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Author: Staff Reporters

Code enforcement keeps city at standard

Bolduc defined code enforcement as compliance through education. In 2019, after the city did not have proper code enforcement for the previous 12 years, Bolduc and staff went to work going through and cleaning up the codes and ordinances to get everything in order. He said it was an important part of the city to have a minimum standard of improvement.

Bolduc cited a well-known study called The Broken Window Theory, introduced by James Wilson and George Kelling and used by Rudy Giuliani to clean up New York City. The theory suggests that when a community allows blight to continue it is an invitation to violent crime

To strengthen the connection, Bolduc showed a map of the city with the areas of non-compliance to code enforcement and next to it showed a map of where gun shots have been fired in the city. The two areas correlated.

Bolduc told the council the areas that are problematic are the ones where the property owner does not live there but rents it out. Some of these landlords refuse to bring the property up to standard.

“There has become an unacceptable level of housing being leased out. People are paying rent and they may not have floors, windows, or doors,” Bolduc said. “As the governing body it is our responsibility to ensure there is a minimum standard of housing.”

In the cases where people are living in their home, Bolduc said it takes time to educate them. Compliance officers will receive a complaint and reach out to the owner. Once proper notice has been given, the compliance officer will work with the owner to gain compliance within a reasonable amount time based on the severity of the violation. Only in cases where compliance I not reached through education and cooperation will a hearing be held.

According to Bolduc, most complaints are regarding properties that have been abandoned. He said when the homes are occupied, about 80% come into compliance.

In the presentation, Bolduc addressed the rumors directly with the following:
“The city uses code compliance to make more money.” Fiction- the purpose of the compliance process it to gain compliance through education. In 2022, the City Council agreed to set aside all fines to be used for blight removal in the community.

These funds are used to remove commercial and residential blighted buildings throughout the city.

  • “The city is going to take my home in foreclosure.” Fiction- Properties that are owned and occupied as a homestead cannot be taken in foreclosure.
  • “The city is targeting a specific person or area.” Fiction- Code compliance is a citywide program.
  • “Blight does not connect to violent crime in Crestview.” Fiction- Unfortunately, this does not appear to be true. As demonstrated in the attached map (Exhibit D), the areas that refuse to comply as shown in exhibit c are closely related to those areas where the Crestview Police Department receives “Shots Fired” calls.
  • “The city has paid for the demolition of private property.” Fact- The city currently administers three (3) different grant opportunities for the removal of blight. These are the Community Development Block Grant, Community Redevelopment Agency Blight removal and General Blight removal (funded by fines collected).

Bolduc also announced that Council members Joe Blocker and Andrew Rencich were donating their unused discretionary funds to set up a fund to help owner occupied homeowners with low to mid income levels come into compliance.
“It is essential that code compliance continues, as well as the ‘Keep Crestview Beautiful’ initiative and graffiti removal programs,” Bolduc concluded. “Empowering our community and our employees to be a part of the solution is incredibly important to the success of our code compliance program.”

Kids Street Pumpkin Patch is open

This event features a daily story time for local schools and daycares as well as small groups.

Schedule an hour or more for a group. Each group will hear a story, enjoy a snack, take a picture, and choose a pumpkin to take home. Bulk size pumpkins start at $4.00. Miniature pumpkins are also available for $1.00 each. Groups can call the church office to schedule a class/group field trip at 850-682-2018.

This fundraiser is open to the public, but reservations are needed to accommodate your class, troop, or group for Story Time. All proceeds will go to the Children’s Program to benefit their programming and Camp tuition.

Dry, windy weather in forecast, fire danger increases

“With the conditions – dry and windy – any new fire has the potential to become a problem,” David Smith, Operations Administrator for Blackwater, said. “The southern-most end of our area received some rainfall Monday evening, but we are very dry with no rain in the extended forecast.”

Current forecasts call for low humidity (below 35% during the day) for the next several days and north winds up to 20 mph. No burn authorizations will be issued for prescribed burns or pile burns until conditions improve, and residents are asked to refrain from any outdoor fire activity for the time being.

The Florida Forest Service said residents should always be prepared for the possibility of a wildfire as Florida experiences a year-round fire season that typically peaks from April to June in our area. The Florida Forest Service offers tips and advice on how to prepare yourself and your home in case you are impacted by a wildfire online at www.BeWildfireReadyFL.com.

The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than a million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests. Florida Forest Service is also responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects wildfire on more than 26 million acres. Learn more at FDACS.gov/FLForestService.  

