BEGGING FOR A MATCH Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward announced on May 28 that the Florida Department of Transportation has formally offered Pensacola International Airport an $11,090,000 matching grant for the development of future facilities and airport infrastructure.
The grant that has been talked about for months requires a $5 million match, and that’s the rub. The city doesn’t have $5 million and will need help from the county, chamber and University of West Florida to have any hope in coming up with the match.
Hayward didn’t even have the estimated $100,000 to buy the bollards to close South Palafox Place for special events like Gallery Nights. The county has been begged to cover part of the cost.
BACK TO THE FUTURE Interim County Administrator George Touart doesn’t want to pay for more staff at the Escambia County Jail, even after Justice Concepts Incorporated, the consultant the county hired in 2007 to study the jail and the U.S. Department of Justice have pointed out the jail is nearly 100 deputies short.
The problem for Touart is he can’t dodge this bullet. DOJ has issued findings on the jail and may initiate a lawsuit if the county doesn’t come up with a plan.
Touart has taken a unique approach to the DOJ findings—he has recruited former Sheriff Ron McNesby and former Jail Director Dennis Williams to help him fight the DOJ and Sheriff David Morgan. McNesby and Williams ran the jail when three prisoners died in less than 10 months. Touart was the county administrator during that period.
On the eve of the commissioners’ special meeting to discuss the DOJ report, Touart circulated among them an unsigned report from Williams debunking the report and attacking Morgan’s management of the jail.
Meanwhile, McNesby is talking about running for sheriff again in 2016.
THIRD-GRADERS SHOW PROMISE The first 2013 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test results were released before Memorial Day weekend. The third grade results show that the Escambia Public School District may have a promising group.
The percentage of pupils with reading scores at Level 3 or above was 55 percent, up from 51 percent last year. Over 100 more students achieved the passing scores on reading, which helped the district narrow the gap from the state averages to two percentage points.
Unfortunately the FCAT writing scores for the fourth, eighth and tenth grades weren’t as positive. Though the percentages scoring Level 3.5 or above, the score level used to determine school grades, were up, the gap between the state and district averages grew.
The percentage of Escambia County fourth and eighth graders scoring 3.5 or more on the writing exam is 10 or more points below the state averages. County high school sophomores are eight percentage points below the state average.
IT NEVER ENDS Escambia County Commission Chair Gene Valentino is headed to Panama with State Rep. Doug Broxson and others to look for business possibilities when the wider Panama Canal opens in 2015. The commissioner hasn’t given up taking economic development away from the Greater Pensacola Chamber. Stay tuned.