Schedule: This Week’s Escambia County Government Meetings

June 25, 2017

Here is a schedule of Escambia County meetings for the upcoming week:

Monday, June 26

Library Board of Governance, 239 N. Spring St., 4 p.m.

Tuesday, June 27

Environmental Enforcement Special Magistrate, Escambia County Central Office Complex, 3363 West Park Place, 1:30 p.m. (Agenda)

Escambia County Health Facilities Authority, 1019 N. 12th Ave., 4 p.m.

Wednesday, June 28

June Coffee with the Commissioner – Jeff Bergosh, District 1, Denny’s Restaurant, 4625 Mobile Highway, 6:30 a.m.

Development Review Committee, Escambia County Central Office Complex, 3363 West Park Place, 1 p.m.

Santa Rosa Island Authority Committee Meeting, 1 Via De Luna Drive, Pensacola Beach, 5 p.m. (Agenda)

Santa Rosa Island Authority Budget Workshop, 1 Via De Luna Drive, Pensacola Beach, 5:05 p.m. (Agenda)

Santa Rosa Island Authority Special Board Meeting, 1 Via De Luna Drive, Pensacola Beach, 5:10 p.m. (Agenda)

Scott Going To Washington Amid Health Care Debate

June 25, 2017

After U.S. Senate leaders released a proposal last week to roll back the Affordable Care Act, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he will go to Washington this week to weigh in on the issues.

“I have been carefully reviewing the bill, and…I will be traveling to Washington to meet with congressional leaders to provide input on how we can make the bill better for Floridians,” Scott said in a prepared statement. Details of the trip were not immediately announced. But the outcome of the debate in Washington could have major implications for Florida, in part because of likely changes in the Medicaid program. Scott and other Florida officials have long sought more flexibility in how the state can manage Medicaid, including possibly getting Medicaid block grants from Washington.

But some officials also have cautioned that a key question is how money would be distributed to states.

Scott, the former CEO of a national hospital company, did not go into detail about the new Senate bill but hinted at concerns about Medicaid and other issues.

“First, all states must be treated equitably,” Scott said. “Florida taxpayers deserve the same treatment as every other state under the Medicaid program. Second, every American, including those with pre-existing conditions, should have the ability to buy any kind of insurance they want. This will drive down costs and give people the flexibility and power to determine what they want to buy.” Scott and other Florida Republican leaders have vehemently opposed the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. But state Democratic leaders have lambasted the Senate bill and a health-care bill approved by the U.S. House.

“This (Senate) bill is just as bad as the House bill, taking coverage away from millions of people and making huge cuts to Medicaid,” U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said in a statement Thursday. “If that weren’t enough, it also allows insurance companies to hike rates for older Americans.”

by The News Service of Florida

Clouds, Some Rain For Sunday

June 25, 2017

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast:

Sunday: A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 86. North wind around 5 mph. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

Sunday Night: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms before 1am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 68. Calm wind.

Monday: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 86. Northeast wind around 5 mph.

Monday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 66. East wind around 5 mph becoming north after midnight.

Tuesday: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 85. Northeast wind around 5 mph.

Tuesday Night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 68. Northeast wind around 5 mph becoming calm.

Wednesday: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 85. East wind around 5 mph becoming southeast in the afternoon.

Wednesday Night: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 71. Southeast wind around 5 mph.

Thursday: A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 85.

Thursday Night: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 72.

Friday: A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 86.

Friday Night: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 72.

Saturday: A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 86.

2018 Escambia County Voter Guide Is Now Available

June 25, 2017

The Escambia County Voter Guide 2018 is now available at from the Escambia County Supervisor of Elections.

he booklet details 2018 election dates, offices to be filled and contains complete information on how to register to vote, keep voter information current, and how to vote at the polls.

The Escambia County Voter Guide 2018 can be downloaded by clicking here, or copies are available at the office of Escambia County Supervisor of Elections David Stafford at 213 Palafox Place, Second Floor.

FDOT: Weekly Traffic Alerts

June 25, 2017

Drivers will encounter traffic variations on the following state roads in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties as crews perform construction and maintenance activities.

Escambia County

· Mobile Highway (U.S. 90) Road Turn Lane Construction between Hillview Drive and Barron Miller Road-Westbound lane closure between Hillview Drive and Barron Miller Road from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday, June 26 through Thursday, June 29 as crews construct a westbound, right turn lane.

· Mobile Highway (U.S. 90) Turn Lane Construction at Woodside Road- Construction of a westbound, left turn lane on Mobile Highway to Woodside Road. There will be no lane closures within the school zone Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Work is anticipated to be complete fall 2017.

