Attorney Steven M. Fahlgren named as Circuit Court Judge

Submitted by Susan Hardee Steger
January 28, 2015 5:27 p.m.

Steve Fahlgren-Top1ab
Attorney Steven M. Fahlgren receives judicial appointment.

According to Judge Robert M. Foster, Attorney Steven M. Fahlgren has been appointed by Governor Rick Scott to serve as a Circuit Court Judge for the 4th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida. The 4th Judicial Circuit includes Nassau, Duval, and Clay counties. Fahlgren will initially serve in Duval County replacing Judge E. McRaie Mathis who retired on December 31, 2014.

Fahlgren’s law firm is located in Hilliard, Florida. He is married to current Nassau County School Board member Dr. Kimberly Fahlgren.

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Friends of the Library announce Black History Month events

FOL Come Grow with usSubmitted by Wilma Allen
Communications Chair
Friends of the Library

January 28, 2015 4:00 p.m.

The Nassau County Library Fernandina Beach Branch announces two Black History Month events: the 26th Annual National African American Read-In on Feb. 2, and a program on the life of civil rights attorney and Fernandina Beach native, Raymond Brown, on February 26. Both programs will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Willie Mae Ashley Auditorium of the Peck Center, 516 South 10th Street, Fernandina Beach. Both events are free, open to the public and sponsored by the Friends of the Fernandina Beach Library and the Association for the Study and Preservation of African American History in Nassau County.

Read-In February 2 Dedicated to Memory of Willie Mae Ashley

Willie Mae Ashley 2This year’s Read-In in which residents read from works by African American authors, is dedicated to the memory of Willie Mae Ashley who passed away in 2014. Mrs. Ashley was a revered local educator, author, missionary, historian, Nassau County citizen and avid supporter of the library and Black History Month programs.

The Read-In is part of a national program now in its 26th year that was developed by the Black Caucus of the National Teachers of English and the National Council of the Teachers of English to promote literacy and the contributions of African American authors. Everyone is invited. If you would like to participate, select a short passage to read from your favorite African American author. For more information or to sign up to read, contact the Fernandina Beach Branch Library at 904-277-7365. All programs are free and open to the public.

Atty. Raymond A. Brown Focus of February 26 Program

Professor Will Guzmán will discuss the life of Raymond A. Brown (1915-2009), noted civil rights attorney and Fernandina Beach native, who has been described as the “best defense attorney in America…Darrow-esque.” Brown was born into a working class family in 1915, joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, graduated from Florida A&M College, served in the U.S. Army and graduated from Fordham Law School. After admittance to the New Jersey Bar in 1949, he practiced law for nearly 60-years representing national figures such as poet Amiri Baraka, activists Assata Shakur and H. Rap Brown, and professional boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. He also represented working-class and indigent defendants when no one else would offer legal aid due to lack of funds, political beliefs, or social status.

Guzmán is an Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies at Florida A&M University and Director of Community and Donor Engagement at the Carrie P. Meek—James N. Eaton Southeastern Regional Black Archives, Research Center and Museum. His book, Civil Rights in the Texas Borderlands: Dr. Lawrence A. Nixon and Black Activism is scheduled for release by the University of Illinois Press in June 2015. This program will also take place in the Willie Mae Ashley Auditorium at the Peck Center.

Both events are free, open to the public and sponsored by the Friends of the Fernandina Beach Library and the Association for the Study and Preservation of African American History in Nassau County. Persons with disabilities requiring accommodations to participate in these programs should contact the Library at 904-277-7365, or the Florida Relay Service at 1-800-955-8771 at least five days in advance to request accommodations.

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New group bicycle ride on Amelia Island Trail

Submitted by Mike Pikula
January 28, 2015 1:00 p.m.

The North Florida Bicycle Club (NFBC) has organized a new group bicycle ride just for Amelia Island’s “social” riders, families, and riders who prefer to avoid traffic.

bike 8
Riders on Amelia Island headed to Burney Park for a rest stop.

This new ride will be conducted primarily on the Amelia Island Trail (AIT) and a few lightly-traveled roads and is designed to help riders learn cycling techniques and build confidence in a safe riding environment. The Amelia Island Trail is a paved, off-road, multi-use path that runs from Peters Point Beachfront Park to Amelia Island State Park and crosses the Nassau River via the Crady Fishing Bridge. The weekly ride is led by ride leaders from the NFBC and will emphasize safety and fellowship. The pace of the ride will be determined by the ride leader to accommodate all riders; no rider will be left behind.

