Gov. Rick Scott’s trip to Pensacola last week involved more than just a closed political fundraiser. He also heard about the controversial plan to relocate a state probation and parole office to the city’s North Hill neighborhood.
The Governor Friday directed Department of Corrections Secretary Michael Crews to renew the office’s existing lease at the current facility on North Davis Highway. Plans were to move the offices to the old Coca-Cola plant on Palafox. That drew fire from a number of North Hill residents at the last City Council meeting.
Corrections spokeswoman Misty Cash said earlier this month the move would be part of a statewide consolidation of state offices. City Administrator Colleen Casteel said at the March 13th City Council meeting that the DOC asked for a zoning determination for the property in December of 2012.
The lease for the current North Davis location expired on December 31st. State officials said leasing the new location would save about $33,000 in public money the first year. Circuit Court Judge Gary Bergosh ruled last week that the proposed office was allowed under current zoning, and that city officials had acted correctly in issuing permits for the building.
Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward applauded Governor Scott’s decision to head off locating the DOC office at the old plant. The two initially spoke about it about two weeks ago, in what Hayward calls a frank conversation. Hayward spoke again with the Governor last Thursday, when Scott came to City Hall after his fund-raiser at the Fish House restaurant.
The Mayor is hoping that one of the lessons learned from this episode is having the City Council revisit Pensacola’s zoning laws, and how to apportion the city’s 37 square miles.
As for the old Coca-Cola plant, there’s been no word from owner Nathan Lee Head on how the building may now be used. Mayor Ashton Hayward hopes it can be a major part of an ongoing cleanup project along Palafox.