2011 Persons Of The Year: Health And Hope Clinic Volunteers

December 31, 2011

NorthEscambia.com is naming Persons of the Year for 2011 over the next several days. The recipients were nominated by our readers as individuals that have a made a difference in North Escambia during the past year — people that have given of themselves to help others and the communities of North Escambia during 2011. Additional Persons of the Year will be named on Sunday and Monday.

The volunteers and supporters of the new Health and Hope Clinic in Century have collectively been named North Escambia.com Persons of the Year for 2011.

The Health and Hope Clinic opened in October in the old health department building at 501 Church Street in Century. It is the second location for the clinic, which was first established in Pensacola back in 2003 by the Pensacola Bay Baptist Association to meet the needs of uninsured and medically underserved in Escambia County. The clinic is entirely volunteer and donor supported.

“It’s a real blessing,” Tammy Lewis of Bratt said on a recent visit to the new Century Health and Hope Clinic. “I found out about it from the church. It’s great to see doctors and people that will see you anyway without insurance.”

Since 2003, the Pensacola Health and Hope Clinic has provided over $8.5 million in healthcare services and 12,000 patient-provider visits as it carries out its mission of “providing health and hope to the hurting”.

Through the primary Pensacola location, the new  Health and Hope Clinic offers primary medical care, preventative care, specialty care – including rheumatology, neurology, women’s health, chiropractic services and minor office surgery, full laboratory services, prescription assistance and pharmacy services and referrals to community social services.

The new Health and Hope Clinic in Century is open on Tuesdays from 5-8 p.m. For appointments, call (850) 256-6200 or (850) 479-4456. For more information on the Health and Hope Clinic and services, visit www.healthandhopeclinic.org.

Pictured top: The new Health and Hope Clinic is located in the former Escambia County Health Department building in Century. Pictured top inset: Nurse Michelle Benauer checks the blood pressure of Tammy Lewis of Bratt on a recent visit to the new Health and Hope Clinic in Century. Pictured bottom inset: An exam room at the clinic. Pictured below: Executive Director Rick Hollis discusses clinic details with volunteer Billy R. Ward of Bogia. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Dense Fog Advisory Tonight, Turning Much Colder

December 31, 2011

There is a dense fog advisory in effect from 9 p.m. Saturday until 9 a.m. Sunday. The fog will likely remain in place until a strong cold front moves through the area Sunday morning.

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast:

  • Tonight: Patchy dense fog after midnight. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a low around 54. Southwest wind around 5 mph.
  • New Year’s Day: A 20 percent chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 68. West wind 5 to 15 mph becoming north. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph.
  • Sunday Night: Clear, with a low around 33. North wind between 5 and 10 mph.
  • Monday: Sunny, with a high near 54. Breezy, with a north wind 5 to 10 mph increasing to between 15 and 20 mph. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph.
  • Monday Night: Clear, with a low around 24. North wind between 5 and 15 mph.
  • Tuesday: Sunny, with a high near 52. North wind around 5 mph.
  • Tuesday Night: Clear, with a low around 22. North wind around 5 mph becoming calm.
  • Wednesday: Sunny, with a high near 58. Calm wind becoming southwest between 5 and 10 mph.
  • Wednesday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 32.
  • Thursday: Sunny, with a high near 63.
  • Thursday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 34.
  • Friday: Sunny, with a high near 65.

Tuff Times: Burglars Hit Thrift Store

December 31, 2011

The second burglary in recent months at a Cantonment thrift store is under investigation.

The owner of the Tuff Times Thrift Store on Neal Road, just off Highway 29, reported that she found the door of the business open when she arrived Friday morning and video games were scattered outside.

According to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, the burglar made off with video games, jewelry and even dog food that the business owner uses to feed stray animals.

Anyone with information on the burglary is asked to call the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office at (850) 436-9620 or Crime Stoppers at (850) 433-STOP.