· Interstate 10 (I-10)/U.S. 29 Interchange Improvements Phase I- Drivers will encounter the following traffic impacts on I-10 near the U.S. 29 interchange (Exits 10A and 10B) from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday, June 25 through Thursday, June 29 as crews perform paving, guardrail, and shoulder work.

· Alternating eastbound lane closures.

· The U.S. 29 north to I-10 westbound ramp will be closed. Traffic will be detoured north to make a U-turn at Broad Street to access I-10 westbound.

· The U.S. 29 south to I-10 eastbound ramp will be closed. Traffic will be detoured south to make a U-turn at Diamond Dairy Road to access I-10 eastbound.

· Arthur Brown Road (County Road (C.R.) 99A) Bridge Replacement over Boggy Creek- Activities are underway.  The new bridge will consist of 11-foot travel lanes, six-foot shoulders, and a solid concrete barrier railing.  Traffic will be diverted to a temporary onsite road and bridge.  Construction is estimated to take eight months.

· I-10 Widening from Davis Highway (State Road (S.R.) 291) to the Escambia Bay Bridge- Drivers will encounter the following traffic impacts from 7 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 25 through Thursday, June 29 as crews paint barrier wall and perform paving work.

· Intermittent lane closures on I-10 east and westbound between Davis Highway (Exit 13) and the approach to Escambia Bay Bridge.

· Alternating lane closures on Scenic Highway (U.S. 90) between Whisper Way and Northpointe Parkway.

· Creighton Road (S.R. 742) Construction Improvement Project from east of Davis Highway to Scenic Highway– Intermittent and alternating lane closures between 9th Avenue and Scenic Highway from 8:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. continues as crews perform sidewalk repairs and Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades.

· Theo Barrs Bridge on Perdido Key Drive (S.R.) 292 Routine Maintenance Intermittent lane restrictions from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday, June 28 as crews install signage.   Traffic flaggers will be on site to assist with traffic control.

· Road Ranger Service Patrol on the Pensacola Bay Bridge- Service patrol vehicles are stationed on each of the bridges between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, and between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. on weekends and major holidays. At other times, at least one unit is on-call and available to respond within 30 minutes.  Road Ranger assistance on the Pensacola Bay Bridge is available by dialing the Florida Highway Patrol at *FHP (*347).

· U.S. 29 (S.R. 95) Widening from I-10 to Nine Mile Road- Alternating lane closures continue from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. on U.S. 29 between I-10 and 9 1/2 Mile Road and on Nine Mile Road near the U.S. 29/ Nine Mile Road overpass as crews perform drainage and bridge operations.

· Nine Mile Road (S.R. 10/U.S. 90A) Widening from Pine Forest Road to U.S. 29- Jack and bore operations continue on Untreiner Avenue.  Drivers can expect alternating lane closures.

· U.S. 98 (S.R. 30) Pensacola Bay Bridge Replacement- Test pile driving for the new bridge is underway.  While there are no direct traffic impacts, persons nearby may detect noise and the possibility of vibration.  Pile driving work is scheduled during daytime hours, seven-days-a-week.

Santa Rosa County

· I-10 over S.R. 87 Routine Bridge Maintenance- Eastbound lane restrictions from 8 p.m. Sunday, June 25 to 5 a.m. Monday, June 26 as crews perform routine bridge maintenance.

· I-10 from east of S.R. 87 to Okaloosa County Line- East and westbound lane restrictions at Garnier Landing Road Overpass, 2 1/2 miles west of County Road 189 (Holt/ Exit 45),  from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday as crews make bridge repairs.

· 10 Widening from Escambia Bay Bridge to Avalon Boulevard (S.R. 281) – Alternating lane closures on I-10, from the Escambia Bay Bridge to just east of S.R. 281 (Avalon Boulevard/Exit 22), from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday, June 25 through Thursday, June 29 as crews continue widening work.  In addition, alternating lane closures on Avalon Boulevard near the I-10 interchange as crews reconstruct the Avalon Boulevard overpass.

· U.S. 98 (S.R. 30) Pensacola Bay Bridge Replacement- Intermittent east and westbound, right lane closures on the Gulf Breeze approaches to the bridge from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday, June 26 through Thursday, June 29.  On Tuesday, June 27 lane restriction will take place from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Crews will be demolishing existing curb, clearing and grubbing in state owned right-of-way, placing temporary pavement, and setting barrier wall.

· S.R. 87 Multilane from Eglin AFT Boundary to Hickory Hammock RoadTraffic between County Road 184 (Hickory Hammock Road) and the Eglin AFB boundary is restricted to loads under 11-feet wide. The restriction will be in place through the completion of the project.

