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Chamber Backs Three Projects For RESTORE Funding

Three Escambia County projects out of 124 proposed for RESTORE Act funding are getting the backing of the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce.

Under the court settlement with BP over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Florida is getting $3.25 billion: $2 billion for economic losses, and $1.25 billion for natural resource claims. Northwest Florida gets most of that, including $70 million for Escambia County.

“This was a process we went through with our policy committee. They went through and vetted the projects initially, and these were the final three approved by the board,” said Todd Thompson, the Chamber’s executive director of public affairs.

One of the proposals, Project 26, would serve two purposes if funded. Also known as the OLF-8 project, it would convert an old military training facility to a commerce center. Plus, it could pave the way to upgrade local military aviation to protect bases from any future rounds of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).

“There’s currently a swap going on, with the property that’s out near Navy Federal [Credit Union] and some property near Whiting Field,” said Thompson. “The idea would be to use the property adjacent to Navy Federal.

Project 26 would cost about $19 million. But the only portion endorsed by the Chamber is the Master Plan, which would cost $600,000.

Another is listed as Project 50: reopening Berth-6 at the Port of Pensacola to cargo activity. The closure has reduced operational capacity by 20%, which in turn cut productivity and provided one less space for visiting ships. Port Director Amy Miller says it’s the oldest dock, built in the 1960s, that’s not undergone a makeover.

“The decking would be removed, the pilings that support the decking would be repaired,” said Miller. “After those repairs were done, the contractor would put a new deck. It’s estimated to be about a $15 million project.”

The Port is seeking RESTORE funding to pay for 25% of the project. That money would be used to leverage federal and state grants to cover the remainder.

The third Chamber-endorsed submission is Project 104: Project AIMS. Phase one would expand job training opportunities for 400 residents, a quarter of them low-income from targeted areas.

“One of the things we consistently hear about is that there’s a need for more workforce development training,” said Thompson.

Those and the 121 other submitted projects are now being ranked by the RESTORE Advisory Committee. Afterward, the Escambia County Commission will make the call on which ones to fund. Thompson says there’s no specific time frame.

After the County Commission makes its decisions, they’ll be sent to the U.S. Treasury Department. No groundbreakings are expected until the latter part of this year.

You can read about all the projects here.