Yearly Roundup: The 11 Most Important State Stories Of 2011

December 31, 2011

On this last day of 2011, we take a look back at the whole year with a roundup of the stories our state news service in Tallahassee thinks were the most important of the year in terms of their impact, and how much attention they got from those who closely watch Florida state government and politics

11. TAJ MAHAL COSTS HAWKES JOB: The new First District Court of Appeal building was so nice that controversy erupted over how it got built at a time when the down economy meant other courts were trying to figure out how to fix leaky pipes and whether they’d be able to even stay open amid budget shortfalls. This story started before 2011, but the ramifications played out this year. Eventually, questions about the courthouse led to a judicial qualifications case for the chief judge, Paul Hawkes, who, late this year announced he was stepping down.

10. THE NATIONAL INFATUATION WITH MARCO RUBIO: In Tallahassee, Marco Rubio is a known quantity, having been here as a young speaker of the House and as a rising star in the Legislature even before that. But if the novelty of an Hispanic, super-telegenic, super-articulate, conservative has worn off in Florida, he’s still a hot commodity nationally. Few discussions of possible GOP vice presidential aspirations have failed to include Rubio, who has also even been mentioned as presidential material.

9. PRIMARY DEBATE: One of the first big news stories of 2012 will be the Jan. 31 presidential primary. One of the most closely watched stories of 2011 was the decision to hold it then. Florida moved up its primary to make sure its Republican voters get a say in the GOP primary before all the candidates are swept away by early results. It will cost Florida delegates at next year’s GOP convention, but Florida will play an early role in deciding the GOP nominee.

8. GAMBLING? YOU BETCHA: The debate over helping Florida get over its economic woes by opening it up to more gambling came back into the picture like a guy drawing a third ace with his second throw-back card in a game of five card draw. Lawmakers began discussing “destination resorts” in the spring, and while the idea didn’t immediately gain a lot of traction, it quickly caught a hot streak. This fall, it has been, after the budget, the most discussed item at the Capitol.

7. PUTTING BRAKES ON HIGH SPEED RAIL: Something that didn’t happen was one of the biggest stories of the year. Gov. Rick Scott cancelled the state’s plans to create a high speed rail between Tampa and Orlando and eventually Miami. The federal government had offered a moneytrain full of cash to build it, but Scott said he thought the train would be a boondoggle, and the state would eventually be on the hook to pay for it. It was an interesting, and bold, move during Scott’s first year, because he bucked the business community establishment – a key Republican constituency – in making the call. He even got sued by a member of the Legislature in his own party. But he was in line with another big player of 2011, the so-called tea party movement, which was against the train.

6. MAJOR HEALTH CARE CHANGES IN STORE: In terms of long term reach, the state’s effort to overhaul how it provides health care to the poor would be one of the biggest stories of a decade. But we don’t know what the health care system will look like in 2014 because of another big Florida health care story – the state’s challenge of the federal health care law, derisively called Obamacare – which is going to the U.S. Supreme Court. So it’s hard to say what the long term impact of Florida’s Medicaid changes will be.

5. MASSIVE BUDGET CUTS: No tourists spending money, no people buying houses adds up to no tax dollars to put into government programs. While tied to the larger over-riding story of the national and statewide economic downturn, the extent of the cuts, and the impact – while hard to gauge just yet – are a story unto themselves. The budget is now several billion dollars smaller than just a couple years ago, and those cuts will have long lasting effects. Schools have less money, health care programs have less money, lawmakers have looked to privatize prisons, juvenile justice facilities have been closed, state workers have been laid off.

4. MERIT PAY FOR TEACHERS: Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a merit pay bill that will fundamentally change how public schools evaluate and compensate teachers. For years, teachers have been paid largely based on tenure – how long they’ve been in the system. Now, they’ll be paid based on how well their students do on certain benchmarks. It’s a monumental shift, and one that was entirely possible because of Scott’s win in the governor’s race. The same bill passed a year earlier, but was vetoed by previous Gov. Charlie Crist.

