Pensacola, Florida
Monday September 24th 2018

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Outtakes—Fish Eggs on His Face

By Rick Outzen

For half a year, Mayor Ashton Hayward has told the public that the fish hatchery was an “all or nothing” deal. If the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission was not allowed to build the facility at Bruce Beach, the agency would take its $18.7 million grant elsewhere.

The facts didn’t matter. The lease said construction was to begin in May 2017 or the agreement was void. The mayor didn’t care. He wouldn’t enforce that clause of the contract.

Mayor Hayward told a local radio station that the fish hatchery was creating an asset on “a piece of property that was just toxic for years.” Through a review of DEP records regarding the project, Inweekly found the site had no significant environmental issues.

To sway the African American community, the mayor’s office and others touted the hatchery would honor its heritage. Inweekly found that FWC would place four markers on the site that would note the history of Bruce Beach. The markers, which cost $2,000 each, were all the agency committed to doing.

Supporters and the mayor’s office talked about how the hatchery would open up the beach for kayaks, paddleboards and other non-motorized boats. Inweekly found that a second grant would be needed to build those amenities because they weren’t part of the hatchery project.

On the radio, Mayor Hayward attacked Quint Studer over the developer’s opposition to the hatchery, accusing him of  being “one person trying to control everything in our community.” He said the changing the location of the hatchery could “damage relationships with the state that have worked tirelessly to help Pensacola over the last seven years.”

He called the efforts to move the hatchery off Bruce Beach “nit-picking,” “childish” and “petty.”

When the city council wanted to discuss the hatchery in March, Hayward didn’t hide his displeasure. He called the daily newspaper and said, “What, three people (Studer, Dan Lindemann and Jerry Holzworth) are against it, so they’re going to throw in their cards? What are they talking about? I’m the one out there talking to FWC about positive solutions and to come up with creative solutions to keep them in Pensacola.”

Last week, FWC requested the city to terminate its lease. The mayor and his supporters gloated that three people had cost the city $18.7 million. But then, a funny thing happened. Gov. Rick Scott said last Friday the hatchery was staying in Escambia County. We would not lose the grant.

We had six months of unnecessary name-calling and legal battles when a “creative solution” only required a phone call to the governor. The problem was the man who could have made the phone call refused to do it.