Lineworker Appreciation Day Marked

August 26, 2015

One of the most dangerous and deadly jobs in America is that of electrical lineworkers, cracking the top 20 at number 10 on a recent Washington Post list. These jobs are considered by many to be the fourth most dangerous occupation in the world.

Working with live wires is dangerous enough. Add to that working in all types of weather, from torrential storms to oppressive heat to responding to the scene of an accident. All to make sure electricity continues to flow safely and reliably to homes and businesses.

It’s a tough job with little thanks. But Gulf Power, with the State of Florida, recognized the contributions and dedication of lineworkers during Lineworker Appreciation Day on Aug. 26, a day set aside by the state Legislature in 2012.

Gulf Power paid special tribute to the nearly 190 employees that work on the company’s 9,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines between Pensacola and Panama City, which serves more than 447,000 customers.

One of those lineworkers, Ed Morrell, has worked 17 years at Gulf Power as a distribution service and line technician.

“I have a great job, with a great company, and I’m very thankful,” said Morrell. “I get to help people improve their quality of life everyday. Whether it’s just hot outside and they need their air conditioning on or if customers need electricity for artificial respiration or other medical equipment, it feels good to know I play a critical part in their lives.”

Morrell started working at Gulf Power after a church member mentioned possible job opportunities. He applied and interviewed, but was not chosen after his first interview. “It’s all in God’s timing,” he said. Nonetheless, he interviewed a couple of months later and eventually joined the company as an apprentice.

“After graduating from high school, I served in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years,” said Morrell. “I thought it would be hard raising a family in the military by being gone all the time so after the first Gulf War, I did electrical work for myself back home to support my family.”

However, Morrell quickly found that utility line work is very different from wiring a house. He said adhering to the safety standards of Gulf Power is extremely important and always job one.

“We have to constantly be aware of our surroundings and remain safe at all times because your first mistake may as well be your last,” he said.

Morrell began his career assisting in the daily construction and maintenance of the distribution systems in order to provide service in a safe, timely and economical manner. He quickly responded to and corrected problems with the electrical distribution system during normal working hours, after hours, nights and weekends and in extreme weather conditions.

“Sometimes it’s tough working different shifts and being on-call, but I love helping other people and working with our crews. We have a special bond among us. After Hurricane Ivan, we worked for more than two weeks with no power at our own homes. We were inspecting, testing and repairing power lines and other equipment using special reading and testing devices. We rebuilt entire lines, set poles, hung transformers and connected service throughout our area. Working with customers in the field and seeing our communities come together was particularly gratifying,” he said.

He tells fellow lineworkers that when times get tough to remember that others may have it even worse during natural disasters. “We have worked with crews in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy and with crews in Tuscaloosa, Alabama after tornadoes,” said Morrell in a solemn tone. “Both of those areas were completely devastated, homes destroyed, people were missing, and to bring hope to so many families was indescribable. There is always someone, somewhere out there that needs us.”

Morrell advises others wanting to become a lineworker to have a good attitude, be adaptive and flexible, expect to work hard and play hard, develop safe habits, follow directions and do the best you can.

“There is no such thing as a typical day. I sometimes wake up when it’s raining and I’m surprised I haven’t gotten a call. Other days, I’m prepping my truck for when I have to depart at a moment’s notice,” he said.

Throughout Morrell’s career, his very supportive family has stood behind him. Morrell’s wife Kristie, and their three children look forward to him returning home safely each and every day. They, too, continue making sacrifices.

“It’s funny that sometimes heroes look like ordinary people,” said Kristie. “Most people only dream of meeting their hero, but I married mine.”

Century Approves $360K Loan, New Employee Insurance, Fence, Elevator

August 25, 2015

The Century Town Council approved a $360,000 loan, a new employee insurance company, a fence and an elevator during a special meeting Monday afternoon.

Drainage Project Loan

The council voted to allow Mayor Freddie McCall to execute a $360,000 loan with United Bank. They money will be used to pay a contractor working on a drainage project in the north part of town.  Once the project is completed, Century will receive a grant reimbursement of the entire principal plus the interest. The loan will cost the town 1.964 percent interest plus a $350 fee. Escambia County Bank in Flomaton quoted a loan rate of 3 percent with no fee.

A Fence And An Elevator

The council approved recommendations of the Century Architectural Review Board to allow the First Baptist Church to construct a front porch, extending the brick steps toward the street and widening the steps for safety purposes. The church will also remove an existing handicap ramp and replace it with an “elevator” – a residential platform lift to the porch level for the handicap.

