Bridge Construction Cuts Phone, Internet Service

April 30, 2015

Construction work on a temporary bridge on Highway 97 in Walnut Hill left thousands without phone or high speed internet service Wednesday.

Wednesday afternoon, a fiber optic cable was cut in the construction zone near Wiggins Lake Road, taking out service for Frontier Communications customers in the 327 and 587 exchanges, including Walnut Hill, Molino, Davisville, Dogwood Park and Bratt. Service was restored by about midnight.

As a precaution, Escambia Fire Rescue volunteers were one standby at the Walnut Hill and Molino fire stations during the outage — just in case someone with an emergency was unable to call 911 and instead called a local number for a fire station or drove up to report an emergency.

Sunny Days, Cooler Nights

April 30, 2015

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast:

Thursday Night
Mostly clear, with a low around 51. Northwest wind around 5 mph.

Sunny, with a high near 76. North wind 5 to 10 mph.

Friday Night
Mostly clear, with a low around 49. North wind around 5 mph.

Sunny, with a high near 78. North wind around 5 mph becoming calm.

Saturday Night
Mostly clear, with a low around 52. Calm wind.

Sunny, with a high near 81. Calm wind becoming south around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Sunday Night
Mostly clear, with a low around 58. South wind around 5 mph.

Mostly sunny, with a high near 82.

Monday Night
Partly cloudy, with a low around 59.

Mostly sunny, with a high near 83.

Tuesday Night
Partly cloudy, with a low around 61.

Mostly sunny, with a high near 84.

Recovery Report: Escambia County One Year After The Flood

April 30, 2015

by Escambia County Administrator Jack Brown

One year ago, a slow-moving weather front flooded Escambia County with more than 20 inches of rain in less than one day. When the rain ceased, recovery began and is still in progress today.

County estimates of damage to government infrastructure and buildings topped a staggering $90 million with transportation, utilities, parks and public facilities all significantly impacted.

Although the road to recovery seemed daunting, County staff and residents banded together to rebuild. In the days immediately following the flood, Public Works crews removed more than 280 tons of debris and pumped one million gallons of water out of neighborhoods that were too waterlogged to drain. Major flood-damaged roads were quickly reopened and hard-hit communities such as Crescent Lake and the neighborhoods off of Old Corry Field Road are in visibly better shape today than they were just six months ago.

Despite the progress, the long-term effects of the disaster on Escambia County are still being felt in our community. While some residents continue to recover from the devastation to their homes and the loss of cherished belongings, others face the unimaginable struggle of coping with the loss of life suffered during April’s tragic events.

We are focused on rebuilding Escambia County stronger and better. But this is not a sprint – it’s a marathon. Destruction from the April flood resulted in 2,318 identified infrastructure damage sites. All of those identified sites have been addressed in some way; either through a temporary or permanent fix, or are currently under some form of construction. However, many large-scale public construction projects involve a much longer timeframe for repair.

Escambia County was able to move quickly to return our streets, parks and facilities to near-normal conditions on our own, without having to wait for federal assistance thanks to the confidence residents placed in us with the passage of the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST). That support, coupled with responsible financial management of taxpayer money exercised by the Board of County Commissioners, allowed the Board to authorize a $10 million interest-free loan from the LOST III Fund to the Disaster Recovery Fund to kick-start recovery efforts.

The County is leveraging those funds by working with an alphabet soup of federal agencies to help pay the cost of repairs. These agencies include: the Federal Emergency Management Agency Public Assistance (FEMA-PA), the Federal Highway Administration Emergency Relief Program (FHWA-ER) and the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program. With any of these agencies, the County must undergo a multi-step process to obtain reimbursement or grants to help pay for eligible damages. To date, 89 projects valued at $10.3 million have been approved for FEMA-PA. Of those, 23 projects totaling $4 million have been completed.  Sixteen FHWA-ER projects have been completed at a total cost of $2.5 million. Additionally, the NRCS-EWP recently made $3 million in funding available to complete the following seven projects:

  • Crescent Lake: $674,531 to fix the breach in the lake’s embankment and to install an emergency spillway.
  • Gatewood Ditch: $350,790 to fill the eroded area and replace 1,700 feet of concrete-lined ditch.
  • Olive Road: $198,671 to install a concrete box, pipe-drop structure and a water and sediment control basin to stabilize the head of the gully and safely discharge storm water.
  • Glyn Brock Gully: $206,657 to remove sediment and debris from the stream channel and ditch and repair the eroded area with rock riprap.
  • Addison Drive: $91,868 to remove sediment and debris from the landslide, grade the slope and install a system to move water to the outlet.
  • Ten Mile Creek:  $1,377,175 to stabilize the channel and protect Pine Forest Road Bridge, nine homes and eight townhouses from further erosion and potential collapse.
  • Swamphouse Road: $83,440 to re-grade the side slope, plant sod and remove sediment and debris from the channel.

