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Nokomis Residents Receive Lower Fire Insurance Rating, Better Protection

Nokomis Residents Receive Lower Fire Insurance Rating, Better Protection

The Nokomis (AL) Volunteer Fire Department has received an improved  fire protection class rating which will translate to lower homeowner’s insurance premiums for hundreds of households. The Insurance Services Office (ISO) recently notified the department that their new rating is a 5/5X, significant fire rating decrease from their previous 7/9. The new rating drops by two classifications for homes within 1,000 feet of a hydrant and drops fiyr classifications for homes outside the required distance from a hydrant. Assistant Fire Chief Chris McGhee said many municipal, full-time fire departments are a Class 5. The lower ratings, he said, are based upon numerous factors, including water supply, equipment, number of firefighters and more. The new ISO classification will take effect on October 1. According to an example provided by the fire department, sample insurance premium on a $200,000 home would be $1,252 at a Class 9, but in the new Class 5X rating the premium would be $690, a savings for the homeowner of $562. The Nokomis Volunteer Fire Department responds to an average of 60 calls a year with 15 volunteer firefighters in a district that begins just west of the Atmore Country Club and continues to the Baldwin County line, north to Doyle Hadley Road and south to the Alabama/Florida line — and area with about 400 residences. An agreement between Escambia County, FL, and Nokomis calls for the Nokomis Volunteer Fire Department to automatically be dispatched to certain emergencies in a portion of the Walnut Hill fire district, and for Walnut Hill to be automatically dispatched to certain types of calls, such as structure fires, in Nokomis, AL. The Nokomis Volunteer Fire Department’s “Squirt 24″ was formerly “Truck 5″ in Century. After the Century Station of Escambia Fire Rescue received a refurbished  75-foot ladder truck that was formerly assigned to Ensley, “Truck 5″ was put up for auction and purchased by the Nokomis VFD for $5,000. “We are completely volunteer and have to raise our own support,” Nokoms Fire Chief Eddie Odom said. “There is always a need for funds and we hope that homeowners will step up and contribute to the fire department, especially with the extra savings they will enjoy as a result of our efforts. A fund raising effort is underway now to expand the small fire station so we can receive a much needed 1,250 gallon per minute pumper that was donated from the City of Atmore but we have no room to house the truck. It’s not just the building that we need financial assistance with. The cost of keeping our firefighters equipped and trained is expensive just as diesel, parts, maintenance and building upkeep are. Now more than ever, we need homeowners and property owners to support us financially.” Board member and Nokomis Fire Captain Jerry Gehman says many departments across the America ask for $95 to $125 per household as a general rule of funding annually. Many communities pay a “fire tax” around the same amount. Contributions can be mailed to the Nokomis Volunteer Fire Department, P.O. Box 727, Atmore, AL  36502. Pictured:  Operating under new mutual aid agreement, the Walnut Hill Station of Escambia Fire Rescue and the Nokomis (AL) Volunteer Fire Department held a combined training exercise last year in Walnut Hill. NorthEscambia.com file photos, click to enlarge.  Read More →

July 23, 2014 | Read the story »

Century Adopts New Fee Schedule For Planning, Zoning, Development Review

Century Adopts New Fee Schedule For Planning, Zoning, Development Review

The Town of Century has adopted a new fee schedule for planning, zoning and development review as part of the town’s land development code. The new fee schedule items such as residential site renovation permits for $25, commercial site renovation permits for $50 and $50 demolition permits. In many cases, a portion of the fee is refunded once the applicant receives  the required  building permits from Escambia County. The only fees greater than $50 are: $250 for a new commercial site or development, $500 for a small scale comprehensive plan amendment and $750 for large scale amendment to the comprehensive plan. For a pdf copy of the fee schedule, click here.  Read More →

July 23, 2014 | Read the story »


Manna To Resume Feeding Hungry

After losing all its food to recent flooding, Manna Food Pantries’ main facility is partially restocked and the grassroots organization will be providing emergency food on a limited basis beginning July 28. Because of Manna’s limited capacity to store and distribute food, the organization has temporarily set up an appointment-only schedule at the main pantry. “We’re excited that we’ve gotten to a point where we can resume service to the hungry, although we’re still very limited right now,” said DeDe Flounlacker, executive director. “We continue to be amazed by the generosity of this community and how they’ve come together to help Manna get back on its feet. But the need is still great — we ask that the community continue to give — right now we’ve got a very limited supply of food.” Manna staff will be helping people with appointments in temporary trailers set up in Manna’s parking lot. However, the staff and board of directors are actively looking for a new permanent home away from the flood-prone area. “We’re committed to finding a more suitable location to serve the hungry in the community and are evaluating our options with a piece of land under contract with the Escambia School Board,” said Flounlacker. “Together, with the community’s help, we can rebuild Manna to make sure no one is left unfed.” Limited service to the community The Main Pantry will re-open Monday, July 28. Because of Manna’s limited capacity to store good, distribute food and see clients, the organization is now scheduling appointments. To schedule an appointment, call (8500 432-2053 Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. The Cantonment, Milton and Jay pantries have resumed limited service on a first come, first serve basis. Appointment not necessary. All clients must present a picture I.D. and social security card for adults in the family, and social security card, birth certificates or shot records for children under 18. Manna is no longer providing USDA food, which is what the organization distributed if people did not have a picture I.D. and Social Security card. Last year, Manna Food Pantries distributed 800,000 pounds of food to the hungry, serving more than 42,000 people. The non-profit has been serving the community since 1983. Go to mannafoodpantries.org to find out how you can make a donation or volunteer to help.  Read More →

July 23, 2014 | Read the story »


‘Hurricane Tax’ On Florida Insurance Policies To End 18 Months Early

An extra charge on property-insurance and auto-insurance policies to cover claims paid for the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons will end January 1. The Office of Insurance Regulation formally issued orders Tuesday for insurance companies to move up by 18 months the end of a 1.3 percent “emergency assessment” for the state-run Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, which provides backup coverage to insurers. The assessment has hit policyholders for $2.9 billion, which has gone to reimburse insurance companies for claims from the eight hurricanes that hit Florida in 2004 and 2005, the last time a hurricane made landfall in Florida. “It’s been nine years since (Hurricane) Wilma,” said Sam Miller, executive vice president of the Florida Insurance Council. “If anything, the assessment helps us remember how devastating these storms may be.” Miller said the industry had been waiting for the orders so it could begin preparing for the new end date for the assessment, which previously had been set for July 1, 2016. The orders make official a decision Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet made last month to end the assessment, Amy Bogner, a spokeswoman for the Office of Insurance Regulation, said in an email. The assessment, which first appeared at 1 percent in 2007 and was raised to the current rate in 2011, collectively hits policyholders for between $350 million and $500 million a year. In addition to the state’s near-decade luck at avoiding hurricanes, the early termination is due to claims for Hurricane Wilma coming in $498 million less than what had initially been thought. Wilma hit South Florida in October 2005. Also, the fund has received more money than expected due to an increase in policies statewide. The charge is imposed on most property and casualty policies other than medical malpractice and workers compensation. The catastrophe fund, better known as the Cat Fund, currently has about $13 billion on hand and is expected to be able to raise an additional $4 billion, which is considered solid ground for covering most post-storm claims. In addition to the Cat Fund assessment, the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. adds an extra 1 percent charge on most policies to cover losses from the 2005 storms. First imposed in 2007, the charge is expected to be paid off in June 2017.  Read More →

July 23, 2014 | Read the story »


Woman Cited In Accident For Turning In Front Of Deputy

A 74-year old Pensacola woman was charged after turning into the path of Escambia County Sheriff’s deputy Tuesday afternoon. About 4:09 p.m., Bonnie Mack was traveling east on Mobile Highway when she attempted to turn left onto Klondike Road. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Mack turned directly into the path of ECSO Lt. Alan Barton who was westbound on Mobile Highway. Barton was in an unmarked 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe that sustained about $8,500 in damage. Barton, Mack, and Mack’s 49-year old passenger were all uninjured. Mack was cited for an improper left turn in front of approaching traffic, according to the FHP.  Read More →

