Pensacola, Florida
Sunday December 17th 2017

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The Buzz 9/7/17

Huckabee Sanders Good for NWFL On “Pensacola Speaks,” Congressman Matt Gaetz said that President Donald Trump’s press secretary has been his ally in getting issues before the president.

“We have a very special asset in the West Wing in Sarah Huckabee Sanders,” he said. “Sarah, in addition to being a personal friend of mine, has an understanding of Northwest Florida.”

Sanders’ parents, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Janet Huckabee, live in Walton County. The governor endorsed Gaetz’s congressional bid and has run for president twice.

“When I have issues for our district that I need immediately at the attention of the president, I’ve got someone I can call and I’m sure that will occur,” said Gaetz. “She has been doing a fantastic job in my opinion dealing with the media in very challenging circumstances.”

Gaetz said that he hasn’t been concerned about the shake-ups in the White House this summer.

“Ultimately, we need more stability in the White House than we’ve had, but I’m comfortable that the main idea driver is still the president,” he said. “And the tactician that seems to work most closely with Congress, most closely with our allies around the world is the vice president. And the two of them aren’t going anywhere.”

Quote of the Week “That money doesn’t belong to us, it belongs to the people. What we don’t do is piss away their money. We’re not frigging Greyhound.” –Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill on his efforts to cut gas taxes and ECAT routes.

Bydlak Scores Big Republican candidate for the Florida House District 1, Rebekah Bydlak, had an impressive August, her first month on the campaign trail. Bydlak raised $50,000 for her campaign and another $10,000 for her political action committee. The House seat is currently held by Clay Ingram, who terms out of office next year.

Garrett Jumps In Race Bydlak has a Democratic opponent for the House seat—Vicky Garrett, who grew up in District 1

Garrett said in her press release, “I am working hard to earn the trust, support, and votes of the community.”

The Tate High graduate earned a softball scholarship to Pensacola Junior College where she received an Associate of Arts degree. She continued her education at the University of West Florida where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Management and a Master of Public Administration degree.

Garrett brings over 20 years of experience in both public and private sectors. Public agencies she has worked for include the Florida Department of Transportation, Escambia County Engineering Department, and the West Florida Regional Planning Council.

She said, “I have a proven track record of bringing resources back to the community.”

One of the many projects Garrett is currently working on is the restoration of passenger rail service to Pensacola. She was appointed by the Federal Railroad Administration to serve on the Gulf Coast Rail Service Working Group. She hopes to continue those efforts as a State Representative in Tallahassee.

Volunteers Needed Two worthwhile non-profit, Pensacola MESS Hall and Gulf Coast Kid’s House, are looking for volunteers.

The Pensacola MESS Hall is seeking adult volunteers to assist with field trips, evening events, and outreach programs. These volunteers are an integral part of its programs and enhance the experience for all.

A volunteer recruitment breakfast will be held Sept. 14, at 10 a.m. to present current volunteer opportunities. The event will be at the Pensacola MESS Hall, 116 N. Tarragona St. The session is free.

For more information about volunteering at the MESS Hall, please contact Lara Greene at lara.greene@pensacolamesshall.org. For more information about the MESS Hall, visit pensacolamesshall.org.

Gulf Coast Kid’s House (GCKH), a child advocacy center in Escambia County, is seeking volunteers to bring child abuse prevention education into area schools. One out of four children will be victimized in their lifetime. However, 95 percent of abuse is preventable through education.

GCKH teaches MBF Child Safety Matters™ in elementary schools across Escambia County. It is trusted by parents, schools, and administrators and supported by national subject matter experts, community leaders, and agencies in the education and prevention fields.

All volunteers will be required to complete comprehensive training and a Level 2 background check.  As a Prevention Educator at Gulf Coast Kid’s House, volunteers can expect to teach four to five times a year.  All interested volunteers should submit a volunteer application online at gulfcoastkidshouse.org.

Yates Wins Bid Protest Escambia County received the special magistrate’s ruling regarding the formal bid protest by W.G. Yates & Sons for the Escambia County correctional facility design/build services.

The magistrate, attorney John Trawick, upheld the protest. Trawick heard the formal protest on Monday, Aug. 28, after an informal protest was held on Wednesday, Aug. 16.

Trawick found that criteria documents specified that the project’s stormwater retention pond needed to be able to handle a 500-year storm event. The originally winning bidder, Whitesell-Green/Caddell, had reduced the pond’s size to not encroach on the parking lot of the Juvenile Justice Center (JJC). Yates’ bid met the requirement without impacting the minimum parking requirements of the JJC.

The cost difference of the two stormwater pond designs was $3.5 million, which Trawick determined is not an “insignificant or inconsequential reduction in the cost of the work.”

According to the county’s ordinances, the special master’s decision will be presented for action by the Board of County Commissioners at their meeting on Thursday, Sept. 7 starting at 5:30 p.m. At the meeting, the board will vote to accept or reject the decision and recommendation of the special master. The board also has sole discretion in referring the matter back to the special master for additional proceedings.

Destin-FWB Airport Booming July was a record setting month for the Pensacola International Airport and Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport. However, the growth in passengers in Okaloosa County was much greater than the local airport, tightening the gap between the two facilities.

In July 2016, the Pensacola International Airport had 155,543 total passengers, while the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport had only 101,528. A year later, the gap in passengers was cut by more than a third, dropping the total difference to only 33,506 passengers for the month.

Year to date, Destin-Fort Walton Beach has handled 158,239 more passengers than last year for a 30.1 percent increase. Pensacola has only had 48,922 more passengers in 2017 for a 5.2 percent increase.