In an effort to protect residents from destruction of this magnitude again, the County established the Storm Water Advisory Team (SWAT), a multi-disciplinary approach to storm water recovery that encourages engagement from technical experts, the City of Pensacola and a citizen’s committee to identify and institute mitigation and resiliency initiatives.

Furthering their commitment to embedding community resilience into our approach to flood risk management, our County Commission recently approved stronger development codes that require new construction, as well as conveyance systems, to attenuate the 100-year storm event.

Even prior to last year’s flood, the County made significant storm water improvements to several neighborhoods. Areas such as Ferry Pass and Maplewoods that had traditionally experienced flooding faired far better in April’s storm after the recently completed drainage projects. As we move forward, we cannot forget the losses suffered. However, our focus now is on how we can enhance our ability to withstand future events, and help those still at risk of flooding to mitigate potential impacts. ‘Back to normal’ shouldn’t mean burying our heads in the sand and crossing our fingers that flooding won’t happen. ‘Back to normal’ should mean establishing a new standard where our resilience as a community and as individuals is improved, so that we’re all better prepared when flooding next happens.

Florida Senate Weighs Legal Action Against House

April 30, 2015

Senate leaders are considering legal action to try to force the House to return to the Capitol to finish out the work week as the slow-motion collapse of the regular legislative session appeared to near its end Wednesday.

With the Senate completing the business it could after the House’s abrupt decision to leave town Tuesday amid a health-care and budget dispute, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, sent a letter asking House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, to call House members back to Tallahassee.

Gardiner cited an obscure portion of the state Constitution saying that “(n)either house shall adjourn for more than seventy-two consecutive hours except pursuant to concurrent resolution” — meaning, he said, the House could not end its session on Tuesday without the Senate’s consent.

“The course of action you have taken is not only unconstitutional; it is unprecedented under our present state Constitution,” Gardiner wrote.

The Senate will be ready to return to session up until 11:59 p.m. Friday, Gardiner said, though there appeared to be no plans for the upper chamber to return if the House does not. If the Senate does not formally return for a final adjournment, the session would lapse at 11:59 p.m. without ceremony.

The House and Senate have not ended a regular legislative session on different days since at least 1971, when state records on adjournment times begin.

Crisafulli swiftly responded to Gardiner’s letter with one of his own. The House, he said, isn’t returning.

“We can have disagreements on policy issues, each year the House and Senate have plenty,” the speaker wrote. “At the end of the day, if the two sides don’t agree, bills die. That is how the process works.”

The House says the 72-hour provision doesn’t apply to adjourning “sine die” — from the Latin phrase for “without day” — the official end of the legislative session.

“This provision deals with temporary adjournment during session, not adjournment sine die. … They are separate parliamentary procedures, initiated by distinct motions,” House general counsel Matthew Carson wrote in an explanation sent to reporters Tuesday.

Speaking with reporters after Wednesday’s session, Gardiner said the Senate is considering taking the House to court to resolve the dispute — even if it didn’t end the current standoff between the two.

“I think that that’s why at some point, whether it’s this week or in the future, there will need to be a discussion before a court to exactly interpret what that is,” Gardiner said. “We certainly believe that they have an obligation to be here.”

Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, conceded that it’s “unlikely” the Florida Supreme Court would rule on the issue before the Friday deadline.

But Senate leaders say the state needs to set a precedent because an early adjournment could again be used as a negotiating tactic in the future.

“The importance of all of this is to keep one house from leveraging the other house,” said Senate Rules Chairman David Simmons, an Altamonte Springs Republican and a lawyer. “In other words, the important work of the people of the state of Florida demands that we both stay here for the full time period that has been given us to accomplish the task that we have at hand.”

The current, increasingly bitter rift between the House and Senate, both of which are dominated by Republicans, has grown out of the June 30 expiration of the state’s $2.2 billion Low Income Pool, or LIP, program. LIP is largely used to cover the expenses of uninsured, low-income Floridians who show up at hospitals needing treatment.

The Senate wants to use $2.8 billion in Medicaid expansion funding to help lower-income Floridians purchase private health insurance. Supporters of Medicaid expansion, including the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, say that could help lessen the state’s dependence on LIP.

Federal officials have also suggested that how much the state gets in LIP will be affected by how much of that funding could be offset if the state expanded Medicaid.

House members touted a new statement from CMS spokesman Aaron Albright, issued late Tuesday, which they said marked a reversal of the federal agency’s previous position — in a letter dated April 14 — that LIP and Medicaid expansion are linked.

