Jay Elementary Math Teams Place At Pensacola High Tourney

June 9, 2015

Recently, students from Jay Elementary School brought home several awards from a math tournament held at Pensacola High School.

  • 4th Grade Results for Individual Round – Avery Mitchem and Jody Godwin received Honorable Mention. Emerson Walters placed tenth overall.
  • 4th Grade Results for Team Round – third place overall
  • 5th Grade Results for Individual Round – Shawn Thompson received honorable mMention. Megan Bethea placed first overall.
  • 6th Grade Results for Individual Round – Katelyn Mayo placed eighth overall, Brody Johnson placed fourth overall, and Carson Walters placed second overall.

With the combined scores the fourth and fifth grades, Jay Elementary walked away with a second place overall sweepstakes trophy.

Pictured are Jay Elementary fourth and fifth grade math team members (L-R)  Andrew Diamond, Kristin Archer, Megan Bethea, Emerson Walters, Hope Lashley, Avery Mitchem, Jody Godwin, Dylan Bradley, Preston Smith and Shawn Thompson. Picturd below: Jay Elementary sixth grade team members Katelyn Mayo, Emma Knowles, Brody Johnson, Bray Watson and Carson Walters. Submitted photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

House, Senate Agree On Solution To Juvenile Detention Dispute With Escambia, Santa Rosa, Other Counties

June 9, 2015

House and Senate budget writers have agreed on a potential solution to a long-running dispute between the state and27 counties — including Escambia and Santa Rosa — about who pays to lock up juvenile offenders.

The counties and the state Department of Juvenile Justice have repeatedly battled about how to split the tab under a 2004 law that requires counties to pay “pre-disposition” costs associated with juvenile offenders who are waiting for their cases to be resolved in court.

Now, lawmakers from both chambers are united behind a 57-43 split — the counties would pay 57 percent, the state 43 percent — with no back payments for money that counties contend they overpaid in the past.

That’s a long way from the 50-50 split the counties almost got in 2014. During this year’s budget talks, counties still hoped for that split and wanted reimbursement for past years.

But Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican and one of the key negotiators in the dispute, said a recent decision by an administrative law judge “confirmed that the 57-43 split was consistent with statute.”

“I think we had a pretty good idea that that was the fair split,” agreed House Justice Appropriations Chairman Larry Metz, R-Yalaha.

The counties have long argued that their costs for juvenile detention amounted to an unfunded mandate. While the 2004 law requires counties to pay “pre-disposition” costs, the department pays the costs of detaining youths whose cases have been decided — known as “post-disposition.” But counties and the state have never agreed on what those terms meant.

For several years, the rulings favored the counties. In 2012, Administrative Law Judge W. David Watkins ruled against the state, and the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld his decision the following year.

Following those rulings, the 2014 Legislature considered a bill that would have created a 50-50 split. But the measure died when the counties insisted on recouping $140 million for past overpayments.

In April, Watkins issued another ruling in the dispute, with both sides claiming victory. Watkins found that some parts of a rule proposed by the Department of Juvenile Justice to carry out the law were improper. But he also found in favor of the department on a key issue involving who should pay detention costs when juvenile offenders commit probation violations.

Now, that ruling is driving the Legislature’s efforts to come up with a solution.

“Our desire is to bring finality to this issue,” Bradley said.

“At this time we just want to continue working with the leaders of the House and Senate to see if we can reach a true partnership,” said Florida Association of Counties spokeswoman Cragin Mosteller.

Also, a budget-related bill that is still being negotiated contains language that could force some counties to make back payments to the state. It “requires the Department of Revenue to review county juvenile-detention payments to the Department of Juvenile Justice to ensure that counties are fulfilling their financial responsibilities. If the Department of Revenue determines that a county has not met its obligations, it must deduct the amount owed to the Department of Juvenile Justice from shared revenue funds provided to the county.”

But Bradley also noted that lawmakers had reinstated language in the so-called budget “implementing” bill that would suspend for one year a requirement that counties spend 1.5 percent more on county-funded court system obligations.

“They are our partners, and that was a show of good faith to them that we are hearing their concerns,” he said.

Mosteller agreed that the court language “is a big help to counties. Counties invest as they need to for court infrastructure, and to have it mandated is really just another unfunded mandate. So we really appreciate the language that would allow counties to make that choice.”

by Margie Menzel, The News Service of Florida

Atmore Airport Lands $1.8 Million Grant For Runway

June 9, 2015

The City of Atmore has received a $1.8 million grant to rehabilitate the runway at the Atmore Municipal Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration grant will provide $1,843,641 in federal funding to overlay 4,952 feet of runway pavement that has reached the end of its useful life. The grant will also fund grading improvements to runway safety areas to meet FAA design standards.

Pictured: A plane alongside Runway 18/36 at the Atmore Airport. Photo by Ditto Gorme for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Century’s New Gas Supervisor On The Job

June 9, 2015

Century’s new gas superintendent is on the job. Walter “Wally” Kellett came from Memphis, TN, where he retired from the municipal utility.

