn’t as positive as it had been in the past. Mayor Hayward’s job approval rating also dropped. Only one out of three people surveyed believed the mayor was doing an excellent or good job. His approval rating was cut nearly in half, falling 32-percentage points since the summer of 2015.
The City of Pensacola in partnership with the University of West Florida Historic Trust are installing the panels needed to open the Pensacola Maritime Heritage Trail, which documents Pensacola’s rich maritime history. The project secured funding in 2015 through a $25,000 National Maritime Heritage Grant from the National Parks Service. The Maritime Heritage Trail stretches from the Hawkshaw Lagoon Memorial Park to the Community Maritime Park.
Cha-Ching – Part 2
According to public records released yesterday, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward cut checks for over $95,000 to get his former city administrator, Bill Reynolds, to dismiss his lawsuit against the City.The settlement was not approved by the Pensacola City Council. In fact, they were never notified that a settlement had been reached nearly a year ago.
Inweekly discovered the settlement agreement after the City released the case file on the lawsuit, in reply to a public records request.
Go Martha Go
The University of West Florida Board of Trustees named Dr. Martha Saunders the sixth president of the University, effective Jan. 1, 2017. Saunders will replace UWF President Dr. Judith Bense, who is set to retire on Dec. 31, 2016. The offer of employment is contingent upon the completion of a successful background screen and subject to confirmation by the Florida Board of Governors.
At the September Agenda Review for the Pensacola City Council, CFO Barker presented a slide that showed that OffShore Inland owed the Port of Pensacola over $700,000, of which $445,647 was more than four months past due.
Fewer Teen Births
Teen births hit a new low in 2015 nationally, statewide and in Escambia County. The birth rates dropped by nearly half. While Escambia County has a higher teen birth rate than the national and state averages, its rate also dropped 45 percent – from 51.4 for every 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19 in 2009 to 28.5 in 2015. In 1996, the teen birth rate for Escambia County was 61.3.
New DIB CEO
Curt Morse is the new executive director of the Downtown Improvement Board, replacing Ron Butlin whose last day was Friday, Sept. 30. Morse grew up in my hometown, Greenville, Miss. He is the manufacturer Caribiana Sea Skiffs, which have been featured in several magazines. He was a franchisee for PODS and later moved up to Northwest Florida’s operations manager for the company. Since December 2014, Morse has been the branch manager for Mobile Mini, Inc.
The Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) robotics team placed a strong second in the powered exoskeleton division of the first annual Cybathlon. Held Oct. 8, in Zurich, Switzerland, the Cybathlon is a global competition for disabled athletes aided by wearable robotic devices. The unique competition hosted 66 teams from across the globe, competing in six distinct divisions.
UNLV Road Trip
Inweekly become the only news outlet in Northwest Florida to cover a presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton when it attended the last presidential debate at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
First Bancshares of Hattiesburg announced this morning that it has acquired Gulf Coast Community Bank, which has $133 million in assets and five branches in the greater Pensacola area. The First bought GCCB for $2.3 million in First Bancshares stock.
City Homicides Spike
The Pensacola Police Department reports a homicide investigation is in progress after a man’s body was found Tuesday morning on the ground behind a local business. A woman called police after finding the man’s body around 7:45 a.m. behind a business in the 6800 block of North Ninth Avenue. The homicide is the fifth since June 30 and the seventh for the year.
Scott Delivers VT MAE
Governor Rick Scott joined state, county and city officials to break ground on the long-awaited aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility for VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering (VT MAE) at Pensacola International Airport. The 173,000-square-foot facility will cost $46 million, with the state supplying over $30 million. The construction will last approximately 16 months, with the facility opening for operation in early 2018.
