Pensacola, Florida
Thursday November 23rd 2017

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The Buzz 9/14/17

Irma Wallops Florida Pensacola escaped any significant impact from Hurricane Irma. However, the Pensacola Bay Center served as a shelter for 275 evacuees from south Florida.

The News Service of Florida reported that more than 6.2 million homes and businesses did not have power on Monday as the storm passed over the state. In requesting federal disaster relief Sunday, Gov. Rick Scott said the state had already spent $75 million on Irma. President Donald Trump later approved the request.

Scott drove from Pensacola to Mobile, Ala., Monday morning to catch a flight aboard a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 for an aerial tour of the Florida Keys and to drop off damage assessment teams.

Irma, after making landfall Sunday in the Florida Keys and Southwest Florida as a major storm, was downgraded to a tropical storm, with 70 mph winds as it went up the Gulf Coast into North Florida. More than 200,000 people were in 587 shelters across the state.

“Hurricane Irma downgraded to tropical storm, continues to weaken as the center moves along the northwestern coast of the Florida peninsula,” the state Division of Emergency Management posted on its website early Monday.

Storm surge warnings were in place for Tampa Bay, from the South Santee River in South Carolina to the Flagler/Volusia County line on the Atlantic Coast and from Cape Sable northward to the Ochlockonee River on the Gulf of Mexico.

In Mayport, a surge of 5.5 feet was reported. Jacksonville reported flash flooding in the downtown area. A storm surge of 3 feet was reported along the St. Johns River near the Interstate 295 Bridge.

A Familiar Voice from Houston Former Pensacola resident Harriet Riley now lives in Houston. She shared her experiences with Hurricane Harvey with Inweekly publisher Rick Outzen on “Pensacola Speaks.”

“I’ve been through a lot of hurricanes growing up in Mississippi and then living in Pensacola for so long,” she said. “Harvey was a different beast. We had just epic amounts of rain.”

Because Houston has several bayous, she was worried about flooding when the storm reached her city on Saturday, Aug. 26. The National Weather Service office in Houston observed record daily rainfall accumulations on both August 26 and 27, 14.4 inches and 16.08 inches respectively.

“Some neighbors flooded on Saturday night and Sunday,” said Riley.  “On Monday morning, I saw on Facebook good friends who were stranded in their homes not too far from us, but a lot of the water went away during the day.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began controlled water releases from Addicks and Barker Reservoirs in the Buffalo Bayou watershed to manage flood levels in the immediate area.

“That caused the homes in my area to flood again,” said Riley. “They had just dried up on Monday, and then they started to flood again. Wednesday was such a weird day because water just slowly crept up, and up, and up beginning on Tuesday night and then all day Wednesday.”

Fortunately, flood waters only went into her garage, but her street was flooded so badly that families 100 yards away from her home had to be rescued by boat.

She said, “We had FEMA boats, we had air boats, we had helicopters, kayaks, canoes, just right behind my house going to rescue people in this area where there’s a tributary, a little creek from Buffalo Bayou.”

Riley served as the Director of United Ministries of Pensacola from 2000-2007. She helped victims from hurricanes Ivan, Dennis and Katrina.

“It brought back terrible memories of Ivan and the smell. We were lucky because our house is built up about six feet, but we were kind of like the last house standing. Our neighbors across the street, their house totally flooded. Twice in the course of a few days, but totally flooded, and everybody to the west of us. We’re directly behind a restaurant, they flooded,” she shared.

If locals want to help victims, Riley recommended making donations to Red Cross, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and the Houston mayor’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.

She said, “The mayor started a fund, which is going to be administered through a really great community foundation that I trust that they will you know use the funds well for people that need them the most.”

The link for the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund is ghcf.org/hurricane-relief.

Neighborhood Cleanup Scheduled Residents in the Myrtle Grove area will have the opportunity to dispose of yard debris and other items free of charge Wednesday, Sept. 20 during the Myrtle Grove Southeast Neighborhood Cleanup.

Only residents in the designated cleanup area can participate. The general cleanup area is south of West Jackson Street, east of South 60th and 61st Avenue and west of North New Warrington Road.

Residents can leave items at the curb to be disposed of by Escambia County and partnering agencies. All debris must be at the curb directly in front of your residence by 7 a.m. on Sept. 20. Please keep tires and paint cans separate from all other debris. Do not place piles under low-hanging lines or near poles, fences or mailboxes.

Items eligible for removal include: household appliances and electronics, yard waste household junk and debris, bicycles and toys, old furniture and mattresses, grills, household hazardous waste, and up to 20 tires.

In the past two years, more than 1,360 tons of debris has been collected and disposed of through the Community Redevelopment Agency’s Safe Neighborhood Program.

The county’s neighborhood cleanup program is hosted by the Escambia County Community Redevelopment Agency’s Safe Neighborhood Program. Local partners include Escambia County Waste Services, Environmental Code Enforcement, Public Works, Animal Services and Road Prison, along with the City of Pensacola Sanitation Department and Keep Pensacola Beautiful.

For more information or to verify that your residence is in the cleanup area, please contact Nick Jordan, Safe Neighborhood Coordinator, Escambia County Community Redevelopment Agency, at 595-1829 or safeneighborhoods@myescambia.com.

Quote of the Week “It was like a monster from the deep that just kept coming. You think it’s dead, and then it comes back up.”—Harriet Riley on Hurricane Harvey.

