July 24, 2016
Drivers will encounter traffic disruptions on the following state roads in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties as crews perform construction and maintenance activities.
- Interstate 10 (I-10) Widening – The outside east and westbound lane, near Exit 17 (U.S. 90/Scenic Highway) will be closed from 7 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. the week of Sunday, July 24. In addition, traffic in the inside lane will be slowed by the Florida Highway Patrol from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. in a “pacing operation.” The lane closures and pacing operations will allow construction crews to paint the Scenic Highway overpass.
- Nine Mile Road (State Road (S.R.) 10)- Lane restrictions east of Guidy Lane as crews construct a new eastbound, right and westbound, left turn lane for the shopping center Sunday, July 24 through Thursday, July 28. Lane closures will be in effect from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
- Texar Drive (S.R. 752) Pedestrian Overpass– Access to the pedestrian bridge is closed for approximately one month. Eastbound ECAT bus stops located at the pedestrian bridge will be temporarily relocated during construction to just west of N Miller Street.
- Airport Road (S.R. 750) Resurfacing- Intermittent lane restrictions from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. as crews perform paving operations between U.S. 29 and County Road 95A (North Palafox Street).
Santa Rosa County:
- I-10 Widening – Alternating lane closures, between the Escambia Bay Bridge and S.R. 281 (Avalon Boulevard/Exit 22), Sunday, July 24 through Thursday, July 28 from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. as crews continue widening work. In addition, there will be alternating lane closures on Avalon Boulevard near the I-10 interchange for bridge work.
- S.R. 87 and S.R. 89 from S.R. 4 to the Alabama line – Intermittent and alternating lane closures and slow moving operations from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. continuing through Sunday, July 31 as crews perform striping operations.
- I-10- Intermittent east and westbound lane closures between Santa Rosa County line and U.S. 90 (Nine Mile Road) from 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 26 to 5 a.m. Wednesday, July 27 as crews repair highway lighting.
- I-110- Intermittent north and southbound lane closures between Chance Street and I-10 from 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 28 to 5 a.m. Thursday, July 29 as crews repair highway lighting.
- S.R. 281 (Avalon Boulevard)- Intermittent lane closures and slow moving operations from U.S. 98 to the toll bridge from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. continuing through Thursday, July 28 as crews perform striping operations. There will be no work performed Friday through Sunday.
- U.S. 98 – Crews will perform striping operations and install raised pavement markers (RPMs) from the Pensacola Bay Bridge to Central Parkway (approximately nine miles) Sunday through Thursday nights through Sunday, July 31. Motorists may encounter minor traffic delays from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
All activities are weather dependent and may be delayed or re-scheduled in the event of inclement weather. Drivers are reminded to use caution, especially at night, when traveling in a work zone and to watch for construction workers and equipment entering and exiting the roadway.
July 24, 2016
The Greater Pensacola Chamber sent an online questionnaire to local candidates running for Escambia County Commission. Questions focus on issues affecting the business community. Below are the unedited responses from incumbent Stephen Barry and Danny Smillie, candidates for Escambia County Commission District 5.
Q1: Rate the regulatory climate for business in Escambia County. Is it good, fair or bad? Explain your answer.
Steven Barry: I would describe the business climate of Escambia County as fair, not in an equitable sense of fairness, but in the sense of the climate being better than it has been in the past, but we still need a lot of work to be a great environment for business.
Danny Smillie: Fair. So many complications, permits, and restrictions to start business. You have to have so much money and insurance to start a business. Many are going out of town because its easier to start a business.
Q2: Provide any examples of how regulations have affected the lives of county residents in a positive or negative way.
Steven Barry: One example of the impact of regulations on the community is what the Wedgewood community is dealing with today. There were decades of little or no regulation, and even when there were regulations, the enforcement was lax. Addressing the issue appropriately is taking us years.
Danny Smillie: Negative. When a family gets permit to setup a mobile home on family property who has a terminally ill family member is revoked before person dies. Try to get a carport installed and is given the run around. Sent to many offices about permits and drawings and other complicated items.
