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Traffic Shift On Pineville Road

Traffic Shift On Pineville Road

Traffic on Pineville Road in North Escambia will be transitioned to the completed roadway and bridge over Brushy Creek Monday, December 22. Drivers can expect intermittent lane closures as crews make preparations to open the new bridge to traffic. The $1.1 million bridge project funded by the Florida Department of Transportation has been under construction since July. Pictured: A temporary bridge was put in place last July  next to the now demolished and replaced Brushy Creek Bridge on Pineville Road.  NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.  Read More →

December 20, 2014 | Read the story »

Gulf Power Gives Back To America’s Heroes

Gulf Power Gives Back To America’s Heroes

Gulf Power presented $63,400 to two local charities today in support of veterans in the Escambia County area. The money was raised from its second annual Clay Shoot for America’s Heroes held in November at the Santa Rosa Shooting Center in Pace. Two checks for $31,700 were presented to the two organizations at Gulf Power’s headquarters. The clay shoot raised money for Building Homes for Heroes and Gulf Coast Veterans In Need — two charities that provide assistance to wounded military members and their families in Northwest Florida. “Many disabled veterans have nothing in their life to call their own or to be proud of. This support enables veterans to begin anew and start living life the way it should be,” said Army Sgt. Joshua Hamilton, who will receive a home from Building Homes for Heroes on Dec. 27. Building Homes for Heroes gives mortgage-free homes to wounded American service members. Locally, five homes have been given or pledged with plans for several more in Northwest Florida. Gulf Coast Veterans In Need supports severely injured veterans in the Pensacola Bay Area. The group works with individual service members to coordinate benefits, community resources and family needs and determines the level and type of additional assistance. Each charity will receive a check raised through Gulf Power’s Clay Shoot for America’s Heroes event. “The Gulf Power fundraiser and the Building Homes for Heroes organization has meant the world to us,” said retired Army Spc. Anthony Stroup. “It has given us the opportunity to build a solid foundation for our family and make new lasting memories together. Our family has moved 14 times in eight years, so now our children will have the chance to grow up in the same house in the same school district, and will be able to make lifelong friendships. We have a chance as a married couple to secure our future and provide the lifestyle we never had growing up.” Close to 80 volunteers from Gulf Power and the community hosted the clay shoot on Nov. 6 with 35 teams of sportsmen and women gunning for clays. Twenty-five sponsors showed their support to make the event possible and volunteers launched clays and scored endless rounds of shots from 130 participants. “There was terrific response from the community and once again we have selected two great causes that provide much needed support to our military veterans,” said Sandy Sims, Gulf Power manager of Community Relations. “Our employees are proud to support groups that support our military friends and neighbors — and the key is that our partners in the community feel the same way.” Pictured: Gulf Power presented donations for $31,700 each Friday to Gulf Coast Veterans in need (below) and Building Homes for Heroes (top).  Pictured inset: Gulf Power CEO Stan Connally chats with Army Sgt. Josh Hamilton, one of two area veterans receiving a home through the Building Homes for Veterans charity. Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.  Read More →

December 20, 2014 | Read the story »


FWC Law Enforcement Report

The Florida FWC Division of Law Enforcement reported the following activity during the weekly period ending  December 18 in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. ESCAMBIA COUNTY Officers Livesay and Miller along with Investigator Goley worked a detail targeting night hunting in an area where multiple complaints have recently been received. From a concealed location, Officer Livesay observed occupants of one vehicle quickly shine a small light in multiple locations attempting to disclose deer.  Officer Livesay stopped the vehicle and discovered a rifle in the front seat between two subjects. After questioning, one of the subjects admitted they were trying to kill a deer.  Officer Livesay seized the gun and light and issued notice to appear citations for the violation. Lieutenant Lambert was given the last name and vehicle description of two subjects that had illegally killed two doe deer at night.  Both deer were shot with a .22 caliber rifle, five days apart.  Neither deer was recovered by the subjects, but both deer were found the day after they were shot.  Several hours after receiving the tip, Lieutenant Lambert observed one of the suspects shining a light attempting to disclose deer on the same road where one of the deer was shot earlier in the week.  At that time, the subject did not have a gun in his possession, but after being questioned, admitted to killing the two illegal deer.  After obtaining a written confession, Lieutenant Lambert traveled to the second subject’s house and obtained a second written confession.  The rifle was seized and charges were filed on both subjects for two counts of taking deer at night with a gun and light. Officers Cushing and Barnard were on water patrol on the Escambia River. They received a complaint regarding multiple bait sites in the Escambia River Wildlife Management Area (WMA). While investigating this complaint, they came across a vessel in the described area. As they were getting out of their vessel on the bank, they observed a subject carrying an automated barrel feeder back to his boat. When confronted, he denied having any previous knowledge of the equipment. He stated that he was removing it from the area because he knew it was a violation. An inspection of his boat revealed a hand-held seed broadcaster with corn in it. Two areas were located with corn and hunting equipment in the immediate area. After a thorough investigation, the officers obtained a written statement from the subject and a citation was issued for placing bait in the WMA. In addition, one citation for an expired registration and several warnings for other boating safety and hunting violations were issued. SANTA ROSA COUNTY Officers Clark and Cushing and Federal Officer Demesillo were patrolling Gulf of Mexico federal waters in the FinCat (off-shore patrol vessel). Of the boats they inspected, three were found to be in violation. Federal citations were issued for possession of red snapper, gray triggerfish, red grouper, and gag grouper during a closed season. 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.  Read More →

December 20, 2014 | Read the story »


