Judge Sends City, Port Back to Mediation

By Mike Lednovich

The seemingly never-ending legal wrangling over whether the Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA) is required to continue to make payments to the City of Fernandina Beach for services it provides is going to mediation for a second time in five years.

Last week, Nassau County Circuit Court Judge Marianne Aho ordered both parties to enter into mediation before July 31. At stake is more than $250,000 in back PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) revenue the city claims it is owed, along with future $50,000 per year charges for city services.

In March, the city filed a motion for summary judgment seeking an order from Judge Aho that the port pay the overdue fees as well as make the future payments.

But at a case management conference last week, the city urged the judge to consider the summary judgment while OHPA attorney Patrick Krechowski said the parties most likely could reach a settlement.

Aho sided with OHPA and canceled the upcoming May 22 trial date. A follow-up meeting with the judge is set for April 30.

The first attempt at mediation came in 2020 after the city and OHPA could not reach agreement over the PILOT program at a joint meeting that January.

Mediation was held in July 2020 and after six hours of back and forth, mediator Carlos Alvarez declared an impasse.

Thus far, the city has spent $84,000 in legal fees from outside counsel and OHPA has exceeded $100,000 in legal costs.

In the ruling, Judge Aho stated that a non-jury trial date would be set by further order of the court.

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Noble Member
1 month ago

This is obviously a complicated issue, but I would like someone to explain, in laymen’s terms, why the tax payers of the City should be paying for services (police, fire, emergency, etc.) to OHPA? Does OHPA reimburse in a transactional, on a per incident manner, does the State reimburse, or do they expect to just get a free ride?

Robert Weintraub
Trusted Member
Robert Weintraub(@rukbat23gmail-com)
1 month ago

Aho punted. Mediation didn’t work in the past, so there’s little reason to think it would work again. The City’s case is solid.