Three Injured In Three Vehicle Crash On Highway 29 At Highway 196

September 30, 2021

Three people were injured in a three vehicle crash Thursday night at the intersection of Highway 29 and Highway 196 near Molino.

None of the injuries were considered to be life threatening; the victims were transported to area hospitals by Escambia County EMS.

The 7 p.m. crash shut down Highway 29 northbound north of Highway 196. The roadway was still closed at 8:15 p.m. with traffic detoured onto Highway 196 eastbound.

The Florida Highway is investigating. The Molino Station of Escambia Fire Rescue responded. photos by Kristi Barbour, click to enlarge.

Escambia Legislative Delegation Wants Answers From ECUA After State Findings

September 30, 2021

The local legislative delegation has asked the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority to respond to state findings after a review of the utility’s operations.

Created by the Florida Legislature in 1981, ECUA operates as a special district outside the jurisdiction of the Florida Public Service Commission that regulates most utilities in the state. The Florida Office of Public Counsel, which advocates on behalf of Florida’s utility consumers, conducted a review of ECUA operations.

The Public Counsel report identified three areas related to ECUA’s accounting of expenditures, its replacement rate of equipment and its methods for setting rates for residential and commercial customers. In a letter to the ECUA board, Sen. Doug Broxson, Rep. Alex Andrade and Rep. Michelle Salzman requested a response to the report by November 30.

“No utility is perfect, and a utility like ECUA, which has experienced serious upheaval in its executive offices in recent years, certainly isn’t expected to be perfect. That being said, the findings from the Public Counsel were serious enough to merit a response from ECUA. I’m confident ECUA will address the findings with a focus on providing the best, most reliable value and service to customers in my district that they can,” said Andrade, whose office sent the letter.

The Office of Public Counsel compared ECUA rates to those of Peoples Water Service Company in southwest Escambia County and found disparity.

“This office compared the water rates for a typical (3,000 gallon per month) ECUA residential customer (ignoring taxes and other fees) with the same consumption for a Peoples Water Service Company (“Peoples”), a Class A utility serving over 13,000 customers in areas of southwest Escambia County,” the report stated. “We observed that, at this level of consumption, the ECUA (mainland) customer bills are 56% higher than those of the FPSC-regulated Peoples.

“It must be pointed out, however, that due to the conservation rate structure the FPSC imposed on Peoples (which requires increasingly more expensive gallonage charges as household usage increases), at 10,000 gallons monthly usage, the ECUA bill is 15% lower than the comparable Peoples’ bill. The point here is that it is not clear that the full FPSC regulation would necessarily result in lower rates for ECUA customers.”

In their letter to ECUA, the legislative delegation “requests the ECUA review the possibility of implementing a conservation rate structure, or a response from the ECUA explaining why a conservation rate structure would be unfeasible or inadvisable for the ECUA.”

The review identified that the ECUA cycles out its water meters at a higher rate than similarly situated utilities, well before the water meters have reached their anticipated serviceable life span. The review notes that the reason given is that the ECUA desires all of its meters to operate under warranty. While the ECUA is not subject to review by the PSC, he Public Counsel stated that similar activity would not be deemed “reasonable or prudent” in a PSC rate setting process. The recurring annual cost for meter replacement is shown to be $2 million.

The review also raised the question of whether the ECUA is following generally accepted accounting principles in addition to its own reporting standards when coding expenses in its financial reports.

“I am concerned about some of the findings, but look forward to seeing ECUA’s response addressing these concerns,” Salzman said.

“As most of us know, ECUA has faced some challenges and concerns from the public in previous years. We continue to seek third party input and work with ECUA on how they can better function as a public trust,” Broxson said.

ECSO Gun Crimes Unit: 42 Arrests, 57 Firearms Seized This Year

September 30, 2021

The Escambia  County Sheriff’s Office is highlighting the successes of their enhanced Gun Crimes Unit.

Through September, the ECSO Gun Crimes Unit has arrested 42 suspects on charges including possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, felony weapons charges, felony drug charges and felony traffic charges. The unit has seized 57 firearms, nine of which were stolen, from those arrested.

“Each one of these seized guns could result in the loss of life. I’m proud of the unit for its effectiveness in such a dangerous endeavor,” Sheriff Chip Simmons said.

Simmons said he created the current unit to not only arrest suspects breaking felony gun crime laws, but also to take stolen guns off  the streets and out of the hands of criminals.

ECUA Hopes To Complete Recycling Facility Fire Repairs Soon

September 30, 2021

The Emerald Coast Utilities Authority says they expect to return to recycling soon as there fire damaged facility comes back online.

“We are making excellent progress with repairs and are getting close to resuming operations,” ECUA Public Information Officer Nathalie Bowers said.

The ECUA Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) was damaged in a July 15 fire, putting a hold on the recycling program.

Bowers said ECUA projects to reopen the facility during the first half of October. They will begin with a “soft start”, clearing out some of the stockpiled recyclables and make sure everything is in working order.