Q3: Name the top 3 specific county ordinances/regulations you would like to see eliminated. Explain why they should be eliminated.
Steven Barry: The BCC passed a new land development code earlier in 2016, with approximately 2/3 of the aggregate code volume being removed. The rewrite process was a very tedious, slow, six to seven year process. I have not heard much feedback about remaining issues the board needs to eliminate, but I am open to the idea. I want Escambia County to be a place where people and businesses attempting to invest their private capital into our community are treated as an asset, and the county senior staff leadership helps them work through their development. Private capital continuing to grow our tax base, as an aggregate figure, is absolutely integral to keeping property tax rates low.
Danny Smillie: N/A
Q4: Should Escambia County have a Human Rights Ordinance? Explain why or why not.
Steven Barry: I noticed discussion earlier this year related to the Pensacola City Council and discussing the Human Rights Ordinance, but it is not an issue which we have discussed, even in passing.
Danny Smillie: N/A
Q5: Do you see any overlap or duplication of services between the county and the city? If so, what services should be consolidated? How could these services be consolidated?
Steven Barry: I am not particularly familiar with the City of Pensacola governmental structure. However, if there is an opportunity to truly share the cost of services for some of the tax payers we both have a fiduciary responsibility to serve, then I am open to the idea. I would only support the consolidation of clearly duplicative services themselves, not the consolidation, or merger of the entities, Escambia County and Pensacola respectively.
Danny Smillie: No
Q6: How will you work to build a more collaborative environment among our elected officials? How can the county commission better work with other local and state officials to further business interests in Escambia County?
Steven Barry: I believe all of our elected representatives, regardless of the size or scope of the entity they represent, should make every effort possible to have a pleasant working relationship with each other. Many of us share common tax payers, rate payers, and constituents. I have been very supportive of joint meetings between the county and any of the other elected boards each time the issue has been up for discussion. The joint meetings require spending time with each other, and give you the opportunity to build healthy working relationships with your elected colleagues.
Danny Smillie: Have quarterly meetings. Find a way to reduce permits and the cost of the permits.
Q7: Do you believe the county allocates sufficient resources for infrastructure projects? How would you prioritize these projects and fund them?
Steven Barry: With the voters extending another term of the local option sales tax, Escambia County will have a very healthy amount of annual revenue to devote to capital projects, 35 + million. It’s important to me that our priority setting of the resources take place on the dais, with each commissioner passionately pitching for the respective needs of their district, and for their opinion of the needs of the entire county.
Danny Smillie: No. Build Escambia County new jail which will save millions of dollars being sent to Santa Rosa County. Make sure bridges, roads and evacuation routes for hurricanes are in top shape. Redistribute money, stop waste of money and make roads safe.
Q8: What would your five-year plan for Escambia County look like?
Steven Barry: Generally, a five-year plan to me means that Escambia County will be a better place to live, work, play, and raise a family than it is today. I hope to continue to have a positive impact on that vision. Specifically, in five years there are a number of infrastructure projects in District 5 I hope to see completed, or at least nearly completed:
1. Four-laning of Nine Mile Road
2. Major improvements on Muscogee Road from Highway 29 to the Alabama state line
3. Major improvements on Old Chemstrand Road from Ascend to Highway 29
4. Major improvements on Quintette Road from Highway 29 to the Santa Rosa County line, and the realignment of the intersection of Highway 95A and Quintette Road
Danny Smillie: More local business, cleaner county, less crime and better roadways.
Q9: What role should county government take in attracting new businesses to the area? Be specific.
Steven Barry: I agree Escambia County BCC has a responsibility in attracting new business to our area, but we also have a responsibility to allow the businesses which are already here, making payrolls, paying taxes, etc., to thrive. Our major responsibility related to this is to manage the financial affairs of the county in a prudent way, so that we keep taxes and fees low. We also have a responsibility for good, healthy leadership, meaning as five representatives of 300,000 citizens we should be expected to be behave well.
Danny Smillie: Be business friendly. Give exceptions on ordinances to let the business grow. As a result, the business will grow and hire more employees.
