Report: Crime Is Down In Escambia County

February 28, 2015

Crime in Escambia County was down 9.6 percent in 2014, while the number of violent crimes was down 1.2 percent, according to the latest numbers released Friday by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.  There were 1,761 violent crimes in Escambia County in 2014, down from 2,271 in 2008, the year before Sheriff David Morgan took office, a news release stated.

The numbers, Morgan said, disprove a common misconception that crime is up in the county.

“Often the perception, cast through social media,is that crime is on the rise. However, these are the accurate statistic sand they reflect a continually positive trend,” the sheriff said.

According to the report, there were 18 murders in Escambia County in 2014, down 21.7 percent from 23 reported in 2013. Robberies were also down by a double digit percentage, a 17.3 percent drop from 370 in 2013 to 306 in 2014. Rapes were up just under 10 percent from 135 in 2013 to 148 in 2014, and there was a slight increase in aggravated assaults. All other violent crime categories were down.

Burglaries and mother vehicle thefts were down about 15 percent, while larcenies were down about 10 percent. Domestic violence offenses were down slightly overall

“With our limited resources, we are focusing on violent crime. Our continued goal is to make Escambia County safe and improving the quality of life for our families and businesses. Much of our success in reducing crime is due to our partnerships with the communities we serve.We encourage citizens to form or join neighborhood watch groups and report suspicious activity to Gulf CoastCrime Stoppers.Let’s work together to make Escambia County a better place to work, worship and play,” Morgan said.

The Pensacola Police Department’s annual crime report released Friday also showed an overall 8 percent reduction of the city’s crime rate compared with 2013.  The report shows a 9.4 percent reduction in the non-violent crime rate and a 5.1 percent reduction in the violent crime rate, resulting in an overall reduction of 8 percent.

“Not only does this show a decrease in violent and non-violent crimes within city limits, but also  it reflects the outstanding work done on a daily basis by our officers,” said Chief Chip W. Simmons.

The Uniform Crime Reporting statistics are submitted and accepted yearly by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Questions Raised About Proposed Florida Pot Rule

February 28, 2015

A lawyer for the Legislature is questioning the Department of Health’s proposed medical-marijuana rule, slated for a public vetting on Monday.

The top lawyer for the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee raised concerns this week about a variety of issues, including a scoring system proposal to decide “dispensing organizations” that will grow, process and distribute the non-euphoric marijuana legalized last year.

The proposal under scrutiny is the department’s second stab at creating a framework for types of cannabis that are low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD, authorized by the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott last year for patients who suffer from severe spasms or cancer. An administrative law judge tossed the department’s first attempt at a rule, finding fault with a proposed lottery to choose five nurseries across the state to kick off Florida’s pot industry.

The latest plan, issued after a rare “negotiated rule” workshop last month, replaces the lottery with a scoring system. The weighted scorecard would rate applicants based on cultivation (30 percent), processing (30 percent), dispensing (15 percent), financials (20 percent) and medical director (5 percent).

But, in a 14-page letter Thursday to the health department’s Office of Compassionate Use Director Patricia Nelson, the legislative committee’s chief attorney, Marjorie Holladay, suggested that the proposed scoring system is too vague.

“It does not appear that part III of the application contains any ascertainable minimum thresholds or standards to demonstrate each item,” Holladay wrote.

Under the law, five nurseries that have been in business for 30 years or longer and cultivate at least 400,000 plants would be eligible to apply for licenses in five regions.

But Holladay’s letter also requested an explanation of the department’s decision to allow “dispensing organizations” to grow the product in one place, process it in another and distribute it in other locations, the same issue that prompted a request for a hearing Monday on the proposed rule.

The Joint Administrative Procedures Committee plays a key role in overseeing state regulations and frequently requests more information when new rules are proposed. Two months before Administrative Law Judge W. David Watkins struck down the original proposal in November, Holladay sent health officials a similar inquiry.

In Thursday’s letter, she also asked why health officials are asking applicants to provide information about their relationships with independent laboratories because nothing in the proposed rule requires testing, an expensive process that could raise the cost imposed by the rule, another issue brought up by Holladay.

Florida law requires legislative approval of rules if regulatory costs for all the businesses that participate in the program exceed $200,000 in one year, or $1 million over five years. At last month’s negotiating session, the 12-member panel, hand-picked by health officials, went to great lengths to eliminate costs directly associated with the rule, instead embedding them into the application.

The committee estimated that 15 nurseries would apply for the licenses, bringing the cumulative cost of the rule to just under $1 million.

But the proposal does not address how much the biannual renewal fee would be, Holladay noted.

“Depending on the amount of this fee, the statutory threshold for legislative ratification could be triggered, especially because there will be three renewal fees to be paid by the five dispensing organizations seeking renewal within five years after implementation of the rule,” Holladay wrote.