This “AIT Ride” will begin every Wednesday at 10am at the north trailhead of the AIT at Peter’s Point Beachfront Park (1974 S. Fletcher Av, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034). The route will follow the AIT south to Big Talbot Island State Park, then return for a total distance of approximately 15-18 miles depending on rest stop selections by the ride leader. Riders should have basic riding skills, a bicycle helmet, water, and a bicycle in good working condition. There is no charge for the ride but each participant must sign an NFBC Waiver; parent or guardian of youth under 18 must execute a special waiver and youth under 16 must be accompanied by parent or guardian. The ride duration is approximately 2 hours. After the ride, riders will have the opportunity to purchase lunch at a food truck in the Park. In case of rain the ride will be cancelled.

Bike 9
Riders heading south over the Grady bridge in Amelia Island State Park.

You can find out more about this ride (and other organized rides), the North Florida Bicycle Club, and Friends of the Amelia Island Trail by visiting,, or .

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8th Street working group meets

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
January 28, 2015 6:17 a.m.

Working group members and the public discuss ways to improve 8th Street.
Working group members and the public discuss ways to improve 8th Street.

The Land Development Code and Economic Development Working Group met on January 20, 2015 to continue its discussions on the 8th Street Corridor in Fernandina Beach. This group has been meeting since March of last year to advise the city on possible code changes that might spur economic development and improve the appearance of 8th Street/SR 200. The group represents a cross section of community interests, including economic development, city and county planners, Planning Advisory Board, real estate, architectural design and engineering, and business, as well as concerned citizens. City Commissioner Robin Lentz continues to serve with the group following her election. Members of the public have been encouraged to participate.

Senior City Planner Kelly Gibson and Community Development Director Adrienne Burke
Senior City Planner Kelly Gibson and Community Development Director Adrienne Burke

Adrienne Burke, Community Development Director, reported that she hoped to have a draft for the group in February so that work could be wrapped up in March of this year. She suggested that from April through the summer the city should concentrate on outreach efforts and present any proposed code changes to the city’s Planning Advisory Board in the fall.

The consensus appears to be to attract more mixed use to the areas bordering 8th Street, while continuing the C-3 for areas included in the Historic District. Senior planner Kelly Gibson asked group members if a density of 8 units per acre is sufficient, and if not, what would be more appropriate. Group member Nick Gillette suggested 20-25 units per acre, which would allow for 4 units on a 100-foot by 100-foot lot. Continue reading

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PAB subcommittee listens to public concerns on hazardous materials, potential cruise port

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
January 27, 2015 1:00 p.m.


Planning Advisory Board meets as a subcommittee of the whole
Planning Advisory Board meets as a subcommittee of the whole

On January 22, 2015, the Planning Advisory Board (PAB) of the city of Fernandina Beach met as a subcommittee of the whole to consider public comment on an application for a code change submitted by two local citizens—Chip Ross and Chuck Hall– in December 2014. Ross, who was subsequently appointed to serve on the Planning Advisory Board, recused himself during consideration of this item.

City planning staff prepare for the subcommittee meeting: (l-r) Bretta Walker, Kelly Gibson, Adrienne Burke
City planning staff prepare for the subcommittee meeting: (l-r) Bretta Walker, Kelly Gibson, Adrienne Burke

This application arose out of concerns raised by potential expansion of industrial activities at the Port of Fernandina as published in a draft Master Plan adopted by the Ocean, Highway and Port Authority last year. The background and issues involved in this application were covered extensively in an earlier Fernandina Observer article entitled PAB subcommittee formed to consider code language on hazardous material use and storage in Fernandina Beach published on December 11, 2014. Continue reading

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How much $ does a local elected official earn?

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
January 27, 2015 11:14 a.m.

Have you ever wondered how the salaries of local elected officials are set in Florida?

