FERNANDINA BEACH WEATHER

Weekly comments from Dale Martin – “So what projects are in the pipeline for the remainder of this fiscal year?”

By Dale Martin
City Manager
Fernandina Beach
April 8, 2021

City Manager Dale Martin
With the end of March now passed, the City has reached the annual midpoint of its fiscal year. The City’s Comptroller, Ms. Pauline Testagrose reported that with the completion of February financial reports (the five-month mark, or 41.7%, of the fiscal year), City General Fund revenues stood at 73% of the annual budget and General Fund expenses were at 31% of the annual budget. The overall financial condition of the City was evaluated by the City auditors, Purvis Gray, and reported to the City Commission earlier this week. A copy of the report is available for review on the City’s website (Your Government, Finance Department) and Facebook page. Thank you to Ms. Testagrose and the Finance Department staff for the exceptional efforts managing the City’s finances.

So what projects are in the pipeline for the remainder of this fiscal year?

At the Marina, it has been a frustrating struggle to resume fueling operations. Despite the ongoing efforts of Oasis Marinas, contractor support to complete this project has been lacking. New federal regulations required to be implemented this month at gas stations have apparently overwhelmed the personnel of fuel support contractors, leaving the Marina at the mercy of their scheduling. Coordination with State Department of Environmental Protection has been, in turn, delayed. Oasis Marinas is hopeful that fuel will be available next week.

I had discussions last week with the staff of Congressman John Rutherford, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, and U.S. Senator Rick Scott regarding the ongoing failure of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to respond to the City’s appeal for reimbursement related to the reconstruction of the Marina. According to Congressman Rutherford’s staff, the Congressman had requested a meeting with the Director of Homeland Security (the federal department in which FEMA is organized), as well as seeking additional Congressional involvement.

Federal statutes associated with disaster assistance required that FEMA respond to the City’s appeal (supported by the State of Florida Department of Emergency Management; FDEM) within ninety days of receiving the appeal from FDEM (the City does not deal directly with FEMA during the appeal process). That ninety-day period passed on January 13 with no response. The federal statutes further indicate that if 180 days pass with no response, the City may withdraw its appeal and file for arbitration to settle the claim. It appears that FEMA officials are encouraging the City to pursue arbitration rather than rendering a decision on the appeal. The 180-day non-responsive period ends on April 13. The City Commission will then have to provide direction as to whether to continue to wait for a FEMA decision or to initiate arbitration.
With the previous approval of the City Commission, other efforts at the Amelia River waterfront are moving forward. City Engineer Charles George is completing documents to solicit bids for the construction of the resiliency project south of the boat ramp. This effort includes the creation of a “living shoreline” and a new seawall to a sufficient elevation to protect against flooding caused by sea level rise, tides, and storm surges. A new walkway, extending from the boat ramp southward to the petanque courts, will replace the current boardwalk. New petanque courts will be constructed, as well. The goal is to complete the petanque courts and sufficient portions of the resiliency and walkway by early November to be able to host the annual petanque tournament.

A key factor is the availability of State funding in the next State budget (approximately $500,000). That funding, which at this time appears to be likely, will not be officially available until late July. Without the State funding, and given the continuing priority of the waterfront effort by the City Commission, it is likely that funding for other capital projects could be re-allocated to begin the project as planned.
Another related project is also being reviewed and prepared by Mr. George: safety improvements at the Ash Street and Centre Street railroad crossings at Front Street. After extensive discussions with State Department of Transportation and railroad officials, federal funding has been made available to install new signals at those intersections. To accommodate the new vehicular and pedestrian signals, those intersections will have to be slightly realigned: railroad regulations require specific separation between the new signals and traffic lanes. This project is also likely to be completed this year.

The railroad safety project will also include the demolition of the waterfront structure that currently houses the Marina’s boaters’ lounge, restrooms, and laundry facilities. The demolition (and reconstruction) are fifty percent funded through a grant and will assist with the realignment of the Ash Street and S. Front Street intersection.

It will be a busy summer and fall at the waterfront. Thank you for your patience as these projects move forward.

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