Eights States Team Up For Labor Day Driving Crackdown

August 31, 2013

The Florida Highway Patrol is collaborating with other southern border states in an effort to keep the roadways safe and fatality-free over the Labor Day holiday weekend.

All eight states that line I-10 — Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California — will be participating in an intensified enforcement effort called “10-8 on 10, One Road, One Mission.” By all states working together, the entire 2,460 miles of I-10 will be covered under this enforcement action.

During the four day period beginning that ends at midnight Monday, law enforcement agencies in each state will conduct special details on I-10. The details will focus on stopping drunk and drugged drivers, aggressive drivers, speeders and drivers who fail to move over to the left hand lane when a law enforcement, emergency or tow vehicle is parked on the side of the road.

In addition, troopers will be checking for distracted driving, seat belt use, improper lane changes and commercial vehicle safety. While these focus areas are something the FHP does every day, it is the first time that the eight states have teamed up to ensure interstate travelers will see the same enforcement effort throughout their trip.

“The partnerships we have formed with the seven states along the I-10 corridor shows that we are serious about improving public safety through an intensified enforcement operation,” said Col. David Brierton, director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “In an effort to reduce traffic fatalities, traffic crashes and unlawful activity associated with our roadways, we will be out in full force during the Labor Day holiday period.”

FHP offers the following safety tips:

  • Get plenty of rest before setting out on a long trip and allow plenty of time to reach your destination;
  • Buckle up. A seatbelt is your vehicle’s most important safety feature;
  • Obey all speed limits;
  • Drive sober and alert;
  • Eliminate driver distractions such as texting, talking on the phone, adjusting the stereo, etc. Anything that can take your eyes off the road, even a second, can lead to an accident.
  • Take steps before you leave to prepare your vehicle for the trip i.e. checking tire pressure/condition and fluid levels.

Teens: Show Your Team Spirit In Bogia

August 31, 2013

Ray’s Chapel Baptist Church will host their third annual “Spirit Night” tonight at the church.

Students in grades 6-12 are invited to attend and show their team spirit by wearing their team’s colors. Rain or shine, the event begins at 5:00 with games, worship, music and more.

Ray’s Chapel Baptist Church is located at 170 West Bogia Road, just off Highway 29.

Florida Offers Saltwater Fishing Without A License This Sunday

August 31, 2013

In an effort to introduce newcomers to the activity, on Sunday, September 1, Florida residents and visitors can saltwater fish for the day without obtaining a recreational fishing license.

License-free fishing days, including freshwater days, were held earlier this year on April 13 and June 8 for freshwater and June 1 for saltwater, however, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) may add four more license-free fishing days to the calendar before the end of the year.  All other regulations still apply.

An annual license for residents can be purchased at 1-888-FISH-Florida or at License.MyFWC.com. All fishing license fees are used to support Florida fish and wildlife conservation and help attain additional funding for Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration projects.

All bag limits, seasons and size restrictions apply on these dates. For fishing tips, locations and rules, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing.

Nellie Doris Hughes

August 31, 2013

Nellie Doris Hughes, 84, of Pensacola passed away on Tuesday, August 27, 2013. Mrs. Hughes was born in Century on June 23, 1929, and was a lifelong resident of this area. She was a member of Burgess Road Baptist Church and loved fishing, gardening, dining out and eating catfish, but most of all she loved family get-togethers.

Doris was preceded in death by her mother, father, a brother and two sisters.

She is survived by her husband of 68 years, Joesirah (Joe) Hughes; daughter, JoAnn Wiggins; son, William “Clay” Hughes (Jennifer); brothers, E. R. Garrett (Pat) and Robert E. Garrett (Sherry); sisters, Lucille Kilcrease (Lamar) and Joyce E. Blackmon (Skip); five grandchildren, Jr. Graham, Ginger Hughes, Tracey Hughes, JoLee Hughes and Sheela Brown; 11 great grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren.

Visitation was held Friday, August 30, 201,  at Harper-Morris Memorial Chapel. Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, August 31, 2013, at Burgess Road Baptist Church with Rev. Mark Cooley officiating. Interment will follow at Elizabeth Chapel Cemetery in Chumuckla.