Kellett worked for Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division in Memphis, from 1990 until this year, and was the department’s Supervisor of Gas Services from 2001 to 2015, according to his resume.  At Memphis Light, Gas and Water, he was responsible for the direction of nearly 50 employees in a system with 313,000 meters. During his tenure, he also worked as a commercial and industrial service representative, a commercial and industrial gas welder installer and a gas utility technician. He holds numerous industry-related professional licenses and certifications, his resume states.

Kellett recently retired from Memphis Light, Gas and Water and was looking to move to Florida with his wife.

In Century, Kellett replaced a longtime employee Eddie Hammond who retired recently.

New Molino Traffic Signal at Highway 29 And Highway 97 To Become Active On Thursday

June 9, 2015

The new traffic signal at Highway 29 and Highway 97 in Molino will become operational at about 10 a.m. on Thursday. Drivers are being advised by the Florida Department of Transportation to use caution when approaching the intersection.

The new signal is mounted on horizontal mast arms. Since the signal is in the horizontal position, motorists with color weakness problems will need to remember red is on the left and green on the right.
Construction activities are weather dependent and may be delayed or rescheduled in the event of inclement weather.

Questions Raised As Children Moved Out Of Health Program

June 9, 2015

The state last month removed about 2,000 children from a specialized program that provides services to medically fragile kids, finding that they were no longer “clinically eligible” under a new screening process.

But the move by the Department of Health to re-evaluate children in the Children’s Medical Services Network is drawing criticism from pediatricians and some children’s advocates.

Department spokeswoman Tiffany Cowie said in an email that 7,424 children enrolled in the Children’s Medical Services Network under Medicaid were re-screened between May 4 and May 20. Of those, 2,065 were found to be “not clinically eligible,” while 5,359 were found eligible and kept in the program.

Critics say they’re troubled that the department has stopped enrolling new kids in the CMS Network — except for emergency cases — during a 90-day period while the state re-screens nearly 65,000 children using a new eligibility tool that went into effect last month.

“The CMS Network has a stronger support network for the family of a child with special needs,” said Karen Woodall, director of the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy and a member of the state’s KidCare Coordinating Council. “There’s likely to be more immediate attention than you would get with a regular health-care plan.”

During the three-month re-screening period, new applicants for coverage are being enrolled in Medicaid managed-care plans, as are the children who were re-screened and found to be ineligible for the CMS Network under the new criteria.

But some say the CMS Network, which was designed for children with severe and chronic illnesses, does more to help families struggling with such challenges than Medicaid managed-care plans.

“There are severe medical needs that require children to have feeding tubes and (tracheotomy) tubes, and cause their breathing to stop on a regular, intermittent basis,” said Cindy Arenberg Seltzer, chief executive officer of the Children’s Services Council of Broward County. “There are a lot of very scary issues with which parents of all socioeconomic conditions need support.”

The Department of Health, however, “is committed to providing quality care to residents, and especially children, through a number of programs, including Children’s Medical Services,” Cowie wrote in an email.

She said all the managed-care plans serving Florida children offer “at least the same services as the CMS Network,” with the exception of a program known as Partners in Care: Together for Kids, which serves children with life-threatening illnesses.

The 90-day re-screening period will end July 31, and critics are concerned about the lack of children being enrolled during that period.

Louis St. Petery, a pediatric cardiologist and executive vice president of the Florida Pediatric Society, said the delay means that “fragile children, like HIV-exposed newborns or kids newly diagnosed with leukemia, are put at considerable increased risk. …These decisions are being made by bureaucrats with little or no understanding of caring for children with special health-care needs.”

The Department of Health disputes such criticisms. In information offered to CMS providers, it said the department is doing the mass screening because, “We want to ensure we are reaching the intended population in the most expeditious way possible. The goal will remain to provide quality care and needed care coordination services throughout this process.”

Cowie said the CMS Network’s central office received 11 requests for urgent or emergency enrollment between May 4 and May 20. The department defines emergency as “a situation where the CMSN plan is uniquely capable of covering the child’s needs.”

“One child will be reviewed with (the Agency for Health Care Administration) this week,” Cowie wrote on Thursday. “The remaining 10 children will be able to be served appropriately and will not be considered for urgent/emergency enrollment.”

She said all 10 are receiving services from Medicaid managed-care plans — and that those services are the equivalent of what they would have received through the CMS Network.

Woodall, however, said there would be more emergency requests if families knew the CMS Network was an option.

“Families may not understand that they can make a special request to be considered as an emergency case,” she said. “And that could cause a delay in the specialized care that their child might need.”

Critics focus heavily on whether children will receive the same levels of services in Medicaid managed-care plans as they would in the CMS Network.

“As the state moves more and more populations into managed care, it’s particularly high-risk for children who have chronic and serious health conditions,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute. “And those are exactly the kind of kids we worry about going into managed care, because it’s hard to make money on those kids.”

House Children, Families & Seniors Chairwoman Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, said she supports moving some children with conditions such as asthma and attention-deficit disorder from the CMS Network to Medicaid managed care.

But she also said she was watching the transition “very carefully.”

