Pensacola, Florida
Saturday February 23rd 2019


The Buzz 7/5/18

Blue Angels Live BlabTV will bring viewers the first-ever live broadcast of the Blue Angels air show at Pensacola Beach on Saturday, July 14. The three-hour program, called “Blues On Blab,” will begin at noon and will include more than eight camera angles of the must-see event. Former WEAR, ABC 3 anchors Mollye Barrows and Christian Garman will reunite to anchor the broadcast from the Hilton Pensacola Beach.

The show will offer interviews with three former Blue Angels pilots about what it takes to be a member of the Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, while a team of BlabTV personalities, including Chad Brillante, Madrina Ciano, Katrice Nolan and Dave Barker, spread out across the beach to bring the excitement of the event to viewers everywhere.

“This program is designed for our community so that anyone, anywhere can enjoy watching the world-famous Blue Angels fly in our hometown,” says Doug Bunze, BlabTV general manager. “We are proud to be broadcasting the complete air show across a multimedia platform with everything from statistics about the Blue Angels to traffic and weather updates.”

The “Blues On Blab” live broadcast on Saturday, July 14, will be available on local cable networks, online at and on social media via BlabTV’s Facebook page.

District Gets Grades Escambia County School District scored 20 points higher than it did last year and earned 54 percent of the total possible points to achieve a ‘B’ grade—its first true ‘B’ grade since the FY 2010-11 school year. (Note: In FY 2014-15, the state gave the district an “Informational Baseline Grade of a ‘B.’)

Overall, the state had 19 ‘A’ districts, including Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton, 33 ‘B’ districts and 13 ‘C’ districts. Franklin County was given an Incomplete. Last year, the state had 10 ‘A’ districts, 37 ‘B’ districts and 19 ‘C’ districts.

Escambia County earned the lowest total points of the ‘B’ districts, finishing just four points higher than the top ‘C’ district. The district is in the bottom 25 percent of the state’s 67 districts.

Both of the district’s two failing elementary schools improved. Myrtle Grove made the most significant improvement, earning 132 more total points and improving its grade from an ‘F’ to a ‘C.’

Fourteen schools are listed in the state’s 300 Lowest Performing Elementary Schools:  Brentwood, Ensley, Montclair, Myrtle Grove, Navy Point, Oakcrest, O. J. Semmes, Sherwood, Warrington, C. A. Weis, West Pensacola, Reinhardt Holm, Longleaf and Global Learning Academy.

Escambia County’s middle schools showed little change in their grades. Brown-Barge remained an ‘A’ school; Ransom a ‘B.’ Bellview dropped from a ‘B’ to a ‘C.’ Woodham earned 36 more points but remained a ‘D.’ Ferry Pass had an Incomplete.

In 2014, the school district hired Turnaround Solutions, Inc. to improve Warrington Middle. It hasn’t worked. Of the 558 middle schools in Florida that received grades, Warrington was ranked No. 542; Woodham, 538; Bellview, 534 and Workman, 518.

Pine Forest improved its grade from a ‘D’ to a ‘C.’  Escambia High received an Incomplete. Florida has 453 high schools that received grades. West Florida was ranked No. 42; Tate, 156; PHS, 296; Northview, 330; Washington, 381 and Pine Forest, 417.

Expensive BCC Races The August 28 primary is less than two months away. Escambia County Commission candidates have spent over $137,000 as of May 31, according to their campaigns. By far, the biggest spender is Alan McMillan with $57,380 in the District 2 race. Robert Bender has spent $22,411 in the District 4. He is followed by District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill with $21,055 and District 4 challenger Kendrick Doidge with $19,156.

McMillan has paid Barcelo & Co. $3,000 for polling, Birdwell Agency $20,059 for campaign strategy and messaging and Ronan Kirwan $10,800 for social media. Underhill had Gravis do his polling for $750, and Social Icon was paid $8,050 to manage his campaign and develop his website.

