Pensacola City Council debates Fire Boat House tonight

Industrial Port

A stir has been created by a request from the mayor’s office to use sidewalk funds to build a boathouse at the Port of Pensacola for the fire department’s boat.

The lowest bidder for construction is Southeastern Construction, Inc. for a total cost of $453,437.61. The city has a grant that was awarded in July 2013, but it requires a match of $288,100.

CNAPP—the Council of Neighborhood Association Presidents of Pensacola—is having a lot of discussion about the use of sidewalk funds.

Councilman Charles Bare has said that he opposes the transfer.

“This was originally supposed to be funded with a port security grant, but the money was reduced due to sequestration,” wrote Bare in email to CNAPP leadership. “The source identified by the mayor was Local Option Sales Tax funds designated for sidewalk improvements in the 2016 budget. I oppose this and hope that you will share this information with your fellow CNAPPers.”

Former Councilwoman Diane Mack provided this analysis of the impact of taking the funds form sidewalks:

The sidewalk budget from LOST funds for FY 2016 is $300,000. The Mayor proposes using $288,100 of that amount for the Fire Boat House. The sidewalk projects which would be sacrificed for the boathouse are as follows:

W. Gonzales St. (N St. to L St.)
Fairfield (10th to 12th)
W. Gonzales St.( N St. to L St.)
12th Ave. (Fairfield to Driftwood)
E. Gonzales St.(Hayne St. to MLK)
12th Ave. (12th Ave to Driftwood)
E. Gonzales St.(13th to 14th)
11th Ave. (Fairfield to Barcia St.)
E. Gonzales St. (15th to 17th)
12th Ave. (Fairfield to Bayou Texar Bridge)
W. Gregory St. (Coyle St. to A St.)
12th Ave. (Bayou Texar Bridge to Bayou Blvd.)

The affected Council districts appear to be: 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

Tamara Fountain, the city’s chief operations officer, told Inweekly the sidewalk projects for FY 2015 will not be impacted by this recommendation. The Non-Encumbered Carryover resolution brings forward $596,104 from last year’s budget for sidewalk improvements. This increases the total budget for sidewalk improvements to $946,104. The mayor’s office is asking to use funds from the FY 2016 sidewalk improvements projects for the boathouse construction.

“…no Sidewalk improvements in FY 2016 will be impacted as there already exists sufficient funding for those slated projects,” Fountain wrote in a memo to the council. Read MEMO – Fire Boat House Project

However, the city will lose the port grant if no city-match is approved by the council.

Some have questioned the need for a boathouse, believing that a boat slip should suffice. I received an email from one boat owner: “They could keep the boat in the water in a covered slip for 83 years for this price. They got a grant for $142,500. And the rest is coming from city coffers. This doesn’t make sense.”

Fountain told Inweekly that the ultimate decision rests with the city council.

“They are the legislative body and control the budget,” she said. “The grant is out there and if they don’t act, it goes away. We would have been criticized if we let it lapse without them considering it.”