“I do have some concerns to make sure only appropriate children are moved,” Harrell said. “If the (managed-care) programs can handle them, that is fine, but I do have concerns that we make sure we don’t have our critically ill children moved, and it becomes an evaluation process as to what children are appropriate.”

Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairman Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, said he and Senate President Andy Gardiner were also monitoring the changes.

“Government’s role is to help those that can’t help themselves, and who better than these children?” Garcia said. “So we’re going to continue to look at these issues and hold the Department of Health accountable.”

by Margie Menzel, The News Service of Florida

Florida Wins ‘Silver Shovel’ Awards, Thanks In Part To International Paper

June 9, 2015

Florida, through its primary economic development organization Enterprise Florida, has been awarded a Silver Shovel award by Area Development magazine for significant job creation and economic impact, thanks in part to International Paper in Cantonment.

Area Development’s annual Shovel Awards recognize state economic development organizations that drive significant job creation through innovative policies, infrastructure improvements, processes and promotions that attract new employers as well as investments in expanded facilities.

Projects recognized as part of Florida’s Silver Shovel award included International Paper “Corporate Headquarters Expansion” with 424 jobs retained, 12 new jobs and a $123 million capital investment.

Governor Scott said, “We are honored to receive this award which recognizes Florida as a great place for business. With a top-ranked workforce, low tax climate, reduced regulations, and a multi-modal infrastructure that supports record numbers of residents and visitors, businesses across all industries are growing and creating more opportunities for Florida families. More than 865,000 private-sector jobs have been added since December 2010 and we’re continuing to work every day to make Florida the global destination for jobs.”

Escambia Commission Shuffles June, July Meeting Schedule

June 9, 2015

The Escambia County Commission has changed several meetings in June and July. Their meeting schedule will be as follows:

Thursday, June 11 – BCC Committee of the Whole

  • Workshop, 9 a.m.

Thursday, June 25 – BCC Meetings

  • Community Redevelopment Agency, 8:45 a.m.
  • Agenda Review, 9 a.m.
  • Public Forum, 4:30 p.m.
  • Regular Board Meeting, 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, July 7 – BCC Meetings

  • Agenda Review, 9 a.m.
  • Public Forum, 4:30 p.m.
  • Regular Board Meeting, 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, July 14 – BCC Committee of the Whole

  • Budget Workshop, 9 a.m.

Wednesday, July 15 – BCC Committee of the Whole

  • Budget Workshop, 9 a.m.

Thursday, July 16 – BCC Committee of the Whole

  • Budget Workshop, 9 a.m.

Thursday, July 23 – BCC Meetings

  • Community Redevelopment Agency, 8:45 a.m.
  • Agenda Review, 9 a.m.
  • Public Forum, 4:30 p.m.
  • Regular Board Meeting, 5:30 p.m.

Next Phase Of Work Begins On I-10, Scenic Highway

June 9, 2015

A milestone is approaching for the Interstate 10/Scenic Highway construction project in Escambia County. The work is widening I-10 from four to six travel lanes between Scenic Highway (Exit 17) and Davis Highway (Exit 13) and expanding the on- and off-ramps to two lanes. Scenic Highway is also being widened to four lanes between the Piper Glenn subdivision and Whisper Way.

Construction crews have completed what will become the new Scenic Highway southbound overpass across I-10. This month, north and southbound traffic will be temporarily shifted to the new structure and associated travel lanes so work can begin to improve the existing overpass and roadway.

Later this month, drivers should also expect a slight traffic shift on the ramps connecting Scenic Highway and Interstate 10. These sections of I-10 and Scenic Highway remain an active construction zone. The speed limit is lowered to 35 mph on Scenic Highway and 60 mph on I-10. Drivers should be alert for the presence of construction workers, vehicles and equipment.

Progress also continues on the sound wall construction for the four-mile stretch of I-10 from Scenic Highway to east of the Davis Highway interchange. Workers are installing foundation posts and concrete sound wall panels and painting them to match the sound walls already in place east of Davis Highway. Sound wall construction is scheduled to continue until spring 2016. Work on the entire project is slated for completion in fall 2016.

Pine Meadow, Ransom Receive Statewide Drug Abuse, Underage Drinking Prevention Awards

June 9, 2015

Three Escambia County Schools were among 18 across the state to earn bragging rights for their outstanding efforts to help prevent students from underage drinking and substance abuse.  The All Star Schools were selected and recognized by Informed Families/The Florida Family Partnership, a 33-year-old Florida-based non-profit organization with a mission of helping kids grow up safe, healthy and drug free.

Winning schools from Escambia County included:

  1. Pine Meadows Elementary School, Escambia County – Gina Burke/Principal Terri Fina
  2. Montclair Elementary School, Escambia County – Stacey Ladner/Principal Jennifer Sewell
  3. Ransom Middle School, Escambia County – Gail O’Neal/Principal Brent Brummet

The schools were chosen from hundreds that demonstrated their dedication to year-round substance abuse and underage drinking prevention activities and for their success in actively engaging students, parents and faculty in prevention.

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