Cantonment Man Charged With String Of Thefts From Vending Machines

December 30, 2014

The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office has solved a rash of vending machine burglaries across the county with the arrest of a Cantonment man.

Christopher Brian Gentry, 44, was charged with multiple counts of larceny and criminal mischief property damage for the alleged crimes. Gentry remained in the Escambia County Jail early Tuesday morning with bond set at $39,000.

According to arrest reports, Gentry’s haul was small at some machines, such as $46 from a Coca-Cola machine located outside U-Haul on North Davis Highway and about $50 from a Coca-Cola vending machine outside Thompson Caterpillar on West Nine Mile Road.

Gentry was  reportedly caught on camera as he attempted to pry open a Coca-Cola vending machine outside A-1 Small Engines in the 700 block of South Highway 29. He removed items from machine, despite the fact that he was seemingly aware of the video camera, according to an Escambia County Sheriff’s Office report.

Gentry was also charged with a residential burglary at the home of an acquaintance.

Local Rep. Files Bill That Would Place New Requirement On Abortion Doctors

December 30, 2014

A Northwest Florida lawmaker filed a proposal Monday that would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

The proposal foled by Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola Beach, is similar to measures that have spurred political and legal battles in other states. It would require physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at hospitals 30 miles or less from where the abortions take place.

Supporters have argued such proposals help ensure patient safety, while critics contend the requirements are designed to make it harder to provide abortions.

Few New Laws Come In With New Year

December 30, 2014

Some children could travel with more protection in 2015 as a new law about child car seats takes effect Thursday.

Overall, the start of 2015 will be quiet for new laws in Florida. Lawmakers sent 255 bills to Gov. Rick Scott after passage during the 2014 legislative session, but only three take effect Thursday. The majority of the new laws, 158 of them, went into place July 1.

Florida residents and businesses, however, will see other changes with the start of the new year. As an example, the state’s minimum wage will increase from $7.93 to $8.05 an hour, thanks to a 2004 constitutional amendment that leads to annual adjustments. Also, employers will see an overall 5.2 percent decrease in workers-compensation insurance rates.

The new law getting the most attention this week will require children through age 5 to be placed in car seats or booster seats while riding in vehicles. Currently, children ages 3 and younger are required to ride in the child-restraint devices, while children ages 4 and 5 can use seat belts, according to a House bill analysis.

AAA Auto Club supported the change, although the organization recommends that booster seats continue to be used until children reach 4 feet 9 inches tall.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of a 5-point harness until the child is 40 lbs,” AAA spokeswoman Karen Morgan said in a release. “Age should not be a determining factor.”

People charged with violating the law (HB 225) face $60 fines and three points on their driver’s licenses. The law includes exceptions such as when a driver is unpaid and is not a member or a child’s immediate family or when a child is being transported because of a medical emergency.

Another new law (SB 404) set new rules for geologists. The measure includes requirements for registering as what is known as a “geologist in training.” That would include taking part of the exam for licensure as a professional geologist and meeting educational requirements.

The third new law (HB 343) involves a $1 surcharge on the use of car-sharing services. That will be instead of the state’s $2-a-day rental-car surcharge. The $1 surcharge will apply when a member of a car-sharing service uses a vehicle for less than 24 hours, according to a House staff analysis.

by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida

State Points To Possible Clarification Of Gay Marriage Ruling

December 30, 2014

In a battle about whether county clerks throughout Florida should start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office late Monday tossed the issue back to a federal judge who ruled in August that the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle last week ordered the state to respond to an emergency motion filed by the Washington County clerk of courts, who sought guidance about the scope of the August ruling.

But in a carefully worded, five-page document filed late Monday, state Solicitor General Allen Winsor and Chief Deputy Solicitor General Adam Tanenbaum wrote that Hinkle could resolve the issue with more specific direction.

“This court is best situated to determine the reach of its own order,” the response said. “If the court intends for (a key part of the August order) to bind a Florida clerk of court (or all Florida clerks of court), additional specificity may be appropriate to place any such clerk on proper notice.”

But earlier Monday, plaintiffs’ attorneys argued in a court document that clerks throughout the state are bound by Hinkle’s ruling on the constitutionality of the same-sex marriage ban and should start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples next week.

