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Concert causes concern for Commission

By By Bill Crist, Special to The Advance
With only 10 items on the agenda, commissioners might have thought that Monday morning's meeting of the Escambia County Commission would be a short one. Chairman Larry White corrected that misconception at the outset, though, saying that there were several more items that needed to be discussed at the meeting.
Commissioner Todd Williamson brought up one of those items when he suggested that the group look into "public mass gatherings." The event that prompted Williamson's concern was a concert held July 4 off of Old Castleberry Road.
"We need to check into what we can do," Williamson said. "Once we got notified, by accident, there was no way of governing."
Williamson said he wasn't necessarily against the concert, but that he had concerns about safety at the event and protecting those who are in attendance as well as residents who live in the area. He was also concerned because the county was not notified in advance by concert organizers. Some reports said concert organizers hoped to attract a crowd of 10,000, although the sheriff's department reported attendance at closer to 250 at its peak.
"Not knowing about it, we need a governing hand in what goes on," he said.
White agreed, saying that it was an issue that needed more research.
"Mandating security measures, toilet facilities, food vendors, those type of regulations need to be looked into," White said.
"We need to check with various sources and see if there's something we can do," said Commissioner David Stokes. "We're not equipped to handle that spontaneously. We need to look into it now since it has happened."
The commission voted unanimously to appoint White and Williamson to a committee to study the issue.
Also added to the agenda, was a discussion about the tax abatement for Goodway Refining. County Administrator Tony Sanks said that on Feb. 23, 2998, the commission agreed to a tax abatement for the refinery. He said that the estimated costs at the time turned out to be low and that the Alabama Department of Revenue was trying to collect unabated taxes.
According to Sanks the state's attorney general has previously offered an opinion that an agreement could be entered into now that would abate all non-educational taxes.
The Department of Revenue is classifying some items as personal property, Sanks told the commissioners. The commission voted unanimously to extend the abatement.
On a split vote, the commission agreed to transfer the retail beer license for Barbara's Place on Freemanville Road. According to commissioner Wiley Tait, the license is transferring from father to son and that he had talked to several people who did not foresee a problem with the transfer.
Tait, James (Junior) Hall and Stokes all voted in favor of the motion, Williamson abstained and White voted against the transfer.
The commission also voted to replace Bill Smith on the Escambia County E911 District Board with James Bradbury.
In other business the commission voted to:
– pay July accounts payable;
– ratified making July 5 a county employee holiday and
– voted to post 25 mile per hour speed limit signs on Spring Hill Drive and Payne Street. Currently there are no posted speed limits, meaning the speed limit is 45 miles per hour. Williamson said the streets are high density residential areas and needed the posted limits.