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Council Member Calls For Port Of Pensacola Study

Port of Pensacola

The Pensacola City Council is expected to continue discussion on Mayor Ashton Hayward’s proposed budget Monday afternoon, which includes $100,000 for a study of the Port of Pensacola. 

At issue is what do with the property originally set aside for construction of the DeepFlex facility to make pipe for offshore oil rigs. That plan has been scrapped, along with its 200 jobs. Councilwoman Sherri Myers proposes the study, in large part because of the DeepFlex failure. 

“We’re talking about 50 acres of land, and we need to find out about how our enterprise is doing,” said Myers. “A realistic and truthful assessment; what is the best future for our port, and the property that it’s on.”

The port’s also seeing general declines in business due to a slump in the offshore oil industry. Myers’ plan stems from a conversation with Port Director Amy Miller, at a council budget workshop two weeks ago.

The Council twice voted 5-1 last month, giving tentative approval of the $216 million spending plan, and for taking money from the port’s funding for the study. Myers expects the study to serve as an information source about the port for both her and her colleagues.

“I think that the future of the port can be very exciting,” Myers said. “But we need to make sure that, as an enterprise, it’s doing the best job it can. Because we don’t want to have to subsidize it as we have in the past.”

Port Director Amy Miller was unavailable for comment on this story. 

Almost $4 billion is projected to go to Florida’s seaports over the next five years, to handle growing international trade. 

“For Pensacola’s part of that, it’s all based on five-year capital plans that each of the ports submit every year,” said Miller earlier this year. “Pensacola’s current five-year capital calls for about $21 million in capital improvements over the next five years.”

The state's budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 includes $153 million for port projects administered by the Department of Transportation. Any projected state funding requires 50% matches from the local ports.

Another development being watched by Miller and other port officials is what the thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba could mean for business. Prior to the 1961 embargo, Pensacola had a very lucrative relationship with Havana, going back centuries.

“Product moving out of the Port of Pensacola to Havana was probably the majority of the Port’s business back in those days,” said Miller. “The embargo could be lifted tomorrow, and you’re still looking at a Cuba that has no buying power. My personal opinion is that their tourism sector is going to grow first.”

When it comes to studying the port, Councilwoman Sherri Myers’ main question appears to be over the facility’s economic impact, both locally and regionally.

“My hope is that we would convene a committee to hire a consultant to look at the port,” said Myers. “The committee would include the port director, the mayor and other people appointed by the city council.”

The Council is scheduled to discuss further the budget, and the $100,000 for the port study. That meeting begins at 3:30 Monday afternoon at City Hall.