The County would like us to think the one-time catfish pond, now residential lake in Cantonment that was dug by the largest road contractor for the county (and who is suing the county over having its digging stopped) is still an issue.
Here is a recent email to the Escambia County Commission:
This is long but urgent!
Attached please find a memo dated April 19, 2007 that I found during a recent public records request. While it restores my faith in Ms. Lander and her assertions to the neighbors that she was also concerned about the hazard that the Hillock Pit presented, it left me wondering what
possibly could be the explanation for your former County Administrator Touart, former Assistant/now County Administrator Mc Laughlin, and outgoing Chief of Code Enforcement Charlie Walker for not acting on her advice.
Your administration and your attorneys have been notified as early as over a year ago that youth were accessing the property. Now that the weather has turned warm again and there is no one attending to the property, it has become a popular gathering spot for youth outside the neighborhood to gather and sometimes even camp over night.
In one of the staff emails discussing the property there was a statement that said Charlie Walker said the property was fenced. That is untrue and the property was never fenced. I am attaching several pictures (May 4, 2008) given to me including one of the gate (that is never locked-see #285) and the posts with no fence and you will see how easy it is to merely walk around or push it open. If there were any signs (there was one sign at one point attached to that gate), they have been removed by the kids apparently.
In the afternoon and weekends, they arrive by the truck and car full, sometimes with camping gear. One of the pictures shows how they must have rowed across to make a camp fire. The kids range in age from teens to as young as six years old it appears. We do not know where they come from or what can be done to stop them.
The neighbors are worried that the unstable sides of the pit may give way, as they are unsloped. Also, I am not sure how deep the water is but it is troubling that the base may contain sediment and sludge.
Mrs. Lander clearly states in this memo that her intention with the new ordinance was to better define and replace the State law that also exists.
The discussion at the recent BCC meeting seemed to indicate that you want to do away with both, which is indeed troubling! How could you justify that? Are you not concerned with the many pits and holes, like the one near our neighborhood that pose a danger if not sloped or fenced?
I was so disappointed to hear the discussion on doing away with both the state fence law and the recent county nuisance ordinance because of the difficulty it presented to development, etc. Several misconceptions were promoted including ‘measuring yards with yardsticks to determine depths’ for fencing and ‘miles and miles of ugly chain link’.
I think it is humorous that the County just enacted new policies that require the common people to take out a permit and hire a licensed fence contractor to construct a fence in their yard, and that you still require swimming pools in the county to be protected by fences and at the same time seem preoccupied with the hassle and expense that a developer may incur when constructing a lake or a pond in his development or property.
First of all, the new County Nuisance Ordinance states that the hole must be appropriately fenced OR sloped, so I would imagine that a depression in someone’s yard would be sufficiently sloped not to require fencing also (unless of course they had a deep pit on the property that they would understandably need to fence off.) Obviously, there are other options besides chain link fence and if a developer slopes his ornamental pond or lake accordingly, they would actually not require fencing.
Secondly, it concerns me that your County Attorney recommended to your Administrator, Assistant Administrator, and Chief of Code Enforcement that this matter be acted upon and, to date, nothing has been done. Mr. McLaughlin must take responsibility now for continuing to ignore both the state law and the County ordinance. This has nothing to do with the stormwater permit that is being litigated as she explains.
This is an issue of public safety and the County’s liability for its continued inaction. Our neighborhood has NEVER objected to Mr. Rawson and Mr. Weaver grading and sloping their property, just the continued removal of dirt and clay pit operations. Not once have they attempted during this down time to slope their walls or secure their property properly.
This neighborhood will continue to do all we can to bring awareness to this problem and hopefully avert a tragedy that the County’s continued inaction makes possible. If any child is seriously injured it will not be because we did not try to get some action here.