Sunday, October 31, 2004

The "Rent Me" cars are back

Today while we were sponging off McGuire Martin at Flounders, a friend pointed out that the little electric rental cars have returned to their usual spot in the Soundside Market complex. Wonder why? Where in the world can they go, other than up and down Via de Luna in the core area? Let's hope they're not actually going to be available for rent....

Locals Meeting?

Anybody hear something about a recent meeting of some beach activists - something like "Concerned Citizens of Pensacola Beach" or whatever, at Casino Beach, and/or know what transpired?

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Blog Flaw?

Other than being a bit slow to navigate via dial-up, the only problem I can find with this particular blog format is that it doesn't show anything in the initial listing of messages to denote there's been a comment added to an existing post, other than maybe by moving the message to the top of the chronological list (if it does) -- assuming the post wasn't there already.

In the case of my "SBA Loan" post, for example (which was already in the topmost position), I found out only by accident that Barrett had posted a comment on it, and, since he hasn't responded to my response to his, I'm wondering whether or not he realizes there's an addition.

Or am I missing something? I do that a lot, you know.

On another subject, I found it somewhat amusing that, in spell checking this post, the software the blog employs didn't recognize the word "blog".

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

SBA Loans

Has anyone here applied for an SBA loan? We received proposed loan papers today in the mail, and found in reading them that the paperwork required throughout the rebuilding process is so onerous, and there is so much old fashioned bureaucratic B.S. involved at so many levels of the transaction, that we are refusing the loan forthwith. Actually, what we are having to do is cancel the loan in writing, even though all we thought we'd done was make an application, and definitely haven't signed anything else since then. Apparently the SBA considers the application a commitment to accept the loan unless cancelled within three bsuiness days of receiving the papers. If the application stated that, we sure didn't see it anywhere, and would have been extremely wary had we known.

From what we're reading in the fine pring, the SBA may have already placed a lien on our property and/or notified our insurers, even though we haven't signed all the loan documents. Can you believe this?? All I can say is, if this slows down our insurance settlement checks or the clearing of same with our mortgage bank, we will be a couple of very unhappy puppies.

Besides overnighting the cancellation tomorrow, we will be phoning the SBA first thing in the a.m. This whole thing was very shocking to us, the SBA tactics and terms very heavy handed (sorry I don't have time to offer examples here), and we'll never, ever try it again.

Also won't have a chance to check this, so please forgive typos.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Contracting Chaos

Dwayne Escobedo in this week's Independent News [formerly the Independent Florida Sun] reports that "Ivan crushed an estimated 18,600 homes in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties... ." On Pensacola Beach alone, according to Friday's News journal, "Of the 975 homes and businesses included in the first assessment, 869 were deemed to have suffered major damage or been destroyed, with 803 ruled to be uninhabitable."

These are staggering statistics. In many instances, they are buried in the middle of conventional stories warning residents against hiring unlicensed contractors. Such stories are a media staple in the wake of every major storm in Florida. Local newspapers, television, and radio stations dutifully publish the usual warnings against fraudulent and unlicensed contractors, sprinkled with quotes from building industry spokesmen warning of dire consequences if you hire your own work force.

About roof damage, alone, the Pensacola News Journal has reported --
FEMA has already installed almost 20,500 roof tarps, and still people are coming for more. Officials estimate another 25,000 roofs need covering, with crews putting up about 1,000 a day.

When you incorporate the knowledge that many homes no longer exist, or aren't worth covering with a tarp, you begin to grasp the extent of the damage.

Worse, earlier this week the PNJ quoted some as saying that homeowners may have to wait more than two years before trading their blue roofs for a real one, due to a shortage of contractors as well as roofing materials. (There's no use trying to link to the PNJ web site since the newspaper's new search function is at least as bad as the old one, and now the paper charges a fee for any article older than 7 days.)

At least three licensed contractors have told me that the home repair and construction situation facing local victims of Hurricane Ivan is "desperate."

"There just aren't enough contractors or qualified workers," one said privately at a social event. "The [Escambia] county commissioners have to lighten up on the licensing rules or people aren't going to get their houses repaired for years. I mean years."