3. DIVIDED GOVERNMENT: Gov. Rick Scott is a lawyer, and he’s been in some court rooms. But it’s not clear how much he expected that the judicial branch of government would keep checking his work. Nearly every major item on his agenda – from a freeze on state rulemaking, to requirements for drug testing state employees and welfare recipients, to privatizing much of the prison system, to requiring state workers to contribute to their pensions, to changing how teachers are paid, has been challenged in court. Most of those cases are still in the courts, but Scott has lost in preliminary rounds on several of them. Scott has called it frustrating, saying some judges are making law instead of interpreting it.

2. IT’S THE ECONOMY: By now, lawmakers had hoped to be well on the upswing of the graph that measures the health of the economy. While there have been promising signs, overall, the slump continues, now going past three years since it began. Housing starts are still slow, and though home sales have picked up, the reason is prices are still well below 2008 levels. The jobless rate, consequently, remains high, with 10 percent out of work, and many more underemployed. Economists say we’ve seen the worst, and while things will come back slowly, they’ll come back some next year.

And, the biggest story for state government and politics watchers this year:

1. RICK SCOTT, YOU SPENT $73 MILLION TO GET HERE. WELCOME TO A TOUGH JOB: Gov. Rick Scott takes office, a new governor coming into one of the worst economic downturns in a century. He comes in with a plan to get the state moving again – but isn’t particularly successful right away and isn’t very warmly received. He comes in promising jobs, jobs, jobs, and while unemployment does drop about two full percentage points in his first year – among the biggest drops in the nation over the year – it remains stubbornly above 10 percent right up until December, and never drops below 10 percent. He announces a number of companies moving jobs here, or expanding, but most of them are pretty underwhelming in their numbers. A couple of chain restaurants opening new outlets announce they’re hiring more wait staff – with no help from the state – than some of the companies touted by the state and getting government kickbacks to create jobs. Scott can’t get lawmakers to go along with all the tax cuts he wants, and he can’t get them to pass an immigration bill he campaigned on. He feuds with the press over access issues at first, and his approval ratings plummet into the 30s. Scott is undaunted, trumpeting the success in creating jobs. “This was a state that was losing jobs for four straight years and this year we’ve generated 134,800 private sector jobs,” Scott said. “…So we’re heading in the right direction.”

By The News Service of Florida

First Candidate Prefiles For ECUA District 5 Seat

December 31, 2011

Friday, a Cantonment resident became the first candidate to prefile for the District 5 seat on the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority.

Charlou Williams of Brightview Place in Cantonment prefiled for the District 5 ECUA seat currently held by Dr. Larry Walker.

Two Charged In Drag Racing Death Of 77-Year Old Santa Rosa Woman

December 31, 2011

Two people have been charged with  homicide in connection with a drag racing crash  November 26 that killed an elderly Santa Rosa County woman.

Dennis George Collier (pictured), 30, was released Friday from the Santa Rosa County Jail on $220,000 bond on charges of negligent homicide, negligent homicide with a vehicle and drag racing.  About 9 p.m. Friday night, 21-year old Logan Brooks Drinkard turned himself into the Santa Rosa County Jail on the same charges. He is being held without bond.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, several witnesses said Drinkard was racing another vehicle at a high rate of speed in his 1997 Ford Mustang when he hit a 2006 Toyota Camry driven by 73-year old Victor P. Bindi of Gulf Breeze. The accident sent Bindi’s passenger, 77-year old Germaine L. Bindi, to Baptist Hospital where she later died.

The FHP said Collier was also involved in the drag race in his burnt orange Pontiac GTO.

DUI Crackdown Underway

December 31, 2011

Law enforcement officers will be out in force as 2011 comes to a close, cracking down on drunk and impaired driving.

The Florida Highway  Patrol has joined thousands of other law enforcement and highway safety agencies across the nation in Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, a nationwide campaign targeting impaired driving through January 2, 2012.

