Presser Notes: Solar Win, Maritime Tragedy & Stormwater Sewage

By Jeremy Morrison, Inweekly

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson doesn’t always prevail when he makes a request of Florida’s governor. Still, he’s feeling pretty good about one recent win: last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a piece of legislation pertaining to rooftop solar energy and net metering.

”We were very happy that the governor was supportive of our request to veto the net-metering,” Robinson said Monday during his weekly press conference. “We sent a letter. I think I’m like two for six for letters to the governor when he does something I’ve asked him to do.”

Net metering is a billing mechanism that allows residential solar users to sell back power to the utility company. A bill championed by utility corporations, but considered by solar advocates to hobble the use of solar for homeowners, was passed by Florida’s legislature and the vetoed by DeSantis.

Robinson credited Mark Jackson, the city’s sustainability coordinator, for advising the city to push back against the net-metering bill.

“They continue to identify things that we’re trying to lead on, and this is just another example of what we communicated and sent to the governor as well,” Robinson said.

Maritime Park Pond Fatality

Over the weekend, an 18-year-old man was killed during an incident at the Maritime Park in downtown Pensacola. The man was on an inner tube being pulled by a pickup truck from the water feature fronting the park. He suffered fatal injuries when the tube landed in a nearby parking lot.

On Monday, mayor Robinson said that he was waiting to learn more details about this incident.

“Other than the fact that I know that there was some kind of use of trying to do something in the pond with a car and somehow it ended up that the individual left the pond and came into the parking lot — other than that, I really don’t have a lot of details on it at this particular time,” the mayor said.

The man killed in the incident has been identified as Christian Garner. Law enforcement is currently investigating to learn the details surrounding the event.

Mayor Robinson said that it had not occurred to officials that such a stunt might be attempted at the water feature, and he stressed that people should use more precaution.

“I haven’t really had time to sit down with the chief and talk about it, but it’s just, again, one of those things that I don’t think in a million years we ever anticipated that the pond would be used for something like that,” Robinson said. “And this is the reason that we ask you to use our parks appropriately.”

The mayor continued, imploring people not to engage in activities that could lead to accidents or fatalities.

“In today’s day and age, with all the things people film and put on everywhere, people are sometimes getting more creative with what they want to do,” Robinson said. “You know, I used to tell my children all the time, something may see funny or amazing or something else, but don’t do it, because later on, you know, you can get seriously injured, it could be fatal, just a variety of things — don’t do stuff like that.”

Asked if the city would be considering installing a fence or any barrier to prevent people from entering the water feature at Maritime, the mayor said probably not.

“I think the aesthetics of it is what it’s meant to be and function as,” Robinson said.

Wondering About Washerwoman’s

Recently, a University of West Florida professor alerted the Pensacola City Council to the issue of contaminated stormwater containing human waste fouling the waters off Bruce Beach, where the city intends to develop its municipal beach as part of a larger walkability project. Preliminary tests have identified multiple sites where sewage may be infiltrating the stormwater system.

Asked about discussions had among members of the Emerald Coast Utility Authority regarding daylighting — or uncovering — the now-subterranean Washerwoman’s Creek as a potential solution to the problem, Mayor Robinson said he wasn’t sure if that would be adequate.

“Washerwoman’s Creek certainly should be continuing to run. Whether it runs underground or though there, one way or another, it shouldn’t be having sewer connected to it,” Robinson said. “I think just opening it up, while it would certainly bring disinfectant UV to the situation, I’m not sure that it would solve all of our problems,”

The mayor said he thought it would be a better idea to conduct testing at the sites identified as possible sources of the sewer infiltration to identify and address the source of the issue.

“If your sewer and your stormwater are connected, you’re gonna have problems, no matter whether you daylight the creek or you don’t,” Robinson said. “I think it’s really important for us to pinpoint those areas and then address those connections because they shouldn’t be happening.”

Contrasting newer areas of the city with downtown — where much of the infrastructure was put in place over a century ago — Mayor Robinson said that the issue of sewage infiltrating the stormwater system is just something that older cities are now having to address.

“This doesn’t happen in Cordova Park and Scenic Heights because these are newer areas,” Robinson said. “When they set up the sewer and stormwater, they separate them.”

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3 thoughts on “Presser Notes: Solar Win, Maritime Tragedy & Stormwater Sewage

  1. Net Metering: I understood Governor DeSantis to say that he was vetoing the net metering law “because” of the current high inflation, i.e. he did not want to be on the wrong side of the issue with a gubernatorial election coming up in November. The 2018 election was a close one with DeSantis getting 49.6% and Andrew Gillum 49.2%. A Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade seems likely to hurt the Republican nominee. However, if DeSantis wins reelection, he might sign the net metering bill if it is sent to him in 2023.
    Maritime Park Pond Facility: If I were an attorney representing Christian Garner’s family in a lawsuit against the City of Pensacola, I would argue that the city knew or should have known that the so-called “pond” (technically a “water garden”) was an attractive nuisance. It’s a miracle someone hasn’t died until know, as far as we know. The Community Maritime Park Design Criteria Volume I: Pattern Book (October 11, 2007) that no one has ever read does not mention “aesthetics” but does show pictures of railings. I bet that not a single normal person would object if the city put a railing around the pond using the same design as the railing on the waterfront intended to keep people from falling into the bay.

  2. I do not want people to think I don’t understand the HUGE contribution that UWF did. Barbara Albrecht was out here every week. Barbara is probably the most highly qualified concering our waterway..
    Thanks again to ya’ll that pushed this testing through to a tipping point no one can ignore.

  3. This has NOTHING TO DO with WasherWomans Creek!
    This is elected officials not doing their due diligence to address the contamination of a commuity and a waterway…
    Roll the tapes… starting with the Hayward Administration, “it always floods down there…. of course it stinks..
    Then head over to ECUA.. its the city’s fault..
    New city Administration it’s ECUA fault…
    Six plus years I have battled this issue for my neighbors to no avail.
    It wasn’t until Ann Hill gave money to do testing, then pro bono scientists where provided by Thriving Earth Exchanged.
    Enough kicking the can. Do dye and smoke testing… get the cameras out.. and don’t forget this human bacteria is coming across our yards, sidewalks and right onto Ol’stinky where so many park. These are a health concerns. Yest the soil!

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