Please Take the Team Shreveport City Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch is not a fan of Tom Benson and his New Orleans Pelicans. She told Inweekly that the people of her city don’t want to build an arena for a G-League basketball team owned affiliated with the New Orleans Pelicans.

“I hope Pensacola gets the team,” she said in a phone interview. “A small group of people who stand to pocket a lot of money for this are pushing the team, but the majority of the city does not want them here.”

Lynch is a seasoned politician. Prior to being elected to the Shreveport City Council in 2014, she served on the Caddo Parish Commission. Lynch was elected president of the National Association of Black County Officials.

She said, “I’ve only received two emails supporting the mayor’s plan, and these were from people who will benefit from the deal.”

Last month, Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler presented to the city council her plan for a $150-million development for her downtown that would include a 3,200 arena that could host the New Orleans Pelicans’ G-League basketball team and a training facility of the New Orleans Saints. Inweekly has made several phone calls to Mayor Tyler and left voice messages. She didn’t return any of the calls.

Lynch was unimpressed with Taylor’s proposal and with presentations made by the Pelicans officials. “I’ve seen lots of presentations (over the years), and there’s nothing there.”

Still the councilwoman believes Tyler’s plan will get the necessary votes for approval because she believes at least four council members either stand to profit from it when they leave office or they see the vote helping them when they run for mayor. Lynch said the expensive plan is a mistake because the city has struggled to provide basic services since the GM plant closed in 2012.

“We need to fix roads, provide clean water, get our crime down and find raises for employees,” she told Inweekly. “My hope and belief is we should take care of what we have.”

The councilwoman said that the people of Shreveport aren’t big Saints fans. “There are two Louisianas – one below I-10, the other above it. We’re more East Texas and Dallas Cowboy fans.”

Lynch isn’t impressed with Tom Benson, the 90-year-old owner of the Pelicans and Saints. There is still resentment in parts of the state about the “sweetheart deal” Benson got to keep the NFL team in the New Orleans Superdome. She wonders about his commitment to the NBA development team and Shreveport. She doesn’t believe the team will give the city a 25-year commitment for the new arena.

“There’s a reason why only two cities are left in the running for the team,” she said. “All the others realized it wasn’t such a good deal.”

Lynch added, “The best thing for Shreveport would be for Pensacola to get the Pelicans.”

Escambia Cares Community Resource Expo The third annual Escambia Cares Community Resource Expo takes place Saturday, Sept. 16 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Brownsville Community Center, 3200 W. De Soto St. The free event provides a one-stop shop for community resources and services.

This year’s expo will have a hurricane preparedness theme in partnership with the Escambia County Be Ready Alliance Coordinating for Emergencies, or BRACE, providing attendees with valuable, life-saving information about how to be better equipped for hurricanes and other emergencies.

The Escambia Cares Community Resource Expo will feature free food, music, children’s activities and information about a variety of services available throughout the county and community organizations. Featured services include those related to neighborhood safety, housing programs, employment opportunities, healthcare, education and more.

Union Rejects Offer The Santa Rosa County School District teachers rejected the proposed contract revisions for the 2016-17 school year. The ratification vote was held Sept. 5-6, and 85 percent voted to not accept the revisions.

“We are pleased with the results of the ratification vote,” said Rhonda Chavers, President of Santa Rosa Professional Educators. “The District’s employees do not buy the story that the District can’t afford the fair and reasonable settlement proposal recommended by the Special Magistrate at impasse. This rejection of the District’s proposed contract sends that message to the Superintendent and the School Board loud and clear.”

According to Florida law, since the contract was not ratified by all parties, the School Board’s contract imposed at their Aug. 10 legislative hearing shall take effect as of that date with respect to the salary revisions only. The language revisions proposed by the District will not take effect due to the failure of ratification.

Mark Your Calendar On Sept. 14, Pensacola City Council meets at 5:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers at Pensacola City Hall, 222 W. Main St. Mayor Hayward’s attendance optional.

On Sept. 16, Project Greenshores Cleanup. Project Greenshores is at the Three Mile Bridge, 745 Bayfront Parkway. Buckets, grabbers, gloves and trash bags will be supplied. Sign in at 8:45 a.m. and clean up from 9-10 a.m. Please dress for the weather and bring water, bug spray and sunscreen as needed. For more details, contact oceanhourfl@gmail.com.

On Sept. 16, League of Women Voters of the Pensacola Bay Area in Tryon Branch Library, 1200 Langley Ave. Shannon Nickinson of the Studer Community Institute will speak on “Making Pensacola an Early Learning City.” The meeting is free and open to the public. The coffee starts 10:15 a.m. and the talk at 10:30 a.m.

On Sept. 18, West Florida Regional Planning Council Board Meeting, 3:30 p.m. at Okaloosa County Administration Building Training Room, 1250 Eglin Parkway, Shalimar. For more details, contact Gina Watson, gina.watson@wfrpc.org.

On Sept. 20, Sacred Heart Health System will provide free heart-health screenings for adults on from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at the Fricker Community Center, 900 N. F St. Heart-health screenings will measure blood pressure, blood sugar and total cholesterol, and can detect anemia. The screenings are helpful in diagnosing conditions that put people at high risk for heart attack, stroke, diabetes and other health problems.

On Sept. 20, Special City Council Meeting, Final Public Hearing – FY 2018 Proposed Budget and Millage Rate, 5:30 pm in City Council Chambers at Pensacola City Hall, 222 W. Main St.