Fire Destroys Bratt Barn

December 30, 2012

Fire destroyed a barn early Sunday morning in Bratt.

The 20×40 foot open barn, which was located just a few feet behind a mobile home, was a total loss before the first firefighters arrived on scene. The cause of the 4:35 a.m. fire on Morton Road, just south of State Line Road, is under investigation.

The Walnut Hill, McDavid, Century and Molino stations of Escambia Fire Rescue and the Atmore Fire Department were dispatched to the blaze, along with Atmore Ambulance. photos, click to enlarge.

Rain By 2013

December 30, 2012

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast:

  • Tonight: Partly cloudy, with a low around 33. Calm wind becoming northeast around 5 mph.
  • Monday: A 20 percent chance of rain. Partly sunny, with a high near 60. East wind around 5 mph.
  • Monday Night: A 30 percent chance of showers. Cloudy, with a low around 52. Southeast wind around 5 mph.
  • New Year’s Day: Showers likely. Cloudy, with a high near 68. South wind 5 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
  • Tuesday Night: Rain likely. Cloudy, with a low around 50. South wind 5 to 15 mph becoming north in the evening. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
  • Wednesday: A 50 percent chance of rain. Cloudy, with a high near 55. North wind 10 to 15 mph.
  • Wednesday Night: Rain likely. Cloudy, with a low around 42. North wind 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
  • Thursday: A 40 percent chance of rain. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 55. North wind around 10 mph.
  • Thursday Night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 36. North wind 5 to 10 mph.
  • Friday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 55.
  • Friday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 32.
  • Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 57.
  • Saturday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 33.
  • Sunday: Sunny, with a high near 56.

Recycle Your Christmas Tree

December 30, 2012

You can recycle your natural Christmas tree in Escambia or Santa Rosa counties.

In Escambia County:

The Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA) will pick up Christmas trees from customers for free with the regular collection of yard waste.

Customers are asked to remove all decorations from their trees and cut the trees so that no portion is longer than six feet. Trees can be placed at the curb with other yard trash, and should not be placed in the regular garbage container or recycling cans.

For more information, call ECUA Customer Service at (850) 476-0480.

In Santa Rosa County:

Santa Rosa County residents are urged to start the New Year “green” by recycling their live Christmas trees. Trees dropped off by Tuesday, January 31 at the five recycling areas around the county will be chipped and offered as free mulch at Clean Community System in Milton at a later date to be announced.

When dropping off trees, please place the trees in the designated area identified by signage. Do not place trees in front of the recycling containers. Trees can be disposed at:

  • Jay Transfer Station, on Transfer Station Road
  • Quintette Recycle Area at the Five Points Intersection
  • Pace Patriot Boulevard next to Pace Volunteer Fire Department
  • Tiger Point recreation area in Gulf Breeze, east of Walmart
  • Clean Community System on Park Avenue

Escambia Moving Forward With $1.5 Million 4-H Facility

December 30, 2012

The Escambia County Commission is set to move forward with design work on a new Escambia County 4-H Center located at the Escambia County Extension Office on Stefani Road.

Earlier this year, the children and teens on the 4-H County Council voted to sell their 240 acre Langley Bell 4-H Center to Navy Federal Credit Union. Navy Federal will pay $3.6 million for the property next to the credit union’s campus in Beulah, and the Escambia County Commission is constructing the new 4-H Center on Stefani Road with $1.5 million in local option sales tax funds.

At their January 3 meeting, the Escambia Commission is expected to approve a $170,000 contract with Hernandez Calhoun Design International for architectural and engineering services for the new 4-H Center. The design project is expected to be complete in 105 days, plus an additional 30 days for construction bids and 240 days for construction administration.

The new 4-H Center will be a single story building just under 10,000 square feet that will include a multi-purpose room/auditorium with stage, kitchen, offices, reception area, life skills room, science room with wet lab, volunteer room with technology lab, county council,club meeting room and storage. Plans also call for a potential 500 square foot exterior teaching pavilion.

A 12-member 4-H Task Force is currently holding meetings to study the needs of the local 4-H Youth Development program by evaluating options to compliment the 4-H Center on Stefani Road.

During the next six months, the task force will develop viable options that may be considered to meet the animal science, natural resources, and outdoor education needs of
the UF/IFAS Extension 4-H Youth Development Program in Escambia County. The Task Force will present its findings to the UF/IFAS Dean of Extension, who will in turn use the information provided by the task force to make decisions for the 4-H program.

