Business

Pensacola resident offers facts on ECUA tank debate

September 25, 2017

Last week, PNJ reporter Jim Little covered the Pensacola City Council special meeting regarding the construction of sewage storage tanks on North Palafox by the Emerald Coast Utility Authority. Judi Patrick who lives in North Hill sent this letter to clarify how ECUA handled notifying her and her neighbors about the construction.

Jim:

Thank you so much for your coverage in the PNJ regarding ECUA’s putting sewage tanks on Palafox Street in the North Hill area. The publicity is very welcome.

I am not one to get on a public bandwagon, but I won’t be able to live with myself if I don’t put my thoughts in writing and share them…NOW. Area residents have waited too patiently for the North Hill Preservation Association lawsuit to process through the courts.

Here is what I remember about how the ECUA vs. North Hill controversy has developed.

I don’t remember exact dates—some time in 2016? Because of a sign posted there, North Hill residents found out that ECUA had purchased the old Medical Center in the 1700 block of Palafox. This is about 3 blocks from where we live. This was a complete surprise, as this purchase and its intended land use were NEVER on the agenda of the ECUA Board meetings.

I gather that the lawsuit developed from that. Also our neighborhood association (North Hill Preservation Association) started printing protest signs for people to put in their yards. A drive through this area will show that many of these yellow signs are still there. We don’t give up easily. I hope you will be in close touch with our president, Melanie Nichols. She and many others have put countless energy into this protest. The NHPA lawsuit spells out the problem: http://ricksblog.biz/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/petition_77250_19-09-2017.pdf

Because of our dissent, ECUA decided to hold an evening session about the proposed sewage tanks. This was at THEIR office at Ellyson Field. Probably about 50-100 concerned citizens from North Hill and other areas attended. It was a very small room and there was one chair—no accommodation or consideration for the handicapped or elderly. There were architectural drawings on stands and ECUA staff attempted to explain what was going to happen. Finally one ECUA spokesperson emerged and the group started asking questions. He said it was not intended to be a meeting (where there are chairs for people to sit down and an orderly discussion can take place). They Intended to put EMERGENCY sewage tanks five stories tall on the back of the property. The reason for this location is that it is close to the Lift Station already present on Moreno. There was a lot of stonewalling. We asked for another meeting—a real meeting–to be held at the downtown library. He said that was too far to ask “his people” to come.

Questions:

  • Why wasn’t this provided for when the main sewage plant was moved out of downtown?
  • Why couldn’t ECUA build the tanks just a couple of miles further north on the Escambia Treating Company Superfund Site at 3910 N Palafox?
  • What constitutes an “emergency”? How would it be enforced if the emergency was disputed?
  • What would be done about smell?
  • Wasn’t it part of the contract when the City paid ECUA to remove “Old Stinky” from downtown that ECUA will never build in the city limits of Pensacola again?
  • Was ECUA in violation of this restriction by not getting approval from City Council?
  • Who in City Hall has the authority to rescind a building permit?
  • If the permit is rescinded, will ECUA be required to clean up the construction they have started and leave the property as much as possible as it was?
  • Did ECUA get the proper engineering clearances that indicate the ground in this area would hold the tanks?
  • Isn’t it odd that ECUA started heavy equipment work on the Saturday and Sunday after the permit was issued, I think, on Friday?
  • Who would want to buy the front part of the property? (see comment below)
  • I think I understand correctly that the City Permit was held for some time before it was entered into the public database. Why?
  • The building permit was issued on the same day the application was said to have been received. Why the expedited service?
  • Why would anyone want to build sewer tanks 5 stories high on Palafox that will plainly be visible to all traveling through? What kind of welcome is this to our beautiful downtown area?

In your article in the PNJ on Sept. 22, 2017, you quote Bradley Odom: “ECUA has had many public meetings to consider this. Ironically, when ECUA decided it was going to build the tanks, no one showed up to the meeting to speak to the issue.”

Odom was very misleading to the City Council last Thursday when he said that no one from North Hill showed up when they had the meeting to decide to build the tanks. The decision to site the tanks was NEVER made at a public meeting. The meeting he is speaking about was August of this year when the ECUA Board was meeting to decide WHICH CONSTRUCTION COMPANY TO USE. Not the same thing at all. The decision was already made and they were just voting on who to hire.

What Odom didn’t say is how a crowd did show up when ECUA was forced to have the earlier session I mentioned above. It is clear that the building and use of these tanks is detrimental to the neighborhoods of North Hill, Long Hollow and Eastside. It will lower property values, both residential and commercial. That is not good for the economy of the City as a whole.

The hospital building was sold to a lawyer from New Jersey in December of last year. Very shady. It was not advertised, no appraisal was completed, no bids were sought. Steve Sorrell, the Executive Director of ECUA, just gave the board a letter that he received from someone who wanted to purchase the building and they voted to waive all their procedures for disposal, advertising of surplus properties and agreed to the guy’s offer of $75,000. Why?

It seems clear that the City Attorney is carrying out the wishes of the Mayor. Why would the Mayor be pushing for these tanks to be built? Is there some revenue there that transcends all the possible problems long term?

From its earliest stages, this whole project is wrong.

Thanks for listening. I hope this email will give you some ideas for future publicity.

Judith Patrick

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