Local Marine Receives Award In Japan

May 22, 2017

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Justin Tyler Johnson receives the Jack W. Demmond Aviation Ground Marine of the Year award at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan, recently.

The Marine Corps Aviation Association awarded Johnson for his efforts in transporting Marines and their gear to and from locations by air, land, and sea.

“I was excited,” said Johnson. “I wasn’t really expecting it. I just do my job the best way I can.”

Johnson, a native of Pensacola, is an embarkation chief with Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 262, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. He was raised in Gonzalez and attended Ransom Middle School at Tate High School.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ally Beiswanger for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

FDOT: Weekly Traffic Alerts

May 22, 2017

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

In preparation for the upcoming Memorial Day Holiday there will be no lane closures on the state road system from 9 a.m. Friday, May 26 through 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, May 30.

Escambia County:

·            Interstate 10 (I-10)/U.S. 29 Interchange Improvements Phase I- Intermittent lane closures on I-10 and U.S. 29 near the interchange (Exits 10A and 10B) from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday, May 21 through Thursday, May 25 as crews perform survey work.

·            I-10 Widening from Davis Highway to the Escambia Bay Bridge- Alternating lane closures on Scenic Highway (U.S. 90), between Whisper Way and Northpointe Parkway, from 7 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Monday, May 22 through Thursday, May 25 a.m. as crews perform paving work.

·            Nine Mile Road Underground Utility Work- Eastbound right turn lane on Nine mile Road will be closed at Baldridge Drive from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Monday, May 22 and Tuesday, May 23 as AT&T Florida performs repair work.

·            U.S. 98 Pensacola Bay Bridge Replacement- the Road Ranger Service Patrol on the Pensacola Bay Bridge begins Monday, May 22. Service patrol vehicles will be 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 will be on-call and available to respond within 30 minutes.

·            Century Boulevard (U.S. 29) Routine Maintenance- Southbound outside lane will be closed Tuesday, May 23 from 8 p.m. to midnight as crews perform routine maintenance along the roadway.

·            Bayou Boulevard (State Road (S.R.) 296) Resurfacing from Basiden Road to U.S. 90- Traffic shift and low barrier wall in place between Lakeview Drive and Conway Drive as crews continue working on drainage improvements.  The traffic shift will be in place through the end of May.

·            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- Alternating lane closures continue on Untreiner Avenue as crews perform jack and bore operations.

Santa Rosa County

·         I-10 Widening from Escambia Bay Bridge to Avalon Boulevard- Alternating lane closures 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, May 21 through Thursday, May 25 as crews continue widening work. In addition, alternating lane closures on Avalon Boulevard near the I-10 interchange during this time as crews reconstruct the Avalon Boulevard overpass.

·         I-10 Resurfacing from east of S.R. 87 to the Okaloosa County Line- Intermittent and alternating closures between the S.R. 87 interchange (Exit 31) and the Okaloosa County line from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday, May 21 through Thursday, May 25  as crews perform paving operations.   Motorists are reminded the speed limit is reduced to 60 MPH within the lane closure.

·         U.S. 98 Pensacola Bay Bridge Replacement- Road Ranger Service Patrol on the Pensacola Bay Bridge begins Monday, May 22. Service patrol vehicles will be 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 will be on-call and available to respond within 30 minutes.

·         I-10 over S.R. 87 Routine Bridge Maintenance- East and westbound lane restrictions from 8 p.m. Monday, May 22 to 5 a.m. Tuesday, May 23 as crews perform routine bridge maintenance.

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.

NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Mobile Defeats Pensacola

May 22, 2017

The Mobile BayBears got a three-run homer by former Catholic High School catcher Wade Wass in the third inning and went on to defeat the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, 9-4, Sunday in front of 4,672 at Blue Wahoos Stadium.

Pensacola and Mobile are now tied, 2-2, with the final game of the series scheduled at 6:35 p.m. Monday. The Blue Wahoos fell out of first place in the South Division at 24-20 and trail the Biloxi Shuckers by one game.

Pensacola, which trailed 9-0 after four innings, avoided being shut out when first baseman Eric Jagielo crushed a two-out pitch to right field out of Blue Wahoos Stadium. His three-run homer pulled, Pensacola within, 9-3.

Blue Wahoos right fielder Aristides Aquino made the score, 9-4, in the eighth when he smacked a solo homer to left field into Pensacola Bay for his team-leading sixth homer of the season.