Steven Barry: OLF-8 represents tremendous potential as an economic development project. I am, and have been, very supportive of the project. Now that we have a signed agreement with the Navy related to the eventual land swap I hope we will begin to develop a master plan for exactly what it will be, in terms of the development infrastructure on the ground.
Danny Smillie: [No answer]
Q11: What should the county do with excess properties that it owns? Be specific.
Steven Barry: All the vacant or undeveloped property the county owns should fall into only two categories; First, a memorialized written intent or rationale exists, so there is a clear use or need for the parcel. Alternatively, there is no defined intent for the parcel now, or in the near future, and we should divest the parcel.
Danny Smillie: Keep the property if it can be used for county improvements. Sell the property if it can not be used for a good purpose.
Q12: Tourism is an integral part of Escambia County’s economy. In what ways can the county commission support tourism in Escambia County? Be specific.
Steven Barry: Tourism is certainly important, and from the TDT figures, the tourism industry seems very healthy. We have many instances of issues not working perfectly, so as this is going well, then I support maintaining the current system.
Danny Smillie: Make sure tourists feel safe while here. Make law enforcement visual so they will feel safe. More lighting to brighten up the city. Improve and clean roadways.
Q13: What can the county commission do to support and attract more manufacturing jobs to Escambia County?
Steven Barry: The BCC can certainly indirectly attract more manufacturing industry by being good stewards of the resources we have, keeping tax rates low, continuing to be very supportive of all of the economic incentives which are in place currently, and again, behaving well and presenting an image of the type of community where anyone would want to live, work, play, and raise a family.
Danny Smillie: Show that we are a strong, growing county.
July 24, 2016
The Powerball jackpot for Wednesday night is now estimated at $422 million.
Saturday’s numbers were 39, 5, 35, 7, 23. The Powerball was 11. Saturday’s jackpot was the ninth largest in the game’s history.
The jackpot has been won only 3 times this year compared to a dozen times in 2015.
July 24, 2016
Due to members’ growing interest in renewable energy sources – particularly solar – EREC has completed construction of an on-site solar demonstration project. The solar array is for informational purposes designed to demonstrate objective and actual data for a typical, residential-sized solar installation.
The 40-panel, roof-mount solar array at EREC’s headquarters in Jay has a generating capacity of 10.6 kW and an estimated annual output of 14,600 kWh.
This solar installation is sized to demonstrate the output needed to run the average member’s home – minus climate control during seasonal peaks.
“We chose to do the solar demonstration project because we want to be an information source for our members,” said EREC General Manager and CEO Clay Campbell. “We’re not opposed to renewables such as solar, but we want our members
to be able to make informed decisions based on actual facts in regard to the cost and benefits of solar installation.”
The solar demonstration project is owned and operated by PowerSouth EnergyCooperative, the generation and transmission facility for EREC. Members are invited to call EREC to schedule a visit to view the solar demonstration to get actual operational data to make an informed decision if they are considering solar panel installation on their property.
Pictured: An solar demonstration project installed at EREC headquarters in Jay. Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.
July 24, 2016
Blue Wahoos down Shuckers, 7-3, to clinch series.
Pensacola right fielder Sebastian Elizalde has struggled at the plate in the second half but Saturday he looked like his old self, smashing a two-run homer over the right field fence in the first inning.
Elizalde also finished the game with four RBIs, while starting pitcher Sal Romano limited Biloxi to three hits to lead Pensacola to a 7-3 victory Saturday in front of its 23rd sellout of 5,038 this at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
The former Mexican League player now has four homers and 30 RBIs and saw his batting average reverse its steady fall and go up four points to .270 in his first season in Double-A for Pensacola. He was 2-4 with two runs scored and it was his third game this season that he’s knocked in four runs.
“I always say baseball is the same everywhere,” Elizalde said. “A lot from Mexico come to states. We have a chance. We have to just try to enjoy it.”
The 24-year-old Elizalde signed with the Cincinnati Reds organization in 2013 and is playing in his third season in the minors. He started his baseball career with four seasons in the Mexican League for the Sultanes de Monterrey.
