Pensacola, Florida
Monday August 20th 2018

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The Buzz 7/13/17

BRAC-Proofing NWFL With the military being more than half of his district’s economy, Congressman Matt Gaetz worked with the Department of Defense to shave off nearly $2 million of the cost of the land transfer involving OLF-8 in the Beulah. In June, the Escambia Board of County Commissioners voted to proceed with the swap.

“We saved between $1.5 and $2 million for taxpayers in Escambia County,” he told Inweekly. “Also, there was a unanimous vote for the County Commission to proceed on this swap that will be very important for the military mission at Whiting Field. We’ve seen so much growth in the northern parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties and places where there can be a night training mission are more limited than they were a decade ago.”

According to Gaetz, the enhancement of night training has made the land deal vital to the mission of NAS Whiting Field and will protect the base in the upcoming Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process.

“With Whiting being 35 percent of Santa Rosa County’s economy, it’s critically important that we BRAC-proof that mission,” said Gaetz. He added that enhancements to the test range in Okaloosa County has “BRAC-proofed” Eglin AFB as the addition of two Coast Guard cutters helped protect to the future viability of NAS Pensacola.

“Across the district, we’re trying to take steps now to enhance investment in our assets to BRAC-proof us for the long term,” said Gaetz.

By meeting a key need of the Navy, Escambia County has improved the area’s chances of surviving a BRAC process, especially when other places may not have community support and an integrated effort on the part of the local and federal governments, according to Gaetz.

He called the OLF-8 land sway a “real testament” to the Escambia County Commission’s commitment to the military’s mission.

Borrowing Against the Future According to Councilwoman Sherri Myers, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward plans to borrow $20 million and use future Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) collections to pay it back.

The borrowing would come after the mayor borrowed $15 million last year for a street paving that would complete almost 10-years worth of resurfacing before the 2018 mayoral election. Hayward also got the Pensacola City Council to approve borrowing an additional $15 million for gas line repair and replacement for the streets being paved.

On “Pensacola Speaks” last Thursday, Myers said she learned of the borrowing from the city’s Chief Financial Officer.

She said, “According to Dick Barker, our Chief Financial Officer, the Mayor plans to ask the City Council to borrow about $20 million against our LOST money.”

Myers pointed out that the mayor had already borrowed once against future LOST revenues for the new Bayview Community Center and the Fire Station No. 3.

She hopes that the mayor would also include in any borrowing sidewalks and drainage for Burgess Road. Myers had thought the funds were already available for the project but was told by Barker that the mayor had reallocated them for other projects outside of her district.

“(Hayward) definitely knows how dangerous Burgess Road is, not just for children, but for the public in general because I’ve had conversations with him,” she told Inweekly.  “I’ve now been told the mayor’s office wants those funds used elsewhere.”

Frustrated, Myers has asked the city council to fund the project for her district that she has repeatedly brought before it.

“I am going to ask the council to allocate $1.6 million to fix the drainage and put sidewalks on Burgess Road, running basically from Davis Highway to Sanders Street. I believe the county will again step up to the plate and offer to fix their one block of Burgess Road. As you know, Commissioner Robinson had set aside $350,000 to address the one block that’s in the county.”

If the council votes for her agenda item, she hopes the mayor would reconsider and add the project to his $20-million borrowing.

“I’m asking that the money for Burgess Road be included in any funds that they want to borrow against LOST,” said Myers.  “It’s really and truly unconscionable, and it breaks my heart daily as I drive up and down Burgess Road.”

Jumbotron on Garden Quint Studer told Inweekly that the Studer Properties would reveal its plans for the SunTrust building on the corner of Garden and Spring streets on July 23.

“It won’t be all of it. It’ll be conceptual, but it’ll show what the inside of the conference center’s going to look like—17,000 square feet,” he said. “It’s going to show what the lobby and the conference center will look like, what some workspaces are going to look it.”

He said the plan is to have the glass doors of the lobby area open up for events that will take place in the plaza, but that won’t be the feature that generates the most discussion, according to Studer.

“We’re going to try to put a video board on the side of the building because we think with today’s technology and where that building is, there’s just not a lot of vibrancy there,” he said. “People can come and watch movies; they can come watch events. Heck, we could’ve put the symphony playing at the park for the Fourth of July.”

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