Drivers are reminded to use caution, especially at night, when traveling through the construction zone, and to pay attention for workers and equipment entering and exiting the work area.  All activities are weather dependent and may be delayed or rescheduled in the event of inclement weather.

Pensacola Drops Game, 3-2, to Chattanooga

June 25, 2017

Pensacola Blue Wahoos starter Deck McGuire threw eight scoreless innings, allowing five hits and striking out six.

But the Chattanooga Lookouts came back from a 2-0 deficit when catcher Dan Rohlfing was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded for a walk-off win, 3-2, Saturday over Pensacola at AT&T Field.

Gavin LaValley appeared to have given the Blue Wahoos and All-Star McGuire a 2-0 win in the top of the eighth inning when he laced a double that scored shortstop Josh VanMeter and center fielder Gabriel Guerrero.

In his first two games since being called up from the High-A Daytona Tortugas Thursday, the 22-year-old LaValley has two doubles and a homer in eight at-bats.

Meanwhile, the 6-foot-6 McGuire has shutout his opponents in four of his 11 starts this season with Pensacola.

But Chattanooga came right back in the bottom of the ninth with three runs off Pensacola reliever Geoff Broussard, who gave up three walks, three singles and hit a batter and failed to get an out.

Chattanooga DH Jonathan Rodriguez smacked a single to left field that scored right fielder Edgar Corcino to cut Pensacola’s lead to 2-1. The game was knotted, 2-2, when first baseman Andy Wilkins then hit a line drive into right field that scored left fielder LaMonte Wade. The next two batters walked and then Broussard hit Rohlfing, which scored pinch runner Alex Perez with the game-winning run, 3-2.

Pensacola has lost the first two games of the series and plays a seven-inning doubleheader with Chattanooga at 3:15 p.m. Sunday to make up for Thursday’s rained out game. The five-game series matches the South and North divisions’ first half champions.

Besides LaValley, VanMeter went 2-5 with a run scored for Pensacola. Gabriel Guerrero earned his 24th multi-hit game with a 3-4 night and one run scored. Blue Wahoos third baseman Nick Senzel, the second overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft by the Cincinnati Reds, was 2-4 for his first multi-hit game in Double-A.

Scott Signs Medical Marijuana Plan

June 24, 2017

More than seven months after Floridians overwhelmingly backed the broad legalization of medical marijuana, Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed a bill aimed at carrying out the voters’ wishes.

Lawmakers passed the bill (SB 8-A) during a special session this month after struggling to reach agreement on an implementation plan for the medical-marijuana constitutional amendment, which 71 percent of voters approved in November.

Scott’s office sent out a news release after 5:30 p.m. Friday that said he had signed the marijuana bill, along with 37 others, but did not comment. He had indicated earlier he would approve the bill.

The constitutional amendment gave doctors the authority to order marijuana for potentially hundreds of thousands of patients who suffer from debilitating conditions including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

But as is commonly the case, a plan still needed to be put in place to carry out the amendment. The bill resolves issues such as how many companies will receive marijuana licenses and how many retail outlets they can operate.

It appears likely, however, that Orlando lawyer John Morgan, who largely bankrolled the constitutional amendment, will challenge part of the bill that bars people from smoking medical marijuana. The bill would allow vaping and other methods of marijuana use.

Lawmakers who supported the smoking ban pointed to concerns about issues such as the health effects of smoking marijuana on people’s lungs. But Morgan has vowed to file a lawsuit to try to overturn the ban, saying voters envisioned that patients would be able to smoke cannabis.

“(Smoking) clearly was called for in the amendment, and so what they’ve done for me is allowed me to step back up on my soapbox and go get what the people of Florida wanted when they passed this bill with 71 percent,” Morgan told The News Service of Florida this month.

The marijuana measure was the highest-profile bill signed Friday by Scott.

Among the others was a bill that would help wireless telecommunications companies in dealing with local government regulations.

The measure (HB 687) would limit the ability of local governments to regulate types of equipment known as “small wireless facilities” in public rights of ways. The equipment is for emerging 5G technology. The bill, which becomes law July 1, drew objections from local governments, at least in part, because it would take away their authority.

by Jim Saunders and Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida

Florida Gov’t Weekly Roundup: Relationship Problems

June 24, 2017

Relationships are hard to sustain in life, and nowhere is that more true than in politics. All of the usual building, maintenance and occasional rebuilding happen under the glare of public scrutiny.