Gulf Air Group slated to undertake significant expansion at Crestview’s Bob Sikes Airport

“Gulf Air Group has been a proud member of Okaloosa’s aviation community since 1987.  During this time we have found the aviation offerings at Crestview’s Bob Sikes Airport to be second to none, and with the recent addition of the Northwest Florida State College Aviation Center of Excellence directly across the airfield from us, it will only get better,” Tim Rhyne, President and CEO of Gulf Air Group, said.  “Although we reviewed other locations, the support of the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners, the Okaloosa County Aviation Advisory Board, the Okaloosa County Airports Department and One Okaloosa EDC made it very attractive for us to expand our Crestview maintenance operation with the new facility.”

Gulf Air Group specializes in the maintenance and operation of the L-382 Hercules aircraft – widely regarded as the most reliable, versatile and powerful aircraft for hauling oversized loads to and from remote areas. 

The company provides solutions for medium-lift cargo aircraft, maintenance, technical expertise, and research (RDT&E) for clients worldwide.  As an FAA repair station, Gulf Air focuses on high-quality, low-volume maintenance across the entire L-382-series of airplanes through our 14 CFR Part 145 Repair Station. In 2019, Rolls-Royce selected Gulf Air Group to be an Authorized Service Center for the AE2100D3 engines.

“One Okaloosa EDC applauds the decision by Gulf Air Group to undertake their competitive expansion project at Crestview’s Bob Sikes Airport,” Leslie Sheekly, Chair of One Okaloosa EDC, said. “The targeted infrastructure investments made by the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners in recent years – combined with Okaloosa’s skilled workforce bolstered by an annual pipeline of 1300 technically-trained military transitioners – continue to bear fruit in this highly prized industry sector.”

Okaloosa County Airports Director Tracy Stage said the department is very excited to see how the new aeronautical development fits in at Bob Sikes Airport.

“Gulf Air Group is well poised to further their success and are thrilled with their commitment to high wage job creation in our community – we look forward to building on our solid partnership, “ Stage said.

Mel Ponder, the chairman of the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners, welcomed the news of the expansion at the airport. He said the expansion will not only provide new opportunities to the 55 individuals who get hired, but the whole Crestview community.

“Aviation is an exciting industry sector with tremendous growth potential, and companies like Gulf Air Group continue to prove that Okaloosa is well-equipped to share in this future,” Ponder said.

Positive leadership, positive results

They knew they would not lose anything really because housing prices and property values were soaring. And they chose to give a little of that back to the residents in the form of a reduction in property taxes owed. They did what surrounding cities have not done in the same situation.

We also noticed the preservation and restoration of historic places in Crestview. The Bush House is just one example of the city honoring the past in hopes of preserving Crestview’s future.

The City just purchased two other properties to renovate, one of which is the old Crestview Post Office. We support the idea of preserving and renovating historical places in hopes of honoring and remembering the importance of where we came from.

We recently reported on the growing limits of Crestview, inviting those who own adjacent properties to the current city limits to annex into the city. The leadership has encouraged it by waiving certain annexation fees. They know that every property adds to the bottom line of the budget, so they make it as easy as possible for them to become part of the city. They are very confident in the quality of services they offer to be able to accommodate more people. It is a true win for everyone.

The mayor, JB Whitten, has such concerns over the affects the current opioid addiction is causing across the country and maybe even in the city, he has called for a symposium on the epidemic, bringing in experts to educate the community – free of charge. We are proud to be on the attendance list.

The City of Crestview is our home filled with our neighbors, co-workers and business associates. We want the absolute best for our city and the people who live, work and play in it. We are proud of the leadership shown and proud to be part of such a community.

Crestview purchases two properties

The renovations could cost up to $150,000 which was also approved out of the undesignated fund balance at the Sept. 12 city council meeting.

“We are going to save the pretty tree on the corner and the grass area will be a common area,” said city manager, Tim Bolduc.

The city is looking for pictures of what the post office used to look like when it was operating as the post office. According to Bolduc, the plan is to renovate the building with two offices and a meeting area to be used primarily for the Community Redevelopment Association (CRA) and a welcome center in the front in a restored post office. Rick Rausch, who was contracted to restore the Lorenza Bush House where the Crestview History Museum now resides, is being asked to help restore the former post office.

If you have pictures of the former post office, inside or out, please email your pictures to Brian Hughes, Cultural Services Specialist with the City of Crestview at hughesb@cityofcrestview.org or call him at 850-398-5459.

Baker stays hot with win

Wagner finished the game with 234 yards on 32 carries. In the three wins he has rushed for 729 yards on 79 carries and seven touchdowns.

Wyatt Straight added 81 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Colton Weekley ran for 10 yards and a touchdown on four rushing attempts. And Kase Armstrong made the most out of his one carry scoring a touchdown from two yards out.