Florida Gov’t Weekly Roundup: A Tale Of Two Summits

August 31, 2013

There were two summits that Gov. Rick Scott was involved in this week: the one he called and the one he attended.

The one he called — to consider the state’s efforts to hold schools accountable and to make sure students are learning — didn’t feature any policy announcements or dramatic plans. Instead, it was more of a gathering to try to get business leaders, educators and state officials on the same page.

http://www.northescambia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/floridaweeklly.jpgThe summit that Scott attended, though, featured the unveiling of a proposal that seemed like the latest plank in the governor’s emerging re-election platform. Speaking Friday to the kind of tea-party activists who propelled him to the Republican nomination three years ago, Scott served up tax relief and a hefty side of Charlie Crist-bashing red meat.

Meanwhile, researchers with the University of South Florida prepared to excavate the site of the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, with the potential for uncovering secrets that the local community would just as soon keep buried. Absence, in that case, is just fine with the local residents.

Scott’s speech Friday to the “Defending the American Dream Summit,” held in Orlando by the tea party-aligned Americans for Prosperity, seemed to be his clearest step yet toward shoring up the conservative base he will need heading into a tough re-election campaign in 2014. His remarks included a pledge to slice $500 million in taxes and fees.

“This year, we are committed to returning even more money to the hard-working Florida families who earn it,” Scott said in his prepared remarks. “I look forward to working with our friends in the Florida Legislature to make these tax cuts a reality.”

Even without any specific details on what the tax cuts would be, Scott seemed to already be well on the way to winning support from “our friends.” House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, quickly rallied around at least the idea of reducing taxes and fees — never a particularly hard sell in an election year.

“When you announce a tax cut, you can count on a hearty cheer from the Florida House of Representatives. … Although we do not have the concrete numbers that the Legislature will use to write our budget next year, we are committed to funding our state priorities, which will include a significant tax cut for Floridians,” Weatherford said.

Gaetz even had an idea to offer: a $200 million-plus plan to cut motor-vehicle registration fees, an idea the Senate offered in 2013 in exchange for repealing a tax break for insurance companies. The idea didn’t gain much traction in the House during the 2013 session, and Gaetz’s statement Friday omitted any talk of an offset.

“The Senate will be happy to partner with Governor Scott and the Florida House on a tax relief proposal that will keep more money in the pockets of the hardworking Floridians who earn it,” Gaetz said.

As one might expect, some Democrats were less impressed, and pointed out that Scott had delivered the speech in Orlando despite playing hooky at his own education summit earlier in the week.

“Instead of offering new ideas for educating our children, expanding access to health care, advancing women’s rights, and protecting the right to vote, he doubled down on the same failed message of big giveaways to businesses at the expense of the middle class,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp.


As for the education summit, the focus was less on deciding policies for Florida’s public schools and more on gathering input as state officials consider a range of issues related to the state’s accountability system. Among the topics covered were teacher evaluations, school report cards and how far the state should go with the nationwide “common core” standards and an associated group of tests.

Already, there were signs of progress on school grades at least. Interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart told reporters at the summit Tuesday that the State Board of Education will debate in October whether to extend for another year a plan to keep public schools from dropping by more than a letter grade on state-issued report cards.

The state board has approved the “safety net” on the report cards for two years now, most recently in July, as public schools implement common core, but in both cases the board was asked late in the process of calculating grades to approve the policy.

“I think when the board voted in the summer, I think it was always the intention that they take it up again when it wasn’t such a quick turnaround, but they had time to be thoughtful about it and think about it and do it early. … I think it’s important that our schools and school districts know what the rules are that they’re playing with as early as possible in the year,” Stewart said.

The board voted for the policy by a narrow, 4-to-3 margin this summer, with some members criticizing it as a move to water down the state system.

Meanwhile, in the latest sign of legislative opposition to common core, Rep. Debbie Mayfield filed a bill late Wednesday aimed at shutting down the standards in Florida and pulling the state out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. That group is developing tests lined up with common core.

“We need to stop common core going through,” said Mayfield, R-Vero Beach. “We don’t need to be giving up state’s rights.”

