National Thrift Store Day: Waterfront Mission Store Has Served Cantonment Since 2011

August 18, 2019

Saturday was National Thrift Store Day.

The first Waterfront Rescue Mission Thrift Stores was founded in 1963 to support the work of the Mission. Today, there are eight Waterfront Rescue Mission Thrift Stores, including a North Escambia location in Cantonment that opened in March 2011 at 732 North Highway 29, next to the Grocery Advantage.

NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Two Escambia Men Sentenced To 30 Years For Robbing Pizza Delivery Drivers

August 18, 2019

Two 19-year old Escambia County residents have been sentenced to prison for robbing three pizza delivery drivers last year

Circuit Judge Gary Bergosh sentenced Michael Anthony Christian, Jr., and Keith Ramone Walker, Jr., to 30 years in state prison. Christian will be required to serve a 10 year minimum mandatory sentence.

On June 17, 2018, Christian and Walker called Domino’s Pizza with a prepaid phone and gave a false address after ordering some pizza. When the driver arrived, they ambushed him and a gun was put to his head as he was ordered to the ground. Multiple items were stolen from his person and vehicle.

On June 20, 2018, Christian and Walker called Domino’s Pizza again from another prepaid phone and once again ordered pizza to a false address. When the driver arrived, he once again had a gun pointed to his head and was forced to the ground while they robbed him. As they were leaving, the driver was kicked in the head as he was laying on the ground.

On June 21, 2018, Christian and Walker called Papa John’s and again ordered pizza to a false address. When the driver arrived, she had a gun put to her head as she was robbed. Christian also put his hand inside of the female driver’s bra. Christian’s DNA was found on a swab of her breast.

After they were developed as suspects, law enforcement executed a search warrant at their residence. They located several items that were stolen during the robbery, including a pizza delivery bag and a vape mod. Both Christian and Walker had also broken into several cars and had stolen several firearms and numerous other items.

Christian had previously entered a plea of no contest on March 27 to three counts of robbery armed with a firearm, three counts burglary of conveyance armed with explosives or dangerous weapon, two counts of grand theft, two counts of principal to burglary of unoccupied conveyance, two counts of battery, fraudulent use of a credit card, unlawful possession of a stolen credit card or debit card, two counts of grand theft of a firearm, three counts of criminal mischief, two counts of burglary of unoccupied conveyance, and petit theft.

Walker previously entered a plea of no contest on May 30, 2019 to three counts of robbery with a deadly weapon, aggravated battery with great bodily harm or with a deadly weapon, battery, two counts of burglary of conveyance armed with explosives or dangerous weapon, two counts of grand theft of a firearm, two counts of criminal mischief, burglary of unoccupied conveyance and petit theft.

Gulf Power Foundation Awards Grant To Big Brothers Big Sisters

August 18, 2019

Gulf Power Foundation awarded an Amplify Grant in the amount of $30,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida (BBBS-NWFL).

The Amplify Grant is designed to provide non-profits with a one-time capacity building grant to enable them to reduce costs, increase revenues or generate stronger results. “As one of the 36 organizations who received an award, we are so excited to maximize our operations and make improvements.” says Paula Shell, president and CEO of BBBS-NWFL.

The grant will go towards the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida Bold Steps 30th Anniversary Campaign and will provide new technology for the BBBS-NWFL offices from Pensacola to Panama City. This technology will help with program improvements and expansion, and will allow stronger communications between offices.

“Our project will boost our agency capacity at just the right time in our history, said Shell. “Moving into our own building and raising the bar on programs and services, the upgrade to our technology is a must. From a new phone system, to computers, to better connectivity to our outlying offices and our matches. having up to date technology so that business can be conducted efficiently and effectively is critical and will greatly help us reach our goal of achieving high quality, long lasting match relationships along with serving more children each year.”

This year, the Gulf Power Foundation has awarded nearly $1 million dollars in grants to 36 organizations across their service region.

Wahoos Recognize PE Teachers, Including North Escambia Adapted PE Teacher

August 18, 2019

Recently, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos recognized all Escambia County School District physical education teachers for what they do day in and day out to keep youth healthy and for their implementation of the USA Baseball Fun at Bat program in the elementary schools.