July 23, 2014 | Read the story »


Repeat Felon Gets 20 Years For Shooting Into Motel Room

An Escambia County man has been sentenced to two decades in state prison for shooting into a motel room. Kendrell Maurice Sims entered a plea of no contest to the charges of shooting at, into or within a building, two counts of  aggravated assault with a firearm, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Following his plea, Circuit Judge Jan Shackelford sentenced Sims to 20 years in prison. On October 23, 2013, at the Relax Inn on Mobile Highway, Kendrell Sims and Gregory  Henderson were in a physical altercation. Once the physical altercation broke up, Sims got a gun from his motel room and went back to Henderson’s motel room and began firing multiple rounds at the door of Henderson’s room. At that time, Greg Henderson and Elaine Green were inside the room. Kendrell Sims was previously convicted of six felony charges, including drug related  offenses.  Read More →

July 23, 2014 | Read the story »

Escambia Elections Ballots Are In The Mail

Escambia Elections Ballots Are In The Mail

Tuesday afternoon, the office of Escambia County Supervisor of Elections David Stafford mailed more than 25,000 absentee ballots for the August 26 Primary Election. Voters will begin receiving their ballots as early as today. Voters should receive their ballot within the next week, and can visit EscambiaVotes.com and click on “track my ballot” to monitor the status of their request. The deadline for voters to request a ballot to be delivered by mail is Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 5 p.m. After that  date, voters may pick up a mail ballot at the Supervisor of Elections office. Voters who have not requested a “vote by mail” ballot can do so in one of the following ways: On the web: EscambiaVotes.com By email: absentee@escambiavotes.com By phone: (850) 595-3900 or fax (850) 595-3914 In person: 213 Palafox Place, Second Floor, Pensacola, FL 32502 By mail: PO Box 12601, Pensacola, FL 32591-2601 The deadline for voters to request a ballot to be delivered by mail is Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 5 p.m. After that  date, voters may pick up a mail ballot at the Supervisor of Elections office. Ballots must be received in the Escambia County Supervisor of Elections office by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, August 26, 2014. Ballots can be dropped off at the Elections Office during regular business hours or mailed back in the official ballot envelope provided. Be sure to include first class postage ($0.49) on your return envelope. Mail ballots cannot be dropped off. Voters who receive a mail ballot and decide to vote in person during Early Voting or at their assigned precinct on Election Day should bring their marked or unmarked mail ballot to the polls so it can be canceled. Early voting begins Saturday, August 16 and runs through Saturday, August 23. Election Day is August 26. For complete information, visit EscambiaVotes.com.  Read More →

July 23, 2014 | Read the story »

Blue Angels Announce 2015 Team Members

Blue Angels Announce 2015 Team Members

The Blue Angels have announced the officers selected for the 2015. The squadron selected an executive officer, three F/A-18 demonstration pilots, an events coordination officer, two C-130 demonstration pilots, a flight surgeon, and a supply officer to join the 2015 team. Many highly-qualified Navy and Marine Corps officers submit applications to join the Blue Angels each year. “We remain committed to selecting the most talented and qualified individuals to join the Blue Angels,” said Cmdr. Tom Frosch, flight leader and commanding officer for the team. “Once again, a significant number of extremely talented, experienced Sailors and Marines applied this year, and we are proud of those we have chosen to join the 2015 team. They are excellent representatives of the skilled service members defending our freedom around the world.” The Blue Angels select finalists to interview at the Blue Angels’ home base at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., during the week of the Pensacola Beach Air Show. The team makes selections at the conclusion of the interview week. “All of our finalists this year are incredible examples of some of the finest officers in the Navy and Marine Corps, from both the aviation community and the fleet,” said Lt. Cmdr. John Hiltz, Right Wing pilot and the applications officer for the 2014 team. “What was most important for us — regardless of anything else — was to select the most qualified individuals for the team to represent the more than 540,000 Sailors and Marines deployed around the world, around the clock. And I’m happy to say that we’ve done that.” The newly-selected 2015 team members include: Executive officer: Navy Cmdr. Bob Flynn, 45, of Moorestown, N.J., is a S-3B Viking naval flight officer and is currently assigned to the Naval War College. He is a 1992 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md. F/A-18 demonstration pilots: Navy Lt. Matt Suyderhoud, 31, of Honolulu, is currently assigned to Training Squadron 22 (VT-22) at Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas. He is a 2005 graduate of Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Mo. Navy Lt. Andrew Talbott, 31, of Sedan, Kan., is currently assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 106 (VFA-106) at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va. He is a 2005 graduate of Kansas State University, Salina, Kan. Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, 30, of Durango, Colo., is currently assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 (VMFA-312) Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C. He is a 2006 graduate of Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colo. Events coordination officer: Marine Capt. Corrie Mays, 34, of Marstons Mills, Mass., is currently assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (All Weather) 225 (VMFA(AW)-225) at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego. She is a 2003 graduate of the University of Georgia, Athens, Ga. C-130 demonstration pilots: Marine Maj. Mark Hamilton, 36, of Becker, Minn., is currently assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 (VMGR-252) at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. He is a 2000 graduate of Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind. Marine Capt. Katie Higgins, 27, of Annapolis, Md., is currently assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 (VMGR-252) at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. She is a 2008 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md. Flight surgeon: Navy Lt. Joe Schwartz, 34, of Arlington, Va., is currently assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron 132 (VAQ-132) at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Oak Harbor, Wash. He is a 2002 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ind. Supply officer: Navy Lt. Gregory Bollinger, Jr., 31, of Carbondale, Ill., is currently assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 9 (VX-9) at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif. He is a 2006 graduate of the University of Maryland University College, Adelphi, Md. Expected to return for the 2015 season are: F/A-18 demonstration pilots: Navy Cmdr. Tom Frosch, 44, of Clinton Township, Mich. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Barton, 33, of Hummelstown, Pa. Navy Lt. Mark Tedrow, 31, of Charleroi, Pa. Navy Lt. Ryan Chamberlain, 29, of Bloomington, Ill. C-130 demonstration pilots: Marine Capt. Dusty Cook, 32, of East Bernard, Texas. Maintenance officer: Navy Lt. Cmdr. Declan Hartney, 44, of Limerick, Ireland. Administration officer: Navy Lt. j.g. Phillip Harper, 33, of Chicago. Public affairs officer: Navy Lt. j.g. Amber Lynn Daniel, 33, of Ramona, Calif. The mission of the Blue Angels is to showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach. Since its inception in 1946, the Blue Angels have performed for more than 484 million fans.  Read More →

July 23, 2014 | Read the story »

Wahoos Beat Mobile

Wahoos Beat Mobile

With hundreds of budding princesses roaming Pensacola Bayfront Stadium in their dresses and tiaras, something magical happened in the first inning. The Pensacola Blue Wahoos scored seven runs on eight hits, including five doubles, and went on to defeat the Mobile BayBears, 8-4, on 18 hits. Daddy-Daughter night at the ballpark included a pre-game parade where Little Mermaids, Snow Whites and Jasmines pranced down the first baseline to loud applause. It included Wahoos Manager Delino DeShields young daughter helping her daddy deliver the lineup card to the umpires and join a quartet of other princesses to sing, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” during the seventh inning stretch. Whether it was magic spells at work or not, DeShields was just happy to see his hitters hitting. During the team’s 1-8 skid entering Tuesday’s game, the Wahoos hit .239 as a team and had 77 strikeouts and 67 hits. All nine starters got on base during the game and only pitcher Daniel Corcino was hitless. In fact, seven of the nine hitters had at least two hits and Ryan Wright, Kyle Waldrop and Juan Duran all had three. DeShields said it was the first time his 7-year-old daughter, Delaney, got to sit in the dugout and hangout on the field. They watched the 7-minute fireworks show to Disney tunes together after the game. “She might be a good luck charm,” DeShields said. “I’m going to have to start bringing her all the time.” Yorman Rodriguez, who went 2-5, including a double to start the game, said one of the most special feelings he has is when he hears his toddler in the stands behind the backstop shouting his name. “The whole game she yells, ‘Poppie! Poppie!’” Rodriguez said. “She yells loud, too. It’s awesome.” Mobile scored three of its runs on a homerun over the right-center fence by Jake Lamb, who is leading or near the top in every offensive category in the Southern League. The Arizona Diamondbacks No. 9 prospect according to MLB.com has 13 homers and 76 RBI. The third game of the five-game series with the Arizona Diamonbacks Double-A affiliate the Mobile BayBears gets underway at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. RHP Jon Moscot (5-9, 3.19) takes the mound for the Wahoos and is scheduled to be opposed by the BayBears RHP A.J. Schugel (4-1, 3.70). by Tommy Thrall  Read More →