In bottom of first inning, Elizalde got all of a fastball rocketing it over the right field wall for a two-out, two-run homer. His fourth dinger of the season also scored Alex Blandino who singled on a ground ball to left field.
Blue Wahoos shortstop Zach Vincej then drove in the third run of the first inning on a line drive that bounced off the left field wall, allowing Pensacola third baseman Taylor Sparks to score from first and give the team a 3-0 lead.
Elizalde hit a line drive to the wall in the left center gap for a stand up double in the third inning that drove in left fielder Jeff Gelalich to put Pensacola up, 4-0. Sparks then clobbered a grounder past the third baseman to score Elizalde to make the score, 5-0.
Elizalde came through one more time in the seventh inning when his ground out to second base scored Blandino to give Pensacola a 7-1 lead.
Pensacola manager Pat Kelly said Elizalde has always played well on offense and worked hard to improve his fielding. He said he could see Elizalde playing one of the corner outfield spots for the Reds one day.
“To me, he has always hit wherever he’s gone,” Kelly said.
Part of that, Elizalde said, is being able to clown around with his teammates to stay relaxed.
“We have to have fun and enjoy it, ‘cause baseball is a game,” he said. “There’s no pressure. It’s a game. Enjoy it.”
Elizalde also gave kudos to Pensacola starting pitcher Sal Romano.
In 11 starts, Romano, the Cincinnati Reds’ 23rd round draft pick in 2011, lost nine games before blanking Biloxi over seven innings for his second win of the season on July 12. He picked up his third win of the season (3-10, 4.25) by limiting Biloxi to one unearned run on three hits and two walks, while striking out three in 5.2 innings.
His three strikeouts gave him 100 for the season in 103.2 innings, making him the first Southern League pitcher to reach the mark.
Romano gave way to Pensacola relief pitcher Abel De Los Santos, who earned a save in his first Blue Wahoos appearance, with the bases loaded in the sixth. De Los Santos blew two fastballs in the low-90s past catcher Rene Garcia and then caught him looking on a 76 mph fastball.
“Those are two power arms right there,” Kelly said about Romano and De Los Santos. “When you have a breaking ball that good (like De Los Santos) and a 94 mph fastball you have a little bit of escapeability.”
Kelly said, too, that Romano has been a better pitcher than the one in the first half.
“He’s changed his pregame preparation and we’ve seen a big change in the second half,” Kelly said.
Pensacola improved to 15-14 in the second half and the first half South Division champions are 56-43 overall. Biloxi fell to 10-18 in the second half and 50-49 on the season.
July 23, 2016
Governor Rick Scott announced today that the Pensacola area added 1,700 new private-sector jobs over the year in June. The area’s unemployment rate was 5.1 percent, dropping by 0.4 percentage point in the last year.
Governor Scott said, “Florida is laser focused on creating the best environment for businesses and families to succeed, and I am proud to announce today that the Pensacola area added 1,700 new jobs over the year. We will continue to do all we can to cut taxes and encourage business growth so Florida can be first for jobs.”
The industry with the most job growth in the Pensacola area over the year was education and health services with 600 new jobs. The Pensacola area had 4,620 job openings in June, of which 1,234 were openings for high-wage, high-skill STEM occupations.
July 23, 2016
Escambia County District 5 Commissioner Steven Barry will host a town hall meeting on Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the Langley Bell 4-H Youth Center at 3730 Stefani Road in Cantonment. The open forum meeting will provide residents an opportunity to get updated information about community issues and voice their concerns or questions.
July 23, 2016
It wasn’t exactly a scripted lovefest. Unless the scripting was done by the folks who put on professional wrestling matches.
The Republican National Convention this week offered drama, shouting, villains and even a little suspected skullduggery. But in the end, Donald Trump was still standing.
Now, Trump faces the challenge of pulling together enough voters to wrest Florida and other critical states away from Democrat Hillary Clinton — who, it almost goes without saying, was the villain of all villains during the convention in Cleveland.
If there is anything that unites Republicans this year, it is a desire to keep Clinton out of the White House.
“There’s only two people on the ballot: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. … The party needs to unify. Everybody needs to support Donald Trump, and we need to have a big win in November,” Scott told reporters in Cleveland.
