Viewpoint: Infrastructure Matters Update

November 15, 2017

By Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward

Earlier this year I wrote a Viewpoint article entitled Infrastructure Matters to highlight the important role of the city’s infrastructure and to introduce an ambitious $30-million street resurfacing and natural gas pipeline improvement program.

The work includes resurfacing approximately 1,800 blocks (119-miles) of city streets, coupled with replacing about 46-miles of aging, cast-iron natural gas pipeline. It’s a “catch-up” effort intended to address years of deferred maintenance, and to revitalize the city’s transportation network and natural gas distribution system.

The street resurfacing program is nearing the 33 percent completion mark. The City’s contractors have worked diligently since March of this year to mill and resurface about 600 blocks in the downtown, central/west, and western portions of Pensacola. Their crews endured intense summer heat and worked around torrential summer rains to get the job done. We appreciate their commitment and the quality of their work.

Resurfacing is already underway for the next three groups in the program, which consist of selected streets located east of Bayou Texar. Next year, work on the final three groups will begin in northeast Pensacola.

Respondents to a 2016 community survey identified the condition of Pensacola’s streets as one of their top areas of concern. When the current program concludes, the percentage of city streets rated in “good repair” will be approximately 80 percent. Taxpayers have a tremendous investment in the city’s transportation infrastructure. A systematic program of resurfacing protects this investment in addition to creating safer, smoother streets that cause less wear-and-tear on vehicles.

Natural gas crews are making similar progress in replacing aging cast-iron gas pipeline with corrosion-free medium-density polyethylene pipe. The modern pipe will supply approximately 3,500 homes and businesses throughout the city. It is more efficient, less expensive to maintain, and safer than the cast-iron gas pipe, much of which has been in service for a century or more. Polyethylene pipe is also capable of delivering natural gas at the higher capacities needed to power larger natural gas appliances such as whole-house generators, tank-less water heaters, and large pool and spa heaters.

Gas pipeline installation in five of the fourteen Pensacola Energy sectors is complete or nearing completion, while work in two other sectors is underway. All work in the program is scheduled for completion next spring.

Streets and natural gas lines are two of the more obvious examples of infrastructure systems, but they’re only part of the story. The City owns and maintains over 1,400 street lights, and with the recent completion of a city-wide assessment, we will soon begin converting to energy-efficient LED bulbs that will help us reduce our utility bills.

Pensacola has more than 250-miles of sidewalks. A multiyear program is planned to make needed repairs and upgrades that will help make our city safer and improve walkability.

Our city takes pride in its 93 municipal parks and facilities that encompass nearly 600-acres. Maintaining these recreational facilities requires a substantial commitment. Over the next ten years we plan to invest close to $24 million to keep our parks in shape for future generations to enjoy.

In just the past five years the city has invested almost $34 million in stormwater infrastructure improvements. The result is better water quality and a reduced risk of damage from flooding.

Investing in the protection and maintenance of our publicly-owned streets and other infrastructure is not just a professional responsibility – it makes good business sense. These investments create opportunities for economic growth and improve the quality of life for all of us. In the final analysis our infrastructure is, literally and figuratively, the foundation upon which we can continue to build our great city.

~ Mayor Ashton Hayward

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  • Bill M. November 16, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    CJ – I went to our big map of Escambia county and you are correct. I seem to remember driving through the Camelot subdivision and seeing the city limit signs., north of I-10. I also remember working around Langley Av. and seeing the crazy gerrymandering of the city limits there. One side of the road would be in the city limits but not the other side. Looking at our map again I see patches of white throughout that area with the yellow indicating “in the city” all around. It looks like the map has some kind of skin disease, political eczema maybe?

  • CJ Lewis November 16, 2017 at 7:55 am

    People vote with their feet. According to the city’s own numbers, the city population declined by 523 people from 2016 to 2017. Ashton Hayward says this is evidence of “explosive growth.” It is not. About the only thing exploding is the number of panhandlers inside city limits, the natural result of the city’s refusal to enforce its 2013 anti-panhandling law that applies citywide. The people out bumming money off drivers are hardly poor because they apparently can afford to buy and enjoy cigarettes and beer. It is already well known that few if any Pensacola Police Officers or Pensacola Professional Firefighters will live inside city limits. The public is not told the number and percentage of city employees who will not live inside city limits but most of the city’s senior staff such as department/so-called “division” heads will not live inside city limits. Earlier this year, Assistant City Administrator Keith Wilkins moved outside of city limits. According to the state’s number, the percentage of Escambia County residents who live inside city limits is now down to a record low 15.99%. As for the park maintenance issue, that is a joke. I would challenge the Pensacola City Council to direct its Parks & Recreation Board, that seems to do not much of anything, to conduct a comprehensive inspection of all of the city’s parks and related facilities to put together a “fix it” list. I have spoken with city staff who tell me that every year city employees put together such lists and they are ignored. The first park to be inspected should be Hitzman Park. By the way, on the upside, last month Hayward told two city residents that he is not running for reelection (something that seems obvious given that his home is for sale at an asking price of $1.9 million. In that same meeting, Hayward used vulgarity to describe his feelings about “the people of Pensacola.” The arrival of a new mayor in November 2018 and the installation of a new senior leadership team presents a great opportunity to professionalize the city staff and begin to find ways to reduce the cost of city government and lower obscene city taxes and fees. You know things are going from bad to worse when property owners are actively refusing to be annexed into city limits and when there are rumblings on the northern edge of the city about asking to contract the city boundaries so property owners can leave the city and fall under the administration of the county. On that last point, if Escambia County reached out to city voters north of Interstate 10 they might get a warm welcome. When I ran for the District 1 City Council seat in 2016, I was shocked to learn that District 1 Councilman P.C. Wu told people in his district north of I-10 that he did not know they were in his district. City Administrator Eric Olson told District 2 Councilwoman Sherri Myers that this same area was not even in the city.

  • George Hawthorne November 15, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Mr. Mayor,
    Who or what company has received the bulk of those contracts?