Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday March 21st 2018


The Buzz 3/8/18

Downtown Parking Goes Digital The Downtown Improvement Board and Premium Parking have partnered on a new digital parking management platform for downtown’s on-street, public lots, and garage parking operations.

DIB will utilize Premium’s mobile payment solutions on its paid parking footprint, offering easy ways to pay by phone-via text or mobile app-using the vehicle’s license plate. Additionally, parkers can continue to use traditional payment methods via local pay machines. As part of the transition, the DIB will install new, customer-friendly signage that showcases the new ways to pay.

“Our mission at the Downtown Improvement Board is to promote and enhance Downtown Pensacola as a vibrant cultural and commercial destination for residents, businesses, and visitors,” noted Curt Morse, DIB Executive Director. “We look forward to working with Premium Parking to help us achieve this objective by modernizing our existing parking infrastructure with easy, intuitive parking strategies.”

The DIB also will deploy Premium’s proprietary frictionless “GLIDEparcs” solution at Jefferson Street Garage, 53 S. Jefferson Street, which will eliminate the need for entry and exit gates. Visitors can park, pay by license plate via TextPay or app, or at a nearby pay machine, before walking away. Premium will work directly with monthly customers to create online accounts and obtain license plates for those parkers as well. With an active parking session, guests are free to exit or re-enter freely, without waiting in line, stopping to secure a ticket, or queuing to exit.

Pay via TextPay: Visitors can quickly pay via text by sending “park” to the mobile shortcode “504504.” Parkers are then prompted to enter their location number, license plate, select a session duration, and enter payment info, before walking away.

Pay via Mobile App: The fastest and easiest way to park regularly is via Premium Parking’s mobile app, available for free download on iPhone or Android. Parkers can easily save their vehicle information, find locations numbers, pay and extend their parking sessions.

Pay at the Machine (cash, coin or credit card): Traditional pay machines and on-street coin meters are still accessible as payment methods where available. When parkers pay at a machine, they will continue to display the ticket receipt on their dash before walking away.

Parkers at coin meters can also pay via TextPay or Premium’s mobile app. Parking enforcement officials will be notified of a parker’s payment and can confirm an active session via license plate.

North Florida Corridor Florida’s Great Northwest, Opportunity Florida, the North Florida Economic Development Partnership and JAXUSA Partnership last week announced the creation of the North Florida Manufacturing and Logistics Corridor to augment their regional efforts promoting corporate growth across 34 counties, from Pensacola to Jacksonville. The economic development organizations seek to build awareness and generate opportunities for attraction and expansion projects in manufacturing, logistics and distribution and to attract the talent that aims to work for such companies.

“Bookended by two strong economies, the successful marketing of our Corridor offers a unique opportunity to help grow the rural areas of our communities and help drive location and expansions in areas that need it the most,” said Kim Wilmes, CEO of Florida’s Great Northwest. “Supporting our rural economies will exponentially help our super region grow.”

North Florida sits along 362 miles of Interstate 10 running east from the Florida Panhandle, serving the major cities of Pensacola, Tallahassee, Lake City and ending at Jacksonville. Along the corridor are large swaths of available land and a number of shovel-ready and certified sites to support rapid development. Combined with a workforce of more than 1.5 million and more than 25 percent earning an Associate Degree or higher makes the region an ideal location for manufacturing and logistics companies large and small.

The Corridor is already home to Boeing, GE, Georgia Pacific, Johnson & Johnson and WestPoint Home, and major logistics and distribution centers such as Amazon, CSX, Family Dollar, Publix, and Walmart. Start-up companies fueled by innovative technologies and a competitive cost of doing business also find success in the region.

To promote the super region, the organizations have launched a website,

State of Housing Dr. Rick Harper will present the State of Housing and Economic Study of Escambia County at a luncheon on Wednesday, March 14 at Skopelos at New World Landing, 600 S. Palafox. The study and luncheon are sponsored by Home Builders Association of West Florida, Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, and the Pensacola Association of Realtors.

“We are excited to share the data that Dr. Harper has collected for this study,” said Home Builders Association of West Florida Executive Director David Peaden. “This information will be useful in helping our decision-makers plan for future growth in Escambia County.

Data that Dr. Harper will share at the luncheon will include population growth patterns, trends in employment by occupations and wage level, future housing supply and demand, and an analysis of the level and rate of change in home ownership.

Tickets for the luncheon are available at Contact the Home Builders Association of West Florida, the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce or Pensacola Association of Realtors for sponsorship opportunities. The luncheon is from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Valentino vs. Underhill, Round 2 On Feb. 26, Circuit Judge W. Joel Boles accepted a Voluntary Dismissal with Prejudice from former Escambia County Commissioner Gene Valentino in his defamation lawsuit against Commissioner Doug Underhill. Judge Boles three days earlier had approved a similar motion regarding, Ray Guillory, who also was a defendant in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed in July 2017, alleged that Underhill and Guillory had defamed Valentino in a series of posts published on Facebook of what appeared to be a transcript of messages exchanged between Guillory and Underhill in the months leading up to the 2014 GOP primary.

According to an email sent by the Underhill campaign, Judge Boles heard Underhill’s motion to dismiss on Feb. 6 and found in his favor on all four points of law that he contested. Valentino’s attorney, Greg Smith, was given 20 days to amend his complaint, but instead, Valentino chose to drop the lawsuit. The 2017 suit was the second failed lawsuit that Valentino filed against him since the 2014 Republican Primary, in which Underhill beat the two-term incumbent, 2,788-1,672.