WalletHub compared 1,268 cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000 based on 30 key indicators of livability. They range from “housing costs” to “school-system quality” to “number of restaurants per capita.” The City of Pensacola was #142 on the list with a total score of 63.01. Last year, Pensacola was ranked 52 – Pensacola ranked 52nd Best Small City in America. For the 2016 ranking, the City’s Quality of Life rank was 3, but the overall score was pulled down by Education & Health Rank (1091 out of 1268) and Safety (984).
Trader Jon’s Returns
Located on the museum’s second floor, the exhibit opens with the front door of the bar and features memorabilia from the Trader Jon collection, including model airplanes that once hung from the ceiling, flight suits and signed photos of celebrities. Other highlights of the exhibit include a replica bar, as well as a miniaturized re-creation of the bar’s Blue Angels Museum room and video recordings of the legend himself, Martin “Trader Jon” Weissman, telling his story.
Over 100 Pensacola residents attended the Tuesday night town hall meeting concerning the future of Carpenter’s Creek. Councilwoman Sherri Myers hosted the gathering, but Mayor Ashton Hayward and his administration skipped the meeting held at Cokesbury United Methodist Church on North Ninth Avenue.
The Pensacola Y opens the new $16 million Bear Levin Studer Family YMCA. The downtown facility tboasts an aquatic center with two pools and a two-story slide, a gymnasium, a wellness center, group exercise spaces, a KidZone, a demo kitchen, multi-purpose rooms and on-site physical therapy space run by Baptist Health Care/Andrews Institute.
International Election Coverage
Inweekly helped Al Jazeera English cover the 2016 Election. They visited the Rubio rally on Pensacola Beach on Saturday, interviewing Republicans in the crowd. On Sunday, they visited Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. They reported from Palafox Street on the night of the election.
Pelican Drop Resurrected
Pensacola City Councilman Andy Terhaar has proposed a supplementary budget resolution for the City to contribute $30,000 for the Pelican Drop, the downtown Pensacola’s annual New Year’s Eve event.
Ever’man Cooperative Grocery & Cafe announced it has plans for a second location on Pensacola’s north side. The co-op’s Board of Directors has closed on property located at 1000 East 9 Mile Road
Grover Considers Options
Escambia County Commission chairman Grover Robinson announced this morning that he will not seek a fourth term to his District 4 seat in 2018. He is open to running for mayor of Pensacola.
Toll Bridge Protest
For the past week, callers to “Pensacola Speaks” have complained about the lack of input on the Escambia Board of County Commissioners decision to do away with cash lanes at the toll booths on the Bob Sikes Bridge. The BCC voted to put the change on hold and get more public input.
UWF Raises Funds
The University of West Florida hosted the 50th Anniversary Gala celebrated this week the public launch of the 50th Anniversary Capital Campaign. The fundraising goal: $50 million. Retiring UWF President Judy Bense contributed $1 million to the campaign. The University has already raised more than $48 million during the quiet phase of the capital campaign, which started in January 2011.
The PNJ reports that UWF’s Vice President for University Advancement, Dr. Brendan Kelly, has been hired as the chancellor of University of South Carolina Upstate. Escambia County Assistant County Administrator Chip Simmons will leaving the county to work for Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan. Bubba Watson isn’t ready quite yet to quit the PGA Tour, but the two-time Masters champ told the Associated Press that he would consider running for future political office in Pensacola. “I’ve had a dream,” Watson said. “I moved back in the city limits of Pensacola so one day I can run for mayor.” The Pensacola City Council elected Brian Spencer as the President of the City Council and Gerald Wingate as Vice President. Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, head of the Pensacola-Tallahassee Diocese, will be installed at the first of year as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, which serves Catholics in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Hernando, Citrus and Pasco counties.
Legal Client of the Year
Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward saw his legal costs increase by $318,622 this past fiscal year, according to documents released Tuesday night. Total outside legal fees paid topped $1.4 million. The unaudited financial reports in the City Council’s agenda packet revealed that while the legal fees jumped from $1,110,192 to $1,428,814. About 20 percent of the increase was for the three-month investigation of Fire Chief Matt Schmitt and Deputy Fire Chief Joe Glover.
