by Will Isern
Gulf Breeze Mayor Matt Dannheisser was pressured into withdrawing a request he made to the Florida Department of Transportation to receive design proposals and have a public meeting for the new Pensacola Bay Bridge.
FDOT recently denied a similar records request submitted by the Pensacola News Journal.
Escambia County District 4 Commissioner Grover C. Robinson, acting as a go-between to contact Dannheisser, passed along concerns from West Florida Regional Planning Council staff and FDOT District 3 Secretary Tommy Barfield’s office to the mayor in a phone conversation June 10. That was two days after Dannheisser and Robinson sat in a meeting as members of the Florida-Alabama Transportation Planning Organization. Robinson warned Dannheisser that if he did not withdraw the request, the funding to build the new bridge could be jeopardized.
“He called and mentioned about withdrawing the request and I said it was probably better to talk with Buz,” Dannheisser said Tuesday, referring to City Manager Edwin “Buz” Eddy.
Dannheisser made the request at the June 8 transportation planning meeting that FDOT provide him with the proposals it had received for the new bridge as of a May 5 deadline. State law provides that “sealed bids, proposals, or replies” received by a state agency in response to a competitive bid process become public record 30 days after they are opened. Dannheisser made a verbal request to receive the proposals to FDOT engineer Kerrie Harrell during the TPO meeting, arguing the 30-day window had passed. The News Journal submitted a similar request on June 10.
But two days after the TPO meeting, Dannheisser sent an email to Harrell withdrawing his request, writing that he did not, “want to take any action that might jeopardize the project or its funding, or cause a delay in the process.” Dannheisser copied Barfield, state Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and Eddy on the email, as well as one of Gaetz’s assistants. [READ MORE]