The Buzz 5/30/19
Lionfish Record Set A record total of 19,167 lionfish were removed from Gulf and Atlantic waters as part of the Emerald Coast Open, which coincided with the fifth annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Festival at AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar and HarborWalk Village in Destin May 18 and 19.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) worked closely with the Emerald Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau on both the tournament, which had 189 participants, and the festival, which saw 14,119 lionfish caught over the two days. The winning team was Florida Man, which removed 2,241 lionfish.
While the tournament is over, there are still chances to win prizes through the FWC’s 2019 Lionfish Challenge, a removal incentive program that started May 18 on Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day and runs through Labor Day, Sept. 2.
This year, participants who submit the largest and smallest lionfish may be eligible to receive up to $3,000 in cash prizes thanks to support from sponsors American Sportfishing Association, Yamaha Motor Company, Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County and National Marine Manufacturers Association. Find more details on how to get rewarded for your harvest at fwcreefrangers.com.
City Post Filled The city of Pensacola has chosen Kerrith Fiddler to be an assistant city administrator, a lieutenant of sorts for City Administrator Chris Holley. More than 100 individuals applied for the position, from which a pool of eight made the finals.
Fiddler serves as the city of Kissimmee’s public works and engineering director. From 2010-2014, he served as assistant director of the same department.
The pool of eight finalists included city staffers, a former city councilman and the commanding officer of NAS Pensacola.
Here’s a brief rundown of the other ap-plicants that made the cut:
Leigh Davis currently works as the director for Leon County’s Parks and Recreation Department. Davis has been in that position since 2011 and with the county since 2003.
Sherry Morris has been with the city since the late 1990s, in recent years serving as its planning services administrator. Prior to that, she worked for the West Florida Regional Planning Council and Escambia County in planning-related capacities.
Rebecca Ferguson currently works as the city of Pensacola’s economic policy coordinator, a role she’s been in since 2015. Before coming to the city, Ferguson spent about a year as a manager with the Mississippi Development Authority, worked as a disaster management consultant in Louisiana during the 2010 BP oil spill and for the city of College Park, Ga., as director of economic development.
Christopher Martin is retiring from the U.S. Navy at the end of June. He’s been in since 1984 and currently serves as Commanding Officer, Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola. Martin took the top slot at the base in 2016. He lives in Gulf Breeze.
Lawrence Powell has served as administrator of Iron Sharpens Iron Academy, which he co-founded, since 2016. He is also the manager for the Lexington Terrace Community Center.
David Forte has worked as division manager in Escambia County’s Transportation and Traffic Operations since 2015. Before that, he spent time managing Escambia’s transportation program and Bob Sikes Bridge toll as well as the development program manager in the county’s Community Redevelopment Area.
Charles Bare served as a Pensacola city councilman from 2012-2016. He operates a technology-related business and also manages the Minor League Baseball Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program locally. Bare also spent time as a district representative for a Northwest Florida congressman and served a year in the U.S. Army as a civil affairs officer in Iraq and Kuwait.
Good Week for Lindsey Milton Mayor Heather Lindsay had a good week facing two challenges—one involving her new job with the city of Pensacola; the other a possible Sunshine Law violation regarding the renaming of a community center in Milton.
When City Attorney Susan Woolf recently brought Lindsay on board as an assistant attorney for the city, some members of the Milton City Council voiced concerns about potential conflicts of interests between the two roles.
At his May 20 press conference, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson said, “I don’t understand this issue that everybody’s having, and I really wish we could get by this—I’d like to call it this ‘parochial poison.'”
Robinson said that when Woolf informed him who she wanted to hire, he was fine with her selection—Lindsay and the mayor know each other from their days at Booker T. Washington High School—and not concerned about any potential for conflicts.
“I said, I have no problem with it,” he said. “Certainly, I understand that Heather may have to deal with some challenges in her area, because some people don’t understand what we’re doing, but I have no problem.”