July 23, 2014 | Read the story »

Escambia Issues Air Quality Health Alert For Wedgewood Area

Effective immediately, in response to air quality monitoring, the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County (FDOH-Escambia) is issuing a health alert for the area surrounding the Wedgewood Community Center and the Rolling Hills Construction and Demolition Landfill in Escambia County. Air quality monitoring has been performed by Escambia County at the Wedgewood Community Center (6405 Wagner Road, Pensacola). This center is adjacent to the Rolling Hills Construction and Demolition Landfill located at 6990 Rolling Hills Road, Pensacola. The monitoring has revealed elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide in the air at a minimum level of concern for long term exposure to humans. Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas which often has an odor similar to rotten eggs, but which may have no detectable smell when present in low concentrations. However, even low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide gas can have negative health effects. Exposure to hydrogen sulfide may cause respiratory symptoms such as eye, nose, and throat irritation in some individuals. People experiencing respiratory symptoms should consult their physician for treatment and should stay inside their homes.  According to FDOH-Escambia’s Director, Dr. John Lanza, “While inside, people should close their windows, run their cooling/heating system, and change their system’s filter, as needed. If symptoms persist while inside an air conditioned home, people may choose to leave the area until their symptoms are tolerable.” Persons who have questions about health problems or symptoms they may be experiencing related to hydrogen sulfide exposure should contact their primary care physician. Those who have asthma or other chronic lung disease should follow their disease management plan, and should call their doctor if symptoms worsen. For medical emergencies, call 911 or go immediately to the nearest emergency facility. The Florida Department of Health in Escambia County will continue to evaluate air quality monitoring results, as reported by Escambia County. Any further recommendations and alerts will be released as more information becomes available.  Read More →

July 22, 2014 | Read the story »

Gulf Power, Other Big Utilities Ask To Scale Back Energy Efficiency Goals

Gulf Power and Florida’s other big electric providers are asking state regulators this week to let them scale back energy-efficiency programs — such as rebates for installing solar panels and power-saving appliances — that they say have become expensive and benefit few customers. But conservationists argue that dramatically reducing energy-efficiency programs will only result in higher monthly bills for customers as the utilities eventually will need to build more natural-gas and nuclear power plants. On Monday, Gulf Power Company, Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric Co and JEA in Jacksonville began presenting testimony to the Florida Public Service Commission that they should be allowed to roll back energy-efficiency goals, as demand for the conservation programs has declined. “We think it’s in the best interest of our 1.7 million customers to reduce that energy conservation goal and let us look at programs that could benefit the whole entire customer base,” Duke spokesman Sterling Ivey said. “It could be a community solar offering versus a rebate to an individual to put a solar panel on a roof, perhaps we can build a community solar array that all our customers pay into it and all would benefit.” Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, said customers’ electricity bills have dropped due to conservation efforts and “slashing” the energy-efficiency programs will simply allow the power companies to make more money. “This is not in the interest of the public, this is not in the interest of the people,” Dudley told the commission. The hearing is expected to last three days. Two extra days have been set aside next week if the review runs long. The commission isn’t expected to make a ruling on any of the requests until late fall. by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida Pictured: Concerned citizens and conservation groups are attending the three-day meeting of the Florida Public Service Commission in Tallahassee to protest rollbacks in conservation rebates for energy consumers.  Top photo by  Ivan Penn, Florida News Connection , inset photo by Tom Urban, News Service of Florida, for  NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.  Read More →

July 22, 2014 | Read the story »

Hospice Volunteers Needed; Free Training Available Saturday

There is a shortage of hospice volunteers in the North Escambia area.  Covenant Hospice will hold a new volunteer workshop  at the Century Chamber of Commerce this Saturday. Covenant Hospital volunteers help with: patient and family support honoring veterans children’s programs faith- based initiatives teen volunteers ambassadors fundraising and special events community events bereavement services Alzheimer’s family services administrative projects The training will take place from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday at the chamber office, 7811 North Century Boulevard. RSVP to Sharon Oakes at (850) 380-0356.  Read More →

July 22, 2014 | Read the story »

Recycling Resumes In Santa Rosa County

Recycling resumed in Santa Rosa County recently when a contract with the Emerald Coast Utility Authority (ECUA) to transport recyclable material from the recycling transfer station at the Central Landfill in Milton was approved by the commission. Residents who previously had curbside recycling will see no change in service from their curbside providers. At this time two recycling drop off sites are available for residents that do not have curbside recycling. Recycling can be dropped off at no charge at the Central Landfill located at 6337 Da Lisa Road in Milton and Jay Transfer Station located at 3786 Transfer Station Road in Jay.  Residents who do not currently have curbside recycling are encouraged to contact their service provider to inquire if curbside recycling is an available service option. Additionally, the county is currently exploring expanding the solid waste service provider franchise to areas north of the Yellow River. A franchise agreement would mean that only one hauler would be able to provide residential curbside service in a specified area, it would not impact business or commercial accounts.  If approved, service could begin as soon as January 1, 2015 and is expected to include residential curbside recycling, yard waste and bulky waste pickup in addition to household solid waste services.  Read More →

July 22, 2014 | Read the story »

Report: Florida Blue Could Raise Rates

Major insurer Florida Blue could raise rates in 2015 for people enrolled through the federal health-care exchange after seeing a large number of older and sicker enrollees, Kaiser Health News reported Monday. Patrick Geraghty, chief executive officer of the Jacksonville-based insurer, said it remains committed to the individual health-insurance market. But Geraghty told Kaiser Health News that rates also could be affected by such factors as a relative lack of younger and healthier enrollees. “We will be under tremendous financial pressure initially given the age, risk profile and high utilization of the new membership,” he said. “It is far from clear that large enrollment in the marketplace is a financially beneficial place to be.” Kaiser Health News said Florida Blue, which formerly was known as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, would not disclose its proposed 2015 rates. That proposal was submitted to state regulators last month. Florida Blue added 339,000 customers through the Affordable Care Act’s federal marketplace this year, according to Kaiser Health News.  Read More →

July 22, 2014 | Read the story »

