Readers Respond: Donations To Fund Lift For Rescue Horses

March 18, 2014

Late last week, reported on a fundraising effort by Panhandle Equine Rescue to purchase a large animal lift for rescued horses.

The lift is priced was at $2,145 and PER lacked $980 to make the purchase. After the report about the online fundraiser, another $1,450 was donated. That will allow PER to purchase the lift and a secure structure to which the lift will be attached.

“Because of…our community, we were able to raise more than enough to help horses in the future that are unable to rise on their own,” said PER President Diane Lowery. “Getting a horse on their feet gives them a chance to live; otherwise, they would most likely be euthanized; especially at crime scenes.  We appreciate your support.”

The major need for a large animal lift was highlighted by the rescue of “Ebony” from Crowndale Court. For that story, click here.

Courtesy photos for, click to enlarge.

Senate Panel Backs Bipartisan Tweak To ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law

March 18, 2014

A bipartisan bill that would tweak the controversial “stand your ground” self-defense law sailed through the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday, passing unanimously with the backing of both the National Rifle Association and Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown.

The measure (SB 130) by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, would make several changes recommended in 2012 by Gov. Rick Scott’s Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection, which Scott appointed amid a national uproar that followed the shooting death of teen Trayvon Martin.

When six weeks went by without charges being filed against Sanford neighborhood-watch volunteer George Zimmerman, the acknowledged shooter, protests spread across the country.

Many of the “stand your ground” law’s original backers said it was never intended to protect the aggressor in a deadly confrontation, and on Monday, the Senate panel spelled that out.

The bill represents the first significant compromise since Zimmerman was acquitted last year of second-degree murder charges in Martin’s death. Just a week ago, Brown helped civil-rights activist Al Sharpton lead 1,000 people to the Capitol to protest “stand your ground”‘ and to declare Florida “ground zero” in the fight to fix or repeal it.

“It’s incumbent upon this committee, it’s incumbent upon this Legislature, to say something about the law this year,” said Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat who also marched last week.

“People on this committee and those that were here to vote for (the original law) … are constantly saying, ‘It’s not what we intended, It’s not what we intended, It’s not what we intended.’ Well, we have about 50 days now to say what we intended,” Smith said.

Smith and Simmons, who helped pass the 2005 bill that became “stand your ground,” addressed the committee together. Simmons’ measure includes a bill by Smith (SB 122) that was folded into it last fall.

The bill would clarify that a law enforcement agency must fully investigate whether a person claiming self-defense has lawfully used force. It also would no longer preclude lawsuits from third parties who are injured by negligent conduct used in self-defense.

The measure would also require the Department of Law Enforcement to develop a training curriculum for participants in neighborhood crime-watch programs and require local law-enforcement agencies to apply the curriculum when training program participants.

Several members of the Scott task force were on hand to support the bill, including NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer, the Rev. R.B. Holmes, who co-chaired the task force, and Stacy Scott, who represented the Florida Public Defender Association.

Stacy Scott said the bill would also clarify the roles of law enforcement officers and neighborhood-watch volunteers. She said it also would clarify the role of immunity hearings that are used to determine if someone can invoke “stand your ground” in self-defense.

” ‘Stand your ground’ is not to be used for vigilantism, for revenge or as an excuse to confront people,” she said.

Brown brought her congressional colleague, U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Virginia, who told lawmakers that homicide has gone up in states with “stand your ground” laws.

The House companion to Simmons’ bill hasn’t moved forward, although it was filed in August.

Smith said he’d spoken with House Judiciary Chairman Dennis Baxley, who was the House sponsor of “stand your ground” in 2005, and that the House is waiting for the Senate to act before making its own move.

“You cannot fix everything the first time,” Hammer said. “When you try to do too much is when you create problems. We’re taking it one step at a time. … And if we didn’t get it right, we’ll fix it. But we’re comfortable with what we have today.”

by Margie Menzel, The News Service of Florida

One Injured In Highway 97 Rollover Accident

March 17, 2014

One person suffered minor injuries in a rollover accident at a Highway 97 bridge late Monday morning.

The driver of a southbound pickup truck apparently lost control just north of Wiggins Lake Road in Walnut Hill, struck a bridge guardrail and overturned. The pickup came to rest upside down on the center line of Highway 97 just off the bridge.

The accident is under investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol. Further information has not been released. photos, click to enlarge.

FDOT, Escambia Continuing With Plans For Traffic Light, Hwy 29, Hwy 97 Redesign

March 17, 2014

Talks between Escambia County and the Florida Department of Transportation are continuing toward a goal of multiple changes at the intersection of Highway 29 and Highway 97 in Molino — including a red light and redesign of a portion of the intersection.

Escambia County Interim Administrator Larry Newsom met with FDOT officials last week in Chipley to discuss changes and improvements for the intersection to lower the number of traffic crashes.

A full FDOT study of the intersection concluded that a traffic signal should be installed. The study also found that intersection should be redesigned to eliminate the “5-leg intersection configuration” caused by a driveway connection to the Tom Thumb by a combination of strong access control at the driveway connection and a reduction of the existing median opening width.