Rain Possible All Weekend

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast: Saturday A 50 percent chance of showers. Cloudy, with a high near 57. North wind around 5 mph. Saturday Night A 20 percent chance of rain. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 47. North wind around 5 mph. Sunday A 40 percent chance of rain, mainly after noon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 62. North wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the morning. Sunday Night A 50 percent chance of rain. Cloudy, with a low around 50. Calm wind becoming northeast around 5 mph. Monday A 30 percent chance of rain. Partly sunny, with a high near 68. Calm wind becoming south around 5 mph in the afternoon. Monday Night A 40 percent chance of rain. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 55. Southeast wind around 5 mph becoming calm. Tuesday Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 67. Calm wind becoming south around 5 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 60%. Tuesday Night A 40 percent chance of rain. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 44. West wind 5 to 10 mph. Wednesday Mostly sunny, with a high near 56. Wednesday Night Mostly clear, with a low around 38. Christmas Day Sunny, with a high near 61. Thursday Night Partly cloudy, with a low around 45. Friday A 20 percent chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 67.  Read More →

December 20, 2014 | Read the story »


Scott Says Florida Has Reached His 2010 Jobs Goal

Gov. Rick Scott declared Friday that Florida has reached his 2010 campaign goal of creating 700,000 jobs within seven years, as the state’s unemployment rate was posted at its lowest rate since May 2008. Four years ago, Scott’s jobs pledge was accompanied by the line “on top of what normal growth would be,” a phrase abandoned by the governor shortly after he took office but not forgotten by Democrats. Scott’s declaration that the campaign pledge has been achieved came tied to the monthly jobs report from the state Department of Economic Opportunity, which put Florida’s unemployment mark at 5.8 percent in November, down from 6.0 percent a month earlier. The state rate is even with the national figure. The state’s unemployment report estimated that 38,600 private-sector jobs had been created between October and November, the most in a single month since Scott took office at the start of 2011. The monthly gains were primarily found in services fields, from hotel accommodations and the food industry to health care. The latest numbers also pushed the number of private-sector jobs added in the state to 715,700 since December 2010, “far surpassing (Scott’s) goal to create 700,000 jobs in seven years,” the state report declared. “Four years ago, we unveiled an ambitious plan to fix Florida’s economy and turn the state around,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “Our goal was to create 700,000 jobs in seven years. Today our goal was reached three years early, with 715,700 private-sector jobs created in Florida since December 2010.” The release from the governor’s office was titled: “Gov. Rick Scott: Florida did it!” When Scott took office, the unemployment rate stood at 11.1 percent. Democrats on Friday called Scott’s mission-accomplished release a “lie,” saying Scott’s 2010 pledge included the caveat of being on top of normal growth as predicted by state economists. “It’s a fraud against the people of Florida, and an insult to everyone who can’t find a job this holiday season,” Joshua Karp, communications director of the Florida Democratic Party, said in an email. When the campaign pledge was made, it was immediately viewed as a high bar as the goal was on top of the roughly 1 million jobs economists said Florida will add during that time through normal growth and business expansion. Sean Snaith, the director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness, acknowledged that Scott’s campaign pledge has “come back to haunt him,” but called Scott’s claim “valid.” “We have solid measurements of payroll jobs and we know when he took office and we can count the number of jobs added to payroll since then,” Snaith said. “The fog goes back to some point that there was some claim that this would be on top of the normal jobs, which I don’t know how anyone could know.” When Scott took office, there were 1.1 million Floridians considered out of work from a labor force of 9.245 million. In the latest report, the number of jobless was down to 556,000 from a labor force now standing at 9.66 million. By Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida  Read More →

December 20, 2014 | Read the story »

