Stormwater fees will increase as city tackles problem areas

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
June 22, 2017 8:29 a.m.


Stormwater Manager Andre Desilet

Newly hired Fernandina Beach Stormwater Manager Andre Desilet appeared before the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) at their June 20, 2017 Regular Meeting to update them on the work of his fledgling department and to explain why he is asking to triple the existing Stormwater/Utility rate in the FY 2017-18 Budget. Desilet said that the city has maintained the same rates since 2012, but that must change in order to develop a preventive maintenance schedule, purchase and/or replace needed equipment and staff the new department. Desilet presented the chart below with rates developed according to the Stormwater Master Plan Study completed last year.

For years commissioners had tried unsuccessfully to adopt a stormwater fee schedule. In 2012 the FBCC finally enacted the measure, but at a rate significantly below that of other Florida communities, meaning that the time to fix existing flooding problems throughout the city would need to be dramatically extended. Desilet asked if commissioners would prefer to consider the rate increase as part of the ongoing budget preparation or as part of the annual fee discussion. Although commissioners did not vote on the matter, three commissioners—John Miller, Roy Smith and Vice Mayor Len Kreger—suggested deferring the matter for consideration as part of the annual fee schedule this fall. There were no objections.

Desilet reminded commissioners that in addition to stopping floods work in his department involves putting in systems that improve the quality of water flowing into Egans Creek and the Amelia River.

N. 15th Street stormwater project area
Street view of the North 15th Street stormwater project

The City of Fernandina Beach continues to move forward on eliminating flooding problems caused by poor stormwater drainage. Desilet recently announced the city’s receipt of approximately $250,000 in the form of a grant from the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) to upgrade the existing drainage system on North 15th Street. The current system consists of grate inlets with undersized piping that discharges into Egan’s Creek. The proposed project will upgrade piping to reduce local flooding, and include the creation of a retention pond within the unimproved North 15th Place right-of-way. The proposed pond will be equipped with filters and a floating wetlands system to improve water quality. Inlets on Oak Marsh Drive, which cannot be piped to the pond due to system geometry, will be provided with skimmers to reduce sediment and nutrient content. The project will be designed and permitted by City Staff. Continue reading

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A North Beach photo essay

Photo courtesy of Patrick Leary
June 22, 2017 6:22 a.m.

The photos captured on the North Beach Park, were collected on-site from the parking area to the open beach. This North Beach collage, according to Leary, “Captures the function, objectives along with its status early this week.”

Editor’s Note: Patrick Leary is a 67 year old native resident of Fernandina Beach – Amelia Island. He and his wife (Doris) are multi-decade volunteers with regional state parks, national parks, state and federal wildlife agencies and international research groups. They dedicate their time and effort to monitoring and documenting natural resources and raising awareness of anthropocentric impacts to the environment.

Doris and Pat received Audubon of Florida’s 2014 Guy Bradley award in recognition of their deep commitment to Florida’s environment.  We thank Patrick for his contribution to the Fernandina Observer.

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Fulbright Scholar to Speak at FSCJ June 29th

FSCJ Media Release
June 22, 2017 5:57 p.m.


Andras Vadas

Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) is welcoming Fulbright scholar András Vadas as a guest lecturer to speak on the Ottoman-Habsburg wars and their environmental impact.

Through the discussion, Vadas aims to demonstrate that it is not only the modern period and modern warfare techniques that had impact on local environments, but that these transformations have, in fact, much longer traditions.

Vadas is a Fulbright scholar from the Department of History, Georgetown University (Washington D.C.) and Assistant Professor for the Department of Medieval and Early Modern European History at Eötvös Loránd University (Budapest).

The event is open to the public on Thursday, June 29, 2017 at 11 a.m. at Florida State College at Jacksonville, Nathan H. Wilson Center for the Arts-Lakeside Room, 11901 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32246


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Back to the drawing board on a waterfront master plan

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
June 21, 1:07 p.m.

Last night the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) seemed unable to reach consensus on scope or direction for waterfront redevelopment during a workshop. The City Hall audience was packed with residents hoping to learn how they would be involved in a process laid out weeks back by consultants Dix.Hite+Partners to seek and incorporate their concerns and ideas in designing a redeveloped Amelia River waterfront. Instead they watched five commissioners debate and squabble over significantly different individual goals and priorities.

