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Author: Hansen Hasenberg

Community Life celebrates recovery

CLC’s Celebrate Recovery was started on January 24, 2022, and has been growing ever since. It averages around 40 people a night, according to Steve Shates, who leads the ministry at CLC.

Shates also serves as a state representative of the organization.

Celebrate Recovery started in 1991 at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. According to their website, Celebrate Recovery’s very first meeting had 43 people attend. Now, after more than 30 years at Saddleback, they have served 27,000 people.

According to Shates, Celebrate Recovery is a nondenominational ministry and because of this, it has expanded rapidly to churches of all types.

There are now over 35,000 churches with Celebrate Recovery ministries across the world. According to the find a group map on their national website, there are 13 churches within a 50-mile radius of Pensacola that have a Celebrate Recovery program. There is even one on Hurlburt Field.

“I have been on mission trips around the world, teaching pastors about it and how to bring Celebrate Recovery to their congregations,” Shates said.

Shates says that the biggest thing that holds back people from getting the help they need is the stigma attached to being associated with addiction.

“Some people think that others will think they are an alcoholic or drug addict, but that’s not true,” Shates said. “This is for anyone dealing with disfunction in their marriage, relationships, and in life.”

According to Shates, only 30% who attend have substance abuse issues. He says that no matter what someone faces, the program helps open communication about topics that are quite often not discussed due to embarrassment or out of fear that it will negatively impact the way a person is viewed.

Shates brought the idea of starting a Celebrate Recovery at CLC to Pastor Scott Veroneau in March 2021 and it was met with enthusiasm. Later, Kat Siler, the church’s adult discipleship director, got involved with the creation of the ministry too.

According to Shates, it was a long process to set it up. He says that having the support of church leaders was important and that they were able to make it happen because of that support.

“We took the idea of ‘go and make disciples of the world’ and put it to work in our church,” Shates said. “In Celebrate Recovery, everybody greets each other like family.”

Shates says that they consider one another to be “forever family.”

While family plays a large part in Celebrate Recovery, the CLC’s version of the ministry is adult only as of right now. Currently, the group meets for two hours each Monday. The first hour of the meeting features a teaching lesson or testimony from the program literature. That is done in a large group.

The second hour is more issue specific and is done in smaller groups. Usually these smaller groups are separated along the lines of gender or background, such as Welcome Home, which provides a safe space for military members and first responders to talk about things they go through.

While there are many 12 step programs out there, the big difference between those and Celebrate Recovery is the emphasis on God’s role in people’s lives.

“Secular programs are vague about a higher power,” Shates said. “Our program features Jesus at the center.”

Shates says that despite the program having a Christ based message, a person attending does not have to be Christian or even believe in God.
“People see Jesus in what we do and then they may want to know more,” Shates said.

Shates recalls that at another church he attended with a Celebrate Recovery ministry there was an atheist who started coming to meetings. According to Shates, the atheist had been in a failing marriage and was looking to turn it around by overcoming her issues with adultery.

One day, after being involved with the program for some time, she said that she was a believer in Christ. Shates says that those in the room, who had grown to know the woman, were stunned silent by the admission.

“We always say ‘I am a follower of Jesus and these are my issues,’ and when she said it, you could hear a pen drop,” Shates said. “We knew God was gonna do the work and he did.”

According to Shates, he became involved with Celebrate Recovery because of his own battle with addiction. He says that he got clean in 1987 after a long and arduous struggle with drugs.

“I started drinking at an early age,” Shates said. “My parents would be having parties and I would bring beer from the fridge to them. Somewhere along the way, I started drinking.”

Shates began with cigarettes and then started to turn to alcohol, marijuana and downs. By 17, Shates was a full blown heroin addict. It was not until he turned 32, that Shates got off drugs.

He was jobless, penniless, homeless and hopeless during that period of his life. Shates says that he was a lost soul, the kind of man that you hear about going down the wrong path and never coming back.

“Its been a long, dark path,” Shates said. “I didn’t think I could be forgiven.”

