I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

An Ambitious 5-Year Plan for ECFR Part II: What Would Implementation Cost?

Leadership at ECFR has put together a very ambitious, draft  five-year strategic plan.  Funding such a plan would be a HEAVY lift.

As I described in a post yesterday-ECFR Leadership has put together a draft 5-year strategic plan for the BCC's consideration.  The goal is to modernize the department and add resources, both human and facilities/equipment/training. 

All board members have been contacted to see if they would like a meeting to discuss this with County Fire Leadership and Staff. 

My meeting was a couple of weeks back, but now that all commissioners have had the opportunity to be briefed, I'm putting this out so the public can see what is proposed for discussion, and what the cost would be.

It is ambitious, and it would be costly to implement.  For this year's budget, the ECFR has submitted a funding request of just over $18 Million for operating (County Stations and Pensacola Beach Station), with several LOST requests as well totalling $4.5 Million.  (You can see this year's request(s) broken out on pages 224-227 of this document)

See the breakdown of what implementation of the 5-year strategic plan would cost, what it would add, and what it would accomplish if implemented, below.

I look forward to discussing this with my peers--but I'm not sure how we could fund such a plan......

County Medical Director's Attorney also Sent a Letter to HR Department....

The below letter was sent to the County's interim HR Director last Thursday. 

I just received a copy of it today.

My question now is--who in the county will receive the next "do not contact" letter from this attorney--and have other departments already received these??  The Board Members ourselves--I haven't got one so can I call her? The administrator?  How is this going to work if we have questions?  How can she do her job if nobody can contact her?

I look forward to reading the county attorney's response to this letter.

Monday, June 24, 2019

An Ambitious 5-Year Plan for ECFR, Part I

Leadership at ECFR have put together a very detailed and ambitious 5-year strategic plan for the BCC's consideration...

Two and a half weeks ago, top leadership of Escambia County met with me in the large conference room of the 4th floor.

It was a meeting they requested, and all the players were present, to include the interim County Administrator, Interim Fire Chief, Interim Director of Public Safety,  Director of Budget and Finance, and multiple high-level members of  Escambia County Fire/Rescue.

They wanted to give each commissioner an individual preview of the 5-year strategic plan they had worked up, and this was my turn to get the presentation. 

The goal of the report and presentation was to provide a strategic five-year plan for the BCC's consideration, a plan that identifies critical funding needs for the fire service, alternative funding sources for the BCC to consider, and a mechanism by which fire protection and the ISO PPC for Escambia County could be improved.

The report and presentation went year by year, with each year's recommendations highlighted and fully explained.  at the end of the presentation, the cost per year of implementation of the plan was reduced to a one page chart, with the significant increases marked on the bottom line.

Some Highlights from each year:

Year one (FY2019-2020):

-21 New Positions (12 Firefighters, 1 Fire Prevention Officer, 1 Recruitment Officer/Volunteer Coordinator 3 Training Captains, and 1 Fleet Manager, 1 Grant Writer, 2 Fire Inspectors
-Replacement of Pleasant Grove Fire Station
-Additional Training and 
-Investment in New and Replacement Gear and Equipment (To include a fire boat)

Year two (FY2020-2021)

-24 New Firefighter Positions
-Fire Training Facility
-Fleet Maintenance Facility
-Increased funding for repair and maintenance of fire facilities
-Expanded volunteer retention and recruitment
-Expanded/specialized training
-Additional investments in new and replacement apparatus and gear

Year three( FY2021-2022)

-3 New Assistant Chiefs

Was the "Panic Switch" for Beach Toll-Booth Traffic Gridlock Engaged this Weekend?

Reports indicate that this past Saturday a modified version of the "panic-switch" was activated at the beach toll booth in order to clear traffic.  Unfortunately, though, all the cars flushed through will be billed if they are not on Sunpass, which will in effect quadruple the cost of the trip for the 1-time day visitor....which will make many folks angry......

Looking at some online sites this morning, and on some facebook chat sites, it appears that the county did, indeed, hit the traffic "panic switch" idea I proposed last week with great initial effect this weekend.

According to Andrew McKay's site, where he states he had an exclusive look into the issue in real-time, it says the toll-booths were opened-up and the lights synced, as I had envisioned, and the traffic flushed.  Bravo!  the plan works!  According to McKay--this modified "panic switch" was engaged a total of three times on Saturday--and each time it did as intended, it worked.

This is fantastic, and my hat's off to Commissioner Bender and the traffic division for taking action!

The ONLY tweak or modification that I'd suggest to their version of the "panic switch" is this:  Don't charge tolls at all when you have to flush the traffic through to ease the gridlock caused by the toll booth.

