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The Buzz 8/17/17

Another Upset Sheriff Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson isn’t happy with how Escambia County canceled its detention agreement with him. The contract stated Escambia County had to give a 30-day written notice of termination. However, the Escambia Board of County Commissioners gave Johnson just three days before it snatched its 90 prisoners back this past April.

The breach of contract still doesn’t sit well with Sheriff Johnson.

“To me, if you have a contract that’s the same thing as your word is your bond,” Sheriff Johnson told Inweekly. “I have a hard time dealing with people who break their contracts.”

To add insult to injury, Escambia withheld payment of $121,300 from Johnson for housing its inmates. Escambia County tried to pressure him to lower his per day rate for housing an inmate and became angry when Sheriff Johnson wouldn’t bend.

The Santa Rosa County sheriff said he refused because it was the same rate he charges the federal government to incarcerate its prisoners.  He said, “It wouldn’t be fair to charge less.”

Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson intervened and made payment to Santa Rosa County, one of the conditions for him to continue to house Escambia County’s prisoners.

Earlier this summer, Sheriff Adkinson, the new president of the Florida Sheriff’s Association, blew up over information presented to the commissioners by Corrections Director Tamyra Jarvis that disputed Walton’s charge of $48 and other Walton County jail assertions. He gave Escambia until June 30 to pick up its nearly 300 inmates. The two sides made up, and today the Walton correctional facility keeps 202 Escambia inmates.

Johnson is grateful to Adkinson for intervening with Escambia County.

“He talked to me about it,” Johnson said. “He told Escambia, ‘Hey, I’ll keep your prisoners but not until I hear you’ve paid Sheriff Bob Johnson.’“

Johnson said he won’t house Escambia County inmates again, but not because of the bad taste in his mouth from April. He said mostly it’s because he can’t with 672 inmates of its own in its jail that houses 680.

Quote of the Week “I never get over the back-to-school high. I am thrilled to be the one greeting the students this year. The beauty of being on a university campus is you’re surrounded by hope.” –Dr. Martha Saunders, University of West Florida President.

Four Council Takeaways The Pensacola City Council held its monthly agenda review and regular meeting last week. Here are four takeaways:

1) At the agenda review, Assistant City Administrator Keith Wilkins gave the council a brief overview of discussions with the University of West Florida, Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to convert Warehouse Four at the Port of Pensacola into a marine research facility and FWC headquarters. The environmental assessment found asbestos, aluminum, and lead in the accumulated dust in on the building, that was built in 1962. The project will depend on receiving a Triumph Gulf Coast grant.

2) The council authorized the mayor to borrow $5,389,000 from SmartBank for projects in the Westside and Eastside development districts to be repaid with CRA funds over 20 years. If the CRA funds are insufficient to cover payments, local business tax revenue will be used.

3) Michael Carro is the newest appointee to the Downtown Improvement Board (DIB). He replaces Jim Homyak. Teri Levin was reappointed. The two will serve terms of three years expiring August 31, 2020.

4) During the Leroy Boyd Forum, Coach Cruchef continued his fight for a community center in Morris Court, lights for the basketball courts and for the gates on J Street to be unlocked.  The youth coaching legend made a similar pitch at the Inweekly town hall in early June.

Hope for Ray of Hope Loop’s Nursery & Greenhouses, Inc. and the Florida Department of Health reached a settlement to end a legal dispute about a medical marijuana license, according to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings. The settlement brings to 12 the number of firms approved to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana.

Loop’s effort to get a license started under a 2014 law that allowed the use of non-euphoric cannabis, widely referred to as Charlotte’s Web, for limited types of patients, such as children who suffer from epilepsy.

Joel Stanley, the CEO of the Colorado company that developed Charlotte’s Web, attorney Fred Levin, Peyton Moseley, whose daughter suffers from severe seizures, and other locals created Ray of Hope 4 Florida to distribute the non-euphoric cannabis in Florida. Ray of Hope partnered with Loop’s to grow the crop, but unfortunately, the company was not awarded a Florida license.

They protested the decision. In October 2016, an administrative law judge ruled against Loop’s, who appealed the issue to the First District Court of Appeal. The case remained pending at the appeals court when lawmakers during a June special session approved the medical-marijuana bill and Gov. Rick Scott signed.

The new law directed that licenses be issued to businesses whose applications were reviewed and scored by the Department of Health and who were denied licenses, or who had administrative or judicial challenges pending as of January. The law also required health officials to issue licenses to applicants who had rankings within one point of the highest applicants in their regions.

In an affidavit submitted as part of the new settlement, David Loop, Loop’s Nursery CEO, said his business met the bill’s criteria for receiving a license.

State Surgeon General Celeste Philip signed an order on Aug. 8 adopting the settlement and approving Loop’s to be licensed. The settlement gave the department 10 days from the time of the order to formally license and register Loop’s as what the state calls a “medical marijuana treatment center.”

Best Beach Bars Thrillist.com scoured America for the 21 best beach bars. Pirates Cove in Elberta and Flora-Bama Lounge and Oyster Bar on Perdido Key made the list.

Why the Flora-Bama? “It’s one of America’s great unrefined treasures, while bikers, sailors, and snowbirds drink bushwhackers side-by-side with nary a mention of any of their differences.”