Mobile Takes Season Opener From Pensacola

Minor league baseball’s strikeout kings for most of the season went head-to-head Monday night at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium. The result? The Pensacola Blue Wahoos Ben Lively retook the strikeout mantle with four strikeouts for 135 on the year. But the Mobile BayBears Aaron Blair had 9 Ks to up his total to 134 on the season and got the win in his Double-A debut. Plus, Blair earned the first hit off Lively in the game in the fifth inning with a bloop single to left field. Mobile won the opening game of the five-game series, 6-3, extending its winning streak to seven games. The BayBears are now 44-4 when leading after the seventh inning and the first half Southern League South Division winners now lead the second half, too, with a 20-9 record and are 62-36 overall. Meanwhile, Pensacola fell to 10-21 in the second half and 41-60 overall. Lively, who fell to 0-4, was trying for his first win at Double-A with the Wahoos, but left the game after walking the first two batters in the seventh and reliever Carlos Gonzalez allowed one of those BayBears to score. Lively did not allow a hit for the first 4.1 innings and only gave up two singles but ended up walking seven. Blair, the Diamondbacks No. 3 prospect according to MLB.com, said his debut win was even more special since he and Lively have known each other for four years, playing in the same division in college, pitching as teammates for the same team in Cape Cod League (summer collegiate) and facing each other in High-A. “It was about as good a debut as you can hope for,” Blair said. “It was cool getting to pitch and hit against a good friend.” Lively, a Gulf Breeze product, said he feels no pressure about getting his first win of the season for the Wahoos. Lively has allowed 25 walks, hit 2 batters and given up 23 hits in 30.2 innings for Pensacola, so far. “Once I have good games and not give up a lot of free passes and put up zeros the wins will start coming,” he said. “If I make the right pitches, I can get anybody out.” Pensacola manager Delino DeShields gave Lively a pep talk outside the locker room after the game, telling him to stay in control of his emotions. “Ben, even though he walked seven guys, still gave us a good game,” DeShields said. “I’m still waiting for him, and I don’t want to say this the wrong way, to control his emotions. I think it’s getting the better of him sometimes.” Pensacola kept from getting shutout for the 11th time when catcher Ross Perez hit a two-out, three-run shot over the right field wall that made the final score, 6-3. The second game of the five-game series with Arizona Diamondbacks Double-A affiliate the Mobile BayBears gets underway at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. RHP Daniel Corcino (8-8, 4.36) takes the mound for the Wahoos and is scheduled to be opposed by the BayBears RHP Mike Lee (6-4, 4.14). by Tommy Thralll  Read More →

July 22, 2014 | Read the story »

Tax Collector Offices Collecting Food Drive Donations For Manna

A food drive is currently underway at Escambia County Tax Collector offices, including Molino, downtown and Marcus Pointe. The employees of Janet Holley, Escambia County Tax Collector, are supporting Manna Food Pantries by sponsoring a food drive to help them restock their pantry from the April flood.  Their goal is to collect 2,000 pounds of food to help Manna meet the needs of the hungry in our area. Nonperishable food items can be dropped off at any of the three convenient tax collector locations Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. through August 6.  Manna Food Pantries welcomes any food donations, but their most needed items are peanut butter, canned fruit, canned tuna and chicken, and canned dinners. Escambia Count Tax Collector offices are located at: Molino – 6440 Hwy. 95-A North, Ste. A Marcus Pointe – 6451 North “W” Street Downtown – 213 Palafox Place  Read More →

July 21, 2014 | Read the story »

Florida Supreme Court Ponders New Juvenile Sentencing Law

The Florida Supreme Court has asked attorneys how a new state law might affect cases dealing with inmates who were sentenced to long prison terms for committing murders or other major crimes when they were juveniles. The new law went into effect July 1 and was designed to carry out two landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings based on the idea that juveniles are different from adults and function at different stages of brain development. As a result, the U.S. Supreme Court held, juvenile sentencing guidelines must offer young offenders the chance to have their cases reviewed after serving a certain number of years. Now the question is whether the state law or the U.S. Supreme Court rulings are retroactive to sentences imposed on juveniles in the past. Last month the Florida Supreme Court asked attorneys in cases that might be affected by the new sentencing guidelines to submit briefs on the issue.That included cases from Bay and Duval counties, where juveniles were sentenced to 70 years or more. The attorney general’s office also is expected to weigh in. One of the U.S. Supreme Court rulings, in a 2010 case known as Graham v. Florida, banned life sentences without a “meaningful opportunity” for release for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes. The other ruling, in a 2012 case known as Miller v. Alabama, banned mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder. Juveniles can still face life sentences in such cases, but judges must weigh criteria such as the offenders’ maturity and the nature of the crimes before imposing that sentence. That’s why the Florida Legislature this spring passed HB 7035, calling for judicial hearings and sentencing standards that vary depending on the nature of the crimes. Under the law, a juvenile convicted of a murder classified as a capital felony could be sentenced to life in prison after a hearing to determine whether such a sentence is appropriate. If a judge finds that a life sentence is not appropriate, the juvenile would be sentenced to at least 35 years. Also, juveniles convicted in such cases would be entitled to reviews after 25 years. But while the new law tries to bring Florida into compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court rulings, it doesn’t mention retroactivity. Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, the law’s Senate sponsor, said it was not intended to address that issue. “We were simply looking at a statutory scheme that was clearly unconstitutional,” the Fleming Island Republican said. “We were looking at two United States Supreme Court decisions that set forth certain parameters, and we developed a sentencing framework that complied with those two decisions. As far as how that applied individually to individual defendants, we’ll leave that to the court system.” In the years between the U.S. Supreme Court rulings and the new law taking effect, juvenile sentencing cases have landed at the Florida Supreme Court. As an example, one of the pending cases concerns Rebecca Falcon, who is serving a life sentence for a murder she committed in Bay County in the course of a botched robbery in 1997, when she was 15 years old. Another, from Duval County, involves Shimeeka Gridine, who was sentenced to 70 years in prison for crimes — attempted first-degree murder, attempted armed robbery and aggravated battery — committed during an attempt to rob a gas station in 2009, when Gridine was 14 years old. “We believe that (the) Miller (ruling) itself is retroactive,” said Tania Galloni, managing attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Florida office. She said Falcon and Gridine should be entitled to re-sentencing hearings. Falcon’s attorneys are seeking to have her mandatory sentence — life without parole — vacated under the Miller ruling, arguing that as a new rule of constitutional law, it is retroactive for the courts. “I’m not arguing that the new (state) law should be applied retroactively,” said Karen M. Gottlieb, an attorney for Falcon. “I’m arguing that the court has an inherent power and obligation to enforce constitutional rules of law that are retroactive. … That’s an important distinction.” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, said the Florida Supreme Court faces a balancing act. On one hand, the justices must comply with the U.S. Supreme Court rulings; on the other, he said, juveniles who commit serious felonies are a threat to public safety. “The U.S. Supreme Court has already clearly said you can’t give them what amounts to a life sentence,” Judd said. “But we’re dealing with an extremely small percentage of people who are extremely violent, and the overwhelming majority of them would be again when set free upon society.” But Galloni of the Southern Poverty Law Center said juveniles who commit crimes are still capable of changing the course of their lives. “I think everyone involved in policymaking should be basing their decisions not on emotion or visceral reaction but on the science, on the facts,” she said. “And we know from the science of brain development that children are going to change.” by Margie Menzel, The News Service of Florida  Read More →

July 21, 2014 | Read the story »

Still Time To Register For Northview QB Club Softball Tournament

The Northview High School Quarterback Club will host a double elimination coed softball tournament August 2 at Showalter Park in Century from 8 a.m. until. The cost is $150 per team. Proceeds will go to support the Northview Chiefs football program. For more information or to sign up a team, call Amy at (850) 516-8400 or Tony at (850) 516-5736.  Read More →

July 21, 2014 | Read the story »

Suns Take Finale Over Wahoos

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos (10-20, 41-59) dropped the series finale, 5-2, to the Jacksonville Suns (18-11, 54-45) at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville on Sunday afternoon. With the loss, the Wahoos fell to 1-7 over their last eight games. The Wahoos jumped out to an early lead when starting pitcher Michael Lorenzen singled home his battery mate Ross Perez in the second inning. The Wahoos put together little more offensively, despite receiving three hit days from both Perez and center fielder Yorman Rodriguez. In his first start since July 1, Lorenzen was able to work through the first three innings of the game unscathed, but the Suns put three runs on the board to take the lead in the bottom of the fourth. Catcher Austin Barnes homered for the second straight day to open up the inning and tie the score at one. Following the solo home run, Joe Benson doubled down the third base line and later scored on Brady Shoemaker’s double into left field. That gave the Suns a lead they would never relinquish. Shoemaker later came home to score on a Wilfredo Gimenez groundout. The Suns tacked on another run in the fifth thanks to Barnes’ second homer of the game and they put the game away in the bottom of the eighth when Alfredo Lopez scored Alex Burg on an RBI single to right field. The Wahoos fought back in the top of the ninth with Ryan Wright scoring on an error, but Perez left a man in scoring position when he grounded out to end the game. Lorenzen took the loss for the Wahoos, allowing 4 R/ER on eight hits while striking out two batters. RHP Drew Hayes pitched well in relief of Lorenzen, allowing just one hit over 2.1 innings of work. RHP Jose Urena earned the win for the Suns; he allowed 1 R/ER over 5.2 innings of work. Urena struck out five, walked three and gave up seven hits. RHP Matt Ramsey earned the save for the Suns. Pensacola returns to Bayfront Park for a five-game set with the Mobile BayBears on Monday. The Wahoos will send Gulf Breeze native Ben Lively (0-3, 4.38) to the mound for game one of the series. RHP Bradin Hagens (8-4, 3.95) is set to start for the BayBears. by Joey Truncale  Read More →

