Pensacola, Florida
Friday December 15th 2017

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The Buzz 6/22/17

Pond Design Questioned The Government Street/Corrine Jones Stormwater project continues to be plagued with problems.

The latest issue was flooding along the east side of the large pond during a rainstorm on Tuesday, June 13. The flooding collapsed a 10-foot section of the newly constructed sidewalk, exposed the footings of a black fence around the pond, exposed pipes, and caused significant erosion along Coyle Street in the Tanyard neighborhood.

City spokesman Vernon Stewart issued an email statement Friday about the more than $3 million project. Stewart wrote: “The construction on the project is currently scheduled to be wrapped up around the end of July.  Although the pond itself is nearly complete, it is not in full function yet and will not be until the surrounding roadway construction is completed. Once the facility is totally complete and fully online, it will help to abate some of the localized flooding issues around the park that have traditionally been a problem for the neighborhood.”

Emerald CoastKeeper Laurie Murphy, a certified stormwater inspector, said she has made a public record request for the city’s design for the pond, since Owens would not return her calls. She has a few theories of her own, including the pond is built below sea level, was dug below the water table, the streets are not raised, there are a lack of stormwater inlets and the pipes into Pensacola Bay to drain the stormwater pond are not large enough.

She suggested a dry pond should have been built instead and used plants approved by the University of Florida specifically for stormwater ponds.

“It was built more for beautification than to move stormwater,” Murphy said. “It’s going to be a constant problem.”

A Utility Services representative, who refused to reveal his name, said: “We didn’t design it. We just build them. We’ve had enough of the city and enough of (Tanyard resident and public advocate) Gloria Horning.”

National Marketing Strategy Launched Economic officials gathered on June 13 to announce there are 1,758 shovel-ready acres at The Bluffs Northwest Florida Industrial Campus ready for manufacturing companies to develop.

The site is projected to attract tan estimated 60 manufacturing and industrial tenants that could create up to 15,000 jobs. The full development of the project could result in $1.1 billion in additional Gross State Product for Florida’s economy, according to Florida TaxWatch.

The last piece of the puzzle was $3.1 million in funding approved in the budget by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to build the proposed Industrial Boulevard to cross a flood plain and connect the north and south sections of The Bluffs campus.

“We want to continue to raise wages in the community,” FloridaWest CEO Scott LuthLuth said. “We want to create job opportunities for our citizens and our youth. We want them to have opportunities for employment they may or may not have.”

Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro and his team analyzed the potential impact of The Bluffs campus.

“Today’s global economy is becoming increasingly high-tech, and for Florida to continue to be competitive, it must invest in high-tech manufacturing hubs,” Calabro said. “Projects like The Bluffs provide Floridians with high-wage jobs and will significantly benefit the state’s economy.”

Freddy Donovan Jr. of Baskerville-Donovan lauded the natural formation of scenic hills that he called “unique topography” on the Gulf Coast.

“At The Bluffs, you can really integrate industrial sites and nature,” Donovan said. “The University of West Florida is a great example of a facility integrated into nature. We want to do the same thing at The Bluffs. It’s a beautiful area.”

Pensacola Pitches NBA On June 7, Mayor Ashton Hayward took his staff and Pensacola Sports CEO Ray Palmer to New Orleans to present his proposal to host the NBA New Orleans Pelicans’ development team starting in the fall of 2018.

Palmer told Inweekly that the selection team made up of Pelicans’ executives seemed to know a lot about Pensacola and the town’s other professional teams, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos and Ice Flyers.

“They had done their homework. I sensed they would really like to be in Pensacola,” said Palmer, the sports association’s leader for 15 years. “I think we are in the hunt.”

Palmer told the selection team about Pensacola’s sports history and support of sports over the years. He pitched that the Pelicans could be a part of building a new indoor sports complex where the Pelicans’ affiliate team in the NBA Gatorade League could play. Pensacola Sports has promoted the concept for the past two years, releasing a feasibility study to the county commission in February 2016.

“It would be a nice time for them to get on board for that,” Palmer said. “It’s something that could make the Pelicans home in Pensacola for years to come.”

Pensacola Sports envisions a $37 million, 120,000 square-foot facility consisting of eight hardwood basketball courts, expandable bleacher seating, meeting rooms, locker rooms and enough outdoor space for possible soccer, lacrosse and baseball fields.

Crossroads Consulting Services and Convergence Design concluded in its study that sports tournaments could be scheduled 35 to 41 weekends a year, generate about 50,000 hotel-room bookings in the local area and result in a $25 million annual economic impact.

Palmer said none of the places vying for the Pelicans affiliate, Biloxi, St. Tammany Parish, Jackson, Mobile, Baton Rouge and Shreveport, had everything the NBA team wanted.

“It’s all about negotiations,” Palmer said. “If you want to make it happen, you can make it happen.”

Whatever happens, Palmer said residents should be honored that the New Orleans Pelicans sent a letter to the Pensacola mayor requesting it bid on hosting the affiliate.

“It’s exciting to think that people at that level are reaching out to our community,” Palmer said.

Congressional Dominos Congressman Matt Gaetz explained the sequence of legislation that needs to be passed before Congress launches any significant infrastructure projects.

“There’s no way to get the infrastructure bill without first getting the tax bill,” he told Inweekly. “There’s no way to get the tax bill without first getting the health care bill because when you repeal Obamacare, you take a trillion dollars out of the base budget. You need that trillion dollars to be able to do a tax cut that balances.”

Gaetz said, “I’m not going to vote for a tax cut that doesn’t balance. The only way to get the savings for the balancing the tax bill is by repealing Obamacare. They only way you get the growth to dynamically score and fund infrastructure is if you get the tax cuts.”