Impaired driving is one of the deadliest crimes, especially during the holiday period. During the 2010 Christmas and New Year’s holiday travel period, approximately 35 percent of the traffic fatalities in Florida were alcohol related.

Motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians who comply with Flroida’s traffic laws and use sound judgment can help make the holiday period safer and less stressful for everyone, according to the FHP.

“Impaired driving continues to be a priority for law enforcement in the state, and the Florida Highway Patrol will be intensifying enforcement during the holidays,” said FHP Director, Col. David Brierton. “Our goal is to create the safest possible driving environment by modifying driver behavior – and helping drivers make better decisions.”

FHP Auxiliary and Reserve troopers are also out during the heightened travel periods.

The FHP offers these tips for a safer holiday:

  • Plan ahead
  • Use a designated driver
  • If you are impaired, call a taxi, use mass transit or call a friend or family member to get you home safely.
  • Call *FHP (*347) to report intoxicated or aggressive drivers, or if your vehicle breaks down and you need assistance. To request immediate emergency services, dial 911.

Pictured above: FHP Trooper Rafael Streeter issues a traffic citation at the corner of Highway 29 and Hecker Road in Century. NorthEscambia.com file photo, click to enlarge.

Fae Duffy

December 31, 2011

Fae Duffy, 89, of Pensacola, passed away December 28, 2011 at home with her family at her side. She was born October 31, 1922 in Dixonville, FL to Riley J. and Eunice Calhoun.

Fae graduated from Jay High School and went on to work for St. Regis Paper Co. where she met her husband, Walter H. Duffy, Sr. They were married November 8, 1947.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Walter H. Duffy, Sr.; two sons, Roger Timothy Duffy and Walter H. “Bubba” Duffy, Jr.; twin sister, Mae Travis; brothers, Bryan Calhoun, Harvey Calhoun and Ralph Calhoun.

She is survived by her children, Francene (Philip) Russell, Susan Wilson, Greg (Leslie) Duffy and Steve Duffy; grandchildren, Christopher Wilson, Heather Wilson Edwards, Jeremy Wilson, Ryan Duffy, Joshua Duffy, Kelly Russell Snodgrass, Kevin Russell, Stephanie Duffy and Bryan Duffy; nine great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild; sisters, Olive Wise, Dorothy Russell, Glynn Gatlin and Doris Kilgore.

Her Memorial Service will be at 11a.m. on Monday, January 2, 2012 at Eastern Gate Memorial Funeral Home. The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service.

The family would like to sincerely thank the Emerald Coast Hospice staff for the care, support and comfort they provided, and granddaughter-in-law Sandi Wilson for her knowledgeable care.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Emerald Coast Hospice, 1555 N. Palafox, Pensacola, FL 32501.

Eastern Gate Memorial Chapel is in charge of arrangements.

2011 In Photos: July

December 31, 2011

All this week, we are looking back at the photos that were in the news in 2011. Today, we are featuring photos from July.

Federal and state authorities raided a Jay medical practice with Dr. C. David Smith and his son Dr. J. S. Michael Smith surrendering their DEA licenses to prescribe narcotics.

Mayor Freddie McCall (right) congratulates two-time Super Bowl champ Anthony Pleasant as a Century park is dedicated in Pleasant’s name.

Youth involved in Mission Molino did yard work for widows around Molino and witnessed on Pensacola Beach during July.

Copper was stripped from two air conditioning units at the Byrneville Community Center.

The alleged work  of an arsonist destroyed an unoccupied Century mobile home.

Lightning from a summer storm destroyed this storage shed in Bratt.

Summer meant Vacation Bible School for hundreds of children across the area, including the Big Apple Adventure at Highland Baptist Church.

Black ribbons were placed on the door of Century Town Hall and the flag was flown at half staff in honor of Council member Nadine McCaw following her death.

July marked the final lift off of the space shuttle, taking with it part of Florida’s economic engine.

