Guidelines

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.








Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Beach Breakthrough?

After months and months of discussions and back and forth arguing--there is the potential for an agreement on preserving the public areas of the beach and keeping them public--precluding future leases in areas that are currently public, etc.

Commissioner Robinson has put forth several proposals in an attempt to compromise with folks who prefer to have a ballot initiative.

The frustrating thing for me to watch is the fact that I think both parties want the same thing--open areas of the beach to be preserved for the use and enjoyment of the public.

The draft resolution, below, may just do the trick.  The full BCC will have to weigh-in--but this could be it, this could be the "Beach Breakthrough" we have all been waiting for

We shall see......





Planning for Growth in the Northwest Portion of District 1

I will be releasing more information later this week on a citizen's advisory committee that I will be forming to provide input for managing the tremendous growth in the Northwest portion of District 1.  This will be on Next Thursday's agenda

I am bringing a resolution to the June 7th BCC Meeting to establish a 9-member citizens advisory committee to advise on and provide input upon the planning for growth in the Northwest portion of District 1.  Geographically, the area this group will focus on will be Beulah, the Pine Forest, Wilde Lake, and Longleaf areas as indicated on the above map and corresponding to precincts 43, 5, and 68.

Specifically, this group of volunteers, whom I will select from applications from the public (limited to citizens that reside in Escambia County)-- will be tasked with providing policy recommendations in the following categories of pressing interest:

--enhancing the quality of life

--addressing transportation issues of importance

--providing recommendations/advice on managing growth

--providing input to help in the development of a Master Plan for this area that will complement and
 comport with the Master Plan for OLF-8 that will be developed in the 2018-2019 timeframe.


Additionally, this  "Northwest District 1 Advisory Committee" (“Committee”) shall explore, research, provide technical or practical expertise, and make recommendations to the District 1 member of the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners regarding those additional issues of importance to

Lane Closures (Nightly from 7PM - 5AM for four days) Possible Next Week on Beulah Road

Area of potential lane closure 7PM-5AM daily for 3-4 days (and proposed detour route) for construction commencing next Monday in Beulah to add improvements and signalization to the intersection of Mobile Highway/Beulah Road


As the project to provide a signalized intersection at Mobile Highway at Beulah Road moves forward, several evening's worth of construction may necessitate the closure of a section of Beulah Road from 7PM-5AM for 3-4 days potentially beginning next Monday, June 4th.

At this point this information is tentative, however due to the construction planned for this section of the road I believe this will happen.  From the contractor's email:


"we have been contracted by the FDOT to perform the intersection improvements at SR 10A (US 90/Mobile Hwy) and CR 99 (Beulah Road), Contract No. E3R02... Our first work activity involves the installation of three (3) 18” RCP pipe crossings under Beulah Rd north of Mobile Hwy. Reference the attached Plan Sheet for specific locations. We reviewed installing the crossings half-way across the road in one operation and under a lane closure. It was discussed that due to the existing, narrow 10’ lane widths on Beulah Rd and little to no grass shoulder, the movement of traffic through the work zone would be unsafe due to the existing drop-off hazards presented by the existing ditches along Beulah Rd. We are proposing the implementation of nightly road closures on Beulah Rd from Mobile Hwy to Beulah Church Rd. Please reference the attached drawing representing the requested road closure. The drawing provides the anticipated work zone and area of closure as well as the proposed detour.  In addition, we are coordinating with ECUA to adjust their existing water main on the west side of Beulah Rd during our proposed road closure as their water main is approximately only 1’ from the existing edge of pavement.  Please review our request for County approval of a nightly road closure of Beulah Rd from Mobile Hwy to Beulah Church Rd for approximately 3-4 days tentatively starting 6/4/2018. The excavations will be backfilled any drop-off hazards addressed at the end of each work period to maintain traffic in its regular pattern during daytime hours."

Although nobody enjoys road construction delays--they are a necessary part of road construction projects.  I believe that once this long overdue project is completed at the very dangerous intersection, the small number of evening's worth of delays will have been well worth the inconvenience.

Monday, May 28, 2018

On 1370 WCOA this Morning



....and the discussion was all about being thankful that the County was fully prepared for tropical storm Alberto--a system that has subsequently moved away from Escambia County...

We discussed the procedures by which the County can make an emergency declaration in order to allow the County Administrator the flexibility to make decisions and purchases that would otherwise be outside of or over his limits absent a BCC vote.