But God had different plans.

After getting clean through a secular 12 step program, Shates was free from addiction, but he felt that something was lacking. He says that he had tried to fill the “void” in his heart with all kinds of things, but nothing sufficed. In the early 2000s, a friend told Shates about a Bible study for recovering addicts at a church outside of Nashville called Long Hollow Church.

Shates admits that he was skeptical of whether the church group would be as inviting to him once they found out all the things he had done in his life.

“The leader of the study asked what brought me there and I told them everything,” Shates said. “I gave them the rated R version of what I had experienced. I thought they would reject me and not want me back, but they accepted me.”

Shates kept coming back to Long Hollow and in 2004, accepted Christ as his personal savior. In 2005, the church started a Celebrate Recovery. Shates was at that church up until he moved to the Navarre area just four years ago.

“The piece of the puzzle in my heart was found,” Shates said. “Jesus has changed my heart to a place where I am no longer that person I was before.”

Shates hopes that CLC’s Celebrate Recovery provides that same kind of thing for those who attend.

For those interested in attending, Celebrate Recovery meets Monday nights at 6 p.m. at 4115 Soundside Drive in Gulf Breeze. Check on https://www.clc.life/ for further information.

Body found in Jake’s Bayou identified as Louisiana man

James, 32, is a resident of Lacombe, Louisiana and, according to Johnson, was killed in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. Three individuals, including the victim’s brother, were arrested on June 14 and have been charged with second degree murder in St. Tammany Parish.

“We get a lot of hits on Facebook asking if there is a murderer running around Santa Rosa County,” Johnson said. “This case is pretty much closed.”

Johnson credits the county’s major crimes unit with the quick resolution of the case. According to Johnson, Santa Rosa’s major crimes unit went to the Louisiana on June 15 to help serve a search warrant with law enforcement in the parish. While serving the warrant, investigators found what they believe to be the crime scene.

In addition to thanking the major crimes unit, Johnson also thanked St. Tammany Parish for their cooperation in the joint investigation and the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office for helping with body identification.

When asked why the men chose Santa Rosa County, Johnson said that there was no clear reason.

“This was a routine body dump,” Johnson said. “They picked a random location in Santa Rosa County, which unfortunately for them, our major crimes unit is very good.”

According to the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, detectives learned that the three men arrested for the murder of Joshua James had allegedly beaten the victim and then drove to Florida to dump the body. They also allegedly attempted to hide the crime by destroying evidence.

Johnson says that he is not looking to bring forward any Santa Rosa County related charges and that the case will be fully prosecuted in the state of Louisiana.

Tough road ahead: Truckers feel brunt of gas prices

Just this past week, AAA announced that the national average for a gallon of regular gas was $5.004, a record high. While the soaring prices at the pump affect everybody who drives, they especially impact the trucking industry. Truckers use diesel, which is at an average of $5.765 a gallon nationally as of June 11, according to AAA.

Diesel costs more than regular gasoline due to the differences in federal excise taxes between the two. The tax on diesel is 24.3 cents per gallon, which is six cents more per gallon than the tax on gasoline. As of January 1, 2022, the average of total state taxes and fees for on-highway diesel fuel was 32.66 cents per gallon according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

According to Alix Miller, Ph.D., the president and CEO of the Florida Trucking Association, fuel is the trucking industry’s second largest expense, only behind labor.

“These recent spikes in diesel fuel prices have a real and significant impact on our industry,” Miller said. “Record-high prices have real, direct and direct implications on trucking and the consumer.”

Diesel powers trucks that deliver consumer goods, manufacturing products, agricultural products and so much more. With supply chain issues already facing Americans, the high price of diesel threatens to exacerbate the problem.

While consumers certainly feel the aftereffects of diesel price increases, the trucking companies, 97% of which are small businesses, are hit even harder. Miller says that trucking companies do use fuel surcharges to alleviate some of the costs, but they only cover 60-70% of price increases.

