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Escambia RESTORE Projects Rated

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  Another step is taken in funding projects in Escambia County, with RESTORE Act money from the BP oil spill.

Two waterway restoration projects top the preliminary list submitted to the Escambia County RESTORE Advisory Committee, involving City Creek and Eleven Mile Creek Stream.

“Information that was provided for the criteria for the selection of projects was given to the public; [and] an application form was provided for them to fill out online,” said Mike Hanson, Project Manager for the consulting firm Dewberry, which ranked and scored the proposals.

The Fairfax, Virginia-based firm performed a technical review, looking at how adequately each applicant responded to the questions.

“To determine the viability of the project, the budget of the project, the schedule, those types of things,” Hanson said. “We applied a numeric score based on the ranges that were agreed to with the RESTORE Advisory Committee. Then provided that to the committee as a preliminary ranking.”

Dewberry selected nine projects from a total of 124 proposals in three categories: infrastructure, environment and economic. The total cost is almost $325 million. The proposals were also ranked according to their budgets.

The scores are being submitted to the 11-member committee. Keith Wilkins, Escambia County’s Community and Environment director, says they’re result of three years’ work in areas such as needs assessment and selection criteria.

“Points were applied to those criteria for scoring applications as applications were submitted,” said Wilkins. “That way, the applicants would know what their responses were, how they’d be scored and evaluated in the process.”

The data are being crunched and readied for the committee’s next meeting on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, Wilkins is working on his own rankings, which he says are based on his “gut analysis.”

“Kind of a good look at the strengths and weaknesses of our process, because there were some surprises there, both good and bad,” said Wilkins. “My evaluation fit in with that. So with respect to that, I was on with some and off with some.”

After the RESTORE Advisory Committee’s three public hearings next month, the projects go to the Escambia County Commission, and then to the U.S. Treasury Department. No groundbreakings are expected until the latter part of 2016.

In Santa Rosa County, public input meetings are underway for its 15 RESTORE Act proposals, which range from construction of part of a Quinn Street Marina, to the paving of dirt roads. Total cost is $3.7 million, with the same amount in matching third-party contributions.