Readers Ask: What’s Happened To Jacks Branch Road Paving Project?

September 29, 2014

A project to widen and resurface Jacks Branch Road from Muscogee Road to Barrineau Park road started a year ago. But following the April flood and into the summer, most of the work on the project seemed to stop, according to area residents.

“It’s been so long that some of the driveways and other work will have to be redone due to washout, and it’s really looking bad with the trash and overgrowth,” one resident wrote to NorthEscambia.com. “I am just really curious as to what happened to the project and would like it to get moving again so our roads can get cleaned up. They are truly a mess.”

NorthEscambia.com posed the question to county officials, and we learned the contractor, Roads, Inc., is now back on the project:

“The contractor is on site working on forming and pouring the mitered end sections for the driveways,” Senior Project Coordinator Elizabeth Bush of the Escambia County Public Works Department, Engineering Division. “The contractor did some widening a couple weeks ago on the north end of the project and they should be back clipping the shoulders for widening in a couple weeks.”

After drainage structures are replaced under residential driveways to meet current safety standards, the construction team will focus efforts on widening the shoulders of the roadway. Once widened, the road will then be resurfaced, according to Escambia County.

The $2.6 million construction project is funded by the Florida Department of Transportation and is managed by Escambia County. The expected completion date of the project is November 28, 2014.

Have a problem or concern you want NorthEscambia.com to investigate? Email news@northescambia.com today.

Pictured top, inset and below: Washouts and damaged construction work along  Jacks Branch Road. Pictured middle bottom: A driveway that’s been repaired multiple times along Jacks Branch Road. Pictured bottom: A construction debris pile in place so long that weeds are growing out of it. Reader submitted photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.


Exoskelton Created In Escambia County To Be Featured On Discovery Channel

September 29, 2014

An upcoming segment of The Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet program will feature a new exercise exoskeleton developed by researchers at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) in Pensacola.

Called the Grasshopper, or Hopper, the device was designed, built and tested as part of a NASA-funded project exploring the use of robotic exoskeletons for microgravity exercise. Because the Hopper uses motors instead of gravity to create the load on the user, the device is suited for use on space missions. Exercise in zero-gravity conditions is critical to maintain muscle strength and bone mass.

The Hopper is designed to replicate the effect of squat exercise with free weights, and its associated loading on the body. To test this claim, the Hopper was brought to EXOS, a leader in integrated performance training, nutrition and physical therapy for professional and elite athletes, the military and innovative corporations.

The IHMC team is led by Senior Research Scientist Peter Neuhaus. Members include Research Associate Nick Payton and student interns Travis Craig and Jeremy Gines. Noraxon, a company specializing in evidence-based biomechanics, provided sensors  and technical analysis to compare exercise using the Hopper versus use of free weights.

The Daily Planet segment was filmed at IHMC and the EXOS center in Gulf Breeze. The shows host, Lucas Cochran, was instrumented with the Noraxon sensors and coached by an EXOS specialist on how to properly perform the squat motion, both with free weights and while strapped into the Hopper. The data showed that his muscles and heart responded in very similar fashion while using either the Hopper or the free weights. In addition, Cochran reported that the Hopper was more comfortable than free weights for a similar weight.

The Daily Planet segment will air late October 2014.

Pictured top: IHMC Senior Research Scientists Peter Neuhaus, right, works with Lucas Cochran, left, during testing of the IHMC exoskeleton Grasshopper during filming of the Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet program. Pictured inset:  Cochran works out in the IHMC exoskeleton Grasshopper. At left is Stefan Underwood from EXOS, Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Florida Dept. Of Corrections Targets Problems With Inmate Health Care

September 29, 2014

Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews is threatening to stop payments to a Missouri-based company that won a five-year, $1.2 billion contract to provide health care to the majority of the state’s prisoners, accusing Corizon of failing to provide adequate treatment. Corizon provides medical care for inmates in North and Central Florida, including prisons in Century and Santa Rosa County.

Crews sent a letter to Corizon CEO Woodrow Meyers on Friday saying that the company has failed to follow through after audits revealed shortcomings in multiple areas, including medical care, nursing and administration.

“All too often, we are finding that these corrective action plans are not being carried out and that the level of care continues to fall below the contractually required standard,” Crews wrote. “As of this date, many of the most critical expectations including complete and full staffing, responding to DOC concerns and reducing the number of grievance(s) are often not being met.”

Crews said he has had concerns about the contract since the privatization effort was launched in September 2013.

“When we met in person on December 18, 2013, I expressed concern about issues that appeared to be developing during the first two months of our partnership. At that time, we specifically discussed patient care issues, utilization management, and communication. All three of these areas continue to be cause for concern,” he wrote Friday.

The secretary threatened to withhold payments at any institution that fails to meet 80 percent of auditing standards and keep the hold in place until applicable standards for care are met. Crews also warned that he would remove prisons from Corizon’s contract if the institutions fail consecutive audits or have “exceptionally high levels of non-compliance.”