And there were plenty of relationships in the spotlight this week. Gov. Rick Scott spent part of the week trying to build relationships with companies in Connecticut, even as one of the state’s newspapers not so politely told him to get lost. chairman of the Florida Democratic Party faced some rebuilding work with African-American lawmakers who are a key constituency — something necessitated by his remark that legislators were acting “childish” at the party’s annual fundraising soiree. That news came shortly before one of the Democrats running for governor revealed that he had been forced into an unwanted relationship with the FBI.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Richard Corcoran seemed to be patching up his strained ties to Visit Florida, the state’s tourism-marketing agency. Even in public, some relationships can still blossom.


Armed with a “Florida Job Growth Grant Fund” that he technically hadn’t signed into law, Scott journeyed north early this week to try to convince Connecticut businesses that they should move to the Sunshine State.

The $85 million fund, created in a special session this month, is meant to help boost economic development. It has more restrictions than the direct incentives that Scott prefers, but it’s something he could take to Connecticut.

“My pitch is you should give up, capitulate, come to Florida and make it easier on yourselves,” Scott told a group of businesspeople and Republican state legislators at a Norwalk hotel Monday morning. “If you want to live in a place that has lower taxes, less regulations, has good universities, is less expensive, where there’s a greater chance your kids and grandkids are going to get a job, you’re going to be in Florida.”

Ahead of the trip, the job-growth fund was prominently featured in separate news releases announcing Florida’s unemployment numbers and the trip to Connecticut.

To say that Scott’s sojourn into the Nutmeg State was unwelcome would be underselling things.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy’s office sought to dismiss Scott’s trip by pointing to the Northern state’s quality of life and educated workforce.

“The truth is, no amount of money or effort will make up for the fact that Gov. Scott is leading his state in the wrong direction,” a release from Malloy’s office said. “We are happy to host Mr. Scott to show him a better way to serve his state, but if he’s expecting anyone in Connecticut to buy what he’s selling, he’s better off saving his taxpayers the cost of the trip and staying home.”

The Hartford Courant was, if possible, even more cutting.

“Here’s some advice for Florida Gov. Rick Scott: Go back to Florida and stay there,” a Courant editorial said. The paper said Florida had other numbers that were higher than Connecticut’s: “more poverty, more violent crime and more disconnected youth.”

Well, then.


At the beginning of the week, it looked like Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel might be the most-endangered member of his party in the state. But a week in politics is a long time.

Bittel started the week under fire for reportedly lashing out at African-American lawmakers when they and others complained about his decision to scrap a portion of the party’s annual fundraising dinner program featuring Democratic legislators. Some of those lawmakers saw his use of the word “childish” as racially charged.

So on Monday, Bittel met with Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, and Rep. Kionne McGhee, a Miami Democrat set to take over as leader of the party’s House caucus after the 2018 elections. The two had been harshly critical of Bittel’s remarks at the Saturday evening event.

For now, at least, it looks like Bittel will ride out the storm.

“Our meeting was productive and we are moving forward together to secure victory in 2018,” he said in a statement following the Monday meeting. “Together we are focused on electing Democrats who will stand up for working families and bring change and economic progress to Florida.”

Before Bittel’s troubles get too advanced, though, another member of his party was facing problems in the form of a federal investigation into the city of Tallahassee. Andrew Gillum, the city’s mayor, took pains to point out that he was not a target of the investigation, or even specifically named in subpoenas linked to the probe, but the uproar still threatened to be a distraction to his gubernatorial campaign.

“Last week the FBI approached me about several people and businesses here in Tallahassee,” Gillum said Friday in a statement issued by his city office. “I spoke with them, and told them they could expect both the city and my personal cooperation with their investigation. They assured me I was not the focus of an investigation, and that they would be moving quickly with their work.”

That was one day after disclosures that the city had been hit with subpoenas in an investigation that seems to focus, at least in part, on The Edison, a pricey restaurant near the heart of the city’s new Cascades Park.

The subpoenas, issued to the city and its Community Redevelopment Agency, ask for records related to about two-dozen individuals and companies, most of them involved in construction or other contracting areas. The Edison is specifically listed as one of those subjects.

So far, Gillum’s two primary opponents — former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King — have held their fire. So far.


After spending much of this spring’s regular legislative session burning just about every bridge he had outside the House of Representatives, Corcoran has made efforts during the past month to patch things up with at least some of those caught in his crosshairs.

First, he mended fences with Scott, to the point that the governor signed an education bill favored by Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, while vetoing a higher education measure pushed by Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

And now, Corcoran says Visit Florida is getting back on the right track.