The council also approved a review board recommendation to allow Felix Fussner to install a four-foot wooden picket fence along the front of his property at 402 Front Street. The council also approve a variance to allow the four-foot height due to a three-foot limit currently allowed by ordinance.

The approvals of the e Century Architectural Review Board were necessary for both projects because they are located in the Alger-Sullivan Historical Society.

A New Insurance Company

Also at Monday’s special meeting, the council voted to  approved United Health Care as the town’s new employee insurance company. Employees will be able to chose from three plans offering deductibles of $500, $1,250 or $1,500 per year with zero coinsurance. The town will pay 99 percent of the monthly cost for employee-only plans and 78 percent of the cost for family coverage of the cheapest of the three plans (the $1,500 deductible plan). Employees will be responsible for the additional cost of the more expensive health care plans if they choose that level of coverage.  The new plans go into effect October 1. Town employees are currently covered under plans by Aetna.  The town’s overall health care insurance costs will increase by only a few percent.

Escambia County, Community Group Team Up For Cantonment Computer Lab

August 24, 2015

Old computers no longer used by Escambia County are being put to good use in Cantonment.

Residents can now take advantage of a new computer lab at the Carver Park Resource Center, thanks to the cooperative work of several Escambia County departments and the Cantonment Improvement Committee.

“We are very appreciative of the computers,” said Josh Womack, Cantonment Improvement Committee chairman. “We are just getting started with all the ways we can put the computers to good use.”

Escambia County’s Information Technology (IT), Neighborhood and Human Services and Facilities departments worked to convert a building at the request of District 5 Commissioner Steven Barry’s office.  The lab consists of 10 computers refurbished from the 911 dispatch center that were donated by the county’s Public Safety Department.

“One of the ways we hope to use the computers, maybes with help from Careersource EscaRosa, is for people in the community to look for jobs,” Womack said. “And we hope to one day offer GED classes.”

Earlier this summer, IT and Facilities teamed up to make sure the electrical system was adequate for the setup that was needed. Facilities worked with a local electrical contractor to get the proper electrical and data lines put in place along with an alarm system. Once the electrical and data lines were in place, the IT department went to work tidying up the data lines and installing computers.

At the end of the project, the Center has 10 computers with internet connection to provide online learning, training and research for members of the community who do not have the same resources at home.

Carver Park is a two-acre neighborhood park at 208 Webb Street with a covered pavilion, playground, basketball courts, security lights, benches and picnic area. The park also has a small community building and some of the most historic oak trees in Escambia County.

Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Area Unemployment Rates Steady Or Slightly Increasing

August 23, 2015

The latest job numbers released Friday show the unemployment level holding steady to slightly increasing in the three county North Escambia area.

Escambia County’s unemployment rate was steady from June to July at 5.7 percent.  There were 7,984 people reported unemployed  during the period. One year ago, unemployment in Escambia County was 6.8 percent.

Santa Rosa County unemployment increased,  from 4.9 to 5.0 percent from June to July. Santa Rosa County had a total of  3,7530 persons still unemployed. The year-ago unemployment rate in Santa Rosa County was 6 percent.

In Escambia County, Alabama, unemployment increased from 8.0 percent in June to 8.1 percent in July. That represente 1,182  people unemployed in the county during the month. One year ago, the unemployment rate in Escambia County, Alabama, was 8.9 percent.

Florida’s unemployment rate for July stood at 5.4 percent, down 0.2 percentage points from revised June numbers. The latest monthly unemployment mark represents 517,000 jobless Floridians from a workforce of 9.5 million, according to the state Department of Economic Opportunity. In June, there were an estimated 532,000 Floridians out of work with the workforce standing at 9.55 million.

Alabama’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, at 6.2 percent in July, was up from June’s rate of 6.1 percent and was below the year-ago rate of 6.6 percent.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

One Person Shot Early Saturday Morning In Molino

August 22, 2015

An adult male was shot in Molino early Saturday morning.

Deputies responded to Cedartown Road just off Highway 95A about 12:30 a.m. The victim, who was reportedly shot in the arm or elbow, was transported by ambulance to an area hospital, according to Sgt. Andrew Hobbs of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. The victim’s injuries were not considered life threatening.

Early Saturday, Hobbs said the investigation was underway and a suspect had not yet been developed. He said preliminary information indicated the shooting happened as a crowd of people had gathered.

Further details will be published as they become available.

NorthEscambia.com file photo, click to enlarge.