No Injuries In Still Road Rollover Crash

April 28, 2017

There were no injuries in a single vehicle rollover crash near Bratt Friday morning. The accident happened about 6:45 a.m. on Still Road near the intersection of Howard Hall Road. The driver refused medical treatment. The accident is under investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol. Atmore Ambulance and the Walnut Hill Station of Escambia Fire Rescue also responded. photo, click to enlarge.

International Paper Reports ‘Solid’ First Quarter Despite Cantonment Explosion

April 28, 2017

International Paper delivered a sold financial first quarter of 2017, despite the January explosion at the company’s Pensacola Mill in Cantonment.

Thursday, IP reported first quarter 2017 net earnings of $209 million (50 cents per share), compared with net earnings of $218 million (53 cents per share) for the fourth quarter of 2016 and net earnings of $334 million (81 cents per share) in the first quarter of 2016.

“International Paper delivered a solid first quarter in the face of several challenges, including the digester incident at our Pensacola mill and higher input costs driven by a significant rise in OCC (corrugated container) prices,” said Mark Sutton, chairman and chief executive 0fficer.  “Given the market fundamentals across most of our businesses in combination with several IP commercial and operational initiatives, we expect improved results pointing to a particularly strong second half as well as positive momentum entering 2018.  I remain very confident in IP’s ability to generate significant year-over-year earnings growth and continued strong cash flow in 2017.”

IP’s Cantonment facility experienced a digester explosion on January 22 that sent “black liquor” and pulp raining down into neighborhoods outside the mill and causing significant damage on site.

An investigation indicated that an explosive atmosphere was created by a combination of off-gasses normally produced in the pulping process and air introduced to maintain pressure while the vessel was not in operation. The explosive nature of the off-gasses and air combination was likely related to the extended period of mill down time prior to the incident where no chips and liquor were flowing into the digester. The gas mixture, combined with one of several possible ignition sources, provided the necessary components for the explosion.

The Cantonment mill resumed full operations in early April. The company estimated that the total costs related to the explosion to be between $80 and $120 million, with the majority of those costs expected to be recovered through insurance coverage.

Pictured top: Emergency crews on the scene following an explosion January 22 at International Paper in Cantonment. Pictured below: First responders coordinate their response efforts from a command post at IP shortly after the explosion. Pictured bottom: A vehicle that was passing the mill at the time of the explosion covered in black liquor from the explosion. file photos.

Slight Rain Chance Into The Weekend; Storms Sunday Night

April 28, 2017

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast:

Tonight: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 73. Southeast wind 10 to 15 mph.

Saturday: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 1pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 87. Breezy, with a southeast wind 15 to 20 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph.

Saturday Night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 72. Southeast wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.

Sunday: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 1pm. Some of the storms could be severe. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 82. Windy, with a south wind 15 to 25 mph, with gusts as high as 35 mph.

Sunday Night: Showers and thunderstorms. Some of the storms could be severe. Low around 64. Breezy, with a south wind 15 to 20 mph decreasing to 10 to 15 mph after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%.

Monday: A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly before 1pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 78. West wind 5 to 10 mph.

Monday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 55. West wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the evening.

Tuesday: Sunny, with a high near 85. Calm wind becoming south around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Tuesday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 60. South wind around 5 mph becoming calm after midnight.

Wednesday: A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 82.

Wednesday Night: Showers and thunderstorms likely. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 65. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Thursday: Showers and thunderstorms likely. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 77. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Thursday Night: A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 56.

Friday: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 71.

New Bluff Springs Road Bridge Opens, Replacing County’s Last Wooden Bridge

April 28, 2017

Work to replace the last all-wooden bridge in Escambia County is now complete.  A  two-lane concrete bridge is now open over Pritchett Mill Creek on Bluff Springs Road.

The modern structure replaced a one-lane wooden bridge that closed as structurally deficient last November.  The Murphree Bridge Corporation completed the $710,702.04 project. The scope of work included clearing, grading, drainage, paving, signage and bridge construction.

