City of Pensacola

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Forty years after the first vision and about five years of preparation and delays, Pensacola’s ferry system is ready to shove off on Friday. The launch ceremony was held at Fort Pickens on Wednesday.

Dan Brown, Superintendent of Gulf Islands National Seashore, served as master of ceremonies.

“Today is proof that all the stars can align and dreams can come true,” said Brown. GINS is one of the three stops the two, 145-passenger ferries – Turtle Runner and Pelican Perch – will make on their triangular 45-minute voyages for pedestrians and bicycles.

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Ground was broken Monday for the Bayview Resource Center at Bayview Park. Once the work begins, completion is expected to be in about a year and a half. 

Covering 19,000 sq. ft., the facility will replace the old community center, which was damaged by a sewage backup in 2014 and demolished a year later, in the same footprint.

Gulf Power Company

Gulf Power Company will spend $83 million over five years, to upgrade its electricity grid in downtown Pensacola.

The project is part of an overall, $225 million makeover across the utility’s 460,000 customer service area. According to spokesman Jeff Rogers, the current system is well beyond retirement age.

“While there’s a very sophisticated underground network in downtown Pensacola, parts of it are 70 years gold,” said Rogers. “They’ve been well maintained and updated, but it is time for a complete overhaul.”

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Almost eight in ten Pensacola residents say the city’s on the right track, according to the fourth annual Community Survey from the Haas Business Center.

That 76 percent mark is ten points higher than last year’s survey. The project, says Amy Newburn at the Center, was a mixed-method survey, that is, primarily on the telephone but also with “intercept surveys,” Haas-speak for in-person interviews.

VT-MAE

As construction rolls on at the VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering aviation plant in Pensacola, company officials and local leaders provided an update on the project on Friday at Pensacola State College.

Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward was the M.C. at groundbreaking ceremonies near Pensacola International Airport one year ago.

“Today marks an important milestone for a project that we first started talking about close to five years ago,” Hayward said at the groundbreaking. On Friday at PSC, he spoke of the plant’s role in helping create and bolster a business environment.

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Debate is underway at Pensacola City Hall, over the proposed removal of a Confederate monument from its current location. If it is removed, a local cemetery is ready to accept it.

St. John’s Cemetery on G Street could become the new home for the “Our Confederate Dead” monument, which was erected in 1891 at Robert E. Lee Square.

Moto Electric Vehicles

Visitors to downtown Pensacola could be able to park and ride later this month, thanks to six new electric trolleys from Gulf Island National Seashore.

With the park’s ferry service in limbo the new electric trolleys, each consisting of motor and trailer units, are being loaned to the City of Pensacola. Each vehicle can hold 27 passengers.

City of Pensacola

If you’ve made plans to ride the new ferry service between downtown Pensacola, Pensacola Beach and Fort Pickens, you have a bit of a wait ahead of you – until next year.  

Scheduled to begin this May, the project is now delayed in favor of beginning a new search for an operator. That emerged from a meeting last week among the National Park Service, Escambia County and the City of Pensacola.

UWF Haas Business Center

Respondents to a survey to assess resident satisfaction with the City of Pensacola’s delivery of services and life in general were about as happy with things this year as they were in 2015.

The findings include 69.3 percent of those surveyed during a five-week period in October and November believe the City is heading in the right direction, and a 14 percentage point jump in those who say they’re “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the value of city services.

The Haas Center at the University of West Florida is conducting its third annual Pensacola Community Survey, in a partnership with the City of Pensacola.

Mayor Ashton Hayward took to Facebook to announce the project, saying the responses will help balance priorities and upgrade services.

The Escambia County Commission met in special session Thursday morning, on the distribution of Local Option Gas Tax proceeds. This was the first round of talks, with the Pensacola City Council taking up the issue this evening.

On a 4-1 vote, the Commission approved a lengthy motion to send a letter to the Florida Department of Revenue, outlining the distribution to be 85.5 percent to the county; 6.99 percent to Pensacola, and 0.81 percent to Century for road and infrastructure projects over the next decade.

Dianna Lantz-Power

Thursday was a day of honor and reflection in memory of Marine Corps Capt. Jeff Kuss -- who died when his Blue Angel number-6 jet crashed near Nashville, Tennessee last week.

A private memorial service for the 32-year-old Kuss was held aboard NAS Pensacola on Thursday morning. On Thursday evening, Veterans Memorial Park was filled for a public candlelight vigil sponsored by the City of Pensacola.

Bob Barrett / WUWF News

  Since 1889, 14 members of the Pensacola Police Force have died in the line of duty. Wednesday morning, the city took time to remember their service.

City of Pensacola

Matt Schmitt and Joe Glover are out as Pensacola Fire Chief and Assistant Fire Chief, respectively. They were fired Tuesday by Mayor Ashton Hayward after a three-month investigation of the department.

The Mayor’s action came after reviewing the 138-page report which he says outlines a number of instances that demonstrated what it terms as “a lack of judgment, poor leadership and contempt for the city’s Human Resources Department.

wuwf.org

The City of Pensacola is the defendant in a lawsuit filed over the 25-foot Christian cross at city-owned Bayview Park.

The litigation – filed Wednesday -- is the latest salvo in a ten-month running dispute over the cross in the park, between the city and the American Humanist Association, based in Washington, D.C.

“We are contending that this is a violation of the Establishment Clause to the United States Constitution,” said Rebecca Markert, a staff attorney with the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation.

City of Pensacola

Registration is underway for the 2016 Pensacola Citizens’ Academy. The academy is a nine-week look at city government and its departments and it kicks off May 17 and goes through July 12. The course is free, and interactive.

“Totally hands-on, meaning it’s not just sitting around and listening to talking heads,” said organizer Helen Gibson. “We’ve got tours, we’ve got demonstrations.”

The concept is from the city’s Neighborhood Division. When Ashton Hayward was elected mayor in 2010, he made the academies a priority.

The Fish House restaurant in downtown Pensacola has emerged from a legal challenge with its lease intact. However, there remains one more fight in the case.

On Friday, Circuit Judge Scott Duncan ruled that Fish House owner Collier Merrill’s sub-lease of the Pitts Slip property from business partner Ray Russenberger was immune from having to pay the city up to five million dollars in additional rent and interest.

Photo via Instagram//user @beautifulpensacola

More than two years after the initial filing, a lawsuit against the City of Pensacola involving the land on which the Fish House Restaurant sits may be close to resolution.

Circuit Judge Scott Duncan held a six-hour hearing on the case in January. Fish House owner Collier Merrill says their argument then was the same as it’s been all along, concerning the lease for the city-owned property call Pitt Slip, on which The Fish House and Atlas Oyster House sit.

Sandra Averhart

Governor Rick Scott met with local officials and the media on Wednesday, to discuss the aftermath of the twister that devastated some neighborhoods in Pensacola the previous night.

The Governor has issued an Executive Order declaring a state of emergency for Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties as a result of the tornado, which damaged more than 100 homes, in addition to the 24 apartments at the Moorings on Old Spanish Trail which were destroyed.

Dave Dunwoody

The next step in efforts to get Amtrak service back to Pensacola rolled into the city Friday morning, and the crowd greeting the “Inspection Train” appeared to be part pep rally and part revival meeting.

On a chilly but otherwise “Chamber of Commerce” day, the train made its entrance from the west, where it had originated Thursday in New Orleans. There to greet it was a crowd – some in period costumes – in front of what was the Amtrak station before service was ended 12 years ago.

Steve Hayes, the President of Visit Pensacola, and served as Master of Ceremonies

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