The small trucking businesses have less negotiating power than bigger companies for things like freight contracts and purchasing fuel.

While not technically a company that has any truckers, Panhandle Trucking and Logistics in Crestview has been working in the industry since 2012. According to Leah Jarriel, co-owner of Panhandle Trucking and Logistics, her business is a truck broker. In other words, they help facilitate the transfer of goods by acting as a sort of go-between between truckers and customers who need something moved.

Panhandle Trucking and Logistics works with 20 or more regular customers and helps facilitate 250 loads a year. According to Jarriel, they deal with owner/operators and full-scale trucking companies.

Jarriel says that the gas prices impact both sides that she and her business deal with.

“It has been very volatile,” Jarriel said. “Carriers have to know what their costs will be so that they can give a quote to a customer.”

Without truckers and carriers being able to give a quote due to fluctuating prices, the truckers, the customers, and the brokers are all left in a sort of limbo.

“If I give a quote today for freight in six weeks,” Jarriel said, “how do I know what the rates are going to be then.”
Jarriel considers this whole inflation situation surrounding gas prices to be a “trickle down problem.” Gas prices go up, trucker fees go up, the quote for carrying a load goes up, and then those costs at the customer and later, consumer levels, also go up. This leaves everyone having to decide whether it is worth the cost, especially owner/operator truckers.

One of those truckers who is feeling the brunt of inflation at the pump is Paul Coleman. Along with his son, Coleman owns a trucking company called PM Coleman Hauling LLC out of Walnut Hill in Escambia County. PM Coleman Hauling LLC began in June 2021.

“Things are bad, some companies are shutting down,” Coleman said. “These prices have cut into our profit bad.”

According to Coleman, his company is an owner/operator hot shot trucking business, and they travel across the country. Hot Shot trucking, according to truckstop.com, is when truckers haul smaller, more time-sensitive less than truckload (LTL) loads within a specific timeframe and usually to a single customer or location.

Coleman, who has driven big trucks on and off for 25 years, drives to places across the Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, and out west, but he tries to avoid California because of the high gas prices.

When Coleman spoke with me on June 10, he was in Smithfield, North Carolina on a hauling trip. He told me that diesel cost nearly $6.00 there during our phone call. According to Gasbuddy.com, a website that tells people gas pricing information from across the United States, diesel cost $5.69 in Smithfield on June 10.

According to Coleman, he usually needs 1200 gallons a month for his business. At $6.00 a gallon, that would amount to $7200.

With the added costs of things like food, hotel stays, and other business expenses, truckers have to adjust and haul more. Coleman says that truckers are trying to haul two to three things or more with each load to turn enough of a profit.

“Right now, if you don’t get a good load, then it isn’t worth the trip,” Coleman said. “It really hurts small businesses like us.”

Coleman also says that the trucking industry is hurting due to “team drivers.” These team drivers have “swamped” the industry in recent years, according to Coleman, and do the same loads for cheaper prices than businesses like Coleman’s. They are called “team drivers” because they have a crew who swaps out who is driving, which also saves time.

“If things don’t change, I’ll have to shut down,” Coleman said. “I honestly don’t know what to do.”
Coleman hopes that all those involved in the trucking business, from truck stops to brokers to the truckers themselves, can come together and figure out better prices for all.

“Lots of people wonder why shelves at Walmart and other stores are empty, now you know,” Coleman said. “If it keeps going this way, people are going to see their shelves a lot emptier.”

Bus stop changes coming for Santa Rosa students

Starting this fall, students in Santa Rosa County may have to walk longer distances to get to their bus stop. At the May school board meeting, the board approved of a proposed change to the distance between the bus stops.

The proposal was for the transport of all students K-5 grade stops to be set at up to a half mile and grade six through 12 to be set at one mile. Kindergarten students will be met at bus stops by a parent or guardian and there will be no change to ESE routes or stops.

All these distances are the maximum distance a student could walk from their home to the stop, not every student will walk the maximum distance.

