Pensacola, Florida
Thursday December 14th 2017

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Outtakes—Consolidation Mulligan

By Rick Outzen

Six years ago, the effort to consolidate our local governments fell short when the proposal failed to garner the support of the Escambia Board of County Commissioners, ECUA Board, and the Century Town Council. The task was too monumental and complex.

Coming off the successful fight to pass a new city charter that put the mayor in charge of city government, some felt consolidation would be easy. Why not have one powerful elected official running all of Escambia County?

Thank goodness, consolidation failed. However, the ideas of reducing duplication of services and eliminating an extra layer of regulations and overhead do have merit. Maybe we should revisit the issue, but let’s focus this time on merging Pensacola city government into the Board of County Commissioners.

The fights over local option gas tax and sales tax dollars would go away. The commissioners already represent the city and county. Why not cut out the middle man?

Eliminating the Pensacola City Council, City Clerk, Legal, and Mayor’s Office would save city taxpayers $3.36 million a year, based on Mayor Ashton Hayward’s FY 2017 budget proposal.

Pensacola City Hall could be marketed as the headquarters and campus for a Fortune 500 company like Google. It sits on prime real estate across from the Community Maritime Park and Pensacola Bay.

But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. The first step would be to consolidate city departments with county operations. While some senior leaders might lose their jobs, most of the employees would move over to the county.

Parks & Recreation, Planning & Development Services, and Public Works & Facilities should be the first departments moved over to the county. The planning and inspection functions have become too political in the Hayward administration. The Long Hollow radio tower and Manna Food Pantry warehouse are two examples where city staff ignored their policies and procedures.

The fire and police departments would be next. The fire stations would go under the BCC, and the police would move under the Sheriff’s Office. Then financial services department goes under the County Comptroller, and human resources goes under the BCC.

The last to move would be the Enterprise Funds—airport, port, gas utility and sanitation.  The County Commission could decide whether to keep the sanitation department or sell it to ECUA.

Then, the mayor and the city council vacate city hall, and the “for sale” goes up.

This plan is way too simple, but simple plans are usually the most successful.