I expressed my thanks to all of the county staff that worked over the weekend to insure that the county was as prepared as possible for the storm--regardless of the strength or precise area of landfall.

Asked if I had anything else I wanted to discuss on this Memorial Day--I also expressed my sincere thanks for all the men and women who have served in the Military of the United States, particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our Country free.

Listen to the podcast of the show here.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Constituent Email Pushes Government to Fix a Safety Issue.....Quickly

Within one month of receiving a complaint about this roadway entrance and how some drivers were not following the signs and making illegal left turns creating a safety hazard---within one month the state has now fixed the issue!


I received a constituent email last month about an annoying and potentially unsafe issue at a roadway entrance to Wal Mart on Mobile Highway..... from the email:

"I want to bring to your attention something that is becoming increasingly dangerous in our neighborhood. The Walmart market across from the fairgrounds has been a blessing for us. However, there are those who choose to violate traffic laws and are making it dangerous to even be in the parking lot.
Allow me to explain:
There are 3 entrances to Walmart from Mobile highway.  The one in the middle is a right turn only to enter and exit meaning those that are coming from Beulah and turning Left into the market must either use the 1st or the 3rd entrance. The 2nd entrance only permits someone to turn Right into the lot &that is only if they are coming from the East.
 I've noticed more and more frequently that people utilizing that 2nd entrance to turn left. It happens at least once a week where I am almost hit by somebody turning illegally here. Last week some idiot came in through the exit turn lane (@ 30 miles an hour) and literally almost T boned me! It was very scary because my son was in the car with me and would have been directly hit by this man. I've spoken with the manager at Walmart and he suggested I contact you. They have had many complaints about people turning illegally there. My proposal would be to put up those yellow Poles in the center line to prevent people from turning left there. I've seen them utilized with success on Pine Forest Rd at the interstate entrance.

What do you think?" 

After I received this email, I sent it to the roads department.  They, in turn, sent it to the state roads department, FDOT.  Fast forward a month--and SHAZAM!!--I get this email from staff, below:

"Thanks to excellent coordination between the County, FDOT, and FDOT’s contractor, the flexible delineators were installed in just over a month from the time of the request.  The photo, looking southeast, below was from yesterday evening.  Please let me know if you need anything else.
 My personal thanks to all involved to make this happen for our concerned residents.  We make a great team."

Who says government always moves at a snail's pace?!?

Coffee With a Commissioner- 5-23-2018



We held our monthly Coffee With the Commissioner event yesterday morning at McDonald's on Highway 98  and Blue Angel Parkway.

Issues discussed included wage disparities between and among mechanics that work for Escambia County as compared to the Bus Mechanics that work for ECAT.  This is a very real problem and an overnight fix will be impossible, but I am looking at what needs to be done with this.  It is a legitimate beef from our mechanics that make less than $15 per hour as they watch ECAT mechanics that just arrived as de-facto county employees making $22 per hour.

Coffee with a commissioner event 5-23-2018


Another topic discussed was creating more synergies between the communities of the west side of Escambia County and Perdido Key, along with business development in this same geographic area.
Coffee with a commissioner event 5-23-2018

"The important things from my perspective are community safety, economic development, jobs and infrastructure" stated one attendee who is affiliated with the Perdido Chamber of commerce.

We also discussed the following topics:

--Bay Center Replacement
--Sheriff's Budget settlement
--upcoming budget for FY 2019
--Alcohol Ban being overturned

We look forward to next month's coffee--everyone is welcome!

Three-Page Response to my Blog Post...

I received a request to post the below response to my blog post on the roundabouts meeting.  The response was too long to be submitted as a comment utilizing the comment feature, so I'm posting it here in its entirety....

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Kicking the Can on the Pensacola Civic Center.....

How long will the county kick the can on the Pensacola Civic Center Issue?


Six years ago, there was a push among some Escambia County Commissioners and some members of the community to undertake a renovation project at the Pensacola Civic Center.  This multi-million dollar project would have extended the useful lifespan of that facility by a couple of decades.  SMG was consulted, they worked together with the BCC, a scope of work was identified, but no vote ever happened.  The proverbial can got kicked down the road...

