Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
August 12, 2021

Fernandina Beach resident Tammi Kosack addresses the OHPA Board at the August 11, 2021 meeting. (Photo courtesy Mike Spino)

Many concerned residents of the City of Fernandina Beach turned out for the August 11, 2021 Regular Meeting of the Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA) to express their concerns over what appear to be plans for port expansion and closing of some City streets. Fernandina Beach Mayor Mike Lednovich and City Commissioner Chip Ross attended.   Public attendance at these meetings is normally light, but with issues swirling around OHPA intentions and those of the Nassau Terminals director regarding the future of the Port of Fernandina, public attention has been heightened.

Many questions and concerns surrounded language and intent spelled out in the RAISE grant application recently submitted to the Department of Transportation.  In that grant application, OHPA expressed intentions to expand the physical boundary of the port to the south along Front Street and to dead end Dade Street on the west into the port itself.

The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity, or RAISE Discretionary Grant program, provides an opportunity for the DOT to invest in road, rail, transit and port projects that promise to achieve national objectives. Previously known as the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) and Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grants, Congress has dedicated nearly $8.9 billion for twelve rounds of National Infrastructure Investments to fund projects that have a significant local or regional impact.

OHPA’s position appeared to be that what had been submitted was merely an application for an application for a grant.  They claimed that discussions and consultations would be held with the City of Fernandina Beach prior to the submission of the final grant application.  However, the Fernandina Observer has been informed that a DOT spokesperson confirmed that the Port grant application was for funding for those specific projects that the City and residents oppose.

Meanwhile, at their August 17, 2021 Regular Meeting, the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) will consider via Resolution 2021-131 rescinding their letter of support for the OHPA grant application.  

At their July 6, 2021, Regular Meeting, the FBCC had approved Resolution 2021-102, authorizing a RAISE grant application letter of support on behalf of the Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA) / Port of Fernandina (Port) as supplemental documentation in their efforts to seek Federal infrastructure grants totaling approximately $15 million dollars to expand and modernize the Port’s on-dock warehouses, rail capacity, truck gates, and personnel.  Unknown to the FBCC at the time of their endorsement, the plans to be funded by the grant included proposed expansion and modernization projects not previously disclosed.

There has been an uneasy relationship between OHPA and the City of Fernandina Beach since the Port of Fernandina was created in the 1980’s.  A lack of trust between the parties has led to many clashes of both governing boards and local citizenry.  The parties are currently in litigation over OHPA’s failure to pay overdue PILOT payments and its interpretation of future obligations to do so. [PILOT stands for Payment In Lieu Of Taxes.]

During the OHPA meeting the Board ousted Christopher Ragucci as Port Director and named no successor.  Ragucci continues to serve as President and CEO of World Wide Terminals and manager of Nassau Terminals, the operator of the Port of Fernandina.

Share this story!

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Tammi Kosack
Tammi Kosack (@guest_62047)
1 year ago

Concerning these statements: “OHPA’s position appeared to be that what had been submitted was merely an application for an application for a grant.  They claimed that discussions and consultations would be held with the City of Fernandina Beach prior to the submission of the final grant application.”

I have confirmed with the U.S. Department of the Secretary that the grant application submitted by Port Operator Christopher Ragucci “on behalf of the OHPA” without their prior approval, is in fact the final application for grant funding. They had never heard of “an application for an application, or an application to apply”.

It is time for OHPA to exert good governance and oversight for the benefit of both the port workers and the town. Last night’s meeting was eye opening for many. I believe they have let the fox into the hen house.

Thanks SuAnne for covering.

Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_62050)
1 year ago

Tammi Kosck lays it out. Stakes are breathtaking for our City.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_62059)
1 year ago

The claim that the application was only for an application for the “real” grant money is hogwash at the least and another animal’s waste in reality. OPHA commissioners can only play this “we didn’t know” game for so long. Ms. Hill seems to be the only commissioner with the commitment and ethics to see that the Authority is properly doing its job.

Wayne Knittel
Wayne Knittel (@guest_62060)
1 year ago

Superb community awareness – thank you Tammi. Genuine commitment for the constituency and total awareness of the Port – thank You Miriam Hill!

My question is – would the community not be better served with the elimination of the port? Does the port contribute anything to Nassau County, Fernandina Beach or the immediate local community. The port and it’s leadership appear to be more the bully and taker, not even paying payments in lieu of taxes. On the surface it appears the Fernandina Beach community would be better served to recapture the Port and to develop single and multi-family housing generating a property tax base, enhancing the genuine tourism base. And the great anathema of 18 wheeler traffic would be reduced through the residential community.

A Special thanks to Tammi, Commissioner Miriam Hill, Commissioner “Chip” Ross, Mayor Lednovich and the residents and local main street businesses for keeping their eye and energy on our community.

Perry Anthony
Perry Anthony (@guest_62061)
1 year ago

The story forgot to mention the Fernandina Beach City Commissioner’s that approved that grant process to move ahead, while they owe us money and we are in the middle of litigation with them. That makes NO SENSE, why didn’t they come to some type of agreement on these delinquent funds that are owed to be paid, before agreeing to sign off on the grant application???

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_62070)
1 year ago
Reply to  Perry Anthony

Perry, while I agree that agreeing to support “something” when you don’t know what that “something” is doesn’t speak well of management and oversight. That being said, the support of OPHA is needed by the City for realignment of the river channel if there is ever any hope of moving the southern marina slips to the north side to reduce the substantial expense of dredging the southern side. When faced with this option, the City said they were unwilling to assume the liability of dredging the river channel if necessary and were going to move to have the channel “abandoned”. I haven’t seen any action that the city has worked with the Corps of Engineers or the other powers that be to try and make that happen.

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

This is nuts. Another episode of “The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight “. Except that it isn’t funny.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x