New school safety reporting app

Media Release
Nassau County School District
October 22, 2018 9:00 a.m.

Any student, educator, parent or member of the public can now report school safety concerns directly to law enforcement and school administrators anonymously and easily through the FortifyFL app or Florida Legislature directed this tool’s development in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. The app, which is available for download on Apple and Android mobile devices, is critical to ensuring that all Florida schools are safe environments where students and educators can experience and share the joy of learning without fear.

Leave a comment | Posted in General |

Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA) seeks new attorney

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
October 21, 2018 4:00 p.m.

During their October 19, 2018 Special Meeting, OHPA Commissioners decided to advertise for a new attorney to replace Clyde Davis, whose resignation will be effective November 14, 2018.

In advising the commissioners on a process, Davis suggested that OHPA must first budget and plan for a new attorney.  Treasurer Pierre LaPorte said that legal services are covered in the OHPA Budget. Davis said that his bill for the last two months has eaten up $14,000 of that budget.

The position will be advertised locally and in Jacksonville.

OHPA Chair Adam Salzburg said that a new attorney must be in place by the December 19 OHPA Regular Meeting.

Interested applicants should check the OHPA website for additional information.

Suanne Thamm 4Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.

Leave a comment | Posted in General | Tagged |

Amelia Island revealed . . .

By Bill Birdsong
October 20, 2018 11:00 p.m.

“A Lonely Frog” Photo courtesy of Bill Birdsong

Editor’s Note: William Birdsong was born in Jacksonville, Florida and entered the military in 1962. He retired from the Air Force in 1992. While on active duty he served as a Korean linguist, and as an Obstetrician-Gynecologist. His second retirement was from the University of California, Davis.

In 2000, Bill and his wife Susie moved to Amelia Island. Bill is a volunteer at the Amelia Island Museum of History, and plays in the Nassau County Community Band. Photography has been his hobby during his retirement years. We thank Bill for his contribution to the Fernandina Observer.

1 Comment | Posted in General |

OHPA, WTF agree to contract terms

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
October 20, 2018 4:29 p.m.

After seven months of negotiating, more than a half-dozen public meetings and the resignation of their attorney, the Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA) finally concluded contract talks with their port operator, Worldwide Terminals Fernandina (WTF) during a 3-hour Special Meeting called for late afternoon on Friday, October 19, 2018.  Four Port Commissioners were physically present, and Commissioner Robert Sturgess participated electronically due to a family health matter. The contract was approved on a 3-2 vote, with both District 4 Commissioner Carrol Franklin and District 3 Commissioner Adam Salzburg in opposition.

OHPA Special Meeting in County Commission Chambers, October 19, 2018 (l-r): Carrol Franklin (Dist. 4), Lissa Braddock (Dist. 5), Attorney Clyde Davis, Chair Adam Salzburg (Dist. 3), Danny Fullwood (Dist. 2).

Agreement did not come easily.  Port Attorney Clyde Davis, who had announced his resignation date earlier in the week, argued his continued opposition to the proposed deal, expressing his concerns that signing the contract as written would short the operator’s payment to OHPA by $25,000 for the year.  This matter appeared to be resolved when the effective date of the contract was set for November 1, meaning that WTF would pay OHPA the full amount due according to the existing contract and two thirds of the next quarter’s payment.  Davis also claimed that contract language as proposed did not allow for OHPA to terminate the contract for cause, a claim that Christopher Ragucci, WTF CEO, disputed.

Commissioner Franklin has steadfastly opposed granting a new contract to WTF, stating that the existing contract originally executed with Kinder Morgan, still had 4 years to run.  Franklin said that although he was pleased with port operations under the new operator, he wanted more time to see how they performed before agreeing to a long-term contract.  He moved to table talk of a new contract for a year, and Commissioner Lissa Braddock (District 5) seconded his motion.  Attorney Davis advised that there did not need to be a time certain on a motion to table and that any commissioner who voted in favor of the motion, could take it off the table at any time.

Although Roberts Rules of Order, the procedural guide used in most public meetings, declares a motion to table to be non-debatable, debate on this motion commenced immediately.