The rate of passenger growth in Okaloosa County is more than three times greater than the rate for the Pensacola International Airport. For Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Allegiant has made the difference. The low-fare carrier added non-stop routes to 11 cities in 2017.

The Pensacola International Airport can still boast of the lowest airfares on the Gulf Coast, but the Okaloosa airport is narrowing that gap, too.

The most recent nationwide airfare data, released by FAA’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, covered the first quarter of 2017. Destin-Fort Walton Beach’s average airfare price was $512.26 last year. For the first quarter of 2017, the average airfare dropped to $460.70 – $51.56 less (a 10 percent decrease).

The same report had Pensacola International Airport with an average airfare of $443.24, which is $11.53 less than last year’s Pensacola’s average airfare but only a 2.6 percent decrease.

‘Stop the Drill’ Erin Handy of Oceana is the guest speaker for 850 Pensacola’s monthly speaker series. She is the advocate on drilling issues along the southeast coast and works to build coalitions opposed to drilling all along the Atlantic and Gulf coast. Her topic is “Stop the Drill! Protecting the FL Coast from Offshore Drilling.”

She’ll update the group on the push to lease parts of the Gulf off Florida for drilling and show how citizens and businesses can get involved in the battle to keep the rigs away. Handy will also discuss the seismic testing that precedes drilling and has been blamed for harm and even deaths of whales and other marine life.

The meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the Bayview Senior Center, 2000 East Lloyd St. For more details, email 350pensacola@gmail.com.

Bank Fraud Schemes Richard Michael Colbert, 56, of Pensacola Beach, was sentenced today to 40 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $3.7 million in restitution for conspiracy to commit bank and mail fraud, false statement to a federally insured financial institution, nine counts of money laundering, and two counts of theft, embezzlement or misapplication by a person connected with a financial institution.

In 2007, Colbert, while working as a title attorney, signed and submitted a false HUD-1 to the now defunct GulfSouth Private Bank for his business partner, former Niceville builder Lawrence Wright, to obtain a million-dollar loan from GulfSouth. As a result of Colbert and Wright’s fraudulent conduct, GulfSouth ultimately sustained in excess of $636,000 in losses.

Wright was also tied to the scam, which ran from 2006 until 2011, according to court records.  He is serving a 75-month prison sentence for fraud and theft of his ex-wife’s identity. The illegal dealings focused around the Preserve at Inlet Beach development in Walton County. Colbert was the development company’s registered agent.

In 2010, Colbert again while working as a title attorney, facilitated a bank and mail fraud conspiracy by handling closings that defrauded Bank of America, Beach Community Bank, and the now defunct Premier Community Bank. Bank of America, Beach Community Bank, and Premier Community Bank sustained losses totaling more than $2.3 million from the conspiracy.

Michael “Sean” Davis, the former president of Crestview’s Premier Community Bank of the Emerald Coast, pleaded guilty in 2015 to conspiracy to commit bank and mail fraud, money laundering, making false statements to a federally insured institution, and fraudulently benefitting from a loan by a federally insured institution.

Beginning in December 2010, while the manager of Beach Title Services, a partially-owned subsidiary of Beach Community Bank, Colbert embezzled and misapplied in excess of $400,000 that was being held at Beach Community Bank. Thereafter, he conducted a series of financial transactions laundering the funds he had embezzled.

In September 2011, Beach Community Bank personnel contacted Colbert to determine where the money was located. Unbeknownst to Beach Community Bank, Colbert then obtained money from a third party to replace the funds he had embezzled. However, a short time after placing the third party’s money into the Beach Community Bank account, Colbert embezzled in excess of $237,000 from the same account.

Mark Your Calendar On Sept. 7, Escambia Board of County Commissioners regular meeting will start at 5:30 p.m. in the Ernie Lee Magaha Government Building, 221 S. Palafox.

On Sept. 8, Pensacola Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting from 8:30-10 a.m. in Whibbs Conference Room, Pensacola City Hall, 222 W. Main St.

On Sept. 9. Escambia County Waste Services Department will host the next Regional Roundup from 8 a.m. until noon at Washington High School, 6000 College Parkway. The Roundup provides an opportunity to properly dispose of electronics, household hazardous waste and up to four tires per vehicle, free of charge.

On Sept. 12, United Way of Escambia County’s Annual Campaign Kickoff Luncheon from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., at the Pensacola Bay Center, 201 E. Gregory St. Local corporate and community partners are invited to join Jack Lowrey, United Way Campaign Chair, and other volunteers as United Way kicks-off the 2017-2018 Annual Workplace Campaign

On Sept. 12, Escambia County’s first FY 2018 budget public hearing will start at 5:31 p.m. in Ernie Lee Magaha Government Building, 221 S. Palafox.

On Sept. 13, IMPACT 100 Pensacola Bay will hold a press conference to announce the 15 nonprofits organizations for its 2017 grants. The press conference begins at 10 a.m. in the Palafox House, 192 N. Palafox.

On Sept. 13, Special City Council Meeting, first public hearing on FY 2018 Proposed Budget and Millage Rate, starts at 5:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at the Pensacola City Hall, 222 W. Main St. Meeting starts at 5:30 p.m.

One More Buzz Item University of Washington researchers have developed an app, BiliScreen, that could allow people to easily screen for pancreatic cancer when snapping a smartphone selfie.

One of the earliest symptoms of pancreatic cancer, as well as other diseases, is jaundice, a yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes caused by a buildup of bilirubin in the blood. The app uses a smartphone camera, computer vision algorithms and machine learning tools to detect increased bilirubin levels in a person’s sclera, or the white part of the eye.

In an initial clinical study, the BiliScreen app correctly identified cases of concern 89.7 percent of the time, compared to the blood test currently used.