Florida Gov’t Weekly Roundup: Questions About Jobs, Jeb And Marriage

Florida Gov’t Weekly Roundup: Questions About Jobs, Jeb And Marriage

One of Gov. Rick Scott’s first and most heavily debated promises was back in the headlines Friday, as the governor claimed he had reached his goal of creating 700,000 jobs — and critics quickly noted that the original pledge was a bit more robust than that. It was a fitting end to a week full of open questions, often about semantics, that never seemed to get resolved. Former Gov. Jeb Bush announced he would “actively explore” running for president — which many observers saw as a precursor to a formal bid for the 2016 GOP nomination, though Bush still hadn’t officially thrown his hat in the ring by week’s end (and wasn’t expected to for a while). At the same time, longtime Bush-watchers were questioning the national media’s rush to label the state’s former leader a “moderate.” Attorney General Pam Bondi continued her fight to prevent same-sex marriage from taking effect in Florida — but the clock was running toward an early 2015 beginning for nuptials, and the courts largely remained quiet. Perhaps, like everyone who doesn’t breathe politics, they were simply out doing some Christmas shopping. 700,000 JOBS — GIVE OR TAKE A MILLION It was notable enough in Friday’s monthly jobs report that the state’s unemployment mark fell below 6 percent for the first time since May 2008, before the financial market crash that triggered one of the worst economic downturns in American history. The jobless rate checked in at 5.8 percent in November. But the numbers also gave Scott something to crow about: He claimed that the state had created 700,000 jobs since he took office, a fulfillment of the 7-7-7 pledge he made to voters during his first campaign for the governor’s mansion in 2010. Never mind the fact that not all of the seven steps that Scott had claimed would lead to 700,000 jobs in seven years were fully enacted. And never mind caveats about how many jobs he actually promised. “Four years ago, we unveiled an ambitious plan to fix Florida’s economy and turn the state around,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “Our goal was to create 700,000 jobs in seven years. Today our goal was reached three years early, with 715,700 private-sector jobs created in Florida since December 2010.” Not so fast, Democrats countered. “It’s a fraud against the people of Florida, and an insult to everyone who can’t find a job this holiday season,” Joshua Karp, communications director of the Florida Democratic Party, said in an email. The dispute dates back to one of Scott’s debates with then-Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, his Democratic opponent in 2010. “So, our plan is seven steps to 700,000 jobs,” Scott said during that debate. “And that plan is on top of what normal growth would be.” The moderator, Antonio Mora, pushed Scott a bit. Economists expected the state to add about a million jobs, so another 700,000 jobs would mean that Florida would have an additional 1.7 million openings over the next seven years, Mora noted, in a state where 1 million people were unemployed at the time. Scott didn’t correct Mora. “We’re going to grow the state,” he responded, then began ticking off the virtues of doing business in Florida. Even before this year’s campaign, when Scott’s biggest talking-point was his record of job creation, the exchange with Mora was repeatedly walked back after the governor settled into office. In a statement issued in October 2011, Scott said his promise was “the creation of 700,000 jobs over seven years regardless of what the economy might otherwise gain or lose” — a slight change in phrasing that altered the meaning of the promise. By the original count, Scott still has plenty of work cut out for him in his second term. But Friday showed that Scott will stick to his revised promised. The question is whether Democrats will want to keep holding him to what he said in 2010, or move on to other fights. ‘ACTIVELY EXPLORING’ With all the policy speeches and newspaper stories bubbling up about the presidential ambitions of the man they once called Jeb!, one could be forgiven for thinking that Bush had already begun to “actively explore” whether to run for the nation’s highest office in 2016. But that step actually happened this week, as Bush announced Tuesday on his Facebook page. That alone was a sign of how much politics had changed since Bush’s last bid for public office in 2002, before Mark Zuckerberg had begun building the website that would become Facebook. In his post to the social media site, Bush wrote about spending time with his wife, Columba, children and grandchildren at Thanksgiving. “We also talked about the future of our nation,” Bush wrote. “As a result of these conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs, I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.” National political reporters hailed the news as the latest signs of hope for the Republican establishment, and perhaps the now-endangered species of GOP moderates. That puzzled Floridians who had long considered Bush a rock-ribbed Republican who backed school vouchers, tax cuts and efforts to keep life support hooked up for Terri Schiavo, a woman diagnosed by doctors as being in a persistent vegetative state. “I think what’s intriguing and I’m sure y’all have been reading the national media (reports) that Jeb is a moderate or middle of the road, and — y’all covered him,” Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said skeptically during a meeting with reporters. Democrats were all too happy to make the same point, hoping to ding the brother of the last President Bush and lessen the chances that there would be another one. “Here’s the good news: With this announcement, Americans are going to get their first chance to learn about Jeb Bush,” said Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant. “As Florida governor, Jeb was a partisan extremist who fought to privatize public education and abused the power of government to interfere in private medical decisions in the Terri Schiavo case.” YES OR NO ON GAY MARRIAGE? While the political maneuvers over jobs and presidential ambitions continued, a legal battle to decide whether gay couples can marry in Florida also kept moving. On Monday, Bondi asked the U.S. Supreme Court to place a hold on same-sex nuptials, which could begin Jan. 6 unless an extension of the state’s ban is approved. Bondi’s request came less than two weeks after a federal appeals court rejected her effort to at least temporarily extend the gay-marriage prohibition, which U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled in August was unconstitutional. Hinkle placed a stay on his decision to allow time for appeals in three cases then pending before the Supreme Court. Bondi asked the Supreme Court to keep the hold in place until Florida’s appeals run out or until the justices rule in similar cases. The Republican attorney general is asking justices to intervene to avoid confusion and to “maintain uniformity,” her spokeswoman Jenn Meale said in a memo accompanying the filing. “In a continuation of the effort to maintain uniformity and order throughout Florida until final resolution of the numerous challenges to the voter-approved constitutional amendment on marriage, the Attorney General’s Office filed with the United States Supreme Court an application to extend the stay,” Meale wrote. Unsurprisingly, lawyers for same-sex couples asked the high court Thursday to reject that request. “Every day that the couples we represent and the thousands of families across Florida who are also denied the protections of marriage go without those protections, they are suffering real harm, as Judge Hinkle’s order made plainly clear,” said Daniel Tilley, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, in a prepared statement announcing the Supreme Court filing. But access to marriage for gay couples could be complicated regardless of whether Hinkle’s stay expires. Lawyers for the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers have advised county officials statewide not to issue marriage licenses “until a binding order is issued by a court of proper jurisdiction” and warned the clerks that they could be subject to criminal prosecution if they allow gay couples to wed. “We realize that it may seem to many that Judge Hinkle’s federal district court ruling that Florida’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional and violates fundamental rights would permit all Florida clerks of court to lawfully issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” the lawyers wrote in the Monday memo, an update of an analysis the clerks’ lawyers provided in July. But, the lawyers wrote, “our review of the law indicates that an order and injunction issued at the federal trial level is not binding on any person, including a clerk of court, who is not a named party in the action.” Hinkle’s ruling only applies to the Panhandle’s Washington County, where one of the gay couples in the lawsuit resides, Greenberg Traurig lawyers Fred Baggett, John Londot, Hope Keating and Michael Moody wrote. STORY OF THE WEEK: Despite objections by Democrats, Gov. Rick Scott announced that he had reached his goal of creating 700,000 jobs. QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “What does the cause of (Cuban) liberty get in return for that?”—State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, on the possibility of the Cuban government opening an embassy in Washington, D.C., following President Barack Obama’s decision to re-establish diplomatic ties with the island nation. by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida  Read More →

December 20, 2014 | Read the story »

Escambia Man Charged With November Murder

An Escambia County man was charged Friday morning with a November murder. Reginald Sherrod Williams, 24, was chared with homicide in the November 25  death of 22 year old Nicolas Baer on Galvin Road. Beer was discovered deceased on the floor of a residence in the 1500 block shortly before 3:00 pm. Narcotics were also recovered from the residence according to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. At the time of the homicide, Williams was the suspect in a home invasion which occurred in the 400 block of Shiloh Drive on November 24. He was arrested on November 26 on multiple charges in that case.  Read More →