Like I said at last week's BCC meeting on this topic---If you charge drivers who are caught up in the traffic--when the gridlock is not their fault--this will create some anger among drivers;   If you open the booths up and usher traffic through WITHOUT going to zero-fare mode (and thus NOT charging)--the unsavory and unintended consequence will be that many in the line that waited to pay $1.00 are suddenly forced through and will eventually pay four times this much when they get the bill in the mail ($1.00 toll, plus $2.50 fee, plus $.50 cent stamp= $4.00---four times what the toll is).

Why not just "eat it" and give up a few thousand dollars in revenue on the rare occasions when the panic switch gets engaged--as I envisioned in my version above?   I think to pass them through toll- free at these times is the much more palatable option, and also the "customer-friendly" way to go--just as I stated at the meeting last week.  After all--we're grossing over $3 Million yearly in cash tolls--we could afford to eat $5,000.00 here and there for public safety and good public/constituent relations, right??

But hey, that's just my opinion.  Opinions vary.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

EMS Medical Director Has Hired a Lawyer.....

I received the above email late yesterday afternoon.  I spoke to the county attorney about this and asked "Can an employee just hire a lawyer on their own and say 'you can't talk to me' anymore"...To which I was told "yes"...but to which I was also told this is very, very unusual.....

And then to not show up at the meeting where the vote was to take place on training requested by EMS....?  What is up?

I've got a feeling we will get to the bottom of it real quick next week.

Escambia, Santa Rosa Have a Legacy of Lacking Good Journalism

We have had two back to back editorial whoppers from our local newspaper—slamming public servants.

The theme of last week’s crack offering from the two person PNJ editorial board:  Activists good—ALL elected officials bad (especially the locally-elected conservative Republican ones)—and nothing gets done if not for activists.   And elected officials everywhere can do nothing right… 

Okay-I will say that I admire folks that become active and engaged in their communities for good causes.   But what that cynical piece leaves out is that often it is a super-motivated ACTIVIST that ends up running for office in to make changes!  And the other important thing the PNJ article misses is that sometimes the mob gets it wrong—and it takes an elected statesman to make a tough vote---despite the vocal activist mob’s protestations-to get an issue right for the WHOLE community.

When I served on the school board, we voted to close schools and loud groups of protesting citizens packed rooms and screamed in our faces calling us terrible names—but by 3-2 votes we did what was required and necessary in those instances—not what was politically expedient.

The county commission vacated a roadway two years ago for a very beneficial purpose---by 3-2 vote and despite the protestations of many activist citizens.  But it was the right thing to do and took intestinal fortitude from 3 of 5 to make that vote—despite pushback from some citizens.  The PNJ would have criticized that decision no matter which way it would have gone. Because it is easy to throw rocks from the sidelines and play Monday Morning Quarterback when you are in the peanut gallery and not in the game.

And to say NO President has made any difference locally?  Are you kidding me PNJ?

What about Lincoln’s Emancipation proclamation that changed America for good forever—Including Pensacola?

What about JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”

Or Ronald Reagan’s “Tear down this wall” speech that led to the end of the cold war?

How can PNJ be so myopic?

And now comes this week’s piece—where conveniently once again several of the locally elected, conservative Republicans are targeted by PNJ as unworthy of the offices we hold.

“These guys should be run out of office, and people WE LIKE BETTER should replace them!” would have been an honest title for this week’s PNJ editorial.

The op-ed conflates the serious criminal wrongdoings of two high-profile former officials with artificially imagined “outrageous” behavior by several currently elected republicans locally.  Thrown 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Coffee with a Commissioner this Coming Wednesday, June 26th-Town Hall July 15th

I'll be having my 24th "Coffee with the Commissioner" event this coming Wednesday morning, June 26th from 6:30-7:30 at the Hardees at Wilde Lake and Pine Forest Road.

These meetings are very informal and allow citizens to interact with me directly, with staff members present to take concerns and address issues.

And in three weeks I'll be holding a town hall meeting in Beulah to discuss an upcoming climate survey that will be coming in the mail to residents of Beulah and the northwest portion of District 1.

This town hall will be at 6:00 PM at Beulah Middle School on 9-Mile Road at Beulah Road.

We will be giving an update on multiple topics of interest at the town hall, but the main topic will be rapid growth and finding the best, most intelligent way to manage this growth in this part of the county.

We will also be talking about OLF 8 and the work to master plan that land for the benefit of the community.

I encourage ALL interested citizens to attend one or both of these upcoming meeting so that you can give me your ideas thoughts on how the county can serve you better!