Before the changes, the criteria for bus stops were door to door for kindergarten, 400 feet for grades one through five, 1,000 feet for grades six to 12, and ESE related stops were done in accordance with the student’s IEP. Up until 2009, bus stops were almost all door to door.

According to the school district, about 50% of all enrolled students ride buses. That equates to nearly 6,486 stops, including door to door for Kindergarten and stops at 400 feet or less.

With the changes, the school district expects a reduction in missed instructional time, a reduction in the number of bus routes that would need to be split because of driver shortage, a reduction in the number of miles driven and fuel used by buses, and an increase in the district’s on-time percentage to about 95%.

According to the school district, rural areas like Jay, Central, and Munson will not see much change with the new policy. They attribute this to the fact that these areas are sparsely populated, and the houses tend to be further apart.

The changes will be made gradually over the summer and the new busing stops proposal will go into effect by the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year. On Friday, June 17, routes and stops will be finalized in the routing system. Between then and July 15, transportation will be driving each of the new routes and stopping at each new stop to ensure the route and stop are safe.

On Friday, July 22, the district will send a mailer home to parents of students registered in the transportation system letting them know their bus number, drop-off and pickup times and locations. These lists and maps will also be sent to schools in the district so they can inform families that register for school after the mailers are sent.

Title One shakeup in School District

Schools can lose or gain Title I status, which is what happened to several schools in Santa Rosa County.

West Navarre Intermediate School and Oriole Beach Elementary School lost their Title I status for the upcoming 2022-2023 school year. This shakeup has also led to Hobbs Middle School and Milton High School becoming Title I schools.

Title I funds are handed out to schools to offset poverty when it comes to educational opportunities. Patti McKnight, who is director of Federal Programs for the district, says that students who live in poverty have been found to have trouble learning and are at risk of being left behind academically. These funds are provided to try and level the playing field.

Each school creates a school improvement plan that the Department of Education reviews. In these plans, schools detail how they would use funds to better the education of their students.

According to McKnight, these can include professional development for teachers to improve math scores of students, math or reading focused events like STEM nights, and the development of parent resource teachers who work directly with parents to help facilitate better learning both at school and at home.

In one school, McKnight noted, they use funds from Title I to buy telescopes and books to help bolster science education and hold an astronomy based science night.

Private schools also can participate and receive Title I funds. McKnight’s Office monitors them more than public schools, and they receive funds based on per pupil, whereas public schools receive funds per school. According to McKnight, there are two private schools associated with the district.

“Our schools do a great job with money, based on results, its clearly spent in the right way,” McKnight said.

Title I status is determined year to year and is based on the number of students who have free or reduced lunch. Free and reduced lunch is the chief indicator of poverty rate as food insecurity hits at one of the basic needs for people. They want to make sure needs are filled, even the most basic like food. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they had to base Title I status off other poverty indicators.

Once funds are received at the district level, they are disbursed based on a Department of Education formula.

As previously stated, schools create improvement plans to show how they would use federal funds. They do this because schools must spend the money in certain ways depending on whether the funds fall under the category of allowable or unallowable.

According to a No Child Left Behind program from the Texas Education Agency, allowable expenditures address specific needs, upgrade the educational program of a campus or class, and are supplemental to other nonfederal programs.

Unallowable expenditures do not meet the same criteria. For example, an allowable cost for a field trip may include a trip to the local library to increase access to high-interest reading materials whereas an unallowable cost might be a field trip that is not part of a teacher’s lesson plan or that do not meet the instructional objectives of the grant program.

According to school district documentation of the revised final fiscal year 2021-2022, the total allocation of Title I funds for the past school year were $4,192,763. McKnight says that the total the district receives is around $4.1 million annually. The allocation of these funds is based on number of students who fit the criteria.

The year to year nature of Title I funds means they must be spent between July 1 and June 30 of the following year.

“There are a lot of requirements and monitoring that goes along with it,” McKnight said.
Any school that has 75% of its student population in poverty is automatically qualified for Title I funding says McKnight. As of right now, Santa Rosa County does not have any schools that fit that category.