December 19, 2014 | Read the story »

Attemped Kidnapping At Elementary School Under Investigation

An attempted kidnapping is under investigation at an Escambia County elementary school. About 4 p.m. Thursday, deputies responded to Warrington Elementary school where a juvenile male victim said he was playing in the rear of the school when he was approached by a man who was smoking and armed with a knife. The victim said the man grabbed him and carried him to a fence that runs behind the school. The victim told deputies that the suspect then let him go and fled the area. The suspect was described as a light-skinned male with long straight hair down to his elbows and blue eyes. He had no visible scars or facial hair. At the time of the attempted kidnapping, the suspect was wearing a blue short-sleeve shirt, black jeans, white tennis shoes and a purple cowboy hat. According to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, there have been no further reports involving the man, but citizens should be alert. Anyone with information on the identity of the suspect is asked to call Crimestoppers at (850) 433-STOP.  Read More →

December 19, 2014 | Read the story »

Ernest Ward Middle Names December Students Of The Month

Ernest Ward Middle School has named Students of the Month for December. They are (L-R) Amaya Stallworth, seventh grade; Kayley Lashley, sixth grade; and Kaylin Glenn, eighth grade. Photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.  Read More →

December 19, 2014 | Read the story »

One Injured In Cedartown Road Wreck

One person was reported to be injured in a single vehicle accident just before 7:00 Thursday night on Cedartown Road near Allen Circle.  The injuries were not considered life threatening. Further information has not been released by the Florida Highway Patrol as they continue their investigation. NorthEscambia.com photo by Kristi Price, click to enlarge.  Read More →

December 19, 2014 | Read the story »

Nine Mile Road Ticket A Winner In Fantasy 5 Drawing

Someone is over $54,000 richer this morning thanks to  a winning Florida Lottery Fantasy 5 ticket from a Nine Mile Road store. The free Quick Pick ticket from the Publix on West Nine Mile Road at Pine Forest Road,  was one of four winning tickets sold for Thursday night’s drawing worth $54,467.31. Other winning tickets matching all five numbers was sold in Cape Coral, Dunnellon and Miami. The 287 tickets matching four numbers won $122 each. Another 9,461  tickets matching three numbers are worth $10 each, and93,324   tickets holders won a Quick Pick ticket for picking two numbers. Saturday’s winning numbers were 2-10-16-22-31.  Read More →

December 19, 2014 | Read the story »

Mirror Image: Sunset At Lake Stone

Pictured: The setting sun slips behind the trees Thursday evening at Lake Stone in Century. Lake Stone is a 130 acre man-made lake constructed in 1967. It has an average depth of six feet and a maximum depth of 22 feet. The 100 acre park, owned by Escambia County, includes a campground and boat ramp. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.  Read More →

December 19, 2014 | Read the story »

Two Pedestrians Struck On Bayou Boulevard Now In Stable Condition

Two pedestrians remain hospitalized in stable condition after they crossed the road in front of an SUV Wednesday night and were struck by the vehicle. The incident occurred around 7:15 p.m. on Bayou Boulevard near the north entrance to Applebee’s. Soul Danh, 70, of Pensacola was eastbound on Bayou Boulevard in a Toyota 4Runner and was merging into a turn lane to go north on Ninth Avenue when the pedestrians walked in front of him, said Pensacola Police Officer Dan Bell. Bell said a 39-year-old woman was talking on her call phone while she and her four children walked across the road. The woman’s five-year-old daughter was also struck by the vehicle and was in critical condition Wednesday night. Officer Jason Browning said the pedestrians, who were crossing the road from south to north, were not in a crosswalk. Browning said the incident remains under investigation.  Read More →

December 18, 2014 | Read the story »

