DUI Checkpoint On Highway 29 Tonight

June 27, 2008

If you are traveling on Highway 29 in Pensacola late tonight or early in the morning, you’ll be delayed near Broad Street, just north of I-10, by a “Sobriety Safety Checkpoint”.

The Florida Highway Patrol will hold the roadside Sobriety Safety Checkpoint  between 10:00 p.m. tonight and 3:00 a.m Saturday on Highway 20 just north I-10.

There will be approximately 25 uniformed officers participating, as well as support personnel from the Emerald Coast MADD I(Mothers Against Drunk Driving) Chapter. Other participating agencies include the Escambia County Sheriffs Office, Pensacola Police Department, University of West Florida Police Department, Gulf Breeze Police Department, Milton Police Department, and the Santa Rosa County Sheriffs Office.

During the operation, vehicles will be stopped to check for driver impairment. Should impairment be detected, roadside sobriety testing will be performed on site. Warning devices will be placed in strategic locations for the safety and protection of the public.

Reducing the deaths and injuries associated with impaired drivers is of the utmost importance, says the Florida Highway Patrol. The checkpoints have been successful in removing impaired drivers from public streets and highways.

Highway 29 is a main arterial route for motorist traveling through Escambia County and Century into the state of Alabama, according to the FHP.

The public can report suspected drunk drivers or other traffic hazards 24 hours a day by dialing  *FHP (*347) from the cellular phone.

Northview Student Elected State Representative For National Council

June 27, 2008


Olivia Bryan of Bratt was recently chosen as Florida’s only representative on the national Youth Leadership Council while on a trip to Washington, D.C.

The Youth Leadership Council (YLC) is a joint effort of local electric co-ops, statewide cooperative associations and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Olivia attended the 2008 Youth Tour in Washington as a representative of Escambia River Electric Cooperative, one of about 1,500 high school students visiting the nation’s capital as representatives of their rural electric cooperative.

Each state is entitled to have one representative on the Youth Leadership Council. The YLC is designed to provide participants with stronger leadership skills, presentation skills and a broader understanding of rural electric cooperatives.

Students competing for their state’s spot on the Youth Leadership Council had to face a panel of judges and explain their goals and interests, academic standing and past accomplishments. Then each contestant was given six minutes to prepare a speech on a given topic and present it to the judges and fellow youth tour delegates.

The speech had to be address how youth could cause state at the national, state and local levels.

“In my speech, I focused on if we wanted to cause a change, we had to be the change” Olivia told NorthEscambia.com. “There was not a lot of time to prepare. I was surprised they liked my speech the best because some of the others were really good.”

Now that she is on the Youth Leadership Council, Olivia will head back to Washington for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Youth Leadership Conference in July for leadership training. And then she will attend to the NRECA Annual Meeting in New Orleans in February of 2009. At the July meeting, one student will be chosen as the national Youth Leadership Conference Spokesperson and will speak to the thousands at the NRECA Annual Meeting.

“I’m excited to see what kinds of doors this may open for me,” Bryan said. “I’m also interested to see what the leadership training in Washington will have to offer.”

While in Washington as EREC’s representative on the Youth Tour, Olivia visited the U.S. Capital where she met with Florida Congressman Jeff Miller on the Capital steps. She was also able to visit most of the national memorials, including the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial.

She was most impressed with the Lincoln Memorial, Olivia said. “It was huge. I never realized the scale of it.”

Olivia is the daughter of Robert and Rebecca Ryan of Bratt. She will be senior this fall at Northview High School.

For more photos from Olivia Bryan’s Washington trip, click here.

Pictured above: Northview student Olivia Bryan on the steps on the U.S. Capital in Washington. Pictured below: Olivia (turned sideways in the black dress) talks with Florida Congressman Jeff Miller on the Capital steps. Submitted photos for NorthEscambia.com.


Baptist Hospital To Buy West Florida Hospital; Move To Davis Highway

June 27, 2008


Baptist Healthcare has announced the purchase of West Florida Hospital for $245 million. Another $85 million will be spent to upgrade the hospital’s facilities.

Baptist Hospital will move their complete acute care hospital and emergency room to the West Florida Hospital campus on Davis Highway.

“This acquisition will enhance the best of both organizations and provides for expansion of our services to meet the needs of our patients and the community,” stated Al Stubblefield, President/CEO of Baptist Health Care. “We know the acquisition of West Florida Hospital will allow us to continue our high standard of personal care while expanding services to serve the entire Northwest Florida region.”

After the West Florida purchase, Baptist Hospital’s main campus will continue to operate as a full service outpatient facility offering walk-in urgent care services, diagnostic and imaging services, ambulatory services, physician offices and corporate management offices. The combined inpatient psychiatric services currently at Baptist Hospital and West Florida Hospitals will be housed at the Baptist Behavioral Medicine Hospital at the old hospital location.