Though Hinkle issued his closely watched ruling four months ago, he placed a stay on the decision amid legal appeals. That stay will expire at the end of the day Jan. 5, opening the door for same-sex marriages to start the following day.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys focused Monday on part of Hinkle’s ruling that said it binds the secretary of the Florida Department of Management Services, state Surgeon General John Armstrong and “their officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys — and others in active concert or participation with any of them.”

The plaintiffs argued that county court clerks work in concert with the Department of Health, which is headed by the surgeon general and is in charge of marriage forms and records. As a result, they said Hinkle’s ruling should apply to clerks throughout the state.

“Thus, the clerks of court are agents or at least in active concert with defendant Armstrong,” said the document, filed by Jacksonville attorney William Sheppard, who is helping lead a legal team in the case. “As agents or other persons in active concert with defendant Armstrong, they are bound by … this court’s order.”

But in the response filed late Monday, attorneys from Bondi’s office disputed that argument.

“A clerk is not in privity with the DMS (the Department of Management Services) and Health secretaries, represented by them, or subject to their control,” the response said. “Instead, a Florida clerk of court is an independent constitutional officer.”

The legal wrangling came after attorneys for the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers this month issued a memo that said Hinkle’s August ruling only applied to the named plaintiffs in the case and not to other same-sex couples in the state. It also warned clerks that they could face prosecution if they issued marriage licenses to gay couples.

“We remain of the opinion that clerks of court who were not parties to the Northern District case (finding the ban unconstitutional) are not bound by Judge Hinkle’s order — or protected by it,” said a Dec. 15 legal memo from attorneys for the group. “Clerks are subject to Florida’s criminal penalties for the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”

The Washington County clerk, Lora Bell, has made clear she will comply with Hinkle’s ruling and issue a marriage license to Washington County residents Stephen Schlairet and Ozzie Russ, a same-sex couple named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. But after the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers memo, Bell’s attorney asked for clarification about whether she would need to issue licenses to other gay couples who might apply.

The clerk’s emergency motion added fuel to a debate that already had been building about the memo from the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers.

In the document filed Monday, the plaintiffs’ attorneys took on the arguments in the memo. As an example, they disputed that clerks could be prosecuted for issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“Even if the clerks theoretically could be prosecuted … they could assert the unconstitutionality of the ban as a defense,” the document said. “Moreover, any convictions under this statute would be vacated in light of this court’s (Hinkle’s) order

by Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida

Peanut Butter Drive Takes A Bite Of Hunger

December 30, 2014

UF/IFAS Santa Rosa County Extension collected 2,259 pounds of peanut butter in 1,477 jars to donate to food pantries in Santa Rosa County during a recent food drive.

Collections for the Peanut Butter Challenge came from civic and faith-based organizations, local businesses, individuals, schools and all county offices including libraries.

Recipients of the peanut butter were Bay Area Food Bank, Family Resource of Santa Rosa County and the food pantries at Eastside Baptist Church, First Baptist Milton, Avalon Baptist, First Baptist Bagdad, First United Methodist Church Milton and Christ United Methodist Church.

Entities and businesses that donated peanut butter or served as collection points were Santa Rosa County, the City of Milton, all five county libraries, Navy Federal Credit Union, 4-H Advisory Council, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Aktion Club at ARC Santa Rosa, Jay Elementary and High School, Central High School, Lowe’s in Pace and Gulf Breeze, Pace Rotary Club, West Florida Research and Education Center, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Winn-Dixie, and United Bank in Jay, Pace and Milton.

The Peanut Butter Challenge is an annual project of UF/IFAS Extension in the Florida panhandle and the Florida Peanut Producers Association. All county Extension offices in the panhandle collect donations of peanut butter to help fill the needs of the hungry in our area. In addition, the Florida Peanut Producers Association donates a pallet of peanut butter that is divided amongst the counties in the panhandle.

2014 In Photos: April

December 30, 2014

We are looking back at the top events of 2014  in photos. Today, we are featuring photos from April.

At the end of April, a massive flood hit Escambia County. Rain fell so fast it literally flooded the I-10 bridge over Escambia Bay.


The April flood claimed one life in Cantonment.

Numerous roads and bridges were destroyed in April’s flooding.

The Tate High School Lady Aggies won the District 1-7A championship in April.

The Molino Library celebrated one year of service.

Opening day was held at the Northwest Escambia park.

A program at the Century Branch Library celebrated Easter.

Students at Molino Park Elementary School took part in an Easter egg hunt.

Northview High School won the Escambia Academy Junior Varsity Tournament.

