Oops, Marty worked behind closed doors again

August 9, 2006

doorPensacola City Councilman Marty Donovan is upset that Community Maritime Park supporters met with councilmen individually before presenting the park proposal. His, Fairchild’s and the Stop Our City position is that this made the deal shady and it should have been done in an open meeting.

My position is meeting individually with councilmen or with city staff prior to making a presentation is a sound practice for government – as long as only one councilman is in the room. It helps develop good agreements.

Marty Donovan must have thought so last April when he worked with CSX railroad and city staff to negotiate the removal of the pilings at the mouth of Bayou Texar. In the PNJ article, Donovan admits he worked on the negotiations prior to the council vote, and also briefed Blair Stevenson (head of Bayou Texar Foundation & fellow SOC member) on the agreement before the council meeting.

It appears closed door meetings are okay – if they’re Donovan’s idea.

Council to weigh pilings deal
Pensacola News Journal (FL)
April 24, 2006
Author: Alvin Peabody

The City of Pensacola and CSX Transportation appear to have reached an agreement over the disposal of pilings that are under the railroad trestle at the entrance to Bayou Texar on 17th Avenue.

The council’s Committee of the Whole is set to discuss the proposed agreement today. The council plans to take action when members meet Thursday.

“We’re quite satisfied with what has been agreed upon,” said Pensacola City Attorney John Fleming, who joined several city officials in negotiations with CSX and state Department of Environmental Protection officials.

CSX spokesman Gary Sease in Jacksonville agreed.

“We obviously think that it (the agreement) is an excellent outcome for all involved,” Sease said.

The agreement is designed to ease concerns among area residents and advocacy groups who maintained that removing the pilings would allow for the city to dredge a wider and deeper channel between the railroad trestle and the Cervantes Street Bridge. The dredging would improve tidal flow to Bayou Texar.

The agreement also could alter the outcome of a pending lawsuit against the railroad company about the pilings’ removal.

“I think we were able to come up with a good settlement that has some potential to improve the area,” said Dick Fancher, DEP’s district director.

The city-CSX agreement seeks to resolve two key points:

Under the new agreement, CSX will use a clamp, crane and a vibratory hammer to extract all of the pilings after the trestle is replaced in June.

The state Department of Environmental Protection issued an emergency permit on July 20 that allowed CSX to remove the pilings to at least 1 foot below the mud line. The company, which owns the railroad, had contended that removing all of the pilings would cause more environmental harm to the bayou than cutting them off at the mud line. But the city countered that the remaining sections of the old pilings below the surface would be exposed over time. Also, material and sediments trapped in the channel would further impede the tidal flow from Pensacola Bay.

The trestle was built with wooden pilings in 1888 as a connection between Pensacola and Jacksonville. CSX began work last summer to replace the wooden trestle with a structure that needs only 11 concrete support pilings. The new bridge will increase the navigable underpass used by boaters from 20 feet to 44 feet.

The issue of who would pay for the removal of the pilings’ remnants was settled after CSX agreed to pay or reimburse the city if the city opts for future channel dredging.

Pensacola City Councilman Marty Donovan helped push for the new CSX modifications.

“In our negotiations, there was a spirit of cooperation and willingness to understand how critical the removal of the pilings is to the health of the bayou,” said Donovan, a former president of the Bayou Texar Foundation.

Foundation President Blair Stephenson said the community-based environmental group has been briefed about the agreement and was satisfied with the proposal.

“We’ve been concerned for years about the pilings’ removal, and we’re now pleased that the city and CSX have worked hard to achieve that,” Stephenson said. Her group successfully negotiated with CSX in 1989 on the removal of rocks from the bridge.

The foundation is not a party to the lawsuit filed against CSX on March 21 by a local environmental group, Emerald Coastkeeper Inc. The Coastkeepers are seeking a temporary injunction to halt work on the trestle-replacement project. Circuit Judge Michael Allen has not scheduled a hearing.

Larry B. Johnson, an Emerald Coastkeeper board member, said Friday that lawyers for the group were reviewing the agreement and that no decision has been made about the lawsuit.

“We hope to have a statement on the agreement and about the lawsuit early next week,” Johnson said.

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One Response to “Oops, Marty worked behind closed doors again”

  1. Last Place Says:

    He is just upset because he was briefed last and not first. He Marty, someone has to be last!

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