Fast forward to last year, and an innovative triumph fund application was made, with the support of multiple local non-profits and representatives from the destination marketing organization (DMO)--and this resulted in a plan to finance the construction of a brand-new arena and field house project that would act as a replacement for the Pensacola Civic Center-a project that could potentially be financed, built, and operated for 30 years while utilizing no general fund dollars and no local option sales tax dollars.  The BCC sent this proposal to triumph, we got behind this project, because this would be a great project if it could be done.

Fast forward to last week and now as the Triumph selections process moves forward--once again the board was asked --yet failed-- to make a critical decision.

The decision was simple:

-sign a very scaled-down and County-friendly Letter of Intent (that offered the county multiple ways out of the deal if the County was not completely satisfied with the final chosen location, the financing, or any other reason for that matter) with the group who brought the proposal--and for this act of good will this group would continue the work to bring a viable location for this plan.  But the board had no appetite to act.  "We need to know the exact location first"  was stated at the meeting.  And no vote happened.  The can got kicked down the road again.

Most everyone now knows that a downtown location will not work--as such a location will not be eligible for New Market Tax Credits (NMTCs) that will add as much as $20 Million into the $80 Million dollar project. 

So if the project location is downtown, I don't believe it is feasible without the 5th cent being levied.

....And several commissioners have stated their staunch opposition to the levy of the 5th cent on the hotel tax  "no matter what."

So as I see it, only one of three things will happen going forward.  And I believe one of these three will move forward as "the plan" over the next several months--because I'm going to press this issue:

1.  A location not in downtown but in an economically challenged area (qualifying for NMTCs) will

Anger Over the Traffic Roundabouts Meeting

I received the below letter from a citizen that was not happy about the roundabouts and the way the meeting where the roundabouts were discussed was conducted......




OLF X Construction is Moving Forward

Construction of OLF X in Santa Rosa County Florida, May 2018


Construction of OLF X in Santa Rosa County Florida, May 2018
As was announced at our last Committee of the Whole meeting several weeks back, the project to swap property in Santa Rosa County (OLF X) with property in Escambia County (OLF 8) with the U.S. Navy is rapidly moving forward.  It has been a long time coming....

I'm told the Navy is moving ahead with initial scheduling of the ceremonial hand off, scheduled to occur later this year.  The BCC anticipates a late December, early January timeframe for the BCC acquisition of OLF 8 in Beulah to be completed. 

We are getting to the finish line of the first part of this project.  Part II will be the development of the property in Beulah--more on that part later.

Construction of OLF X in Santa Rosa County Florida, May 2018
But before we get to do that, we have to finish the construction of the new OLF X in Santa Rosa County for the U.S. Navy.  And work toward that goal is continuing.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Open Container Ban on the Boardwalk Overturned

The Star-bellied sneetch is not superior to the non-starbellied sneetch...all sneetches are equal

The Escambia Board of County Commissioners has voted, by a 3-2 margin, to let the open container ban at the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk sunset.

This will effectively end the prohibition on walking around the boardwalk with open containers of alcoholic beverages.  But in reality, I do not believe much (with the exception of the signage) will change.  To those with whom I have spoken and who frequent the boardwalk and who are very familiar with the issue--the problem is a lack of enforcement.

"They are not enforcing the current rule, so what good is this rule if it is not being enforced?" asked one individual with whom I recently communicated on this topic.

These drinks were purchased at one licensed premise, then carried
out of that licensed premise out on to the boardwalk-in direct
violation of our existing ordinance
"Just look at the pictures--these kids walked illegally from Bamboo Willies to sit at those seats outside of another account."  (see pictures on the right and below) When reacting to accounts of a 10-minute fight posted online from the boardwalk---this same source asked a really straightforward, rational question...



"Where were the deputies during the 10-minute fight?!?"

For my part, I was willing to give it a year, and that is why I compromised last year and voted to go forward with the ban for 2017 and then to evaluate data this year.  I did not and I do not want to punish the hard working, blue-collar worker who makes $400 a week, wants to unwind at the seashell, and can't afford a $100 bar tab--but who still wants to go where the action is and enjoy a couple of beers on the boardwalk.  Why should I punish him?  Answer, I won't.  And I also won't banish him to some dark and empty corner of the sandy beach like he's somehow inferior to those that can afford high-dollar cocktails at the boardwalk clubs--like a modern-day version of "The Sneetches."  So I voted last year the way I did to compromise, ahead of the year's data which I have now analyzed.....

