April 24 City Council meeting notes:
Deputy Mayor John Jerralds wants his $2.5 million Woodland Heights Community Center – and soon, but Councilman Marty Donovan wants $3.1 million allocated for police vehicles after 2015.
That was the gist of much of Thursday night’s meeting. All council members were present accept Mike DeSorbo, who Mayor John Fogg said was out of town on business.
At the start of the meeting, Leadership Pensacola’s Cameron Smith talked about LeaP’s recycling project, which included giving away thousands of “green kits” to city residents at Saturday’s Earth Day celebration.
That morning, Smith, the project chairman, said he awoke at 6 a.m. in a cold sweat. After ordering all those kits and spending all that money, Smith was worried. “I don’t know if there’s even a demand. Do people want this stuff?”
Yes, they do.
Smith’s fear subsided when he got to his first stop Saturday morning, Bayview Park, where he saw a line of 20 or so people waiting for their recycling bin and other items.
Smith said one of the residents told him: “It’s about time. We need this…See it through.”
Smith encouraged council members to “embrace what we’ve started and find a way to build on it.” He also gave bins to the City Council.
“We’ll try to carry the torch for you all as well as we can,” Fogg said.
Smith also hinted at other problems in Pensacola, such as the city not keeping young professionals once they have graduated from college. “I want that to change,” said Smith, who mentioned he doesn’t want his baby daughter to have to leave the area one day for a good paying job.
“You have the power to say you made Pensacola a place where people want to live and stay,” Smith told the council.
In other business, all of the approved items from the City’s committee meetings April 21 passed unanimously, except for an irrigation project at Holice Williams Park.
Councilman Mike Wiggins, chair of the Economic and Community Development Committee, said he had received a call from a vendor about an issue, so he asked that the item be sent back to committee.
Councilman Jack Nobles, chair of the Enterprise Operations Committee, held the item on the Tryon Branch Library construction because he wanted to elaborate.
“This is a big, big opportunity for the City of Pensacola,” Nobles said. “It’s a Red Letter Day.”
The Committee of the Whole’s General Fund 30-month budget was also approved unanimously.
“This budget does not have any layoffs, and it truly identifies what core services really area,” Fogg said. “I’ve never seen anything like it before in my experience.”
Councilman Sam Hall said a 30-month budget, instead of a 12-month, is a great idea “as a planning tool.”
Regarding the Penny for Progress funds, Jerralds pointed to a huge stack of historical-type documents. He said the data shows a 1974 proposal for a swimming pool at the Cobb Center and approval in 1976 for work at the Fricker Center.
“And if you visit either of these centers,” Jerralds said, “you’ll see (the projects) must still be on the burner.”
Hence, Jerralds asked that the Woodland Heights Community Center groundbreaking be moved up to 2010. The $2.5 million for the center would come from combining the monies allocated for it and the Westside Library.
Donovan noted that the Bayview Community Center in his district is closing, and the police vehicles take priority over centers or libraries.
“It makes absolutely no sense to me,” Donovan said about arguing over a new community center when another is closing, when there’s a $3 million-plus “shortfall over keeping police cars on the streets.”
“It is my intention to have a Red Letter Day in Woodland Heights,” Jerralds said.
Then, Donovan wanted to discuss moving up the date to fund the police cars within the next 90 days.
Hall asked City Manager Tom Bonfield if any projects would be held up if they didn’t approve the list that night.
Bonfield said everything but the capital projects would be delayed.
“There’s money out to 2015/2016 to support police cars,” Jerralds said.
“It’s just a smoke screen to create obstacles for what we’re trying to accomplish,” Councilman Ronald Townsend said. It sounds like the cops will be riding around on bikes and not have cars, and that’s not the case, Townsend added.
“It’s not an attempt to do anything but state a fact,” said Donovan, who was visibly peeved. He noted public safety should be the priority. “I think we have it backwards here.”
In 2016, 2017 and 2018, there’s 0 funding for police vehicles, Nobles said. “Pulling things forward is going to complicate things, in my opinion.”
Audience members Tony McCray and Rev. Mark Crutcher spoke of the need for a community center in Woodland Heights. They indicated it would be crucial to help with the crime and social ills in the neighborhood.
“We need something to help us save families, to save kids,” Crutcher said. “It’s not just a building…There are a lot of families that need a lot of help.”
Jerralds suggested holding $575,000 for the Penny for Progress list “Item #58.” That item is the Roger Scott Complex swimming pool.
In the end, the Penny for Progress list was approved, with Jerralds and Donovan dissenting.
During the open forum, a city resident encouraged council members to review data from the ECAT citizens advisory committee.
“With $4 a gallon (gas), it’s something to really look at,” the audience member said. “And I would appreciate that.”