Andrea Jackson had a team-best six tackles. Jace Tolbert had five tackles and Carter Glenn flexed his muscle with four tackles.

Baker (3-1) is back on the road Friday traveling to Northview to take on the Chiefs.

Look closely at open enrollment choices

Actually, it’s a good idea to pay close attention to all your benefits. Some of the offerings may have changed from last year — and you might have experienced changes in your own life, too, which might lead you to look for something different from your existing benefits package.

You may want to start with your health insurance. If you’re satisfied with your coverage, and it’s essentially the same as it’s been, you may well want to stick with what you have. However, many employers are increasingly offering high-deductible health plans, which, as the name suggests, could entail more out-of-pocket costs for you. But high-deductible plans may also offer something of benefit: the ability to contribute to a health savings account (HSA).

Your HSA contributions are made with pre-tax dollars, so they can reduce your taxable income for the year. Also, your earnings grow tax-free, and your withdrawals are tax-free, provided the money is used for qualified medical expenses. (Withdrawals taken before age 65 that aren’t used for qualified medical expenses are taxable and subject to a 20% penalty; once you reach 65, the penalty no longer applies, although withdrawals are still taxable as income if not used for a qualified expense.)

Your next benefit to consider: Life insurance. Your employer may offer a group life insurance plan, but you’ll want to evaluate whether it’s sufficient for your needs, especially if you’ve experienced changes in your personal situation over the past year, such as getting married or adding a new child. There’s no magic formula for how much life insurance you need — you’ll need to consider a variety of factors, such as your income, family size, mortgage and so on — but it may be necessary to supplement your employer’s coverage with a private policy.

Your employer may also offer disability insurance as a benefit. Some employers’ disability policies are fairly limited, covering only short periods of time, so you may want to consider a private policy.
Beyond the various insurance policies your employer may offer, you’ll also want to closely look at your 401(k) or similar retirement plan.

Typically, you can make changes to your 401(k) throughout the year, but it’s important to make sure your investment selections and contribution amounts are still aligned with your risk tolerance and goals. Also, are you contributing enough to earn your employer’s match, if one is offered? And if you’ve already receiving the match, can you still afford to put in more to your plan if such a move makes sense for you?

Your employee benefits package can be a valuable part of your overall financial strategy. So, as open enrollment season proceeds, take a close look at what you already have, what’s being offered, and what changes you need to make. It will be time well spent.

Electric bills likely to increase in 2023

If the commission approves the utilities’ proposals, each would result in higher monthly bills in 2023.

And that might not be all: The utilities also could seek to pass along higher-than-expected fuel costs from this year, though they are holding off on making such requests.

While utility bills are made up of a combination of costs, a key driver in the petitions is the high cost of natural gas, which Florida utilities rely on heavily to generate electricity. The three large privately owned utilities also increased customer bills earlier this year because of gas prices.

“Both domestic conditions and international events have significantly impacted the natural gas market,” Duke’s petition said. “Since early this year, natural gas prices have more than doubled due to increased domestic demand, flat natural gas production, strong LNG (liquefied natural gas) overseas exports, and low natural gas storage inventories. The natural gas market has not stabilized and continues to be extremely volatile.”

As an example of the industry’s heavy reliance on natural gas, Tampa Electric expects in 2003 to use gas to generate 84 percent of its electricity, with solar accounting for 11 percent and coal for 5 percent, John Heisey, director of origination and trading for the company, said in written testimony included with Tampa Electric’s petition.

Meanwhile, overall demand for natural gas exceeded supply in 2022, he said.

“Higher gas demand is driven by LNG exports, low coal inventories, extreme summer weather, and low storage inventories,” Heisey said in the testimony. “Production growth has been very slow as producers exercise capital discipline despite rising gas prices. In addition, the Ukraine invasion continues to impact the energy markets through increased volatility and uncertainty, which is expected to continue into 2023.”

The Public Service Commission is expected to consider the petitions in November. As a benchmark, utilities typically cite bills for residential customers who use 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month.

Duke said in its petition that Duke customers who use 1,000 kilowatt hours are projected to pay an average of $170.68 in 2023, up from an average of $148.23 this year. Tampa Electric said in a news release that such Tampa Electric customers would pay $146.86 in 2023, up from $132.66 this year.

Because of a merger with the former Gulf Power, FPL has two sets of rates. Its petition said customers who use 1,000 kilowatt hours a month in areas traditionally served by FPL would pay $130.23 in 2023, up from $120.67 this year. In the Northwest Florida areas formerly served by Gulf Power, customers would pay $160.43 in 2023, up from $155.61 in 2022.

