Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday June 19th 2019

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The Buzz 6/6/19

Graffiti Bridge Conundrum Every year, numerous vehicles run afoul of Pensacola’s low-clearance Graffiti Bridge. The incidents typically involve too-tall trucks having their trailer top opened like a tin can.

In an effort to address this issue, Pensacola City Councilman Jared Moore convened a workshop on Tuesday, May 28, aimed at identifying potential fixes.

“What kind of creative idea can we come up with?” Moore asked.

The councilman recalled a recent CivicCon event during which the speaker referred to Graffiti Bridge—otherwise known as the 17th Avenue train trestle—as one of Pensacola’s “love notes,” or something that the area considers special and unique.

“That’s why we have that visceral response when a truck hits it—‘that’s our love note; don’t hit it.’” Moore said.

According to Pensacola Police Department Capt. Kristin Brown, this year, 10 trucks have already hit the Graffiti Bridge. In 2018, 12 drivers hit the overpass bridge, while 10 hit it in 2017. The accidents tend to happen between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and require the police to clear the scene of the accident and direct traffic in the meantime.

“It can be manpower intensive for a couple of hours in the busiest part of the day,” Brown said.

The captain attributed most of the accidents to drivers being unaware that their vehicle—oftentimes a rented box truck—is too high for the overpass and also oblivious of the signage posted in the area warning drivers of the low clearance risk.

“If I had to say, ‘What is the problem?’” Brown said, “we need to get the attention of the driver. That’s the problem.”

Several ideas for accomplishing this were discussed during the May 28 workshop, held at the Studer Community Institute. Clint Geci of Geci & Associates Engineers outlined the concepts, which ranged from simple and economical to high-tech and expensive.

“Just how much money do you actually want to spend?” Geci said, explaining that the high end of the spectrum included sensors that would set off an alarm.

Concepts that got more traction at the workshop tended to be simpler approaches, such as suspending a series of items—chimes, art pieces, sandbags—across 17th Avenue at the appropriate height to warn drivers that their truck exceeds the height limit and is about to hit the bridge.

“I think that’s a really good solution,” Geci said. “I think it’d really grab people’s attention.”

Other ideas discussed included placing an art installation, something that grabs one’s attention, near the bridge and positioning the warning signage on it or perhaps closing the street to truck traffic—something that will be discussed as FDOT prepares to construct a roundabout and flyover in the area associated with the new Pensacola Bay Bridge.

Frency Ramos Moore, Councilman Moore’s wife, went a step further, suggesting the stretch of 17th Avenue near the Graffiti Bridge could be closed to vehicular traffic entirely, with traffic diverted onto 14th Avenue. In this case, she said, maybe the nearby boat ramp could be expanded and the surrounding area turned into a park.

“It’s a beautiful waterfront area,” she pointed out.

Councilman Moore said that the city has no immediate plans to act on any of the concepts discussed during the brainstorming session.

Highway 90 Expansion State Senator Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze) last week announced that the widening of SR 30 (US 98) for approximately four miles in Santa Rosa has been funded for final design and construction in fiscal year 2020. The project will consist of widening SR 30 (US 98) from a four-lane facility to a six-lane facility.

“I am pleased to announce that FDOT will begin the six-lane widening project from Bayshore Road to Portside Drive,” stated Senator Broxson. “Special thanks to former FDOT Sec. Mike Dew, who made this commitment to our office during his tenure, and to District Sec. Phillip Gainer, who continued the commitment to Santa Rosa County. This vital project will drastically improve safety and traffic flow in South Santa Rosa County. “

The rural roadway will be converted to an urban typical section with curb and gutter. This improvement will include the construction of an extensive stormwater system including ponds.
A public hearing is being scheduled for late June 2019 to present the improvements along the corridor.

The estimated budget amount being added to the project is approximately $69.6 million. This includes finalizing the design and completing the construction. FDOT anticipates opening bids on the design-build contract in Spring of 2020.

Sunday’s Child Grants Sunday’s Child, a Pensacola Bay Area philanthropic organization that promotes LGBTQ acceptance and inclusion, has announced the selection of ten finalists that will vie for four grants of $26,500 each.

In the fall of 2018, the organization raised $106,000 among nearly 200 members that will be awarded to local Pensacola Bay Area non-profit organizations that place value on diversity, inclusion, and equality.

On June 23, Sunday’s Child will award the grants to four Pensacola-area non-profit organizations that have shown their commitment to diversity and acceptance of the LGBTQ community in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. This year, the following non-profits have been announced as finalists (in no particular order) to compete for the four grant awards: Golden Elite Track and Field, Gulf Coast Kid’s House, Manna Food Pantries, Pensacola United Methodist Community Ministries, Keep Pensacola Beautiful, A HOPE for Santa Rosa County, Pensacola Opera, ARC Gateway, Pensacola Children’s Chorus, and Studer Community Institute.

Sunday’s Child members will hear each of these ten organizations present their projects at the Sunday’s Child annual membership meeting and participate in a live vote to award the $106,000 in grant awards.

“The mission of Sunday’s Child is one of acceptance and unity in our diversity,” said Drew Buchanan, President of Sunday’s Child. “We’re prideful of the fact that our community is made up of individuals and organizations that celebrate our unique differences. In just a few short years, we’ve given back nearly half-a-million dollars to our community, proving just how much the citizens of the Pensacola Bay Area care about diversity in their communities.”

