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The Buzz 5/3/12

Council Upset Again While it eventually green-lighted the Pen Air deal, the Pensacola City Council let it be known that it was not pleased about the circumstances.

“Delighted to support the deal tonight,” said Council President Sam Hall at the council’s April 26 regular meeting. “I’m just not happy about how it came to us.”

After lengthy discussion, council members chose to forgive a loan to the Downtown Improvement Board as part of a deal that involved Pen Air Federal Credit Union moving into the Thiesen Building downtown and bringing 108 jobs to the area. The loan had been to the DIB for improvements to the city’s Jefferson Street Garage that DIB now manages.

DIB Executive Director Kim Kimbrough estimated that the company’s move to the area would generate about $800,000 annually for downtown businesses.

The Pensacola City Council was asked to forgive a nearly $80,000 loan to the DIB. The DIB made the request so that it could offer Pen Air free parking for their employees, which was a stipulation of the building’s purchase. Pen Air agreed to forgo any EDATE property tax exemptions, thus making it essentially a “wash” or better for city coffers, according to the mayor’s office.

During the April 23 Committee of the Whole meeting, council members wanted more information than the Chief of Staff John Asmar or City Administrator Bill Reynolds were able to offer them. The mayor’s office was not allowed to release any details of the purchase agreement because the Pen Air board of directors had not approved it until two days before the meeting. In fact, the mayor’s office wasn’t given permission to release the term sheet until Thursday, April 26.

While all members of the city council appeared eager to usher Pen Air into downtown, a few voiced concern at the regular meeting about the lack of information they were being given.

Councilmen Brian Spencer and Larry Johnson spoke with Kimbrough before April 24. Hall, Megan Pratt and Maren DeWeese contacted him before the regular meeting—which Asmar suggested all members do.

DeWeese said she believed the lack of background information provided to the city council was part of a pattern.

“If it was a one-time instance, I wouldn’t be so frustrated,” she said, accusing the mayor’s chief of staff of routinely disrespecting the council.

President Hall claimed members of Mayor Ashton Hayward’s staff had pressured him—or “threatened” him—warning that he risked a bad portrayal in the press.

“We’d be the whipping boy over this issue and we’d be painted in the worst possible light,” Hall said he was told. “And I did not appreciate that.”

The city council eventually voted 8-1 in favor of the proposal. DeWeese was the lone dissenting vote.

Where Are The Cobia? This is a fish story, but not the bragging kind. Twenty-five boats competed in late April in the 2012 Outcast Cobia Invitational. After three days of fishing, the total catch was anything but plentiful.

“Not many,” reported James Fink, Outcast’s hunting manager. “I think it was, like, eight.”

Fink said that seeing such a low number of fish being offered up for weighing was not normal. In an average year, the tournament sees about 35 to 40 Cobia hit the scales.

“No, not normal at all,” Fink said of this year’s catch. “But neither was our winter.”

Normally, Cobia spawn in waters off Mississippi and Louisiana before migrating toward Florida. This year, Fink hypothesized that it didn’t ever get cold enough to trigger the migration.

“I think a lot of ’em didn’t leave, personally,” he said.

The Outcast Invitational is not the first Cobia tournament of the season along the Gulf Coast. Fink said that the season’s earlier tournaments had seen better results, but that the number of Cobia seemed to be “dwindling.” In a normal year, he said, Cobia stick around a bit longer.

“First week or so of May usually they push out, keep on truckin’,” Fink said. The winning fish of the Outcast Cobia Invitational weighed in this year at 69.03 lbs.

Bonner’s New Board Cindi Bonner, owner of Fitness Onboard, a Pensacola Beach-based business utilizing stand-up paddleboards (SUP) as exercise platforms, has introduced a revolutionary, patented board, the Fitness Onboard SUP by Dragonfly, and a set of accessories that include a simplified anchoring system, an onboard dry storage compartment and a paddle clip.

Fitness Onboard launched in September 2010 in Gulf Breeze and soon after found its home across from the Margaritaville Beach Hotel on Little Sabine. Bonner, 2012 IN Rising Star, almost immediately saw the need for a custom-made board to expand the fitness experience.  She began working with Mark Castlow and Jimbo Meador with Dragonfly Boatworks in Vero Beach.

“They immediately grasped the concept of a `fitness board,’” she said. “We worked through a number of prototypes over the next eight months to get a board that is the right size, both as regards the length, thickness, and weight, and that sells for a reasonable price. I also incorporated a number of accessories that will make the board not only more useful in an exercise platform, but easier to use.”

Bonner, a Pensacola native with a master’s degree in exercise physiology, says Fitness Onboard will be marketing the boards and will also incorporate them into her Pensacola Beach business.

“I’m excited and proud that I have been able to grow this business and develop this product while continuing to be a full-time mother to two elementary school aged children,” she said. “I think the potential here and elsewhere for the Fitness Onboard SUP by Dragonfly is unlimited. People across the country have taken to this sport. They race SUPs. They use SUPs for relaxation. They use SUPs to exercise. Now we are offering a board that is perfect for those who use the boards as exercise platforms.”

When the work on the board was finalized, Bonner discussed the innovations with a patent attorney who agreed that the changes made the board’s design unique.

“Fitness Onboard holds 100 percent of the patent of the `Fitness Onboard SUP by Dragonfly,’” she says. “I think when we roll this board out people will respond very positively. This is an exciting time.”