“We haven’t had too many of those,” Pensacola manager Pat Kelly said about being down nine runs. “We didn’t know how to act. But we didn’t give in.”

Mobile exploded for seven runs in the third and fourth inning. Three of those runs came in the third inning thanks to Wass, the designated hitter, to give the BayBears a 5-0 lead. The 25-year-old Pensacola product smacked a one-out, three-run home run into the right field berm. Wass now leads the BayBears with seven homers, with six of them coming this month.

But the BayBears weren’t finished. They piled on four more runs after two outs in the fourth inning to chase Pensacola starter Keury Mella from the game. Mobile right fielder Zach Gibbons walked with two outs and scored when the next batter, center fielder Michael Hermosillo, doubled into the left field corner to put Mobile up, 6-0. BayBears shortstop David Fletcher then drove in his third RBI of the game when he lined a single to center field to score Hermosillo, putting Mobile up 7-0.

The BayBears took a 9-0 lead when third baseman Zach Houchins drove in Fletcher and Wass when he smashed a double off the glove of Blue Wahoos center fielder Gabriel Guerrero, as he tried to chase down the ball.

Pensacola relievers gave up just one unearned run to Mobile over the final 5.1 innings. Alex Powers worked 3.1 innings out of the bullpen and gave up three hits, walked one and struck out three.

Kelly said Powers’ innings were critical with reliever Ismael Guillon advancing to Triple-A Louisville Bats, and Jake Ehret going to High-A Daytona Tortugas.

“We were a little shorthanded in the bullpen,” Kelly said.

Pensacola did load the bases with no outs in the second inning on Mobile starter Osmer Morales but came away with nothing. Morales struck out Blue Wahoos shortstop Blake Trahan and then catcher Joe Hudson hit a sharp line drive to Mobile shortstop David Fletcher, who threw to second for an inning ending double play.

The 6-foot-3 Morales threw five scoreless innings, giving up two hits, walking two and striking out three. He picked up the win in his seventh start to improve to 2-0 with a 2.23, ERA.

Monday Deadline To Apply For Escambia Youth Employment Program

May 21, 2017

Monday is the deadline to apply for the new Escambia County Youth Employment Program, which will provide opportunities for youth to get paid work experience in various county departments.

Qualified youth who are accepted into ECYEP will be able to work up to 20 hours a week at $8.10 per hour, and will also receive job readiness training prior to job placement.

Limited positions are available. Requirements for the program are as follows:

  • Must be age 16-20
  • Must live in Escambia County, FL
  • Family household income must meet income criteria (200 percent or below 2017 Poverty Level Guidelines)

Applications can be downloaded here or picked up during normal business hours at 221 S. Palafox Place, 4th floor reception desk. Applications must be submitted by 3 p.m. Monday, May 22 at the same location. Late or incomplete applications will not be accepted.

For more information, please call 850-595-0457 or visit the Youth Employment Program page.

District Seeks Input On Attendance Zones For Beulah Middle, Kingsfield Elementary

May 21, 2017

The School Attendance Zone Advisory Committee (SAZAC) was formed to develop attendance zone recommendations for the closure of Woodham Middle School as well as the opening of Kingsfield Elementary School and Beulah Middle School.

Public input regarding the zoning for these schools can be submitted to the Superintendent’s Office Attention to the Executive Assistant to the Superintendent. A worksheet and instructions for submission are available on the District’s website at http://escambiaschools.net/sazac. Hard copies are also available in the Superintendent’s Office at 75 North Pace Blvd.

Submission deadline is Friday, June 30, 2017. Questions should be directed to the Office of the Assistant Superintendent of Operations. Contact information is available on the District’s website. All submissions will be reviewed by the Superintendent and given to the SAZAC committee for consideration.

Florida Gov’t Weekly Roundup: Decisions, Decisions

May 21, 2017

The weeks after the legislative session are typically a decision season for the governor, who has to plow through dozens of bills and hundreds of spending items sent to him by lawmakers and pick which ones become law and which ones don’t.

http://www.northescambia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/floridaweeklly.jpgOn that front, Gov. Rick Scott is already getting some pressure, especially from education organizations and other advocates opposed to a sweeping public education measure (HB 7069) stuffed with popular and not-so-popular ideas.

But the decisions go beyond bills, and even beyond Scott. The governor and other officials were closing in on choices for two agency heads. And across the street from his Capitol office, the Supreme Court issued a major decision on gambling laws that could upend House and Senate discussions about the rules on gaming in the future.