Last October, the Escambia County Commission affirmed its support for improvements at the intersection and expressed a willingness for the county to pay for the red light at the Highway 29 and Highway 97 intersection.

Newsom said the state is currently in the design phase for the intersection, and that process is expected to continue for the next three months with input from both FDOT and the county.

“The much needed side street connection of Crabtree Church Road may be addressed on parallel basis with the intersection improvements, or as a secondary project. Escambia County intends to apply for a Community Traffic Safety Team Grant (CTST) to fund construction of this project. However, if we are unsuccessful in that attempt, funds from the voter-approved Local Option Sales Tax will be allocated to facilitate implementation as quickly as possible,” Newsom said.

FDOT will install a traffic signal at the intersection to address safety issues, with the design funded by the state and the constructed funded by Escambia County. A construction scheduled has not yet been established.

“I believe that, with the support of FDOT District III Secretary Tommy Barfield and coordination with the State Secretary Ananth Prasad, we can expect a significant amount of investment to be made in Escambia County in the near future,” Newsom added.

The plans to improve and add a signal at the intersection came after residents of the all residential northern stretch of  Highway 95A from Highway 29 to Highway 97 unsuccessful pushed commissioners to enforce a truck ban on that portion of Highway 95A. Trucks currently turn south on Highway 95A at Highway 29 to avoid the Highway 29 and Highway 97 intersection altogether over safety concerns.

Escambia County District 5 Commissioner Steven Barry, Sen. Greg Evers, Rep. Clay Ingram, Rep. Doug Broxson, Rep. Mike Hill, Rep. Matt Gaetz and Senate President Don Gaetz  have also advocated for FDOT to make safety improvements at the intersection.

Pictured: Traffic crashes at the Highway 29 and Highway 97 intersection in Molino. file photos, click to enlarge.

Not A Tornado: Winds Destroy Businesses, Damage Homes In Atmore

March 17, 2014

There were no injuries as businesses were destroyed and numerous structures were damaged in storms Sunday morning as they rolled through, leaving a trail of damage from Nokomis, FL, through Atmore and to Canoe, AL.

While a tornado warning was in effect at the time, a National Weather Service survey team determined the damage was not caused by a twister. According to the NWS, the team found evidence consistent with downburst straight-line winds, with the strongest winds blowing from the south-southwest to north-northeast.

The weather service said wind speeds were estimated to range from 86 to 110 mph.

The former Kmart building that housed Burke’s Outlet and Fred’s store in Atmore collapsed. The majority of the damage was on the Burke’s end of the structure, while the windows and doors blew in and the roof was lifted at Fred’s. Both businesses were closed at the time.

The building housing the Burke’s Outlet and Fred’s store in Atmore collapsed this morning. The majority of the damage was on the Burke’s end of the structure, while the windows and doors blew in and the roof was lifted at Fred’s. Both businesses were closed at the time.

“It started raining hard and getting loud,” said Charlene Johnson, who was at worked at a gas station very near the Burke’s store. “I locked the door and seen a dark black mass pass by right in front of shook the store.”

Numerous other structures were damaged in Atmore, many from falling trees. The wind also twisted metal barns, caused other structural damage and downed power lines across the southern part of the city.

In Nokomis, FL, on the state line, several trees were downed — several blocking Rockaway Creek Road and Circle Road until they were removed.  A large highway warning sign just north of the state line was toppled, and trees were snapped as the storm moved in a definite line toward Atmore.

After passing through southern Atmore, the storm continued toward the Atmore Aiport east of town, downing trees, destroying barns and causing other damage. Further east, the Canoe Baptist Church was damaged with large pieces of wood driven into the ground like spears.

For damage photos, click here for a photo gallery. photos, click to enlarge.

Resident Meeting To Provide Input For Century Economic Development Plan

March 17, 2014

Century is once again turning to its residents for input into the town’s future economic development plan.  Town residents are invited to a meeting Monday, March 31, at 6:00 p.m. at the Ag Building on West Highway 4 to offer their input into the plan.

When Century updated its Comprehensive Plan in March 2012, the need for an economic development strategy was identified as one of the critical issues facing the Town.

Last July, Century was awarded a $25,000 a Community Planning Technical Assistance Grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The grant provided the town the opportunity to contract with the University of West Florida’s Haas Center to develop the plan.

Meetings with the public, businesses and economic stakeholders were previously held. At the March 31 meeting, residents will have one more opportunity to discuss the plan’s vision, mission, objectives and goals.

Century’s Economic Development Strategic Plan must be submitted to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity by May 30.

Pictured top: Lomonica Shoemo and Dorothy Newton listen during a late January public meeting on Century’s Economic Development Strategic Plan. file photo, click to enlarge.

No Alimony Reform This Year In Florida

March 17, 2014

Backers of an alimony overhaul vetoed last year by Gov. Rick Scott have scrapped their efforts to revive the measure.

Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, told The News Service of Florida on Tuesday she and her House counterpart Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, have given up on their plan to reform the state’s alimony laws.

Last year, the two sponsored a measure that did away with permanent alimony and would have created new legal standards based on the length of marriages. Scott, who is seeking re-election this year, vetoed the measure in part because of concerns that it would have applied retroactively.

The group Family Law Reform, which has been pushing the alimony changes, issued a press release in October saying it was working with Scott and the sponsors to come up with a new plan that would have removed the retroactivity provision. But there won’t be any election-year measure.

“We tried to get a deal,” Stargel said. “We got some language we thought people liked and started vetting it. … I just didn’t want to have a food fight this year so we just said scrap it. We’ll push it another year.”

by The News Service of Florida

ECUA Curbside Recycling: The Proper Way

March 17, 2014

Recycling is one of the best ways to have a positive impact on the community, and recycling is important to the natural environment, according to ECUA.

The ECUA Curbside Recycling Program was launched in January 2009, as part of the regular ECUA residential sanitation service. This simple, voluntary and cost-effective program is being utilized by 65 percent of ECUA customers and continues to grow. A  voluntary program assures all participants are willing partners in the recycling process and serves to minimize the contamination of the collected materials, ECUA said.

ECUA’s program uses a convenient single stream recycling system, which means no sorting is required, and commingled recyclables are sorted at a processing facility. Although sorting is not required, it is very important that only recyclable items be placed in the ECUA-provided recycling container to avoid contamination of the recyclables. In  some cases, customers will unknowingly introduce unaccepted and/or tainted items into the recycling process. This reduces the value and potential usability of recyclable materials, and jeopardizes the effectiveness of the ECUA Recycling Program.

ECUA Recycling Coordinator Amanda Handrahan offers these tips to successful recycling: “Make sure all items placed in the recycling container are safe, clean and ready for the recycling process. We don’t accept plastic grocery bags, but we do  appreciate when you use them to bag small, lightweight items, to keep them contained within the can. Also, it’s important to remove liquids that can damage paper products, and remove leftover food from take-out containers before placing them in the recycling can.” She adds, “This seems basic but in our busy, everyday lives, it’s always good to have a quick reminder of how to best avoid the possibility of contamination.”

Here’s a list of items accepted in the ECUA’s program, and those that are not:

  • Glass; any color
  • Newspaper & Inserts
  • Magazines & Catalogs
  • Junk Mail & Envelopes
  • Cardboard
  • Phone Books
  • Office and School Papers (colored paper)
  • Brown Paper Bags (grocery)
  • Boxboard (cereal, cake & cracker boxes, etc.)
  • Pizza Boxes
  • Plastic Produce Clamshells
  • Plastics No. 1 through 7
  • Plastic Milk Jugs; 2-Liters; bottles and containers
  • Plastic & Metal Hangers
  • Juice Boxes / Bags
  • Plastic Cups, Plates, Utensil
  • Aluminum Cans & Lids
  • Pet Food Cans and Dry Pet Food Bags
  • Aluminum Foil Baking Pans
  • Balls of Tin Foil; Foil Pie Tins
  • Tin and Steel Cans & Lids
  • Metal Pots, Pans & Cookie Sheets
  • Bubble Wrap
  • Cardboard Egg Cartons

Items Not Recyclable Include:

  • No Empty Plastic Bags
  • No Ice Cream Cartons
  • No Waxy/Paper Milk Cartons
  • No Styrofoam  products
  • No Aerosol Cans
  • No Garbage or Yard Waste
  • No Garden Hoses
  • No Window Blinds

Escambia Westgate Holding Run, Walk, Wheel 5K On April 5

March 17, 2014

Escambia Westgate School will host their 2nd Annual Run, Walk, Wheel 5K Fun Run on April 5 at 9 a.m. at the school.

Escambia Westgate School is seeking to raise funds to support the school’s needs, including the goal of building a fully adaptive gymnasium to be used by all of Westgate’s students with severe cognitive and/or physical disabilities.  Registration forms are available on the school’s website. To register, please print a form and mail it along with your check to the school.

Registration is $25; $30 the day of race. Breakfast will be provided to all participants.  For additional information, please contact Ashley McCombs, (850) 494-5700, extension 231.

Spring Break Gas Prices Cheaper Than Last Year

March 16, 2014


Spring Break travel will be a little easier on the pocketbook this year for those hitting the highway.

The average cost for a gallon of regular unleaded in the Pensacola area is $3.39, down from $3.62 a year ago. Gas prices in the North Escambia area Saturday ranged from $3.36 in Cantonment to $3.44 in Davisville.

The lowest price in the Pensacola area Saturday night was $3.29 at a Circle K on Mobile Highway.

The national average price at the pump is $3.42 per gallon. This price is six cents more expensive than one week ago and 13 cents more than one month ago; however national prices remain 36 cents per gallon less than the same date last year.

Pictured: A gas delivery in Century. Pictured inset: A gallon of regular unleaded was $3.36 Saturday in Cantonment. photos, click to enlarge.

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