Pictured top: The Langley Bell 4-H Center was sold to Navy Federal Credit Union for $3.6 million. A portion of the neighboring Navy Federal complex in Beulah can be seen in the background of this photograph of the  Langley Bell Building. Pictured below: A new 4-H Center will be constructed adjacent to the Escambia County Extension Office on Stefani Road. photos, click to enlarge.

Big Medicaid, Obamacare Issues Face Florida In 2013

December 30, 2012

Dealing with issues that affect the health care of millions of poor and uninsured residents, Florida leaders in 2013 could move forward with a long-awaited overhaul of the Medicaid system and likely will decide how to carry out the federal Affordable Care Act.

Both issues are highly complex and politically controversial.

Gov. Rick Scott and Republican legislative leaders want to require almost all Medicaid beneficiaries statewide to enroll in managed-care plans, an effort that has drawn opposition from Democratic lawmakers and some patient advocates. Meanwhile, after waging a legal and political battle, Scott and his GOP colleagues face the reality that the Affordable Care Act — better known as Obamacare — is here to stay.

Lawmakers in 2011 approved the Medicaid overhaul, but it requires approval from the federal government. State Medicaid director Justin Senior told lawmakers this month that he expects a decision from federal officials in February about the first part of the overhaul.

That part would lead to managed-care enrollment for seniors who need long-term care. If approved by federal officials, those changes would start taking effect by Oct. 1. Broadly, the idea is that HMOs and other types of managed-care plans could provide services that would allow seniors to stay in their homes and communities instead of having to live in costly nursing facilities.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration has been seeking approval from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for more than a year and also has started the contracting process for managed-care plans that want to take part in the long-term care system. The state would be split into 11 regions, with a limited number of plans receiving contracts in each region.

Senior said much of the state’s negotiations with federal officials have focused on safeguards to make sure that the program would be based on providing services in people’s homes and communities and would not be a “nursing home light” system.

The state also is seeking approval to require the broader Medicaid population, such as low-income women and children, to enroll in managed-care plans. Those changes would start to take effect by October 2014, though Senior said the state has focused first on getting approval for the long-term care portion of the overhaul.

“As we get that approval, I think our guns will turn, if you will, onto the (proposal dealing with the broader Medicaid population), and we will really start to negotiate with the federal government to get to the best possible product there as well and do it in a timely fashion,” Senior told the House Health & Human Services Committee.

Supporters of the overhaul contend that it will help hold down costs in the Medicaid program and better coordinate care for beneficiaries. Medicaid serves more than 3.2 million people in Florida, and is expected to spend about $20.8 billion this fiscal year.

But critics of the overhaul have long raised concerns that for-profit HMOs will scrimp on care for the beneficiaries. Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood, pointedly asked Senior about whether the state will have enough oversight of the managed-care organizations.

“I don’t hear from you that there is a beefing up in these programs to oversee these managed-care companies who could easily be diverting that money to the wrong purposes,” Schwartz said.

Senior said AHCA is aware it will have to be a “watchdog” over managed-care organizations, looking at such things as the health plans’ finances and medical data. But while Schwartz is concerned about the overhaul, other state officials want to get federal approval of what are known as “waivers” and move forward quickly with the changes.

“I’m very concerned about the length of time it’s taken us to get the waiver,” said Rep. Gayle Harrell, a Stuart Republican who has long been involved in health issues.

As AHCA works to get approval, lawmakers this spring also will debate whether the state should play an active role in carrying out the Affordable Care Act.

Scott and Republican legislative leaders largely refused over the past two years to move forward with the law, which President Obama and congressional Democrats approved in 2010. But after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June and Obama’s re-election in November, it became clear that the Affordable Care Act will not be tossed out or repealed.

The House and Senate have formed select committees that will study issues such as whether the state should create what is known as a health-insurance exchange, which is a key part of the law’s attempt to expand coverage to millions of more Americans. Also, the committees will study issues such as a potential expansion of Medicaid eligibility in Florida.

Scott, whose opposition to the Affordable Care Act helped propel his political career, is scheduled to meet Jan. 7 with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

He and other Republican leaders say they need more information about issues such as the insurance exchanges, which are designed to be online marketplaces where people can shop for coverage. Depending on income levels, many people will be able to receive subsidies to buy the coverage.

Florida has already missed a deadline for states that plan to operate exchanges starting in January 2014. That means, at least initially, the federal government will run an exchange in the state.

But lawmakers during the spring session will look at the possibility of operating an exchange in the future or entering into a partnership with the federal government.

The House and Senate also will discuss a series of other issues stemming from the Affordable Care Act, including whether to expand Medicaid eligibility to offer coverage to more people. The federal government would pay for the eligibility expansion from 2014 to 2016, with the state gradually picking up some of the costs after that.