He hopes the U.S. Senate passes a health care bill soon. Gaetz said, “If they can get us further away from some of the challenges that we face with insurance companies having influence over legislation, I’m all ears, but we absolutely need to get that product moving because if you don’t, you see the entire agenda begin to logjam.”

United Way Celebration United Way of Escambia County had its annual Community Investments and Campaign Celebration complete with white linen tablecloths and spreads of food and beverages at the Sanders Beach-Corinne Jones Resource Center on June 15.

With 3,800 volunteers, 296 workplace partners and 44 local agency partners, United Way had plenty to celebrate.

Before the ceremony, President and CEO of United Way of Escambia County Andrea Krieger told Inweekly, “Tonight is a celebration of a lot of really good work that’s being done in the community across multiple sectors.”

United Way announced at the event that its 296 workplace campaigns made possible investments of $1 million this year and $1,963,629 over the next three years to 44 local agency program partners.

“It does take all of us working together to make the community a place we want to live in and want to give to our children and want our future babies to enjoy,” said Krieger, who announced her resignation earlier in the week to become the executive director of the Pensacola State College Foundation.

The Mead family shared a personal story about their six-year-old son Grant, who was diagnosed with autism in 2013, and how The Arc Gateway’s Pearl Nelson Child Development Center for Pediatric Therapy had impacted their family.

“Grant began receiving speech therapy and occupational therapy at the Pearl Nelson Center. The ladies who helped us have been more than therapists to our family,” his mother Ashley Mead said.

The Nelson Child Development Center will receive a total of $235,827 from United Way of Escambia County over a three-year period.

Cross Debate Settled On June 19, Federal Judge Roger Vinson found that the cross at the City of Pensacola’s Bayview Park can no longer stand as a permanent fixture on city-owned property and must be removed within 30 days.

The prior week, he had heard arguments from the American Humanist Association and the city of Pensacola regarding whether the 25-foot cross in Bayview Park violates the establishment clause in the first amendment and inherently fails the “Lemon Test.”

Monica Miller, senior counsel for the American Humanist Association’s Legal Center, opened by saying, “Almost every court that hears a cross case rules it unconstitutional.”

Miller told Judge Vinson that local citizens are asking that the city to discontinue the preservation of the cross and remove the religious symbol from the public area because it violates all three prongs of the Lemon Test, which was created by the U.S. Supreme Court case Lemon v. Kurtzman.

Under the Lemon Test, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; and finally, the statute must not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion.

In her argument, she said, “This is the City of Pensacola’s cross, and to an outsider, it’s seen as marginalizing,”

Nixon Daniel of the Beggs & Lane law firm represented Pensacola. He argued the city should not be required to remove the cross because it serves a secular purpose for the community and does not violate the Lemon Test.

“To say that this cross is purely a religious symbol is wrong. It’s a Christian symbol, sure, but it’s used to honor those who have fallen on Veterans Day and Memorial Day,” Daniels said. “So from the cities perspective there is a secular purpose for it.”

He also said the symbol is all encompassing when it comes to religion, so asking the city to fund the cross is acceptable.

“The Latin cross is a symbol of Judaism, Christianity, Islam even,” he told Inweekly after court adjourned. “It (the cross) doesn’t have to be inclusive of everybody, but I think it’s certainly inclusive of a lot of people.”

Daniel added, “And you don’t exclude one thing just because somebody objects.”

In his June 19 ruling, Judge Vinson granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment. He ruled that the “Bayview Cross violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court and circuit precedent, and it must be removed within thirty (30) days.”

However, Mayor Ashton Hayward does have two options according to the judge.

“To be clear: None of this is to say that the cross would have to come down if the City sold or leased the area surrounding it to a private party or non-governmental entity (so long as the transfer was bona fide and not a subterfuge),” wrote Vinson. “Nor would there be a constitutional problem with worshipers using a temporary cross for their services in the park (counsel for plaintiffs conceded that point during the hearing).”

The City was ordered to pay damages to the plaintiffs in the amount of $1.00, and the parties were directed to follow the local rules of this court with regard to attorney fees to which plaintiffs may be entitled.

Cha-ching The Pensacola Ice Flyers hosted their annual $5 Weekend on March 3 and 4, and it generated an economic impact of just under $1 million, at $963,944, to the local economy, according to a study commissioned by the team.

Victus Advisors from Park City, Utah calculated the impact. They used a sampling of 420 attendees who attended one or both games.

“This weekend has been a tremendous success for the organization and our local community every year since we began holding this special weekend in the 2013-14 season,” Ice Flyers owner Greg Harris stated in a press release.

“We work extremely hard to impact and give back to the Pensacola area in every way a professional sports team should, and we felt quantifying this one weekend was important.”

The Ice Flyers sold 6,218 tickets for on Friday, March 3 and sold out the Pensacola Bay Center with 8,049 on Saturday, March 4.

Visitors to Escambia County contributed 58-percent to the impact. Nearly three-fourths of the attendees were from Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Fans from Alabama comprised 10-percent of crowd and 2-percent were from other states.

The study showed the average party per game was 4.8 people. The direct spending per party for each game was $233. That number increased to $574 for those requiring hotel rooms. 290 hotel rooms were also used over the weekend.

The median age of attendees was between 40 and 49, with 63-percent between 30 and 59. Two–thirds of the weekend fans had a household income between $50,000 and $149,999, 73-percent were currently employed and 21-percent were retired.

Although the $963,944 economic impact applied to only the two home games studied, each season’s economic impact to the local economy could be assumed to be significantly larger, according to team officials. The Ice Flyers host 28 home games each season, and consistently host two to four home playoff games every season, bringing three league championships in the past six seasons to Escambia County.