Melee at the Beach The first weekend of the month was a busy one for Escambia County deputies on Pensacola Beach’s Portofino Boardwalk. After a series of brawls erupted, the boardwalk and surrounding areas were closed off.
Between midnight and 2:30 a.m., two men were arrested for disorderly conduct, another for disorderly intoxication and two for drug and weapon possession.
According to an arrest report Daniel Heath, 32, was driving at around 1 a.m., Aug. 5 on Pensacola Beach Boulevard. After stopping in moving traffic, the man apparently got out of his vehicle and attempted to remove his clothes. Heath caused traffic to stop, which resulted in a three-vehicle accident. He was detained and later admitted to smoking the synthetic marijuana substance Spice. Heath was charged with one count of disorderly conduct.
At 2 a.m., Vincent Wilson, 18, was arrested and charged with one count of disorderly public intoxication after yelling and arguing in front of Hooter’s on the Portofino Boardwalk. According to the arrest report, Wilson continued to yell causing a bigger disturbance after deputies attempted to handcuff him.
At 2:30 a.m., Anthony Thomas, 19, was charged with one count of disorderly conduct in a separate altercation. According to the arrest report, Thomas was seen near Bamboo Willies Beach Club on the Portofino Boardwalk “applying several strikes with a closed fist” to an unidentified male. Thomas was then restrained by an officer. Approximately 80 to 100 people began to surround the officer and Thomas, with “intent to incite a riot.” The boardwalk was then temporarily closed by deputies to prevent any further violence.
Circle K, a convenience store next to Portofino Boardwalk, voluntarily closed due to the disturbances. Circle K was contacted about the incident but declined to comment. At midnight, in an unrelated incident, two men were arrested after a deputy noticed suspicious activity in the Casino Beach parking lot.
John Brewington Jr., 22, and his brother Reco Brewington, 20, were arrested after an officer searched the car they were reported to have been in. The car belonged to Kaylen Shields, 21. The officer found crack cocaine, marijuana, prescription pills and a loaded .38 revolver that was inside of a shoebox in the trunk of the car.
John Brewington Jr. was charged with one count each of possession of a weapon, cocaine possession with intent to sell, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription with intent to sell, marijuana possession and drug equipment possession.
Reco Brewington was charged with one count each of cocaine possession with intent to sell, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription with intent to sell, marijuana possession and drug equipment possession.
The four incidents were dispatched and handled quickly by law enforcement, which Buck Lee, Executive Director at the Santa Rosa Island Authority, attributes to a surplus of patrolling deputies on Pensacola Beach.
“During spring and summer months, 13 to 15 extra deputies are on duty to supplement the four deputies that already patrol the beach,” Lee said. “We try to have law enforcement present to keep things in order, but there is no way to predict when these things will happen.”
All five men are currently awaiting trial.
Parking Spots and Shortfalls With other details hammered out, the lease deal between Quint Studer, the Community Maritime Park Associates and the city of Pensacola apparently hinges on parking and bettering the park’s budgetary numbers. How many spaces will there be, who has the right to use them and when, and how much of a return will the CMPA see?
During a recent negotiation session, Studer representative Andrew Rothfeder called the parking specifics “the only big issue.” CMPA board member Jim Reeves called it a “complicated issue,” while Studer attorney Scott Remington described it as a “very complicated issue.”
While the parties have tentatively agreed on an annual lease fee of 7.25 percent of the property’s appraised value, and a loose, subject-to-change CAM fee of .75 percent, the CMPA is apparently reluctant to sign off on 200 parking spaces for the $12 million office complex Studer intends to build. With an approximately $800,000 budget shortfall, the CMPA doesn’t want to give up the parking spaces without seeing some form of income in return.
“At some point,” said City Councilman and CMPA board member Larry Johnson, “we have to have a conversation about enjoying some of that 7.25—and when I say ‘we,’ I have my CMPA hat on.”
Reeves eventually suggested the board accept the proposed lease agreement provided by Remington—recommending that the city accept the terms—with the caveat that the city pass along the .75 CAM fee and 75 percent of the 7.25 lease fee.
The board later approved that motion.
“So, you’re asking for another $75,000,” asked CMPA Chairman Collier Merrill.
“I’m asking for a reasonable return on the parking lot we are furnishing,” Reeves replied, adding that his request pertained to the city, not Studer.
Following a meeting of the CMPA’s audit and operations committee in mid-August, Remington wrote a letter to CMPA Executive Director Ed Spears calling the parking issue “very much in the air.” It noted that the committee had suggested moving on the lease agreement, but was hesitant to provide 200 parking spaces “pending the CMPA and the city coming to an agreement on balancing the CMPA’s operating budget” and that it couldn’t see going forward with a deal “until such time as the operating budget deficiencies are resolved.”
Merrill said he had spoken with city administration regarding the $800,000 deficit. He said there were various options being looked at to better the scenario.
“While we do have a deficit, it’s not quite as bleak as we might think,” the chairman said.
Fourth Cent Tally The Escambia County Commission divvied up more than $1.5 million stemming from the fourth cent of the Tourist Development Tax, or bed tax. The collected tax revenue is meant to be spent on entities that impact tourism. The largest chunk of the money is headed towards the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce.
Originally, the Historic Preservation Board and St. Michael’s Cemetery were removed from this year’s list of recipients. Commissioners eventually decided to add them back onto the list, and also put newcomer Frank Brown Songwriters Festival in line for some funding.
The final tally is as follows: African-American Heritage Society, $25,000; Arts, Culture and Entertainment, $266,099; Frank Brown Songwriters Festival, $40,000; Historic Preservation Board, $70,000; Naval Aviation Museum, $100,000; Pensacola Chamber/VIC, $600,000; Pensacola Chamber/VIC (from 4th Cent Reserves) $250,000; Sertoma Fourth of July, $75,000; Skills USA, $100,000; St. Michael’s Cemetery, $25,000.