After months of public meetings and input, experts provided their initial recommendations for how to develop a safer, more walkable, and vibrant waterfront in downtown Pensacola. This process began last summer with public town halls and opportunities for the public to provide input on their ideas. Stakeholders from the city, county, business community, and environmental community attended these sessions. The objective with this process is to come up with a plan to develop the area beginning at where the new Three Mile Bridge will end to Sanders Beach.
The unveiling of the SCAPE Landscape Architecture plan for Pensacola's waterfront took place at Sanders Beach Community Center with a full house in attendance. One of the main topics that the presenters touched on was the need for additional shade along the sidewalks and redesigned streets to be more pedestrian and biker friendly. The goal is to provide downtown visitors an opportunity to park in one place and then be able to comfortably walk to shops, bars and restaurants, parks, and museums. Examples from other communities were provided to give examples of what could be done.
The consultants provided both short and long-term plans for what could be done along the Main Street corridor including some immediate objectives. The area around Main and Palafox Streets was identified as a place where street and sidewalk improvements should begin to impact the most people. Another short-term suggestion was to close off the end of Palafox Pier to vehicular traffic to provide for greater walkability and the potential development.
The expansion and development of Bruce Beach will necessitate a longer-term vision and greater financing. While these and other projects were discussed, the sources of funds to pay for these projects will need to be addressed moving forward. The consultants did touch on the economic development impact that doing these projects could have on the community as it relates to quality of life and attracting the talent necessary to fill jobs.
Escambia County celebrated the acquisition of the Outlying Field 8 (OLF-8) property with a recent ceremony at the property. The county completed the land swap with the Navy for the 630-acre parcel earlier this year. The county spent $17 million to purchase the property, which has been appraised for up to $32 million.
Next, the county will bring in a consulting team to provide a Master Plan for OLF-8 that will identify the best use for the property.
Escambia County Commission Chairman Lumon May received the honorary key to OLF-8 from Commander Jim Brownlee from Whiting Field. County Commissioners Jeff Bergosh, Steven Barry, and Robert Bender also attended the ceremony. Staff from Senator Marco Rubio's office, Senator Rick Scott's office, and Congressman Matt Gaetz's office were also recognized at the ceremony.
The Institute for Women in Politics works to achieve greater representation of women in office and government in Northwest Florida. On the latest Toddcast, IWP board member Magi Thomley Williams explains the Institute’s mission and how they work to bring more women into the political process.
Pensacola was one of five communities in the United States selected for a new initiative designed to advance inclusive workforce development within their regions through a focus on reaching under-served populations.
The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning announced the launch of the Inclusive Development Network. The Inclusive Development Network will work to identify and implement strategies that reduce equity gaps in local workforce development in the Pensacola area. Factors that lead to Pensacola being selected for this initiative include geography and size, as well as their existing and proposed reach with under-served populations.
FloridaWest will serve as the local agency for the Inclusive Development Network in Pensacola. The other communities selected for this initiative are Cleveland, Ohio; Corpus Christi, Texas; Coweta, Oklahoma and Spokane, Washington.
The 2019 Florida Legislative Session is underway. On the latest Greater Pensacola Chamber Toddcast, we hear from newly elected State Representative Alex Andrade. Representative Andrade tells us about the bills he has filed for session and what to expect with some of the key business issues facing our state.
Chamber board members, Chamber staff, and area business leaders traveled to our nation's capital to participate in the annual Northwest Florida Military Fly-In. Representatives from Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, and Bay Counties made the trek to Washington to meet with members of Congress and hear directly from military leadership about the key issues facing our Northwest Florida military bases.
The first day featured the Day on the Hill, hosted by our own Congressman Matt Gaetz. Day one featured presentations on Special Operations Forces and Military Readiness, next year's defense budget, and Next Generation Aircraft and Hypersonics. Two additional Florida Congressmen, Representative Michael Waltz (R-Boyton Beach) and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Miami), addressed attendees providing their perspectives on the future of the military in Florida.
Day Two featured presentations from representatives from The Pentagon and the armed forces. Presentations included an update on Global Naval Operations and the importance of keeping the military testing ranges in the Gulf of Mexico. Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Navy James Balocki also provided his outlook for naval installations and facilities.
The fly-in also provided the opportunity for representatives of the five counties to share best practices and discuss ways that Northwest Florida can work together to expand military missions in our area.
On the latest Florida Chamber Bottom Line Senator Doug Broxson, Chair of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, sat down to discuss the adverse effects of Assignment of Benefits (AOB) abuse, and the bill he is proposing to put an end to it.
“For over 100 years, we never had a problem with how to file a claim,” said Broxson. “In 1974, we had the first AOB claim ever filed, and then in 2018 we had 36,000.”
Click here to watch the full interview.
On the latest Toddcast, we hear from Escambia County’s newest County Commissioner, Robert Bender. Recently elected to District 4, Commissioner Bender shares his thoughts on the key issues facing our county.
The month of February saw many pieces of the funding puzzle for the Pensacola Airport's Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) facility come into place. First, the Triumph Gulf Coast Board of Directors contributed an additional $10 million to the $56 million that the board had previously approved. The City of Pensacola has been the lead agency on this project and Mayor Grover Robinson presented to the Triumph Gulf Coast board on the day of the vote. Robinson's initial request was for $12.5 million.
Triumph Gulf Coast board members made it clear upon approving their funding that they did not want to receive any additional requests for the project and that they would only move forward with their funding once all other sources had been secured. One other addendum to securing Triumph funding was that ST-Engineering must agree to keep the agreed upon jobs in Pensacola for at least seven years. Triumph previously agreed to a three-year requirement.
This approval came after both the Pensacola City Council and Escambia County Commission voted to contribute an additional $5 million each to the project. The total contribution for the city and the county to the project is $15 million. The Pensacola City Council vote was a narrow 4-3 margin with council members Ann Hill, Sherry Myers, and Jared Moore voting against the additional funding. Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill was the lone vote against the additional county funding.
The final major piece of funding came through when the Florida Department of Transportation notified Mayor Robinson of a commitment of $20 million towards the project. The letter to the mayor stated that the money would be taken from other transportation projects, but did not specify which ones.
That leaves the project roughly $4.8 million of its total funding goal. It is believed that the city will make up the balance of the funds on its own.
District Four Escambia County School Board Member Patty Hightower spoke at Pensacola Young Professionals event on the process for appointing the next Escambia County Superintendent of Schools. While there have been no concrete steps taken yet, Hightower did express some opinions on what the selection process might look like.
Public input was definitely a priority to Hightower. She stated that she could envision a citizens board that would provide input and potentially vet some of the candidates. She also said that having town halls and allowing multiple ways for the public to engage was important.
One issue that will need to be considered is when would the appointment take place and would the new superintendent have an on-ramping period when that person would work with current Superintendent Malcolm Thomas for a period of time to get on-the-job training before officially taking over. Thomas' term ends in November of 2020. A possible scenario would have the new superintendent starting in the 2020 Summer and learning the area before officially starting.
Another topic that will need to be addressed in compensation for the new superintendent. The state provides some salary guidelines for an appointed superintendent, but the school board will either need to set or negotiate the salary of the new superintendent. Hightower shared salary data from similar sized counties to Escambia. You can find that data in the photo at the bottom of the page. Hightower stated that was pleasantly surprised that the salaries in these counties were not as high as she expected.
The school board will also need to decide issues such as whether it takes a simple majority or super-majority to fire the superintendent. There is currently no timetable for making these decisions.