July 21, 2014 | Read the story »

Teachers Union Challenges Bill Expanding School Vouchers

The state’s largest teachers union filed a legal challenge  contesting how lawmakers “log rolled” a series of education issues — including an expansion of a controversial school vouchers program — into a single bill that passed in the waning hours of the 2014 legislative session. The Florida Education Association, a longtime opponent of voucher programs, filed a complaint in the 2nd Judicial Circuit in Leon County that challenges the constitutionality of how legislators patched together legislation into a wide-ranging education bill (SB 850). The voucher expansion had appeared dead in the Senate until getting approved in the broader bill. “This was a sneaky way for the legislative leaders to enact measures that had already failed,” said union Vice President Joanne McCall. “It’s an outrage that the corporate voucher expansion was tacked on to an unrelated bill and slipped into law on the session’s final day.” The lawsuit, which is filed under the name of East Lee County High School social studies teacher Tom Faasse, was quickly criticized as “shameful” and a “new low” by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which was founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush. “As a society, we must work to unlock education opportunities for students who need them the most. Senate Bill 850 will help children with Down’s syndrome, autism and other developmental disabilities have greater choices and the critical support necessary for successful education outcomes,” foundation Chief Executive Officer Patricia Levesque said in a prepared statement. “There are those who believe families should have options and trust parents in those decisions for their kids. And sadly there are those who find educational choices threatening to their political power.” Incoming Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, also criticized the lawsuit in a separate statement, saying, “It is unfortunate the hard-earned money our teachers contribute to the FEA is now being spent to fund litigation designed to limit educational opportunities for children across our state.” McCall said after a news conference that the union had been working towards the lawsuit since the bill was approved May 2 by the Legislature. She added that the lawsuit is unrelated to the union’s endorsement of former Gov. Charlie Crist in this year’s gubernatorial race. Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law June 20. Among other things, the law makes changes in middle-school and career education, along with continuing efforts to reduce hazing and prevent dropouts. The House initially approved the bill 115-1 on April 30. But lawmakers broke along mostly party lines in the House and Senate as a 140-page amendment was approved on the final day of session. The amendment included changes to the Tax Credit Scholarship vouchers program and created “personal learning scholarship accounts” that are aimed at helping parents of students with disabilities pay for educational services. The Florida Education Association is seeking a quick decision in the lawsuit as the “personal learning scholarship accounts” are being introduced this week. Union attorney Ron Meyer said lawmakers “log rolled” several pieces of unrelated legislation, loosely tied to education, into a single package, which is prohibited the Florida Constitution. The constitution requires each law to embrace a single subject that is “briefly expressed” in the title. “Log rolling has always happened, and I guess unless someone says you have to follow the constitution, people will continue to go forward not following the constitution,” Meyer said. The Tax Credit Scholarship Program provides tax credits to companies that donate money to nonprofit entities that then pay for children to go to private schools. Changes to the program were a major priority for House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. Under the new law, a family of four earning up to $62,010 a year will be eligible for at least a partial scholarship, a nearly $20,000 boost from the current $43,568 annual income limit. The value of each individual scholarship also will rise. by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida  Read More →

July 20, 2014 | Read the story »

New Pastor Joins Jay United Methodist Church

Jay United Methodist Church has recently welcomed Rev. Ebb Hagan and family. He is serving his first appointment in the Alabama-West Florida area after recently graduating from Princeton Theological  Seminary in Princeton, NJ. While at Princeton, Hagan was an assistant on the Dead Sea Scrolls project and was awarded an archaeological fellowship to work a dig in Bethsaida, Galilee, Israel and  research in Jerusalem. Hagan grew up in Evergreen, AL, and is the son of the late Larry Hagan and Rebecca Hagan of Troy and Brundidge, AL. After graduating from Washington State University and spending the better part of the  last 20 years in Seattle, Hagan is looking forward to being home. Hagan’s wife, Emily, grew up in Inchelium, WA, which is located in northeastern Washington state. She is also a graduate of Washington State University and is currently progressing through the Master of Divinity program at Asbury Theological Seminary. Upon graduation, she hopes to use her degree to serve as a  chaplain or pastoral counselor. She is the daughter of Stefan and Linda Mallory from Inchelium. They are joined by their three children, Gaston, 10, Mallory, 8,  and Stefan, 6. Submitted photo.  Read More →

July 20, 2014 | Read the story »

July Gardening Tips

The heat, humidity and frequent rains of July are great for tropical plants. Gardeners, however, take a bit of a beating. Remember to keep the sunscreen, insect repellant and iced tea handy as you venture out into your garden to perform some needed summer maintenance. A midsummer application of fertilizer is usually required, especially on annual flowers, lawns, shrub beds and vegetable gardens. This is a supplemental application, so don’t overdo it. A 15-0-15 slow-release fertilizer is a good general purpose landscape fertilizer for most plants. Major pruning jobs should have been done earlier, but there is still some maintenance pruning that should be done. Deadhead, or clip old flowers, from summer flowering shrubs as soon as they fade to help insure an extended season of bloom. Crape myrtles, hibiscus, hydrangeas and althea are examples of shrubs that will bloom repeatedly if light, selective pruning is done. Flowering annuals also respond well to deadheading. Snip off old flowers and flower spikes before they have an opportunity to form seed. Allowing annual flowers to set seed can shorten their blooming season considerably. Inspect your lawn and shrub plantings frequently in order to identify pest problems as early as possible. The most severe damage from pest insects normally begins in July. Be on the lookout for chinch bugs in St. Augustine grass; spittlebugs in centipede grass; sod webworm in all lawns-especially new ones; lacebug and caterpillars on azaleas; whiteflies on gardenia and spider mites on lots of different types of shrubs. Sod webworms often attack lawns in the summer. They eat the grass blades producing areas that look as if they have been mowed too short. Close inspection will reveal that the blades have not been cleanly cut as with a mower blade but have been chewed along their edges and tips. These caterpillars feed at night and rest during the day down among the runners and in the thatch. Once an insect pest is found, evaluate the damage and determine if control is necessary. If it is, choose the least toxic option. If only a few caterpillars are found, hand picking might be the choice. Aphids and spider mites can often be controlled by spraying with an insecticidal soap solution. Chemical insecticides are sometimes required. Before choosing one be sure that the insect pest has been properly identified and that the insecticide is labeled for that purpose For vegetable gardeners that have problems with nematodes, soil borne diseases and extensive weed problems, July is a great time to try soil solarization. Prepare the soil as you normally would for a vegetable garden including adding organic matter. Moisten the area and cover with clear plastic, not black plastic. Clear plastic will produce the highest temperatures. Be sure to weigh down the edges of the plastic so that it doesn’t blow up. Allow the soil to bake in the sun for four to six weeks. The sun will raise the soil temperature high enough to kill many soil borne problems. Tip of the Week: The nice thing about tomatoes is that you have the option of harvesting when the fruit is green if needed. Tomatoes will ripen indoors at room temperature. To ensure even ripening, place the tomato with the stem up. The ideal time to harvest tomatoes is when they are fully colored but still firm. In general, it is best to harvest vegetables early in the mornings while the moisture content is higher. The overall quality will quickly diminish as vegetables are exposed to hotter temperatures later in the day.  Read More →

July 20, 2014 | Read the story »

