Lawsuit filed over fishing bridge

Pensacola Bay Fishing Bridge, Inc. has filed a suit against Escambia County over how the county handled the FEMA funds for rebuilding the fishing bridge near the Visitor Center on the north side of Pensacola Bay and canceled PBFB’s contract to run the fishing bridge.

Here are the facts and allegations as presented in the complaint filed in circuit court:

In July 1997, PBFB and the county signed a 30-year agreement that said PBFB would restore and repair the old Pensacola Bay bridge for the public to use for fishing. PBFB spent its own money to do the work. The county retained ownership.

Hurricane Ivan significantly damaged the bridge in September 2004. PBFB tried to work with the county to get SBA loans and FEMA assistance to demolish, remove debris and restore the bridge. PBFB spent its money to get engineering reports and estimates.

According to the suit, in January 2005, County Attorney Janet Lander determined FEMA would not reimburse for restoration and repairs of the bridge if it was under the control of PBFB. No one told PBFB – which thinks things are being worked out and goes ahead and gets a SBA loan.

On January 20, 2006, Touart sent PBFB at written notice that it has violated its contract by not providing maintenance and inspection records, insurance coverage, made the bridge safe for the public to use and had not done an annual engineering report.

Remember there is no fishing bridge to inspect, insure or use. Up until that porint, PBFB thinks the county is going to help it repair the bridge so that they can begin operations again.

30-days later the contract is cancelled. The county gets almost $24 million in FEMA money and only uses part of it for the bridge repair.

This will be interesting to follow.