Scott, State Workers Still At Odds Over Drug Testing

After racking up more than $650,000 in legal fees, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is refusing to back down from his drug-testing crusade, most recently objecting to an attempt to close a drawn-out legal battle over requiring state workers to submit to urinalysis. Scott, who campaigned on the issue of drug-testing welfare recipients in his first run for governor in 2010, has lost nearly every courtroom attempt to require drug screenings for state workers and applicants for the welfare program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF. The governor asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on his employee drug-testing policy, but the court turned him down in April. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that Scott could not constitutionally justify drug testing for all types of state employees without a reason, though it said testing could occur for some workers such as those in “safety-sensitive” positions. A federal judge in Miami forced Scott and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which represents a state workers’ union, to hash out which jobs should be taken off the table. U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro appointed a special master to oversee negotiations between Scott and the ACLU. The talks dragged on for months, and special master Louis Brown’s tab is more than $100,000 so far, with the state paying $70,000 and the ACLU responsible for the rest. Now, the ACLU wants to amend its lawsuit by limiting the legal challenge to the job classes on which the governor has already relented. In its request, the ACLU argued that the workers are entitled to a final decision guaranteeing that they are not subject to suspicion-less drug testing. “At this point, the governor cannot escape the conclusions of law in the prior appeal — namely that ‘[s]urrendering to drug testing in order to remain eligible for a government benefit such as employment … is not the type of consent that automatically renders a search reasonable as a matter of law … and that the governor’s ‘generic’ interests in a ’safe and efficient workplace’ do not constitute a special need because they would otherwise eviscerate the Fourth Amendment’s individualized suspicion requirement,” ACLU lawyer Shalini Goel Agarwal wrote in the amended complaint filed late last month. But, in a response filed late Monday, Scott’s lawyer argued strenuously against cutting short the lawsuit, accusing the ACLU of trying to turn a partial victory into a total win by getting a ruling only on the types of jobs in which the governor has already agreed he can’t justify drug testing without a reason. “Its request to obtain a one-sided final judgment on a subset of positions is an attempt to side-step the orders of both this court and the Eleventh Circuit, and to deny the governor the opportunity to obtain a judgment as to the positions the union has agreed he may constitutionally drug test pursuant to (Scott’s executive order), as well as those positions he intends to establish are legally subject to testing. This strategy raises legitimate questions about the union’s motives,” attorney Thomas Bishop wrote. The state has paid Bishop nearly $180,000 since he started working on the case earlier this year. Taxpayers could also be on the hook for at least $180,000 in legal fees incurred by the ACLU. Thus far, the state has also racked up $307,883.62 in legal fees and costs in the welfare-applicants testing case, according to the Department of Children and Families. That does not include potentially hefty charges for legal fees from the ACLU. A federal appeals court earlier this month ruled that mandatory, suspicion-less drug testing of TANF applicants is unconstitutional, but Scott has not yet said whether he will appeal. In the state-worker case, Scott this summer agreed that people in more than 700 types of jobs — more than half of about 13,000 employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees including accountants, economists and translators — should not be required to undergo the drug screens without reason. Last month, Scott and the ACLU added another 203 job classes to the list. But, while Scott has agreed not to test those classes of jobs, he has not conceded that forcing state employees to undergo urinalysis is unconstitutional despite court rulings that initiated the compromises. The courts have ruled that flat-out drug testing of all state workers violates Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. But some workers, such as those who carry weapons, can be forced to submit to random urine tests if the state can show a “special interest” for doing so. It has taken a year for Scott to come up with a list of workers who meet the criteria, Agarwal said. “As we said in our motion, what plaintiff has been seeking for the three-and-a-half years is to vindicate the principle that mandatory, across-the-board testing of employees and job applicants is unconstitutional. So our motion to amend the complaint seeks to bring a close to this three-and-a-half-year long saga to establish that principle,” Agarwal told The News Service of Florida on Wednesday. “We’ve come to this point because it’s taken that long to get him to admit who it is that he can’t test.” by Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida  Read More →

December 18, 2014 | Read the story »

15 Charged In Cocaine Trafficking Ring

A drug sting has resulted in 15 total arrests from the Pensacola and Houston areas. Of those, 13 were jointly indicted on federal drug trafficking and money laundering violations. They include: Rodney D. Butler, 48; Vernetta E. Harrison, 31; Aston Ingram, 49; Antonio Blackwell, 30; Anthony Fisher, Jr., 25; Terrance D. Goodman, 38; Dexter A. Locke, 26; Michael A. McCants, 27; Lamarcus D. Ries, 28; Rodney D. Ries, 26; Nastassja N. Sassau, 27; Charlie N. Steans, 47; and Terrance T. Stone, 33. In conjunction with this 13 co-defendant indictment, Darius D. Williams, 24, and Marheem R. Smith, 23, of Pensacola, were separately indicted on related federal firearms charges. The indictment was announced Wednesday by Pamela C. Marsh, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. The defendants are expected to face trial in February. The indictments are part of a continuing investigation into the transportation of cocaine from Texas into Northwest Florida. The investigation was conducted by the  Drug Enforcement Administration; Homeland Security Investigations; the Internal Revenue Service; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office; the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office; the Gulf Breeze Police Department; the Pensacola Police Department; and the State Attorney’s Office.  Read More →

December 18, 2014 | Read the story »

Man Dies Two Weeks After Being Tased By Escambia Deputies

A man tased multiple times by Escambia County deputies has died. About 6 a.m. on December 1, 28-year old Cody Robert Healey was  on the campus of Sherwood Elementary School, exposing himself while wearing only a t-shirt. When deputies arrived, Healey reportedly became very aggressive and refused to follow multiple orders from the deputies.  He was reportedly banging on vehicle hoods, turning flips and throwing himself into trees. When a deputy attempted to handcuff Healey, he reportedly pulled away, elbowed the deputy and struck him multiple times. When a second deputy arrived, Healey became more aggressive and struck him in the chest and neck. When Healey continued to ignore commands from the deputies, he was tased three different times. But he continued to fight deputies and was tased two more times, allowing deputies to take him into custody. Healey then stopped breathing, and the deputies began CPR. Healey was transported to Baptist Hospital where he died two weeks later. Investigators reported find “Kick Brains”, a brand of synthetic spice drugs, in Healey’s home. Healey’s parents have spoken out, accusing the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office of their son’s wrongful death. They also said their son did not use spice. Sheriff David Morgan said his deputies did not break any policies, and he said the toxicology report, expected to take several weeks, will tell the true story. According to court records, Healey has previously been charged with resisting arrest.  Read More →

December 18, 2014 | Read the story »