Christopher Ragucci

WTF CEO Christopher Ragucci explained to commissioners why it was to the advantage of both OHPA and the port operator to execute a long-term contract. In order to bring port facilities into good working order following Kinder Morgan’s 27-year tenure as port operator, during which there had been little to no capital investment, WTF needs to take out loans.  Lending institutions will not underwrite long-term capital improvement loans unless the port operator can demonstrate that it is in a long-term contractual relationship with its port.  By the same token, port customers are also looking to see that a port operator has a long-term contract before agreeing to a long term shipping relationship that involves costly investments in logistics.

Ragucci argued that it is of mutual benefit to lock in long term shipping agreements and commence immediately to initiate the port improvements necessary to attract new business.  He cited the new port crane as just the first in several planned improvements.

OHPA Treasurer and accountant Pierre LaPorte backed up Ragucci’s explanations.  A 30-year term for port bonds is standard, as well as 20-30 year shipping agreements with port customers. Continue reading

4 Comments | Posted in City News | Tagged |

Nassau Republican Women stuff stockings destined for troops

Federated Republican Women
Press Release
Jackque Osborne
[email protected]
October 20, 2018 4:00 p.m.

Trees for America’s Troops founder and president Judi Mixon Brown, left, and board member Lynne Ruppel interrupt their stocking stuffing at the FRWN meeting to pose beside the colorful display about their project to send Christmas trees to deployed armed forces personnel.

The Federated Republican Women of Nassau hosted Trees for America’s Troops at its latest luncheon meeting at Fernandina Beach Golf Club. FRWN members stuffed over 50 stockings as a preamble to the 7th Annual Drive for Trees for America’s Troops to be held in Maxwell Hall November 8, 9, and 10.

Judi Mixon Brown, founder and president of Trees for America’s Troops, founded the 501(c)3 organization in honor of her nephew, SP4 Kelly Mixon, who was killed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2010. The non-profit organization sends small, pre-lit decorated Christmas trees to military personnel deployed throughout the world, as well as stockings filled with treats and surprises donated by the community.

Last year, Trees for America’s Troops sent 450 Christmas cards, 150 Christmas trees, and hundreds of stockings to American military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thanks to a host of volunteers, Trees for America’s Troops sent a total of 1,500 lbs of Christmas cheer to our deployed units.

For more information about Trees for Troops, or to sign up for the Maxwell Hall event, go to www.TreesforAmericasTroops.Org or call 904-206-3839. You may also use [email protected] to contact the organization. To learn more about Federated Women of Nassau, go to for more information or to become a member. Men are most welcome to join as associate members.

Leave a comment | Posted in General |

Free art film series 3rd Sunday of the month: October 21

October 20, 2018 8:06 a.m.

Island Art Association Presents:

“Sundays on Second Street” Movie Series

Free showings of Art Films
Third Sunday of the Month at 2:00 p.m.
(Popcorn Included!)

Opening Film:

“Annie Leibovitz, Life Through a Lens”

Sunday, October 21, 2:00 p.m.

Island Art Education Building
18 North 2nd Street
Fernandina Beach

Leave a comment | Posted in Things to do |

The Able Trust Awards Independent Living Resource Center $250K Grant to Increase Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

Bascom Communications
October 20, 2018 9:00 a.m.

Tallahassee, Fla. – The Able Trust recently named the Independent Living Resource Center (ILRC) in Duval County as a recipient of the 2018 Strategic Employment Placement Initiative Grant. The Strategic Employment Placement Initiative Grant is the primary grant program of The Able Trust. These grants go to address the employment placement of Floridians with disabilities and cover a three-year period.

ILRC is being awarded $250,000 for ‘Careers360: Opportunities in Every Direction.’ ILRC’s ‘Careers 360: Opportunities in Every Direction’ program will empower employment for 145 job-seekers by partnering with 50 disability-friendly businesses by 2021. The ‘Careers360’ program will expand during the three-year grant to include the four surrounding counties – Clay, Baker, Nassau and St. Johns.