Additionally, ECSD state award recipients from SHAPE Florida (Society of Health & Physical Education) got to throw out the first pitch .

State program award winners include Lisa Moss and Ian Waldron from Ferry Pass Elementary School for 19-20 SHAPE Florida Elementary PE Program of the Year and Jessica Wolford for being the 19-20 SHAPE Florida Adapted PE Teacher of the Year. Wolford serves Bratt Elementary, Ernest Ward Middle School, Northview High School and Kingsfield Elementary.

Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Nature Trail House Fire Sparked By Lightning

August 17, 2019

Authorities have determined house fire Thursday evening in the Nature Trail subdivision was sparked by lightning.

Firefighters arrived on scene in the 8000 block of Salt Grass Drive in Beulah to find smoke billowing out of large single story home.

Escambia County Fire Rescue said Friday that crews performed an aggressive interior attack on a working attic fire, preventing the fire from spreading to other parts of the home. County officials said the resident’s personal belongings were saved as a result.

There were no injuries reported.

Escambia Fire Rescue said smoke alarms were present in the home, but the occupant was alerted by a neighbor.

Despite Threats, Crowds Attend Gallery Night

August 17, 2019

Crowds attended Gallery Night in downtown Pensacola Friday night despite supposed threats that were making their way around social media.

Various posts stated that a man wanted to shoot up Seville Friday night. All day Friday, Pensacola Police called said the threats were not credible, and Gallery night continued without incident.

NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Escambia Firefighters Work To Help Keep School Zones Safe

August 17, 2019

Escambia County Fire Rescue trucks were in school zones across the county during this first week of school with lights flashing as a reminder to drivers to slow down. Pictured top: An Ensley Station of Escambia Fire Rescue truck in the McArthur Elementary school zone. Pictured below: Engine 18 from the Molino Station of Escambia Fire Rescue in the Molino Park school zone. NorthEscambia.com photo by Kristi Price, click to enlarge.

Photo Shows Suspect Running From Stolen Vehicle Involved In Pine Forest Wreck

August 16, 2019

Two people were seen running from a stolen vehicle after a traffic crash with injuries Friday morning on Pine Forest Road, leading to a manhunt in the area.

Witnesses told the Florida Highway Patrol that two people ran from a stolen red 2016 Chrysler 200 after the wreck about 10:30 a.m. on Pine Forest at Wilde Lake Boulevard and I-10, according to FHP Lt. Robert Cannon. Two people — driver Joanne Brancati, 55, and passenger Cesar Antonini, 51 — were transported to Sacred Heart Hospital with minor injuries.

The photo above taken for NorthEscambia.com reportedly shows one of the suspects running from the stolen vehicle. The photo has been provided to the FHP to assist with their investigation.

An Escambia County Sheriff’s Office K-9 and other law enforcement conducted search for the suspect, who was believed to have entered a wooded area. There were no arrests.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Florida Highway Patrol or their local law enforcement agency.

Photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Grocery Store Active Shooter Suspect Identified

August 16, 2019

The suspect in Thursday’s active shooter incident at an Escambia County grocery store has been identified.

The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office said he is 29-year old Reginald Lee Booker of Pensacola.

According to the ECSO, Booker walked into the Grocery Advantage on Lillian Highway at New Warrington Road with a handgun and then opened fire, according to Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan. He said the suspect was the only person injured; no civilians or deputies were hurt.

Chief Deputy Chip Simmons said three deputies were on scene quickly, and “they started to pursue the gunman through the store”.  He said the suspect, now identified as Booker, ran into the back warehouse area of the store and was hiding behind boxes of produce.

“The deputies challenged him there. He produced a firearm, and he was shot,” Simmons said. He described the gun as a small caliber handgun.

Booker remains in the hospital. An update on his condition is not known. Mugshot above is from May 2018.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the officer involved shooting.

NorthEscambia.com photos by Kristi Barbour, click to enlarge.