Florida Republicans Blast Obama’s Cuba Moves, Dems Cautious

President Barack Obama’s decision to re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba sparked a firestorm of protest among Florida Republicans and caution among Democrats, proving that the future of America’s dealings with the island nation 90 miles away remains a sensitive issue in the state. In a noontime speech Wednesday from the White House, Obama told the nation that he had decided to normalize the United States’ relationship with Cuba after the release of Alan Gross, an American who had been held prisoner on the island for five years. While the U.S. and Cuba traded the freedom of some intelligence agents as part of the multi-pronged deal announced Wednesday, administration officials said Gross’ release was done separately on humanitarian grounds. Obama stressed in his remarks that the U.S. would still pressure Cuba, ruled by President Raul Castro, to improve its record on democracy and human rights. “But I believe that we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement,” he said. “After all, these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach.” While Obama’s actions would ease some economic and travel restrictions toward Cuba, they would not end the U.S. embargo on the island. It was hard to tell immediately how the surprising decision might play in Florida, where Cuban-Americans remain a vitally important voting bloc. Once staunchly Republican, refugees from the island and their descendants have recently begun to more evenly split their ballots between the GOP and Democrats. Nonetheless, the state’s Republican politicians — and particularly those of Cuban descent — tore into the president’s announcement. “It is a victory for the oppressive Cuban government, but a serious setback for the repressed Cuban people,” said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., at a press conference in Washington, D.C. “The White House has conceded everything and gained little.” Rubio, considered a possible contender for his party’s presidential nomination in 2016, said he would look at ways to try to block Obama’s actions as he took over chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Western Hemisphere subcommittee. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican who has begun to formally explore a bid for the presidency, also knocked the move. “The Obama administration’s decision to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba is the latest foreign policy misstep by this president, and another dramatic overreach of his executive authority,” Bush said in a post to his Facebook page. “It undermines America’s credibility and undermines the quest for a free and democratic Cuba.” Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, believed to be the first Latino to hold that position, also joined in. “I am relieved for Alan Gross and his family,” Lopez-Cantera said. “However, Cuba has a brutal dictatorship and the Obama administration’s actions only legitimize their oppressive behavior and make it harder for the people of Cuba who are fighting for democracy.” Some Cuban-Americans, though, painted their opposition less in terms of ties to the island and more in terms of what it said about the nation they now call home. “I’m really insulted, and not because my parents were political exiles, and not because I come from a long line of family (members) that fled the island, but as an American, as an American who values freedom and who values all our principles and what this country was founded on,” Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, said. Even some Democrats were cautious. “The Cuban regime continues to brutally imprison political dissidents, block access to the Internet and the free flow of information, and deny the people of Cuba free and fair elections,” said Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch, who holds a South Florida seat. “As Congress reviews the president’s proposals in the weeks and months ahead, I will do everything I can to make sure these critical human-rights issues remain front and center in this debate.” Some Democrats, though, were more supportive of the president. “As Americans, we fought two wars with Germany, experienced a terrible conflict with Vietnam and have been able to move forward each time based on concerns for the people of those countries,” said Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor, who represents a Tampa Bay-area district. “It is long past time that we do the same for the people of Cuba.” A senior administration official, speaking to reporters on a conference call ahead of Obama’s remarks, noted that attitudes among some Cuban-Americans about the U.S. approach to the island are changing. “The Cuban-American population, particularly younger generations of Cuban-Americans have increasingly supported greater openness,” the official said. ” … There’s been a continued evolution of public opinion, of opinion in the Cuban-American community.” State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Cuban-American Democrat from Miami seen as one of the rising stars in his party, said the objective was getting democracy for Cuba. “U.S. policy toward Cuba hasn’t achieved that in 50 years,” he said, before saying he would have preferred a more deliberative approach. “It really feels rushed. A lot is happening very quickly.” He pointed to the likelihood that a Cuban embassy would soon be set up in Washington. “What does the cause of (Cuban) liberty get in return for that?” Rodriguez asked. by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida  Read More →

December 18, 2014 | Read the story »

Bratt Second Graders Present ‘A Place In The Christmas Choir’

Bratt Elementary School second graders recently presented their Christmas musical  “A Place in the Christmas Choir”. For a photo gallery, click here. Photos by Blair Scott for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.  Read More →

December 18, 2014 | Read the story »

Scottish Rite Winterfest This Weekend At Equestrian Center

The first annual Scottish Rite Winterfest will be held Friday and Saturday the Escambia County Equestrian Center on Mobile Highway. The event will include two full days of festivities, live music, cajun food, dancing, kids activities and vendors.  Free Parking and admission for kids under 12. The schedule of events is as follows: Friday December 19 9:00 AM Gates open for Vendors and Stage Crew setup, ticket agents and ushers 11:00 AM Gates open to Public 11:30 AM Opening Ceremonies 1:45 PM Exit 105 Band 2:30 PM Kids Hip-Hop dancers 3:00 PM Brooke Woods 4:15 PM Brooke Woods 5:00PM Belly Dancers 5:30PM Emerald Coast Blues Brothers 6:15 PM Break and announcements 6:30 PM Emerald Coast Blues Brothers Saturday December 20 10:00 AM Gates open to Vendors and S.R. W.F CREWS 10:00 AM Gumbo Cook-Off start warm up of Gumbo 11:30 AM Gates open to Public Noon Opening Ceremonies 12:30 PM Hula Dancers/ Gumbo judging begins 1:00 PM C and L Band 1:45 PM Brooke Woods Students 2:15 PM C and L Band 3:00 PM Brooke Woods Students 3:30 PM Shades of Blue Band 4:15 PM Gumbo Cook-Off Trophy Presentation 4:45 PM Shades of Blue Band 5:30PM Present Thank You Plaque to County Commissioner Wilson Robertson 5:45PM Nouveau Cajun Xpress  Read More →

December 18, 2014 | Read the story »

Cantonment Disturbance Ends With Gunfire

There were no serious injuries in a disturbance that ended with gunfire Tuesday night in Cantonment. Just before 6:30 p.m., Escambia County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a shots fired disturbance in the 900 block of Muscogee Road. Upon arrival, deputies determined several individuals had been fighting in front of the residence and a handgun was discharged in the air in an attempt to stop the fighting, according to a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office. One person was later transported to the hospital with very minor injuries sustained in the fight. Further details have not been released.  Read More →

December 17, 2014 | Read the story »