There are no permanent residences located beyond bridge, but Escambia River and camping access via Bluff Springs Road were cut off during the construction.

Pictured above and below: A new concrete bridge over Pritchett Mill Creek on Bluff Springs Road is now open. The modern bridge replaced the last all-wooden bridge in Escambia County (pictured page bottom). photos, click to enlarge.

FWC Law Enforcement Report

April 28, 2017

The Florida FWC Division of Law Enforcement reported the following activity during the  period ending April 20 in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.


Officer Hoomes was on land patrol along Gulf Islands National Seashore near Fort Pickens conducting state fisheries inspections when he encountered several people fishing for pompano. He checked one subject who was fishing alone and possessed the daily bag limit of six pompano. Several disturbed areas in the sand were observed near the fisherman’s poles and coolers where fish could possibly have been hidden. Officer Pettey arrived and he and Officer Hoomes uncovered seven more pompano buried in the sand. The fisherman was issued a citation for possession of over the daily bag limit of pompano. All 13 fish were seized as evidence.


Officer Lewis received a complaint about vehicles driving on closed roads in Blackwater River State Forest. The officer responded to the area and saw five Jeeps parked on a dirt pile that is a barrier for the closed road where the complaint originated. The officer saw fresh vehicle sign on the closed road and the drivers of the Jeeps all stated they drove on the closed road. Officer Lewis cited all the drivers for operating a vehicle off the established road in a state forest.

Officer Lewis was on patrol in Blackwater River State Forest when he saw a campsite that appeared to have been camped in for a while, with trash and household cleaning items starting to accumulate. Later in the day, he returned and saw a man and woman in the campsite and noticed other minor violations. Officer Lewis discovered that the man had a warrant for violation of probation. He arrested the man for violation of probation and issued him a warning for not having his pets on a leash. The woman cleaned up the campsite and vacated the area.

Officers Lewis and Jernigan were on patrol in Blackwater River State Forest when they saw a vessel approaching a landing. The vessel’s registration had been expired for approximately three years. The operator stated he recently purchased the vessel but could not produce a bill of sale. The woman on board admitted to fishing but did not have a fishing license. Officer Jernigan boarded the vessel to perform a fisheries inspection and saw a small box where the operator was seated. The box resembled a variety that is commonly used to hold drugs and/or paraphernalia with the male subject’s last name on it. Officer Jernigan found small plastic baggies in the box that contained a white powdery residue that appeared to be methamphetamine. The man told the officers the box belonged to him. The officers explained to the male subject that the substance in the baggies tested positive for methamphetamine. Officer Jernigan arrested the man and charged him with possession of a controlled substance without a prescription and possession of drug paraphernalia. He also received a citation for operating a vessel with an expired registration. The woman was cited for fishing without a license.

This report represents some events the FWC handled over the past week; however, it does not include all actions taken by the Division of Law Enforcement. Information provided by FWC. photo.

Tate Beats Escambia For District Title

April 28, 2017

The Tate High School Lady Aggies won their fourth straight district title Thursday night with a 3-0 defeat of Escambia’s Lady Gators.

Shelby McClean went 3-3 for the Lady Aggies with a run and two RBI’s. Syndni Solliday was 1-3.

Hannah Brown pitched a complete game for the Aggies, allowing one hit, no runs, no errors and striking out eight.

Photos for, click to enlarge.

Budget Talks Begin After Leaders Reach Deal

April 28, 2017

With time running out to avoid a special session, legislative leaders agreed Thursday to the outlines of a nearly $83 billion budget and began negotiations aimed at hammering out details of the spending plan before a Tuesday deadline.

The deal will likely allow the session to end May 5, as scheduled, avoiding the embarrassment for legislative Republicans of needing extra time for the second time in three years to complete lawmakers’ only constitutionally required task.

“The reports of the demise of session have been greatly exaggerated,” said House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, in a statement following the announcement.