In fact, the overall poverty rate is going down across Santa Rosa County. In 2016, the district wide poverty rate was 45.33%. Now it stands at 40.86% according to McKnight.

McKnight attributes this reduction, at least in part, to the housing market. Due to a lack of affordable housing in Santa Rosa County, mostly affluent or higher income earners are moving in.

According to the Santa Rosa County housing market report from Rocket Homes, a part of Rocket Mortgage, the median list price for a house in April was $354,865.

In the same report, real estate listing prices from March 2022 to April 2022 went up by 33.2% for a one bedroom property, 16.9% for two bedroom properties, 20.8% for three bedroom properties, 23.8% for a four bedroom property, and 28.1% for a five bedroom property.

This all means that the district schools will receive less Title I funds, as the funds are tied to poverty level of students.

“With the continued changes in demographics,” McKnight said, “we will continue to see that kind of change.”

This is not necessarily a net negative or positive but just a fact of where funds go and to whom.
Something to watch in the future will be the changes that the school district is going through in the next five years and beyond. With new schools being built and opened, where certain students go to school will change and effect which schools are Title I and which are not.

“There has been so much change lately,” McKnight said. “The more people are aware, the better for us, I think.”

Vietnam Vets to receive proper welcome home at Heroes Honor Festival

While most of these veterans upon returning home from war get a hero’s welcome, there was no such welcome for Vietnam veterans.

“It was not a good time, soldiers were not looked upon with much admiration or regard,” Sonny Decker said.

Sonny Decker is a Vietnam veteran and Legionnaire with American Legion Post 382 in Navarre. Decker served in the Army as an enlisted soldier for four years during the early to mid-1970s. He was in Vietnam, near the border of Laos, from June 1972 to June 1973, where he served as a medic for his squadron.

Decker was drafted but decided to sign up as a volunteer shortly after. Growing up outside of Louisville, Kentucky, Decker was one of 11 siblings. In his high school, he was part of the ROTC program and his oldest brother served in the Army during the Korean War.

“Army just kind of runs through our blood,” Decker said. “Seemed like I was always training to be in the Army.”

Despite his familiarity with the military, nothing could prepare him for life during wartime.

As a medic, he was witness to many of the terrible things that war has to offer.

“I saw lots of things a young man should not have to see,” Decker said, “and I’ve done things, a young man shouldn’t have to do.”

After serving for a year in Vietnam, he was sent back stateside and into a whole different battle, one over culture and politics.

As anyone who has read a history book or lived through that time will tell you, the Vietnam War was not without controversy. From how the United States entered the war to how the government ran the war to war crimes like My Lai, the conflict in Vietnam divided Americans and there were many who felt that those fighting overseas were complicit in the worse aspects of the war.

Of course, not every soldier committed war crimes or even chose to fight. Soldiers like Decker, who felt a patriotic duty to serve his country, went to Vietnam to try and help, but this did not change how they were viewed when they got back home.

“Airports were not a very friendly place,” Decker said. “We were instructed to take off our uniforms and put on civilian clothing when returning home.”

Decker says that while they tried to blend in, people would often notice the fact that they were in the military due to their short hair and the fact that most were in their early twenties.

What got Decker through that period was his church in his hometown.
“My home church gave me the warmest welcome,” Decker said. “They put an arm of love around us when we came back home.”
Decker was one of four members of Zion Baptist Church in Jefferson County, Kentucky, to go to Vietnam.

All four returned and had to deal with what they each went through.

While it has been over 50 years, some wounds, physical or mental, have never truly healed for Vietnam veterans.

Although nothing can change the past, a group of veterans and patriots have created an event to hopefully write a new chapter in the legacy of Vietnam’s veterans. On May 27 and May 28, Vietnam veterans will take over the Daytona International Speedway for the Heroes Honor Festival.