(Left to Right) Tyler Morris, Guenevere Crum, Anthony Iannone, Representative Cord Byrd, Senator Aaron Bean, Dr. Susanne Homant, Stacey Brown, Daniel Nasca, Deidra Simon, Jennifer Bertsch, Eric Powell, April Baker and Priscilla Moench

“The Able Trust is excited to partner with the Independent Living Resource Center,” said Dr. Susanne Homant, president and CEO of The Able Trust. “ILRC has developed quality programs to help Floridians with disabilities find successful employment. The Able Trust is proud to support programs like ‘Career360,’ as they are vital to growing these much-needed employment opportunities and making sure individuals who use the program and their communities thrive.”

“‘Careers 360’ will provide employment and independence for people with disabilities, while positively impacting the growth of our economy,” said Tyler Morris, executive director of ILRC. “We have many candidates who are vetted, qualified and ready to work in all industries.”

“We are so pleased to help employ workers with disabilities and to serve as an example of the effectiveness of this program,” said Debbie Pfeiffer, president at Pitney Bowes. “It has truly been a win-win partnership, as the individuals we employ through ILRC make positive contributions to our business and immeasurable contributions to our team and culture.”

“I am so thrilled for this exciting partnership between The Able Trust and the Independent Living Resource Center that will change lives here in the Jacksonville area,” said State Senator Aaron Bean. “Both of these excellent organizations are doing so much to create employment opportunities for Floridians with disabilities, and I can’t wait to see what can be accomplished with this grant.”

Representative Byrd stated, “The opportunities created by this partnership between the ILRC and The Able Trust are impressive and are an example of two great organizations working to make life better for an important part of Florida’s population. I enthusiastically support the program and this excellent use of public and private resources.”

Both businesses and job seekers are encouraged to contact ILRC to discover their full potential by calling 904.399.8484 or visiting Continue reading

Leave a comment | Posted in General |

Nassau County road and lane closures: October 20-16, 2018

October 20, 2018 8:09 a.m.

Daytime lane closures from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday southbound near the Nassau County line and Georgia State line for Gateway sign and guardrail construction.

I-95 from Florida State Line to Georgia exit 22 (Horsestamp Church Road)
Daytime lane closures for GDOT resurfacing project.

State Road A1A at I-95
Daytime lane closures weekdays from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for road work.

State Road A1A from Amelia River Bridge to Centre Street 
Nighttime northbound lane closures Sunday through Thursday from 7:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. for road work.

State Road A1A from Gene Lasserre Boulevard to Lofton Creek 
Daytime westbound lane closure Saturday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. for barrier wall installation.

U.S. 1 from Alligator Creek to the curb and gutter section (Hilliard) 
Nighttime lane closures Sunday through Thursday from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. for road work.

Leave a comment | Posted in General |

Cummer Museum Officially Opens Augusta Savage Exhibition

Cummer Museum
October 19, 2018

Augusta Savage working on a sculpture

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. —The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens has officially opened its fall and spring exhibition “Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman.” The exhibition, one of the most significant and largest organized by the Museum in its history, opened Friday, October 12 for a rare double-run through April 2019. Savage is a Green Cove Springs native who became a noted Harlem Renaissance leader, educator, artist, and catalyst for change. The exhibition at the Cummer Museum is the largest ever assembled dedicated to Savage’s legacy and work.

The exhibition assembled by the Cummer Museum from 21 national public and private lenders presents Savage’s small- and medium-size sculptures in bronze and other media alongside works by artists she mentored. Many of the works that will be on display are rarely seen publicly. It took more than three years for Jeffreen M. Hayes, Ph.D., guest curator and art historian who serves as executive director of Threewalls,to plan and assemble. The Museum’s Savage Exhibition Planning and Community Advisory Committee includes museum trustees and notable Black leaders and artists: Carol Alexander, Dustin Harewood, Barbara Harrell, Marty Jones, Princess Simpson Rashid, James Richardson, and Adonnica Toler.

In addition to the exhibition, the Museum has created a companion catalogue that chronicles the history of this important Black artist. Published internationally by London-based firm D Giles Limited, this hardcover book further explores Savage’s impact and legacy. Contributors include Hayes, Kirsten Pai Buick, Ph.D. (University of New Mexico, Albuquerque), Bridget R. Cooks, Ph.D. (University of California, Irvine), with a foreword by Dr. Howard Dodson, Jr., director emeritus of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. The book will be available in October on Amazon and at the Cummer Museum Shop. Continue reading

Leave a comment | Posted in Arts & Culture, Things to do |