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Pensacola beach residents demand access!!


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Beach residents demand free access

SRIA hears from 1,200 residents

1,200 beach dwellers air gripes

October 1, 2004

Nicole Lozare




About 1,200 displaced beach residents packed a Santa Rosa Island Authority meeting Thursday night, demanding unrestricted access to their damaged homes.


Pensacola Beach resident Jan Chapman, 50, addresses the Santa Rosa Island Authority members Thursday night at a meeting about the beach and restricted beach access after Hurricane Ivan.


Officials told the crowd that emergency crews could work more efficiently if the beach's 2,700 residents were not there. Emergency crews have been working nonstop at the beach. Officials still do not have an estimate as to when residents can gain unrestricted access.


"I want to get home, too," said board chairman Bill Griffith who resides at the beach. "I will do everything I can to push people to get this island back up. I think it's one month. (Island Authority general manager Monte Blews) thinks its going to be six months.


"We just don't know."


Many residents are concerned about the mold and mildew growing on their furniture and walls faster than kudzu. Others want to get contractors out to repair roofs before it rains.


"We want to be able to clean what we can. It's frustrating because we could save a lot. I have two beds that cost a lot of money," said Sandy Patterson, whose home on Maldonado Drive was damaged extensively. She also lost her beach rental business, Lazy Days.


John Pinzino, a resident at Sans Souci condominiums, asked the board when owners would be able to hire a crane to repair the roof.


"Our building has 63 units. Right now, only eight to 10 have water damage. If we don't get a tarp on the roof before it rains, we'll have 63 with damage,'' Pinzino said.


Residents will have access to their homes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Sunday until further notice and will be required to use shuttle buses to get to their homes. During the weekly visit, residents also may bring workers to undertake temporary emergency measures such as placing tarps on roofs and installing doors.


Starting Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., owners may enter the island with their insurance adjusters.


"I understand that for safety reasons, we can't go back there," said Panferio Drive homeowner Tonya Goodroe, 32. "What can you do when you can't get a vehicle through?"


Resident Andrew Brahan, 67, wanted to use a trailer to haul furniture, but his request was denied for this Sunday.


"My home is destroyed. I have seven pieces of furniture left," said the Villa Sabine resident. "I'm not allowed to move my seven pieces of furniture?"


The meeting was tense, with the crowd jeering board members at certain points. Escambia County sheriff's deputies were stationed throughout Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church, site of the nearly 3-hour meeting. Beach celebrity and comedian T. "Bubba" Betchol was asked to help with the question and answer portion of the meeting to alleviate some of the animosity.


The crowd grew more angry when the subject of Portofino was raised by one resident. Some beach dwellers said they saw construction workers at Portofino, or bumped into some during a beach visit. The expensive condominiums have been a sore subject with a number of beach residents even before they were constructed.


"Allen Levin has a lot of money," said beach resident Miriam Lippe, 55, about Portofino's co-developer. "I know Portofino is getting preferential treatment."


County administrator George Touart said during a telephone interview after the meeting that Portofino developers were given more time to secure their buildings because emergency workers at the beach were housed there temporarily.


"The only thing Portofino is allowed is what the Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn and the (Marriott) Spring Hill Suites are allowed because they are housing workers," Touart said. "To my knowledge and the sheriff's (Ron McNesby) knowledge, there is no other work going on there. If I find out they are doing additional work, I will shut them down myself."


Touart said he is sending Donald Mayo, director of the county's building inspections department, this morning to Portofino to check on the rumors. Touart said Levin and the three hotels offered rooms to emergency workers.


Mayo, who was at the meeting, told the crowd no permanent repairs were permitted on Pensacola Beach. Early in the meeting, Mayo and other emergency officials gave the crowd an update on Pensacola Beach:


· Of 650 homes inspected at the beach so far, 250 are destroyed.


· Beach roads are 95 percent impassable.


· Electricity for all of Pensacola Beach will be restored in two to three weeks.


· Next week, water and sewer services will be available to the island's core area, near the intersection of Fort Pickens Road and Via de Luna.


· A home must at least have water and sewer facilities restored before it is deemed habitable by building inspectors.


Escambia County Commissioner Tom Banjanin, whose district includes the beach, also spoke before the crowd.


"We are Americans, and we will come back no matter what happens to us," he said. "Please keep the faith, and let's work together."


Staff writer Kimberly Blair contributed to this report




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