According to the festival’s website, the goal of the event is to honor and celebrate Vietnam Veterans who didn’t receive a warm welcome home when they returned following their time in overseas.

The event will feature guests of honor associated with the Vietnam era such as Chris Noel, an entertainer who worked with Armed Forces Radio and Television as the “Voice of Vietnam,” and those associated with the military such as Lt. General Jerry Boykin, one of original members of the US Army Delta Force.

On top of the guests of honor the festival will include activities like military flyovers, Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom, and a family zone including a Ferris wheel. Rolling Thunder Inc. is a non-profit focused on bringing attention to POW/MIA issues. There will also be a concert on Saturday, May 28 featuring country music stars like Craig Morgan and Toby Keith.

Decker says the event looks bigger than any veteran event he has attended.

“As far as I know, there has never been something of this magnitude,” Decker said.

Veterans from across the United States, especially from the Southeast, will attend the festival.
American Legion Post 382, located at 1850 Luneta St., will be sending 10 Vietnam veterans and their spouses to the festival. Post 382 is fully funding their transportation and lodging for the trip.

“I first heard about this festival at an American Legion Riders summit in February,” Jason Skobel said. “Right then and there, I knew we needed to get our guys to that.”

Skobel is retired Air Force and is the director of the American Legion Riders Post 382. American Legion Riders is an organization of veteran bikers within the American Legion.

According to Skobel, American Legion Post 382 is spending $5,000 of their own funds to send the veterans. That money is going towards transportation and lodging.

Decker feels very appreciative of his fellow Post 382 Legionnaires and what they have done for him.

“I think it is a marvelous endeavor,” Decker said. “It is very heartwarming.”

Decker has been with the American Legion for 25 years and has been a member of Post 382 ever since he moved here a decade ago. He is proud of the work they do to try and help veterans and the community including the Challenge 22 event.

Skobel is also going to attend the festival. In fact, he is driving several of the veterans to Daytona in a 15- passenger van.

“I look forward to seeing all the veterans getting the recognition and celebrating them,” Skobel said. “Its terrible that it took 50 years, but it is never too late to show someone appreciation for what they’ve done for their country.”

Heroes Honor Festival is open to the public and tickets are available for all. Vietnam veterans and their spouses or guest receive free entry into the festival. Active Duty and other veterans receive half off general admission.

For Decker, the opportunity to reconnect with his fellow Vietnam veterans is something he does not take lightly.

“Seeing that first face that I recognize will be extremely emotional,” Decker said. “You never forget those you served with, never.”

City of Milton proclamation on sexual assault awareness

This fountain in downtown Milton is dyed teal for sexual assault awareness and prevention month. It was the backdrop for the signing of a proclamation by Mayor Heather Lindsay and Whiting Field Commanding Officer Paul Flores to highlight the importance of fighting sexual assault.
Captain Paul Flores, CO of NAS Whiting Field, signs a proclamation to help raise awareness of efforts being taken to stop sexual assault on the military base and in the community.
Dora Ford, in blue, is NAS Whiting Field Command Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. Ford talked about the importance of coordination between the military and the City of Milton in responding to sexual assault.
The Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month Proclamation that was signed by Mayor Lindsay and NAS Whiting Field CO Paul Flores.
Mayor Lindsay (far left) thanks members of law enforcement for their contributions to helping combat and investigate sexual assault.

Property Appraiser’s Office uses analytics to highlight tax exemption opportunities for homeowners

The office recently identified hundreds of homeowners in Santa Rosa County who are eligible but have not filed for homestead exemptions. Gregory S. Brown II, the property appraiser for the county, wants to be proactive about informing citizens of what his office does and how homeowners can benefit from exemptions.

“There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to homestead exemptions,” Brown said. “Some people are under the impression that once you miss the first year of eligibility then that’s it.”

Brown says that you can still apply in subsequent years, but there are deadlines for exemption periods. This year, the exemption period was from Jan. 1 to March 1. If you miss those dates, then you can pre-file for next year’s exemptions starting Apr. 1. Despite the deadline, Brown says that people can still file on a case-by-case basis with his office.

