Pensacola, Florida
Thursday December 14th 2017

Archives

The Buzz 5/11/17

Honoring Ashley The University of West Florida recently received a gift to establish the Ashley Hardaway Theriot Study Abroad Scholarship Endowment.

The endowment, which was created in memory of Theriot by her family and the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, will fund a $500 scholarship each year for a student participating in the UWF study abroad program.

“We are honored that Ashley’s friends and family chose to remember her by establishing a lasting legacy at the University of West Florida,” said Dr. Meredith Brunen, interim vice president for university advancement.

After college graduation, Theriot joined the Peace Corps and worked in Ukraine for two years before returning to Pensacola where she reported for Inweekly. She also worked with the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council.

Theriot later moved to Washington D.C., where she continued her freelance writing and was published by the Travel Channel and Huffington Post, among others. In 2013, she began working as a liaison officer with the International Visitor Leadership Program, guiding foreign visitors nationwide. She unexpectedly passed away at age 32 due to an undiagnosed arterial dissection.

“We hope through this scholarship, UWF students will find their inner Ashley through study abroad,” said Jena Melancon, founder and executive director of the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council. “I think Ashley would like the idea of other Floridians helping to create a better world by closing the gaps between cultures.”

To learn more, click on “Scholarships and Linkages” at uwf.edu/offices/international-affairs.

Wedgewood Fights Over 60 residents of the Wedgewood and Rolling Hills neighborhood came out for a town hall meeting at the Marie Young Community Center. Sitting in plastic chairs on the gym floor, they listened to attorney Todd Harris explain why his client, Sunbelt Crushing, LLC. should be allowed to renew its permit to operate in their neighborhood.

The crowd was mostly elderly African-Americans who have lived in the area for decades. Harris explained that Sunbelt Crushing had no violations over the past 14 years it has operated at 2390 Longleaf Drive.

“We are aware of the problems you’ve had,” said Harris. “That’s not us. This facility has no pits. In fact, it reduces the need for pits by recycling concrete.”

Wedgewood had recently fought a nearly three-year battle to close and clean up the Rolling Hills C&D Recycling facility. County officials told Inweekly that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection would complete its work on the site in a few weeks.

When Inweekly walked into the gym, Harris was fielding questions from the audience. I saw several familiar faces from three years ago when we interviewed families for our investigative report (Inweekly, “A Shame Before God,” June 26, 2014).

Heads were grayer and thinner. Some were in wheelchairs, and others used canes and walkers. A few had oxygen tanks. They talked about the poor health of their family, friends, and neighbors, which they believed is tied to the landfills and other industrial facilities that surround their homes.

Larry Williams, who grew up in Wedgewood and moved back a few years ago, said, “You’ve hired no one from this community. You are dumping, leaving and going home. We’re left to deal with it.”

He argued the Sunbelt is not giving back to the community. He said, “You have a right to do business, but we have a right to live in a safe and hazard-free environment.”

Several agreed that Sunbelt had the right to operate but asked that it be done elsewhere, not near residents or schools.

Harris said, “The problems you have had were created by people who did not abide by the law. We do abide by the law.”

He explained his client had installed dust suppression equipment to reduce the dust coming off the property. Harris estimated Sunbelt had spent about $10,000 on a sprinkler system.

Miss Esther, who had lived in the neighborhood since 1963, echoed the sentiments of Williams.

“You have a right to do business, but we have a right to live,” she said. “It’s too late for some of us; we are looking out for the next generation.”

Miss Esther added, “No matter how much you regulate, it’s not going to help the health problems of this community. This community has been worn out already.”

Harris said the testing data shows Sunbelt has been a good neighbor. He said, “We realize that we never provide enough to satisfy everyone.”

Commissioner Lumon May thanked the residents for coming out on a Tuesday night. He pointed out that for decades 40-50 permits have been issued in black neighborhoods without any town halls, which is why he insisted on the meeting.

He said over the years the EPA, DEP and the County have failed Wedgewood.

“We have too many borrow pits, landfills and recycling facilities in our neighborhoods,” said May. “We should never have built a community center next to contamination. We shouldn’t allow these operations near our schools and homes.”

The public hearing for Sunbelt Crushing’s permit has not been set.

No Drilling Despite a letter from the Pentagon stating that keeping rigs out of the Gulf of Mexico was “essential for developing and sustaining our nation’s future combat capabilities,” President Donald Trump signed an executive order that could expand offshore drilling for oil and gas.

The order came after Rep. Matt Gaetz had forwarded a letter from Anthony M. Kurta, the acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to the White House. Kurta wrote about the drilling moratorium that has kept rigs off Florida’s coast, “The Department of Defense (DoD) cannot overstate the vital importance of maintaining this moratorium.”

Appearing on “Pensacola Speaks,” Gaetz expressed his concerns.

“In 2022, the military mission line that creates a moratorium on drilling in the northern Gulf will expire if it is not reauthorized,” he said. “If that expires, it is my belief that President Trump’s Department of Interior will expand drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.”

