The YMCA is currently engaged in talks with the city regarding a possible land-and-services swap, which would see the city acquire the Y’s property near neighboring Hitzman Park on Langley to construct a soccer complex. The Y would move to another location, possibly the city’s Vickery Center, where it would reshuffle the services it offers to reduce duplication with city services.
Just as he had done the prior week during a city meeting, the CEO stressed that the YMCA was likely moving from the area regardless of any deal with the city. The Langley Avenue facility, he said, was outdated and did not allow for needed expansions.
“The community demands more, wants more,” Bodenhausen said. “We want to provide that.”
The Y official explained that if a deal was struck with the city, it would entail the organization dropping some of its duplicative services, such as some youth sports offerings. He cited market research that indicated citizens preferred the Y work in tandem with the city.
The CEO also said that the Y would not proceed with any deal that jeopardized either its after-school or daycare services, citing the services as the organization’s primary mission. He said, “We will not move if we cannot take care of every child that needs help.”
Further, the CEO committed to providing transportation to students from nearby Scenic Heights Elementary School that participate in the Y’s after-school program. Currently, 48 students from the school are enrolled. He said, “We’re not leaving kids behind.”
Attendees suggested several alternatives to relocating, most centering on expansions and improvements at the facility. Bodenhausen didn’t appear optimistic about such prospects, pointing to the market research-driven decision to relocate and the impracticalities of addressing issues at the current site.
“We have to look at the market study and what the community wants,” he said, explaining flatly that, one way or the other, the YMCA was looking to leave its Langley property. “If the city is not interested, it would be sold.”
State of Black Pensacola
A recent UWF Haas Center study found the African American community growing at a faster rate than the white sector, but education was “still at the bottom of the barrel.”
The University of West Florida’s Haas Center presented a 10-year overview last week that delved into subjects such as education and economics.
“The region is becoming more diverse,” Amy Newburn, associate director of the Haas Center, said as she waded into the data during the Feb. 25 presentation at the Studer Community Institute in downtown Pensacola.
The Haas Center broke down the data into separate categories—demographics, civic life, industry profile and economic impact. Within each category, the data painted a picture of the African American community’s evolution over the past decade.
Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, though neighboring, have widely different population counts of African Americans. While one in five Escambia households are African American, only 4 percent of households in Santa Rosa are black.
Inside the municipal service area (MSA) of Pensacola, the African American population experienced a 10 percent growth rate over 10 years. That’s compared, for example, to a 6 percent growth rate for the white population and a 34 percent growth rate for the area’s Asian population.
Newburn described the education outlook for black students in Escambia as “still at the bottom of the barrel.”
To support that statement, the Haas Center pointed to reading and math success for local students. In the 2014-2015 academic year, 29.3 percent of black students could read on level by the third grade, compared with a virtually unchanged 30.3 percent last year. By seventh grade, 21.9 percent of black students performed on grade level, compared to a slightly higher 23 percent last year. This is consistently about 10 points below the state average for black students and nearly 40 points below local white students.
A particularly bright spot in the Haas Center report concerned education levels of black men. Over the past decade, the number of black men in the area who did not receive a high school diploma fell by 13 percent. Meanwhile, the number of black men who earned a bachelor’s degree or higher rose by 64.6 percent.
Fewer African American households own their home. However, the median income is up, and a lower percentage live below the national poverty level.
Since 2008, the percent of African American households who own their house fell from 55 to 48 percent. During that same time, non-family households—such as roommates or unmarried couples—rose by 31 percent. Neither of these trends was unique to the black population.
The median income for black households reflected some growth. In 2008, the median amount was $26,349, and by 2017, it had risen to $34,557. The number of African American households living below the national poverty line has fallen since 2008, going from 29.9 percent to 25.2 percent.
Gabbing with Grover
Pensacola Young Professionals will have Mayor Grover Robinson as its featured guest at their quarterly meeting 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday, March 7, at the Studer Community Institute, 220 W. Garden St., #100. The event is open to the public.
“Nothing is more important than establishing good relationships between the communities and their leaders. We all share the same goal—to grow our city.” PYP President Meg Burke said. “We look forward to a productive and educated evening that furthers our efforts to be a catalyst for positive change in our community.”
Andrade Town Hall
Freshman state Rep. Alex Andrade gathered District 4 elected officials Tuesday, Feb. 26, for a town hall to discuss much-needed improvements. About 75 citizens gathered to listen to the priorities each one had at the Creative Learning Academy gym on Hyde Park Road.
The District 4 representatives took turns highlighting pressing needs while Andrade took notes.
Commissioner Robert Bender kicked off the meeting. His priorities were installing one control box to help manage lights at the Langley, 12th Avenue and Ninth Avenue intersection better; widening Olive Road and improving its drainage; expanding Nine Mile Road in Beulah; additional parking at Casino Beach and extension of the right turn lane onto Fort Pickens Road; and doing work on the Bob Sikes Bridge to extend its life.
Councilman Jared Moore then listed city projects, which included improved safety for walking and bicycling on Cervantes and Gregory streets and creating safer routes near Cordova Park Elementary.