Suns Sink Wahoos 6-2

The Jacksonville Suns scored all six of their runs over their final two innings to sink the Wahoos 6-2 and spoil a stellar start by Wahoos right-hander Tim Adleman. The Wahoos starter opened the game with a season-high six shutout innings but didn’t pick up a decision. With the Wahoos leading 2-0, the Suns took over the lead on a three-run home run from Austin Barnes off reliever James Walczak (L, 2-5) in the seventh inning. Two of the runs were charged to Adleman who allowed a single and a walk to open the inning, and left the game before recording an out. Aldeman was charged with just the 2 R/ER over 6.0 innings. He allowed just six hits with five strikeouts and only one walk. Pensacola scored both of its runs in the fifth inning on a fielder’s choice and RBI single. Those runs broke up a scoreless tie led by Adleman and Suns starter Justin Nicolino. Both pitchers matched zeros for the first four innings of the game before Pensacola broke through first. Nicolino allowed just the 2 R/0 ER on six hits over 6.0 innings. He added five strikeouts without issuing a walk. The Suns put the game away with three runs in the eighth inning. Wahoos relievers walked four batters in the inning to ignite the rally. Jacksonville only collected one hit in the inning, a two-run double from Brady Shoemaker. Walczak took the loss after getting charged with 4 R/ER on two hits with three walks over 1.1 innings. Frankie Reed (W, 1-0) picked up the win out of the Suns bullpen. He worked just one shutout inning for his first win of the year. For the second straight game Ryan Wright paced the offense for the Blue Wahoos. He finished 2-for-3 with a walk for his second consecutive multi-hit game. Jacksonville locked up the series and the season series with the win over the Blue Wahoos securing the Suns’ possession of the golden skillet traveling trophy. Pensacola will try to end the road trip on a high note Sunday. RHP Michael Lorenzen (4-4, 2.45) will start for the Blue Wahoos against Suns RHP Jose Urena (7-7, 4.24). First pitch is set for 2:05 p.m. CT. by Tommy Thrall  Read More →

July 20, 2014 | Read the story »

Horse Sent Back To Molino After Escaping From City Car Lot, Police Roundup

A horse has been “sentenced” to head back to the farm in Molino after a wild Friday morning that included an escape from a car lot, a police roundup and a cab. Pensacola Police Officer Hank Wells found himself in a one-man rodeo this morning when he tried to find a horse that had escaped from a car lot. The incident was reported to police around 9:20 a.m. after the seven-year-old black gelded horse named “Ziggy” was seen in the 1300 block of North M Street. “The horse had somehow gotten loose and was just walking around,” said Wells, who found the horse near Q and Brainerd streets about the same time as a passing cab. Wells said the cab driver happened to have a bucketful of hay and a thick rope in his car, which were used to catch the horse. Its owner was identified through bystanders,  who told Wells the horse belonged at E-Z Cars Inc., 1501 North Pace Blvd. Sgt. Stephanie Nowlin with Escambia County Animal Control said the horse left the car lot through an open side gate around 8:30 a.m.Friday; it has not yet been determined how long the horse was at the business. Irfan Sukhera, owner of the car lot and the horse, was given citations for an animal roaming at large and animal nuisance. Nowlin said the horse is being transported to Sukhera’s farm in Molino. Panhandle Equine Rescue will be coordinating adoption of the horse. Nowlin said it is not known how long the horse had been at the car lot. And there was also no reason given as to why the cab driver had rope and hay in his vehicle.  Read More →

July 19, 2014 | Read the story »

Lane Closure Monday On Highway 29 Near IP

There will be a temporary lane closure on Highway 29 south of Muscogee Road on Monday. The lane closure will be between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. to replace a CSX Railroad highway crossing panel near International Paper.  Read More →

July 19, 2014 | Read the story »

Unemployment Rating Increasing In Local Three County Area

The latest job numbers released Friday show the unemployment level increasing in the  North Escambia area. Escambia County’s unemployment rate inched upwards from 6.3 percent in May to 6.5  percent in June.  There were 9,109 people reported unemployed  during the period. One year ago, unemployment in Escambia County was 7.7 percent. Santa Rosa County unemployment also increased,  from 5.4 to 5.8 percent from Ma to June. Santa Rosa County had a total of  4,337 persons still unemployed. The year-ago unemployment rate in Santa Rosa County was 7.3 percent. In Escambia County, Alabama, unemployment increased  from 8.1 percent in May to 8.9 percent in May. That represented 1,254  people unemployed in the county during the month. Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.2 percent in June 2014, down slightly from the May 2014 rate of 6.3 percent, and down 1.2 percentage points from 7.4 percent a year ago. There were 597,000 jobless Floridians out of a labor force of 9,626,000. The U.S. unemployment rate was 6.1 percent in June. Prior to June, Florida’s unemployment rate had been less than or equal to the national rate for 13 consecutive months. Alabama’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, 6.8 percent in June, was unchanged from May’s rate and was above the year-ago rate of 6.5 percent. The jobless numbers released by Florida and Alabama do not include persons that have given up on finding a job and are no longer reported as unemployed. The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.  Read More →

July 19, 2014 | Read the story »

Escambia Students Place In Health Occupations Students of America Competition

Recently, the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) National Leadership Conference was held at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Lake Buena Vista. The Escambia County School District has several Health Academy National Winners: In third place, Pensacola High School’s HOSA Bowl Team: Jett Crowdis Anish Gupta Krisha Gupta Shayli Patel In fourth place, West Florida High School’s Creative Problem Solving Team: Lindsay Adkerson Delaney Anderson Mary Tomlinson Elizabeth Tomlinson BreeAnn Davidson from West Florida High School was recognized as a bronze medal winner for the Barbara James Award for Community Service. West Florida High School’s Biomedical Sciences & Sports Medicine Chapter was recognized as medalist in HOSA Happenings.  Read More →

July 19, 2014 | Read the story »