The Jay Lady Royals won the District 3-1A championship.

Six people were injured in a wreck at Highway 29 and Highway 97 in Molino.

The 2014 Career Academy Award winners from Escambia and Santa Rosa counties were recently presented, including the Middle School Career Academy of the Year award to Ernest Ward Middle School’s Culinary Arts Academy and the High School Career Academy of the Year award to West Florida High School’s Agriscience Technology Academy.

NJROTC units from across the area took part in a flag football tournament.

A sign of Spring — Mockingbird eggs in a nest at our office.

A driver literally wrapped his pickup around a pole in Beulah crash.

The Greater Escambia Relay at Tate High School exceeded fundraising expectations.

A Relay for Life event was also held in Atmore.

A Pensacola woman escaped serious injuries in a collision with a train on a foggy April morning.

Escambia River Electric Cooperative celebrated 75 years of service during their annual meeting at Northview High School.

Jim Allen Elementary students learned about butterflies in partnership with International Paper.

The Barrineau Park Historical Society held the First Annual Barrineau Park Heritage & Bluegrass Festival.

The Tate Aggies finished as runner-ups in District 1-3A Tuesday, giving them a chance to move on to the regional tournament.

A Relay for Life event was also held in Jay.

The Northview Lady Chiefs ended their season with a win over Escambia Academy. photos, click to enlarge.

County Forester To Distribute Free Longleaf Pine Tree Seedlings

December 30, 2014

Mark your calendar for a free Arbor Day giveaway next month.

The Florida Forest Service will sponsor two Arbor Day events on Wednesday, January 14, 2015. New Escambia County Forester Cathy Hardin will distribute free longleaf pine seedlings at the Walnut Hill Substation in the morning and at the  Century Chamber of Commerce in the afternoon. Information will be available on services provided by the county forester and the Florida Forest Service for private landowners.

From 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., the Hardin will be in Walnut Hill at the UF-IFAS substation located at 7850 Highway 97, just north of Ernest Ward Middle School and in front of the Ruritanbuilding. Hardin will be at the Century Chamber of Commerce from 1 to 3 p.m. at 7811 North Century Boulevard.

In addition to tree seedlings, there will be brochures on services for both urban and rural land owners including the current cogon grass treatment program.

Escambia Rebounds For Overtime Win Over Northview

December 30, 2014

The Escambia Gators came back from a 14-point deficit at halftime to beat the Northview Chiefs in overtime 73-65 Monday night in the first game o the Tate High School Christmas tournament.

Northview was led by Eric Williams with 22. Camerson Newsome and Tydre Bradley.

The Tate Aggies had a first round bye Monday in the tournament.

On Tuesday:

  • Pace vs. West Florida, 3 p.m.
  • Northview vs. Pine Forest, 4:30 p.m.
  • Escambia vs. Archer, 6 p.m.
  • Tate vs. Jupiter, 7:30 p.m.

Clouds, Drizzle This Afternoon

December 29, 2014

Here is the latest North Escambia area forecast:

  • This Afternoon A chance of drizzle. Cloudy, with a high near 62. North wind around 5 mph.
  • Tonight Mostly cloudy, with a low around 48. North wind around 5 mph.
  • Tuesday Mostly sunny, with a high near 63. North wind 5 to 15 mph.
  • Tuesday Night Mostly clear, with a low around 38. North wind around 5 mph.
  • Wednesday Sunny, with a high near 57. North wind 5 to 10 mph.
  • Wednesday Night Mostly clear, with a low around 33. North wind around 5 mph.
  • New Year’s Day Mostly sunny, with a high near 56. Northeast wind around 5 mph.
  • Thursday Night A 20 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 45. Northeast wind around 5 mph.
  • Friday A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 62. Southeast wind 5 to 10 mph.
  • Friday Night Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Cloudy, with a low around 57. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
  • Saturday Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Cloudy, with a high near 70. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
  • Saturday Night A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 53.
  • Sunday A 40 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 64.

Vehicle Fire Under Investigation

December 29, 2014

An early morning vehicle fire in Cantonment is under investigation.

The vehicle was mostly burned out when firefighters arrived on scene about 1:45 a.m. near Muscogee Road and Webb Street. First responders were unable to locate the vehicle’s owner. The Cantonment Station of Escambia Fire Rescue and the Escambia County Sheriff’s Offfice responded to the blaze.

For more photos, click here. photos by Kristi Price, click to enlarge.

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