The mayor brushed asides concerns about conflict—such as when the two entities are both seeking state transportation projects and funding—saying he didn’t expect many such instances to arise and also that Lindsay was capable of fulfilling each role independently of the interests of the other.
“I expect Heather to do a job for us as an attorney,” Robinson said. “When she goes to something like the TPO, my expectation for her is to represent the people she’s there to represent. She’s not there as part of the city of Pensacola; she’s there as part of the city of Milton.”
Robinson also bristled at the underlying insinuation of the conflict concerns.
“The part that takes me back is when somebody says, ‘Well, how do you expect her to vote?'” he said. “The only reason I think she would ever have to worry about that is if she was worried about her job. So, are you saying to me that somehow or another I’m gonna fire her if she doesn’t vote for Pensacola? That’s not it; that’s not it at all. That’s not what we’ve come here to do; that’s not the regional community we want to build.”
Two days later, the State Attorney’s Office cleared Lindsay of any violations regarding a memo she had sent to the Milton City Council regarding the renaming of a community center.
When citizens questioned the legality of her sending a memo, Mayor Lindsay self-reported the issue and asked for the State Attorney’s Office for an opinion on whether she violated the state’s Sunshine Law.
“We have completed our review of the fact and circumstance of this report and have determined that no violation of the law has been committed,” wrote Chief Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille in a letter released to the media today.
On May 10, Mayor Lindsay sent a memo to members of the Milton City Council regarding the renaming of the community center after its namesake, former Mayor Guy Thompson, had pleaded guilty to stealing money from the United Way of Santa Rosa County.
Marcille wrote, “The law is clear that a council member or commissioner may send a written report to other members on a subject that will be discussed at a public meeting without violating the Sunshine Law if, prior to the meeting, there is no interaction related to the report among the members, the report is maintained as a public record and the report is not being used as a substitute for action at the public meeting.”
Tax Certificate Sale Escambia County Tax Collector Scott Lunsford announced the tax certificate sale for 2018 delinquent real estate taxes in Escambia County will be held 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday, June 1, at bidescambia.com. Bidding opened May 3.
Property taxes unpaid as of 4:30 p.m. on May 31 will be eligible for a certificate. To prevent a certificate from being sold, property owners with delinquent taxes must make their payment by 4:30 p.m. May 31 either through the website, escambiataxcollector.com, or in person at any of the four convenient tax collector offices. All late payments will be returned for additional fees.
The tax certificate sale is an annual online auction where bidders can purchase a delinquent taxpayer’s debt in exchange for an annual interest rate, ensuring the majority of unpaid taxes are collected and distributed to taxing authorities. Last year, more than 8,000 certificates were sold for a total of over $8.4 million, recovering 98.7 percent of delinquent taxes. Delinquent real estate accounts are published online at bidescambia.com and in the Pensacola News Journal.
Registration for the sale is open at bidescambia.com and will continue until the sale ends June 1. The sale is a reverse auction, with interest rates on individual certificates starting at 18 percent. Bidders compete for the lowest rate, and certificates are awarded to those with the lowest bid. All unsold certificates will be issued to Escambia County at 18 percent annual interest.
New PSC Team Pensacola State College will field a new sports team this fall. A women’s cross country team will join the Pirates Athletics program, Bill Hamilton, Pensacola State’s athletic director, announced Wednesday, May 22, during a press conference in Hartsell Arena.
Hamilton also introduced Julie Burger as the team’s coach. Burger, an experienced triathlete, also is director of the College’s Pharmacy Technician Program on the Warrington campus.
Recruiting will begin immediately for 10 scholarship positions on the cross country team, Hamilton said. There also will be five or six walk-on slots available.
“We plan to start recruiting locally. Dec. 1 was signing day, but we believe there are still high school athletes out there,” he said, adding the cross country team would participate in meets against Florida, Alabama, Georgia or Mississippi colleges and universities.