Florida Gov’t Weekly Roundup: It’s All About The Appeal

It was a week of appeal-related decisions, both legal and political, that could have far-reaching implications. House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz shocked Capitol insiders when they announced they would not appeal Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis’ ruling last week striking down the Legislature’s congressional map. Instead, the legislative leaders want Lewis to let lawmakers wait until after the November elections — when Gaetz and Weatherford will no longer be in power — to redraw the Northeast and Central Florida districts at the heart of Lewis’ ruling. Attorney General Pam Bondi ignored the pleas of gay couples and gay-rights advocates who won a first-of-its-kind ruling in Florida in a lawsuit challenging the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Bondi immediately filed a notice to appeal a Monroe County judge’s decision that found the voter-approved ban violates due process and U.S. constitutional protections against discrimination. And former Gov. Charlie Crist, trying to make a comeback as a Democrat, enlisted Annette Taddeo to be his running-mate in what some consider a “two-fer” in his efforts to appeal to Latino and women voters, both blocs whose support is considered critical to Crist’s bid to overthrow Republican Gov. Rick Scott. REDISTRICTING APPEAL NOT SO APPEALING Lawyers for the Legislature, elections supervisors and the Department of State argued in court Thursday that it is too late in the election cycle to redraw the congressional districts deemed unconstitutional by Lewis. Ballots have already been sent to overseas voters in advance of the Aug. 26 primaries, and recreating the districts would throw the entire election schedule out of whack, the lawyers insisted. “This is not an impending election. This election has begun. To undo that, or to cancel that, is both impossible and in no way governed or set forth by Florida statutes or the constitution,” George Meros, a lawyer representing the Legislature, told the judge during a 20-minute hearing. But David King, a lawyer representing voting-rights groups that sued the state over the congressional map drawn in 2012 by the GOP-controlled Legislature, argued that lawmakers should come up with a new plan. “We’ve already had one election on an unconstitutional map in 2012,” King said. Lewis ruled last week that lawmakers failed during the 2012 redistricting process to follow the anti-gerrymandering Fair Districts constitutional amendments, approved by voters in 2010. The amendments bar the Legislature from crafting districts that favor incumbents or political parties. Lewis’ ruling targeted districts represented by Congresswoman Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat, and Congressman Daniel Webster, a Winter Garden Republican. Brown’s District 5, which snakes from Jacksonville to Orlando, has been pilloried for years as one of the nation’s worst examples of gerrymandering. Redrawing the two districts targeted in Lewis’ ruling could affect some neighboring seats, especially those surrounding Webster’s District 10 seat. Lewis appeared caught off guard by the legislative leaders’ decision to let his ruling stand. “Quite frankly, when I issued my order I thought surely one side or the other would appeal. So it didn’t really occur to me to start thinking about what to do with the 2014 election,” Lewis said. But Ron Labasky, the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections general counsel, told Lewis that forcing the Legislature to craft new districts before this year’s elections would create havoc. Some of the overseas absentee ballots have already been returned, and the bulk of absentee ballots for the Aug. 26 primary are slated to be mailed next week, he said. “I’m not sure how we back up and allow somebody to vote again in a new district,” Labasky said. “Absent some very novel, creative plan on your part, we just don’t see how there’s any possible way … to have an election in newly created districts.” GAY MARRIAGE VICTORY BUT NO WEDDING BELLS IN THE KEYS … YET In a ruling that mirrored decisions in other states striking down bans on same-sex marriages, Circuit Judge Luis Garcia on Thursday ordered Monroe County Clerk of Court Amy Heavilin to start giving out marriage licenses to couples of the same gender beginning Tuesday. Garcia’s order would only apply in Monroe County, but Keys couples can’t start lining up to get wed, thanks to Bondi. She immediately filed a notice to appeal the decision, effectively putting a stay on Garcia’s order. Heavilin’s lawyer Ron Saunders, a former state representative who once served as House Minority Leader, said she won’t let any same-sex couples get married until the case is resolved. That could be a while. Both sides expect the case, filed by two Key West bartenders who have been together for more than a decade, and/or a similar case filed in Miami-Dade County by six same-sex couples to wind up in the hands of the Florida Supreme Court and, some hope, possibly make it as far as the U.S. Supreme Court. In his 14-page ruling, Garcia compared the politically charged issue of same-sex marriage with previous civil-rights struggles. “This court is aware that the majority of voters oppose same-sex marriage, but it is our country’s proud history to protect the rights of the individual, the rights of the unpopular and the rights of the powerless, even at the cost of offending the majority,” Garcia wrote in his 14-page order. “Whether it’s the NRA protecting our right to bear arms when the City of Chicago attempted to ban handguns within its city limits; or when Nazi supremacists won the right to march in Skokie, Illinois, a predominantly Jewish neighborhood; or when a black woman wanted to marry a white man in Virginia; or when black children wanted to go an all-white school, the Constitution guarantees and protects ALL of its citizens from government interference with those rights.” Scott appeared to be making an appeal to both sides of the issue in a statement released by his spokesman John Tupps. “Governor Scott supports traditional marriage, consistent with the amendment approved by Florida voters in 2008, but does not believe that anyone should be discriminated against for any reason,” Tupps said in an e-mail. WHO’S CRIST WOOING? Crist’s selection of Miami-Dade County Democratic party leader Taddeo was an unusual move from a candidate who still faces a primary. But it’s another signal that Crist, who has refused to debate fellow Democratic candidate Nan Rich, is focused on the general election against Scott. Crist frequently points out that Scott and his backers have spent nearly $20 million bashing Crist and have pledged to spend $100 million to keep Scott in the governor’s mansion and Crist out of it. Crist touted Taddeo as a working mother who runs a small business in Miami. Taddeo, 47, who was born on a U.S. military base in Colombia, also has served as chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party. “She will make an excellent lieutenant governor because as a working mom she knows Florida families are struggling to pay their bills, raise their kids, and save for retirement — and because she believes, as I do, that all Floridians deserve a fair shot at success,” Crist said in a prepared statement. But Rich, who has trailed in polls and raised relatively little money, took a shot at Crist, who served as a Republican governor before later becoming a Democrat. “Because he’s been a lifelong Republican, Charlie Crist might be excused for not knowing that Democrats typically don’t choose a running mate until they win the nomination,” Rich, a former state Senate minority leader, said. Taddeo ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2008, losing to U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. She has had an elevated profile in state party politics since Democratic Chairwoman Allison Tant tapped her to serve as one of four vice-chairs last year. Susan MacManus, a political-science professor at the University of South Florida who studies state politics, said both parties think they have a shot at the Hispanic vote, and the lieutenant-governor candidates — Scott tapped former state Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera to fill a vacancy as lieutenant governor earlier this year — are one way to appeal to Hispanics. But MacManus also said Crist’s choice of a woman was “shrewd” as women make up a larger share of the Democratic Party than they do the Republican Party. “(There) is a tendency, particularly of younger women, to fall off in their participation in mid-term elections,” MacManus said. “But having a woman on the ticket as number two was one of the ways that Crist is distinguishing himself from the Republican ticket. So he’s trying to take advantage of the gender makeup of Florida and particularly of the Democratic Party, because he’s got to get turnout close to what it was during the (2012) presidential election, and that’s always difficult in a midterm.” While at a Democratic Party fundraiser last month, Taddeo said she has “great respect” for Rich but said Democrats exude a palpable enthusiasm for Crist, whom many believe has a better chance of ousting Scott. “Everybody wants a picture with (Crist.) When he walks into a room, everybody’s excited. And the excitement is very big,” she said. STORY OF THE WEEK: A Monroe County circuit judge rules that Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “It looks like a bunch of cockroaches that just got sprayed with Raid. They’re spinning around going nowhere fast.” — Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan on “ganjapreneurs” attracted to Florida by a new law legalizing a strain of non-euphoric marijuana and by a proposed constitutional amendment — bankrolled by Morgan — that would allow doctors to order traditional medical marijuana for patients. by Dara Kim, The News Service of Florida  Read More →

July 19, 2014 | Read the story »

Wahoos Snap Skid

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos broke a 1-1 tie with seven runs in the fifth inning on their way to snapping a five-game losing streak with an 8-3 win over the Jacksonville Suns on Friday night at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. Wahoos starter, Robert Stephenson, left the game early after being struck by a line drive in the sixth inning. Juan Duran’s three run home run highlighted the big fifth for the Wahoos. It was Duran’s team-leading 12th home run of the season. The Blue Wahoos used seven hits to score the seven runs, five of those were singles. The Suns committed an error and walked one to help fuel the rally. Stephenson was struck in the right thigh by a line drive off the bat of Austin Nola leading off the sixth inning. Stephenson completed the play by picking up the ball and getting the out at first base but left the game. He walked off the field under his own power and there are no updates on his status at this time. The right-hander finished the night with just one run allowed on only two hits over 5.1 innings. He struck out one and walked one in the winning effort. Offensively, the Blue Wahoos had five hitters with multi-hit games. Ryan Wright led the charge with a 3-for-5 night. Yorman Rodriguez, Kyle Waldrop, Ross Perez and Travis Mattair all added a pair of hits each. The Suns’ Robert Morey suffered the loss. He pitched well over the first four innings, but ran into trouble in the fifth. He was charged with 6 R/ER on eight hits over 4.1 innings. Pensacola will try to make it consecutive wins on Saturday night with RHP Tim Adleman (2-4, 3.30) on the mound against Suns LHP Justin Nicolino (8-3, 3.12). First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m. CT from the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. by Tommy Thrall  Read More →

July 19, 2014 | Read the story »

