FBCC on downtown and waterfront matters

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
October 21, 2020

The Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) considered several items relating to the downtown area and waterfront at their October 20, 2020 Regular Meeting.

Railroad crossings

With no discussion, the FBCC unanimously moved forward with two resolutions ( 2020-140 and 2020-150) addressing engineering design of improved rail crossings at Front and Ash Streets and Front and Centre Streets.  The resolutions included engineering design work needed to open a new rail crossing at Front and Alalchua Streets.  The resolutions also provided for maintaining the private rail crossing between Centre and Alachua Streets.

City Hall space needs study

The FBCC unanimously approved Resolution 2020-151, a professional services agreement with Silling Architects, Inc, to conduct a needs and site assessment for City Hall.

Marina fuel line replacement/Oasis contract

City Manager Dale Martin reported that the recommendation of the City’s Marina contractor is to move forward with a full replacement of Marina fuel lines.  He and City Attorney Tammi Bach are working on developing a process to move forward with this, which may cost around $200,000.  The City has money in a line of credit obtained earlier to fund Marina reconstruction.

Vice Mayor Len Kreger said that this project will need to be bid.

Martin also reported that negotiations with Oasis over a contract to manage marina operations have been concluded.  The contract has been forwarded to the Marina Advisory Board (MAB), the City’s bond counsel and the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND) to insure that the contract is in compliance with bond and grant requirements.  The FBCC will consider approval of the contract at their November 4, 2020 Regular Meeting.

Dealings with the Port

Commissioners Chip Ross and Mike Lednovich updated the FBCC on matters involving the Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA).  Relations between OHPA and the FBCC remain tense due to profound disagreement over the extent of OHPA’s independence from City rules and policies.  OHPA contends that their Charter exempts them from local government requirements such as building permits and impact fees.  Ross reported that OHPA characterized the City’s legislative request to require the port to abide by City codes and regulations as “extortion and manipulation.”

This week the City will file a complaint against OHPA following unsuccessful mediation to resolve the dispute over PILOT payments (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes).

During the last OHPA meeting, an OHPA Commissioner was reported to have balled up and trashed a letter from the City Attorney regarding the future of the existing Customs House.  It was reported that the port operator has expressed a desire to extend port property south to Broome Street.  The FBCC contends that such a move is not possible under prior agreement with the City.  

The contentious relations between the two governmental bodies could jeopardize various state grants the port is seeking.

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