Pensacola City Attorney Jim Messer’s trigger finger is getting itchy. Tiring of what he once referred to as a “dance,” the attorney asked the Pensacola City Council on Monday to allow him to forgo further mediation with the city of Gulf Breeze in response to a dispute over which entity has the right to provide natural gas to Pensacola Beach— “and simply file the lawsuit rather than continue to go through these legal machinations that are a colossal waste of everybody’s time.”
Last year, Gulf Breeze commenced on a project to lay the groundwork to supply Pensacola Beach with natural gas. Although Pensacola officials have cried foul—citing the city’s right to supply the entirety of Escambia County with natural gas—Gulf Breeze has continued with its plans to sell gas on the beach.
When Pensacola and Gulf Breeze failed to reach an agreement on the issue, the two entities entered into a legal process to settle the matter. In theory, the process is designed to keep the two local governments from taking the matter to court.
“Your choice is just to be a pin cushion and let them do it, or fight for you franchise,” Messer told city council members. “The choice is pretty simple—either forfeit your exclusive franchise or take it to court.”
The attorney said that there was a chance that Pensacola and Gulf Breeze would be able to work out the issue prior to a 5:30 p.m. meeting today when the parties are scheduled to get together and discuss the matter. Officials from Escambia County—who seem content to let the two cities hash out their own differences—will also attend the meeting.
City Councilman Larry B. Johnson told the council that he was surprised the county had not been more supportive of Pensacola. He said he was tired of the mediation process.
“Im gonna go ahead and give everyone a heads up,” Johnson said. “I’m gonna support fast-tracking this to a lawsuit.”
Officials from Pensacola, Gulf Breeze and Escambia County will meet today at 5:30 p.m. at Pensacola City Hall to discuss the natural gas franchise dispute.