Funding for the charitable grants comes from contributions from individual and ensemble group memberships. Sunday’s Child has grown to nearly 200 members since its founding and with this year’s grants, the organization will have awarded more than $430,000 since 2015.

YMCA Deal Coming Soon In June, the Pensacola City Council will likely be looking over a potential deal between the city and YMCA, which will allow for the city to have a soccer complex off of Langley Avenue and for the Y to build a new facility off Summit Boulevard. Mayor Grover Robinson said at his May 28 press conference that he expects a deal will come to council at its June 13 meeting.

“From our standpoint, we think this makes sense,” Robinson said. “We know it’s not what everyone wants to do immediately, but we think, in the long run, it’ll be very positive for all areas of Northeast Pensacola, and we’re excited about what it has to offer.”

For some time now, the city has been eyeing a dedicated soccer complex for its growing youth sports soccer league. Most recently, the city has been in talks with the YMCA about swapping the Y’s property off of Langley for a piece of property east of the city’s Vickery Community Center, near a collective of ballfields and the Roger Scott Athletic Center on Summit.

This deal would allow the city to use the Langley property along with an area of the adjoining Hitzman Park where some fields are currently to construct a three-field soccer complex. The Y would get the property near the Vickery to build a new facility and also lease space within the Vickery Center out of which to operate.

The city-YMCA swap has been a contentious issue, with residents of the neighborhoods off Langley contending the new complex will increase traffic and negatively impact the park as well as deprive the area of the services provided by the YMCA. The Y, however, appears to be on the way out regardless. The facility’s director informed residents at a community meeting over the winter that the facility had outlived its usefulness.

“Overall, we believe it’s probably going to be the thing that allows us to keep the Y in Northeast Pensacola and expand at the Vickery Center,” Robinson said.

In addition to building a new facility off Summit and leasing space in the Vickery Center, the Y will also be overseeing the adjoining swimming pool, as it has for some time. Mayor Robinson said that eventually, the pool will likely be enclosed to enable a longer season and extended hours.

“In the short term, at least like a bubble or something that will allow you to extend the season of the pool for both children and adults,” he said.

Insofar as the soccer fields off of Langley, the city hopes to have them ready by the 2020 spring soccer season.

“I’m optimistic that we’ll play soccer there in March,” said Parks and Recreation Director Brian Cooper.

Completion Date Moved The city of Pensacola announced the renovations of the Bayview Senior Center will not be completed this spring as initially announced. The new completion date is now early 2020.

Renovations began in fall 2018 and will include new restrooms to meet Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility standards, new carpeting, safety handrails and interior painting. The new completion timeline is due to hidden water damage that contractors uncovered after work commenced on the project, requiring the budget and completion date to be amended for the additional work needed.

Nominations Sought Nominations are now being accepted for the annual 2019 Melba Meyer Award. The award recognizes community members who have survived challenges and now give back to the community.

When Ms. Meyer passed away in 1995, a charitable trust was established to support religious, charitable, scientific, literary or educational purposes or to help prevent cruelty to children or animals. Since then, Lakeview Center has received more than $2.3 million from the Melba B. Meyer Charitable Trust, allowing it to help countless children and families in the local area.

Thanks to Ms. Meyers generosity, in the spring of 2012, Lakeview Center was able to open a three-story, 48,600-square-foot building where all of our outpatient services for children are now provided in a single location. The building was named the Melba B. Meyer Children’s Services Center to in some small way express gratitude.

The intent of this award is to honor similar individuals who have overcome and want to help others. Lakeview Center will honor awardees at a special event and also introduce them during the annual Trauma-Informed Care Partners Conference on October 14.

To complete the interactive form, visit elakeviewcenter.org/melba-meyer-award by June 21, 2019.

Firecracker 5K The annual Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Firecracker 5K run/walk will be held at 7 a.m. Saturday, June 29, at Seville Quarter. This family-friendly 5K includes a free Kid’s Fun Run that will begin immediately following the 5K.

Registration is available online at rmhc-nwfl.org for $30 through midnight on Wednesday, June 26. Late registration will be available at packet pick up on June 27-29 for $35. Packet pick up and late registration will be held on 4-7 p.m. Thursday, June 27, at the Ronald McDonald House and on 4-7 p.m. Friday, June 28, at Seville Quarter.

Participants can also register the morning of the race from 6-6:45 a.m. Saturday, June 29. Group pricing is available for groups with 10 or more. Please contact Chelsea at chelsea@rmhc-nwfl.org.

Mark Your Calendar Escambia County Fire Rescue invites the public to join in celebrating the arrival of the new Squad 3 Apparatus at a push-in ceremony at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 8, at ECFR Station 3, 5925 N. W St.

The 6th Annual Florida Women Veterans Conference is set for 8 a.m.-4 p.m. June 10-11. This year’s theme is “Women Veterans … We Are One of Many,” and the event will be held in the Conference Center, Building 22, on the UWF campus. Register online at 2019floridawomenveteransconference2.eventbrite.com.

Mayor Grover Robinson will hold his fourth town hall meeting 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 12 at at Vickrey Resource Center, 2130 Summit Blvd. Mayor Robinson will host the meeting with Councilman P.C. Wu, and residents are encouraged to attend and let their voices be heard.