Progress Continues On New Escambia 4-H Facility; Barn Contracts Let

Progress is continuing toward the completion of the new Escambia County 4-H facility on Chalker Road in Molino, with the Escambia County Commission recently approving a contract to construct six pole barns on the property. Six companies bid on the on the installation of one 40×60-foot, two 30×60-foot  and three 24×48-foot pole barns on the 4-H property located at Chalker Road and Highway 99. Low bidder on the project was J. Miller Construction Company at $82,196.91. Other bids ranged from $91,500 fro Trammell Construction to $140,000 from Dominguez Design-Build. The site includes two parcels — a 79.5 acre lot that already includes a covered barn and will be home to most 4-H activities and a 28.7 parcel that will be used for livestock activities. Construction should be complete within one to three years on facilities set to include restrooms, a small classroom, nature trails, campsites for tent camping, fire pit for outdoor cooking and group events, bird blind, archery area, low ropes course, a horse arena, and livestock facilities for shows, clinics, animal science seminars and field days.  The facility will also allow 4-H’ers to study astronomy, meteorology, animal science, plant science, soil science, water quality, health sciences, environmental science and more. In 2012, the children and teens on the 4-H County Council voted to sell their 240 acre Langley Bell 4-H Center to Navy Federal Credit Union. Pictured: An open house was held at the new Escambia County 4-H property in Molino last June. NorthEscambia.com file photos, click to enlarge.  Read More →

December 17, 2014 | Read the story »

Home For The Holidays: A Christmas Surprise

Two Escambia County elementary school students received a special surprise Tuesday. They thought their uncle was still deployed overseas in Japan, but he had a Christmastime surprise for second grader Penelope Saxton and her brother, kindergarten student Riley Saxton. They were together in a classroom at Scenic Heights Elementary School when their uncle, Airman Ean Van Gemerden, popped in from an adjacent room. After a brief pause, they off running into the arms of their “Uncle E”. Penelope was in tears, but she assured everyone that they were happy tears because her hero was home for the holidays. Van Gemerden has been deployed on the USS George Washington homeported in Yokosuka, Japan, for the past two years and is home for Christmas with his family. The family members had been in touch via occasional phone calls and Facebook posts, but this was his first chance to see – and hug – his little loved ones in a long time. Ean Van Gemerden also attended Scenic Heights Elementary School, so having the reunion at the school seemed like a fun idea to his sister, Ayla Van Gemerden. Principal Mary Ellen Wiggins and staff were happy to assist her in the coordination of the surprise. After the holidays, Airman Van Gemerden will be returning to Japan to crossdeck from the Washington to the USS Ronald Reagan. While Van Gemerden has enjoyed his time in the Navy so far, he said, “When when you travel far from home, you realize what you have been taking for granted and you really wish you were home.” Pictured top: Ean Van Gemerden shares a welcome home hug with his niece and nephew, Penelope and Riley Saxton. Pictured inset: Penelope and Riley’s mother, Ayla Van Gemerden (holding their little brother),and Ean Van Gemerden’s mom, Sara Exner, look on. Pictured below: Van Germerden visits helps with a gingerbread project. Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.  Read More →

December 17, 2014 | Read the story »

Century Council Workshop Meeting To Discuss Economic Development Plan

The Century Town Council has scheduled a special workshop meeting for this  Thursday, December 18 at 3 p.m. During the meeting, town council members and the mayor will meet with Brick Harris, co-director of the University of West Florida’s  Haas Center to discuss implementation of the town’s economic development plan. The Haas Center recently developed Century’s economic development strategic plan, funding by a $25,000 grant.  Read More →

December 17, 2014 | Read the story »

State Attorney: Deputy Justified In April Shooting

The shooting of a Pensacola man by Escambia County Sheriff’s deputy last April has been ruled justified, according to the State Attorney’s Office. During the early morning hours of April 14, deputies responded to the 3000 block of Bent Oak Road in reference to suicidal threats. Thomas Eugene Fillingim,  had been reported earlier as missing, armed and suicidal late the night before  had returned to the home. When deputies arrived on scene Fillingim was in possession of a knife and had cut his own throat from ear to ear. Fillingim, armed with a knife, lunged at Deputy Albert Kalber who discharged his service weapon in self defense. “Due to the circumstances faced at that moment in time, Deputy Kalber was justified in the use of deadly force at the time he shot Thomas Fillingim,” Assistant State Attorney Coleman Robinson concluded in his report.  Read More →

December 17, 2014 | Read the story »

Wildfire Danger Remains High

Officials with the Florida Forest Service’s Blackwater Forestry Center – serving Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties – are warning residents of the local wildfire danger level. Dry weather has led to an increase in local wildfires, with the Florida Forest Service responding to at least a dozen fires in the past week. Until substantial precipitation is received, officials said the potential for fire ignition and spread will remain high. With the increase in wildfires comes an increase in the likelihood drivers could encounter smoke on the road. Here are some tips: DRIVE WITH LIGHTS on low beam. High beams will only be reflected back off the fog and actually impair visibility even more. Your lights help other drivers see your vehicle, so be sure they all work. Keep your windshield and headlights clean, to reduce the glare and increase visibility. SLOW DOWN – and watch your speedometer – before you enter a patch of fog. Be sure that you can stop within the distance that you can see. Fog creates a visual illusion of slow motion when you may actually be speeding. Speed is a major factor in fog-related crashes. WATCH OUT for slow-moving and parked vehicles. Listen for traffic you cannot see. Open your window a little, to hear better. REDUCE THE DISTRACTIONS in your vehicle. Turn off the radio and cell phone. Your full attention is required. USE WIPERS AND DEFROSTERS liberally for maximum visibility. Sometimes it is difficult to determine if poor visibility is due to fog or moisture on the windshield. USE THE RIGHT EDGE of the road or painted road markings as a guide. BE PATIENT. Avoid passing and/or changing lanes. SIGNAL TURNS well in advance and brake early as you approach a stop. DO NOT STOP on a freeway or heavily traveled road. You could become the first link in a chain-reaction collision. If you must pull off the road, signal (people tend to follow tail lights when driving in fog), then carefully pull off as far as possible. After pulling off the road, turn on your hazard flashers (hazard lights should only be used when you pull over to show that you are parked on the side of the road). Move away from the vehicle.  Read More →

