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, February 28, 2017
I was fortunate to be able to travel to Washington DC this past weekend to attend the NACo (National Association of Counties) Legislative Conference. Like my previous experience attending School Board conferences, I found the opportunity to meet peers from around the nation to be very interesting and informative. NACo advocates for counties on broad areas that primarily relate to financial considerations for counties. Although much of what NACo is advocating for makes great sense--I personally don't agree with all of their positions. Some of the interesting break out sessions I attended dealt with the Opioid epidemic, addressing unfunded federal mandates, protecting US Counties' ability to issue tax-exempt municipal bonds to fund infrastructure projects, dealing with homelessness, and criminal justice reform.
This organization, NACo, will hold a large conference in Ohio in July of this year, and many more subjects of interest will be discussed at this conference. NACo's brief policy positions can be found here.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
District 1 County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh Hosted the first of 6 yearly
town-hall meetings on Tuesday, February 21st at Windy Hill Baptist Church in Beulah
We had a very nice turnout for the first of a series of District 1 town-hall meetings last night. I want to thank all of the citizens, staff, and special guests that came to the meeting and participated. I want to give a special thank you to the County's Public Relations staff for bringing all of the necessary equipment for a successful event (podium, microphones, audio and video recording equipment). A special thank you goes out to Pastor Ricky Skaggs of Windy Hill Baptist Church for allowing us the use of his facility
Prior to the Town Hall meeting, WCOA radio interviewed me on Good Morning Pensacola, and this interview can be heard here (part 1) and here (part 2).
This morning, we had a group of about a dozen citizens stop by the first of our monthly "Coffee with the Commissioner" events at Hardees on Pine Forest Road. The conversations were very good and the citizens at the coffee were concerned with safe neighborhoods and how the county can support the nurturing of neighborhood watch programs. We also had 5 citizens total that strongly supported the County vacating Rawson Lane so Pensacola Christian College could expand their campus. We also discussed drainage issues and we were given a thorough explanation of the various types of retention ponds in Escambia County by County Administrator Jack Brown, who stopped in to greet the citizens.
|District 1 County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh listens to Citizens at his |
Coffee with the Commissioner event 2-21-2017
|District 1 County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh speaks to Citizens at his |
Coffee with the Commissioner event 2-21-2017
| County Administrator Jack Brown (left) speaks to Citizens about retention ponds |
at the District 1 Coffee with the Commissioner event, 2-21-2017
Friday, February 17, 2017
|from the discussions that ensued at last night's BCC meeting, the casual observer might think our fire station at Myrtle Grove is a shack that should be condemned....|
The fact of the matter is we don't know what we don't know. There are 8 stations the County does not own that volunteer firefighters own that have various levels of facility deficiencies. So when the discussion last night about Myrtle Grove turned to "Let's build a brand new station, and nothing short of that will suffice" I attempted to inject a bit of fiscal restraint, common sense, and intelligence into the issue. First of all, the mold remediation should have happened months ago--although I understand some of the politics behind this not happening as quickly as it should have. I'm glad the board voted 4-1 last night to go ahead and fix this mold issue expeditiously--which will allow the paid crew to return to the facility to help the volunteer crew that has still been running calls out of the station. Looking forward, I'm going to push for standard facility condition assessments to be conducted on all of these 8 fire houses, which hopefully will lead to a ranking from worst to best, 1 to 8, which will allow rational rather than emotional decision making on which facilities need to be rebuilt first. We should not be parochial in our facility planning and building decisions; it ought not be about what district a facility is located in, or which community wants something. When it comes to public safety and facilities for first responders-- lets be intelligent and rational and build where we need to build and renovate where we need to renovate.
