Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
January 8, 2020
The Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) during its January 7, 2020 Regular Meeting approved two Resolutions awarding bids to move forward with beach improvements:
Resolution 2020-05 awarded Bid 19-24 to Hayward Construction Group, LLC for the installation of dune walkovers at beach accesses 8N, 9N, 2S and 5S in the amount of $274,550.
Commissioner Chip Ross raised concerns, citing the lack of a dune management plan which would better enable the city to prioritize walkover repairs and/or replacements. He said that there was no analysis of maintenance costs with any of the bids received. He also expressed concern that there was no analysis of the composite material to be used for the walkovers. He also cited the absence of vetting reports on all the bidders.
Ross indicated that his biggest concern was that the walkovers would not be ramped. He said that because steps are steep and people bring many items to the beach, they tend to avoid the steps and cut through the dunes.
Vice Mayor Len Kreger reminded commissioners that these walkovers are being built to replace walk throughs, which have proven to be problems for the Army Corps of Engineers in connection with dune management and beach renourishment. Kreger reminded commissioners that they had previously approved these and that the State Legislature had also approved funding for three of them.
“Let’s get these done before we move on to more,” Kreger said, emphasizing that the city has funding for 9 more pending in a current House Bill. Kreger said that the city has already lost a third of the work time provided for walkovers, resulting in a penalty for the city. “It’s imperative that we move,” Kreger said.”Our credibility with the state if we don’t get these things done is going down the tubes.”
Kreger agreed that there should be more ramps, but he did not see the problem to the same extreme as Ross.
Commissioner Mike Lednovich said that he agreed that where there are steep walkovers, they should be replaced with ramps to avoid dune destruction.
Ross agreed with Kreger that the FBCC had earlier agreed to these four walkovers, but he remained adamant on the need for ramps in lieu of stairs, acknowledging that ramps would increase the costs.
The motion passed on a 3-2 vote with Commissioners Lednovich and Ross in opposition.
Resolution 2020-06 awarded Bid 19-25 to Seacoast, Inc. in the amount of $268,000 for the completion of Main Beach Boardwalk Phase II.
In response to a question from Commissioner Ross, Parks and Recreation Director Nan Voit replied that wood was selected as the material, as opposed to a composite material, in order to match the Phase 1 construction and provide connectivity between the two phases. She also added that she had personally checked references of the bidders, including calling colleagues in other cities.
City Manager Dale Martin said that the City has approached the Tourist Development Council (TDC) for financial assistance on this project. While there has been no commitment to date, the city remains optimistic that following city approval of the project, some assistance may be forthcoming. What the TDC does not cover will be paid from city impact funds.
The FBCC approved the bid award on a 5-0 vote.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.