But even as lawmakers celebrated, critics including Gov. Rick Scott were questioning the process that Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, used to reach the agreement on “allocations.” The deal sets out how much money should be spent on broad areas of the budget, like education or human services.

The late-breaking nature of the agreement, along with a couple of false starts and some comments by legislative leaders, seemed to indicate that Negron and Corcoran were getting beyond allocations and into the fine details of the plan in their closed-door negotiations.

Those smaller disagreements are usually smoothed over by joint House-Senate negotiating committees, which are open to the public and at least theoretically allow for more input by individual lawmakers. The committees began meeting Thursday evening after the deal was announced.

There was also speculation that Negron and Corcoran cut deals on policy issues and potentially other legislation during the discussions.

Even Scott, while lambasting the Legislature for spending less on tourism marketing and economic development than he had called for, took the unusual step of criticizing the process.

“I’d be furious if I was a House or Senate member,” Scott told reporters. “Think about it, every one of them got elected in a district. They represent that district. They have the same number of votes as the speaker and Senate president. They should be in the discussion, just like the speaker and Senate president.”

Negron and Corcoran — who pledged to run the most open and transparent session in history — defended their negotiations during a joint appearance Thursday afternoon, even as they refused to offer much detail on what had been agreed to.

“We’ve agreed that we would respect the priorities of the other chamber,” Corcoran said.

After a contentious back-and-forth that lasted several minutes, Corcoran and Negron abruptly walked away from reporters who repeatedly asked for more specific information about the agreement.

To end the legislative session on time May 5, lawmakers need to finish the budget by Tuesday because of a constitutionally required 72-hour “cooling off” period.

Democrats largely held their fire on the process, for now, but warned that they would be on the lookout as negotiators start discussing the budget, the fine print known as “proviso,” and related legislation.

“Now, as we move forward, if more issues start getting stuck in the budget, we start getting some of (this) stuff in proviso language and things like that, then, yeah, we’ll have a problem with that,” said Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens.

For his part, Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, also pledged to be on the lookout for suspicious proviso.

“Anything that doesn’t pass the smell test, I want to know about,” he said.

One detail from the allocations agreement that emerged Thursday included an across-the-board pay raise for state employees, which Latvala and others said was the first in roughly a decade despite the fact that a salary increase was approved in 2013.

“For too long the men and women who have made Florida one of the premier places to raise a family, grow a business or enjoy retirement have done so without their hard work being justly compensated. No longer,” said Andy Madtes, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Florida.

In an apparent exchange, the Senate will consider a House proposal to require new state employees who don’t select a retirement option within nine months to go into a 401(k)-style “investment plan.” Those employees currently default into the traditional pension plan. The Senate won an extended time period for the selection — up from six months — and an exemption for law-enforcement and emergency workers.

Lawmakers had already revealed some of the overarching elements of the plan, but details continued to be filled in. The House won policy concessions on a $200 million plan to encourage charter schools where traditional public schools have struggled, and $200 million for teacher bonuses.

But Rep. Shevrin Jones, a West Park Democrat involved in education issues, said school districts would have more control over charters under the language than under the “schools of hope” plan that the House initially put forward.

Jones said the compromise might not assuage teachers unions and other groups, but satisfied him.

“The school district is in charge. … We started somewhere which wasn’t a happy medium, and I’m happy where we are now,” Jones said.

But Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., the Hialeah Republican who chairs the House’s public education budget subcommittee, said the specific language wasn’t fully worked out yet. And he played down the notion that a school district might be able to bar charter operators from opening a “school of hope” in its area.

“I think there are some district options on the table,” Diaz said.

Senate leaders have also floated the idea of using some of the House money for “wrap-around” services, like health care and after-school programs, at traditional public schools.

The House also prevailed on its insistence that education property tax bills not grow with property values, cutting back the amount of revenue that would be available for public schools. An initial House offer Thursday would bump up spending through the main education formula by about $24 a student — or 0.34 percent — more than the House’s budget but far less than the Senate proposed.