Homestead exemptions are applied to homes based on the assessed value of the property by the property appraiser. In Florida, every person who has legal or equitable title to real property in the state and resides on said property, making it their primary residence, is eligible to receive a homestead exemption up to $50,000.

The exemption amount is taken out of the assessed value of the home. If your home is valued at $300,000 and the millage rate is 12.0287, as it is in Santa Rosa County, then your tax bill would equal $3,609. If you are eligible for a homestead exemption of $25,000, then your tax bill, post exemption, would be $3,155.
While the difference is only a few hundred, that is still money in your pocket.

According to Brown, there is a $25,000 homestead exemption across the board for all eligible homeowners.

To determine which homeowners were potentially eligible for exemptions, Brown and his office used a computer assisted mass appraisal system, or CAMA system.

The CAMA system is an automated system for maintaining property data, valuing property, notifying owners and ensuring tax equity through uniform valuations. In other words, CAMA helps the property appraiser make sense of the mass amounts of data that they see.

Brown says that while his office was able to use the CAMA to see the analytics for the homestead exemptions, they are not able to do the same with some of the other exemptions.

“This was just for homestead exemptions,” Brown said. “We can’t look at exemptions like the deployed military one because we don’t have enough data to determine exactly who would be eligible.”

After finding out about all those who had yet to take advantage of the homestead exemption, Brown’s Office sent letters to the homeowners with where to apply online. The letters also included the homeowner’s control number and pin number, which are important to applying online.

Brown was able to gauge the response from homeowners by crossmatching new applicants with the letters they sent out.

“We received hundreds of responses,” Brown said.

For Brown, it is all about helping people feel confident in their expectations about what their property taxes will be.

Santa Rosa County residents can find out about their own homestead exemption eligibility at www.srcpa.gov. The website has a link to an exemptions page with more information on it.

Missing Navarre woman’s body recovered in Alabama

The suspect, Marcus Spanevelo, is currently in custody in Tennesse on charges of tampering with evidence, giving false information concerning a missing persons investigation and destruction of evidence. In a press conference today, Johnson said Spanevelo took Carli’s phone and got rid of it. The Sheriff’s Office was able to find the phone.

Johnson praised the Major Crimes Unit saying they had traveled more than 1500 miles and executed several search warrants in this case from locally to Panama City, in Alabama and Tennessee. Detectives went to Tennessee and met with the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and set up surveillance on Spanevelo. They were able to pull him over and arrest him on a Santa Rosa County warrant. He was not cooperative and only said the word “lawyer,” when asked questions.

Today marks one week since the 37-year-old mother went missing at the boat ramp parking lot near Juana’s on Navarre Beach. She was scheduled to meet her ex-boyfriend and daughter’s father, Spanevelo, to pick up her 4-year-old daughter at 7 p.m. Sunday, Mar. 27. It was the last place she was seen.

Carli lived with her father in Navarre and he became concerned when she wasn’t home with Saylor, the daughter. He received suspect text messages from Carli that possibly came from Spanevelo. She was never heard from again.

Spanevelo was first located in Alabama and the Department of Children and Families in that district was able to check on Saylor and determine she was unharmed and deemed safe.

Friends, family and the Navarre community have searched daily for Carli, never giving up hope of finding her alive. The news of the recovery of Carli’s body has, according to Johnson, crushed the family. “This is not the outcome we wanted,” Johnson said. “But hopefully this will provide some closure for the family.”

An autopsy is scheduled for tomorrow in Alabama. Depending on the manner of death determined, charges against Spanevelo may be upgraded. Johnson feels there is a strong amount of evidence in the case. “He will either get life in prison, or the needle,” Johnson said. “I hope it is the needle.”

Pensacola based beverage company makes ‘craft’ soda

While big name soda brands dominate the United States and the world, craft soda brands are finding their niche. Craft soda is usually manufactured in smaller batches than regular soda and contain more natural ingredients like cane sugar instead of high fructose syrup.