Health officials had wanted to avoid legislative approval in order to get the product to eligible patients sooner. The law had required the department to have selected the five dispensing organizations by Jan. 1 of this year, but the legal challenge created a delay.

Senate Regulated Industries Chairman Rob Bradley, whose panel is expected to take up other medical-medical marijuana legislation this session and who was instrumental in passage of the low-THC measure last year, said he wants the issue resolved.

“If it’s required, it needs to be done,” Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said.

by Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida

Tate High Drama To Host Dessert Theater Tonight

February 28, 2015

The Tate High School Drama department will host an entertaining dessert buffet Saturday night at 7:30 in the school cafetorium.

The performances will include all of the individual events that went to a recent district drama festival, followed by this year’s one-act entry, “High School Reunion”.  While  guests are being entertained, they can enjoy the goodies from  buffet of fine desserts.

The show and all-you-can-eat desserts are just one price – $8.

Pictured: Tate Drama students. Photo for, click to enlarge.

Mostly Sunny Saturday

February 28, 2015

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast:

  • Saturday Mostly sunny, with a high near 58. Northeast wind 5 to 10 mph.
  • Saturday Night Cloudy, with a low around 42. East wind 5 to 10 mph.
  • Sunday A 30 percent chance of showers. Cloudy, with a high near 62. Northeast wind around 5 mph.
  • Sunday Night A 30 percent chance of showers. Cloudy, with a low around 50. East wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the evening.
  • Monday A 30 percent chance of showers. Cloudy, with a high near 69. Calm wind becoming south around 5 mph in the afternoon.
  • Monday Night A 20 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 57. Southeast wind around 5 mph.
  • Tuesday A 20 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 75. South wind 5 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.
  • Tuesday Night A 20 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 63. South wind around 10 mph.
  • Wednesday A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 73.
  • Wednesday Night Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 44. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
  • Thursday A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 51.
  • Thursday Night Mostly cloudy, with a low around 32.
  • Friday Mostly sunny, with a high near 55.

Today: 41st Annual Ruritan Farm Equipment Auction

February 28, 2015

The 41st Annual Walnut Hill Ruritan Club Farm Equipment Auction is going on as of 9:30 this morning.

The auction includes not only farm equipment, but also  household items like tools and small equipment, lawn and garden items, antiques and more. A $5 lot fee will be charged.  Must be present to “no sale” items.

Settlement must be made the day of the sale; unknown buyers must have cash, cashier’s check, major credit card, or a letter of credit from their bank. Items must be removed within 24 hours.

Concessions will be available all day from the Ruritan Club. The is at the Walnut Hill Community Center on Highway 97  just north of Ernest Ward Middle School.

Pictured: Hundreds attended a previous Walnut Hill Ruritan Club farm equipment auction in Walnut Hill. file photos, click to enlarge.

Gastrointestinal Infections On The Rise In Escambia County

February 28, 2015

An increased number of gastrointestinal infections have been reported in Escambia County, and the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County would like to remind the community of proper hygiene practices to prevent gastrointestinal illness.

Gastrointestinal infections can be highly contagious and are usually spread through person to person contact with an infected person, contact with contaminated surfaces, or contaminated food or drinking water. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, low to high grade fever, and headache.

Most gastrointestinal infections can be prevented with proper hygiene practices, clean drinking water, and safe food preparation. The best way to avoid contracting or spreading these infections is to take the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom, handling diapers, and before preparing or eating food.
  • Use proper hand washing practices by rubbing soapy water on hands and under fingernails for 15 to 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
  • If you become ill, stay home. If your child becomes ill, keep him/her out of school or childcare until free from symptoms for 48 hours.
  • If you are sick with vomiting or diarrhea, do not prepare food for other people.
  • Thoroughly disinfect contaminated surfaces by using a bleach-based household cleaner.
  • Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated after an episode of diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Cook foods properly and wash fruits and vegetables before serving. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for preparing meats, fish, vegetables, or fruits.

Treatment for gastrointestinal illness includes drinking plenty of clear fluids and getting rest. Dehydration may be a concern, especially among elderly adults and young children, so it is important to maintain proper fluid replacement. If you have severe symptoms, including bloody stool, vomiting that does not resolve, high fever, or signs of dehydration such as reduced urination, you should contact your doctor.

For more information about prevention of these infections through proper hand hygiene please visit: If you are concerned that you have a gastrointestinal infection, please contact your doctor.

Judge Orders State To Pay Sansom Legal Fees

February 28, 2015

A Leon County circuit court judge ruled Friday that state taxpayers will have to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees for the defense of former House Speaker Ray Sansom, who was cleared four years ago of charges that had already driven him from office.

The decision came on the same day that Sansom took the stand in a lawsuit about his legal fees — marking the first time he had ever testified in open court about the case that left the man who was briefly one of the most powerful figures in the state out of office and, for a time, unemployed. Sansom, who is currently a vice president at a charter-school management company, said he would defend the project at the center of the dispute “for the rest of my life.”

