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.”