Determining the compensation of Florida’s county constitutional officers harkens back to the Constitution of 1885. But it wasn’t until 1973 that the Legislature authorized a salary compensation formula, which was established to provide uniform compensation among counties with similar sized populations. In 2009, the Legislature authorized district school board members and elected school superintendents to reduce their salaries on a voluntary basis. Then in 2011, the Legislature authorized county commissioners, clerks of circuit court, county comptrollers, sheriffs, supervisors of elections, property appraisers, and tax collectors to voluntarily reduce their salaries. These rulings did not apply to charter counties or those counties, like Duval, that have a chartered consolidated form of government.

Nassau County is not a charter county, of which there are only ten in the state of Florida. Consequently, salaries of county and constitutional officers are set by the state formulas. The Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) a research arm of the Legislature, principally concerned with forecasting economic and social trends that affect policy making, revenues and appropriations. In September 2014, they issued an annual report entitled Salaries of Elected County Constitutional Officers and School District Officials for Fiscal Year 2014-15, included at the end of this article. Continue reading

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Amelia Island Book Festival presents Carolyn Curry, Ph.D. A compelling speaker with a spell-binding story

Carolyn Curry

January 27, 2015 6:30 a.m.

Amelia Island Book Festival
Media Release
Marie Fenn 904.647.4221, or
Debra Craig 904.624.1665

The Amelia Island Book Festival is proud to present award winning author and a champion of women, Carolyn Curry, Ph.D., as the featured speaker for this year’s annual VyStar Readers Luncheon, Saturday, February 21, 2015 at the Fernandina Beach Woman’s Club.

Curry’s masterfully researched and written book, Suffer and Grow Strong: The Life of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas (1834-1907), is a remarkable Continue reading

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Plane Crash near Fernandina Beach Airport

Submitted by Susan Hardee Steger
January 26, 2015 2:38 p.m.

Airport 1004A 1973 Cessna 150 piloted by Walter McFadden of Fernandina Beach, crashed  near the Fernandina Beach Airport on Sunday, January 25. A Fernandina Beach police officer was dispatched to Crane Island, at 1:36 p.m. According to a Fernandina Beach police report, the pilot had “obvious signs of facial trauma,” and possible back injuries.

The report indicated that “from the debris field and tire tracks, it appears the airplane was flying in a northeast direction.  The airplane’s tires hit the side of a berm, went up and once on top of the berm, the plane flipped with the tail going over the nose of the airplane.  The front landing gear was detached from the airplane . . .”

Nassau County Fire Rescue (NCFR)  Battalion 1, responded to the accident site but a locked gate prevented access to the crash site until bolt cutters were brought in from NCFR Station 20.

Kevin Valerio from Woodbine, Georgia, spotted the plane in a retention pond on the north side of Crane Island while skydiving.   Valerio  believes the plane was preparing to land at a 130 degree heading.  He provided information to Sky Dive Amelia and was a witness interviewed by FBPD.

Airport Operations Manager, Robert Kozakoff, told police McFadden did not have a flight plan.

City Manager Joe Gerrity, who is also the airport manager, alerted commissioners of the incident on Sunday, January 25 at 2:21 p.m. Gerrity said the National Transportation and Safety Board will conduct an investigation.

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Averting Disaster – An opinion

Submitted by Faith Ross
January 26, 2015 1:00 a.m.

FOpinions_ SmallerOn Thursday afternoon, January 22 at 3:30 pm the Planning Advisory Board met with various members of the public concerning the use and storage of certain hazardous materials. However, in my opinion, the meeting should have been about the industrial vision for Amelia Island. A vision does not just include a pretty picture, but how do we see our island and Continue reading

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Fernandina Beach Business and Building Starts: December 2014

openSubmitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
January 26, 2015 9:00 a.m.


The Fernandina Observer welcomes the following businesses newly licensed to operate in our city last month.


Business Address Owner Type of Business
Lisa’s Home Service 310 N. 19th Street Lisa White Painting contractor
Amelia Autoglass & More, LLC 4437 Bean Street Curtis Hooper Home local business
Amelia Law Group, PLLC 960914 Gateway Blvd. Lorie Chism Legal services
Scott and Sons Fine Jewelry, Inc. 9900 Amelia Island Parkway Drew Scott Retail jewelry, repair; Misc. personal services
Amelia Island Tasting Tours, LLC 1863 Perimeter Park Road Tara Meyer-Robinson  Home local business
Surf Asylum LLC 2530 First Avenue David Montgomery Home local business

Continue reading

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