FDOT: Weekly Traffic Alerts

February 19, 2017

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

Escambia County:

·         Fairfield Drive (State Road (S.R.) 727/295) Resurfacing from Mobile Highway (S.R. 10A) to North Pace Boulevard (S.R. 292) – Traffic on Fairfield Drive will encounter lane restrictions, a shift, and temporary detour from 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18 to 6:30 a.m., Sunday, Feb. 19 as crews perform paving operations.  The westbound inside, left lane will be closed just east of Ruby Avenue and traffic shifted to the outside lane.  New Warrington Road Spur under the Fairfield Drive overpass, will be temporarily closed and traffic detoured to Mobile Highway, south to the on ramp leading back to New Warrington Road. Drivers traveling eastbound on Fairfield Drive will encounter a lane shift just west of the overpass over the New Warrington Road Spur. Traffic will be transitioned to the westbound travel lanes to bypass the overpass, transitioning back to the eastbound lanes at Ruby Avenue.  Law enforcement will be on site to assist with traffic control. In addition, intermittent and alternating lane closures continue between Mobile Highway and North Pace Boulevard between 8:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. as crews perform paving operations.

·         I-10/ U.S. 29 Interchange Improvements Phase I- Crews will shift traffic and require the following lane and ramp closures from 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19 to 6 a.m. Monday, Feb. 20:

§  Alternating lane closures on I-10 westbound near U.S. 29 (Exits 10A and 10B) and the I-10 westbound ramp to U.S. 29 north.

§  The U.S. 29 north to I-10 westbound ramp will be closed. Traffic will be detoured to make a U-turn at Broad Street to access I-10 westbound.

o   Paving operations will require the following lane and ramp closures from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. the week of Monday, Feb. 20

§  Alternating lane closures on I-10 westbound near U.S. 29 (Exits 10A and 10B) and the I-10 westbound ramp to U.S. 29 north.

§  The U.S. 29 north to I-10 westbound ramp will be closed. Traffic will be detoured to make a U-turn at Broad Street to access I-10 westbound.

·         Chase Street (S.R.30) Underground Utility work between 9th Avenue and 10th Avenue- Eastbound center and southern most lanes will be closed from 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20 to 6 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21 as crews perform sewer rehabilitation work.

·         Interstate 10 (I-10), I-110 and U.S. 98 Routine Maintenance- Crews will perform sign maintenance at the following locations.  Motorists can expect lane restrictions from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. from Monday, Feb. 20 through Friday, Feb. 24.

o   I-10 between the Escambia Bay Bridge and U.S. 29

o   U.S. 98 between N. Pace Boulevard and Fairfield Drive

o   I-110 between Burgess Road and U.S. 98

·         Perdido Key Drive (S.R. 292) Resurfacing from the Alabama State line to the ICWW (Theo Baars Bridge) – Lane closures will be in effect 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20 through Saturday, Feb. 25 as crews perform paving operations between the Alabama State line and the ICWW (Theo Baars Bridge).  Drivers can expect delays.

·         I-10 Widening from Davis Highway (S.R. 291) to the Escambia Bay Bridge- Alternating lane closures on Scenic Highway (U.S. 90), south of the I-10 ramps, 8:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. the week of Monday, Feb. 20 as crews install a drainage pipe beneath the roadway. One lane will remain open at all times.

·         U.S. 29 (S.R. 95) Widening from I-10 to Nine Mile Road- For the next two weeks, there be alternating lane closures from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. on U.S. 29 between I-10 and 9 1/2 Mile Road and on 9 Mile Road near the U.S. 29/9 Mile Road overpass as crews perform drainage operations.

·         Nine Mile Road (S.R. 10/U.S. 90A) Widening from Pine Forest Road (S.R.297) to U.S. 29- A new detour configuration has been implemented on Nine Mile Road between Stefani and Waring roads as crews construct a box culvert under Nine Mile Road.  Alternating lane closures continue on Untreiner Avenue as crews perform jack and bore operations. The speed limit throughout the construction zone has been reduced to 35 MPH.

Santa Rosa County:

· S.R. 87 Widening from County Road 184 to north of the Yellow River Bridge- Intermittent lane closures between Hickory Hammock Road and the Yellow River Bridge from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. the week of Monday, Feb. 20 as crew perform paving operations.

