The latest Triumph Gulf Coast board meeting was hosted in Pensacola at the Escambia County Commission chambers. There were a number of items related to Escambia County that were discussed during the meeting.
First, Triumph staff gave an update on the negotiations with the Escambia County School District on the workforce development project approved at the previous Triumph meeting. Staff indicated that the negotiations are ongoing but one sticking point is the claw back provision that is necessary in all Triumph requests. The hope is that the school district and Triumph staff will be able to work out the details and have a proposal for approval at the next Triumph board meeting. The Escambia County School District workforce development project focuses on key industries such as aviation repair, cybersecurity and manufacturing.
The Triumph board also had in-depth discussions about two project areas: the oyster industry and sports facilities. There are number of submitted projects in each of these areas and the board felt that they need additional input from experts to help analyze these proposals. To help study these proposals, the board voted to form an oyster industry subcommittee and a sports facility subcommittee to bring in subject matter experts and have them provide presentations to the subcommittees. The subcommittees will then provide recommendations to the full board on how to proceed. Board members Jason Shoaf and Stephen Riggs will serve on the oyster industry subcommittee and board members Benjamin Lee and Allan Sense will serve on the sports facility subcommittee and Triumph board chairman Don Gaetz will serve on both subcommittees.
Finally, the board discussed the Pensacola Airport’s Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) project. This project would expand on the recently opened ST-Aerospace hangar at the Pensacola Airport which will bring 400 jobs to Pensacola. The expanded proposal would create a campus facility at the airport and bring another 1,400 jobs to our community. Chairman Gaetz stated that this project might be the “white whale” that the board has been looking for in terms of bring quality jobs. Dr. Rick Harper explained the potential benefits of the approving the project with the quality, high-paying jobs that would come with the project. The project also fits with the Escambia County School District’s workforce development proposal’s focus on aviation maintenance.
Both Harper and Gaetz did state that there are significant issues with the funding request associated with the current proposal. Board member Stan Connally followed up on Gaetz’s comments asking how quickly the issues with the proposal could be worked out and be ready for board review. Harper replied that a number of the issues have been worked out and that it should be within months. Connally stated that he was ready to see have this project in front of the board sooner than later because of the great potential that the project provides. Chair Gaetz then followed up that all parties will need to work together to close the current funding gaps.
On the latest Toddcast, Todd talks to Democrat consultant to the stars Steve Schale. Steve shares his perspectives on the 2018 election season and how the “Trump effect” might impact what happens in Florida.
The Toddcast from Tallahassee continues with 2018 election insights from Republican political consultant (and Toddcast mentor) Randy Enwright. Randy provides his thoughts on the fluid political situation in Florida as we head toward the August primary elections. He also has some cool political stories that you will want to hear!
The first Toddcast from Tallahassee is available! In the latest Toddcast, Chamber VP of Public Affairs Todd Thomson talks to James Madison Institute President Dr. Bob McClure about their role as a leading Florida think tank. Dr. McClure explains how the James Madison Institute works with Florida legislators to advance their ideals. Listen now!
The Triumph Gulf Coast Board of Directors did not hold a meeting in May. Their next board meeting will be Tuesday, June 12th starting at 10:30 AM. The meeting will be held in the Escambia County Commission chambers located at 221 Palafox Place.
Qualifying for local elections is in June, but more and more candidates are pre-filing to run. See who has filed and how much money they have raised here.
The Escambia County Commission again discussed their support for a proposed sports/meeting facility to potentially replace the Pensacola Bay Center. A group led by hotelier Jay Patel has pushed this proposal and submitted it to the Triumph Gulf Coast Board of Directors for consideration.
The board previously voted to endorse the project, but unanswered questions about location and financing have left the project in limbo. Board Chairman Jeff Bergosh brought the item forward at the last commission meeting in an attempt to move on from having to discuss the item any further.