The data is in:  Alcohol sales are stable, slightly increasing;  Crime--year over year many infractions have gone way up. So the ban had no effect on crime on the boardwalk.

Therefore, the board voted to end the ban.

I was provided this picture from a recent Friday evening, of folks strolling on the boardwalk, outside of licensed premises carrying open containers of alcoholic beverages in violation of our existing ordinance--and state beverage law!


I think going forward we need more security at the boardwalk, more enforcement of existing beverage law (no moving from licensed premise to licensed premise with mixed drinks, no selling

 mixed drinks for off-premise consumption or selling mixed drinks off the licensed premise [e.g. cocktail waitresses selling mixed cocktails on mom's beach from the boardwalk], and if there are

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Initial Arena LOI and Financial Analysis Request on Tomorrow's Agenda

As I stated last week at the Committee of the Whole meeting, and as I discussed here, I am bringing forward a request on tomorrow's regular meeting agenda to do two things.

1.) Authorize staff to move forward with obtaining an independent financial analysis of the Arena and Field-House proposal and

2.) Seek board approval of an initial Letter Of Intent to move forward with the project in order to signal to Triumph Gulf Coast that the BCC is interested in this project and willing to move forward under the right conditions and subject to certain contingencies.

The well-written agreement, which fully protects the county's position while treating PADP fairly and clearly articulating to Triumph that Escambia County is truly interested in the $25 Million Dollar "Ask" we have submitted to that body--is below.  It is time to fish or cut bait.







Tuesday, May 15, 2018

On AM 1620 This Morning at 6:35

Topics will include the field house, arena proposal, Beach Roundabouts, Alcohol Ordinance and the beach boardwalk, and anything else Andrew wants to discuss..

Always a good interview on AM1620

Check back to get the podcast here.....

Making Sausage, Part III

Most people don't want to know what goes into the sausage dog they are enjoying at the BBQ--because making sausage is messy, it's a lot like politics.


The Escambia Board of County Commissioners recently settled the sheriff's budget appeal for 2018, and now that this is behind us, all of the transcripts of our 7 shade meetings related to this matter are a public record.  

Yesterday afternoon, board members received the following email from attorney Alison Rogers:


"Commissioners,

Just a note to let you know that Jim Little of the PNJ requested and has now received copies of all seven of the Sheriff’s budget appeal shade meetings.
 Please do not email back, but do get with me if you have questions.

Alison"


So this means within the next couple of days, one or more news articles will appear, and more than likely some of the more choice exchanges from these transcripts will be published void of the context that generated the exchanges.  In an effort to get ahead of this, I will be publishing all of these transcripts, in their entirety, so citizens can read them for themselves if they so choose--.

It is like the old saying, these deals are like "making sausage"--it's messy, stuff goes in, stuff comes out, and most people "don't want to know" how the sausage was made.  The internal deliberations of the sheriff's staff will never come out--so in some respects this is not fair.  But oh well, at least we got the deal done and we have a 4-year deal. Case Closed.

But because we are a public body, subject to open meeting laws, all of our private deliberations are now fair game for those who want to look.   So I'm releasing the final three transcripts from March and April of this year.  They are here, here, and here.  Bon Appetit!  (and full disclosure--I wouldn't publish these if they weren't going to be coming out in dribs and drabs void of context in the media in the days and weeks ahead...)

Open Container Ban on the Boardwalk Redux....



Last year the debate was rancorous.  On one side, certain special interests were speaking in platitudes as they exclaimed that "the environment is better at the boardwalk" and it is more "family friendly" when there is an open container ban on the boardwalk.

So eventually, the board compromised and said we would go a year with the ban in place, at which point we would study sales and crime data to make a determination as to whether or not the alcohol ban truly was effective and whether or not it should/would be continued.

A survey was considered, but once the potential questions were presented to the BCC--this idea was quickly scuttled, as the questions read almost like a push-poll against alcohol consumption on the boardwalk.

Fast forward to last month, and before the SRIA even voted to recommend an extension of the ban formally--I received a draft letter purportedly from the SRIA that said essentially "The SRIA wishes to express to the BCC that we want the open container ordinance continued" (paraphrased).  The funny thing is--the SRIA hadn't even met and I still got that draft--and when they did meet, they did not vote to send us a letter.  They wanted more time to look at the data to decide.

