Notes: Council Committee meetings 4.07

April 7 Committee of the Whole meeting notes:

In talks about the Penny for Progress capital projects list, and the creation and possible closure of community centers in particular,

Deputy Mayor John Jerralds said he had been concerned about fighting among Districts 5 (Jerralds), 6 (Jewel Cannada-Wynn) and 7 (Ronald Townsend). “And it seems to me this is where this might end up.”

Jerralds presided over the meeting for Mayor John Fogg, the only committee member who was absent.

Councilman Jack Nobles was about 15 minutes late for the Finance Committee meeting, which was held before the Committee of the Whole. The other committees did not meet Monday night.

Parks and Recreation Director David Flaherty, who recommends closing the Bayview Community Center, gave a presentation on options for new centers in West Pensacola: a $1 million Westside Community Center, perhaps combined with a library, at Legion Field; and a $1 million Woodland Heights Community Center at one of the three parks in the area. The money for the projects would come from Penny for Progress funds.

But not all Council members were jazzed about the proposals.

Councilman Marty Donovan, for instance, said the existing downtown library is located nearby. “I think we need to rethink some of these assumptions…The whole premise you’re going on (Flaherty), I really don’t buy.”

Jerralds agreed with Donovan, and Townsend advocated going forward with the Westside Community Center.

According to a memo by City Manager Tom Bonfield, changes to the Penny for Progress list include:

-Police vehicles ($3.13 million on the Penny for Progress “Unfunded Concerns List”): Changing the replacement of police vehicles from a set 30 per year to a minimum of 15 cruisers and additional vehicles based on need and replacement criteria, which will allow for more vehicles to be purchased in FY 2015.

-Parks & Recreation: Bayview Community Center was reduced by $150,000 (Flaherty has recommended closing it), and a $25,000 reduction from Baycliff Park, which allowed for a $100,000 increase in the Fricker Center, a $25,000 increase in Jim Allen Park, and a $50,000 increase in Exchange Park.
-Public Works: Funding of $300,000 for the Pavement Management Program was moved from FY 2018 to FY 2008.

Also, the Bonfield memo states, “The County Administrator has notified the City Manager that $1 million will be available in fiscal year 2009 for clay courts at the Roger Scott Tennis Center.
The Unfunded Concerns list also includes $1 million for Englewood Tower replacement, $500,000 for the Pensacola Little Theatre, and $5.25 million for traffic and intersection improvements.

In other business, James Hinson, a local contractor, was named a Charter Review Commission alternate to replace Rhette Anderson, who resigned. Councilman Mike DeSorbo nominated Hinson.

The Council also appointed Scott Sallis to the Planning Board. The owner of Sallis & Associates architectural firm will fill the unexpired term previously held by Rick Johnson.

The Finance Committee business included the authorization for a contract with the firm Edwards, Angell, Palmer & Dodge LLP as the City of Pensacola’s Disclosure Counsel for five years, with the option of Bonfield extending the term for an additional five years.

“Disclosure Counsel has typically been selected during the bond issuance process,” a Bonfield memo states. “However, in light of the volatile financial market, rising costs and the changing relationships, it was determined that a multi-year contract would provide consistency to the bonding process and limit the exposure to increased professional fees.”

Two other Finance Committee items that also passed unanimously concerned the renewal of a banking services agreement with Wachovia Bank for three additional years, until 2010, and amendments to the General Pension and Retirement Fund Plan.

The amendments limit the number of overtime hours included in the calculation of employee’s retirement benefit to 300. Assets remaining in the fund after the final payment to the last retiree revert back to the city and allow the fund to purchase bonds issued by the city, according to a Bonfield memo.

Also at the meeting, Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Evon Emerson and Economic Development Senior Vice President Charles Wood presented Council members with data on its economic development foundation and initiatives.

Emerson said what’s now referred to as innovation economic development “is based on networks and leveraging those networks. There hasn’t been a platform for this model. We’re developing it,” said Emerson, who added that there is tremendous opportunity but it is slower.

Wood also emphasized: “Partnerships and leveraging – those are the two key issues for us.” He said the goal is to create 500 new jobs by the end of the Chamber’s fiscal year, which will be in October.
Wood also discussed initiatives that include the technology incubator, the technology campus, and Saufley Field, where the U.S. Navy is seeking a developer for businesses that will likely be tied to the aerospace industry. Wood predicted Saufley will be the biggest economic development generator over the next two to three years.

Economic development funding is less now than it was ten years ago in Escambia County, Wood told Council members. The city must “grow and create new revenue.”

At the end of the day, the chamber cannot just do marketing, Wood said, adding that he could run around with pretty pictures of Pensacola all day long. “We have to create value and a product that’s valuable to companies. It’s all about the product.”