FULL TILT

At the center of the legislative wrangling over a potential gambling bill in the session that just ended — no bill was ultimately approved — were what to do with eight counties whose voters had approved slot machines.

That question was also moving through the courts, though, and on Thursday the Florida Supreme Court said the decision to allow pari-mutuels to add the lucrative games rests with the Legislature, not voters.

The unanimous decision, siding with state regulators in a lawsuit filed by Gretna Racing, not only puts the kibosh on slots for the tiny Gadsden County horse track but also for pari-mutuels in seven other counties — Brevard, Duval, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington — where voters have approved slots in referendums.

“…There is no specific constitutional or statutory authority for Gadsden County to act on the subject of slot machine gaming,” Justice Charles Canady wrote in Thursday’s 16-page main opinion.

The ruling is based on a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2004 that authorized voters in Miami-Dade and Broward counties to allow slots.

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, issued a statement Thursday that said the Supreme Court “confirmed that the responsibility to determine the future of gaming in Florida lies with the elected members of the Legislature.”

“With current law upheld, the Legislature now has every opportunity to shape gaming policy for our state in a manner that respects both the authority of local referendums and the ongoing relationship with the Seminole Tribe, without the underlying concern that a court ruling could suddenly upend productive negotiations,” Negron said.

The Seminole Tribe and the state have been trying to hash out a deal, known as a “compact,” after a component of a 2010 agreement giving the Seminoles “exclusive” rights to operate banked card games, such as blackjack, expired in 2015.

After failing for years to get the Legislature to act, pari-mutuels in various parts of the state turned to county referendums to push the slots forward. But Thursday’s unanimous ruling made it clear that counties and pari-mutuel lobbyists will have to go back to the Legislature for a possible expansion of slots.

The Supreme Court decision takes pressure off lawmakers, especially House members loath to expand gambling by allowing slots in the referendum counties, to craft a deal that would expand slots. It also eliminates the possibility of a special session on the topic.

“This gives us the ability to step back, catch our breath, doesn’t send a rocket into the compact, and now we can continue on a more measured approach to determine how we renew our accord with the Seminole tribe and what decisions we make going forward with regard to expansion,” said Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican and key figure in gambling negotiations.

ADVANCE BILLING

There have been several bills sent to Scott for his signature or veto over the last few weeks. But the one that presents the biggest choice for the governor remains in the Legislature, waiting with other budget-related legislation to be released.

As lawmakers wait to send Scott HB 7069, a $419 million bill covering everything from school uniforms and sunscreen to teacher bonuses and recess, the opposition to the measure is gathering. Practically every major mainstream education organization — the status quo, as critics call them — has lined up against the bill.

The Florida School Boards Association urged Scott to veto the measure.

“Legislators took a six-page, single-subject bill, tacked on the content of two very contentious bills, and then added the camouflage of popular provisions from more than a dozen other bills to produce a 274-page behemoth. … We believe that this entire process for developing this conforming bill constitutes an abuse of the legislative process in general and the budget conference process in particular,” wrote Andrea Messina, organization’s executive director, and Tim Harris, its president and a member of the Polk County School Board, in a letter to Scott.

The Florida Association of District School Superintendents also said they opposed the bill. That organization went even further in its initial pitch, calling for the governor to also veto the main funding source for public education — essentially forcing the Legislature to try again and include more money for schools. The school boards quickly followed on the funding issue in a second letter to Scott.

Not everyone, of course, is opposed to the bill. House Education Chairman Mike Bileca, R-Miami, appeared in front of the State Board of Education to defend the law.

“Our approach has been, how do we create this transformative approach to closing the achievement gap, to help really transform these persistently failing schools as well as the areas of the highest poverty in our state,” Bileca said.

And the Florida chapter of PublicSchoolOptions.org, which advocates for public school options like charter and magnet schools, issued a statement calling on Scott to sign the conforming bill.

“HB 7069 is a win for parents because it gives us more options for our children’s education and it entrusts us, not bureaucrats, to make these decisions for our children,” said Carmen Potter, a leader of the group in Florida. “After all, we know them best.”

Scott’s decision on education might not be known for a couple of weeks, at least. But with one more session and a likely U.S. Senate bid looming, it could be a momentous one.

THE REVOLVING DOOR

Meanwhile, Scott’s staff and agency heads were shuffling around. His most recent chief of staff, Kim McDougal, said she was leaving the administration July 1. McDougal, the latest in a string of chiefs of staff for Scott, spent a little more than a year in the job.