But Clinton isn’t backing away from the fight. As Democrats prepare to hold their convention next week in Philadelphia, Clinton traveled Friday to Orlando and Tampa to try to rally support in Florida’s crucial “I-4 corridor.”
Just moments after taking the stage for a rally in Tampa, she drew laughter and cheers when she noted all the attention she got during the GOP convention.
“It was kind of perversely flattering,” she quipped.
The Trump campaign has roiled Republican politics for the past year. Some GOP leaders, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, couldn’t bring themselves to go to Cleveland and support the billionaire businessman. Of course, it didn’t help that Trump demolished Bush and the rest of the field in the presidential primaries.
But any hopes that the convention would go smoothly didn’t last long.
On Monday afternoon, the first day of the gathering, the question of whether the convention would approve rules on a voice vote or through a roll call vote — the outcome was not really in doubt — led to a boisterous scene on the floor. Delegates traded chants over the fight, and the convention essentially ground to a standstill at one point for 10 minutes.
The highlight of the first day for Trump’s campaign seemed to be a speech by his wife, Melania, meant to highlight the softer side of Trump. But within hours, allegations were bubbling up that portions of the speech appeared to have been lifted from a similar convention address by First Lady Michelle Obama.
As might be expected, Democratic leaders were gleeful.
“Day 1 of the Republican convention was a mess on so many levels,” said Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman. “We heard a lot of anger, a lot of yelling, but no substance — just empty rhetoric and divisive language.”
GOP leaders tried to brush off the initial problems. Asked Tuesday about the situation, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam reacted with exasperation.
“You guys can’t have it both ways,” he told reporters. “You know, you bemoan the sterile, scripted conventions and then you get a very unscripted moment yesterday, and you’re complaining about that. This is anything but a conventional convention.”
The idea of a conventional convention, however, largely evaporated Wednesday night when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — another of Trump’s vanquished primary opponents — refused to explicitly endorse the GOP nominee during a prime-time speech. Cruz’s move drew heavy booing from the convention floor and led to him being vilified by many delegates.
Other Republican candidates who lost to Trump, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, backed the nominee during convention speeches.
“There was a sharp contrast between our senator from the great state of Florida, Marco Rubio, and the comments made by the senator from Texas,” Florida GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said Thursday.
Ingoglia, who is also a state House member from Spring Hill, said Cruz’s comments were “unfortunate” and suggested the implied snub of Trump and the reaction to it might have been what Cruz had in mind.
“I don’t know if that was intended,” Ingoglia said. “But if that was what was intended, I would say that it was extremely unstatesmanlike.”
FLORIDA IN FOCUS
Clinton’s trip Friday to Orlando and Tampa reinforced Florida’s critical role in the November election. It was her chance to quickly fire back after the GOP convention and to try to gain momentum before the Democratic convention.
But Trump enjoys enthusiastic backing from Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, both of whom received speaking slots Wednesday night at the convention. At least in part, they followed Trump’s line of attack against Clinton and President Barack Obama.
Scott, for example, cast in stark terms the stakes of the choice between Trump and Clinton.
“But this election is not actually about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton,” he said. “In fact, it’s not the election of you or me. This election is about the very survival of the American Dream.”
Bondi, in part, touched on the future of the U.S. Supreme Court, something aimed at rallying social conservatives behind Trump. The next president could fill a seat left vacant by the death of conservative stalwart Antonin Scalia and likely will replace some other current justices on the court.
“Hillary will stack the Supreme Court with liberal justices who will allow government to continue its rampage against our individual rights, with utter contempt for our Second Amendment,” Bondi said. “I know Donald, and I am proud to know Donald. He will appoint conservative justices who will defend rather than rewrite our Constitution.”
Not all of the Florida politicking at the convention, however, involved Trump’s bid for the White House. Speculation also swirled about the futures of other Florida political figures such as Putnam, who is widely expected to run for governor in 2018.
Former Republican Congressman Allen West addressed Putnam’s future when he stepped to the podium for the opening prayer at a delegation breakfast Tuesday. West began by talking about how Putnam got him an opportunity to speak before the U.S. House GOP caucus when West was considering a run for Congress.