The other two echoed the same sentiment. One of them added this bleak observation:

"Maybe they'll do something in Santa Rosa County," he said. "But Escambia County will never give up the old system. The politicians are still determined to see that all the money flows to the usual good ol' boys. Yes, there aren't enough licensed local contractors. But that isn't going to stop the crowd who's running our county from keeping out the competition."

But what about governor Bush's emergency order to allow counties to issue temporary roofing licenses? I asked.

"Meaningless," he said. "To get that license, you still have to have worker's comp insurance and post a bond. There are thousands of perfectly competent roofers out there in Florida and neighboring states, but very few of them have the money to pay for a worker compensation policy. It's a mirage to think the governor's order is going to help."

The disconnect between need and the means to meet it led me to do a little digging. Although the local building and contractor associations are not likely to let you in on the secret, home owners who choose to do so are allowed to act as their own general contractors. And so far as I can discover it's perfectly legal to hire muscular help even if they aren't licensed.

This right is spelled out in one section of the Florida Statutes that exempts many homeowners from the licensed contractor laws.

Fla. Stat. 489.103(7) states licensing requirements do not apply to:
Owners of property when acting as their own contractor and providing direct, onsite supervision themselves of all work not performed by licensed contractors, when building or improving farm outbuildings or one-family or two-family residences on such property for the occupancy or use of such owners and not offered for sale or lease, or building or improving commercial buildings, at a cost not to exceed $25,000, on such property for the occupancy or use of such owners and not offered for sale or lease. In an action brought under this part, proof of the sale or lease, or offering for sale or lease, of any such structure by the owner-builder within 1 year after completion of same creates a presumption that the construction was undertaken for purposes of sale or lease. This subsection does not exempt any person who is employed by or has a contract with such owner and who acts in the capacity of a contractor. The owner may not delegate the owner's responsibility to directly supervise all work to any other person unless that person is registered or certified under this part and the work being performed is within the scope of that person's license. For the purposes of this subsection, the term "owners of property" includes the owner of a mobile home situated on a leased lot. To qualify for exemption under this subsection, an owner must personally appear and sign the building permit application. * * *

Not everyone is suited to supervising construction workers, of course. Some are too old, or too sick, or not handy enough, or, like me, too stupid about "joists" and galvanized whatchamacallits, and stuff like that. Others may not relish the risk of a lawsuit or the moral guilt if a worker were to be injured while working on their property.

But it's nice to know there is an alternative, even if limited to the circumstances described in the statute, to waiting for Escambia County officials to lighten up on the contractor licensing rules.

For that, don't hold your breath. You'll turn as blue as your roof long before it happens.

Just Checking In

Hey there, boys and girls! It's nice to be here. As with most, if not all of you, our lives here in refugee land are way too wound up in post-Ivan matters (for instance, I spent the whole friggin' day trying to put together the first month's ALE application for Citizens, and STILL didn't get the blankety-blank thing done), but I'll try to check in now and again.

Wondering what Barrett means when he implies his evacuation phase is about to end.... Hope it means he's coming back to the area to roost.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Where Was George?

The immediacy of its importance may be diminishing as the county loosens the noose around beach residents, but Nicole Lozare has it exactly wrong in Wednesday's Pensacola News Journal when she writes of Tuesday's second beach residents' meeting:
"Escambia County Administrator George Touart spoke publicly before beach residents for the first time since the hurricane. Touart, who was unable to attend the first meeting because of health issues, was criticized by beach residents who blamed him for beach restrictions they deemed unfair. Several residents also accused Touart of giving preferential treatment to Portofino condominiums and other island businesses."

It is true George Touart didn't speak at the first, infamous, beach residents' meeting at the Methodist Church. But many who were there say they say they saw him at the meeting. In fact, I'm one of them.

Unless he has an identical twin, I saw and spoke very briefly with George Touart that evening. He was stage left, behind the dais and out of sight of the audience. While I watched, he appeared to be orchestrating the show literally from behind the scenes, talking with speakers before they went on stage and afterwards, as well.

Unless Lozare is using an incredibly crabbed -- one might almost say Clintonesque -- definition of the word "attended," I'd say he was in attendance at that meeting. He just didn't choose to show his face.

And by the way -- he didn't look any sicker than any of the rest of us.