So far, legislative leaders have called only for the state to pull out of PARCC and create its own test lined up with the standards.


Researchers with the University of South Florida prepared for Saturday, when they are set to begin excavating long-buried human remains from unmarked graves at the shuttered Arthur G. Dozier School in Marianna. The weekend work outside the Boot Hill section of the closed state-run reform school is expected to be the first in a number of digs over the next year, according to University of South Florida spokeswoman Lara Wade-Martinez.

“USF has one year to complete the work at Dozier, which includes finding the location of any additional burials, the excavation of all human remains, DNA testing and analysis, and the re-internment of remains,” Wade-Martinez wrote in an email.

Scott and the Cabinet approved the work earlier this month. Questions have arisen about whether boys who reportedly died of pneumonia and other natural causes were killed at the school, and some longtime Jackson County residents have expressed concerns about what effect exhuming bodies will have on the local economy and image of the community.

“I don’t know of anybody who approves of it around here,” said Marianna resident Ken Stoutamire, whose family has been farming in the Panhandle since before Florida achieved statehood. “It doesn’t reflect good on Marianna. There is just Marianna and the boy’s school. The association is hurting us. And we need them to get out of here.”

But Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, said that for the families of those who died at Dozier the state must admit what happened, “no matter how dark and how grim it may be.”

“In order to move forward you have to correct some of the past misgiving and missteps that the state has done under previous administrations,” Williams said.

For now, though, the project will remain out of the public eye.

The Legislature set aside $190,000 for the project, and USF researchers also received a $423,528 federal grant to help with the effort to search for reportedly unaccounted-for bodies of boys who died between 1900 and 1952.

“In an effort to be respectful to the families, to maintain safety, and to allow the excavation work to be conducted unhindered, this will be a closed research site,” Wade-Martinez said.

STORY OF THE WEEK: A summit called by Gov. Rick Scott discusses the state of Florida’s school accountability system, as state officials move toward a decision on whether to drop out of a consortium developing tests related to the nationwide “common core” standards.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “My predecessor had made a name for himself by hugging president Obama’s non-stop spending — and even hugging the President.”–Gov. Rick Scott, taking a verbal shot at former GOP Gov. Charlie Crist, who is expected to run against Scott as a Democrat in 2014.

by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida

Bonfire Jam 2013 Canceled

August 30, 2013

Bonfire Jam CEO Joe Lewis announced today that this year’s event has been canceled because it became evident that the investment is no longer financially viable.

“It is with a heavy heart that we have to cancel BonfireJam. Although we have put everything we had into this event, it is evident that the investment in the December event is no longer a viable option. We want to both thank and apologize to the fans, the artists, all members of the media, and everyone else who has supported BonfireJam since its inception,” Lewis said.

“We believe in the brand and hope to revitalize BonfireJam down the road,” he said.

The 2013 event in Chumuckla was set to include performances by The Band Perry and Jake Owen, along with professional calf roping and bull riding, on-site activities, fireworks, bonfires and camping.

Last year’s festival highlights included performances by Jana Kramer, Walker and Gretchen Wilson. Other past performers include Little Big Town, Lee Brice, Craig Morgan, Jamey Johnson, Josh Turner, Rodney Atkins, Sunny Sweeney and more.

Fans who have purchased tickets can receive a full refund by going to www.bonfirejam.com.

Organizers say the Chumuckla Athletic Association’s annual Redneck Parade will go on as planned.

Minor Injury: Man Shot In Cantonment

August 30, 2013

A man was shot but received only minor injuries early this morning in Cantonment.

The incident occurred in the 200 block of Sheppard Street when a man called the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office and reported that he had just shot someone across the street that was threatening him.

Deputies located the man and an empty shotgun shell in the front yard of the home, and they located the victim inside of a travel trailer at an address across the street from their suspect.

The victim suffered a minor wound to his shin from buckshot. The victim refused medical treatment, and he refused to press charges against the suspect, who was known to him.

Future charges may be pending against the suspect for discharging a firearm in public.

Child Near-Drowning Under Investigation

August 30, 2013

A near downing in Escambia County is under investigation, one day after a 14-month old girl drowned in a decorative fish pond off 10 Mile Road.