Determining a site for the facility has been hindered by changing circumstances. Initially, it was believed that the facility could be located at the current site of the Pensacola Bay Center or the old ECUA property on Main Street and still be eligible for New Market Tax Credits. However, those sites are now not eligible for the tax credits, which either leaves a $20 million deficit in the project budget or means that the complex would have to be built on another site.
At the morning’s agenda review, Jay Patel asked the commission for a few more weeks to work out the details on sites he had identified north of Interstate 10 that would be eligible for the tax credits. The commission allowed Patel the additional time and will address the item again in June.
Without the tax credits and $25 million requested from Triumph Gulf Coast, the project is well short of its projected budget.
At the May 17th Board of County Commissioners meeting the commissioners tackled two hot-button issues on Pensacola Beach. First, the commission dealt with the soon-to-expire ban on open alcohol containers in the boardwalk area of the commercial core at Pensacola Beach. There have been two one-year alcohol bans in the boardwalk area with the current ban is set to end on May 31st. To extend the ban, the commission had to make a decision at this meeting or the ban would sunset.
Commissioner Grover Robinson’s proposal was to enact one more one-year ban and then allow the commission to address a permanent ban next year. Robinson is not running for re-election this year and wanted the new District Four commissioner to bring their perspective next year.
Beach leaders including Julian McQueen, Robert Rinke and Marilyn Hess spoke in favor of enacting a permanent ban on alcohol in the boardwalk area. There were also a number of employees of beach establishments that spoke in favor of a permanent ban. No public commenters spoke against ban.
When the commissioners began debate Robinson and Commissioner Doug Underhill spoke in favor of the one-year ban. However, Commission Chairman Jeff Bergosh began his remarks by citing crime increases in the boardwalk area. Bergosh stated that the having the alcohol ban in place had not deterred crime and that it was not fair to punish responsible citizens who wanted to enjoy an alcoholic beverage on the boardwalk.
Commissioners Steven Barry and Lumon May followed Bergosh stating their intentions to allow the alcohol ban to sunset. The one-year extension of the alcohol ban was defeated by a 3-2 vote with Commissioners Robinson and Underhill voting for the ban.
The commission then took up the issue of traffic congestion and pedestrian safety on Pensacola Beach. The county has been holding a series of public meetings over the past two years to provide proposals and take public input on how to relieve traffic congestion and improve pedestrian movement during the busy tourist season.
The Volkert engineering firm had been hired by the county to develop ideas for addressing the congestion issues at the beach. Representatives from Volkert provided their latest proposal at the commission meeting. To date sixty percent of the planning work needed to be done has been funded. You can see Volkert’s PowerPoint presentation here.
The Volkert proposal calls for two traffic roundabouts; one at the intersection of Via de Luna and Ft. Pickens Rd. and one at the current entrance to the Casino Beach parking lot. The plan also calls for a pedestrian underpass that would go from the Casino Beach lot under Via de Luna to the commercial core.
There was mixed reaction from the public speakers with many of the beach residents against the roundabouts in general and some speakers concerned about the underpass flooding during extreme rainfall events. Speakers in favor of the proposal stated that increased traffic flow is needed because some visitors to our area are avoiding the beach due to the traffic glut on weekends.
After a lengthy debate by the commissioners, the commission voted 4-1 to fund the remaining forty percent of the planning and design that needs to be done on the beach congestion plan. Commissioner Steven Barry was the lone dissenting vote.
The Greater Pensacola Toddcast takes you in-depth with leaders in business, government, tourism, the military and other industries important to Northwest Florida. The Toddcast will be available soon on iTunes for iPhones and Sketcher for Android. The first Toddcasts with Steve Hayes, Jennifer Grove, Keith Hoskins, Justin Beck and Kim Krupa are available here.
At their May meeting, the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce endorsed the City of Pensacola’s Triumph Gulf Coast Airport Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Campus proposal. If fully funded, this project would bring an additional 1,325 jobs to the VT-MAE facility at the airport. You can read the Chamber’s endorsement letter here.