Bender has paid Strategic Image Management $7,258 for strategic consulting and Emily Mitchell $600 for his social media. Doidge has paid Front Line Strategies $8,000 for strategy planning and Duncan McCall Advertising $3,000 to handle his marketing. Bill Fetke, who is in the District 4 race, has paid AJD Consultants $2,057 to manage his campaign.

The eight candidates, who have filed campaign reports, have spent $25,905 on signs and $15,215 on fundraisers and campaign staff meetings.

While most of us are focused on the 2018 election cycle, Chief Deputy Chip Simmons quietly has raised $88,570 for his campaign for Escambia County Sheriff since he announced his candidacy in March. The election is two years away.

Hagler Well Pops Up The Emerald Coast Utility Authority filed on June 22 a federal lawsuit against 3M Company, Tyco Fire Products LP, Chemguard Inc., Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, National Foam Inc. and 49 “John Doe” defendants who manufactured, sold and distributed a fire suppression foam that allegedly contaminated a portion of the local water supply with highly toxic chemicals. Read ECUA sues.

Among the alleged contaminated wells listed in the lawsuit is the infamous Hagler well that was cited for contamination issues several times before it was closed in 2015.

In March 2001, attorney Mike Papantonio filed a $500 million lawsuit against Conoco Inc. and Agrico Chemical Co. for alleged damages caused by pollution from the old Agrico plant. Public documents revealed that between February 1996 and September 2000, more than 10,000 residents in Pensacola and Gulf Breeze were drinking water considered unsafe by the federal government. One of the contaminated wells was the Hagler well, which supplied drinking water to the cities of Pensacola and Gulf Breeze.

ECUA spent $515,000 to build a mixing chamber to dilute high concentrations of radium in the Hagler well with clean water from two other wells. However, the experiment didn’t work, and the utility eventually shut down the well.

Then-ECUA Executive Director A.E. “Van” Van Dever, Jr. knew about the contamination, delayed notifying the public and resisted efforts to take immediate action to remove the contamination from the drinking water. Van Dever was fired in 2002, as was his scientific, technical and regulatory administrator, Bernie Dahl.

Papantonio eventually worked out a $70 million settlement with Conoco. The City of Gulf Breeze stopped using ECUA for its drinking water.

Holyfield Training Camps Hall of Fame boxer Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield will lead a series of training camps for both children and adults on July 7-8 at the Rumble Training Center at 375 N. 9th Ave. The Law Office of J.J. Talbott is hosting this event.

Evander Holyfield will be teaching the fundamentals of boxing. Roy Jones Jr.’s longtime assistant trainer, Alfy Smith, and MMA coach and owner of Rumble Training Center, Brandon Bolton, will join Holyfield during the camp.

Each day will feature two trainings: a morning camp from 9 a.m.-noon for kids ages 5-12 and an afternoon camp from 2-5 p.m. for ages 13+. Each session will be followed by a Q&A. Tickets for each session are $100 each. Purchase price includes a T-shirt, boxing gloves, training session and photo opportunity. Multi-day and sibling discounts are available. Proceeds from ticket sales will be split between Bolton and Smith’s charitable ventures. The Law Office of J.J. Talbott has provided scholarships to over 50 children who might not be able to attend the camp otherwise.

Woodland Heights Failure The Woodland Heights Resource Center is tucked away off Fairfield Drive near Pensacola Village. The center was built in 2013 to bring cultural and creative outlets to the African-American neighborhood. Five years later, the center has fewer arts programs than expected.

“The city promised to help us,” said Walter Wallace, president of the Woodland Heights Neighborhood Association. “But we’re here being neglected. I’ve talked to my district representative (Councilman Gerald Wingate) about it because (the resource center) has never transpired into what it was supposed to be.”

Wallace remembered how optimistic he felt when the center opened. He spoke with a number of children who were excited to have the opportunity to explore art and culture. There was finally a place for young people to immerse themselves in something new. He saw potential.

A PNJ article written by Troy Moon (“Neighborhood Showpiece,” Oct. 30, 2013) validates Wallace’s memories of the high expectations for the Woodland Heights center.

Moon interviewed Thomas Brame, who was the center’s first supervisor.