·         I-10 Resurfacing from east of S.R. 87 to the Okaloosa County Line- Intermittent and alternating inside lane closures between the S.R. 87 interchange and the Okaloosa County line from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 19 through Thursday, Feb. 23  perform construction activities.  Motorists are reminded the speed limit is reduced to 60 MPH within the lane closure.

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

Northview Majorette Smith Is ‘Superior’ – Headed To State Next Month

February 19, 2017

Northview High School majorette captain Brianna Smith received solo superior ratings Friday afternoon in the Florida Bandmaster’s Association district competition at Escambia High School She will now head to the state assessment in March. Smith, a senior, received superior ratings at the FBA state level the past two years.

Pictured top: Smith performs during a Friday night football game last season, NorthEscambia.com photo. Pictured inset: Smith at Escambia High School on Friday. Submitted for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Tate’s Hayden Lindsay Signs With Gulf Coast State Community College

February 19, 2017

Tate High School’s Hayden Lindsay signed Friday to play softball at Gulf Coast State Community College in Panama City. Courtesy photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Alabama Congressman Byrne Announces Escambia Office Hours

February 19, 2017

Staff members from the Office of Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) will hold office hours Wednesday in Escambia County, AL.

The staff members will be on hand to help constituents with problems they may be experiencing with federal agencies including the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Medicare, and Social Security. Staff members can also assist constituents who need help applying for or receiving a United States passport.

The schedule for Wednesday, February 22 is as follows:

  • 9:00 to 9:45 am – Atmore City Hall
  • 11:00 am – 12:00 pm – Flomaton City Hall
  • 2:00 – 2:30 pm: Brewton City Hall
  • 2:30 – 3:00 pm: East Brewton City Hall

For more information, call (251) 989-2664.

NorthEscambia.com file photo, click to enlarge.

Florida Gov’t Weekly Roundup: Courting Opposition

February 19, 2017

There was already plenty of anti-judiciary invective being hurled around the Legislature in the run-up to the 2017 legislative session, and this week may have intensified the tension.

In legal battle after legal battle, the state or the Legislature suffered a loss. A special master appointed to referee the latest battle in the “water war” between Florida and Georgia essentially said Florida’s case was all wet. State laws on abortion and guns were blocked by the courts.

http://www.northescambia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/floridaweeklly.jpgMeanwhile, a more purely political skirmish continued to grow, as Gov. Rick Scott and the House traded more shots over the future of economic incentive programs. There were no courts in the offing to resolve that fight, which will likely be decided in the old-fashioned way after the session begins March 7.

WASHED OUT

There’s little question, according to Maine lawyer Ralph Lancaster, that Georgia’s use of water that would otherwise flow into the Apalachicola River is causing problems downstream. But Lancaster, who was appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to oversee a fight between Georgia and Florida over those flows, said this week that there was little he could do about it.

Especially since Florida’s lawsuit targeted the wrong party.

Lancaster’s recommendation, which now heads to the U.S. Supreme Court, is the result of a 2013 lawsuit filed by Florida, alleging Georgia diverts too much water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system and that the diversions have damaged Apalachicola Bay and Franklin County’s seafood industry.

Georgia countered that any limits on its water use will undermine its economy, including the growth of the Atlanta area and the state’s agriculture industry in southeastern Georgia.

A key finding in Lancaster’s report was that, since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — which controls water flow through the region in a series of dams and reservoirs — was not a party to the lawsuit, he could not devise a settlement between Florida and Georgia without the Corps’ participation.

“Because the Corps is not a party, no decree entered by this court can mandate any change in the Corps’ operations in the basin,” Lancaster wrote. “Without the ability to bind the Corps, I am not persuaded that the court can assure Florida the relief it seeks.”

That didn’t mean there was nothing to the state’s account of the damage, Lancaster wrote in a 137-page report.

Lancaster supported several key assertions by Florida including the cause of the 2012 collapse of the Apalachicola oyster industry, which normally supplies 90 percent of the oysters in Florida and 10 percent of the nation’s oysters. He rejected Georgia’s argument that it was Florida’s mismanagement of the oyster beds that led to the 2012 collapse rather than the decreased water flow that led to higher salt levels in Apalachicola Bay.

The fault rests elsewhere, Lancaster implied, pointing a finger at the Corps.

