Yesterday, Pensacola City Administrator Eric Olson spoke with Councilwoman Sherri Myers and Emerald Coastkeeper Laurie Murphy about the conditions in the Tanyard neighborhood and possible federal, state and city code violations at the city’s Government Street Stormwater project.
Olson doesn’t send emails or any written communications with his signature. He doesn’t attend town hall meetings and rarely does an interview with the media.
Three weeks ago, Murphy sent Olson, Mayor Ashton Hayward and other city officials a list of code violations that she observed will touring the neighborhood on Dec. 7. She heard nothing back from Olson.
She followed up with an email on Tuesday, Dec. 27, to Steve Wineki of Code Enforcement. Wineki replied:
“I have copied Mr. Owens (City Engineer) who is the Public Works Department Director, Mr. Olsen who is the City Administrator and Mr. Wilkens who is the Assistant City Administrator and Ms. Buchanan who is Constituent Services Administrator in regards to your contact concern stated below. It is not uncommon between Christmas and New Years for employees to take leave so I have copied several individuals who should be able to assist with that matter in the event one or more may be off this week. Thank you for contacting our agency and have a safe holiday week.”
Yesterday, Olson called Murphy and told that she should have used the City’s 3-1-1 system, instead of email.
“He contacted me to basically say that he was apologizing for my email being out of the loop and not being addressed and that if I would have used the 311 system they could have logged it, and it probably would have been a better, effective way to get the information out,” she told Inweekly.
“This is a serious situation, and I have seen this written either in the Storm Water Prevention Pollution Plan or somewhere in the city code ordinances that I have every right to contact Public Works directly if I want to or use the 311 system. There’s no law in Rules and Regs that say that I violated anything by not using the 311 system. It certainly does not leave the city off the hook for three weeks because it was three weeks before I received any word.”
Murphy told Inweekly that the contract with Utility Service clearly states the contractor and city will comply with the Federal Clean Water Act, Florida Statutes, and City Code.
“The Certification of Erosion and Sediment Compliance (Erosion ) shows the contractor was paid $6,000 for a turbidity curtain, hay bales and silt fence,” she said. “The contractor assures the City of Pensacola that all soil-disturbing activities performed will comply with all applicable federal, state and local regulations.”
Murphy said, “That’s not happening.”
She also questioned Olson’s position with Myers that there was little the city could do to protect its citizens.
“It doesn’t matter how many contractors are working on a City property or a City maintained property,” she said.
“The ultimate responsibility for running the show is the City if it’s on City-owned or -maintained property.
I don’t care if you have the county, I don’t care if you have Bay Minette over there. I don’t care if you’ve got 15 contractors and 150 vendors. Ultimately, the responsible lies with the city engineer (Derek Owens).
That city engineer should be running this as his show and making sure and coordinating that everything is done correctly and things are removed when they’re supposed to be removed and that the site is clean.
I don’t understand where the city feels that they shouldn’t be held accountable and pointing the fingers at other entities on the property when ultimately they are accountable for violating those ordinances. They are accountable for anyone else that may be violating ordinances on their property whether it’s the county or FDOT or one of the subs.
It doesn’t matter. It’s their show, their property. They own it. They’re going to maintain it. They’re responsible.”
Earlier in the day, Olson spoke with Councilwoman Sherri Myers about the filtration system that had yet to removed.
“Eric Olson told me that the water treatment equipment belongs to the county contractor, that that is the county’s project,” Myers told Inweekly.
Commissioner Lumon May was out of town yesterday. He is checking on this new bit of information for us.
The bigger question is how can the general public get Mayor Ashton Hayward and City Administrator Eric Olson to enforce the city’s code.
Stay tuned. The City’s ‘story’ continues to evolve.
Update: As of 9:15 a.m., we have a report of the green filtration tanks being removed.