That figure does not include funding for the “schools of hope” or the teacher bonus program.

The Senate, meanwhile, also received concessions from the House in the allocation deal, including agreements from the House on Negron’s plan to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee and his drive to funnel additional resources to universities.

The policy concessions the Senate has looked for on higher education include requiring universities to use block tuition by fall 2018 and creating a Board of Community Colleges to oversee the 28 state colleges.

“We’re very pleased with where we are in higher ed,” said Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who chairs the Senate’s higher education budget subcommittee.

The governor did not fare as well.

Scott would get just $25 million for Visit Florida, a tourism marketer, and operating funds for Enterprise Florida, an economic development agency. Scott had asked for as much as $100 million for Visit Florida and $85 million in incentives for Enterprise Florida.

In health care, the budget includes cuts to Medicaid funding for hospitals.

House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, said money in the Low Income Pool program remains out of the budget until final details are negotiated with the federal government.

Scott announced recently that $1.5 billion would be available for the program, which provides additional money to hospitals that serve large numbers of poor and uninsured patients. But what are known as “terms and conditions” of how the money can be used is still being negotiated.

by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida

Burglars Hit Alabama Walgreens

April 28, 2017

The Brewton Police Department is asked for the public’s help to find at least three people responsible for burglarizing a drug store early Thursday morning.

Police said three suspects made their way through a drive-thru window at Walgreens about 3 a.m. and entered the store wearing marks and dark clothing. They were able to steal several controlled substances before exiting the store less than one minue later. There was no vehicle seen on surveillance video.

Brewton Police area asking anyone that noticed anything unusual in the area during the early morning hours to call them at (251) 867-3212.

Photos for, click to enlarge.

Little Public Interest As Century Updates Aging Land Development Code

April 28, 2017

The Town of Century is updated its aging Land Development Code thanks to a state grant, a process that has generated little public interest. Only one member of the public attended just one of three public workshops on the updates.

The town received a $25,000  Division of Community Development’s Community Planning Technical Assistance Grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to update their LDC, which was adopted on April 29, 1991. The work is being done by Peggy Fowler and Associates, which submitted the only proposal.

The Land Development Code (LDC) essentially specifies what can be built where and how it can be used within the town limits.

The majority of the LDC  has not been revised since it was adopted in 1991. It, according to Fowler, must be updated to ensure compliance with changes in state and federal laws and the goals and objectives of the Town Century Comprehensive Plan 2025. The updates will also address any inconsistencies or duplication in the document, plus make the LDC more user-friendly and easier to understand with minor reorganization and the addition of tables and simple illustrations.

Thursday’s third public workshop on the update process was not attended by any member of the public (other than our reporter/photographer).

A complete draft will be presented a public hearing on May 15 at 6:30 p.m., prior to a regular council meeting at 7:00. has requested a copy of the draft to publish prior to the meeting for public review.

Pictured: Three Century staffers — Assistant Clerk Kristina Wood, Peggy Fowler of Peggy Fowler and Associates and consultant Debbie Nickles — and no members of the public at a Thursday morning Land Development Code workshop in Century. photo, click to enlarge.

Bratt Elementary Second Graders Present ‘Hats’ And Art Show

April 28, 2017

Thursday, Bratt Elementary School held a Fine Arts Night and presented “Hats”.

The second graders at Bratt presented the musical program “Hats” — celebrating that it is what is underneath hats that counts.  Each student had artwork on display for everyone to enjoy, including a two-dimensional piece, a self-portrait and a ceramic butterfly. A reception followed the program and art show.

For more photos, click here.

Pictured top: Students perform the musical program “Hats” Thursday night at Bratt Elementary School. Pictured inset: Second grader Lexi Bingham second grade with her ceramic piece entitled “Buttery the Butterfly”. Pictured below:  A few of the art show pieces on display. photos, click to enlarge.

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