Community coalition building for Escambia County groups seeking BP Oil Spill Restore Act funding was recommended by Dewberry Consultants, LLC at a meeting held Friday September 19th at the Center for Independent (CIL) Living Disability Resource Center. Sheri Myers, Pensacola City Councilwoman, organized the meeting in her role as the Advocacy Outreach Coordinator for the Center with its Executive Director Frank Cherry. She and Cherry have injected new energy in the Escambia County Restore Act funding process by once again reaching out and organizing disabled and minority residents of Escambia County to increase their involvement.
Dewberry Consultants were hired by Escambia County to develop the strategic plan and the funding application for county organizations to receive grants from the penalties to be placed on BP Oil for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and the many gallons of which polluted the Gulf of Mexico. Bryon Griffith, a Dewberry Vice President, served in the federal government for over thirty years at the Environmental Protection Agency. Griffith worked as Executive Director of the Gulf Program during that career assisting community advocacy groups to stay ahead of the agency’s regulatory initiatives.
The CIL Disability Resource Center served in a joint convener role with the Gulf Coast African American Chamber during the Natural Resource Disaster Assessment (NRDA) hearings to determine the funding of projects early in 2014. Many projects emerged from that public engagement effort including the $18 million funding of Gulf Marine Fish Hatchery at Bruce Beach just west of the Community Maritime Park on Main Street in Pensacola Bay. Sherri Myers organized the meeting on September 19th to reinvigorate the coalition and invite representatives from the larger disabled and minority community to participate.
The CIL assists individuals with disabilities achieve their goals of independence. Their programs and services provide a resource library, referrals for community services, peer mentoring, referrals for housing or home modifications, independent living skill training, free loans of wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. Myers heads the advocacy program assisting clients to know their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. She and Frank Cherry expanded the reach of the CIL by advocating that the Escambia County Restore Act Advisory Committee and the County Commission hire a consulting firm that knew the disability laws. Thus, when the dust settled on the consulting selection process Dewberry was chosen for the job.
The next steps by the CIL and those groups present at the Dewberry presentation is to hold a RESTORE Act planning session to continue the organizing of the disabled and minority community and developing strategies for seeking funding for projects and programs to meet community needs. For more information on the RESTORE Act coalition contact Frank Cherry of Sherri Myers at (850) 595-384-2055.