The White House announced today that Pensacola will be included in the expansion of its TechHire Initiative to 20 cities, states, and rural areas. Mobile, Ala. and several communities in Florida are also part of the expansion. For the Pensacola effort, Pensacola State College will collaborate with Innovation Coast, Inc., which includes community workforce partners Global Business Solutions, Inc. (GBSI), Technical Software Services, Inc. (TECHSOFT), Gulf Power Company, AppRiver, and Institute of Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC), to train and place 200 technology workers by 2020.
Wahoos the Best
Baseball America has announced that the Pensacola Blue Wahoos are the winner of the Bob Freitas Award for Double-A. The award is given to the organization with the best overall operations. It honors teams that demonstrate a sustained excellence in the business of Minor League Baseball based on the last five years.
DC Travel Returns
The City of Pensacola announced that American Airlines will launch daily nonstop service between Pensacola International Airport (PNS) and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) on April 4, 2017.
Civil Rights Hero Passes
Susan Watson, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, died on Friday after a brief illness, according to news reports.
During last week’s Florida Cabinet meeting, Governor Rick Scott recognized Escambia County Deputies Darren Robinson and Stefan Chamlis with the Medal of Heroism for their bravery and courage when they saved six lives from drowning in the Gulf of Mexico off Pensacola Beach.
City Gives Overview of Workforce Housing
Marcie Whitaker, City of Pensacola Housing Administrator, outlined Mayor Ashton Hayward’s workforce housing program during the agenda review on Dec. 5. She told the council that the program will be a local housing assistance plan for law enforcement, fire, rescue emergency services, teachers, health care professionals and other professional industry individuals. It will fit within a similar program that the housing department currently administers on a county-wide basis.
Local plumbers speak out at council meeting that city-owned Pensacola Energy and its director Don Suarez are trying to put them out of business, but they can’t get Mayor Ashton Hayward or City Administrator Eric Olson to meet with them. Suarez created a team, called the Plumbing Partnership Program, in 2012 of about a half dozen local plumbers. Pensacola Energy directs hot water heater installations and appliance installations to those plumbers regularly.
Hayward Gets a Study He Likes
Mayor Ashton Hayward announced the 2016 Pensacola Community Survey showed that 69.3 percent of his constituents believe the city is in the right direction and grade most of the city services highly. However, an analysis of the methodology has revealed that if you lived on the east of Pensacola in Districts 1, 3 and 4, you were twice as likely to be included in the survey than if you lived on the west side in Districts 5, 6 and 7. The survey tracked the answers of 444 respondents. Districts 1, 3 and 4 comprised 252 of the respondents; Districts 5, 6 and 7 only 123. However, Districts 5, 6 and 7 have more residents than Districts 1, 3 and 4 – 43.3 percent of city residents vs. 41.1 percent, according to the Haas study.
Graduate Rates and Racial Gap Rise
The Florida Department of Education released the Escambia County high school graduation rates for the 2015-15 school year. The size of the senior class dropped from 2,736 students for 2014-2015 to 2,609 students this past school year. The graduation rates did increase for all races. Pine Forest High School has the lowest graduation rate (70.6%), while the magnet high school West Florida Tech has the highest (96.1%). The graduation rate for African-American students is 17.9 points lower than for the white students. Five years ago, the graduation rate for African-American students was 17.3 points lower.
Former Pensacola Deputy Fire Chief Joe Glover has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Mayor Ashton Hayward, City Administrator Eric Olson, Chief Human Resources Officer Ed Sisson, HR Manager Tracy Walsh, and the City of Pensacola.
It took a month of pressure from residents, Emerald Coastkeepers and Escambia County Commissioner Lumon May to get Mayor Ashton Hayward and City Administrator Eric Olson to clean up the Government Street Stormwater Project. Several possible federal, state and local code violations still need to be addressed.