National Junior Honor Society At Ernest Ward Middle Inducts New Members

April 18, 2015

Sixty students were inducted into the National Junior Honor Society during a candlelight ceremony Friday at Ernest Ward Middle School.

The NJHS is the nation’s premier organization established to recognize outstanding middle school students. More than just an honor roll, NJHS serves to honor those students who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of scholarship, leadership, service, citizenship and character.

New National Junior Honor Society members at Ernest Ward are:

  • Austin Adams
  • Lauren Ahern
  • Addison Albritton
  • Rebekah Amerson
  • Madicyn Bell
  • Trevor Bomba
  • Cassidy Boutwell
  • Emily Boutwell
  • Alexia Broadhead
  • Keaton Brown
  • Juliana Bryan
  • Katherine Buford
  • Colby Burkett
  • Micah Calhoun
  • Lacie Carter
  • Logan Chavers
  • Destiny Cleckler
  • Jayda Crabtree
  • Karlee Criswell
  • Justin Cruce
  • Anthony Day
  • Jackson Edwards
  • Jason Fayard
  • Neionni Findley
  • Jakob Gibson
  • Ian Gifford
  • Jordan Godwin
  • John Gulledge
  • Ashlan Harigel
  • Elijah Harigel
  • Anna King
  • Aubree Love
  • Ansleigh Maholovich
  • Jessie McCall
  • Hannah McGahan
  • Kayla McKillion
  • Hannah Merchant
  • Colby Morris
  • Chris Nordman
  • Charleigh Parham
  • Joseph Parker
  • Kinzie Rackard
  • Teriana Redmond
  • Dariontae Richardson
  • Savannah Roley
  • Kyle Sconiers
  • Ryan Sconiers
  • Bailey Seibert
  • Shelby Sloan
  • Cloe Smith
  • Savannah Spence
  • Savannah Steadham
  • Josiah Stilwell
  • Nicholas Trump
  • Bailey Van Pelt
  • Josh Warren
  • Brianna White
  • Cassidy White
  • Raeleigh Woodfin
  • Ashten Wright

Pictured: Sixty students were inducted into the National Junior Honor Society Friday at Ernest Ward Middle School. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.


Regulators Approve Gulf Power, Military Solar Plan

April 17, 2015

The Florida Public Service Commission on Thursday approved a plan that would lead to Gulf Power Company buying electricity from major new solar facilities on Northwest Florida military bases.
“Adding solar energy to our portfolio is another step in further diversifying our energy mix,” said Stan Connally, Gulf Power president and CEO. “Through careful planning, we’ve been able to work alongside our military partners to help provide cost-effective renewable energy — and all our customers will reap the benefit.”

The solar energy farms will be constructed at Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach (30 megawatts), Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Outlying Landing Field Holley in Navarre (40 megawatts), and Naval Air Station Pensacola, Outlying Landing Field Saufley in Pensacola (50 megawatts).
“We support this important partnership between Gulf Power and the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy that will play a major role in Florida’s energy future,” Public Service Commission Chairman Art Graham said. “The solar facilities will diversify the utility’s power supply and increase Florida’s emissions-free electricity generation.”
Gulf Power will serve customers across Northwest Florida with power from these renewable energy-generating facilities. Together, these new solar facilities, which will be developed by HelioSage Energy, could produce enough energy to power approximately 18,000 homes for one year.

As an intermittent energy resource, the solar farms will not replace Gulf Power’s generation plants, but will have the capability to provide energy that will diversify the power supply and provide a cost-effective alternative during peak energy usage.

Construction is scheduled to begin in February 2016 and the facilities are expected to be in service no later than December 2016.

The company’s first renewable energy project was the 3.2-megawatt Perdido Landfill Gas-to-Energy facility, which has produced more than 100 million kilowatt hours of electricity since starting commercial operation in 2010.

Gulf Power also submitted a request in February to the FPSC to approve an agreement that would make the utility a leading purchaser of wind generation among Florida utilities. If approved, this would bring the company to a total of five renewable energy sources.

Pictured: Examples of HelioSage Energy solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities. Courtesy photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

One Day Only – Save 27% On Past Due Traffic Tickets, Court Costs, Fines, Fees

April 17, 2015

If you have unpaid traffic tickets, court costs, fines, or fees, Pam Childers, the Escambia County Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller, is giving you a break by putting the brakes on collection fees – but only for this Saturday.

The Clerk’s office is offering convenient Saturday hours and opening to the public for “Operation Green Light” on April 18.  This special program allows anyone with unpaid traffic tickets, or misdemeanor or felony court costs, fines, or fees to make payment in full without paying the 27 percent collections surcharge.  You will also be able to restore your driving privileges which may have been suspended for non-payment once all outstanding traffic tickets, court costs, fines, and fees are paid.