Once the purchase is complete, the current West Florida Hospital on Davis Highway will become the new Baptist Hospital, and together with Baptist Medical Park – 9 Mile, will give Baptist Health Care a major presence in north Pensacola. The campus will feature comprehensive inpatient and outpatient care plus services such as an expanded Baptist Cancer Center in affiliation with the Moffitt Cancer Institute; Baptist Neurosciences Center complemented by a rehab hospital for neurologic and orthopaedic conditions; Baptist Heart & Vascular Center of Excellence; and an expanded Emergency Department. The new Baptist Hospital also will offer a new parking garage, new physician office buildings and a heliport for LifeFlight.

Additionally, Baptist Health Care will assume the current West Florida Hospital Primary Care Practices, which will increase access and outreach to the community. The addition of West Florida Hospital Primary Care Practices (nine neighborhood medical centers) to Baptist Health Care affiliated and employed physicians will expand Baptist Health Care primary care locations throughout the community.

“This acquisition will allow Baptist Health Care to continue to be at the forefront of health care excellence in Northwest Florida. With the help of our outstanding doctors and staff, we are revolutionizing health care in Pensacola,” Stubblefield said.

The asset purchase agreement was between the two hospitals was signed Wednesday night. They must now file for approval from the Federal Trade Commission. Baptist officials say they hope the purchase agreement will close in the last quarter of 2008.

Closer to North Escambia, Baptist also operates Atmore Community Hospital, Jay Hospital, the Century Family Practice and Lakeview Center in Century.

More information for the community as well as the staff and employees is available at www.bhcexpansion.org

Pictured above: Artist rendering of the new cancer center to be located at the new locations of Baptist Hospital on Davis Highway.

One Commissioner Skips Conference At Luxury Resort Amid Layoffs

June 26, 2008

doralconf11.jpgFour of five Escambia Commissioners are attending a conference in Miami this week, but one commissioner skipped out, saying it was not the right thing to do as the county faces a budget crunch.

District 5 Commissioner Kevin White chose not to attend the annual Florida Association of Counties Conference this week. Commissioners Gene Valentino, Marie Young, Mike Whitehead, and Grover Robinson all flew to Miami on Tuesday at the county’s expense to the conference at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa.

The conference includes multiple workshops, seminars and evening socials marked on the conference brochure with pictures of a martini glass.

“At a time when the budget is being cut, I didn’t see it as prudent be off at the conference like that,” White told NorthEscambia.com. “We are laying people off and cutting back. And I was suppose to go to a conference like that?”

White acknowledged that the conference is a good source of information for commissioners, and overall is a good thing. But he said the public perception of the trip had to be weighed against the good of the trip.

doralconf10.jpgThe conference will feature such workshops about budgeting, wellness programs, walkable communities, emergency planning, public speaking, media training and water quality. It began Tuesday with a four hour golf outing.

The county budgeted for the trip, and the commission gave public notice at a recent metting that it would take place so the four commissioners would not violate Florida’s Sunshine Law.

Registration for the conference was $325 each, or $1,300 total for the four. The listed conference room rate at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa was $130 per person. The commissioners will turn in travel expense reimbursement requests for the rooms and airfare once they return to Pensacola.

Bratt Baptist Youth Take On Bratt’s A-maize-ing Cornfield Maze

June 26, 2008


About 50 youth from the First Baptist Church of Bratt took on Bratt’s A-maize-ing Cornfield Maze Wednesday night.

Several members of the youth group were able to navigate the elaborate six acre cornfield maze, but many were unsuccessful.

Maze owner Colvin Davis and his wife Lavelle played host to both the FBC of Bratt youth group with a meal of corn dogs, corn chips and popcorn. A hayride followed the maze.

A small youth group from Brooks Memorial Baptist Church in Atmore also tried the maze Wednesday night.

For a complete photo gallery from Wednesday night at Bratt’s A-maize-ing Cornfield  Maze, click here.

To learn more about the maze, click here for a NorthEscambia.com story that was published on June 13.

Bratt’s A-maize-ing Cornfield is located at in Bratt. That’s about a mile and a half east of Highway 97. It is open from 5:00 until 10:00 p.m. (bring your own flashlight!) Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It is open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights for groups by appointment. Admission is $5 for adults. Children under five are free with an adult admission. For more information, call 327-6372.

NorthEscambia.com photo, click to enlarge.

Lightning Sparks Fire

June 26, 2008


A lightning strike sparked a brush fire in Bratt Wednesday afternoon.

Witnesses say the lightning hit in an open area near Bratt Road and Ashcraft Road about 4:40, sparking a fire that rapidly burned a large area.

The Walnut Hill Volunteer Fire Department responded to the fire, but heavy rain had put out the fire by the time they arrived.

The National Weather Service had issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning on the storm as it moved from Oak Grove to Bratt, saying it was capable of producing frequent lightning strikes and winds up to 60 mph.

Pictured above: A thunderstorm near McDavid Wednesday afternoon as seen from Oak Grove. NorthEscambia.com photo.

Carver/Century Closure To Be Discussed Today, But No Official Recommendation Today

June 26, 2008

The closure of Carver/Century K-8 School could be discussed at a workshop meeting of the Escambia County School Board this afternoon.