Following the hour-long workshop that preceded their Regular Meeting and advice from City Attorney Tammi Bach on the need to issue a new RFQ for consultants, the FBCC tabled an agenda item that called for approval of a contract with Dix.Hite+Partners. While it appeared that the commission was authorizing a new RFQ with a narrowed scope, there was no official action taken to formally define a scope or the terms for the RFQ.

Greg Bryla

Greg Bryla of Dix.Hite began the workshop with slides that presented individual input from commissioners on items that they wanted to see addressed in a waterfront master plan. The consultants were retained on a separate, $11,000 contract to conduct the individual 1.5-hour meetings and summarize their findings in a report, which arguably would serve as the basis for a discussion to drive consensus on a contract scope. It appeared that the individual meetings did more to confuse the issue – and the public – than they did to forge consensus.

Although notes taken during the individual meetings were made public, some in the community believed that the meetings had violated the spirit if not the letter of open meeting laws. Although there was no public input during the workshop, individuals let their feelings be known during the Public Comment portion of the Regular Meeting that followed. The public input reflected the confusion that has arisen over just what the purpose of the individual meetings was and why that approach was taken after it had been earlier announced that the FBCC would meet in an open workshop with the consultants to hammer out scope and parameters for a waterfront redevelopment plan.

Area encompassed by master plan as suggested by different commissioners.  Lentz, Poynter and Miller appear to be in agreement, while Kreger and Smith enlarge the boundaries.

Other citizens did not make a distinction between the FBCC’s meetings to determine the scope of a waterfront development plan and crafting the plan itself, expressing frustration at having been left out of the process after having been promised opportunity for reasonable input.

City Attorney Tammi Bach

City Attorney Tammi Bach also raised concerns on the advisability of continuing work with Dix.Hite+Partners under the existing RFQ, when they had performed work under a contract for $11,000. She advised that the prudent action would be to issue a new RFQ reflecting a narrowed scope of work to address the commissioners’ concerns regarding the cost of developing a true master plan. Both Vice Mayor Len Kreger and Commissioner Roy Smith have been vocal critics of awarding a contract under the current RFQ.

Continue reading

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Cats Angels announce calendar photo contest

Cats Angels
Press Release
June 21, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Cats Angels is happy to announce a Photo Contest for the 2018 Purrfect Cats of Cats Angels calendar. The contest will run through August 31, 2017 and photos will be judged by members of the Island Art Association. The winning photo will have the coveted calendar cover shot and four runners-up will have a full page in the calendar. Even if you don’t have a Cats Angels cat, there are plenty of furry faces in the Cats Angels Adoption Center waiting for their time in the limelight! Contest information and submission forms are at the Cats Continue reading

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“Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” – Amelia Musical Playhouse

Press Release
Amelia Musical Playhouse
June 22, 2017 1:00 p.m.

Care for a Dance? From the fox-trot to the tango, the widow of a Southern Baptist minister and a flamboyant dance instructor spend six weeks teaching each other the dance that is life in this transcendent story of compassion, love, and survival.

The human comedy is taken for a spin…join veteran performers Arlene Filkoff and Carey Dresser as they trip the light fantastic in Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, by Richard Alfieri as directed by Ron Kurtz. Performance dates are July 7,8,9,13,14,15 at 7:30 pm, and July 9 & 16 at 2:30 pm. Shows are at the Amelia Musical Playhouse, 1955 Island Walkway, Fernandina Beach. Tickets are available through our website,

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“Lillian, Paula.Carson” Three Southern Women Stand Up For What They Believe In

Press Release
From: Live Ink Theatre
Contact: Sinda Nichols
June 20, 2017 3:00 p.m.

Live Ink Theatre is pleased to announce a lively staged reading of “Lillian, Paula.Lillian, Paula.Carson”
Three Southern Women Stand Up For What They Believe In “Carson” a play by John Barrow on Wednesday, June 28th, 8 pm, at Amelia Community Theatre’s Studio 209. Directed by Ron Kurtz and performed by Fran Hindsley, Sadie LaManna and Sinda Nichols, the play had its’ world preview in March at The Morningside Players in NYC. Set in 1953 in Northern Georgia, this inspiring and enlightening drama gives us a unique view inside the hearts and mind of three brilliant women: Lillian Smith, best selling novelist of “Strange Fruit”, and a strong opponent of segregation in the South; Paula Snelling, Lillian’s longterm companion and co-editor Continue reading

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Les DeMerle sets “Drums Are Fun Summer Camp”

Press Release
June 20, 2017 2:00 p.m.