Flight Academy Scholarships The Studer Foundation is sponsoring an essay contest for 80 middle school students in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. The essay contest winners will get the experience of a lifetime during a dynamic six-day Deployment program at the National Flight Academy (NFA) from July 29 through Aug. 3. The essays will be reviewed through a blind selection process by a group of volunteers and local educators.

Students interested in being considered for the Studer Foundation Scholarship offer must electronically submit their essay through the NFA’s online portal on or before 11:59 p.m. on March 14. Winners will be notified by email no later than March 31.

Students must be enrolled in middle school as a rising 7th -9th grader. Applicants must write a 500-word essay on one of the following prompts. The essay should represent their own work.

The prompts are:
The essay should describe what being a leader means to you and share an example of leadership you have experienced or witnessed.

In the future, but during your lifetime, what do you think will be the biggest advancement in one of the following areas: Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics?  Why do you think that advancement will be so significant?

To apply for the essay contest, go to  To learn more about the program, visit

UWF Engages Military As part of its continuing support and dedication to serving the military, the University of West Florida has formed a new Office of Military Engagement. UWF President Martha D. Saunders has named retired U.S. Navy Capt. Chris Middleton as the president’s military liaison, serving as the primary point of contact between her office and military and defense organizations.

“I am happy to take this step toward enhancing our military outreach,” Saunders said. “We have common values to serve the public, grow the region and provide the foundations for future success.”

Middleton will be charged with strengthening relationships with Florida’s defense industry, developing a strategic plan for the Office of Military Engagement and planning and executing University-sponsored military outreach events. He will also coordinate meetings with University leadership and senior military leaders to create opportunities and partnerships that will enhance the symbiotic relationship between UWF and the local military community.

“I am proud to serve the President and the University in growing our common work with military partners,” Middleton said. “We can accelerate our strategic ambitions together. I look forward to the engagements.”

Middleton also serves as director for strategic innovation at UWF, where he collaborates with internal and external partners to research, design and implement strategic projects in academic, military and corporate settings. He also works with community, regional and national stakeholders to identify common strategic interests for value-based relationships and initiatives.

New Legal Fee Record Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward used fewer outside law firms during the first quarter of FY 2018 than any previous first quarter. However, firms were paid more, $352,192, than any previous first quarter since he began giving the Pensacola City Council a Schedule of Legal Fees.

Outside legal fees dipped in the quarter that ended in December 2015 but have doubled since then—jumping from $171,949 to $352,192.

The legal fees increased despite the fact that the lawsuits regarding the ECUA wells at the airport and Pitts Slip lease have been resolved. Plus, a nonprofit is handling Bayview Park Cross appeal for free, and the mayor’s appeal concerning the allocation of local option gas taxes was settled in early 2017.

Allen Norton Blue is handling the lawsuits filed by the former fire chiefs, which may explain the 213-percent jump in its billings. The Bruce Beach hatchery lawsuit is being handled by GrayRobinson, but its fees decreased.

Two new firms were used during the first quarter-Carlton Fields $3,300 for “Environmental and Real Estate” and Wooden Law Firm $26,005 for “Land Development Matters.”

Waste Amnesty Days Santa Rosa County will host Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Amnesty Day on Saturday, March 10 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Santa Rosa County South Service Center, 5819 Gulf Breeze Parkway. This event offers residents the opportunity to dispose of HHW at no charge without having to drive to the Central Landfill in Milton.

Residents will be required to remove items from their vehicles. Remember, HHW items can cause injury if handled improperly. These items will usually have a warning or cautionary statement on their labels, such as flammable, corrosive, poison or toxic.

“At our Amnesty Day last October, we collected almost 45,000 pounds of waste products with just over 2,500 pounds of it returned to our ‘free’ shelf which is disbursed back to the public for reuse,” said Ron Hixon, director of environmental operations at Santa Rosa County.

Santa Rosa residents can dispose of household hazardous waste Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the HHW center at the entrance to the Central Landfill, 6337 Da Lisa Road in Milton. Regular, light duty, truck or car tires are accepted for $5 each year-round.

Amnesty Day is made possible by Santa Rosa County in cooperation with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Okaloosa County Environmental Office. For more information, contact 981-7135.

Escambia County residents will have an opportunity to dispose of up to eight tires per person free of charge at the Escambia County Tire Amnesty Day event on Saturday, March 24 from 8 a.m. to noon.  The event will take place in the parking lot of the Escambia County Public Safety Building, 6575 N. W St.

Proof of Escambia County residency is required to participate, such as a driver’s license, power bill or voter registration card. The event is for residents only; no businesses, please. Residents will be allowed to dispose of up to eight tires, on or off the rim, per resident. Only car tires and light truck tires will be accepted. Household hazardous waste and electronics will not be accepted.

2018 Transition Services Information Fair The Escambia County School District Exceptional Student Education Department with the Tri-County Transition Interagency Collaborative is sponsoring the Transition Services Information Fair. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Friday, March 9, at Marcus Pointe Building A, Door 4, 6205 N. W St.

Exceptional Student Education (ESE) representatives and representatives from agencies throughout Escambia County and some from Santa Rosa County will be available to answer questions regarding services available to students with disabilities. This valuable information will assist students with disabilities and parents with transition planning while in school and also from school to a post-school environment.

Presentations will be made by agency representatives and employers throughout the event. Agencies will also have tables set up with information to assist families or their student with resources available in the community and helpful tips on obtaining and maintaining employment.

Parents, students, teachers and other interested consumers from both Escambia and Santa Rosa counties are invited to attend. For more information, please contact Melinda Davidson at or Alesia Carter at