Weekly comments from Dale Martin – City projects move forward

Dale Martin
City Manager
Fernandina Beach
April 24, 2020

City Manager Dale Martin

As the country and community struggle with the uncertainty of Covid-19, many functions of the City continue.

The efforts at the Marina are, after being rendered functionally inoperable due to Hurricane Matthew (October, 2016) are nearing completion. The southern portion of the Marina, both the outer attenuator as well as the interior docks, have been available for use for nearly three months.

The contractor is mobilizing to demolish the northern attenuator sections while the replacement sections have been arriving at the Port of Fernandina for temporary storage. Demolition and subsequent installation of new pilings and the attenuator should begin in May. Once the attenuator has been installed, the utility systems, including fuel, will be installed. The current estimate of completion is early July.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursement saga continues. FEMA staff has preliminarily discussed a significant reduction in reimbursable costs (about twenty percent of what was originally determined by two previous FEMA reviews and estimates), but no official documentation had been provided to the City for consideration. The FEMA estimate is allegedly based upon a document that FEMA staff indicates they no longer have, and therefore cannot share with the City for review. Correspondence with FEMA staff indicates that the “missing” document (which was apparently prepared by a FEMA subcontractor and never provided to the City) was referenced and relied upon as recently as March. Congressman John Rutherford and Florida Department of Emergency Management officials continue to provide significant assistance and support to the City effort.

Not directly related to the northern repairs associated with Hurricane Matthew, two other northern docks are slated for repair work. The bid posting for that project should be published this week.

A new sidewalk connecting Ash Street and Centre Street has been constructed. This sidewalk provides a safe connection on the east side of the railroad tracks (between the tracks and the Hampton Inn). An additional safety measure is a yet-to-be added fence to fully separate the sidewalk from the railroad tracks.

Another railroad-related project is the planned installation of new crossing signals at Ash and Centre Streets at Front Street. Neither of these intersections are adequately guarded by signals and barriers to separate train and vehicle (and pedestrian) operations. As part of the discussions with State and railroad officials related to the re-opening of the Alachua Street crossing, the Florida Department of Transportation has offered nearly $750,000 for the signal improvements at Ash and Centre. Those funds were originally for use in the current State fiscal year (which ends June 30), but the City requested a one-year extension for the availability of those funds.

To make use of those funds for the signal improvements, at least the intersections at those corners must be reconfigured to accommodate the new signals: adequate space and separation must be designed for the signal pedestals and gates. This will likely be accomplished by installing new curbs to create “bump-outs” to house the equipment, but the impact of those bump-outs on configuration and circulation of Front Street are still under review and design. This effort was included in the discussions related to the development of the waterfront (along with shoreline stabilization and park/parking development).

Four new beach walkovers, funded through a State grant, have been completed. An expansion of the boardwalk at Main Beach is nearly completed. The boardwalk at Seaside Park (Sadler Road) will be rebuilt shortly.

Design efforts and funding review for the proposed fire station to be located at the Airport continue. In response to Covid-19, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is providing significant financial support to General Aviation airports (like Fernandina Beach): the Airport will likely receive approximately $30,000 of unrestricted funds as well as a one hundred percent contribution for runway rehabilitation efforts, which would eliminate this costly expense to the Airport. With these funding alternatives available, it may be possible to have the Airport pay for a portion of the proposed fire station, reducing the immediate cost to the City (the City’s General Fund and Airport funding are separate from each other). The City would then likely pay an annual “lease fee” to repay the initial Airport funding.

These projects will continue to be considered as the preparation of next year’s budget begins this week. The impact of the current public health emergency will continue to be considered on current and future City operations, but even State officials are urging patience in attempting to project the impact on local budgets. Those impacts will likely be more discernable over the next few months with adequate time to incorporate the impact into next year’s budget (not due to be in effect until October 1).

Please continue to stay healthy and support local businesses to the best ex

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