Les DeMerle

World renowned drummer Les DeMerle, the Artistic Director of the Amelia Island Jazz Festival, and the City of Fernandina Beach will present a Drums Are Fun Summer Drum Camp at the Peck Center, 516 S 10th St, Fernandina Beach, on Wednesdays, July 5, 12, 19, and 26 from 1pm to 3pm.

DeMerle, who famed big bandleader Harry James once called “the best all-around drummer I’ve ever played with,” will teach all styles and all levels for percussionists of all ages from kids to seniors. Subjects will feature the proper way to hold drumsticks, counting rhythms, creating a groove with a steady beat, introducing drum rudiments and applying them to the drum set, plus playing in various genres including Jazz, Rock, Latin, Big Band, and Show music.

For beginning students to advanced pros, DeMerle will teach Continue reading

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The Explorers Club

Evelyn C. McDonald
Arts & Culture Reporter
June 20, 2017 1:30 p.m.

For a relaxing evening at the theatre, try “The Explorers Club” at the Amelia Community Theatre. This play, set in 1879, is definitely of another time and another sensibility. Let me suggest that it is the flip side of “Downton Abbey.” Removed, yes but the Downton players would recognize the explorers and probably not find their behavior eccentric.

The cast is well-matched, key to pulling this type of farce off. They are suitably pompous, sure of their position and their avocation – which is exploring. They are true sons of the Empire, enjoying finding and perhaps exploiting unknown cultures. They are, however, faced with a quandary at their club. Rather, two quandaries.

A female explorer who has found a lost city has petitioned the club to join (gasp!). To prove her claim, she has brought back one of the natives, who is blue. No, not sad – his skin is blue and he has a topknot. I couldn’t tell if it was hair or some kind of headdress but it was blue as well. (Kudos to the actor who must have taken hours to get ready.) She calls him Luigi because that’s what she names all her pets.

Quandary number two is that they don’t have a decent bartender and it’s affecting their status as a club. This bartender is no longer with them. Ever since James Bond, we have learned the importance of a well-mixed drink to the English. Happily, as we know from farce, it will all work out in the end.

I have to mention one bit of stage business that is both amazing and hilarious. Don’t worry about missing it; you won’t mistake it when it comes up. The new bartender is quite the hand with passing the glasses – aerially. That scene is worth the price of admission and you get it twice. After the play, we were all wondering how long it took to rehearse that scene and how many glasses were dropped in the process.

Frank O’Donnell has put his own slightly manic stamp on the production. He keeps the plot (such as it is) moving along briskly. There is a clash of cultures when the blue native greets the Queen in the style prevalent in his country. There is the Irish rebellion staged when one of the club members tries to convince the Irish that they are one of the lost tribes of Israel. There’s a nod to Gilbert & Sullivan.

In the end, all is well. The lady explorer is in the club, love is in the air, and there is a new bartender who’s a dab hand with a glass. The remaining performances are June 22, 23 and 24. See the ACT website for tickets.

Evelyn McDonaldEvelyn McDonald moved to Fernandina Beach from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. in 2006. Evelyn is vice-chair on the Amelia Center for Lifelong Learning and is on the Dean’s Council for the Carpenter Library at the UNF. Ms. McDonald has MS in Technology Management from the University of Maryland’s University College and a BA in Spanish from the University of Michigan.

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Red-Hot Thriller Book Tour hosted by Red Otter Outfitters

Press Release
Contact: Jennie Stephens
June 20, 2017 11:00 a.m.

Red Otter Outfitters, a local travel and leisure apparel retailer, is hosting a meet the author and book signing event on June 24, 2017 from 2-6 p.m.

The event will feature authors Chuck Barrett & DJ Steele, two former long-time residents of Fernandina Beach, who have teamed up for their Red-Hot Thriller Book Tour. Chuck Barrett, a seven-time award winning author, will spotlight the release of his latest thriller, “DISRUPTION.” DJ Steele, a former employee of Red Otter, is celebrating the launch of her debut novel “Declared Dead,” a modern day thriller with ties to the Cold Continue reading

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