How did county government become so callous?

Last week, the Escambia County Commission approved $1.25 million of CARES Act be spent on rapid testing and that County Administrator Janice Gilley initiative a rapid testing program for prisoners and staff at the Escambia County Jail.

“Mr. Chairman, to me, there’s no excuse that we’re not doing rapid testing,” said Commissioner Lumon May. “That is a CARES Act expenditure. We’ve got 50-plus million dollars. It helps our employees. I’d would like to see you move forward with the rapid testing.”

Since Friday, Aug. 21, only six inmates have been tested. Again the county administrator has ignored a direct orders from the commissioners.

Meanwhile, prisoners are begging to be tested and complaining about the lack of COVID prevention at the jail.

However, that isn’t the only sign of the callous of the current administration.

At the Aug. 20 meeting, commissioners were stunned to find out the Tonya Ellis, director of the ECAT, hadn’t installed COVID shields in the transit system’s busses. ECAT has received millions of dollars to help with COVID-19 presentation.

“What helps you get these shields?” asked Commissioner May. “And what do you need to be added to this to get it done? We are months behind on the counties in implementing this money. What else do we need to do?”

Maybe it’s incompetence. Or is it an administrator that has forgotten their lives at stake that should be put ahead of PowerPoints, petty politics and personal grievances.

The Board of County Commissioners meets this morning at 9 a.m.


The county commission also approved $1.5 million for food assistance. We haven’t seen any signs that food distribution has begun.  The administrator should have had agreements ready for signatures last week, after all she has supposedly been working on her plan since early July.

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4 thoughts on “How did county government become so callous?

  1. There is a facebook group called Pensacola Pay it Forward. There are over 10,000 members. Every day, local people are asking for help with the basics- food, diapers, baby clothes. And to think there IS help out there- the CARES funding, and it is just being held up by Janice. Callous doesn’t sound like a strong enough word.

  2. Dear Mr. Swain, that’s not what happened, although the confusion is understandable as everything Gilley brings turns to chaos.

    The meeting before last, the commission voted for a software called Neighborly to process housing and other things tied to the CARES money. Because this software has become very popular–counties are finding it works really well for a variety of things, and it’s very secure–Escambia was on a wait list for installation until Sept 9th. Since the County will start taking some apps on the 1st, they needed a way to plug the gap on that portal. Janice’s bright idea was to gift the consultancy group that she sole sourced with building their own portal, which would be stop gap that would quickly become redundant, and then pay them 25K a month to manage the Neighborly once it was installed. As the contract for the Neighborly software had a management cost of 23K a year built in, the board realized this plan for the absurd cost-waste that it was and put a stop to it.

    The board consulted Bart Siders, the County’s very competent IT director, as to how to fill the gap in the meantime, and he said there were a variety of ways they might do it, including PDF applications, Staff will put their heads together over the next couple of days and hammer out a plan for the interim. Once the Neighborly software arrives and is installed, my understanding is it is a very intuitive portal and staff should be able to get trained up on it quickly. The Board also supported hiring more staff to assist with the burden of processing applications and conducting checks on the info.

    The citizens of the County should actually be relieved that this won’t be happening through the consulting portal, as it came out in the meeting that Janice and her administrative team did *not* include Mr. Siders in the discussions on the technology for this portal, and he had had zero chance to vet it in terms of security. He asked all the appropriate tech questions–such as who would own the data and code on any work the consultants do for their first slice of the pie–and seemed comfortable with the path that the commission was laying out. He even underlined that he was very impressed with Neighborly’s security, and other things about the software, which is not surprising as he *was* included in that selection, and in fact had been working closely with the Neighborhoods on vetting different options for housing apps for a year or so–since well before the advent of covid.

    So yes things might be a little shaky at first, but to a lot of people’s minds the BOCC did the right thing to put a stop to the slapdash, backdoor consultancy disaster that was brewing. We’re already so behind the eight ball in terms of timing due to Gilley’s foot dragging on this first-tranche money–which she has been sitting on since June–that a couple of weeks of a stop-gap measure while waiting for superior software is hardly the make-or-break on getting the money where it needs to go.

  3. Don’t worry; today the Commission decided to push out CARES Act relief grants via paper format or online using fillable pdf. What could possibly go wrong? You ever try completing a fillable pdf on an Android phone? Too funny. The 1990’s called. They want their technology experts back from the county. We elected these clowns!

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