Shortly after taking over as Scott’s chief lieutenant, McDougal was faced with overseeing the state’s response to two hurricanes and the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, a terrorist attack that left 49 victims dead.

“During these tough events, Kim has led my team through crisis and helped ensure we did all we could to help Florida families during these dark hours. Despite these challenges, we have also had great success this year, and she has worked every day to make sure Florida remains the top place for families to succeed and live their dreams,” Scott said in a statement.

In a statement issued by Scott’s office, McDougal — a longtime veteran of the state politics and government — called it an “absolute pleasure” to serve Florida for nearly three decades.

“It truly has been an honor to wake up every day and fight for policies that will make a difference in our families’ lives. Governor Scott is focused on making Florida the top place to get a great job and education, and I was honored to help work on policies to make Florida number one in the nation for families,” she said.

Scott tapped Jackie Schutz Zeckman, who has been with either his administration or his campaign practically from the beginning, to take over for McDougal. She becomes his sixth chief of staff in as many years as governor.

Schutz Zeckman will be at the helm for Scott’s final session and (presumably) a potential bid against incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Describing Schutz Zeckman as a “trusted adviser,” Scott praised her for “conveying my vision of Florida as the best destination for families and businesses.”

Other Scott loyalists appeared to be in line to get other powerful positions. Michael Dew, a former aide to Gov. Rick Scott, was added Wednesday to a short list of candidates to become the state’s next transportation secretary.

The Florida Transportation Commission agreed to recommend Dew; Ronald Howse, a commission member from Orlando who is the president of an engineering and land planning company; and Richard Biter, a former department assistant secretary. The short list goes to Scott, who will select a new secretary.

Dew, a former external affairs director for Scott, is currently the chief of staff for the Department of Transportation and served in the same position for the Florida Department of Corrections.

After interviewing five candidates last week, commission members appeared to favor Howse, Biter and Phillip Gainer, a Department of Transportation district secretary, for the short list. But during a conference call Wednesday, Dew replaced Gainer in the top three.

Commission Vice Chairman Ken Wright, an Orlando attorney, suggested the commission “give the governor a good choice” by adding Dew, in part because of the chief of staff’s knowledge of the department.

And Noah Valenstein, an architect of Gov. Rick Scott’s conservation platform during the 2014 election, will be the only applicant who will be interviewed next week to become the state’s environmental secretary.

Valenstein, currently the executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District, was one of 142 applicants for the job of secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida and a prominent environmental lobbyist, said interim DEP Secretary Ryan Matthews, who also applied for the job, would have been a good choice.

But Draper added that for an agency that needs strong leadership to enforce its policies, Valenstein has a “great reputation” and “the potential to be one of our best environmental secretaries.”

“Noah did a really good job for Scott in 2014 in terms of burnishing the governor’s environmental credentials,” Draper said. “I certainly would hope that Noah’s not going to go over to just be part of the campaign, but I think running an environmental agency is a lot different than running the environmental policy office in the governor’s office.”

There will soon be other personnel decisions to make. Scott announced Friday that Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie was resigning after 17 years with the agency.

STORY OF THE WEEK: The Supreme Court issued a long-awaited ruling on slot machines, essentially barring their use in eight counties where voters have approved the games through a referendum.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “For us to make an exception for this very important commission … I think it would be anathema to the traditions of our state.”—Roberto Martinez, a member of the Constitution Revision Commission, on efforts to toughen open-meetings rules for the panel.

by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida

BayBears Beat Wahoos

May 21, 2017

Two top pitching prospects went head-to-head and delivered the sellout Pensacola Blue Wahoos crowd exactly what they should have expected — a tight, low-scoring game.

Blue Wahoos starter Louis Castillo, the Cincinnati Reds No. 7 prospect, and Mobile BayBears starter Grayson Long, the Los Angeles Angels No. 6 prospect, dueled to a 1-0 Mobile lead at the end of seven innings.

The rain that sporadically came down during the game, poured down in the top of the ninth inning with Mobile ahead, 2-0, a runner on first base and two outs. The umpires called the game, giving Mobile a 2-0 victory after a 51 minute delay. Pensacola leads the series, 2-1.

Castillo retired 11 of 12 batters after giving up a run in the first inning to Mobile and worked out of a bases-loaded jam when he allowed three straight singles in the fifth inning after getting the first two batters out.