“We will work with Florida and each state that has an uncompensated care pool regardless of its Medicaid expansion status, to support access to health care for low-income residents that works for individuals, hospitals and taxpayers, taking into account the state’s specific circumstances,” Albright said Tuesday. “CMS will review proposals regarding uncompensated care pools based on the same principles whether or not a state has expanded Medicaid.”

On Wednesday, Crisafulli credited a lawsuit filed by Gov. Rick Scott to force the decoupling of the issues for the purported change of heart.

“We applaud CMS for their statement, and agree that the (Medicaid) policy preference of the Obama administration should not be used as leverage for the Low Income Pool,” he wrote in a memo to House members.

But Gardiner and other supporters of a Medicaid-funded coverage expansion said the statement Tuesday was nothing new.

“Obviously, some over there (in the House) are trying to pounce on that,” he said. “But I think if you read a little bit deeper down, it really doesn’t say anything different than what the April 14 letter did.”

With the two chambers at odds, Gov. Rick Scott’s office released the draft of an outline for work to be done by his proposed “Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding,” which Scott said he would announce if a special session was required to break the budget impasse between the House and Senate. Such a special session will be needed before the July 1 start of the state fiscal year.

Scott, a former chief executive at a for-profit hospital chain, wants the commission to consider financial data, medical education, contributions to hospital foundations, patient data, taxes and salaries and benefits for hospital executives, lobbyists and lawyers.

The panel would consider some of the same information about insurance companies.

Aside from calling for a “continuation budget” if the House and Senate couldn’t reach an agreement — something Senate leaders quickly rejected — Scott, who opposes Medicaid expansion, has largely kept his distance from the House-Senate tussle.

Asked Wednesday if Scott should have played a larger role, Gardiner responded tersely: “You’d have to ask him.”

Democrats in both chambers have worked to suppress their glee as GOP lawmakers go to war with each other. House Democrats held their usual pre-session meeting Wednesday, saying they were ready to work if necessary.

Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, issued a statement late Wednesday blasting House leaders and backing Gardiner in the health-care fight.

“Once negotiations begin to convene a special session to reach a budget compromise, I urge the Senate to remain committed to our healthcare expansion plan,” she said. “Because standing alongside you are not only the voices of Republican and Democratic senators — along with House Democrats — but the voices of 1 million Floridians looking to you to stand strong for them. Do not let them down.”

by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida. Senior writer Dara Kam contributed to this report.

Baltimore Unrest, Fanless Game Cause Orioles Manager Showalter To Reflect Back To Century

April 30, 2015

The Baltimore Orioles beat the White Sox Wednesday in a empty stadium, the first even Major League Baseball game with no fans.  The public was kept out of the game, which was required to keep the MLB schedule, due to safety concerns following this week’s rioting, and racial divide in Baltimore.

Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter’s family moved to Century in the late 1950’s. His father served as a teacher, coach and principal at Century High School for 23 years. The thought of the silence from the stands brought Showalter back in his mind to Century prior to the game Wednesday.

In an interview with the New York Daily News, Showalter said he remembered the time his father emptied the gym at Century High for a basketball game because there were fights during a previous meeting between the Blackcats and the other team (which he did not name).

“So I come from a family that understands the kinds of quiet I am going to encounter (on Wednesday),” Showalter told the New York Daily news prior to the game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

Daily News write Mike Lupica turned to first person in his story.

“I have known him (Showalter) a long time and like him a lot, and asked him on this day about whether he sometimes worries that things are getting worse in this country instead of better,” Lupica wrote.

“You have to wonder about that sometimes,” Showalter said. “Don’t you?”

Read the entire NY Daily News story by clicking here.

Pictured: The Century Blackcat logo inside the old Century High School gym. file photo.

Bristol Park Remembers Night Of Flood

April 30, 2015

One year ago, the Bristol Park community was hard-hit by flooding. Homes were filled with several feet of water; numerous residents were rescued from floodwaters from their homes, even their roofs, by first responders. Wednesday night, the community remembered, with luminaries lining the streets. Reader submitted photo for, click to enlarge.

Tate, Jay, West Florida Earn Playoff Wins

April 30, 2015

Tate 2, Niceville 0

The Tate Lady Aggies beat Niceville 2-0 Wednesday night in the Region 1-7A semifinal at Tate.

Tori Perkins took the win for Tate on the mound, committing no errors, and allowing no runs. Hitting for Tate were: Tori Perkins 1-3, RBI, 2B; Hayden Lindsay 1-2, RBI, BB; Savannah Rowell 1-2, R. Rachel Wright 1-3.

Tate hits the road Friday to take on the Atlantic Coast Stingrays in Jacksonville in the Region 1-7A finals.

Jay 11, Franklin County 1

The Jay High School Lady Royals destroyed Franklin County 11-1 in six innings Wednesday in the Region 2-1A semifinals in Jay.