In grappling with the Affordable Care Act, Scott and Republican lawmakers likely will face pressure from conservatives to avoid taking part in an exchange and the Medicaid expansion. That political pressure was evident early this month when a meeting of the Senate select committee turned raucous after a group of activists pleaded with lawmakers to not carry out the law.

But Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Hollywood Democrat who is vice chairwoman of the select committee, said the state has to abide by the law and pointed out that Florida has one of the largest uninsured populations in the country.

“I think that needs to be reckoned with, and we need to adjust our attitudes so we make sure that everybody has health insurance and a health care policy that’s affordable and accessible,” Sobel said.

By The News Service of Florida

2012 In Photos: May

December 30, 2012

All this week, we are looking back at the photos that were in the news in 2012. Today, we are featuring photos from May.

The annual Relay for Life was held at Tate High School.

Jim Allen Elementary held a Sock Hope to raise money for Relay for Life.

Life in the Slow Lane: A wagon train passed through North Escambia.

The Northview Spring Musical “The Dastardly Dr. Devereaux”, was presented in early May.

Funeral services were held in May for Robert Stewart, the former chief of the Walnut Hill Volunteer Fire Department.

The Jay Lady Royals finished second in the Class 1A State Championship game in Clermont, Florida.

The “Big Banana Car” was spotted headed south through North Escambia in May, turning lots of heads.

Record crowds attended Century’s Sawmill Day and Car Show.

The 38th annual Pen Wheels Fishing Rodeo was held in Walnut Hill.

Crowds attended Mayfest in Atmore.

Services honored those that have served on Memorial Day in May.

Dry weather led to several brush fires, including this five acre fire near Walnut Hill.

The Northview High School Class of 2012 held their Baccalaureate service at the First baptist Church of Bratt.

A black bear was spotted around a Cantonment apartment complex for weeks before being euthanized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

There were no injuries when a freight train derailed in Molino.

A waterspout formed over Pensacola Bay.

The Northview Chiefs took on West Florida in a spring football game.

Sgt. Charles Gilliard of Century Correctional Institution was named the Florida Department of Correction’s statewide Institutions Employee of the Year.

A Pensacola man was killed in a multiple vehicle wreck involving a horse on Highway 29 in Molino.

“A Dancing Circus” was presented at Flomaton High School by Heather Leonard’s Danceworks.

Gulf Power Crews Continue To Restore Power In Snowy Arkansas

December 30, 2012

Gulf Power crews are continuing to work in near Hot Springs, Arkansas, with restoration efforts following a Christmas Day snowstorm. After a high of 194,000 outages, about 78,000 Entergy Arkansas customers remained without power Saturday.

A total of 28 line crew personnel and 15 support employees from Gulf Power are taking part in the restoration efforts.

This is the fifth storm restoration trip that Gulf Power crews have made in the last six months. A restoration crew spent 17 days restoring power in Philadelphia and New Jersey during November after Hurricane Sandy struck.

Pictured: A Gulf Power crew works to restore power near Hot Springs, Arkansas, on Saturday. Courtesy photo for, click to enlarge.

Birth: Zander James Rector

December 30, 2012

Dustin and Lindsay Rector, of Lawrence, MI, announce the birth of their son, Zander James Rector.

He was born December 18, 2012, at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo MI. He weighed 8-pounds 10-ounces, and was 21 3/4 inches long.

He is welcomed home by big sister Sophia Rector and big brother Aidan Rector. The grandparents are Dale and Kellie Rector of Centerville, LA, Karen Stevens of Mattawan MI, and Leslie and Susan Barnes of McDavid. The great-grandparents are Ivan and Bernice Gwilt of Dowagiac MI, and Louise Dockens of McDavid. Godparents are Chad and Ashley Burris of Molino.

North Escambia Trash Pickup Is Monday

December 29, 2012

ECUA residential sanitation collections scheduled for Tuesday will be made one day early, on Monday, December 31.  The change includes garbage, recycling and yard trash collection  across most of the North Escambia area.

Dumpster service collections for commercial customers will be made on Wednesday, January 2 instead of Tuesday, January 1.

For more information, click here.

Fire Destroys Semi Truck

December 29, 2012

Fire destroyed a semi-truck early Saturday morning at International Paper in Cantonment.

The fire was reported about 1 a.m. near a back gate of IP off Highway 297A. The semi-truck was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived; the cab of the vehicle was a total loss.  The truck was hauling wood chips.

The Cantonment and Molino stations of Escambia Fire Rescue battled the blaze.

For more photos, click here.

Pictured: Fire destroyed this semi-truck at International Paper in Cantonment early Saturday morning. photos by Kristi Smith, click to enlarge.

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