Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
July 18, 2021

Dockhouse at the city marina after Matthew’s visit

On Friday, July 16, 2021, the City of Fernandina Beach filed its Request for Arbitration seeking reimbursement funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for damages to the City Marina incurred during Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.  The appeal consists of 39 heavily documented and footnoted pages supplemented by 38 exhibits.

The City is being represented by the Washington law firm of Baker, Donaldson, Bearman, Caldwell and Berkowitz.

The Board of the U.S. Civilian Board of Contract Appeals acknowledged receipt of the electronic filing Friday afternoon. E-file submissions are considered filed as provided in the Board’s Rules.  The City requests that the Panel direct FEMA to confirm that the Facility is eligible for replacement and obligate funding for the actual costs incurred under PWs 831 and 1085 to replace the Facility, as well as the City’s financing costs including interest incurred to replace the Facility.

On Monday, July 19, 2021, the Clerk of the Board of the U.S. Civilian Board of Contract Appeals will docket the City’s Arbitration request and assign a panel of Judges in the City’s ongoing battle with FEMA concerning reimbursement for the completed replacement costs for damage to the waterfront as a result of Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Following Hurricane Matthew, it is alleged that FEMA inspected the City’s Municipal Dock and determined that it was eligible for replacement under FEMA’s Fifty Percent Rule. Based upon that repair estimate, the City borrowed funds and completed the replacement work.
The repair estimates evidently have been “lost.” FEMA asserts that the estimates cannot be found and/or are not in its possession.

On April 3, 2020, FEMA created a new repair estimate of $629,110.50 which is a $5.5 million deviation from what is alleged to be the original replacement estimate. FEMA now refuses to provide funding for the replacement costs because “the facility was only eligible for repair rather than replacement.”

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Frank Quigley
Frank Quigley(@frank-quigley)
1 year ago

I just want to understand how in the heck the City of Fernandina Beach collateralized a $5.5 million line of credit without documentation in hand. Did the City not keep a replica of the “lost” document? Can anyone explain – specifically – what this missing documentation is? How in the far heck in the age of digital communication can this documentation not be forensically found?

Perry Laspina
Perry Laspina (@guest_61691)
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank Quigley

Tell that to our wonderful City Manager Dale Martin.

DAVID LOTT (@guest_61701)
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank Quigley

Frank, my understanding is that this document is one that was prepared by a contractor for FEMA, not the City, to evaluate the damage caused by the hurricane. For that reason, the City did not have a right to the document and supposedly never received a copy but was told its overall finding that replacement was justified. The contractor allegedly claims that they don’t have a copy of the document as it was destroyed since they didn’t get the contract. In these days of digital document preparation and transmittal as well as document archival guidelines, I find such an explanation next to impossible to believe.

Frank Quigley
Frank Quigley(@frank-quigley)
1 year ago
Reply to  DAVID LOTT

Well this makes the Keystone Cops look brilliant. Meanwhile the Passero report on the structure under Brett’s is a bit damning. It’s circumstantial evidence that FB doesn’t prioritize the maintenance of infrastructure – which appears the case for the marina docks prior to the storm? Commissioner Ross is right on this one – don’t rely on a FEMA reversal and plan for long term bond financing at lowest possible rate.

With half the Western US on fire, Florida condos that were built between 1975 and Hurricane Andrew collapsing (and an insurance industry looking for the exits in Florida) . . . it will be next to impossible to get FEMA to prioritize paying for the new docks. Especially by driving around in our clown car waving our arms about storm damage from 4 & 1/2 years ago. I wouldn’t bet on this reversing. I hope I’m wrong.

DAVID LOTT (@guest_61705)
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank Quigley

Hope springs eternal….

Yes, there should be an explanation by Passero as to the 6 – 7 month delay between the inspection of the Brett’s pilings and the delivery of the report to the City. One would think that the engineering firm (was this sub-contracted out?) should have immediately sounded the alarm to put the City on notice.

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