“I want to tell you right now, when you decide to run for governor, I’ll be right there supporting you,” West told Putnam, setting off applause from the crowd.
Putnam, however, was hardly the only GOP official weighing his future. Scott is reportedly thinking about a campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in 2018. And potential down-ballot candidates are also starting to consider what to do.
Outgoing House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said Tuesday he would make a decision “over the next several months” about what his future in public office might be — with one likely option being a run to replace Putnam as agriculture commissioner. Crisafulli comes from a family with deep roots in the state’s citrus industry.
For now, Crisafulli said he’s looking to finish his administrative duties as speaker before leaving office in November.
“I’ll have that opportunity to go home and speak more with my family about it,” he said of a future run. “There’s no secret that the commissioner of agriculture position is something that I’ve taken some interest in just because of my family background and history.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Everyone knows that we are the most important swing state in the nation. And you’re seeing that not only in the speakers that are here, the speakers that are on the main stage, but how the state of Florida is being treated.” — Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia.
by Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida
July 23, 2016
The Biloxi Shuckers got the better of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos lineup Friday, allowing just two hits in a 3-2 victory over Pensacola in front of 4,612 fans at Blue Wahoos Stadium. The Shuckers snapped a five-game losing streak with the win.
The Blue Wahoos had the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning and were down by just one run with its leading home run hitter, Brandon Dixon, at the plate.
Pensacola manager Pat Kelly said he had confidence Dixon would get a hit.
“I’ll take my chances with Dixon and the bases loaded,” Kelly said. “The eighth inning was a huge chance to win the game.”
But the best chance in the game to score for the Blue Wahoos, who earned just two hits in the game, was a missed opportunity. Dixon is now 1-7 with three strikeouts this season with the bases loaded.
Pensacola dropped to 14-14 in the second half and the first half South Division champions are 55-43 overall.
Biloxi starting lefty Wei-Chung Wang started the game by striking out the first five Blue Wahoos hitters he faced. He ended up striking out a career-high nine in 6.1 innings. He gave up just two hits and one walk and allowed one run on a solo blast by Pensacola catcher Joe Hudson.
Wang has now won three of four games against Pensacola this season. The native of Taiwan improved to 5-5 in 17 starts for the Shuckers and lowered his ERA to 3.61.
“He’s very deceptive,” Kelly said. “He changes speeds. His fastball ranges from 87-to-94 (mph). I don’t think he gets the credit for being very good. He has better stuff than people think.”
Meanwhile, Jackson Stephens, who dropped to 6-9 this year, also threw a solid start. He gave up two solo homers among seven hits allowed, walked two and struck out four in six innings pitched.
“Two solo home runs usually don’t beat you,” Kelly said.
One of those homers was by center fielder Brett Phillips, who snapped a 0-27 skid Friday, by going 3-5 with a run scored, stolen base and two RBIs. He also hit a two-out single in the seventh to drive in left fielder Johnny Davis for Biloxi’s third run of the game. The other homer was hit by second baseman Tom Belza.
“He’s a good hitter,” Kelly said about Phillips. “You’re not going to hold him down forever. He made some adjustments. He widened his stance with two strikes. Now, we have to make some adjustments to him.”
Pensacola took advantage of four walks in the eighth inning. Blue Wahoos center fielder Beau Amaral drove in the only other run on a sacrifice fly near the warning track in center field with the bases loaded that scored right fielder Jeff Gelalich and advanced the other two runners on base.
July 22, 2016
The Florida Highway Patrol is looking for a hit and run drive that struck a juvenile pedestrian early this morning.
Brianna Nicole Marks, 15, was crossing Pine Forest Road at Citation Drive about 4:25 a.m. when she was struck by a northbound vehicle that fled the scene. The vehicle should have extensive front end damage according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Marks was transported to Sacred Heart Hospital where she remained in critical condition. The FHP has not said why Marks was out at 4:25 a.m.
Anyone with information on the crash is asked to call the Florida Highway Patrol at (850) 484-5000.