“We want to reach out to Pensacola with this center,” Brame said in 2013. “We’re going to bring in the Belmont Youth Band and other organizations. We really have a unique facility here and want to take advantage of it.”

The building has a stage, dressing rooms, a gym and other amenities. However, it has not received the proper attention, according to Wallace. The recreation center has fallen to the wayside, and the arts and cultural outlet for the kids has disappeared.

“It’s become nothing but a babysitting center,” Wallace told Inweekly reporter Sammi Sontag. “We built it to be an art and culture center.”

Recreation Supervisor Reba Smith said the center doesn’t host youth basketball games because it isn’t regulation size and doesn’t have seating. She said, “It was built for art, but it hasn’t gone that direction.”

Smith said there had been no complaints about the lack of programming since she’s been the supervisor, but if people would like to increase after-school and summer programs and performances, she’s open to anything.

“Our jobs here aren’t to necessarily promote the art side of the center,” she said. “I’m not an art and drama instructor. I’m just a recreation supervisor. I don’t have an instructor for those programs, so they don’t happen.”

When the resource center first opened, Smith was told there were several performances there that were put on by people outside the community. But recently, no one has come forward to ask to utilize the space.

“We do have a number of dance teams who use the facilities. They come in and take advantage of the space,” she said. “And as far as drama and things like that, since I’ve been here, there hasn’t been anyone who has come forward to say they want to do something that highlights the stage area, because we do have a nice sound system and can put up chairs.”

Brian Cooper, the City Parks and Recreation director, was not available to be interviewed by Sontag.

Vote for IHMC Center Floridians and the worldwide public at large can vote online for their favorite community buildings in the fifth annual People’s Choice Competition, launched by the Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Florida) and the Florida Foundation for Architecture. Voting is open now until July 20. The buildings on this year’s ballot were built in the past five years and contribute to the happiness and prosperity of Florida residents.

“People’s Choice is one of my favorite events of the year because it is a chance for architects to showcase their work through a wide selection of public projects,” said Tampa architect Kim Headland, AIA, president of AIA Florida.

A total of 39 buildings have been nominated this year. Submissions from across the state include, for example, the Kate Tiedemann College of Business located in Tampa, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Miami and the Apollo 1 Memorial at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The buildings nominated shape Florida’s topography and create a distinct architectural style for which Florida is known. Pensacola’s Levin Center For IHMC Research is on the list.

The public can vote for their favorite buildings online at until 11:59 p.m. EST on July 20. Buildings are listed by the structure’s name and city. The results of the voting will be announced at AIA Florida’s Annual Convention on July 21.

Summer Civics Lunch The Institute for Women for Politics of Northwest Florida will host its inaugural Summer Civics Lunch on the 2018 Florida Constitutional Amendments 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 10, at Hyatt Place Pensacola Airport. The speakers are Alexis Lambert, Deputy General Counsel in Executive Office of the Governor, and Ryan Wiggins, owner and chief strategist of Full Contact Strategies.

Alexis Lambert served as senior attorney for the Constitution Revision Commission and as staff director for the General Provisions Committee of the CRC. Ryan Wiggins, a Pensacola native, is known throughout the state for her knowledge of and astute perspectives on the political scene. Her political consulting firm specializes in political messaging, crisis communications and media relations.

The deadline for reservation is July 8. Only paid reservations will be accepted. The cost is $10 for Institute members, $25 for non-members and $50 at the door. The fee includes a box lunch.

For online reservations, visit

Mark Your Calendars The Pensacola Humane Society will host a grand opening celebration for its Beverly Barkway Thrift Store, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. July 5-7, at 817 Beverly Pkwy. The store will benefit programs of the society and its Barbara Grice Memorial Spay & Neuter Clinic.

The Florida Procurement Technical Assistance Center at UWF will offer a workshop entitled “Federal Govt. Set-Asides – What Are They? When Are They Used? What Are Benefits to Businesses?” 9-11:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 11 at 9999 University Pkwy., Bldg. 8.  Attendees will learn about the different types of set-asides when they are used and benefits to businesses. The fee is $20. Pre-registration is required online with payment. To register, visit under “Training Opportunities.”