There are thousands of people in Escambia County who have unpaid traffic tickets, court costs, fines, and fees.  As a result, many are driving with suspended licenses.  Operation Green Light is a chance for people to pay their traffic tickets, court costs, fines, and fees without paying the 27 percent collections surcharge and restore their driving privileges.  By opening on a Saturday, we’re making it convenient for those who need it.

Late fees will not be waived, but anyone paying traffic tickets, court costs, fines, and fees during Operation Green Light won’t have to pay collections surcharges.  That’s a savings of $55.62 on a $206 ticket.

Operation Green Light is scheduled from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 18, at the main courthouse at:  M. C. Blanchard Judicial Building, 190 West Government Street, Pensacola.

Payments in full will be accepted by cash, personal or cashier’s check, money order, or credit card.

Battle Over Future Of Escambia Fire Services Heats Up

April 16, 2015

There’s a battle of sorts heating up over the future of fire services in Escambia County. Will fire stations be staffed by volunteers? Paid firefighters? Both? Will fire taxes be raised for some, or all? Will fire fighters respond at all to an emergency at your home?

Good Friday morning, there were two house fires in the area served by the Ferry Pass Volunteer Fire Station, but no truck from Ferry Pass ever rolled to either fire due to a lack of volunteers at the time. Escambia County Administrator Jack Brown placed 24/7  paid fire crews at the station to “assist” the volunteers to ensure proper coverage for the district that includes ares such as North Davis Highway, University Parkway and eastern Nine Mile Road.  The firefighters are being paid with funds already available in the county’s fire services budget this year.

In over half of the county’s 23 fire districts, volunteers are the first to answer the call for help.

A “manpower summary” report provided to NorthEscambia.com last week by Escambia County show nothing less than a dismal, even a frightening, response level by volunteer fire stations.

(article continues below report, click to enlarge)


That report shows volunteer firefighter stations did not respond at to one-third of all calls and missed 45 percent of critical incidents where life or property were threatened. Wednesday, the Escambia County Professional Firefighters Local union posted the summary information above online, and relayed it in a Twitter message to several media outlets. But now that report has come under fire as being inaccurate in regards to North Escambia stations.

Using the report as ammunition, the union is calling for paid staffing at more of the county’s fire stations, and they will push the Escambia County Commission for a $50 increase in the MSBU (municipal services benefit unit) to fund the firefighters.

“It’s a small price to pay,” Nick Gradia, union president said Wednesday. “It would increase the $85 now paid by each resident up to $135, but that’s less than many areas.”  Gradia and union envision the county’s volunteer firefighters continuing their service, working alongside the paid firefighters for an even better response to emergencies.

“This is not about getting rid of the volunteers. This is about making sure there is a guaranteed response from the fire station when a resident makes a call for help,” Gradia said.

In North Escambia — specifically the Beulah, Century, McDavid, Walnut Hill and Molino fire stations — the numbers provided last week (above) show a poor response by volunteers, including a 47 percent “understaffed” response to critical emergencies by the Walnut Hill Fire Station.

According to Escambia Fire Chief Pat Grace, the “understaffed” response computations were based on any response where a fire apparatus did not roll out of a station with at least three firefighters on board.

As NorthEscambia.com investigated the county report, we found apparent errors as the numbers relate to the rural North Escambia departments. For instance, apparatus used in the north-end include brush trucks and, in Walnut Hill, a medical squad — all of which have only two seats and can never respond with three firefighters. At fire stations in the north end of the county, one firefighter may respond from the station in a fire engine, while three or more of certified firefighters may respond directly to the incident scene in their private vehicles, but that would have been included in the report as an inadequate response, according to county officials.

In a letter dated Wednesday to each of the Escambia County Commissioners, union secretary Dimitri Jansen said the report data (above) provided to commissioners “could be construed as incorrect”, specifically among the North Escambia stations. Other inaccurately reported data could show a non or inadequate response when a specific apparatus is dispatched but instead response was in a different vehicle, or, in the case of Walnut Hill, Century and Molino, the response came from the district’s substation, the letter states.

Jansen’s letter admits that the problem with insufficient responses is an issue with departments in the south-end of the county, not among the northern, more rural departments.

“Overall the responses for North Escambia have been very  successful and should be considered a model for any fire district within Escambia County,” Jansen wrote to commissioners. “It has never been our intention to inflate or deflate the data we provided to you in order to further any agenda. It is both for the citizens of Escambia County as well as that of Escambia County Fire Rescue best interest to provide you and the public with an accurate analysis of the large gap in fire protection.”

Gradia said it had been brought to his attention that data for north-end stations might not be completely accurate due to reporting criteria and different response methodology, but a volunteer response problem still exists in North Escambia, despite better responses than south end stations.

“We are not as concerned about the north end where they are doing a much better job,” Gradia said.

With the $50 fire tax increase, he said the union would like to see an additional 24/7 advanced life support fire crew stationed in North Escambia, likely in Molino or McDavid, to supplement the volunteer response, along with a 24/7 paid crew already in place in Cantonment and a daytime paid crew already in Century.