Fast forward to last week, and lo and behold the SRIA voted and pushed the open container ordinance back to us, requesting that we continue it for a year.  (and we received the pre-written letter offically this time, after the vote)

But I had requested the crime stats and hadn't received them.  I asked again, and again and again.  Finally, I received the stats and after comparing them year over year, I found what I expected.  Some infractions went down, some stayed the same but several categories of infractions are up, way up, year over year.  Misc. Crimes are up, Affray is up 300% at the boardwalk, Aggravated Assault are up, Aggravated Battery is up, Disorderly Intoxication is up, family disturbances are up, DUI's are up etc. etc.

So the crime angle doesn't play well, for me, in the argument to continue the ban.  Add to this the fact that now many of the licensed alcohol premises on the boardwalk have created outdoor patios on the boardwalk where their customers can drink (and some customers have been seen carrying drinks from place to place--which in istelf violates the ordinance and state beverage law) and also keep in mind that the establishments out there, some of them, send waitresses down to the sandy sound-side beach below to sell mixed drinks (which is a violation of state beverage law) and you have almost this "We can violate the law but we don't want THEM to bring open containers through the boardwalk" mentality.  I don't like it.  Follow the law, all of it, and you would have a lot more credibility.

How about this novel concept:  Instead of making the good citizens pay the price by not being able to enjoy a cold beer as they stroll the boardwalk--how about you just enforce all the laws and punish those that break the law and become disorderly?  This would also serve to dispel the persistent rumor that infers that this ban is a de facto way to keep certain types of folks out of this area......Enforce the law, welcome everyone, of every age and race, and strictly enforce the law with security and off-duty cops--this way nobody can ever falsely accuse the boardwalk folks of any discrimination of any kind.

To do otherwise, and to say you can only enjoy the boardwalk with a beverage in "our" private   "areas" (if you purchase our high-dollar drinks from us) is nothing but a method of punishing the good people for the misdeeds of the few.

I won't ever support that.

Making Sausage, Part II

Grinding Meat to Make Sausage is a messy process--that's why most people don't want to look at how it is made from the slaughterhouse to the Publix meat case; people just want to enjoy eating the delicious finished product.  Politics, and especially heated debate, is sometimes compared to grinding meat to make sausage---for good reason...


The Escambia Board of County Commissioners recently settled the sheriff's budget appeal, and now that this is behind us, all of the transcripts of our 7 shade meetings are a public record.  Yesterday afternoon, board members received the following email from attorney Alison Rogers:


"Commissioners,

Just a note to let you know that Jim Little of the PNJ requested and has now received copies of all seven of the Sheriff’s budget appeal shade meetings.
 Please do not email back, but do get with me if you have questions.

Alison"


So this means within the next couple of days, one or more news articles will appear, and more than likely some of the more choice exchanges from these transcripts will be published void of the context that generated the exchanges.  In an effort to get ahead of this, I will be publishing all of them, in their entirety, so citizens can read them for themselves if they so choose--in their entirety.

It is like the old saying, these deals are like making sausage--it's messy, stuff goes in, stuff comes out, and most people "don't want to know" how the sausage was made.  The internal deliberations of the sheriff's staff will never come out--so in some respects this is not fair.  But oh well, at least we got the deal done and we have a 4-year deal.

But because we are a public body, subject to open meeting laws, all of our private deliberations are now fair game for those who want to look.   So I'm releasing three more of these transcripts from February and March of this year  here, here, and here.  Lots of frank dialogue in here, lots of interesting conversations.... (and full disclosure--I wouldn't publish these if they weren't going to be coming out in dribs and drabs void of context in the media in the days and weeks ahead...)

Monday, May 14, 2018

Making Sausage, Part I

Most people that enjoy sausage don't really want to watch what goes in it...our recent budget fight was messy, a lot like making sausage, and now it is all going to be published (or at least the most messy parts)

The Escambia Board of County Commissioners recently settled the sheriff's budget appeal, and now that this is behind us, all of the transcripts of our 7 shade meetings are a public record.  Today, board members received the following email from attorney Alison Rogers:


"Commissioners,

Just a note to let you know that Jim Little of the PNJ requested and has now received copies of all seven of the Sheriff’s budget appeal shade meetings.
 Please do not email back, but do get with me if you have questions.

Alison"


So this means within the next couple of days, one or more news articles will appear, and more than likely some of the more choice exchanges from these transcripts will be published void of the context that generated the exchanges.  In an effort to get ahead of this, I will be publishing all of them, in their entirety, so citizens can read them for themselves if they so choose--in their entirety.