“The evidence presented at trial suggests that the Corps’ reservoir operations are a significant, and perhaps the primary, factor influencing the amount of streamflow crossing the state line during times of drought and low flows,” Lancaster wrote.

Being wrong has not been cheap. Through November, Florida had paid out more than $35 million to four law firms involved in the U.S. Supreme Court case during the last two fiscal years, according to data collected by the Florida House.

Since 2001, Florida has paid out $72 million in legal fees for the current case and previous litigation, the House data shows. If the projection of more than $40 million in legal fees for this year holds steady, the total legal tab since 2001 could well exceed $90 million.

In an interview Thursday with The News Service of Florida, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, didn’t sound inclined to pay. He said a House review of the legal fees is ongoing.

Corcoran also said House legal staff members are scrutinizing the special master’s report, which was issued Tuesday. The speaker raised the prospect of the House “aggressively” pursuing refunds after looking at issues involved in the case.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Florida’s representatives in the federal government were trying to save the day.

And Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson may have given himself a campaign issue to use if Scott, a Republican, challenges him in 2018.

Nelson filed a bill to require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to increase the freshwater flow from Georgia south into the Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay. Republican Congressman Neal Dunn, whose Northwest Florida district includes Apalachicola Bay, called on the Corps to suspend new plans to allow more water use in Georgia until the federal agency meets with Florida officials and others to discuss the impact of the court report.

Nelson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to not finalize water-control standards for the river basin.

“While we do not agree with his final recommendation, the special master correctly points out that Florida has indeed suffered real harm due to Georgia’s unrestrained overconsumption of water,” Nelson and Rubio wrote in a letter to Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commanding general and chief for the Corps in Washington. “The master’s report also emphasizes the need for the Army Corps to reevaluate its position with respect to the impacts on the Apalachicola River and Bay.”

MAY IT PLEASE THE COURT? PROBABLY NOT

As the Legislature has pursued more and more culturally conservative legislation on issues like guns and abortions in recent years, critics have warned that the Republican majorities were in danger of running afoul of the courts.

This week, those warnings came true. In separate rulings this week, courts ruled against a waiting period for women seeking abortions and a law meant to keep doctors from asking patients if they have any firearms lying around the house.

The Florida Supreme Court blocked the abortion law, a 2015 measure that would have required women to wait 24 hours before undergoing the procedure. Thursday’s 4-2 decision was the second time the state high court kept the law from taking effect.

In the majority opinion, Justice Barbara Pariente wrote that enactment of the law “would lead to irreparable harm.”

“Indeed, under Florida’s pre-existing informed consent law, a woman can already take all of the time she needs to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy, both before she arrives at the clinic and after she receives the counseling information,” she wrote for the majority. “No other medical procedure, even those with greater health consequences, requires a twenty-four hour waiting period in the informed consent process.”

But, in a dissent joined by Justice Ricky Polston, Justice Charles Canady accused the majority of taking “an unreasonably narrow view of the purpose of informed consent” and argued that the plaintiffs had not presented any evidence to prove that the 24-hour waiting period imposed “a significant restriction on the right to abortion.”

Hours later, a federal appeals court sided with a coalition of individual doctors and medical groups in finding unconstitutional major portions of a controversial Florida law restricting physicians and other health-care providers from asking patients about guns.

The statute, dubbed the “docs vs. glocks” law, included a series of restrictions on doctors and health providers. For example, it sought to prevent physicians from entering information about gun ownership into medical records if the physicians know the information is not “relevant” to patients’ medical care or safety or to the safety of other people.

Also, the 2011 law said doctors should refrain from asking about gun ownership by patients or family members unless the doctors believe in “good faith” that the information is relevant to medical care or safety. And the law sought to prevent doctors from discriminating against patients or “harassing” them because of owning firearms.

In its ruling Thursday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the record-keeping, inquiry and anti-harassment provisions of the law are unconstitutional, but upheld the portion of the law that bars doctors from discriminating against patients who have guns.

“Florida may generally believe that doctors and medical professionals should not ask about, nor express views hostile to, firearm ownership, but it ‘may not burden the speech of others in order to tilt public debate in a preferred direction,’ ” Judge Adalberto Jordan wrote in one of two majority opinions issued by the full appellate court.

In a dissent, Judge Gerald Tjoflat argued that the state law was narrowly drawn and is an “attempt to regulate a very specific part of the relationship” between a health care provider and a patient.