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Century’s Financial Audit Late For The Fifth Straight Year In Violation Of State Law

August 16, 2019

The Town of Century’s Annual Financial Report is late in violation of state law for the fifth straight year.

The legal deadline for submitting the Annual Financial Report, often referred to simply as an audit, to the Florida Department of Financial Services is June 30. But after a series of missteps, the town did not even hire an auditor until early June.

The town council has a workshop scheduled for Tuesday, August 20 at 5 p.m. to review the audit findings for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

At a June council meeting, Mayor henry Hawkins said he had still not hired the auditing firm because he disagreed with a price increase, but primarily because the council had not given him the necessary approval to sign the engagement letter, which is a type of contract with a CPA firm.

Council President Ann Brooks said the council had previously voted to accept the increase and authorize the mayor to sign the agreement.

“They voted to accept, but they did not authorize me to sign it,” Hawkins said.

Mayor Never Received Authority To Hire Auditor

At their last meeting in May, council members learned that the auditor disagreed with claims by Mayor Henry Hawkins as to why the audit had not started for this year, and the council learned for the first time publicly that the town had yet to sign an agreement to hire the auditing firm.

A check of a NorthEscambia.com audio recording of the May 20 meeting confirmed Hawkin’s claim that the council did not give him approval to sign off on the auditor’s contract.

“Can we have a motion to authorize our auditor to proceed with the audit at a minimum fee of $30,000?”,  Brooks asked during that meeting. The motion was made by council member Ben Boutwell to pay the $30,000 fee to the auditing firm, up from $21,000 last year.

“I would think you have to vote to authorize the mayor or the clerk to sign the engagement letter,” accountant Robert Hudson advised the the council.

“Any other questions before we vote?”, Brooks asked. The original motion was not amended before being passed unanimously after several minutes of discussion and did not give the signature authority to the mayor.

“Let the records show that we’ve decided to take $9,000 from CTA (funds received from the town’s Capital Trust Agency partnership) and put it with the $21,000 budgeted for the audit,” Brooks said after the May 20 vote.

Why Didn’t The Auditor Start Months Ago, And Why The $9,000 Fee Increase?

Century’s annual audit will cost thousands of dollars more due to several factors, including a scathing grand jury investigation, and the mayor tell did not inform the council for weeks, as NorthEscambia.com learned and first reported in May.

The town was informed in an April 8 email sent to Mayor Henry Hawkins, Town Clerk Kim Godwin, and town CPA Robert Hudson that the auditing firm Warren Averett was increasing their fee from $21,000 last year to a minimum of $30,000 this year.

Hawkins repeatedly told the town council that the firm would begin the audit after tax season, but he never mentioned receiving any communication from the auditor or the $9,000 fee increase to the council. In the meantime, the audit did not begin due to a lack of an engagement letter.

But an email obtained by NorthEscambia.com shows Hawkins forwarded the auditor’s email to Chief Deputy Clerk of Finance Kristina Wood on April 9. “FYI,” Hawkins wrote. “Now where do they think we’re getting the money from?”

CPA Kristen McAllister of Warren Averett said in a May 20 email to Town Council President Ann Brooks, “I do not think you have been informed correctly. I reach out to the Clerk, Mayor, and Robert (Hudson) a month ago to discuss a change in the audit contract before we can begin.” She added the delay “did not have anything to do with waiting until after tax season”.

McAllister said the higher audit fee was due to concerns over the utility billing cycle, concerns noted in the grand jury report, incorrect information provided that required multiple adjustments in the past two audits and a failure to follow the audit timeline.

For a previous story with details on the March grand jury report, click here.

Century’s Late Financial Report Submission History

Century’s last five audits were submitted to the state as follows:

  • The 2016-2017 report due June 30, 2018, was completed August 10, 2018.
  • The 2015-2016 report due June 30, 2017, was completed October 31, 2017.
  • The 2014-2015 report due June 30, 2016, was completed February 15, 2017
  • The 2013-2014 report due June 30, 2015, was completed November 17, 2015.
  • The 2012-2013 audit was completed on time on June 30, 2014.

NorthEscambia.com file photos, click to enlarge.

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