Pensacola, Florida
Thursday December 14th 2017

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The Buzz 10/5/17

Tales of Hurricane Maria Most of Pensacola resident Tessie de Avila’s family lives in Puerto Rico, including her mother, grandmother and all her siblings.

On Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria, a powerful Category Four hurricane with 150 mph winds, made direct landfall on the U.S. territory, bisecting the entire island and drenching it with rain. The island has been without power, and food, water and fuel are scarce.

Most of de Avila’s family is staying in her mother’s three-bedroom concrete home. She said, “My mom’s house is the strongest house, and she now has like 16 or 17 people staying there.”

It took six days for her to confirm that her family survived the hurricane.

“The hurricane hit Wednesday and we heard from them Monday night,” said de Avila. “Before the hurricane, we talked every day. Those six days were the worst six days of my life, but thank God they are alive.”

The conditions in Puerto Rico are dire.

“There’s no fuel, there’s no diesel, there’s no water or electricity,” said de Avila. “Eighty percent of their population lost their houses. There are no roads. They are covered by mud.”

Gulf Power engineer Diana Rivera also spent days waiting in anguish to find out if her family survived Hurricane Maria. Her family lives in Utuado in the central-western side of the island.

“My town is surrounded by mountains and three of our bridges got washed away and a lot of our streets are washed away,” Rivera said in a press release. “All the leaves are blown off the trees and vegetation is brown. It flooded in areas that have never flooded before. Food and water supplies are low because the town is far away from San Juan, where all the relief is.”

She added, “People are asking me how they can help. I’m encouraging them to donate locally through nonprofits that will ship supplies to Puerto Rico.”

Gulf Power has encouraged its employees to get involved and donate to the American Red Cross. Donations Gulf Power employees make to the American Red Cross will be matched by Southern Company Charitable Foundation.

“In times like these our employees are eager to step up,” said Stan Connally, Chairman, President and CEO of Gulf Power. “Many of them remember the challenges our community faced in the long road to recovery after Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Giving back is one of the most important things we can do.”

Grace McCaffery, publisher of the Costa Latina newspaper, has partnered with other groups to establish drop-off locations across Northwest Florida to collect essentials for victims of Hurricane Maria. The Pensacola location is Cici’s Pizza, 7145 N. 9th Ave.

The items requested are toilet paper, pet food, rakes, shovels, diapers, wet wipes, baby formula, trash bags, canned goods, hand sanitizers, cleaning supplies, bedding, towels, toiletries, bug repellant, first aid items and basic school supplies. McCaffery asks for the donations to be full cases of one item, boxed and labeled to expedite efforts.

Bike Sharing Coming Curt Morse, Executive Director of the Downtown Improvement Board, wants to bring bike sharing to downtown Pensacola.

Bike sharing allows people to borrow a bike from one point using a credit card and return it to other bike racks in the city that are connected to the system. The program started in larger cities but now can be found in cities similar in size to Pensacola.

“We’ve been meeting with firms that are anxious to provide the city with a bike-share program that can not only give downtown bike share access but also the beach, and potentially our universities here,” Morse told Inweekly.

He expects to launch the bike-sharing program in the first quarter of 2018.

Morse said, “Pensacola will have a bike-share program that it can boast about, and it will be of the caliber that other major metro markets, like Chattanooga, Birmingham, and Baton Rouge, offer to their citizenry as an amenity.”

Victory for Sean’s Outpost Circuit Judge Tom Dannheisser dealt another blow to Escambia County in its long-running effort to close Sean’s Outpost, a homeless shelter on about nine acres east of North Palafox near Interstate 110. He quashed the Escambia County Board of Adjustment’s decision to deny Sean’s Outpost’s appeal of the county staff’s judgment that the shelter failed to meet the county’s land development code (LDC).

On April 5, 2016, Sean’s Outpost applied for a development order to continue shelter operations as a “semi-primitive campground site,” which was allowed under the LDC. County staff denied the application but failed to put its reasons in writing as required by the LDC. After numerous discussions with the staff, it was determined the reason for the denial was the failure to include an all-weather road to service portable toilets at the rear of the parcel.

Clark Partington attorney William Dunaway represented Sean’s Outpost in the appeal before the Board of Adjustments (BOA). Though the dirt road had never caused a problem, the shelter agreed to construct an improved driveway apron and build the road requested by staff. Dunaway asked for conditional approval of his client’s application tied to the construction of the road.

A motion to deny the appeal failed on a 3-3 vote, with one board member recusing himself. County staff ruled the Sean’s Outpost’s appeal failed because it did not obtain an affirmative majority vote.

Dunaway appealed to circuit court. He said the denial was not supported by “competent substantial evidence.” He also asserted that an all-weather road was not required by the LDC but, even if it was, his client was willing to construct such a road.

Judge Dannheisser agreed that no competent substantial evidence was presented for the county to deny the land use application. He also ruled that neither the LDC nor Design Standards Manual required an all-weather road.

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

On Oct. 9, the ITEN WIRED summit kicks off with a free job fair. From 10 a.m.-1:00 p.m. job seekers can network with local employers, such as H2 Performance Consulting, Navy Federal Credit Union, AppRiver and CSRA, at the Hilton Pensacola Beach, 21 Via de Luna. For more details, visit itenwired.com.

On Oct. 12, 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.