Car Stolen; Burned When Lighter Sparks Stolen Gas In The Backseat

A Century man has been charged with stealing a car that was accidentally burned after an occupant used a cigarette lighter to illuminate the passenger compartment, which contained a stolen gas can. Joshua Jackson Grimes, 31, was charged with grand theft of a motor vehicle, burglary of an unoccupied structure and second degree petit theft. According to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, Grimes took a 2003 Hyundai Sonata without permission from a female on Tedder Road. Grimes allegedly drove to Wallace, AL, where he pickup up a teen male, the two of them riding around until the vehicle ran out of gas after dark. Grimes then reportedly stole a gas can containing about four gallons of gas from the carport of a residence on Highway 168. The teen said Grimes poured a “little bit” of gas into the vehicle to get the pair out of the area and then placed the gas can in the backseat of the vehicle. A short time later, the teen used a cigarette lighter to illuminate  the inside of the vehicle, igniting the gas can and inside of the vehicle. The Walnut Hill Station of Escambia Fire Rescue was dispatched to a vehicle fire with a possible burn victim on Highway 168, but the vehicle was gone by the time firefighters arrived. Grimes allegedly drove the vehicle to his home on nearby Wawbeek Road until morning and then returned the burned vehicle back to the owner’s home after daylight. According to deputies, the vehicle was charred on the inside, with a melted five-gallon gas can and a melted ice chest in the backseat. The teen male was found to have suffered burns during the incident, and the case was referred to the Department of Children and Families for further investigation. Grimes remained in the Escambia County Jail Friday without bond due to an outstanding failure to appear warrant in battery case.  Read More →

July 18, 2014 | Read the story »

New $161 Million Jail Complex Could Be Located Near Molino, Cantonment Or Beulah

The Escambia County Commission is working to find a location to build a new jail, and so far properties in Cantonment, south of Molino and in Beulah have been discussed. Locations discussed for a new correctional complex include an area at the Escambia County Road Prison in Cantonment, 100 acres located in the Beulah area  near I-10 adjacent to the Perdido Landfill, and a nearly 200 acre parcel owned by the county in the Central Commerce Park on Highway 29 south of Molino. The commission, at the request of District 5 Commissioner Steven Barry, will also send out a request for information on other possible locations. Commissioners expressed a desire to move forward as quickly as possible for a replacement for the Central Booking and Detention Facility, which was destroyed in an explosion a few months ago. For now, prisoners are be housed at facilities such as the Road Prison in Cantonment and facilities in other nearby counties — and that’s cost the county millions over time. “I don’t want to sit around here for months and months and months and talk about this and keep saying that we are going to spend an extra three almost $5 million on temporary housing and let a lot of time go by. Because if I can save a year I’ve saved almost $5 million,” said Commissioner Wilson Robertson. Constructing a temporary facility is estimated to cost up to $24 million, compared to $7.5 to $14 million to house prisoners in other counties. Relocation of the destroyed building and the main jail into a correctional complex on one of the three sites or elsewhere is estimated to have a $161 million price tag. The county is still waiting to find out if flood insurance, property insurance and FEMA money will help pay for the new jail — it will all depend on the outcome of a current federal investigation into the cause of the explosion. In the event FEMA pays up, the county will still be on the hook for 12.5 percent of the total cost plus any expansions past the pre-flood level. The explosion claimed the lives of two people — including a McDavid man — and left 184 people injured.  Read More →

July 18, 2014 | Read the story »

Escambia Man Indicted For Murder

An Escambia County Grand Jury has indicted Jarrod Cordero Blackmon for first degree premeditated murder in the death of Tabius Cardell Huff. Huff’ was found shot outside the Happy Shoppers Mart convenience store on West Jackson Street on June 22. He was pronounced deceased at the scene by Escambia County EMS. Blackman, 23, is scheduled to be arraigned late next week. He was arrested by the Linden (Ala.) Police Department and extradited back to Escambia County.  Read More →

July 18, 2014 | Read the story »

Crist Chooses Miami-Dade ‘Working Mom’ As Running Mate

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist on Thursday named Miami-Dade County party leader Annette Taddeo as his running mate, a move that could help Crist in voter-rich South Florida while appealing to women and Hispanics. The announcement was somewhat unorthodox because Crist still needs to defeat former state Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich in the Aug. 26 Democratic primary. But Crist has repeatedly said he is focused on the general election against Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Crist touted Taddeo as a working mother who runs a small business in Miami. Taddeo, 47, who was born on a U.S. military base in Colombia, also has served as chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party. “She will make an excellent lieutenant governor because as a working mom she knows Florida families are struggling to pay their bills, raise their kids, and save for retirement — and because she believes, as I do, that all Floridians deserve a fair shot at success,” Crist said in a prepared statement. But Rich, who has trailed in polls and raised relatively little money, took a shot at Crist, who served as a Republican governor before later becoming a Democrat. “Because he’s been a lifelong Republican, Charlie Crist might be excused for not knowing that Democrats typically don’t choose a running mate until they win the nomination,” Rich said. Taddeo ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2008, losing to U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. She has had an elevated profile in state party politics since Democratic Chairwoman Allison Tant tapped her to serve as one of four vice-chairs last year. At the Democrats’ annual fundraiser in Hollywood last month, Taddeo suggested that the party’s black and Hispanic caucuses needed to band together to be more effective. While black voters have traditionally been part of the Democratic base, Hispanics are a bloc that is growing in importance. “Black issues are Hispanic issues. We’re both minorities. And both of us together, united, we will go so much further than divided,” Taddeo told The News Service of Florida at the June 28 fundraiser. Taddeo also indicated she recognized the importance of Florida on the national stage, especially as Democrats look at winning the governor’s mansion as a way to keep Florida blue in the 2016 presidential election. “Florida is starting to look like the rest of America’s going to look in a very short period of time. So I think we can be an example for the rest of the nation of how important it is for all of us to unite,” she said. Like Crist, Scott picked a Hispanic from Miami-Dade County — Carlos Lopez-Cantera — when filling the lieutenant governor’s job early this year. Lopez-Cantera was the county’s elected property appraiser after serving eight years in the Florida House. Greg Blair, a spokesman for Scott’s campaign, focused on Crist when asked Thursday for a response to the Taddeo announcement. “As a lifelong Democrat herself, maybe Annette Taddeo-Goldstein can help Charlie stop the personal attacks and help him keep track of his ever-changing positions on every issue,” Blair said. Taddeo is sometimes referred to as Taddeo-Goldstein, reflecting her marriage to clinical psychologist Eric Goldstein. Susan MacManus, a political-science professor at the University of South Florida who studies state politics, said both parties think they have a shot at the Hispanic vote, and the lieutenant-governor candidates are one way to appeal to Hispanics. But MacManus also said Crist’s choice of a woman was “shrewd” as women make up a larger share of the Democratic Party than they do the Republican Party. “(There) is a tendency, particularly of younger women, to fall off in their participation in mid-term elections,” MacManus said. “But having a woman on the ticket as number two was one of the ways that Crist is distinguishing himself from the Republican ticket. So he’s trying to take advantage of the gender makeup of Florida and particularly of the Democratic Party, because he’s got to get turnout close to what it was during the (2012) presidential election, and that’s always difficult in a midterm.” Taddeo, who has an 8-year-old daughter and whose husband has two children from a previous marriage, founded a company called LanguageSpeak in 1995. The company provides translation services. While at the Democratic Party fundraiser last month, Taddeo made said she has “great respect” for Rich, Crist’s Democratic primary opponent. But Taddeo also pointed to palpable enthusiasm for Crist among Democrats. “Everybody wants a picture with him. When he walks into a room, everybody’s excited. And the excitement is very big,” she said. by The News Service of Florida Pictured top: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist on Thursday named Miami-Dade County party leader Annette Taddeo as his running mate. Courtesy image for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.  Read More →

July 18, 2014 | Read the story »

Womans Dies From June Allentown Wreck Injuries

A Milton woman passed away Thursday as a result of injuries received in a June accident south of Jay near Allentown. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 54 year old Carolyn Jordan passed away from her injuries at 10:30 Thursday morning. In the June 6 accident, the FHP said 45-year old Krista Boyd of Pace was northbound on Highway 89 near Allentown Road when she slowed and began to make a turn into Blue Basket Farms. The driver of a 2004 Chevrolet Silverado that was behind her, 63 year old Patrick James Delcambre of Jay, attempted to swerve into the southbound lane to avoid Boyd, but collided with the rear of her 2006 Toyota Sienna. Delcambre’s Silverado was then struck by a Dodge Caravan driven by Jordan, causing the Chevrolet to roll over. Delcambre was transported to Sacred Heart with minor injuries, and Boyd was uninjured. The case remains under investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol Traffic Homicide Unit.  Read More →

July 18, 2014 | Read the story »