Upcoming Issues for Council

While the Pensacola City Council had a relatively light agenda during its regular meeting yesterday, the board did offer a preview of upcoming issues.

Council President Sam Hall and Councilwoman Sherri Myers will soon be meeting to further discuss the hiring of a council executive. The board has been searching for staff for more than a year and recently turned to an employment agency to provide someone.

“There hasn’t been any movement on that,” Myers said, offering to act as a coordinator “to get this item before the council and moving.”

On Wednesday, during the city’s second public hearing for its proposed 2013 budget, Myers led the council to take more than $200,000 from marketing budgets and transfer it to the board’s budget. She said the money was needed to hire council staff.

Hall and Myers have both interviewed candidates provided by the employment agency. The president requested that the two meet in a more “intimate” setting—the seventh floor conference room at Pensacola City Hall—to further discuss the matter. The meeting will still be held in the Sunshine.

The council also discussed how the city should handle the RESTORE Act process. Myers relayed information she had gleamed from a county meeting earlier in the day.

“This is really important to us,” she told the council. “We’re talking about millions of dollars.”

The federal RESTORE Act guarantees that 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines levied against BP for the 2010 oil spill come to the Gulf Coast states. Each state will get a share of the money, with Escambia County—where local RESTORE decisions will be made—expected to get more than a $100 million.

The Escambia County Commission this week discussed its plan to form an advisory committee to study how best to spend the RESTORE funds. The committee, to be formed by January, will make its recommendations to the county next summer.

“This meeting gave me great concern,” Myers told the council. “What happened was, they had quite a discussion as to who can serve on their committee.”

County commissioners appear to be tentatively giving the city of Pensacola one, or possibly two, seats on the advisory board. Criteria currently being hammered out disallows elected officials from sitting on the advisory committee.

During the county meeting, Administrator Randy Oliver told commissioners that Mayor Ashton Hayward had sent an email expressing his desire to serve on the committee. Commissioners debated whether the mayor or city council should make the committee appointment, or if the city should be given a seat at the table at all (noting that city residents make up only 1/7 of the county population).

The city council had previously appointed Councilwoman Maren DeWeese to serve on the county’s advisory committee. The board reaffirmed that decision last night.

Councilman Larry B. Johnson said that DeWeese’s recent decision to not seek re-election on the council (she’s filed to run for mayor) freed her up to serve on the county’s committee.

“I think she would still be eligible,” Johnson said.

Hall agreed, but asked that such a move be held until after the November elections.

“I think that’s a terrific idea, but I think that decision is best left to the new council,” the president said.

Councilwoman Megan Pratt said she thought city staff needed to be heavily involved in the city’s RESTORE efforts. Myers also suggested the city form a committee to steer the process and said the council needed “to discuss how we can bring the mayor into the process as well.”

Also during yesterday’s meeting, the city council made plans to discuss the mayor’s contract and purchasing authorities. The discussion will pertain to the mayor’s authority to enter into contracts of more than $25,000 and will be placed on the board’s next Committee of the Whole agenda.