“It does not prevent medical professionals from speaking publicly about firearms, nor does it prevent medical professionals from speaking privately to patients about firearms so long as the physician determined in good faith the relevancy of such discussion to the patient’s medical care, safety, or the safety of others,” he wrote.

VISIT FLORIDA, ROUND 53

Back in the political realm, Scott got some new ammunition in his battle with the House — and particularly Corcoran — over business incentives.

The governor was able to announce that Florida hit record tourism numbers in 2016.

The surge in visitors came despite reports during the past year of toxic algae blooms in Florida waterways, the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, damage from a pair of hurricanes and a terrorist-related attack at an Orlando nightclub.

“I don’t understand how anyone can look at Florida’s booming tourism industry, and the more than 1.4 million jobs it supports, and vote to kill it,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “The legislation the Florida House is pushing puts more than 1.4 million jobs at risk and we cannot let that happen.”

But Corcoran told The News Service the governor needs to prove to lawmakers that tourism spending is directly tied to the increase in tourists.

“Show me how Pitbull’s video brought more millennials to the state of Florida? You just can’t do it,” Corcoran said, referring to a controversial $1 million contract Visit Florida inked with Miami hip-hop artist Armando Christian Perez, better known as Pitbull. “We’re in la la land.”

Anyone familiar with the new movie of the same name knows, of course, that (spoiler alert) both parties go their separate ways in order to find their dreams. That is a resolution not available to Scott and Corcoran.

STORY OF THE WEEK: A special master in the latest “water wars” lawsuit issued a report favoring Georgia, a major blow to efforts by Florida officials to increase the flow of water in the Apalachicola River.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “It’s almost as if we are being asked to accept the bogeyman’s argument that refugees in this state are the problem. What the bill does is, it sends red meat to the base of a political party in order to justify future elections. It’s wrong.”—State Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, on a bill seeking to withdraw Florida from a federal refugee-assistance program.

by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida

Volunteers Needed For FloridaWest Board of Directors

February 19, 2017

Volunteers are needed for the FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance Board of Directors.

The FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance was created in October 2014 when economic development was separated and moved out from under the present day Greater Pensacola Chamber. FloridaWest EDA operates as a publicly/privately-funded organization, observing all local, state and federal laws that apply to nonprofit organizations as defined in section 501(c )(6) of the Internal Revenue Code and Florida’s Government-in-the Sunshine Law, sections 286 and 288.075 of the Florida statutes.

The mission of FloridaWest EDA is to promote industry and commerce, enhance the business climate and stimulate economic prosperity, support workforce development, promote community development and encourage political action. FloridaWest EDA strives to accomplish the greatest good for the greatest number of people in Pensacola, Escambia County and Northwest Florida.

The membership of the FloridaWest EDA Board of Directors consists of not less than seven and not more than 21 members made up of members from the private sector and two members each who are appointed by the city and the county. Appointees serve as long as the appointing authority wants them to serve.

The FloridaWest EDA Board of Directors meets at the Greater Pensacola Chamber, 117 W. Garden St., the last Tuesday of every other month from 2-3:30 p.m.

Residents interested in serving on the board are asked to submit a resume and letter indicating their desire to serve by close of business Wednesday, February 22. Resumes should be submitted to Judy Witterstaeter, Program Coordinator, Board of County Commissioners, P.O. Box 1591, Pensacola, FL 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.

Cantonment Friends Flip Beulah Home On DIY’s ‘First Time Flippers’

February 18, 2017

A couple of Cantonment best friends appeared on the DIY Network’s “First Time Flippers” Saturday night.

In the show, Ginger Solliday and Kim Hedgepeth purchased a house in Beulah (the show refers to it as Pensacola), made needed repairs and improvements and flippod — resold — it,  for a financial windfall. Things don’t immediately go so well, as it was the first flip for the friends. When Solliday becomes concerned about their lack of experience, she and Hedgepath clash over whether they should hire a professional or finish the the rest of the renovations on their own.

“It’s pretty funny and the house turned out great,” Hedgepath told NorthEscambia.com.”We look dumb on the show, but it was so much fun.”

The friends decided they could completely renovate a house for profit while watching DIY TV shows, Hedgepath said. She “retired” a couple of years ago after working as a paralegal for 21 years, and Solliday is a part-time hair stylist. The needed some extra cash for vacations, and decided the house flip might be a good idea.