Big Jerk Soda Company, based in Pensacola, is one local business that makes craft soda. Operating out of their location at 9 E Gregory St., Big Jerk Soda uses all-natural ingredients to create a variety of soft drinks, from seltzers to fruit-based drinks to the ever popular ginger beer.

“Ironically enough, neither of us are big soda drinkers,” Ryan Eaton said. Eaton and his wife Jennifer are the founders and owners of Big Jerk Soda.

Big Jerk Soda started out of Ryan and Jennifer Eaton’s house. The Eaton’s would make soda for parties or other events for fun. They realized that making soda could be a potentially fun side hustle and went into business. They were officially licensed as a business in 2018.

When starting out, they used their connections to the craft beer industry to help themselves out. The Eaton’s would buy brown bottles from their friends who owned bars, but later switched because the brown bottles failed to show the vibrant colors of the fruit based sodas. As time has gone on, the Eaton’s have learned more and more about how to make their product and market it.

“It feels like we were at the beginning of a wave,” Ryan Eaton said. “Craft soda is a relatively new thing; we know only a handful of others who do anything close to what we do.”
Craft soda is branded with nostalgia, as the simple ingredients call back to simpler times. In the 19th century, pharmacists and others made carbonated mineral water to help cure ailments like upset stomachs. These tonics eventually became quite popular, and people began to market them as soft drinks to consume recreationally, rather than for medical purposes.

Even Big Jerk Soda’s name is inspired by the past, when soda jerks operated soda fountains in drugstores. They were called “jerks” because of the “jerking” action the soda fountain operator would use to drive the fountain handle back and forth when adding soda.

“This area has a lot of history when it comes to soda,” Jennifer Eaton said. “We are kind of carrying on with what Coca-Cola did in Pensacola.”
Coca-Cola had a building on Palafox, north of downtown, that was used as a bottling plant. Built in 1936, the building is adorned with Coca-Cola bottles and the iconic name carved on the sides of the structure. Coca-Cola still operates a distribution facility off Davis Highway in Pensacola.
With craft soda growing in popularity, even big name brands like PepsiCo are getting in on the trend.

Pepsi unveiled Caleb’s Kola, a soft drink comprised of sparkling water, cane sugar and kola nut extract. The brand’s ethos is “honor in craft.”
There are different ways to make craft soda, but Big Jerk Soda currently makes their beverages out of a small kitchen space that they share with two other businesses.

The kitchen that they use has two 70-gallon tanks, a pasteurizing machine, and an assortment of machinery and tools used in all steps of the craft soda making process. The two tanks are a major upgrade from the humble beginnings that the Eaton’s had before. Prior to getting the tanks, Big Jerk Soda was made using five gallon kegs. In between the two tanks, sits a small black box. The box helps to regulate the temperature inside the tanks and cool them down by sending coolant into the sides of the tanks. For the carbonation to hold, the soda must be ice cold. After coolant is used to cool the soda inside the tanks, the Eaton’s wait for about two days, so the condition of the soda is better.
Then they bottle the soda. The bottles are labeled prior to the process.

Once that is done, they use their pasteurizer. Pasteurization is an important process for the creation of craft soda, as the all-natural sodas are not shelf stable without it. Shelf stability has to do with the presence of yeast in the juices. As the Eaton’s explained, the yeast in the unpasteurized bottles would expand due to the fermentation of the juices inside, resulting in exploding bottles. With the pasteurizer, the bottles of soda do not have to be refrigerated. The Eaton’s have the bottles of soda placed in the pasteurizer for five minutes at 152 degrees.

When it comes to learning about how to make craft soda, the Eaton’s say that failure and life experience are key.
“I’ve always learned best from screwing stuff up,” Ryan Eaton said.
At the end of the day, the craft soda industry is all about independent businesses and soda makers carving out their own path.
“You get to do what you want,” Ryan Eaton said. “When you are not following what everybody else does.”


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