It is like the old saying, these deals are like making sausage--it's messy, stuff goes in, stuff comes out, and most people "don't want to know" how the sausage was made.  The internal deliberations of the sheriff's staff will never come out--so in some respects this is not fair.  But oh well, at least we got the deal done and we have a 4-year deal.

But because we are a public body, subject to open meeting laws, all of our private deliberations are now fair game for those who want to look.   So I'll start out with this one first, the Shade Meeting of the Board from October, when we were just starting to formulate a strategy.  Lots of frank dialogue in here, lots of interesting conversations.... (and full disclosure--I wouldn't publish these if they weren't going to be coming out in dribs and drabs void of context in the media....)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Next Steps for the Arena-Field house Triumph Proposal

As it pertains to Escambia County's $25MIllion dollar field house and arena Triumph project, it is time to fish or cut bait..


One week from today the board of county commissioners will vote to either A.) Move forward with the financial analysis and a letter of intent to pursue the new multi-use arena and fieldhouse proposal or B.) Stay in a holding pattern and take no action.

According to staff at today's Committee of the Whole Meeting--the county's Triumph application is on hold until the board makes a decision, one way or the other, on this project.

As I stated in the meeting today--we have a $25 Million dollar proposal at Triumph, it is time to Fish or Cut Bait. 

I am aware that the project's location has become an issue among the various hoteliers that will benefit greatly from this project.  One faction is dead-set on having the project be built downtown,no matter what, come hell or high water and this group is entrenched in this position.  (This group also adamantly opposes the levy of the 5th cent to help pay for the project--knowing full-well that a downtown location all but eliminates the New Market Tax Credits that are essential to make this deal happen). 

The other group of hoteliers is okay with the project moving away from downtown, in order to qualify for the New Market Tax Credits (NMTC) that will add between $16-18 Million to the project.

I personally believe this project will be a winner if we get both the triumph $25Million and at least the $16 Million in NMTCs to help fund this $80 Million dollar project.  For me, the icing on the cake is a written agreeement that the county will spend no Local Option Sales Tax  (LOST) funds on this project, nor will we commit ANY general fund dollars to this deal. 

The difference between the total price and the Triumph and NMTC monies MUST be made up utilizing a portion of the Bed Tax revenue--and I am willing and ready to levy the 5th cent to pitch in to make this deal happen--because I think this is a winner of a deal for the community, no question about it---IF the NMTC and Triumph funds are in play.

But the board, not me alone, must make this decision.  And we will do that next week, next Thursday.

It's time to fish or cut bait.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

OLF 8 in Beulah--What are the Next Steps?



The next steps toward acquiring and developing the 636 acres of land in Beulah known as OLF 8 will be happening over the next few months.

Beginning with the Committee of the Whole Meeting Thursday--the BCC as a body will begin discussing the way forward with OLF 8.

For my part, I haven't wavered;  I want high-tech manufacturing and an upscale commerce park for this land.  I want to use it to create jobs.  I want good-paying, high-tech assembly and light manufacturing, combined with some amenities that will enhance the community like a walking track around the property, perhaps several retail establishments along 9-Mile road, and even a 10-15 acre site in the southeast corner of the property for the next elementary school that we need in Beulah.

If we are intelligent with the way we design and develop this property, we will recoup the taxpayers' investment in this deal, complete with hefty grants to finish the development of the property to include drainage and roads.  Triumph and Restore funds will come to this property and help us financially if, again, we utilize this property for its highest and best use--to grow the tax base and create jobs--lots of jobs.

On the other hand---If we are not intelligent and we set aside large swaths of this property as a "buffer zone" and build a community recreation park and a "town center"--I think the grant money goes away.  I do not want to build a new "city" in Beulah--no more than folks in Cantonment want to build a city there and no more than folks in Perdido want to build a city there.  Newsflash--just because an area is growing doesn't mean that area MUST incorporate and become a CITY with more taxes and redundant layers of government.  A suburb of a city can have amenities, and that is what I am aiming for.  Amenities like a better fire station, a library, and a post office.  How about more food options than the Tom Thumb and/or delivery pizza?  Check, I want restaurants too--for our community.  Not for a new "Town."  Most residents I have spoken with do not want a new Town called Beulah--and neither do I.

We do, however, want good jobs, good infrastructure, and amenities.