The 24-year-old Dominican threw 103 pitches over seven innings, giving up one run on six hits and allowing no walks. He finished his ninth start of the year with his fifth strike out of the game and pumped his fist and looked to the sky.

Meanwhile, Long retired the first eight batters of the game until Pensacola catcher Joe Hudson doubled into the right field corner in the third inning. Long gave up one other hit when shortstop Blake Trahan singled to centerfield.

Long had Pensacola base runners on first and second base in the fourth and fifth innings but escaped both innings unscathed. He threw five scoreless innings and now has not allowed a run in his two starts against Pensacola over 11 innings and given up just three hits this season. The 22-year-old Long walked three and struck out five Saturday.

Long, who made his Double-A debut against the Blue Wahoos on April 24, picked up the win, improving to 2-2 with a 2.61 ERA. Pensacola righty Castillo dropped to 1-3 with a 2.82 ERA.

Mobile scored on Castillo when BayBears leadoff hitter Zach Gibbons, who doubled and moved to third on a bunt, scored on a sacrifice fly to right field by second baseman David Fletcher. Pensacola right fielder Aristides Aquino threw a one hopper to the plate but Gibbons slid under the tag for a, 1-0, Mobile lead.

Mobile loaded the bases in the fifth inning with two outs but Castillo struck out Mobile left fielder Michael Hermosillo to end the scoring threat.

Pensacola dropped to 24-19 on the season. They are tied for first place in the Southern League South Division with the Biloxi Shuckers, which won, 2-0, over the Chattanooga Lookouts when rain ended that that game after five innings.

Escambia County Area Housing Commission Seeks Volunteer Members

May 21, 2017

The Escambia County Board of County Commissioners is seeking Escambia County residents interested in volunteering to be considered for an appointment to the Area Housing Commission.

Escambia County residents interested in serving on the Area Housing Commission are asked to submit a resume and letter indicating their desire to serve by the close of business on Thursday, May 25. Resumes should be submitted to Judy Witterstaeter, Program Coordinator, Board of County Commissioners, P.O. Box 1591, Pensacola, Florida 32502 or emailed to jhwitter@myescambia.com.

Resumes submitted to a BCC agenda for consideration will become part of the official minutes and are subject to public records requests.

The Area Housing Commission, or AHC, is a public body created  to provide decent, safe, sanitary and economical housing to low- and moderate-income families in Escambia County, and has countywide jurisdiction with the exception of the town of Century. The AHC’s governing body is a board of commissioners consisting of five appointees. Two are appointed by the Pensacola City Council, two by the Escambia County Commissioners and the fifth member is appointed by the other four. The term of service is four years.

The AHC has 12 regular meetings per year and three to four special meetings per year. They meet every fourth Wednesday of the month for 2 to 2 ½ hours. Board members travel to Orlando once a year to attend meetings. According to the bylaws, the board of commissioners has general supervision direction, and control over the business and affairs of the AHC, subject to applicable federal and state laws.

Same-Day Renewal Concealed Weapon Licenses Available In Escambia County

May 20, 2017

Escambia County Tax Collector Scott Lunsford has announced that local residents renewing their concealed weapon license now will be able to receive their renewed card the same day upon successful submission of their application.

“We are excited to offer this additional service to our citizens,” Lunsford said. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and providing our residents a convenient and efficient way to obtain and renew concealed weapon licneses.”

While renewal licenses will be printed in the office, new applications still will be submitted to the FDACS for final approval. The statutory turnaround time for this process is within 90 days. Licensees who are not Florida residents or who need to submit documentation of a name change will not be eligible to receive a renewal license on site. The applications still can be submitted through our office, but FDACS will print and mail the new license.

Lunsford’s Warrington office, 4051 Barrancas Avenue, Suite A, provides concealed weapon licensing services. Appointments for concealed weapon license applications and renewals can be made at https://kiosk.qless.com/kiosk/app/home/17016 or by visiting EscambiaTaxCollector.com.

Byrneville Student Waters Named ‘Magic’ Student of The Month

May 20, 2017

Byrneville Elementary School fifth grade student Leif Waters was recently named the Magic 106.1 FM Student of the Month. He received a brand new bicycle and a certification of congratulations from the Magic crew and NFL Super Bowl champion Fred Robbins. He was nominated by his teacher Jacke Johnston.

“This child has come so far over the years, and it has been amazing to see his growth and to see how much his peers love him. We all love him,” teacher Jacke Johnston said.

Submitted photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

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