Their husbands also helped out along the way, but that’s not shown on the program, she said.

We won’t spoil the show and tell you how much, if anything, the duo made on the flip, but we do know they started on their second flip about two weeks ago.

And Hedgepath offers some advice for anyone considering a flip: “Go for it, as long as you are willing to put in some hard work. It was really fun. One more piece of advice…it really is OK to wear flip flops!”

The episode “Flip Flop Flippn’”, which was filmed last summer, airs again on the DIY Network on  Sunday, 8:30 p.m on Saturday March 18, and 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 19.

Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

A Very Special Mardi Gras Parade (With Photo Gallery)

February 18, 2017

A very special Mardi Gras parade was held Friday morning for the special needs students of Escambia Westgate School.

With plenty of beads, Moon Pies, stuffed animals and smiles, the parade rolled through the school parking lot for students that might not otherwise be able to attend a regular Mardi Gras parade.

For more photos, click here.

Courtesy Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.


Late Rally Costs Lady Chiefs Against Escambia Gators

February 18, 2017

The Northview Lady Chiefs dropped a heartbreaker 6-3 in eight innings to the Escambia Gators Friday night in Bratt.

Northview was in control of the game for the first six innings only giving up one run until the Gators mounted a comeback with a two-run seventh inning to tie the game at three each. The Gators went on to score three more in the eighth with the Chiefs unable to answer.

Tori Herrington took the loss allowing six runs on eight hits with eight strikeouts and two walks.

Batting for the Lady Chiefs:
Jamia Newton  2-4, run, 2 singles
Tori Herrington 1-3, triple, RBI, walk
Peighton Dortch 1-3, run, triple, walk
Valen Shelly 0-4, RBI
Aubree Love 0-3, run, walk
Kendall Enfinger 0-4
Teriana Redmond 0-4
Lydia Smith  0-3
Alana Brown  0-3

Northview’s varsity will host Catholic Tuesday, February 21 at 5 p.m.

NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Health Advisory Issued, Fire Continues At Rolling Hills Landfill

February 18, 2017

The Florida Department of Health in Escambia County(FDOH-Escambia) is issuing an air quality health advisory in response to associated smoke from fire at Rolling Hills Construction and Demolition Landfill.

Air quality monitoring has been performed by the Escambia County Natural Resources Management Department near the facility at 6990 Rolling Hills Road, Pensacola, FL. The monitoring has revealed elevated levels of small particulate matter in the air likely associated with smoke from the fire.Nearby residents are advised to protect against smoke exposure.

Smoke is a respiratory irritant that can cause scratchy throat or irritated eyes and nose.

According to the CDC, breathing in smoke can have immediate health effects, including coughing, difficulty breathing, scratchy throat, irritated eyes and nose, shortness of breath, and rapid heartbeat. Persons experiencing respiratory symptoms, including those with severe or chronic respiratory conditions like asthma or chronic lung disease, should consult their doctor for treatment and stay inside their homes. While inside, residents should close windows, run their cooling or heating system, and change the system’s air filter as needed. If symptoms persist while inside an air conditioned home, residents may choose to leave the area until their symptoms are tolerable.

Escambia County has mobilized work crews from Waste Services, Public Safety and the Road Department to address the ongoing fire at the Rolling Hills Landfill, located at 6990 Rolling Hills Road. The county successfully worked through issues with the property owner, South Palafox Properties, and at approximately 12:30 Friday afternoon entered the landfill. South Palafox Properties agreed that it was unable to provide the necessary resources to extinguish the fire and will be invoiced for the mobilization of county resources.

Three firefighting brush trucks along with bulldozers and dump trucks are working to first bring down the smoke and then use dirt to smother the fire. Crews will be on scene daily until sunset until the fire is extinguished.

The fire is in a large mound of land clearing debris located in the southeast area of the property designated for land clearing debris disposal. The fire is not in the C&D area of the landfill currently being remediated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Since revoking Rolling Hills Landfill’s permit in 2014, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection was able to get court approval to close the landfill. Working with state contractors, surveyors and landfill closure experts, FDEP developed a comprehensive closure design based on current site conditions, and the contractor began work in the fall of 2016. A vast majority of the onsite work has been completed. However, weather has caused some delays, and the project is expected to be completed at the end of this month.

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