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.