Natural gas is not the only factor expected to lead to higher bills. The utilities also are carrying out multiyear plans that include gradually increasing base electric rates.

Utilities generally are allowed to pass along fuel costs to customers and are not supposed to collect profits on those costs. Each year, they file petitions that include projected costs for the coming year. The commission then decides whether those projected costs can be baked into customers’ bills.

Also, the utilities in 2023 could seek to recoup higher-than-expected fuel costs in 2022. Each has faced higher costs but said in their filings that they want to wait until late this year or early 2023 before addressing the issue.

“FPL believes it is appropriate to continue to monitor the market to determine whether the conditions and international events that have sharply impacted the natural gas market will moderate, such that a future fuel forecast may mitigate the projected fuel costs to be recovered,” FPL said in its petition Friday.

“FPL will continue to update its fuel cost calculation with additional data reflecting actual gas prices, actual sales and actual revenues. At the appropriate time toward the end of 2022 or beginning of 2023, FPL will file a request for recovery based on an updated calculation, to be considered by the commission in early 2023 for implementation following the customer notice period.”

Duke and Tampa Electric issued news releases acknowledging what Tampa Electric President and CEO Archie Collins described as the “unique economic challenges our customers and communities are facing.”

They also pointed to efforts to help customers struggling to pay bills.

“We understand our customers continue facing increased financial demands in all parts of their lives,” Melissa Seixas, Duke’s state president, said in a statement. “We’re connecting customers to available assistance and providing energy-saving tools and programs to help manage their bills and lessen the impact. Please reach out to us. We’re here to help.”

– Story written by News Service of Florida

Music for a monarch’s funeral: Queen Elizabeth’s music maestro once visited Crestview mayor

Jones’s was a rather grand title for a rather modest man who had a 40-year career in the British military.

“I started out as an enlistee who ended at the top,” he told Cadle. “I am immensely honored. It’s a complete privilege to be responsible for the music of the nation.”

Selecting appropriate music for a beloved monarch’s funeral processions from Westminster to Buckingham Palace, and then on to Windsor Castle was a difficult task that took many months of auditioning selections and presenting them for approval.

“There’s only a handful of really good funeral marches,” Jones said.

Details ironed out over many years included such minutia as precisely when the Coldstream Guards would strike up each piece of painstakingly selected music. Sometimes, as director, Jones’s back would be to the ceremonial processions, so another visual cue would be needed. One such cue was when the rear tire of a particular vehicle that was within his vision began to move.

Jones retired shortly before his visit to Crestview, more than five years before Queen Elizabeth passed away Sept. 8. The Coldstream Guard’s current band director is tasked with continuing the preparations he had begun, but he regaled Cadle with other stories of brushes with the royal household.

He fondly recalled discussing the merits of different composers and music selections with the late Prince Phillip at a cocktail party and having Queen Elizabeth compliment him on a selection he chose for her 90th birthday celebration in 2016. (It was Jean-Joseph Mouret’s “Rondeau,” familiar to Americans as the theme music to “Masterpiece Theatre.”)

Jones and his concert band played music for ceremonies and events throughout the United Kingdom, with a repertoire extending far beyond “God Save the Queen,” the national anthem for which England’s American cousins borrowed the music for our “My Country ’Tis of Thee.”

Cadle, a former Crestview High School band director, sympathized with his guest’s stories about being in an uncomfortable spotlight when all eyes are on the band he’s directing. His two mantras, Jones said, are “Failure is not an option” and, to assure a success, “Train, train, train.”

“Performing state ceremonials is like being in a goldfish bowl,” he said.

Such lessons hit home with students in the Shoal River Middle School Mustang Band, for whom Jones, visiting the Emerald Coast as an adjudicator for the Panama City Beach Music Festival, instructed a master class during his day in Crestview.

“He’s revered in band circles,” Cadle said. “For someone of his stature to visit with us is quite a feather in our caps.”

Renowned English band leader Lt. Col. (ret.) Dr. Graham Jones conducts as master class for the Mustang Band at Shoal River Middle School during his April 2017 visit to Crestview.

Students got to learn more than just music performance techniques from the visiting master. A bit of British history and culture got worked in during a question-and-answer opportunity. Jones also had praise for then-Mustang Band music teacher Kim Whaley, who now helps direct the Big Red Machine.

“They are a really talented bunch of students, but talent comes from good leadership,” Jones said. “She’s very good. I’ll take back fond memories of Shoal River Middle School.”

It’s not the only fond memory he took back to England. Cadle took Jones to lunch at Desi’s Restaurant, a Main Street landmark eatery renowned for its lunch buffet. Cadle said it was the first time in Jones’ life he experienced banana pudding.

“That stuff is marvelous!” Jones said.