Pensacola State will be the eighth Florida College System institution to have a women’s cross country team, Hamilton said. In the Panhandle Conference, Pensacola State will join Chipola State College and Tallahassee Community College. Daytona State College, Florida Gateway College, Florida State College-Jacksonville, Pasco-Hernando State College and Seminole State College also have women’s cross country teams.
“We have a very successful athletics program, and I am excited to be part of the new addition. The running community in Pensacola is very active, and I am looking forward to having some talented young women join our cross country team,” said Coach Burger.
Hamilton said it has been 22 years since the college added a women’s athletic program—a volleyball team joined the lineup in 1997. However, he noted discussions have been going on since 2012 about the matter.
Fort Pickens Tram
The seasonal tram service in the Fort Pickens Area began on Monday, May 20. The trams are operated by Dreamcatcher Shuttle Service through a service contract and will largely mirror the tour boat operating schedule.
The service is available for all visitors at no charge and will make stops at the Fort Pickens Plaza, Campground and Langdon Beach. Trams will stop at each of the three shuttle stops between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. daily.
The new service utilizes electric tram vehicles which can carry 27 passengers and travel at regular park speed limits. The fully accessible vehicles feature solar panels to extend the battery charge and drive time. It offers tour boat passengers and campers a convenient way to access the swim area at Langdon Beach while offering day-use visitors an easy way to move about the park.
Won’t Back Down Tour On Saturday, June 1, Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01) will hold a series of town hall events for the “Won’t Back Down” Tour in Florida’s First Congressional District. During the events, Congressman Gaetz will provide an update on his work in Washington, D.C., as well as hold an open discussion with constituents on the most pressing issues of the day.
Two stops are in the greater Pensacola area. Gaetz’s Santa Rosa County Town Hall will be held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, June 1, at Dewey Destin’s Navarre Restaurant, 8673 Navarre Parkway. His Escambia town hall will be at noon at Brew Ha Ha Restaurant, 2435 N. 12th Ave.
Mark Your Calendars Auditions for Panhandle Senior Follies will be held 4 p.m. Thursday, May 30, and Friday, May 31, at Main Street Milton, 5256 Alabama St. in Milton. Folks aged 50-plus are asked to try out for the first Panhandle Senior Follies show that will be held June 8 and 9.
Escambia County Emergency Management and the National Weather Service of Mobile will host a Tropical Town Hall 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 4, at the Escambia County Public Safety building, 6575 N. W St.
The Florida PTAC at UWF offers a workshop entitled “How to Do Business with ECUA” from 9-10:30 a.m. Wednesday, June 5, at Greater Pensacola Chamber, 890 S. Palafox, Ste. 202. Find out how to do business with Emerald Coast Utilities Authority, how to register as a vendor and locate bid opportunities. There is no fee for this workshop, however, pre-registration is recommended. To register, visit sbdc.uwf.edu and click on “Training & Events” or call 474-2528.
The Florida SBDC at UWF offers the “Reach Customers online with Google” event from 9-10 a.m. Wednesday, June 5, at UWF Conference Facility, 11000 University Parkway, Bldg. 22. This workshop is open to the public. To pre-register, visit sbdc.uwf.edu and click on “Training & Events.”
Chairman and District 3 Commissioner Lumon May and School Board Member Dr. Laura Edler will join State Representative Alex Andrade at his second Town Hall meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, at the Brownsville Community Center, 3200 W. De Soto St.
Escambia County Fire Rescue invites the public to join in celebrating the arrival of the new Squad 3 Apparatus at a push-in ceremony 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 8, at ECFR Station 3, 5925 N. W St.
The University of West Florida Center for Cybersecurity is accepting registration for its 2019 UWF Pathways to Cyber Student Camp. The camp is from 9 a.m.-4 p.m, June 17-21 in the Studer Community Institute Building, 220 W. Garden St., Ste. 250. Any rising high school student or 2019 high school graduate is eligible. The camp is free of charge. Only 30 spots are available. To register or for more information, visit uwf.edu/cybercamp or contact 474-2999.