Corizon started providing inmate medical care last year after a long-running legal dispute over a decision by state lawmakers in 2011 to approve prison health privatization in budget fine print, known as “proviso” language. Wexford Health Sources is being paid $240 million over five years to provide health services to nine prisons in South Florida.

Both companies have come under fire for deficient care to prisoners in Florida and other states. Disability Rights Florida sued Crews and Wexford Health Systems earlier this month, alleging that torture and abuse of prisoners had been ignored for years.

Jonathan Plotnick, an inmate at Lake Correctional Institution, recently sued Crews and Corizon because health care workers at the prison refused to allow Plotnick to see a surgeon about a hernia operation even though they were aware that extreme pain prevented him from functioning normally. During a hearing in federal court earlier this month, Corizon officials agreed to allow Plotnick to consult with a surgeon, and he has since had the procedure. Plotnick’s lawyer Randall Berg said he knows of 10 other inmates who were also refused the surgery.

The struggle over the privatized health care is the latest woe for the embattled prisons agency, which houses more than 100,000 inmates. State and federal officials are investigating inmate deaths and corruption at a number of Florida prisons, including Franklin Correctional Institution, where inmate Randall Jordan-Aparo was gassed to death in 2010.

Crews has been on a crusade to purge the department of corrupt and abusive guards since The Miami Herald reported earlier this year about mentally ill inmate Darren Rainey, who died at Dade Correctional Institution after guards allegedly forced him to shower in scalding hot water as punishment two years ago.

In the past two months, Crews has fired 45 guards for a variety of reasons, including for having a role in the deaths or beatings of inmates.

Four investigators sued the department earlier this year after Gov. Rick Scott’s inspector general refused to grant them whistleblower protection. The investigators were concerned about retaliation after exposing Jordan-Aparo’s death. The investigators accused Scott’s chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel of ignoring complaints about the inmate’s gassing.

And the department is grappling with a growing gang population, often aided by rogue guards. Two former Taylor Correctional Institution sergeants are awaiting trial after being accused earlier this year of ordering an inmate to be killed to protect the guards’ role as kingpins of an institution-wide gang operation.

by Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida

Pictured: Inmate medical facilities inside the Century Correctional Institution. NorthEscambia.com file photos, click to enlarge.

Suspect Sketch Released In Cantonment Carjacking, Attempted Sexual Assault

September 28, 2014

The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office is continuing their efforts to find a man believed to have carjacked a woman in Cantonment shortly before attacking and attempting to sexually assault a female jogger.

The Sheriff’s Office has released a sketch based upon the description of the man. He was described by the victims as a dark skinned black male in is mid 30’s approximately 5-feet 8-inches to 5-feet 10-inches tall. He was described as being of a medium build, with rough textured facial skin, possibly acne scars, short black hair, bright white teeth, deep voice, and possibly a mustache. He was last seen wearing a faded black shirt with white writing and blue jeans.

CARJACKING

At approximately 8:15 a.m. on September 18, a carjacking was reported at the Raceway gas station at Highway 29 and Muscogee Road. The victim had pumped gasoline and entered the store when an unknown black male suspect entered her unlocked vehicle and concealed himself in the backseat. The victim did not see the suspect and drove away from the store, according to information released Thursday afternoon by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.

The suspect confronted the victim once the vehicle was moving. He told her that he had a knife and to keep driving or he would “stick” her. She drove around randomly and eventually drove to a neighbor’s residence. Once there she honked the car’s horn in distress to get someone’s attention. The suspect struck her and pushed her from the vehicle.

He left in the car, heading back towards Highway 29. The victim was treated at the scene for minor injuries. Shortly afterward, the vehicle was located on Pine Street.

ATTEMPTED SEXUAL ASSAULT

About 8:35 a.m the same day. deputies received a call about the attempted sexual battery of a female jogger on Rocky Avenue.

The victim reported that as she was jogging when an unknown black male suspect grabbed her from behind and dragged her into a wooded lot. Once there he struck her in the face and attempted  to remove her clothing but the victim fought back and was able to escape. The suspect fled deeper into the wooded lot while the victim contacted authorities. The victim was transported to a local hospital where she was treated for minor injuries and released.

Due to the time and location of the incident, description of the suspect and the vehicle found at the location, investigators believe this incident may be connected to the carjacking.

CALL CRIMESTOPPERS

Anyone having information on this incident is asked to contact CrimeStoppers at (850) 433-STOP. Callers never have to provide their name and may receive a cash reward.

No Injuries In Bratt Hit And Run Accident

September 28, 2014

There were no injuries in a hit and run accident reported about 7:30 Saturday night at the intersection of West Highway 4 and Pine Barren Road, near Northview High School. The vehicle pictured sustained minor damage and came to rest in ditch next to West Highway 4 after the crash. A description of the second vehicle that left the scene was not available. NorthEscambia.com photo, click to enlarge.