|for FY 2016-2017, Escambia County was stiffed for $2.2Million in unpaid Ambulance Ride Bills....|
One of the items that was discussed at yesterday's BCC meeting was the write-down of $2.2Million Dollars in bad debts. The debt is not being forgiven, according to our back-up documentation and reiterated by staff, but this debt has already gone through primary and secondary collections processes, and now for accounting purposes this is being removed from the books. According to staff, this will go to a debt collector, and the forecast is that we "may" collect $40,000-80,000 of this $2.2Million. At the meeting, staff and a couple of commissioners stated that although this is a large amount, our percentage of overall collection of fees for the EMS department is about 65%--which is among the best percentages in the state. I have to question this big of a loss, I'm going to look into how other counties do this--maybe someone has a better method of going after those that do not pay? If nothing else--this is a huge eye-opener.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
|Should the paid fire crews take every fire call and leave the volunteers at the stations to run medical calls?|
This meeting topic, how to fix the Myrtle Grove fire station, is just one conversation of many that need to be taking place in the months to come, in my opinion.
While Myrtle Grove's facility deficiencies are unique to Myrtle Grove---seven other fire houses in the county (that like Myrtle Grove are not owned by the county) have various issues that will need to be addressed at some time in the near future.
So what is the best way to address these facility problems, knowing the county won't spend money on facilities the county doesn't own?
One option, the expensive one, is to buy these facilities outright from the volunteer fire departments that own them currently. Next, such facilities could be demolished and new fire houses built at a cost to taxpayers of around $2-$3Million dollars each. This is the option I favor the least....
A better option, in my opinion, is to allow the volunteer departments to keep ownership of their property and facilities, with the county coming in to remediate these facilities' deficiencies in exchange for long term use agreement (s) for the county to use these stations.
This option is less expensive, and I believe it will also serve to compel the career staffs that will in some cases be operating out of these locations to better cooperate and interact with the volunteer staffs that also operate out of these stations.
What do I mean by this?
Right now, the volunteer firefighter numbers are dwindling. Many I have spoken with have shared with me that they worry they will be "forced out" when career crews come to man their stations.
Volunteer firefighters have the same certifications and training as their career counterparts--yet these personnel cost a fraction of what career firefighters cost in terms of salaries, benefits, and pension costs.
I'm told one 12 man paid, career crew costs taxpayers $1Million dollars per year.
So we should be treating the volunteers very well, we should thank them for their willingness to serve, right? Unfortunately, in some instances this is not happening.
"We're treated like second class citizens" one veteran volunteer shared with me. "When the new career guys arrived, they started taking all the fire calls, leaving us at the station to do medical
Friday, February 10, 2017
|Many private sector plumbers locally have|
said they think this situation stinks!
The issue between the private sector plumbers of Escambia County and the City of Pensacola has played out quietly behind closed doors, on limited social media outlets, and in the email inboxes of elected officials locally via wave after wave of emails....... It has been relatively low key thus far.
I think this is about to change.
Now a very well respected and high-profile attorney locally has weighed in on the side of the plumbers. Many of us received a copy of the letter this attorney sent to the city yesterday.
The issue is simple: Should the public sector (Pensacola Energy) unfairly compete with the private sector with respect to installations of gas appliances in homes in the county? The private sector can't compete with the prices the public sector is offering, and the local plumbers are losing work.
According to a local plumbing contractor I spoke with, the difference in price can be substantial.
"If I do a home installation of a tankless gas water heater in a house--the costs can exceed $1700 dollars. If Pensacola Energy does it, they do it for the cost of the appliance. I can't compete with that price because I have overhead to pay. It's not fair." said this plumber.
The issue was on the agenda for the County and the City to discuss at the recent joint meeting, however at the last minute the City unilaterally pulled the item from the agenda.
The County sent a letter to the city requesting specific answers about this practice. In response, the city declined to answer but offered to facilitate individual, one-on-one meetings with each commissioner to "explain" the practice.
|The recent animosity between plumbers and Pensacola Energy might |
be on the verge of rupturing like a broken water line...
Because long ago I read and I fully understand Blackford v School Board of Orange County --I do not participate in scheduled, one-after another, one-issue staff/board meetings. Such meetings serve to circumvent the open meeting law--so I don't do them.