December 17, 2014 | Read the story »

Byrneville Students In Grades 3-5 Present Christmas Musical (With Gallery)

Byrneville Elementary School students in grades 3-5 presented their Christmas program – “Twinkle & Shine! A Musical That Celebrates the Light at the Top of the Tree” – Tuesday night at Northview High School. For a photo gallery, click here. For story and photos from Monday night’s grade K-2 performance, click here. Photo by Raja Atallah for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.  Read More →

December 17, 2014 | Read the story »

Escambia Health Department Lifts Mosquito Borne Illness Alert

A mosquito-borne illness alert that was issued back in August   for Escambia County has been lifted, the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County announced Tuesday. Although mosquito-borne illnesses are less common in the winter months, the health department still urges local residents to “Drain and Cover”  to protect against being bitten by mosquitoes: Drain standing water. Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers where sprinkler or rain water has collected. Water held in open containers in your house is also a potential breeding location for mosquitoes. Discard old tires, bottles, pots, broken appliances and other items that aren’t being used. Empty and clean birdbaths and pets’ water bowls at least twice a week. When protecting boats and vehicles from rain, ensure that tarps don’t accumulate water. Maintain swimming pools in good condition and keep them adequately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use. Cover skin with clothing or repellent and cover doors and windows. Clothing – Wear shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeves when mosquitoes are most prevalent. Use repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. Always use repellents according to the label. Using too much repellent doesn’t make it work better or last longer. Re-apply mosquito repellent as often as needed to prevent mosquito landings and bites. When using repellent on children, apply to your hands first and then rub on their arms and legs. Instead of repellent, use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old. Place screens on windows, doors, porches, and patios. Always repair broken screens. For more information contact the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County at (850) 595-6700 or visit www.EscambiaHealth.com.  Read More →

December 17, 2014 | Read the story »

HS Basketball: Northview Beats Jay

Northview 62, Jay 42 The Northview Chiefs beat jay 62-42 in a district game Tuesday night in Jay. Eric Williams led the Chiefs with 29, while the Royals were led by Eric Travino with 15. Northview 65, Jay 21 – JV In junior varsity action, Northview beat Jay 65-21 Tuesday. Northview will head north to Atmore Friday to take on Escambia County High School. The junior varsity games tips off at 4:30, followed by the varsity at 6:00. The Royals will host the Jay High School Christmas tournament starting on Thursday.  Read More →

December 17, 2014 | Read the story »

Jeb Bush To ‘Actively Explore’ Presidential Bid

After weeks of increasing speculation about his plans, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Tuesday he will “actively explore” a possible bid for president in 2016. Bush made the announcement on Twitter and Facebook. He wrote on Facebook about spending time with his wife, Columba, children and grandchildren at Thanksgiving. “We also talked about the future of our nation,” Bush wrote. “As a result of these conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs, I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.” Bush, who was elected governor in 1998 and served two terms, also wrote that he will establish what is known as a “Leadership PAC” in January “that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation. The PAC’s purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.” Bush, 61, made the announcement a day after giving a commencement address at the University of South Carolina — a state that plays a major role in Republican primaries. If he ultimately decides to run, Bush would seek to follow his father and brother into the White House. But Bush also would face fierce opposition from Democrats and likely from some Republicans who disagree with him on issues such as immigration reform and education policy. The Florida Democratic Party website Tuesday, for example, featured a prominent picture of Bush and touted what it said was his “awful week” that included “damning articles” in national media outlets. Bush’s Facebook post did not say when he will make a final decision about entering the race. “In the coming months, I hope to visit with many of you and have a conversation about restoring the promise of America,” he wrote.  Read More →

December 16, 2014 | Read the story »

Century Woman Charged With Selling Stolen 18-Wheeler Rims For Scrap

A Century woman is facing multiple felony charges for allegedly selling stolen aluminum commercial 18-wheeler truck rims at a Pensacola recycling facility. Madeline Hope Johnson, age 32 of Old Flomaton Road, was charged with three felony counts of knowingly providing false ownership to a secondhand metals recycler and three felony counts of dealing in stolen property. She allegedly sold 10 rims during three different trips to Wise Recycling, each worth $200 to $300, according to an Escambia County Sheriff’s Office report. Johnson told deputies that she was requested by Charles Allen Aplin to take him and the rims to the recycling business. Surveillance video shows Johnson unloading the rims and rolling them over to a set of scales to  be weighed for scrap. She told deputies that the Rims belonged to Aplin. According to deputies, Johnson was living adjacent to a trucking company that reported 16 rims stolen, 10 of which were identified as those recycled by Johnson, the report states. Alpin, 46, was charged last month with grand theft and dealing in stolen property. He remains in the Escambia County Jail without bond due to an outstanding failure to appear warrant. Johnson is being held in the Escambia County Jail with bond set at $10,000.  Read More →

December 16, 2014 | Read the story »

What’s That Smell? DEP Wants Escambia, Santa Rosa Residents To Report Odors

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Northwest District is launching an online reporting tool to gather data regarding ongoing odor complaints received from Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. The department has been investigating odor complaints since Wednesday, Dec. 10. Information currently available to the department has been inconclusive in establishing the source of the odor. The department is requesting that residents in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties experiencing any unusually strong odors report them here. The information provided through this online reporting tool will assist the department with identifying the source of the odor.  Read More →

December 16, 2014 | Read the story »