The electrical contractor has completed their work. ECUA expects to complete the installation of a plastics sorting robot by the end of the week. A magnet used in the metal sorting area is on backorder until December, but the metals will be manually sorted until then.

ECUA is continuing to urge customers to stay in the recycling habit as repairs continue. The recyclables are being collected as normal, but they are being landfilled for now.

Pictured above and below: Inside the ECUA Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) at the Perdido Landfill as cleanup was beginning. Pictured bottom: Smoke pours from the MRF on Thursday, July 15. Photos for, click to enlarge.

Northview Announces Homecoming Court

September 30, 2021

Northview High School has named their 2021 homecoming court.

Court members are (front, L-R) seniors Grayson James, Nevaeh Brown, Kaitlin Gafford, Kayla Dixon, Anna Adams; (back, L-R) juniors McKenna Simmons, Emma Gilmore, Jessica Stabler; sophomores Ty’Deasia McKenzie, Ava Gurganus, Carsyn Dortch; and freshmen Maddie Mae Driskell, Lacey Sapp, and Payton Daw. (They are dressed for homecoming’s Wild West Wednesday.)

Photo for, click to enlarge.

Cantonment Man Facing Drug, Weapons Charges After Traffic Stop

September 30, 2021

A traffic stop led to the arrest of a Cantonment man on drug and weapons charges.

David Ross Holmquist, 49, was charged with possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, felony possession of a controlled substance without a prescription and driving with a suspended or revoked license.

An Escambia County Sheriff’s Office deputy stopped Holmquist’s Pontiac sedan on Innerarity Point Road after he allegedly failed to come to a complete stop at a traffic light.

The deputy discovered that his driver’s license was suspended indefinitely for financial obligations. Nine 380-caliber rounds and ten 22-caliber rounds were found in the vehicle’s center console, according to an arrest report. Deputies also reported finding a baggie of alleged methamphetamine in the vehicle’s trunk and another bag of alleged crystal meth was found in his pants pocket, the report continues.

According to the ECSO, Holmquist was convicted of felony unarmed burglary in 1991.

He was released from the Escambia County Jail on a $13,000 bond

Escambia County County COVID-19 Hospitalizations Continue To Fall

September 30, 2021

The number COVID-19 hospitalizations in Escambia County continues to fall.

On September 29, there were 127 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Ascension Sacred Heart, Baptist and West Florida hospitals. That compares to 158 a week ago and 368 about a month ago.

Chart data sources: Escambia County, City of Pensacola, Ascension Sacred Heart, Baptist and West Florida hospitals. Graphic: City of Pensacola.

Chance Of Rain Again For Thursday; Drier Into The Weekend

September 30, 2021

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast:

Thursday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 67. Calm wind becoming east around 5 mph.

Friday: Sunny, with a high near 87. Northeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southeast in the afternoon.

Friday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 66. South wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the evening.

Saturday: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 1pm. Mostly sunny, with a high near 85. East wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southeast in the afternoon.

Saturday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 67. South wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the evening.

Sunday: A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 1pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 84. East wind 5 to 10 mph becoming south in the afternoon.

Sunday Night: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 67. South wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the evening.

Monday: A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 84.

Monday Night: A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 66.

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

Tuesday Night: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly clear, with a low around 61.

Wednesday: A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Sunny, with a high near 81.

Discovery Of Nearly 200 Civil War Cannonballs Closes Portion Of Perdido Key Area

September 29, 2021

An area of Perdido Key is closed after the discovery of nearly 200 Civil War era cannonballs.

Following Hurricane Ida, military munitions were discovered near the far end of seashore’s Perdido Key Area. It’s a remote area that would be accessible only by boat, ATV or on foot. The discovery led to a temporary closure of the area, just in case more munitions are still buried.

The area where the munitions were found is closed and marked with signs. Visitors walking or boating in this area are prohibited from entering. Staff will be monitoring and patrolling the area regularly.

More than 190 cannonballs were detonated recently within park boundaries with help from other federal agencies. No more unexploded ordnances have been found so far.

“The park continues to monitor the area for newly discovered munitions and will secure the site(s) should any be found in the future,” said Darrell Echols, Gulf Islands National Seashore superintendent. “Our goal is to ensure that the area is safe for the visitors and staff, and that cultural resources are protected.”

Munitions found within national park boundaries are considered cultural artifacts and are protected by law. It is illegal for the public to harm, deface, damage, or remove these item

Gulf Islands National Seashore is working closely with the National Park Service, Southeast Archaeology Center, and Florida State agencies to conduct the cultural survey of a large area on the eastern end of Perdido Key.

Photos: Gulf Islands National Seashore

Missing UWF Student Located

September 29, 2021

UPDATE: UWF Police say this missing person has been located.

The University of West Florida Police Department is searching for a missing student.

Brandon Neal Smith, 24, was last heard from on Saturday, September 25. He is described as a white male with short brown hair and green eyes. He is about 5-feet, 9-inches tall and 150 pounds.

Anyone with information is asked to call UWF Police at (850) 474-2415

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