Beulah Beltway Blowup Escambia County’s public meeting on the Beulah Beltway project was suspended when the temperature and tempers flared making it difficult for County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh to hold a meaningful discussion.

The Beulah Beltway is a proposed infrastructure project to relieve traffic congestion around Navy Federal Credit Union by transforming Beulah Road into a major highway.

On Aug. 7, nearly 300 people filled the room at Plainview Baptist Church on West Nine Mile Road, overwhelming the air conditioning system.

“Nobody knew we were going to have the kind of turnout we had,” said Bergosh. “We were in there like sardines. People were hot. The air conditioner wasn’t keeping up.”

According to Bergosh, misinformation on social media fueled the attendance. A resident had found some maps online that weren’t drawn to scale and had large swaths that he believed showed the project “swallowing an entire subdivision of houses.”

“There was one guy screaming out curse words in the house of God. It really rubbed me wrong, and so I said, ‘Look, we’re going to push through. If you don’t like it, you should go out,’ because the guy was cussing,” said Bergosh. “Now in hindsight, that was probably not smart for me to say that.”

The commissioner turned the meeting over to staff and tried to talk with the heckler. He said, “If you allow that to happen at a meeting, it spreads. I went right to the source. I got him calmed down. I got to speak with him. The whole thing revolves around these 1,000-ft. swaths. People see it, they freak out.”

Soon it became apparent that the town hall was not going to work. The decision was made to reschedule for mid-September at a larger venue.

“First and foremost, I take responsibility for it,” Bergosh told Inweekly. “I mean, I’m not going to blame it on staff. I’m not going to blame it on anyone. I’m going to own it because someone’s got to, and the buck stops with me. I apologize for the folks who came, that were inconvenienced.”

Ben & Jerry’s Supports Amendment The Vermont-based ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s is calling on its Florida supporters to join the grassroots movement in Florida for a constitutional amendment to restore the voting rights of felons after they’ve fulfilled their sentences.

On Aug. 1, Ben & Jerry’s tweeted on its Twitter account: “Join the movement to restore the ability to vote to nearly 1.5 million Florida citizens #SayYes2SecondChances.”

They directed fans to the American Civil Liberties Union website PeoplePower.org. Florida is one of three states that doesn’t automatically restore felons’ voting rights after they’ve served their sentences. Nearly 700,000 additional valid voter signatures are needed to have the amendment on the November 2018 ballot. The amendments must receive at least 60 percent support to become law.

Thank You The Inweekly staff appreciates the dozens of kind emails and social media posts praising our Aug. 3 Pet Issue and particularly Joani’s article on her dog, “For Tucker,” who passed away this spring.

Underhill Questions Regional Planning Council Escambia County Commission chairman Doug Underhill has asked County Administrator Jack Brown to see what it would take to sever ties with the West Florida Regional Planning Council (WFRPC).

“Based on the past corruption of renting space at inflated rates from former Commissioner Wilson Robertson, their apparent inability to perform the basic function of finding an alternative lease on the open market, and their attempt to charge us 52 percent to manage a $2 million grant, I have no faith that they are a value-added partner in the conduct of the work of the people of Escambia County,” wrote Underhill in an email to Brown.

The WFRPC is a regional planning organization that coordinates intergovernmental solutions to growth-related problems and provides technical assistance to municipalities in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Washington, and Holmes counties. It originally was formed in 1964 as the Pensacola-Escambia County Regional Planning Council.

The agency requested $21,289 from the county for the FY 2018 budget.

Underhill told Brown that he didn’t have much support from his fellow commissioners when first presented cutting ties with WFRPC during the budget workshops, but he thinks circumstances have changed.

“I think it is important to continue to identify areas that are available to cut,” he wrote. “Now that we have set the tax rate, if the Sheriff is successful in his plea to the Governor, we will be forced to make up the cost in budget cuts.”

He added, “Time will be short by then, so we need to do the analysis now.”

Mark Your Calendar On Aug. 20, former Rep. Gwen Graham will be in the Pensacola area for a fundraiser for her 2018 gubernatorial campaign. The Democratic hopeful will be accompanied by her father, retired Senator Bob Graham. The fundraiser is hosted by Kristian Denny Todd at 227 Sabine Drive, Pensacola Beach. Support levels are: Host $3,000, Co-host $1,500, Sponsor $500, Guest $100.

For more information or to RSVP, contact samantha@gwengraham.com.

On Aug. 22, Pensacola Councilwoman Sherri Myers hosts her quarterly town hall meeting at
6:30 p.m. at Asbury Place behind Cokesbury United Methodist Church, 5725 N. 9th Ave.

On Aug. 23, Pensacola Habitat for Humanity will present the third annual Community Summit at the Sanders Beach-Corinne Jones Resource Center, 913 S I St. The free event will begin at 1 p.m. and is presented in partnership with Race and Reconciliation, UWF Inclusion Spotlight, and a Pensacola Interfaith Initiative. Keynote speaker Caren Goldman, executive director and co-founder of Compassionate St. Augustine, will talk about how to build a community centered on compassion and reconciliation to counter current trends of divisiveness. Space is limited. To register, please visit pensacolahabitat.org/invite.

One More Buzz Item “The Beverly Hillbillies” mansion, Chartwell Estate in Bel Air, is up for sale. The estate featured in the television show’s opening credits is listed at $350 million. No extra charge for the cement pond.