The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office was called to a possible drowning in the 1800 block of Sandra Avenue Thursday afternoon.  They discovered that a 2-year old child had fallen into a swimming pool.

Immediately upon discovering the child, family members conducted CPR until first responders arrived on scene. The child was transported to a local hospital. No update on the child’s condition was available late Thursday night.

The investigation in ongoing, the Sheriff’s Office said the incident is believed to be accidental.

Late Wednesday afternoon, child drowned on Betmark Road, and the child’s mother was arrested. More details…

Marianna Tight-Lipped As Dozier School Grave Excavations Near

August 30, 2013

As university researchers prepare to dig into an unsavory chapter of Marianna’s past, many in the rural Panhandle community would simply prefer the issue remain buried.

With the name of the city repeatedly associated with news reports about decades of questionable deaths at the former state-run Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, many in downtown Marianna on Thursday preferred to remain tight-lipped about the excavation of unmarked graves that begins Saturday.

At Florida Land Title, an employee noted he served on a number of local boards as a reason not to publicly discuss how the coverage and research is impacting the city. Meanwhile, a worker at ERA Chipola Realty in Marianna declined to comment, saying the firm’s “clientele is the community, and we try not to choose sides on things that could be political.”

Those willing to speak called the work — approved by Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet — a waste of taxpayer money, with one saying the effort by University of South Florida researchers is to “make a reputation and make money.”

When asked about the pending excavation, long-time Marianna resident Ken Stoutamire summed up his feelings by saying he had “disgust” with the government for allowing the dig to proceed.

“I don’t know of anybody who approves of it around here,” said Stoutamire, whose family has been farming in the Panhandle since before Florida achieved statehood. “It doesn’t reflect good on Marianna. There is just Marianna and the boy’s school. The association is hurting us. And we need them to get out of here.”

Marianna resident Bill Hopkins said the excavation is “dragging up an old wound.”

“I haven’t heard anybody saying that just because this is happening out here I’m not going to stop here, but it’s just a shadow over our community, that we don’t need,” said Hopkins, a World War II veteran who has lived in the city of just over 6,000 for 43 years.

“This is a good community, a good place to live, a good place to bring up your children,” Hopkins added. “But if I was looking for a place to move, I don’t know, just reading and knowing a little bit about it, I might change my mind.”

USF researchers, who on Wednesday received a $423,528 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to help excavate graves and identify remains at the former reform school, will be at the site Saturday through Tuesday. They will work just outside an area known as Boot Hill on the one-time 1,400-acre campus.

CNN will provide on-site video coverage of the USF work for other media, with the Tampa Bay Times providing still photography. All other media will have to remain outside the fenced-in compound.

The university researchers, led by Erin Kimmerle and Christian Wells, have a one-year window to search the grounds for reportedly unaccounted-for bodies of boys who died between 1900 and 1952. Questions have arisen about whether boys — who reportedly died of pneumonia and other natural causes — were killed at the school.

“The lady (researcher) had the best of intentions, that’s my gut feeling, but she probably didn’t know the lay of the land before she got into it,” said Jesse Smallwood a retiree who moved from Melbourne to Marianna two years ago as a less-expensive place to take care of his wife. “They’ll do a lot of digging but not get much done from it.”

by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida

Pictured top: The gates were closed Thursday at the former Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. On Saturday, USF researchers will be on campus digging for graves at the reform school. Photo by Tom Urban, News Service of Florida, for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Escambia Sex Offender Arrested On Federal Child Porn Charges

August 30, 2013

An Escambia County registered sex offender has been arrested on federal child pornography charges.

Clay Calhoun Keys,  52, was charged with federal distribution of child pornography, the possession of child pornography and the possession of ammunition by a convicted felon.  Keys made his initial appearance in federal court Thursday morning.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched by the Department of Justice in May 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child  Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.

Keys was taken into custody on an arrest warrant issued by United States Magistrate Judge Charles J. Kahn, Jr. The  arrest was announced by Pamela C. Marsh, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, and  results from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) , Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Pensacola Police Department.

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