LAST CALL? Pensacola officials are looking at a lawsuit against the owners of Tom, Ann, Buddy’s. The corner bar has earned a nefarious reputation over the years and, more importantly in this case, racked up $22,738.50 in code enforcement fines.
“This has to do with code enforcement and liens, but it is really something I wish we could get rid of,” said Pensacola City Councilman Ronald Townsend, whose district the business lies in.
The city will be filing the lawsuit against Donald A. Markham and Vaughn T. Markham, owners of the 1917 W. Cervantes St. establishment. The bar and package lounge has long been cited by law enforcement as being a source of illegal activity, such as drug sales and prostitution. A Christmas day brawl in 2003 ended when police tased a patron, and this past December police shot a man in the bar’s parking lot.
City council members voiced unanimous support for the effort during their Feb. 6 Committee of the Whole meeting.
“It’s been an eyesore in my district for years,” Townsend said.
City Council President Sam Hall said he could tell some “heartbreaking stories” concerning the establishment and that it “comes down to respecting others.”
Councilwoman Sheri Myers said that this was a good example of how the city’s code enforcement should function and City Administrator Bill Reynolds said the establishment was dragging down the surrounding area.
“This is exactly what happens to our neighborhoods when we have one or two pieces of blighted property,” Reynolds said.
This will be the first time the city has sued in an effort to either collect or foreclose. A code enforcement case was opened against the business in May 2008 due to its roof being damaged and covered with a tarp. In October of that year, the city began charging the business a $15 per day fine until it was brought into compliance.
In January 2010 that fine was upped to $50 per day. By November of that year, the Markhams had brought the building up to code. No payments were ever made on the more than $20,000 fine.
CRIME STATS The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office recently released the 2011 crime statistics for the area. The stats reveal an overall reduction in violent crimes from the previous year.
The sheriff’s office reports a nearly 50 percent decrease in homicides—there were 14 last year, compared with 26 in 2010. There also appears to have been a 13.1 percent decrease in forcible sex offenses, and an 8.4 percent decrease in aggravated assaults.
While the sheriff’s office reported a 16 percent reduction in robberies that involved a firearm, and 13.6 percent decrease in those where a knife was used, there was an increase—by 2—of the total number of overall robberies.
The office also reported a slight increase in property crimes. There were, however, 65 fewer burglary calls.
Overall, 2011 resulted in 284,308 calls for service and 37,717 reports written. Deputies arrested a total of 12,455 adults and 1,232 juveniles.
These stats are from the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office Uniform Crime Report. Agencies are required to report crimes that fall within nine categories: murder, sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault and stalking, burglary, larceny or theft, motor vehicle theft, simple assaults and arson.
GONE FISHIN’ Fishing is no longer allowed on the Cervantes Street bridge spanning Bayou Texar.
“The fishermen have lost their privilege to fish there,” said Pensacola City Councilman Larry B. Johnson, during the Jan. 26 city council meeting. “I just wanted to make that public today, and I think those signs will go up soon.”
The No-Fishing signs have now been put up.
Apparently, the city has been receiving complaints about trash on the bridge. Johnson said that there was also an issue with fishermen breaking street lamp globes with their weights. Such damages have cost the city a total of $4,800.
“I have received numerous complaints, over the years, of debris,” Johnson said. “It’s an unfortunate thing.”
The city councilman said that fishermen had been asked to keep their trash off the bridge and out of the bayou, but the problem persisted.
One citizen said he thought it was unfortunate that people would no longer be able to fish from the bridge. Johnson said that people probably shouldn’t be eating fish caught from the bridge.
“I think the health department has issued a statement that anything taken from Bayou Texar is not fit to eat,” the councilman said. “In fact, many of our waterways are polluted.”
DRILL, MAYBE DRILL Less than two years after 2010 Deepwater Water Horizon oil spill, lawmakers are pushing to open vast amounts of the Outer Continental Shelf—including areas in the Gulf of Mexico—to drilling.
Currently, the Energy Securities and Transportation Jobs Act—H.B. 3410—is making the rounds through Congress. Among other things, the bill would open up the eastern Gulf of Mexico to drilling—in effect lifting the current moratorium protecting Florida’s portion of the Gulf—and require the Department of Interior to conduct incremental lease sales in that area.
“It puts the entire eastern Gulf on the table for drilling,” said Elly Tepper, a legislative advocate with the National Resources Defense Council.
The bill does not have the support of local U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Florida), who represents areas near the now-protected Eastern Planning Area.
“I am strongly against the passage of H.R. 3410. The bill, as reported by the Committee on Natural Resources, opens portions of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico as close as 12 miles from Pensacola Beach for gas and oil exploration,” said Miller in a statement. “In addition to raising environmental concerns with drilling that close to Northwest Florida’s pristine beaches, I am concerned the new activity in the Gulf could interfere with the testing and training missions currently
conducted in the water ranges just off shore. I will work diligently to make sure this bill doesn’t become law.”