Destiny Herring pitched five for the Lady Royals with no errors and four strike outs. Hitting for Jay: Emily Dobson 4-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI; Destiny Herring 2-3, 2 R, 3 RBI, HR; Dana Blackmon 2-4, R, RBI; Riana Wolfe 2-4, 2 RBI, 2 R; Avarie Jackson 2-4, 2 R; Michaela Stewart 1-4, 2 RBI.

The Lady Royals will host district runner-ups Chipley at 7 p.m. Friday. In the District 2-1A championship game, the Royals beat Chipley 7-6.  The winner of Friday night’s game is headed to Vero Beach for the Class 1A tournament.


West Florida 4, Taylor County 1

West Florida beat Taylor County 4-1 in the Region 1-4A quarterfinals Wednesday. The Jaguars will face Catholic in the semifinals next week.

Pictured top: The Jay Lady Royals after their regional semifinal win over Chipley Wednesday. Photo by Diann Tagert for, click to enlarge.

Flomaton Police Chief Credited With Saving Family From House Fire

April 30, 2015

The Flomaton, AL, police chief is being credited with saving a family from a house fire Wednesday afternoon.

Smoke was already pouring from the attic of the home on Titi Street, according to Flomaton Fire Chief Steve Stanton, when Police Chief Bryan Davis was the first to arrive on the scene just seconds after the fire was reported. Davis was able to beat on the door and yell to get the attention of the two adults and five children inside the home and get them out before they were injured.

The fire damaged the kitchen and attic of the home, Stanton said.

The Flomaton, Friendship and Pineview volunteer fire departments responded to the blaze, along with the Century Station of Escambia (FL) Fire Rescue, Escambia County (FL) EMS, the Flomaton Police Department and the Escambia County (AL) Sheriff’s Office.

There were no injuries reported.

Shuckers Beat The Pensacola Wahoos, Again

April 30, 2015

All the excitement in Wednesday’s game between the Pensacola Blue Wahoos and the Biloxi Shuckers happened in the eighth and ninth innings.

Sean Buckley crushed a two-run home run to dead center field that traveled 400-feet plus.

Then Kyle Waldrop doubled off the top of the right field wall and Juan Perez doubled to centerfield beating the throw to second.

All of a sudden Pensacola trailed by two runs, 5-3, in the eighth inning and the Blue Wahoos fans at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium finally had something to cheer about in an otherwise dreary game that saw the Blue Wahoos total just three hits in the first seven innings.

However, Biloxi held on, 5-3, to take five of six games in the series after a rally killing double play in the ninth inning. Pinch hitter Marquez Smith worked the count to earn a walk to lead off the ninth. But he was doubled up when second baseman Ryan Wright laced a pop out to second baseman Orlando Arcia in shallow right field that he caught and threw to first to get Smith.

Smith walked toward the umpire and was immediately thrown out. Pensacola Manager Pat Kelly sprinted over from third and was immediately ejected. It was the most noise in the ballpark all night.

“The play wasn’t even close,” Kelly said. “He was safe.”

Although disappointed with another loss to Biloxi, Buckley said it was a relief to smash his first home run of the season.

“I don’t think it’s the farthest one but it’s the first one this year,” he said. “It felt good. I’ve been waiting for that one.”

Kelly also liked seeing his team fight to win until the end of the game against first place Biloxi, which is opening the season on a 55-game road trip until its ballpark finally is completed in June.

“Any time you go over the 400-foot sign you have to give him credit,” Kelly said. “He’s swinging the bat as good as anybody this year.”

Starting pitcher Wandy Peralta also showed some fortitude. After giving up three runs on three hits and three walks in the first inning to Biloxi, including a two-run single by the Shuckers first baseman Nick Ramirez, he settled down. Throwing a mix of off-speed and fastballs, Peralta then struck out seven of the next 10 batters and worked out of two bases loaded jams.

“In the past, emotionally, (Peralta) never would have recovered from a first inning like that,” Kelly said. “He was ambushed in that first inning. But he settled down.

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos travel to play a five-game series April 30-May 4 against the Seattle Mariners Double-A affiliate Jackson (Miss.) Generals. The Blue Wahoos next homestand is May 5-9 against the Chicago Cubs Double-A affiliate Tennessee Smokies.

Tickets On Sale Now For ‘Hairspray’ At Northview High

April 30, 2015

The Northview High School Theatre Department will present the Broadway musical “Hairspray” for two shows only next week.

It’s 1962, and pleasantly plump Baltimore teen Tracy Turnblad has only one desire – to dance  on the popular “Corny Collins Show.”  When her dream comes true, Tracy is transformed from social outcast to sudden star. It is a show that’s great for the entire family.

Performances will be at 7 p.m. in the Northview Theatre on Friday, May 8 and Saturday, May 9. Advance tickets are $7 now through April 30 in the Northview front office.

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