The congressman said that Department of Interior officials want so badly to expand drilling off our beaches that they have already engaged in geological studies of the potential oil and gas reserves that exist.

“This is the time to organize Northwest Florida,” said Gaetz. “Our economy is based on bases and beaches. It’s my view that these plans for drilling threaten both and I’m going to do everything I can to organize the Florida delegation in a bipartisan way, with Senator (Bill) Nelson, with representatives from the house that are Republicans and Democrats.”

He added, “We’ve got to go fight on this thing. We have a large Congressional delegation, and I think that we’ll be able to extend that military mission line, my hope is, for another 50 years. But it will take a substantial amount of legislative effort because if we don’t, it’s likely that we will be drilling in the Gulf.”

Gaetz said the offshore rigs would make it difficult for the military bases in the Florida Panhandle to conduct their training operations, which impact how our area does during the next Base Realignment and Closure process (BRAC).

“One of the worst things we could do to West Florida, in terms of a BRAC, would be to allow for offshore oil drilling to occur,” he said, “because then that would be the basis that others would use to move the high job test and evaluation missions out of our district and over to theirs.”

Broxson’s Big Save Last week, the Florida Legislature passed the Triumph Gulf Coast funding bill that finally releases $300 million of the BP settlement funds to Northwest Florida, where the 2010 oil spill had the most impact. The money has been sitting in a bank account since last summer.

State Senator Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze) made an amendment to the Senate bill that will prevent that from happening when the remaining nine installments are paid out over the next 15 years. His amendment said that the future payments must be deposited with Triumph Gulf Coast within 30 days of their receipt, avoiding future legislative battles.

“If we did not have that bill, we would be fighting this issue nine more times over the next 15 years,” said Sen. Broxson on “Pensacola Speaks.”  “I thought it was important, and our colleagues thought it was important, and we convinced the Senate and the House to concur with our amendment, and they did.”

He added, “I’m very thankful and believe me. Long after I’m gone from here and no one can remember the oil spill, that amendment will be working to make sure that money goes into Triumph where it can be used for the people of the Panhandle.”

Youth Employment Applications are now being accepted for the new Escambia County Youth Employment Program, which will provide opportunities for youth to get paid work experience in various county departments.

Qualified youth who are accepted into ECYEP will be able to work up to 20 hours a week at $8.10 per hour, and will also receive job readiness training before job placement.

Limited positions are available. Requirements for the program are as follows: 1) must be age 16-20; 2) must live in Escambia County, Florida; and 3) family household income must meet income criteria, which is 200 percent or below 2017 Poverty Level Guidelines.

Applications can be downloaded from county website or picked up during normal business hours at 221 S. Palafox Place, 4th-floor reception desk. Applications must be submitted by 3 p.m. Monday, May 22 at the same location. Late or incomplete applications will not be accepted.

For more information, please call 595-0457 or visit myescambia.com/youthemployment.

Hiring Our Heroes The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Greater Pensacola Chamber are hosting a Hiring Our Heroes-Pensacola job fair for veterans and military spouses. More than 40 employers are expected to participate with jobs available for veterans and military spouses of all ranks and levels of experience.

The day begins with a Hiring Our Heroes job seeker employment workshop at 8:30 a.m., which will be led by HR and workforce professionals. The workshop will cover resume building, networking, and interview tips. The job fair will run Thursday, May 25, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and will be at the Florida Army National Guard Armory at 8790 Grow Drive, Pensacola.

Interested job seekers need to pre-register online at uschamberfoundation.org/event/pensacola-hiring-fair-1.

Summer Wheels Pass
Representatives from Escambia County Area Transit (ECAT) announced the launch of the Summer Wheels Pass that allows youths to ride ECAT for free all summer long. Tony Ellis,
Director of Marketing and Community Relations for ECAT said the program is designed to “encourage young people to explore their community while engaging with public transit.”

ECAT’s 2017 Youth Art Contest calls for students in Pre-K through 12th grades to submit a piece of ECAT-themed artwork. Winning entrants will have their art displayed on ECAT bus shelters for an entire year. Students can submit their work to the ECAT Terminal until Friday, May 26th at 4 p.m. Winners will be chosen based on creativity, originality, and use of ECAT theme.

The Summer Wheels Pass will allow youth 18 and under to ride ECAT from Memorial Day to Labor Day at no charge.

“We are excited that ECAT will be offering the Summer Wheels Pass to our students again this summer,” said Escambia County School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas. “A bus pass can mean easier access to the public libraries, the museums downtown, summer activities all over town and even the beach. We hope the passes will encourage families to spend their free time giving their students new experiences as well as making frequent trips to the libraries because we all know that summer reading is a great way for our students to avoid the summer slide.”

The Summer Wheels Pass can be obtained with an application and a parent or guardian at the ECAT administrative office on Fairfield Ave. Both of ECAT’s summer youth initiatives are done in partnership with local businesses who work to support both the system and area youth. For a full list of sponsors and partners or to download the Art Contest entry or Summer Wheels Pass application, please visit GoECAT.com or call Tonya Ellis at 595-3229.