This isn't the first time Nicole Lozare has covered for George. The day after that first meeting, she wrote in the passive voice that he was reached "by telephone...after" the meeting. Then she repeated some innocuous PR quote cooked up for the digestive system of the public.

Now that I'm finally ending my evacuation saga, I'll have more on this soon, especially about the substance of the two meetings. For the moment, though, let me just raise two questions about that first meeting in September:

"Where Was George?"

"Why Didn't Nicole Lozare Accurately Report His Whereabouts?"

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Beach Residents Meet Tuesday

Don Ayres informs that all beach residents are invited to another public meeting Tuesday, October 19, at the Methodist Church. The SRIA apparently will be discussing the current status of things, construction rules, etc. It is unknown if county administrator George Tuart will be hiding backstage, as he did last time.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Benefits of Ivan

Viewing the glass that may be half full, rather than cracked and leaking and probably contaminated, one might as well smile while one's crying. Hence, the following list of imaginary benefits from Ivan, which are different from those listed in the recent PNJ article* about "benefits" from Ivan that were meant seriously, but still seem to be more ridiculous:

*NOTE: the "recent PNJ article" would have been linked, but it's not available, since the PNJ has decided to charge for EVERY article older than 7 days. I'm referring to the October 2 and 3 articles by Mark O'Brien, which, as you might expect, are interesting simply because they're moronic.

10. That hideous knitted couch cover given to you by Aunt Eader is now wrapped around the intake of a communist Chinese nuclear plant. You should be happy that you're doing your part in the war on terroristic textiles.

9. The carpet choice you made initially is now deductible. Choose a better one now. And, no, shag isn't stylish. Go for the berber.

8. All the raking you used to do over several months is now compacted into one large effort. This is efficient, but painful. To avoid doing it yourself, look for neighborhood children, when possible, and bribe them with small bills or lingerie catalogs.

7. If you don't have a heart attack while cleaning up, you're probably in good health. Mark off one visit to the doctor from your agenda. If you DO have a heart attack while cleaning up, please ADD one visit to the doctor to your agenda, if not more.

6. Those odd sounds you used to attribute to the settling of the house are probably due to something else. Now, you can narrow them down to "pre-Ivan" and "post-Ivan".

5. If you paid for an obstructed view, and now you have an unobstructed view, enjoy it--soon, investors will obstruct it again, with stronger edifices.

4. Whenever SRIA announces the next beach renewal contract, you can offer your house as a subcontractor. Hold out for the highest bidder, since you have "authentic" beach sand in your underwear drawer.

3. If you're reading this, you have one less thing to bitch about. That is, you're not dead. That's probably a good thing. Likewise, if you're reading this, and you happen to be dead, please contact the author.

2. You can finally re-do those scary wedding photos. Even if they weren't damaged during Ivan, just take them into the bathroom, dip them in the toilet, and let them sit under the shower. Then, blame Ivan.

1. With any luck, the passage of Ivan means that Alyosha and Dmitri aren't expected anytime soon, but Smerdyakov might be on the horizon. This also assumes that Dostoevsky is naming hurricanes, and one other person gets this joke.


Monday, October 04, 2004

R.I.P. Don Wheeler

I just learned that Don Wheeler, a long time beach resident and friend to countless people from all walks of life, died Sunday morning shortly after 7 a.m. following a lengthy illness.

Don was born in 1918 in Yonkers, N.Y. As a youngster he was a playmate of Joe, John, and Robert Kennedy in the Long Island area as well as in Hyannisport, Massachusetts.

He and his wife, Carleen, moved to Pensacola Beach 14 years ago. They were loyal and dedicated members of the Pensacola Beach Residents & Leaseholders Assn. They also belonged to many other island organizations. Until this year, the Wheelers were the genial hosts of the annual "Kentucky Derby Day Party" at their lovely home on the beach.

Don was a brilliant conversationalist with wide and varied cultural interests as well as an abiding love for Pensacola Beach. He possessed a wonderfully dry wit which he delighted in displaying with a mock seriousness which always was betrayed by the sparkling smile of his eyes.

In due time, a more complete biography of this most interesting and beloved beach resident will be posted at the temporarily disabled web site of Pensacola Beach Residents & Leaseholders. Don will be missed by all who knew him and our hearts go out to his wife, Carleen, and son John Robert.




