Commissioner still looks for answers on mosquito facility remediation

In preparation for tomorrow’s Escambia County Commission meeting, PNJ reporter Will Isern presented the City of Pensacola’s case for the county to pay for the clean-up of a plume from the county’s old mosquito control facility that has suspended work on the long-awaited Government Street Regional Stormwater Pond at Corrine Jones Park.

The County Commission tabled the request at its last meeting because of the lack of information on the overall remediation of the control facility, including benchmarks and a timetable for completion. Leading the charge for more information was Commissioner Doug Underhill.

In a series of emails that Inweekly received via a public record request, the paper found that Assistant City Administrator Keith Wilkins has tried to meet with Commissioner Underhill prior to the June 16 meeting to “discuss our Corinne Jones Park and associated Mosquito Control contamination.”

Commissioner Underhill said the meeting wasn’t necessary.

“While I recognize that your experience with the County was considerable, it is no longer your responsibility to do staff work in preparation for a vote of the BOCC,” he wrote Wilkins. “I continue to wait for the answers to the questions I asked in the last meeting, but I am only interested in receiving those answers…in writing…from staff members within the county government.”

The commissioner is frustrated with what he has called a “crisis approach” to expenditures, and he said he would “continue to advocate that my peers on the board withhold these funds from this City project” until he gets the requested information from county staff.

“While I have no animus toward your project, it is important to understand that County dollars will be spent on County priorities,” wrote Underhill. “Where City and County priorities overlap (which this project may indeed be one of them, staff will need to get its stuff in one sock and not bring it to the BOCC as a crisis item. Proper planning and staffing would have prevented this from becoming an issue and it could have been passed on a consent agenda.”

Mayor Hayward announced the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant for Government Street Regional Stormwater Pond at Corrine Jones Park Improvements in November 2013. The Pensacola City Council voted to accept the grant in March 2014. The planning and bidding process for the project took more than a year. In July 2015, City Administrator Eric Olson announced the cost of the project was more than the grant so the city had to wait for the BP settlement. Construction finally began in January 2016.

Two years and two months from announcement of grant to the commencement of construction.