Molino and Century were mentioned on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, thanks to a “genius” criminal.

Children enjoyed a shadow puppet show and numerous other activities during the summer reading series at the Century Branch Library.

Thousands of people attended Fourth of July fireworks shows, with hundreds choosing a show in Flomaton that was joint project of Flomaton and Century.

A brush fire off Highway 97A created a smoke fire that could be seen for miles in early July.

Poll: Romney, Gingrich Tied In Florida

December 31, 2011

As Florida voters begin to focus on the state’s pivotal GOP presidential primary at the end of January, the leading contenders are former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, according to a poll by TelOpinion Research.

Romney and Gingrich are essentially in a statistical dead heat, with Romney leading with 27 percent of the vote to Gingrich’s 26, according to the telephone survey of 780 Republican voters, conducted from Dec. 15-19.

Bill Lee, a Republican pollster who co-founded TelOpinion, said that matches the national pattern, with Romney and Gingrich drawing most of the media attention.

“Leading into Iowa, this is essentially a tie ball game between those two,” Lee said.

The trend also matches an ideological split that appears to have hampered Romney’s drive to the nomination: Doubts remain about him among the most conservative elements of the Republican Party and religious conservatives. Among self-identified members of the tea-party movement, Gingrich leads by eight points, 28-16. The two men almost evenly divide other voters, 28-26 in favor of Romney.

Gingrich also leads by 14 percentage points among very conservative voters, while Romney holds a 15-point edge among those who call themselves “somewhat conservative.” The two are essentially tied among moderates, with Gingrich holding a 20-17 advantage.

Gingrich also leads Romney among those who attend church more than once a week, with those who go to church weekly about evenly split. Voters who attend less frequently favor Romney, often strongly.

The poll was conducted just as Gingrich, who surged to the front of the pack on the strength of debate performances, saw his numbers begin to slip in Iowa and elsewhere under a barrage of attacks from his competitors and so-called Super PACs supporting them.

And 31 percent of Republican voters in Florida said they hadn’t decided who to back, meaning the race remains volatile with about a month to go before the Jan. 31 primary.

None of their other competitors hit double digits. Texas Congressman Ron Paul, whose libertarian streak has vaulted him into contention in Iowa, holds just 5 percent of the votes of those surveyed by TelOpinion. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry — who had hoped to perform strongly in Florida — were next, tied at 4 percent.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who had initially based his campaign in Florida before shifting his focus to New Hampshire, was tied with former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum with 1 percent.

Brian Graham, a Republican consultant in Florida not aligned with any of the candidates, said he wasn’t surprised that the candidates drawing the most coverage are getting the highest numbers.

“They are the candidates with the most name ID,” Graham said. “This is a big state. … Most candidates haven’t paid much attention to Florida right now.”

As votes roll in from early states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and candidates ramp up their efforts in Florida, Graham said the situation could change, even beyond the voters who call themselves undecided.

“I would highly doubt that any of the voters are truly, truly firmly decided on their candidates,” he said.

The poll was another dose of bad news for Perry, who had taken a lead in the state shortly after announcing his candidacy but before a series of debate gaffes undermined his candidacy.

Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, one of Perry’s earliest supporters, brushed aside a question earlier this month about whether he was surprised that the governor’s campaign had failed to gain traction.

“I think if anything, I’m surprised at the overall ups and downs of all of the candidates,” Cannon said.

Graham said Perry’s gaffes had badly hurt him among Republican voters who are concerned chiefly with defeating President Barack Obama in the November elections.

“I think that a lot of Republicans were uncomfortable with Rick Perry’s inability to perform well with public speaking and the debates,” he said.

But Lee said the 31 percent undecided bloc could still make room for one more candidate with the necessary resources if it moves beyond Iowa and the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire. Perry raised millions before his troubles began.

“The third player might be Governor Perry,” Lee said.

By The News Service of Florida

Next Page »