So with no forward progress, It appears as if the plumbers are going the legal route......
From the letter:
"....activities by Pensacola Energy violate several federal and state laws, including without limitation:
(1) Sherman "Antitrust" Act, 15 U.S.C. 1-7
(2) Florida's Antitrust Act; Fla. Stat. 523.15 et. seq.
(3) Fla. Stat. 501.201 et seq......
....By publically endorsing select members of the "plumber partners" cartel, the City of Pensacola is
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
|The Black Community Locally, According to WUWF, is over-represented with cases of HIV/AIDS. According to WebMD, the highest risk behaviors that lead to such infections are unprotected male homosexual sex, unprotected sex with multiple partners, and intravenous drug abuse.|
February is Black History Month, and February 7th is Black HIV/AIDS awareness day.
In this very alarming radio piece--some sobering statistics were given:
In the four-county area (Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton Counties)--just over 2,000 persons are currently infected with HIV/AIDS. Of this total, 65% of these cases are in Escambia County.
Sadly, the Black community is over-represented in this category of persons afflicted with HIV--in fact the guest on the show stated "It is still an epidemic" in the Black community.
Blacks make up just 15% of Florida's population--yet Blacks account for 50% of the AIDS Infections statewide, according to this program.
Escambia County's Black Population is about 23%--yet Blacks account for more than 50% of the HIV/AIDS cases in Escambia County according to the WUWF piece.
Interestingly, not much was discussed during the program as to the "why" Blacks appear to be overrepresented in this category. The guest on the show stated that many people purposely do not get tested for HIV/AIDS because they "Don't want to know their status." Many agencies offer free and confidential screening for this disease--yet those at high risk continue to avoid being tested.
So why this overrepresentation that acutely affects the Black Community? Could the reason be the
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
|If it is humane for Soldiers and Marines to sleep on cots in tents |
as these men defend our freedoms overseas, how is it inhumane for
prisoners who break law to sleep on cots in tents?
Escambia County is rebuilding the jail that exploded in the massive flood of April, 2014.
The costs are going to be astronomical.
I'm told it could top $135 Million.
"Why must it cost so much?" has been my continuing question.
Now I'm hearing that the number of inmates our new jail is being designed to accommodate is a number that is less than the number of prisoners we're holding right now! (many of our inmates are being housed in other jurisdictions due to our current jail issue)
So my question, in addition to why the costs MUST be so high, is this: Why can't we build a compliant jail and also build in capacity for a tent-city outside facility for certain prisoners--to help accommodate what will be a large number of inmates locally?
Now, I'm not saying every prisoner should be housed in a tent city style outdoor, uncomfortable jail.
But many should be, in my opinion.
And before bleeding-heart types start talking about how "cruel" this would be--remember that right now as we speak there are United States Army personnel sleeping in similar accommodations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other areas around the world.
Anyone who would call a tent city detention facility cruel and unusual needs to rationally explain to
|Many constituents have emailed and called expressing support for the closure of Rawson Lane in Pensacola...|
Rawson Lane is a small street that cuts through the campus of Pensacola Christian College in Central Pensacola. It begins at Brent Lane and ends at Airport Boulevard. It’s a small street but it’s also a hot potato.
I’ve toured the area, met with the PCC staff, looked at the traffic analyses, and heard from constituents and residents on this issue.
Many have expressed the opinion that this road should be vacated by the county, then subsequently signed over to PCC. “After all, PCC owns the property on BOTH sides of Rawson Lane; PCC should get this road so that their campus could be safer and so the school could build another large dormitory facility that they desperately need to sustain their growth”—some have communicated to me.
On the other side of the equation-a few have told me they feel the county should keep Rawson Lane.
“Taxpayers paid for the road and I want to have the ability to use that road to get to the hospital quickly if I need to” one elderly resident wrote.
Another nearby resident stated “I use that road when the train stops on the tracks—and I don’t want to lose that ability!”