Monday, October 04, 2004

Pensacola Beach, Perdido Key Residents Granted Daily Access To Their Homes


Increased access to Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key has been granted to residents, contractors and insurance adjusters, Escambia County officials decided Monday.Beginning at 8 a.m. today , residents can make temporary repairs and remove valuables at their property on Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key.In certain areas, rebuilding and demolition work will be allowed, but contractors must get permits available at locations on Pensacola Beach and near Perdido Key.Access time is limited to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. everyday until further notice.When visiting the property, residents must pull their vehicles into the driveways or parking lots. Vehicles must not be parked along the roadside or in the right of way.Cargo trailers will be allowed onto the beaches for the removal of larger items as long as they can be pulled into a driveway or parking lot.Areas where rebuilding and demolition work can begin are:

On Pensacola Beach — between the Escambia County Sheriff's Substation and Avenida 10 (near the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority facility).

On Perdido Key — River Road, Don Carlos Drive, Gongora Drive and as far as Johnson Beach Road including Sandy Key Drive.Building, electric and plumbing permits will be available at the Santa Rosa Island Authority parking lot on Pensacola Beach. Permits for Perdido Key will be available at the old Eckerd store at the Food World Shopping Center on Sorrento Road.
posted by Pensacola News Journal Storm Team at 10/4/2004 03:38:35 PM

PBRLA Press Release - October 4, 2004


The Pensacola Beach Residents and Leaseholders Association (“PBRLA”) would like to express, on behalf of its members and all other residents and leaseholders on Pensacola Beach, its extreme outrage at the draconian, arbitrary and overly restrictive limitation on beach access for people who live on Pensacola Beach. Sundays only, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, is not sufficient access for residents to secure their property, gather belongings and get on with the steps necessary to begin the insurance claims process and repair of their homes. Additionally, the restriction to Casino Beach parking lot with no cars or trucks allowed down Via de Luna or Ft. Pickens makes it impossible to remove furniture and other valuables.
Right now, they have the power to keep us off the beach (George Tourat and Sheriff Mc Nesby’s deputies with guns) but what gives them that right?

In spite of the fact that there is no electricity, utilities or clear roads, Navarre Beach residents have free access to their property and the Santa Rosa County officials in charge of that beach have recognized that they have no legal means to keep residents from their homes. Likewise, no mainlanders are being kept from their homes. Portofino is being given preferential treatment and so are certain hotels and friends and members of the SRIA who own businesses on the beach. This is just another example of SRIA good ole boy politics. Neither the SRIA nor the Escambia County Commission care a bit about the Island residents because we do not have sufficient political clout to effect their election or appointment. Consequently, our rights are being trampled to help business owners and fat cats salvage their property and the revenue stream from the tourist trade. In the mean time, our property and possessions deteriorate.

As usual, Pensacola Beach is being governed with ad hoc favoritism and inept anonymity. It is not possible, at this point, to determine exactly who is in charge or what the plan is, except to make it as easy as possible for the in-crowd and business people at the expense of ordinary residents. Bill Griffith justifies this action with a promise that utilities will be restored to the entire island in a month. Monte Blews says six months. The fact is, no one knows and they are just making it up as they go along. What law allows George Touart, Ron McNesby, Monte Blews, and Bill Griffith to dictate how we occupy our own property?

The PBRLA hereby demands that Island residents be given unfettered access to their property immediately. If not, stronger measures will follow.

Gary E. Smith
Pensacola Beach Residence and Leaseholders Association

Pensacola Beach Blog: Our Temporary Home Away from Home

This "Pensacola Beach Blog" will have to be our home-away-from-home, at least for awhile. As soon as possible this beach blog will be integrated into our refurbished and revised home page at The expectation is we'll have at least one new article every day, followed by lots of news and rumors from you, the reader, along with your comments, ideas, suggestions, rants, and raves.

Those beach residents and leaseholders who would like to post more lengthy articles are invited to ask for "editor" status by emailing I'm in evacuated status out of town, working with really, really bad equipment, but with a lot of help from you readers I'll do my best to keep things fresh and moving along.

Everyone can freely post their "comments" and "replies". Please keep 'em clean.... No, let me amend that..... Please keep 'em as reasonably clean as circumstances warrant when discussing Escambia County government and the SRIA.

Start your comments right now.....