City Manager’s Comments – Visioning

By Dale Martin, City Manager

Earlier this week, the City Commission convened for its annual goal-setting session at the city golf course. In addition to the city commissioners, department directors, and representatives of various boards and commissions, a few members of the general public and local media also attended.

The agenda was slightly different this year: instead of a day-long facilitated workshop, the morning portion was a summary by each department director of an annual report. These annual reports, reviewing last year’s accomplishments, this year’s efforts, and a future outlook, have been compiled into a single document (prepared by Ms. Mary Hamburg).

Ms. Hamburg has worked closely with Mr. Robert Fiege of the News-Leader to format the report. The 2021-2022 Annual Report will be inserted into a late February edition of the News-Leader for delivery to all home subscribers. An electronic version will also be available, as well as several hard copies available at various city facilities. Thank you to the directors, Ms. Hamburg, and the News-Leader for your efforts and support. I look forward to your comments about this inaugural effort.

At the conclusion of the morning session, the commissioners were presented with a draft copy of the annual report. The commissioners also received the initial draft of the 2023-2024 Capital Improvement budget. City staff has been reviewing and prioritizing capital projects (in essence, long-term/high-dollar projects and equipment) since last October – after completing the effort for the current 2022-2023 budget, work begins immediately on next year’s 2023-2024 budget. A map highlighting the preliminary capital projects was displayed for the commissioners (and others) to review. The map illustrates the number and variety of capital projects under consideration – perhaps easier to understand the scale of those projects than an extended and often overwhelming list.

This year’s capital project appropriations totaled $25,613,114. This number, higher than normal, was skewed by the construction cost of the new fire station (approximately $5 million) and the influx of federal pandemic relief funds (approximately $6 million). The preliminary 2023-2024 capital costs total $$16,707,615. Several million dollars are allocated to the city’s enterprise funds: airport, water, wastewater, and stormwater. These funds require no property tax support from the residents of Fernandina Beach – they are self-sustaining. Two other enterprise funds, the marina and the golf course, are proposed to receive some taxpayer support due to the cost of projects: the marina requires support for dredging operations (and the golf course for course and facility improvements.)

The Capital Improvement Fund costs were presented as $6,821,855, which requires $4,350,000 support from the city’s General Fund and reserves. The most significant expenditures are for recreational facilities ($3 million), a new Fire Department aerial ladder truck ($1,200,000), street re-surfacing ($800,000), and City Hall repairs ($575,000). These projects will be reviewed and refined as the budget process lumbers forward. Additional projects may also be offered by the City Commission for consideration.

The afternoon session of the goal-setting session returned to the traditional format, facilitated again by Ms. Cindy Jacoby (her fourth appearance in five years). She began with a review of last year’s efforts. The first action item last year was wages for city staff, and the City Commission unanimously agreed and subsequently approved a new pay and classification plan. The staff effort to bring the new plan to the city commissioners for consideration was led by Ms. Denise Matson, Human Resources Director.

The second action item last year was the consensus to pursue a general obligation bond to fund several improvements throughout the city, most notably the proposed seawall along the Amelia River, downtown improvements, and other assets – such as recreation and beach improvements. While this item did garner unanimous support at last year’s session, the implementation effort faltered and such funding was not pursued by the City Commission.

The third action item addressed the waterfront. No additional commercialization of the waterfront was desired with the exception of a rebuilt structure to house Atlantic Seafood. At the time, a limit of approximately 2,000 square feet was supported. Other action items included several marina issues (all subsequently addressed), affordable housing (no action), and playground equipment (completed).

After lengthy discussions, the City Commission coalesced around several preliminary considerations for the next year: improved intergovernmental relations (county, state, federal); review of impact, building, and other fees; capital projects; and communication. Moreso than in previous years, the effort this year seemed to be more of a start to a continuing conversation rather than a completed product of desired capital projects. This flexibility and interest in continuing the discussion as the budget gets prepared should serve the city well.

Thank you to all who attended the meeting. Special thanks to City Clerk Caroline Best for her organizational support during the meeting and to David DeMay and Kristy Benjamin for their exceptional golf course support.

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mike spino
mike spino (@guest_67202)
1 year ago

Excellent report and good work moving us forward! Thanks to Dale and the City staff.

Marie Dray
Marie Dray (@guest_67203)
1 year ago

Article on Visioning Meeting was excellent and continues the transparency in government so well practiced by our manager and staff. Many understand better how FB operates even if we cannot attend each meeting. Thank you for keeping all residents well informed.