By Dale Martin
City Manager
Fernandina Beach
December 10, 2021

City Manager Dale Martin

Despite the frequent restfulness of the holiday season, the City Commission will continue its “busyness” throughout December.

To simplify terms for the several volunteer boards and commissions, the City Commission adjusted the inconsistent expiration of terms to a common December 31 each year. To aid in that process, the City Clerk announced all expiring terms in October to solicit applicants for boards and Commissions. Another revision to the board and commission terms was the elimination of automatic re-appointments: incumbent volunteers wishing to continue their service had to now re-submit an application for consideration.

Some boards and commissions did not receive additional interest beyond the incumbents seeking re-appointment. Other boards received just as many applicants to fill vacant seats. In two cases, the Airport Advisory Commission and the Marina Advisory Board, vacancies remain (in interested serving, please contact the City Clerk, Ms. Caroline Best).

Likely due to the more significant role of the Planning Advisory Board (PAB), the PAB attracted six applicants for two expiring terms. The process to consider so many applicants was somewhat confusing, with some Commissioners ranking all six applicants on a secret ballot and other Commissioners simply selecting two. In the end, the two incumbent PAB members were re-appointed. In the future, when required to consider multiple applicants for a lesser number of open seats on boards and commissions, it may be worth considering a return to a simpler process: for each board vacancy, each Commissioner gets a respective number of votes: two vacancies, select two candidates, with the two highest tallying applicants appointed. The City Commission will revisit this appointment process at its next workshop (December 21).

At the City Commission Regular Meeting on December 21, the Commissioners will consider several large-scale projects, some of which have been in development for many years.

The construction contract for railroad safety improvements and associated road reconfigurations at Ash and S. Front Streets, Centre and Front Streets, and Alachua and N. Front Street is planned to be on the City Commission agenda. The safety improvements will be additional vehicular and pedestrian gates at those crossings. These improvements (costing approximately $350,000 at each crossing) are funded entirely by the Florida Department of Transportation, which facilitated discussions between railroad officials and City staff.

The City will be responsible for the road reconfiguration at those intersections. The reconfigurations, which, in general, shift Front Street slightly toward the waterfront at each intersection to provide for adequate separation between the road and the new signals, will create an effect on Front Street like the “serpentine” effect on Centre Street.

The Alachua Street railroad improvements and road opening will be funded solely by the City, financed through Community Redevelopment Area and road funds (not General Fund property tax funds). With new development and re-development planned on Alachua Street between N. Front Street and N. 2nd Street (and additional development on N. 2nd Street north of Alachua Street, streetscape improvements such as on-street parking, sidewalks, and streetlamps will part of the final project. The goal is to complete all the planned railroad and road improvements in 2022.

The City’s lengthy rehabilitative efforts at the Peck Center will also be further considered by the City Commission on December 21. While the Commission approved the award of the contract to repair exterior brick and mortar at the historic building, because of State funding (awarded in large part due to the efforts of Grants Administrator Ms. Lorelei Jacobs), the project will require considerable architectural expertise and State review. The City Commission will review the proposed contract for the architectural consultant to coordinate the effort with State agencies. Ms. Jacobs is diligently pursuing additional State funding to support this $1.2 million project.

Other significant items on the City Commission agenda include awarding a contract for maintenance dredging at the Marina ($650,000) and awarding a contract for roof repair at the Police Department ($100,000). The agenda also tentatively includes the contract and financing award for the City’s new fire station (approximately $5 million), but additional staff review is continuing.

Finally, the City Commission will also consider two labor related issues. The most significant is the ratification of the proposed contract with general City staff represented by Local 630, Laborers’ International Union of North America, AFL-CIO-CLC. The proposed contract will be in effect until Sep 30, 2024.

The other labor issue is a contract award for the cleaning of six City public restrooms. With the ongoing economic and labor challenges, the City has not been able to employ sufficient staff for restroom maintenance (especially with increasing use of the restrooms since they are in highly trafficked parks); therefore, the City will subcontract restroom cleaning (approximately $53,000 annually). The City’s labor challenges will be more thoroughly discussed at the City Commission’s annual visioning session in late January.

I hope that everyone has a safe and happy holiday season and a healthy new year.

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