Council looks ready to dig into Long Hollow

The Pensacola City Council decided during its Monday agenda session to move forward with a vote later this week on directing city staff to provide answers to questions about a radio tower in the Long Hollow neighborhood. On Thursday, the council will consider requesting information and materials that would assist in determining the legitimacy of the tower, as well as the specter of its lease being altered or terminated or of the tower
itself being modified or removed.

Questions have been raised by a group of concerned citizens regarding the tower’s placement — as well as lease renewals and permit approvals — in an area considered important for future stormwater projects. Earlier this year, council also discussed whether the tower, and its 2012 lease, jived with the area’s stormwater needs.

Bill Caplinger, a retired UWF laboratory manager and one of the people who helped bring the Long Hollow issue to light through public records requests and on-the-ground research, urged the city council to dig into the issue.

“Do not leave this room without taking this seriously and taking some action,” Caplinger told the council Monday.

Caplinger said that the issue is of great importance as it relates to stormwater concerns — the area was flooded during heavy rains in April 2014, and the tower is located in an area where a stormwater pond could be expanded.

“That’s what this is about, an inquiry about flood protection for downtown Pensacola,” he warned. “This is a serious, serious matter.”

Councilman Brian Spencer, who placed the Long Hollow inquiry matter on the council’s agenda, urged his fellow council members to vote Thursday to have staff provide information that could help explain the tower issue. Though council seemed on board with the idea of looking into the matter, Spencer did receive some pushback on the concept of voting on the issue.

Councilman Larry B. Johnson particularly pushed for a different approach, suggesting Spencer’s pace was “a little quick here” and wondering why council could not simply ask staff to enlighten them in an informal manner before jumping into a formal inquiry.

“I would rather get the information in front of us and have a chance to — I’m not sure what we’re doing here,” Johnson said, later describing the effort as “politically charged” — “And I think this is politics right here.”

“I’m simply looking for a formal action,” Spencer told him.

Council President Andy Terhaar seemed to agree

“These votes are important because they show the council is interested in this, and not just one council member, or two council members, but the entire body,” Terhaar said.

Council will be voting on the Long Hollow tower request during its regular Thursday meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m. If the council decides to formally dig into the issue, members noted that such efforts probably wouldn’t begin in earnest until “January at the earliest.”