Presser Notes: Sanitation, Cyber and Stormwater

Following a break for the holidays, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson resumed his weekly press conferences Monday, opening the year with a joke.

“As we get into 2020, as someone said, ‘this is the year of perfect vision,’ so we’re going to try to execute on that perfect vision,” Mayor Robinson said to the assembled gallery of press and city staff. “None of y’all laughed at my 2020 joke.”

In addition to taking care of some housekeeping items Monday — detailing where people can dispose of Christmas trees, and reminding them that the city’s citizen engagement survey is still open — the mayor also discussed the new pick-up dates for the city’s sanitation customers, the city’s response to a recent cyber attack, as well as other issues.

Sanitation Switch-a-roo

Beginning this week, the city’s sanitation department is changing how they collect garbage and recycling — collected in two separate containers — from residential customers. In an effort to streamline operations and allow for adequate time to maintain a fleet of vehicles, the sanitation department will be collecting both the garbage and recycling, as well as yard waste, all on the same day. The collective collections will take place on the customer’s current garbage pick-up day, with the exception of customers with a traditional Friday-pick-up, which will be shuffled to Wednesday.

John Pittman, director of sanitation, said that the city would be picking up collection cans left out on a customer’s former pick-up date as residents take some time to become familiar with the new dates.

“We have a contingency plan in place just in case we have a few stragglers that forget to put their can out there,” Pittman said.

“We realize this is gonna take us a couple of weeks to get comfortable with everything and get use to it,” Mayor Robinson added.

Cyber City

In early December, the city of Pensacola was hit with a ransomware cyber attack. The municipal system — with the exception of the police department and airport — was knocked out and the attackers demanded a ransom.

While the city has been tight with details regarding the attack as a criminal investigation is ongoing, Mayor Robinson has said that no ransom has been paid and that the city was able to recover thanks to sufficient backups of data.

Although no real new information regarding the cyber attack was issued Monday, officials did offer some updates. Public Information Officer Kaycee Lagarde said that the city expects a final report from an outside cyber consulting firm sometime this week which will outline potential vulnerabilities and ways to improve security, and also said those eligible for the LifeLock identity protection services the city has offered residents, customers and businesses who may have had sensitive data compromised as a result of the municipal cyber attack should expect to be hearing from the city soon.

“The letters that we mentioned should be going out by the end of the week,” LaGarde issued a heads-up. “It’s just under 57,000 letters.”

Robinson has said previously, and said again Monday, that the city did not have any evidence to suggest that anyone’s sensitive data had been compromised, but that it was taking the measure of providing 57,000 people with a year’s worth of LifeLock service out of an abundance of caution. On Monday the mayor said that the city had confirmed that those responsible for the attack had possession of some data — describing it as “not exactly critically sensitive” — and described the decision of providing the identity protection services as “prudent and the right thing to do to protect those individuals that we felt like were most exposed.”

Lee Street Stormwater Improvements

Mayor Robinson announced Monday a stormwater improvement project coming to West Lee Street, meant to mitigate flooding issues in the area. The project begins Jan. 13, and is expected to take about five months.

Funded via FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program due to repetitive flooding issues, the Lee Street Stormwater Improvement Project addresses issues is the area adjacent to the intersection of West Lee and F Street. The project entails the demolition of three residences along West Lee, which have been acquired by the city. Once the residences are demolished, a stormwater retention pond will be located on the site; the new pond, connected to an existing pond through underground infrastructure, will help reduce flooding in the area.

UWF, NAS Recognitions

Following the University of West Florida’s recent championship football win, Mayor Robinson has been hearing a lot about the concept of a city celebration of the feat. There seems to be appetite, he said Monday, for a parade.

“I was in discussions with Martha Saunders, president of UWF, on her plane trip back from the thing talking about this,” Robinson said.

The mayor said that UWF officials had expressed a desire to piggyback onto an existing event. The two potential upcoming parade events are Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Mardi Gras. Because it was thought students might be out of town during the weekend MLK event, the city selected Mardi Gras; details are currently being finalized.

Also, Robinson said, the city will likely be hosting a public event in recognition and memorial of the shooting last month at Naval Air Station Pensacola. The shooting by a Saudi Arabian pilot participating in a class on the base left three victims dead and multiple wounded.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about doing something about that within the city,” Robinson said, noting that a ceremony had already been held on NAS.

While the details are still being worked out, Robinson said that the city is currently discussing the issue with both NAS and the Veterans Memorial Park Association, which oversees the park along Bayfront Parkway. The event will likely be held at that location.