And all three are coming.

 Meanwhile, however, we must be smart and do the intelligent thing.  We need to get a master plan done for OLF 8, figure out the highest and best uses, and plow forward.

And this will be a huge enhancement to the community, and it will look amazing, and it will spin off jobs that will benefit the entire county.

If we are smart about it.

Atta-Boys for the Merlin Road Drainage Project

It has been a long time coming, but the Merlin Road Drainage project in District 1 is wrapping up and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive!

Multiple Residents of the Merlin Road portion of District 1 have expressed thanks for the recently-completed road project there..


We are constantly working projects like this one throughout the county--it is really satisfying to see them completed and even more rewarding to hear how the positive changes make communities better.

Here is a sample of the emails I am receiving on the Merlin Road improvements.


Commissioner Bergosh
Just wanted to send you a note and thank you for the work on Merlin Road. This subdivision has been completely changed. New sidewalks, new curbs, landscaping and reworking the road. I couldn't be happier. The deeper ditches and new drainage work should take care of the water problems we had in the past. The icing on the cake is the two additional speed bumps. I think they are working. It seems like people are slowing down. Please pass to everyone involved in this project my sincere gratitude.




Commissioner Bergosh and Mr. Williams,
I am a resident and property owner in Tarklin Oaks subdivision.  I wanted to take a minuted to write to each of you to express my thankfulness for the work on the Merlin Road water drainage issue.  Though my home was never in danger of the problem with water, my neighbors were and we are are very thankful for the professional work of our county workers and Chavers construction company,
The work and efforts the employees of this company have expended over the past few months have been outstanding!  I can't say enough to express how impressed I am with this company and it's employees.  I do hope this company will continue to bid on county projects.!
Thank you very much.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Found Money

I received this letter in the mail yesterday afternoon from Attorney General Pam Bondi.

We will be receiving a small electronic payment from an anti-trust, price fixing case that recently settled.

While not a lot of money when our total budget of $455 Million is considered--this payment of a little more than $9,000.00 represents a punitive measure taken against some entity that was apparently trying to bilk small, local governments out of precious taxpayer dollars.

Multiply this amount by 67 Counties and it is a tidy sum...great job to the AG's office!

Glad to get the money, it all adds up!


FY19 ECSO Budget Request Has Been Received

I received the below letter in the mail yesterday afternoon.

The budget amount requested mirrors exactly what we expected to see based upon the settlement agreement we reached last week with the sheriff.  Glad to be moving forward!




About Those Higher Graduation Rates.....

Economist Dr. Walter Williams' latest piece on Education paints a bleak picture of the value of "Higher Graduation Rates"

Monday's PNJ print edition had an article that was published last Wednesday by economist Walter Williams.

It is a stark assessment of our nation's public school performance as measured on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) aka the "Nation's Report Card"

The reason this caught my attention was that recently our local graduation rate has soared to heights we've never seen before--however I have a hard time squaring that reality with the problem that business owners I have spoken with complain about.....Many High School graduates (some of them--NOT all of them) locally have difficulty in written-communication skill and basic arithmetic.GRADUATES. 

It is true, a higher and higher percentage of our students locally and nationwide are "graduating" from High School.  So what does this mean? 

Could this be a lot like the discipline referral numbers going down- lauded by administrators as "progress" toward better behavior in our schools-when in actuality behavior expectations AND punishments are being watered down to produce such numbers?

I know to some this sounds awfully cynical--but I'm sorry.  The hard truth is that there is honesty in this hard hitting column--like it or not. 

from the piece:

"Only 37 percent of 12th-graders tested proficient or better in reading, and only 25 percent did so in math. Among black students, only 17 percent tested proficient or better in reading, and just 7 percent reached at least a proficient level in math. The atrocious NAEP performance is only a fraction of the bad news. Nationally, our high school graduation rate is over 80 percent. That means high school diplomas, which attest that these students can read and compute at a 12th-grade level, are conferred when 63 percent are not proficient in reading and 75 percent are not proficient in math. For blacks, the news is worse. Roughly 75 percent of black students received high school diplomas attesting that they could read and compute at the 12th-grade level. However, 83 percent could not read at that level, and 93 percent could not do math at that level. It’s grossly dishonest for the education establishment and politicians to boast about unprecedented graduation rates when the high school diplomas, for the most part, do not represent academic achievement. At best, they certify attendance."