School Board Chair Patty Hightower shared the school district’s priorities, which were improvements to Pensacola and Tate high schools; adding sidewalks and walkways for students, especially at Cordova Park Elementary; improving traffic control devices near Scenic Heights Elementary; and adding technology and other measures to protect students better.
Finally, ECUA board member Dale Perkins spoke about what the utility was focusing on, including rehabilitation of water lines, additional reclaimed water tank on Pensacola Beach, expansion of water lines along Olive Road to 12 inches, Nine Mile Road improvements and
filter systems on two wells to make contaminants “non-detectable.”
Emerald Coast Utilities Authority Executive Director Steve Sorrell announced at the utility’s meeting Tuesday, Feb. 24, of his plans to retire this year.
Sorrell said, “After 17 years, it’s time for me to take some personal time, be with my family and enjoy our RV, which has been in storage for the last year. It’s been a privilege and pleasure to work for and with the ECUA Board and staff. Together, we have achieved great things.”
Sorrell joined the ECUA in October 2002. The significant projects during his tenure include the construction of the Central Water Reclamation Facility to replace the aging Main Street Wastewater Treatment Plant, the development of the Biosolids Composting Facility and the Materials Recycling Facility.
At the Board’s request, Sorrell has agreed to remain in his position to assist in the search for his replacement and the conclusion of key projects. A final departure date has not been set.
Gov. Ron DeSantis rescinded former Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward’s last-minute appointment to the Florida Commission on Community Service.
The governor on Friday, Feb. 22, retracted an additional 169 appointments made by his predecessor, Rick Scott. In January, DeSantis pulled back 50 of Scott’s selections.
Among the those withdrawn, 17 were commissioners that oversee Volunteer Florida, which is now headed by former Pensacola Chamber CEO Clay Ingram. Hayward and Navarre attorney Kerry Anne Schultz, who served as vice chair, were included in the withdrawals. Schultz was a reappointment to the board by Gov. Scott.
The National Flight Academy will host a STEM Saturday program 9:20 a.m.-2:30 p.m. March 16 for 3rd- to 8th-grade students. March’s STEM Saturday topic is “Robotics & Future Technology.”
Students will learn how the Navy and other industries use robots and the importance of robots in certain jobs. Then the class will be given a design challenge to create its own robot that can be used to help extinguish a fire. Additionally, these students will fly the X-47B in the National Flight Academy’s simulators.
Visit bit.ly/2FXd5qn to register as space is limited for each session. Registration closes March 11 at 5 p.m. Registration is $30 per child and lunch is provided.
Pensacola’s Got Talent
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos will hold Pensacola’s Got Talent, an annual celebration of the immense talent in Pensacola, 9 a.m.-noon, Saturday, March 9, at Blue Wahoos Stadium. At the event, individuals and groups can audition to sing the National Anthem at a Blue Wahoos game in 2019, try out to perform their talent before a game and show off their skills to be considered for a position with the team’s Flight Squad in-game entertainment staff.
“Pensacola’s Got Talent is one of my favorite days of the year,” Blue Wahoos creative services manager Adam Waldron said of the event. “We’re always blown away by the talent possessed by the citizens of Pensacola. From great singers to talented actors, musicians to magicians, even hula-hoopers and jugglers, we’ve seen so many unique and creative performances over the years and can’t wait to see more this year.”
Performance slots are limited, and all interested participants must call the Blue Wahoos at 934-8444 in advance to register for free.
Women of Courage
The Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council and the Institute for Women in Politics of Northwest Florida will host a luncheon to meet the 2019 International Woman of Courage at their 6th Annual Celebration of Women of Courage on Wednesday, March 13, at The Wright Place at First United Methodist Church, 80 E. Wright St. The doors open at 11:30 a.m. The program starts at noon.
Now in its 13th year, the U. S. Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage award annually recognizes women around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, often at significant personal risk and sacrifice. Since the inception of this award, the State Department has honored more than 120 women from more than 65 countries.
This year, 10 awardees will travel to different U.S. cities after the awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., and one will come to Pensacola. Tickets are $15 and include lunch. For more details, visit iwpflorida.org.
The Escambia County Waste Services Department will host a Regional Roundup on 8 a.m.-noon, Saturday, March 9, at Bailey Middle School, 4110 Bauer Road. Regional Roundup events provide an opportunity to properly dispose of electronics, household hazardous waste and up to four tires per vehicle free of charge.
Proof of Escambia County residency is required to participate in Regional Roundup, such as a driver’s license, power bill or voter registration card. This is a residential drop-off program only; no commercial waste accepted. Simply drive up, and materials will be unloaded for you. For more information, contact the Escambia County Waste Services Department at 937-2160 or email@example.com.
Mark Your Calendars
Residents in the Brentwood area will have the opportunity to dispose of yard debris and other items free of charge Wednesday, March 13, during the Brentwood Neighborhood Cleanup in District 3. Only residents in the designated cleanup area can participate in the neighborhood cleanup. Items left at the curb outside of the cleanup area will not be collected. The general cleanup areas are south of W. Michigan Ave., North of W. Fairfield Dr., east of N. W St. and West of N. Palafox St. For more details, visit myescambia.com/cleanup.