Judge Angela Dempsey found in favor of Sansom and his criminal defense lawyer, who argued that the state was required to pay Sansom’s legal bills under a common-law principle that public officials who successfully defend themselves against charges related to public duties are entitled to have legal costs covered.

“I think today completely solidifies the fact that I was completely acquitted. I was found completely not guilty,” Sansom told reporters outside the courtroom.

During the case, the state argued that the manner in which prosecutor Willie Meggs decided to drop the 2011 criminal charges, which concerned a 2007 budget item that was supposed to pay for an emergency operations center in Sansom’s Panhandle district, essentially amounted to a settlement of the case rather than a successful defense. Dempsey rejected that argument.

“Based on everything I heard and applying that to the case law that I’m required to follow, I’m going to find that what happened in this case was not any different than an acquittal,” Dempsey said.

Dempsey still has to decide how much in legal fees to award Sansom, and in turn his attorney Stephen Dobson, but it is certain to cost the state several hundred thousand dollars. The plaintiffs were seeking almost $1million dollars in legal fees and interest.

Meggs agreed to drop the criminal case in 2011 after being assured that Sansom and a political contributor, Jay Odom, would pay $206,000 to help reimburse the state for design costs of the project, which was never built. Sansom’s attorneys note that Odom actually paid the money and contend that Samson was not really a party to the agreement.

State lawyers argued that Sansom was included in the settlement and was expected to repay Odom for his half of the money — contracting claims that the former speaker was exonerated.
“There are zero cases in Florida supporting the proposition that a six-figure settlement is an exoneration,” Lisa Raleigh, a lawyer with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office, argued Friday.

But attorney Stephen Turner, who represented Sansom and Dobson, said the agreement with Odom was simply a “face-saving device” on the part of Meggs, who had just received what he has conceded was a devastating ruling in the case.

“It is plainly clear that he knew he had lost and he was trying to salvage something for the state,” Turner said.

During testimony Friday, the second day of the trial on the fee dispute, Sansom also gave his take on the emergency operations center that Meggs argued was really a thinly disguised effort to build a taxpayer-funded aircraft hangar for Odom. Sansom said the project arose in response to devastating storms that hit Destin in 1995.

The center was designed to withstand a powerful hurricane, Samson said, and could house emergency vehicles that were previously moved from the barrier island to a mainland facility before a storm. It would also serve as a locale for training first responders.

And Samson defended his decision to push for the inclusion of the project as House budget chairman in 2007.

“I will stand by this budget item for the rest of my life as being one of the best things that I’ve ever seen try to be done for my area,” he said.

Earlier, Dobson denied testimony by Meggs that Dobson had been involved in hammering out the deal that ended the case. He said Sansom specifically dismissed one version of the offer.

“I clearly communicated it to him, and he clearly rejected any offer to pay money or to waive his fees,” Dobson said.

After Dempsey’s decision, Sansom reiterated that he never agreed to anything.

“He lied about an agreement,” Sansom said of Meggs.

That brought a sharp rejoinder from Meggs.

“If Mr. Sansom wants to say I’m a liar … I would point out to you that I am still employed and he is not,” Meggs said. “And he resigned his position because of his conduct and I have not resigned my position because of my conduct.”

by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida

Baseball Wins For NHS, Tate; Softball Win For Tate

February 28, 2015

Tate 7, Washington 5
Tate 9, Washington 3 (JV)
Tate 8, Washington 0 (9th)

The Tate Aggies swept three from Washington Friday.  The Tate varsity beat Washington 7-5, the JV topped Washington 9-3, while the freshmen shut out Washington 8-0.

Northview 12, Freeport 1
Northview 4, Freeport 0 (JV)

The Northview Chiefs beat Freeport in a district game 12-1 at home in Bratt Friday night. The Chiefs (5-0, 2-0) were up 5-0 before rallying for seven in the fourth.  The Chiefs will host the Atmore Blue Devils on Monday.


Tate 3, Chiles 2
Tate 4, Mortimer Jordan 1

The Tate Aggies are on the road for four weekend games in Panama City. In the first game Friday night, the Lady Aggies beat Chiles 3-2. In their second game, ending just before midnight, the Lady Aggies beat Mortimer Jorday 4-1.

Pictured: The Northview Chiefs earned a district win over Freeport Friday night. photos by Ramona Preston, click to enlarge.

Tate’s Sawyer Smith Gets Offer From Mississippi State

February 28, 2015

Mississippi State has made an offer to Tate High School quarterback Sawyer Smith, the Tate Quarterback Club announced Friday.  He also as an offer from Southern Mississippi. Penn State and BYI have also expressed interest in Smith.

Northview JV Softball Back On Again

February 27, 2015

The Northview High School Junior Varsity softball game against Freeport that was canceled because Freeport did not have enough players is back on again. Now the Northview versus Freeport JV softball game will be played a 4:00 in Bratt, followed by the  varsity at 6:00.

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