By Dale Martin
December 25, 2020
As 2020 winds to a much anticipated close for many of us, 2021 should be a busy and exciting (in a good way) year. The City has many projects that have been set into motion for the coming year.
Early in the year, the final component of restoring the Marina should be completed, with fuel again being available. With that project completed, the Marina will be fully operational for the first time in almost five years following Hurricane Matthew. The City’s appeal for federal funding was endorsed by the Florida Department of Emergency Management (FDEM) and submitted by FDEM to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which must respond no later than ninety days after the State’s submission (approximately late January).
The new Marina management company, Oasis Marinas, has nearly completed its transition into Fernandina Beach. Mr. Taylor Fitzsimmons is the Marina Manager, and he has extensive corporate support behind him. Enhanced marketing and reservation services should attract more visitors to the Marina, which will likely provide additional financial windfall to downtown merchants and restaurants. Other Oasis Marinas personnel have been visiting downtown shops to prepare a custom publication to be provided to each visiting boater.
The next presentation regarding the resiliency of the Amelia River waterfront as well as the conceptual park is scheduled for January 19. The efforts of both consultants, Passero Associates (resiliency) and Marquis Latimer + Halbeck (park) are being integrated to ensure the success of each effort.
The resiliency effort (to protect the City’s river waterfront from the effects of rising sea levels, high tides, and storm surges) will likely begin later this year. The final design of the first phase (from the boat ramp south to roughly the petanque courts) should be completed soon and construction will likely begin later this year.
Revisions to the park concept will be based upon the results and associated comments received through the online Community Hub established to solicit public comments. The Community Hub, promoted through local media and online efforts, was open to the public for thirty days in September and October. The results and comments were presented to the City Commission in November.
At the City Golf Course, the Toptracer project is scheduled to be completed and open for introductory play in late January. Introductory play will be offered to key groups, such as Golf Course members, the Chamber of Commerce, and area resorts before the facility is fully opened to the public. Part of the opening will necessitate calibrating the many systems involved with Toptracer, which is part of the intended purpose of introductory play. The ten bays of Toptracer should be fully open to the public in early February.
Major projects at the Airport include the completion of a full runway rehabilitation effort, constructing additional hangars (the current waiting list for hangar space is approximately seventy people), constructing of a new fuel farm, re-striping another runway, and participating in the proposed construction of a new fire station. These projects are funded through the Airport funds (not City funds) and various federal and state grants: for example, the over $2 million runway rehabilitation project was funded solely through federal grants. The proposed fire station construction will likely be initially funded also through the Airport, with the City, in turn, “leasing” the facility from the Airport.
The City will also likely see railroad safety improvements along Front Street at both Ash and Centre Streets. These improvements have been made possible through the long-term effort to re-open the Alachua Street crossing at N. Front Street. For nearly five years, City staff has worked with State and railroad officials. The improvements, currently in the design and review stage, at Ash and Centre (new signals) will be supported by approximately $750,000 of Florida Department of Transportation funding. The Alachua crossing, likely not slated for construction for another year or two, will be funded by the City.
The recently created Beach Access Committee is expected to provide a report to the City Commission in April, providing guidance on future beach access issues, such as the construction (and sequencing) of additional “walk-overs.” A Navy dredging effort will provide additional beach sand in the vicinity of Fort Clinch, but the impact on northern city beaches will likely be minimal.
New roofs are scheduled to be installed at both recreation centers and City Hall. A long-term assessment of City Hall is currently under review, with the report to be received later this year.
The City Commission will once again provide the long-term direction for the community and to the staff at its annual goal-setting in late January. Even in light of the continuing pandemic, 2021 should be a productive and positive year.
I wish everyone a healthy and happy holiday season. Enjoy the family and friends with who you share these special days.