But Superintendent Jim Paul’s expected recommendation to close the school will not officially take place today, Associate Superintendent Ronnie Arnold told NorthEscambia.com

“The meeting…has been advertised as a workshop rather than an official meeting, so no action will be taken,” Arnold said. “It is possible that it will be discussed, but by law no vote can be taken at a workshop.”

Paul announced in a press release on June 17 that he would recommend the closure at the June 26 meeting. But at that time, Paul was under the impression that the June 26 meeting would be a regular advertised meeting at which action could be taken, Arnold said.

This afternoon’s school board workshop will take place at 4:00 in Room 160 at the J.E. Hall Center at 30 East Texar Drive in Pensacola. The meeting is open to the public.

The Sensational Tones Of Joy Perform At Century Care Center

June 26, 2008


The Sensational Tones of Joy brought a little joy to the residents of Century Care Center Wednesday morning.

The group, comprised of area men that work shift work and get together whenever they can, perform every chance they get at Century Care.

Pictured above are front (L-R): Group Manager Marvin “Gator” Johnson, Mikyle Dees and Johnny Dees. Back (L-R) Norris Grooms, Melvin Johnson Jr., Willie Holmes, Johnathan Hall and Melvin Johnson, Sr. Pictured below: More scenes from the Sensational Tones of Joy at the Century Care Center on Wednesday. Submitted photos for NorthEscambia.com.




Gulf Power Praised By Governor For New EarthCents Program

June 26, 2008

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist  praised plans by Gulf Power Company to roll out a comprehensive energy conservation program aimed at reducing greenhouse gases while saving customers money.

The electric utility has been working with the governor’s office to launch a new energy conservation initiative called EarthCents – a comprehensive menu of programs and educational efforts to reduce residential and commercial electricity purchases.

“Energy technologies here in the Sunshine State can propel us as a leader in the industry,” Crist said, speaking from his Serve to Preserve Global Climate Change Summit in Miami on Wednesday. “I applaud Gulf Power Company for being energy and industry leaders. With innovative thinking and a commitment to excellence, they have created initiatives that conserve energy, save money and promote the use of renewable energy.”

The EarthCents effort – a combination of new and existing efficiency and conservation programs – will include a new pilot program providing customers a $1,000 incentive to install a solar water heating system and incentives for geothermal heating and cooling systems.

“Gulf Power applauds Governor Crist’s leadership in protecting the environment while at the same time helping Floridians reduce their energy costs,” Susan Story, Gulf Power president and CEO said. “Our EarthCents program, which combines numerous energy saving programs using leading edge technology, is truly a win-win for everyone. Customers could save up to 50 percent on their energy bills by participating in several of the EarthCents programs.”

The next step for the utility, which serves more than 425,000 customers in Northwest Florida, is to gain approval from the Florida Public Service Commission for the new programs and promotions which the company hopes to accomplish by the end of the year.

Other EarthCents programs will include home energy management systems with interactive thermostats and smart meters, free energy surveys, energy efficiency programs for homebuilders and a comprehensive public education program on energy conservation.

“These EarthCents programs will encourage customers to learn more about energy conservation and give them the tools to make earth-friendly decisions every day,” Story said. “We have already reduced power plant emissions by more than 70 percent and this program will give customers the opportunity to further reduce their impact on the environment through these EarthCents programs.”

Gulf Power is also participating in several demonstration projects to help provide needed research into new energy technologies. Those projects include:

  • A solar water heating system for a low-income, multi-family housing complex
  • The BEST house – a project at the University of West Florida to build a home with the most up to date sustainable “green” design techniques
  • Commercial geothermal projects for several customers, including a hotel and a fast food restaurant.

Besides reducing greenhouse gases, Gulf Power expects the EarthCents programs will delay the need for building new peaking power plants in the future as Florida continues to grow.

“Meeting future energy demands, while reducing the total impact on the environment is our goal,” Story said. “We believe EarthCents gets more customers directly involved in improving the environment through their everyday actions.”

Funeral Services Held For Byrneville Accident Victim

June 25, 2008

Funeral services were held this morning at 10:00 for Cody Gafford, 16, who died in a one vehicle accident Saturday afternoon in Byrneville.

Services took place at at the Petty Eastside Chapel Funeral Home with the Rev. Tony Richburg and Bro. Brandon Barlow officiating. Burial followed in Pineview Cemetery.

Cody was a native and lifelong resident of Flomaton. He was a member of the Flomaton High School band and a youth counselor and member of the Liberty Baptist Church of Pineview.

Survivors include, his father, Tony Gafford of Century, Fla.; his mother, Phyllis Brooks of Flomaton; a brother, Mikey Burkett of Flomaton; a sister, Tara Gafford of Flomaton and his grandparents, Jamie Eilleen Gafford of Century, and Annette and Curly Brooks of Century.

Pallbearers were Greg Hagan, Rusty Carden, Jay Dawsey, Gary Hollinger, Frank Carter and Bob Gumapac. Honorary pallbearers were the Liberty Baptist Youth Group.

Visitation was held last night  at the Petty-Eastside Chapel Funeral Home.

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