Another resident called my office to relate the following message to me: “I voted for you, I live in your district and I use Rawson Lane all the time. If you vote to vacate Rawson Lane, I won’t vote for you again!”**
One call I received was especially troubling: “Jeff, the school is pressuring faculty and students to
Monday, February 6, 2017
|Imagine if you had a neighbor that ran a generator morning, noon, and night because his power was shut off and he could not afford to reconnect it. Imagine if nobody addressed this continuing nuisance of noise next door?|
As power is restored, one by one, the generators get turned off and these very useful machines get stored away in the garages of Pensacola until the next storm or power outage.
At least that's the way it typically is.....
In one District 1 neighborhood, though, a generator runs constantly--24/7, 365 days a year.
"The occupant had his power cut off long ago, and so they just run the generator for power" said one resident I spoke with about this issue. He continued "I'm told they (occupants of the house) can't afford to pay the fees and back charges, so they are not going to have the power turned back on--they just run their generator."
As I toured the area recently, I parked three houses away from the house that is running the generator. The moment I stepped out of the car I heard the distinctive, droning, continuous sound of the gas powered generator. It was loud.
Imagine if you had a neighbor that did this in your neighborhood---and the sound never ended? It would get old very quickly.
Imagine if it continued, unabated, for month after month after month...
Luckily for us all, our current noise ordinance covers such noises in residential neighborhoods. Sec. 42-65 (l) states that "between the hours of 10:00P.M. and 7:00 A.M. the operation of..any internal combustion engine, the operation of which causes noise due to the explosion of operating gases or fluids, provided that the noise is unreasonably loud and can be heard across the property line from which it emanates..[is] declared to be a per se violation of this article"
Now that it is understood that the current, existing ordinances cover this nuisance issue, the next step is to ensure that the ordinance is being enforced as appropriate. This is the step we are at right now on this particular matter, we shall see how this goes but hopefully this matter will be resolved lawfully in short order.
Friday, February 3, 2017
I am a small-government, pro-business Conservative. I've personally owned many small businesses here and on the West Coast as well. I've dealt with red tape and overly aggressive regulations that smother small business. I get what they go through, and that's why I support hard-working, taxpaying and rule obeying businesses because such businesses are the backbone of our great nation.
Last night we were tasked with voting up or down on a permit to allow an existing, decades old business that has been lawfully operating in District 1 the ability to continue to operate. At stake were 15 full-time jobs and a locally operated successful business that was bending over backwards to cooperate with changing regulations thrown in its path by the County.
After hearing from a handful of persons opposed and some that supported the business--and after doing my own independent research in this neighborhood---it was obvious to me that this operation was conducting its business lawfully and was also striving to be extremely conscientious and deferential to the nearby neighbors. I replied to the one email I received today in objection to this business' permit with the following response.....
Thank you for the email of concern.
I hope you realize that I take these matters very seriously, and I listened intently to every speaker and I also independently researched this matter by going to several neighbors and also to the business location as well.
I think Mr. XXXXXXXX is a good neighbor who has conducted himself and his business with a great deal of respect for his neighbors as he has simultaneously tried to remain in compliance with all of the changing regulations the County has thrown his way. After all of the testimony, including hearing that he has never had one complaint filed against him or his business and that atmospheric tests for silica dust conducted by the state DEP indicated there was none present in samples taken in the area-I felt strongly that it would have been wholly inappropriate to essentially put him out of business by denying his permit.
I am a small government, pro-business conservative and I support small businesses in general and this small business in particular, an entity that has been in existence for decades locally; Mr. XXXXXXXX has conducted this very same business legally at this very same location for decades while employing 15 persons full-time—and with all of the evidence presented I feel confident the board made the right decision with the unanimous vote to uphold the DRC findings and to issue this permit.
District 1 Board Member and Vice-Chairman
Escambia Board of County Commissioners
221 Palafox Place Suite 400
Pensacola, FL 32502