But Escambia County Public Safety Director Mike Weaver disagrees.

“I see nothing in the near future, the next 5-7 years at least, that shows any additional paid crews are needed north of Nine Mile Road,” Weaver said. He said the county “manpower” report being circulated was inaccurate for the North Escambia volunteer fire stations.

An internal Escambia County public safety report obtained Wednesday by NorthEscambia.com paints an entirely different picture for several fire stations than the report circulated by the firefighter’s union.

(article continues below report, click to enlarge)

The report details response from all fire stations in the county during fiscal year 2014. The report was generated after each and every questionable response was analyzed in the county’s fire services software, eliminating almost all inaccurate data for each station.

“This report more accurately reflects the true picture of department responses,” Weaver said. Rather than showing 47 percent inadequate response by the Walnut Hill Fire Station, for instance, the newly researched report  (above) shows Walnut Hill missed zero percent of calls.

“We should be looking at the northern stations, particularly Walnut Hill and McDavid, and see what they are doing right,” he said. “Some of these stations are a perfect model of how the volunteer system can work”.

Weaver said paid-only crews would never work in northern stations. For instance, if a paid crew placed in Walnut Hill responded to a structure fire in the Molino district, it would leave 200 square miles in the Walnut Hill district without any response. “You are always going to have to rely on volunteers at some of these stations.”

But one thing is clear on both reports — volunteer non-response at several south-end stations is a problem, and the volunteer only model is simply not working at those stations.

“It’s just absolute garbage that the union is trying to push out the volunteers,” Gradia said. “Nothing could be further than the truth. Volunteer and paid can work together and compliment each other in a fire station.”

In addition to Ferry Pass, the union is currently pressing for the fire tax increase to fund career crews to higher volume stations in Bellview, Myrtle Grove, Innerarity Point and West Pensacola.

“We know that changes are necessary,” Escambia County Administrator Jack Brown said. “The north end is doing fine, but we must do something to provide adequate protection to the citizens of the south end. We need stations in the south where paid firefighters and volunteers are working together.”

Escambia County Commission Chairman Steven Barry said the commission will begin to hammer out the fire services issues at a workshop meeting on April 23.

Pictured: Volunteer firefighters battle a full-involved house fire on Highway 97 in Davisville last November. NorthEscambia.com file photos, click to enlarge.

Tate Students Get Real World Voting Experience

April 16, 2015

Students at Tate High School got a little real world voting experience Wednesday. They voted for class officers and student council officers during lunch, using real ballots and real voting equipment provided by the Escambia County Supervisor of Elections Office.

Students cast 501 ballots, the Elections Office was able register 21 students to vote in real elections.

Absentee ballots will be available Thursday for students that missed voting on Wednesday, and the winners be announced on Friday.

Tate Juniors also cast ballots for their prom court, king and queen.

Courtesy photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

FHP Seeks Information In Highway 97 Hit And Run

April 16, 2015

The Florida Highway Patrol is seeking a hit and run driver after a crash Wednesday afternoon on Highway 97 near Dogwood Park.

According to the FHP, 56-year old Patricia M. Bruner of Bruck, FL, was southbound in a 2012 Land Rover on Highway 97 approaching White Ash Road when she was rear-ended by a purple or maroon 2002-2005 model Dodge Ram traveling at a high rate of a speed. The pickup continued south following the 3:15 p.m. crash.

The force of the impact caused the Land Rover to leave the roadway and come to rest in a field. Burner and her passenger, 83-year old Thelma J. Bullard of Defuniak Springs, were transported by ambulance to Sacred Heart Hospital with minor injuries.

The pickup truck will have  front end damage,  according to the FHP.  Anyone with information on the truck is asked to email joshuatucker@flhsmv.gov or dial *FHP from their cell phone.

Submitted photos for NorthEcambia.com, click to enlarge.

Search Continues For Suspect In Century Double Shooting

April 15, 2015

Authorities are still looking for a suspect wanted in connection with a double shooting March 26 in Century.

Deputies are searching for 28-year old Brian Keith Sanders (pictured, but deputies said his head is now shaved). He is wanted on charges of aggravated battery, deadly missiles, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and criminal mischief. Deputies said he should be considered armed and dangerous and not approached.

The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office received a call from the Jay Hospital emergency room the night of the shooting alerting them that two gunshot victims had arrived in a private vehicle seeking treatment. The gunshot victims advised that they were shot on Jefferson Avenue in Century.  Both victims were shot in the shoulder or upper-arm area, and they were treated and released .

They were apparently shot while in a vehicle that was discovered on Mayes Street at Jefferson Avenue. It appeared that the driver’s window of the Chevrolet Impala had been shot out.

Anyone that knows the whereabouts of Sanders is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at (850) 436-9620 or CrimeStoppers at (850) 433-STOP.

NorthEscambia.com exclusive photos, click to enlarge.