Pensacola, Florida
Sunday June 16th 2019

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Outtakes—Another Port Study

By Rick Outzen

The word “urgency” isn’t part of the vocabulary used at Pensacola City Hall. The latest example of the city government’s failure to drive an initiative to completion on a timely basis is the port study that the city council received on Monday.

Thirty months ago, the Pensacola City Council budgeted $100,000 to commission a Port Economic Feasibility Study. The administration ignored the appropriation and did nothing. A year later, the council scheduled a workshop to establish guidelines for the creation of a Port Economic Feasibility Study Committee. Three months later, the council directed its executive to set an initial meeting date for the Port Economic Feasibility Study Committee. The mayor protested, and in June 2017, the council abandoned establishment of a port study committee and returned control of the study process to the mayor’s office.

Still, nothing happened until the spring of 2018, when Hayward hired Moffatt & Nichol for $100,000, not to do an economic feasibility study but to conduct a strategic planning process. Meanwhile, the port lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In June 2018, Moffatt & Nichol began holding public meetings and did online surveys. The consultants found what most of us already knew. Pensacola residents do not want the port closed. Most believe that the city needs to maintain a functioning port but should also diversify into other marine-related industries. These have been the findings of every port study since 2004. Hayward could have read those volumes and saved a hundred grand, but maybe I’m too fiscally conservative.

The Moffatt & Nichol report was not posted on the city’s website before the special workshop on Monday. The public had no opportunity to review it and come to the meeting with informed comments and ideas. The lack of transparency is on Mayor Grover Robinson, even though the media had asked about the study during the weekly press conferences in December.

What did Pensacola taxpayers get for their money—a nice set of drawings that have a new street connecting Commendencia Slip with Bartram Park that will allow for the development of condominiums, restaurants, museums and parks on port property. The irony is the public viewed adding parks and open spaces, commercial, civic and residential uses, in that order, as the least desirable uses for the port. So much for public input.

The consultants also liked IHMC and UWF having a marine research facility at the port—an apparent move to pander to an influential base. And Moffatt & Nichol also wanted to change the name of Commendencia Slip to “Luna’s Basin.” Wonderful.

Damn, I should have been a consultant.