“It’s clear that Visit Florida has heard us loud and clear and are beginning the process of cleaning up their act and ceasing the waste of taxpayer money,” Corcoran said in a statement Thursday.

The change of heart came after the tourism marketer took steps to reshape some of its sports deals.

The agency has given a 30-day cancellation notice to the team racing the “Visit Florida car.”

The $2.875 million contract — about $1 million has yet to be paid — is tied to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season that concludes in October with the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans in Braselton, Ga.

Visit Florida continues to negotiate for what could be a third year sponsoring the London-based Fulham Football Club, owned by Shahid “Shad” Khan.

“We are in negotiations to receive more deliverables at a lower cost,” Visit Florida spokesman Stephen Lawson said in an email about the talks with Fulham. “We are focused on deliverables, how those deliverables integrate into our larger marketing plan, and a strong return on investment.”

Corcoran’s feud with the agency was part of what sparked a budget showdown that led to an extension of the regular session and then a special session to boot.

Lawmakers during the regular session moved to cut Visit Florida’s budget. But the funding was bumped up to $76 million — nearly matching the money in the current year — during the special session.

The bill (HB 1A) providing the money also will require Visit Florida contracts valued at $500,000 to be posted online. Contracts over $750,000 will have to go before the Joint Legislative Budget Commission and could be voided within 14 days by the House speaker or Senate president. The plan also caps salaries and imposes travel restrictions on Visit Florida employees.

“We are confident with the new oversight provisions that require House and Senate approval and complete transparency, we will be able to protect taxpayers,” Corcoran said in the statement.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Federal subpoenas revealed the existence of an FBI investigation into redevelopment in the city of Tallahassee, shaking the gubernatorial campaign of Mayor Andrew Gillum.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “With all due respect, Mr. Scott, no thanks. Promises of a better climate and pictures of palm trees are nice, but there’s more to a state than its shrubbery.”—The Hartford Courant, blasting Gov. Rick Scott’s call for Connecticut businesses to relocate to Florida.

by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida

Escambia County Participates In FEMA Cybersecurity Exercise

June 24, 2017

Escambia County staff and local stakeholders participated in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Cybersecurity Incident response for IT Personnel course this past weekat the Escambia County Public Safety building, continuing the county’s dedication to being at the forefront of cybersecurity.

The three-day course for IT professionals was designed to address the specific technical skills needed for an effective response to a cyber attack, and it was only the second time the class has been offered anywhere. Staff from county, state, federal and critical infrastructure entities attended the course, which was sponsored by FEMA.

The course utilized the Metova Virtualized Cyber Classroom Environment for hands-on incident simulation, which provides many features that resemble or imitate actual cyber incidents. Topics included types of cyber incidents and threats, impacts of cyber incidents, cyber incident management, detection and analysis, recovery, cybersecurity incident response exercises and advanced cyber incident response operations.

“This is a very new kind of course in that it’s not geared towards the people that are in cyber,” District 2 Commissioner and Chairman Doug Underhill said. “This is making IT professionals more aware of what an attack looks like and how to respond to an attack. It starts to build us as a collaborative group of IT professionals having resources that you can reach back to.”

Underhill said courses like these are also important in promoting collaboration and a proactive approach to cybersecurity.

“Once you start collaborating, you start seeing the world differently,” Underhill said. “Once you start collaborating – you start putting all of your resources in, somebody else puts their resources in – barriers start dropping. We start to get ahead of the problem. Instead of responding to the hacker, responding to threats, we’re defending and building a network and community that is more resilient against those threats.”

Agencies that attended the event included Escambia County, Santa Rosa County, the City of Pensacola, First Judicial Circuit Court of Escambia County, Escambia County Clerk of Courts Office, State Attorney’s Office, Emerald Coast Utilities Authority, University of West Florida, Escambia County School District and Baptist Healthcare.

Photos for, click to enlarge.

Santa Rosa Man Gets Life For Abusing Child In Church Pantry

June 24, 2017

A Santa Rosa County man will spend the rest of his life in prison for molesting a child in a church pantry.

John Thomas Kelley, Sr., age 71 of Milton, was found guilty by a Santa Rosa County jury of lewd or lascivious molestation upon a child less than 12 years of age. Immediately following the trial, Judge David Rimmer designated Kelley as a sexual predator and sentenced him to life in prison.

In June 2016, Kelley invited the 7-year old child into a church pantry where he fondled the child.

In 1987, Kelley was convicted of three counts of lewd or lascivious assault and three counts of attempted sexual battery for crimes he committed upon two children. Due to the law in effect at the time, Kelley was not designated as a sexual  pffender or sexual predator or required to register as such.

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